Bran watches Rickon run in the yard with Summer, Grey Wind, and Shaggydog. Bran is now eight and having trouble coping with his paralysis. Old Nan is with him to take care of him and keep him company. Nan is the oldest person in Winterfell. She came to be a wetnurse for another Brandon whose mother died giving birth, though whether this Brandon was a brother of Lord Rickard or of Lord Rickard’s father changes depending on when Nan tells the story. At any rate, the boy died of a chill at three, but Nan stayed on at the castle. Her two sons died during Robert’s Rebellion and her grandson died during Greyjoy’s Rebellion, while her daughters long ago married, moved away, and died. Her only kin left is the stableboy, Hodor. Robb spends all his time now trying to be a lord, drilling the guard, going over accounts, and visiting outlying holdfasts.
Bran is cranky and in no mood for Old Nan’s stories. She offers to tell the story of Brandon the Builder and how he raised both Winterfell and the Wall, but Bran says he prefers the scary stories. Nan therefore proceeds to tell Bran a story of the Others. Many thousands of years ago, a winter came that was the harshest ever experienced and a night came that lasted a generation. It was then that the Others came. They rolled over all in their path, defeating armies by the score. As all hope seemed lost, the last hero rode forth into the Far North with a sword, a horse, a dog, and a dozen companions to find the children of the forest and magic to defeat the Others. After years of fruitless searching, all of the hero’s companions died and his sword shattered and the Others closed in on him with packs of pale white spiders the size of hounds. Just as Nan reaches the climax of the story, Maester Luwin comes in with Hodor and tells Bran he is required in the great hall to meet Tyrion, who has just arrived.
Hodor carries Bran to the hall, where Robb, flanked by Theon, Hallis, and a dozen guards, is talking to Tyrion, his servants, Yoren, and three other members of the Night’s Watch. Robb is rude to Tyrion and threatens him as Bran enters the room. Tyrion asks Bran if he remembers how he happened to fall, but he cannot. He then gives the boy a gift, telling him that he can ride a horse using a special saddle of Tyrion’s design. Suddenly, Rickon and the three direwolves burst into the room, and the direwolves proceed to attack Tyrion until they are called off. Robb apologizes for his earlier rudeness and offers Tyrion chambers in the castle, but Tyrion takes his leave to find an inn in town, and Robb turns his attention to Yoren while Bran goes back to his room. He falls asleep and has a dream relating to his fall in which he desperately states that he did not hear Cersei and Jaime’s conversation. At dinner with the Watch members, Yoren reports Ben’s disappearance. After the feast, Robb sits in Bran’s room and cries for fear and grief.
One of the hardest things when reading a story told from so many perspectives is to reconcile characters whose heads you’ve been inside of. I’m not talking specifically about Bran and Tyrion here, who are actually rather cordial towards each other – more so after Tyrion offers Bran the saddle. I’m thinking more along the lines of Robb and Maester Luwin and the rest of the Winterfell household. They have perfectly good reasons for disliking Tyrion, but since the readers know better, it’s hard to read through these chapters.
There is little enough in this chapter that really sticks out on a re-read. In my mind, Old Nan is perhaps one of the more interesting minor character in Winterfell simply because of her age, what she might have seen and what she might know. She has certainly seen Ned and Lyanna born and brought up though I doubt she knows the truth of Jon’s birth. She was there when Rickard and Brandon went south and died though again I don’t think she’d know about that. I guess more than her knowledge of relatively recent events, I’d say it is her knowledge of the distant past that is most intriguing. Her stories regarding the Others and the Long Night and the Night’s King are some of the very few and thus very precious accounts we have of such things and as such I really hope that she did not die when Ramsay Snow burnt the castle down. If she has passed away before that, I don’t remember it and honestly, I’m fine not remembering it for the moment. I don’t buy into any of the increasingly desperate theories that she might be Shiera Seastar but I am holding out that she might have been in Winterfell (though very young) when Dunk and Egg drop by. I would be a nice shoutout to the two time period to have a character linking them (or another character, I should say since Maester Aemon and Bloodraven are both alive during both time frames).
Robb in the meanwhile is trying his very best to act the part of lord and it seems he is doing his duties well. Still, he seems to have inherited his father’s skill at the game of thrones as his brusque exchange with Tyrion shows. I would attribute at least some part of it to stress however, since running the entire household by himself would exact a mental toll on most children his age. If we needed any further evidence of his youth, it would be the vulnerability he shows in crying in Bran’s room. It’s hard to imagine him going off to fight a war in just a few months’ time. I’m not entirely sure why the direwolves attacked Tyrion – maybe it’s because he is a Lannister and the Lannisters have harmed Bran but another part of it might be foreshadowing that Bran and Tyrion end up on opposing side. I hadn’t thought about this before now, but this seems rather likely since Tyrion will fight for fire/dragons/Dany and Bran for ice/weirwoods/Bloodraven.
I guess the last thing of any significance is the story of the Last Hero. Many have speculated that Bran is in fact the Last Hero and his story does seem to be rather similar though he doesn’t have a sword (unless Hodor took one with him from the crypts), a horse (unless Hodor counts), a dog (unless that’s Summer) or a dozen companions (sans Meera and Jojen). Still, I like Bran being the last hero, venturing forth in the heart of winter to stop the Others. I’m going to guess that he will be venturing through his mind, or through Summer or Hodor instead of physically, which depending on how it’s written might actually be pretty cool. Sadly, the story of the last hero means Meera and Jojen are fated to die and Summer’s odd of surviving aren’t looking too great either. Funnily enough it seems like it’ll be Hodor who lives the longest out of the lot. Oh, and Bran too, I guess, if becoming a tree counts as living.