Meera’s gloved hand tightened around the shaft of her frog spear. “Who sent you? Who is this three-eyed crow?”
“A friend. Dreamer, wizard, call him what you will. The last greenseer.” The longhall’s wooden door banged open. Outside, the night wind howled, bleak and black. The trees were full of ravens, screaming. Coldhands did not move.
Old Nan had told him the same story once, Bran remembered, but when he asked Robb if it was true, his brother laughed and asked him if he believed in grumkins too. He wished Robb were with them now. I’d tell him I could fly, but he wouldn’t believe, so I’d have to show him. I bet that he could learn to fly too, him and Arya and Sansa, even baby Rickon and Jon Snow. We could all be ravens and live in Maester Luwin’s rookery.
A Dance with Dragons – Bran I
That was just another silly dream, though. Some days Bran wondered if all of this wasn’t just some dream. Maybe he had fallen asleep out in the snows and dreamed himself a safe, warm place. You have to wake, he would tell himself, you have to wake right now, or you’ll go dreaming into death. Once or twice he pinched his arm with his fingers, really hard, but the only thing that did was make his arm hurt. In the beginning he had tried to count the days by making note of when he woke and slept, but down here sleeping and waking had a way of melting into one another. Dreams became lessons, lessons became dreams, things happened all at once or not at all. Had he done that or only dreamed it?
“Only one man in a thousand is born a skinchanger,” Lord Brynden said one day, after Bran had learned to fly, “and only one skinchanger in a thousand can be a greenseer.”
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
The Gardener’s Transformation
I am admitting upfront that I am making some rather bold statements in the hypothesis below which may or may not be true, but we should speculate the hell out of them anyway. My belief is that no matter if this theory is “true” or not in the literal sense, it does signify that Bran is an uncommonly strong greenseer (in training until The Winds of Winter), and his next step will be to take over the ship’s helm as the next Three-Eyed Crow, which I have always speculated was simply a title.
- Bran the Wooden Puppet Boy (Pinocchio)
- Greenseeing means Enlightenment
- The Night’s Watch vows said in front of Bran and Walder “Hodor” will be important back the the wall-door (Black Gate).
George has done an excellent job of bread-crumbing the story with historic hints and clues from the past that we can use to help predict the future of the story. And we fans have written a bazillion threads trying to pick up all of those breadcrumbs in attempt to put the loaf back together just to see how it re-slices up after. And A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons left off with every main POV balancing on a fence of which they could fall one way or another.
Speaking of falling, it may be that we were shown this Bran turning in to a tree idea way back in A Game of Thrones when Bran wakes from his third eye opening sequence and then in a Jon chapter. That makes sense to have this revelation carryover into a Jon chapter because it starts the connections between Jon and Bran, as GRRM has done throughout a large portion of his past work with prototypes. The next connection seen again is in Jon’s sapling vision of Bran, and then later when Jon has his third-eye opened and the two work together as one through greenseeing. This description by Jon links Bran to both becoming a tree and being a child of the forest.
A Game of Thrones – Bran III
Bran touched his forehead, between his eyes. The place where the crow had pecked him was still burning, but there was nothing there, no blood, no wound. He felt weak and dizzy. He tried to get out of bed, but nothing happened.
And then there was movement beside the bed, and something landed lightly on his legs. He felt nothing. A pair of yellow eyes looked into his own, shining like the sun. The window was open and it was cold in the room, but the warmth that came off the wolf enfolded him like a hot bath. His pup, Bran realized … or was it? He was so big now. He reached out to pet him, his hand trembling like a leaf.
When his brother Robb burst into the room, breathless from his dash up the tower steps, the direwolf was licking Bran’s face. Bran looked up calmly. “His name is Summer,” he said.
A Game of Thrones – Jon II
“Call them,” Jon said, defiant. “You can’t stop me from seeing him.” He crossed the room, keeping the bed between them, and looked down on Bran where he lay.
She was holding one of his hands. It looked like a claw. This was not the Bran he remembered. The flesh had all gone from him. His skin stretched tight over bones like sticks. Under the blanket, his legs bent in ways that made Jon sick. His eyes were sunken deep into black pits; open, but they saw nothing. The fall had shrunken him somehow. He looked half a leaf, as if the first strong wind would carry him off to his grave.
Yet under the frail cage of those shattered ribs, his chest rose and fell with each shallow breath.
- Wiki of Ice and Fire: The children are smaller than humans, but they are not childlike. They have nut-brown skin, dappled like a deer’s with paler spots. Their hands have only three fingers and a thumb, with sharp black claws instead of nails. They have large ears that can hear things that no man can hear. They usually have large gold and green eyes slitted like those of a cat, allowing them to see in dark passages.The children are slight, quick, and graceful. They weave leaves and vines and flowers into their hair, and wear cloaks of leaves. They may live for centuries. They often sing in their language, the True Tongue.Very rarely, one of the children is born with mossy green or blood red eyes, a sign that they have been chosen by the Old Gods. The chosen ones are not robust, and do not live long on the earth, but they have the gift of greensight and are known as greenseers. Once they are bound to a weirwood, they live far longer than other children.
A Clash of Kings – Jon VII- part of the scene when Bran visits Jon through a psi-link.
It seemed to sprout from solid rock, its pale roots twisting up from a myriad of fissures and hairline cracks. The tree was slender compared to other weirwoods he had seen, no more than a sapling, yet it was growing as he watched, its limbs thickening as they reached for the sky. Wary, he circled the smooth white trunk until he came to the face. Red eyes looked at him. Fierce eyes they were, yet glad to see him. The weirwood had his brother’s face. Had his brother always had three eyes?
Not always, came the silent shout. Not before the crow.
But something odd is happening to Bran in his final chapter of A Dance with Dragons that does not seem to get much attention. I have mentioned this every so often along the way in the Westeros.org forums, most recently my Pinocchio thread (yes, I actually speculated that Bran Stark was in-part based on Pinocchio).
- Bran is already turning in to a tree!
- Is it too late for him to pull back???
I would recommend reading the Bran as Pinocchio post before this one, however, it is not required in order to understand this idea here. Just an interesting carry-through of information.
I have already hypothesized that Lyanna is the Knight of the Laughing Tree, just maybe not how you may have heard the theory before.
He was almost a man grown, and he did not want Meera to think he was some weepy babe.
A Dance With Dragons– Bran III- Bran possibly foreshadowing how he is about to turn into a mighty tree instead of a babe sapling.
Land of Toyish Slaves
Remember this from the Land of Toys in Pinocchio? The Land of Toys is a cover for a slave trade. Slavery in A Song of Ice and Fire comes in many forms; mental, physical, financial, familial, etc. The Great Other seems to be enslaving the dead bodies as his thralls, which in turn mentally enslaves the living through fear. A wheel of slavery.
Located in the fictional land of Cocagne, Pleasure Island serves as a haven for wayward boys and girls, allowing them to act as they please without recrimination. However, the truer and more sinister purpose of Pleasure Island is eventually revealed as it begins to physically transform the boys and girls into donkeys, apparently by means of a curse.
I also think Bran (and Samwell) will defeat whatever the Great Other ends up being- breaking the curse over Westeros (and maybe Planetos). To me, it seems like Bran is already to turning into a tree and it is starting with his face. After he ate the weirwood paste and he started to have stronger visions, he comes back to current time and has following experience. This could be like Pinocchio turning into a donkey in the story. However, Pinocchio does end up escaping. Will Bran?
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
The singers made Bran a throne of his own, like the one Lord Brynden sat, white weirwood flecked with red, dead branches woven through living roots. They placed it in the great cavern by the abyss, where the black air echoed to the sound of running water far below. Of soft grey moss they made his seat. Once he had been lowered into place, they covered him with warm furs.
There he sat, listening to the hoarse whispers of his teacher. “Never fear the darkness, Bran.” The lord’s words were accompanied by a faint rustling of wood and leaf, a slight twisting of his head. “The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother’s milk. Darkness will make you strong.”
And then later in the chapter after Bran eats the paste and travels back in time a few years, and then centuries and millennia, and comes back “dry” as if he hadn’t been “watered” in a rather long time. Which brings us to the phrase, “Bran could feel rough wood pressing against one cheek.” If this wacky idea is true, what we are reading is the seeding of the newest greenseer taking place, presumably as it was done to Brynden Bloodraven Rivers.
- A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
Something in his voice sent icy fingers running up Bran’s back. “Time for what?”
“For the next step. For you to go beyond skinchanging and learn what it means to be a greenseer.”
“The trees will teach him,” said Leaf. She beckoned, and another of the singers padded forward, the white-haired one that Meera had named Snowylocks. She had a weirwood bowl in her hands, carved with a dozen faces, like the ones the heart trees wore. Inside was a white paste, thick and heavy, with dark red veins running through it. “You must eat of this,” said Leaf. She handed Bran a wooden spoon.
Bran’s throat was very dry. He swallowed. “Winterfell. I was back in Winterfell. I saw my father. He’s not dead, he’s not, I saw him, he’s back at Winterfell, he’s still alive.”
“No,” said Leaf. “He is gone, boy. Do not seek to call him back from death.”
“I saw him.” Bran could feel rough wood pressing against one cheek. “He was cleaning Ice.” (<<face)
“You saw what you wished to see. Your heart yearns for your father and your home, so that is what you saw.”
“A man must know how to look before he can hope to see,” said Lord Brynden. “Those were shadows of days past that you saw, Bran. You were looking through the eyes of the heart tree in your godswood. Time is different for a tree than for a man. Sun and soil and water, these are the things a weirwood understands, not days and years and centuries. For men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. The lives of trees are different. They root and grow and die in one place, and that river does not move them. The oak is the acorn, the acorn is the oak. And the weirwood … a thousand human years are a moment to a weirwood, and through such gates you and I may gaze into the past.”
Then, as he watched, a bearded man forced a captive down onto his knees before the heart tree. A white-haired woman stepped toward them through a drift of dark red leaves, a bronze sickle in her hand.
“No,” said Bran, “no, don’t,” but they could not hear him, no more than his father had. The woman grabbed the captive by the hair, hooked the sickle round his throat, and slashed. And through the mist of centuries the broken boy could only watch as the man’s feet drummed against the earth … but as his life flowed out of him in a red tide, Brandon Stark could taste the blood.
Wooden Masks Elsewhere…
This concludes the Bran scene and Bran chapters in A Dance with Dragons. However, we do see that wooden masks are a thing in ASOIAF.
- A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys II
“They sleep,” came the answer.
A woman stood under the persimmon tree, clad in a hooded robe that brushed the grass. Beneath the hood, her face seemed hard and shiny. She is wearing a mask, Dany knew, a wooden mask finished in dark red lacquer. “Quaithe? Am I dreaming?” She pinched her ear and winced at the pain. “I dreamt of you on Balerion, when first we came to Astapor.”
“You did not dream. Then or now.”
- A Dance with Dragons – Jon XII
Howd Wanderer swore his oath upon his sword, as nicked and pitted a piece of iron as Jon had ever seen. Devyn Sealskinner presented him with a sealskin hat, Harle the Huntsman with a bear-claw necklace. The warrior witch Morna removed her weirwood mask just long enough to kiss his gloved hand and swear to be his man or his woman, whichever he preferred. And on and on and on.
- A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI
“Did you follow me as well?” Jon reached to shoo the bird away but ended up stroking its feathers. The raven cocked its eye at him. “Snow,” it muttered, bobbing its head knowingly. Then Ghost emerged from between two trees, with Val beside him.
They look as though they belong together. Val was clad all in white; white woolen breeches tucked into high boots of bleached white leather, white bearskin cloak pinned at the shoulder with a carved weirwood face, white tunic with bone fastenings. Her breath was white as well … but her eyes were blue, her long braid the color of dark honey, her cheeks flushed red from the cold. It had been a long while since Jon Snow had seen a sight so lovely.
- The World of Ice and Fire – The Bones and Beyond: Asshai-by-the-Shadow
The dark city by the Shadow is a city steeped in sorcery. Warlocks, wizards, alchemists, moonsingers, red priests, black alchemists, necromancers, aeromancers, pyromancers, bloodmages, torturers, inquisitors, poisoners, godswives, night-walkers, shapechangers, worshippers of the Black Goat and the Pale Child and the Lion of Night, all find welcome in Asshai-by-the-Shadow, where nothing is forbidden. Here they are free to practice their spells without restraint or censure, conduct their obscene rites, and fornicate with demons if that is their desire. Most sinister of all the sorcerers of Asshai are the shadowbinders, whose lacquered masks hide their faces from the eyes of gods and men. They alone dare to go upriver past the walls of Asshai, into the heart of darkness.
What about the blood tasting?
So, if weirwood sap is like blood, and Bran could taste the blood, is this Bran turning into a tree on the inside as well??? Yes, speculation, but drawn from the book speculation.
I do believe that Bran has chosen the “cup of ice”, and Daenerys in the House of the Undying chose the “cup of fire” (also reflected in Cyrain of Ash). This is a discussion that I most recently had in this forum discussion, and will expand in this blog later. By consuming from these cups, it is a personal choice in which way to proceed, not about what the substance is in the cup. Besides, both cup and bowl hold a hallucinogenic to help open the third eye.
- The roots were everywhere, twisting through earth and stone, closing off some passages and holding up the roofs of others. All the color is gone, Bran realized suddenly. The world was black soil and white wood.
- A spray of dark red leaves sprouted from his skull, and grey mushrooms spotted his brow.
- 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.
Could this be in some small, twisted way related to what Melisandre sees in her ADWD chapter? Could we readers be misinterpreting what we think Mel sees just as poorly as Mel interprets her visions herself? Mel does ask IF this is the enemy. She does not say it is for sure, but she does have a curious physical reaction after her vision.
- A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
A spray of dark red leaves sprouted from his skull, and grey mushrooms spotted his brow. A little skin remained, stretched across his face, tight and hard as white leather, but even that was fraying, and here and there the brown and yellow bone beneath was poking through.
- A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre
A face took shape within the hearth. Stannis? she thought, for just a moment … but no, these were not his features. A wooden face, corpse white. Was this the enemy? A thousand red eyes floated in the rising flames. He sees me. Beside him, a boy with a wolf’s face threw back his head and howled.
The red priestess shuddered. Blood trickled down her thigh, black and smoking. The fire was inside her, an agony, an ecstasy, filling her, searing her, transforming her. Shimmers of heat traced patterns on her skin, insistent as a lover’s hand. Strange voices called to her from days long past. “Melony,” she heard a woman cry. A man’s voice called, “Lot Seven.” She was weeping, and her tears were flame. And still she drank it in.
And it seems as though you do not have to be Brynden Bloodraven Rivers [BBR] to have a thousand eyes.
- A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
[Bran]”I thought the greenseers were the wizards of the children,” Bran said. “The singers, I mean.”
[BBR] “In a sense. Those you call the children of the forest have eyes as golden as the sun, but once in a great while one is born amongst them with eyes as red as blood, or green as the moss on a tree in the heart of the forest. By these signs do the gods mark those they have chosen to receive the gift. The chosen ones are not robust, and their quick years upon the earth are few, for every song must have its balance. But once inside the wood they linger long indeed. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. Greenseers.”
When I started that Pinocchio post a few years ago now, I was not being totally serious in thinking that it would point to any long-term plot development… but I may have been wrong. Remember, George will never use a story straight one to one. He will twist the end to make it his and butter it up to fit into his world. The idea of fully copying one story into another is plagiarism, something this author does not do.
Also, Bran is my favorite Stark, but George is writing his own story, not one tailored for a mere reader. Bran likes it in the dark, as he told Jon. Bran likes to trick the others he is with and ride Hodor, even though Hodor does not care for it. Bran tries to reach out and slip into Meera, but he can’t quite do that yet. He was told several times not to climb at Winterfell, and yet he did repeatedly. He was told not to stay too long in Summer, yet he did. But these are part of the teaching of Enlightenment, to steer oneself away from the casualties of youthful ignorance.
Now Bran seems to have already begun his skin change into a tree, like the boys in to donkeys when they ate and drank and partied too much in the folktale. George is not shy about doing some unexpected things to his main protagonists (even killing them), both in ASOIAF and throughout his entire career as a prophet, so this could get tricksy.
By the way, I did ask George about this idea of mine at the Balticon 2016 dinner, and you can follow that link to find his answer.
Bran, Bran, the Wicker Man
There are a few theories in the fandom that Bran is going to burn and die, even that he becomes the villain in The Winds of Winter or A Dream of Spring. I do not see it that way, but hey, we all have our theories.
One reason for this fandom idea of Bran burning is his name, Bran possibly being derived from Brand, which is burning tree branch. And then the scene where Hodor carries bran in a wicker basket. Some have the idea that this means Bran is the sacrificial Burning Man effigy.
A Game of Thrones – Bran VI
“I won’t trouble Robb. I want to visit the godswood.” He put his hand on Hodor’s shoulder. “Hodor.”
A series of chisel-cut handholds made a ladder in the granite of the tower’s inner wall. Hodor hummed tunelessly as he went down hand under hand, Bran bouncing against his back in the wicker seat that Maester Luwin had fashioned for him. Luwin had gotten the idea from the baskets the women used to carry firewood on their backs; after that it had been a simple matter of cutting legholes and attaching some new straps to spread Bran’s weight more evenly. It was not as good as riding Dancer, but there were places Dancer could not go, and this did not shame Bran the way it did when Hodor carried him in his arms like a baby. Hodor seemed to like it too, though with Hodor it was hard to tell. The only tricky part was doors. Sometimes Hodor forgot that he had Bran on his back, and that could be painful when he went through a door.
For near a fortnight there had been so many comings and goings that Robb ordered both portcullises kept up and the drawbridge down between them, even in the dead of night. A long column of armored lancers was crossing the moat between the walls when Bran emerged from the tower; Karstark men, following their lords into the castle. They wore black iron halfhelms and black woolen cloaks patterned with the white sunburst. Hodor trotted along beside them, smiling to himself, his boots thudding against the wood of the drawbridge. The riders gave them queer looks as they went by, and once Bran heard someone guffaw. He refused to let it trouble him. “Men will look at you,” Maester Luwin had warned him the first time they had strapped the wicker basket around Hodor’s chest. “They will look, and they will talk, and some will mock you.” Let them mock, Bran thought. No one mocked him in his bedchamber, but he would not live his life in bed.
But the other meaning for the name Bran is crow or raven (as discussed in various Bran pages in this blog). I feel this is closer to the reason why GRRM named Bran, Bran. Bran is going to be the crow on Odin’s shoulder; Jon being the Odin figure and he and Bran sharing a consciousness.
At the beginning of this page I asked if Bran will be able to escape his tree entrancement. I think he will, and I believe he will make his way back to Winterfell, escaping through the back door in the cave, or via the underground rivers where he currently resides. This traveling by water is already a major theme in the Bran/Jon arc, as we see Jon and Val are the “new” Nymeria, and greenseeing is a phrase analogous with going “under the sea/into the trees“.
I speculate that the wicker basket we see Bran riding in has more to to with a “green death” in the future. That Bran will one day become a seed for a new weirwood tree. That maybe this wicker basket idea is symbolic of the woven collective memory of all greenseers past. Once they go into the trees they become part of the framework of history.
This plot development is similar to what is already established in the George R.R. Martin story For A Single Yesterday. And it follows the Victorian idea of having a more eco-conscious burial via a wicker basket than a hermetically sealed coffin. George is ever the Terran!
A Clash of Kings – Bran IV
“What was it?”
Luwin set down his quill. “No one truly knows, Bran. The children are gone from the world, and their wisdom with them. It had to do with the faces in the trees, we think. The First Men believed that the greenseers could see through the eyes of the weirwoods. That was why they cut down the trees whenever they warred upon the children. Supposedly the greenseers also had power over the beasts of the wood and the birds in the trees. Even fish. Does the Reed boy claim such powers?”
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
“Your uncle may have been named for me. Some are, still. Not so many as before. Men forget. Only the trees remember.” His voice was so soft that Bran had to strain to hear.
“Most of him has gone into the tree,” explained the singer Meera called Leaf. “He has lived beyond his mortal span, and yet he lingers. For us, for you, for the realms of men. Only a little strength remains in his flesh. He has a thousand eyes and one, but there is much to watch. One day you will know.”
“What will I know?” Bran asked the Reeds afterward, when they came with torches burning brightly in their hand, to carry him back to a small chamber off the big cavern where the singers had made beds for them to sleep. “What do the trees remember?”
“The secrets of the old gods,” said Jojen Reed. Food and fire and rest had helped restore him after the ordeals of their journey, but he seemed sadder now, sullen, with a weary, haunted look about the eyes. “Truths the First Men knew, forgotten now in Winterfell … but not in the wet wild. We live closer to the green in our bogs and crannogs, and we remember. Earth and water, soil and stone, oaks and elms and willows, they were here before us all and will still remain when we are gone.”
“So will you,” said Meera. That made Bran sad. What if I don’t want to remain when you are gone? he almost asked, but he swallowed the words unspoken. He was almost a man grown, and he did not want Meera to think he was some weepy babe. “Maybe you could be greenseers too,” he said instead.
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
And they did sing. They sang in True Tongue, so Bran could not understand the words, but their voices were as pure as winter air. “Where are the rest of you?” Bran asked Leaf, once.
“Gone down into the earth,” she answered. “Into the stones, into the trees. Before the First Men came all this land that you call Westeros was home to us, yet even in those days we were few. The gods gave us long lives but not great numbers, lest we overrun the world as deer will overrun a wood where there are no wolves to hunt them. That was in the dawn of days, when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling. The giants are almost gone as well, they who were our bane and our brothers. The great lions of the western hills have been slain, the unicorns are all but gone, the mammoths down to a few hundred. The direwolves will outlast us all, but their time will come as well. In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us.”
Wicker/perishable coffins also had the advantage of being cheaper than “the extortions of the undertakers” and “it affords of the body being restored quietly and lovingly to mother earth, and to head off the cremation fever now attacking many Britons.” Cleveland [OH] Leader 19 July 1875: p. 4.
This website here has a page titled Victorian Embalming and Funeral Practices, if you want to read more about the Victorian funeral practices, including the wicker baskets.
And it is possible it has connections to the naming of Gilly as well. Another eye-witness took a gallows-humor approach. The proposal to “make a funeral very much like a festival,” seems to be how current humans hold a “celebrations of life.”
- A cold chill ran down my back. A garden party at Stafford House, at which the entertainment was to consist of coffins and “perishable coffins” at that! There is something ghastly, uncomfortable and incongruous in this. One may joke and try to be gay when surrounded with these memorials of death, but the jokes will be far-fetched and the gayety unnatural. Mr. Haden has elaborated a completely new programme for all the arrangements connected with deaths and burials, and proposes to make a funeral very much like a festival. Everything is to be light, cheerful, and pleasant; the undertaker’s people are not to enter the house; the ladies of the family are to wrap the corpse in a light shroud, lay it in a pretty basket of open willow work, lined with fragrant moss and lichens; and, when all is ready the men of the household are to carry the body away and bury it. This was certainly less shocking than cremation; but still there seemed to be much nonsense about it. Now, however, we were to have a garden party in order to the look at the new coffins—and, perhaps, we might be treated also to a funeral got up for the occasion. Since the Duke of Sutherland had taken the matter in hand there was no reason why he might not send up to one of his Scotch estates and order a gilly or two to be killed and sent down by express train, in order to afford Mr. Haden every facility for a demonstration of the advantages of his new method of burial….
Thank you for reading along with the GRRMspreader known as The Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!