Hey there fellow myth heads of the starry host! Whether you’re watching on YouTube or listening via podcast, or even reading the text right off the screen at lucifermeanslightbringer.com, allow me to be your starry host and your guide to the mythical astronomy of A Song of Ice and Fire. My name is LmL and I am here to tell you about old gods of the weirwood – or is it the Cold Gods? The Old Ones, or the Cold Ones? Old Ones, or old bones?
Yeah, it’s gonna be one of those episodes.
Lately we’ve been following the trail of the Green Men, who seem to be the same thing as the Old Ones. We’ve been doing that by taking a hard look at every scene where the phrase “old ones” appears, and so far, it’s been quite fruitful! We’ve done two episodes like that, and one of the most interesting conclusions it has lead to is that the Others are, in some sense, former Green Men. In particular, some part of the Others that we see is comprised of the spirits of the oldest, most original greenseers, the ones who were inside the weirwoodnet before Azor Ahai invaded it. We’ve been seeing the Others as some sort of exiled tree spirits for a long time, so when saw all these have a quotes connecting the Old Ones to Garth people (or stag boys as Sanrixian likes to say), and once we began seeing them as the original greenseers, it was only natural to make that connection.
Would you like to see a depiction of Azor Ahai killing Garth and turning his trees into the Others? Yes? Well, I am so glad you do. I might have included this in the last episode, but it was full up.
I’m talking about Renly’s murder by Stannis’s shadow of course, a scene that Catelyn witness in ACOK. Renly is the quintessential Green Man / Garth figure in this scene, and his throat is cut in the manner of ritual sacrifices, I think we all understand that. Most notable are these lines:
The king’s armor was a deep green, the green of leaves in a summer wood, so dark it drank the candlelight. Gold highlights gleamed from inlay and fastenings like distant fires in that wood, winking every time he moved.
Renly is a summer king and a Garth figure, but what’s all this about a dark wood? “A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood…” Well, as long as there is fire in that wood, we are probably safe.
Take a look at what Cat sees before she enters Renly’s tent:
They rode in silence through sparse woodland where the trees leaned drunkenly away from the sea. The nervous whinny of horses and the clank of steel guided them back to Renly’s camp. The long ranks of man and horse were armored in darkness, as black as if the Smith had hammered night itself into steel. There were banners to her right, banners to her left, and rank on rank of banners before her, but in the predawn gloom, neither colors nor sigils could be discerned. A grey army, Catelyn thought. Grey men on grey horses beneath grey banners. As they sat their horses waiting, Renly’s shadow knights pointed their lances upward, so she rode through a forest of tall naked trees, bereft of leaves and life. Where Storm’s End stood was only a deeper darkness, a wall of black through which no stars could shine, but she could see torches moving across the fields where Lord Stannis had made his camp.
The candles within Renly’s pavilion made the shimmering silken walls seem to glow, transforming the great tent into a magical castle alive with emerald light. Two of the Rainbow Guard stood sentry at the door to the royal pavilion. The green light shone strangely against the purple plums of Ser Parmen’s surcoat, and gave a sickly hue to the sunflowers that covered every inch of Ser Emmon’s enameled yellow plate. Long silken plumes flew from their helms, and rainbow cloaks draped their shoulders.
So, we have Renly’s magical green castle, alive with light, but it’s surrounded by an army that is like a forest of leafless black trees made of night-black steel. This is ominous, as is the sickly hue the green light gives the yellow sunflowers on the knight’s armor. Cernunnos is a solar deity, and so the sickening of the sun symbolism here is simply a prelude to Renly’s flame of life being extinguished. In fact, once can imagine darkness sweeping through the army of leafless black trees and arriving at Renly’s tent, which is soon turned cold and dark as Renly is killed: “Death came in that door and blew the life out of him as swift as the wind snuffed out his candles.”
Renly’s death is equivalent to the darkening of the sun, in mythical astronomy terms, and the sun is darkening by the smoke, ash, and soot from the fire moon’s explosion. What kills Renly? The shadowbaby assassin of course. You can see how perfectly that fits – the shadow that kills the sun comes from a fire moon figure, Melisandre, who has just been impregnated by an Azor Ahai figure, Stannis. And when we look over in the direction of Stannis’s army, from whence the sun-darkening shadowbaby came, we see a symbol of the rising smoke cloud: Storm’s End, “a deeper darkness, a wall of black through which no stars could shine.” Storm’s end is elsewhere described as looking like a rising fist, the signature description of the mushroom cloud symbol.
✧ Greenseer Kings of Ancient Westeros
✧ Return of the Summer King
✧ The God-on-Earth
End of Ice and Fire
✧ Burn Them All
✧ The Sword in the Tree
✧ The Cold God’s Eye
✧ The Battle of Winterfell
✧ Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
✧ The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
✧ Waves of Night & Moon Blood
✧ The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
✧ Tyrion Targaryen
✧ Lucifer means Lightbringer
Sacred Order of Green Zombies A
✧ The Last Hero & the King of Corn
✧ King of Winter, Lord of Death
✧ The Long Night’s Watch
Great Empire of the Dawn
✧ History and Lore of House Dayne
✧ The Great Empire of the Dawn
✧ Flight of the Bones
Moons of Ice and Fire
✧ Shadow Heart Mother
✧ Dawn of the Others
✧ Visenya Draconis
✧ The Long Night Was His to Rule
✧ R+L=J, A Recipe for Ice Dragons
The Blood of the Other
✧ Prelude to a Chill
✧ A Baelful Bard & a Promised Prince
✧ The Stark that Brings the Dawn
✧ Eldric Shadowchaser
✧ Prose Eddard
✧ Ice Moon Apocalypse
Weirwood Compendium A
✧ The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
✧ A Burning Brandon
✧ Garth of the Gallows
✧ In a Grove of Ash
✧ Venus of the Woods
✧ It’s an Arya Thing
✧ The Cat Woman Nissa Nissa
Weirwood Compendium B
✧ To Ride the Green Dragon
✧ The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
✧ Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
✧ A Silver Seahorse
Signs and Portals
✧ Veil of Frozen Tears
✧ Sansa Locked in Ice
Sacred Order of Green Zombies B
✧ The Zodiac Children of Garth the Green
✧ The Great Old Ones
✧ The Horned Lords
✧ Cold Gods and Old Bones
We Should Start Back
✧ AGOT Prologue
Setting the astronomy aside to consider archetypes, we see that Stannis Ahai gives his dragon seed to Melissa Nissa, who births the shadow and darkness which blots out solar king Renly. Stannis is also showing us a solar king turning dark – the shadow baby is literally a black shadow version of King Stannis, complete with black shadowsword. That’s what shows up in Renly’s tent- the evil version of Azor Ahai. Stannis’s shadow invades the magical, alive-with-light green castle, which I take to be a model of the undefiled weirwoodnet, as is Renly himself (just as Cernunnos is an embodiment of the forest and of green nature). A cool detail: Renly’s neck wound becomes a bloody weirwood mouth:
Renly’s head rolled sickeningly to one side, and a second mouth yawned wide, the blood coming from him now in slow pulses.
This spells out the red smile symbolism is grisly fashion, showing that throat cutting is meant to evoke the bloody smile of the weirwood trees. Once again I will say that I believe that the idea of carving the faces on weirwood trees was only done when Azor Ahai invaded the weirwoodnet, and not before, and that it was done to allow Azor to gain entrance to the trees.
So, shadow Stannis kills Renly and brings death to the magical green castle, an act which symbolizes Azor Ahai’s penetration of the weirwoodnet…
…and then Stannis steals Renly’s tree army!
But, as they go over to Stannis in the cold dawn air, they undergo transformation, and now they sound like the Others:
Renly’s battles were already coming apart as the rumors spread from mouth to mouth. The nightfires had burned low, and as the east began to lighten the immense mass of Storm’s End emerged like a dream of stone while wisps of pale mist raced across the field, flying from the sun on wings of wind. Morning ghosts, she had heard Old Nan call them once, spirits returning to their graves. And Renly one of them now, gone like his brother Robert, like her own dear Ned.
The Others are described by Tormund as cold mists with teeth, and wisp is a word that can mean ghost. Indeed, the pale wisps are called morning ghosts right in the story, and those are representations of the Others. They are flying away from the sun, just as the Others seem to be like vampires who cannot bear the touch of the sun, and just as Renly – now one of the morning ghosts like his brother Robert – has turned from a warm solar king to a cold corpse. At the risk of stating the obvious – Robert and Renly, our signature stag boys, have become symbolic Others.
This is all occurring as Cat and Brienne emerge into the “chill of dawn,” making this yet another example of the long-running association between the sword Dawn and the Others. Indeed, consider the fact that Renly has a Rainbow Guard, since rainbows are associated with crystals and ice. A rainbow guard is actually the same exact idea as Robert having a Kingsguard of Otherish white knights. Individually, the rainbow guard is very colorful, but taken together, they make a rainbow, which is part of the ice and crystal family of symbolism.
The quote continues a moment later with this:
As the long fingers of dawn fanned across the fields, color was returning to the world. Where grey men had sat grey horses armed with shadow spears, the points of ten thousand lances now glinted silverly cold, and on the myriad flapping banners Catelyn saw the blush of red and pink and orange, the richness of blues and browns, the blaze of gold and yellow. All the power of Storm’s End and Highgarden, the power that had been Renly’s an hour ago. They belong to Stannis now, she realized, even if they do not know it themselves yet. Where else are they to turn, if not to the last Baratheon? Stannis has won all with a single evil stroke.
I am the rightful king, he had declared, his jaw clenched hard as iron, and your son no less a traitor than my brother here. His day will come as well. A chill went through her.
So as the fingers of dawn fan out across the field of morning ghosts, those dark grey tree soldiers with shadow spears have transformed into the Others – their lances now glint silvery cold in the dawn light, and they take on the rainbow hues of the the Rainbow Guard. This is no cheerful sunrise – this is an evil dawn, with a chill born of dark magic… and Stannis has stolen the tree knights from the dark of the wood and made them into Others that will do his bidding.
Pretty amazing, huh? I mean there it is – evil Azor Ahai, invading the green, undefiled weirwoodnet, and making the Others out of the dark forest with a ritual killing of a Green Man. This is not only an invasion of the weirwoodnet, but a defilement and a poisoning… and it’s also akin to setting the weirwoodnet on fire, right? Indeed, even though Renly the sun king dies, and even though the candles are snuffed out, and even though his last word is “cold,” the ensuing struggle in the tent sets the magical green castle on fire:
Another man thrust a flaming torch at her back, but the rainbow cloak was too sodden with blood to burn. Brienne spun and cut, and torch and hand went flying. Flames crept across the carpet. The maimed man began to scream.
That’s cool – flying torches and severed hands are both recognizable moon meteor symbols, and of course the severed hand is also a blood hand / weirwood symbol. The tent catches fire, creating the ubiquitous burning weirwood symbol. A moment later, it says
Behind them, the king’s pavilion was well ablaze, flames rising high against the dark. No one made any move to stop them. Men rushed past them, shouting of fire and murder and sorcery. Others stood in small groups and spoke in low voices. A few were praying, and one young squire was on his knees, sobbing openly.
Fire and murder and sorcery, and a towering pyre for a dead king – those are Azor Ahai’s calling cards, now aren’t they? And look – now the Others are appearing. I wanted to show you the cold silvery spears first, but yeah, this is a nice “others” double entendre to indicate Renly’s army as becoming the Others. So – just as Azor Ahai invaded the weirwoods and obtained the fire of the gods from the burning tree, Stannis Ahai has invaded the burning green castle of the stag king and has stolen great power… which in this case, is the army of symbolic Others.
Now, when the green men were transformed into Others, it wouldn’t have been all the green men. Some green men must surely remain green, for we hear of them on the Isle of Faces. Similarly, Stannis doesn’t actually steal all of Renly’s army. The Tyrells and a few other houses do not go over, but instead regroup in the Reach and eventually end up riding in to save the day at the Battle of the Blackwater. It is these forces of the Tyrells which give us green, resurrected “Renly,” who is really Garlan Tyrell in disguise, who seem to symbolize the green zombie side of the equation (and of course Team Lannister / Tyrell is the side using green wildfire at the battle).
So there you have it, evil Azor Ahai invading the weirwoodnet and ending up as the leader of the Others, who seem to be transformed green men!
Now before we dive into the essay proper, I have one more little treat for you, one more little nugget that I’ve recently unearthed. I am happy to inform you that it only this week occurred to me to check TWOIAF – you know, the book that actually tells about the Old Ones on Leng – for clever symbolic uses of the old ones phrase, and I found three! One is a bit ho hum – a line about Tywin as Aerys’s hand that says “Tywin built new roads and repaired old ones,” which I can’t make too much meaning of. But the other two apply specifically to the Durrandon line of Kings, which is simply amazing. They are both talking about the shift in rulership of the Riverlands from the Durrandon Kings to the Ironborn.
Just as Arlan III Durrandon had done three centuries earlier, Harwyn claimed the riverlands for himself. Those riverlords who had fought beside him had done naught but exchange one master for another…and their new master was harsher, crueler, and more exacting than the old one.
The old one master being the Durrandon Kings. The Old Ones are the horned lords, I’ve been telling you! That was from the “Riverlands” section of TWOIAF, and this is from the “Iron Islands” section:
At Fairmarket, Harwyn found himself facing Arrec Durrandon, the young Storm King, leading a host half again the size of his own…but the stormlanders were ill led, weary, and far from home, and the ironmen and riverlords shattered them. King Arrec lost two brothers and half his men, and was lucky to escape with his own life. As he fled south, the smallfolk of the riverlands rose up, and his garrisons were driven out or slaughtered. The broad, fertile riverlands and all their wealth passed from the hands of Storm’s End to those of the ironmen.
In one bold stroke, Harwyn Hardhand had increased his holdings tenfold and made the Iron Islands once more a power to be feared. Those lords of the Trident who had joined him in hopes of freeing themselves from the Durrandons soon learned that their new masters were far more brutal and demanding than their old ones.
George is doubling down here to describe the Durrandon as Old Ones, and he’s referencing the same event in two different places while doing it, indicating a clear intent. And this scene sounds a lot like the Stannis / Renly scene, doesn’t it? That same line – “with a stroke,” so and so evil Azor Ahai person turned the tables and got a new army. The antlered Durrandon King escapes, but loses the battle, the Riverlands, and many of his family, so it really is similar. Although Renly doesn’t escape, the Tyrells and other Reach men escape and live to fight another day, and of course they are lead by Garlen dressed up as Renly.
As for the men of the Riverlanders, the army who is changing hands in these quotes, they could be seen as residents of the green see, given the way Martin uses the Riverlands and the Trident symbolically.
Anyway, I thought that was fun, and art this point I think there can be little doubt that Martin is intending to create an association between “the Old Ones” and the horned folk we usually call The Green Men. What all that means exactly, we are trying to suss out, but there can be no doubt that “the old one was Garth,” as it is written in ADWD.
Milk Makes Strong Bones
Like I said, the Others are in some sense former green men, evicted from their tree home. All of this is actually hinted at in the good ole AGOT prologue, of course:
A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood. It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.
The Others are called the white walkers of the wood, and here they are shadows emerging from the “dark of the wood.” But these shadows are white – like the weirwood trees themselves – and look, they even have dappled green skin! Well, it’s the armor actually, which is made of ice and reflects the green of the wood around them. But we know “dappled” is a children of the forest clue, because the children have dappled skin like a deer – and of course the same idea would apply to Cernunnos-like stag men. Every Cernunnos was once a dappled Bambi, you know. And this is the introduction of the Others here – every word should be regarded as intentional. The Others, who walk the white woods, are “everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees.” This certainly seems like a screaming clue that the Others actually come from the trees and are tied to children of the forest… or green men, or both.
And how about that line, “gaunt and hard as old bones?” Big hat-tip to @DarthDDD on twitter, who caught on to “old bones” as a covert way of saying “old ones.” I actually did notice this line from the prologue while doing the Old Ones research, but thought it was too much of a reach and set it aside… but after @DarthDDD and Ravenous Reader and Wizz the Smith started digging up quotes with “old bones,” it quickly became apparent that this is indeed wordplay Martin is using.
We are going to go through those juicy old bones quotes today, and you will see what I mean, but let me back up and set this up by simply taking a look at this old bones description of the Others here at face value. Those who have caught on to the weirwood tree / Others connection have recognized that “milk white” and “bone white” are descriptions that are applied to both the Others and the weirwoods. The Other here is pale as milk and hard as old bones, while the one Sam encounters in ASOS has milky white flesh, bone-white hands, and icy white bones as pale as milkglass. The red and white coloring of the weirwoods, meanwhile, is most often referred to as “blood and bone” – that’s actually a bit of understatement – the truth is that the only way the white wood of the weirwood is ever described is pale as bone, white as bone, bone white, etc. Every time, bone white.
In other words, the trees that house the Old Gods – the Old Ones – are bone white, just like the cold ones, the cold gods. Like I said, Old Gods, Cold Gods.
Then there is the description of 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.
An old and pale weirwood face, glowing like milk and moonlight? Well, the Others have swords that glow “alive with moonlight,” in addition to their milk-pale skin. This gate, of course, is below the Nightfort, and may have been used for dark deeds by Night’s King.
So as you can see, the Others and the weirwoods have a lot in common in terms of descriptive language. Pale bone and pale milk, and a bit of moonlight to make it all glow. And lest you have any doubt, behold the weirwood from the Varamyr Sixskins prologue of ADWD:
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.
This quote should be familiar, as I’ve cited it before. Pale thin clouds dancing amidst cold star eyes watching paints a portrait of the Others in the sky, and below, it’s the “pale shadow of a weirwood armored in ice.” The Others are of course often described as pale shadows and white shadows, and of course you know they wear ice armor. This weirwood is getting frozen over, essentially, and it happens just as the army of the dead march through the village. Let me say it even more simply: a frozen weirwood looks like an Other, and an Other looks a lot like the frozen spirit of a weirwood.
This quote is also a strong piece of evidence for the partition theory that we’ve begun to explore in Signs and Portals, which is the idea that the Others, rather than being banished altogether from the weirwoodnet, were banished to a partitioned-off portion of the weirwoodnet, the frozen part of the green see if you will. When I look at the frozen weirwood tree here, that’s what I think of, a frozen over weirwoodnet. Perhaps that’s what the Others need to do to make the weirwoods habitable for them again, freeze them over.
But I digress. Let’s read that prologue lines again: “A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood… gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk… everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees.” As I said, these lines really do tell the story in miniature: the Others are spirits exiled from the weirwoods, whom they resemble. They are the former old ones, the old gods-turned-cold gods. Pale shadows armored in ice, the white walkers of the wood. Read these lines again and imagine the Others as weirwood trees:
Behind him, to right, to left, all around him, the watchers stood patient, faceless, silent, the shifting patterns of their delicate armor making them all but invisible in the wood.
Heart trees are occasionally called watchers, for obvious reasons, while Ned’s gods “were the old ones, the nameless, faceless gods of the greenwood.” Silent, faceless old gods… silent, faceless Others. One also thinks of the green men, who are mentioned only a paragraph away from this last one we just quoted:
In the south the last weirwoods had been cut down or burned out a thousand years ago, except on the Isle of Faces where the green men kept their silent watch.
More silent watchers with symbiotic relationships with trees, very interesting. You see how the Others really could work well as green men who have been exiled from their green wood and frozen somehow. And that’s without going to the “Old Bones / Old Ones” wordplay clues! That was the whole point of this section – to show that Others as weirwood tree spirits is well supported, and that a lot of the clues about this revolves around bones.
Here’s an interesting thought: the old gods and the Others are both faceless, right? It’s a description which speaks to a hive mind / collective consciousness, something which we know applies to the weirwoodnet consciousness and which seems like it could apply to the Others as well, who all seem to be identical according to the AGOT prologue. The Others come from the weirwoods, but the weirwoods are actually not faceless – they have very noticeable bloody faces carved into them, after all. This fits very well with the proposed theory here, actually – the Others were green men back when you didn’t need to carve faces in the weirwoods, back when the trees were faceless. Azor Ahai carved faces into the trees as part of his magical invasion, and this pushed the formerly faceless green men spirits out of the weirwoodnet to become the faceless Others.
Now that we have that established, let’s take a look some old bones and see what we can discover.
Tut Tut, It Smells Like Rain
We aren’t going to go strictly in order, but we will start a couple from AGOT, in which there are four uses of the phrase “old bones.” The first is in the prologue, and describes the Others that slew poor Ser Waymar. Of the other three, two are very similar and involve old bones acting as some sort of Other detection system::
Mormont reached out and clutched Tyrion tightly by the hand. “You must make them understand. I tell you, my lord, the darkness is coming. There are wild things in the woods, direwolves and mammoths and snow bears the size of aurochs, and I have seen darker shapes in my dreams.”
“In your dreams,” Tyrion echoed, thinking how badly he needed another strong drink.
Mormont was deaf to the edge in his voice. “The fisherfolk near Eastwatch have glimpsed white walkers on the shore.”
This time Tyrion could not hold his tongue. “The fisherfolk of Lannisport often glimpse merlings.”
“Denys Mallister writes that the mountain people are moving south, slipping past the Shadow Tower in numbers greater than ever before. They are running, my lord … but running from what?” Lord Mormont moved to the window and stared out into the night. “These are old bones, Lannister, but they have never felt a chill like this. Tell the king what I say, I pray you. Winter is coming, and when the Long Night falls, only the Night’s Watch will stand between the realm and the darkness that sweeps from the north. The gods help us all if we are not ready.”
Well, that’s kind of got our attention, right? Mormont worships the Old Gods, and he’s currently the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, the classic role of the last hero, and this position is implied as being classically that of a skinchanger by the ever present raven. He has old bones, and they detect a chill beyond that of natural winter. He just can’t help but utter the Stark words – Winter is Coming – and to talk about the Ling Night and the white walkers.
Also known as… the Old Ones.
Later in AGOT, after Jon and Ghost defeat the wight in Mormont’s chambers – with the help of some timely advice from Mormont’s raven, I should add – the Old Bear and the young Snow are talking about the event in Mormont’s chambers. They’re talking about Jon’s burned hand, and we get this:
Maester Aemon had given him milk of the poppy, yet even so, the pain had been hideous. At first it had felt as if his hand were still aflame, burning day and night. Only plunging it into basins of snow and shaved ice gave any relief at all. Jon thanked the gods that no one but Ghost saw him writhing on his bed, whimpering from the pain. And when at last he did sleep, he dreamt, and that was even worse. In the dream, the corpse he fought had blue eyes, black hands, and his father’s face, but he dared not tell Mormont that.
“Dywen and Hake returned last night,” the Old Bear said. “They found no sign of your uncle, no more than the others did.”
“I know.” Jon had dragged himself to the common hall to sup with his friends, and the failure of the rangers’ search had been all the men had been talking of.
“You know,” Mormont grumbled. “How is it that everyone knows everything around here?” He did not seem to expect an answer. “It would seem there were only the two of … of those creatures, whatever they were, I will not call them men. And thank the gods for that. Any more and … well, that doesn’t bear thinking of. There will be more, though. I can feel it in these old bones of mine, and Maester Aemon agrees. The cold winds are rising. Summer is at an end, and a winter is coming such as this world has never seen.”
Winter is coming. The Stark words had never sounded so grim or ominous to Jon as they did now.
As you can see, it’s a basically the same usage: Mormont’s old bones can detect the rise of the Others, who are the old ones, turned white as bone. You’re probably thinking of a famous adage of Melisandre’s by now: the bones remember. I can’t speak for all bones, but the old bones of weirwood-worshiping northmen seem to remember what the cold touch of the others feels like.
Also featured in that last passage: possible foreshadowing of hothands Jon? A hand that burns day and night would come in ‘handy’ on the Wall, to modify a well known Jon quote, ha. ‘Only plunging it into the cold bodies of white walkers gave any relief at all,’ lol.
Seriously though – Mormont is going beyond the premonitions of old men here and crossing over into full-blown prophecy: “The cold winds are rising. Summer is at an end, and a winter is coming such as this world has never seen.” I mean, think if your boss was saying shit like that with his eyes peeled wide open on a Monday morning when you show up to work… it’d be a little disconcerting.
Alright, so Mormont’s old bones are in tune with the Others – that makes sense, as he’s the man in charge of stopping them when the story opens. We find more old bones that work this way, and this time it makes even more sense. This quote is simply eye-popping:
Gilly was crying. “Me and the babe. Please. I’ll be your wife, like I was Craster’s. Please, ser crow. He’s a boy, just like Nella said he’d be. If you don’t take him, they will.”
“They?” said Sam, and the raven cocked its black head and echoed, “They. They They.”
“The boy’s brothers,” said the old woman on the left. “Craster’s sons. The white cold’s rising out there, crow. I can feel it in my bones. These poor old bones don’t lie. They’ll be here soon, the sons.”
Ah ha! Craster wives are also the mothers of the Others, so their old bones can surely detect the presence of the Others! It’s very like Mormont’s spidey sense, except it makes even more sense coming from the mothers of the Others! And no that wasn’t meant to be an ice spiders joke, but it is now!
Even better, Craster’s Wives are flat out-labelled as the Old Ones in Chett’s ASOS prologue. I’m saving the full quote of the final Old Ones episode, which will focus on all the instances of female Old Ones, but essentially Chett thinks about killing Craster and taking his place, and when he thinks about what to do with his women, he thinks of putting the old ones to work… the little dickwad. Chett is truly one of the most contemptible people in ASOIAF, which has its share.
In any case, These mothers of the Others should represent women of the green man race, perhaps simply children of the forest, or perhaps they represent the weirwoods themselves – they are either Night’s Queen figures, or Nissa Nissa figures, or both, depending on how all that sorts out. And as we can see, they are old ones with old bones that can sense the Others… who are the Old Ones-turned-Cold Ones. The Old Gods-turned-Cold Gods.
So… it’s all pretty straightforward! I’d have more to say about this quote, but it’s all kind of right there – the Others are descended from the Old Ones. The mothers of the Others have the “old bones” that can sense the Others.One thing I will note is that it’s interesting that in order to save Gilly’s baby from being given to the others, he is given to the Black Brothers. Feels like there could be symbolic import in that. So much baby-stealing!
Jumping forward to ADWD, there’s an old bones reference in the absolutely awful Ramsay – Jeyne Poole rape scene that we kind of have to mention, albeit briefly. I don’t really want to linger on the scene or even pull quotes from it, so I will just mention that Ramsay says Jeyne is dry as an old bone. This is important because Jeyne is playing the role of Night’s Queen here – she’s described as corpse-like and frozen as she pretends to be a Stark maiden. Thus, she’s in line with Craster’s wives as a mother-of-the-Others figure.
There’s one other incidence of old bones being able to feel something coming on, although this time it isn’t winter and the Others that the old bones can sense… at least it doesn’t appear that way at first. What’s really great is that like Craster’s wives, the person with old bones is also labelled an Old One! That’s right, another old one with old bones. It’s wandering Septon Meribald, who brags about the comfort of sleeping beneath the hedges of the Seven Kingdoms when need be – the old ones are the best, he says. You will recall that Meribald was very tree-like and very Garth-like in his youth, being “full of sap” and having a habit of deflowering as many maidens as possible.
Now in AFFC, Brienne, Pod, Hyle Hunt, and Septon Meribald come to the Inn of the Crossroads, now in the possession of Willow and the other orphans protected by the Brotherhood Without Banners. The Inn is a well-known weirwood symbol, with it’s gallows tree, weirwood stigmata inn-keep Masha Heddle, and it’s former weir status (it used to be built over the river, just like a wooden fishing weir). Throughout this scene, the idea of the Inn being a home for ghostly stag men and children of the forest is spelled out. As they approach, there’s the famous line about the ghost smith, who turns out to be Gendry:
“A forge,” Ser Hyle said. “Either they have themselves a smith, or the old innkeep’s ghost is making another iron dragon.”
And then when Gendry emerges:
“Robbers.” Brienne turned, and saw a ghost. Renly. No hammerblow to the heart could have felled her half so hard. “My lord?” she gasped. “Lord?” The boy pushed back a lock of black hair that had fallen across his eyes. “I’m just a smith.” He is not Renly, Brienne realized. Renly is dead. Renly died in my arms, a man of one-and-twenty. This is a only a boy. A boy who looked as Renly had, the first time he came to Tarth. No, younger.
A ghost stag – there can be no doubt, as Gendry is called a ghost twice in rapid succession. And when they first ask for lodging at the inn, we get this line:
“We’ll have silver. Else you can sleep in the woods with the dead men.”
They demand a tribute of stags, in other words, or else they can sleep in the woods with dead men. A dead wood is the way the Haunted Forest north of the Wall is described, so we have the image of a weirwood surrounded by dead woods with dead men. This is basically identical to the Renly death scene, where his magical emerald castle, alive with light, is surrounded by an army which looks like “a forest of tall naked trees, bereft of leaves and life.” I bet the Others are lurking about, and the children are here too:
“All these children,” Brienne said to the girl Willow. “Are they your … sisters? Brothers? Kin and cousins?”
“No.” Willow was staring at her, in a way that she knew well. “They’re just … I don’t know … the sparrows bring them here, sometimes. Others find their own way. If you’re a woman, why are you dressed up like a man?”
Septon Meribald answered. “Lady Brienne is a warrior maid upon a quest. Just now, though, she is in need of a dry bed and a warm fire. As are we all. My old bones say it’s going to rain again, and soon. Do you have rooms for us?”
“No,” said the boy smith. “Yes,” said the girl Willow. They glared at one another. Then Willow stomped her foot. “They have food, Gendry. The little ones are hungry.” She whistled, and more children appeared as if by magic; ragged boys with unshorn locks crept from under the porch, and furtive girls appeared in the windows overlooking the yard. Some clutched crossbows, wound and loaded.
“They could call it Crossbow Inn,” Ser Hyle suggested. Orphan Inn would be more apt, thought Brienne.
So there’s the old bones quote; Meribald feels a storm coming and so his old bones tell him to take shelter at the nearest weirwood symbol. A weirwood inn is better than an old ones hedge, of course, although they are really the same thing. This one has ghost stags and lost of children – children who appear as if by magic! That’s a nice line, isn’t it?
The storm Meribald’s old bones detects is the lightning storm that comes with the arrival of the Bloody Mummers, who seem to be stand-ins for the Others – Rorge and Biter in particular. That’s a good fit for the pattern – every other time someone’s old bones felt something coming, it was winter or the Others in particular. It goes without saying that you noticed the line “Others find their own way” to the inn.. they must come from the dark wood full of dead men.
Giant Tree Bones
There are a couple of old bones quotes that simply relate to the old gods and the weirwoods in a more general sense, and this will lead us to talk of giants in due course. For example, there’s this little gem staring back at us from the center of Lord Bloodraven’s cave:
Seated on his throne of roots in the great cavern, half-corpse and half-tree, Lord Brynden seemed less a man than some ghastly statue made of twisted wood, old bone, and rotted wool. The only thing that looked alive in the pale ruin that was his face was his one red eye, burning like the last coal in a dead fire, surrounded by twisted roots and tatters of leathery white skin hanging off a yellowed skull.
A greenseer statue of old bone – Lord Bloodraven is simply becoming like the weirwood tree he’s merging with. This doesn’t mean Bloodraven has anything to do with the Others, which I do not believe he does, save for the fact that the classic role of the Three-Eyed Crow and Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch figures is to be the one responsible for stopping the Others. Rather, this is simply showing us that the Old Ones were greenseers, and that the Old Ones’ natural home is the weirwoodnet. I will say that’s if LC Mormont’s old bones can sense the Others coming, it’s a safe bet that this ghastly statue made of twisted wood and old bone knows when they are coming as well. Bloodraven is the ultimate White Walker early detection system, right?
The last use of old bones from AGOT concerns the giants, but it’s preceded by the moment when Osha the wildling explains to bran that the rustling of the weirwood leaves is the voice of the old gods:
Bran listened. “It’s only the wind,” he said after a moment, uncertain. “The leaves are rustling.”
“Who do you think sends the wind, if not the gods?” She seated herself across the pool from him, clinking faintly as she moved. Mikken had fixed iron manacles to her ankles, with a heavy chain between them; she could walk, so long as she kept her strides small, but there was no way for her to run, or climb, or mount a horse. “They see you, boy. They hear you talking. That rustling, that’s them talking back.”
“What are they saying?”
“They’re sad. Your lord brother will get no help from them, not where he’s going. The old gods have no power in the south. The weirwoods there were all cut down, thousands of years ago. How can they watch your brother when they have no eyes?”
Bran had not thought of that. It frightened him. If even the gods could not help his brother, what hope was there? Maybe Osha wasn’t hearing them right. He cocked his head and tried to listen again. He thought he could hear the sadness now, but nothing more than that.
After Hodor burst out of the foliage, naked and wet from his swim, Osha remarks that he must have giant’s blood, and Bran responds
“Maester Luwin says there are no more giants. He says they’re all dead, like the children of the forest. All that’s left of them are old bones in the earth that men turn up with plows from time to time.”
To which Osha says that Maester Luwin should go north of the Wall, where he’ll find some giants… or maybe they’ll find him… Now as we’ve discussed in the last two episodes, because the green men seem to be kind of like very tall children of forest, it’s possible that some of the ancient legends that talk about “giants and children of the forest” are actually talking about the green men… who are the old ones. If nothing else, the giants and children two of the so-called “old races,” a classification that includes the children and the giants, and some say, the Others, according to TWOIAF.
Wizz the Smith does make one other observation here though, which is that the line about men pulling the old bones out of the earth could allude to the eviction of the old ones from their natural home. In the earth isn’t quite “in the trees,” but the point is the if the Others are made from the spirits of dead Old Ones who were resting happily in their cozy weirwoodnet tombs before Azor Ahai invaded, evicting them from the weirwoodnet is akin to digging up their graves and letting their spirits out. One thinks of Ygritte telling Jon about Mance’s search for the Horn of Winter:
“I’m crying because we never found the Horn of Winter. We opened half a hundred graves and let all those shades loose in the world, and never found the Horn of Joramun to bring this cold thing down!”
As you can see, unearthing old bones of giants lets loose shades into the world. Here it just says “graves,” but elsewhere it is specified that Mance was digging up giants’ graves, apparently because he thought Joramun was a giant. Perhaps he was just a little extra tall, one of the horned lords we hear so much about on a certain podcast.
Recall also that Martin relates the Others to the aos sidhe, elf-like spirits who were specifically tied to burial mounts – aos sidhe literally means “people of the mounds.” One thinks of the Barrowlands of the North, and in particular of the great barrow at Barrowton, where the bones of the “First King” are said to rest, and you’ll recall there are clues that this First King may have been Garth, or associated with Garth.
Additionally, the barrows of the north are often occupied by giants, so links between Garth, barrows, and giants already exist, even before we found this quote about them having “old bones.” We’ve also already picked up on the idea that our Green Men must be taller than humans and children of the forest, so giant Garth old ones make a ton of sense. Garth the Green fathered John the Oak on a giantess, Robert is a giant when he wears his antlered helm and has a giant’s strength, and weirwoods are frequently called giants, such as when the Winterfell heart tree is said to be “standing like some pale giant frozen in time.” The Hammer of the Waters awoke giants in the earth… and with everything we’ve just reviewed, that almost sounds like Azor Ahai’s moon meteor ritual – the cause of the hammer – awakening the Others from the spirits of the Old Ones, who were buried in the weirwood giants. I mean that’s what I am claiming – the Others are Old Ones spirits driven out of the weirwoods when Azor Ahai dropped the moon meteor hammer and did his dark magic.
Check out this quote about giants and weirwoods… this is kind of a companion to the Varamyr prologue weirwood which was a pale shadow armored in ice:
“Aye,” said Big Bucket Wull. “Red Rahloo means nothing here. You will only make the old gods angry. They are watching from their island.”
The crofter’s village stood between two lakes, the larger dotted with small wooded islands that punched up through the ice like the frozen fists of some drowned giant. From one such island rose a weirwood gnarled and ancient, its bole and branches white as the surrounding snows. Eight days ago Asha had walked out with Aly Mormont to have a closer look at its slitted red eyes and bloody mouth. It is only sap, she’d told herself, the red sap that flows inside these weirwoods. But her eyes were unconvinced; seeing was believing, and what they saw was frozen blood.
“You northmen brought these snows upon us,” insisted Corliss Penny. “You and your demon trees. R’hllor will save us.”
So the wooded islands punch up from one of the frozen lakes like the frozen fists of some drowned giant. That sentence makes a ton of sense now – if the weirwoodnet is the green sea, then a frozen lake represents the idea of transformed weirwoods, the frozen weirwoodnet, etc. The weirwood here is implied as drowned as well as frozen – not only the frozen fists, but the white as snow weirwood branches. Ah ha! I lied about the weirwood white only being described as bone-white… here is the exception.
Taken together, this is a frozen weirwood, drowned in the frozen lake. Actually this implied weirwood giant is only partially submerged since his fists are poking through the ice, and now it really sounds like Dante’s Lucifer trapped in the frozen lake in the ninth circle of hell, an idea which strongly influences the Others. Like I said, it’s very like the frozen weirwood in the Varamyr prologue, and the symbolism here just screams out “freezing of the weirwoods.” That’s got to be the same idea as turning green men in to Others, since Green men and Others are both analogous to trees. And just to follow up on the earlier point, waking giants in the earth could mean a lot of things, but you can see that it could imply to creating the Others from the green men.
You may recall this quote from AGOT that features our favorite giant horned lord and our favorite Ned are travelling south to Kings Landing and ride away from the main column and into the barrow lands:
The rising sun sent fingers of light through the pale white mists of dawn. A wide plain spread out beneath them, bare and brown, its flatness here and there relieved by long, low hummocks. Ned pointed them out to his king. “The barrows of the First Men.”
Robert frowned. “Have we ridden onto a graveyard?”
“There are barrows everywhere in the north, Your Grace,” Ned told him. “This land is old.”
“And cold,” Robert grumbled, pulling his cloak more tightly around himself.
Old and cold, old ones and cold ones, old gods and cold gods. And there they are – we see both a stag man and those morning ghost dawn mists we saw after Renly’s death. During this conversation, Robert also says “gods be cursed” and “the stone has already been set,” and “the Others take your honor!” As with Robert’s scenes in the crypts, there is heavy death foreshadowing here for Robert, who can feel the cold touch of the barrow bones calling to him. More than anything, seeing those same morning ghosts we saw at Renly’s death as Robert’s death is foreshadowed here in the Barrowlands, where Garth himself may have been buried… well it makes my day, let’s just say that.
Alright, so from giants with old bones to dwarves with old bones:
Farther on, they fell in behind a smaller elephant, white as old bone and pulling an ornate cart. “Is an oxcart an oxcart without an ox?” Tyrion asked his captor. When that sally got no response, he lapsed back into silence, contemplating the rolling rump of the white dwarf elephant ahead of them. Volantis was overrun with white dwarf elephants. As they drew closer to the Black Wall and the crowded districts near the Long Bridge, they saw a dozen of them.
Ha, I tricked you. These white-as-old-bone dwarf elephants are actually giants too! Plus, the term white dwarf has to make us think of white dwarf stars. That’s cool; it makes the elephants symbols of weirwoods that you can ride to the stars, just like the astral projection horse symbolism that is anchored in Yggdrasil and Sleipnir, or the weirwood / sea dragon boat in which you can sail the cosmic ocean. As a bonus, Tyrion compares the elephant to an ox, implying the horned lord idea. As an extra double bonus, we notice that there are a dozen white dwarf elephants, which read as a dozen weirwoods or a dozen weirwood giant warriors.
Finally, notice that Volantis – a city of black fused stone built by dragonlords – is overrun with white dwarf old bone elephants. The suggestion here is dragon-associated black stone ideas (moon meteors) having a link to the Old Ones and weirwoods. That’s something we already suppose, since the Hammer event was really a moon meteor impact, and we’ve even speculated about oily black meteor stone on the Isle of faces or in the Heart of Winter.
Since we just did a Tyrion scene from ADWD, let’s do another, though this comes from outside of Meereen, in the command tent of the Second Sons:
“You can talk of old times later … after I am done explaining why my head would be of more use to you upon my shoulders. You will find, Lord Plumm, that I can be very generous to my friends. If you doubt me, ask Bronn. Ask Shagga, son of Dolf. Ask Timett, son of Timett.”
“And who would they be?” asked the man called Inkpots.
“Good men who pledged me their swords and prospered greatly by that service.” He shrugged. “Oh, very well, I lied about the ‘good’ part. They’re bloodthirsty bastards, like you lot.”
“Might be,” said Brown Ben. “Or might be you just made up some names. Shagga, did you say? Is that a woman’s name?”
“His teats are big enough. Next time we meet I’ll peek beneath his breeches to be sure. Is that a cyvasse set over there? Bring it out and we’ll have that game. But first, I think, a cup of wine. My throat is dry as an old bone, and I can see that I have a deal of talking to do.”
Here’s the significance of this quote: it’s another instance of an Azor Ahai person winning a new army with a single stroke – or in this case, several hundred strokes of Tyrion’s pen as he promises half the gold in Casterly Rock to the Second Sons. The Second Sons, with their broken sword sigil, clearly have strong Azor Ahai reborn / last hero associations, so I am not sure if this is Azor Ahai gaining control of the Others or perhaps the last hero getting his Green Zombie Night’s Watch together. I’d lean towards the latter, but I don’t want to do a deep dive on the Second Sons right now and I don’t think we need to – we can simply observe that it’s one or the other, that Tyrion is an Azor Ahai reborn figure of some kind, and he’s using his voice to turn the tide of battle here… a voice that is dry as an old bone.
Even cooler, in the next Tyrion chapter after this one (which is an early release TWOW chapter), Tyrion is playing cyvasse in this same tent and we get an amazing white dragn / weirwood symbol:
“This.” Mormont’s longsword was in his hand. As the rider turned, Ser Jorah thrust it through his throat. The point came out the back of the Yunkishman’s neck, red and wet. Blood bubbled from his lips and down his chin. The man took two wobbly steps and fell across the cyvasse board, scattering the wooden armies everywhere. He twitched a few more times, grasping the blade of Mormont’s sword with one hand as the other clawed feebly at the overturned table. Only then did the Yunkishman seem to realize he was dead. He lay facedown on the carpet in a welter of red blood and oily black roses. Ser Jorah wrenched his sword free of the dead man’s neck. Blood ran down its fullers.
The white cyvasse dragon ended up at Tyrion’s feet. He scooped it off the carpet and wiped it on his sleeve, but some of the Yunkish blood had collected in the fine grooves of the carving, so the pale wood seemed veined with red. “All hail our beloved queen, Daenerys.” Be she alive or be she dead. He tossed the bloody dragon in the air, caught it, grinned. “We have always been the queen’s men,” announced Brown Ben Plumm. “Rejoining the Yunkai’i was just a plot.”
So as you can see, Martin is specifically tying the changing of sides of the Second Sons to Tyrion and dropping a clear weirwood symbol right in the thick of it. It’s also a white dragon, so we have to think of Bloodraven here, and really the message would be “greenseer dragon” or “dragons in the weirwoodnet.”
I also love how this scene gives us the red, bloody sword calling card of Azor Ahai (and remember Jorah has a demon mask tattoo at this point in the story) right next to a weirwood dragon symbol. It’s a nice reinforcement of my notion that Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer ritual was tied to his forcing his way into the weirwood. Even the sequence here is stunning: Lightbringer is forged, and the blood of the victim literally colors the white wooden cyvasse piece red, making it seemed veined with red. To my eyes, it looks like another confirmation that Azor Ahai’s killing of Nissa Nissa was the beginning of carving of faces into the trees, and permanently altered or “bloodied” the weirwoodnet. Don’t forget the oily black roses – those symbolize the black moon meteors, and again the sequence is perfect as they appear on the ground in a pool of blood after Lightbringer has been forged. That’s the same blood that went into the veins of the white wooden dragon, if you smell what I am cooking here.
Arya Not Entertained?
There’s only one “old bones” occurrence in ACOK, and it belongs to Arya’s supervisor at Harrenhal called Pinkeye, and I think the thing to look for here are Others double entendre. This picks up just after Jaquen and company have helped Arya free the captive northmen, and after Jaquen changes his face and leaves Arya:
“Valar morghulis,” she said once more, and the stranger in Jaqen’s clothes bowed to her and stalked off through the darkness, cloak swirling. She was alone with the dead men. They deserved to die, Arya told herself, remembering all those Ser Amory Lorch had killed at the holdfast by the lake.
The cellars under Kingspyre were empty when she returned to her bed of straw. She whispered her names to her pillow, and when she was done she added, “Valar morghulis,” in a small soft voice, wondering what it meant.
Come dawn, Pinkeye and the others were back, all but one boy who’d been killed in the fighting for no reason that anyone could say. Pinkeye went up alone to see how matters stood by light of day, complaining all the while that his old bones could not abide steps. When he returned, he told them that Harrenhal had been taken. “Them Bloody Mummers killed some of Ser Amory’s lot in their beds, and the rest at table after they were good and drunk. The new lord will be here before the day’s out, with his whole host. He’s from the wild north up where that Wall is, and they say he’s a hard one.
The hard one is Roose Bolton, who is symbolically aligned with Night’s King and the Others – and you’ll notice how Pinkeye’s very approximate geography has Roos Bolton as “from the wild north up where that Wall is,” implying Roose as the Hight’s King invading Westeros from the Wall. Pinkeye has the old bones, and we see the phrase “Pinkeye and the others.” So, Pinkeye, with his old bones, and the others with him, they are about to serve an evil Azor Ahai / Night’s King figure, who usually commands the Others. This sequence feels similar to the Stannis and Renly one, with Roose in the Stannis role as one who basically just has an army go over to him after a key assassination (or three), with that army representing the Others.
Now, we’ve looked at these scenes before in detail in the Weirwood goddess series, and both Arya and Jaquen seem to be some kind of weirwood assasins; Arya is playing a child of the forest role, climbing in the kingdom of the leaves and living in caverns beneath Kingspyre Tower, which is another burning tree (weirwood) symbol. Jaquen has red and white hair, like the weirwood, and steps out from behind the weirwood after Arya prays to the Old Gods:
Was that enough? Maybe she should pray aloud if she wanted the old gods to hear. Maybe she should pray longer. Sometimes her father had prayed a long time, she remembered. But the old gods had never helped him. Remembering that made her angry. “You should have saved him,” she scolded the tree. “He prayed to you all the time. I don’t care if you help me or not. I don’t think you could even if you wanted to.”
“Gods are not mocked, girl.”
The voice startled her. She leapt to her feet and drew her wooden sword. Jaqen H’ghar stood so still in the darkness that he seemed one of the trees. “A man comes to hear a name. One and two and then comes three. A man would have done.”
So as you can see, I’m not exactly reading into things to suggest that Jaquen is playing the part of some sort of emanation of the tree. But I’ve never thought of him as an Other, because he just doesn’t do Other things… plus, that half-red hair. He seems more like a walking Bloodraven or a Beric figure, or like what Jon will be when’s resurrected with red eyes, white hair, and hot hands. Basically, the good kind of Azor Ahai reborn… and often I think of this person as either the three eyed crow or his servant, the last hero, to put it in basic terms. These figures are always pro-Night’s Watch and pro-weirwood, and indeed, they look like weirwoods to some extent.
Arya herself is symbolically part of the Night’s Watch, as she is a Stark, as she joins the Night’s Watch recruits for a time, and as she kills a run-away Night’s Watchmen, the singer Daeron, in Braavos, which was of course the correct and lawful thing for her to do as a Stark enforcing the law of the Night’s Watch oaths. Here in Harrenhal, she’s combining her copious child of the forest symbolism with that weirwood assassin role I was talking about, very like her mentor Jaquen, and to be honest she reminds me a bit of Melisandre’s shadowbaby.
“A man hears the whisper of sand in a glass. A man will not sleep until a girl unsays a certain name. Now, evil child.” I’m not an evil child, she thought, I am a direwolf, and the ghost in Harrenhal.
An evil child and a ghost, and she’s a child of… Catelyn, a weirwood goddess figure. Just as the shadow baby come from Melisandre, a weirwood goddess Nissa Nissa figure, so to does Arya. This symbolism is built on in the scene where they set the captive northmen free, because Arya and Jaquen come directly from the heart tree in the godswood to the scene of the killing. They are physically coming from the weirwood tree as assassins, just as Arya comes from her mother, who symbolizes a weirwood tree. I have often compared the shadowbaby assassins to the Night’s Watch if you’ll recall, as they are both black shadows symbols of Azor Ahai reborn, and both come from the weirwoods in the sense that the original Night’s Watch were the green zombies, who were resurrected through weirwood magic by all indications.
Just to button all that up… Arya herself already has Night’s Watch affiliations, and she’s acting a lot like the shadowbaby here, which itself has Night’s Watch parallels. Think about Arya’s nicknames: evil child. Blood child. Dark heart.
And just like the shadowbaby child of Mel and Stannis that kills Renly, Arya’s assassinations are what triggers the army going over to the evil Azor Ahai / Night’s King figure, who is Roose in this situation. Arya even serves Roose as his cup-bearer for a time and wears his sigil on her chest. Of course that doesn’t last long; she flees Harrenhal and goes on about her way; I’m not sure if that makes her a good Other figure, but that would fit with her Night’s Watch associations.
There’s actually another old bones quote that involves Arya’s chapters in the Riverlands, so I will serve that up next. Arya has just had that conversation with Ned Dayne about her Ashara Dayne and Ned Stark’s suspected love affair, with Arya storming off angry at the idea her father could have ever loved someone else.
It was Harwin who rode up beside her, in the end. “Where do you think you’re going, milady? You shouldn’t run off. There are wolves in these woods, and worse things.”
Soon after this ominous description of ‘the woods,’ we get this:
The village was just where Notch had promised it would be. They took shelter in a grey stone stable. Only half a roof remained, but that was half a roof more than any other building in the village. It’s not a village, it’s only black stones and old bones. “Did the Lannisters kill the people who lived here?” Arya asked as she helped Anguy dry the horses.
“No.” He pointed. “Look at how thick the moss grows on the stones. No one’s moved them for a long time. And there’s a tree growing out of the wall there, see? This place was put to the torch a long time ago.”
Black stones and old ones? Trees growing out of black stones??? Is this the Isle of Faces or what? Actually, it’s not, it’s a village near the High Heart, which actually is close to the Gods Eye as well. They’ve just come from the High Heart actually, where the Ghost of the High Heart gave prophecies amidst the weirwood circle. We’ll come back to her in a moment, but first take a look at Thoros peering into a fire amidst the black stones and old bones:
Thoros sat before it crosslegged, devouring the flames with his eyes just as he had atop High Heart. Arya watched him closely, and once his lips moved, and she thought she heard him mutter, “Riverrun.”
A moment later, Thoros suddely bursts from his reverie and exclaims…
“Lannisters,” Thoros said. “Roaring red and gold.” He lurched to his feet and went to Lord Beric. Lem and Tom wasted no time joining them.
After conferring, they decide to tell Arya what Thoros saw:
The red priest squatted down beside her. “My lady,” he said, “the Lord granted me a view of Riverrun. An island in a sea of fire, it seemed. The flames were leaping lions with long crimson claws. And how they roared! A sea of Lannisters, my lady. Riverrun will soon come under attack.”
Arya felt as though he’d punched her in the belly. “No!”
“Sweetling,” said Thoros, “the flames do not lie. Sometimes I read them wrongly, blind fool that I am. But not this time, I think. The Lannisters will soon have Riverrun under siege.”
“Robb will beat them.” Arya got a stubborn look. “He’ll beat them like he did before.”
“Your brother may be gone,” said Thoros. “Your mother as well. I did not see them in the flames. This wedding the old one spoke of, a wedding on the Twins … she has her own ways of knowing things, that one. The weirwoods whisper in her ear when she sleeps. If she says your mother is gone to the Twins …”
Ah ha! So the Ghost of High Heart is an Old One – that’s no shock. We’ll talk about this more in the next episode, but she’s most likely half cotf, she has that red eye / white hair coloring that is shared by Ghost the Direwolf, Bloodraven, and Jaquen (Arya even compares her to Ghost in the scene). She is what we have been calling “the weiwood goddess,” the spirit of Nissa Nissa in the weirwoodnet… or we might simply say “the voice of the weirwoods,” as Nissa Nissa’s ghost seems to have become the weirwoodnet.
So, interestingly, both Thoros with his flames and the Ghost of the High Heart with her weirwood whisperings are detecting the Red Wedding. The Brotherhood Without Banners here, having access to both, have put two and two together and figured out not to go to Rivverun.
The star of this show is the Gods Eye symbolism: an island in a sea of fire, with the sea of fire also being equated with roaring Lannister lions. So, an island in a lake of fire which is like a lion… that’s the Gods Eye alright! The Gods Eye symbolism equates the Isle of Faces with the eclipsing moon, and the lake with sun being eclipsed, and so the lake is described as looking as though it was on fire, or it reflects the blinding light of the sun, or looks like a sheet of sun hammered metal, while the Isle of Faces has, well, faces, like the man in the moon lunar face, and more importantly, it has weirwoods, which are equated with the moon on many occasions. So, a weirwood moon island in a lake of solar fire, that’s the combined sky-ground Gods Eye symbol, and here we have a good, strong reference to it: Rivverun as the Isle of faces, surrounded by a lake of solar lion fire. Even Rivverun works well here, as it brings in the James Joyce cyclical concept of time which applies to the weirwoods.
So, in between the Gods Eye and the High Heart, we get black stones and old bones, Beric Ahai and his merry band, then a sorcerer gazing into the flames and seeing a vision that evokes the Gods Eye. The vision reminds him of what “the old one” weirwood ghost lady told him, oh by the way. I’m not trying to interpret this too elaborately; I mostly want to point out the confluence of ideas here: old ones, black stones, and lots of clues about the Isle of Faces.
Next up I have a couple of very strong parallels to the idea of Night’s King winning an army of Others with a single act. The first features Young Griff a.k.a. fAegon Blackfyre, the fake son of Rhaegar Targaryen, winning over the Golden Company. First, check out fAegon:
The prince wore sword and dagger, black boots polished to a high sheen, a black cloak lined with blood-red silk. With his hair washed and cut and freshly dyed a deep, dark blue, his eyes looked blue as well. At his throat he wore three huge square-cut rubies on a chain of black iron, a gift from Magister Illyrio. Red and black. Dragon colors.
He actually sounds a bit like Ramsay, who has the black and blood coloring and ice eyes instead of fAegon’s blue eyes. I read fAegon much the same way though, as an evil Azor turned Night’s King, although there may be more to it. He’s almost like the opposite of the stolen Other baby – a stolen dragon baby. Maybe we should track down all such figures one day, like mace’s child, Aemon Battleborn, or perhaps Dany’s baby… In any case, I think the blue eyes and hair are key – his obvious dragon nature and colors are mixed with this ice symbols to give us some sort of ice and fire mix.
Check out his horse:
They gave the prince the best of the three horses, a big grey gelding so pale that he was almost white. Griff and Haldon rode beside him on lesser mounts. The road ran south beneath the high white walls of Volon Therys for a good half mile. Then they left the town behind, following the winding course of the Rhoyne through willow groves and poppy fields and past a tall wooden windmill whose blades creaked like old bones as they turned.
The windmill is a strong cosmic tree symbol; that’s part of the idea behind the title of my favorite comparative mythology book, Hamlet’s Mill! The cosmic world tree is the axis around which the universe turns, so it’s sometimes depicted as a water mill or windmill, or even a whirlpool. The windmill is apt for ASOIAF, as the weirwoods seem to communicate to regular folk through the rustling of their leaves, and this creaky old windmill is making the sound of old bones. In other words, the weirwood is churning out some old bones – some Others. The cold winds are blowing.
A big-bellied, shambling hulk of a man, the sellsword had a seamed face crisscrossed with old scars. His right ear looked as if a dog had chewed on it and his left was missing. “Have they made you a captain, Flowers?” Griff said. “I thought the Golden Company had standards.” “It’s worse than that, you bugger,” said Franklyn Flowers. “They knighted me as well.” He clasped Griff by the forearm, pulled him into a bone-crushing hug. “You look awful, even for a man’s been dead a dozen years. Blue hair, is it? When Harry said you’d be turning up, I almost shit myself. And Haldon, you icy cunt, good to see you too. Still have that stick up your arse?” He turned to Young Griff. “And this would be …”
Franklyn Flowers has the name of a bastard of the Reach, so he’s bringing the Garth the Green / nature symbolism – and notice that’s called a hulk of a man, and you know George loves those green hulk references, such as he used at the Battle of the Blackwater where the hulking ship was the one loaded up with wildfire. The Hulk is also huge, like other Garth figures, and like the tall stag men we are picturing, so Franklin is very well spelled out to us as a green man / Garth type. BUT – his face is scarred. He’s missing one and a half ears, almost like he had frostbite. He immediately calls out Griff’s supposedly “dead” status and blue hair, and then calls Haldon icy.
Even better is the description of the gilded skulls which have come to define and symbolize the Golden Company:
The captain-general’s tent was made of cloth-of-gold and surrounded by a ring of pikes topped with gilded skulls. One skull was larger than the rest, grotesquely malformed. Below it was a second, no larger than a child’s fist. Maelys the Monstrous and his nameless brother. The other skulls had a sameness to them, though several had been cracked and splintered by the blows that had slain them, and one had filed, pointed teeth.
The other skulls had a sameness – hello. In the AGOT prologue, the “faceless” Others “emerged silently from the shadows, twins to the first.” George even slides in the word “nameless” here regarding Maelys the Monstrous’s tiny brother’s skull, which is the size of a “child’s fist.” Oh boy, that brings up the children and the Fist of the First Men where the Others and wights all showed up to butcher the Night’s Watch.
Hands of gold are always gold, and so too for skulls of gold, it would seem.
I’ll also point out that George has previously used a skull on a spear to symbolize a weirwood in that scene north of the Wall; the severed, eyeless heads of three Night’s Watch brothers (Garth Greyfeather, Black Jack Bullwer, and Hairy Hall) were mounted on spears of ash to make grisly weirwood totems. The golden skulls on poles would seem to be the cold version of this symbol.
The quote continues with Jon Connigton staring at the skull of his old friend, Miles Toyne:
Death had robbed him of his ears, his nose, and all his warmth. The smile remained, transformed into a glittering golden grin. All the skulls were grinning, even Bittersteel’s on the tall pike in the center. What does he have to grin about? He died defeated and alone, a broken man in an alien land.
On his deathbed, Ser Aegor Rivers had famously commanded his men to boil the flesh from his skull, dip it in gold, and carry it before them when they crossed the sea to retake Westeros. His successors had followed his example. Jon Connington might have been one of those successors if his exile had gone otherwise.
If JonCon’s like had gone “otherwise,” he’d have ended up a cold golden skull on a pole too, lol. The them of exile is great too – all of the Golden company are descended from exiles. The Blackfyre rebellion – hello, Long Night black dragon symbolism – led to the exile of the Golden Company, just as the Others were theoretically exiled from the weirwoodnet.
As for the grins of the skulls… perhaps a reference to the mocking laughter of the Others? Who knows.
Ghosts and liars, Griff thought, as he surveyed their faces. Revenants from forgotten wars, lost causes, failed rebellions, a brotherhood of the failed and the fallen, the disgraced and the disinherited. This is my army. This is our best hope.
So as you can see, fAegon has got himself an army of the dead. Revenants and ghosts. This is one of those ones where you could argue that fAegon is a last hero / stolen Other baby, more like Jon, and that this dead army is the green zombie brotherhood… sometimes it’s hard to tell the green zombies apart, as they seem to be opposite sides of the same coin with a joined history. I’d argue the motive of the Golden Company matches the proposed motivation of the Others perfectly: they’ve been evicted from their home generations ago, and they are still mad as ever and they want to take back what is theirs. I’ve always read Griff turning his red hair blue and fAegon dying his silver hair blue as symbols of the Night’s King shift from fire to ice, but it’s up for debate.
This next example of a Night’s king making an army of Others from green men is far less ambiguous, I’m happy to say. I’m also happy to say that it’s time to… Sansabrate a little!
Later there was a feast of sorts, though Petyr was forced to make apologies for the humble fare. Robert was trotted out in a doublet of cream and blue, and played the little lord quite graciously. Bronze Yohn was not there to see; he had already departed from the Eyrie to begin the long descent, as had Ser Lyn Corbray before him. The other lords remained with them till morn.
Uh-oh, the Other lords! They’re the lords of the Vale, so it’s easy to see them as icy. And did anyone else hear “Robert was trotted out in a doublet of cream ” and think it sounds like they are serving up Sweetrobin with a bowl of cream to eat for the feast? Robynpaste anyone? No? Okay, let’s pick up where we left off with the other lords remaining with Nigh’ts King Petyr till morn:
He bewitched them, Alayne thought as she lay abed that night listening to the wind howl outside her windows. She could not have said where the suspicion came from, but once it crossed her mind it would not let her sleep. She tossed and turned, worrying at it like a dog at some old bone. Finally, she rose and dressed herself, leaving Gretchel to her dreams.
That’s the same howling wind that is also described as a huge ghost wolf in a different Alayne / Vale chapter, and it’s keeping Sansa awake. Also keeping her awake: her suspicions about Petyr, the ones she’s worrying at like an old bone. The message, clearly, is that she is eating an old one – Sweetrobynpaste, at the feast, like I just said. Naw, I’m just kidding, and making sure you’re still paying attention. The suspicion Sansa is chewing on is the way Petyr “bewitched” the other lords to come over to his side. The quote continues:
Petyr was still awake, scratching out a letter. “Alayne,” he said. “My sweet. What brings you here so late?”
“I had to know. What will happen in a year?”
He put down his quill. “Redfort and Waynwood are old. One or both of them may die. Gilwood Hunter will be murdered by his brothers. Most likely by young Harlan, who arranged Lord Eon’s death. In for a penny, in for a stag, I always say. Belmore is corrupt and can be bought. Templeton I shall befriend. Bronze Yohn Royce will continue to be hostile, I fear, but so long as he stands alone he is not so much a threat.”
Okay, so Gilwood Hunter – gills are fish, and woods are fish if we are talking about the green sea. So, Gilwood Hunter, think Herne the Hunter – this is all green man stuff. He’ll be murdered by his brother, like Renly. Harlan is a name Martin has conflated with Herne the Hunter, as twin children of Garth were called Herndon of the Horne and Harlon the Hunter. I recommend Crowfood’s Daughter’s video on the Disputed Lands YouTube channel about this if you want to learn more about Harlon and Harlequin figures and what that has to do with the brother / brother killing cycle.
Anyway, we also have Redfort, a First Man house whose sigil is a red castle on white, a potential weirwood coloring reference. Waynwood is great; they have wood in the name, green in the sigil, and the whole wagon wheel thing brings us back to the cosmic mill and the cycles of the seasons and life and death. A broken spoke on such a wheel like we see on the Waynwood sigil is a bad thing, but it’s also specific: breaking the cycles of the universe is what the Long Night is all about. House Bellmore, well their sigil is six silver bells on purple, which makes me sing “silver bells” in a Cartman voice and remind you that Silver Bells is a Christmas song! and thus! Bellmore is giving us Holly King / Winter King vibes here. Simon Templton, the Night of Nine Stars, well he’s drippping with Night’s King symbolism; Sansa describes his beard as “black and sharply pointed. A beak of a nose and icy blue eyes made the Knight of Ninestars look like some elegant bird of prey.”
I don’t want to get too bogged down here, but you can see that there’s enough green man symbolism here to send the message thatthese other lords of the icy vale have green man weirwood heritage. One final clue here about the Others, and this picks up right where we left off:
“And Ser Lyn Corbray?”
The candlelight was dancing in his eyes. “Ser Lyn will remain my implacable enemy. He will speak of me with scorn and loathing to every man he meets, and lend his sword to every secret plot to bring me down.”
That was when her suspicion turned to certainty. “And how shall you reward him for this service?”
Littlefinger laughed aloud. “With gold and boys and promises, of course. Ser Lyn is a man of simple tastes, my sweetling. All he likes is gold and boys and killing.”
All the Others like is Craster’s boys and killing. In fact, Craster gives his boys to the Others, and they in turn don’t kill him.
Now the thing is, Ser Lyn’s symbolism screams “Bloodraven.” It’s three black ravens clutching bloody hearts on a field of white, so… that’s three bloodravens in the snow. The way I interpret that is the same way I interpret the green man and weirwood symbolism of the other lords declarant; a sign these “other lords” have an origin with the weirwoods. I mean Ser Lyn certainly doesn’t act like Bloodraven in any sense anyway, and here he is serving Petyr Baelish, a Night’s King figure, by pretending to be his enemy… oh god, I’m giving the “evil Bloodraven” people fodder, I better stop. Don’t even point out that Bloodraven spent 5 books trying to get his hands on a certain “boy,” because that’s just wrong.
So, summing this scene up, Sansa’s suspicions about how Peyr bewitched the other lords is the old bone, and once again we see it fits the pattern of a Night’s King gaining an icy army at a stroke. Now that he’s gained control of the Vale, he can effectively command their army… and decked out in all those Arryn colors, cream crescent moons on sky blue… they will look like an army of Others.
Alright, so we will close with the Lord of Bones. He’s a likely suspect for Other symbolism. And he’s made of bones, so, for this essay he’s kind of the perfect mascot. First let’s take a look at the first time we see him, right before Jon kills Qhorin Halfhand and goes over to the Wildlings:
Ten yards below the cave mouth the hunters halted. Their leader came on alone, riding a beast that seemed more goat than horse, from the surefooted way it climbed the uneven slope. As man and mount grew nearer Jon could hear them clattering; both were armored in bones. Cow bones, sheep bones, the bones of goats and aurochs and elk, the great bones of the hairy mammoths . . . and human bones as well.
“Rattleshirt,” Qhorin called down, icy-polite.
“To crows I be the Lord o’ Bones.” The rider’s helm was made from the broken skull of a giant, and all up and down his arms bearclaws had been sewn to his boiled leather.
Okay, did anyone catch what all these animals that died to make Rattleshirt’s armor have in common? Horns, of course: cows, goats, aurochs, elk, mammoths, and even sheep if you count male ship, a.k.a. rams. Humans don’t have horns – unless they are Green men, lol. Point being, many horned animals died to bring “the Lord o’ Bones” to life. It also reeks of necromancy in general, and of course in terms of appearance, he effectively has white armor, giving him a vaugely otherish appearance. I like the giant’s skull helm, that’s a nice touch.
After Rattleshirt’s introduction we get an avalanche of “Others” double entendres:
He freed his battle-axe, brandishing it above his head. Good steel it was, with a wicked gleam to both blades; Ebben was never a man to neglect his weapons. The other wildlings crowded forward beside him, yelling taunts. A few chose Jon for their mockery. “Is that your wolf, boy?” a skinny youth called, unlimbering a stone flail. “He’ll be my cloak before the sun is down.” On the other side of the line, another spearwife opened her ragged furs to show Jon a heavy white breast. “Does the baby want his momma? Come, have a suck o’ this, boy.” The dogs were barking too.
So there were two: “the other wildlings crowded forward yelling taunts” and “on the other side of the line..”. The line about the other wildlings taunting kind of reminds you of the mocking words of the Others when they confront Waymar, especially since Jon and Waymar have so many parallels. A bit later in the scene after Jon kills the Halfhand, we get this:
“A warg he may be,” Ygritte said, “but that has never frightened us.” Others shouted agreement. Behind the eyeholes of his yellowed skull Rattleshirt’s stare was malignant, but he yielded grudgingly. These are a free folk indeed, thought Jon.
They burned Qhorin Halfhand where he’d fallen, on a pyre made of pine needles, brush, and broken branches. Some of the wood was still green, and it burned slow and smoky, sending a black plume up into the bright hard blue of the sky. Afterward Rattleshirt claimed some charred bones, while the others threw dice for the ranger’s gear. Ygritte won his cloak.
Okay, so those are hard to miss: “Others shouted agreement,” with the word Others capitalized because it’s at the start of the sentence, and “..while the others threw dice for the ranger’s gear,” which is sweet because it’s “the others” instead of just “others.” So that makes four in close succession, and of course you all know that the Wildlings often play the role of the Others, especially in the scene where Jon lets them through the Wall and closely inspects them all. That chapter featured no less than seven Others double entendres, a real tour de force if I don’t say so myself.
So with that established, the scene we are looking at is actually Mance Raydar glamoured as Rattleshirt, and this takes place after the real Rattleshirt has been burned while glamoured to look like Mance Raydar. It starts with Jon beating up a bit on his recruits, with Mancelshirt stepping in to challenge:
By that time Jace had found his feet, so Jon put him down again. “I hate it when dead men get up. You’ll feel the same the day you meet a wight.” Stepping back, he lowered his sword.
“The big crow can peck the little crows,” growled a voice behind him, “but has he belly enough to fight a man?” Rattleshirt was leaning against a wall. A coarse stubble covered his sunken cheeks, and thin brown hair was blowing across his little yellow eyes.
“You flatter yourself,” Jon said.
“Aye, but I’d flatten you.”
“Stannis burned the wrong man.”
“No.” The wildling grinned at him through a mouth of brown and broken teeth. “He burned the man he had to burn, for all the world to see. We all do what we have to do, Snow. Even kings.”
“Emmett, find some armor for him. I want him in steel, not old bones.”
So there’s the old bones line, preceded by talk of fighting wights, as well as Martin cleverly taunting us with the secret of Mance and Rattleshirt being switched before the execution by saying “Stannis burnt the wrong man.” Consider the implications of that in light of Mance’s strong connections with the Horned Lord ideas. His command tent is adorned with the rack of a great elk like the one Coldhands rides, and better yet, he’s a King Beyond the Wall, as was the “Horned Lord” before him. The Horned Lord is remembered for authoring the “sorcery is like a sword without a hilt” quote, and Mance too is implied as a sorcerer – the word “mance” can mean “magic,” as in “pyromancy,” “necromancy,” “geomancy,” “aeromancy,” and so on. So, Mance Raydar is really “magical raider,” and that’s exactly what the Horned Lord was, a man who “used sorcery to pass the Wall.”
Now think about Mancelshirt again – Mancelshirt? Lord o Mance? Bones Raydar? – since he’s a horned lord dressed up as an Other. Oh, gosh, that’s the whole theory isn’t it, the horned green men became the Others, okay thanks turn out the lights when you leave.
Actually no, don’t leave, we aren’t done. Now when Jon fights he sounds distinctly like an Other, with almost superhuman speed and quickness. Jon doesn’t seem to land a decent blow on him, and look out for two “Others” double entendres:
He has no shield, Jon reminded himself, and that monster sword’s too cumbersome for parries. I should be landing two blows for every one of his. Somehow he wasn’t, though, and the blows he did land were having no effect. The wildling always seemed to be moving away or sliding sideways, so Jon’s longsword glanced off a shoulder or an arm. Before long he found himself giving more ground, trying to avoid the other’s crashing cuts and failing half the time. His shield had been reduced to kindling. He shook it off his arm. Sweat was running down his face and stinging his eyes beneath his helm. He is too strong and too quick, he realized, and with that greatsword he has weight and reach on me. It would have been a different fight if Jon had been armed with Longclaw, but …
His chance came on Rattleshirt’s next backswing. Jon threw himself forward, bulling into the other man, and they went down together, legs entangled. Steel slammed on steel. Both men lost their swords as they rolled on the hard ground. The wildling drove a knee between Jon’s legs. Jon lashed out with a mailed fist. Somehow Rattleshirt ended up on top, with Jon’s head in his hands. He smashed it against the ground, then wrenched his visor open. “If I had me a dagger, you’d be less an eye by now,” he snarled, before Horse and Iron Emmett dragged him off the lord commander’s chest. “Let go o’ me, you bloody crows,” he roared.
So that’s cool, the “Other man” is sliding sideways, and I love how Jon thinks that it would have been different if he had Longclaw. True! Valyrian steel is great against Others, I hear. Overall, this is a great preview of what it’s going to be like to fight a White Walker, and there are parallels to Waymar here too, besides the mocking challenge of the old bone-clad wildling Lord. Most importantly, Mancelshirt threatens to take out an eye, which is exactly what the Others did to Waymar in the prologue. This is no small detail, because as Joe Magician and I have discussed on his channel and mine, there are clues that what the Others really want to do to Jon is not to kill him, but to transform him- perhaps into a new Night’s King, or some kind of super wight, who knows. This idea seems to be hinted at by Martin later in this chapter:
By nightfall the bruises that Rattleshirt had given him had turned purple. “They’ll go yellow before they fade away,” he told Mormont’s raven. “I’ll look as sallow as the Lord of Bones.”
“Bones,” the bird agreed. “Bones, bones.”
In other words, Mancelshirt’s blows have began to transform Jon into looking like him! That’s easy to see the implications of, and in the reverse reading of the AGOT prologue, we pointed out the possibility of the Others using their swords to transform people, like some sort of icy Nissa Nissa type of thing. One thinks of Arthur Dayne knighting Jaime with Dawn… anyway.
There’s an interesting line I want to briefly mention; as Jon muses on Melisandre’s nightfire rituals, he notes that there are “perhaps a dozen black brothers who had taken her red god for their own.” Perhaps a hint about the last hero’s dozen green zombies being animated by fire? That’s our best guess about what kind of wights they were, based on all the burning scarecrow symbolism shared between the scarecrow sentinels on the Wall and Beric, the scarecrow knight.
So after this fight with Mancelshirt the Other, Jon decides to walk the Wall and observe some mythical astronomy:
Mully and Kegs stood inside the doors, leaning on their spears. “A cruel cold out there, m’lord,” warned Mully through his tangled orange beard. “Will you be out long?”
“No. I just need a breath of air.” Jon stepped out into the night. The sky was full of stars, and the wind was gusting along the Wall. Even the moon looked cold; there were goosebumps all across its face. Then the first gust caught him, slicing through his layers of wool and leather to set his teeth to chattering. He stalked across the yard, into the teeth of that wind.
So the moon is turning cold, and the cold is slicing through Jon and setting his teeth to chattering. I take this for more cold transformation language, and the cold moon with goosebumps was simply too good to pass up. Now while this cold transformation could be talking about Jon’s possible fate should the Others catch him, it could also be referring to Jon’s murder at the end of this book, ADWD… a scene which also has parallels to Waymar’s death at the hands of the Others, by the way. In that light, it’s interesting to observe what happens next after the cold wind slices through Jon’s clothes, and this is picking up right where we left off:
In the shadow of the Wall, the direwolf brushed up against his fingers. For half a heartbeat the night came alive with a thousand smells, and Jon Snow heard the crackle of the crust breaking on a patch of old snow. Someone was behind him, he realized suddenly. Someone who smelled warm as a summer day. When he turned he saw Ygritte. She stood beneath the scorched stones of the Lord Commander’s Tower, cloaked in darkness and in memory. The light of the moon was in her hair, her red hair kissed by fire. When he saw that, Jon’s heart leapt into his mouth. “Ygritte,” he said.
“Lord Snow.” The voice was Melisandre’s.
Meaning, when Jon is at his coldest and in danger of icy trandsformation… it might be handy to have hothands Mel around (you’ll recall sorcerous flames playing about her hands in another ADWD scene). Jon’s heart leapt into his mouth, which sounds like a resurrection symbol, I must say. And look, there is Ghost.
So, to put a cherry on this, let me point out some advanced wordplay that will make friends like Rusted Revovler, Pan Doubter, and Ravenous Reader exuberant: old snow. What about old snow? Spell snow backards. W-O-N-S. Now say it: “wons.” Old wons. Old Snow. Ha ha ha ha ha
And now we will cite all scenes where the phrase “old snow” is used and… naw just kidding. It occurs fifteen times in the main series, with nine coming in Jon chapters, including this scene that parallels the one with Mel we just cited:
He found Ygritte sprawled across a patch of old snow beneath the Lord Commander’s Tower, with an arrow between her breasts. The ice crystals had settled over her face, and in the moonlight it looked as though she wore a glittering silver mask.
A beautiful and tragic scene, and a good place to end for today. It’s actually a bit of a teaser for the next Green Zombies episode, too, as you can see kissed by fire Ygritte becoming kissed by ice in death. If the weirwood goddess represents the weirwood, this icy silver mask Ygritte is putting on here is equivalent to the “pale shadow of a weirwood armored in ice” from the Varamyr prologue of ADWD. It’s hinting at some connection between Nissa Nissa and Night’s Queen, and it’s hinting at the concept of freezing over the weirwoodnet, which I believe to be the ultimate goal of the Others.
11 thoughts on “Old Bones and Cold Gods”
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