Thursday is theory day. Again.
This is the twenty-first 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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 21. Spoilers for "A Song of Ice and Fire", obviously.
Why are the seasons so long?
That's the one big question out there about the background. Perhaps it's rooted in some magic. The first reported long season is the Long Night, a very long winter at the dawn of days, but there is no way of knowing (yet) whether the seasons were always this long. Bran could ask the children, but obviously he didn't as of yet. It's not the dragons, though, or else the seasons would have grown shorter with the demise of the last Targaryen dragons. So I'm guessing the long seasons are more a feature of the world as a whole, or at least Westeros. It's strange, but there have been no references to the seasons in Essos, haven't there? They should be affected too, however, the Dothraki especially. Perhaps the phenomenon is restricted to Westeros? Questions over questions, and we never really got into it until now. I can't give any kind of answer, however, since there is little to none textual evidence. Thinking about it, Westeros is certainly shaped more forcefully by the seasons, but the location of the continent suggests this anyway: the regions least affected by the long seasons, the Reach and Dorne, are on the same altitude as most of Essos, so for them, the difference between seasons might be neglectible anyway. Perhaps this is also the reason why Valyria never bothered invading Westeros? A simple "the weather kinda sucks". Imagine me shrugging. I simply don't know.
Are any Northern Lords genuinely on Bolton's side?
What does "genuinely" even mean? Love? Surely not. But how many houses really loved the Starks? They obviously accepted the Boltons, grudingly or not. Loyalty? They swore oaths, and some take such things more seriously than others. Common interest? For sure. The war is lost. Most of them cut their losses, and that meant kneeling to the Iron Throne and accepting their new overlords of Bolton. Would they turn on them if it improved their station? Most for sure. Did they do the same thing in the case of the Starks? Yes. Take house Glover, for example. They were ready to make a deal with Asha, the presumed queen of the Iron Islands, and to swear fealty to her. Why should they not do the same to the Boltons? Most houses of the North haven't been bannermen to the Starks forever, and some all too vividly remember times when it wasn't so. The Umbers only bow to strength. The Karstarks seem to have no problem to switch allegiance (now to Stannis). Manderly has designs on becoming the de-facto Warden of the North. How genuine can loyalty be in this world, I ask you? The Boltons command their new subjects as long as they are strong enough to do so. The prospects for this are dwindling, because Roose isn't immortal and Ramsay prone to fail, and there is no heir in sight. So I'd guess they're biding their time. What they certainly don't do is to fall for some Stark romanticism and to fight for a lost cause just for the sake of it.
Were the antler men supporter of Joffrey?
The idea behind this theory, as far as I understand it, is that the antler men were in truth supporters of Joffrey. They were pointed out by Varys, after all, who wants to weaken the realm for the awaited invasion and certainly has no scrupels to hinder him in such designs. Joffrey would then have killed his own guys, and it's easy to imagine how useless their pleas of innocence in his mockery of a court must have been - just compare it to the execution of "Mance Rayder" in "A Dance with Dragons": Jon doesn't even take his cries of innocence serious enough to process them as a whole, only paraphrasing them. The irony is that all Rattleshirt cried out was true. Same could be true for the antler men. Another possibility would be that they were guys belonging to Littlefinger that Varys wanted to get rid of, but that seems less likely since Littlefinger was expected to return to the city and would certainly have retaliated against such infighting. The third option is that the antler men are just what they seem: turncoats out for profit. In any case, I highly doubt that they will be more of a sidenote in the game of thrones.