Welcome to the Supreme Court of Westeros! Every week, three pressing questions from the community will be answered by the esteemed judges Stefan (from your very own Nerdstream Era) and Amin (from the Podcast of Ice and Fire). The rules are simple: we take three questions, and one of us writes a measured analysis. The other one writes a shorter opinion, either concurring or dissenting. The catch is that every week a third judge from the fandom will join us and also write a dissenting or concurring opinion. So if you think you're up to the task - write us an email to email@example.com, leave a comment in the post, ask in the POIAF-forum or contact Amin at his tumblr. Discussion is by no means limited to the court itself, though - feel free to discuss our rulings in the commentary section and ask your own questions through the channels above.
One word on spoilers: we assume that you read all the books, including the Hedge Knight short stories, and watched the current TV episodes. We don't include the spoiler chapters from various sources in the discussion, with the notable exception of Theon I, which was supposed to be in "A Dance with Dragons" anyway.
And now, up to ruling 5 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Marc N. Kleinhenz, the editor of Tower of the Hand: A Flight of Sorrows and a freelancer who has written for 22 sites, including The Huffington Post, Westeros.org, Winter Is Coming, and, of course, Tower of the Hand. He's co-created and -hosted two podcasts and has even taught English in Japan. The latest book he's publishing is Waiting for Winter: Re-Reading A Clash of Kings, Part I, by Remy Verhoeve.
Is Coldhands a Wight or the result of a R'hllor resurrection?
Main Opinion Stefan:
A wight, definitely. He has nothing to do with R’hollor, and please keep in mind that so far Thoros is the only one we know of who is able to do that kind of stuff. He is obviously a special wight, somehow won over by Bloodraven’s magic or some other force, but R’hollor almost certainly plays no part in it. Coldhands is COLD, damn it. However, we don’t really know whether Coldhands is any of those. The whights we met so far don’t talk, nor do they possess sentient thought. We know that Coldhands is dead, but it might even be that he is simply a body warged by Bloodraven or some shit like that (we never saw them at the same time, so it might be possible). Coldhands is special for sure, but his exact nature remains a mystery.
Concurring Opinion Amin:
I do think that there may be more resurrected pawns or even players on Team R’hlorr, but I agree with Justice Stefan that Colhands has nothing to do with R’hllorr. Coldhands is involved in Bloodraven, who Melisandre sees as an opponent, reinforcing this distinction. Justice Marc’s notion of warging [technically skinchanging] is interesting: is Coldhands a special wight because of his own personal atttributes or he is like any other wight, except that he’s been skinchanged?
Concurring Opinon: Marc Kleinhenz
My assumption has always been warging, definitely. Narratively speaking, much like General Grievous and Darth Vader inStar Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Coldhands operates as a bit of foreshadowing, preparing the audience – and Bran himself – for the ultimate, chess player-esque role Bran seems to be hurtling towards. (The sample Theon chapter from The Winds of Winter seems to reinforce this assumption, given that it can be easily interpreted as Bran helping to influence Theon’s fate, which is currently in the hands of Stannis Baratheon.) I wouldn’t be surprised to see dear Bran jumping in and out of various people’s bodies, whether living or dead, during the final war with the Others, as the Targaryens ride their dragons overhead, of course, spewing fire across the icy lands. The one major caveat to all this: we’ve never seen – or heard – of the dead being warged by anyone at all in the story, whether past or present. This could either mean that we’re charting new waters (much like Neo in the Matrix trilogy being able to manipulate Machines in the real world for the very first time in the films’ eight-hundred-year-long backstory) or that there’s something altogether different about the Others and, perhaps, their relationship to life/death/wights. It just may be that this could be a conduit for Bran – and the rest of our characters – to communicate with the Others with…
Final Verdict: Coldhands has nothing to with R'hollor's fire, he's ice.
Will Bran use his special new powers to drop a “land hammer” on the Neck and split Westeros in half to stop the advance of the Others?
Main Opinion Stefan:
That surely would come out of nowhere at the moment. But as I’m writing the sentence, I realize it’s wrong. We learn early on in the series that the Stepstones were once a land bridge to Essos and they connection over which the First Men invaded Westeros until the Children of the Forest destroyed it with some really creepy magic. Now, I’m usually a bit timid when it comes down to the reality of those supposedly historic events, but in this case, it seems to really have happened. A repetition, however, faces a serious problem: the Children of the Forest are fading from the world. It’s like asking Middle Earths elves to make all paths straight again. It would create some interesting drama, though, since while it might save the other half of Westeros, the North would be doomed to be the new Other realm - and the North is the real emotional anchor of the series and for Bran especially. Bittersweet? You betcha. Somehow, though, I don’t think it will happen. Perhaps it’s presented to Bran as a choice, and he will decline? Intruiging in any case.
Concurring opinion Amin:
I concur with my colleages in that I do not think it will happen. If it is in relation to the traditional powers of the Children of the Forest (and their greenseers), while they may have been fading, magic is growing in the world again. However, if the legends are true, they tried already and failed to fully separate the Neck, unlike the creation of the Stepstones. And I’m not sure how exactly that would stop the Others, even if we hadn’t heard about “dead things” in the water by Hardhome.
Concurring Opinion: Marc Kleinhenz
My first instinct, much like Stefan’s, was to say that that would, indeed, be a rather random occurrence, as I completely forgot about the legend of the children of the forest and the Stepstones. And hearing about that ill-fated land bridge brings to mind the Doom of Valyria, another geological event that just may involve a magical instigation. In fact, seeing as how Martin has said time and time again that the years-long weather cycle has a fantasy base (read: the Others), it’s entirely possible that Bran’s burgeoning powers will maturate into Jedi Godhood territory; there’s obviously a fundamental connection between magic and nature, with dragons most likely acting as some type of conduit between the two. With that said, however, I, also like Stefan, would be surprised to see it actually happen in the series. I rather suspect that we’ll see the extinction/permanent exile of the Others, the stabilizing of the seasons, and all sorts of other damage to and ruination of the land that won’t be caused by titanic Force pushes.
Final Verdict: No, they won't. The Others need to be stopped by other devices.
Will Stannis become the Nightking?
Main Opinion Stefan:
The Nightking was seduced by an Other princess, and Stannis is already seduced by Melisandre, who is the exact opposite. He’s more of a light king, isn’t he? Or a Dayking. I think the Others will be defeated by the end of the series, so Stannis will most likely not become the Nightking, at least not for long. It’s much more in line for him to go the way Bloodraven went, at least insofar as he could become the next Lord Commander. He’s not on the road to evil, but to that place in heaven or hell where he can join ranks with Henry Kissinger. That’s not to say that he wouldn’t use the powers of the Others in order to gain his throne. That’s the only scenario I can see for this to play out: him being offered in no uncertain terms to use the powers of winter in order to get to his enemies and to seat himself on the Iron Throne. It would echo “The Lord of the Rings” a bit, with the seduction of the One Ring, and we know that Martin repeatedly cites it as his main inspiration, so...but if I have to decide, I’d say no, he won’t become the Night King. That just doesn’t feel right.
Concurring Opinion Amin:
Before we had Melisandre’s chapter in ADWD, this was a far greater possibility. Now we know she at least thinks she is fighting the good fight against the others, even if she may still be in the wrong on some things. This significantly dampens the chances of Stannis becoming another Nightking, though there are some similarities to the overall story if Stannis’ trust and use of Melisandre eventually leads to his downfall.
Concurring Opinion: Marc Kleinhenz
Henry Kissinger? Ha! Ignoring Stannis and his realpolitik, this story of the Night’s King caught my attention during my most recent re-read earlier this year, and it certainly made me think of the would-be King Baratheon. In this case, though, I see it less as foreshadowing and more as thematic counterpoint; I think this story absolutely describes Stannis and his current situation, though his ultimate fate, methinks, is still very much up in the air (well, in terms of his eternal damnation, at least). Not everything in Martin’s saga – or any narrative, for that matter – needs to be literal, nor should it be taken literally. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, and a dewback is just a dewback; sometimes, the most potent form of worldbuilding is whimsical or, at the very least, a non-essential detail.
Final Verdict: Stannis will not become the Nightking.