The origin of White Walkers – An Experimental Model
I’d like to put forward another view on the origin of the White Walkers. I posit they are no natural occurrence but rather, are created by man. My ideas revolve around why they may have been created, as well as the requirements and mechanics of creating these inhuman beings. I’m taking a ‘top down’ and ‘out of the box’ approach here. Perhaps the best way to describe this essay is in terms of an experimental lab.
My thoughts center around the following points:
- Role of the White Walkers beyond the Wall in Westeros
- A summary of resurrection techniques
- Star-Sapphires and glamours.
- Bones remember and the power of bloodlines
Note also that while I can supply contextual support for most of these ideas, I’ll refrain from presenting that here. This is an initial draft, summarizing my thoughts and findings. I use the term White Walker here to distinguish them from wights and possible further Others.
Parallels between the White Walkers and the Kingsguard
Parallels to the White Walkers within the narrative suggest that the White Walkers represent members of an institution with a specific purpose. We see parallels with the Kingsguard, the Night’s Watch and various outlaw groups. The main purpose of these institutions is one of protection – even outlaw groups such as The Brotherhood without Banners were originally committed to helping and protecting the smallfolk. All these institutions were created when the need for them arose. This is one of the main reasons why I suspect the WW are not necessarily a phenomenon of nature or a natural race that evolved over time. The idea of WW in a protective role is reinforced by their contextual association with Ghost and also Symeon-Star-Eyes, a very skilled and honourable knight and one who is usually mentioned in one breath with the legendary Aemon the Dragonknight.
That said, some allegorical allusions to the White Walkers also place them in an antagonistic role. An example of this would be associations with honourable members of the Kingsguard like Barristan Selmy versus dishonourable members of the Kingsguard such as Ser Mandon Moore. Then there is also the undead Ser Robert Strong, formerly known as Ser Gregor Clegane, a knight who certainly did not deserve his title.
There are many more observations that suggest we haven’t quite understood what the White Walkers really are. It is entirely possible that there are two sides to this mysterious race. My personal opinion is it all depends on who creates and controls them. If Craster’s sacrificed sons are really turned into White Walkers, do they represent a renegade branch, outlaws if you will?
I propose that the White Walkers were created, most likely by greenseers with the help of men of a suitable bloodline. I also believe that the Starks, by virtue of their blood and heritage are the key to and provide the genetic resources required to create and control the ‘protective‘ kind of White Walker.
How would one go about creating a new form of ‘life’ or giving ‘life’ to something inanimate?
A summary of resurrection techniques
We see several forms of resurrection in the narrative, some of which perhaps involve the transfer of souls or part of a soul from a living being to a dead or dying person.
- The sex act as part of a ritual (an act of procreation) to extract or pass on part of a soul:
- Melissandre lies with Stannis in order to extract part of his soul, which she uses to birth a shadow. She’s demonstrated this twice – the shadows she produces are ethereal, without body but can be guided to undertake a specific task.
The soul-extraction process is depleting in nature – Stannis’ remaining soul does not regenerate itself and Mel fears he will not survive another ‘extraction’. This is important because it tells us that a shadow (or part of a soul) can exist independently of a body and that it can be instructed to perform certain tasks.
- Patchface survived because a mermaid taught him how to breathe water in exchange for his seed, so the smallfolk say. Is teaching him to breathe another way of telling us she gave him part of her soul (the breath of life)? I suspect that PF was on the verge of dying, but not dead, in the moment of transfer. Perhaps he ends up mentally handicapped because she only gave him part of her life force, enough to keep him alive, but not enough to fully restore his wits. Alternatively, her soul may have not been fully compatible with a human being’s. You’ll find my thoughts on Patchface’s surival here.
- Melissandre lies with Stannis in order to extract part of his soul, which she uses to birth a shadow. She’s demonstrated this twice – the shadows she produces are ethereal, without body but can be guided to undertake a specific task.
- A powerful skinchanger can usurp the body of a living person by driving out the latter’s soul and substituting it with his own (self-resurrection), thus ensuring a continuation of his own life. This is what Varamyr tries to do, but fails.
- Khal Drogo: Drogo was on death’s door, but still living when MMD began her blood ritual. I personally believe she transferred the sacrificial horse’s soul, which was enough to heal his wounds and restore his life force, but being an incompatible soul, he remained a vegetable.
- Lord Beric: Thoros probably transfers part of his soul / life fires to Beric to revive him. His fire magic and role as a red priest not only empowers him to do this, it also probably enables him to perform the ritual many times (probably with a little help from the weirwoods in the hollow). However, after raising Beric six times over, even Thoros says: “A seventh death might mean the end of both of us,” suggesting the process is depleting in nature – he loses some of his life force each time he brings Beric back.
- Lady Stoneheart: Beric transfers his remaining life force to Catelyn to resurrect her and dies afterwards.
- Coldhands: There is reason to believe that a powerful greenseer is capable of reanimating the dead. The difference between Coldhands and a regular wight is his ability to speak, think and reason. He has retained certain key human qualities. In my opinion, the only difference between Coldhands and a blue-eyed wight is that his soul has not been enslaved. See this essay on warging and skinchanging for more on that idea.
The above examples illustrate the idea of resurrection or of restoring life-force by transfering part of a soul or life force from a living person, animal or hybrid (mermaid) to the dead or dying.
To take this idea further, the next step would be to breathe life into something devoid of life, say a stone or better still, something more likely to guarantee success – skeletal remains / bones. This is where our knowledge of the mechanics of glamours and the example offered by Symeon Star-Eyes comes in.
Symeon Star-Eyes, Star-Sapphires and Glamours
Let’s have a look at Symeon Star-Eyes:
“Symeon Star-Eyes,” Luwin said as he marked numbers in a book. “When he lost his eyes, he put star sapphires in the empty sockets, or so the singers claim.
Star-sapphires remind us of the blue ‘eyes’ of White Walkers and wights. Mel uses rubies for her glamours, successfully disguising Mance as Rattleshirt. She employs a large square-cut ruby in her magic, which acts as a master to the slave ruby worn by the subject. We have not seen sapphires in this context but considering that sapphires and rubies are basically the same type of stone, made of the same mineral. The only difference between them are the inclusions which give the gem it’s colour, I would say sapphires are a legitimate alternative for glamours worked by ice magic.
Symeon Star-Eyes is a fountain of symbolism, not least of which is his blindness, which he overcomes by placing two star-sapphires in his empty eye-sockets. That he is able to see with these sapphires implies they are magical in nature. Knowing what we do about glamours, we can ask if the gems he is wearing are acting as slaves to a master sapphire controlled by someone capable of doing so and that this is what brings about the ‘illusion of seeing’. Could the blue star eyes of the wights and white walkers be the means by which they are controlled? I think so.
Now the next thing I propose may appear crackpotty but bear with me:
Symeon Star-Eyes sees two hellhounds (direwolves) fighting at the Nightfort. If we assume that hellhounds are akin to direwolves then this leads us to the Winterfell crypts, where there are indeed incidences of ‘hellhounds fighting’. We have Grey Wind fighting Shaggydog (representing the mythical hellhound Cerberus) on one occasion and Summer fighting Shaggy on another. The latter occurs when Bran, Master Luwin and Osha visit the crypts after Bran’s and Rickon’s dream of Ned’s death. Recall Rickon is hiding in Ned’s tomb with Shaggy. When Luwin reaches into the tomb, Shaggy attacks him savagely and Bran calls Summer to deal with Shaggy.
Well, this scene lends itself to much interpretation but the main point here is the crypt and what it contains – bones. Symeon seeing hellhounds leads us to the bones of the dead Kings of Winter, Kings and Lords of the North. These bones are heavily guarded – they have iron swords on their laps which are supposed to keep their spirits locked in the tomb. Traditionally, displaying a naked sword implies the dead kings are denying guest right, meaning not everyone is a welcome visitor to the crypts. Each statue has a direwolf at its feet, alluding to Cerberus, the three-headed hellhound responsible for guarding the gates of Hades. Indeed, the crypts represent the underworld, and are of course underground. The entrance is not easy to find. Strangers to Winterfell (such as Lady Dustin and Mance/Abel) do not know the location of the entrance. Winterfell also has a lich yard, where servants are buried. The crypts of Winterfell are a burial ground for the kings and lords of Winterfell, well concealed and heavily spiritually guarded.
The question is why take all this trouble to guard a few bones? Melisandre tells us that the bones “remember.” Aeron Damphair claims to have found the anser in his bones, states “the truth is in our bones, for flesh decays but bones endure.” Do the bones of the kings of winter ‘remember’ some important secret? I think their bones harbour a trait that makes them candidates for the creation / resurrection of White Walkers, or at the very least, are a clue to such.
I propose that White Walkers can be created by reanimating a skeleton by the transfer of a suitable soul. The star-sapphires in the eye-sockets function in the same master/slave relationship as we have seen with Melisandre’s glamours. Additionally, an ‘ice made flesh’ magical principle was incorporated to give the new entities bodies of ice.
Why bones or a skeleton? Because it is known that ‘the bones remember’. Perhaps the creators also required a humanoid type entity, capable of standing on two feet.
Bones ‘remember’ and the power of bloodlines
What exactly do the bones remember?
Perhaps we can find out by examining the information we have on resurrection techniques and the properties of some bloodlines known to us.
If we can imagine that the White Walkers were created for a specific purpose, then we can also assume that they would need to be possessed of some amount of intelligence, independent thought and speech. They do appear to exhibit these abilities.
Where are these properties stored exactly?
Lord Beric’s capacity to move, speak and make decisions remains intact after resurrection. He feels ‘empty’ and has some memory loss and does not require food to sustain his body. Being undead explains why he doesn’t need sustenance; emptiness and memory loss because he was raised by the magic of fire, which is consuming in nature. His body itself has suffered numerous grevious injuries but that does not adversly affect his ability to function. I think he is able to draw fire from his blood to ignite his sword by virtue of the replacement-soul he received from Thoros, Thoros being a red priest imbibed with fire magic.
Lady Stoneheart, formerly Catelyn, was dead three days prior to her resurrection. Her flesh must have undergone some decomposition during this period but we see her still capable of reasoning and speech (her speech is only unclear because her throat is cut).
The above examples suggest that the flesh itself is not relevant as a repository for certain key human qualities, especially intelligence and reasoning. Also, though their flesh is ravaged, Beric’s and Catelyn’s bones are unharmed.
Let’s look at Patchface and Drogo for more evidence:
Patchface has lost his wits to some extent but is still capable of speech and understanding – he understands and obeys commands and may be able to make independent decisions. He is only partially restored – his body is unharmed but his mental capacity has been affected negatively. His bones are also intact.
Drogo is another matter. His body and bones were intact but he was a complete vegetable after the blood ritual involving the horse. Now, as stated above, I believe MMD transferred the horse’s soul to Drogo, a very inadequate soul, devoid of human aspects such as human intelligence and the capacity to speak.
Drogo and Patchface’s cases appear to suggest that certain characteristics such as human intelligence are not stored in the bones or in the flesh. “Wits” probably reside in the soul, which has been lost in Drogo’s case and perhaps only partially restored in Patchface’s case.
Let’s have a look at the wights to narrow this down further:
Wights are incapable of speech and do not appear to exhibit any human emotions. Their ‘swarm behaviour’ suggests an outside controlling force. The state of their flesh, intact or not has no influence on their ability to attack, move or kill and they can only be destroyed by fire. We’ve already seen that the flesh is irrelevant in terms of mental capacity. The absence of or enslavement of a soul component seems to rob wights of intelligence, independent thought, speech. The only intact part of anatomy in wights are their bones.
We arrive at the following tentative conclusions:
- The soul is a repository for speech, intelligence and independent thought.
- The type of soul (animal / human / living entity) influences mental capacity of the resurrected. Think also of skinchangers who can lose themselves, undergoing a personality change to become more beastlike if they remain too long in their bonded animal.
- Neither flesh nor bones serve as a repository for speech, intelligence and independent thought.
So what exactly do the bones remember then?
The answer can be found here:
Summer dug up a severed arm, black and covered with hoarfrost, its fingers opening and closing as it pulled itself across the frozen snow. There was still enough meat on it to fill his empty belly, and after that was done he cracked the arm bones for the marrow. Only then did the arm remember it was dead.
Bones, wights and vulnerability
We see the arm of a wight, severed but still very much ‘alive’. Only when Summer destroys the bone does the arm ‘remember’ that it really is dead. In a world of ice and fire, the very essence of life, the basic quality of sentience, is stored within bone and I believe it is this ‘spark of life’ within the bones that is magically activated to raise the dead and transform them to the status of wights. This is also why wights are susceptible to fire – fire destroys, it consumes, it reaches deep down. It destroys the marrow thus killing off that spark of life within the bone. The same may be achieved by hacking a wight to pieces with sword or axe but a sword is not as effective a weapon as fire. This theory also explains why the dead have to be burned to prevent them from rising – burned to destroy the life-giving bones.
For a wight to be more than a mere zombie, a soul would be required. Because of the sheer numbers of wights resurrected, employing souls as a means to reanimation is an impractical solution. In fact, my suspicion is that wights remain in possession of their souls and that certain aspects of the soul are deactivated and / or enslaved. What is practical though, is a means by which they can be controlled – and this is achieved by harnessing their eyes – the bright blue eyes that remind us so much of sapphires. Note also that Coldhands, an autonomous wight, does not exhibit these blue eyes. Further proof of control via the eyes can be found in Sam’s encounter with Small Paul. When Sam overcomes Small Paul with fire, the first thing that happens is that the blue light in the wight’s eyes extinguish, becoming black. Sam thrusts a burning ember into Small Paul’s mouth – this causes an explosion of fire – given the proximity of the ember to the eyes, I suspect that fire also destroys the ‘sapphire’ eyes, severing the controlling force and killing the wight.
In case you’re wondering what bones have got to do with blood or life-force – remember the above quote in which Summer cracks the bone to reach the marrow contained within. Well, in human biology, it is the marrow that produces the red blood cells so vital to our existence. Red blood cells carry the very breath of life, the oxygen we breathe to all parts of the body.
Summary of findings so far:
Our experimental lab is coming along nicely. With the right kind of magic, life may be wakened from a dead person’s bones. Consciousness, intelligence, reasoning, speech and all other properties that transform a person into a thinking, proactive individual, is conferred on the individual by the incorporation of a suitable soul. Raised in this way, the dead or dying are transformed into relatively ‘normal’ humans (or animals). Should the candidate die before a resurrection attempt, the degree of prior bodily deterioration will determine if functions such as speech can be carried out (as seen in Lady Stoneheart). In the case of a dying person, we can expect a competent sorcerer to mediate a functional revival so long as the incorporated soul is of the right type.
Given that this is possible, we can now imagine that interred skeletal remains may be brought to life. Lacking flesh and other organs, such skeletal undead might not be able to speak but they may well be able to act with a certain amount of intelligence. This means they may not even require ‘remote control’ to guide them.
That White Walkers exhibit ‘star-sapphire’ eyes suggests they are under the control of another entity. Given that the soul they receive already confers a certain consciousness and intelligence, the presence of star-sapphires also suggests that they, as White Walkers, may have some control over something or someone else.
The importance of funeral rites, bloodlines
Blood of the Dragon
In this context, remember that the Targaryens too are of a particular bloodline. They have strived to keep ‘the blood of the dragon’ intact by practicing incest. This power within their blood is believed to be the reason for their affinity to dragons – it may even be that special something that induces a dragon egg to hatch in the presence of a Targaryen. We also hear that dragons are ‘fire made flesh’. We are most familiar with this magical Targaryen Blood and even though we do not understand the mechanics of it, we accept ‘the blood of the dragon’ to be canon. Okay – what about other bloodlines, I ask?
Blood of the Greenseer
What exactly makes the blood of the Starks so special? Greenseeing? I don’t think so. Stark blood may confer upon them the ability to warg wolves but in my opinion, that’s about it. The strong greenseeing ability we see in Bran does not stem from his Stark blood. These qualities were transmitted to him via his mother’s line, the Tullys. I ask you to consider this:
Bloodraven was born Brynden Rivers, a bastard of Aegon IV Targaryen and Melissa Blackwood of First Men descent. He thus not only carries Targaryen blood in his veins, but the blood of the First Men. He is an albino, which makes it difficult to pinpoint the dominant aspect of his blood but there are other signs which can be loosely interpreted in favour of the blood of the First Men. Consider the raven-like birthmark on his face, the spy network (The Thousand Eyes and One) he set up prior to becoming a greenseer, the fact that he much preferred a weirwood bow over his Valyrian sword Dark Sister and was an expert archer (think wood dancers of the CotF here). I believe his greenseeing ability is a First Men inheritance.
Like the Blackwoods, the Tullys are also descended from the First Men. There is contextual evidence also linking the Tully family to greenseeing ability. Little Sweetrobin shows tell-tale signs of talents in this regard, his mother being Lysa Tully. This is where the Stark children’s extraordinary talents, and especially in Bran’s case, greenseeing comes from. Find out more about this idea in “Stark Lineage – Catelyn’s Genetic Contribution.”
The Stark Wolf-Blood
The affinity to warging – which notably only involves skinchanging into wolves is a trait that crops up from time to time in the Stark family line. It is this ability to warg wolves that is another prerequisite to creating White Walkers. I think there is evidence that the Starks have sought to maintain this bloodline over the centuries (in the event that they had lost the trait). One example of this is the extermination the Warg King and his entire household, after which they kept the daughters as prizes – marring and fathering children with them to replenish their own speical bloodline.
I also propose that the Stark bloodline contains a special property, one that the bones remember in addition to the sentient spark of life inherent in all bones, and, one that lends itself to the creation of intelligent, thinking, speaking humanoid ice entities. I name this trait the ‘ice trait’ and believed it is symbolized by blue winter roses and transmitted through the female line.
I’ll just mention funeral rites as an indication of the importance of certain bloodlines:
- Targaryens and Dothraki – practice cremation – destroy bones completely by fire
- Tullys – practice cremation and a subsequent ‘water burial’ – destroy bones by fire and ‘feed the crabs’
- Ironborn – give bodies to the sea – ‘feeding the crabs’ – are the bones really destroyed or is this another form of preservation? Food for thought
- Most other people give their dead a classic burial in the ground. Servants of the Starks are buried in this manner in the lichyard.
These folk seek to destroy the bones of their dead, they make sure there are no ‘remembering bones’ left that might be misused by third parties. The Tullys take particular care to destroy their bones – they cremate and drown. It wouldn’t do to have the property of greenseeing usurped by a malignant third party.
But what do the Starks do?
The Starks’ burial practices stand in contrast to the above mentioned. They do not destroy the bones of their dead at all. Instead, all the flesh is removed and the bones are interred in the Crypts of Winterfell. As noted above, the bones lie within heavily magically guarded stone sepulchres.
Why would the Starks seek to preserve the bones of their ancestors?
Well, I have to speculate a little here. My guess is the Starks are the insurance against the malevolent Others that we see. Think about it: Imagine the scenario of the Long Night with hordes of wights, led by malevolent White Walkers, sweeping over holdfasts and cities, creating more wights every day with hardly any means of stopping them. A snowball system with a bitter ending. The most sensible thing I can think of would be to ‘lead these hosts of the slain’ (as Old Nan would put it) to a place where they can be safely destroyed, bone and all.
What better way to do this than to employ a counter White Walker, resurrected and controlled by someone like Bran for instance, who could direct that ‘friendly’ White Walker to lead the wights away from man and break the cycle of creating more wights? Beating the Others at their own game?
Last not but least, I’ll leave you with some thought-provoking questions:
Ned Stark’s bones are out there somewhere. Who has them? Would it be possible to create a white walker from their remains? What happened to Robb’s body? And Benjen Stark?
This post may also interest you: Warging and Skinchanging Unravelled.
Featured image by Redan23 on deviantart.com
13 Replys to “The Making of a White Walker – A Model”
Great work Evolett, I really, really like this one. Lots of good stuff here. I definitely think that Coldhands is a Greenseer stuck back into a wighted body. Not sure how that happened, but there’s got to be a reason he still has a soul, and a reason he can communicate with animals and have them do his will, as the elk does. That indicates he retains some of his greenseer magic still. I think Jon is likely to end up just like Coldhands upon resurrection, myself.
I really like the angle of considering the funeral rights in relation to the bones. That really won me over. Those Stark crypts have always been mysterious, but all this talk of vengeful ghosts makes more sense when you consider what those bones are capable of. Why do they reject Jon so strongly, do you think?
I agree the Starks must have Other blood somehow. But I don’t think the warging thing came from the Tully blood… green sight and skinchanging are part of the same gift, according to Leaf, and the Starks had all that blood. They took the Warg King’s daughter’s as “prizes,”as you say, and they defeated the Marsh King and married his daughter. The war of the wolves was against a skinchanger warg, wasn’t it?
Anyway great work, I have a couple quotes to pull and share when I get a minute. Cheers! 🙂
The vengeful ghosts… I would say their rejection is rooted in Jon’s Targaryen blood – if bones contain a spark of life and Jon has the blood of the dragon, then those bones would not be very happy 🙂
The question is, why were they tolerant of him before? Well, read the chapter where he arrives at the Queenscrown village with the wildlings. The text is loaded with hidden meaning, especially from the moment he is asked to kill the old man. Note the horse he is riding, how he wonders how he ever manages to guide it without saddle and bridle and the connection with the Ice Dragon. Ygritte looses arrows at him – note the description of his pain and that he changes horses at Mole’s Town, a black horse this time followed by continued talk of his agony etc.
One gets the impression that he’s going through a metamorphosis, embracing his Targaryen blood (or foreshadowing it). Note also the strange hidden implications surrounding Summer.
An amazing chapter.
Not sure if I’m right but I think the vengeful ghosts dreams begin in to haunt him after this.
On warging and greenseeing traits – I think they are probably not inherited via one parent (I’m working hard at unravelling the genetics of bloodlines). As far as I can tell at the moment, both are recessive traits that can only be expressed if both parents contribute a gene to a child. And even then, there’s probability involved. It looks like the Stark children all inherited the warging ability from Ned and some of them (Bran and Rickon, maybe even Sansa but not Arya) have the additional strong greensight trait which could only have come from Catelyn. Greensight and skinchanging may be part of the same gift but we also know that while some ma be skinchangers, only one in a thousand are greenseers. In terms of genetics, it appears the two traits complement and amplify each other but for greensight to be possible, we need more input. A recessive trait also explains why Catelyn does not show the ability.
There is evidence that the trait stems from the Tully side:
This is during the Red Wedding:
A gust of laughter followed, until Patrek Mallister climbed up onto a table to propose a toast to Edmure’s one-eyed fish. “And a mighty pike it is!” he proclaimed.
The one-eyed fish. We have many references to one-eyed characters who have some kind of second-sight, most prominently, Bloodraven of course. It’s not always called greensight. One-eyed Yna in Braavos for example, tells fortunes. The crone that fortells the Stallion who mounts the world is one-eyed and so on.
I’m still looking into this and other related stuff – it’s a huge thing in the background and full of surprises! Hopefully, I’ll have enough to publish an essay in a few weeks.
I found this interesting passage about cracking bones, I wonder if you make anything of this:
Mother of Dragons,” cried Missandei in her high, sweet voice. As Dany stood, her tokar began to slip. She caught it and tugged it back in place. “You with the sack,” she called, “did you wish to speak with us? You may approach.” When he raised his head, his eyes were red and raw as open sores. Dany glimpsed Ser Barristan sliding closer, a white shadow at her side. The man approached in a stumbling shuffle, one step and then another, clutching his sack. Is he drunk, or ill? she wondered. There was dirt beneath his cracked yellow fingernails. “What is it?” Dany asked. “Do you have some grievance to lay before us, some petition? What would you have of us?” His tongue flicked nervously over chapped, cracked lips. “I … I brought …” “Bones?” she said, impatiently. “Burnt bones?” He lifted the sack, and spilled its contents on the marble. Bones they were, broken bones and blackened. The longer ones had been cracked open for their marrow. “It were the black one,” the man said, in a Ghiscari growl, “the winged shadow. He come down from the sky and … and …” No. Dany shivered. No, no, oh no. “Are you deaf, fool?” Reznak mo Reznak demanded of the man. “Did you not hear my pronouncement? See my factors on the morrow, and you shall be paid for your sheep.” “Reznak,” Ser Barristan said quietly, “hold your tongue and open your eyes. Those are no sheep bones.” No, Dany thought, those are the bones of a child.
Martin, George R.R. (2011-07-12). A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5) (p. 50). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Yes, I’ve noted this as well.
I believe I’m right regarding what the bones remember – they remember life or carry a spark of life within and nothing less than burning, cracking or pulverising the bone will kill this spark. That’s why the dead have got to be burned to prevent them from being risen as wights.
This passage shows that dragons / dragonfire achieves this. Makes you wonder if dragons were originally created (if they were created) to fight another potential wight-invasion and that this knowledge was forgotten over the course of time, much like all that is lost to memory in the North. The Valyrians have used dragons to conquer and subdue other peoples but they really a very effective weapon against the undead. I think we’ll see them in this role eventually.
I think the fact that dragon bones contain iron, which is used to make steel swords, matched with the bones of Others which appear to be milkglass (like the sword Dawn appears) . I don’t know that Dawn was made from Other bones, or Lightbringer from dragon bones, but the symbolism is there. The very essence of ice and fire.
So let’s keep delving into “anatomy.” A dragon has bones with high iron content, and their flesh is fire. Others have bones like milkglass, which is similar to Dawn (but NOT the Others’ ice swords, which are compared to crystal.. Although both Dawn and and Others’ sword have pale light and are sharper than any razor, iirc. So others have milkglass bones, what is their flesh? Well, it melts when stabbed with dragonglass, so it must be ice flesh. There definitely seems to be a parallel.
Question is, regarding Dawn, always described with icy imagery, how did the ice component get put into the sword? I believe that a pale stone did fall at Starfall, and was used to make Dawn (the implications of Phosphorus, which is carried to earth in comets, means “Lightbringer,” and is a catalyst for the first reactions leading to biological life, seem to match very well with Dawn the sword). So ok, it’s a cold meteor, but Dawn is so often compared to milkglass… AA’s sword was a fire sword, so Dawn makes sense as an ice sword. But how do we get the ice magic in the sword?
Perhaps tempering it in a cold black pool of melted ice dragon? Not sure what that cold black pond is in Winterfell godswood, but Ned and the other Starks have been dipping bloody “Ice” in that pond for centuries now. Seems like a thing. Maybe that’s what you have to do. Sam picks up the obsidian after melting Ser Puddles and it is really cold. Feels like a hint.
Hmm, I haven’t progressed to swords yet but you’re right, there’s something there. Like bones, Valyrian swords also remember..
Have to think about this one 🙂
Just to pile on, I recently re-read the chapter in Clash where Dany’s khalasar finds Vaes Toloro. The Dothraki are worried about ghosts there specifically because of the presence of bones. Dany reassures them by saying that dragons are stronger than ghosts. (Because dragons can crack and burn bones?) Combined with the evidence you’ve already laid out, Evolett, I’d say it’s a lock for bones=potential undead.
Good catch! I still have to write this out properly and that’s another good point to add. I do believe dragons are the most effective weapon against wights, It makes sense to apply them to this task. Remains to be seen if Dany’s intention to conquer Westeros will end in a bid to overcome the wight invasion instead.
Here’s that passage… I’ve included all the text I thought relevant…
The comet mocks my hopes, she thought, lifting her eyes to where it scored the sky. Have I crossed half the world and seen the birth of dragons only to die with them in this hard hot desert? She would not believe it.
The next day, dawn broke as they were crossing a cracked and fissured plain of hard red earth. Dany was about to command them to make camp when her outriders came racing back at a gallop. “A city, Khaleesi,” they cried. “A city pale as the moon and lovely as a maid. An hour’s ride, no more.”
“Show me,” she said.
When the city appeared before her, its walls and towers shimmering white behind a veil of heat, it looked so beautiful that Dany was certain it must be a mirage. “Do you know what place this might be?” she asked Ser Jorah.
The exile knight gave a weary shake of the head. “No, my queen. I have never traveled this far east.”
The distant white walls promised rest and safety, a chance to heal and grow strong, and Dany wanted nothing so much as to rush toward them. Instead she turned to her bloodriders. “Blood of my blood, go ahead of us and learn the name of this city, and what manner of welcome we should expect.”
“Ai, Khaleesi,” said Aggo.
Her riders were not long in returning. Rakharo swung down from his saddle. From his medallion belt hung the great curving arakh that Dany had bestowed on him when she named him bloodrider. “This city is dead, Khaleesi. Nameless and godless we found it, the gates broken, only wind and flies moving through the streets.”
Jhiqui shuddered. “When the gods are gone, the evil ghosts feast by night. Such places are best shunned. It is known.”
“It is known,” Irri agreed.
“Not to me.” Dany put her heels into her horse and showed them the way, trotting beneath the shattered arch of an ancient gate and down a silent street. Ser Jorah and her bloodriders followed, and then, more slowly, the rest of the Dothraki.
How long the city had been deserted she could not know, but the white walls, so beautiful from afar, were cracked and crumbling when seen up close. Inside was a maze of narrow crooked alleys. The buildings pressed close, their facades blank, chalky, windowless. Everything was white, as if the people who lived here had known nothing of color. They rode past heaps of sunwashed rubble where houses had fallen in, and elsewhere saw the faded scars of fire. At a place where six alleys came together, Dany passed an empty marble plinth. Dothraki had visited this place before, it would seem. Perhaps even now the missing statue stood among the other stolen gods in Vaes Dothrak. She might have ridden past it a hundred times, never knowing. On her shoulder, Viserion hissed.
[…snip… they find some fruit…]
Other searchers returned with tales of other fruit trees, hidden behind closed doors in secret gardens. Aggo showed her a courtyard overgrown with twisting vines and tiny green grapes, and Jhogo discovered a well where the water was pure and cold. Yet they found bones too, the skulls of the unburied dead, bleached and broken. “Ghosts,” Irri muttered. “Terrible ghosts. We must not stay here, Khaleesi, this is their place.”
“I fear no ghosts. Dragons are more powerful than ghosts.” And figs are more important. “Go with Jhiqui and find me some clean sand for a bath, and trouble me no more with silly talk.”
“We should rest here until we are stronger,” the knight urged. “The red lands are not kind to the weak.” “My handmaids say there are ghosts here.” “There are ghosts everywhere,” Ser Jorah said softly. “We carry them with us wherever we go.” Yes, she thought. Viserys, Khal Drogo, my son Rhaego, they are with me always.
No ghosts troubled her sleep that night. She dreamed of Drogo and the first ride they had taken together on the night they were wed. In the dream it was not horses they rode, but dragons. The next morn, she summoned her bloodriders. “Blood of my blood,” she told the three of them, “I have need of you. Each of you is to choose three horses, the hardiest and healthiest that remain to us. Load as much water and food as your mounts can bear, and ride forth for me. Aggo shall strike southwest, Rakharo due south. Jhogo, you are to follow shierak qiya on southeast.”
Rakharo was the first to return. Due south the red waste stretched on and on, he reported, until it ended on a bleak shore beside the poison water. Between here and there lay onlyswirling sand, wind-scoured rocks, and plants bristly with sharp thorns. He had passed the bones of a dragon, he swore, so immense that he had ridden his horse through its great black jaws. Other than that, he had seen nothing.
Aggo was back next. The southwest was barren and burnt, he swore. He had found the ruins of two more cities, smaller than Vaes Tolorro but otherwise the same. One was warded by a ring of skulls mounted on rusted iron spears, so he dared not enter, but he had explored the second for as long as he could. He showed Dany an iron bracelet he had found, set with a uncut fire opal the size of her thumb. There were scrolls as well, but they were dry and crumbling and Aggo had left them where they lay.
I think that you make some very good points here. I particularly enjoy the idea of there being more than one faction of ww or Others. One thing that I do question is that the ww are a reanimation of the bones, but from your other essays I think that you might have refined this idea a bit. Wouldn’t it be more likely that the spirit or soul needed to create a ww could be pulled or released from the bones? It’s just that when Sam stand the ww with obsidian even it’s bones melt. Regular bones don’t do that.
I’ve built on a couple of the ideas presented in this analysis meanwhile, that’s true. And I’m thinking just as you are. Mel shows us how it’s done when she glamours Mance to look like the Lord of Bones. She actually says she pulls a shade from an object belonging to a person – in this case The Lord of Bones bones, lol. Sometimes the author hides things in plain sight. She says this shade is then draped over the person. So we can conclude that the person then assumes the physical shape of the original owner of the shade, which is what we see with Mance. This is where the babies come in. Origininally I thought they might be sacrificed but no, that’s not the case methinks. More like the shades from the bones / (or from bodies of those with a certain trait – ice trait as I would call it) are draped over the babies. Now, think of wildling babies who are not named before the age of two. Side research into naming tradition shows that some cultures believed a child’s identity is intimately connected to its name. The ancient Egyptians even believed in a part of the soul directly associated with an individual’s name. A child with no name therefore has no identity – the baby is thus a ‘clean slate’ and can be given a new identity – or take on that of the shade in our case. The only difficulty is the matter of growth. How does the baby grow into an ice humaoid? Perhaps by extracting the other elements as you suggest – removeal of fire and earth, leaving water – that makes sense. What do you think?
Hi. Reading all of these and getting a lot from them. Everything makes a lot of sense.
I don’t know that they go against any of the ideas, but I’ve noticed an odd agreement to not acknowledge other legends mentioning pale maids. Galladon, Hugor, they both have pale maids. One comes from Tarth the other began in westeros. They fit a story of interbreeding, but don’t happen in the cold near the wall. I had started to type against them being wights but as I did I made a mental note that the hills of Andalos actually could be an analog for the burrowlands.
In the case of Hugor they brought the Andals to westeros and they burned weirwoods and killed children. In time I noted that the 7 that brought the Andals, and the names of the children in bloodraven’s cave are similar. What I also noticed was that they seemed to need bloodraven and didn’t connect themselves. Reading your thoughts about greenseers helped resolve some of the suspicions I had.
So, while I have enjoyed seeing where my ideas and your own meet, I have yet to find anyone that has included the other examples of pale maids with deep blue eyes in their ideas. The perpetual search for the right combination of genes is the closest I’m seen. But they don’t entirely explain it. They could be attempts at making WWs but why in Andalos? Why are they wights? Again I’m not arguing against the base ideas, only that no one seems to be able to see past the story of the Night(fort)s King. So every version of the theory ends up being about the others. While it’s more out there, these stories about pale maids sound like they could also be Qaarthi warlock girls (or undying) that have had a lot of SotE.
Deaf ears I’m sure, but I’d like to see a more unified theory. Unless the argument is that maesters created the other legends as disinformation.
Hi Ivan. Thanks for reading and commenting. You are right regarding the lack of attention paid to pale maids with blue eyes with most of the discussion centering on the Night’s King. I do have some thoughts on the matter which are difficult to summarize but I’ll have a go. It all has to do with the original ancient greenseers whom I believe came from an advanced water-based culture. To call those ancient magicians greenseers is probably not correct – more like they were like Garth Greenhand or the green men who were capable of influencing the fertility of the land and interacting with nature. I also don’t think these original seers needed to bind with weirwoods to be able to see through them. If you’ve followed my essays you’ll know I firmly believe most magical traits are passed on through the female line, specifically on the X-Chromosome. Men too have an X-chromosome of course but by the laws of genetics, no man with magical genes could pass that X-gene on to a son, only to his daughters. Now, examine Garth Greenhand’s famous children. He had many sons, all heroes and founders of great houses. But how about his daughters? Check them out. Rose of Red Lake who founded House Crane stands out. She could change into a crane, the legend goes – she was a skinchanger. But Red Lake was called Blue lake before Brandon of the Bloody Blade fought a battle there, killing hundreds of giants and CotF at the location. So Rose of Red Lake may have originally been Rose of Blue Lake and indeed, the sigil of House Crane shows a crane on a blue field. This is a good connection to “eyes like blue pools” and indeed to Blue Winter Roses! We don’t know who Rose’s mother was but I bet she had skinchanging traits.
So, perhaps coupled with Garth’s green powers, Rose might have been the first woman with a greenseeing trait as seen in Bran. The blue/red colour connection should indeed remind us of Catelyn Tully of the blue/red house colours and of course her role as the mother of 5 magical children with Bran standing out as the powerful greenseer among them. Note Catelyn’s blue eyes which are mentioned so often by the author. In Dance, Bran accesses the weirwood for those last visions without seeming to skinchange it, he’s the perfect greenseer, one who does not have to be entwined in the tree as Bloodraven is. My thoughts are that the pale blue-eyed maidens are the key to this inheritance and that the Night King’s so called corpse bride belongs in this category. Catelyn, as a parallel, is actually now a resurrected undead person. Perhaps the ancient blue-star-eyed woman who was chased and loved by the NK was very much alive when they met but was killed and raised when things came to a head. I imagine him raising her. The idea of Rose of Blue Lake / Blue Winter Roses also leads up to the NK via Jon Snow. Anyway. The TV-Series strongly suggests that the NK has great greenseeing powers. Penetrating Bran’s vision to mark him, interrupting Bran’s spying ravens etc. are very tell tale signs. That’s not book canon but it would make sense for the three heads of the dragon to include a powerful greenseer or the NK. George has been very secretive about this. It would also make sense that the NK and NQ had children they sacrificed to the Others – those children would become non-tree-binding Others (males receiving the relevant gene from their mother).
So where does Hugor of the Hill fit into all this? To be honest, I am not sure. One thing though – according to the World Book, he sacrificed 7 swan maids to his gods – what are swan maidens? Well, they are mythical creatures who shapeshift from swan to human form. It would seem he cared not for skinchanging women but appeared to have married one himself, well, one with eyes like blue pools… It’s interesting that the swan maidens lured people to their deaths – this is another parallel to Lady Stoneheart. To cut a long story short, I suspect the blue-eyed maidens were especially coveted for their magical inheritance and were possibly hunted down, stolen, raped or married to secure the traits for future generations or alternatively exterminated by certain parties to eliminate the trait.