Brandon Stark’s Daughters
Could Dalla, queen to Mance Rayder, and her sister Val, the “wildling princess” be daughters of Ned’s late brother Brandon Stark? If so, they are of great importance to the narrative because in the event of an absence of suitable heirs to Winterfell, Val and baby Aemon can be seen as possible propagators of the Stark line through female inheritance.
George Martin has allowed for Brandon to have had illegitimate children. This is his response to a question put to him about Brandon Stark’s interest in women:
In A Dance with Dragons, we learn more about Brandon Stark and his interest in women, similar to Robert’s. Did Brandon have any bastards as well?
It’d be an exaggeration to say that Brandon died before he could have children. It’s established in the books that he was no virgin. He could very well have left behind some little Snows in the various places he visited. But what’s absolutely clear is that he had no legitimate children.
In response to another related question he stated that Brandon did not have sons:
There seem to be Lannisters and Freys under every rock, while the Starks are very scarce. Does Ned not have any distant relatives who could reclaim Winterfell?
….. (preamble) It’s true that in recent times, the Starks have become quite scarce. There’s not many of them in the present generations. Some may say it’s because Ned’s siblings died. Brandon died before he had sons, and Lyanna is also dead, and Benjen joined the Night’s Watch which means he doesn’t have descendants either.
The takeaway from this is that Brandon definitely had no legitimate children; he also had no sons, but there just might be an illegitimate daughter out there. Hidden Targaryens and Blackfyres are two a penny in fandom. Why not a hidden Stark? Val and Dalla are candidates that may fit the bill.
The Song of the Winter Rose / Bael the Bard
To begin with, we have another look at the Tale of Bael the Bard. This story is always related to Rhaegar’s abduction of Lyanna and the subsequent birth of Jon Snow but the story tells us so much more, giving us vital information on an unusual mode of succession that can be resorted to when male heirs to a House are scarce or worse, non-existent.
Bael was a bard who visited Winterfell and performed for a Lord of Winterfell (Brandon the Daughterless), asking for a rare and precious blue winter rose grown in the castle’s glass gardens in payment. The bard duly received his rose in return for the songs he sung. Come morning, both the bard and the lord’s daughter had vanished. On the girl’s pillow lay the pale blue rose that was the bard’s payment. Lord Stark was beside himself:
For most a year they searched, till the lord lost heart and took to his bed, and it seemed as though the line o’ Starks was at its end.
But one day his daughter turned up again. Apparently, the couple had been hiding in the crypts of Winterfell the whole time and after a year, the girl reappeared with a babe in arms. According to the story:
.. what’s certain is that Bael left the child in payment for the rose he’d plucked unasked, and that the boy grew to be the next Lord Stark.
Now, the important thing here is that by having a child with the Stark daughter, Bael the Bard, who later became king-beyond-the-wall, helped continue the Stark line. The Stark bloodline thus prevailed through the female line, through the daughter rather than through a son. This is what we shall call “bear ancestry,” a term coined by sweetsunray and explained by her post of the same name. It is an excellent piece of work. I highly recommend reading it.
There’s Always a Bear: Bear Ancestry
In a nutshell, sweetsunray shows how the Mormont warrior women use the idea of a bear-lover to keep their bloodline within a social, acceptable matrilineal context. By claiming a “totemic bear” as an ancestor, they prevent other houses from taking a female Mormont heir to wife with the intention of usurping the family seat and House. She highlights Asha Greyjoy, daughter of the murdered Balon as an example. Asha may be the last of Balon’s line able to continue House Greyjoy. Men in Stannis’s entourage are already sniffing around her and Asha knows these men are primarily interested in her seat and lands. Alysane Mormont presents Asha with a way to keep Pyke the seat of the Greyjoys: “bear ancestry.”
Reading sweetsunray’s essay proved a real eye-opener for me. Her analysis of the Mormont women claiming bear-lovers as fathers of their children also explains why a number of important main characters are associated with “bears,” in particular with Mormont “bears”, or with bear skins or are likened to bear cubs. The “song of the winter rose” or “tale of Bael the Bard” is a classic story of how “bear ancestry” contributed to the continuation of the Stark bloodline. As the “bear lover,” Bael fathers a child, a son who carries forth the Stark name.
GRRM highlights the issue of succession and the attempt to usurp Winterfell through the female line, through Sansa, in Sansa’s chapters. Sansa herself is described as a “bear cub” at one point in the story.
“I will be safe in Highgarden. Willas will keep me safe.”
“But he does not know you,” Dontos insisted, “and he will not love you. Jonquil, Jonquil, open your sweet eyes, these Tyrells care nothing for you. It’s your claim they mean to wed.”
“My claim?” She was lost for a moment.
“Sweetling,” he told her, “you are heir to Winterfell.” He grabbed her again, pleading that she must not do this thing, and Sansa wrenched free and left him swaying beneath the heart tree. She had not visited the godswood since.
But she had not forgotten his words, either. The heir to Winterfell, she would think as she lay abed at night. It’s your claim they mean to wed. Sansa had grown up with three brothers. She never thought to have a claim, but with Bran and Rickon dead . . . aSoS, Sansa II
Sansa hadn’t considered matters of succession when the Queen of Thorns proposed her grandson Willas as a husband. All Sansa saw was an opportunity to get as far away from King’s Landing and Joffery’s cruelties as possible, but Dontos has the right of it and when confronted with having to marry Tyrion, she knows that her claim to Winterfell is the real issue.
You are a ward of the crown. The king stands in your father’s place, since your brother is an attainted traitor. That means he has every right to dispose of your hand. You are to marry my brother Tyrion.”
My claim, she thought, sickened. Dontos the Fool was not so foolish after all; he had seen the truth of it. Sansa backed away from the queen. “I won’t.” I’m to marry Willas, I’m to be the lady of Highgarden, please . . .
aSoS, Sansa III
By the time Lysa proposes Sweetrobin as a husband, Sansa is fully aware that it is her claim to Winterfell that everyone is after.
Daenerys, last of the Targaryen line as far as she knows, will also have succession issues if she gets that far and we see she is accompanied by Jorah Mormont, her “bear”. Prior to that both Viserys and Dany were looked after by Willam Darry, whom Dany thinks of as her “dear Old Bear.” Like Asha, Daenerys could claim “bear ancestry” by bearing (pun intended) the child of a man she is not wed to in order to preserve Targaryen lineage.
Robb Stark had Dacey Mormont as a “bear.” Her dying with him at the Red Wedding tells us Robb has not left any heirs, male nor female and no claim to “bear ancestry.”
Jon Snow had the Old Bear, Lord Commander Mormont as his bear, representing both Houses Stark and Targaryen. Tyrion wears Benjen’s bearskin cloak for a while. Currently the lineages of both House Lannister (immediate family) and House Stark are perilously short of heirs and may have to resort to “bear ancestry.”
With House Stark being in a position similar to the situation during the time of Brandon the Daughterless, bear ancestry in central to the idea that Dalla and Val may be daughters of Brandon Stark. There are no suitable male heirs immediately at hand. Robb is dead, Bran will never father children, Benjen has been missing since aGoT and Davos has been charged with retrieving Rickon, a last hope but a tentative one at best. Sansa is still married to Tyrion and Littlefinger plans to marry her to Harry the Heir. In either case, whichever is enforced will end in a usurpation of House Stark. Arya has never seen herself as a wife and lady of a House and her career as an assassin does not indicate she will ever aspire to such.
fArya’s /Jeyne Poole’s marriage to Ramsay has temporarily achieved a usurpation of Winterfell, for Bolton has claimed the title of Lord of Winterfell, House Bolton of Winterfell. Centuries ago, Bael the Bard’s intervention allowed House Stark to continue. The legend does not inform us on the marital status of the Stark daughter and if the son was illegitimate, it did not matter because he continued the line. The point is, the Starks prevailed through the female line before reverting back to the male line. Having made the point about “bear ancestry,” let us look at the evidence for Dalla and Val being Brandon Stark’s daughters and as such possible propagators of the Stark line through female inheritance.
The Dornishman’s Wife and the Northman’s Daughter
When Jon is first taken to Mance Rayder’s tent, he has no idea who the king-beyond-the-wall is. Mance Rayder turns out to be the grey-haired man in a tattered cloak of black and red, playing a lute and singing “the Dornishman’s wife.”
The Dornishman’s wife was as fair as the sun,
her kisses were warmer than spring.
But the Dornishman’s blade was made of black steel,
and its kiss was a terrible thing […]
aSoS, Jon I
We are treated to the entire song and nobody pays any attention to Jon until it’s over. Jon knows the song but thinks it odd to hear it in a tent beyond the Wall, so many leagues from Dorne. Seems like it’s of importance to the story. The reader is supposed to remember it.
As it turns out, the singer is also the king-beyond-the-wall and he recognizes Ned Stark’s bastard, the “Snow of Winterfell.” Jon then learns who the others are, including Dalla and Val.
“The good woman at the brazier,” Mance Rayder went on, “is Dalla.” The pregnant woman smiled shyly. “Treat her like you would any queen, she is carrying my child.” He turned to the last two. “This beauty is her sister Val. Young Jarl beside her is her latest pet.” aSoS, Jon I
Mance refers to Jon as the “Snow of Winterfell.” He’s the only one to use this alias and perhaps the first clue to other “Snows of Winterfell” he is personally aware of. Right after revealing he is aware of Jon’s identity, Mance asks Jon if he liked the song, repeating two lines of the lyrics:
“How did you like the song, lad?” “Well enough. I’d heard it before.” “But what does it matter, for all men must die,” the King-beyond-the-Wall said lightly, “and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife. aSoS, Jon I
The bolded text above is italicized in Jon’s chapter for emphasis, as if Mance’s savouring of these couple of lines holds further meaning. I would translate “for all men must die” as the fact that Brandon is dead. “I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife“. Well, maybe not the Dornishman’s wife, but Mance has certainly tasted a Northman’s daughter (Dalla).
The reader is introduced to “the Northman’s daughter” much further down the line, in aDwD, The Turncloak. Mance is in Winterfell amid the Bolton / Frey host in the guise of Abel the Bard, together with six wildling spearwives posing as musicians and washerwomen. The plan is to rescue fArya (Jeyne Poole) and return her to Jon at the Wall. As most readers are aware of, the rescue of fArya scenario, the stealing of a maid of Winterfell, is very reminiscent of the tale of Bael the Bard or “the song of the winter rose” as Ygritte titled the story.
One evening after the wedding Ramsay asks for a song and Abel launches into “the Dornishman’s wife” but replaces “Dornishman’s wife” with “Northman’s daughter:”
He (Theon) was still waiting for his porridge when Ramsay swept into the hall with his Bastard’s Boys, shouting for music. Abel rubbed the sleep from his eyes, took up his lute, and launched into “The Dornishman’s Wife,” whilst one of his washerwomen beat time on her drum.
The singer changed the words, though. Instead of tasting a Dornishman’s wife, he sang of tasting a northman’s daughter. He could lose his tongue for that, Theon thought, as his bowl was being filled. He is only a singer. Lord Ramsay could flay the skin off both his hands, and no one would say a word. aDwD, The Turncloak
On the surface, the reader interprets the switch in lyrics as alluding to Ramsay taking a fake daughter of Winterfell to bride, making mockery of Ramsay’s claim to the title of Lord of Winterfell. Theon too assumes this but Ramsay laughs it off.
Changing the words of the song to the Northman’s daughter takes on a completely new meaning as well as having huge implications regarding the future of House Stark if viewed in the context of Ygritte’s account of “the song of the winter rose,” with Abel/Mance in the role of Bael, Dalla the “stolen” daughter of Brandon, and little baby Aemon Steelsong, currently in Gilly’s and Sam’s care, as a potential and trueborn heir to Winterfell. And there is Val as another option. The so called wildling princess is seen as a potential bride to a legitimized Jon Snow by Stannis. The King would make Jon Lord of Winterfell and taking Val to bride is part of the price Jon would have to pay for the title. One wonders if Stannis is aware of Dalla’s and Val’s origins but that is a question I cannot answer.
Is there proof that Dalla and Val are daughters of Brandon, brother to Ned Stark? There is nothing conclusive, only hints and connections. Mance says he met Dalla during his journey back to the north after having visited Winterfell. We are not told if their meeting occurred south or north of the Wall, though the south appears more likely. Dalla and Val appear more cultured and educated than the other Freefolk. They certainly don’t speak in the same manner. That both girls were stolen by wildlings during late childhood is also possible though. As Ygritte informs Jon, the freefolk steal daughters, not wives.
The reader learns about Brandon’s “interest in women” through Barbery Dustin’s conversation with Theon in the crypts in the same chapter that Mance in the role of Abel sings the Northman’s daughter version of the song. Lady Dustin talks frankly about her affair with Brandon and how she hoped to marry him. Brandon obviously had no qualms over deflowering a highborn maiden. That he had other women and fathered illegitimate daughters is not only entirely possible, it’s also been left open by GRRM himself.
There’s not much to go on in terms of looks. Brandon had grey eyes while Val is first described as having pale grey eyes that later appear blue to Jon. There are a couple of interesting connections though; this is when Val returns from the mission to find Tormund to bring him Jon’s message:
Ghost was gone, though. Jon peeled off one black glove, put two fingers in his mouth, and whistled. “Ghost! To me.” From above came the sudden sound of wings. Mormont’s raven flapped from a limb of an old oak to perch upon Jon’s saddle. “Corn,” it cried. “Corn, corn, corn.” “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. “Why not? If every woman had a direwolf, men would be much sweeter. Even crows.” aDwD
Ghost takes off, obviously to meet Val. Meanwhile Mormont’s raven flies down from a tree onto Jon’s saddle muttering “Snow” and bobbing its head knowingly. It wouldn’t be the first time the Raven addresses Jon as “Snow” but bobbing its head knowingly could imply the bird is referring to Val and not to Jon. Born in the north as a bastard, Val would be a Snow. Val’s attire and even her breath, all in white, emphasizes the Snow aspect. The wildling princess also wears a bearskin cloak which links her to “bear ancestry” as explained above. Her clothing was given to her by Dalla, suggesting Dalla too is a part of the “bear ancestry” analogy.
When Val appears with Ghost, they look as though they belong together. Now this is significant because we know definitely that Brandon had the “wolfblood” which accounted for his temperament and may have facilitated his bonding with a direwolf, had he possessed one. Val is no less fearless and temperamental. She carries a bone knife, tries to escape thrice and the guards are wary of her. She found Tormund beyond the Wall where seasoned rangers of the Watch failed. Jon thinks of her as a warrior princess and like Brandon, she is a born horse rider:
Val looked the part and rode as if she had been born on horseback. A warrior princess, he decided, not some willowy creature who sits up in a tower, brushing her hair and waiting for some knight to rescue her.
Then there is the issue of Mance’s helm which suspiciously sounds like a pseudo crown of winter:
Beneath his slashed cloak of black wool and red silk he wore black ringmail and shaggy fur breeches, and on his head was a great bronze-and-iron helm with raven wings at either temple.
This is Robb’s newly forged crown for comparison:
Of gold and silver and gemstones, it had none; bronze and iron were the metals of winter, dark and strong to fight against the cold.
Mance Rayder wore no crown and perhaps his bronze- and-iron helm are simply a reflection of the metals that are “dark and strong to fight against the cold.” Bronze and iron are obviously very important to the North for Jojen and Meera swear by these two metals when they renew their oath to Winterfell. Val is given a dark bronze circlet to wear, a crown that can be seen as the partner to the bronze and iron crown of the Kings of Winter. The lesser bronze- and-iron helm could however also denote Mance’s lesser status as a “bear husband” to Dalla, with her as a daughter of Winterfell being the real Queen through which Stark lineage can continue, prevailing of course through baby Aemon Steelsong.
Why GRRM chooses to present Val to us as a princess is a fair question. We know why Stannis and his entourage think so, but why does the author choose to do so? The Starks stem from a very ancient unbroken line of Kings. The North was never conquered by the Andals and as such there was hardly any intermarriage beyond the blood of the First Men. This goes for the Starks too. If any House in Westeros can claim Kingsblood, they can, more so than the Targaryens. The fact that Torrhen Stark bent the knee to Aegon I does not change their blood heritage. This is especially so for any child of Brandon’s line as opposed to Ned who married Catelyn Tully. With Robb’s revival of northern kingship, Val and Dalla can be seen as true princesses if they really are Brandon’s daughters. Little baby Aemon is then a true prince as well.
Hints connecting Val to the Starks and to Winterfell
Val’s “pet” Jarl is killed when he falls as the wildling troupe Jon is a part of scale the Wall. This mirrors Bran’s falling from the tower of the First Keep in more ways than one, specifically Val’s uncertainty as to whether Jon killed Jarl or not in relation to Catylin’s suspicions regarding Bran having being deliberately thrown from the tower. Like Catelyn who embarks on an investigation into Bran’s killer, Val asks Jon if he killed Jarl:
“Before I go, one question. Did you kill Jarl, my lord?” “The Wall killed Jarl.” “So I’d heard. But I had to be sure.” “You have my word. I did not kill him.”
Together with provisions, Val is given a horse that is blind in one eye to ride for her mission to carry a message from Jon to Tormund beyond the Wall. This is a veiled parallel to Bran who is currently in a cave with a one-eyed greenseer beyond the Wall, a greenseer who compares skinchanging to riding.
Note that these two parallels involve Bran, Brandon Stark’s namesake.
During the burning of “Mance,” Val is described as standing as still as if she had been carved of salt.
Val stood on the platform as still as if she had been carved of salt.
In line with the theory, we can see Val in relation to a reference to the biblical Lot’s wife who turned to see Sodom’s destruction and was turned into a pillar of salt, the connection being the burning of Winterfell by Ramsay Bolton.
So what of Dalla?
Dalla died in childbirth before we could really get to know her. And it is the scene during her labour that gives food for thought. The author places Jon Snow, Dalla, Val and Varamyr together in a tent. Jon is bonded to his direwolf Ghost and has seen through his eyes. Val and Ghost have an affinity for each other and Varamyr is a powerful warg and skinchanger. Dalla struggles in her birthing bed while Varamyr freaks out on account of Melisandre’s attack on the eagle he was warging, causing him to lose three of his “six skins,” retaining only his supernatural connection to his three wolves. Is GRRM alluding to the occupants of the tent being wargs? Dalla died. Could Varamyr’s three wolves be referencing Jon, Val and the baby boy? The genders fit; Varamyr had two male wolves and one female and we can relate this to Jon’s observation when the direwolf pups were found:
“Lord Stark,” Jon said. It was strange to hear him call Father that, so formal. Bran looked at him with desperate hope. “There are five pups,” he told Father. “Three male, two female.” “What of it, Jon?” “You have five trueborn children,” Jon said. “Three sons, two daughters. The direwolf is the sigil of your House. Your children were meant to have these pups, my lord.” aGoT, Bran I
There is not much to go on regarding Dalla’s connection to Brandon. There was however a woman named Dalla, a servant at Dragonstone who is briefly mentioned in the prologue to aCoK. This is where we also first meet Ser Davos who with his ethics and honor is reminiscent of Ned Stark. Davos had a son named Allard who died during the Battle of the Blackwater and I suspect there is wordplay on Dalla and Allard going on. As it happens, Allard is quite close to Brandon in personality:
- Davos thinks of Allard as being especially rash.
- Davos does not want Allard to meddle in affairs that do not concern him
- He did not know how to talk to lords (reminds of Brandon rushing to the Red Keep demanding Rhaegar to come out and die)
- He was a good fighter
- Allard was happy to be in the most dangerous starboard wing position at the start of the Battle of the Blackwater
- His ship was the Lady Marya (take the M away and you’re left with Arya / Lyanna)
- Allard loved women. He had a girl in Oldtown, King’s Landing and Braavos.
No proof but possibly significant to Dalla’s identity. This isn’t a secret that GRRM wants to reveal too soon.
The significance of “the pink letter,” Ramsay’s letter to Jon Snow
Lastly, there is the matter of “the pink letter.” I am well aware of the theory refuting Ramsay as the author of the letter but what if he did write it? Mance’s and the spearwives’ involvement in Theon’s and fArya’s escape would surely be known in Winterfell. Two spearwives, Holly and Frenya, accompanied the escapees. Frenya was held up fighting half a dozen guards after Jeyne screamed. Holly was hit, slipping from a merlon, falling down into the snow. These two may not have survived but what of the rest? Unless Mance found a way out of the castle they would have been rounded up and captured. And if they had known of a secret way out, why not use that safer route for the escape?
We can only speculate, but Ramsay demanding the wildling princess and the wildling babe should give us reason to pause. If the spearwives knew about Dalla’s and Val’s origins and had the truth tortured and flayed out of them, then Val’s and baby Aemon’s significance would be clear to Ramsay. They would pose a great threat to the Bolton’s usurpation of House Stark. Ramsay would have every reason to lay hands on them. fAyra would no longer be suitable as an heiress to Winterfell even if she were genuine.
Brandon was older than Ned. In this situation of a lack of suitable heirs, one could resort to his line, certainly the northern houses loyal to House Stark would jump at this chance to oust the Boltons. Baby Aemon would be the key to reclaiming House Stark. There is the matter of proof of course but Ramsay wouldn’t want it to come to that if he can help it. His best option is to round up all those who might be aware of the existence of potential heirs including those close to Stannis still at the Wall, hence his demands for Selyse, Shireen and Melisandre in addition to the rest.
Who are Val’s and Dalla’s mothers?
If Brandon Stark fathered Val and Dalla, who could their mother(s) be? The two women refer to each other as sisters but they could just as well be half-sisters. Their maternal line is also important to the burden of proof. If Val ever claims to be a daughter of Brandon or Dalla’s and baby Aemon’s relation to Brandon Stark needs to be proven, their maternal families could play a vital role in demonstrating the truth.
One important clue suggests both women might hail from south of the Wall.
Ornamenting Val’s outfit is a brooch carved with a weirwood face, used as a clasp to hold her bearskin cloak. Could this be a reference to a house sigil, or Val’s personal sigil? Elsewhere we read that heraldry ends at the Wall. The various Freefolk clans use no banners nor sigils of any kind. When the new Magnar of Thenn marries Alys Karstark, the stewards improvise to create new heraldry for him. Some wildlings do give up silver brooches set with gemstones but these items are more likely to be plunder acquired from raids rather than home-grown heraldry. Remember the Freefolk do not do any smithing and are reliant on weapons they take from slain black brothers of the Night’s Watch, or whatever they can pillage when raiding south of the Wall.
If Val’s carved weirwood-face brooch is her personal sigil, then it bears resemblance to the pins worn by people south of the Wall. Bran wears a silver wolf’s head clasp to hold his cloak together. The Blackfish uses a a shiny black fish, wrought in gold and obsidian, Lord Manderly pins his ermine mantle with a golden trident, Lord Blacktyde with a silver seven-pointed-star. Bran notices a pin on the Liddle that shares their cave during the children’s earlier journey towards the Wall:
Bran figured him for a Liddle. The clasp that fastened his squirrelskin cloak was gold and bronze and wrought in the shape of a pinecone, and the Liddles bore pinecones on the white half of their green-and-white shields. aSoS, Bran II
The Liddle stems from the Mountain Clans of the North, a likely region for Brandon to have visited, being just north of the wolfswood where the Starks hunt game. The mountain clans thus seem a good place to examine in terms of any relations to Val and Dalla.
This is a shortlist of possible candidates:
The Liddles, the Norreys, the Flints and the Wulls.
Old Flint and the Norrey come to the Wall with two wet-nurses for Dalla’s baby to replace Gilly who left for Oldtown with Sam. They would not know that the wet-nurses will actually be feeding Gilly’s baby, Craster’s son. Jon did send for a wet nurse so perhaps the two older men were just heeding his appeal. But then again, if any of the two, or both are related to Dalla and or Val, they would have an interest in seeing the baby.
Old Flint is notable because Arya Flint, great-grandmother to the current Stark kids and said by Old Nan to have had the wolf-blood, comes from that clan. Val originating from that clan could also explain her “wolf-blood” characteristics.
The Norrey is non-descript, except for his name. Both the elder Norrey and his heir are named Brandon, his heir referred to as Brandon the Younger. Brandon the Younger could have been named after Brandon Stark to acknowledge his fathering a daughter of their House.
The Liddles appear to be able to keep a secret. The Liddle that Bran and the children meet in the cave knew who Bran was, also that he was supposedly dead. If the Liddle kept this secret for so long, he might also never have revealed Val or Dalla’s heritage if one or both were daughters of Brandon born to a woman of his House. Big Liddle is a man of the Night’s Watch who features in Jon’s chapters. He is part of the honor guard that sees the wildlings through the Wall and, significantly in my opinion, he removes two girls disguised as boys from the hostages Jon asked for.
Hugo Wull, also known as Big Bucket Wull is a passionate supporter of Ned and House Stark. The Wull is currently in Stannis’s entourage and prefers to fight and die for Ned’s little girl rather than die alone hungry in the snow. And perhaps a fun clue alluding to Dalla’s pregnancy: he’s said to have the biggest belly in the northern mountains.
I tend to take these “fun clues” seriously. Just recently reading over a couple of early chapters in aGoT, I came across this:
“The Lannisters are proud,” Jon observed. “You’d think the royal sigil would be sufficient, but no. He makes his mother’s House equal in honor to the king’s.” “The woman is important too!” Arya protested. Jon chuckled. “Perhaps you should do the same thing, little sister. Wed Tully to Stark in your arms.” “A wolf with a fish in its mouth?” It made her laugh. “That would look silly. aGoT, Arya I
“A wolf with a fish in its mouth?” Well, this is exactly what happened when Arya’s direwolf Nymeria pulled Catelyn’s rotting corpse from the Trident in her mouth! The silver trout is the sigil of House Tully and the Ghost of High Heart’s dreams about “a woman that was a fish,” a reference to Catelyn.
So yes, I can only make assumptions on Dalla’s and Val’s maternal lines and I take care not to disregard any hints, however silly they may seem at present.
Barring any further clues at the moment, my choice for Dalla and Val’s maternal lines would be the Wulls and the Liddles of the mountain clans of the North.
As Arya points out: “The woman is important too!” House Stark being ultimately able to resort to baby Aemon as heir to Winterfell through “bear ancestry” lends meaning to the Northman’s daughter, hope for the future of House Stark, honor to Brandon who died trying to defend his sister and would move the story forward in an unexpected way.
Ned once said “it was all meant for Brandon.” Perhaps it is.
Featured Image: (deviantart.com) Wildling Women by ZoombieGrrll
Val the Wildling Princess by DaenatheDefiant on deviantart.com