Work in progress page 😉
Is Samwell teaching birds, or are they arriving for other reasons and speaking?I suspect it is a little of both. They are learning from each other in a “training” sort of way that will be necessary for the future plot to save humanity.
The idea that I have flapping around in my head is that all of the in-world history is given as a gift to the readers because it is all foreshadowing. Yes, I know that word, foreshadowing, is overused in the fandom and often what seems like clues are red herrings, but this could be the real deal. GRRM is not only linking his ASOIAF’s history to its present, but this also has carryover themes from, you guessed it, it older works.
Concepts like telepathy and true speech have been linked to animals throughout many stories, and this is true for many authors. It happens to be a genre favorite scheme authors use to show layers of subconscious and talented/gifted individuals.
The George RR Martin stories I recommend for this page are:
- Tuf Voyaging. The most known story that Martin uses this mental telepathic communication with animals in is his Tuf Voyaging works. Haviland Tuf uses his cats as receptors for other peoples intentions and Tuf can go “into” the animal and uses their eyes. I have a feeling that George chose cats based on his “child” Mulligan.
- A Song for Lya also has a system that is described as animal-like and it uses a telepathic link with the human/oid characters in the story. The main Greeshka under the hill, as well as the ones that ride on a persons head. Yes, creepy as hell! This is mainly a fire associated cult, but nothing is a full 1:1 carryover, but it seems this attached fungus detail could be derived from the Greeshka. Additionally, in this story we read that touch increases a psi-link bond (and sex being the deepest connection their is, which is why Bran tries to touch Meera- he’s in puppy-love).
- Men of Greywater Station for the fungus that covers the native plants and animals that creates a telepathic link between them (and they destroy the invaders that try to cut down thier habitat).
- Additionally, stories like Fevre Dream, The Stone City, The Glass Flower, And Seven Times Never Kill Man, The Pear-Shaped Man, and others also have direct mind control communication through the power of suggestion or being a “mindlord”.
I do propose that what we readers see happening is Bran becoming one with the tree network and Sam will use the purple moss covered tree on the Isle of Ravens near the Citadel to communicate back and forth with Bran.
This scene in A Feast for Crows is filled with imagery that are carryovers from the Jon and Bran/Bloodraven plot lines. The Isle of Ravens seems an old place; weathered woods, slow waters, ravens walking in place of archers, vine covered walls, and the last claim to fame comes from the age of heroes. I suspect this dormant island will be awoken very soon.
- A Feast for Crows – Samwell V
You must tell them, Sam, Maester Aemon had said. You must tell the archmaesters. “Very well.” He could always return to the Seneschal on the morrow, with a penny in his hand. “How far do we have to go?”
“Not far. The Isle of Ravens.”
They did not need a boat to reach the Isle of Ravens; a weathered wooden drawbridge linked it to the eastern bank. “The Ravenry is the oldest building at the Citadel,” Alleras told him, as they crossed over the slow-flowing waters of the Honeywine. “In the Age of Heroes it was supposedly the stronghold of a pirate lord who sat here robbing ships as they came down the river.”
Moss and creeping vines covered the walls, Sam saw, and ravens walked its battlements in place of archers. The drawbridge had not been raised in living memory.
It was cool and dim inside the castle walls. An ancient weirwood filled the yard, as it had since these stones had first been raised. The carved face on its trunk was grown over by the same purple moss that hung heavy from the tree’s pale limbs. Half of the branches seemed dead, but elsewhere a few red leaves still rustled, and it was there the ravens liked to perch. The tree was full of them, and there were more in the arched windows overhead, all around the yard. The ground was speckled by their droppings. As they crossed the yard, one flapped overhead and he heard the others quorking to each other. “Archmaester Walgrave has his chambers in the west tower, below the white rookery,” Alleras told him. “The white ravens and the black ones quarrel like Dornishmen and Marchers, so they keep them apart.”
- A Game of Thrones – Bran VI
He tried not to flinch as Hodor ducked through a low door. They walked down a long dim hallway, Summer padding easily beside them. The wolf glanced up from time to time, eyes smoldering like liquid gold. Bran would have liked to touch him, but he was riding too high for his hand to reach.
The godswood was an island of peace in the sea of chaos that Winterfell had become. Hodor made his way through the dense stands of oak and ironwood and sentinels, to the still pool beside the heart tree. He stopped under the gnarled limbs of the weirwood, humming. Bran reached up over his head and pulled himself out of his seat, drawing the dead weight of his legs up through the holes in the wicker basket. He hung for a moment, dangling, the dark red leaves brushing against his face, until Hodor lifted him and lowered him to the smooth stone beside the water. “I want to be by myself for a while,” he said. “You go soak. Go to the pools.”
“Hodor.” Hodor stomped through the trees and vanished. Across the godswood, beneath the windows of the Guest House, an underground hot spring fed three small ponds. Steam rose from the water day and night, and the wall that loomed above was thick with moss. Hodor hated cold water, and would fight like a treed wildcat when threatened with soap, but he would happily immerse himself in the hottest pool and sit for hours, giving a loud burp to echo the spring whenever a bubble rose from the murky green depths to break upon the surface.
- A Clash of Kings – Bran II
That night Bran prayed to his father’s gods for dreamless sleep. If the gods heard, they mocked his hopes, for the nightmare they sent was worse than any wolf dream.
“Fly or die!” cried the three-eyed crow as it pecked at him. He wept and pleaded but the crow had no pity. It put out his left eye and then his right, and when he was blind in the dark it pecked at his brow, driving its terrible sharp beak deep into his skull. He screamed until he was certain his lungs must burst. The pain was an axe splitting his head apart, but when the crow wrenched out its beak all slimy with bits of bone and brain, Bran could see again. What he saw made him gasp in fear. He was clinging to a tower miles high, and his fingers were slipping, nails scrabbling at the stone, his legs dragging him down, stupid useless dead legs. “Help me!” he cried. A golden man appeared in the sky above him and pulled him up. “The things I do for love,” he murmured softly as he tossed him out kicking into empty air.
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
Bran ate with Summer and his pack, as a wolf. As a raven he flew with the murder, circling the hill at sunset, watching for foes, feeling the icy touch of the air. As Hodor he explored the caves. He found chambers full of bones, shafts that plunged deep into the earth, a place where the skeletons of gigantic bats hung upside down from the ceiling. He even crossed the slender stone bridge that arched over the abyss and discovered more passages and chambers on the far side. One was full of singers, enthroned like Brynden in nests of weirwood roots that wove under and through and around their bodies. Most of them looked dead to him, but as he crossed in front of them their eyes would open and follow the light of his torch, and one of them opened and closed a wrinkled mouth as if he were trying to speak. “Hodor,” Bran said to him, and he felt the real Hodor stir down in his pit.
Seated on his throne of roots in the great cavern, half-corpse and half-tree, Lord Brynden seemed less a man than some ghastly statue made of twisted wood, old bone, and rotted wool. The only thing that looked alive in the pale ruin that was his face was his one red eye, burning like the last coal in a dead fire, surrounded by twisted roots and tatters of leathery white skin hanging off a yellowed skull.
Fungus amongus. How George tends to use this mind control fire-fungus in other stories. Just adding a few book quotes here in effort to keep overall word count reasonable. Please ask if you would like to see more. In A Song for Lya, the two psi-talents Robb and Lyanna were sent to Skeen to study this new religion that humans are flocking to and then report their findings. In Men of Greywater Station the characters are sent to this plant to man a scientific research facility to try and find ways to fight an alien race called the Fyndii. The problem is, these Greywater men start messing with the ecology by cutting down trees and such. Not good. So it appears the nature is striking back by creating the hive-mindedness of the indigenous by linking them through a fungus spread by spores. The spores in this story are parallel to the skull riding Greeshka, which are parallels to the red priests of R’hllor.
- A Song for Lya
There were four of them, all Joined, wearing long gowns of bright red fabric that trailed in the dust, with great bronze bells in either hand. They rang the bells constantly, their long arms swinging back and forth, the sharp, clanging notes filling the street. All four were elderly, as Shkeen go—hairless and pinched up with a million tiny wrinkles. But they smiled very widely, and the younger Shkeen that passed smiled at them.
On their heads rode the Greeshka.
I’d expected to find the sight hideous. I didn’t. It was faintly disquieting, but only because I knew what it meant. The parasites were bright blobs of crimson goo, ranging in size from a pulsing wart on the back of one Shkeen skull to a great sheet of dripping, moving red that covered the head and shoulders of the smallest like a living cowl. The Greeshka lived by sharing the nutrients in the Shkeen bloodstream, I knew.
And also by slowly—oh so slowly—consuming its host.
[and then, after Lya joins with the Greeshka cult and is consumed by the red matter, she travels time and space to communicate with Robb one last time.]
[Robb] I slept.
Long darkness then, but finally a dream, and finally I remembered. I was back on the plain again, the infinite darkling plain with its starless sky and black shapes in the distance, the plain Lya had spoken of so often. It was from one of her favorite poems. I was alone, forever alone, and I knew it. That was the nature of things. I was the only reality in the universe, and I was cold and hungry and frightened, and the shapes were moving toward me, inhuman and inexorable. And there was no one to call to, no one to turn to, no one to hear my cries. There never had been anyone. There never would be anyone.
Then Lya came to me.
She floated down from the starless sky, pale and thin and fragile, and stood beside me on the plain. She brushed her hair back with her hand, and looked at me with glowing wide eyes, and smiled. And I knew it was no dream. She was with me, somehow. We talked.
Lya? Hi, Lya. Where are you? You left me.
I’m sorry. I had to. You understand, Robb. You have to. I didn’t want to be here anymore, ever, in this place, this awful place. I would have been, Robb. Men are always here, but for brief moments.
A touch and a voice?
Yes, Robb. Then darkness again, and a silence. And the darkling plain.
You’re mixing two poems, Lya. But it’s OK. You know them better than I do. But aren’t you leaving out something? The earlier part. “Ah love, let us be true…”
Where are you?
I’m—everywhere. But mostly in a cave. I was ready, Robb. I was already more open than the rest. I could skip the Gathering, and the Joining. My Talent made me used to sharing. It took me.
Final Union? Yes.
- Men of Greywater Station
Andrews, the quiet little mycologist, spoke up for the first time. “We might try to capture them,” he suggested. “I’ve been experimenting with methods of killing the fungus without damaging the hosts. We could keep them under sedation until I got somewhere.”
“But what is all of them are left?” said Sheridan. “And all of them have already been taken over by the fungus? Be serious, Reyn. The spore dust is everywhere. As soon as they breathe unfiltered air, they’ll take it in. And seventy-two hours they’ll be like the rest of the animal life on this planet. Then the fungus will send them against us.”
Planetos, the fan-made name for the world, is in need of some progress in the humanities department. Sam is a good-natured individual that has shown to use brains over brawn… and just so happens to be the character that GRRM said is most like him in real life (different than who GRRM’s favorite character is). Sam is figuring the world system out on his through experiences just as Jon figured out the true purpose of the wall, and both will be in connection to an enlightened Bran.
It is not coincidence that as Lord Commander Mormont has this discussion with Samwell, Jon also independently comes to the same realization… the world belongs to the young fish now!
- A Storm of Swords – Samwell II
[Samwell] “We never knew . . .”
[LC Mormont] “We never knew! But we must have known once. The Night’s Watch has forgotten its true purpose, Tarly. You don’t build a wall seven hundred feet high to keep savages in skins from stealing women. The Wall was made to guard the realms of men . . . and not against other men, which is all the wildlings are when you come right down to it. Too many years, Tarly, too many hundreds and thousands of years. We lost sight of the true enemy. And now he’s here, but we don’t know how to fight him. Is dragonglass made by dragons, as the smallfolk like to say?”
“The m-maesters think not,” Sam stammered. “The maesters say it comes from the fires of the earth. They call it obsidian.”
- A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI
Marsh flushed a deeper shade of red. “The lord commander must pardon my bluntness, but I have no softer way to say this. What you propose is nothing less than treason. For eight thousand years the men of the Night’s Watch have stood upon the Wall and fought these wildlings. Now you mean to let them pass, to shelter them in our castles, to feed them and clothe them and teach them how to fight. Lord Snow, must I remind you? You swore an oath.”
“I know what I swore.” Jon said the words. “I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. Were those the same words you said when you took your vows?”
“They were. As the lord commander knows.”
“Are you certain that I have not forgotten some? The ones about the king and his laws, and how we must defend every foot of his land and cling to each ruined castle? How does that part go?” Jon waited for an answer. None came. “I am the shield that guards the realms of men. Those are the words. So tell me, my lord—what are these wildlings, if not men?“
Bowen Marsh opened his mouth. No words came out. A flush crept up his neck.
This union between Bran and Sam will signify actual progress on Planetos as the old ways and the new combine to create something stronger < a large part of the subtext. I covered this a bit in the post Greenseeing is Enlightnment.
So what do we see Samwell doing on page? First we have this…
- The World of Ice and Fire – Ancient History: The Dawn AgeAccording to Barth, this higher mystery was taught to the First Men by the children so that ravens could spread messages at a great distance. It was passed, in degraded form, down to the maesters today, who no longer know how to speak to the birds. It is true that our order understands the speech of ravens…but this means the basic purposes of their cawing and rasping, their signs of fear and anger, and the means by which they display their readiness to mate or their lack of health.Ravens are amongst the cleverest of birds, but they are no wiser than infant children, and considerably less capable of true speech, whatever Septon Barth might have believed. A few maesters, devoted to the link of Valyrian steel, have argued that Barth was correct, but not a one has been able to prove his claims regarding speech between men and ravens.
And then fast forward to current story time and we have these…
- A Storm of Swords – Samwell IV
He could hear the birds quorking in the rookery, so he put the papers away and climbed the steps to feed them. Three more ravens had come in, he saw with pleasure. “Snow,” they cried at him. “Snow, snow, snow.” He [Sam] had taught them that. Even with the newcomers, the ravenry seemed dismally empty. Few of the birds that Aemon had sent off had returned as yet… yadda yadda yadda…
- A Feast for Crows – Samwell I
“Snow,” a raven muttered. “Snow,” another echoed. All of them picked it up then. “Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow.” Sam had taught them that word. There was no help here, he saw. Maester Aemon was as trapped as he was. He will die at sea, he thought, despairing. He is too old to survive such a voyage. Gilly’s little son may die as well, he’s not as large and strong as Dalla’s boy. Does Jon mean to kill us all?
The heart of the word “greenseeing” has many possible connotations. Going in to the actual green trees and watching the world. Going north of the wall into the “under the sea”, which means to “drown” or die and be reborn, therefore become a drowned man. Once a person goes in to the sea and comes out again, s/he has attained a knowledge like the gods and can speak to the dead.
This connects to the towers=knowledge idea that I am in the process of expanding on, but you can read the intro found on this page here. The trees are the keepers of knowledge, just like library towers. The Citadel is largest library in the known world, and Sam is headed that way.
This idea of Samwell speaking to the Ravens, and even Bran through the purple Weirwood tree at the Isle of Ravens, is akin to speaking to the dead. It just so happens we see Samwell try and communicate with the dead in an earlier part of the story. After the wight attack at the Fist of the Firstmen where Small Paul is killed, Paul comes back as a wight and goes after Sam and his new family. Sam tries communication before attack- brains before brawn, even if it doesn’t work.
But this is not a lost cause. Samwell has still learned more than anyone in the story so far about how different materials affect different beings. Dragonglass made an Other melt. Fire engulfed a wight in seconds, whereas dragonglass did not visually phase or worry the wight.
- A Storm of Swords – Samwell III
This is still a dream, Sam prayed. Oh, make it that I’m still asleep, make it a nightmare. He’s dead, he’s dead, I saw him die. “He’s come for the babe,” Gilly wept. “He smells him. A babe fresh-born stinks o’ life. He’s come for the life.”
The huge dark shape stooped under the lintel, into the hall, and shambled toward them. In the dim light of the fire, the shadow became Small Paul.
“Go away,” Sam croaked. “We don’t want you here.”
“You—” she started.
“I have the knife. The dragonglass dagger.” He fumbled it out as he got to his feet. He’d given the first knife to Grenn, but thankfully he’d remembered to take Lord Mormont’s dagger before fleeing Craster’s Keep. He clutched it tight, moving away from the fire, away from Gilly and the babe. “Paul?” He meant to sound brave, but it came out in a squeak. “Small Paul. Do you know me? I’m Sam, fat Sam, Sam the Scared, you saved me in the woods. You carried me when I couldn’t walk another step. No one else could have done that, but you did.” Sam backed away, knife in hand, sniveling. I am such a coward. “Don’t hurt us, Paul. Please. Why would you want to hurt us?“
Gilly scrabbled backward across the hard dirt floor. The wight turned his head to look at her, but Sam shouted “NO!” and he turned back. The raven on his shoulder ripped a strip of flesh from his pale ruined cheek. Sam held the dagger before him, breathing like a blacksmith’s bellows. Across the longhall, Gilly reached the garron. Gods give me courage, Sam prayed. For once, give me a little courage. Just long enough for her to get away.
Small Paul moved toward him. Sam backed off until he came up against a rough log wall. He clutched the dagger with both hands to hold it steady. The wight did not seem to fear the dragonglass. Perhaps he did not know what it was. He moved slowly, but Small Paul had never been quick even when he’d been alive. Behind him, Gilly murmured to calm the garron and tried to urge it toward the door. But the horse must have caught a whiff of the wight’s queer cold scent. Suddenly she balked, rearing, her hooves lashing at the frosty air. Paul swung toward the sound, and seemed to lose all interest in Sam.
There was no time to think or pray or be afraid. Samwell Tarly threw himself forward and plunged the dagger down into Small Paul’s back. Half-turned, the wight never saw him coming. The raven gave a shriek and took to the air. “You’re dead!” Sam screamed as he stabbed. “You’re dead, you’re dead.” He stabbed and screamed, again and again, tearing huge rents in Paul’s heavy black cloak. Shards of dragonglass flew everywhere as the blade shattered on the iron mail beneath the wool.
Sam’s wail made a white mist in the black air. He dropped the useless hilt and took a hasty step backwards as Small Paul twisted around. Before he could get out his other knife, the steel knife that every brother carried, the wight’s black hands locked beneath his chins. Paul’s fingers were so cold they seemed to burn. They burrowed deep into the soft flesh of Sam’s throat. Run, Gilly, run, he wanted to scream, but when he opened his mouth only a choking sound emerged.
His fumbling fingers finally found the dagger, but when he slammed it up into the wight’s belly the point skidded off the iron links, and the blade went spinning from Sam’s hand. Small Paul’s fingers tightened inexorably, and began to twist. He’s going to rip my head off, Sam thought in despair. His throat felt frozen, his lungs on fire. He punched and pulled at the wight’s wrists, to no avail. He kicked Paul between the legs, uselessly. The world shrank to two blue stars, a terrible crushing pain, and a cold so fierce that his tears froze over his eyes. Sam squirmed and pulled, desperate . . . and then he lurched forward.
Small Paul was big and powerful, but Sam still outweighed him, and the wights were clumsy, he had seen that on the Fist. The sudden shift sent Paul staggering back a step, and the living man and the dead one went crashing down together. The impact knocked one hand from Sam’s throat, and he was able to suck in a quick breath of air before the icy black fingers returned. The taste of blood filled his mouth. He twisted his neck around, looking for his knife, and saw a dull orange glow. The fire! Only ember and ashes remained, but still . . . he could not breathe, or think . . . Sam wrenched himself sideways, pulling Paul with him . . . his arms flailed against the dirt floor, groping, reaching, scattering the ashes, until at last they found something hot . . . a chunk of charred wood, smouldering red and orange within the black . . . his fingers closed around it, and he smashed it into Paul’s mouth, so hard he felt teeth shatter.
Yet even so the wight’s grip did not loosen. Sam’s last thoughts were for the mother who had loved him and the father he had failed. The longhall was spinning around him when he saw the wisp of smoke rising from between Paul’s broken teeth. Then the dead man’s face burst into flame, and the hands were gone.
Sam sucked in air, and rolled feebly away. The wight was burning, hoarfrost dripping from his beard as the flesh beneath blackened. Sam heard the raven shriek, but Paul himself made no sound. When his mouth opened, only flames came out. And his eyes . . . It’s gone, the blue glow is gone.
He crept to the door. The air was so cold that it hurt to breathe, but such a fine sweet hurt. He ducked from the longhall. “Gilly?” he called. “Gilly, I killed it. Gil—”
- A Dance with Dragons – Jon VIII
“My tongue is too numb to tell. All I can taste is cold.”
“Cold?” Val laughed lightly. “No. When it is cold it will hurt to breathe. When the Others come …”
The thought was a disquieting one. Six of the rangers Jon had sent out were still missing. It is too soon. They may yet be back. But another part of him insisted, They are dead, every man of them. You sent them out to die, and you are doing the same to Val. “Tell Tormund what I’ve said.”
“Good.” Val wheeled the garron toward the north. “The first night of the full moon, then.” Jon watched her ride away wondering if he would ever see her face again. I am no southron lady, he could hear her say, but a woman of the free folk.
“I don’t care what she says,” muttered Dolorous Edd, as Val vanished behind a stand of soldier pines. “The air is so cold it hurts to breathe. I would stop, but that would hurt worse.” He rubbed his hands together. “This is going to end badly.”
“You say that of everything.”
Remember, Jon also wants to study the wights, which is why he keeps a few in the ice cells. Jon is trying to gain knowledge the benefit humanity/society.
- A Dance with Dragons – Jon VIII
Septon Cellador drank some wine. Othell Yarwyck stabbed a sausage with his dagger. Bower Marsh sat red-faced. The raven flapped its wings and said, “Corn, corn, kill.” Finally the Lord Steward cleared his throat. “Your lordship knows best, I am sure. Might I ask about these corpses in the ice cells? They make the men uneasy. And to keep them under guard? Surely that is a waste of two good men, unless you fear that they …”
“… will rise? I pray they do.”
Septon Cellador paled. “Seven save us.” Wine dribbled down his chin in a red line. “Lord Commander, wights are monstrous, unnatural creatures. Abominations before the eyes of the gods. You … you cannot mean to try to talk with them?”
“Can they talk?” asked Jon Snow. “I think not, but I cannot claim to know. Monsters they may be, but they were men before they died. How much remains? The one I slew was intent on killing Lord Commander Mormont. Plainly it remembered who he was and where to find him.” Maester Aemon would have grasped his purpose, Jon did not doubt; Sam Tarly would have been terrified, but he would have understood as well. “My lord father used to tell me that a man must know his enemies. We understand little of the wights and less about the Others. We need to learn.”
That answer did not please them. Septon Cellador fingered the crystal that hung about his neck and said, “I think this most unwise, Lord Snow. I shall pray to the Crone to lift her shining lamp and lead you down the path of wisdom.”
Jon Snow’s patience was exhausted. “We could all do with a bit more wisdom, I am sure.” You know nothing, Jon Snow. “Now, shall we speak of Val?”
Thanks for reading the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire.
Feature image artist credit: Amok