I think George RR Martin has done an outstanding job crafting such an illusive character that connects past and present to the future. Not just symbolically, but literally as well. We have had Bloodraven on page with us since the days of Dunk & Egg.
This section on Brynden Rivers will end up comprising of multiple pages (and is an editing work in progress). This is just the introduction to this character and how GRRM has been developing the “Bloodraven” all throughout his career.
- You can’t have the Bloodraven without the Bran. Read here about their shared mission and greenseeing.
Brynden Bloodraven Rivers has a great amount of detail that connects to various story aspects: he holds the sword Dark Sister, has association with archery and he holds a weirwood bow, has his ~200 Raven’s Teeth devout loyalists, his position as a “great Bastard” and his ranking among the royal family, possible dabbled in dark magic (but this is most likely an exaggeration), has an association with the moonstone (as opposed to the ruby), his raven-like winestain birthmark on his face is a major feature along with being an albino, has his own Odin aspects, may have been a skinchanger as he is related to the first men line as a Blackwood son and old gods, and so much more. A detailed look at the other aspects of the living man will come later.
George knows his Bloodraven character. He always has, however, to fit this all-seeing greendreamer character in to ASOIAF,and to related him to a ice and fire, he had to tie him to the Targaryens. So the icy- greenseer type was always there first, he just needed to fit in to one of the main ASOIAF families, which also links to ice and fire Jon Snow. Elio Garcia explain this a little more in this video around the 1:32:25 mark:
I’d say that the best stories to read in order to find the proto-Bloodraven types come from these stories. However, read with all three eyes open because most often these Bloodraven types are primarily a Bran or a Jon character, with the Bloodraven as a rather strong aspect aspect. George rarely does a full one-to-one reuse, and this is no exception. He has taken these past characters and extrapolated the Bloodraven from them and created two, or three, new A Song of Ice and Fire characters:
- Joachim Kleronomas- I’d like to say just one story features this character, but that wouldn’t be completely true. Kleronomas has been mentioned in most of the Thousand World stories, a series of tales that takes place over roughly 500+ years. He created the Academy of Human Knowledge on Avalon (equals weirwood/trees history network), which is where many hero/ines in various stories have studied. However, we finally get some form of Kleronomas on page in the story The Glass Flower. Here in this story, the main character, Cyrain of Ash and Lilith, plays the game of mind and steals bodies. Not sure this will literally happen in ASOIAF, but what it does point to is Bran acting as Jon’s “ice armor”, and Bran joining with Sam at the Citadel (probably through the purple moss weirwood), and these two also working together. More on the Kleronomas-Bloodraven comparison below.
- Quick note: The name Joachim is a Hebrew baby name. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Joachim is: May Jehovah exalt. God prepares.
- Quick note: The story Avalon was to be the final story set in the Thousand World universe. George said he had a “chunk” of this story written when the vision of Bran and the direwolves came to GRRM, and that eneded up being the first chapter of A Game of Thrones. Sooo, transition was already there! Sadly, GRRM put the writing of Avalon away and may never finish that book.
- Nightflyers– Royd Eris is 85% Jon, and about 5% each Bran, Bloodraven, and Rhaegar. Royd is a solitary shut-in who “sees” all, lives behind a wall, is associated with a mad-dragon mother, and is pale white with white hair (but blue-grey eyes). Roys is referred to as a “ghost” and “spectre”, comes out from behind his wall for battle wearing a black suit, and so much more.
- The Stone City– mostly as Holt’s ship teacher Cain narKarmian. Detailed below. There is also a part of the story towards the end where the characters sit around a relic-like table (like the one from The Glass Flower, and as the map table at Dragonstone is referred to) and they take a trippy, hallucinogenic drug that helps them mentally travel space and time.
- For A Single Yesterday– this one is truly more of a Bran story, with a Jon companion character, but the elements of what Bloodraven is teaching Bran is there. This story will be detailed soon, right down to the “time travel” as one takes a trippy drug as they sit next to a river under a red leafed, white tree. They can travel mentally back in time to (re)learn information and experiences, but they cannot change the past, and the information is used to help the future rebuild. Again, a “sees all” theme is repeated.
- The Pear Shaped Man- Another man that has some mind control, lending itself to some of the supposed “creepier” Bloodraven elements. However, after a recent reread, I can now see a much larger prototype for maesters with just a scant greenseer talent worked in. Either way, again, a “sees all” theme is repeated. The element of the ‘pear’ also calls back to Daenerys in the top of her pyramid with Viserion in the pear tree, whom she calls “lazy”. And Daario who eats the pear Dany gives to him, and his Tyroshi heritage that is known for pear brandy.
- And honestly, to cut to the chase, the actual Pear Shaped Man was rewritten as the Ghost of High Heart. For GRRM readers, this should be plainly obvious. An “all seeing” character that lives under a mound that exhibits what in ASOIAF world would be greenseeing… and likes the odd pleasures in life… just read the darn story and you will see. Brynden Bloodraven Rivers was not invented for ASOIAF. Sorry.
- Fevre Dream– This is another story where the main protagonist. Joshua York, is 85% Jon, and about 5% each Bran, Bloodraven, and Rhaegar. This is also another story where the Bloodraven-type looks like the pale white tree-man we know, except Joshua as grey eyes.
- In the House of the Worm– I am including this one with a bit of trepidation. There is not a super strong connection to Bloodraven himself, just the concept of the man-worm being a godly character, and in being so godly, his body is mutilated one ligament at a time until he is just head and torso. Once this process is complete, it starts over again with next man-worm chosen. Basically, religious zealotry consumes, as does fire.
- Closing Time, 1975, has an abundance of moonstone, milkglass, and skinchanging discussion. There is also plenty of Bloodraven prototyping as well. This is a short story that somewhat reads as a long running joke, with the last line being the punchline. A good, lighthearted read for GRRM fans.
Brynden Rivers did not abandon his post as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch at Castle Black. No. He moved up a position and became the Sea Lord. Bran is in training t take the nautical/greenseeing helm from Bloodraven, as Daenerys is in the works to take the war helm from Rhaegar. There is plenty of nautical association with the wall being like a river, going north of the wall as the end of the world/going in to the “green sea”, the mutiny at Castle Black, etc. that this high position as Sea Lord makes perfect sense… and parallels in some way Arya in Braavos, but that will have to wait for another post focusing on Arya. Additonally, this could be the foreshadowing needed to connect to the other, darker, side of the coin = Euron (maybe with Danereys) will be the inky blue shade Sea Lords. Opposites as the icy weirwood trees are to the inverted inky blue shade trees. Cup of ice, cup of fire.
Brynden Bloodraven Rivers is still a watcher and shield that guards the realms of men, and we will see how this is connected to both Bran and Jon to help save humankind in the stories to come.
One of the first times that Martin really gives a good look at the same type of character is in the story The Stone City. Martin says that it was this story where he first used and coined the term “manrealm”, a phrase he uses repeatedly throughout many of his stories, and we see Leaf use with Bran, just reworked ASOIAF style. Martin also refers to The Stone City as one of the “core stories” to his future history series, and one that is less subversive. This story is even more specific to the Bran plot points because it includes a Jojen and Meera type, a Bittersteel and Shiera type (just broader here), and “shipping” with is just another way of saying skinchanging or going from vessel to vessel whether it be air car, spaceship, steamboat, wolf, dragon, etc. There are so many facets to this story that I cannot cover them all in this post. Here is a link to Goodreads where you can read the synopsis.
The Stone City
Holt was set to working in the drive room, an austere place of muted lights and bare metal and computer consoles. Cain narKarmian showed him what to do.
Holt remembered narKarmian too. An old, old man, too old for shipwork he would have thought; skin like soft yellow leather that has been folded and wrinkled so many times that there is nowhere a piece of it without a million tiny creases, eyes brown and almond-shaped, a mottled bald head and a wispy blond goatee.
Sometimes Cain seemed senile, but most often he was sharp and alert; he knew the drives, and he knew the stars, and he would talk incessantly as he worked.
“Two hundred standard years!” he said once as they both sat before their consoles. He smiled a shy, crooked smile, and Holt saw that he still had teeth, even at his age—or perhaps he had teeth again. “That’s how long Cain’s been shipping, Holt. The very truth! You know, your regular man never leaves the very world he’s born on. Never! Ninety-five per cent of them, anyway. They never leave, just get born and grow up and die, all on the same world. And the ones that do ship—well, most of them ship only a little. A world or two or ten. Not me! You know where I was born, Holt? Guess!”
Holt shrugged. “Old Earth?”
Cain had just laughed. “Earth? Earth’s nothing, only three or four years out from here. Four, I think. I forget. No, no, but I’ve seen Earth, the very homeworld, the seeding place. Seen it fifty years ago on the—the Corey Dark, I’d guess it was. It was about time, I thought. I’d been shipping a hundred fifty standard even then, and I still hadn’t been to Earth. But I finally got there!”
“You weren’t born there?” Holt prompted.
Old Cain shook his head and laughed again. “Not very! I’m an Emereli. From ai-Emerel. You know it, Holt?”
Holt had to think. It was not a world-name he recognized, not one of the stars his father had pointed to, aflame in the night of Ymir. But it rang a bell, dimly. “The Fringe?” he guessed finally. The Fringe was the furthest out-edge of human space, the place where the small sliver of the galaxy they called the manrealm had brushed the top of the galactic lens, where the stars grew thin. Ymir and the stars he knew were on the other side of Old Earth, inward toward the denser starfields and the still-unreachable core.
Cain was happy at his guess. “Yes! I’m an outworlder. I’m near to two hundred and twenty standard, and I’ve seen near that many worlds now, human worlds and Hrangan and Fyndii and all sorts, even some worlds in the manrealm where the men aren’t men any more, if you understand what I’m saying. Shipping, always shipping. Whenever I found a place that looked interesting I’d skip ship and stay a time, then go on when I wanted to. I’ve seen all sorts of things, Holt. When I was young I saw the Festival of the Fringe, and hunted banshee on High Kavalaan, and got a wife on Kimdiss. She died, though, and I got on. Saw Prometheus and Rhiannon, which are in a bit from the Fringe, and Jamison’s
World and Avalon, which are in further still. You know. I was a Jamie for a bit, and on Avalon I got three wives.
And two husbands, or co-husbands, or however you say it. I was still shy of a hundred then, maybe less. That was a time when we owned our own ship, did local trading, hit some of the old Hrangan slaveworlds that have gone off their own ways since the war. Even Old Hranga itself, the very place.
They say there are still some Minds on Hranga, deep underground, waiting to come back and attack the manrealm again. But all I ever saw was a lot of kill-castes and workers and the other lesser types.”
He smiled. “Good years, Holt, very good years. We called our ship Jamison’s Ass. My wives and my husbands were all Avalonians, you see, except for one who was Old Poseidon, and Avalonians don’t like Jamies much, which is how we arrived at that very name. But I can’t say that they were wrong. I was a Jamie too, before that, and Port Jamison is a stulty priggy town on a planet that’s the same.
“We were together nearly thirty standard on Jamison’s Ass. The marriage outlasted two wives and one husband. And me too, finally. They wanted to keep Avalon as their trade base, you see, but after thirty I’d seen all the worlds I wanted to see around there, and I hadn’t seen a lot else. So I shipped on. But I loved them, Holt, I did love them. A man should be married to his shipmates. It makes for a very good feeling.” He sighed. “Sex comes easier too. Less uncertainty.”
By then, Holt was caught. “Afterward,” he asked, his young face showing only a hint of the envy he felt, “what did you do then?”
Cain had shrugged, looked down at his console, and started to punch the glowing studs to set in a drive correction. “Oh, shipped on, shipped on. Old worlds, new worlds, man, not-man, aliens. New Refuge and Pachacuti and burnt-out old Wellington, and then Newholme and Silversky and Old Earth. And now I’m going in, as far as I can go before I die. Like Tomo and Walberg, I guess. You know about Tomo and Walberg, in here at Ymir?”
And Holt had only nodded. Even Ymir knew about Tomo and Walberg. Tomo was an outworlder too, born on Darkdawn high atop the Fringe, and they say he was a darkling dreamer. Walberg was an Altered Man from Prometheus, a roistering adventurer according to the legend. Three centuries ago, in a ship called the Dreaming Whore, they had set off from Darkdawn for the opposite edge of the galaxy. How many worlds they had visited, what had happened on each, how far they had gotten before death—those were the knots in the tale, and schoolboys disputed them still. Holt liked to think that they were still out there, somewhere. After all, Walberg had said he was a superman, and there was no telling how long a superman might live. Maybe even long enough to reach the core, or beyond.
He had been staring at the console, daydreaming, and Cain had grinned over at him and said, “Hey! Starsick!” And when Holt had started and looked up, the old man nodded (still smiling), saying, “Yes, you, the very one! Set to, Holt, or you won’t be shipping nowhere!”
But it was a gentle rebuke, and a gentle smile, and Holt never forgot it or Cain narKarmian’s other words. Their sleep-webs were next to each other and Holt listened every night, for Cain was hard to silence and Holt was not about to try. And when the Laughing Shadow finally hit Cathaday, as far in as it would
And again with The Glass Flower, George is using some of his favorite themes to create this “all knowing” character in Joachim Kleronomas. Note the repetition of details from The Stone City and A Song if Ice and Fire that were developed in The Glass Flower. Cyrain has a god-complex in herself and is full of pride. This scene begins Cyrain’s desire to steal the cyborg body of Kleronomas so that she can become immortal. She wants ever-lasting perfection, like her glass flower. However, Kleronomas does desire to finally be mortal as well, but for personal altruistic reasons.
The Glass Flower
[Cyrain] “Joachim Kleronomas,” I said.
There are cyborgs and then there are cyborgs. So many worlds, so many different cultures, so many sets of values and levels of technologies. Some cyberjacks are half organic, some more, some less; some sport only a single metal hand, the rest of their cyberhalves cleverly concealed beneath the flesh. Some cyborgs wear synthaflesh that is indistinguishable from human skin, though that is no great feat, given the variety of skin to be seen among the thousand worlds. Some hide the metal and flaunt the flesh; with others the reverse is true.
The man who called himself Kleronomas had no flesh to hide or flaunt. A cyborg he called himself, and a cyborg he was in the legends that had grown up around his name, but as he stood before me, he seemed more a robot, insufficiently organic to pass even as android.
He was naked, if a thing of metal and plastic can be naked. His chest was jet; some shining black alloy or smooth plastic, I could not tell. His arms and legs were transparent plasteel. Beneath that false skin, I could see the dark metal of his duralloy bones, the power-bars and flexors that were muscles and tendons, the micromotors and sensing computers, the intricate pattern of lights racing up and down his superconductive neurosystem. His fingers were steel. On his right hand, long silver claws sprang rakishly from his knuckles when he made a fist.
He was looking at me. His eyes were crystalline lenses set in metal sockets, moving back and forth in some green translucent gel. They had no visible pupils; behind each implacable crimson iris burned a dim light that gave his stare an ominous red glow. “Am I that fascinating?” he asked me. His voice was surprisingly natural; deep and resonant, with no metallic echoes to corrode the humanity of his inflections.
“Kleronomas,” I said. “Your name is fascinating, certainly. A very long time ago, there was another man of that name, a cyborg, a legend. You know that, of course. He of the Kleronomas Survey. The founder of the Academy of Human Knowledge on Avalon. Your ancestor? Perhaps metal runs in your family.”
“No,” said the cyborg. “Myself. I am Joachim Kleronomas.”
I smiled for him. “And I’m Jesus Christ. Would you care to meet my Apostles?”
“You doubt me, Wisdom?”
“Kleronomas died on Avalon a thousand years ago.”
“No,” he said. “He stands before you now.”
SIDENOTE: As of this writing, Martin has made a statement that the other sword Dark Sister, first wielded by Queen Visenya, and then Brynden Bloodraven Rivers, was indeed taken by Bloodraven to the Wall during his trip north as Lord Commander. Very cool implications with this!