“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.”
“I thought the greenseers were the wizards of the children,” Bran said. “The singers, I mean.”
“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.”
A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
Essentially what it seems the author is setting up in the story is the end of oppressive hierarchical feudalism and the emergence of the age of enlightenment, and Bran will be our Sea Lord at the ship’s helm. To be clear, I am not claiming that this rapid governmental change is going to happen overnight, no, just that by the end of the story we are going to see the strong seeds of change. The seed is strong, and our author is a hippie, after all.
The George RR Martin stories I recommend for this essay are detailed on the main Bran page, but I will relist them here with a few additions:
- For a Single Yesterday.
- This Tower of Ashes.
- The Second King of Loneliness.
- The Way of Cross and Dragon.
- The Glass Flower.
- The Stone City. I am adding this one here because there is a very clearly defined Bloodraven prototype that is a direct influence in the Bran scene when Bran meets Bloodraven. I covered it in the (work in progress) Bloodraven blog page here.
- Roger Zelazny anything, but especially Lord of Light and The Chronicles of Amber.
- Harlan Ellison anything, but especially I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.
Why do I refer to Bran as the Sea Lord? Well, for two reasons. In A Song of Ice and Fire, the author has been rather successful in setting up a double meaning for most elements of his world-building. Martin is a tricksy bird. The term greenseeing is no exception.
- For additional reading that explores Bran’s greenseeing powers role in the story, I suggest this thread at Westeros.org by the amazing Evita mgfs. Link to growing powers here.
The outside inspiration for greenseeing could have come from the Emerald Tablet of Thoth. Made of a single piece of emerald gemstone, it contains prophetic text full of hidden meaning. Thoth was an Egyptian god that was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. He played many vital and prominent roles such as maintaining the universe, and being one of the two deities (the other being Maat) who stood on either side of Ra’s solar barge., also called a Solar Bark. Remember, Jon Snow is the Sun’s son. Additionally, not listed in the reading list above, but the GRRM story Bitterblooms has its two characters “board” a solar ship. Good stuff!
Why Thoth when GRRM has used so very much Norse mythology for the north? Because as George RR Martin discusses in Dreamsongs vol. 2, he came in to his writing during a generational shift in the state of mind of science fiction literature. There was a movement in the 1970’s called the New Wave and many of these New Wave SciFi/fantasy authors started this unofficial group as an answer to the formulaic, cheesy space odyssey’s from the 1960’s. One thing may of these authors did was to rework the SciFi to include real world mythos and legends in a way that made it more engaging, or, humanly possible on some scale. This no legendary mythos rock was left un-turned, and this included Egyptian history and tales.
Additionally, in its Western edition, the Emerald Tablet became a mainstay of medieval and Renaissance alchemy. Commentaries and/or translations were published by, among others, Trithemius, Roger Bacon, Michael Maier, Aleister Crowley, Albertus Magnus, and Isaac Newton. The concise text was a popular summary of alchemical principles, wherein the secrets of the philosopher’s stone were thought to have been described
“In A Song of Ice and Fire, I take stuff from the Wars of the Roses and other fantasy things, and all these things work around in my head and somehow they jell into what I hope is uniquely my own.” — George RR Martin
The internet is filled with information on this Emerald Tablet. It is basically a theological backbone to the ideas of rebirth and renewal. It has a foundation in Hermeticism and alchemy as well, and that is a huge theme in the ASOIAF universe. Essentially, killing the “boy” to let the man be born. An account of how Hermes Trismegistus received the name “Thrice Great” is derived from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, wherein it is stated that he knew the three parts of the wisdom of the whole universe. The three parts of the wisdom are alchemy, astrology, and theurgy. Three heads of the dragon? A many faced god? I dunno, but we can speculate the hell out of it anyway.
The feature image of the bright green tablet is written in the glyphs of old. However, here is a translation by Isaac Newton , of all people, that is found among his alchemical papers currently housed in King’s College Library, Cambridge University. It reads like Bran’s journey from fall to cave, and beyond. To look on this green tablet and to learn its knowledge is greenseeing, a form of enlightenment.
Tis true without lying, certain & most true.
That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing
And as all things have been & arose from one by the mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.
The Sun is its father, the moon its mother, the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth is its nurse.
The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.
Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.
It ascends from the earth to the heaven & again it descends to the earth & receives the force of things superior & inferior.
By this means you shall have the glory of the whole world
& thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.
Its force is above all force. For it vanquishes every subtle thing & penetrates every solid thing.
So was the world created.
From this are & do come admirable adaptations whereof the means (or process) is here in this. Hence I am called Hermes Trismegist, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world
That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished & ended.
Three Parts of the Wisdom of the Whole Universe
The in-universe realization came to me a while back that while greenseeing most obviously means to go north proper (above the wall), which is “under the sea” according to Patchface,. It also means to go in to the subconscious to wake that third eye of enlightenment. The first idea I started to write about in my Westeros.org Nymeria thread, but then re-posted again in this thread by another theorist named Ravenous Reader. Link to the RR Westeros thread here. I also discuss more on Patchface in this Jon blog page.
- A Clash of Kings – Jon IV
Closer at hand, it was the trees that ruled. To south and east the wood went on as far as Jon could see, a vast tangle of root and limb painted in a thousand shades of green, with here and there a patch of red where a weirwood shouldered through the pines and sentinels, or a blush of yellow where some broadleafs had begun to turn. When the wind blew, he could hear the creak and groan of branches older than he was. A thousand leaves fluttered, and for a moment the forest seemed a deep green sea, storm-tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable.
Ghost was not like to be alone down there, he thought. Anything could be moving under that sea, creeping toward the ringfort through the dark of the wood, concealed beneath those trees. Anything. How would they ever know? He stood there for a long time, until the sun vanished behind the saw-toothed mountains and darkness began to creep through the forest.
Bran is in training to become the next greenseer to take over for the current greenseer, Brynden Bloodraven Rivers. Bran is taking the helm, so to speak. Coincidentally, this is a parallel to the Daenerys taking the helm from Rhaegar as the last dragon. Bran and Daenerys are going to have their “game of mind” battle on that darkling stream that is the Trident as Jon wears his “ice armor”. This will most likely happen after the “saving of the realm” from the first scheduled disaster. Bran drinks from the cup of ice and Daenerys drinks from the cup of fire.
- The World of Ice and Fire – The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V
The first act of Aegon’s reign was the arrest of Brynden Rivers, the King’s Hand, for the murder of Aenys Blackfyre. Bloodraven did not deny that he had lured the pretender into his power by the offer of a safe conduct, but contended that he had sacrificed his own personal honor for the good of the realm.
Though many agreed, and were pleased to see another Blackfyre pretender removed, King Aegon felt he had no choice but to condemn the Hand, lest the word of the Iron Throne be seen as worthless. Yet after the sentence of death was pronounced, Aegon offered Bloodraven the chance to take the black and join the Night’s Watch. This he did. Ser Brynden Rivers set sail for the Wall late in the year of 233 AC. (No one intercepted his ship). Two hundred men went with him, many of them archers from Bloodraven’s personal guard, the Raven’s Teeth. The king’s brother, Maester Aemon, was also amongst them.
Bloodraven would rise to become Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch in 239 AC, serving until his disappearance during a ranging beyond the Wall in 252 AC.
Because of Bloodraven’s talents, he was advanced from Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch up to Sea Lord, which is the highest naval ranking above all. Bloodraven is still serving the Night’s Watch as a watcher on the walls. Bran is set to inherit this job rather soon and in doing so, Bran will usher in the age of enlightenment using able-legged people like Samwell Tarly, Theon Greyjoy, Stannis Baratheon (he is rapidly losing faith in Mel/red fire), and even Jon Snow. Bran will be the neutral reasoning between the old ways and the new. A balance between Old Nan and Maetser Luwin. A balance between the woods witches and the maesters. In other words, progress. Individual liberty and tolerance rather than absolute monarchy.
Top ranking Jewish mystics firmly believe Seth, the son of the Biblical Adam, kept the Emerald Tablet texts and it was passed onto Noah who took it aboard his ark. This parallels Bloodraven’s unadulterated sail north to the wall (excerpt above). Bloodraven being a greenseer is the keeper of knowledge once he is hooked up to a tree.
After 40 days and nights the waters receded and Noah is said to have hidden the Emerald Tablet deep in a cave near Hebron, where it was later discovered by Abraham’s wife Sarah. Another faction of Jewish scholars claim Abraham’s son Hermes gave the tablet to Moses’s daughter Miriam, who in turn placed it in the Ark of the Covenant where they remain today. Either way, Bloodraven, Bran, Meera, Jojen, Hodor, Summer all end up in the cave which holds the potential for global knowledge that is the weirwood network. Meera is also known for going off to explore.
The Bringer of Elightenment
This age of enlightenment is also reflected in the Black Gate at Nightfort. The “modern” vows have all sorts of additions that seem to detract from the basics of humanity. Enlightenment separated religion and politics and instead relied on the individual and basic morals.
That gate is part of the oldest structure on the wall, as if the wall sprouts from that one location and for Samwell to pass through, the only thing required is that Sam answer who he is, the basics of the Night’s Watch vows and very existentialist in its request. Just to drive the point further, this happens in a Bran chapter, so again we have a dollop of Bran + Samwell foreshadowing.
- A Storm of Swords – Bran IV
“How did you get through the Wall?” Jojen demanded as Sam struggled to his feet. “Does the well lead to an underground river, is that where you came from? You’re not even wet . . .”
“There’s a gate,” said fat Sam. “A hidden gate, as old as the Wall itself. The Black Gate, he called it.”
The Reeds exchanged a look. “We’ll find this gate at the bottom of the well?” asked Jojen.
“Why?” Meera demanded. “If there’s a gate . . .”
“You won’t find it. If you did it wouldn’t open. Not for you. It’s the Black Gate.” Sam plucked at the faded black wool of his sleeve. “Only a man of the Night’s Watch can open it, he said. A Sworn Brother who has said his words.”
“He said.” Jojen frowned. “This . . . Coldhands?”
A turn or two later Sam stopped suddenly. He was a quarter of the way around the well from Bran and Hodor and six feet farther down, yet Bran could barely see him. He could see the door, though. The Black Gate, Sam had called it, but it wasn’t black at all.It was white weirwood, and there was a face on it.
They were white too, and blind. “Who are you?” the door asked, and the well whispered, “Who-who-who-who-who-who-who.”
“I am the sword in the darkness,” Samwell Tarly said. “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. I am the shield that guards the realms of men.”
“Then pass,” the door said. Its lips opened, wide and wider and wider still, until nothing at all remained but a great gaping mouth in a ring of wrinkles. Sam stepped aside and waved Jojen through ahead of him. Summer followed, sniffing as he went, and then it was Bran’s turn. Hodor ducked, but not low enough. The door’s upper lip brushed softly against the top of Bran’s head, and a drop of water fell on him and ran slowly down his nose. It was strangely warm, and salty as a tear.
The last line that describes Bran being touched on the forehead and it being warm and salty, as opposed to the cold ice one might expect, seems to signify a blessing to Bran. A sort of baptism. Could this be Martin’s fantasy version of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Enthronement ceremony? The old gods welcoming the newest Sea Lord?
- A Dance with Dragons – Bran III
“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.“
And afterall, the idea for the A Song of Ice and Fire started with the wolf pups in the snow, which is the first chapter of the series, and Bran’s first chapter. Bran is a prince that was eagerly promised.
- A Dance with Dragons – Bran II
“Are you the three-eyed crow?” Bran heard himself say. A three-eyed crow should have three eyes. He has only one, and that one red. Bran could feel the eye staring at him, shining like a pool of blood in the torchlight. Where his other eye should have been, a thin white root grew from an empty socket, down his cheek, and into his neck.
“A … crow?” The pale lord’s voice was dry. His lips moved slowly, as if they had forgotten how to form words. “Once, aye. Black of garb and black of blood.” The clothes he wore were rotten and faded, spotted with moss and eaten through with worms, but once they had been black. “I have been many things, Bran. Now I am as you see me, and now you will understand why I could not come to you … except in dreams. I have watched you for a long time, watched you with a thousand eyes and one. I saw your birth, and that of your lord father before you. I saw your first step, heard your first word, was part of your first dream. I was watching when you fell. And now you are come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late.”
What goes around, comes around
Remember the phrase in the quote above that Bloodraven tells Bran, “The oak is the acorn, the acorn is the oak.” Well, that is another reader clue that history is repeating just with a twist each time.
What was Brynden’s main mission in life? To put down the Blackfyre rebellions. And he did so repeatedly. I will expand on House Blackfyre in another post, but for now you can gather many of the main aspects from this page.
Why is greenseeing important to A Song of Ice and Fire? Because Bran is the breaker of mental chains, while Daenerys is the mental slaver with chains of religion, see Cyrain of Ash. She is the thing that came in the night, which is a scary story to Bran. Daenerys, through a series of unfortunate events through her perspective, is about to come back as a Blackfyre. I guess that would make her a Blackfyre pretender. This is the very thing that Bloodraven has fought his entire existence. Daenerys is a combination of terrors to both Bran and Bloodraven.
I suspect this is why Brynden Bloodraven Rivers was so focused on putting down the Blackfyres each time… somehow he knew the terror that would come fromt hem, but he just did not know when while he was human.
My speculation is flows something like this, however, some details might vary:
- Aegon/Young Griff arrives to cheer in Westeros.
- Arrianne and he have a sexual relationship.
- Aegon will deal with the iron throne situation such as Cersei, and possibly *Euron.
- Daenerys and Euron may team up later. Not sure when yet.
- Daenerys flies in to town, and through whatever reasons, Daenerys and Aegon become the new power couple. I assume she is going to feel marrying Aegon is her duty as Viserys told her once that Rhaegar told Daenerys that those two should have been married if only Daenerys was old enough.
- Daenerys will catch Aegon having an affair with Arrianne once again, and Dany will feel this is one of her prophesied betrayals, and Dany will burn the mummer’s dragon, Aegon.
- Aegon has the sword Blackfyre which Daenerys will take once Aegon is dead. Daenerys also has Drogon who breathes black fire and is a shadow in his own rite.
- “Black or red, a dragon is still a dragon.” — Illyrio Mopatis
- “The error crept in from the translation. Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame.” — Maester Aemon [Targaryen]
- This will skew the people’s perception of Daenerys and she will be seen as a kinslayer and kingslayer.
- The overwhelming destruction of the Others (?) will now be an on page issue for all. Daenerys might help to save Westeros, but the real danger comes in the aftermath… the struggle between Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.
- This struggle for rule, general change throughout Westeros, melting down the iron throne, etc will boil over in to a battle… at the Trident, as time is a river.
- Daenerys will be the new last dragon as Jon Snow will have Bran as his mental ice armour- the prophecies and dreams are coming true, just not how one may have assumed. This will be the Bloodraven/Bran/ice magic battle against the Blackfyre/fire magic all over again, but hopefully for the final time.
- Chances are at some point, both Jan and Daenerys die, eliminating the extremes, which will help usher in the age of enlightenment.
Please keep in mind that in 2011, George RR Martin said this:
- Dragons are the nuclear deterrent, and only Dany has them, which in some ways makes her the most powerful person in the world. But is that sufficient? These are the kind of issues I’m trying to explore. The United States right now has the ability to destroy the world with our nuclear arsenal, but that doesn’t mean we can achieve specific geopolitical goals. Power is more subtle than that. You can have the power to destroy, but it doesn’t give you the power to reform, or improve, or build.
Thank You for reading the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire.