Redditor _honeybird recently visited the Martin Collection on display at the Cushing Library at Texas A&M and thumbed through the rough draft manuscript of A Dance With Dragons which the collection has on display.
Inadvertently, the margin notes between Martin’s editor Anne Groell and the author may reveal the answer to a long-standing mystery in the Song of Ice and Fire series, one that has been curiously ommitted from the Game of Thrones TV adaptation.
There are other items of note that _honeybird took pictures of, but the most revealing involves the Bran chapters woven through Dance.
First, let’s have some spoiler space.
Look at this handsome devil. Last chance to turn back.
Okay, spoiler space over.
In a note regarding Bran and company encountering Coldhands, Groell, wondering whether Bran would recognize Coldhands’ face, flat out asks Martin if the long lost Benjen Stark is Coldhands.
To which Martin replies “NO.”
Martin may be responding that Bran wouldn’t recognize Coldhand’s face as Benjen’s, implying that if Benjen IS Coldhands then his face got too messed up, on account of being dead, to be recognizable. (Martin does explain in the book that the reasons Coldhands’ hands are black is because his blood pooled there after death, so the physical changes that beset a human body after death did occur to some extent.) It could also be Martin answering the question straightforwardly. Since Coldhands hasn’t been included in the show, that may indicate that the character isn’t actually all that important, and that Coldhands’ main purpose may have only been to help Bran go north, a journey that the show has demonstrated Bran making without the assistance of a self-aware Other. Coldhands’ identity may never have been meant to be a mystery at all.