Bran’s Bowl Movement – What’s in the Paste?

This post is going to go against the grain of many theories that exist in the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom. That’s ok because I am going to speculate the hell out of this anyway because, let’s face it, what we want to happen in the ASOIAF series may not be what is actually happening. GRRM ain’t done with us yet!

Additionally, this post has the potential to run 20K words, but I’m not going to do that to you (this time!). Rather I am sticking with the most basic talking points and notes, updates, and reader comments that can fill-in as it goes. Also a quick reminder that any and all of George R.R. Martins interviews, SSM’s, or other works are all openly discussed on this blog site.

The topics included in the post are:

  1. What’s this all about, anyway? A few notes on the origins of the theory.
  2. The Scene in Question. Refresher read.
  3. The Northern Way. The old (god) making way for the new generation is the thing we are witnessing. Seeds into saplings into mighty trees, and why.
  4. The Seed is Strong. What’s going on with the Other side?
  5. So, where is Jojen? Let’s discuss.

What’s this all about, anyway?

I know what you are thinking: “But Leeech! What are you thinking? It’s totes canon that Jojen paste is true. Child sacrifice Is. A. Thing!”

The common theory identifying what Bran is eating in the bowl during his A Dance with Dragons final chapter is, in fact, the blood or body bits of his friend Jojen Reed. If you Google “Jojen paste” ,you will get many, many a result you can read for yourself.

From my fandom experience, a main reason that some readers think Jojen paste is true is the common idea that baby swapping and sacrifice is integral to the history of the Night’s Watch, or to the Others, or some other reason… including misconception that the weirwoods or Bloodraven are evuuul.

Except, we already have a

  1. “Night’s Watch” milk-brother baby swap when Jon switches Gilly’s son (who remains at the wall) with Mance’s son (Aemon Steelsong); a “brother” swap for protection from the flames.
  2. Then when Melisandre switches Mance Rayder for Rattleshirt and she then burns a fake Mance.
  3. And we have the upcoming Selyse+Melisandre=Shireen fire to appease a god event going to happen in The Winds of Winter.

The common theme here is the flames, because fire consumes and is a jealous, hungry god. This is the opposite of the trees who’s narrative purpose is to serve the many (guard the realms of men), and as a type of library, a different type of “flame”.

brain studying GIF

So, to answer the question above, “What are you thinking?” This… I do not believe that Bran was given Jojen to eat, but rather that is Brynden Bloodraven Rivers as a weirwood in that bowl. Bloodraven lasted as long as he did, preserved in the far icy north so to speak, because he had to wait for Bran to get to him so that Bran can evolve from weepy babe sapling into a weirwood-library-heart tree. Jojen, as good of a boy as he is, has the ability to have prophetic dreams called green dreams, which seems to be a “step down” from the higher talented greenseer. Bran already seems rather advanced in his talents, and as Bloodraven says, “the hour is late,” therefore it seems Bran needs the strong brew to get his roots tapped in to history NOW. After all, Greenseeing means Enlightenment.

bloodraven with bran
The Three-Eyed Crow, by Marc Simonetti. From the ASOIAF 2013 Calendar

“Your blood makes you a greenseer,” said Lord Brynden. “This will help awaken your gifts and wed you to the trees.”

The only weirwood in the cave to get seeds or blood/sap from is Bloodraven, and he is sacrificing himself in a type of northern way to let the next generation survive. Even Martin says that Bloodraven is “half a tree“. The paste is Bloodraven.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Bran II

    Before them a pale lord in ebon finery sat dreaming in a tangled nest of roots, a woven weirwood throne that embraced his withered limbs as a mother does a child.

    His body was so skeletal and his clothes so rotted that at first Bran took him for another corpse, a dead man propped up so long that the roots had grown over him, under him, and through him. What skin the corpse lord showed was white, save for a bloody blotch that crept up his neck onto his cheek. His white hair was fine and thin as root hair and long enough to brush against the earthen floor. Roots coiled around his legs like wooden serpents. One burrowed through his breeches into the desiccated flesh of his thigh, to emerge again from his shoulder. 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.

 


The Scene in Question

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.

The boy looked at the bowl uncertainly. “What is it?”

“A paste of weirwood seeds.”

The Seed is Strong

Martin has stated a few times that Bran is the most magical in the story, and then at other times Martin has mentioned that Danerys is also full of magic. This makes total sense since Bran and Daenerys are going to be going head to head before the story’s end. It makes sense that they experience similar situations, even as the choices and results will differ. Even Daenerys has her own tree elixir she has to drink to help open her eyes. Where Bran’s drink is about enlightenment, Daenerys’ drink is the Shade of the Evening.

  • A Clash of Kings – Daenerys IV

    “One flute will serve only to unstop your ears and dissolve the caul from off your eyes, so that you may hear and see the truths that will be laid before you.”

    Dany raised the glass to her lips. The first sip tasted like ink and spoiled meat, foul, but when she swallowed it seemed to come to life within her. She could feel tendrils spreading through her chest, like fingers of fire coiling around her heart, and on her tongue was a taste like honey and anise and cream, like mother’s milk and Drogo’s seed, like red meat and hot blood and molten gold. It was all the tastes she had ever known, and none of them . . . and then the glass was empty.

    “Now you may enter,” said the warlock. Dany put the glass back on the servitor’s tray, and went inside.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Bran III

    He ate.

    It had a bitter taste, though not so bitter as acorn paste. The first spoonful was the hardest to get down. He almost retched it right back up. The second tasted better. The third was almost sweet. The rest he spooned up eagerly. Why had he thought that it was bitter? It tasted of honey, of new-fallen snow, of pepper and cinnamon and the last kiss his mother ever gave him. The empty bowl slipped from his fingers and clattered on the cavern floor. “I don’t feel any different. What happens next?”

    Leaf touched his hand. “The trees will teach you. The trees remember.” He raised a hand, and the other singers began to move about the cavern, extinguishing the torches one by one. The darkness thickened and crept toward them.


So, where is Jojen?

At the time of this writing, the current book being A Dance with Dragons, we do not know what happened to Jojen. We do know it has been some time that Bran has seen him, and the cave system is dark with steep drops and caverns, but we do not have any definitive evidence that Jojen is dead and his parts or blood are making up the base of blood soup.

If ‘Jojen paste” is your speculation, that is perfectly fine. I am not trying to change any minds here, just discussing the text and Martinworld as a whole. If GRRM has decided Jojen is paste, then so be it. The details of speculation range from outrageous, to Jojen volunteered himself. Personally, I tend to think that we will get a word from Jojen when he sees his death about to happen, which is probably when the Others enter the cave through the back door (as Others tend to do). I do not think that after the many times Jojen prophesses this is not the day he dies, that it will be an event that happens off-page.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Bran I

    “Jojen, you have to eat,” Meera told him.

    “Later. I just want to rest.” Jojen smiled a wan smile. “This is not the day I die, sister. I promise you.”

Speaking of Martinworld… this line in Bitterblooms is a good example of GRRM reusing a thematic element in a way that he prefers to get a reaction out of readers. In this case it is “pork” that Shawn is eating, not human. Actually, it is neither because Morgan Full of Magic is “liar”, as the story calls her. What we learn in Bitterblooms is actually that none of the food is real, all is just a mgic trick by Morgan LaFey-Full of Magic-Full of Lies. A few of the shared points are that “people” approach the Brazier-style spaceship where they are, just as the wights do outside of Bloodraven’s cave; that cannabalism in a time of dire need is a consistnet theme across Martinworld; that food as a magical element is also a theme. I discuss Morgan with more detail here. Shawn being afraid and “childish” is like Bran liking his scary children’s tales, but for Shawn it is directly related to Creg from her clan, not from the storyteller Old Jon, who serves the same role Old Nan.

  • Bitterblooms

Sometimes—on several of the worlds, but most particularly on Avalon—it seemed to Shawn that some stranger was about to board their ship. She would watch them come, striding purposefully across the field, their destination clear from every step. They never came aboard, though, much to her disappointment. There was never anyone to touch or talk to except Morgan. Shawn suspected that Morgan magicked the would-be visitors away, or else lured them to their doom. She could not quite make up her mind which; Morgan was so moody that it might be both. One dinnertime she remembered Jon’s story of the cannibal hall, and looked down with horror at the red meat they were eating. She ate only vegetables that meal, and for several meals thereafter until she finally decided that she was being childish. Shawn considered asking Morgan about the strangers who approached and vanished, but she was afraid.

One thing I have never seen GRRM do in any of his stories is to create or use a crazy Gotcha! type of moment. Is he a tricksy bird when it comes to a variety of dialogue, everything from interviews to problematic prophecy in print? Yes. But he never lies, rather, it is our desirous reader brains that are hungry for more story. But we readers have to be careful that we don’t overdo it.

The best and most meta line in all of Martinworld comes from the story Nightflyers, basically Jon and Val and the Nights Watch in space. When the main protagonist, Royd Eris (a complete Jon+Bran+Bloodraven prototype), overhears the complicated speculations as to what or who he might actually be. The crew members get way out of hand in their guesses, fabricating wild ideas, and then Royd has to address these speculations with this most wonderful line:

“Sadly, the truth is less dramatic.”

img_3748
Clip from the George R.R. Martin story Nightflyers.

What’s Next?

That choice is up to you.

I am always working on something. If you want to browse my own thoughts and speculations on the ASOIAF world using GRRM’s own work history, use the drop-down at the top of the page for the most content, or click on the page that shows recent posts: Recent Posts Page.

I have read all of George R.R. Martin’s work and currently in the process of doing a bookclub re-read that compares his past stories to ASOIAF. These are for fun and purpose of helping to decode A Song of Ice and Fire and to get to know GRRM better as a creator. Transcribed book club stories are:

  1. The Last Super Bowl– Football meets SciFi tech with plenty of ASOIAF carryover battle elements.
  2. Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg– first in the Corpse Handler trio, and sets a lot of tone for future ASOIAF thematics.
  3. Closing Time– A short story that shows many precursor themes for future GRRM stories, including skinchanging, Sneaky Pete’s, catastrophic long nights…
  4. The Glass Flower– a tale of how the drive for perfection creates mindlords and mental slavery.
  5. Run to Starlight– A tale of coexistence and morality set to a high stakes game of football.
  6. Remembering Melody– A ghost tale written by GRRM in 1981 that tells of long nights, bloodbaths, and pancakes.
  7. Fast-Friend transcribed and noted. Written in December 1973, this story is a precursor to skinchanging, Bran, Euron, Daenerys, and ways to scheme to reclaim lost love.
  8. The Steel Andal Invasion– A re-read of a partial section of  The World of Ice and Fire text compared to the story …And Seven Times Never Kill Man. This has to do with both fire and ice Others in ASOIAF.
  9. A Song for Lya– A novella about a psi-link couple investigating a fiery ‘god’. Very much a trees vs fire motif, and one of GRRM’s best stories out there.
  10. For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
  11. This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
  12. A Peripheral Affair (1973)When a Terran scout ship on a routine patrol through the Periphery suddenly disappears, a battle-hungry admiral prepares to renew the border war.
  13. The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
  14. Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
  15. Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
  16. A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
  17. Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
  18. The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
  19. The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
  20. Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
  21. Fire & Blood excerpt; Alysanne in the north– not a full story, but transcribed and noted section of the book Fire & Blood, volume 1.

Thank you for reading the jambles and jumbles of the GRRMspreader the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!

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5 Comments

  1. Thanks, I agree. The whole response to “trees are spooky” is along the lines of Snowwhite seeing the trees as evil monsters trying to claw at her when she runs from the evil queen and hunter at night. But when she wakes up, the forest welcomes her and becomes her safe haven. It’s a child’s reaction to scary-story language and believing the boogeyman lives under your bed.

    The Jojen paste theory is fun and neat, but it’s not canon, and there is no confirmation or evidence yet that Jojen died. It also doesn’t make sense that a green dreamer’s blood or “paste” would bring enlightenment to a greenseer. It does have to come from the tree.

    And I’m more inclined to predict that Jojen will die by some stupid accident in the tunnels down below… as Leaf warned twice about this to Meera and Jojen, who spend their time exploring them.

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    1. Right. I agree that something else, another mishap could happen to Jojen because we were also given that info (and teaser?). IF Jojen does decide it is his time (and in that scenario I think it would be something we would witness), then I would assume some rework of this idea in a Davos chapter: “what is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom?”
      “Everything,” said Davos (Jojen), softly.

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  2. Huge thanks for another essay, and for all your efforts to highlight the continuity of some ideas within all works of GRRM, from the earliest sci-fi stories to ASOIAF. Unfortunately, I’m not up-to-date with your recent essays, but I hope I will catch up.

    But for now, I just wanted to share some ideas about the weirwood-paste I had.

    * the paste reminds me of Ent-draughts from LOTR, which Treebeard shares with Merry and Pippin in “The Two Towers”.

    “For a moment Treebeard stood under the rain of the falling spring, and took a deep breath; then he laughed, and passed inside. A great stone table stood there, but no chairs. At the back of the bay it was already quite dark. Treebeard lifted two great vessels and stood them on the table. They seemed to be filled with water; but he held his hands over them, and immediately they began to glow, one with a golden and the other with a rich green light; and the blending of the two lights lit the bay, as if the sun of summer was shining through a roof you young trees. Looking back, the hobbits saw that the trees in the court begun to glow, faintly at first, but steadily quickening, until every leaf was edged with light: some green, some gold, some red as copper, while the tree-trunks looked like pillars moulded out of luminous stone. ‘

    Well, well, now we can talk again,’ said Treebeard. ‘You are thirsty, I expect. Perhaps you are also tired. Drink this!’

    He went to the back of the bay, and then they saw that several tall stone jars stood there, with heavy lids. He removed one of the lids, and dipped in a great ladle, and with it filled three bowls, one very large bowl, and two smaller ones.

    ‘This is an ent-house,’ he said. ‘and there are no seats, I fear. But you may sit on the table.’ Picking up the hobbits he set them on the great stone slab, six feet above the ground, and there they sat dangling their legs, and drinking in sips.

    The drink was like water, indeed very like the taste of the draughts they had drunk from the Entwash near the borders of the forest, and yet there was some scent or savour in it which they could not describe: it was faint, but it reminded them of the smell of a distant wood borne from afar by a cool breeze at night. The effect of the draught began at the toes, and rose steadily through every limb, bringing refreshment and vigour as it coursed upwards, right to the tips of the hair. Indeed the hobbits felt that the hair on their heads was actually standing up, waving and curling and growing. As for Treebeard, he first laved his feet in the basin beyond the arch, and then he drained his bowl at one draught, one long, slow draught. The hobbits thought he would never stop.

    (…)
    [The following morning]

    He poured them out two full bowls from a stone jar; but from a different jar. The taste was not the same as it had been the night before: it was earthier and richer, more sustaining and food-like, so to speak.” [From “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien, Book III, Chapter 4, “Treebeard”]

    * it also reminds me of how in “The Return of the King” chapter “The Houses of Healing” every person who smells kingsfoil/athelas herb senses something different. For Ioreth (the healer and wise-woman) it’s “roses of Imloth Melui”, her childhood home. For Eowyn it’s fresh air that “came new-made from snowy mountains high beneath a dome of stars, or from shores of silver far away washed by seas of foam”. For Faramir smells of “dewy mornings of unshadowed sun”. And for Merry the scent is of “orchards and of heather in the sunshine full of bees”

    * I am also reminded of miruvor, or miruvórë, the cordial of Imladris (Rivendell).

    * I believe the wierwood paste might be inspired by the Mead of Poetry from Norse mythology. And that drink was made from the blood of Kvasir the sage, mixed with honey. And for me, that connection is the strongest argument IN FAVOUR of Jojen-paste (which, by the way, tastes of honey according to Bran).

    Also, I think the entire business with Tyrion’s “singer’s stew” (alas, poor Symon Silver-Tongue) is both a reference to the Mead of Poetry (Tyrion claims it makes him sing, and Mead gives poetic inspiration) and a foreshadowing of Jojen paste (The COTF are “Those Who Sing the Song of Earth”). But perhaps the COTF are not as neferious as some suggest, Jojen might have sacrificed himself willingly. Or those connections are merely symbolic, not literal, and Jojen “sacrificed” himself in some other way for Bran’s sake (i.e. guided him to Bloodraven though he knew he won’t survive the endeavor).

    As for the Mead of Poetry, I wrote an article on the topic, but it’s in Polish – like all my recent ASOIAF writings – “Taniec z Mitami: Krew Kvasira” (“A Dance with Myths: Blood of Kvasir”): https://fsgk.pl/wordpress/2019/09/taniec-z-mitami-krew-kvasira/

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    1. Blue Tiger, I love this. Thank you for adding this here. I have a more detailed reply I want to make, but for the moment this is a small idea of what I want to get to later. One more thing I want to say is that you are correct and I should have addressed the Singer’s Stew in the essay, but was fearing the word-count was making it too much of a whopper to read. But until I can get back, here is the gist of some followup ideas https://twitter.com/FattestLeech/status/1242924084750626821?s=20

      Liked by 1 person

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