July 04, 2011

Bran I

Isaac Hempstead Wright as Bran Stark (in HBO's Game of Thrones)
We meet Bran, Hodor, Summer, Meera, Jojen and Coldhands riding through the snow. Meera and Jojen sit behind Coldhands on the elk, while Bran rides in his basket on Hodor’s back. The weather is ghastly. Much snow has fallen, and an ice cold wind from the north bites deep into them. Hodor’s beard is frozen, ice covers all cloth. Jojen is sick, weak from cold and hunger. His sister tries to shield him from the cold, but she is not really successful. His condition worsens as they progress north. Summer is still hurt; his leg wound from the fight with the Thenns never really healed. 

Bran has made some progress warging into Hodor, who doesn’t resist him anymore but goes back into his deep consciousness, whimpering. Bran has full control over Summer, being able to warg into him and leaving him at will and not confusing both realities anymore. The group is also accompanied by several ravens, whose language Coldhands seems to understand and who he uses as spies. They report him that they are being followed, and that it’s not the wolf pack that trails them for several days now. It’s men, but Coldhands won’t go into details, instead sending them on and staying behind to deal with them himself. They are to meet him at some fisher village ahead. 

Meera fears that Coldhands is lying. It seems to be the first time that he is apart from the group, since they supposedly never had the conversation before. She is not sure who or what he is, besides his black, cold hands, and they can’t make out his face since it is hidden behind a black scarf and a hood. They have not much choice besides urging on, however, since they don’t have food left. Their last provisions went out ten days ago, and now they only have bitter acorn paste over which Jojen can’t digest. After hours in the cold on a frozen lake, they are lost, not able to find the village. 

Bran wargs into Summer to search the village with him. He is quickly successful, and while the moon comes up they huddle together in a small hut. When Coldhands returns, he reports the foes dealt with, without going into any details or being willing to share any information with the group. Hungry, Bran wargs into Summer, who is out hunting. 

Summer stumbles upon the foes Coldhands has slain. They are humans, clad in black, and hideously maimed. Their faces are ruined, their eyes destroyed. Coldhands used his ravens to blind them and then finished the work with his blade. Bran notices that the men are Night’s Watch, not wildlings, before he has to deal with the problem Summer faces at hand: three wolves, seemingly the ones that have been trailing them, are already feasting. Summer quickly cows the female wolf and the tail wolf, but the leader of the pack – an old, one-eyed beast – remains adamant. Summer fights him and defeats him, bringing the pack into submission and making it his own. 

Back at the hut, Bran confronts Coldhands with what he learned and demands to know why he slew the black brothers and who he really is and where they are going. Coldhands refuses to explain him why he killed them or who he is, but explains that the Three-Eyes-Crow is his master and not really crow, but what he calls “the last Greenseer”. Asked about his black, cold hands, he explains without further expression that upon death, the blood gathers in the extremities, while the rest of the body goes white. He thus confirms the suspicions of being dead, but again refuses to go into further detail, finally stating that he is “Bran’s monster”. 

Whoever has hoped for a quick revelation about the nature of Coldhands, especially regarding the fate of Benjen Stark, will be disappointed and stay so throughout the book since the riddle is never revealed. No information is presented in “Dance” other than the one in this chapter and the later remark that he is “long dead”, so we can’t be sure if it’s Benjen Stark or not. Personally, I don’t think so and am convinced that Coldhands is an older entity, but nothing can be said out of the information we have been given yet.
It was already hinted in Jon’s first chapter that it’s considerably colder beyond the Wall than south of it, even right at the Watch’s castles. The wind comes from the north, clinging icy in the face, and the snowfall is much more pronounced. Winter has the land fully in its grasp, and Martin goes over lengths in making clear how cold it really is. 

Lastly, the pack Summer beats into submission is obviously the pack of One-Eye, the wolf that was possessed by Varamyr Sixskins in the prologue. The two wolfs recognize each other as being used by a warg, but there is no consequence that comes from this recognition. It almost seems as if Bran either hadn’t noticed that Summer did or that he forgot quickly about the revelation that the dead men were Night’s Watch. Since the wolves from now on follow Summer – who is reminded by Bran that he has his own pack, but seems not to mind – and over the course of the book, Varamyr doesn’t get active, the warg either is dissolved into his beast to a considerable degree or bides his time. If it is the latter, he might try to get a suitable vessel for his mind after all. Since Thistle wouldn’t have provided him with his powers, Bran would, should he be able to warg into him. This is only speculation, but if it would be possible, there would be hope for Jon after all.

As a side note, the dead rangers that trailed them might be remants from the betrayal at Craster's Keep. One of them is noted to have lost his hand, which would fit the description of Mormont's murderer Ollo Lophand.


  1. Bit confused about the last part, how is Varamyr playing warg possum good exactly? Bran could be in considerable danger if that's the case, and I'm not sure how relevant this would be for Jon.

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  3. hasnt sixskins assumed in the prologue that a dead warg may transfer his mind to another body, but wont have any of his former powers left without his own body? the crows bran wargs into seem to prove this theory, as he can feel the children left in them.

    i believe he cant warg into anything as one-eye, and even if he could, i assume bran is MUCH stronger than sixskins.

  4. Well, Sixskins did feel Orell in the eagle and dominated him, so it seems possible.

  5. "there would be hope for Jon after all."

    Was what you said, and how this relates to Jon at the moment though is what I'm asking.

    I think more then likely, given how prologue characters usually die or disappear, that Varamyr's mind probably is gone. The big danger then is what would happen if Bran warged into One-Eye himself, wouldn't you say?

  6. i think you dont get my point. of course he feels orell in the eagle - as bran felt the other remaining minds in the crows. their minds remain in those bodies - but they are caged within them, they cant go anywhere else - its their final skin.

    bran wouldnt be in any danger. its the same as with the crows - he would feel sixskins within one-eye, but it wouldnt matter, he would be the dominating mind. (if sixskins would be stronger, he simply couldnt warg into one-eye i guess..)

  7. Well, Varamyr pretty much confirmed that it's your final skin and that you can't leave it.

  8. My interpretation of the dead Watch men were that they were the betrayers from Craster's Keep. One of them is mentioned specifically as having his hand off (in what seemed to be an old wound), which I thought was Ollo Lophand, who killed Lord Commander Mormont.

  9. That's an idea I never thought off. I implement it in the post, thanks!