Bran is falling in darkness. A voice tells him to fly, but he does not know how. The speaker is a crow who lands on his shoulder and exhorts him to fly. He looks down. He sees all of Winterfell, Maester Luwin looking at the stars, Hodor carrying an anvil, Robb practicing with a real sword. The weirwood at Winterfell turns its eyes to look at him knowingly. He sees Catelyn and Ser Rodrik on a galley with a knife; he sees Eddard plead with Robert while Sansa cries and Arya holds her secrets; over them all are two shadows, one dark as ash with the face of a hound and the other armored like the sun, golden and beautiful.1 Over both looms a giant of stone with blood pouring out of his visor.2 He looks across the Free Cities and the Dothraki Sea to Vaes Dothrak, and beyond to the Jade Sea to Asshai, where dragons stirred.3 Finally, he looks north and beholds the Wall and Jon and beyond that in the heart of winter something so terrible that it makes him cry. The crow tells him this is why he must live, because winter is coming. He notices that the crow has three eyes. The three-eyed crow pecks at his forehead.4 The ground rushes up to meet him, but he flies at the last second. He awakes in his room in Winterfell. A servingwoman runs off to tell everyone that he is awake. He sees his direwolf atop him and is comforted by his warmth. By the time Robb gets to the room, he has decided to name the direwolf Summer.
This is a short chapter so there isn’t much to say here. The significance of this chapter changes completely in light of what we know from ADWD – the three eyed crow is clearly some sort of representation of Brynden Rivers, Bloodraven. I cannot seem to remember off-hand whether the three-eyed crow is an actual creature that Bran encounters once he goes past the wall, but it is quite fitting that Bloodraven be represented by such a creature; after all, he had one eye himself and along with the crow’s own two eyes and Bloodraven’s association with the Night’s Watch, he is indeed a three eyed crow. Furthermore, Bloodraven was known for having a thousand eyes and one so it’s only fitting that his messenger or one of his physical forms, depending on what exactly the three-eyed crow actually is, has an extra eye.
There is a good deal of speculation about what exactly Bran saw. Most of it, the reader has just witnessed or can explain right away – Sansa’s tears and Arya’s secrets, the storm that neither Rodrik nor Catelyn can see and Ned’s pleas to Robert. The three shadows are fairly easy to identify as well – the Hound, Jaime Lannister and most probably, Gregor Clegane. The inclusion of the last is contentious in fan circles, not because he does not match the physical requirements but rather because it seem arbitrary to include the Mountain when he is nowhere near Sansa and Arya at the time and hasn’t even been introduced to the readers yet. However, if we consider these shadows to be people with crucial roles to play in the Stark girls’ lives, then perhaps we should be questioning the inclusion of Jaime Lannister in that list. The Hound helps both Stark girls at some point or the other, but even the Mountain cannot be said to have directly influenced either of their lives. Even if you take into account the Mountain’s role in the proceedings at Harrenhal, there is simply no reason to include Jaime Lannister in that scene. There is certainly some possibility that Jaime comes to help one or both of the Stark girls (Sansa is the more likely option at this point, though) at some stage before the series ends. Unfortunately, he is running out of time, i.e. books.
I remain of the opinion that the icy spikes exist to keep greenseers/dreamers out of the affairs of the Others. I obviously have no proof whatsoever to back me up in this except the numerous other corpses already impaled on the spikes, but it feels right given that the last thing Bran saw before the spikes was the ‘heart of winter’. I would skip over Bran’s description of Jon growing colder and paler as Jon growing as a character and becoming less of a boy, but after his ‘death’ in ADWD, I wonder if this an extremely early piece of foreshadowing, illustrating not just that Jon might be reborn, but that he might even be reborn in his old body. Alternatively, might it even signal a transform into the Night’s King?
Lastly, I’m a big fan of how the chapter ended actually – Summer is a great name for a direwolf and provides an interesting contrast to the Starks’ family words of “Winter is coming”. It’s been established that the wolves inherit something from their respective owners and if Bran’s wolf is summer, then Bran indeed is being set up as one of the bastions of power in the fight against the Others.