One of the biggest differences between Game of Thrones the TV show and A Song of Ice and Fire the book series is that the white walkers on the TV show are led by this charismatic fellow called the Night King, while the white walkers of the books seem to do their white walking on their own, without a discernible leader. (“I told you, we don’t have a lord, we’re an anarcho-syndichist commune…”)
The thing is, there are ample signs in the books that the ancient enemy known as the Others are in fact looking for a leader… or if not exactly a “leader,” they’re at least looking for a certain special someone who may be the key to unlocking their deepest magic, someone who allows them to white walk their way down past the Wall and into Westeros… someone that can help trigger the New Long Night which is surely coming.
As we discussed in the “A New Night’s King?” video, there are really only two choices here, and both have ample symbolic evidence to support them: Euron Crowseye and Jon Snow. Euron is the one who wants the job, but Jon Snow might be the one who gets stuck with it. I outlined the case for Euron in my videos “Night’s King Crowseye” and “Euron, King of the Apocalypse,” and today it’s time to talk about the possibility of Jon Snow becoming some sort of new Night’s King.
I can actually see two completely different ways for this to happen: first off, the Others might steal Jon’s dead body, fill it with holy blue fire of the cold gods, and use him to lead their invasion of Westeros. There’s a lot of symbolism to suggest that, as I’ll show you today, and much of it has to do with Jon’s resurrection being somehow tied to the fall of the Wall and the fall of a new Long Night, which we all know is coming. Then there’s the Prince That Was Promised to the Others theory, which is the idea that at the very end of the story, Jon might have to give himself to the white walkers to be Otherized as a means of resolving the ancient conflict of ice and fire. I’ll cover each of these intriguing – and by no means mutually exclusive – possibilities in their own video; today it’s “the Others will steal Jon’s body,” and in another video we’ll talk about Jon Snow, ice Jesus.
So hey there friends, it’s LmL, and in case you haven’t heard, I’m writing my first book! It’s going to be called “Paradise Gained: Christianity, Sacred Symbolism, and Freedom from Dogma.” It would mean a lot to me if you sign up for the Indiegogo mailing list, which you can find linked below or by searching “Paradise Gained by David Beers” on Indiegogo. My last video, “Eve Did Nothing Wrong,” is actually the seed idea from which the book is grown, so check that video out if you haven’t already to see what this is all about! Alright, let’s turn Jon Snow into a popsicle and slap and ice crown on his frozen noggin.
In my 6 years of analyzing ASOIAF, I’ve thought a lot about Jon Snow and his symbolism, as he’s one of my favorite characters and his symbolism is some of the most interesting anywhere in the books. The clues that his destiny might involve a pair of shiny blue star eyes have been apparent from the beginning – I mean we’re talking about a guy whose name is synonymous with Jack Frost, after all, since Jack is a nickname for people named Jon, for reasons of German etymology, and the words snow and frost are more or less synonymous. Jack Frost is essentially a personification of the frosty chill of winter – just as the Others are – and so no one should be shocked if a character named Jon Snow becomes some sort of frosty king of the ice people.
Others clues about Jon’s icy destiny which popped up right at the beginning of the story abound. As soon as he gets to castle Black, Alliser Thorne mockingly dubs him “Lord Snow,” but the name sticks (that’s a snow joke) and pretty much the entire Watch calls him Lord Snow through the rest of the books. Much like the name Jon Snow equating to Jack Frost, the title “Lord Snow” sounds like it should belong to.. well.. the king of the Others.
To make matters worse, book two has Jon journeying north of the Wall and meeting Ygritte (Jon and Ygritte are by the best love story in ASOIAF by the way, so far at least, I mean it was so good the actors playing those parts got married, right?), and Ygritte promptly tells Jon upon hearing his name that Snow “is an evil name.” That’s an understandable take on Ygritte’s part, since the wildlings live north of the Wall under constant fear of the ice wights and the Others, but consider what she’s really saying: she’s directly implying that Jon’s name evokes the evil of the Others. Lord Snow, right?
And let’s not forget he comes from the line of the Kings of Winter, who sport such white-walker-esque nicknames as “Ice Eyes” and “Snowbeard.” I’ve often speculated that there may been Starks in the ancient past who learned to use ice magic as Melisandre uses fire magic – after all, the Wall is built to keep the Others out, and yet is made of ice, so it’s always seemed possible that someone who fights for the living may have been able to wield magical ice as the Others do. This person could only have been a Stark, so if Jon gets ice-transformed, he might not even be the first of his line to do so.
Oh yeah, and Night’s King was supposedly a Stark, so there’s that.
There’s also the precedent of Coldhands, who is unquestionably an ice wight, a popsicled zombie, and yet does not have blue star eyes and fights against the Others. One wonders how that happened – was a dead man wighted by the Others, but then set free of bondage somehow, along the lines of what we saw on the TV show? That’s more or less the scenario I am talking about when I say “the Others will steal Jon’s body,” and I think Coldhands is just as much a precedent for Jon as Beric is. I went into in detail in the Sacred Order of Green Zombies series, but the bottom line is that the most logical explanation for Coldhands is that he was Otherized and then set free, and if so, that seems like an obvious foreshadowing for what could happen to Jon. Just a couple of frozen Night’s Watch zombie brothers trying to make their way in the world, ya know?
George Martin often likes to give us readers a glimpse into the true natures of his characters whenever we see them in dream or vision form, and the first time we see Jon this way is in Bran’s iconic greenseer coma dream from AGOT:
Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him.
Everyone gets cold at the Wall, obviously, but Jon’s just been murdered at the end of ADWD, with Jon never feeling the fourth knife stab, but “only the cold,” so it could well be that Bran is foreseeing Jon’s death, or even his cold resurrection. Skin growing pale and hard sounds a bit like the frozen skin of an ice wight, or perhaps even like Jon’s appearance in another dream vision that makes Jon sound like a white walker?
Burning shafts hissed upward, trailing tongues of fire. Scarecrow brothers tumbled down, black cloaks ablaze. “Snow,” an eagle cried, as foemen scuttled up the ice like spiders. Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again.
Defending the Wall like Azor Ahai… yet armored in ice, like a white walker. But here’s the thing – I’ve thrown a fair amount of my ASOIAF street cred down on the idea that Azor Ahai became the figure remembered as Night’s King and created the first white walkers with Night’s Queen. Now before you brand me heretic and throw stone-like YouTube comments at me – well I am a heretic, but hold the stones – please do check out my full argument on that theory in the Night’s King Azor Ahai and Origin of the Others: Night’s Queen videos. At the very least, one has to wonder what all this business about Jon wearing ice armor or having his skin grow pale and hard as the memory of warmth fled from him is about – it sure sounds like Jon’s resurrected body is going to have something to do with ice magic. By the time he’s defending the Wall again, he will in fact be undead, it’s worth noting. He may well be a Coldhands by then.
Perhaps the funniest white walker Jon foreshadowing comes not from a dream vision, but from a prank that Arya recalls Robb and Jon playing on them. This is from the Arya chapter of AGOT where she is hiding in the dark corridors below Kings Landing and recalling the crypts of Winterfell to summon her bravery:
She’d been just a little girl the first time she saw them. Her brother Robb had taken them down, her and Sansa and baby Bran, who’d been no bigger than Rickon was now. They’d only had one candle between them, and Bran’s eyes had gotten as big as saucers as he stared at the stone faces of the Kings of Winter, with their wolves at their feet and their iron swords across their laps.
Robb took them all the way down to the end, past Grandfather and Brandon and Lyanna, to show them their own tombs. Sansa kept looking at the stubby little candle, anxious that it might go out. Old Nan had told her there were spiders down here, and rats as big as dogs. Robb smiled when she said that. “There are worse things than spiders and rats,” he whispered. “This is where the dead walk.” That was when they heard the sound, low and deep and shivery. Baby Bran had clutched at Arya’s hand.
When the spirit stepped out of the open tomb, pale white and moaning for blood, Sansa ran shrieking for the stairs, and Bran wrapped himself around Robb’s leg, sobbing. Arya stood her ground and gave the spirit a punch. It was only Jon, covered with flour. “You stupid,” she told him, “you scared the baby,” but Jon and Robb just laughed and laughed, and pretty soon Bran and Arya were laughing too.
It’s Jon, our special winter flower, covered in flour and pretending to be a pale, shivery spirit – a white walker in other words. Note the mention of spiders and rats as big as dogs to make us think of “ice spiders as big as hounds,” and yes, I’m absolutely always looking for an excuse to show off all the great ice spider artwork. Ah, here’s a nice one. And cute little fella too. Those icy mandibles can reach up to twelve inches in length.
Anywho, not only does Jon pretend to be a white walker here, we also have two ideas that tie to Jon’s death. One, this is taking place in the crypts of Winterfell, where Jon’s spirit will likely roam while his body lies cold in the snow – Jon has had the recurring crypts dream that he can never finish, and I’d bet several moon meteors that Jon will finish that dream before he is ultimately resurrected. Enter Lyanna’s ghost stage left, I’m thinking.
The second thing that ties this funny memory of Arya’s to Jon’s death is the fact that Arya, upon realizing that the spirit was Jon, “gave the spirit a punch.” Now here’s Bowen marsh, stabbing Jon in ADWD:
Then Bowen Marsh stood there before him, tears running down his cheeks. “For the Watch.” He punched Jon in the belly. When he pulled his hand away, the dagger stayed where he had buried it.
This is how foreshadowing works: in for a penny, in for a pound. If you’re going to hint at Jon actually becoming a cold white spirit, then you also toss in a couple of other items of death and resurrection foreshadowing, and here we have that very thing. Arya mimics his eventual murder, the crypts are where Jon’s spirit will visit at some point (and where dead spirits belong, anyway), and the walking dead will be what Jon is when he’s raised. But Jon will only be a cold undead spirit if he’s raised by the white walkers, right? None of this foreshadowing about Jon turning cold when he comes back from the dead can make any sense unless ice magic plays some part in his resurrection, and unless there’s a secret ice wizard or ice witch lurking about, the only way ice magic plays a part in Jon’s resurrection is if the Others steal Jon’s body.
As I mentioned, the clues that the Others have their eyes on Jon come at us right from the beginning of the story – and right from the beginning of Jon’s story, in fact. See if you can spot the Others here at the scene of Jon’s birth:
He dreamt an old dream, of three knights in white cloaks, and a tower long fallen, and Lyanna in her bed of blood. ( . . . )
Ned’s wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. They were seven against three. “And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light. “No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.” As they came together in a rush of steel and shadow, he could hear Lyanna screaming. “Eddard!” she called. A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death.
I’ve talked about the symbolism here many times and so I won’t belabor the point, but consider the blue rose petals that dream Ned is seeing blowing across the sky. Those are Lyanna’s trademark blue winter roses, and a storm of them is blowing across the sky. It’s a winter storm at the birth of our special snowflake, in other words, which makes sense – and then Martin drives the point home by comparing the blue rose petals in the sky to the blue eyes of death. The blue eyes of death.. are found inside the frozen heads of the Others, typically, and that’s surely what the author is intending to evoke here. Martin even places the blue rose petals that are like the eyes of the Others in the sky, where you usually find stars, so they really do seem like a symbol of the Others. What we have here in terms of symbolism is nothing less than the suggestion that the Others are watching Jon’s birth, or watching for Jon’s birth.
In fact I believe that’s exactly what’s going on, in the sense that Jon’s birth is the thing which made the Others begin to stir. That’s long been a question in the fandom, since the Others seem to have been stirring for over a decade, according to Mance Raydar and taking in to account Craster’s practice of giving his male children to the Others which seems to have been going on for a while now. Jon’s birth fits that timeline, and my theory that the Others are on the look-out for a new Night King of some sort is correct, then it figures that they might be aware of his birth. That’s also true if we simply think Jon is The Prince That Was Promised, a savior born to confront the Others – just as the R’hllorists and others have prophecies of Azor Ahai’s rebirth, many have long speculated that the Others might have some equivalent prophecy. Either way, I have believed that Jon’s birth was the signal for the Others to stir ever since I decoded this symbolism which implies the Others as watching over Jon’s birth at the Tower of Joy, and I think it makes the most sense in the context of the overall plot. Leave your comments though and tell me what you think!
Now, the same line about the storm of blue rose petals which I just said implies a snowstorm also implies a meteor shower, because the rose petals look like the eyes of the Others, which are blue stars. A storm of blue bleeding stars in other words – and don’t fail to notice that blood-streaked sky; Martin is basically spelling out the idea of a storm of bleeding stars that has something to do with the Others right here. Here, at Jon’s birth.
Why a meteor shower? Well, if you know anything about my channel you know that my first theory was about a magical moon cracking event being the cause of the original Long Night, which is when the Others came for the first time according to Old Nan. The meteor storm brought the snowstorm, in other words – the snowstorm of the Long Night and the invasion of the Others. If this theory is correct – and the leaks from the cancelled Blood Moon trailer appear to add strong confirmation, as I documented in the appropriately titled video, “Blood Moon Leaks Confirm My Theories!” – then it seems likely that the new Long Night which is surely coming might also be brought on by a moon meteor event. So whether Jon is destined to confront the Others during this new Long Night, or to become a new Night’s King – or both, at different times, as I suspect will be the case – it makes sense to see the symbols of the fall of the Long Night at his birth. And that’s what we have: Martin has painted a portrait of the Others in the sky while implying snow storms and showers of bleeding stars. I think the message is that Jon’s birth is the sign the Others have been watching for, and that Jon’s rebirth – his resurrection, that is – is somehow key to the fall of the new Long Night.
To put it even more simply: I think the Others want to possess Jon’s body in order to bring about the new Long Night. That may be the reason they haven’t yet tried to cross the Wall or summon a night without end, if they have the ability to do such – they need their Lord Snow to lead them, or to enable some sort of deep white walker magic.
Jon’s resurrection being tied to a new long Night – one connected to snow storms and moon meteor storms – is spelled out fairly clearly in a wolf dream Jon has in ADWD. I analyzed the full quote in an older podcast episode called Moons of Ice and Fire: Ice Moon Apocalypse, so I’ll summarize a bit here to keep it moving. The chapter opens with these paragraphs:
The white wolf raced through a black wood, beneath a pale cliff as tall as the sky. The moon ran with him, slipping through a tangle of bare branches overhead, across the starry sky.
“Snow,” the moon murmured. The wolf made no answer. Snow crunched beneath his paws. The wind sighed through the trees.
The wolf dream proceeds in a pattern with each subsequent paragraph repeating this last one, where it starts with moon crying “snow” and then a line about what Ghost is doing running beneath the moon, but with the moon growing more aggressive about the snow until Jon wakes. First it “murmurs “Snow,” then we read “Snow,” the moon called down again, cackling..” and then its “Snow,” the moon insisted,” and then we get this paragraph as Jon wakes:
“Snow.” An icicle tumbled from a branch. The white wolf turned and bared his teeth. “Snow!” His fur rose bristling, as the woods dissolved around him. “Snow, snow, snow!” He heard the beat of wings. Through the gloom a raven flew.
It landed on Jon Snow’s chest with a thump and a scrabbling of claws. “SNOW!” it screamed into his face.
You can see what’s happening here – Jon is having a wolf dream when the raven in his chambers starts calling his name – snow, snow. Inside the dream, it seems like the moon is talking with the raven’s voice, yelling snow down at Jon. Then as he wakes, the moon becomes that raven and quite literally lands on Jon’s chest, as if the moon had landed on top of Jon – crying snow all the way, even screaming it in his face.
Better yet, there’s a pretty direct suggestion of something hitting the Wall – presumably a piece of moon. As Jon wakes, angry at the raven, he attacks it:
Jon wriggled an arm out from under his blankets to shoo the raven off. It was a big bird, old and bold and scruffy, utterly without fear. “Snow,” it cried, flapping to his bedpost. “Snow, snow.” Jon filled his fist with a pillow and let fly, but the bird took to the air. The pillow struck the wall and burst, scattering stuffing everywhere just as Dolorous Edd Tollett poked his head through the door. “Beg pardon,” he said, ignoring the flurry of feathers, “shall I fetch m’lord some breakfast?”
Jon throws a feather pillow at the moon raven but hits the wall, and then it explodes in a “flurry” of feathers, with flurry being chosen to evoke a snowstorm – just as the raven promised. The flurry of feathers comes from the exploded feather pillow, not the feathered raven, but works to imply the moon as having blown up, since the moon was the raven a moment ago. Plus, a white pillow stuffed with feathers is more or less analogous to the white moon having a raven’s voice. Jon throws his feather pillow at a wall, obviously, which is a lot like Jon throwing the moon at the Wall.
Put it all together, and what do you have: an exploding moon, bits of moon crashing down, a snowstorm, and the destruction of the Wall. At the risk of stating the obvious – a meteor could be just the thing to smash the Wall into pieces. And somehow this has to to do with Jon.
As it happens, there’s a terrific match to this scene back in AGOT. This is near the end of the book where Jon kills the wighted Othor in Mormont’s chambers:
The hooded man lifted his pale moon face, and Jon slashed at it without hesitation. The sword laid the intruder open to the bone, taking off half his nose and opening a gash cheek to cheek under those eyes, eyes, eyes like blue stars burning.
Jon once again “destroys the moon,” as it were, and this unleashes the blue stars. Even worse are the lines that follow soon after which depict the shattered moon face hitting the earth:
Dead Othor slammed into him, knocking him off his feet. Jon’s breath went out of him as the fallen table caught him between his shoulder blades. The sword, where was the sword? He’d lost the damned sword! When he opened his mouth to scream, the wight jammed its black corpse fingers into Jon’s mouth. Gagging, he tried to shove it off, but the dead man was too heavy. Its hand forced itself farther down his throat, icy cold, choking him. Its face was against his own, filling the world. Frost covered its eyes, sparkling blue.
Othor’s face is like the moon, and now it’s filling the world, as if falling out of the sky. That sounds bad – it sounds like a moon meteor attack. And indeed, right after this line, Othor’s blue star eyes are described. Shooting stars that come from a broken moon will signal the attack of the Others, that’s the message here. The fact that Othor’s name is one letter from Other seems intentional, like a way to make us think about him as representing the Others as a whole.
Now the messed up thing here is that Jon seems to be the one destroying the moon! Which would bring on a new Long Night… and while I don’t see Jon himself knowing how to crack a moon, or wanting to, he might be Azor Ahai reborn, and the original Azor Ahai broke the moon when he stabbed Nissa Nissa through the heart to forge Lightbringer, according to legend. More to the point, it’s possible the Others may know something about cracking moons – not only because the Others seem to be able to use the Long Night to their advantage, but because Azor Ahai may have become Night’s King, creator of the Others, and he was, again, the original moon-breaker. If there’s any remnant of Azor Ahai’s spirit or his knowledge alive in the collective intelligence that animates the Others, they may know what is needed to crack the moon again and blot out the sun. Could Jon be some sort of new Nissa Nissa figure, whose death magic can be harnessed to break moons? Or is simply making him a new Night’s King – a new Azor Ahai reborn, but frozen – enough to enable Jon to break the moon with some sort of magic? Maybe the Others have the real Horn of Winter locked away somewhere for this purpose.
Consider the lines of one of the moon-cracking myths from the past, which actually prophesied this future moon meteor apocalypse event before I did:
“He told me the moon was an egg, Khaleesi,” the Lysene girl said. “Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun. That is why dragons breathe flame. One day the other moon will kiss the sun too, and then it will crack and the dragons will return.”
One day the ‘other’ moon will crack open too, huh? The Other moon, did you say? And if those dragons coming from the moon were actually just broken pieces of moon turned into falling objects, well then what’s being suggested here is another moon meteor apocalypse. Such an event would surely be the trigger for a new Long Night, unleashing the invasion of the Others and probably knocking down the Wall in the process.
One thing is for sure: in addition to breaking the moon, Jon thinks about breaking the Wall quite a bit, and usually in conjunction with the end of the world.
I mean, look, it’s actually really bad, Jon’s obsession with knocking down the Wall. Starts as soon as he sees the damn thing. This is from AGOT:
You could see it from miles off, a pale blue line across the northern horizon, stretching away to the east and west and vanishing in the far distance, immense and unbroken. This is the end of the world, it seemed to say.
Jon means that it’s the line that marks the end of the civilized world, but still. The Wall will be the end of the world… if it ever gets knocked over. This is from the same chapter:
It was older than the Seven Kingdoms, and when he stood beneath it and looked up, it made Jon dizzy. He could feel the great weight of all that ice pressing down on him, as if it were about to topple, and somehow Jon knew that if it fell, the world fell with it.
Right, got it. If someone knocked it over, that would be bad. I wonder who would do such a thing?
Outside, Jon looked up at the Wall shining in the sun, the melting ice creeping down its side in a hundred thin fingers. Jon’s rage was such that he would have smashed it all in an instant, and the world be damned.
To which I can only say, “whoa, settle down there Beavis.” This is the line in particular that I thinking of when I read the scene with Jon slashing Othor’s moon face, or the scene where Jon wakes from the wolf-dream and smashes his feather pillow against the wall while trying to kill the raven that was the voice of the moon. I don’t know how Jon will smash the moon, but it’s being repeatedly suggested, you know what I mean? The Othor scene and all these quotes about the Wall we’ve just read are all in the first book of the series, so it’s been on George’s mind from the outset.
This next one is from ACOK:
The Wall stretched east and west as far as the eye could see, so huge that it shrunk the timbered keeps and stone towers of the castle to insignificance. It was the end of the world.
To make matters worse, the next paragraph mentions the red comet, and of course I believe that it was a comet which was thing that actually cracked the moon open last time – Jon pantomimes this by slashing the moon-faced Othor with his sword, if you recall. This is how you make an end to the world, and the Wall.
One last one, and this one seems to use Jon’s walking through the tunnel beneath the Wall and out the other side as a metaphor for Jon dying and being resurrected – with a key line about the Wall falling coming just as he emerges on the other side. Check it out:
Jon nodded weakly. The door swung open. Pyp led them in, followed by Clydas and the lantern. It was all Jon could do to keep up with Maester Aemon. The ice pressed close around them, and he could feel the cold seeping into his bones, the weight of the Wall above his head. It felt like walking down the gullet of an ice dragon.
He felt the cold seeping into his bones – that sounds a lot like Bran’s vision of Jon growing pale and hard as the memory of warmth fled from him. Being swallowed by an ice dragon is an interesting metaphor, as the Wall is often compared to an ice dragon, and as Jon is an ice dragon himself, being half Targaryen yet having all this ice symbolism. Therefore any sort of wall-smashing event related to Jon’s resurrection would be kind would mirror the idea of the moon cracking to birth dragons; the Wall would be cracking open to birth Jon the ice dragon. Check out the rest of the quote, lest you have any doubt:
He needed sun then. It was too cold and dark inside the tunnel, and the stench of blood and death was suffocating. Jon gave the lantern back to Clydas, squeezed around the bodies and through the twisted bars, and walked toward the daylight to see what lay beyond the splintered door.
The huge carcass of a dead mammoth partially blocked the way. One of the beast’s tusks snagged his cloak and tore it as he edged past. Three more giants lay outside, half buried beneath stone and slush and hardened pitch. He could see where the fire had melted the Wall, where great sheets of ice had come sloughing off in the heat to shatter on the blackened ground. He looked up at where they’d come from. When you stand here it seems immense, as if it were about to crush you.
See what I mean? The cold and dark tunnel smells of blood and death, and to escape it, Jon squeezes past bodies and iron bars, which suggests Jon as escaping the prison of death as he emerges from the Wall. Then he looks up, and yeah – it feels like the Wall is about to crush you. There’s even a mention of fire having melted the Wall – the fire of a huge flaming moon meteor, that’s what I’d look out for.
Of course the entire point of knocking down the Wall, however it’s accomplished, is to let the Others through.
And when Jon lets the wildlings through the Wall in ADWD, the entire chapter turns out to be an exercise in foreshadowing Jon letting the Others through the Wall. (dun dun dun).
I saved this scene for the climax of the video, so you who have watched this far will be mightily rewarded. The first thing to note is that Jon and Val did an entire detailed Night’s King and Queen reenactment bit when they discussed this deal to let the wildlings through the Wall. I broke that down in the Night’s Queen video, but if you recall the gist of it was that it sets up Jon and Val as Night’s King and Queen figures, specifically when they arrange to let the wildlings through the Wall. The wildlings will play the role of the Others, as you’re about to see, so Jon and Val are showing us Night’s King and Queen engineering the invasion of Westeros.
First of all, the chapter opens with Jon’s Azor Ahai dream- the one we quotes earlier where his swords burns red in his fist while he defends the Wall, armored in black ice. He wakes from the dream the same way he woke from the wolf dream where the raven was screaming snow at him through the moon’s face: it says he “woke with a raven pecking at his chest. ‘Snow,’ the bird cried,” just like the other wolf dream chapter. The author is using a repeating set of symbols through Jon’s chapters in this book as a way of building up a specific line of foreshadowing, and everything is about Jon’s resurrection. Bottom line: Jon will wake from death to the sight of snow – lots and lots of snow.
A moment later the raven identifies Jon as a corn king, one of my favorite wink-and-a-nods to the clever reader anywhere in the series (and no I didn’t find this one, that credit goes to Schmendrick of R+L=Lightbringer fame):
He rose and dressed in darkness, as Mormont’s raven muttered across the room. “Corn,” the bird said, and, “King,” and, “Snow, Jon Snow, Jon Snow.” That was queer. The bird had never said his full name before, as best Jon could recall.
Yes well “Corn King Jon Snow” is apparently Jon’s full name, and that’s quite meaningful. As we discussed in the green zombie series, the phrase “corn king” is comparative mythology term created to describe the recurring presence of a nature god who dies and resurrects in imitation of the cycle of the seasons. That’s not to say all these “corn king” deities and figures share a common origin; just that many people have seen the cycle of nature losing its green in the Fall and getting it back in the Spring as the face of a dying and resurrecting nature god. It’s easy to see how Jon fits this mold, since he’s just now died right as winter was coming on, and since he will eventually play a role in ending the winter and getting the seasons to turn once more.
But what if he’s a reverse corn king? A King of Winter? I mean that is the title of his ancestors. What if his resurrection coincides with the full onset of the unholy winter of the Long Night? Because in this chapter, Jon is essentially signing his death warrant – sacrificing himself, like a corn king – to shelter and feed the wildlings… and the wildlings are going to symbolize the Others. The suggestion here is that Jon’s death and resurrection will made to serve the purpose of letting the Others through the Wall.
So let’s watch him act that out, shall we?
First, Jon observes the hostages – 100 boys between eight and sixteen:
The boys were going to a place that none had ever been before, to serve an order that had been the enemy of their kith and kin for thousands of years, yet Jon saw no tears, heard no wailing mothers. These are winter’s people, he reminded himself. Tears freeze upon your cheeks where they come from. Not a single hostage balked or tried to slink away when his turn came to enter that gloomy tunnel. Almost all the boys were thin, some past the point of gauntness, with spindly shanks and arms like twigs.
Alright, so winter’s people, with frozen tears and no fear. Winter’s people are gaunt, like the Others, with “spindly shanks and arms like twigs,” which is a nice clue about the weirwood origins of the white walkers of the wood, as their full name describes them. Anyway, now begins the parade of double entendres with the word “other”:
Other lads had bear- paws on their boots and walked on top of the same drifts, never sinking through the crust.
That part about not sinking through the crust of the snow is noteworthy because, according to this copy of “The Quoteable Coldhands” that I picked up in a trendy Berkley bookstore, “The white walkers go lightly on the snow, you’ll find no prints to mark their passage.” We’ll see this again in a moment.
Other hostages were named as sons of Howd Wanderer, of Brogg, of Devyn Sealskinner, Kyleg of the Wooden Ear, Morna White Mask, the Great Walrus … “The Great Walrus? Truly?”
“They have queer names along the Frozen Shore.”
The Other hostages were from the frozen shore, and TWOIAF tells us that the wildlings of the frozen shore worship “gods of snow and ice,” which sounds like white walker worship, perhaps along the lines of what we see with Craster. Thus it makes sense to label their children as ‘Others,’ just as the Craster’s wives call the Others “Craster’s sons.” Notice also that these are the sons of at least two people with names that allude to weirwoods or tree-people: Morna Whitemask, who wears a white weirwood mask, and Kyleg of the Wooden Ear, with a wooden ear kind of implying a wooden face. We actually see the rest of the folk from the Frozen Shore a moment later, and again we have an others double entendre:
After the riders came the men of the Frozen Shore. Jon watched a dozen of their big bone chariots roll past him one by one, clattering like Rattleshirt. Half still rolled as before; others had replaced their wheels with runners. They slid across the snowdrifts smoothly, where the wheeled chariots were foundering and sinking. The dogs that drew the chariots were fearsome beasts, as big as direwolves.
Once again we see it is the chariots labelled as the others which go lightly on the snow, without breaking the surface, like the Others. The implication of direwolves pulling the chariots of the Others is pretty cool, perhaps implying a link between Starks and the Others, which is like, tell me something I don’t know, right? I’ll also mention that Rattleshirt, whom the bone chariots are compared to, seems to symbolize a white walker himself – he has bone white armor, just as the Other have bone white flesh, and his outfit and “Lord ‘o’ Bones” title imply him as a lord of death.
The next Others wordplay again mentions Rattleshirt:
A few were clad in stolen steel, dinted oddments of armor looted from the corpses of fallen rangers. Others had armored themselves in bones, like Rattleshirt. All wore fur and leather.
This is all from the same chapter, let me remind you. The next one is, frankly, disturbing:
Amongst the stream of warriors were the fathers of many of Jon’s hostages. Some stared with cold dead eyes as they went by, fingering their sword hilts. Others smiled at him like long- lost kin, though a few of those smiles discomfited Jon Snow more than any glare. None knelt, but many gave him their oaths.
Weird, Jon and the Others are long-lost kin? Well, yeah, if there is any sort of connection between House Stark and the Others, then yes, Jon and the Others are like long lost kin. In fact I’d call this line a pretty good clue about the others having a blood tie to House Stark… and you can find more about that in the “Blood of the Other” podcast series, of course, since that’s literally the meaning of the title, “Blood of the Other.”
If you’re keeping count, that’s five ‘Other’ double entendres with strong supporting clues around them. Here are number 6 and 7:
By afternoon the sun had gone, and the day turned grey and gusty. “A snow sky,” Tormund announced grimly. Others had seen the same omen in those flat white clouds. It seemed to spur them on to haste. Tempers began to fray. One man was stabbed when he tried to slip in ahead of others who had been hours in the column. Toregg wrenched the knife away from his attacker, dragged both men from the press, and sent them back to the wildling camp to start again.
The second others line – One man was stabbed when he tried to slip in ahead of others – simply labels the wildlings in line as the symbolizing the Others, which we have already established anyway. The first one is especially creepy – while Jon and Tormund are looking at a “snow sky,” we are told that “Others had seen the same omen in those flat white clouds.” You bet the Others see a snow sky as a time to attack! There might be a clue about Jon’s birth triggering the awakening of the Others – they see a grey “snow sky” as an omen which spurs them on to haste. Well, relative haste. Like hasty for a glacier. Anyway. We did see them watching Jon’s birth, so again, I believe that’s the snow sky which is an omen for the Others.
Long video, huh? Well, there wasn’t a good place to chop it up, and I can’t think of anything I could have cut out. In fact, there’s one last tidbit I can’t resist doling out, since it kind of drives the point home. Cast your mind back to Jon and Qhorin Halfhand fleeing from the wildlings out of the Frostfangs Mountains. They pass through a cold waterfall into a hidden cave, spend the night, and come out the other side only to confront Rattleshirt’s band, whereupon Jon tragically slew Qhorin and joined the wildlings.
And joined the wildlings – who we just saw symbolizing the Others. Jon’s passage through the waterfall cave symbolizes his death and resurrection, just as his passing beneath the Wall and out again did in the scene we quoted a moment ago. That time, Jon emerges from the iron bars and corpses to see the Wall looming over him as if to crush him; this time Jon emerges from the symbolic cave of death and joins the symbolic Others. I mean good lord.
The big spearwife narrowed her eyes and said, “If the crow would join the free folk, let him show us his prowess and prove the truth of him.”
“I’ll do whatever you ask.” The words came hard, but Jon said them. Rattleshirt’s bone armor clattered loudly as he laughed. “Then kill the Halfhand, bastard.”
“As if he could,” said Qhorin. “Turn, Snow, and die.”
Actually, it looks like it’s going to be “die, Snow, then turn,” if Jon rises from the dead and joins the Others. In fact, the death wound Jon delivers Qhorin mimics and foreshadows Jon being sliced through the jugular vein when he is assassinated:
The ranger was leaning away, and for an instant it seemed that Jon’s slash had not touched him. Then a string of red tears appeared across the big man’s throat, bright as a ruby necklace, and the blood gushed out of him, and Qhorin Halfhand fell. Ghost’s muzzle was dripping red, but only the point of the bastard blade was stained, the last half inch.
It’s almost like George is explaining to us that even a very shallow wound to the jugular can be fatal; in fact that’s what is probably is doing, because again, this is exactly what happens to Jon. Wick Whittlestick grazes his neck with his knife, but the bloods wells immediately beneath Jon’s fingers, indicting a jugular wound. That’s why Jon collapses, unable to make his sword hand grip his sword; Qhorin even dies “lifting his maimed fingers” on his famous halfhand in yet another parallel to Jon’s death.
Jon’s next thoughts are “Who was he now? What was he?” as if he has been transformed into something different. And indeed, his transformation into symbolic Other is completed when Mance raydar gives him a sheepskin cloak upon meeting Jon – sheep are white, obviously, so this is a sneaky way to give Jon an Other-like white winter cloak, and of course Craster, who gives up his sons to create Others, always wears nothing but sheepskin (and even gives sheep to the Others when he lacks sons). There’s alos a cute “wolf in sheep’s clothing” joke here, but the point is that Jon will for a time be a wolf in Other’s clothing – though I’m sure he’ll eventually end up back on the side of the Watch, as he does after leaving the wildlings.
Ygriite names him Jon Snow to the other wildlings, and of course the wildlings do get Other double-etendres; when Ygritte tells Rattleshirt the wildlings have no reason to fear Jon’s warging ability, it says “Others shouted agreement.” Then a moment later, it says “Afterward Rattleshirt claimed some charred bones, while the others threw dice for the ranger’s gear.”
Right after that, Jon asks if they will now return to the wildling base beyond the Frostfangs from whence they came. Ygritte’s answer seems to line up with what I think Jon will do if the Others steal his body:
“No,” she said. “There’s nothing behind us.” The look she gave him was sad. “By now Mance is well down the Milkwater, marching on your Wall.”
Ah ha! So Jon joins the symbolic Others right as they’re marching on the Wall. Well there you have it folks. Jon does of course cross the Wall before the army in an advance party, so he really does lead the symbolic others over the Wall and into Westeros.. three books before he also symbolically leads the Others through the Wall and into Westeros.
And now you know why the Others will steal Jon’s body.