Martin’s version of greenseeing, skinchanging, moonstones, psi-linked talents, gender specific talents, etc have been around for a long time. The stories by George RR Martin that I recommend as proto-setups for this theory are:
- A Song for Lya.
- And Seven Times Never Kill Man.
- Closing Time.
- Fevre Dream.
- Dying of the Light.
This is a fun one. Here I will show my reasoning why I think it was Lyanna skinchanging the horse that Howland Reed rode, which was later feathered by Rhaegar and his men chasing the “knight”, only to have it revealed who the knight was after Rhaegar chased and caught her. I also speculate this is later backshadowed by Melisandre and her “grey girl on a dying horse” vision. The timeline for the Tourney at Harrenhal and the time when Rhaegar “met” with this knight he chased down is actually not a back-to-back occurrence, there was a gap in time, but the broad strokes of the story are all there.
*Full text of the Knight of the Laughing Tree story located at the bottom of page*
This fits the theme of the story on a few levels, including the joining of two things to make a something stronger. We see this ideal repeated in a few areas, including but not limited to, when Ygritte tells Jon a true man steals a girl from afar to strengthen the clan, Bran slipping in to Hodor to do certain tasks, Bran and Sam “the Slayer” having to slay the lies of the Citadel, and I have no doubt that Sansa and Arya will end up coming together to take down the giant of Baelish who destroyed their lives.
I think there are enough clues in the story to show us that skinchanging/warging talents were cut off from the north when “Good” Queen Alysanne went north and closed Nightfort and drew attention elsewhere with her shiny jewels. Cheap jewels, flaking paint, and empty lands; that is what Queen Alysanne left in her dragon wake… but that will be another topic.
Q: Are all the Stark children wargs/skin changers with their wolves?
GRRM: To a greater or lesser degree, yes, but the amount of control varies widely.
Q: Yes I know that Lady is dead, but assuming they were all alive and all the children as well, would all the wolves have bonded to the kids as Bran and Summer did?
GRRM: Bran and Summer are somewhat of a special case. Source.
Opening the Flow
Just like dragons need their magics and riders, skinchangers and their familiars need each other and the magics to become “active”, to flow between the sources. What I mean is that no direwolf = no knowledge of talent, and so on for the various psi-linked connections. This idea has been floated around the ASOIAF fandom for some time now, and I tend to agree with this idea. I think that an in-world reason this happens is because there is a maester assigned to every castle, not necessarily the family who lives there, but part of their learning and teachings is a way to suppress any ‘magic’ talents.
One of the first notations we are given of Lyanna is that she should be on a hill under a tree. In the literary world of ice and fire, this is combination place reserved for greenseers and those with that type of psi-linked talents. Other readers in the fandom have also noticed this magical connection to hollow hills and such.
A Game of Thrones – Eddard I
“She was more beautiful than that,” the king said after a silence. His eyes lingered on Lyanna’s face, as if he could will her back to life. Finally he rose, made awkward by his weight. “Ah, damn it, Ned, did you have to bury her in a place like this?” His voice was hoarse with remembered grief. “She deserved more than darkness …”
“She was a Stark of Winterfell,” Ned said quietly. “This is her place.”
“She should be on a hill somewhere, under a fruit tree, with the sun and clouds above her and the rain to wash her clean.”
Martin is on-record for stating that Bran is the most magical in the series, and as such I speculate Bran will bring the world into Enlightenment. However, along with this greenseeing is the Norse idea that Yggdrasil is not just the world tree, but also the horse of Odin (and vice versa then back again). So we have a lot of northern ice/water magics shared between trees, greenseers, and horses. Here we read about the magical Bran and his experience in Nightfort, a magical place in history.
- A Storm of Swords – Bran IV
All that had happened hundreds and thousands of years ago, to be sure, and some maybe never happened at all. Maester Luwin always said that Old Nan’s stories shouldn’t be swallowed whole. But once his uncle came to see Father, and Bran asked about the Nightfort. Benjen Stark never said the tales were true, but he never said they weren’t; he only shrugged and said, “We left the Nightfort two hundred years ago,” as if that was an answer.
Bran forced himself to look around. The morning was cold but bright, the sun shining down from a hard blue sky, but he did not like the noises. The wind made a nervous whistling sound as it shivered through the broken towers, the keeps groaned and settled, and he could hear rats scrabbling under the floor of the great hall. The Rat Cook’s children running from their father. The yards were small forests where spindly trees rubbed their bare branches together and dead leaves scuttled like roaches across patches of old snow. There were trees growing where the stables had been, and a twisted white weirwood pushing up through the gaping hole in the roof of the domed kitchen. Even Summer was not at ease here. Bran slipped inside his skin, just for an instant, to get the smell of the place. He did not like that either.
Additionally, Martin has made many of the talents or special abilities possessed by characters in his various past stories as sex-linked through the female line. A Song of Ice and Fire seems to be no exception. (Sidenote: this does not mean ASOIAF is secret SciFi). I also speculate that there is a inherited/physical reason why first born children to a Targaryen parent + Non-Targagryen always seem to favor the Non-Targ parent… and the subsequent children vary.
This conversation between Melantha (Val protoype) and Royd (Jon prototype) has Melantha psyching Royd up to take control of his teke (telekinesis) powers.
“Royd!” she yelled, put all of her remaining will into her words. “The dial . . . teke it. Royd, teke it!”
His reply was very faint, troubled. “. . . can’t … I don’t . . . Mother . . . only . . . her . . . not me . . . no . . .”
“Not mother,” she said, desperate. “You always . . . say . . . mother. I forgot . . . forgot. Not your mother . . . listen . . . you’re a clone . . . same genes . . . you have it, too. The power.”
“Don’t,” he said. “Never . . . must be . . sex-linked.”
”No! It isn’t. I know . . . Promethean, Royd . . . don’t tell a Promethean .
. . about genes . . . turn it!”
The sled jumped a third of a meter, and listed to the side. A path was clear.
The corpse came forward.
“. . . trying,” Royd said. “Nothing … I can’t!”
“She cured you,” Melantha said bitterly. “Better than . . . she was . . . cured . . . pre-natal . . . but it’s only . . . suppressed … you can!”
“I… don’t… know . .. how.”
Royd does it. He uses his teke special power and saves the day! Well, saves them in that moment. The story has a true bittersweet ending. Forewarning, be prepared to witness Val take on this type of dialogue in The Winds of Winter.
And remember this line from Tyrion regarding Jon Snow, only the irony is that the Stark looks Jon has all come from his mother Lyanna. So the reverse is true. Lyanna left most of herself in Jon. Now the reason for the other Stark children all beings wargs probably has to do more with traces of Children of the Forest/water magic… but that is an essay for another day.
- A Game of Thrones – Tyrion II
The boy absorbed that all in silence. He had the Stark face if not the name: long, solemn, guarded, a face that gave nothing away. Whoever his mother had been, she had left little of herself in her son. “What are you reading about?” he asked.
- A Game of Thrones – Jon IV
Samwell Tarly nodded. “I … if you want, you can call me Sam. My mother calls me Sam.”
“You can call him Lord Snow,” Pyp said as he came up to join them. “You don’t want to know what his mother calls him.”
Where’d the Magic Go?
I hate to sound too conspiratorial here, but, according to the World of Ice and Fire book written in the point of view of maesters, it appears that maesters are set in ridding the world of any magic or knowledge that takes away their won power and “worth”. The maesters, including dear old Luwin, deny that any such skinchanging talents even exist. This means there was no one to teach or guide Lyanna, and Jon Snow, and why Bran received his training through Jojen (so far), Arya thinks she is dreaming, and who knows what with Sansa and her probable bird connection. Rickon has the advantage of being with a free folk woman, Osha. And we know from the Varamyr prologue that it is best to have someone with these talents teach and guide the younger generation in how to use their gift. Borroq is most likely going to be the one who helps Jon with his warg talent as Jon heals.
Again this brings it back to enough clues in the story to show us that skinchanging/warging talents were cut off from the north when “Good” Queen Alysanne went north, closed Nightfort and drew attention elsewhere with her shiny jewels. Cheap jewels, flaking paint, and empty lands; that is what Queen Alysanne left in her dragon wake. I noted up the Fire & Blood excerpt with Alysanne in the north with Lord Alaric Stark.
A Storm of Swords – Bran III
“Who holds this land?” Jojen asked Bran.
“The Night’s Watch,” he answered. “This is the Gift. The New Gift, and north of that Brandon’s Gift.” Maester Luwin had taught him the history. “Brandon the Builder gave all the land south of the Wall to the black brothers, to a distance of twenty-five leagues. For their . . . for their sustenance and support.” He was proud that he still remembered that part. “Some maesters say it was some other Brandon, not the Builder, but it’s still Brandon’s Gift. Thousands of years later, Good Queen Alysanne visited the Wall on her dragon Silverwing, and she thought the Night’s Watch was so brave that she had the Old King double the size of their lands, to fifty leagues. So that was the New Gift.” He waved a hand. “Here. All this.”
No one had lived in the village for long years, Bran could see. All the houses were falling down. Even the inn. It had never been much of an inn, to look at it, but now all that remained was a stone chimney and two cracked walls, set amongst a dozen apple trees. One was growing up through the common room, where a layer of wet brown leaves and rotting apples carpeted the floor. The air was thick with the smell of them, a cloying cidery scent that was almost overwhelming. Meera stabbed a few apples with her frog spear, trying to find some still good enough to eat, but they were all too brown and wormy.
The World of Ice and Fire – The North: The Lords of Winterfell
We have earlier discussed House Stark’s role in the Dance of the Dragons. Let it be added that Lord Cregan Stark reaped many rewards for his loyal support of King Aegon III…even if it was not a royal princess marrying into his family, as had been agreed in the Pact of Ice and Fire made when the doomed prince Jacaerys Velaryon had flown to Winterfell upon his dragon.
Though in these days it is said that Lord Alaric Stark was glad to aid the Night’s Watch with the Gift, and took little convincing, the truth is otherwise. Letters from Lord Stark’s brother (*possibly sons w/an update) to the Citadel, asking the maesters to provide precedents against the forced donation of property, made it plain that the Starks were not eager to do as King Jaehaerys bid. It may be that the Starks feared that, under the control of the Castle Black, the New Gift would inevitably decline—for the Night’s Watch would always look northward and never give much thought to their new tenants to the south. And as it happens, that soon came to pass, and the New Gift is now said to be largely unpopulated thanks to the decline of the Watch and the rising toll taken by raiders from beyond the Wall.
Lyanna is known for her “horseplay” and her tomboy antics, being described as “half a centaur“, and when Jaime says jousting is mostly about the horse, etc, etc. One part of the story shpwing the details of the other.
- A Dance with Dragons – The Turncloak
“You knew him,” Theon said.
The lantern light in her eyes made them seem as if they were afire. “Brandon was fostered at Barrowton with old Lord Dustin, the father of the one I’d later wed, but he spent most of his time riding the Rills. He loved to ride. His little sister took after him in that. A pair of centaurs, those two. And my lord father was always pleased to play host to the heir to Winterfell. My father had great ambitions for House Ryswell…
- A Dance with Dragons – Reek III
“He is your only son.”
“For the moment. I had another, once. Domeric. A quiet boy, but most accomplished. He served four years as Lady Dustin’s page, and three in the Vale as a squire to Lord Redfort. He played the high harp, read histories, and rode like the wind. Horses … the boy was mad for horses, Lady Dustin will tell you. Not even Lord Rickard’s daughter could outrace him, and that one was half a horse herself. Redfort said he showed great promise in the lists. A great jouster must be a great horseman first.”
We have Elia Sand, aka Lady Lance, en route with Arianne as a new Lyanna stand-in to help repeat this horsey theme. Not to mention Arya Stark and her Lyanna/Rhaegar-like chase through the trees when Harwin chases her. Was Mycah the “horse” to Arya as Hodor is the “horse” to Bran? Or Sansa being “stolen” by Petyr Baelish and hidden away in the high, white castle of the Eyrie. There is constant attention drawn to the horses in the story. They have names, they have detailed descriptions, they have personalities, not just once, but so often that we readers should be drawing some connections in the text.
A Game of Thrones – Arya II
“Needle wouldn’t break,” Arya said defiantly, but her voice betrayed her words.
“It has a name, does it?” Her father sighed. “Ah, Arya. You have a wildness in you, child. ‘The wolf blood,’ my father used to call it. Lyanna had a touch of it, and my brother Brandon more than a touch. It brought them both to an early grave.” Arya heard sadness in his voice; he did not often speak of his father, or of the brother and sister who had died before she was born. “Lyanna might have carried a sword, if my lord father had allowed it. You remind me of her sometimes. You even look like her.”
“Lyanna was beautiful,” Arya said, startled. Everybody said so. It was not a thing that was ever said of Arya.
“She was,” Eddard Stark agreed, “beautiful, and willful, and dead before her time.” He lifted the sword, held it out between them. “Arya, what did you think to do with this … Needle? Who did you hope to skewer? Your sister? Septa Mordane? Do you know the first thing about sword fighting?”
All she could think of was the lesson Jon had given her. “Stick them with the pointy end,” she blurted out. [same as a lance]
- A Feast for Crows – Jaime II
Jousting was three-quarters horsemanship, Jaime had always believed. Ser Loras rode superbly, and handled a lance as if he’d been born holding one . . . which no doubt accounted for his mother’s pinched expression. He puts the point just where he means to put it, and seems to have the balance of a cat. Perhaps it was not such a fluke that he unhorsed me. It was a shame that he would never have the chance to try the boy again. He left the whole men to their sport.
- A Storm of Swords – Arya III
Between two elms she rode, and never paused to see which side the moss was growing on. She leapt a rotten log and swung wide around a monstrous deadfall, jagged with broken branches. Then up a gentle slope and down the other side, slowing and speeding up again, her horse’s shoes striking sparks off the flintstones underfoot. At the top of the hill she glanced back. Harwin had pushed ahead of Anguy, but both were coming hard. Greenbeard had fallen further back and seemed to be flagging.
A stream barred her way. She splashed down into it, through water choked with wet brown leaves. Some clung to her horse’s legs as they climbed the other side. The undergrowth was thicker here, the ground so full of roots and rocks that she had to slow, but she kept as good a pace as she dared. Another hill before her, this one steeper. Up she went, and down again. How big are these woods? she wondered. She had the faster horse, she knew that, she had stolen one of Roose Bolton’s best from the stables at Harrenhal, but his speed was wasted here. I need to find the fields again. I need to find a road. Instead she found a game trail. It was narrow and uneven, but it was something. She raced along it, branches whipping at her face. One snagged her hood and yanked it back, and for half a heartbeat she feared they had caught her. A vixen burst from the brush as she passed, startled by the fury of her flight. The game trail brought her to another stream. Or was it the same one? Had she gotten turned around? There was no time to puzzle it out, she could hear their horses crashing through the trees behind her. Thorns scratched at her face like the cats she used to chase in King’s Landing. Sparrows exploded from the branches of an alder. But the trees were thinning now, and suddenly she was out of them. Broad level fields stretched before her, all weeds and wild wheat, sodden and trampled. Arya kicked her horse back to a gallop. Run, she thought, run for Riverrun, run for home. Had she lost them? She took one quick look, and there was Harwin six yards back and gaining. No, she thought, no, he can’t, not him, it isn’t fair.
Both horses were lathered and flagging by the time he came up beside her, reached over, and grabbed her bridle. Arya was breathing hard herself then. She knew the fight was done. “You ride like a northman, milady,” Harwin said when he’d drawn them to a halt. “Your aunt was the same. Lady Lyanna. But my father was master of horse, remember.”
Beasts of the Field
From the start of the first book, in the POV of the known “dragon” person of the story, we are given this terribly derogatory description from Viserys, who is his father’s son. This is just another in-world version of prejudice as we see with the free folk being referred to as “widlings”. This concept of lessee beasts is also something Martin used in his story …And Seven Times Never Kill Man where the militant-religious Steel Angels (Andal-Targ-Faith of Seven in ASOIAF) refer to the indigenous Jaenshi clans as beasts and not worthy of keeping alive.
This page here goes in to detail about how GRRM used Indiginous Americans as part of his developement for the free folk.
- A Game of Thrones – Daenerys I
She had always assumed that she would wed Viserys when she came of age. For centuries the Targaryens had married brother to sister, since Aegon the Conqueror had taken his sisters to bride. The line must be kept pure, Viserys had told her a thousand times; theirs was the kingsblood, the golden blood of old Valyria, the blood of the dragon. Dragons did not mate with the beasts of the field, and Targaryens did not mingle their blood with that of lesser men. Yet now Viserys schemed to sell her to a stranger, a barbarian.
The term “beast of the field” also means a beast of burden, which include working animals such as horses. The more sinister meaning is a racists term from ancient days applied to black peoples regardless of nationality. The Targaryens thought themselves above gods and men which lead to their generational incest as they thought other “races” are inferior. This does parallel the real world idea that royal “blue bloods” do not mix with others– low born or racially based. Here are but a few of many examples:
- Bastards were common enough, but incest was a monstrous sin to both old gods and new, and the children of such wickedness were named abominations in sept and godswood alike. The dragon kings had wed brother to sister, but they were the blood of old Valyria where such practices had been common, and like their dragons the Targaryens answered to neither gods nor men.
- Why shouldn’t I marry Cersei openly and share her bed every night? The dragons always married their sisters. Septons, lords, and smallfolk had turned a blind eye to the Targaryens for hundreds of years, let them do the same for House Lannister. It would play havoc with Joffrey’s claim to the crown, to be sure, but in the end it had been swords that had won the Iron Throne for Robert, and swords could keep Joffrey there as well, regardless of whose seed he was. We could marry him to Myrcella, once we’ve sent Sansa Stark back to her mother. That would show the realm that the Lannisters are above their laws, like gods and Targaryens.
However, this is what we see Rhaegar do, he mixes dragon and horse (wolf) blood. Rhaegar, the bookish boy, is the more progressive character in the story (*as it is presented as of the end of A Dance with Dragons. Yes, this could always change.).
- This follows what George set up in his earlier story Nightflyers. The main protagonist, Royd Eris, is a near exact Jon Snow prototype, and Martin has him chose Melantha Jhirl, a black woman, as his intended lover and partner. Royd rejects the incest he was created for, and instead he chooses the one he loves.
- In the story And Seven Times Never Kill Man, the “superior” dragon representatives, the Steel Angels who worship the Pale Child Bakkalon, they refer to the native inhabitants as “beasts.” The main protagonist, Arik, NeKrol, is the one who defends them. At the end of the story we see that (after Arik dies) Arik has given a special cloak to the main Jaenshi female, Bitterspeaker, and it is thought to be a cloak for a widow, among a few other ideas.
Rhaegar seems to have been the choice for Lyanna over the intended Robert Baratheon. Rhaegar crowned Lyanna ‘queen of love and beauty’. Between the crowning and this, “The dragon prince sang a song so sad it made the wolf maid sniffle,” it seems that Rhaegar outwitted the other men who were fond of the wolf girl, whether Rhaegar knew it or not. In the story of Adam HaRishon’s sin the Torah writes:
- “And they were both naked, man and his wife, yet they were not ashamed…”(ii, 25);
- “And the snake was craftier than all the animal of the field that Hashem Elokim had made” (iii, 1).
- Melisandre says this about the girl in grey: “A deer, once.”
Jon the Colt
According to this Indiginous Foundations website:
What are totem poles?
Totem poles are monuments created by First Nations of the Pacific Northwest to represent and commemorate ancestry, histories, people, or events. Totem poles are typically created out of red cedar, a malleable wood relatively abundant in the Pacific Northwest, and would be erected to be visible within a community.
Most totem poles display beings, or crest animals, marking a family’s lineage and validating the powerful rights and privileges that the family held. Totem poles would not necessarily tell a story so much as it would serve to document stories and histories familiar to community members or particular family or clan members.
A totem pole typically features symbolic and stylized human, animal, and supernatural forms.1 Totem poles are primarily visual representations of kinship, depicting family crests and clan membership.
Most characters in the story symbolically carry more than one totem animal. Nope, no “purebreeds” here. Focusing on Jon for the moment, not only is he a wolf, and a bear, but he also carries a horse figure carved into his totem tree as well. Just as Lyanna does. We see this especially in A Dance with Dragons as his character arc is about to make a major leap. This includes, but is not limited to, things like:
- A Dance with Dragons – Jon XIII
Val, was Jon’s first thought. But that was no woman’s scream. That is a man in mortal agony. He broke into a run. Horse and Rory raced after him. “Is it wights?” asked Rory. Jon wondered. Could his corpses have escaped their chains?
Mully cleared his throat. “M’lord? The wildling princess, letting her go, the men may say—”
“—that I am half a wildling myself, a turncloak who means to sell the realm to our raiders, cannibals, and giants.” Jon did not need to stare into a fire to know what was being said of him. The worst part was, they were not wrong, not wholly.
- A Dance with Dragons – Reek III
“He is your only son.”
“For the moment. I had another, once. Domeric. A quiet boy, but most accomplished. He served four years as Lady Dustin’s page, and three in the Vale as a squire to Lord Redfort. He played the high harp, read histories, and rode like the wind. Horses … the boy was mad for horses, Lady Dustin will tell you. Not even Lord Rickard’s daughter could outrace him, and that one was half a horse herself. Redfort said he showed great promise in the lists. A great jouster must be a great horseman first.”
The interesting thing about Jon’s statement is that we know he is not a turncloak, so that means he is half a wildling. Wildlings are the only (known) ones left in the story that not just know what skinchangers and wargs are, but respect them as part of their culture, unlike people south of the wall.
This could point to Lyanna also having the skinchanger talent, but not being taught how to control it like we see other skinchangers do in the story. Bran has the benefit of Jojen to help guide him, just as Rickon has the benefit of going with spearwife Osha who understands his talents and can bring him to those that can teach him.
- A Storm of Swords – Jon I
Mance Rayder laughed. “As you wish. Jon Snow, before you stands Tormund Giantsbane, Tall-talker, Horn-blower, and Breaker of Ice. And here also Tormund Thunderfist, Husband to Bears, the Mead-king of Ruddy Hall, Speaker to Gods and Father of Hosts.”
“That sounds more like me,” said Tormund. “Well met, Jon Snow. I am fond o‘ wargs, as it happens, though not o’ Starks.”
- A Dance with Dragons – Prologue
His own mother had abandoned him as well. She cried for Bump, but she never cried for me. The morning his father pulled him out of bed to deliver him to Haggon, she would not even look at him. He had shrieked and kicked as he was dragged into the woods, until his father slapped him and told him to be quiet. “You belong with your own kind,” was all he said when he flung him down at Haggon’s feet.
He was not wrong, Varamyr thought, shivering. Haggon taught me much and more. He taught me how to hunt and fish, how to butcher a carcass and bone a fish, how to find my way through the woods. And he taught me the way of the warg and the secrets of the skinchanger, though my gift was stronger than his own.
Not all skinchangers felt the same, however. Once, when Lump was ten, Haggon had taken him to a gathering of such. The wargs were the most numerous in that company, the wolf-brothers, but the boy had found the others stranger and more fascinating. Borroq looked so much like his boar that all he lacked was tusks, Orell had his eagle, Briar her shadowcat (the moment he saw them, Lump wanted a shadowcat of his own), the goat woman Grisella …
- A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI
Jon frowned in disbelief. “That’s … queer.”
“You think so?” She knelt and scratched Ghost behind his ear. “Your Wall is a queer place, but there is power here, if you will use it. Power in you, and in this beast. You resist it, and that is your mistake. Embrace it. Use it.“
I am not a wolf, he thought. “And how would I do that?”
Lyanna being the “horse” in this situation would also allow Howland to tell the story in truth because he was the “booming” knight. Lyanna guided the horse to be sure and true, knowingly or not, and allowed Howland to stand up to the bullies himself. This lesson from another in-story skinchanger may also allow some hints to Lyanna:
A Storm of Swords – Jon X
“Tormund Crowlover,” Harma sneered. “You are a great sack o’ wind, old man.”
The skinchanger was grey-faced, round-shouldered, and bald, a mouse of a man with a wolfling’s eyes. “Once a horse is broken to the saddle, any man can mount him,” he said in a soft voice. “Once a beast’s been joined to a man, any skinchanger can slip inside and ride him. Orell was withering inside his feathers, so I took the eagle for my own. But the joining works both ways, warg. Orell lives inside me now, whispering how much he hates you. And I can soar above the Wall, and see with eagle eyes.”
Together, Lyanna the little girl and Howland the little man, were stronger.
None were well loved, so the common folk cheered lustily for the Knight of the Laughing Tree, as the new champion soon was called. When his fallen foes sought to ransom horse and armor, the Knight of the Laughing Tree spoke in a booming voice through his helm, saying, ‘Teach your squires honor, that shall be ransom enough.’ Once the defeated knights chastised their squires sharply, their horses and armour were returned. And so the little crannogman’s prayer was answered…by the green men, or the old gods, or the children of the forest, who can say?“
A Tree Laughs
This emphasizes Lyanna being a “knight of the laughing tree” symbol because of the double entendre of skinchanging and it being connected to the weirwoods/old gods. Think of how the once melancholy tree in the godswood at Winterfell was “laughing” at the marriage of a fake Arya (fArya) to a historic Stark traitor, Ramsay Snow (Bolton). This was Lyanna “laughing” at the mockery of a wedding of a girl that is frequently compared to her. The awful teasing Arya receives from being called “horseface” probably has a lot to do with this foreshadowing, and we know how beautiful Arya is growing to be based on what we read other people tell Arya in the story.
A Dance with Dragons – Theon/ The Prince of Winterfell
“I take this man,” the bride said in a whisper.
All around them lights glimmered through the mists, a hundred candles pale as shrouded stars. Theon stepped back, and Ramsay and his bride joined hands and knelt before the heart tree, bowing their heads in token of submission. The weirwood’s carved red eyes stared down at them, its great red mouth open as if to laugh. In the branches overhead a raven quorked.
And readers of the series know that what takes place in tourney’s is often a set-up or retelling to another part of the story. This next section seems to really drive in the theme with mares, grey, speed, and beauty. This next quote from Eddard is courtesy of Pretty Pig via Feather Crystal.
A Game of Thrones – Eddard VII
When the Knight of Flowers made his entrance, a murmur ran through the crowd, and he heard Sansa’s fervent whisper, “Oh, he’s so beautiful.” Ser Loras Tyrell was slender as a reed, dressed in a suit of fabulous silver armor polished to a blinding sheen and filigreed with twining black vines and tiny blue forget-me-nots. The commons realized in the same instant as Ned that the blue of the flowers came from sapphires; a gasp went up from a thousand throats. Across the boy’s shoulders his cloak hung heavy. It was woven of forget-me-nots, real ones, hundreds of fresh blooms sewn to a heavy woolen cape.
His courser was as slim as her rider, a beautiful grey mare, built for speed. Ser Gregor’s huge stallion trumpeted as he caught her scent. The boy from Highgarden did something with his legs, and his horse pranced sideways, nimble as a dancer. Sansa clutched at his arm. “Father, don’t let Ser Gregor hurt him,” she said. Ned saw she was wearing the rose that Ser Loras had given her yesterday. Jory had told him about that as well.
And we have seen how Val is like Lyanna in the willfulness and visual looks department, being a “beauty”, as well as being connected to the old gods and Ghost. However, when you look again, Val is also given a grey horse when Jon sends her on a mission to find the remaining free folk and lead them to Castle Black under Jon’s admission. Jon gives Val a grey garron in-particular, and a grey garron is a type of Scottish work horse. The free folk are based on the Scots and Hadrian’s wall, so this Scottish horse being used also follows that theme… and it would not make sense to give Val a Dornish Sand Steed in the north. (Sidenote: Mully is named after George’s first cat, Mulligan, he had with his wife Parris.)
A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI
“Har!” Tormund snorted again. “You hear that, Toregg? Stay away from this one. I have one daughter, don’t need another.” Shaking his head, the wildling chief ducked back inside his tent.
As Jon scratched Ghost behind the ear, Toregg brought up Val’s horse for her. She still rode the grey garron that Mully had given her the day she left the Wall, a shaggy, stunted thing blind in one eye. As she turned it toward the Wall, she asked, “How fares the little monster?”
Remember, George is a hippy who grew up poor, and he loves the idea of the little guy taking down the big A-hole bullies.
The feathering idea comes from the possibility that when Rhaegar or some other men chased after the “knight”, they feathered the rump of the horse she rode in order to stop her from fleeing.
Melisandre is the on her own mission as the representative of fire intruding into this icy world of the North. She is being guided by R’hllor to seek the ‘prince that was promised’, whom she is misreading her flames as to the identity of this so-called prophesied one. Melisandre makes many admitted mistakes, and this grey girl is but one more.
- A Dance with Dragons – Jon I
“Are your fires never wrong?”
“Never … though we priests are mortal and sometimes err, mistaking this must come for this may come.”
Jon could feel her heat, even through his wool and boiled leather. The sight of them arm in arm was drawing curious looks. They will be whispering in the barracks tonight. “If you can truly see the morrow in your flames, tell me when and where the next wildling attack will come.” He slipped his arm free.
A Dance with Dragons – Jon XIII
“Your fires have been known to lie.”
“I have made mistakes, I have admitted as much, but—”
“A grey girl on a dying horse. Daggers in the dark. A promised prince, born in smoke and salt. It seems to me that you make nothing but mistakes, my lady. Where is Stannis? What of Rattleshirt and his spearwives? Where is my sister?”
“All your questions shall be answered. Look to the skies, Lord Snow. And when you have your answers, send to me. Winter is almost upon us now. I am your only hope.”
I speculate that Melisandre is being shown who must be stopped/killed as the opposition to fire- that person being Jon Snow. Melisandre is given the tools to make the distinction, but she is taking the clues as something else entirely and she is trying to convince those around her that she is more powerful than what is her truth.
- A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI
Melisandre seemed amused. “What is her name, this little sister that you do not have?“
“Arya.” His voice was hoarse. “My half-sister, truly …”
“… for you are bastard born. I had not forgotten. I have seen your sister in my fires, fleeing from this marriage they have made for her. Coming here, to you. A girl in grey on a dying horse, I have seen it plain as day. It has not happened yet, but it will.” She gazed at Ghost. “May I touch your … wolf?”
The thought made Jon uneasy. “Best not.”
- A Dance with Dragons – Jon X
“I am seeing skulls. And you. I see your face every time I look into the flames. The danger that I warned you of grows very close now.”
“Daggers in the dark. I know. You will forgive my doubts, my lady. A grey girl on a dying horse, fleeing from a marriage, that was what you said.”
“I was not wrong.”
Melisandre may not have been fully wrong, just mistaken as she admits happens often. The ‘grey girl’ is plainly evident as Lyanna Stark with the grey representing her Starkness. The more curious question is which marriage Lyanna was fleeing? (Hint: the one of incest) Here is a short list that compares Lyanna to Alys Karstark:
- Rickard wanted Lyanna was to marry Rob Baratheon just as Rickard Karstark wanted Alys to marry Robb. Lyanna’s betrothal to Robert Baratheon? Lyanna never wanted to marry Robert Baratheon, and she made it known, and the betrothal was not her idea.
- Alys ends up marrying Sigorn, Magnar of Thenn, who is like a “god” among the Thenns. Rhaegar is of Valyrian/dragon decent and the Valyrians thought themselves as above gods and men.
- Sigorn wears bronze scales as Rhaegar wore black scaled armor.
- Jon calls Alys Winter’s lady, as Lyanna was a lady of Winterfell.
- Both avoided their arranged marriages, Rhaegar “stole” Lyanna as Signorn stole Alys in the free folk marriage cutom.
- After they ran from their marriages, they had siblings/kinsmen come chasing after them.
- Tower of Joy.
A Dance with Dragons – Jon X
“One land, one god, one king!” the queen’s men echoed.
Jon drank with the rest. Whether Alys Karstark would find any joy in her marriage he could not say, but this one night at least should be one of celebration.
- This all happens with Alys Karstark because Jon is already acting as a King-Father over a realm, forshadowing when Jon develops into Jon Snow, King of Winter. I have it written out here the ways Jon is becoming the King-Father figure in the story.
A Dance with Dragons – Jon IX
“Marriages and inheritance are matters for the king, my lady. I will write to Stannis on your behalf, but—”
Alys Karstark laughed, but it was the laughter of despair. “Write, but do not look for a reply. Stannis will be dead before he gets your message. My uncle will see to that.”
“What do you mean?”
One thing that both the story of Rhaegar with Lyanna and Jon with Ygritte have in common is both go stalking and chasing after what they assume is a male (Lyanna as a knight, Ygritte as a male “wildling”). Both catch their prey and discover that both are actually female. The biggest difference is in the repeat of history, but with a twist. First it was fire chasing ice, now with Jon in the hunter role it is ice chasing fire.
A Storm of Swords – Jon V
Ygritte punched his arm. “You know nothing, Jon Snow. I’m half a fish, I’ll have you know.”
“Half fish, half goat, half horse . . . there’s too many halves to you, Ygritte.” He shook his head. “We wouldn’t need to swim, if this is the place I think. We could walk.”
She pulled back and gave him a look. “Walk on water? What southron sorcery is that?”
A Clash of Kings – Jon VI
It all seemed to happen in a heartbeat. Afterward Jon could admire the courage of the wildling who reached first for his horn instead of his blade. He got it to his lips, but before he could sound it Stonesnake knocked the horn aside with a swipe of his shortsword. Jon’s man leapt to his feet, thrusting at his face with a burning brand. He could feel the heat of the flames as he flinched back. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the sleeper stirring, and knew he must finish his man quick. When the brand swung again, he bulled into it, swinging the bastard sword with both hands. The Valyrian steel sheared through leather, fur, wool, and flesh, but when the wildling fell he twisted, ripping the sword from Jon’s grasp. On the ground the sleeper sat up beneath his furs. Jon slid his dirk free, grabbing the man by the hair and jamming the point of the knife up under his chin as he reached for his—no, her—
His hand froze. “A girl.”
Jon could see fear and fire in her eyes. Blood ran down her white throat from where the point of his dirk had pricked her. One thrust and it’s done, he told himself. He was so close he could smell onion on her breath. She is no older than I am. Something about her made him think of Arya, though they looked nothing at all alike. “Will you yield?” he asked, giving the dirk a half turn. And if she doesn’t?
“I yield.” Her words steamed in the cold air.
Ygritte, the fire Ygg
There are some theorists that assume Ygritte was named after the Yggdrasil tree, which is a supposed inspiration for the weirwoods. They could be correct and I am not trying to say they are wrong, however, I do see it differently. As noted in the main blog page, Martin has said he is using elemets of H.P. Lovecraft in his work. It seems to me that Ygritte is actually based on a the snake-demon Yig instead. She is not a direct 1:1 derivative, but rather the more Martin style of borrowing and reworking. And when we look at Ygritte, kissed by fire, and her wanting to keep Jon down in the cave with Gendel’s children as she nibbles his neck, well…
- Yig, the Father of Serpents, is one of the Great Old Ones who first appears in “The Curse of Yig”. He acts as a god who sends his minions/children out to punish all who have murdered a snake in the past by either killing them or turning into a snake-like creature such as himself. He is the father of Ayi’ig and the mate of the outer god Yidhra. Even though Yig is easy to anger, Yig is also easy to please as long as no harm comes to his children, the snakes.
- Gendel and Gorne: They were tricksters. Wildling legend says that the descendents of Gendel’s people still dwell in those caves, attacking anyone who tries to find Gorne’s Way and eating them.
The Rhaegar/Lyanna/Jon comparisons continue in a Jon chapter as he flees from Ygritte, a girl he “stole”, and she feathers him with her own grey-feathered arrows. All the basic elements are there, just rearranged a bit.
- A Storm of Swords – Jon V
Clumsily, he slid down off the mare’s back. His wounded leg buckled under him, and he had to swallow a scream. This is going to be agony. The arrow had to come out, though, and nothing good could come of waiting. Jon curled his hand around the fletching, took a deep breath, and shoved the arrow forward. He grunted, then cursed. It hurt so much he had to stop. I am bleeding like a butchered pig, he thought, but there was nothing to be done for it until the arrow was out. He grimaced and tried again . . . and soon stopped again, trembling. Once more. This time he screamed, but when he was done the arrowhead was poking through the front of his thigh. Jon pushed back his bloody breeches to get a better grip, grimaced, and slowly drew the shaft through his leg. How he got through that without fainting he never knew.
[by the way, /\this entire first paragraph takes place at/near Queenscrown tower and basically describes Lyanna giving birth and her bed of blood at the Tower of Joy, with the arrow paralleling Jon, and it continues below.)
He lay on the ground afterward, clutching his prize and bleeding quietly, too weak to move. After a while, he realized that if he did not make himself move he was like to bleed to death. Jon crawled to the shallow stream where the mare was drinking, washed his thigh in the cold water, and bound it tight with a strip of cloth torn from his cloak. He washed the arrow too, turning it in his hands. Was the fletching grey, or white? Ygritte fletched her arrows with pale grey goose feathers. Did she loose a shaft at me as I fled? Jon could not blame her for that. He wondered if she’d been aiming for him or the horse. If the mare had gone down, he would have been doomed. “A lucky thing my leg got in the way,” he muttered.
The Song Ends…
And this is not the first time a Ygritte and Jon scene resembles a “baby Jon” plot point. Compare these two book scenes that both take place at a tower:
- A Clash of Kings – Jon VI
[Ygritte telling Jon the full story of Bael the Bard]
“It never happened,” Jon said.
She shrugged. “Might be it did, might be it didn’t. It is a good song, though. My mother used to sing it to me. She was a woman too, Jon Snow. Like yours.” She rubbed her throat where his dirk had cut her. “The song ends when they find the babe, but there is a darker end to the story. Thirty years later, when Bael was King-beyond-the-Wall and led the free folk south, it was young Lord Stark who met him at the Frozen Ford . . . and killed him, for Bael would not harm his own son when they met sword to sword.”
“So the son slew the father instead,” said Jon.
- A Game of Thrones – Eddard X
[Eddard at the end of his Tower of Joy fever dream]
“And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.
“No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.” As they came together in a rush of steel and shadow, he could hear Lyanna screaming. “Eddard!” she called. A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death.
“Lord Eddard,” Lyanna called again.
The grey girl reader distraction
We also hear of Melisandre claiming, or rather she accepts what Mance Rayder tells her, that the water the grey girl was next to is Long Lake. This water could just as easily be the God’s Eye lake (map below).
- A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I
“Hills. Fields. Trees. A deer, once. Stones. She is staying well away from villages. When she can she rides along the bed of little streams, to throw hunters off her trail.”
He frowned. “That will make it difficult. She was coming north, you said. Was the lake to her east or to her west?”
Melisandre closed her eyes, remembering. “West.”
“She is not coming up the kingsroad, then. Clever girl. There are fewer watchers on the other side, and more cover. And some hidey-holes I have used myself from time—” He broke off at the sound of a warhorn and rose swiftly to his feet. All over Castle Black, Melisandre knew, the same sudden hush had fallen, and every man and boy turned toward the Wall, listening, waiting. One long blast of the horn meant rangers returning, but two …
Who ends up showing up is Alys Karstark, a Stark looking girl from another family, and yes, her horse is in bad shape, however, it seems all the of the details to Melisandre’s vision do not qualify Alys as the Arya-sister replacement. The path from Karhold to Castle Black does not pass Long Lake. Alys is said to have been picked up, “Ty and Dannel came on her two leagues south of Mole’s Town.”
Details, Details, Details…
What Melisandre claims she sees are all details that fit the time of the Harrenhal tourney.
- I saw water. Deep and blue and still, with a thin coat of ice just forming on it – The tourney at Harrenhal does take place in the false spring, and crusts of ice on water are mentioned elsewhere (Blackwater) at the same time. Also, in the Theon/Winds of Winter chapter, which takes place not long after this vision, the ice on the lake at the Crofter’s Village is so thick it has to be cut through.
- Hills. Fields. – The terrain
- Trees – Many possibilities here. The laughing tree shield, the Isle of Faces, the cut down weirwoods used to help build Harrenhal, etc.
- A deer, once. – Robert Baratheon and the broken betrothal.
- Stones – The fire melted stones of Harrenhal.
- She is staying well away from villages – Lyanna fleeing.
- When she can she rides along the bed of little streams – Harrenhal is in the riverlands.
- to throw hunters off her trail. – This could be Rhaegar, or Stark brothers, or Mad King Aerys’ men in search for the Knight of the Laughing Tree.
I tend to think this misinformation given to Melisandre by Mance (he is on his own mission, after all) is actually Melisandre being shown visions of Lyanna and her relation to Rhaegar, which resulted in the birth of Jon Snow, the opposing ice force to fire.
Where in the North?
It is not made clear in the text we have so far just exactly where this “knight”, Lyanna, was found other than “not ten leagues from Harrenhal”, which equates to approximately 28-30 miles. On land, the league is most commonly defined as three miles, though the length of a mile could vary from place to place and depending on the era. To be safe we could expand the range from 25-35 miles, and it still puts the vicinity as being next to the God’s Eye lake.
- The False Spring of 281 AC lasted less than two turns. As the year drew to a close, winter returned to Westeros with a vengeance. On the last day of the year, snow began to fall upon King’s Landing, and a crust of ice formed atop the Blackwater Rush. The snowfall continued off and on for the best part of a fortnight, by which time the Blackwater was hard frozen, and icicles draped the roofs and gutters of every tower in the city.
As cold winds hammered the city, King Aerys II turned to his pyromancers, charging them to drive the winter off with their magics. Huge green fires burned along the walls of the Red Keep for a moon’s turn. Prince Rhaegar was not in the city to observe them, however. Nor could he be found in Dragonstone with Princess Elia and their young son, Aegon. With the coming of the new year, the crown prince had taken to the road with half a dozen of his closest friends and confidants, on a journey that would ultimately lead him back to the riverlands. Not ten leagues from Harrenhal, Rhaegar fell upon Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, and carried her off, lighting a fire that would consume his house and kin and all those he loved—and half the realm besides.But that tale is too well-known to warrant repeating here.
So while there could be more than one candidate for many of the prophecies and visions in the series, it also seems as though there is a main candidate and a secondary/lesser candidate (distraction). To me, it feels as if all of this information together equals a Lyanna and Howland “knight” match, and that the result is Lyanna as the grey girl on a dying/feathered horse.
Hopefully this post gives you a new look at this mysterious plot information that is the Knight of the Laughing Tree and how connected it is to the current story. I could be wrong about any of my theories, but I feel pretty confident in this one.
Lyanna and her bed of birthing blood is the sadder story for a different day.
Knight of the Laughing Tree
“There was one knight,” said Meera, “in the year of the false spring. The Knight of the Laughing Tree, they called him. He might have been a crannogman, that one.”
“Or not, ” Jojen’s face was dappled with green shadows. “prince Bran has heard that tale a hundred times, I’m sure.”
“No,” said Bran. “I haven’t. And if I have it doesn’t matter. Sometimes Old Nan would tell the same story she’d told before, but we never minded, if it was a good story. Old stories are like old friends, she used to say. You have to visit them from time to time.”
“That’s true.” Meera walked with her shield on her back, pushing an occasional branch out of the way with her frog spear. Just when Bran began to think she wasn’t going to tell the story after all, she began, “Once there was a curious lad who lived in the Neck. He was small like all crannogmen, but b rave and smart and strong as well. He grew up hunting and fishing and climbing trees, and learned all the magics of my people.”
Bran was almost certain he had never heard this story. “Did he have green dreams like Jojen?”
“No,” said Meera, “but he could breathe mud and run on leaves, and change earth to water and water to earth with no more than a whispered word. He could talk to trees and weave words and make castles appear and disappear.”
“I wish I could,” Bran said plaintively. “When does he meet the tree knight?”
Meera made a face at him. “Sooner if a certain prince would be quiet.”
“I was just asking.”
“The lad knew the magics of the crannogs,” she continued, “but he wanted more. Our people seldom travel far from home you know. We’re a small folk, and our ways seem queer to some, so the big people do not always treat us kingly. But this lad was bolder than most, and one day when he had grown to manhood he decided he would leave the crannogs and visit the Isle of Faces.”
“No one visits the Isle of Faces.” objected Bran. “That’s where the green men live.”
“It was the green men he meant to find. So he donned a shirt sewn with bronze scales, like mine, took up a leathern shield and a three-pronged spear, like mine, and paddled a little skin boat down the Green Fork.”
Bran closed his eyes to try and see the man in his little skin boat. In his head, the crannogman looked like Jojen, only older and stronger, and dressed like Meera.
“He passed beneath the Twins by night so the Freys would not attack him, and when he reached the Trident he climbed from the river and put his boat on his head and began to walk. It took him many a day, but finally he reached the Gods Eye, threw his boat in the lake, and paddled out to the Isle of Faces.”
“Did he meet the green men?”
“Yes,” said Meera, “But that’s another story, and not for me to tell. My prince asked for knights.”
“Green men are good too.”
“They are,” she agreed, but said no more about them. “All that winter the crannogman stayed on the isle, but when spring broke he heard the wide world calling and knew the time had come to leave. His skin boat was just where he’d left it, so he said his farewells and paddled off toward shore. He rowed and rowed, and finally saw the distant towers of a castle rising beside the lake. The towers reached ever higher as he neared shore, until he realized this must be the greatest castle in all the world.”
“Harrenhal!” Bran knew at once. “It was Harrenhal!”
Meera smiled. “Was it? Beneath it’s walls he saw tents of many colors, bright banners cracking in the wind, and knights in mail and plate on barded horses. He smelled roasting meats, and heard the sound of laughter and the blare of heralds’ trumpets. A great tourney was about to commence, and champions from all over the land had come to contest it. The king himself was there, with his son the dragon prince. The White Swords had come, to welcome a new brother to their ranks. The storm lord was on hand, and the rose lord as well. The great lion of the rock had quarreled with the king and stayed away, but many of his bannermen and knights attended all the same. The crannogman had never seen such pageantry, and knew he might never see the like again. Part of him wanted nothing so much as to be part of it.”
Bran knew that feeling well enough. When he’d been little, all he had ever dreamed of was being a knight. But that had been before he fell and lost his legs.
“The daughter of the great castle reigned as queen of love and beauty when the tourney opened. Five champions had sworn to defend her crown; her four brothers of Harrenhal, and her famous uncle, a white knight of the Kingsguard.”
“Was she a fair maid?”
“She was,” said Meera, hopping over a stone, “but there were others fairer still. One was the wife of the dragon prince, who’d brought a dozen lady companions to attend her. The knights all begged them for favors to tie about their lances.”
“This isn’t going to be one of those love stories, is it?” Bran asked suspiciously. “Hodor doesn’t like those so much.”
“Hodor,” said Hodor agreeably.
“He likes the stories where the knights fight monsters.”
“Sometimes the knights are the monsters, Bran. The little crannogman was walking across the field, enjoying the warm spring day and harming none, when he was set upon by three squires. They were none older than fifteen, yet even so they were bigger than him , all three. This was their world, as the saw it, and he had no right to be there. They snatched away his spear and knocked him to the ground, cursing him for a frogeater.”
“Were they Walders?” It sounded like something Little Walder Frey might have done.
“None offered a name, but he marked their faces well so he could revenge himself upon them later. They shoved him down every time he tried to rise, and kicked him when he curled up on the ground. But then they heard a roar. ‘That’s my father’s man you’re kicking,’ howled the she-wolf.”
“A wolf on four legs, or two?”
“Two,” said Meera. “The she-wolf laid into the squires with a tourney sword, scattering them all. The crannogman was bruised and bloodied, so she took him back to her lair to clean his cuts and bind them up with linen. There he met her pack brothers: the wild wolf who led them, the quiet wolf beside him, and the pup who was youngest of the four.
“That evening there was to be a feast in Harrenhal, to mark the opening of the tourney, and the she-wolf insisted that the lad attend. He was of high birth, with as much a right to a place on the bench as any other man. She was not easy to refuse, this wolf maid, so he let the young pup find him garb suitable to a king’s feast, and went up to the great castle.
“Under Harren’s roof he ate and drank with the wolves, and many of their s worn swords besides, barrowdown men and moose and bears and mermen. The dragon prince sang a song so sad it made the wolf maid sniffle, but when her pup brother teased her for crying she poured wine over his head. A black brother spoke, asking the knights to join the Night’s Watch. The storm lord drank down the knight of skulls and kisses in a wine-cup war. The crannogman saw a maid with laughing purple eyes dance with a white sword, a red snake, and the lord of griffins, and lastly with the quiet wolf…but only after the wild wolf spoke to her on behalf of a brother too shy to leave his bench.
“Amidst all this merriment, the little crannogman spied the three squires who’d attacked him. One served a pitchfork knight, one a porcupine, while the last attended a knight with two towers on his surcoat, a sigil all crannogmen know well.”
The Freys,” said Bran. “The Freys of the Crossing.”
“Then, as now,” she agreed. “The wolf maid saw them too, and pointed them out to her brothers. ‘I could find you a horse, and some armor that might fit,’ the pup offered. The little crannogman thanked him, but gave no answer. His heart was torn. Crannogmen are smaller than must, but just as proud. The lad was no knight, no more than any of his people. We sit a boat more often than a horse, and our hands are made for oars, not lances. Much as he wished to have his vengeance, he feared he would only make a fool of himself and shame his people. The quiet wolf had offered the little crannogman a place in his tent that night, but before he slept he knelt on the lakeshore, looking across the water to where the Isle of Faces would be. and said a prayer to the old gods of north and Neck…”
“You never heard this tale from your father?” asked Jojen.
“It was Old Nan who told the stories. Meera, go on, you can’t stop there.”
Hodor must have felt the same. “Hodor,” he said, and then, “Hodor hodor hodor hodor.”
“Well,” said Meera, “if you would hear the rest…”
“Yes, Tell it.”
“Five days of jousting were planned,” she said. “There was a great seven-sided melee as well, and archery and axe-throwing, a horse race, and tourney of singers…”
“Never mind about all that.” Bran squirmed impatiently in his basket on Hodor’s back. “Tell about the jousting.”
“As my prince commands. The daughter of the castle was queen of love and beauty, with four brothers and an uncle to defend her, but all four sons of Harrenhal were defeated on the first day. Their conquerors reigned briefly as champions, until they were vanquished in turn. As it happened the end of the first day saw the porcupine knight win a place among the champions, and on the morning of the second day the pitchfork knight and the knight of the two towers were victorious as well. But late on the afternoon of that second day, as the shadows grew long, a mystery knight appeared in the lists.”
Bran nodded sagely. Mystery knights would oft appear at tourneys, with helms concealing their faces, and shields that were either blank or bore some strange device. Sometimes they were famous champions in disguise, the Dragonknight once won a tourney as the Knight of Tears, so he could name his sister the queen of love and beauty in place of the king’s mistress. And Barristan the Bold twice donned a mystery knight’s armor, the first time when he was only ten. “It was the little crannogman, I bet.”
“No one knew,” said Meera, “but the mystery knight was short of stature, and clad in ill-fitting armor made up of bits and pieces. The device upon his shield was a heart tree of the old gods, a white weirwood with a laughing red face.”
“Maybe he came from the Isle of Faces,” said Bran. “Was he green?” In Old Nan’s stories the guardians had dark green skin and leaves instead of hair. Sometimes they had antlers too, but Bran didn’t see how the mystery knight could have worn a helm if he had antlers. “I bet the old gods sent him.”
“Perhaps they did. The mystery knight dipped his lance before the king and rode to the end of the lists, where the five champions had their pavilions. You know the three he challenged.”
“The porcupine knight, the pitchfork knight, and the knight of the twin towers.” Bran had heard enough stories to know that. “He was the little crannogman, I told you.”
“Whoever he was, the old gods gave strength to his arm. The porcupine knight fell first, then the pitchfork knight, and lastly the knight of the two towers. None were well loved, so the common folk cheered lustily for the Knight of the Laughing Tree, as the new champion soon was called. When his fallen foes sought to ransom horse and armor, the Knight of the Laughing Tree spoke in a booming voice through his helm, saying, ‘Teach your squires honor, that shall be ransom enough.’ Once the defeated knights chastised their squires sharply, their horses and armour were returned. And so the little crannogman’s prayer was answered…by the green men, or the old gods, or the children of the forest, who can say?”
It was a good story, Bran decided after thinking about it a moment or two. “Then what happened, Did the Knight of the Laughing Tree win the tourney and marry a princess?”
“No,” said Meera. “That night at the great castle, the storm lord and the knight of skulls and kisses each sword they would unmask him, and the king himself urged men to challenge him,, declaring that the face behind that helm was no friend of his. But the next morning, when the heralds blew their trumpets and the king took his seat, only two champions appeared. The Knight of the Laughing Tree had vanished. The king was wroth, and even sent his son the dragon prince to seek the man, but all they ever found was his painted shield, hanging abandoned in a tree. It was the dragon prince who won that tourney in the end.”
“Oh.” Bran thought about the tale awhile. “That was a good story. Bit it should have been the three bad knights who hurt him, not their squires. Then the little crannogman could have killed them all. The part about the ransoms was stupid. And the Mystery knight should win the tourney, defeating every challenger, and name the wolf maid the queen of love and beauty.”
“She was,” Said Meera, “but that’s a sadder story.”
“Are you certain you never heard this tale before Bran?” asked Jojen. “Your lord father never told it to you?”
Bran shook his head. The day was growing old by then and long shadows were creeping down the mountainsides to send black fingers through the pines. If the little crannogman could visit the Isle of Faces, maybe I could too. All the tales agreed that the green men had strange magic powers. Maybe they could help him walk again, even turn him into a knight. They turned the little crannogman into a knight, even if it was only for a day, he thought. A day would be enough.
And, as always, this page is a work in progress 😉
Want more GRRMspreading?
I have started a book club re-read for the older works of George R.R. Martin for purposes such as research, scholarship, and teaching. I own all copies of material that is used for this book club. If you have not yet read a story listed, please check with your local bookstore for your own reading material to purchase (Indie Bookstore Finder or Bookshop.org). The full list of GRRM stories outside of the A Song of Ice and Fire series that I have read can be found on this page here.
It takes a while to transcribe and then note each story for research purposes, even the really short ones, so the main Book Club page will be updated as each re-read is added. Make sure you subscribe for updates.
If there is a story in particular you would like to ask about, feel free to do so in comments below.
If you prefer to listen to a podcast that gives synopsis and analysis of stories written by George R.R. Martin, please consider the new group A Thousand Casts to accompany your ears. Twitter or Podbean.
- Bitterblooms– In the dead of deep winter, a young girl named Shawn has to find the mental courage to escape a red fiery witch. Prototyping Val, Stannis, and Arya along with the red witch Melisandre.
- The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr – Discarded Knights guards the gates as Sharra feels the Seven while searching for lost love. Many Sansa and Ashara Dayne prototyping here as well.
- …And Seven Times Never Kill Man– A look into a proto-Andal+Targaryen fiery world as the Jaenshi way of life is erased. But who is controlling these events? Black & Red Pyramids who merge with Bakkalon are on full display in this story.
- The Last Super Bowl– Football meets SciFi tech with plenty of ASOIAF carryover battle elements.
- Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg– first in the Corpse Handler trio, and sets a lot of tone for future ASOIAF thematics.
- Closing Time– A short story that shows many precursor themes for future GRRM stories, including skinchanging, Sneaky Pete’s, catastrophic long nights…
- The Glass Flower– a tale of how the drive for perfection creates mindlords and mental slavery.
- Run to Starlight– A tale of coexistence and morality set to a high stakes game of football.
- Remembering Melody– A ghost tale written by GRRM in 1981 that tells of long nights, bloodbaths, and pancakes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
- This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
- 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.
- The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
- Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
- Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
- A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
- Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
- The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
- The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
- Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
- Fire & Blood excerpt; Alysanne in the north– not a full story, but transcribed and noted section of the book Fire & Blood, volume 1.
If you want to browse my own thoughts and speculations on the ASOIAF world using GRRM’s own work history, use the drop-down menu above for the most content, or click on the page that just shows recent posts -> Recent Posts Page.
Thank you for reading the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!