When was Val introduced into ASOAIF?

I have said multiple times on both this site and in the main Westeros.org forum that George RR Martin created the Val archetype many, many moons ago, as well as always putting this character with the Jon archetype.

This has also caused a few other posters to give me a little push-back because they are under the impression that Val isn’t “important” because she was introduced halfway through the book series. Sigh. This really is not quite the whole picture.

The best GRRM stories to read that also follow this pattern are:

  1. And Seven Times Never Kill Man, with the relationship Arik has with Janis Ryther and the Bitterspeaker. Val seems to be a mashup of Janis and the Jaenshi Bitterspeaker character.
  2. *Nightflyers, pretty much all of it as it sets the stage for the Jon + Val relationship, the paranoia and mutiny at Castle Black, the near death experience that Royd has, the crazy “mother ship” that is the three-egg spaceship along with the Targaryen mad mother of the ship.
  3. *The Skin Trade… every… single… bit… of… it.
  4. *Fevre Dream. So much between the main character Josh York and Valerie (and Cynthia to a small degree.)
  5. Dying of the Light, mostly the scene between Dirk and Gwen when they are in the tower in Festival City.
  6. A Song for Lya, mainly in the sporadic scenes with everyone up in the tower rooms and the knowledge, and love, lust, sex they share. First between Robb and Lya, and then between Robb and Laurie.
  7. This Tower of Ashes is another great one to read that has some links to this aspect of ASOIAF. Here is an excerpt of the opening setting paragraphs. This Tower of Ashes I feel is mostly a Bran type story, but there are other character elements as well:
    • My tower is built of bricks, small soot-gray bricks mortared together with a shiny black substance that looks strangely like obsidian to my untrained eye, though it clearly cannot be obsidian. It sits by an arm of the Skinny Sea, twenty feet tall and sagging, the edge of the forest only a few feet away.
      I found the tower nearly four years ago, when Squirrel and I left Port Jamison in the silver aircar that now lies gutted and overgrown in the weeds outside my doorstep. To this day I know almost nothing about the structure, but I have my theories.
      I do not think it was built by men, for one. It clearly predates Port Jamison, and I often suspect it predates human spaceflight. The bricks (which are curiously small, less than a quarter the size of normal bricks) are tired and weathered and old, and they crumble visibly beneath my feet. Dust is everywhere and I know its source, for more than once I have pried loose a brick from the parapet on the roof and crushed it idly to fine dark powder in my naked fist. When the salt wind blows from the east, the tower flies a plume of ashes.

I have noted in the main Jon & Val post how, when, and why Val was introduced to Jon and his arc. In this post I want to show the reader something that they may have missed and that I have not seen it talked about elsewhere. If you are reading this page and know of this same information being pointed out elsewhere online, please feel free to point me in that direction.

By now, seasoned GRRM readers know that clues to one arc are often planted in another, and the clues are done in the form of showing. The #1 rule of well crafted literature is to show, not tell, and GRRM is an expert at this technique.

Basically, Val, or the planned Val archetype, was introduced in A Game of Thrones, Bran II. This scene is part of the maze-like tour Bran gives the reader (mazemakers connection?). Bran’s squirreling about Winterfell is almost like a time-walk from past to future; the basic plot of A Song of Ice and Fire in general. Lets take a look:

A Game of Thrones – Bran II

Most of all, he liked going places that no one else could go, and seeing the grey sprawl of Winterfell in a way that no one else ever saw it. It made the whole castle Bran’s secret place.

His favorite haunt was the broken tower. Once it had been a watchtower, the tallest in Winterfell. A long time ago, a hundred years before even his father had been born, a lightning strike had set it afire. The top third of the structure had collapsed inward, and the tower had never been rebuilt. Sometimes his father sent ratters into the base of the tower, to clean out the nests they always found among the jumble of fallen stones and charred and rotten beams. But no one ever got up to the jagged top of the structure now except for Bran and the crows.

He knew two ways to get there. You could climb straight up the side of the tower itself, but the stones were loose, the mortar that held them together long gone to ash, and Bran never liked to put his full weight on them.

Aah! So much to unpack in this scene. I want to go line by line.

Nightflyers-Palumbo03
The Bloodraven-like Royd Eris and Melantha Jhirl of Nightlfyers. A prototype story to the Jon+Val story, as well as the mutiny at Castle Black. Artist: Palumbo.
  1. “His favorite haunt was the broken tower”. This has two meanings. The first being Ghost is the name of Jon’s direwolf, so Ghost = haunt, and Jon is continually haunted by who his mother truly is (Lyanna the flower/Winter Rose). The second is the fact that Jon put Val up in his old “haunt”, the place where Jon first resided when he arrived at Castle Black, that being the broken down Hardin’s Tower. We know that Jon has often visited with Val up in the tower, even if not detailed on page (yet).
    • A Game of Thrones – Arya IV

    • Robb took them all the way down to the end, past Grandfather and Brandon and Lyanna, to show them their own tombs. Sansa kept looking at the stubby little candle, anxious that it might go out. Old Nan had told her there were spiders down here, and rats as big as dogs. Robb smiled when she said that. “There are worse things than spiders and rats,” he whispered. “This is where the dead walk.” That was when they heard the sound, low and deep and shivery. Baby Bran had clutched at Arya’s hand.

    • When the spirit stepped out of the open tomb, pale white and moaning for blood, Sansa ran shrieking for the stairs, and Bran wrapped himself around Robb’s leg, sobbing. Arya stood her ground and gave the spirit a punch. It was only Jon, covered with flour. “You stupid,” she told him, “you scared the baby,” but Jon and Robb just laughed and laughed, and pretty soon Bran and Arya were laughing too.

      • This scene also has Jon in the crypts with his mother, Lyanna, and she was crowned with her favorite flower, the blue winter rose. So Jon being covered in flour and emerging from the crypts is a play on the Tower of Joy/Jon’s birth points that we hear about from Eddard.
      • We also see each child take action as they do in their respective arcs. Sansa, who is kissed by fire, runs to the stairs, and as noted in #3 below, fire and stairs go hand in hand. Bran wraps himself around his (comparatively) tree-like brother Robb, and he sheds a salty tear. Arya stood her ground, as she does all throughout her arc
    • A Dance with Dragons – Jon V

    • Not all the fighting men were broken, though. Half a dozen Thenns in bronze scale armor stood clustered round one cellar stair, watching sullenly and making no attempt to join the others. In the ruins of the old village smithy Jon spied a big bald slab of a man he recognized as Halleck, the brother of Harma Dogshead. Harma’s pigs were gone, though. Eaten, no doubt. Those two in furs were Hornfoot men, as savage as they were scrawny, barefoot even in the snow. There are wolves amongst these sheep, still.

    • Val had reminded him of that, on his last visit with her. “Free folk and kneelers are more alike than not, Jon Snow. Men are men and women women, no matter which side of the Wall we were born on. Good men and bad, heroes and villains, men of honor, liars, cravens, brutes … we have plenty, as do you.”

    • She was not wrong. The trick was telling one from the other, parting the sheep from the goats.

    • Hardin Name Meaning = English: variant of Harding. French: from a pet form of any of several Germanic compound personal names beginning with hard ‘hardy’, ‘brave’, ‘strong’.

    • A Dance with Dragons – Jon III

    • and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!

    • Val stood on the platform as still as if she had been carved of salt. She will not weep nor look away. Jon wondered what Ygritte would have done in her place. The women are the strong ones. He found himself thinking about Sam and Maester Aemon, about Gilly and the babe. She will curse me with her dying breath, but I saw no other way. Eastwatch reported savage storms upon the narrow sea. I meant to keep them safe. Did I feed them to the crabs instead? Last night he had dreamed of Sam drowning, of Ygritte dying with his arrow in her (it had not been his arrow, but in his dreams it always was), of Gilly weeping tears of blood.

    • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI

    • “Did you follow me as well?” Jon reached to shoo the bird away but ended up stroking its feathers. The raven cocked its eye at him. “Snow,” it muttered, bobbing its head knowingly. Then Ghost emerged from between two trees, with Val beside him.

    • They look as though they belong together. Val was clad all in white; white woolen breeches tucked into high boots of bleached white leather, white bearskin cloak pinned at the shoulder with a carved weirwood face, white tunic with bone fastenings. Her breath was white as well … but her eyes were blue, her long braid the color of dark honey, her cheeks flushed red from the cold. It had been a long while since Jon Snow had seen a sight so lovely.

    • “Have you been trying to steal my wolf?” he asked her.

  2. “Once it had been a watchtower, the tallest in Winterfell. Jon is a watcher on the wall, and the wall is the tallest structure in Westeros. There is some reader speculation that Winterfell could have had a different purpose in ancient days, maybe during a previous long night episode, maybe during some other invasion. The current plot issue puts Jon, an “old hand at justice”, in charge of the watchers and the tallest structure. Jon will be the “hand” to Bran as the new high greenseer.
  3. “a lightning strike had set it afire.” Oh boy. How many times do we hear the stairs along the wall being described like lightning-like? A few. And at one point in A Storm of Swords Jon has the barrels of oil and fat stuffed under the stairs to start them to fire during a battle.

    • A Storm of Swords – Jon VI

    • As the stars began to fade in the eastern sky, the Wall appeared before him, rising above the trees and the morning mists. Moonlight glimmered pale against the ice… From the ground he could not tell if there were sentries walking the Wall seven hundred feet above, but he saw no one on the huge switchback stair that climbed the south face of the ice like some great wooden thunderbolt.

    • A Storm of Swords – Jon VII

    • So Castle Black had a wall of sorts at last, a crescent-shaped barricade ten feet high made of stores; casks of nails and barrels of salt mutton, crates, bales of black broadcloth, stacked logs, sawn timbers, fire-hardened stakes, and sacks and sacks of grain. The crude rampart enclosed the two things most worth defending; the gate to the north, and the foot of the great wooden switchback stair that clawed and climbed its way up the face of the Wall like a drunken thunderbolt, supported by wooden beams as big as tree trunks driven deep into the ice.

    • A Storm of Swords – Jon VII

    • Jon notched a fire arrow to his bowstring, and Satin lit it from the torch. He stepped to the parapet, drew, aimed, loosed. Ribbons of flame trailed behind as the shaft sped downward and thudded into its target, crackling.

    • Not Styr. The steps. Or more precisely, the casks and kegs and sacks that Donal Noye had piled up beneath the steps, as high as the first landing; the barrels of lard and lamp oil, the bags of leaves and oily rags, the split logs, bark, and wood shavings. “Again,” said Jon, and, “Again,” and, “Again.” Other longbowmen were firing too, from every tower top in range, some sending their arrows up in high arcs to drop before the Wall. When Jon ran out of fire arrows, he and Satin began to light the torches and fling them from the crenels.

  4. “The top third of the structure had collapsed inward, and the tower had never been rebuilt.” This is rather reminiscent of both the New Gift resettlement that Jon thinks he wants to take over as Ned Stark and Benjen wanted to do in times past. Jon wants to rebuild the north, as he dreams of rebuilding Winterfell.

    • A Storm of Swords – Jon XI

    • “Whilst your brothers have been struggling to decide who shall lead them, I have been speaking with this Mance Rayder.” He ground his teeth. “A stubborn man, that one, and prideful. He will leave me no choice but to give him to the flames. But we took other captives as well, other leaders. The one who calls himself the Lord of Bones, some of their clan chiefs, the new Magnar of Thenn. Your brothers will not like it, no more than your father’s lords, but I mean to allow the wildlings through the Wall . . . those who will swear me their fealty, pledge to keep the king’s peace and the king’s laws, and take the Lord of Light as their god. Even the giants, if those great knees of theirs can bend. I will settle them on the Gift, once I have wrested it away from your new Lord Commander. When the cold winds rise, we shall live or die together. It is time we made alliance against our common foe.” He looked at Jon. “Would you agree?”

    • “My father dreamed of resettling the Gift,” Jon admitted. “He and my uncle Benjen used to talk of it.” He never thought of settling it with wildlings, though . . . but he never rode with wildlings, either. He did not fool himself; the free folk would make for unruly subjects and dangerous neighbors. Yet when he weighed Ygritte’s red hair against the cold blue eyes of the wights, the choice was easy. “I agree.”

    • “Good,” King Stannis said, “for the surest way to seal a new alliance is with a marriage. I mean to wed my Lord of Winterfell to this wildling princess.

    • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VII

    • Glass, Jon mused, might be of use here. Castle Black needs its own glass gardens, like the ones at Winterfell. We could grow vegetables even in the deep of winter. The best glass came from Myr, but a good clear pane was worth its weight in spice, and green and yellow glass would not work as well. What we need is gold. With enough coin, we could buy ‘prentice glassblowers and glaziers in Myr, bring them north, offer them their freedom for teaching their art to some of our recruits. That would be the way to go about it. If we had the gold. Which we do not.

  5. “Sometimes his father sent ratters into the base of the tower, to clean out the nests they always found among the jumble of fallen stones and charred and rotten beams.” This is totally Samwell Tarly down in the Castle Black library that is under Hardin’s Tower in the wormways, and Sam was sent by Jon to do research. Remember, in GRRM’s timelines, history repeats but with a twist each time.

    • A Feast for Crows – Samwell I

    • Sam was reading about the Others when he saw the mouse.

    • His eyes were red and raw. I ought not rub them so much, he always told himself as he rubbed them. The dust made them itch and water, and the dust was everywhere down here. Little puffs of it filled the air every time a page was turned, and it rose in grey clouds whenever he shifted a stack of books to see what might be hiding on the bottom.

    • Sam did not know how long it had been since last he’d slept, …(snipped)…That was when he took a quick glance at the empty platter, and spied the mouse feasting on the bread crumbs.

    • The mouse was half as long as his pinky finger, with black eyes and soft grey fur. Sam knew he ought to kill it. Mice might prefer bread and cheese, but they ate paper too. He had found plenty of mouse droppings amongst the shelves and stacks, and some of the leather covers on the books showed signs of being gnawed.

  6. “But no one ever got up to the jagged top of the structure now except for Bran and the crows.” This is fairly obvious a foretelling of Bran and his future abilities. This scene takes place a few pages before the push from Jaime Lannister, something that forces Bran in to his weightlessness which opens his third eye. In Bran’s last A Dance of Dragons chapter, we see how Bran is able to skinchange a crow and he becomes proficient at it. Bran is also associated with a type of time travel via the weirdwood viewing. I think Bran, after viewing the history of Westeros through his visions, was able to influence the Night’s Watch elections that got Jon voted in as Lord Commander. Bran knows something about Jon’s past and how it plays in to near future of humanity. I have mentioned this over and over, Bran will be the “ice armour” to Jon, and they will work together to save Westeros from the Great Whatever.

  7. “the mortar that held them together long gone to ash, and Bran never liked to put his full weight on them.” Aannd, here we go with Val. This is where she fits in. She will help with the survival and rebuilding of Westeros in some way. And once again, we see GRRM put the Jon and Val archetypes together. These stones and mortar are old and they are worn through. It is time for a refresh and a new foundation to be built. And Bran is not the only one to see this. Jon does, for sure, but he “declines” Stannis’ offer to Jon to take Winterfell and Val, but #1 Jon has already stolen Val, and #2 Jon rejects Stannis because Jon considers himself a bastard and the bastards only choice is the wall. Still, Stannis (who is probably about to convert to some old godsy knowledge in The Winds of Winter) knows and sees the value in Val. Whoever gets Winterfell, gets Val. They are a package deal… of foreshadowing.

    • A Feast for Crows – Samwell I

    • “Why not?” asked Pyp. “She wants to have your children. Maybe we should call you Sam the Seducer.”

    • Sam reddened. King Stannis had plans for Val, he knew; she was the mortar with which he meant to seal the peace between the northmen and the free folk. “I don’t have time for archery today, I need to go see Jon.”

    • “Jon? Jon? Do we know anyone named Jon, Grenn?”

    • A Storm of Swords – Jon XI

    • “My father dreamed of resettling the Gift,” Jon admitted. “He and my uncle Benjen used to talk of it.” He never thought of settling it with wildlings, though . . . but he never rode with wildlings, either. He did not fool himself; the free folk would make for unruly subjects and dangerous neighbors. Yet when he weighed Ygritte’s red hair against the cold blue eyes of the wights, the choice was easy. “I agree.”

    • “Good,” King Stannis said, “for the surest way to seal a new alliance is with a marriage. I mean to wed my Lord of Winterfell to this wildling princess.

Featured image: Val, a member of the free folk. – by Drazenka Kimpel

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