Friday, January 15, 2016

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 112

Thursday is court day! Sorry for the delay. 
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, 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.
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And now, up to ruling 111! Our guest judge this week is Max, who first read the books in 2004, just before A Feast for Crows, and has been an avid reader of the series and Tower of the Hand ever since. He also works for a judge, so opinions come easy!
Do you think we will see anyone else "transfer life" the way Beric did for Catelyn?

Main Opinion: Stefan
It seems a bit unlikely right now. Lady Stoneheart won’t be able or willing to do it, and Melisandre, the only other practitioner we know, doesn’t seem poised to do it either. It’s also not entirely clear how Beric did this. Do you need to be resurrected already and somehow “pass the torch”, or can you do this as a “normal” necromancer? It’s all unclear, and deliberately so. However, I don’t see any narrative at the moment in which this question would become really that important because, quite simply because I see no one dying who could or should then be resurrected like that.

Concurring in Part, Dissenting in Part: Amin
I agree with Justice Stefan that the same scenario is unlikely to happen, nor is it necessary for a Red Priest to be able to raise the dead as we’ve seen from Thoros’ actiions, possibly Melisandre’s actions in the future. Justice Max is correct in that were it to happen, it would be via Lady Stoneheart, but I’m not convinced that will happen.

Dissenting Opinion: Max
Melisandre may do something similar to resurrect Jon, but I agree that it’s unlikely. Most ASOIAF supernatural events are unique, and Thoros’s creepy miracle would lose some of its dramatic potency if it just came standard in the red priest toolkit. Obviously there’s no sense arguing that something is impossible in a fantasy world, but I think GRRM prefers to keep his magic strange and singular. I respectfully disagree with Stefan about Lady Stoneheart: there is reason to believe she can and will give up her life to save someone she cares about, either a loved one (Arya, Sansa) or someone she wants to “carry the torch” (Brienne, Jamie, or crazy as it sounds maybe even Jon). As to whether it’s “possible,” let’s not get too hung up on the magical system itself. If Beric could transfer the life Thoros gave him, so can Catelyn. It’s not like Beric’s closeness to Thoros provided him with extra knowledge, as he was dead every time Thoros did it to him and Thoros didn’t even really know what he was doing himself. The way it was described was as if Thoros started some kind of “life force” hot potato game that is still ongoing. At the end of the day, the real limiting factor is whether GRRM thinks it makes narrative sense to pass that potato one more time. There are narrative reasons to do so, most notably Catelyn’s character arch. Why transform the layered and compassionate character of Catelyn into the cold, single-minded Lady Stoneheart? Is that really where her development stops? As much as it would be fun to read a Winds of Winter epilogue of Walder Frey being carried in the clutches of a zombie into the icy river, something feels thematically off about GRRM developing such a complex character only to have her end as a revenge fantasy. Wouldn’t it be just as compelling for her to end on a bittersweet redemptive note? I mean, this is a person who in every POV chapter is haunted by her inability to protect her children. Maybe GRRM will at least give her the satisfaction of saving one of them before she exits the scene, rather than keep her consumed with loss and revenge. In terms of plot, Stoneheart is at least physically close to characters who may need saving. It’s likely that Arya will return to the Riverlands to reunite with Nymeria. Sansa is also relatively close in the Vale (as is Littlefinger, one of the worst Stark killers around). Brienne and Jamie are in Stoneheart’s clutches now, and it’s conceivable that she decides to again save one of them to fulfill their vows to her. Finally, to go full tinfoil for just a second, Jon may as well be lightyears away, but is clearly in need of some saving. It’s possible that he is only “put on ice” in Winds through warging or otherwise, and Cat can help return him to his body or something. They do have a history, and it would be an interesting compassionate move, especially when she learns he is not Ned’s bastard after all. Finally, it would be a neat end to the hot potato cycle, as Jon will most likely die up in the heart of winter, saving the world and all. Regardless of how or why, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that we will see one more “transfer life,” as Catelyn’s final act.

Final Verdict: Likely not. 

I recently noticed the Green Men are said to ride elks, and to have horns. Two points of overlap with the Others. I've seen speculation that the Children of the Forest are connected to the Others before. So are the Green Men connected to the Others? What is the relationship between them and the Children?

Main Opinion: Stefan
I think you’re on a pretty wrong track here. First, the elks aren’t linked to the Others. It’s Coldhands who rode one, and he’s no Other. Second, the Green Men are more or less druids, and it’s not entirely clear whether they are human, Children or comprised of both races. Third, the Others are definitely not linked to the Children; that particular theory of them being in cahoots doesn’t hold any water with me. So, no, there’s no connection between the Green Men and the Others. The Others hate all life, and the Green Men are very much alive, as are the Children.

Concurring Opinion: Amin
The Green Men are very interesting and I hope we get to learn more about them, but they are not linked to the Others. Their relationship with the Children would most likely be positive.

Concurring Opinion: Max
I agree with Stefan. The elks and horns are not really necessarily overlaps with the Others, let alone significant enough to suggest some common motive. Meera thinks that the Green Men are good, so that’s good enough for me! I’m very interested to learn about the Green Men too, if we ever do, and I’m sure they do bear some relationship to the surviving Children and Greenseer(s). I would assume that they are some hybrid of men and Children. Very few people visit the Isle of the Faces (Bran told Meera “No one” did), but we do know about Howland Reed visiting them, as well as Addam Velaryon during the dance of dragons. Since Bran is so interested in them, perhaps we will see them through the Weirwood Network. Connections that do exist between the Green Men, Children, and Others include the connection with the North and the ancient world. They are all basically relics/legends from ancient history: the Dawn Age, the Age of Heroes, and the Long Night. They share some similarities with that time and place, perhaps of a similar magic, but not necessarily motive.

Final Verdict: The Green Men belong to the light side of the force.

In the show, the Night’s Watch killed Jon for making peace with the wildlings. I didn't find that at all plausible after what they all saw at Hardhome. I think the show runners took a huge shortcut here. We never saw Jon tell the story of what he saw, how the Night’s King raised thousands of undead warriors before all of their eyes. No way there is a mutiny after that. Also, no way Jon rides to fight the Boltons after he has seen that either, in my opinion. So the question is: would the book Night’s Watch mutiny if they had heard this tale from Hardhome? Would Jon Snow have ridden out after seeing Hardhome?

Main Opinion: Stefan
Ok, there’s a lot to unpack here. First, in the show, only Dolorous Edd and one other guy are with Jon, and Edd is very much in Jon’s camp, which doesn’t give him that much credibility. They can tell a whole lot of stories. No one ever cared for Sam’s stories either. So, no, Jon isn’t likely to sway many minds over with his story from Hardhome, especially given how it turns out - the wildlings are now fighting for the Others. Hoo-fucking-ray. The other part of the question is more interesting. Would Jon have ridden out? In the book, without a doubt, yes, because his motives were others. In the show, it’s hard to tell, because we don’t know how the story will play out yet. Let’s wait for season 6 to roll around for that, shall we?

Dissenting Opinion: Amin
The book’s Night Watch would not mutiny if the same battle occured at Hardhome, not only because of hearing about this tale, but because it would change Jon’s actions. Jon would not risk riding South with Wildings if he experienced the Battle of Hardhome, so the Night’s Watch would never get to the tipping point of assasinating him for riding South. The show totally botched Jon’s assasination. If they were going to kill him, it should have never let him through the Wall with the Wildings (putting aside the fact that he marched overland to be ludicrious when leaving on ships), because nothing happened between that point and Jon’s assasination, other than Jon potentially stealing some guy’s watch (hardy har har).

Dissenting Opinion: Max
These are tricky “what if” questions, because it either substantially rearranges the timeline of the books or already assumes Book Jon acts more like Show Jon, because as we know Book Jon’s first reaction to the Hardhome crisis was to send Pyke rather than go himself, in large part so he could stay at Castle Black to deal with the wildling situation. So let’s just assume that Book Jon forgets the wildlings for a bit, goes to Hardhome with Pyke, sees the Others transform the wildlings, returns to Castle Black (via EASTWATCH of course!), and along with some other Hardhome veterans tells Castle Black all about the real threat, before finally letting in the Wildlings. OK, so first question: does Jon ride off to the Boltons? I don’t think so. First, his psychological state would be profoundly different than at the end of ADWD, where Jon has been stewing in Castle Black for months itching to go out and DO something instead of sending others to their death. Second, the real stakes and scope of what they are facing beyond the Wall would be vividly, terrifyingly real. If I’m right about that, it also means the Night’s Watch doesn’t revolt. Remember, in ADWD they don’t actually pull the trigger until Jon eviscerates his vows by publically declaring his intention to lead a wildling army against the lawful Warden of the North. Maybe they were at the planning stages when the wildlings crossed over, but who knows if they would have actually gone through with it if Jon used the Wildlings to do what he SAID he was going to do and protect the Wall. In a scenario where Bowen Marsh et al. hear about what really happened at Hardhome from Jon (and some disinterested Eastwatch boys), and Jon does his duty and prepares to man the Wall rather than go south, my guess is that their response to the wildling crossing is to “Be troubled, and keep my vows.”

Final Verdict: The mutiny would be butterflied away. 


  1. Have you guys every discussed this theory? I couldn't find it in the archives.

    1. It's in the question collection, so it will come in the next weeks.

  2. This new guy did a good job. Interesting post.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, there were very interesting questions this week! I'm a big fan of this blog, thanks to Stefan for letting me participate. -Max

  3. When some people theorise that Others are somehow connected to the Children, they don't necessarily mean the two are in cahoots. For example, the Others may be a product of Children magic or there may be something else that links them.

    I started to lean in this direction ever since the first time I saw White Walkers clearly on the show (the Season 2 finale). You can find good images on Google: their faces have a very barklike look and structure, which may imply some kind of connection to weirwoods and/or Children. Maybe it's only a coincidence, but then again, maybe not.