X-Posted from Tumblr: A Theory on the Horn of Joramun

Based off a long conversation from Twitter, but I’ve started to have some ideas about the Horn of Joramun, one of the more significant objects in the series if assumptions are right that it will bring down the Wall.

The Horn is a curious object, because it seems to have a strong duality about it: it’s known as both the Horn of Winter and the Horn of Joramun, and it is supposed to have  “woke giants from the earth” and it’s also supposed to have the power “bring this cold thing down.” And yet, even through Joramun was a King Beyond-the-Wall “in ancient days,” whom Jeor Mormont places as coming before the Horned Lord and the brothers Gendel and Gorne, and describes all of them as having “broke his strength on the Wall, or was broken by the power of Winterfell on the far side,” the Wall still stands.

Why did Joramun never use the Horn to bring down the Wall?

The answer, I think, lies in the other thing we know about Joramun – his involvement in the legend of the Night’s King (the real one, not the one from the show):

“He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.”

This cooperation between a wildling King and a Stark of Winterfell is unprecedented, which further emphasizes that the Night’s King was an abomination (binding “his Sworn Brothers to his will” with “strange sorceries” should be a hint) rather than some sort of marriage alliance to cement an imagined Pact between White Walkers and humans (which theory constantly ignores that the wildlings have always been living north of the Wall). It certainly demonstrates that Joramun clearly viewed the White Walkers as an existential threat so great that it involved allying with one ancient enemy (the Starks) to free another ancient enemy (the Night’s Watch) from sorcerous bondage.

Here’s what I think happened: Joramun was an early King-beyond-the-Wall who “broke his strength” on the Wall and, looking for a solution to this strategic problem as so many KbtW did, turned to magic. Specifically, he created a horn which was imbued with the magic of giants, which could both wake them from their slumber (perhaps giants are prone to hibernation?) and bring down the Wall. On a sidenote, it’s possible that these two things are linked, if GRRM is a fan of Attack on Titan and has giants walled up inside the Wall whose awakening would shake it down from the foundations. (Just laying down a marker in advance of TWOW…)

image

Regardless of how the thing worked, Joramun was interrupted by the crisis of the Night’s King before he could bring down the Wall. And what he saw and experienced in fighting the Night’s King convinced him that the White Walkers were such an existential threat that the Wall had to remain to keep humanity protected, even if that meant his own people had to remain in exile. (Perhaps this lesson is why the Horned Lord had his maxim that “sorcery is a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.“) And so he had the Horn buried with him to keep it from ever being used.

To me, this version of events works on a number of levels: it reconciles both aspects of Joramun’s history, it explains why the Horn has never been used before, and it fits the “human heart at war with itself” model of GRRM’s writing, as Joramun is caught between his love for his people and his humanity

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13 thoughts on “X-Posted from Tumblr: A Theory on the Horn of Joramun

  1. Lucerys says:

    Nice. My theory is that when the horn is blown nothing will happen and the wall will fall by some other means. This will leave an open question of whether anything could have broken the wall or the horn removed the ‘magical barrier’ preventing the others or whoever from destroying it.

    As an somewhat related aside I sure a curious guy like Sam has tried to blow into it. I doubt this was enough to activate it. Any ideas about the procedure for activating it properly.

    • Brett says:

      Sam probably has to fix it first. Maybe it will be after a “dark dream” and reverie where he re-assembles it, becoming more obsessed over time.

    • The Law of Conservation of Narrative Detail would suggest otherwise. Why bother to spend the time writing about it if it wasn’t important?

      • Ioseff says:

        For the risk of starting to become too obvious that speaking of something is presumption of its use in the future, thus making the impact worthless because it is totally expected? That is why some far off, tangential information is good: It touches the thing meant to be used, but it does not dive on it. At least sometimes it should be used that way, even if GRRM has already too many things to worry about to bother to do that. also I’ve never seen it used by other people, though my literary knowledge is quite limited.

  2. Brett says:

    If Joramun ultimately decided the Horn must never be used, why didn’t he burn it instead of burying it with him? Or maybe he did decide to burn it, but then died and his children/family/etc reneged on a deathbed promise to burn the Horn (but then why not keep it for themselves?).

    • Grant says:

      It’s entirely possible that after his force was broken (probably at the Wall or on the Free Folk side of it) the horn was lost in the chaos. Imagine all the uncertainty Varamyr saw in the wake of Mance’s defeat, and add in the Starks and Night’s Watch probably pursuing them a good distance.

      So a nephew of Joramun’s from his wife’s side of the family grabs the horn and desperately runs with it, hoping to find some shelter and friends but the alliances have broken down and he’s in hostile territory now, so all he can do is just hide away and stuff the horn somewhere. Or maybe a year or two after the battle some people come to scavenge what they can, maybe the kneelers even missed some iron blades, and they find a nice horn. It’s been a while and they weren’t that important in Joramun’s time, so they don’t know that it’s The Horn, it’s not like it looks that important. So it’s just kept and never actually used and eventually the guy dies and he gets buried with his belongings.

      Either that, or they were really afraid of what would happen if they destroyed it, so they buried it deep down and hoped no one ever found it.

    • As I suggested on Tumblr, I think there are a couple reasons:

      1. Couldn’t bear to destroy it, given the sacrifices he must have made to create it.
      2. Can’t be destroyed. Just because it’s old and dirty doesn’t mean it’s not magic.
      3. Ambivalent about whether his cooperation with the NW would last.
      4. GRRM needed it to be around later.

  3. Ioseff says:

    I’ve been asking this for some time, but now I will do it here in public: What if the Giant in the Wall is a Giant… DRAGON???

    Think on it well, the ICE Dragon is THRICE the size of a regular Dragon, and oh, what a coincidence, there are THREE OPPOSITE FIRE DRAGONS.

    And after all, part of the fight is to getting everyone together (“This is not about living in harmony, this is just about living”), it is to destroy the Dragonbinder control of Rhaegal, it is about getting Viserion to obey Tyrion through both tenderness and molding of Bran. It is about destroying the fusion of Storm God (Euron) and the Drowned God (Kraken). It is about getting everyone together. What better reason to end the Dance of Dragons for POWAAAAAR than to start the Dance of Dragons for LAAAAAIIIIFFF ITSEEELLLLFFF?

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