September 02, 2011

Jon XII

Lord Commander Jon Snow and Ghost
Jon has a nightmare. He fights the wildlings attacking the Wall, alone, raining down fire on them and slaying them. He wears armor of black ice and has a burning red sword in hand. After killing wildlings, he slashes all the dead rangers - Benjen, the Old Bear, Qhorin and the others. When he wakes due to the raven pecking at his chest, he's confused. Musing about whether it really is a good idea to let the wildlings in, he walks outside. Today is the day the open the gate and let Tormund and his 4000 pass. He decides that he has to make a decision, and then stick with it, which is just what he does now when he approaches his officers.

Bowen Marsh reports in. Everything is prepared and in place. Jon issues the last orders, including to Edd Tollet who makes back to Longbarrow, complaining as usual. He surrounds himself with some seasoned brothers as guards, including Leathers. That's unusual, and he doesn't like this tail, but he sees the need for a show of force. He then gives the command to open the gate and rides out to meet Tormund. The two leaders have a short exchange about fear, with Tormund stating that now that everyone sees Jon they will lose some of the awe they have of the Watch, and Jon replying by calling Ghost at his side. The transition from beyond the Wall in the realms of men then starts with the 100 hostages.

These are boys, some of them even sons of infamous wildling leaders. Two of them turn out to be girls, and Jon rejects them since he doesn't want to give temptations to the brothers. Insteads, Tormund turns up with two new hostages, one of them being his second son. After the hostages come the people from the Frozen Shore, clad in sealskin. Like the hostages before, they surrender all their valuables to Bowen Marsh, who makes an account of them, and Jon finds himself thinking about how much the valuables are actually worth in the Free Cities.

When the talk with Tormund comes to the Horn of Winter, Tormund confesses that they just took the oldest, biggest horn they could find and that it was a bluff. Jon is not sure whether to believe it, but finds himself wondering who has the real one then. An ox cart gets stuck in the tunnel, delaying the process for an hour, and Jon asks Tormund about the Others. The wildling is strangely silent about the matter, having witnessed terrible things obviously, and wants to talk only at the other side of the Wall. He lets out some sentences about that one can't find the cold and the mists, which the Others seem capable to use at their will.

In the afternoon, snow clouds begin to gather at the sky. The wildlings grow restless and fearful, and everyone wants the procedure done by nightfall. The consensus is - which surprises Jon - that whoever is still out come dark will stay there for the night, the gate closed until the sun is up again. Among the people ushering in now is a skinchanger, Borroq, introduced to Jon by Tormund. Jon felt that he is skinchanger even before the introduction, however, and Ghost instantly grows restless and wants to attack. Tormund advises them to lock up both their respective beasts.

When the wildlings are finally in, Marsh gives the final count. The officer obviously is not happy about any of it, but Jon soothes him by telling him that the wildlings would be gone to the various castles in a matter of days. Jon walks back into his rooms, where a letter waits for him. It turns out to be from Cotter Pyke, who wrote from the ships at Hardhome. He lost five out of eleven, and the wildlings there are in a dire state. They started eating their dead, and they were betrayed by some ships from the Free Cities and not inclined to trust. The letter also talks of "dead things in the water". Jon goes to sleep thinking that his war has finally begun.

There is much and more in this chapter, layers and informations given only causually or hinted at. Let's start with the brothers of the Watch, Bowen Marsh first among them. In the last Jon chapter, he closed by obeying to Jon's commands after the Lord Commander threw him his oath in the face, thereby challenging Marsh's notion that he commits treason. There are people out there who think that Marsh is plotting Jon's downfall for several chapters now, being in an alliance with Selyse. I still don't think so. I think Marsh has grudgingly accepted Jon's rule and his decisions about the wildlings. He is opposed to them, but he carries them out. However, he is determined to act as soon as Jon steps over the line he walks just now.

I base that assumpation mainly on the fact that if Marsh was poised to strike for some time now, why does he not do it before Jon's supposed wildling allies come through the Wall? The time when he finally strikes is just plain unconvenient: there are several wildlings who just swore allegiance to Jon at the court when Marsh and his buddies strike. They could have attacked Jon at any meeting before and never let the wildlings in. If their aim was to prevent exactly that outcome, why haven't they done so? No, I think it is more likely that Bowen Marsh stays loyal to the Watch, and Jon commands it, whether he likes it or not. Only when Jon officially deserts and intends to bring down the Watch by making war on Bolton he reacts.

Let's go over to the wildlings and Tormund. Obviously, they know a big deal about the Others, and they have learned additional things since the battle against Stannis, things they didn't want to learn in the first place. That means that the Others are real near to the Wall, waiting for something to happen; otherwise, they couldn't have attacked Tormund's band these past weeks so relentlessy. The question is, what are they waiting for? The wildlings are damn glad about being south of the Wall, and rightly so as it seems. Tormund's band has gotten the better deal of it anyway, compared to the guys at Hardhome. They are down to cannibalism, being cheated by the prophecy of Mother Mole, and "dead things are in the water". What is meant by that? Corpses? Or others that swim or walk the ground of the sea in "Pirates of the Carribean" style? Guess we won't know until "The Winds of Winter".

It is queer, too, that this chapter for the first time in "A Dance with Dragons" gives us the impression of the Others as a thread back. They were the big danger in "A Storm of Swords", but for a good 90% of the current book, they were simply gone, making place for all the plots in the Watch and with the wildlings. Not they creep back into our consciousness. That being said, Jon's causal thought about who may have the Horn of Joramun is a good one. I don't think it likely that Tormund lied about this; he doesn't really has a reason to, and the bluff definitely would fit Mance Rayder's style. So, who has it (if anyone) and what does he intend with it? That question whe should keep in our heads.

Finally, let's close in on the questions of Jon and the wildlings. For one, it's definitely noteworthy that they all swear on oath on passing through the Wall, noting it's the same one that Tormund made, and from the bits we get of it it seems like they swear to Jon in person - laying the ground for building up his personal wildling army. Borroq is also a wild card for the aftermath of the final Jon chapter and could be used for various ends. Now he is a plot device to get Ghost out of the way so he can't protect Jon later, but what he will do later we can't say as yet.

As to more side notes, Jon initially wonders why the raven calls him by his full name "Jon Snow" for the first time when waking him up, but he never gets into the matter. Does ist have a meaning? It could be that Bran is improving his skinchanger abilities and tries the same thing with Jon as with Theon, waking him and warning him. In that case, Jon would be much less sensitive than Theon of all people. Another thing is the show of force Jon makes up for the wildlings with his personal guards and Ghost. He definitely knows how to it and shows some capabilities as a leader here again. The last sidenote concerns Hardhome. The place seems to have some meaning besides being the point where some wildlings are, since we get some pieces of legends about it, but it doesn't seems clear to me as yet where the significance of Hardome lies for the moment.

18 comments:

  1. Mmm, Borroq is not Varamyr's son.

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  2. You're right, just looked it up. I correct it.

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  3. I think it's very clear why the raven calls him "Jon Snow". It seems obvious to me that Bran is doing the exact same thing that he did with Theon...Bran has become a better skin-changer than Bloodraven.

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  4. clearly John dreams of becoming a dragon. Raining fire down on them.

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  5. The Others actually got superseded by wildlings about 1/3 into "Storm of Swords," after Sam killed an Other. It's interesting to note this while remembering that Martin originally planned a "five year gap" after that book. The Others, apparently, were not meant to do very much during that gap period.

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  6. @Dozytime: Never occured to me before. Nice idea. Integrating it.
    @Kchorman19: Why a dragon? And why the wildlings and not the Others? It seems more like a dream of personal guilt.
    @Ahorwitt: Makes sense. The question what exactly they are waiting for is interesting, though :)

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  7. How many wildlings are actually on or south of the wall at the moment (including the thenns, tormund's band, etc..)? How many soldiers would it give jon for his 'little trip' south?!

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  8. Hm, we have about 4000 south of the Wall I think, perhaps as many as 5000. Of them a total of perhaps 1500 are warriors. Since Jon doesn't have much time, the Thenns are already at Karhold (300 strong), many are not at his disposal since they don't want to fight for him or in other castles (like the spearwives), I think he couldn't round up more than 200, 300 fighters for his trip at best.

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  9. i assume you are referring to the wildlings in the shieldhall.. but those were the captains.. around 200 of them.

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  10. Hm, ok, then there are more than I assumed still around.

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  11. The Others are waiting for the Wall to come down - which I'll bet dollars to donuts it does in TWOW. They can't get past it.

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  12. Two things:

    1) "He wears armor of black ice and has a burning red sword in hand." ... That seems like rather a lot of ammunition for camp Jon = Azor Ahai.

    2) "Jon's causal thought about who may have the Horn of Joramun is a good one. ... So, who has it (if anyone) and what does he intend with it?" ...
    I think Sam had it for a while, as it was in the obsidian cache he found. I don't know what happened to it after the battle at the fist, though.

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  13. That horn the horn of winter? How do you come to that notion?

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  14. Ive always been of the opinion that the Horn of Winter is the horn that was found with the obsidian. Sam still has it to this day with him in the Citadel if I remember correctly.

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  15. Who knows if it'll happen, but DanH's idea about the wall coming down sounds amazing to me. How cool would it be if Winds of Winter ended with the wall coming down. And then what will be Westeros's last hope? Dany and her dragons. Sounds like a setup for an epic finale.

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  16. The others have been waiting 4 ever. They seem to preffer wights for dirtywork so they probably want to have max wight qty for the fight. And active wights cant pass the magic wards of cotf which should be or at least the others may assume blocks their way. Maybe the others wanted the horn of joramun thats why they attacked fist of first dudes. But a dead man that has yet to be reanimated as wight is able pass the wall as we saw. Assuming the cotf never warded the newer larger gates but last time they were in town there was probably only the black gate which only the crows can open and dead things cannot pass. So assuming the others have the intellect they could send wights hidden in a ship to eastwatch and overwhelm them. Or somehow get the crows to transport a corpse army to the other side of the wall and they all wake up and kill everyone again. Then there will be a ton of wights. Or if they had catapults they could fling the bodies over the wall. Or better....

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  17. They shoulda wighted up birds of prey and have them drop smaller body parts of wights in some secure location and the wights at that point could reassamble their own corpses and attack. When you kill a wight the blue leaves their eyes I believe so I assume they are dispossed and eligible for a fiery kiss. Brought back to life they may have good intel. Also too bad the watch couldnt get hands on wildfire. If they didnt have so great old god love they couldve burnt the haunted forest years ago. And why no outpost high up in those mountains? And while the wall tends to put out fires on its own wildfire may be strong enough to melt it away some. I always had a feeling about that horn ghost found but if the burier was aware of its properties and was also apparently friend to the watch why not destroy it. The only way it could be handy is as a way to escape a threat from the south, maybe an army of stone men bringing greyscale north all the people fleeing to hide behind the wall on the other side unfortunately bowen marsh just finished sealing the wall so the only way to escape is to drop the wall and hid with the bran boy

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  18. Also the extreme cold preceeds them so they may need wait for it to lead they way before they can advance. So when this winter really kicks in they will be strongest. Why not wait a few months for the right temp after waiting this long. A slow advance seems advantageous for them. As well as massive snowdrifts they are able to walk atop the lights snows so enough snow completely bury castle black while the others are walking far above. Eight foot drifts at winterfell? They may get big enough at the wall that the othes could walk right up like a ramp making the wall much shorter.

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