“YOUR BLOOD MAKES YOU A GREENSEER”
Is the male branch of Stark lineage soley responsible for the current Stark children’s magical traits? According to Bloodraven, warging, skinchanging and greenseeing “is in the blood”, implying a heritable trait. From him we learn this mojo 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, no direwolf had been seen south of the Wall for two hundred years.
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? If so, by what means did it return to the bloodline? Catelyn seems a good bet so let’s get into the subject matter.
I propose Catelyn has both the wolf blood trait and the blood trait responsible for greenseeing. Catelyn is the strongest candidate for both.
Perhaps we should not be surprised that it is Catelyn who introduces us to the Winterfell godswood, describing it in detail, including the weirwood heart tree. Catelyn rather than Ned 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 wolf 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. aGoT, Catelyn I
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 trees watching in this scene, she appears to associate the weirwood in its primeval surroundings with those feared dark things beyond the Wall.
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. This suggests a much higher concentration of the trait in the isolated territory 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 more of their ancient First Men heritage than the rest of the population of Westeros and this 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 trait into their bloodline. The only way of securing or refreshing this trait is by marrying suitably endowed women. Hints include the Starks marrying daughters of wargs (such as the daughters of the Warg King) after conquest, as well as generally choosing partners of ancient First Men blood from the North. George Martin also speaks of Stark wives as “wolf-women”, comments on them in an SSM, and planed to release a book about them. There’s no doubt they are important to Stark lineage and to securing future generations of wargs.
We find further clues to the female origin of these genes in Varamyr’s POV. 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 kids show signs of warging. Why hasn’t he passed on this gift to any of his sons? I’ve always argued that the trait is carried by and passed on predominantly by women. In terms of genetics, the associated gene would thus be located on the X-chromosome. Passing on the gene to his sons would be impossible because males only passes on the male Y-chromosome to a son. Any sons of Varamyr 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. Since he definitely passed on his X-chromosone to female offspring, he could have produced carrier-daughters, and had he married the latter as Craster did, he would have stood a better chance of bearing sons with the gift. This idea is supported by what we know of Stark lineage: Old Nan suggests it was Bran’s great-grandmother’s blood that made him such a fool for climbing. She was a Flint of the Mountain Clans and considering that Bran’s hobby is a really risky one, it’s possible her blood is none other than the “wolf blood.” Bran did not receive his wolf blood from his great-grandmother Arya Flint though. Old Nan’s mention is only a hint for us.
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 and dutiful; 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 could be attributed to Catelyn. Catelyn does not hail from beyond the Wall however, she isn’t from the North either and 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.
Similarities between Catelyn and the Weirwood
When Brandon dies, Ned marries Catelyn in his place and significantly, Catelyn brings forth 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 should set us thinking. Is that all she contributes or does she also revive the magical inheritance of the Starks? 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, red hair occurs 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 sought after 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.
As a redhead, Catelyn 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 the Ironborn belief in a “demon tree” that feeds on human flesh: he lives in symbiosis with the weirwood he is bound to, the tree slowly consuming his flesh while affording him a glimpse into its recorded memories.
Catelyn introduces us to the godswood and heart tree right after Ned beheads the Night’s Watch deserter. We witness him cleaning the blood off his greatsword Ice beneath the heart tree, evoking the idea of a blood sacrifice, or of a blood-drinking tree. 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, 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 (…). aSoS, Catelyn VII
Like 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. aSoS, Catelyn VII
Catelyn’s face can be compared to a weirwood’s carved face. She carves up her own face and cries tears of blood, note the colour-coding too – white and red. Catelyn draws our attention to her auburn hair and the chapter ends with her death, her throat cut by a blade, in context reminding us of sacrifices to a weirwood tree. This line of circumstantial evidence provides us with first clues to a possible connection between Catelyn, weirwoods, and Bran’s greenseeing ability.
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.
Reddish beaten copper and sun-hammered blue evoke Catelyn’s distinguishing features – her auburn hair and blue eyes. In a conversation with Brienne, Catelyn’s description of Sansa’s auburn hair mirrors that of the Gods Eye:
I would often brush her hair myself. She had auburn hair, thick and soft … the red in it would shine like copper in the light of the torches.”
As it happens, Catelyn is connected to the all-seeing Isle of Faces and the Gods Eye through Harrenhal. The 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 which might be indicators of magical inheritance. Did part of this legacy come from their mother Minisa?
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 through which a greenseer may peer into the past. A red eye. This is a parallel to one-eyed greenseer Bloodraven whose single eye glows like a red ember. Being an albino, Bloodraven was born with red eyes. One-Eyed Yna of Braavos is another one-eyed person capable of prophecy in the books. “One Eye,” particularly a red one, may thus hint at magically seeing the past or future in general or at greenseeing. Note that Melisandre, another character capable of seeing visions, also has red eyes.
Reference to Edmure’s “one-eyed fish” at the Red Wedding – think again of one-eyed Bloodraven, – as well as Bloodraven suggesting the Blackfish, Brnyden Tully (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 lineage 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. With “one-eye” linking to magical abilities – skinchanging, greenseeing and prophecy, 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?” According to Bloodraven, the green and red-eyed children of the forest with the gift of greenseeing are “not robust” and usually do not live long unless tied to a weirwood. The name Roslin has its root in roses, perhaps linkting to blue winter roses?
Lastly, Lysa’s son Sweetrobin also shows signs of magical ability. Hearing the presumed dead Marillion singing in the night at the Eyrie is our most prominent hint. No weirwood grows in the stony soil at the Eyrie but little Robert does have a weirwood throne for a seat. Like Bran, he is associated with “flying.” He is also a sickly child, thus 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?
Catelyn’s Greenseeing Trait
The Myrish Lens
This scene where Maester Luwin delivers a secret message from Lysa Tully to Lord and Lady Stark is my favourite piece of evidence for Catelyn as the originator of her children’s magical abilities:
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.” aGoT, Catelyn II
A Myrish lens is basically a single-tubed binoculars, 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. The Myrish lens is also a rare, fragile and an expensive gadget, available only to those who can afford it – as fragile as the green or red-eyed children of the forest with the gift, or as rare as 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?”
aGoT, Catelyn II
This myrish lens with its message is marked for the eyes of Cat alone. Note the emphasis on seeing, the eyes and on Cat, (also reminiscent of cat-eyes and the CotF). Luwin 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.
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.” aGoT, Catelyn II
The true message may stand for the truth recorded by weirwoods. The “private language” may be a reference to the unique connection between a weirwood and greenseer or the whisperings of the leaves of a weirwood that only insiders can understand. Perhaps this language also implies that only a Stark is able to see through the Winterfell weirwood. 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.
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.
aGoT, Catelyn II
Lighting a fire to stave off the cold is something one has to do up north beyond the Wall to keep off wights in particular. In the context of this analysis, I see Catelyn lighting a fire as a metaphor for injecting a measure of fire-magic, or “hot blood” into Stark lineage.
Lighting a Fire to See
Light, a by-product of fire, enables us to see. Melisandre and Thoros of Myr consult the flames for visions of the future. Isn’t it interesting that there’s a Myrish connection between the seeing Myrish eye and Thoros of Myr? I tend to view fire magic as a prerequisite to prophecy because many methods of discerning the future are related to fire magic. Mentioned above is Bloodraven’s red eye and Targaryen heritage. There is also Daenys the Dreamer of Targaryen fire heritage predicting the Doom of Valyria and the Ghost of High Heart, another prophetic dreamer with eyes like hot coals.
Now consider the Myrish lens discussed as an analogy to Catelyn’s genetic heritage above. As an instrument that allows one to be able to see at a distance, the lens utilizes the principles of light. Sunlight 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 his symbolic Myrish eye that peers through the weirwood. Catelyn of course is a redhead, “kissed by fire.”
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. aGoT, Catelyn II
Winterfell is built over geothermal hot-spots that keep it warm. Together with the glass gardens the castle is a veritable oasis of survival, especially during harsh winters. The castle itself benefits from natural hot springs. In this naturally warm environment, it’s significant that Catelyn’s chambers are the hottest, so warm she hardly needs to light a fire. The scalding waters flowing through the walls like blood coursing through a man’s veins allude to Catelyn’s “not blood.”
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.
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. aGoT, Catelyn II
Starks made for the cold implies they generally lack a fiery trait. When fire does enter the bloodline, it’s acquired from outside and built in, like the pipework that transports scalding waters through the castle. Ned’s face has been described as “frozen,” he thinks of a “frozen hell” reserved for Starks. Catelyn certainly appears to have “heat in her veins.”
The citations stress several things that single Catelyn out as “different.”
- the Myrish eye in the wooden box were meant for Catelyn’s eyes alone
- she understands a secret language only she and her sister share
- her room is the hottest in Winterfell
- like Daenerys, she tolerates hot steamy baths
- Ned cannot abide the heat, the Starks were made for the cold
Tully burial custom commits the deceased to both fire and water, the body being at least partially cremated prior to sinking beneath the waters. Cremation is otherwise only practiced by Targaryens, the Dothraki and the Freefolk beyond the Wall.
Lastly, Catelyn is raised from death to become Lady Stoneheart by Beric Dondarrion who performs the “last kiss” on her, a ritual connected to fire magic.
Catelyn’s red hair that marks her as one “kissed by fire” is only one of a set of clues suggesting she possesses magical traits. So far the evidence suggests Catelyn is also connected weirwoods, greenseeing and prophecy associated with fire magic. The next section looks at the possiblity that Catelyn might possess wolf blood.
Catelyn’s contribution to Stark lineage: Wolf blood
Meera’s Knight of the Laughing Tree story provides some markers for 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. Lyanna the she-wolf also had wolf blood. Can we assume that Ned, as a quiet wolf, has no wolf-blood? Ned Stark does not exhibit any of the characteristics associated with wolf blood. He is level-headed, controlled, not particularly temperamental and not prone to rash behaviour. In a conversation with Arya, he recalls Lyanna’s and Brandon’s wolf blood but does not assign the attribute to himself or to Benjen. Is wolf blood equivalent to the trait that confers the ability to warg?
If Ned was not born with the wolf blood, where did his trueborn children acquire it? Arya has it and so does Bran, according to Old Nan. Rickon is also quite wild. Could he have the wolf blood? It’s easy to place Jon’s warging ability if it comes from “wolf blood.” Lyanna was his mother and she is confirmed to have had the trait. So the question is, from whom have Arya, Bran and possibly the rest of Ned’s children inherited the wolf blood? The answer can only be Catelyn.
However, unlike Lyanna and Arya, Catelyn’s behaviour shows no clear signs of a wolf blood inheritance. If she indeed has the wolf-blood trait, 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 nature 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. Recall 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 self-control, remaining level-headed, maintaining personal discipline, adhering to duty – that’s what kept 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 arresting Tyrion for on a charge of attempted murder without proof, releasing Jamie to secure her daughters or threatening to kill and actually killing Jinglebell to save Robb’s life.
Like Sansa who lost Lady, Catelyn never had a direwolf to bond with and this is an important factor because it appears that bonding with a personal direwolf 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. aGoT, Sansa I
Because of her wolf blood, Arya 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 parted from her wolf!
Mastering the Inner Wolf
Catelyn never had a wolf to build a relationship with, or to influence her own character development. 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 prior to being plunged into the events that shook the very foundations of her family, Catelyn is successful most of the time. She was 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 did not allow his daughter Lyanna to practice with a sword or to learn swordmanship. She was gender non-conformist and like Arya who practiced with Mycah, she found a way to develop her natural instincts. By doing so, she disobeyed her father and fed her own wolf-nature. She rode like a northman, was willful, did her own thing. Like Arya, she lived out the wild side of her personality. Efforts to turn her into a lady must have been challenging. Compounding that, she did not have a female role model, a mother, to emulate. 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. She probably 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.
As Varamyr’s mentor and teacher, 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!
Catelyn’s bonding process
Though Catelyn never objected to her children having the wolf-pups, she couldn’t stand the howling of the direwolves during Bran’s comatose period, demanding the windows be closed to the noise. Her attitude changed drastically after the catspaw’s attack on Bran, after which she recognized them as protectors of her children.
During the attempt on her son’s life, Catelyn’s protective instincts rose to the occasion; she was as fierce as a wolf, even grabbing the assassin’s knife, thereby slashing her own hand, doing all she could to prevent her child being murdered. At the end of the drama, Summer licked all the blood off Catelyn’s slashed hand, 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. aGoT, Catelyn III
If Catelyn had any doubts about the wolves before, this incident certainly changed her mind.
Significantly, even though she never had a personal bonded wolf, Grey Wind also paid 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 (Robb) 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. aGoT, Catelyn VIII
Note how Grey Wind honors her by coming over first to sniff her hand. Catelyn is so convinced of the direwolves worth that she gets upset when Robb begins to sideline Grey Wolf because the Westerlings are afraid of the wolf.
Bloodraven informs us that skinchanging is a prerequisite to greenseeing:
“Only one man in a thousand is born a skinchanger,” Lord Brynden said one day, after Bran had learned to fly, “and only one skinchanger in a thousand can be a greenseer.” aDwD, Bran III
The two traits coming together, skinchanging and greenseeing, is exceedingly rare. The evidence provided by the Myrish eye suggests a fire magic component may be essential to greenseeing and I suspect that wolf blood provides this fiery ingredient. Why? Because it is associated with temperamental “fiery” qualities.
Wargs are also different from other skinchangers. Haggon specifically instructs Varamyr on this:
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.” aDwD, Prologue
It is suggested that the bond between human and wolf is permanent, nothing can break it. This is also demonstrated in Varamyr’s chapter where we find out his wolves are still bonded to him while he loses his bear and shadowcat after Melisandre kills Orell’s eagle. Perhaps this special kind of bonding is immune to Melisandre’s spiritual fire cleansing because it is itself intrinsically a fire trait. Perhaps it also allows for Bran to be able to see through the tree independently of being tied to and consumed as Bloodraven is. Haggon’s words: “no man could truly tame a wolf” implies the wolf always remains independent within and in the context of bonding – independence from physical bonding to the tree.
Haggon also warns Varamyr of skinchanging other animals, especially birds:
“Some skins you never want to wear, boy. You won’t like what you’d become.”
Is this also a nod at Bloodraven, noted for skinchanging ravens in particular? Becoming like Bloodraven, essentially a corpse living in symbiosis with a tree, is not what anyone wants to become.
Haggon continues his rant against other skinchangers:
Birds were the worst, to hear him tell it. “Men were not meant to leave the earth. Spend too much time in the clouds and you never want to come back down again. I know skinchangers who’ve tried hawks, owls, ravens. Even in their own skins, they sit moony, staring up at the bloody blue.” aDwD, Prologue
Lysa could have traits similar to Catelyn’s. As mentioned above, Sweetrobin shows signs of possessing powers similar to Bran’s. But there is a difference. I doubt Sweetrobin inherited the wolf blood. Like Bloodraven, he is particularly associated with birds. He loves tales of the Winged Knight and loves to see people “fly” out the Moon Door. His house sigil contains a falcon and he is surrounded by symbolic “birds” – Sansa, the “little bird” and Littlefinger, the “mocking bird.”
Notice how Haggon’s phrasing alludes to the Eyrie. The Eyrie is up in the clouds, where Sweetrobin spends most of his time. Haggon also references the moon. “Staring up at the bloody blue” sounds suspiciously like the “blue calling” those damned to the sky cells.
Without DNA-testing, it’s not always easy to determine which traits a child inherits from which parent but I am inclined to go with Catelyn as the source of most of her children’s magical inheritance. There are hints pointing to Catelyn’s mother, Minisa Whent as the origin for the wolf blood trait. The Tourney at Harrenhal took off with Lord Walter Whent’s fair daughter as the reigning queen of love and beauty. At the end of it, Rhaegar bestowed the crown upon Lyanna (who we know had wolf blood). The crown passing from one wolf-blooded queen of love and beauty to another?
My guess is the greenseeing inheritance stems from Hoster Tully who several times commented on Robb having inherited his blue eyes. His mentioning this so often before his death implies Hoster had blue eyes but his wife Minisa didn’t. Catelyn then inherited those blue eyes from Hoster and four of Catelyn’s children inherit the color from her. It’s possible that the trait connected to Tully blue eyes is more likely to manifest in men rather than women and that it is stronger in some, as evidenced by Bran. How it might have manifested in Robb or might show itself in Rickon is open to speculation.
My feeling is that once lost, the blood of the greenseer is just as difficult to recover as the blood of the dragon. While Targaryens are famous for bonding with dragons, we can consider House Stark not only as a bloodline connected to direwolves, but one that produces the occasional powerful greenseer. Perhaps only a Stark greenseer can access the Winterfell heart tree. My analysis also suggests that warging and greenseeing are based on two different traits that do not always come together. When they do, it is a rare occurence indeed. Wolf blood may be part of the fiery component that allows for prophecy based on fire magic. It’s thus interesting that Melisandre and Ghost appear to have an affinity for each other.
No more dragons hatched for the Targaryens after the Dance of the Dragons. Aegon III Dragonbane was indeed a “dragonbane,” most likely a Targaryen without the “blood of the dragon,” or missing a vital component to that heritage. No amount of incest can bring back a trait if it is lost. Marriages to women of House Dayne and House Blackwood are likely sources for a return of the “blood” to the Targaryen line with following incestous marriages bringing together and concentrating to rejuvenate the blood of the dragon in Rhaegar and Daenerys. Catelyn Tully serves the same purpose for the Starks. It is she who injects components vital to magical Stark lineage back into the bloodline – warging and greenseeing, as this bit of detective work hypothesises.
What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below 🙂
Check out Three Heads has the Dragon – The Elder Races for a fresh view on the symbolism of the three-headed dragon.
Original image of the fiery eye by: Fire Eye by asdfgfunky on deviantart.com
8 Replys to “Stark Lineage – Catelyn’s Genetic Contribution”
For some reason this essay brought the following quote to mind:
Outside the tower, a wolf began to howl. Catelyn trembled, just for a second. “Bran’s.” Robb opened the window and let the night air into the stuffy tower room. The howling grew louder. It was a cold and lonely sound, full of melancholy and despair. “Don’t,” she told him. “Bran needs to stay warm.”
“He needs to hear them sing,” Robb said. Somewhere out in Winterfell, a second wolf began to howl in chorus with the first. Then a third, closer. “Shaggydog and Grey Wind,” Robb said as their voices rose and fell together. “You can tell them apart if you listen close.”
Catelyn was shaking. It was the grief, the cold, the howling of the direwolves. Night after night, the howling and the cold wind and the grey empty castle, on and on they went, never changing, and her boy lying there broken, the sweetest of her children, the gentlest, Bran who loved to laugh and climb and dreamt of knighthood, all gone now, she would never hear him laugh again. Sobbing, she pulled her hand free of his and covered her ears against those terrible howls. “Make them stop!” she cried. “I can’t stand it, make them stop, make them stop, kill them all if you must, just make them stop!”
She didn’t remember falling to the floor, but there she was, and Robb was lifting her, holding her in strong arms. “Don’t be afraid, Mother. They would never hurt him.” He helped her to her narrow bed in the corner of the sickroom. “Close your eyes,” he said gently. “Rest. Maester Luwin tells me you’ve hardly slept since Bran’s fall.”
“I can’t,” she wept. “Gods forgive me, Robb, I can’t, what if he dies while I’m asleep, what if he dies, what if he dies …” The wolves were still howling. She screamed and held her ears again. “Oh, gods, close the window!”
First, I find it interesting that Catelyn is so affected by the wolves howls.
Second, would be Catelyn blanking out and finding herself on her knees. Other than Sansa, I can’t remember this occurring to anyone else. Funny thing is, it has been speculated that Sansa is in fact either connecting with Lady who is dead or unconsciously skinchanging during this event. Could the same thing be true for Catelyn?
Actually, I think Gwindor’s thread on “Lady Stoneheart is actually Robb Stark” explains why she is instinctively afraid of the direwolves. I recall you also commented on that thread. If Gwindor’s analysis has merit, and I think it has, then this passage above kind of foresahdows it. She’s really distraught by the wolves, demands their death – she won’t sleep – sleep renders her defenceless – it could indicate Catelyn is prone to a take over by Bran if Bran should die ..
I’m not so sure of that. Unless something happens to Summer, I can’t see Bran trying to take over Catelyn. Robb’s circumstances were potentially quite different. It was a time of high stress and I believe that Grey Wind would have to have predeceased him. Her struggle reminds me of Bran’s, where he almost, but not quite understands the language of the wolves. What bothers me the most is her blacking out and finding herself on her knees. It’s just so reminiscent of Sansa’s snow scene. From what I can recall, they are the only two described as having something like this occur.
Evolett, you make a strong point in this article about Cat having controlled her inner wolf. I wonder if the wolves’ howling bothers her so much because it’s calling to something wild inside herself that she’s tried to tame.
Certainly after the attack on Bran and the bonding incident with Summer, Cat becomes distinctly more bold and “wolfish” in her behavior (as you note). Before, in addition to fearing for Bran’s life, maybe she also fears her own power after tamping it down for so long.
(I don’t really buy the idea of Cat being mentally taken over. To me LS makes far more sense as another evolution of Cat. And it’s hard to get around the fact that we have her POV at her death, and her last thoughts are very much her own. And Bran, at the time of his coma, would be far more likely to enter Summer; I strongly doubt he’d have the power to enter Cat at that point.)
Another point about Cat as a warg: natural cat-wargs in the series are all female. Varamyr gets a shadowcat but it fights him more than any other creature and his taking of it drives it mad. Whereas the only female warg he meets among the wildlings has a natural bond with a shadowcat, and Arya bonds quite naturally with the street cats of Braavos. A lot of that bonding took place while she was Cat of the Canals, a name explicitly borrowed from her mother. This might be a nice nod to the idea that Catelyn in other circumstances might have been a natural wildcat warg.
Other lady-wargs of note: Nissa Nissa is wargishly associated with a lion (why else would a lion’s heart be seen as a possible substitute for her own heart?) and the language describing the Bloodstone Emperor’s bride–“tiger woman”–seems to hint at her being a tiger warg (likely from Leng, noted for its tigers).
Conclusion: don’t mess with Cat-ladies. 😛
Good points on Cat as a natural cat-warg but I think that actually identifies her as a powerful natural skinchanger. And if I’m right about the ‘greenseeing’ trait, she’d have the same potential as Bran – basically be able to skinchange almost anything that moves (if she had the training). Recall what I figured out from Varamyr’s chapter – he is only able to skinchange the cat, bear and eagle because he commits an abomination. He’s a natural warg but not a natural overall skinchanger. Catelyn’s greenseeing trait makes her very powerful but I think it also makes her very vulnerable to abuse. I can’t prove the LS = Robb thing but all the work I’ve done on chakras, the protective role of hair and skinchanging in general suggest it can’t be ruled out. I also see what this might have to do with the more hidden themes in the plot such as how wights are spiritually controlled etc. It’s interesting that LS asks Brienne to choose the noose or the sword for instance. In terms of magic, I would say the noose symbolizes spiritual enslavement, while the sword represents freedom from it. Another thing which might be related to all this is the following statement by Beric:
A seventh death might mean the end of both of us.
The implication here is a person may be raised a maximum of 6 times – the 7th = death. Kind of reminds me of a cat’s ‘nine lives’. And, coming to think of it, Varamyr had 9 lives. Okay, can’t say I’ve figured out how this fits the picture but Beric’s 7th and final death is the one that results in LS’s reanimation and a potential reanimation of her son Robb. Concerning the latter, I can imagine Robb’s spirit being attached to her, rather than inside her. A shadow that basically follows her and influences her. I do not think she’s gone at all. She is there, part of her was revived. In that sense, those who argue against the theory are not wrong – I see it myself. I think the similarity to Thistle’s struggle can’t be overlooked but Varamyr was unsuccessful and so was Robb. However, it’s plausible that Robb’s spirit remains attached to Catelyn because of the attempt and the blood + emotional link between mother and son. I’m so cheesed off by that nitwit who essentially ruined the discussion on that thread. Would have been great to explore these things there.
Tinfoil alert: Which makes me wonder if she was subconsciously exuding her influence over Littlefinger? He’s synonymous with cats in several places.
Males do pass their X-chromosome to their female progeny, every female receive one X chromosome from both parents
Yes, I explained that in the previous essay on Frozen Fire and the Significance of BWR as well as in the essay titled, A Genetics of Ice and Fire. Perhaps calling it maternal inheritance appears somewhat misleading, the main point being that the genes are X-Linked, i.e. on the female X-chormosome.