According to the legend the Others first appeared approximately 8,000 years before the War of Conquest, during a winter that lasted a generation in a period of darkness known as the Long Night. A great hero, known in the eastern religion as Azor Ahai, led the war against the Others wielding his sword of fire Lightbringer, driving the Others away. Eventually they were defeated and Bran Stark, known also as Bran the builder, probably as a defense against them, built The Wall. The Night’s Watch was established around the same time to stand guard and protect the people of Westeros. In the Westerosi tradition it is believed that Azor Ahai may be the last hero who would be reborn when the White Walkers wake up from their thousand of years long sleep. Melisandre believes Stannis Baratheon is the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, something that is yet to be confirmed. Also, there is another similar prophecy about The Prince that was Promised. It is not clear whether or not this is one and the same person (for the sake of this theory I believe they are the separate entities). Melisandre also believes that the Others answer to the Great Other, the God of darkness, cold and death. He is considered the enemy and the opposite of R’hllor, the Lord of Light. Followers of R’hllor believe, unlike many Westerosi, that there are only two gods, R’hllor and the Great Other who wage an eternal war over the fate of the world.
In the last battle for the dawn, Azor Ahai pushed the White Walkers back, which lead us to the sequence of the events we know now. However, the possible misconception is the purpose of The Wall and the purpose of the Starks, Bran the Builder included. If you have read my previous theory you know that I believe how The Wall is forged as a potential weapon, which will aid the White Walkers in their cause, same as the weapon in the form of dragon eggs awaited for the R’hllor’s champion to be reborn. Needless to say, The Wall is, as we know it, alive, therefore, it stands to reason to believe that the magic of the North (similar to the magic that took place in the Valyrian Freehold) played a huge role in its creation. Therefore, the focal point of this theory is set on the true nature of the White Walkers, whom I always believed to be ambiguous rather than pure evil as presented in both the books and the show due to the lack of relevant POV’s; the Starks, as the magic bearers of the North; and two of the most mysterious buildings in Westeros, allegedly built by one and the same man – Bran the Builder – the Wall and Winterfell, the House Stark residence. But first, what do we know about the Others?
THE WHITE WALKERS AND THE OTHERING
Much as I admire Tolkien, and I do admire Tolkien — he’s been a huge influence on me, and his Lord of the Rings is the mountain that leans over every other fantasy written since and shaped all of modern fantasy — there are things about it, the whole concept of the Dark Lord, and good guys battling bad guys, Good versus Evil, while brilliantly handled in Tolkien, in the hands of many Tolkien successors, it has become kind of a cartoon. We don’t need any more Dark Lords, we don’t need any more, ‘Here are the good guys, they’re in white, there are the bad guys, they’re in black. And also, they’re really ugly, the bad guys. GRRM, Assignment X Interview, 2011
So far, in the book, we have encountered Others handful of times: interestingly enough – in the prologue of Game of Thrones, then during the battle at the Fist of the First Men and when Sam kills one with the Dragonglass. Therefore, not much is known about them. What we do know is that they have a language, they can create things out of ice with magical properties, they raise dead for their army, they can be killed by Obsidian (Dragonglass), Valyrian steel blades and fire and as of the S04E04 of Game of Thrones (if this should be viewed as a potential The Winds of Winter spoiler) they apparently can’t reproduce, as humans do, due to the apparent lack of female Others, but instead they are using human descendants (I will address this later), which they turn into Others using the magical properties, as we have seen in the case of Craster’s sons. What little we do know often comes from the tales passed down from generation to generation and in our case, namely from Tormund and Old Nan, who as far as we know, never met them face to face.
– They’re never far, you know. They won’t come out by day, not when that old sun’s shining, but don’t think that means they went away. Shadows never go away. Might be you don’t see them, but they’re always clinging to your heels.
– A man can fight the dead, but when their masters come, when the white mists rise up … how do you fights a mist crow? Shadows with teeth … air so cold it hurts to breath, like a knife inside your chest … you do not know, you cannot know … can your sword cut cold?
From this little bit here it is safe to say how Tormund never actually encountered a White Walker up close and personal, as Sam did, otherwise he would tell us a bit about their ice swords that shatter the steel, their armors and their milk pale skin. On the other hand we have Old Nan who is a bit more precise in her fear:
– The Others…Thousands and thousands of years ago, a winter fell that was cold and hard and endless beyond all memory of man. There came a night that lasted a generation, and kings shivered and died in their castles even as the swineherds in their hovels. Women smothered their children rather than see them starve, and cried, and felt their tears freeze on their cheeks.
In that darkness, the Others came for the first time … They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins. They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms, felled heroes and armies by the score, riding pale dead horses, and leading hosts of the slain. All the swords of men could not stay their advance, and even maidens and suckling babes, found no pity in them. They hunted the maids through the frozen forests, and fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children.
Now these were the days before the Andals came, and long before the women fled across the narrow sea from the cities of the Rhoyne, and the hundred kingdoms of those times were the kingdoms of the First Men, who had taken those lands from the children of the forest. Yet here and there in the fastness of the woods, the children still lived in their wooden cities and hollow hills, and the faces in the trees kept watch. So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost. He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog and a dozen companions. For years he searched until he despaired of ever finding the children of the forest in their secret cities. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it. And the Others smelled the hot blood in him and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds……
Her story, although didactic and informative, is a bit ambiguous and it should be understood not only as a tale of the past but as a prophecy too. Everything Old Nan says is, to my understanding, not only something that had happened in the past, but also something that will, as a loop, happen in the future, as in history is repeating itself. The only proof of this notion, besides my gut, is the advice of the writer himself:
“Remember Old Nan’s stories, Bran. Remember the way she told them, the sound of her voice. So long as you do that, part of her will always be alive in you.”
While some of her stories serve a merely expository function, when you read this particular sentence you come to realize how some others contain some deeper clues upon closer inspection and how there is, in fact, a considerable amount of foreshadowing hidden in her storytelling.
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. (AGOT, 160)
This boy is clearly Bran Stark. Whether foreshadowing, past or a prophecy, Old Nan’s story came true. In the future. Who is the Last Hero then? Many argue it is Azor Ahai, and although this might be the case I cannot help but wonder what if the Last Hero from Old Nan’s tales is, in fact, Jon Snow. If you are familiar with my Jon Snow theory, then you know I firmly believe in his eventual resurrection via Bloodraven-Theon-Bran connection. If this belief is correct, what then? What happens next? Let’s take a closer look at the tale:
So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children (…) He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog and a dozen companions. For years he searched until he despaired of ever finding the children of the forest in their secret cities. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it.
– determined to seek out children: and his brother Bran (a vision in the form of a tree) who is with them, which is exactly what Bloodraven wants for this is his long con
– with a sword (The Longclaw), a horse, a dog (Ghost) and dozen companions (Men of the Night’s Watch still loyal to him)
– and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it…This is very interesting since we know Lightbringer never snapped (if the Lightbringer is actually a sword and not The Night’s Watch or a dragon), in fact, it was the ultimate weapon, which was used in the fight against the White Walkers, so the story is either twisted a bit or it tells the future events and not the past ones as we were lead to believe. Speaking of which, why would Azor Ahai seek out Children in the land of the dead (of Always Winter) before the Wall was built and before they moved north of the Wall after the White Walkers were defeated. It makes no sense. Unless, the Last Hero she talks about is the Last Hero I am talking about. In his dreams Jon Snow saw himself armored in black ice (resembling an Other), wielding the fiery sword (Lightbringer), which tells me his dream is, in the context of information we already have, a paradox, or, what we already know is not necessarily the truth.
What we do know is that Azor Ahai somehow defeated the White Walkers, which lead to the creation of the Wall (by Bran the Builder, the founder of the House Stark) that will protect the realms of men and consequently to the creation of the Night’s Watch order that will see this protection through, with Starks as the Guardians of the North. Over a short period of time, for some reason, the Children of the Forest moved North of the Wall, into the territory of the enemy they so vigorously fought to destroy.
As I speculated before this is not how things went down. The few scarce stories that depict White Walkers or the Others are the classic example of Othering. Othering is a process or a rhetorical device in which one group is seen as “us” and another group as “them”. In other words, by “othering”, we mean any action by which an individual or group (White Walkers/The Others) becomes mentally classified in somebody’s mind (the contemporary Westerosi; and the reader) as “not one of us”. Rather than always remembering that every person is a complex bundle of emotions, ideas, urges, motivations, reflexes, priorities, and many other subtle aspects, it’s sometimes easier to dismiss them as being in some way less human, and less worthy of respect and dignity, than we are. Inter group bias is a well-established psychological term and is, to my mind, highly used (by George R. R. Martin) in the creation of the Others and the context they live in as seen from the examples I used (Old Nan and Tormund).
It is my belief the Wall was created by the Others themselves who either sought a hideout from the realms of men or who built the Wall using their magical powers in agreement with the Stark to protect themselves from the upcoming events as seen through the Weirwoods or any other premonition. The event I am talking about is the fire magic that will appear as the real threat, several thousand years in the future, not so much to the Westeros as to the North (South and North of the Wall) and its way of living. I am more inclined to believe in the latter.
Another theory posits how the Last Hero was a diplomat who sealed the deal with the marriage, as it was the common thing to do in this time.
This pact was sealed as many agreements in the series are, with a marriage. A Stark or one of the ancestors of the Starks married the queen of the Others and reigned at the Wall, presiding jointly with his strange bride over a sort of demilitarized zone between Men and Others. The Others, then, fulfilled their side of the agreement. They went away and left Men alone.
Men, unfortunately, did not keep up their end of the bargain. A large population of them has taken up residence on the wrong side of the Wall. They may be violating some now unknown and unremembered term of the agreement.
Although this is seems plausible at the first glance the problem is as it follows – If this was customary why was the Night’s King hunted down for doing the exact same thing then? And keep in mind, according to the legend The Others got defeated before Night’s King met his lovely wife. And while I do believe some kind of agreement took place (between the Children, the Starks and the First Men) I don’t believe this is how things went down, at least not for the reasoning behind the act pointed out here. Therefore, I propose something else.
“Winter is Coming.”
The same way Targaryens discovered they can control dragons and to some extent fire that comes with it – calling themselves the blood of the dragons – the Stark family came to the similar conclusion several thousand years before. Starks, being the self proclaimed royal family hailing from the First Men, the oldest humans known to the Westeros are known to have certain magical properties (or at least its founder had), which we are not familiar with yet and which are, in my opinion, purposely hidden from us for this long. What do we know so far?
They can endure colder whether however, they are not completely immune to it but, just like Targaryens, they are able to withstand harsh temperatures with more ease than other humans are. They are able to warg and greenseer, however, just like in the case of Targaryens who are not all able to give birth to a dragon, not every Stark is able to warg or greenseer. They are all deeply connected to the North and the weirwoods, which we have learned through Bran. And, as seen in the case of almost all of the Stark children they have prophetic dreams, just like some Targaryens do. To sum it up, they are a bit different from the average humans in the sense that they can withstand colder temperatures, can control animals (or turn to one, as shapeshifters, depending on how you look at it), can merge with the weirwoods, view past, present future and have prophetic dreams (not to be confused with greensight).
So what if Bran the Builder saw the future (in the similar way Rhaegar did with The Prince that was Promised Prophecy), and acted upon it in the past, thus securing the well being of the North in the future? It is hardly a stretch.
To repeat myself -not much is known about the White Walkers. And there is a reason for that. You should always keep this in mind. Just as there is a reason for opening this saga with the appearance of the Others after thousands of years and with the Starks, who just happened to stumble upon the pack of six direwolves (for six Stark children) that haven’t been seen south of the Wall in ages. Needless to say, I see this as the clear emphasis on connection between these two seemingly separate fractions. I have no definite, unmistakable proof for this claim apart from several clues, which were so diligently left by the writer himself. This is why we call it a theory, right? So, instead signing a treaty with a wedding I propose something else.
8000 years in the past the situation is as it follows: The First Men and the Children of the Forest are living in agreement and peace; both fractions believe in the Old Gods, worshiping through Weirwoods until one day a new fraction from another continent, instead of the North, with Azor Ahai as its leader threatens to destroy not only peace but their entire way of living. Unable to fight it and lacking the considerable men power, Children joined forces with First Men and Bran the Builder. Magic was involved, White Walkers were created from Men by the Chidren, and the enemy got defeated. Immediately after the battle is won, the Wall was built and more importantly, the Stark residence, Winterfell. Both allegedly built by Bran the Builder Stark, posses certain magical properties.
The Wall keeps the dead from south of the Wall at all times and likewise those that are not the members of the Night’s Watch from north of the Wall, unless they are guided by a member of the NW, as seen in the case of Sam who took Bran north, using the Oath to open the Black Gate. This is the clear evidence that there was a contingency plan as the Wall was built: a) the Black Gate that can be opened by the member of the NW reciting the Oath and b) the horn of Joramun, which allegedly brings the Wall down. If the Wall was built with the purpose of keeping Men out of North and keeping the White Walkers out of South why would those that built it install the door that leads to the North and create the horn that can bring it down? Unless the Wall was built as either a hideout for the weapon that is to be used when the time comes, as prophesied in the past by Bran the Builder, or as a decoy and the best-kept secret in Westeros whose purpose is to keep guard for the time when prophecy comes to its fruition. Or both.
Winterfell, built around the same time and allegedly by the same person is, although not presented as such, equally mysterious. It is a Stark residence, surprisingly warm (due to its location), it is in a certain proximity to the Wall (and for a reason) and it hides several mysteries, which are skillfully presented as anything but. One of the mysteries I am talking about is something that I cannot stop thinking about ever since it happened – the snow storm radiating from within the castle during the fifth book. At first glance this might not be a mystery at all but call it a gut feeling or the fact we are talking about ASOIAF I cannot shake the feeling it is and the reason for it is a single observation. There was no storm snow between the Wall and Winterfell nor anywhere around the castle, which brings to mind the only possibly conclusion – the castle radiates the storm from within itself, as a certain defense mechanism, due to the fact there is no Stark at Winterfell (or something else which will be discussed a bit later, or both). And, as we already know “there must always be a Stark at Winterfell”, but conveniently enough we are robbed off as to why, same way how “Starks have mend the Wall for thousands of years” and how conveniently enough as Benjen vanishes into thin air, Jon Snow takes his place at the Wall. I propose that, just like the Wall, Winterfell is also built with the use of the magical properties and the contingency plan, which assumes that if something goes wrong – as the prophecy foretold – and the Starks are faced with a terrible danger and Winterfell is lost or abandoned, the castle starts fending for itself.
Winter is coming are the words we have heard far too many times and, oddly enough, they are the most cryptic house motto that makes little to no sense in the bigger picture. These words do not only mean the harsh times are coming, no, they mean The Starks are coming, same way as Hear me Roar means that if you cross a Lannisters you better be miles away or when Growing Strong hits the nail in the head with the description of just who the Tyrells are. Just like the Fire & Blood, similarly commonplace motto, hints at the Targaryen connection to the dragons, which can only be hatched in fire by the blood of the dragon, the Winter is coming hints at Stark connection to the North and whatever lies there. The fact that we are not told as much or that we don’t know as much does not mean it is not possible or true. And this is the long con or the decoy I hinted at earlier in this text. Littlefinger taught us this valuable lesson. The less people know about you, the better. Keep your foes confused. The history is, as we know, written by the winners and what took place at that faithful day is something we have no means of uncovering, but humor me for a second. If the White Walkers were the threat and the enemy to all men, including the Children as we were told, why would one fraction of the Wildlings (also First Men) found themselves on the “wrong side of the Wall”? It is not as if the Wall just magically appeared from space dividing the land in two. And why would the Children retreat into the enemy territory? And if the White Walkers cannot pass the Wall how is it possible that the Night’s King brought his bride to the Nightfort, south of the Wall?!? Too many inconsistencies if you ask me.
It is my belief that this is the best kept secret in Westeros, passed on from a generation to a generation of Starks, a secret that presumably, at one point, fell into oblivion for the sake of its secrecy and the contingency plan to work, or with the untimely death of Lord Rickard. Think of the Starks as guardians and some sorts of Illuminati who are tasked with protecting the secret written on runes (perhaps stored in the crypts of Winterfell) and passed on from generation to generation of Winterfell Lords exclusively. Only now, with the secret being lost as Lord Rickard Stark lost his head in the King’s Landing, the only possible way of uncovering it is either through Bran’s greenseeing or through Jon Snow’s example – as he transforms upon upcoming resurrection and finally walks into the crypts as his dreams foretold.
In my previous theory I hypothesized how Jon Snow can take the control over the White Walkers but the more I think about it the less I am inclined to believe that claim. White Walkers are not so different from men; they are not animals nor demons to be controlled but allies to be guided in the battle. This is the part of my previous theory I still firmly believe in – White Walkers will ally with Northmen lead by Jon Snow, the Stark that will uncover the truth about the best kept secret, and make a pact with the othered race, which I believe was created at the same time the great House Stark came to its existence or the race which rose from the House Stark. Together they will defeat the fire blood magic threat (be it from Daenerys or Melisandre and her Red God or both) only if/when “resurrected” Jon unites the North – Starks and their bannermen, Night’s Watch, the Wildlings, the Giants and the White Walkers – as their new King of Winter, which is, what I believe, the image Daenerys saw in the House of the Undying, which coincides with what Jon saw in his dream:
Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow. (ACOK)
The Blue-Eyed King of the ice Wall, out of which the Blue Winterfell Rose grows, is the mummer’s dragon – Jon Snow – who will betray Daenerys for the North and Winterfell.
Although I might be completely wrong with my claim that Jon Snow is the mummer’s dragon from Quaithe’s prophecy, which also does not really make any difference for this theory, the rest of the sentence I firmly believe in. But before I move onto the next chapter I will give you a brief explanation of this claim.
Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun’s son and mummer’s dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying.
Kraken – Victarion Greyjoy; Dark Flame – Moqorro; Lion – Tyrion Lannister; Griffin – Aegon (and Connington); Sun’s son – Quentin Martell; Mummer’s Dragon – Jon Snow. Popular belief says that Griffin is Jon Connington and that Mummer’s Dragon is whichever dragon Varys choses to support, most likely Aegon Targaryen, who could end up being a Blackfyre. To understand this prophecy we must first understand what does the word mummer in this constellation means; is it an actor, is it someone who works from the shadows and is this dragon in fact the false one. Or, is it all of the above. I think it is. And for it to work, both Aegon and Jon fit nicely, with one exception only: Red or Black, a dragon is still a dragon. Bear with me.
In her prophecy Quaithe has made little pairs that fit rather nicely. This begs the question, why would she pair up Tyrion and Connington and leave Aegon out? Wherever Aegon goes, Connington follows. Using the word Griffin is a red herring since, for example, there are two of them – Griff and Young Griff, which is hardly a coincidence. They have also changed their mind, which means they are no longer coming towards her as many believe this is what the prophecy foretells – number of people heading towards Daenerys in Meereen. I read it differently – number of people Daenerys will cross path with sometimes in the future, after she comes back from the Dothraki Sea or perhaps even in Westeros, at some point. All in all it foretells the future events regardless of the space in which it takes place. Back to Connington, isn’t he dying from greyscale? And what threat does he pose on Daenerys, other than working for Aegon? And if the threat comes from Aegon’s supporters why not mention Septa Lemore as well? I hope you understand my point.
Then comes the Sun’s son and Mummer’s dragon. Many argue Varys is the mummer, as this is what he is called, but not only that, he is a master of disguise, a former actor and a supporter of Aegon’s claim. Too many evidence to support this, however, I believe this is not the case. Since I believe Griffin stands for Aegon and his merry band there is no point in repeating the same name twice. This was my starting point. And the more I thought about it the more I was inclined to believe Jon is the false dragon. Bloodraven’s dragon. Why Bloodraven? Well, Bloodraven is, a man of many faces (literally), thousand eyes and one, master of disguise (since he can literally be anyone due to his magic, wizardry and ability to warg; a man that works from the shadows (literally), playing his long con on Stark brothers, man responsible for the election of Jon Snow, which will (as foreseen) be his downfall and road to unlikely transformation from the bastard to the blue-eyed King; supporter of a Targaryen bastard, the false dragon, not because he is a bastard (like Blackfyres) but because he was, unlike Aegon, raised as their polar opposite, a Stark. People have great expectations of R+L=J. And if this theory turns out to be true, which it probably will, these expectations, considering the context of this saga, are, to put it bluntly, heavily unrealistic. Jon has no aspirations of sitting the Iron Throne, rule as a Targaryen, or belong to the family that butchered his, as the core of Jon Snow’s character, his very own being, is that he is more of a Stark than any other Stark children. This is his identity. And as weird as this might sound, blood has nothing to do with that because it is not the blood that forms our identity, but the upbringing. Targaryen blood, in his case, is a bonus, for it will enhance the abilities he already has as a Stark warg. Being the product of two most dominant magical houses in ASOIAF will work to his advantage. Just take a look at Bloodraven, half Targaryen, and half Blackwood (First Men), one of the most powerful human beings in Westeros, who chose the Old Gods. Now imagine the capacity of Jon Snow. Yes, the possibilities are endless. And exciting. But first, he has to start believing in magic. And what better way to do so if not by coming back from the dead, as the Blue Eyed King or a warg, a greenseer and perhaps the tamer of dragons. This is why he is the false dragon – a dragon by blood but not his identity.
KINGS OF WINTER
“The Kings of Winter watched him pass with eyes of ice”.
In order to speak about the Kings of Winter I must first say few things about the dragons and George R. R. Martin’s initial plan, which is that he considered having the Targaryens use a pyrotechnic effect to feign dragon powers, but decided on living dragons instead. Why is this important? As two polar opposite houses, Starks and Targaryens are, as mentioned earlier in the text, the only two magical houses in the ASOIAF universe that we know of. Drawing a parallel between the two, this original plan can shed some light onto the intentionally unexplored background of the ruling house in the North. If these two houses were created as counterparts, as I believe they were, then following what we already know about Targaryens, and using it as analogy, can help us get to know the Starks better.
-Their sigil is the three-headed Dragon, Red on Black
-Their House words are “Fire and Blood”
-The phrase “blood of the dragon” refers to typical Targaryen features: silver-gold or platinum hair, violet eyes
-They can tolerate a bit more heat than most ordinary people but they are not immune to fire
-They have premonition-like dreams
-They have the unique ability to control the dragons
-They are called “Dragonlords”
-They are associated with Fire
Now let’s take a look at the House Stark:
-Their sigil is a Direwolf, (Icy) Grey on White
-Their House words are “Winter is Coming”
-Typical Stark features are dark hair, lean pale face and grey eyes
-They can tolerate a bit more cold than most ordinary people but they are not immune to it
-They have premonition-like dreams
-They have a unique ability to control animals (and perhaps even humans) by the means of warging them, direwolves in particular
-They are called the “Kings of Winter”
-They are associated with ice
Before the return of the dragons and direwolves (or the White walkers) both of these houses seemed rather ordinary, interlaced with realism, just like any other house in Westeros. There was nothing extraordinary about them except from the colorful history they heavily relied on (and mythical animals that will appear later on, which begs the question – why aren’t there any lions walking around Casterly Rock?). And then, the magic found its way back. What triggered the return of the magic I do not know but whatever it was one has to be aware of the above numbered traits because with the existence of magic these traits are taking on a whole new meaning creating different dynamics then we were lead to believe at first. What used to be a myth, a story for bedtime, has suddenly became the reality no one could fully grasp, a miracle. And as the term “Dragonlord” took a whole knew meaning with the reappearance of dragons at the end of AGOT, the term “Kings of Winter” (a synonym to Kings in the North or not?) should take a whole knew meaning not only with the reappearance of Direwolves (which are partly a red herring), but also the White Walkers, who were believed to be sleeping for the past several thousands of years.
The title “Kings of the Winter” is mentioned six times in the first book, AGOT:
The first of the other occurrences came from Jon, who remarked that “The old Kings of Winter are down there, sitting on their thrones with stone wolves” in reference to the Winterfell crypts. The second was in the Eddard chapter when he found out Robert had been gravely injured; he was woken from a dream in which he was in front of Lyanna’s statue in the Winterfell crypts: “The Kings of Winter watched him pass with eyes of ice” as if they do not approve. The third was an Arya chapter, in which she thought back to a time when Robb had taken her and the other children down into the crypts: “Bran’s eyes had gotten as big as saucers as he stared at the stone faces of the Kings of Winter”. The fourth was a Bran chapter as he remembered the burial of Lady’s bones: “Beneath the shadow of the First Keep was an ancient lichyard, its headstones spotted with pale lichen, where the old Kings of Winter had laid their faithful servants”. The fifth was an Eddard chapter while he was imprisoned in King’s Landing; he remembered the joke about the King’s Hand that Robert had made: “as the Kings of Winter looked on with cold stone eyes.” The sixth was again a Bran chapter, while he was in the Winterfell crypts with Osha; he referred to the statues as representing the Kings of Winter, and Maester Luwin added “They were the Kings in the North for thousands of years.”
The “King of Winter” title was mentioned three times in ACOK:
The first was in reference to “the ancient crown of the Kings of Winter” having been yielded to Aegon I when Torrhen Stark bent the knee (and it goes on to say that no one knows what Aegon did with the crown). The second was when Jaime Lannister derisively asked Robb, “Did the old Kings of Winter hide behind their mother’s skirts as well?” The third was when Bran, Rickon, and company were leaving Winterfell – he thinks to himself “[…] under the ground the Kings of Winter sit their thrones.”
The title was mentioned twice in ASOS.
The first was in a Catelyn chapter; she thought, “Let the kings of winter have their cold crypt under the earth” (this was the chapter that begins with her recounting her father’s funeral). The second was when Robb explained to Walder Frey why his crown was made out of bronze: “Bronze and iron are stronger than gold and silver. The old Kings of Winter wore such a sword-crown.”
The title was mentioned once in AFFC, but only in the House Stark entry in the appendix. It stated, “The Starks trace their descent from Brandon the Builder and the Kings of Winter.” This is also its only mention in ADWD.
Summarizing these mentions we can draw the following conclusion: the Starks of Winterfell trace their descent (thousands of years in the past) from Bran the Builder and the Kings of Winter, who, with the coming of Targaryens, ceased to be (when Torrhen bent the knee); their ancient crown, made of iron and bronze, hinted to be more resilient (literally and figuratively) than that of the Targaryens (gold and silver) is lost, taken by Targaryens never to be found; Winterfell crypts are their home now, a place from which they “rule” and take watchful guard over the living, never taking their stone cold ice eyes off them, not even for a second.
THE NIGHT’S KING
“Some say he was a Bolton,” Old Nan would always end. “Some say a Magnar out of Skagos, some say Umber, Flint, or Norrey. Some would have you think he was a Woodfoot, from them who ruled Bear Island before the ironmen came. He never was. He was a Stark, the brother of the man who brought him down.”
The Night’s King is the legendary Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who lived during the Age of Heroes. Allegedly his name is Brandon. He was a fearless warrior named the thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Later, he fell in love with a woman “with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars” (an Other). He chased her and loved her though “her skin was cold as ice”, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well. He brought her back to the Nightfort and after the unholy union, he declared himself king and her his queen, and ruled the Nightfort as his own castle for thirteen years. It was not until his own brother, the King of Winter, and Joramun, the King-Beyond-the Wall, joined forces that the Night’s King was brought down and the Night’s Watch freed from his influence (perhaps via blood magic). It is not know how he was defeated but the rumor has it that Joramun blew the Horn of Winter to wake the giants from Earth. After his fall, when it was discovered that he had been making sacrifices to the Others, all records of him were destroyed and his very name was forbidden and forgotten.
There are several contradictions in this story. The Wall, to our knowledge, keeps the White Walkers away via the magic woven into it at the time it was built. This is after all the sole purpose of the Wall. Night’s King found his bride on the North side of the Wall and brought her back with him to the Nightfort, which is a castle on the South side of the Wall. How can this be? We know from Bran chapter in ADWD that this is not possible. And if the White Walkers can go through, under, around or over the Wall then this defies the purpose of the Wall. But here we are, the Night’s King ruled with his female Other for 13 years from the wrong side of the Wall. Then, he gave her his seed, which should mean he impregnated her yet he also performed the sacrifice to the Others (in a similar way to Craster). Why? I always assumed the Others needed Craster’s boys precisely because they were not able to reproduce as they do not have female Others in their ranks for an unknown reason (something I desperately want to know more about). So, if the Night’s King managed to successfully impregnate an existing female Other then wouldn’t this be the best and fastest way of expanding the race? Then we have Joramun who blew the Horn of Joramun to wake the giants and defeat the Night’s King, the same Horn that has the ability to destroy the Wall. So, if this is the purpose of the Horn why is the Wall still standing after it was blown? And the story seems to depict the Night’s King as the sole enemy here. What happened to his Queen after his fall? Why wasn’t there any of her fellow Others there to aid her and her husband in their time of misfortune? Surely they would win with no Azor Ahai (and what happened to him afterwards?!) around to drive them into the Lands of Always Winter, a task (performed not so long ago) at which he failed, clearly.
BRAN THE BUILDER
“I have been many things, Bran. Now I am as you see me, and now you will understand why I could not come to you … except in dreams. I have watched you for a long time, watched you with a thousand eyes and one. I saw your birth, and that of your lord father before you. I saw your first step, heard your first word, was part of your first dream. I was watching when you fell. And now you are come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late.” (ADWD)
“Maybe one of other Brandons loved that story. Sometimes Nan would talk to him as if he were HER Brandon, the baby she had nursed all those years ago, and sometimes she confused him with his uncle Brandon, who was killed by the Mad King before Bran was even born. She had lived so long, Mother had told him once that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.” (AGOT)
(Meera) “Who sent you? Who is this three-eyed crow?”
(Coldhands) “A friend. Dreamer, wizard, call him what you will. The last greenseer.” …
“A monster,” Bran said.
The ranger looked at Bran as if the rest of them did not exist. “Your monster, Brandon Stark.”
“Yours,” the raven echoed from his shoulder.
(Meera) “Who is he? What is he? What do we do now?”
“We go with the ranger.” Jojen said. “We have come this far to turn back now, Meera. We would never make it back to the Wall alive. We go with Bran’s Monster, or we die.” (ADWD)
The last passage ambiguously implies that both the Three-Eyed Raven and Coldhands are Bran’s monsters. However, the Bran “held” responsible is, in my opinion, a Brandon Stark and not necessarily our Bran Stark. The first quote unmistakably reflects the importance Brandon Stark (the most common name for the Kings of Winter) holds in the eyes of the Three-Eyed Raven who waited for a long time for him to be born. Why else would he observe Ned Stark’s birth unless he expected Eddard to be the Brandon he so eagerly awaited? Furthermore, eight years is not a long time in the life of one Brynden Rivers, just as someone dying a long time ago in the life of one Leaf means the person died a very, very long time ago. Following this analogy one can conclude that both Coldhands (Bran’s monster), and his employer, the Three-Eyed Raven, (Bran’s monster), know off, have been expecting and need a Brandon Stark for a specific task. Who tasked them with this quest?
Bloodraven, acting upon his visions, has most likely tasked Coldhands but what if this is not the entire story? Mother had told him once that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head. What if every Brandon Stark, starting with Bran the Builder, bears a potential to carry an “ice” gene within him that started and is attributed to Bran the Builder just like every x Targaryen is capable of giving the birth to a dragon. Think of some form of nonliteral reincarnation. Think of magic woven into Stark blood. There is a reason why Bran the Builder Stark was held in such a high regard. He stood out from the crowd. He had to in order to proclaim himself a King (of Winter) who will come to found the most important House in the North (and for this saga). He was the alpha and omega hence the title Builder, which indicates he held the status of a deity at the time because he was the one who understands and can manipulate the nature and laws of physics. Builders and architect were often understood as above average, the ones others should worship for their “extraordinary” skills. But what if this was not all of it, what if there is more to this story, something else that secured his position among the First Men? One theory talked about the possible time travel, which occurred as a consequence that comes out of Bran’s potential to merge and see through the Weirwood. Fans argue against this theory but the text confirms it, although not in the sense this theory argues. The following few sentence will give you my take on it. So far in the story, we have three different characters that have encountered present Bran Stark in both the past and the future: Ned, Theon and Jon (via his dream). All of these characters have heard Bran, as a whisper near a weirwood, which means Bran’s whisper has already happened in the past and as such it is inherent to the past and is the integral part of that past although Bran experienced it in the future. Therefore, whatever happened happened meaning whatever Bran does in the future he cannot change the past because it has already happened. With this being said, there is a strong possibility that Bloodraven has already been influenced by the future Bran but in the past. The difference is Bloodraven has the experience of Bran whereas Bran does not have the experience of Bloodraven in this context. Yet. Therefore, this is not a classic example of time travel; it is just an indicator of possibly existing loop that is making sure things happen the way they are suppose to – one character is influencing another who is being influenced by the first. Kind of like the chicken and egg problem. Could this be then the reason why Bloodraven, a prominent Targaryen supporter, chose the Old Gods over the Faith of Seven? Is this why he vanished into thin air from the Night’s Watch and gave his body for the ultimate sacrifice according to the oldest religion in Westeros – of one merging with the weirwood tree – thus mirroring Rhaegar’s similar commitment regarding The Prince That Was Promised prophecy as I argued in the case of Bran the Builder earlier in the text? This would then explain nicely why Bloodraven is Bran’s monster. As for Coldhands, also a member of the NW and a ranger, well, we do not have much to go on except that he is a form of an undead, neither a White Walker nor a Wight, who is being influenced by the rules of the Wall and magic being used by the Children.
“The Wall. The Wall is more than just ice and stone, he said. There are spells woven into it…old ones, and strong. He cannot pass beyond the Wall.”
How he came to existence? I think it is safe to say he was “made” that way by the White Walkers yet he seems to be a separate entity. For a long time I firmly believed he was either the Night’s King or Bran the Builder, which could’ve end up being one and the same person (not that I am arguing this) due to the lack of information and the fact that all records of the Night’s King have been erased. From the show we know Night’s King, a former man of the NW, lives in the Lands of Always Winter in the form of an Other. We know this thanks to HBO that confirmed his identity by mistake (or they purposely identified him as the Night’s King). We know he is no longer in his human form and we know that he turns Craster’s sons into White Walkers by a simple touch of his hand. Coldhands wore no gloves, his hands were black and hard as rock, his eyes were not blue and he was snubbed by the show. If we are to trust the show, Coldhands cannot be the Night’s King but he can be someone who gained his second life as a gift from someone named Bran. Bran’s monster.
I propose that Bran the Builder was a demigod. Think of Gilgamesh. Or his ancestor Utnapishtim, who gained immortality for being faithful to both the Gods and his human form. Like Bran the Builder, Gilgamesh is known for his building abilities and influence over the ancient city Uruk that flourished under his reign. Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing instead I am merely trying to provide the context for understanding where I am coming from. Being a demigod, Bran the Builder would easily gain the dominance over his fellow men, which he did, as far as we know. Being a demigod, he would “have to have” one human parent and one God parent. I propose Bran the Builder is born from this union – a human mother and a father, the Great Other. As such Bran the Builder, a superhuman, was blessed with attributes of both, the Others and the First Men. As an Other he would have the ability to withstand colder wheatear, live considerably longer (if not forever), manipulate magic (to build and create not only objects, artifacts but also buildings, raise the dead, turn humans into Others and so on) and perhaps even take the form of an Other. As First Man he would have the ability to greenseer, warg and have premonition like dreams and live in the form of a human. Think of this as a metaphor rather than an actual God impregnating a woman and keep in mind that GRRM wanted to give dragon attributes to the Targaryens rather than the animals, which in the end he chose to do after all. So what if GRRM devised Starks following the same logic but as a unique personification of winter instead, with White Walkers as their magical form rather than dragons, direwolves or any other creature inherent to Westeros? Think of the Children that might’ve had something to do with this. Think of Bran the Builder as a tool, a means towards the end. A beginning. It had to start somewhere. Why not with the Starks instead of a commonplace as we are inclined to believe? Considering this is A Song of Ice and Fire it is hardly a stretch. The line of Starks thus spirals out of this union but to what end?
As we have seen in the last season (if we are to believe the show), the White Walkers are not killing Craster’s sons. No. They are turning them into White Walkers. 13th Lord of Commander performs the ritual with 13 members of his council. And for it to work, the children must be of Stark lineage… Craster is the son a wildling woman and the brother of the Night Watch. I place my bet his father was a Stark. I have no proof since not much is known about Craster’s past but something about his name and generally the context that surrounds him tells me I am right. And besides, if the Others could turn just about anyone then they wouldn’t be needing specific human beings, they could just turn any member of the Night’s Watch or any Wildling as they have quite few of them at their disposal. Therefore, the White Walkers are evolved humans, Stark descendants. The line: “they are coming, the sons” indicates Craster wives (and thus Craster himself) knew the boys are not being killed in the sacrifice. On the other hand, the Others knew when a new boy was born. So something was at play here but how this custom came to be (was it oral agreement, can Others communicate, was it just one of those things that are given and so on) is something I do not know. Whatever it was, the pact between Craster and the Others was made and Craster followed through.
Or Bran the Builder simply came into existence by the means of time traveling Bran Stark?
SIDE NOTE: just like not every human can be turned into a White Walker, not just about any White Walker can turn a human. It has to be the King. We know he is a king because he wore a crown on his head. Does this mean we have met Bran the Builder up-close and person? I know HBO named him the Night’s King but I also know they took the info down several hours after it got published. All of this, together with the fact show is not really a canon, gives room for speculation. And call me crazy, the White Walker responsible for fetching the baby has showed compassion for it during their journey through the north, from what little we have seen.
“Their faces were stern and strong, and some of them had done terrible things, but they were Starks every one, and Bran knew all their tales. He had never feared the crypts; they were part of his home and who he was, and he had always known that one day he would lie here too.”
The Crypt of Winterfell is located under the castle and contains the tombs of House Stark. Originally only the Kings of Winter were “buried” down there, then after Torrhen bent the knee, the Lords of Winterfell, until the most recent events and untimely deaths of Lord Rickard Stark and his two children, Brandon and Lyanna, who were also buried there, although Brandon never became a Lord (but he was a man and according to Bran Stark from the above written quote apparently all Stark men are buried in the crypts, which seems a bit odd unless it is a foreshadowing) and Lyanna was the only female to find her place in the crypts. Breaking this tradition – being the only female tomb – is an extreme outlier. It draws attention to itself on that basis alone. Why did Ned do it? Keep in mind Lyanna did ask him to promise her he will bring her bones back to Winterfell but even if this is the case why would Ned break a thousands years long tradition for his sister? I only have two possible explanations. First: he buried an artifact within her tomb, something that can serve as the solid proof of Jon’s true identity. It could be a Targaryen sword as it was the custom to secure the line by passing it along (but which one), a harp (although I don’t see how he could’ve carried it all the way to Winterfell without getting noticed), a book (with his drawings and written prophecies), a decree (or some other proof of Jon’s legitimacy and perhaps their marriage)…. Second: With the untimely death of Lord Rickard Stark (and his heir Brandon Stark) the Secret of Winter got lost. Ned was not the first born, he was never intended to be the Lord of Winterfell, so if there actually was the secret to be passed from generation to generation with the untimely deaths of Rickard and Brandon the secret was lost. Think of Ned’s last talk with Jon. It is the same thing. It was the secret so great that it had to be passed orally from a father onto a son. Keep it secret. Keep it safe. Not having the facts, Ned made a precedent, he buried both his brother and his sister, who became the only female being buried there. The only Starks confirmed to be in the Crypts (their bodies) are Lyanna, Brandon and Rickard. One of them a female, one not a Lord and one literally cremated, which was not the custom of the Stark family. Although this might not mean anything it is a food for thought. Could this be the violation of the rules, condemned by the Kings of Winter? Perhaps.
But what happened to the other bodies? We assume they are buried under their stone statues but we do not have a solid proof of this claim. What if the statues keep the bodies, and not only spirits at bay, what if there was another custom we do not know about? What if they are connected to the Wall somehow? Where am I going with this? From the text we know Winterfell crypts are important for uncovering the mystery. It is a Stark place; it is the home for the Kings of Winter; a place where both Bran and Rickon experienced strange things, i.e. they both talked to their, at the time, dead father; it is the tomb of a castle that was built by the means of magic, during the times magic was still largely at play; Jon keeps dreaming that the truth he needs to uncover is hidden down there, something he is so afraid off; conveniently all three of the boys I tie to the Winter and WW have had some strange experience with and within the crypts and finally the crypts are intersect with great number of tunnels and are so big that no even the current characters at play managed to explore them. Think of the crypts as a unique space of magic, a chamber of secrets and a passage between the seemingly separate worlds. A one piece in the puzzle carefully assembled by Bran the Builder.
WHAT MADE OTHERS COME BACK
“The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it.” (AFFC)
Assuming that they are not the pure evil, horde of zombies, mindless destroyers but an actual culture, what would bring the Others south? I propose the following:
-The murder of the Stark lord and his heir by the Targaryen king
-Their own prophecy of dragons returning to destroy them (via Bran the Builder)
-The decomposing of the oldest iron sword in the Crypts
-The burial of a non-Lord and a female in the crypts (as a sign the prophecy is coming to completion)
-The birth of Jon Snow
-The birth of Daenerys Targaryen
All of these events happened around the same time, or in a short span of time. Some people argued dragons brought them back but this does not fit in the timeline since we know they were active for at least several months before Daenerys Targaryen gave birth to her dragons. With this being said we don’t know how long the Others were active and if they are immortal or very long lived, they probably work on a different time scale. Waymar Royce and his party were probably not the first to encounter them, just the first time a survivor carried word South. I also believe this was done on purpose, so the word of them spreads: We are no longer sleeping. And Winter is Coming. We do know that Mance Rayder started gathering the wildings together well before the encounter in the prologue, suggesting the Others were active well before that. Furthermore, shortly after arriving at Winterfell, King Robert Baratheon visits the crypt with Lord Eddard Stark to pay his respects. During the visit, which happened at the very beginning of the saga, Ned notices that the oldest longswords have rusted away to nothing. One of them, keeping the oldest spirit at bay was gone completely. The oldest one being the tomb of Bran the Builder. Coincidence? I think not. My guess, the re-appearance of Others ties with the events surrounding Robert’s Rebellion and the mysterious disappearance of the iron sword tasked with keeping Brandon Stark’s spirit put.
If this turns out to be the truth then the words (names, titles, descriptions) surrounding the House Stark would certainly gain a new meaning. Words I am talking about have already been discussed earlier in the text but I will go over them once again:
The title – Kings of Winter,
The castle from which they ruled – Winterfell, i.e. Winter Fell (literal as Starfall, Storms End and so on)
House Words – Winter is coming,
House name – Stark (strong, rigid, as if in death, having a very plain and often cold or empty appearance, absolute, pure, positive, grim and so on)
House blade – Ice (a legacy from the Age of Heroes that predates the sword)
Bonus: Ice eyes – mentioned on several occasions
All of these words date back from the Age of Heroes and from what we know they all go back to the founder of the House Stark – Bran the Builder.
It is my firm belief that the followers of the Seven (septons and maesters) did everything in their power to conceal the truth about the North and over time destroy all the traces of magic. Knowing this would happen, Bran the Builder made a contingency plan that will enable North to fend for itself once the time comes, making sure the magic comes back with or through him. The Wall was built not to keep the Others from the south but to keep the hordes of men from the deep North thus making sure the knowledge of Others falls into oblivion and with it the Secret of Winter and the House Stark. The Kings of Winter (and later on the Lords of Winterfell) were tasked with the protection of this secret making sure it would be transferred orally from one generation to another, constantly staying within the Stark family. Once the sword on Bran’s tomb decomposed his spirit was “released” which has marked the beginning of the prophecy. Whether he is or is not the White Walker we saw in the Oathkeeper (and what a brilliantly ambiguous title – keeping the oath – for the episode that marks the first appearance of White Walker home, rituals and ways of procreating) or his sword was merely a sign of sorts, a shout out to the surviving Others, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the plan is in motion.
And this is what it comes down to – the question of how one culture and the way of living, be it human or supernatural (Children, Giants, Others and so on) can be saved from the total annihilation and destruction. This is what it comes down too. If I am right Targaryens are not the sole enemy here.
Westeros has turned into a grim place even without Targaryens anywhere about. Boltons have taken the Winterfell. Lannisters and Tyrells backstabbed everyone they could. Lady Stark has turned into a mindless zombie killer. Melisandre is gaining more and more power on behalf of R’hllor. Honor is considered a joking matter. Stark family was butchered continuously for the past 20 years. The Giants and Children are on the verge of extinction. The threat is not from the North and the Others, as many believe, it is from the men with malicious intentions, be it Freys, Boltons, Lannisters or Targaryens. Just take your pick. We are witnessing a distinct decline of civilization, paradoxically. The magic is the only thing that can stop it. But every coin has two sides and when there is “good” magic the “bad” follows. A battle between two sides of magic will split the human race in two, each reflecting the very core of human nature. One will fight out of selfish needs that result in conquering and oppression and the other will fight for the preservation of several races from extinction, culture and the way of life inherent to Westeros (pre-dating Andals and the Faith of Seven). The forces of Ice will aid humans under attack in the battle for their mere existence, and once the battle is won, the Others will retreat North, as if they never existed. That is, until the next threat arises because as long as Winterfell – the home of the ancient Kings of Winter that will relentlessly keep their guard until the end of time – stands, the winter is coming. And North Remembers.
Text written by: Monika Ponjavić