This essay deals with Catelyn as the source of the wolf-blood and the greenseeing trait in the youngest generation of Starks. Revised and updated in June 2017.
“YOUR BLOOD MAKES YOU A GREENSEER”
According to Bloodraven, warging, skinchanging and greenseeing “is in the blood”, implying a heritable trait. From him we learn the trait is extremely rare, especially in its most powerful form – the version that makes a greenseer. Fans generally view the Starks as a warging family; that the Kings of Winter residing in the crypts have direwolves at their feet does suggest the ability has been in the family for generations, yet unlike the Targaryen connection to dragons, there is no mention of historical Starks possessing a magical trait. In fact, prior to the appearance of the dead mother direwolf that birthed the pups that become companions to the current generation of Stark children, no direwolf had been seen south of the Wall for a few centuries and apart from references to the “wolf blood” there is no mention of recent Starks capable of warging. We are not even sure if “wolf blood” denotes an inherited ability to warg. Can we thus speculate that, like in the case of the Targaryens who lost the ability to hatch dragons after the Dance, the warging trait within the Stark family may have been lost to them for quite a while as well? And if so, by what means did it return to the bloodline? Catelyn seems a good bet so let’s get into the subject matter.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that it is Catelyn who initially introduces us to the Winterfell godswood, describing it in detail, including the weirwood heart tree. It is also Catelyn rather than Ned who first experiences a sense of foreboding, even foresight, regarding the Others. She also recognises the symbolic implication of the dead mother direwolf. Dread coils in her like a snake when she thinks of the dead direwolf with a broken antler in its throat. Consider the following poignant quote and remember that this early in the story, we readers know nothing about greenseeing or the part played by the weirwood:
“Beyond the Wall?” The thought made Catelyn shudder. Ned saw the dread on her face. “Mance Rayder is nothing for us to fear.”
“There are darker things beyond the Wall.” She glanced behind her at the heart tree, the pale bark and red eyes, watching, listening, thinking its long slow thoughts.
Catelyn isn’t thinking of Mance Rayder or the wildlings. Her thoughts instead center on the Others. Note Catelyn’s perception of the tree, how she humanizes it, subtly introducing us to the role of the heart tree for the first time, unaware that her own son Bran will become one of the few who actually see through the eyes of these trees. Catelyn not only introduces us to the idea of seeing trees in this scene, she appears to associate the weirwood in its primeval surroundings with those feared dark things beyond the Wall.
Is Catelyn Tully the catalyst for reviving warging and even greenseeing in the Stark bloodline?
BEYOND THE WALL
Apart from Bloodraven and the current Stark kids, the only wargs and skinchangers we hear of reside north of the Wall: individuals include Varamyr, Haggon, Orell and other wargs and skinchangers that Varamyr meets, suggesting a much higher concentration of the trait in the isolated region beyond the Wall. Since rare traits are more likely to proliferate in geographically isolated regions than in areas with a more diverse gene-pool, this kind of distribution is actually normal. The folk beyond the Wall undoubtedly retained much more of their ancient First Men heritage than the rest of Westeros and that original heritage appears to include traits for warging and skinchanging. I personally do not believe the Children of the Forest are the source of this magical trait. All my recent studies suggest they acquired it through interbreeding with another race at some point in the distant past. I see the First Men, or even more likely, the suggested third race on Westeros as the source of this power and have discussed this at length in an essay on the Elder Races as representing the three heads of the dragon.
When exactly the Starks came to be wargs is not clear but historic accounts suggest they have always required regular infusions of the gene into their bloodline; the only way of securing this trait is by marrying suitably endowed women. Hints include the Starks marrying daughters of wargs (such as the Warg King) after conquest and generally choosing partners of ancient First Men blood from the North. The author also speaks of Stark wives as “wolf-women”, comments on them in an SSM, and plans to release a book about them. There’s no doubt they are important to the bloodline and to securing future generations of wargs. We find further clues to the female origin of these genes in Varamyr’s POV prologue. Varamyr deplores not having fathered a child with the “gift,” as he calls it. He has several children with different women but none of these show signs of warging. Why hasn’t he passed on this gift to any of his sons? I’ve always argued that the trait, as with most magical traits, is carried by and passed on predominantly by women, specifically located on the X-chromosome. Indeed, if the trait is located on the female X-chromosome, passing on the gene to his sons would be impossible. Any sons of his would require that input from a mother carrying the relevant gene and given the rarity of the trait, it’s not surprising he didn’t chance on a carrier-woman. He could have produced carrier-daughters though, and had he married the latter as Craster did, he would have stood a better chance of bearing sons with the gift.
So, to get to the point, I propose that Catelyn’s genetic contribution is the key to the powers exhibited by her children. This includes Bran’s powers as a greenseer as well as Arya’s wolf-blood. We tend not to think of Catelyn in terms of magical ability. She’s down to earth, dutiful and all that; she’s not too keen on the wolves as pets until Summer saves Bran’s life; she follows the Faith of the Seven rather than the old gods. Yet all her kids have an affinity for wolves and magical powers to some degree. Why is that? Those traits cannot have come from Ned alone. In fact, seeing as Ned does not possess the temperamental wolf-blood, Arya’s wolf-blood is indicative of Catelyn as the origin of this trait. Catelyn does not hail from beyond the Wall however, she isn’t from the North either and the Tully wives do not appear in the past genealogy of the Stark family. The Tullys claim descent from the First Men though and in terms of circumstantial evidence, the above observations offer the first clues.
KISSED BY FIRE
Putting aside the political implications for a moment, Rickard Stark’s choice of Catelyn Tully as a bride for his heir Brandon certainly ensures an infusion of new traits into the Stark bloodline. When Brandon dies, Ned marries Catelyn in his place and significantly, George Martin has Catelyn birth four children with traits unique to her – the children’s auburn hair and blue eyes. Only Arya of the wolf-blood is said to have the Stark look, a long face with grey eyes and brown hair. The author draws our attention to both Catelyn’s and the children’s hair on several occasions:
Catelyn had always thought Robb looked like her; like Bran and Rickon and Sansa, he had the Tully coloring, the auburn hair, the blue eyes.
Her introduction of new visible traits into the Stark bloodline is very obvious, and we can deduce it does not stop there. We will first of all consider suggestive evidence linking Catelyn to greenseeing.
Let’s take a closer look at red or auburn hair. In the narrative, we learn that those born with red hair are “kissed by fire,” and are thought to be lucky, at least by folk beyond the Wall. Whatever that means, it stands out. In the real world, redheads occur in only 1 – 2% of the human population. It’s a rare trait most often found in northern and western fringes of Europe, in populations that share a common heritage with the Celts of old. Red hair has also been subject to intense stereotyping since ancient times: there is the notion that redheads are generally temperamental, highly sexed, immoral or evil in some way. In Christian Europe, red hair was deemed a sign of witchcraft with unfortunate victims being burnt at the stake. Judas Iscariot, betrayer of Jesus, was often depicted with red hair as testimony to his untrustworthiness. Interestingly, magical properties were also attributed to the body fluids of the red-haired. For example, the blood of a red-haired man was thought to turn copper into gold, urine from red-haired boys was required to make paint for stained glass windows and it was believed that the fat of red-haired men made a perfect ingredient for poison!
George Martin allows us insights into all aspects of a character’s personality so it’s difficult figuring out if he serves these stereotypes in respect of redheads in the narrative. We however note an element of untrustworthiness surrounding the red-haired: Catelyn jeopardizes her son’s cause by freeing Jamie Lannister to secure the release of her daughters, Robb digs his own grave by breaking the marriage alliance undertaken with the Freys, Sansa is more loyal to Queen Cersei than to her own father, Melisandre employs tricks and sorcery to achieve her aims and is unreliable as far as interpreting visions are concerned. Lysa murders her own husband. Whatever the case, Catelyn of the red hair does have blood packed with magical attributes!
Via her red hair, she joins the ranks of important characters such as Ygritte and the sorceress Melisandre. Ygritte’s unusual name is reminiscent of “Ygg,” the demon tree the early Ironborn believed fed on human flesh. As most readers know, the author’s choice of the name “Ygg” is a reference to the cosmic world tree Ygdrasil of Norse mythology, a direct parallel to weirwoods. Indeed, Bloodraven, a greenseer, reflects this Ironborn belief, living as he does in symbiosis with the weirwood he is bound to, the tree slowly consuming his flesh while affording him a glimpse into its recorded memories.
As stated above, it is from Catelyn that we first get a description of the Winterfell godswood and its heart tree. What’s more, we are introduced to this place right after Ned beheads the Night’s Watch deserter. We witness him cleaning the blood off his greatsword Ice underneath the heart tree, evoking the idea of a blood sacrifice, or of a blood-drinking tree. Perhaps we can also associate Catelyn’s mane of auburn hair with the striking red leaves that crown a weirwood and there does appear to be a parallel between her and the tree, especially when we take the attempt on Bran’s life and the Red Wedding into account:
Fighting to save Bran from the catspaw’s blade, Catelyn grabs the dragonbone-hilted dagger he wields, slicing her hand in the process. Covered in blood, her hand harks back to her own description of the Winterfell heart tree, its leaves dark red, like a thousand bloodstained hands.
After the horrific slaughter and Robb’s death at the Red Wedding, Catelyn cries tears of blood:
It hurts so much, she thought. Our children, Ned, all our sweet babes. Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb … Robb … please, Ned, please, make it stop, make it stop hurting … The white tears and the red ones ran together until her face was torn and tattered, the face that Ned had loved (…)
Like many weirwoods whose carved eyes cry red tears of sap, Catelyn’s white tears mix with the blood that flows when in her anguish, she rakes, literally carves, her face with her own nails. In the next line, just before her throat is slit, she oddly thinks of her hair, apparently distressed that it might be cut:
“Make an end,” and a hand grabbed her scalp just as she’d done with Jinglebell, and she thought, No, don’t, don’t cut my hair, Ned loves my hair. Then the steel was at her throat, and its bite was red and cold.
Though there is no weirwood directly evident in this scene, note the colour-coding – white and red. Catelyn draws our attention to her hair and the chapter does end with her death, her throat cut by a blade, in context reminding us of sacrifices to a weirwood tree. Given this line of circumstantial evidence, examining red hair gives us the first clues to a possible connection between Catelyn and the greenseeing talent exhibited by Bran.
THE GODS EYE
Let’s now take a look at how the Gods Eye is connected to Catelyn:
the famous large lake situated in the Riverlands, is often described as shimmering like beaten copper in the setting sun:
The setting sun made the tranquil surface of the water shimmer like a sheet of beaten copper.
The sun was low in the west by the time they saw the lake, its waters glimmering red and gold, bright as a sheet of beaten copper.
Alternately, when the sun shines directly onto the waters, the lake is sun-hammered blue:
The Gods Eye was a sheet of sun-hammered blue that filled half the world.
As it happens, Catelyn is connected to the all-seeing Isle of Faces and the Gods Eye through Harrenhal. The infamous castle which sits on the northern shore of the Gods Eye was home to House Whent, and lady Minisa Whent was Catelyn’s mother. All Tully siblings – Edmure, Lysa and Catelyn – have auburn hair and blue eyes, at least in part inherited from their mother Minisa.
Reddish beaten copper and sun-hammered blue evoke Catelyn’s distinguishing features – her auburn hair and blue eyes. Of course, the Gods Eye bears this name for a reason, for within the lake is the mysterious Isle of Faces, itself home to a large weirwood grove, supposedly looked after by guardians we are told are green men. The Gods Eye is itself One Eye, its pupil a crown of red weirwood leaves, reminding us of greenseeing Bloodraven with his one red eye.
If Catelyn has a trait for greenseeing, then her mother Minisa is the most likely source.
There are a few hints that this is plausible:
THE ONE-EYED FISH
Reference to her brother Edmure’s “one-eyed fish” at the Red Wedding – think again of one-eyed Bloodraven, as well as Bloodraven suggesting the Blackfish, Brnyden Rivers (Catelyn’s uncle) was named after him, establishing a link between the two. The name Brynden itself is probably a variation on Brandon. Further, Stark genealogy includes a Lord of Winterfell named Jonnel One-Eye (could he have been a greenseer?) and we recall Varamyr Sixskins who chose his wolf One-Eye as a vessel for his second life. In Braavos, Arya meets one-eyed Yna who has the gift of prophecy. All these examples link back to magical abilities – skinchanging, greenseeing and prophecy and we can view Edmure’s one-eyed fish in this context as well. Isn’t it intriguing that one-eyed fish Edmure gets to marry Roslin Frey, herself a Rosby, a family thought of as “not robust”, the name Roslin perhaps linking to roses, blue winter roses?
Lastly, Lysa’s son Sweetrobin also shows signs of magical ability, the most prominent hint being his hearing the presumed dead Marillion singing in the night at the Eyrie. No weirwood grows in the stony soil at the Eyrie but Robert does have a weirwood throne for a seat. He is also a sickly child – like the children of the forest with the gift, he is not robust. Lysa gains weight over time, her many miscarriages and unhappy marriage to Jon Arryn taking their toll on her beauty. Yet her auburn hair remains as magnificent as in her youth and our attention is drawn to it:
All that remained of her sister’s beauty was the great fall of thick auburn hair that cascaded to her waist.
With Lysa being of the same stock as Catelyn, is it not plausible that her son too has powers similar to Bran’s?
Having introduced you to the idea that Catelyn may very well be the source of magical traits in the current set of Stark children, let us examine her genetic inheritance more precisely. Since some of my observations and conclusions are based on a previous study of the genetic significance of blue winter roses, I suggest you take a look at that essay for a better understanding of this analysis.
Just a reminder: I propose that Catelyn has both the wolf-blood trait and the blood trait responsible for greenseeing. Catelyn is the strongest candidate for both.
CATELYN’S WOLF BLOOD
CatelynTully of Riverrun marries Ned Stark and bears him five children. Of these five, Arya has the wolf-blood. She’s also the odd one out in terms of hair and eye colour, being brown-haired and grey-eyed as opposed to the red-hair and blue eyes exhibited by her siblings. Meera’s Knight of the Laughing Tree story provides some markers for the traits exhibited by Rickon Stark’s children. Brandon of the wolf blood is the wild wolf, Ned the quiet wolf, Lyanna the she-wolf and Benjen the pup. True to Meera’s description, Ned, as a quiet wolf, has no wolf-blood, yet Arya has the trait. So where does Arya get it from? Rickon is also quite wild. Could he also have the wolf-blood? As I show in the previous essay, the wolf-blood attributed to Brandon and Lyanna originated with Arya Flint. Since it is linked to the female X-chromosome and Ned is clearly not a wild wolf, Arya’s wolf-blood can only have come from her mother Catelyn. (Refer to this chart for visual guidance through Stark genealogy.)
Let’s dive into some genetics. Catelyn has two X-chromosomes. One appears to be the marker for wolf-blood, which at least one of her children inherits. However, unlike Lyanna and Arya, Catelyn’s behaviour shows no clear signs of a wolf-blood inheritance. If she indeed has the wolf-blood gene, why is there no obvious sign of it?
The answer is really quite simple: Family, Duty, Honor.
Catelyn’s upbringing and training allow her to control her inner wolf nature. Only seldom does her she-wolf rise to the surface. She takes the words of her house very seriously. She is perceived as upright, places duty above desire and seldom allows her emotions to get the better of her. The early training she received at Riverrun allows her to master the she-wolf within. Remember Jojen’s teachings to Bran on not giving way to the wolf-nature, of controlling the urge to remain in his wolf for too long? Learning to control one’s emotions, to remain level-headed at all times, to adhere to duty – that’s what keeps Catelyn from expressing her she-wolf nature.
The she-wolf only comes to the fore when Catelyn is severely provoked, when her family is threatened – then she resorts to drastic measures, like freeing Jamie to secure her daughters or threatening to kill, actually killing Jinglebell, in her desperate attempt to save Robb’s life.
It appears that bonding with a personal direwolf also influences the character of its owner to some extent, even “good girls” like Sansa – at least Septa Mordane seems to think so:
“She’s not a dog, she’s a direwolf,” Sansa pointed out as Lady licked her fingers with a rough tongue. “Anyway, Father said we could keep them with us if we want.”
The septa was not appeased. “You’re a good girl, Sansa, but I do vow, when it comes to that creature you’re as willful as your sister Arya.
The septa perceives Sansa’s wolf as having an effect on the girl’s character, causing her to be as willful as her wolf-blooded sister Arya. Now Arya, because of her wolf-blood, was willful even before receiving Nymeria. While Sansa has lost her wolf entirely, Arya still upholds a psychic link to her pet through her wolf dreams. In personality, the sisters contrast each other immensely, like opposite sides of a coin. Given Arya’s development throughout the story, we can ask how much more radical she may have become, had she not had to part with her wolf, but had her at her side! Arya definitely draws strength from the knowledge that Nymeria is still alive somewhere out there; her wolf dreams strengthen her both in mind and spirit. This is what she asks of the old gods:
Make me a water dancer and a wolf and not afraid again, ever.
When her father Ned speaks to her through the Harrenhal weirwood he reminds her of the following:
“You are Arya of Winterfell, daughter of the north. You told me you could be strong. You have the wolf blood in you.”
Like Daenerys who gains strength from her dragon dreams after initially suffering the trials of the Dothraki Sea and nightly “mountings” by Khal Drogo, Arya maintains inner strength and will by way of her wolf blood and wolf dreams. We also have a number examples of the curative powers of wolves in the story: comatose Bran grows weaker when his window is closed to the wolves’ howling outside his sickroom but the boy recovers, growing stronger when the window is left open to the wolves “singing”. Perhaps Robb’s prowess in battle so early in his youth can also be attributed to his having Grey Wind at his side.
Seen in this context, Sansa’s journey through all her tribulations is a lesson in getting through life’s trails without access to the additional strength of mind, will and protection afforded by a wolf. If bonding with a wolf additionally confers the properties of loyalty and honor upon a person, then we can also understand why Sansa seems to lack these qualities, especially earlier on in the narrative. Remember, bonding with a wolf is said to be like wedding a woman. Haggon gives us this deep insight into the consequences of bonding with a wolf:
A man might befriend a wolf, even break a wolf, but no man could truly tame a wolf. “Wolves and women wed for life,” Haggon often said. “You take one, that’s a marriage. The wolf is part of you from that day on, and you’re part of him. Both of you will change.”
Like dragons, wolves are absolutely loyal to their familiar human until death. However, having the wolf-blood has some extreme consequences, Ned’s remarks regarding his sister Lyanna revealing in this regard. He says her wolf blood killed her. Having wolf-blood as well as a bonded wolf must make for a frightful combination – see Arya – and she only has wolf-dreams, her wolf still alive but far away from her. Now, Sansa loses her wolf and is thus “a little adrift,” as George Martin puts it. Lady being dead means Sansa is desolate and alone in an environment of conspiracy and intrigue, one in which she must make do without the support of family or her wolf. She must find mechanisms other than strength and willfulness to survive. In the absence of Lady, curtesy becomes her armour and as Tyrion remarks, she may outlive all other players in the game. I think this is quite significant because it implies that the direwolf serves not only as a source of strength, it also supplemented the personality of past Starks in respect of loyalty and honour. Is it any wonder that the ancient Kings of Winter finally managed to subdue the North? Or that they command such lasting respect in the region? Sansa’s arc also suggests that the era of the wolf as a personality enhancement for the Starks is over. At least in the TV-Series, we see the wolves dying one by one. Sansa is an example for coping without the aid of a bonded wolf, of adapting, of using other tactics to survive, of learning to play the game, something her honourable father Ned was not very good at. What would have become of Sansa if Lady had lived, if the direwolf’s presence had made her more willful and temperamental? I have no doubt she would have been eventually killed by Joffery during her incarceration in the Red Keep. Somehow, I don’t think Arya, being so temperamental through her wolf blood, would have lasted long in that situation either. The controlled environment of the Red Keep, Joff’s hatred of her plus the actions her wolf blood may have driven her to would have surely have meant an early death. Sansa’s conduct may get on fandom’s nerves but in lieu of Lady’s support, I do believe her way of handling these precarious situations has guaranteed her survival in her respective environments so far.
Getting back to the idea that Catelyn herself possessed wolf blood, we note she never had a wolf to build a relationship with, or to influence her own character development. That, together with her House words, “Family, Duty, Honor,” keep the more severe aspects of her wolf nature in check most of the time. Significantly, even though she never had a personal bonded wolf, both Summer and Grey Wind pay her special attention:
On Catelyn’s arrival at Robb’s camp after the trial and release of Tyrion at the Eyrie, Grey Wind is the first to notice her presence:
At first he did not notice her … but his wolf did. The great grey beast was lying near the fire, but when Catelyn entered he lifted his head, and his golden eyes met hers.
The direwolf got to his feet and padded across the room to where she stood. It seemed bigger than a wolf ought to be. “You’ve grown a beard,” she said to Robb, while Grey Wind sniffed her hand.
Note how Grey Wind honors her by coming over first to sniff her hand. Further, during the attempt on her son’s life, Catelyn’s protective instincts rise to the occasion; she is as fierce as a wolf, even grabbing the assassin’s knife, thereby slashing her own hands, doing all she can to prevent her child being murdered. At the end of the drama, Summer licks all the blood of Catelyn’s slashed hand, licks it clean, evoking a blood pact between the two of them.
“Thank you,” Catelyn whispered, her voice faint and tiny. She lifted her hand, trembling. The wolf padded closer, sniffed at her fingers, then licked at the blood with a wet rough tongue. When it had cleaned all the blood off her hand, it turned away silently and jumped up on Bran’s bed and lay down beside him.
If Catelyn had any doubts about the wolves before, this incident certainly changes her mind.
MASTERING THE INNER WOLF
Suppressing the wolf blood through training, through adherence to duty, is a key factor in keeping the wolf blood in check. Mastering the inner wolf is very important in terms of keeping a grip on the wilder side of one’s wolf nature and on this score, Catelyn is successful most of the time. She is also involved in and mindful of her daughters’ upbringing. Indeed, Sansa and Arya enjoyed the benefits of having a mother to see to their training, something Lyanna did not have.
Recall Rickard Stark does not allow his daughter Lyanna to practice with a sword but she does so anyway, sparring with Benjen as seen in Bran’s vision – by doing so, she disobeys her father and encourages her own wolf-nature. She rides like a northman, she’s willful, she does her own thing. She gets to live out the wild side of her personality. Like Arya, efforts to turn her into a lady must have been difficult and compounding that, her own mother was mysteriously absent. Lady Dustin’s recollections of Lyanna and Brandon as a ‘pair of centaurs’, as well as Roose’s statements to the same effect also suggest Lyanna was not confined to Winterfell and enjoyed a level of freedom incomparable with Sansa’s strict upbringing. Without a mother to guide and restrain her during her formative teenage years, Lyanna may well have taken liberties normally denied to young women of similar status. Ultimately, her temperamental personality, attributed to her wolf blood, seems to have played a role in the circumstances leading to her death.
Haggon informs us that no wolf can truly be tamed. Catelyn is not a tame wolf; she is a she-wolf, who by virtue of her upbringing has her wolf-nature under control most of the time. In fact, that she marries Ned instead of Brandon may also be of importance in terms of inheritance. Imagine the children of two wolf-blooded parents!
Now that we’ve established Catelyn’s wolf-blood inheritance, let’s consider her as the donor of a greenseeing gene.
CATELYN’S GREENSEEING GENE
Covert references to greenseeing amongst the Tullys originally alerted me to the possibility that Catelyn might be responsible for handing down this trait to her children, with Bran showing the strongest ability in this regard. Edmure Tully’s ‘One-Eyed Fish’ was the first noticeable clue, reminding me of Bloodraven’s one eye, of the God’s Eye, and by extension, of weirwoods and the associated greenseeing. I’ve expanded on all that above. Later, I discovered a passage that reveals the secret in its entirety. Consider this scene where Maester Luwin delivers a secret message from Lysa Tully to Lord and Lady Stark:
A wooden box, you say?” Catelyn said. “Inside was a fine new lens for the observatory, from Myr by the look of it. The lenscrafters of Myr are without equal.”
Ned frowned. He had little patience for this sort of thing, Catelyn knew. “A lens,” he said. “What has that to do with me?”
“I asked the same question,” Maester Luwin said. “Clearly, there was more to this than the seeming.”
Under the heavy weight of her furs, Catelyn shivered. “A lens is an instrument to help us see.”
A Myrish lens is basically a telescope, an extension of the eye, which enables one to see things far away; this one arrives in a wooden box. It’s easy to interpret this in terms of greenseeing: greenseers see through the eyes of weirwoods, they see things far from their actual location. Besides the analogy to seeing through a weirwoods eyes, ravens also fly high and see the world from above, and are utilized by Bloodraven and the CotF to gather information. The Myrish lens is also a rare, fragile and presumably expensive gadget – as rare and fragile as the green or red-eyed children of the forest with the gift, or the one in a thousand skinchangers who can become greenseers?
Catelyn could feel dread stirring inside her once again. “What is it that they would have us see more clearly?”
“The very thing I asked myself.” Maester Luwin drew a tightly rolled paper out of his sleeve. “I found the true message concealed within a false bottom when I dismantled the box the lens had come in, but it is not for my eyes.”
Ned held out his hand. “Let me have it, then.”
Luwin did not stir. “Pardons, my lord. The message is not for you either. It is marked for the eyes of the Lady Catelyn, and her alone. May I approach?”
This myrish lens with its message is marked for the eyes of Cat alone. Note the emphasis on seeing, the eyes and on Cat, recalling cat-eyes and the CotF. The maester refuses to give Ned the message. Ned is not the recipient and neither is Luwin. Ned isn’t the greenseer and neither is Luwin. In analogy to the few who see through weirwoods, only Catelyn is meant to see and read the message.
The message is also concealed in a false bottom of the wooden box, which evokes both greenseers and wisdom concealed in weirwoods or even the shadows of past children of the forest concealed in living ravens.
Catelyn nodded, not trusting to speak. The maester placed the paper on the table beside the bed. It was sealed with a small blob of blue wax. Luwin bowed and began to retreat.
Her eyes moved over the words. At first they made no sense to her. Then she remembered. “Lysa took no chances. When we were girls together, we had a private language, she and I.”
The true message may stand for the truth recorded by weirwoods. For all we know, the weirwoods themselves may reveal their secrets in a manner only discernible by greenseers. Weirwood paste is supposed to wed Bran to the trees and help him see, to see the truth as witnessed by the weirwood. It is the key to all connected weirwoods’ true memories. What Bran sees appears to be transmitted in a “private language” because though Bloodraven is also hooked up to a weirwood, he does not see what Bran sees through the Winterfell weirwood. Bloodraven has to rely on Bran’s account of what he saw. Given Winterfell’s importance as a major stronghold of the North and the saying that there must always be a Stark in Winterfell, the Winterfell godswood and heart tree may hold special significance, in fact, the tree’s memories may only be accessible to a greenseer who understands the “private language” of that particular heart tree. That Lysa sends this message and that both sisters understand a private language hints at Lysa’s gifts being equal to Catelyn’s.
The message is sealed with a blob of blue wax, perhaps intended to remind us of Catelyn’s and Bran’s blue eyes. If so, blue eyes, rather than green or red eyes may be the mark of a truly powerful greenseer. In the next sentence, Catelyn feels the night air cold as a grave on her skin, reminding us of the children’s cave, a place very much associated with death, dark and foreboding, littered with skulls and bones and dominated by a tangled mass of weirwood roots in which the corpse lord Blooraven resides. That cave is a veritable graveyard.
The night air was as cold as the grave on her bare skin as she padded across the room.
“What are you doing?” he asked. “Lighting a fire,” Catelyn told him.
Next, Catelyn lights a fire to stave off the cold. I tend to view this fire as a major ingredient in terms of greenseeing/prophecy because many methods of discerning the future are related to fire or fire magic. Hints at this include Bloodraven’s red eye, described as a glowing ember, as well as Melisandre who sees visions of events in the flames. Think also of Daenys the Dreamer of Targaryen fire heritage who predicted the Doom of Valyria and inspired her father Aenys to move his family to safety on Dragonstone. We also have the Ghost of High Heart, another prophetic dreamer with eyes like hot coals. Catelyn of course is a redhead, “kissed by fire.” Lighting a fire to stave off the cold is also something one has to do up north beyond the Wall to keep off wights in particular. We can thus also interpret Catelyn’s lighting a fire in terms of greenseeing as a means to fighting wights and white walkers, both of which embody the cold.
A FIERY COMPONENT
Greenseeing as a fiery trait deserves some more attention. We’ve examined the Myrish lens as an analogy to greenseeing but there there is more evidence in Catelyn’s arc suggestive of a fiery inheritance:
Of all the rooms in Winterfell’s Great Keep, Catelyn’s bedchambers were the hottest. She seldom had to light a fire. The castle had been built over natural hot springs, and the scalding waters rushed through its walls and chambers like blood through a man’s body, driving the chill from the stone halls, filling the glass gardens with a moist warmth, keeping the earth from freezing. Open pools smoked day and night in a dozen small courtyards. That was a little thing, in summer; in winter, it was the difference between life and death.
Winterfell is not a cold place, indeed, as the home of a family associated with ice, Winterfell is a rather warm place. Probably built over an area of former volcanic activity or geothermal hot-spots, the castle benefits from natural hot springs, the scalding waters flowing through the walls compared to blood coursing through a man’s body. In this naturally warm environment, it’s significant that Catelyn’s chambers happen to be the hottest, so warm that she hardly needs to light a fire.
Not only is Catelyn’s room the hottest in Winterfell, it appears that like Daenerys, she prefers and can tolerate hot, steamy baths. Born on the Red fork, her home in the Riverlands was warm and sunny, the godswood there a bright airy place filled with the birdsong and flowers. She also jokingly notes that Winterfell must have been built in the wrong place.
Catelyn’s bath was always hot and steaming, and her walls warm to the touch. The warmth reminded her of Riverrun, of days in the sun with Lysa and Edmure, but Ned could never abide the heat. The Starks were made for the cold, he would tell her, and she would laugh and tell him in that case they had certainly built their castle in the wrong place.
Yes, this is another indicator for Catelyn’s fiery inheritance, for her greenseeing trait, that which in winter is the difference between life and death. Winterfell, with its hot springs and glass gardens, was a place meant to keep people alive, a veritable oasis, an island of life during long hard winters. Catelyn is the perfect “hot wolf-woman” for this environment.
Let’s have a look at Bloodraven as well. His mother Melissa Blackwood stems from a First Men family. In addition to that, House Blackwood boasts a unique poisoned weirwood which attracts a large flock of ravens every night: via these hints, we can assume that Bloodraven received his skinchanging powers from his mother. What genetic role then did his father Aegon the Unworthy play? The most obvious ingredient here is the fire inheritance of the Targaryens and I would specifically identify kingsblood as the trait in question. Kingsblood, perhaps synonymous with “the golden blood of old Valyria,” must be responsible for that additional something that promotes a mere skinchanger to a one in thousand greenseer.
How can we be sure that kingsblood is a mark of fiery inheritance?
Viserys tells Daenerys that theirs is the “kingsblood,” the blood of Old Valyria, the blood of the dragon. Both Old Valyria and dragons are intensely connected to fire: Viserys is spelling out to Dany and us that theirs is a fiery inheritance, one which we can also view in terms of genetics.
From Melisandre we hear that this kingsblood has the power to wake dragons from stone. This is a twofold riddle, solved for us by Daenerys: it is her intrinsic fiery inheritance, her fiery blood of the dragon that is the key to waking her dragons – that and the raging fire of Drogo’s pyre of course. The Undying in Qarth lust after Dany’s “life fire,” her life force, attempting to suck up all that good stuff to prolong their own lives. That said, how could a fiery inheritance enable one to go beyond skinchanging and actually see through the eyes of the trees and how does Catelyn fit into this?
Well, first of all, light, also given off by fire, enables us to see. Melisandre and Thoros of Myr take this further by consulting the flames for visions of the future. Now consider the Myrish lens discussed as an analogy to Catelyn’s genetic inheritance above. As an instrument that affords sight at a distance, the lens utilizes the principles of light from that fiery ball in the heavens, sunlight that is refracted by the lens to converge into an image that appears closer than it really is. Bloodraven’s one red eye that glows like an ember in the darkness of the cave is of course an indication of his greenseeing powers. And just to tease you a little, I posit that greenseeing originated from the third elder race I term merlings or myrlings but you can read all about that in this essay.
That brings us back to Catelyn, a Tully from the Riverlands, her original home a castle standing on an island surrounded on by rivers on all sides. In that respect, Riverrun is reminiscent of Winterfell – island-like, enough food produce to last a long while. Catelyn has lots of links to fire – her auburn hair being the most obvious. Let’s not forget her mother Minisa Whent of Harrenhal on the shores of the Gods Eye and the fact that Harrenhal was drenched in dragon fire by Aegon the Conqueror. She also returns to life, rising from death after receiving Lord Beric’s fiery “lord’s kiss.” Lastly, Tully burial ritual commits the dead to both fire and water, the body being cremated prior to sinking beneath the waves with cremation otherwise only being practiced by Targaryens, the Dothraki (whom Dany is associated with) and the Wildlings (whom Jon is associated with) in the narrative.
With Bran poised to be an even more powerful greenseer than Bloodraven, we wonder what further component of inheritance the boy may possess. At the end of A Dance with Dragons, Bran sees through the eyes of the weirwood without skinchanging the tree: that’s very powerful and means he will not have to sacrifice himself to the tree. The blood component required by the tree does not seem to apply in this case. I’ve been pondering this and perhaps the answer can be found within the theme of sacrifice. Why would the “flesh eating demon tree” be appeased where Bran is concerned? Had Ned already fed enough blood to the tree through the cleaning of his sword anytime he carried out the king’s justice? Do the deaths of Ned, Robb and Catelyn count as a sacrifice or was Bran’s fall and crippling for life enough of a sacrifice to satisfy the consciousness of heart trees? Bran does in effect exchange his legs for being able to “fly,” the latter another way of expressing greenseeing? The winged wolf – the flying warg, the greenseer. Perhaps the wolf component is the deciding factor. Bloodraven is BloodRaven, his mother of Raventree Hall. We know next to nothing about his development as a skinchanger and greenseer but his nickname may indicate an affinity for birds as opposed to wolves. We suspect Bloodraven as the mind within Mormont’s Raven and recall that Bran has a lesson on skinchanging ravens in the cave, something he had never done before; indeed, he required a couple of tries to succeed. In this context, it’s interesting that Bran fails to skinchange an eagle flying on high and he fails to do this despite having already skinchanged Hodor, a supposedly more difficult feat to accomplish. The truth is probably a combination of all three proposals with the emphasis on the wolf-heritage as a key to remaining independent of the tree itself. Recall that though one can never tame wolf (independence), being bonded to one is like wedding a woman, or in analogy, perhaps like being wed to a tree, in effect, being tied to the tree without being physically attached to it.
At the end of the Dance of the Dragons, Cregan Stark, then Lord of Winterfell, served as Hand of the eleven-year-old Aegon III for a day. He presided over trials and executions regarding the murder of Aegon II. Previously, Cregan Stark had pledged his support to Rhaenyra’s faction, the blacks. The alliance, known as the Pact of Ice and Fire included the promise of a Targaryen princess in exchange for his support (Cregan never did get his Targaryen princess and though he had four children with his replacement Blackwood bride, none of these continued the Stark line). Perhaps marrying a Targaryen princess would have introduced that special fiery greenseeing component into Stark lineage much earlier? I think this tit-bit of information indicates the rarity of greenseers within Stark genealogy. My feeling is that once lost, the blood of the greenseer is just as difficult to recover as the blood of the dragon, also that while the Targaryens are famous for bonding with dragons, we can consider House Stark not only as a bloodline connected to direwolves, but one responsible for producing the occasional powerful greenseer, one that can access the Winterfell heart tree. I like to think of Winterfell as the place where winter is felled and from all we’ve seen so far, a special greenseer may be the difference between winning and losing the battle against the white walkers and their wight army – this is what we expect regarding Bran’s role in the story.
If only one man in a thousand is born a skinchanger and only one skinchanger in a thousand can be a greenseer, then this trait or combination of traits is extremely rare indeed. I hope I’ve been able to convince you of that Catelyn is the most likely source of both the wolf-blood and the greenseeing trait. Genetically, her inheritance includes one wolf-blood X gene and one greenseeing X gene.
Ned didn’t get to marry a Targaryen princess either but Catelyn Tully, kissed by fire, fulfills all the requirements. Together they give us Bran the greenseer as well as superbly talented wolf-blooded Arya.
That’s it for this analysis of Catelyn’s contribution to the Stark bloodline. Check out the previous essay for a complete breakdown of Stark inheritance and the genetic significance of blue winter roses to complete the picutre.
Check out Three Heads has the Dragon – The Elder Races for a fresh view on the symbolism of the three-headed dragon.