Bran, Summer, and Maester Luwin watch Ser Rodrik train new recruits. Bran says that if he were trained to use a poleaxe, he could fight using Hodor as his legs. Luwin replies that a man’s arms, legs, and thoughts must be one in battle. Bran brings up Symeon Star-Eyes, a knight who supposedly fought blind and replaced his eyes with sapphires, but Luwin says that Symeon, like Florian the Fool and countless others, is merely a legend from the Age of Heroes. Bran tells the maester that he had the crow dream again, in which he went down to the crypts and talked to Eddard. Eddard seemed sad; it had something to do with Jon. Bran tried to go down to the crypts when he awoke, but Hodor would not enter. Maester Luwin summons Osha to carry Bran and goes down to the crypts with him.
As they proceed through the crypts, Maester Luwin has Bran tell Osha about the people whose graves they pass. Jon Stark defeated the sea raiders when they landed in the east and built the castle at White Harbor. His son, Rickard, took the Neck from the Marsh King and married the king’s daughter. Theon Stark was called the Hungry Wolf because he was always at war. Brandon the Shipwright loved the sea and was lost sailing far to the west. His son, Brandon the Burner, burnt all his father’s ships in his grief. Rodrik Stark won Bear Island in a wrestling match and granted it to House Mormont. Torrhen Stark is known as the King Who Knelt for yielding to Aegon the Conqueror. Cregan Stark was considered a fine swordsman and once fought Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. Lord Rickard Stark was executed by King Aerys II. Brandon and Lyanna also have statues, even though by tradition only the kings and lords get them, because Eddard loved them so much. They finally arrive at Eddard’s grave, and Shaggydog suddenly leaps at Maester Luwin and savages his arm before Summer intervenes and Rickon calls him off. Rickon is here because he had the same dream as Bran. They convince him to come back to Maester Luwin’s tower with them, where Osha bandages the maester’s wound.
Osha brings up the children of the forest and Maester Luwin brings out a jar of dragonglass arrowheads to show Bran and Rickon. He says that the children worked no metal and wore clothes made of leaves and bark and wielded weapons made of dragonglass. Bran asks the maester to tell him all about the children. Maester Luwin says no one knows how long they lived in Westeros, but their domination ended with the arrival of the First Men twelve thousand years ago, who began to clear away the trees for fields. After years of war, a pact was forged on the Isle of Faces in which the First Men agreed to chop down no more trees and live in peace. This is considered the end of the Dawn Age and the beginning of the Age of Heroes. The pact endured through the Age of Heroes, the Long Night, and the founding of the Seven Kingdoms until the Andals arrived in Westeros four thousand years later. Before Maester Luwin can finish the story, he is interrupted by Summer howling. A raven arrives at the window with a message reporting Eddard’s death.
This is the first of several reaction chapters as our various POVs learn about Ned’s death. I like the way this is done; it gives the reader some kind of structure in terms of how to react to the event. More specifically, different characters look at the event from different angles based on their relationship to Ned; Bran for example, is completely in the dark concerning the various twists in the tale down South and this news is a total shock. To Catelyn, it is confirmation of her worst fears though unless I remember incorrectly, still somewhat of a shock. On the other end of the spectrum, Tyrion, unsurprisingly, reacts more mildly to the news but gives us interesting insight into the ‘enemy’s’ reaction.
Back to Bran though, I love the way the reveal was done – Luwin is clearly as affected by the news as Bran and Rickon will be. The way the news ties in with Bran’s and Rickon’s dreams was also rather cleverly done though I suspect that the timing of the news means that the focus of the characters actions is necessarily shifted from the ‘deeper’ meaning of Bran’s clairvoyance to the more pressing political repercussions of Ned’s death. I have no problem with this, of course; it would be weird if they suddenly ignored the implications of Ned’s death and focused on Bran’s powers (which haven’t even come close to fully manifesting).
A few interesting notes from the characters themselves:
“Bran, when a man fights, his arms and legs and thoughts must be as one.”
Does this count as foreshadowing? I don’t know what exactly to call this since Bran hasn’t fought with Hodor expect once (as far as I can remember anyway) but there is certainly some kind of connection between what’s mentioned here and the events way down the line. I find this happens a lot as I do this re-read. It’s like Martin plants an idea early in the story and some mutation of it actually happens in the story. It’s almost foreshadowing but with less literary meaning, I think. It’s more like a cool internal references or Easter-egg.
“It was something to do about Jon, I think.”
I think this among the strongest evidence for Bran being the one to discover the whole R+L=J thing. There are a lot of theories out there for now, mostly because of the increasingly long delay between books but I think the one that feels instinctively right to me regarding the reveal is that it comes from Bran.
“He just stood on the top step and said ‘Hodor,’ like he was scared of the dark, but I had a torch.”
This is interesting – does Hodor sense something the others don’t? I don’t recall him being too afraid of the dark when he hid there when Theon took Winterfell but it might just have been that Bran had gotten better at coaxing him inside.
“I’m not afraid. I have to wait for Father.”
As touching as this line is, Shaggydog is totally, and utterly out of control. It’s really no joke; an animal the size describe here is a terrifying prospect even fully armed. Unarmed, I have to admire Luwin’s courage at not pissing himself and running. Who can blame Rickon for running wild? Or Bran for being a little bratty? They literally have no parental guidance and once I blamed Catelyn for that but honestly, Bran and Rickon were surrounded by people who loved and cared for them whereas Robb was surrounded by the likes of Rickard Karstark and Roose Bolton. It’s a terrible situation and there are no winners.
“Take a lesson, Bran. The man who trusts in spells is dueling with a glass sword. As the children did.”
On hindsight, this is such an interesting quote. Will Bran’s growing magical power bite him in the behind? It wouldn’t be ASOIAF if it didn’t, but I don’t think the magic itself is the problem so much as Bloodraven and his dubious motives. When is TWOW coming out, again?
I want to re-emphasize how powerful I found the ending of the chapter to be. That the news borne by the raven was Ned’s death is only implied though obvious enough and more importantly, the way that both Rickon and Bran instinctively knew what the news was intriguing to say the least. Interestingly though, I don’t think they had similar reactions to Catelyn’s or Robb’s deaths? Was it because Ned was a true ‘Stark’? I doubt it; I think that the more likely answer is that Martin simply forgot that the boys had that kind of premonition. Or, most likely of all, they did sense it coming and I’ve just forgotten.