Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Jon IV, ACOK

“When the direwolf raised his head, his eyes glowed red and baleful, and water streamed from his jaws like slaver. There was something fierce and terrible about him in that instant.”

Synopsis: Jon Snow and the Great Ranging arrives at the Fist of the First Men, and Timmy’s fallen down a well.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

Jon IV is a bit of an odd duck, in that it’s really more about setting a mood and describing an environment rather than exploring character, and there’s really only one plot point that happens. Arguably, you could say that the main character of the chapter is actually the Fist of the First Men and the mysteries it contains, as opposed to the putative point-of-view Jon Snow.

Surveying The Fist

So let’s talk about the Fist of the First Men, which the Great Ranging arrives at and decides to use as a base of operations:

“The hill jutted above the dense tangle of forest, rising solitary and sudden, its windswept heights visible from miles off. The wildlings called it the Fist of the First Men, rangers said. It did look like a fist…punching up through earth and wood, its bare brown slopes knuckled with stone…the way up was steep and stony, the summit crowned by a chest-high wall of tumbled rocks. They had to circle some distance west before they found a gap large enough to admit the horses.”

“ was the ringwall that drew Jon’s eye, the weathered grey stones with their white patches of lichen, their beards of green moss. It was said that the Fist had been a ringfort of the First Men in the Dawn Age. “An old place, and strong…these heights will be easy to defend, if need be.”

To begin with, the Fist of the First Men isn’t just a natural feature – it’s been built as a defensive structure. If it does indeed date back to the Dawn Age, that means it predates the Pact of the Isle of Faces (which ended the Dawn Age) and indeed, the Long Night and the construction of Winterfell and the Wall. Given its location this far north, this close to a “haunted forest” and the Land of Always Winter, I think it’s fair to hypothesize that this is a forward observation post, a way for humanity to give an early warning signal against the Other and the Outside. However, this also means that the Fist is a failure – the Battle for the Dawn got much, much further south than this, although I’m a bit skeptical that the front lines got all the way down to the Trident despite Dany’s dream, because that seems to contradict the more northerly placement of Winterfell and the Wall.

Indeed, I think of the Fist as a kind of example of how not to do defense-vs-White-Walkers for Winterfell. Think of both the strengths and weaknesses of the Fist – it’s a high vantage point which would be difficult for normal humans to attack, but the Others have pale spiders that can climb sheer surfaces which negates that, so Winterfell’s location has nothing to do with high ground and everything to do with other geographical features (like the hot springs and the weirwood tree). The Fist has got a strong ring-fort at the summit, but (as the Night’s Watch will find out) it doesn’t have any place to fall back to once the ring falls – compare that to Winterfell’s double walls, which are specifically designed so that the second line of defense is the more secure. And the Fist has a lot of other limitations:

“…the brothers of the Night’s Watch raised their camp behind the stone ring the First Men had made. Black tents sprouted like mushroom after a rain, and blankets and bedrolls covered the bare ground. Stewards  tethered the garrons in long lines, and saw them fed and watered. Forresters took their axes to the trees in the waning afternoon light to harvest enough wood to see them through the night. A score of builders set to clearing brush, digging latrines, and untying their bundles of fire-hardened stakes.”

First, it’s kind of small given that the 300 men of the Great Ranging take up the entire summit. Second, while the lack of shelter is probably due to the ruined state of the fort, it’s not built with a way to store food for the winter, it’s got no secure source of water (as Jon Snow notes), and unlike Winterfell it has no protection from the cold. Third and most importantly, the Fist doesn’t have any magical protection as both the Wall and Winterfell do. Thus, long before the battle that makes up the Prologue and Sam I of A Storm of Swords, we should have the sense that Jeor Mormont has led the Night’s Watch to the Westerosi Alamo – and people always forget that the Alamo was a defeat, not a victory.

credit to Taco Belvedere

The Great Ranging’s Military Planning

All this brings us to Jeor Mormont’s plan for the Great Ranging – why he decided to camp here and fortify. Basically, Mormont plans to place his 300 men between Mance Rayder’s army and the Wall, and either force Mance to attack him head-on against a huge defensive multiplier, or (as we’ll see later) to bypass the Fist and bare his throat to a sudden cavalry charge as he passes:

“The Old Bear means to wait here for Qhorin Halfhand and the men from the Shadow Tower.”

“The easiest road up into the Frostfangs is to follow the Milkwater back to its source. Yet if we go that path, Rayder will know of our approach, certain as sunrise.”

“The Giant’s Stair might serve…or the Skirling Pass if it’s clear.”

“I would not go into the mountains at all…the Frostfangs have a cruel bite even in summer, and now…if we should be caught by a storm.”

“I do not mean to risk the Frostfangs unless I must…wildlings can no more live on snow and stone than we can. They will emerge from the heights soon, and for a host of any size, the only route is along the Milkwater. If so, we are strongly placed here. They cannot hope to slip past us.”

“They may not wish to. They are thousands, and we will be three hundred when the Halfhand reaches us…”

“If it comes to battle, we could not hope for better grounds than here…we’ll strengthen the defenses. Pits and spikes, caltrops scattered on the slopes, every breach mended. Jarman, I’ll want your sharpest eyes as watchers. A ring of them, all around us and along the river, to warn of any approach…and we had best start bringing up water too, more than we need. We’ll dig cisterns.”

This isn’t a very good plan for a bunch of reasons. If Mormont wanted to fight Mance with a defensive multiplier to his advantage, why not use the Wall, which is a much better fortification, which can be resupplied and reinforced (and which has magical protection), whereas the Fist is a hundred leagues deep into enemy territory, leaving Mormont potentially cut off. Moreover, Mormont’s Plan B (as I’ll discuss more later) has something of an old man looking to go out in a blaze of glory, which is an insane idea when you consider that Jeor Mormont knows that the White Walkers are rising and the Night’s Watch can’t afford to lose its three hundred best fighters on an unrelated mission. This is a classic case of mission creep – Mormont came north after Benjen Stark and to find out why the dead are rising, but he’s focusing almost entirely on Mance rather than the real threat.

The Cache/Case of Benjen Stark

Speaking of which, let’s get right into the main plot point of the chapter – Jon Snow finding the cache of dragonglass. The way that Ghost leads Jon to the cache, coming out of nowhere and leading him halfway around the Fist would have a comical Lassie-esque quality to it if the Fist wasn’t such a damn spooky place, where the direwolves’ premonitory qualities feel right at home. Now, it’s possible that there’s a logical explanation for this – that Bloodraven is pulling the strings, that he did so when the direwolves first appeared, but that seems altogether too straightforward and frankly uninteresting to be the case. Rather, I would argue that the logic here is more mysterious: Ghost knows where the cache is because the dragonglass and the direwolves are both of the Old Gods…or alternatively, his link to the Starks means that he can sense the presence of Benjen:

“…whatever was here had been put here recently. Two feet down, his fingers touched cloth. He had been expecting a corpse, fearing a corpse, but this was something else. He pushed against the fabric and felt small, hard shapes beneath…Jon brushed the loose soil away to reveal a rounded bundle perhaps two feet across. He jammed his fingers down around the edges and worked it loose. When he pulled it free, whatever was inside shifted and clinked. Treasure, he thought, but the shapes were wrong to be coins, and the sound was wrong for metal….its contents spilled out onto the ground, glittering dark and bright. He saw a dozen knives, leaf-shaped spearheads, numerous arrowheads…dragonglass. What the maesters call obsidian…

“Beneath the dragonhone was an old warhorn, made from an auroch’s horn and banded in bronze…a stream of arrowheads fell out. He left them fall, and pulled up a corner of the cloth the weapons had been wrapped in…he knew what he had: the black cloak of a Sworn Brother of the Night’s Watch.”

 Which brings me another point: I’m absolutely convinced that Benjen Stark left this cache at the Fist of the First Men, to the R+L=J point where I don’t even consider it a theory any more because nothing else makes sense. And there’s a lot we can learn from this:

  1. Benjen Stark did not die before he got to the Fist of the First Men. Which means that either the attack happened south of the Fist and he was separated from his party and kept heading north, or the attack happened south of the Fist on his way back from the Fist, or the attack happened north of the Fist and his men were sent south after they were killed. While the relative geography of where the White Walkers are vis-a-vis the Great Ranging and Mance’s army is a bit unclear, it makes more sense to me that the main force of the White Walkers is probably not to the south of the Fist – because A. why wait until here to attack? B. why haven’t we seen more of a sign of them? and C. the proximity to the disturbed graves we’ll get into later.
  2. Benjen Stark put the cache there for the Great Ranging to find. This point is hugely important – it means that, in his search for what happened to Ser Waymar and co., Benjen managed to uncover the White Walkers, and made the link between the White Walkers and the dragonglass, and knew that this was so important that he’d have to leave this for someone to find rather than take it with him and risk losing it. Moreover, at some point Benjen also found the old horn – which may suggest that he actually got to the Horn of Winter ahead of Mance Rayder, which would explain why Ygritte says that they didn’t find it, and why Mance tries to pass off a giant’s horn as the correct one. This might also explain how Benjen came in contact with the White Walkers and discovered the secret, given that Ygritte ties the horn to the dug-up graves in the Frostfangs and the White Walkers. It also shows that Benjen Stark is a clever bastard, who could foresee that Jeor Mormont would send a ranging after him, and predict that they would stop at the Fist, allowing him to make a dead drop to his black brothers.
  3. Benjen Stark put his cloak in the cache. To me, this is highly suggestive of what was going on when Benjen dug the cache. Firstly, he expected someone else to find it before he did, thus the need for the cloak to act as a signal to other Night’s Watchmen. Secondly, it suggests an element of desperation; why else would you take off a heavy cloak in the far North? Thirdly, it suggests that he’s in hiding, because without the cloak, Benjen Stark’s just another human, and with his vast experience as a ranger, could probably pass himself off as a wildling sans the incriminating cloak. This is why I don’t think Benjen is dead, undead, or a prisoner of the White Walkers – whatever he’s up to, he needs to be undercover for.

So I think Jeor’s belief that “…If Ben Stark is alive and free, he will come to us, I have no doubt,” and that if “he’s dead…he may come to us anyway,” is mistaken, and why I didn’t particularly believe that Benjen was Coldhands even before we got the revelation from the editor’s manuscript. 

Historical Analysis:

I’ve written a little bit about hill-forts over on the tumblr site, but I decided to wait until now to dig into the subject. Hill-forts are rather fascinating and classical subjects of archaeology. They’re incredibly common – while most of the work done on hill-forts was originally done in Europe (and you can find prehistorical hill-forts all the way from Britain to Russia), you can see very similar settlements among the Maori in New Zealand, the 7th century hill-forts of Rajasthan, the plateau fortresses of the Middle East, and so on. Basically, no matter where or when you were, it always made sense to find some high ground, build some walls and buildings, and occupy that spot for a long, long time, because it’s difficult to attack hill-forts and even when invaders succeeded, the same logic that dictated its construction tends to mean that the winners tended to settle down on the prime real-estate.

What’s interesting about the Fist of the First Men is that, unlike most original hill-forts, the earliest occupants seem to have built in stone rather than in wood. It’s a lot easier to haul timber up a steep incline than it is to haul big rocks, so the Fist represents a good deal of labor expended to create a fortification. At the same time, it’s noteworthy that the Fist doesn’t seem to be regularly occupied. If you were one of the Free Folk and wanted to establish a safe place to live, the Fist seems like a natural location.

Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the bulk of the Free Folk are migrant reindeer-herders (probably modeled after the Sami people of the Scandinavian Artic), and thus permanent dwellings aren’t really compatible with their main food supply. Perhaps the Free Folk know better than to live up on the Fist, where the White Walkers can getcha…

What If?

There’s not really an opportunity for hypotheticals here, since there’s no reason for this chapter to exist if Jon doesn’t find the cache, so I’m going to give this section a pass until next time.

Book vs. Show:

The major change between the book and the show is that firstly, they separate out the finding of the cache from the Great Ranging’s arrival at the Fist by three episodes, which is slightly odd but far from the worst thing they did with Jon’s storyline in Season 2, and secondly (and more importantly) they have Jon Snow and Ghost not present when the cache is found. Now, from a TV standpoint I can understand that you want to give John Bradley-West and the other Night’s Watch actors something to do in Season 2 after Jon goes off with Qhorin, but it does have the strange effect of having Jon Snow and his direwolf, who were intimately connected to the whole White Walker plot in Season 1, be oddly disconnected from this storyline in Season 2 and much of 3.


68 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Jon IV, ACOK

  1. starkaddict says:

    That was fast. But then, the chapter is standalone. I always thought that Ghost sensed the magic in the horn. The direwolves are shown to have much better instincts then their charges.

  2. Sean C. says:

    I have to say, on rereading, the pacing in this storyline is glacial. We’re halfway through Jon’s ACOK chapter count and it really feels like he’s just getting to the “start” position.

    • Mr Fixit says:

      Well, there are fans who feel that the bloat didn’t start with AFfC and ADwD, only that it spiraled out of control there. Frankly, there’s a bunch of stuff in Books 2 and 3 that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor.

      • John says:

        Yeah, absolutely. This book is definitely already starting to lose the plot with a bunch of characters, especially Jon and Dany. Storm of Swords continues that process with a lot of wheel-spinning for Arya and Bran.

        • Sean C. says:

          Bran, definitely (you can tell GRRM basically ran out of story for him after he leaves Winterfell), but I don’t think that’s true for Arya. Arya has plenty going on. Granted, maybe some of the individual episodes aren’t terribly significant for the big picture, but the Brotherhood, etc. is important thematically and in terms of the plot, as is her arc with the Hound.

          • Chinoiserie says:

            Arya has story in Storms but the chapters should have been edited. 13 is too much, there are many that could have been combined. And even if her arc is important thematically it is not that interesting especially on rereads.

          • John says:

            The Brotherhood are important thematically but have yet to actually do anything. And the whole of Storm for Arya is wheel spinning until she goes to Braavos,which is obviously where her story was headed from Clash onwards. It’s possibly necessary wheel-spinning, since it makes sense she won’t leave Westeros until she realizes her family is dead, but there’s almost certainly too much of it.

            And then, of course, once she gets to Braavos, it’s just a whole ton more wheel-spinning.

            I’ll note that calling it wheel-spinning doesn’t mean it’s *bad*. I enjoy a lot of the world-building, too. It’s just that there’s pretty clearly a lot of parts where Martin has characters he doesn’t have anything to do with, and instead of just leaving them alone for a while (as he does, to very good effect, I think, with Theon), he’ll include a bunch of chapters where nothing much happens.

            Of course, it gets worse in the last two books. Tyrion’s plot in Dance with Dragons is particularly unforgivable.

          • winnie says:

            I agree. The show’s had to make a LOT of changes to Tyrion’s voyage to make it watchable while I’ve heard grumblings that Arya’s story in Braavos so far seems dull without any Hound or Gendry for her to interact with. (Though I expect we’ll get some more action there soon once Mace and Meryn arrive.) And there’s a reason they’re putting Bran and Hodor aside for an entire season.

      • winnie says:

        Yeah the infection did begin in ACOK since I noticed we didn’t need some of the Arya or Bran bits either but it was still under control UNTIL affc.

      • Khal Draugr says:

        It’s funny how different people feel about these chapters. To me, every Jon, Bran and even Sam chapter North of the Wall is extremely atmospheric, and indeed, my favorite parts of the book series. I really don’t see any of it as “bloat” because I love world-building, and for whatever reason, the Night Watch/Others storylines appeal to me the most.

        Even the long winded descriptions help set the tone for me.

    • It is rather deliberate, but the acceleration in the second half is insane.

    • Hal says:

      Not to mention poor Rickon! Poor guy has had a bigger omission than Theon. (I assume the little Stark boy has a role to play in uniting the north?)

  3. Grant says:

    On the battle and Winterfell, there are a couple of possibilities (assuming that Dany’s vision was correct). It could have been that Winterfell was for a time cut off and a force moved down south or maybe a force was sent down to fight a human army moving north while the Others fought their main battles up there.

    For the Fist, if it was never meant to be more than a watch post then it might make some sense. In fact I wonder if there were a string of them along there at one point. Do we ever hear about any others being found as the characters move along there?

    There is one issue though. For fighting Mance, I don’t think magical protection from the Wall would even spring to Mormont’s mind. It might for the Others, but from this it’s suggested that he’s not really up there to fight them so much as Mance. I’ve mentioned before the blunt acceptance of magic and wargs by Mormont, but so far as we know that doesn’t mean any greater knowledge of magic and it’s strongly implied that wargs can actively use their powers over animals along the Wall.

    • Son of Fire says:

      Hate to nitt pick but a person can only warg into a wolf/direwolf,skinchanger is the umbrella term for all animals methinks.

      • Petyr Patter says:

        You are right, but “warg” just falls off the tongue much easier than “skinchange,” which sounds like an operation Michael Jackson looked into.

    • From the geography, I don’t see a place south of the Fist which would be another place.

      Mormont does know that the dead are rising, so you’d think he’d bear that in mind.

  4. bryndenbfish says:

    I’m with you in never really believing that Benjen was Coldhands. Where I differ though is in your interpretation of who left the cache. I think it was Coldhands, not Benjen who left the cache of dragonglass weapons on the Fist of the First Men for a few reasons.

    1. I’ve thought that Coldhands was a wighted dead ranger who is being controlled by Bloodraven for some time now. As such, I think that Bloodraven is attempting to communicate both their original purpose (Defending the realms of men) as well as give them their only weapon (Obsidian)
    2. Ghost is acting awfully strange at the end of ACOK, Jon IV — almost in the same way as when he was acting when Othor made the attempt on Jeor from AGOT.There’s this curious passage from Jon IV

    “The direwolf circled the fire, sniffing Jon, sniffing the wind, never still. It did not seem as if he were after meat right now. When the dead came walking, Ghost knew He woke me, warned me. Alarmed, he got to his feet. “is something out there? Ghost, do you have a scent?”

    What this says to me is that Ghost smells undead Coldhands on the Fist of the First Men — not Benjen.

    3. Benjen better works as a captive of the Others and as a sacrifice that the Others will use in a blood-magic ritual to bring down the Wall. This isn’t mutually exclusive with your idea that Benjen left the cache, but my guess is that Benjen was captured by the Others shortly after he started his ranging.

    • Son of Fire says:

      It also possible that he is a white walker,i like your theory that ghost was sniffing out coldhands!

    • I don’t think it’s Coldhands for the following reasons:

      1. the Great Ranging has been entirely been about Benjen – that’s why they set off, he’s who they discuss at Crasters, he’s who Jon and Jeor talk about here, etc.

      2. I would actually compare Ghost’s actions more to Grey Wind finding the goat path.

      3. I don’t think it does work better. Personally, I think it works better if it’s humans who bring the Wall down rather than an off-screen deus ex machina.

      • The problem with it being Benjen by himself is that the cache is too well hidden. Even if Benjen guesses a ranging would come this way he can’t expect them to find a parcel buried outside walls.

        Also he didn’t leave a note. If nothing else charcoal smeared on the wall or carvings in a tree could pass on needed info. Even a Bluth knows to leave a note.

        Benjen would almost have to be working with Bloodraven to have any hope of his cache being found.

        • There is a deus ex machina element there, but Benjen also knows about Jon and the direwolf.

          • David Hunt says:

            I don’t buy that last bit. How could he know that Jon would be on any expedition to look for him? Just about the last thing we see him do is tell Jon that he’s way too green to go ranging. Plus, going from knowledge that Jon has a dire wolf to predicting that Ghost would be at the Fist and find a package buried for the Watch? That’s more of a leap than I feel like believing. Unless there’s something more about Benjen that I don’t know, I’d have categorized such a plan as Desperate Forlorn Hope or worse. Unless Benjen had contact with the Children or the Three Eyed Crow, I don’t see how he could have had any real hope of that package being found by the Watch.

            I agree with you that Ghost finding the package seems very much like the story of Grey Wind sniffing out the trail to bypass the Golden Tooth. I just don’t see any reason that Benjen would have expected it.

          • CoffeeHound14 says:

            Yeah, I’m with David here. Even if Benjen were to make the leaps of thought required for him to decide to leave the dragonglass in a hidden cache for the Night’s Watch to find, it would then make more sense to hide the cache ON the Fist, rather than in the middle of the woods. I suppose the counter argument would be that then the cache would be to easy for someone else to tamper with, but that circles back around to the problem of the cache in the woods being too difficult for anyone to find.

            I think that it is plausible that Benjen left the cache, but if he did, I think it only makes sense for him to have done so with the expectation of his party retrieving it later. That being said, I think that the inclusion of a Night’s Watch cloak makes a drop off by Cold Hands at the direction of Bloodraven more likely. As you noted, it doesn’t make sense for Benjen to have left the cache in the cloak if he expected to retrieve it; why would he dispose of winter clothing? The cloak only makes sense as a message. And the only person with the wherewithal to ensure that Jon finds the cache in the middle of the woods is Bloodraven (via Coldhands and Ghost). If you accept that the horn is the actual Horn of Winter (which I don’t) it also makes more sense that Bloodraven and co. would have found and retrieved the Horn first, with all of his knowledge of the past. Bloodraven wouldn’t have to search a multitude of tombs like Benjen or Mance; he could witness where it was hidden and have it retrieved in one surgical operation.

          • I’m happy to go to another $20 bet that Benjen left the cache.

          • David Hunt says:

            I’m not going to make any such bet, because I’ll have forgotten it long before the truth is revealed, if ever. TWOW is the earliest that we’ll get any information on Benjen Stark. Plus, I think that Benjen actually is the best guess as to who cached the obsidian. The only thing I took exception to was, “Benjen knows Jon has a dire wolf, so he can expect that he’ll find the cache.” I was trying to say you need more than that for Benjen to expect that…because you need more than that to expect that Jon will be within a hundred miles of that spot.

            If you posit that Benjen got the dragonglass from the Childen, then you can speculate that they also gave him some info/instructions based on foreknowledge granted by their magic. But without something like, I don’t see Benjen expecting Ghost to be anywhere nearby to find the package.

  5. Son of Fire says:

    Up quicker than i was expecting,great theories on benjen!!

  6. winnie says:

    Well another factor for the show is that since Sam was going to be the first person to slay a white walker they wanted him to find the weapons first. And maybe the show runners were afraid of the whole Lassie thing as you called it.

    Thanks for getting us another chapter analysis so quickly Steve.

  7. Colin C. says:

    Where do you think Benjen is that he needs to be undercover? The three forces in the North that he could have met with or be following are the Wildings, the White Walkers, and the Children.

    The main location of the Wildings would be Mance’s army, which would have him returning to the Wall, barring any other secret missions Mance may have sent out. And if not back at the Wall the other gathering of Wildings would be at Hardholme, which doesn’t seem too safe currently according to Cotter Pyke. Though if he is there (prisoner? spy?) then we may see him soon on the show.

    I don’t think he could survive being a one man Rambo team stalking the White Walkers. Mainly due to their supernatural coldness. Though he may be following the trail of stolen babies.

    If he’s with the Children will he meet up with Bran or might he be at a different CoF treehouse?

    • Well, he could have passed through the wildlings on his way to somewhere else.

      I think he’s either with the Children or further North.

      • winnie says:

        Or to play devil’s advocate maybe he’s dead and that’s one mystery that will never be solved. Literary ambiguity to make it all more gritty you know.

        • David Hunt says:

          Well, Bran might have some sort of dream/vision where Benjen’s fate is revealed, confirming his death. That might give us some closure.

          However, I think the Benjen is the guy that Varys set to look after Tyrek Lannister until he’s needed. Until then they’re sitting on a clutch of dragon eggs so they’ll hatch. It all make sense once you realize that they’re all secret Targaryan mermen, and that each and every one of them is Jon Snow’s mother. I am not a crank.

          (For the first time, I wish I knew more ASOIAF conspiracy theories so I could have woven more wackiness into that).

          • Grant says:

            Well you have to realize that Mance is Rhaegar and he’s been preparing his relatives masquerading as Lannisters to take the ice dragons to conquer the world while Maester Luwin set up the Starks to die as per his orders from Baelish.

          • Winnie says:

            Actually Roose Bolton and Walder Frey were the ones on the White Walkers payroll to destroy the Starks.

            And Osha isn’t on Skagos at all-she, Rickon, and Blackfish are all with the Brotherhood, planning Red Wedding 2.0 with LSH.

          • John says:

            Check out the work of Preston Jacobs on Youtube. The videos are well done and actually fun to watch, unlike semi-literate message board postings, and consist almost entirely of utter lunacy. My favorite is the secret Darry conspiracy, where Raymun and Lyman Darry have faked their own deaths in order to, I believe, secretly lead the Brotherhood without Banners to the restoration of the Targaryens. There’s also the vast Martell conspiracy, of which Vargo Hoat and the Bloody Mummers are an important part. I think he also rejects Rhaegar and Lyanna as Jon’s parents in favor of something massively more complicated, although I’ve not watched that video series yet.

          • Seriously? You come into my house and mention that man?

          • John says:

            I will stand by my position that Preston Jacobs is the best creator of utterly batshit insane, completely wrong theories about A Song of Ice and Fire. I don’t know that there’s anybody else producing such terrible theories at such a high level.

            Do you have a long-standing beef with him of some sort?

          • You must have missed the video where he accused me of being part of a conspiracy to destroy him.

          • John says:

            I did miss that! That is amazing – to my knowledge I have never been accused of trying to destroy someone in a Youtube video. My apologies for mentioning him in a quasi-approving manner.

  8. Chinoiserie says:

    “I’m a bit skeptical that the front lines got all the way down to the Trident despite Dany’s dream, because that seems to contradict the more northerly placement of Winterfell and the Wall.”

    This is a theory? I just assumed it was a about Dany first dreaming of being Rhaegar and fighting against the usurpers in the Trident and then it changing to the actual future of Dany fighting the White Walkers. I did not take it to have the meaning there was a battle against the White Walkers in the past or even in the future (even if there could be).

    • winnie says:

      Ooohhh good theory….though for what its worth I think its entirely possible Dany and/or Jon could end up fighting the White Walkers as far South as the Trident. Sadly it looks like if/when they cross the Wall they’ll be in a good position to make rapid progress through Westeros. Hell they might get even farther than the Trident.

      • I’m pretty convinced the climactic battle is at Winterfell.

        • Winnie says:

          Fair enough-it certainly fits with the way D&D are moving more and more of the story to Winterfell. But to me that does raise one question of how the White Walkers plot would then begin to affect players further down South like the Lannister’s since (with the notable exception of Jaime) they’re unlikely to be anywhere near the North in the days to come, and I can’t imagine Martin or the show runners will want them to remain untouched forever by the Army of the Undead.

        • Brett says:

          I think so, too, although that doesn’t preclude the Others from pushing that far south before being repelled and ultimately defeated at Winterfell.

          • winnie says:

            That could work. Or it may be that the wights get ahead of the White Walkers or that Winterfell is where they battle the White Walker leadership.

  9. Brett says:

    The coolest theory for me would be if the Fist of First Men is actually a “fairy hill” with tunnels and a concealed entrance, like the place where the Children are living in the Bran chapters. That would explain why it’s incomplete with no visible water supply – maybe it was never supposed to be a final stand place, so much as a way to delay attackers until people could retreat into the warded hill itself.

    . . . But a more reasonable explanation is that the Free Folk had a prosperous phase where enough of them were living in the area as an effective settled population that they tried to build a hill fort as a defense, and failed. Hardhome probably isn’t the only or first attempt at a town north of the Wall.

    • Interesting theory. I thought you were going to go with it being a fort of the Children, initially.

      • Brett says:

        Actually. . . what if it was a failed earlier incarnation of what Winterfell eventually turned out to be? Maybe they couldn’t finish it in time and set up the wards within the walls, and had to abandon it in the face of the Others’ onslaught.

        I like that idea. More than the idea that it was just something the Free Folk threw up at some time. Sure, there’s still the “water” issue, but the Greenseers supposedly brought down “the hammer of the waters” on the Arm of Dorne and the Neck – maybe they were planning to somehow create a spring there once it was ready.

  10. Bail o' Lies says:

    Dany vision was more about her fighting the Others at the Trident not in that the other reach it during the Long Winter. And even then you could say it the vision telling her that her destiny is to fight the Others similar to how Rhaegar’s was to fight Robert and the Trident is just symbolism.

    • Brett says:

      Same here. I didn’t see that as a vision of the past, so much as a vision of the future – the Others might make it as far as the Neck before being pushed back, at which point they’ll be defeated at Winterfell.

  11. winnie says:

    And for the record Steve has now officially reached the halfway point for ACOK so yay!

    At this rate we might even be started on ASOS by the time Season 6 begins and we’ll definitely get into it sometime in 2016. Which is good because Season 6 and/or TWOW should cast a reflection on what were the most important themes in ASOS and may impact writing the what if sections as well.

  12. Lann says:

    Assuming this theory is correct, do you think that he got that much dragonglass from the graves dug by the wildlings or did he come in contact with the children?

  13. Iñigo says:

    I always thought that the reaction Ghost has when they arrived, not wanting to enter the fist, meant that it originally was thought as a position to keep an army of wights when it wasn’t moving. Easy for the wights to recover if lost, and hard to attack for normal humans.

  14. WPA says:

    At this point Benjen’s been missing longer than Martin Guerre… but at the same time, Chekov’s gun and all that implies there has to be some element to his fate that figures back in.

    That or a follow up Martin novel, “The Return of Benjen Stark” where a man claiming to be Benjen appears from beyond the Wall ten years after A Dream of Spring…

  15. Roger says:

    I agree Mormont is taking too much risks with his expedition. He will lose most of his men for nothing. Event without the Walkers, his chances were dim.
    About Benjen Stark, I thought he was Coldhands. A spectre who still remembers who he was. But perhaps I was wrong.

  16. KrimzonStriker says:

    You know, it struck me while reading your assessment on Mormont’s strategy but for all our dissecting of Jon’s political ability we never get a real opportunity to see him command an army in battle. He’s shown promise in terms of understanding objectives along with Robbs penchant for reading maps but if he ever takes off in my ultimate vision of sitting on the Iron Throne I wonder how much of Robb he can emulate on the war front when the time comes.

  17. “from a TV standpoint I can understand that you want to give John Bradley-West and the other Night’s Watch actors something to do in Season 2”

    Herein lies what I consider the cardinal sin of GoT. Compare this philosophy to the one adapted by the show that Game of Thrones should be modeled on: The Wire. David Simon lays it out explicitely in the DVD commentaries. The show is about Baltimore. They only choose great actors- many of them relative unknowns – and they ONLY use them to service the story – if that means one scene in season 3 for a major character from season 2, so be it. Whoever IS on screen is a great actor because they did great casting. And say what you will about Game of Thrones – its casting directors are geniuses.

  18. […] provide an instant solution to his problem. This is especially the case if somehow Benjen Stark managed to get his hands on the real Horn ahead of Mance Rayder, reducing Mance’s plan to gather in the Frostfangs to the level of a […]

  19. […] excavation, it’s possible this is the other mission Qhorin would have attempted. (Although I think Benjen already accomplished it) Assuming they managed to infiltrate the camp and steal the Horn, the main change is in the […]

  20. […] this is is a rather enigmatic bit of mood-setting, reinforcing the already-spooky atmosphere of the Fist of the First Men. But careful re-readers (and readers of PoorQuentyn’s blog) people who know that this bear in […]

  21. […] indulge me (and you have to because I’m the one writing this) I’d like to build on my theory about Benjen and the Horn. We know (from Jon IV when I’ll cover it) that Mance Rayder was digging up graves in the […]

  22. […] Una teoría popular es que Benjen Stark plantó el vidriagón y el cuerno de guerra en el Puño de los Primeros Hombres. Steven Attewell lo propuso en su análisis de Choque de Reyes, Jon IV: […]

  23. […] el vidriagón y el cuerno en el Puño de los Primeros Hombres. Como sostiene Steven Attewell en su análisis de jon iv de Choque de Reyes, «nada más tiene […]

  24. […] Which gives rise to an important question: where does the NIght’s Watch get more dragonglass, now that they squandered their first chance? In a broader thematic sense, how does the Night’s Watch redeem themselves for falling prey to mission creep? […]

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