Let’s Read A Game of Thrones! Part 18: Bran 3

Well.

Well, well, well.

That’s interesting.

Indeed.

I was wondering why the kid wasn’t killed outright, but to think that guy would show up.

Fang of Shadow: I wouldn’t know, but apparently prophetic dreams on the edge of death are not uncommon. But the presence of Yatagarasu is certainly unusual.

Well, it’s a possibility.

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Um…

Ah, spirit. No problems, I presume?

Book Spirit: No…the landscape keeps changing, though. And I keep seeing other gates in the distance…

Sorry about that. This space is going to be unstable for some time, so please bear with it.

Book Spirit: Why? What’s happening?

Fang of Shadow: Resonance. My true nature is invoked elsewhere, but by my own request I am still elsewise while here…

Book Spirit: …I’m sorry, I don’t understand that at all.

Well, it’s probably better not to dwell on it. Anyway, I have good news.

Book Spirit: Yes?

For the first time, something in this book has truly interested me.


 

Bran 3 (17)

Bran is dreaming. He is falling from high in the sky. Beside him is a crow with three eyes, encouraging him to fly. Bran insists that he cannot, that he does not have wings. The crow forces him to look downwards, where he can see the world spread out beneath him. He can see Winterfell, where life is normal, although the weirwood in the godswood acknowledges his gaze. He can see to the east, where his mother and Ser Rodrik sail into a storm they can’t even notice. He can see to the south, where his father pleads with the king, Sansa cries herself to sleep, and Arya keeps secrets. They are surrounded by shadows, one with the face of a hound, one armored like the sun, and one a giant of stone filled with darkness and black blood. Across the sea, he can see dragons stirring in a distant land.

Lastly he turns his gaze north, past the shining blue Wall where Jon sleeps, past the entirety of the North, he sees a wall of light that marks the end of the world. And beyond that light, he sees the heart of winter, and recoils in fear. The crow warns him, winter is coming.

Bran is nearly to the ground, where icicles wait to impale him, as they have impaled others. He musters his courage, and spreads his arms to fly. It works, and as he flies away from death the crow rewards him, by attacking Bran and pecking his forehead. Bran can still feel the pain as he awakens, frightening a serving girl in his room. His direwolf jumps up and licks his face, and by the time Robb gets the news and rushes in, he has named the wolf: Summer.


 

That name. Summer. It is a challenge, is it not?

Well spotted. I would call that either a declaration of war, or a shout of defiance.

Fang of Shadow: Interesting. I have work elsewhere, so please explain matters to the spirit.

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M-me? Oh, it’s gone.

No need to be so relieved…anyway, this was the most interesting chapter I’ve read so far from this book, so I’ll talk about it a bit. First of all, have you heard of metempsychosis?

Book Spirit: No, I don’t think so.

It is a form of Reincarnation, a cycle of death and rebirth, also known as transmigration. The japanese term would be tensei, as in Shin Megami Tensei. In effect, there is something similar happening to Bran in this chapter, or alternately in the space between his previous POV chapter and this chapter. He died, and returned; although in this case the concept is turned somewhat inside out, as rather than returning to be someone else, someone else is returning to be Bran. In any event, both Fang of Shadow and I have ties to various tensei conceptions, so situations like this become very interesting to us.

Book Spirit: I’m not sure I followed that at all. Bran didn’t really die, though.

Well, effectively he did; in a lot of cases, being in a coma is basically a false life, a false hope for resurrection. It can cause even more grief than death itself, at times. I say this with all sympathy to those who have had to experience these things. But Bran woke up, and was reborn. Well, with assistance.

It’s interesting. We know unusual powers exist, because we know about the Others and their animated corpse. (I’m not going to use the term magic, just yet, as magic implies formalism, which has yet to be demonstrated.) But Bran, here, can see things that are happening concurrently all over the world, including phenomena that are not actually visible, like the shadows surrounding his father and family, or the stirring dragons to the…east? I’ve lost track of where that continent is supposed to be again.

And while we are talking about unusual phenomena, how about that curtain of light that marks the “end of the world?” To a person who lives to the north, like myself, this description brings to mind the Aurora Borealis — but in Bran’s vision, beyond it is the “heart of winter”, which is some kind of terrible threat. It is a profoundly unnatural arrangement, which implies that either Bran is visualizing metaphor again, or that there is something profoundly unnatural about the construction of the world itself. Of course, to me, the second possibility is the most compelling; if the world is constructed unnaturally, what does that say about the one who constructed it?

Book Spirit: You mean George R.R. Martin?

Ah, no. Writers are weird, it comes with the territory. But if Mr Martin is a good writer, which seems likely, then there will always be a reason for weird and divergent settings. Well. I still don’t hold out a lot of hope for this particular book. But it surprised me this time.

Book Spirit: Ah. So you still believe that you are going to be disappointed in the end.

More than that, the book is getting hard to even read. This chapter was like a breath of fresh air.

Book Spirit: I’m not sure what to say to that. I think I feel a little insulted, though.

Don’t worry about it.

Book Spirit: …So what were you to talking about when I arrived? You said something like, ‘that guy appeared’…

Ah, yeah. You remember that three-eyed crow? It’s not certain, but it appeared to be Yatagarasu. Which is awesome and suspicious.

Book Spirit: “Yatagarasu”…?

Yatagarasu is a three-legged crow from certain Shinto legends. Basically, a great bird that is known for guiding people. Exactly what is happening for Bran here, in his dying dream.

Book Spirit: Well, but the one in the story has three eyes, not three legs.

Considering the flexibility of a god’s form, that’s less telling than you’d think.

Book Spirit: Wait, a god!? You said it was a crow.

Well, a kami, which is a little different, I guess. Think of it as an important spirit that gives guidance.

Book Spirit: …So you think that the crow in this book is a Shinto kami? That…doesn’t seem very likely.

Well, there are other possibilities, of course. But it seems unlikely to be either Thought or Memory, and it doesn’t seem crazy enough to be part of the Faceless One.

Book Spirit: No, I mean, isn’t it an original creation for this story?

Well, sure. Based on what, do you think?

Book Spirit: Um, based on itself? That’s what ‘original’ means.

Bullshit. “There is nothing new under the sun.” Everything is created by rearranging something else, even as you and I. If it becomes more than the sum of its parts, that is emergence, not originality.

Book Spirit: That’s a really weird way of looking at things.

Yeah, I’m a writer too, you know. Well. Having reached this point, I’m not sure how to end my review. As I mentioned, Bran has been reborn as a new kind of character, but I’m not sure how he’s going to fit with the rest of the setting presented so far. The previous sixteen chapters have been almost all political machination, but new!Bran belongs to a different sort of story. Guess I’ll just have to see how things work out.


 

Next time: I really hate that woman. I really do.


 

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So… Um…

Yes?

Book Spirit: It’s getting really scary around here when you’re not here…

I imagine. But it’s unlikely to hurt you, unless the space actually collapses.

Book Spirit: That doesn’t really make me less worried. Um…can I just follow you?

Hmm? I don’t mind, but you’ll probably have to shift your form a bit.

Book Spirit: Ok. I’ll think of something.

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