Hey there friends and fellow myth heads, it’s your starry host LmL, and I’m back with the third installment of our videographic ode to King Brandon Stark I, future wizard-king of whatever blighted ruin is left of Westeros after George R. R. Martin has finished having his way with it. So far we’ve figured out that King Bran is best viewed as a sort of mythical god-king, a figure torn right out of the pages of legend and placed on the throne of Westeros. King Bran will be a throwback to the Age of Heroes – he’ll be a warg king and a greenseer king in the tradition of the ancient First Men and Stark Kings of Winter. He’ll play the role of a green man / summer king who helps the seasons turn again in the tradition of the First King of Westeros, Garth the Green. King Bran will be both a reprisal and a culmination of these legendary roles, in other words, a veritable god-on-earth. Not a vegetable god – although, yeah kinda – a veritable god on earth.
Viewed in this mythical context, King Bran begins to make sense – more sense than it did when Tyrion-the-prisoner started talking about the importance of stories and just sort of convinced everyone that Bran should be king, cut scene, drop curtain. As we’ve discussed, the magical elements of the book series ASOIAF are greatly simplified and reduced in the TV show Game of Thrones, which is why we expect both Bran as a character and Bran as a king to make more sense in the book version. There’s an even wider gulf between the presence and importance of myth and symbol in the books versus the show, and here again we find reason to believe that King Bran will make a good deal more sense on printed page than on the TV screen. Magic and myth – these things are the primary context in which George imagined the idea of King Bran, and so that is how we have to consider him.
Fortunately for you, magic and myth just happens to be exactly what we do around here! Fable and symbol are bread and salt to we mythical astronomers, and that’s why you won’t find this analysis of King Bran anywhere else. And by the way – if you’re enjoying the series so far, whether that be on our YouTube channel, through the Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire podcast feed, or via text at lucifermeanslightbringer.com, please consider joining our myth head Patreon community. It’s addictive, but won’t cause you to lose teeth or get you arrested. Best of all, you’ll be supporting the podcast and ensuring its continued existence. Thanks to our Patrons for bringing this video to life; they’re a swell bunch with swell nicknames, and I’ll be thanking them throughout.
So, King Bran is a mythical king and a freaking tree-wizard – not bad for a boy pushed out of a tall tower window at age seven. What he really is is the culmination of an archetype George has building up in the background of the story, one which you could indeed refer to as “tree-wizard-king.” We saw in the first King Bran video that there is good historical precedent for greenseer and warg kings in the Age of Heroes – the precedent for King Bran, in other words – and we took a look at what these sort of wizard-kings can do with their magic to get the basic idea of what Bran might look like when he comes back to Winterfell as a more accomplished tree-wizard. In the second video, we saw that George conceives of a weirwood king as a sort of nature god, and that Bran’s ascent to the throne is closely tied to the idea of the the return of summer and life to Westeros after the cold and death of the Long Night.
These ideas begins to answer the question of why King Bran, with the answers being because we are going to need some mighty strong warging magic and weirwoodnet knowledge to defeat the Others, and then because summer must come again. Today, we add to these answers one more reason why Bran must be king: because he is the one who has possessed – and hopefully mastered – the fire of the gods, and (important caveat here), in a way that can benefit mankind.
Just as Bran’s summer king symbolism is passed down to him from Garth the Green and echoed in the current story by King Robert Baratheon, Bran’s fire of the gods symbolism is echoed in the story by our favorite tree-wizard, Bloodraven, and descends down to Bran from yet another towering figure of the Age of Heroes. The legend is extremely old and strange and it contains everything from pirates to dragon-slaying to weirwood boats, but it foreshadows Bran’s destiny as much if not more so than the legends of Garth the Green or Bran the Builder.
I’m talking about the legend of the Grey King, and in my opinion, this is George’s magnum opus of writing internal mythology, and serves as the very best example of the way a skilled author can uses these sorts of internal legends and myths to reveal the deeper truths of the central mysteries of the story. In this case, the truth revealed by the Grey King mythos is the nature of greenseeing, and of greenseer kings— er, excuse me, tree-wizard-kings. To put it simply, the premise of this essay is that the Grey King legend describes a greenseer king who grasps the fire of the gods and brings it down to mankind, and we find that everything about his mythology is paralleled in Bran’s story as he grabs hold of the fire of the gods and, apparently, grows up to be a greenseer king. Ergo, this is not only King Bran foreshadowing, so-to-speak, but rather the author giving us insight into just what it is that he wants to explore with the concept of god kings and tree-wizards.
I have a longer breakdown of the Grey King mythology and what it means for greenseeing called Weirwood Compendium 1: The Grey King and the Sea Dragon, but today I’ll be serving up the main points and correlating everything more specifically with Bran. It’s going to be a couple of minutes we get to the Bran part, so you’ll have to indulge a brief wade into ancient Ironborn mythology, but did I mention the Grey King is a dragon-slaying pirate who (I believe) sat on a weirwood throne? Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
Figuring out that the Grey King sat on a weirwood throne isn’t too hard, but you have to read all of the handful of legendary deeds attributed to him and consider them in relation to one another. There are essentially two layers to the Grey King story: on one level, he’s the towering figure of Ironborn legend, ‘the first pirate’ who essentially gave the Ironborn their culture; while on another level, the Grey King is a Promethian wizard-king whose stories function as a symbolic playground for the author to talk about greenseeing as mankind’s way of grasping at god-like power. I will let the High Priest of the Drowned god himself, Aeron Damphair, lay out the Grey King’s impressive resume, and this comes from AFFC:
On the crown of the hill four- and- forty monstrous stone ribs rose from the earth like the trunks of great pale trees. The sight made Aeron’s heart beat faster. Nagga had been the first sea dragon, the mightiest ever to rise from the waves. She fed on krakens and leviathans and drowned whole islands in her wrath, yet the Grey King had slain her and the Drowned God had changed her bones to stone so that men might never cease to wonder at the courage of the first of kings. Nagga’s ribs became the beams and pillars of his longhall, just as her jaws became his throne. For a thousand years and seven he reigned here, Aeron recalled. Here he took his mermaid wife and planned his wars against the Storm God. From here he ruled both stone and salt, wearing robes of woven seaweed and a tall pale crown made from Nagga’s teeth.
Let’s start with Nagga’s Ribs. As cool as it is to imagine a longhall and throne made from the skeleton and jaws of a sea monster, I don’t think that’s actually what’s going on here. I don’t know whether such things as sea dragons exist in the Ice and Fire universe, but Martin is giving us a lot of reasons to think these ribs, as well as the throne and crown of the Grey King, are not made from sea dragon bones, but from bone-white weirwood that has petrified and turned to stone, which is what weirwoods do after a few centuries – turn to stone.
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For example, you will notice that in the quote we just read, the “four-and-forty monstrous stone ribs rose from the earth like great pale trees.” This language is repeated almost exactly in a Victarion chapter of AFFC where he sees “the ribs of Nagga rose from the earth like the trunks of great white trees, as wide around as a dromond’s mast and twice as tall.” Great pale trees, great white trees – these phrases can only make us think of weirwoods. Martin adds an extra layer of weirwood imagery through wordplay here when Aeron sees the ribs; it says “the sight made Aeron’s heart beat faster,” a clever way to suggest “heart trees” and “the sight,” or greensight” in conjunction with the visual of the rib bones looking like pale trees.
George throws us yet another bone when he tells about the very first drowned priest of the Ironborn, a man named Galon Whitestaff, whose tale we hear in TWOIAF:
The greatest of the priests was the towering prophet Galon Whitestaff, so-called for the tall, carved staff he carried everywhere to smite the ungodly. (In some tales his staff was made of weirwood, in others from one of Nagga’s bones.)
That’s practically a give-away there; we are being repeatedly encouraged to think of weirwood trees when discussing the bones of the sea dragon Nagga. And again, we know for a fact that the white-as-bone weirwood wood does eventually petrify and turn to pale stone if the tree is cut down or killed, so it could explain what we see here quite well. Personally, I think it just makes more sense to make a staff, a throne, a crown, and certainly the pillars and beams of a longhall from weirwood, as opposed to sea dragon bone. Still, shout-out to Tad Williams; it’s the sea-dragonbone chair! Kidding aside, I do want to point out that the High Septon of the Faith of the Seven carries a weirwood staff, and although it doesn’t have anything to do with the Grey King or Galon Whitestaff, it does show that the idea of making a holy staff from weirwood is out there, and that it’s a logical thing to do based on the long-held reverence for weirwoods throughout Westeros.
Let’s talk about how those ribs look for a second. You may be picturing the ribcage of a huge sea monster, simply hauled ashore and used as the framework for a longhall, and that’s approximately right. An Aeron Damphair chapter of AFFC speaks of him standing “beneath the arch of Nagga’s ribs,” implying that that the ribs arch together at the top, like a ribcage…
…or like the ribbing of the over-turned hull of a huge boat made from weirwood. After all, we are flat-out told in TWOIAF that the Grey King made the first longship from a tree that sounds a lot like a weirwood tree:
The Grey King also taught men to weave nets and sails and carved the first longship from the hard pale wood of Ygg, a demon tree who fed on human flesh.
“Ygg” is a very thinly-veiled reference to Yggdrasil, the magic world tree of Norse myth that was without-a-doubt the primary inspiration for George’s weirwood trees. The Ygg in this Grey King legend is a tree with pale wood that devours human flesh, and that’s another give-away, since we know that the First Men did indeed sacrifice people to their weirwood trees, which, in case you haven’t noticed, have huge bloody mouths on them. We also hear the “demon tree” epithet used to describe weirwoods by a southerner in Stannis’s army in ADWD, so together with the rest, there’s little doubt that this Ygg the demon tree was a weirwood, and thus it would seem that the Grey King did indeed make himself a weirwood boat.
And then here on Nagga’s Hill, we find something that absolutely could be the ribbing of a huge boat made of weirwood, flipped over and used as the framework for a longhall some time far enough in the past for it to have petrified into pale stone. Seems like a good fit, I have to say. Using the hull of a boat you no longer need as the framework of a longhall makes a ton of sense – why waste resources, right? Weirwood boats would have a limited shelf-life anyway; after a few centuries, it would become a stone boat, which isn’t as buoyant, to say the least.
We don’t even have to look outside the books of ASOIAF to find the idea that flipped-over boat hulls can look like a longhall, because Jon tells us all about that when the wildlings attack the Wall in ASOS. This comes as Jon looks down on the wildling army, who have made a kind of covered battering-ram called a turtle:
The turtle had a rounded top and eight huge wheels, and under the hides was a stout wooden frame. When the wildlings had begun knocking it together, Satin thought they were building a ship. Not far wrong. The turtle was a hull turned upside down and opened fore and aft; a longhall on wheels.
It’s a wooden hull flipped upside-down, and it looks like a longhall – and then just for emphasis, there’s another line a few pages later where it says “the turtle was almost as wide as a longhall.” Bonus points for it being named after a sea creature – a turtle isn’t quite a sea dragon, but still, there it is. It’s part boat, part longhall, and part sea-creature.
As you can see, the “Nagga’s Ribs are really a flipped over weirwood boat hull” theory is based on sound logic; multiple references to pale trees when the ribs are mentioned; Galon’s white staff that could be either sea dragon bone or weirwood, depending on the tale; the fact that weirwood is always described as “white as bone” and turns to pale stone over time; the knowledge that Martin equates flipped-over boat hulls and wooden longhalls; and the very basic fact the Grey King is remembered as having made a weirwood boat. Bonus clue: there’s even a House Stonetree on the Iron Islands, which at the very least demonstrates a local cultural memory of the fact that weirwoods turn to stone, since only weirwoods petrify in-place and above-ground as the tree on their sigil is depicted. House Stonetree’s sigil was likely created back when some people still knew what Naggas’s ribs and all the rest was really made out of.
Overall, it’s a solid theory as theories go, and having sold you on it being plausible without using any overly tricky, hidden-meaning wordplay for supporting evidence… I’d like to now use some overly tricky, hidden meaning, Illuminati / Bible Code / Room 237-level wordplay as supporting evidence, and this is from AFFC, Asha Greyjoy speaking to Tris Botley:
“And there is still Sea Dragon Point … if I cannot have my father’s kingdom, why not make one of my own?” Sea Dragon Point had not always been as thinly peopled as it was now. Old ruins could still be found amongst its hills and bogs, the remains of ancient strongholds of the First Men. In the high places, there were weirwood circles left by the children of the forest.
“You are clinging to Sea Dragon Point the way a drowning man clings to a bit of wreckage. What does sea dragon have that anyone could ever want?”
. . .
“What’s there? I’ll tell you… tall pines for building ships.”
Sea Dragon Point is a peninsula in the north – it’s actually the place where the Starks fought the Warg King, as it happens. No wonder there are weirwood circles there; this was a place of the children of the forest. But it’s also named after the sea dragon – a place with weirwood circles, named after the sea dragon. It’s called a clue, people. And what else do we find there? Tall pines for building ships. Just to make sure we think of ship-building while we hear about sea dragon point and weirwood circles. And look, there’s a line about Asha clinging to Sea Dragon point like a drowning man clinging to wreckage… are you saying sea dragons are like shipwrecks, George? (I think that’s what he’s saying).
In another Ironborn POV-chapter (which is where we get most of the best clues about the Grey King riddles, along with Bran’s chapters) we get another shipwreck-sea dragon comparison. This scene takes place as Theon is first returning to the Iron Islands in ACOK:
When last he’d seen Lordsport, it had been a smoking wasteland, the skeletons of burnt longships and smashed galleys littering the stony shore like the bones of dead leviathans, the houses no more than broken walls and cold ashes.
Leviathan is a term which can be used for any large sea creature, such as a whale, but the Biblical Leviathan is specifically a sea dragon, comparable to the Canaanite Lotan or Mesopotamian Tiamat. Ergo, what we have is Theon looking at wrecked ships and seeing the bones of dead sea dragons here at the Iron Islands, which goes along well with the line we just read about Asha clinging to Sea Dragon Point, with its weirwood circles, like a bit of ship wreckage.
Well, now I’m satisfied – weirwood boat theory is supported by logic, reason, evidence, and tricky symbolic wordplay. Nagga’s Bones do seem to be petrified weirwood, in all probability, and this leaves us with a Grey King sitting on a weirwood throne. After all, if Nagga’s Ribs are really weirwood, then the Grey King’s crown and throne of “Sea Dragon jaws and teeth” are probably made from weirwood as well. We know that the Ironborn have an ancient tradition of wearing wooden crowns – the driftwood crowns, of course – so perhaps this tradition started with the weirwooden crown of the Grey King? And because the Grey King is associated with a weirwood boat, you could even consider that weirwood to be driftwood, or at least “wood that comes from the sea.”
More important would be the idea of a weirwood throne, as that might imply the Grey King as a greenseer. If we picture the Grey King as a greenseer sitting on a weirwood throne, then the legend of the weirwood crown could even be no more than a memory of the way weirwood roots wrap around the head and body of a greenseer who grows old on his throne, as we have seen with Bloodraven. The Grey King did grow very old, after all – one thousand years and seven, he was said to reign. That could just be total flim-flam, but it could also be the memory of a greenseer who extended his life by sitting on a weirwood throne. Growing so old that you turn entirely grey makes him sound vaguely corpse-like, and indeed, Bran sees Bloodraven as a “corpse-lord,” and “half-corpse, half-tree.”
Then there is the Black Gate talking weirwood face beneath the Nightfort, another half-corpse, half-tree which again reminds us of the Grey King. This is from a Bran chapter of ASOS:
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.
Mystery solved – they Grey King is buried beneath the Wall, where he can eat bad little children like Bran. Thanks for coming everyone. Seriously though, the Grey King’s throne was probably some kind of weirwood throne, and he was remembered to live for a thousand years (and seven), so it’s interesting to note that this very ancient and mysterious talking weirwood face is described as a thousand year-old corpse man. That’s all; it’s just interesting. Suggestive, perhaps.
We find something closer to hard evidence when we consider House Farwynd, who seem to be Ironborn skinchangers, just maybe:
Aeron knew some Farwynds, a queer folk who held lands on the westernmost shores of Great Wyk and the scattered isles beyond, rocks so small that most could support but a single household. Of those, the Lonely Light was the most distant, eight days’ sail to the northwest amongst rookeries of seals and sea lions and the boundless grey oceans. The Farwynds there were even queerer than the rest. Some said they were skinchangers, unholy creatures who could take on the forms of sea lions, walruses, even spotted whales, the wolves of the wild sea.
I don’t want to make too much of this, save to say that there could be a little bit more to the most ancient Ironborn culture than is commonly thought. They are against all religions other than worship of the Drowned God now, and have been for a long time, but back in the day of the Grey King, things may have been different. It’s just possible that the Farwynds have a bit of skinchanger blood from that ancient day, back when the ancestors of the Ironborn were ruled by a greenseer king.
Even stronger evidence that the Grey King was a greenseer king who reigned for centuries was his possession of the “the fire of the gods,” and this is what brings us back to Bran.
Without going all Joseph Campbell on you, let me say that the “fire of the gods” is one of those nearly universal mythological concepts which is utilized by many authors on down through the ages. It usually means “the knowledge and power of the gods,” or something that serves as a metaphor for that. It could be powerful technology, like the ability to split atoms and create either atomic power or atomic bomb, or perhaps genetic engineering. In the context of a fantasy story, the fire of the gods is likely to be a powerful magic like greenseeing, or possession of dragons, or the ability to defy death. The Garden of Eden myth is a fire of the gods story, because the fruit Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to eat was from the consciousness-expanding “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” but by far the best-known fire-of the gods story is the Greek myth of Prometheus.
Prometheus was credited for both creating mankind from clay and stealing fire – actual, literal fire – and giving it to humanity, so that mankind might advance and progress. He suffered a nasty punishment for it, which George would approve of since no magic is obtained without great cost. Prometheus is paralleled by the Biblical Lucifer of course, who as the snake acted as the conduit for mankind to gain the knowledge of the tree and was in turn punished, and the more obscure tale of him as an angel who challenges God and gets thrown out of heaven follows a similar course of challenging the gods and paying the price.
Enter the Grey King, fire-stealer extraordinaire. He stole the fire of the gods twice over, and both times, the legend seems to be talking about weirwood trees. First, the lightning-blasted tree:
The deeds attributed to the Grey King by the priests and singers of the Iron Islands are many and marvelous. It was the Grey King who brought fire to the earth by taunting the Storm God until he lashed down with a thunderbolt, setting a tree ablaze. The Grey King also taught men to weave nets and sails and carved the first longship from the hard pale wood of Ygg, a demon tree who fed on human flesh.
I repeated the bit about making a longship from Ygg because I want to highlight the fact that all the aspects of the fire of the gods concept are being touched on – not only did he somehow bring fire to the earth, he also spread knowledge, teaching the ancient Ironborn to make ships, weave nets and sails, etc.
So was the Grey King punished like Prometheus? Maybe – I mean, living for a thousand years and turning grey from head to heel actually doesn’t sound fun, let alone with the burden of kingship placed upon you the whole time. If he really was an inhuman greenseer king, well… that might be the only way such a thing were possible. In any case, I promised that this story of the Storm God’s thunderbolt setting the tree ablaze had to with weirwoods, and indeed it does.
It should be obvious that the power of the weirwoodnet which a greenseer gains access too is the purest manifestation of the fire of the gods concept in ASOIAF. It’s literally the knowledge and power of the Old Gods. And look at the Grey King myth – the means by which he stole the fire of the gods was a tree. Can a burning tree be a symbol for a weirwood tree, somehow?
Well yes, absolutely. The blood-red leaves of the weirwood, which are usually described as looking like bloody hands, look like they are on fire when Theon sees the Winterfell heart tree in the light of the rising sun in ACOK:
The red leaves of the weirwood were a blaze of flame among the green. Ned Stark’s tree, he thought, and Stark’s wood, Stark’s castle, Stark’s sword, Stark’s gods.
Notice that the heart tree is emphasized as the tree of the gods when it is described as a blaze of flame. Now the burning bush of Moses is being invoked, as this is a burning tree which speaks with the voice of god. That’s surely no accident; Martin was raised Catholic and loves to re-purpose or reinterpret powerful symbols like this whenever he can. Besides speaking the voice of god, the miraculous thing about Moses’s burning bush was that it burned without being consumed, and this is implied as being true for the weirwood – if its red leaves make it look like it’s on fire, well, it lives forever and its leaves are always red, so it is like an eternally burning tree that speaks with the knowledge of the gods.
Ergo, when we look at that Grey King myth about bringing fire to mankind via a burning tree – well, this is the same guy who probably sat on a weirwood throne, you know? The same guy who already has weirwood involved in another myth, that of carving the first longship from Ygg. Therefore, I think it makes a lot of sense to interpret that burning tree as a weirwood. The fact that the Grey King tree was set ablaze by the Storm God’s thunderbolt is meaningful too, and relates to Bran’s symbolism, but we will come back to that.
The other manner in which the Grey King stole the fire of the gods was as a part of his “slaying of the sea dragon.” We’ve already figured out that at the very least, the supposed bones of the sea dragon are weirwood, so it’s interesting that in that passage describing the Grey King’s hall, we read that…
The hall had been warmed by Nagga’s living fire, which the Grey King had made his thrall.
Ah ha. Nagga the sea dragon isn’t exactly a god, but if it has living fire that you can somehow possess and make into your servant, well… that is something magical, any way you slice it. Now if the sea dragon lore refers at least in part to weirwood, then we can interpret the Grey King possessing this living fire as possession of the weirwood gift, the power and magic of the Old Gods. Think about that – first we have the Grey King using the burning tree to possess the power of the gods, but the burning tree is actually a symbol of a weirwood tree. Now we have the Grey King possessing magical fire through the sea dragon – but the sea dragon, too, refers to weirwood things. To me, it sounds like he’s doing exactly what Bloodraven and Bran are doing in their weirwood thrones – using greenseer magic, which represents the “fire of the gods” in ASOIAF.
So, the Grey King was, in theory, a greenseer king. Like Garth the Green, he founded many great houses – he was said to have a hundred sons, and all the Iron Island houses save for one claim their descent from him. I believe this bolsters the general theory that greenseer and skinchangers did often become powerful kings and rulers in the days of yore, which is exciting because it helps us paint a fuller picture of what ancient, wild Westeros might have been like (one hopes for some good warg king action in the new Game of Thrones prequel, Bloodmoon, but we’ll have to see). More importantly though, as we go over Bran’s most important greenseer awakening scenes, we will see that George is constantly making reference to the greenseer symbols of the Grey King mythology that we just sketched out. The most important one is the lightning-blasted tree, which turns out to be one of Bran’s central symbolic motifs.
The plot arc of young Brandon Stark through the five books we have so far is almost completely taken up with his quest to obtain the fire of the gods. After his fall from the tower at the beginning of the story, he spends most of his journey struggling to reach the three-eyed crow, with that journey culminating in the awakening of his greenseer powers in Bloodraven’s weirwood cave. Bran’s questing for the fire of the gods really is the dominant theme of his character, which makes sense, since he’s the only greenseer we have among the POV characters. Accordingly, Bran gets a Prometheus-like myth hung on him early in the story as a clue about his destiny. It’s the story of the bad little boy who climbed too high, and Bran calls it to mind as he is, of course, climbing a tower towards his fateful encounter with Jaime and Cersei:
Old Nan told him a story about a bad little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning, and how afterward the crows came to peck out his eyes. Bran was not impressed. There were crows’ nests atop the broken tower, where no one ever went but him, and sometimes he filled his pockets with corn before he climbed up there and the crows ate it right out of his hand. None of them had ever shown the slightest bit of interest in pecking out his eyes.
The language about climbing too high and being struck down immediately reminds us of characters like Lucifer and Prometheus who challenged the gods in heaven – I’d even add that Martin chose the phrase “climbing too high” to evoke the rising star aspect of the Venus-based mythology from which Lucifer and Prometheus descend. Now right after Bran thinks of the story about a bad little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning, he thinks about the broken tower of Winterfell, and there’s a good reason for that – the broken tower was broken when it was struck by lightning and set afire. This is actually the place that Bran was climbing to when he overhead Jaime and Cersei:
His favorite haunt was the broken tower. Once it had been a watchtower, the tallest in Winterfell. A long time ago, a hundred years before even his father had been born, a lightning strike had set it afire. The top third of the structure had collapsed inward, and the tower had never been rebuilt. Sometimes his father sent ratters into the base of the tower, to clean out the nests they always found among the jumble of fallen stones and charred and rotten beams. But no one ever got up to the jagged top of the structure now except for Bran and the crows.
Now you can see the setup here: Bran is literally climbing towards a tower that was struck by lightning while thinking of a cautionary tale about a little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning. Bran isn’t struck down by lightning, but he is struck down in the sense that he is hurled from the tower by Jaime, so the basic parallel between Bran and the bad little boy is readily apparent.
Climbing too high is about reaching for the fire of the gods though, and this entire thing should be viewed as symbolism. The fire of the gods Bran is ultimately climbing towards is the greenseer magic of the weirwood tree, and when we take a look at the tower set ablaze by lightning motif in operation here, we are reminded of the Grey King’s tree which was set ablaze by a thunderbolt of the Storm God. Towers and trees make good symbolic analogues for one another, as they are both things that man can climb into the sky, and indeed, Bran notes that the best way to reach the broken tower was to climb a tree – you have to “start from the godswood” by climbing a sentinel tree that gave access to the rooftops of the castle.
More important is the idea of possessing magic through towers and trees – just as the Grey King obtained his fire of the gods through the lightning-struck tree, Bran’s fall from the tower is what leads to the awakening of his greenseer powers. Bran climbs the tower too high, in other words, and is then metaphorically struck down by lightning in that he is cast down from the tower and into his coma dream world, where he first connects to his greenseer abilities and is first contacted by the three-eyed crow.
The three-eyed crow always demands corn from Bran in his dreams, which is a metaphor for Bran giving himself to the Old Gods in return for magical power. When we look at the top of the broken tower, where the lightning struck and set it afire, we see that it’s the place where Bran regularly comes to feed the normal, two-eyed crows. This symbolically associates Bran’s magical awakening with the top of the tower and the lightning strike, again indicating that Bran’s greenseer magic is the ‘fire of the gods’ in ASOIAF. Along the same lines, we see that Bran also talks to the crows when he’s up there, which seems a clear foreshadowing of him talking to the three-eyed raven and learning to skinchange ravens, which he does in Bloodraven’s cave. Consider also that the tower used to be a watchtower, the tallest in Winterfell, just as weirwoods are a vantage-point from which one can see far into the distance. All in all, we have several symbols of Bran’s greenseer magic placed atop the broken tower, where the lightning came down from heaven and brought fire to the earth.
Another way that we can know this entire tower-or-tree-struck-by-lightning metaphor is all about greenseeing is the part in the story about the bad little boy who climbed too high where his eyes are pecked out by crows. Bran’s eyes aren’t pecked out after his fall from the tower, but once in the coma dream, Bran dreams of the three-eyed crow pecking out his eyes, and then later pecking open his third eye right before he awakens from his coma. Opening your third eye is a common metaphor for gaining magical sight and knowledge, but more specifically, this seems a clear reference to the Odin mythology upon which weirwoods and greenseers are heavily based. Odin sacrificed one physical eye to gain magical knowledge, casting it into the well of Mimir in payment for a sip from the magical water of the well. Any time you lose a physical eye to gain magical vision, as Bran seems to do in his coma dream, that’s Odin talk, and in ASOIAF, Odin symbolism means greenseeing. The idea of Bran losing the use of his legs but learning to fly through weirwood magic is simply a variation on this theme.
Since this series is all about King Bran, I suppose I should mention that Bran’s perching on the tower tops of Winterfell “made him feel like he was lord of the castle, in a way even Robb would never know.” This should probably be considered as King Bran foreshadowing, but again I will point out that it is symbolically associated with his greenseer powers. On top of everything else we’ve already looked at, Bran’s climbing the towers is further associated with greenseeing with lines about how climbing “taught him Winterfell’s secrets,” and “was almost like being invisible.” Greenseers looking out on the world are invisible of course, and the weirwoods teach Bran Westeros’s secrets, so these are nice wordplay clues. Winterfell itself actually seems to represent the weirwoods; besides being described as a grey stone labyrinth, we read that
The place had grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone tree, Maester Luwin told him once, and its branches were gnarled and thick and twisted, its roots sunk deep into the earth.
Winterfell is a labyrinth and a monstrous stone tree, but weirwoods turn to stone trees and the weirwoodnet inside them is very comparable to a labyrinth. The idea of Winterfell as a stone tree is particularly evocative of the Grey King myth of course, since the weirwood beams of the Grey King’s ship have long ago turned to stone, and this only reinforces the weirwood symbolism of Winterfell. Look at it this way – both Bran and the Grey King are lords of a stone tree hall which is like a weirwood.
And there you have it – Bran’s climbing of the towers of Winterfell is a metaphor for his climbing the weirwood tree to obtain the knowledge and power of the old gods. His being cast down from the tower by Jaime is equated with the bad little boy being struck down by lighting, but also with the Grey King obtaining the fire of the gods through the lightning-struck tree. Climbing the towers of Winterfell makes him feel like the lord of the castle, but the castle represents a weirwood and Bran is ultimately going to be a weirwood king.
At the risk of stating the obvious, all of this symbolism which places the Grey King and Bran in parallel is also foreshadowing of Bran becoming a greenseer king, like the Grey King. Bran has a weirwood throne and a stone tree for a home, like the Grey King, and he possessing the living fire of the burning tree, as the Grey King did. Will Bran live an unusually long life span and reign as weirwood king? That’s what is being suggested.
Alright, now this is the part where I tell you that George is a big hippie and he didn’t invent this stuff from thin air. There’s a tarot card called “the tower,” or sometimes “the lightning,” and as you might guess, it has a picture of a tower struck by lightning and set afire – except that sometimes the tower is a tree struck by lighting and set afire. Pretty cool right? It goes to what I was saying about towers and trees being interchangeable symbols at times.
The meaning of this card is pretty on-the-nose for our discussion here. Depending on context, the tower card is associated with sudden, disruptive revelation, destructive change, higher learning, and liberation – does any of this sound relevant so far? Bran is essentially staring at an in-the-flesh version of the tarot card when he looks at the broken tower of Winterfell, and the same can be said of the weirwood tree itself, since it looks like a burning tree. The top part of the tower on the tarot card is collapsing, just as the top third of the Winterfell broken tower collapsed, and many versions of the card even have two people leaping from the burning tower (hey there, Bran and Euron!)
The important thing is the meaning – Bran’s fall from the tower and subsequent coma dream represent his sudden, destructive change and the beginning of his altered path towards higher learning, insight, and freedom through flight. The lightning-struck tower or tree, translated into ASOIAF terminology, is the weirwood tree. This is the means by which mankind becomes like god in this story, whether it be Bloodraven and Bran of the current story or ancient greenseer kings like the Grey King himself.
Now that you’ve got all that, we are ready to take a look at two scenes which parallel Bran’s fall from the tower. George employs the lightning and the tower motif two other times along Bran’s journey to the cave of the three-eyed crow; once at Queenscrown, and once at the Nightfort. At Queenscrown, it’s easy to spot, because the lightning literally strikes the top of the tower while Bran and company are inside it. Even better, the lightning is what causes Bran to skinchange Hodor for the first time, because it’s the only way he can think of to make Hodor keep quiet when the lightning strikes. That’s pretty explicit – Bran is in the top of the tower when lightning strikes, and he has a breakthrough with his greenseer abilities when it does.
As you may recall from our first Bran video, Bran also taps into his skinchanger powers while atop the tower. After body-snatching Hodor for a minute and quieting him down, Bran wargs into Summer and helps John escape the wildlings, which, by the way, is a promising sign for Bran being one who obtains the fire of the gods and, importantly, uses it to help others. In King Bran Part 1, we highlighted this scene as foreshadowing of Bran eventually becoming a full-on warg prince and greenseer king, and now we can see that George has overlaid the lightning-tower / obtaining the fire of the gods imagery on top of it.
In other words, we are once again seeing that the foreshadowing of Bran becoming king is totally entwined with Bran’s destiny to be a powerful greenseer, just like that line about Bran feeling like the Lord of the Winterfell in a way Robb never would when he climbs its towers, or the time when Bran declares himself prince of the green and prince of the wood when he is skinchanging Summer. Along these lines, hey look! There’s a golden crown at the top of the Queenscrown tower where Bran is accessing the fire of the gods. This too should be seen as a message that Bran’s destiny to climb high refers to his weirwood powers and the idea of wearing a crown.
The tower tarot card yields another jewel here. Many versions of the card depict a golden crown at the top of the tower, likely to highlight the knowledge / higher learning aspect of the card’s meaning; think about the crown of your skull and the crown chakra here. Thus, when lightning strikes the top of the Queenscrown tower, with its painted golden crown, once again the author is drawing a detailed picture of this tarot card. Once again, the meaning seems to be the same – the awakening of Bran’s weirwood powers is being depicted as his path to transformation and the awakening of his higher self.
I hope you’re getting a sense of the way George renders these scenes in mythical language in order to to enhance their meaning and weave the disparate threads of his story together. You wouldn’t think to understand Bran’s path as a greenseer by thinking about Grey King mythology, but once you recognize their common use of symbols, the message begins to emerge. ASOIAF is a series that simply begs to be read and reread with a watchful eye, to say the least.
The third scene in this series comes at the dreaded Nightfort, where Night’s King and Queen ruled for thirteen years and where countless other horrible things have happened. Instead of a tower, we have an actual weirwood tree this time, and it’s coupled with the well to give us the important symbol of the ascending and descending spiral staircase, which we actually had both at Queenscrown and at Winterfell. Especially notable is the fact that weirwood awaits at both the top and bottom of the staircase – the talking weirwood face known as the Black Gate lies in a passageway off of the well shaft down below, and up top we have the skinny young weirwood growing up through the floor of the Nightfort kitchens:
Pale moonlight slanted down through the hole in the dome, painting the branches of the weirwood as they strained up toward the roof. It looked as if the tree was trying to catch the moon and drag it down into the well.
This grasping, moon-murderous weirwood supplies the ‘reaching for the heavens’ and ‘challenging the heavens’ thematic message of the Prometheus and Lucifer stories. The message seems to be that mankind obtains the fire of the gods through the weirwood, or said another way, it is through the weirwood that mankind hopes to reach into the heavenly realm and become like a god.
We already know that weirwoods bear a strong resemblance to Yggdrasil, so the placement of a weirwood tree next to a well is essentially hitting us over the head as a reference to Odin, Yggdrasil, and Mimir’s well. The point of doing this, as ever, is to use already-established mythemes and symbolic motifs to provide context and enhanced meaning to Bran’s journey to awaken his greenseer powers and come into full possession of the living fire of the Old Gods.
There is no lightning here, but George cleverly places the symbol in the scene by having Bran recall the lightning strike at Queenscrown:
From the well came a wail, a piercing creech that went through him like a knife. A huge black shape heaved itself up into the darkness and lurched toward the moonlight, and the fear rose up in Bran so thick that before he could even think of drawing Hodor’s sword the way he’d meant to, he found himself back on the floor again with Hodor roaring “Hodor hodor HODOR,” the way he had in the lake tower whenever the lightning flashed.
Alright, so there’s the lightning bolt in conjunction with Bran using his greenseer powers. The mighty Storm God’s thunderbolt may also be suggested by the idea of the weirwood trying to pull the moon down from out of the sky – and yes, I’m talking about moon meteors as thunderbolts here – and we might simply look at the hole in the broken dome as a symbolic suggestion of something having come crashing down from heavenly dome to earth. George even sneaks in a bit of sea monster language by hinting at something swimming down in the depths of the well when Hodor throws a stone down the well shaft.
Bran’s original fall from the tower is recreated here by Bran going down the well shaft after meeting Samwell, who came up out of the well. Bran gets swallowed by the black gate talking weirwood face that kind of looks like the Grey King, and then he’s on his way to Bloodraven’s cave. Ergo, just as with the previous two scenes, this scene represents an important step on the road to Bran becoming a full greenseer. I mean, as far as symbols go, Bran getting literally eaten by a weirwood mouth is not exactly cryptic – he is giving himself to the weirwoods, and entering the underground / underworld portion of his journey.
One of the fun things about finding a pattern like Bran and the lightning tower or lightning tree is trying to predict where we will see another iteration of the pattern. I think I have a strong contender for this – when Bran escapes Bloodraven’s cave, which has already happened in the show and will almost certainly happen in the books. I found it by thinking about themes, which by the way, aren’t just for high school book reports. I noticed that with all three of the scenes we are comparing to one another – the fall from Winterfell’s tower, Queenscrown, and the Nightfort – there is an element of Bran pulling an escape. After he falls from the tower at Winterfell, he’s trapped in the coma dream, where he is condemned to repeatedly experience that fall, and right before he awakens from the coma, he is falling towards these terrifying icy spears which are populated by the impaled bodies of other failed dreamers. The three-eyed crow tells him to choose, fly or die, and Bran pulls up at the last moment, is not impaled, and instead rises on wings unseen to fly as the greenseers fly. In this way, he has escaped doom and the prison of the coma dream.
At Queenscrown, the escape factor is obvious – the wildlings outside the tower hear Hodor’s shouting, and in the end only fail to reach the tower because they do not know the secret of the submerged causeway that runs from the lake shore to the island in the middle where the tower is. Not only do Bran and his company escape the wildlings, Bran also facilitates Jon’s escape, so we see the theme played out twice here.
Although there is no imminent physical threat at the Nightfort (unless you count the few moments they think Sam is “The Thing That Came in the Night”), Bran is essentially escaping the world of the living. He’s escaping Westeros itself through the passage in the Wall, in other words, and he’s doing so in secret because if people knew his identity, he would be in danger.
Thinking about Bran escaping from weirwood places, especially ones that are being destroyed or are under attack, leads me to think about Bran escaping from the weirwood cave in the show. Indeed, I do think we will see a fourth iteration of the lightning-tower / lightning-tree pattern with Bloodraven’s weirwood tree and the cave below, for several reasons. All of these lightning-tower and lightning-tree scenes are very clearly functioning as foreshadowing of Bran awakening his greenseer powers – which is what happens when he reaches Bloodraven’s weirwood cave. It’s what all those other scenes were building up to. At Bloodraven’s cave we can already see the idea of ascending and descending the tower manifested in the way that Bran sits down in the cave, and yet flies above the trees through his greenseer magic.
As for the lightning strike and burning tree components, well, I can think of two possibilities. The lightning strike may simply occur metaphorically here through Bran awakening his greenseer gifts of course, but an attack by the Others can also be like a lightning strike, as their movements and sword strikes are described as being lightning-quick in the books, especially in the all-important AGOT prologue. In that same prologue chapter, the Others ice sword breaks Ser Waymar Royce’s steel sword, and when Will finds it on the ground..
He found what was left of the sword a few feet away, the end splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning.
This is not accident – even though we don’t hear of the Grey King and his tree until book 4, we can see that George has been using the lightning-blasted tree symbol from the very beginning to represent magical power. As I have discussed elsewhere, this is George tying the Others into the fire of the gods theme – their power is like the lightning that splinters trees, which implies that it is god-like power. It may also imply that the Others power has something to do with the trees that man can use to obtain the fire of the gods, and I think you guys know that I believe that to be the case, but that is a story for another day. The thing to take away here is that if we get something along the lines of the TV show scene where Bran is fleeing the cave while the white walkers attack, we will likely see George deploy the lightning-strike symbolism of the Others once again, thereby fitting the pattern he has already established. We may also see Bloodraven’s weirwood tree destroyed, or perhaps broken.
Perhaps we’ll even see a weirwood burning here, with Bloodraven’s tree going up in flames as Bran makes his escape. In the Grey King myth, the tree struck by lightning was set ablaze, and although this is primarily a metaphor for the fire of the gods, there’s also been a fair amount of foreshadowing of the weirwoods burning in some sense, which I have highlighted in throughout the End of Ice and Fire series. The golden crown painted on the crenelations at Queenscrown might suggest a burning tower, as golden crowns are symbols of the sun’s fire. Similarly, at Winterfell we see the burning tower suggested by the fact that the broken tower burned when it was struck by lightning, and also by the the library tower, which was set on fire by the catspaw assassin while Bran was lying in his coma. Library towers are especially good weirwood symbols, since weirwoods are essentially the ultimate library and books are made of paper, which comes from trees. Could this all be foreshadowing a burning of Bloodraven’s tree when Bran escapes the cave?
The most obvious foreshadowing for this could actually be the burning of Winterfell itself, great stone tree that it is. If you recall, Ramsay Bolton burned Winterfell at the end of ACOK, with Bran escaping as the fires cools. Before they escape, Bran is hiding down in the crypts, but warging into Summer up above to survey the damage, which is basically identical to the setup at Bloodraven’s cave, where Bran sits below in the darkness and controls animals above. Bran and Summer see “tall fires were eating up the stars,” the infamous “great winged snake whose roar was a river of flame,” and of course, burning towers, which described in wolf-talk as “great piles of man-rock stark against the swirling flames.” It’s yet another escape from a place with burning tower and burning tree symbols for Bran, and again I say that we may see this repeated at Bloodraven’s cave.
As we wrap up this video essay, I have one final note on the scene we just looked at where Bran is fleeing the burnt shell of Winterfell. As he looks back to the only home he’s even known, we are given foreshadowing of his somewhat awkward Bran the Broken nickname:
The stone is strong, Bran told himself, the roots of the trees go deep, and under the ground the Kings of Winter sit their thrones. So long as those remained, Winterfell remained. It was not dead, just broken. Like me, he thought. I’m not dead either.
All hail Bran the Broken, Summer King of House Stark and perhaps all of Westeros. I love how George manages to compare Bran to Winterfell and the Kings of Winter while also evoking the concept of Winterfell as a tree with deep roots. It may be a broken and burned tree, but it’s full of the fire of the old gods… like King Bran. To me, it’s a message that the original role of the Stark Kings of Winterfell is that of greenseer king, and that this is the role Bran will reprise.
Now, unlike the dead stone statues of the Winter Kings who sit beneath the earth in the dark, Bran is not dead, and will not remain underground in the darkness – that seems to be something Bran only does during winter. Bran’s destiny is to reemerge from the darkness of the earth like a green shoot in the springtime, as we know, and this ties in to Bran’s role as the custodian of the fire of the gods. Like Prometheus and the Grey King before him, and like the snake in the Garden of Eden according the gnostic interpretation of that myth, Bran’s destiny is to be a lightbringer, one who brings light to mankind.
It’s not just a matter of possessing the fire of the gods, but bringing it to mankind. Otherwise, Euron might be the chosen one. When compared to Bran however, Euron’s quest for god-like power is one of self-aggrandizement and personal glorification. In order for Bran to succeed, he must not only grasp the fire of the gods, but use it to benefit mankind. As you can see, that dovetails nicely with his Summer King / green man directive to bring the nourishing summer sun and the green vitality of nature back to Westeros. It also meshes well with the simple idea of Bran becoming king after the destruction caused by the new Long Night we are about to get, and before that, the War of the Five Kings. The main job of anyone taking the throne after such a period of war and anarchy would be to rebuild and to restore order, so we will need Bran to tap into his “Bran the Builder” roots and help Westeros rebuild and heal.
I’ve explored this idea further in the last three livestreams that I did, entitled “God Kings and Abominations,” “Children of the Hollow Hills,” and “A Dream of Summer,” which can be found on both my YouTube channel as well as the Mythical Astronomy podcast feed. Be sure to check those out if you haven’t already if you’d like to hear more discussion on what George might be saying by placing a god-king like Bran on the throne to conclude the story, and I encourage to leave a comment on this video to add your thoughts to the hive mind! But don’t run just yet, I’ve got a bonus section coming up for you…
Now there’s just one fly in the ointment of my wonderful Bran – Grey King comparison. The Grey King was a pirate! He taught the Ironborn to weave nets and build longships – is Bran going to do that? Well, again, this is symbolism, at least on one level. George likes to fashion weirwood in the shape of symbols, and the weirwood ship is no different. For example, consider the idea of weirwoods as doors. We have three different weirwood doors in the story (at the Eyrie, at the House of Black and White, and under the Nightfort), and this is because the weirwoods are like doors to a different realm, and because they open the doors of perception.
So, while there does seem to have been a literal weirwood boat, think about this as a metaphor – how is a weirwood like a boat? Well, Bloodraven explains that time is different for trees and men, saying
For men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. The lives of trees are different. They root and grow and die in one place, and that river does not move them.
So, time is a river, and the weirwoods act as a vessel for the greenseer to sail the river of time. One also thinks of the more general concept of the cosmic ocean, which the greenseers sail via the astral projection powers of the weirwood. There’s actually a lot of ship and sea-based worplay that applies to greenseers via the idea of the weirwoodnet being like a “green sea” that the greenseers navigate, and I’ve explored that elsewhere in the Weirwood Compendium if you’re curious (huge hat-tip to Ravenous Reader who discovered this concept).
The point is this: suggesting that the Grey King sailed a weirwood boat is actually just another way of telling us that he was a greenseer who sailed the “green see” and the river of time and the cosmic ocean and whatever other metaphor you want to use. Bran is a greenseer too, and he sure likes the idea of building boats when it’s pitched to him in ACOK. This comes from that delightful Harvest Feast chapter that we dissected in King Bran 2, so you know it’s important:
In addition to a mint, Lord Manderly also proposed to build Robb a warfleet. “We have had no strength at sea for hundreds of years, since Brandon the Burner put the torch to his father’s ships. Grant me the gold and within the year I will float you sufficient galleys to take Dragonstone and King’s Landing both.”
Bran’s interest pricked up at talk of warships. No one asked him, but he thought Lord Wyman’s notion a splendid one. In his mind’s eye he could see them already. He wondered if a cripple had ever commanded a warship.
Not only does Prince Bran want to build ships, he even pictures himself captaining one! I told you he was just like the Grey King! Arrrr, matey! Forget ravens, get that boy a parrot. Seriously though, notice the line “in his mind’s eye he could see them already.” Weirwoods are ships of the mind’s eye, because they transport the awareness of the greenseer through time and space, so this is a very clever reference to greenseeing!
But what about this guy who burned the last fleet the Starks had, Brandon the Burner? Who’s that guy? Well, here’s the rest of that story, which we received from Bran’s mouth in AGOT as he tells Osha about the various Kings of Winter in the crypts:
That’s a Brandon, the tall one with the dreamy face, he was Brandon the Shipwright, because he loved the sea. His tomb is empty. He tried to sail west across the Sunset Sea and was never seen again. His son was Brandon the Burner, because he put the torch to all his father’s ships in grief.
King Brandon the Shipwright is a dreamer, and he sailed into the Sunset Sea, never to be seen again, kind of like the way greenseers are absorbed into the green sea of the weirwoodnet when they die. If the idea of building ships is being used as a metaphor for building a connection to the weirwoods, this story sounds like it’s talking about a dreamer named Brandon who helped create the vessel humans use for greenseeing. Could this be an allusion to an original Stark greenseer king? This is very similar to the idea of the Grey King being an OG greenseer king who built the first weirwood boat, it seems to me. If this line about King Brandon the Shipwright is really an allusion to an original Stark greenseer, well, it may imply t hat a connection to the weirwoodnet have been one of the things that Bran the Builder built? He was taken to a secret place to learn the language of the children, after all. Young Bran Stark is certainly building such a connection, and learning to sail the weirwood ship on the astral plane.
Then we have King Brandon the Burner, son of Brandon the Shipwright, who sets fire to the ships, shutting off access to the sea. To me this sounds like what I have been predicting for the end game – that the weirwoods will be burned and shut down, and that Bran really will be the last greenseer.
In other words, I can see Bran paralleling both the Shipwright Bran Stark and the Burner Bran Stark. He wants to build ships in his mind’s eye, and establishes a connection to the weirwoodnet that he can use to navigate the river of time… but as we know, there is ample foreshadowing of Bran being involved in some kind of burning and shut-down of the weirwoodnet. Interestingly, the Grey King parallels both Brandons as well: he builds ships like the Shipwright, but also sets fire to weirwoods in the Storm God’s thunderbolt myth.
Here’s another angle: if Bran the Builder was the first Stark greenseer, then you can see a parallel between the father-son relationship of Brandon the Shipwright and Brandon the Burner and the relationship between Brandon the Builder and our own Bran the Broken. Bran the Builder was the founder of House Stark and possibly its connection to the weirwoods, and Bran the Broken Stark seems fated to be the last weirwood king who may shut down mankind’s vehicle for sailing the green see.
If Bran really is the last greenseer, then I expect his job will be to take whatever knowledge he can from the weirwoodnet and use it to benefit mankind. I could see Samwell working as his scribe, transcribing Bran’s vast knowledge into a sort of Encyclopedia Brantanica… groan
Thanks for reading everyone, and please – if you are enjoying our King Bran series, by all means, share them with your friends. A lot of people feel burnt out or let down after the last season of the show, but we have a ton to look forward to in The Winds of Winter, so help them fight off the doldrums and bring them into our myth head circle where the fire is warm. Until next time…