Jun 27 2013 1:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 34

A Storm of SwordsWelcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Today’s entry is Part 34 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 56 (“Bran”).

Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread in the forums here on Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.

And now, the post!

Before we begin, scheduling note: As most of you probably know, next Thursday is July 4th, also known to Americans as the day we Celebrate—Our—INDEPENDENCE! And fight aliens! Okay, not always that last part. But nevertheless, the Fourth of July is a holiday that both I and the good folks at wish to enjoy, and therefore there will be no AROIAF post next Thursday. The blog will resume the following Thursday, July 11th.


Chapter 56: Bran

What Happens
Bran, Hodor, and the Reeds have arrived at the abandoned castle on the Wall called the Nightfort. Bran tries not to think about the terrible dream he and Summer had had about Robb and Grey Wind. Jojen assures Bran there is nothing to be afraid of here, but Bran remembers too well the horrific stories Nan had told him about what had happened centuries ago there, and he finds the whole place very unsettling. Summer doesn’t like it either.

As he had told Jojen, the gate here was sealed when the Night Watch abandoned it two hundred years ago, and Bran says they should have followed Jon to Castle Black. Jojen reminds him that he almost lost Summer helping Jon, and they dared not follow him because of the wildlings. Bran remembers his panic when Summer had been shot, but the direwolf had lived thanks to Meera’s doctoring. Meera suggests they try another castle, but Bran tells them all the gates are sealed except the ones at Castle Black, Eastwatch, and the Shadow Tower.

Meera wants to climb the Wall, just to see, and Bran remembers when he used to be able to climb, and wishes he could go with her, but he can’t. Jojen suggests they look around below while she goes up. Bran agrees reluctantly, but balks at the suggestion they go down into the cellars below the keep. Bran tells Jojen how the Nightfort was the oldest castle on the Wall, and says there are ghosts there, and tells him about the seventy-nine deserters who were brought back and entombed in the ice forever.

They explore for hours, but find only rats, to Bran’s relief. Meera returns to tell them she found no way down from the top of the Wall, at least not for Bran, and asks Jojen if maybe his dream was wrong. Jojen is sure this is the right place, but Bran is skeptical. He remembers the story of Night’s King, who fell in love with a “corpse woman,” enslaved the brothers through sorcery, and was making sacrifices to the Others before the Starks and wildlings joined forces to bring him down, and how Old Nan had claimed he had been a Stark himself. He is not thrilled at the prospect of sleeping there.

They decide to sleep in the kitchens. Bran is unnerved by the large, seemingly bottomless well there; Hodor throws a rock into it, and Bran thinks he hears something move when it hits the water. The Reeds are unimpressed by Bran’s fears, and make dinner while Bran remembers the story of the Rat King, who cooked the Andal prince in a pie and served him to his own father. Bran cannot sleep, and then hears a noise like footsteps, and realizes it is coming from the well. He hears a whimpering sound as well, and resists fleeing to Summer’s body even though he is terrified.

He wakes Meera, who hears the noise too and gathers her weapons. Bran thinks he cannot let her fight alone, and instead of reaching for Summer, this time he reaches for Hodor. He senses Hodor’s terror at being taken over, but ignores it, making Hodor’s body stand and draw his sword. But when some creature lunges from the well, screeching, Hodor throws Bran out and attacks himself instead; Meera catches it in her net, but then it pleads for its life. She demands to know what it is.

“I’m SAM,” the black thing sobbed. “Sam, Sam, I’m Sam, let me out, you stabbed me…” He rolled through the puddle of moonlight, flailing and flopping in the tangles of Meera’s net.

Bran sees it is a fat man, and there is a girl there as well, holding a baby; Bran tells Meera the man is from the Night’s Watch, judging from his clothes. The girl says her name is Gilly. Jojen asks where they came from, and she answers, “Craster’s.” Then Gilly asks if Jojen is “the one.”

“The one?”

“He said that Sam wasn’t the one,” she explained. “There was someone else, he said. The one he was sent to find.”

“Who said?” Bran demanded.

“Coldhands,” Gilly answered softly.

Sam says they were told there would be people in the castle. He explains that he is a steward in the Night Watch, and nearly cries that he couldn’t even find the Wall. Meera points out that he has now, and Jojen demands to know how he got through it. Sam says there is a hidden gate called the Black Gate, but they won’t find it or be able to open it unless Sam takes them to it, because Coldhands said it would only open for a brother of the Watch. The others are mystified by Sam’s description of their rescuer, and Jojen asks if he could have been one of the green men, but Sam replies that he was pale and cold as a wight, but without the blue eyes.

Sam says they should go, Coldhands will be waiting. Meera asks why Coldhands didn’t come with them, and Sam replies that he can’t pass beyond the Wall. Jojen tells him Bran is the one Sam was sent to find, and Sam realizes that Bran is Jon Snow’s brother. Bran begs him not to tell, and Sam is confused, but agrees. Bran tells him Jon is here, how they saw him escape some wildlings, and probably went to Castle Black. They introduce Sam to Summer, too, and Bran decides they will go as soon as he sees Summer likes Sam.

They assure Sam it is safe to leave Gilly and the baby in the castle, and Sam promises her he will come back and take her “somewhere warm.” They pack up and follow Sam into the well, and climb down until they come to a door made of weirwood with a face on it. The face opens its eyes and asks who they are; Sam gives the passcode phrase, and the door opens. They go through.

The door’s upper lip brushed softly against the top of Bran’s head, and a drop of water fell on him and ran slowly down his nose. It was strangely warm, and salty as a tear.

Sam! Hi, Sam! *waves delightedly*

(I like Sam. In case you couldn’t tell.)

Well, I was certainly not expecting that. That was kind of hilarious, actually. Talk about the last two storylines I would ever have expected to tangle together…

So, I guess Jojen’s green dream wasn’t bullshit after all. Also, that’s some serious prophetic synergy going on, there. I am now dying to know what this Coldhands person’s deal is. I am pretty sure, though, that Sam’s dismissal of the theory that he is a green man was probably too hasty. Maybe the “green” title is just symbolic, Sam.

Although, I am a tad confused by the terminology here. I’m assuming “green men” are the same thing as “children of the forest,” but I’m not a hundred percent sure of that. I’m also uncertain about how to reconcile the idea that this Coldhands guy is a magical forest dweller with his clear association with the Night Watch. Maybe he got bored of lurking mysteriously on elk-back in the woods for a living, and decided to moonlight with the brotherhood for a while?

Well, I suppose I’ll find out. In the meantime:

“I am the sword in the darkness,” Samwell Tarly said. “I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers. I am the shield that guards the realms of men.”

Yes you ARE, baby. I hug you!

…I am possibly a bit disproportionately excited to see Sam at this juncture. But that’s probably understandable, as the number of characters I both like and root for appears to be DWINDLING RAPIDLY, GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. So I’m feeling a bit CLINGY right now. Which is almost certainly a mistake on my part, GEORGE R.R. MARTIN, but fuck it. I need to find something to be happy about here.

Speaking of which: Wait, so Bran knew it was Jon he saw? I don’t remember that! Of course, from my point of view that scene happened about a million years ago, so maybe I’ve just forgotten. Either way, I’m still pissed Bran and Jon didn’t get to actually reunite there, that is such bullshit. I also totally don’t remember Summer getting shot, but I think that might genuinely be because we didn’t know that before now. Or, that my memory sucks, because it does. Either or.

[Re: the Rat Cook:] “It was not for murder that the gods cursed him,” Old Nan said, “nor for serving the Andal king his son in a pie. A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a guest beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive.”

Let’s hope so. WALDER. You giant poop splash.

That said, wow, the gods are death on violating guest rights, but perfectly fine with cannibalism and regicide? What kind of moral code is that?

*shrug* Probably not any kind of moral code at all, to think on it. Gods not modeled on the Judeo-Christian brand tend to be pretty capricious that way. Still, that’s really random, god people. I Disapprove.

(There, that’ll teach ‘em!)

I really wonder how much of the plethora of horror stories Bran heard about the Nightfort are just the Westeros version of FOAF stories, or actually really happened. Given the world we’re dealing with, I would unfortunately have to bet on the latter. In which case: damn. The brotherhood back in the day was Fucked. Up, y’all.

The Night King story was especially interesting. Is it actually saying that this Stark ancestor had an affair with an Other? Because the idea of how that could even happen is about making my head explode. Because, okay, sorry, but I have two words for you: icy vagina. EEEEK.

Yes, I am aware I’m a horrible person, but seriously, that is literally the first thing I thought about when I read that bit! Because, come on!

(Maybe they can strategically warm up… parts? Okay, I am NOT THINKING about this anymore, shut up, brain.)

Maybe we’ll never hear about this Night King dude again, but I have a feeling the story has more significance than the others Bran thinks about in this chapter. If only in that it implies that the Others are capable of a lot more cognizance, not to mention deviousness, than I have previously been assuming. Unless I’m totally off base and the woman who seduced the Night King wasn’t an Other at all, of course, which is perfectly possible. Maybe she and Coldhands are the same thing, since they both seem to be rocking that whole “surprisingly articulate animated corpse” vibe. Which means that maybe the woman was a green man. Woman. Whatever. Unless that theory’s wrong too, of course.

*throws up hands* Whatever, I quit.

Anyway, I certainly hope, for Gilly’s sake, that Bran’s belief that all these malevolent ghosts are still hanging out in the castle is wrong. And a passing observation here of how quietly badass Gilly is, agreeing to wait alone in this giant creepy castle by herself without a fuss.

Also, in the excitement of Sam’s arrival, I nearly forgot that Bran warged Hodor again, this time on purpose (I don’t think it was on purpose before). And… yeah, Bran, that’s getting way disturbing. You probably need to quit that. That is going nowhere good, ethically. Yikes.

Also also, I am sort of terribly amused that getting through the Wall is just that easy, as long as you have the right connections.

And last and randomly least:

[Meera:] “I even saw an eagle circling. I think he saw me too. I waved at him.”

Whoa, did Meera wave at the warg eagle? I can’t decide if that hilarious or very worrying.

In conclusion, SAM YAY. I wish a wonderful Fourth of July for those of you so culturally inclined, and a wonderful random summer week for everyone else. See you July 11th!

Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
When you skipped over that part of the Rat Cook in your summary, I was like "LEIGH!!!" so I'm glad to see you did catch that.

My guess is that Coldhands IS the Night King, considering Bran brought us THAT story right before Sam showed up to tell Bran about him. And my guess about his wife, is that she died and he had her turned into a wight.

The meetup of Bran and Sam is a funny little thing, of all the characters you wish to bump into each other, they aren't two you think of, but here it happens!
George Jong
2. IndependentGeorge
Because the idea of how that could even happen is about making my head explode. Because, okay, sorry, but I have two words for you: icy vagina. EEEEK.

Yes, I am aware I’m a horrible person, but seriously, that is literally the first thing I thought about when I read that bit! Because, come on!
And I'm an even more horrible person because not only was that the first thing that I thought of, but the second thing was: "There was shrinkage!!!"
3. ratcook12
So, another post covering only one chapter. This is getting more than a little tedious. It will take 5 years to finish the series at this point.
4. o.m.
Urban legend or fairy tale?

Or is that the same?
Steven Halter
5. stevenhalter
Chapter 56: Bran -- For just a second, I blanked and thought Bran who? It seems like a while since we were with these characters (quick check, chapter 40) and a lot has happened since then. The have reached the Nightfort. An interesting tidbit -- the Night's King and his name being erased. A place of stories and dread for Bran. It is also the place that marks his true leaving of what he knows and his real journey into the wild ahead.
A bit of filling in. Summer was wounded but they saw Jon and that he escaped. At least some Stark now has news of another. A guess Bran as the future "Sorcerer King" gets more info than the others.
I imagine looking at the wall is like looking at a glacier. From a distance it is very hard to grasp the scale. As you approach, it looms larger and larger and pieces of the scale start to slip in until in that bit of frisson you see just how big it really is. I can't imagine walking up steps made of ice. Ice is treacherous. I live in Minnesota and so I know something about ice. Wet round ice 500 feet up isn't something you want to be on.
Ooh, the Night King took a white skinned bride (zombie, other?) and sacrificed to the Others. A frozen bride sounds oddly parallel to the sorcery Melisandre works. This:
“It was not for murder that the gods cursed him,” Old Nan said, “nor for serving the Andal king his son in a pie. A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a guest beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive.”
That says a lot about just what kind of affront the Frey's have committed. There will be a price to their act. That's what that story is telling us.
Something is coming from the well. Nice horror tension here. Bran wakes Meera and the he rides Hodor!
The thing's name is Sam. Well. OH! It's Samwell. Nicely done GRRM. I didn't even think Samwell until he said who he was. That's just precious in the midst of everything else that Bran asks Sam not to "tell." Bran is still a kid after all.
So, Coldhands must be the odd guy on the elk and he sent Sam through to find Bran and company. The Black Gate was very cool. An enchanted weirwood face and they go through the expanded mouth.
6. Phlyers
I was just recently linked to one of your posts (the red wedding), so I went back and caught up from the beginning. I read the books last year, and this has been a fun way to "re-read" them myself. Keep up the good work, I'll be sticking around for the rest of the ride.
7. cheem
I really liked this chapter... lots of world building in this chapter. Also, it was extra long. I notice that in this book, there are very few Bran chapters, but they are really long ones. This chapter took up an entire CD in the audiobook version, if I recall correctly.
8. Corkryn
I'd imagine that cannibalism isn't quite as big a taboo in this particular setting, where winter has a variable legth and has been known to last upwards of an entire decade. It seems likely to be a far more common occurance at any rate.
9. Delafina
As far as cognizance/reproduction, etc. there's a difference between Others and wights -- the Others are living humanoids who animate undead wights to serve them. (The wights are zombies; the Others are more like some sort of icy fey.) The Others are also mentioned somewhere as being very skilled swordsmen, which would imply that they're also pretty intelligent.
10. olethros
RE: Corpse love: Well, at least she wouldn't need to get up to put ice in her mouth...
Adam S.
11. MDNY
I absolutely LOOOOOVE this chapter. Mad Axe is like a standard horror slasher pic story, while the Rat Cook is awesomely creepy. But the Night's King is hands down the best, and one of the best "old-time" stories in the series (interesting how many of them come from Old Nan). And it was definitely an Other that he had sex with/married. She is described as being cold, pale white, and with bright blue eyes. That is an Other or Wight, without a doubt, and given the high level of intelligence she displayed (seducing the commander of the Night's Watch and corrupting him and the whole watch into performing atrocities) I would lean towards Other. The story also explains why the Night Watch castles don't have any fortifications against a southern approach. And I think EVERYONE has that same thought as you did about the icy vagina, Leigh. I know I did, and I immediately saw some, er... logistical problems there.
The weirwood gate is ultra cool, too. I want a door like that, though I could do without it crying on me.
12. Hammerlock
Well, sure its easy to get through the wall if you're a member of the Night's Watch. You have gates above and below!

Also, it probably explains the whole "death for desertion" thing they have going for them--even putting aside its use to keep their motley band of barely-reformed criminals together, if you have enchanted gates tied to allow members of the Night's Watch pass, you generally don't want any to start developing contrary allegiances.
George Jong
13. IndependentGeorge
The other issue that arises when making the beast with two backs with an Other is, well... Have you seen A Christmas Story? I forsee complications.
15. TG12
I like this chapter a lot. It has great atmosphere, some nifty horror-ish stories, and a cool unexpected meet-up between Bran and Sam and their entourages.

Also, glad you picked up on the ethical problems of what Bran is doing with Hodor. I always have to remind myself that Bran (and Arya too, when the same sorts of questions arise in her storyline) is still just a kid, feeling his way and really cut off from any sort of adult or quasi-parental perspective or guidance as he negotiates some really new territory.
Chris Nelly
16. Aeryl
@12, So could Jon pass through, having broken his oath?(If you feel he has)
Rob Munnelly
17. RobMRobM
Agree. Fun chapter. Love the Rat Cook story, which I didn't pay much attention to on earlier read but it really is needed to emphasize the consequences of the RW earlier. The Night's King story - I never really thought about it enough to consider that it likely was a female Other (or associated vaginal consequences - I guess I'm not that twisted after all.)

Yes, this pretty clearly validates the power and validity of Jojen's green dreams, in case there was any doubt earlier. Woo hoo.

Looks like we should calling Bran the Kevin Bacon of Westeros, as he's connected to several plot lines.
Church Tucker
18. Church
"Gods not modeled on the Judeo-Christian brand tend to be pretty capricious that way"

Have you read the Old Testament? Sacrifice your son. JK LOL!
Marcus W
19. toryx
Church @ 18:
Have you read the Old Testament? Sacrifice your son. JK LOL!
Oh man, that was beautifully done. Actually made me laugh out loud. Thanks.
Tom Smith
20. phuzz
There's also a pretty big hint that maybe The Wall is more than just a physical barrier (becasue half a kilometer of shear ice isn't enough?), but has magic in it to prevent Cold Hands (whoever he is!) from crossing it.

And regarding all this speculation on the mating habits of Ice Brides, y'all a bunch of perverts ;)
21. Iarvin
Church @18 Doesn't that story end with a sheep being provided instead of the son? The story actually seems to support Leigh's point rather than run contrary to it.

There's also stories of the Isrealites effectively offering 'guest-rights' to people, and then not being allowed to kill them, even though they were tricked into agreement.
George Jong
22. IndependentGeorge
Then there's the Greek pantheon, where the gods were a bunch of vain, petty perverts with the self-control of ADHD children on cocaine.
23. jonnyawesome
could cold hands be benjen stark?
Steven Halter
24. stevenhalter
jonnyawesome@23:That seems like a candidate to me. If it is someone we have heard of then Benjen seems the most likely. Or a forest child person. Or a "god" of some sort. Or someone else entirely.
25. KingsGambit
Great chapter! I love these old legends. Just like the other stories we've heard about the likes of Brandon the Builder, Lann the Clever, and Bael the Bard. They sound part fact, part fiction within the fictional world, if that makes sense.

You can sort of see those stories start as stuff that's happening right now gets retold. Like Renly's ghost, the way reports about Dany's dragons sound by the time they get to Kings Landing and all the develish properties Tyrion is given in tales by the smallfolk. Who knows how the legends originated. There's no reason for GRRM to have thought out the original events, he just needs to make up a few unlikely legends.

Bran saw Jon when he was warged with Summer, right? That's how he knows. But is it warged with or warged into? And does anyone care?

I hope this one chapter at the time stuff is a reaction to the Red Wedding and you'll get back to two chapters if and when something good happens.
26. o.m.
@20, well, it is a change of pace from fitting modern morals on wildlings. Do Others count as breaking the oath?
27. lololololol
@3: It's cause for a lot of concern. At this rapid pace, Leigh will run out of chapters before the series is finished.
Adam S.
28. MDNY
@26 depends. Can a human and Other breed? Cause the oath is very specific: they will "father no children", it doesn't forbid sex, per se.
Katharine Duckett
29. Katharine
@25 Mod here: I edited the last line of your comment to remove any potential spoilers--I know it was vague, but we don't want to spoil Leigh! Thanks.
Marie Veek
30. SlackerSpice
@21: The story goes that Abraham was about to actually kill Isaac when an angel appeared, signifying God's approval of Abraham's devotion (read that as sarcastic as you like), as well as an Uber-Convenient Ram that Abraham could kill instead of Isaac.
31. KingsGambit
@29 I try to be really carefull about spoilers and thought the last remark was pretty much in line with Leigh's comments in earlier posts, but I guess it could be seen as a spoiler, too. Sorry about that.

I'm glad the comments are edited, thanks for your work and I'll take even more care in the future.
32. SadDoctor
Just as a little historical footnote, the idea of guest right or sacred hospitality is pretty massively widespread throughout the ancient and medieval world. Zeus himself was the enforcer of Xenia in greek myth, and the great crime of Troy was not stealing some guy's wife, but doing so while he was a guest under the Greeks' roof. The Norse had similar cultural taboos against the mistreatment of guests and those who treated their guests well were celebrated. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all mention the destruction of Sodom (whose sin was not the sodomy, but trying to do it to guests under Lot's roof), as well as other examples. Guest Right was a HUGE deal, if maybe more often honored in the breach.
33. Asbjorn
Hodor throwing a rock down the well: A possible reference to the Moria-scene in Lord of the Rings?
Katharine Duckett
34. Katharine
@31 No problem! We just like to err on the side of extra-cautious caution.
35. Ibid
@33: "Fool of a Took!"

I thought the same thing too.
36. Aerona Greenjoy
Wildling women are reputed to "lay with the Others in the Long Night to sire terrible half-human children" (recalled by Bran, AGoT Chapter 1). The Night King tale reminded me of that rumor, whose veracity is similarly unclear.
37. JohnnyMac
All this sex with corpsicles speculation impells me to contribute a limerick I learned years ago:

A widow, whose singular vice
Twas to keep her dead husband on ice,
Said: "It's been hard since I lost him.
I'll never defrost him.
Cold comfort but cheap at the price!"

By the way, Leigh, your posts are always laugh out loud funny, often insightful and are a much anticipated high point of my weekly reading here at Tor. Thank you and keep it up!
38. MjF
Speaking of Old Nan's legends, there's also Symeon Stareyes, a knight of the Age of Heroes (a.k.a. The Last Time The Others Were Around) who supposedly lost his eyes and made himself new ones out of shining blue sapphires.
39. Crusader75
I like Sam to, but he could not find the Wall? That means from where he was he could not find south! That is something to be embarassed about, especially for the Maester's steward. Also Boromir says: "One does not simply warg into Hodor!" That's not mine, but I wish it was.
40. Crusader75
@21 Abraham & Isaac is more famous bit not the best example. The go to one for that is in Judges story of Jephthah who made a thoughtless vow which forced him to sacrifice his daughter.
41. Iarvin
@40 That story isn't as relevant to the relative capriciousness of deities though. Also, I'm pretty sure it's not what @17 was refering to given that there is no 'JK LOL' in the Judges story.
42. Lord Foul's Bane
Me, I like how Hodor kicked Bran out his head THEN attacked Sam. To me, that means Hodor made a (instinctive?) decision to cooperate w/out being encumbered by Bran's lack of maturity and experience. Maybe Hodor is developing some? Maybe he's not as dim as people think he is? Maybe I'm indulging in some wishful thinking? WTH... Go HODOR! :) @3 - Not Leigh's fault there are so many chapters to read... Just unhitch the Clydesdales and walk with us for a while longer; it's not like Book 7 will get here before she's done, anyway. :D
43. Aerona Greenjoy
Like some of you, I especially enjoyed this chapter. Along with the spooky setting and colorful tales, it contains a combination of traits which are sometimes-boringly common in much fantasy but rare and thus refreshing in ASOIAF -- benignly mysterious magic, unexpected meetings between groups of Likeable Companions, and, most unusually, a brief absence of Really Unlikeable People (except those in the tales). It's dramatic and momentous, but not gory.
44. owleyes
@43 Aerona Greenjoy, I feel the same way. I always think of the Bran/Meera/Jojen/Hodor storyline as a sort of ode to the traditional hero's adventure. It's the one trope GRRM lets us have.
John Brown
45. Seerow
@3 if it takes her 5 years to finish it'll be alright, because GRRM will still be 5 years away from finishing book 6.
46. winterking
@40, @41, etc: My favorite example is the story of Job. "Hey, my favorite and most unquestioningly faithful worshipper: have some boils and death of everything you hold dear. What--you ask me why I allow this? How dare you question me, mortal, I am God and can do whatever I want! And by the way, have some health and fortune and brand new kids to replace your old ones."

(As amply illustrated in Lego by the Brick Testament: )

Nope, not capricious at all...
Tom Smith
47. phuzz
If you're going to have capricious gods, at least go with someone like Anansi, he had style.
In fact, I've not seen any sign of trickster gods in any of the various religions in Westeros and overseas, given how prelevent they are in real world religions, I'd have expected one or two. I guess some of the stories about the children of the forrest cover that niche?
Or have I missed one?
48. Slynt
The Judeochristian god *did* have children mauled by bears for making fun of a bald guy. Just sayin'.
Tabby Alleman
49. Tabbyfl55
Could there be anything more randomly capricious than a pillar of salt?

Do we know if Ygritte's body got burned? Cuz if not, maybe she and Jon could still... you know.

So if Bran saw Jon "off screen" and Summer got shot trying to help him, did Bran actually see Jon in person, or did he see him while warging Summer?
50. Danib
Seriously, one chapter per week now? Jesus Christ. It was good while it lasted.
51. Lsana
My theory about this chapter is that the Night's King story will turn out to be just a story and have no relevance to any of the plotlines in the real world. Meanwhile, all the other creepy stories Bran alluded to that we weren't paying attention to because we were all so wrapped up with the Night's King will turn out to be 100% true and crucial to things going forward....

Also, on the question of the morality of the Old Gods here: I don't know that I see it as capricious, though it's different from the Judeo-Christian morality. Other people have pointed out that the seasons probably means that the North might not have the same cannibalism taboo, and given the number of wars the Great Houses have with each other, they probably don't consider killing their enemies to be murder. But Guest Right...given the nature of winter in Westeros, being able to seek shelter at a castle and trust your host (and on the flip side, being able to offer shelter and trust your guests) could mean the difference between civilization continuing to exist and everything falling apart and freezing to death.

Also it isn't really all that different from the way we look at things. Suppose Walder Frey had refused the offer of a second marriage alliance, forcing the Northmen to lay siege to the Twins in order to get back home, and Robb was killed in the ensuing battle. Would we hate the Freys so much then? I don't think so. We hate the Freys, not because they killed Robb and Catelyn, but because they betrayed them--or in other words, because they killed Robb and Catelyn while they were guests under the Frey roof.
Adam S.
52. MDNY
I hate the Freys for many reasons. It's just the last act (i.e. Red Wedding) that moves Walder Frey from asshole to "weeping pustule/giant poop splash", in the words of our esteemed reader. And the violation of guest rights is what moves it over from criminal, to unforgivable. But he and the Boltons sucked before then. Roose Bolton was always creepy, not to mention Ramsey, and their house has a tradition of flaying people alive and being almost destroyed way back in the past because they opposed the Starks. The Freys likewise suck, especially "the late" Lord Walder Frey, who only grudgingly gives his allegiance to his liege lord, and demanded multiple marriages (including Robb) to allow his liege passage.
Chris Nelly
53. Aeryl
Well Robb wasn't his liege in GoT, Hoster Tully was.

But the point still stands that Walder Frey is snivelling coward.
54. AlyxL
Something that has puzzled me off and on throughout the books; why is Sam still fat? He's spent ages trekking through icy wastes with little or no food, but every time he is introduced he's still described as fat and wobbly. As someone who has just been put on a very strict diet, without benefit of cold weather, I find this rather dispiriting.
Chris Nelly
55. Aeryl
@54, Because some people are just fat.
Nathan Martin
56. lerris
@54, because this is fiction, not reality. Call it another detail GRRM got wrong ( along with not realizing just how high this Wall of his is... )
Chris Nelly
57. Aeryl
Or that GRRM, who I've read has also struggled with dieting, (which has an abysmal failure rate, FYI) wants you to understand that Sam was never fat because he was lazy and overeating, but Sam was fat because he was born that way, and no amount of cutting his diet or increasing his exercise was going to change that.
58. DougL
Umm, lol Lea, read the Old Testament lately? You think these gods are capricious? hehe

Even the children's bible version is the darkest fairy tale a kid could be exposed to.
Melanie DeJulis
59. Shonagon
Re: the capriciousness of Westerosi gods

I would actually argue that they are the opposite of capricious, with their unwavering law protecting guest right, as compared to the deities of our world. I'm reminded of Odysseus' return after a decades-long absence, when he found all the suitors staying under his roof vying for his wife's hand. In the Odyssey, the extenuating circumstances were enough to warrant a happy ending for the hero even after he decided to quickly dispose of the unwanted guests, though visitors were traditionally protected under a similar rule (it's just common courtesy, AND you never know when a traveler might turn out to be Zeus in disguise, so be polite). In the story of the Rat Cook, it seems even rightful vengeance isn't enough to outweigh the strict rules governing guest right. At least the Westerosi deities are consistent.
60. i dunno
The others are clearly more than just mindless killing machines. You think that scrawny guy from the prologue was able to fight his way out of there? No way, they definitely let him go. They wanted him to get away.
Janet Hopkins
61. JanDSedai
Just a thought-- If Hodor could so easily throw Bran out of his mind, then what does that say for warging into someone with a more complex mindset? I guess that's why it is commonly thought you can't warg into people...
Aaron V. Humphrey
62. alfvaen
Re: Otherloving. I'm very sorry, but I have to post this. (NSFW!!!!)

Ahem. Anyway, I remember being very happy when Samwell and Bran crossed over, and then a little frustrated when Bran insisted that Sam couldn't tell Jon about it... It's that whole information-sharing thing again.
Marie Veek
63. SlackerSpice
@62: I suspect he's doing this because there's the possibility that someone other than Jon might hear and decide they could make a pretty penny by selling them out to Ramsay.
Brett Dunbar
64. Brett
@ 54

Sam may have actually lost a great deal of weight but still be very fat. If he started out at say 32 stone and has lost 10 stone, which is an awful lot of weight, he still weights 22 stone and by any standard is still very fat, as his normal weight would be closer to 11 stone.
Mike DMonte
65. MickeyDee
I was going to make two point Leigh but the first one on the capricious nature of the Abrahamic gods has already been made so let me get onto the second point toot-sweet (sic):

Icy Vaginas & the Hot-Blooded Stark: Nope my first thought on reading this was even more purile: So that's where they got the motto "Winter is coming".
66. GoldJerry
@54, I wondered that, too. Because Sam is not "dieting" and "increasing his exercise," he's close to starving and walking miles upon miles every day. A few bites of garlic sausage are not enough fuel for that kind of demand.

I'm not saying that Sam wasn't born predisposed to being heavy, or that that's not OK, I'm only saying that in a prolonged near-starvation situation, it shouldn't be possible. Brett's @64 explanation makes the most sense to me.
Adam S.
67. MDNY
Sam wasn't just fat, he was morbidly obese. As in, his body-mass index was over 35 (normal is up to 25, overweight up to 30, obese to 35, I'm guessing Sam was severely obese, with a BMI over 40). The rest of the NW are not collapsing from starvation, until Craster's they were underfed but they had enough to eat to survive. Sam may not have eaten much for a while, and recently had nothing, but he was likely more than a hundred pounds overweight. I doubt that he lost 100 pounds in a few weeks, he rides a horse when he gets the chance, he doesn't often run around, he rarely undertakes physical activities the rest of the brothers often do like sparring... Sam is likely genetically fat, exacerbated by his psyche after a lifetime of being berated by his father and belittle by those around him. But I see no inconsistencies in Sam still being fat. Even losing 50 pounds, a remarkable achievement, would likely still place him in the obese range, maybe still morbidly obese.
Deana Whitney
68. Braid_Tug
Re: Ice Bride, could be she just played with his mind into a “good time.” No real contact of the neither regions applied. (Thank you @13, IG). But we are all overthinking things again too.

@ 22, IG – so true. The stories of the Greek Gods when looked at from afar really have to make you wonder – “Why are these guys so great?”

@ 64, Brett – I like your argument about Sam’s “fatness.” “Fat” is a relative term. So he could have lost weight, but still be fat in the eyes of many.
However, I don’t see Sam ever weighting 11 stones = 154 pounds.
69. Aerona Greenjoy
I was more curious how Gilly hadn't starved half to death, with a nursing baby and no fat reserves to match Sam's.
70. lolololol
In Lost, Charlie (I think?) makes the same observation to Hurley only to be admonished that he's actually lost a ton of weight since getting to the island.

Also, watching someone gradually lose weight hides some of the weight loss from you. It happens a lot with people on Survivor. You think "they can't really be starving" and then you see them at the reunion and realize how gaunt they were on the island towards the end.
71. Rand al'Todd
RE Sam and his weight loss -

I had a friend in college who was about as big around as he was tall. Required to take track for PE. They had a program which awarded a point to your average for every pound lost. He was on a one salad PER WEEK diet (plus all the water he could drink, and show up at the infirmary every day to prove you are still alive). At the end of the quarter (12 weeks) he still looked obese. I couldn't tell that he had lost any weight until he showed me how his pants were now pinned together in front, then folded halfway around his waist. (had to have been at least 18 inches off his waist line.)

So, yes, if you are obese, you can lose 40 or 50 pounds and still be obese, and a casual observer not notice the difference.

And, yes, he made a better grade in that PE class than I did (which wasn't saying much - on test day I did the mile in 7:45).
72. DougL
First, Leigh, I am sorry, my earlier posts was done whislt I was very, very tired, and I mispelled your name, bad me, since I have been reading your stuff since the newsgroup.

@3. ratcook12

I would also like more chapters covered, but now we are getting the longer summary style of The Wheel of Time Re-read, which is cool, because I can read the books myself, I am only here to see what Leigh has to say about things.

Also, GRRM has become notoriously slow in terms writing these books since Storm, and unfortunately I feel that if Leigh does two chapters per week she will pass him way before Winds comes out.
Joseph Ash
73. TedThePenguin
I frequently joke that my BMI indicates that I am obese, which I am actually MILDLY overweight (I have slight gut... doesnt really hang over my pants or anything, just chubby). But yes, it would take Sam a LONG time to really drop to a "healthy" weight if he is up at 32 stone (~450lbs, ~200kg).

That said, everyone just hates Walder because he is a prick, and we were conditioned to hate him because of the whole guest's right thing by Catlyn.

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