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 A 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment in the post, ask in the APOIAF-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 29 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Elena Jones, an avid fan of ASOIAF and along with being a long time listener of APOIAF and BLAH, has guest hosted on APOIAF and taken part in dramatic readings on Vassals of Kingsgrave. When not participating in the fandom she works alongside her husband as owner and operator of both their property investment company and their boutique hotel located on Siesta Key Fl, which proudly holds the #1 rating in the area on tripadvisor.com.
Does the Grand Northern Conspiracy tell us more about fans' desire to see a King In The North than GRRM's text?
Main Opinion: Stefan
Oh yes. The King in the North is dead, his plot line done for. The rest it's just distraction. Of you think that it was the main story, you haven't been paying attention. (This it's one of those strong statements that's going to come and haunt me later, I know it.) My main inclination that this is just one raid e fan obsession is just how changing this thing is. After "A Storm of Swords", it was all about the damn testament that really doesn't matter, because neither the political situation nor Jon's pivotal and deliberate decision to forego Winterfell in order to defend the Wall allow for it. Then in "A Feast for Crows", it was the Blackfish, working with Jeyne's hips to spirit a yet unborn child in the course of two climactic books into power, which it's totally delusional fan-ache. Now, everyone puts their hope on Stannis' acceptance of Manderly's ploy and his victory, which is just bonkers. And all that just to repeat the cry of "King in the North", which, as Martin deliberately showed over the course of two books, ended in nothing but death and destruction and distraction from the real threat? No.
Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Amin
The Grand Northern Conspiracy certainly has strong elements of fan desire, though so do many theories that can still put forward a good argument along with the fan preferences. Regardless of fan desire, there has been a King in the North for the majority of recent history, the Northern Wardenship in subject to a central Iron throne under the Targaryens being the exception. The North is large and a difficult land to control from the culturally different South. Roose’s developing plans for his own crowning show that some sort of independent northern King figure is likely to emerge, even if it is not a Stark. The strong support for the Starks among most of the other families make it more likely that it will be a Stark.
Consenting in Part Dissenting in Part: Elena Jones
Ok, I'm attempting to take my Stark-Fangirl hat off for this one. I agree that support for this theory probably does rely heavily on a healthy dose of Stark-love (and Jon-love) in the fandom. And who doesn't love a good comeback story? One could argue that George even does his part to indulge our desire for a Stark uprising with phrases like "The North Remembers" and his would be title: "A Time For Wolves". So does the theory hold enough merit beyond our own desires for us to take it seriously? The author certainly has picked up on some interesting details that could easily be overlooked. Some are stronger than others and some are even specific to Jon, but building a house of cards out of coincidences does not a solid theory make. What I see as the saving grace and the reason for my partial dissent is the strong foundation on which it's built, which I believe to be these three points: 1) Robb's decree to make Jon his heir seems like too important a detail for the readers or the characters involved to forget. 2) Speaking of those characters it's a huge leap to say Catelyn is behind this, but Maege and Galbart are still alive and bore witness as well. 3) The vast majority of houses and clans in the North have such a high regard for the Starks and their ability to rule the land that a strong Stark leader and one who is of age (sorry Rickon) seems like exactly what they would rally behind right now. After all... Winter Is Coming.
Final Verdict: There is certainly a fat streak of Stark-fandom running through the theory, but one can hope.
If Bloodraven did awaken the warg ability in the Starks that means it was already there, do you think the Starks carry that ability, but it has to be awoken or is there something special about Ned's kids that they all have it? Also, I tend to associate greenseeing and the tree-net with the children of the forest, the First Men and the North so how did Bloodraven get involved? We know that some Targaryens have prophetic abilities but this seems like a much greater skill.
Main Opinion: Stefan
You are missing an important detail: Bloodraven was fathered on a Blackwood woman, and the Blackwoods are still keeping string ties to the Old Gods and have the blood of the First Men in them. That's where the connection comes from. Plus, Targaryens seem disposed for magic talent already. Plus, it helps that he had contract with the Children of the Forest. That being said, I don't think that he activated the ability, but that it was already there. Bloodraven said that he watched Bran for a long time, so he waited for the opportunity to make contact - the fall provided him with that. Since he had no interaction with the other kids whatsoever, I'd say he had no hand in activating anything. He's just the mentor.
Concurring Opinion: Amin
I concur: the Starks always had this ability in their bloodline, and may have also received a recent infusion of First Men oldstock blood (see Ned’s mother theories). Bloodraven has ties to magic galore and has had plenty of time to train his own skills. It is possible that Bran may be the superior in terms of raw, natural talent, and so reach even higher peaks than his mentor.
Consenting in Part, Dissenting in Part: Elena Jones
There is a good chance that Bloodraven sent the pregnant direwolf to the Starks and therein lies the possibility that he deliberately did something to kindle the children's abilities. The coincidences of the condition of the mother, the number of pups, the location, and perfect timing all make an intervention from Bloodraven likely. Sansa of course lost her young direwolf and no ability has developed within her, at least not yet. Was it the the special relationship the other children share with their orphaned pups that ignited their warging ability? We cannot say for sure, but it's possible. At any rate, I think that Bloodraven certainly could have taken a hand in encouraging this skill, but I agree that the ability was already there. This does raise the question how a confirmed 5 of 6 Stark children show this trait. It does seem that if the possibility was there for all Starks to be skinchangers, we would have heard more about it by now. Whether this generation is just benefiting from the resurgence of all things supernatural or there is just something special about those Stark kids, I don't think we can say without more information. As to the second part of the question I agree with Stefan. Bloodraven is not your garden variety Targaryen. His Blackwood blood and his proximity to the Children of the Forest could easily explain his connection to the super-natural powers of the North.
Final Verdict: Bloodraven can't activate what isn't there: the Starks have their own connection to the woods and the Old Gods.
What is the nature of the relationship between thee others and the children of the forest?
Main Opinion: Stefan
One of enmity. The Children and the Others fought it each other at least in the Long Night, but most likely before that, too, judging from the obsidian weapons they use. The Children are forest dwellers, and the Others want to destroy all life. That's a conflict of goals, I'd say. Like if Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy decided to work together. Oh, wait.
Concurring in Part, Dissenting in Part: Amin
I agree that the current relationship is that of enmity. It may have started off on better terms, particularly depending on the origin of the Others. There is the interesting theory that the Others may have been a project of the Children’s magical war effort against the humans gone horribly wrong. But if the Others predate first contact with the First Men, then this theory cannot stand.
Concurring Opinion: Elena Jones
So little is known about both of these races it is easy to understand the speculation regarding their past and present relationship with one another. And the ambiguous nature of Bloodraven, the Children of the Forest's presumed ally only deepens any suspicion. However, it seems very unlikely that Bloodraven, the Children of the Forest, and The Others presently share any common cause. The Children of the Forestworking in the past with the Others seems like a stretch as well. It's not impossible, it's just that lack of evidence to the contrary doesn't make an argument for it. Again, too little is known. I do hope we learn more, but for now I see no reason to form any strong suspicion that their relationship varies greatly from what we already assume: Enemies.
Final Verdict: They are enemies.