Thursday, November 15, 2012

My stance on various ASOIAF conspiracy theories, Part 7

Thursday is theory day now. 

This is the seventh article of the series. Since there are a lot of theories floating out there and I'm asked often enough what I think of them, I thought I write it down. You can then laugh about me when I am totally proven wrong by "The Winds of Winter" or something like that. Rules are as follows: you put a question about any theory or plot element (really, let's stress "theory" a bit for the sake of interesting questions) either in the comments of any theory post or by mail ( and I will answer them in an upcoming post. And if you now ask "Stefan, isn't this a shameless rip-off of Sean T. Collin's "Ask me anything"?", I would tell you to shut up, because you are right.

Prepare for part 7. Spoilers for "A Song of Ice and Fire", obviously. 

What exactly is it with "a thousand eyes, and one"?
Brynden Rivers, called "Bloodraven" for his birthmark and eerie red eyes and white hair, was one of Aegon IV. "Great Bastards", legitimized on the deathbed. He fought with the Targaryen loyalists in the Blackfyre rebellion, gaining fame with his archer unit "Raven's Teeth" and harboring a hatred for his half-brother Aegor Rivers, called Bittersteel (Aegon had sired them on a Blackwood and a Bracken, respectively). Bittersteel stabbed him in the eye in the battle, thus the "one eye". After the Targaryen victory, Bloodraven became the Hand of the King, ruling the kingdoms through what seemed contemporaries as an extensive web of spies, the "thousand eyes". It's highly unlikely that he really had a sophisticated web of spies, Varys-fashion, but that he instead relied on his greenseeing abilities, spying in people himself through the trees. Of course he will have had some old-fashioned spies as well for the day-to-day observation, but this skillset should have given him tremendous knowledge. At some point, there was a political shift, rendering him a political fossile. He took the black and went to the Wall, where he became Lord Commander, only to vanish some time later (most likely having discovered the true potential of his abilities). He settled with the Children of the Forest into a cave and waited for Bran. Rumor has it that he wrote an autobiography during that time, called "Waiting for Bran". A real bestseller among the Children.

What exactly is it with the Kingswood Brotherhood?
The Kingswood Brotherhood is a fabled band of outlaws of the days of Aerys II, living in the Kingswood (hence the title) and being led by Simon Toyne, a knight who went outlaw. The Brotherhood seems to have been big and mighty, striking out the forest at will. There were some other real characters in the group, like the Smiling Knight - who is said to be crazy, maybe a knight's version of the Joker - or the White Fawn, a female outlaw who burned her sigil into the arses of her captives. In essence, it's Robin Hood and the Merry Men, just without the bows. There were many unsuccesful attempts to root them out, and they were clever enough to support the smallfolk, who in turn hid them from the law. This went on for quite some time, until Arthur Dayne (who seems to be capable of strategic thinking) squeezed concessions for the smallfolk out of Aerys. The need to band with the Brotherhood was gone, and so went their hideouts, and Dayne managed to corner them and attack with a mixed force of many different kingdoms (including Jaime Lannister, Barristan Selmy and Merret Frey), finally destroying them. Most surivors who weren't hanged went to the Wall, like Ulmer. It's also a nice parabel for the passage of time: for Jaime and his generation, the fight against the Brotherhood is all that knighthood should be, a foe you can easily identify and slay gloriously. The truth was more grey than that, and now, with a new band of outlaws, the Kingswood Brotherhood fades into oblivion. Rather sad, when you think about it. 

What exactly is it with Asshai by the Shadow? 
Nobody knows. Asshai is a far-away place in the East, where you can get all the riches of the world apparantly for naught, where dragons roam the sky and magic is part of your everyday life. It's basicially what Cathai (notice the similarity?) was for Europeans throughout the middle ages and the Renaissance: the fabled land in the Far East where the pricy spices come from and wonders happen. Only Westeros lacks a Marco Polo who could rate a fabulous account of his journey there. Until recently, we couldn't even be really sure Asshai existed, but "The Lands of Ice and Fire" gives us a canon map of the East, clearly showing Asshai. So, it exists, but we still don't know what it is, who lives there or what happens. It is quite possible that Qaithe comes from Asshai, and I think we can discount the notion that Melisandre of Asshai is from Asshai. Since there is no one from Asshai around, you can easily claim being from Asshai, because being from Asshai let's people think that you are totally exotic and interesting. It's also unlikely we ever see the damned city, so I would guess we have to accept it as just a placeholder for "fabulous place in the east".


  1. Melisandre mentions in her one POV chapter that her powers are "even stronger at the wall than they were in Asshai." Isn't this sufficient evidence that she does indeed come from Asshai, or at least has been there?