Iconic mother and her son, Bran the Good

Catelyn’s motherhood is one of the most often debated topics when it comes to judging her as a character. She can live with being separated from her daughters, but not from Bran, and she does not waver from Bran’s side for weeks, while Rickon is miserable without a parent taking care of his emotional needs. Then she abandons Winterfell altogether to leave on a secret mission for King’s Landing. And when she finally sets foot in the North again, she joins her eldest son Robb back South instead of going to Winterfell. It is not until far into the war and the news of the death of Bran and Rickon that she makes her daughters a priority, freeing Jaime who was Robb’s sole major bargaining chip. As a whole this leads to a paradoxal impression of a woman acting impulsively on her motherly emotions for this or that child, but simultaneously neglect the safety of her other children.  This seeming constant inconsistency is often cited as cause for frustration with Catelyn as a mother character by readers (and then I am ignoring her expressed sentiments in thought, actions and words for Jon Snow).

This essay is not meant to judge or defend Catelyn in this regard, but to investigate the construction of Catelyn as a mother character in relation to chthonic mothers. The previous chthonic essay, Lady of the Golden Sword of Winterfell, indicates that several chthonic, ideal mother figures have been conflated into Catelyn – such as Demeter and Isis. This conflation results in an ideal mother for one child (but not the other children) one moment in the narrative, only to switch to an ideal mother for another child the next (and again not the other children). In other words, George crafted Catelyn after “the ideal mother” as portrayed in mythologies, but for different children consecutively, which ironically resulted with many readers in the overall impression that she is a “bad mother”. In this sense, Catelyn may actually be the most complex written character in the whole series.

The Feudal Family

When Catelyn convinces Ned Stark to accept being the King’s Hand, this comes with a price for her: she is to remain behind at Winterfell, while three of her children are to go with Ned to King’s Landing. Her initial protest suggest she hoped that Ned Stark would choose to make a similar arrangement as Jon Arryn – appoint a steward to rule the North for him, while Ned and all of his family would live in King’s Landing. But the Starks are not the Arryns, and the North is not the Vale. You cannot let a steward rule the underworld.

“The Others take both of you,” Ned muttered darkly. He turned away from them and went to the window. […] When he turned away from the window at last, his voice was tired and full of melancholy, and moisture glittered faintly in the corners of his eyes. […] He seated himself in a chair by the hearth. “Catelyn, you shall stay here in Winterfell.”
His words were like an icy draft through her heart. “No,” she said, suddenly afraid. Was this to be her punishment? Never to see his face again, nor to feel his arms around her?
“Yes,” Ned said, in words that would brook no argument. “You must govern the north in my stead, while I run Robert’s errands. There must always be a Stark in Winterfell. Robb is fourteen. Soon enough, he will be a man grown. He must learn to rule, and I will not be here for him. Make him part of your councils. He must be ready when his time comes.” (aGoT, Catelyn II)

This is the last passage where Ned speaks as a ruler of the underworld, giving his last orders where Catelyn is made regent – she has to take his place, rule, teach and raise Robb, the heir and next ruler of the underworld. The “standing” Ned moves from the chthonic, cold night outside of the window to “seat” himself beside the warm fire of the hearth. Meanwhile, Catelyn feels a chill enter her heart (the organ that beats to keep you alive) and begins to think in terms of death, as if Ned is the one dying (though he’s the person going South).

We witness the start of a role reversal with multiple layers:

  • from rule to support
  • underworld to life
  • patron to matron
  • and vice versa.

After Ned hands over the rule to Catelyn, her dialogue becomes more dominant, whereas Ned takes a subordinate role, pleading with her and appealing to emotion. In the end Ned only has ruling and decision powers over his daughters; while Catelyn becomes the ruling parent over her sons. In a patriarchal feudal society, both mothers and fathers made marriage and career choices for sons and daughters, but the actual day-to-day rearing was traditionally left to the same gender parent.

This was the first time he had been deemed old enough to go with his lord father and his brothers to see the king’s justice done. It was the ninth year of summer, and the seventh of Bran’s life. (aGoT, Bran I)

Bran had been left behind with Jon and the girls and Rickon. But Rickon was only a baby and the girls were only girls and Jon and his wolf were nowhere to be found. (aGoT, Bran II)

In Arya’s first chapter and Bran’s first two chapters, Ned and Catelyn are portrayed as this traditional feudal father and mother. Catelyn supervizes what Arya is taught, gives her the rules of what is allowed, determines what type of sport she can engage in, and awaits her in her room to chastice her. Until King’s Road, Ned Stark is not involved in Arya’s day-to-day rearing. Meanwhile, Ned teaches his sons and ward about the King’s justice, takes them out hunting, and is the parent called on to chastice the boys. The feudal noble mother was only her son’s caretaker until he reached the age to be fostered or squire. Bran is at the cusp of moving away from his mother’s frocks and being integrated into the exclusively male world at the age of seven, nearing eight, and voluntarily begins to avoid his sisters and baby brother. While his mother still fusses over him, Ned Stark starts to take him under his wing, and is appealed to when Bran needss chasticing.

His mother was terrified that one day Bran would slip off a wall and kill himself. He told her that he wouldn’t, but she never believed him. Once she made him promise that he would stay on the ground. He had managed to keep that promise for almost a fortnight, miserable every day, until one night he had gone out the window of his bedroom when his brothers were fast asleep.
He confessed his crime the next day in a fit of guilt. Lord Eddard ordered him to the godswood to cleanse himself. Guards were posted to see that Bran remained there alone all night to reflect on his disobedience. The next morning Bran was nowhere to be seen. They finally found him fast asleep in the upper branches of the tallest sentinel in the grove.
As angry as he was, his father could not help but laugh. “You’re not my son,” he told Bran when they fetched him down, “you’re a squirrel. So be it. If you must climb, then climb, but try not to let your mother see you.”
Bran did his best, although he did not think he ever really fooled her. Since his father would not forbid it, she turned to others. (aGoT, Bran II)

Despite Catelyn’s reasonable fears for Bran’s safety, she never forbids him to climb. In our modern, emancipated world a mother would exert her parental authority over her son and would not hesitate to forbid her son to engage in deadly activities at such a young age. She would punish him herself. In the feudal Westeros, Catelyn resorts to extracting promises, horror stories, manipulation and appealing to Ned to forbid it. Ned is the sole parent of the two who punishes and commands his sons. This has nothing to do with preferred parenting style, since obviously Catelyn will order, command and punish her daughters. It is simply traditional adherence to gender authority.

In Catelyn’s bedroom, Ned and Catelyn discuss the fates of Sansa, Arya, Bran and Jon. Ned becomes the loving, gentle partner and mirrors Catelyn’s approach as a loving wife in the godswood. Meanwhile Catelyn becomes increasingly cold and stern.

Then silence fell, until Catelyn found her courage and asked the question whose answer she most dreaded. “What of the other children?”
Ned stood, and took her in his arms, and held her face close to his. “Rickon is very young,” he said gently. “He should stay here with you and Robb. The others I would take with me.”
“I could not bear it,” Catelyn said, trembling.
“You must,” he said. “Sansa must wed Joffrey, that is clear now, we must give them no grounds to suspect our devotion. And it is past time that Arya learned the ways of a southron court. In a few years she will be of an age to marry too.” (aGoT, Catelyn II)

Note that Catelyn asks about the children, while previously Catelyn reflected that Ned always asks after the children. Ned (as mother) decides over Sansa and Arya’s fate, which is an almost jarring oddity to Ned’s protests about Sansa only being eleven half an hour before that. That Ned is verbally mirroring Catelyn as a style reversal in the above conversation rather than voicing his beliefs becomes clear when we consider his later actions and decisions about Arya. He lets Arya scamper about on horseback. He hires Syrio Forel to teach her the proper use of Needle, and considers asking Barristan Selmy to teach Arya a trick or two. Ned does not require her to join the queen in her cart wheel. He does not want his daughters to attend the Hand’s tourney, and only allows Sansa to go because she expresses such a wish to see it. He attempts to keep both his daughters away from southron courtlife as much as possible. So, George has Ned become the male “mother” of the girls in practice. Ned only adopts Catelyn’s concerns over the marital fates of the daughters in an abstract manner.

We see this mirroring of Catelyn’s arguments again when they discuss Bran’s fate.

She finished for him. “… crown prince, and heir to the Iron Throne. And I was only twelve when my father promised me to your brother Brandon.”
…[snip]…
“I was eight when my father sent me to foster at the Eyrie,” Ned said.

The reversal is complete when Catelyn accepts Ned’s argument regarding Bran. Catelyn accepts the loss of three of her children and her husband, while she foresees the loneliness in the vast Winterfell and “instructs” Ned on how to raise a son. And Ned kisses and soothes her, thanks her and shows understanding like a loving, gentle partner.

He was right; Catelyn knew it. It did not make the pain any easier to bear. She would lose all four of them, then: Ned, and both girls, and her sweet, loving Bran. Only Robb and little Rickon would be left to her. She felt lonely already. Winterfell was such a vast place. “Keep him off the walls, then,” she said bravely. “You know how Bran loves to climb.”
Ned kissed the tears from her eyes before they could fall. “Thank you, my lady,” he whispered. “This is hard, I know.”

While at the surface, this loving gesture seems to merely establish a rather modern mutual loving relationship between Eddard and Catelyn, in feudal gender role terms those words imply that Ned is the “wife” asking her “lord husband” for a favor. And it is a stark contrast to Catelyn not daring to forbid Bran from climbing in the past. That Ned Stark has surrendered his authority over Winterfell is driven home in the discussion about Jon Snow. Catelyn’s will basically becomes law.

“What of Jon Snow, my lord?” Maester Luwin asked.
Catelyn tensed at the mention of the name. Ned felt the anger in her, and pulled away.
… [snip]…
Jon must go,” she said now.
“He and Robb are close,” Ned said. “I had hoped …”
He cannot stay here,” Catelyn said, cutting him off. “He is your son, not mine. I will not have him.” It was hard, she knew, but no less the truth. Ned would do the boy no kindness by leaving him here at Winterfell.

Ned Stark behaves like a struck subordinate who pulls away and he appeals to emotions.

Catelyn never managed to convince Ned to send Jon away for the past fourteen years, hardly dared to, and obeyed Ned to never ask about Jon.

It had taken her a fortnight to marshal her courage, but finally, in bed one night, Catelyn had asked her husband the truth of it, asked him to his face.
That was the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her. Never ask me about Jon,” he said, cold as ice. “He is my blood, and that is all you need to know. And now I will learn where you heard that name, my lady.” She had pledged to obey; she told him; and from that day on, the whispering had stopped, and Ashara Dayne’s name was never heard in Winterfell again.
Whoever Jon’s mother had been, Ned must have loved her fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the boy away.

What a contrast in authorial behavior between both these characters before and after, no?

So, Catelyn becomes the  feudal “ruling father (to sons)” and Ned the “supporting mother (to daughters)”, which is complete when Bran falls and must remain with his brothers, instead of joining his sisters at court. Ned as “mother” does not get to take Bran with him, because Bran is already being initiated in the exclusive male world of his brothers. Meanwhile Catelyn as “father” has no interest for the everyday care of a male baby.

We continue to see this feudal role reversal in their later arcs whenever they have to handle conflict or issues. While Catelyn sails for King’s Landing, apprehends Tyrion and joins Robb in his war campaign, Ned pleads with the king for the love he bears him, resorts to psychological tricks and mediates between his daughters and even Cersei. And yet the “supporting mother” is a man, and “ruling father” is a woman. This results in Ned hiring a sword instructor for his daughter and not having a clue how to deal with Sansa, while Catelyn mothers Bran at his sickbed and neglects her ruling duties. They are both like fish out of water, doubting themselves, yearning to return to their prior role at Winterfell. They struggle in finding a balance between the demands of their new role and their personal preferences. When both figure out what they really want, the situations have caught up with them and neither are allowed to escape their doom.

Isis and Horus

That was a long introduction, befitting a reread analysis rather, but sets Catelyn up for the conflict resulting from her responsibilities over her sons and Winterfell. Though Catelyn has symbolically become the “ruling father” over the sons, she initially adheres to an ideal mother image of holding vigil over Bran, which George ends up subverting. Eventually ideal motherhood is unachievable and it endangers the lives of Catelyn’s children.

One such idealized chtonic ideal mother goddess is Isis. She conceived Horus after copulating as a kite with dead Osiris and his magical, golden phallus, nursed Horus at her breast, protected her son fiercely from assassination and illness and finally guided him when he challenged the usurping Set (who murdered Osiris) for the rule over the two kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt. Set and Horus battled each other for decades until they reach a stalemate and apply to the gods who decide in Horus’s favor. Isis is not solely a mythical ideal mother, she is an iconic single mother.

Isis nursing her son is the source image for Mother Mary nursing baby Jesus. Rome embraced and spread the Isis cult all over the Roman Empire during the formative years of Christianity, and it was the Roman Emperor Constantine who institionalized Christianity as the state’s religion less than four hundred years later. Separate stories and healing spells tell of Isis protecting and tending to her sick or threatened boy. Even to this day they are social tropes about motherhood.

We see the image of the nursing mother appear several times in Catelyn’s chapters.

…they had spent that year apart, Ned off at war in the south while she remained safe in her father’s castle at Riverrun. Her thoughts were more of Robb, the infant at her breast, than of the husband she scarcely knew. (aGoT, Catelyn II)

Let him grow taller, she asked the gods. Let him know sixteen, and twenty, and fifty. Let him grow as tall as his father, and hold his own son in his arms. Please, please, please. As she watched him, this tall young man with the new beard and the direwolf prowling at his heels, all she could see was the babe they had laid at her breast at Riverrun, so long ago.(aGoT, Catelyn X)

As she slept amidst the rolling grasslands, Catelyn dreamt that Bran was whole again, that Arya and Sansa held hands, that Rickon was still a babe at her breast. Robb, crownless, played with a wooden sword, and when all were safe asleep, she found Ned in her bed, smiling.(aCoK, Catelyn II)

There exists only an indirect nursing association to Bran. When Ned recalls seeing Tommen last at Cersei’s teat and guesses his age wrong, Catelyn explains that Bran and Tommen are off-age.

“It will be good to see the children. The youngest was still sucking at the Lannister woman’s teat the last time I saw him. He must be, what, five by now?”
“Prince Tommen is seven,” she told him. “The same age as Bran….” (aGoT, Catelyn I)

… Bran of whom she is always proud. While there is no direct image mentioned of Catelyn nursing Bran, she is however portrayed as holding vigil at his sickbed, which is also an Isis-Horus related image.

Catelyn is not the sole mother linked to this iconic image of nursing mother. For each of these mothers, the sons they nursed are their Horuses:

  • Cersei is the first mother mentioned in such a way. In aFfC and aDwD, Cersei constantly worries about Tommen‘s safety, fussing over what he eats, what he wears, who he is with. It does not necessarily make her a loving mother to Tommen though and it only results in Cersei alienating and attempting to weaken her military and political allies.²
  • Lysa Tully is featured as nursing Sweetrobin, even though he is six already. She fusses over his health, spoils him and feeds his fears.
  • Wylla nursed Jon Snow and Edric Dayne
  • Gilly nurses Monster and Aemon Steelsong. And though Val cannot actually nurse Monster, she keeps the baby with her and Monster is nursed in the tower where she resides.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the course of the books I think there is only one nursing scene with a baby girl: the young prostitute at Chataya’s and her baby girl Barra that Ned Stark visits.

Starks sons as Horuses

This essay is not about those other Horuses in the eyes of the various mothers, but about Catelyn and her sons as Horus. Instead of showing us one Horus who grows up from nursed baby into a youth requiring protection and health care and finally into a grown man who wins at least half a kingdom from his enemy and father’s killer in a war that lasted decades, George has split those three different stages across three sons of different ages so that he could compress the Horus concept into a much shorter timeline.

In order to understand Catelyn’s mother role to her sons as Isis, we first need to explore Horus himself. In legend, Horus is depicted in three different stages:

  • a nursing baby or naked boy with his thumb in his mouth (on a lotus) sitting in the lap of his mother.
  • a youth who can be sick and whose life is threatened by Set sending assassins, and who goes by the name Neferhor/Nephoros/Nopheros, which means “The Good Horus”.
  • a grown man who wars and becomes king.

Horus is the god of the Sky, naturally of War and Kingship and Hunting. As a skygod he was depicted as having a falcon’s head. The name Horus was derived from the word haru, which means falcon. So, it should not be surprising that his hieroglyph is a falcon³. The falcon is either represented as perched or with his wings outspread. Sun and moon traversed the sky as Horus flies across as a falcon. Horus right eye was the sun, and his left eye was the moon. During one of the struggles between Set and Horus, Horus’s left eye was gouged out, which was replaced by an eye made by a moon god. Horus thus has two eyes where one shines brighter as the other (or the left is darker or even absent). The sun-eye was called the “Eye of Ra”4, while the moon-eye was called the “Eye of Horus” (and can show various phases of the moon). Its symbol was the same as the wadjet (or wedjat), the “all seeing eye” of one of the earliest Egyptian goddess Wadjet, which means “the green one“. (And now you know why I chose moss green)

As a Kingship god he was the patron god of the dynasty. Pharaohs claimed to be descendants from Horus who was depicted as wearing the crown of the region (all of Egypt, or the half, depending on the dynasty and political situation at the time). The wars he fought with Set lasted for decades, without an obvious winner: win some, lose some. Eventually both had to make their case before the gods who based on the evidence brought before them, judged that Horus dominated over Set, and therefore became king of all Egypt.

Obviously as a falcon, he was a predator, a hunting bird. Of interest is a particular predynastic stone Hunters Palette depicting a “lion hunt” that shows the falcon perched upon a standard.

Finally, a distinction exists between Horus the Elder and Horus the Younger. Egyptian mythology is ultimately a conflation of over three thousand years of dynastic legends, kingdoms and history. The genealogy thus alters. Unraveling these relations gives one a headache, like Bran gets confused after his own name predecessors. Hathor’s consort was Horus, whereas Isis was the mother of Horus. With the conflatiion of Isis with Hathor, while Osiris was Isis’s consort, one Horus became a sibling, the other the son. To make it more confusing, it ultimately matters little, since both Horuses are skygods, falcons, kings and hunters. Horus the Younger though is associated more with the youthly king and the dawn, while Horus the Elder is also called Kemwer, which means (the) great black (one).


Robb Stark as King Horus in Catelyn’s chthonic mother arc deservers its own essay. But I will point out the obvious Horus links.

  • Robb is heavily tied to war from the beginning. Both of Catelyn’s nursing memories of Robb are related to war. She thinks of nursing Robb in Riverrun while her husband is off to fight war in the south against the Mad King in Robert’s Rebellion. And she does so again when Robb has gathered his bannermen to ride South to war, which ends up being a war to avenge his father’s death. The second half of Catelyn’s third chatper in aGoT already presents the Young Wolf as eager to draw his sword against perceived enemies.
  • He is declared King in the North and King of the Trident, unifying the southern Riverlands with the North. His crown is featured several times, as he wears it, but also after his death. Robb is also mightily concerned about establishing his dinasty, and writes a will where he declares an heir in case he dies before having children of his own.
  • He goes out hunting with Bran and Theon which amounts to catching wildlings. At the Battle of the Whispering Wood he catches himself a “lion”, Jaime Lannister. And again through stealth, using a goat track he attacks the Lion Camp at Oxcross.

As for Rickon Stark, he is the baby, and referred to as such by his siblings. His wolf Shaggydog is the black one, who threatens a “lion” in Winterfell hall, and is revealed to hunt a unicorn on Skagos. While Bran is shown to ride off  on a hunt on Dancer, Rickon is the sole Stark son of which we get actual imagery of having success in hunting game. And in aDwD, Davos is sent to find Rickon to make him Lord Stark, or possibly King in the North, for whom Lord Manderly would gladly join the war efforts to avenge the Red Wedding where Robb Stark was murdered.


This is an essay about Catelyn in relation to her son Bran Stark, the Prince of Winterfell. The way Catelyn thinks of Bran and how Ned talks of him, sweet and lovable, Bran certainly fits with the youthful “Good Horus“. He lies in a coma with his mother holding vigil and his life is threatened by an assassin.  In Bran’s third chapter in aGoT the three-eyed crow teaches Bran to fly in a dream, while Jojen refers to Bran as the “winged wolf”, the Stark wolf who can fly as a greenseer.

Bran spread his arms and flew.
Wings unseen drank the wind and filled and pulled him upward. The terrible needles of ice receded below him. The sky opened up above. Bran soared. It was better than climbing. It was better than anything. The world grew small beneath him.
I’m flying!” he cried out in delight.
I’ve noticed, said the three-eyed crow…[snip]…Its beak stabbed at him fiercely, and Bran felt a sudden blinding pain in the middle of his forehead, between his eyes. (aGoT, Bran III)

Jojen’s eyes were the color of moss, and sometimes when he looked at you he seemed to be seeing something else. Like now. “I dreamed of a winged wolf bound to earth with grey stone chains,” he said. “It was a green dream, so I knew it was true. A crow was trying to peck through the chains, but the stone was too hard and his beak could only chip at them.”(aCoK, Bran IV)

“A knight is what you want. A warg is what you are. You can’t change that, Bran, you can’t deny it or push it away. You are the winged wolf, but you will never fly.” Jojen got up and walked to the window. “Unless you open your eye.” He put two fingers together and poked Bran in the forehead, hard.(aCoK, Bran V)

Our flying greenseer Bran Stark who needs to open his all-seeing third eye therefore seems to fit Horus and his Wadjet eye pretty good, even though we associate Bran more with ravens, crows and eagles than falcons. I would not rule out though that one of the birds that Bran ends up skinchanging is a falcon.

“Ser Rodrik tells me there is bad feeling between Robb and Prince Joffrey. That is not healthy. Bran can bridge that distance. He is a sweet boy, quick to laugh, easy to love. Let him grow up with the young princes, let him become their friend as Robert became mine. Our House will be the safer for it.”

George seems to make a point too that Bran is not a War Horus nor King Horus. Bran attempts to dissuade Robb from going to war in the South. And while Bran does ride out on Dancer to hunt, it soon turns sour as he learns of Jory’s death and Ned Stark’s accident. Bran wants to return and the hunt is aborted, right before Bran is captured and assaulted by wildlings. Eventually Dancer (and dance is synonym to war) dies during the sack of Winterfell.

We see all three development stages of Horus in the Stark sons in the course of a few year, or references to it, with each Stark son written to take one of the three main aspects of Horus:

  • Baby Rickon who becomes a hunter
  • Sweet boy Bran who’s broken, but flies as a greenseer, and becomes a god of the sky
  • King Robb who unites two regions into one kingdom, commences a war that is still not truly over and took steps for a possible re-emergence of a King in the North & Trident dynasty.

Not only does it give George the opportunity to use the iconic Isis-mother in Catelyn’s arc without needing to span sixteen years, but to show how this expectation of ideal mother behavior stands in direct conflict with each other.

Good Bran, the boy Horus

Early on we learn about Catelyn worrying over Bran’s safety, especially with regards to his fondness for climbing. After his fall, Catelyn sits beside his bed like a good iconic mother, day and night, keeping vigil for weeks. Even though he is in a coma, she fusses over him needing a haircut, moving his bed under the window so that he would have the morning sun, holding his hand and noticing his fragility and body warmth, keeping him warm and wanting to move him to safety from a fire.

Catelyn looked at Bran in his sickbed and brushed his hair back off his forehead. It had grown very long, she realized. She would have to cut it soon. “I have no need to look at figures, Maester Luwin,” she told him, never taking her eyes from Bran. “I know what the visit cost us. Take the books away.”
…[snip]…
Catelyn nodded absently. “Oh, yes. I remember.” Bran looked so pale. She wondered whether they might move his bed under the window, so he could get the morning sun.
…[snip]…
I can’t leave him, even for a moment, not when any moment could be his last. I have to be with him, if … if …” She took her son’s limp hand, sliding his fingers through her own. He was so frail and thin, with no strength left in his hand, but she could still feel the warmth of life through his skin.
…[snip]…
Robb opened the window…[snip].
“Don’t,” she told him. “Bran needs to stay warm.”
…[snip]…
Fire, she thought, and then, Bran! “Help me,” she said urgently, sitting up. “Help me with Bran.”…[snip]…She sagged with relief. Bran was safe. The library was across the bailey, there was no way the fire would reach them here. “Thank the gods,” she whispered. (aGoT, Catelyn III)

Her care for Bran is nothing but commendable and understandable, in isolation of everything else. She cares for Bran like Isis cared for Horus. But he is not her only child, nor is Winterfell in any type of routine situation. The chapter is rife with elements how this expected idealized mother behavior at her child’s sickbed conflicts with the care of her other children, and endangers all.

“You didn’t even come to the gate when Father and the girls went south.”
“I said my farewells to them here, and watched them ride out from that window.”
…[snip]…
Rickon needs you,” Robb said sharply. “He’s only three, he doesn’t understand what’s happening. He thinks everyone has deserted him, so he follows me around all day, clutching my leg and crying. I don’t know what to do with him.” He paused a moment, chewing on his lower lip the way he’d done when he was little. “Mother, I need you too. I’m trying but I can’t … I can’t do it all by myself.” His voice broke with sudden emotion, and Catelyn remembered that he was only fourteen. She wanted to get up and go to him, but Bran was still holding her hand and she could not move.

The last time Catelyn saw both her daughters alive was from afar, through a window, because she could not bear to leave Bran and resented that Ned chose to go to King’s Landing. Her baby son of three has lost his father, sisters, Bran and his mother’s attention in one fell sweep, while her teen son has to take all these responsibilities on his shoulders and cannot turn to her for emotional support. And yet her response and behavior is perfectly human and recognizable. When tragedy befalls a child, it is not unusual for a parent to keep vigil and be completely focused on the sick, missing or dead child, while the needs of the other children are put on the backburner for an extensive period. The majority of people would not expect a mother to bounce back from a disaster befalling one of her children in less than a month’s time, let alone judge her ill for it. And often it is not until a serious issue arises that the parent realizes they have to return from their mourning to the household and other children.

Though it is the most obvious conflict of interests, it is not the most serious one. The greatest danger is pointed out by George at the start of the chapter when Maester Luwin asks Catelyn’s help in naming a steward and master of horse.

“My son lies here broken and dying, Luwin, and you wish to discuss a new master of horse? Do you think I care what happens in the stables? Do you think it matters to me one whit? I would gladly butcher every horse in Winterfell with my own hands if it would open Bran’s eyes, do you understand that? Do you!”

Catelyn finds it almost ridiculous to care about these matters, but where did the catspaw hide? Exactly, in those stables.

“He’d been hiding in your stables,” Greyjoy said. “You could smell it on him.”

When Catelyn wonders how this catspaw could have gone unnoticed for eight days, Hallis Mollen explains the issue, but allows the reader to formulate the answer to Catelyn’s question in thought.

And how could he go unnoticed?” she said sharply.
Hallis Mollen looked abashed. “Between the horses Lord Eddard took south and them we sent north to the Night’s Watch, the stalls were half-empty. It were no great trick to hide from the stableboys. Could be Hodor saw him, the talk is that boy’s been acting queer, but simple as he is …”

The answer is not the incompetence of the stable boys and the inability of Hodor to say anything but “Hodor”. The catspaw remained unnoticed for so long, was able to hide in the stables, set fire to the library and reach Bran’s room because for eight days Winterfell had no steward, no master of horse and no captain of the guard. Had all these three positions been filled since the day of Ned’s departure, the catspaw would have been detected far sooner, recognized as not being part of any crew, and there would have been a proper functioning guard. Catelyn should care what happens in the stables. It matters a very great deal.

“We have no steward,” Maester Luwin reminded her…[snip]… “There are several appointments that require your immediate attention, my lady. Besides the steward, we need a captain of the guards to fill Jory’s place, a new master of horse—”

Tranformation Born From the Night

So, while Catelyn is the image of an iconic Isis watching over her sick Horus, George shows that by only focusing on this, Catelyn actually endangered Horus-Bran’s life. Hence, there is a problem that needs to be resolved within Catelyn, a transition that she struggles with. I pointed out that in Catelyn’s second chapter there are several reversals for Catelyn’s role:

  • mother to father authority
  • supporting wife to ruler
  • life to death.

We learn in aCoK, through Catelyn’s relationship with Edmure at Riverrun, that Catelyn is not unfamiliar with “ruling” a house while the Lord is absent. When Hoster Tully was at war fighting in Robert’s Rebellion her brother is still too young, Lysa is at the Vale, and Catelyn effectively rules Riverrun. Ruling Winterfell castle itself would not be unfamiliar territory for Catelyn at all. Even if it may be a castle in an underworld, it is still a castle that needs to be run the same way as a southern one. And parenting remains parenting. It is only which gender of children that she acquires authority over that alters.

The transition that she struggles with is from a terrestrial life nature to that of an underworldly chthonic nature. While this is an essay that focuses on Catelyn as an iconic Isis mother it remains an essay of the Chthonic Cycle. I will go over some of the previous quotes again and reveal several interesting internal paradoxes where underwordly figures and elements are shown to be very much alive; where Catelyn wants to keep the underworld out, but has stopped participating in life herself, is wilfully blind, deaf and uses murderous language. It culminates into a struggle for life after death enters the room and she and Bran are saved by a direwolf. During this struggle Catelyn transitions and becomes chthonic (rather than lifeless) and starts to comprehend that the underworld is not in opposition of life, but crucial to life.

Bran looked so pale. She wondered whether they might move his bed under the window, so he could get the morning sun….[snip]… She took her son’s limp hand, sliding his fingers through her own. He was so frail and thin, with no strength left in his hand, but she could still feel the warmth of life through his skin…[snip]…Outside the tower, a wolf began to howl. Catelyn trembled, just for a second.
“Bran’s.” Robb opened the window and let the night air into the stuffy tower room. The howling grew louder. It was a cold and lonely sound, full of melancholy and despair.
“Don’t,” she told him. “Bran needs to stay warm.”
…[snip]…
Catelyn was shaking. It was the grief, the cold, the howling of the direwolves. Night after night, the howling and the cold wind and the grey empty castle, on and on they went, never changing, and her boy lying there broken, the sweetest of her children, the gentlest, Bran who loved to laugh and climb and dreamt of knighthood, all gone now, she would never hear him laugh again. Sobbing, she pulled her hand free of his and covered her ears against those terrible howls. “Make them stop!” she cried. “I can’t stand it, make them stop, make them stop, kill them all if you must, just make them stop!”

To Catelyn Bran’s appearance is like that of a dead child. And she wishes to connect him to life symbolism, such as the morning sun and keeping him warm. But she is surrounded by chthonic elements beyond the door and window – night, coldness, winds, howling wolves, grey empty stone castle. And she fears these elements, as she believes they will bring death to her son. What does she do? She locks herself and her son away in a tower room as far removed as possible from the earth, as near to the sky instead. She never leaves the room herself, avoiding the grey empty castle, and keeps the window closed.And by doing that she is isolated, a voluntarily prisoner. A tower room is very apt for this situation as it is a place that both gaurds and protects as well as isolates and imprisons. As a result, Catelyn has become lifeless in a metaphorical way. She talks and acts in deadly terms. She trembles, she shakes, she is cold. She covers her ears to block out sound. And she wants the direwolves to be killed.

The room has a door and a window. These are the sole passages through which the outside world can come into Catelyn’s mindset. At the other side of the window lies the cold, dark underworld. Meanwhile underworld characters can pass through the doorway, enter or leave. Robb attempts to bring Catelyn and Bran into contact with the underworld, by opening the window and the night air enters. Shuttig out the underworld does not entirely work either. Even with the window closed, Catelyn has been hearing the howling night after night. When it opens, the howling simply becomes louder. And with Catelyn blocking her ears and wanting the wolves dead as their howles grow “louder”, we get the interesting paradox that the wolves are more alive than Catelyn herself is.

Let us look at the paradox that Maester Luwin’s appearance reveals. Catelyn regards him hostile, like a grey rat. Grey belongs to the color scheme of the underworld. Grey is a mixture of black and white, and neither three belong to the lively rainbow color scheme. And a rat is a scavenging rodent, a pestilence, a nuisance. Certainly the Rat Cook story identifies a rat as an underwordly animal. So, Catelyn sees Luwin as a chthonic charachter that she wishes to shoe off.

Like a little grey rat, she thought, [Maester Luwin] would not let go.

But what does this grey rat do? He brings light via a lamp into the dark night and reminds her of the bills and groceries.

Ned and the girls were eight days gone when Maester Luwin came to her one night in Bran’s sickroom, carrying a reading lamp and the books of account. “It is past time that we reviewed the figures, my lady,” he said…[snip]…”My lady, the king’s party had healthy appetites. We must replenish our stores before—”…[snip]…Maester Luwin set the lamp in a niche by the door and fiddled with its wick.

It is actually Catelyn who acts like the dead. She is absent in mind, she snaps, she would butcher horses, she has a voice like a whip, and she cuts off Luwin’s speech. She does not want to look or hear the demands of life and she has not heard her son enter either.

“I have no need to look at figures, Maester Luwin,” she told him, never taking her eyes from Bran…[snip]…She cut him off. “I said, take the books away…”[snip]…Catelyn nodded absently. “Oh, yes. I remember.”…[snip]…Her eyes snapped around and found him. “A master of horse?” Her voice was a whip…[snip]…”My son lies here broken and dying, Luwin, and you wish to discuss a new master of horse? …[snip]… I would gladly butcher every horse in Winterfell with my own hands if it would open Bran’s eyes, do you understand that? Do you!”…[snip]… Catelyn had not heard him enter, but there [Robb] stood, in the doorway, looking at her… What was happening to her?

Her son too she starts to see as being underworldy, rather than associated to southern life symbolism. He comes from outside (the underworld), showing signs of being affected by the coldness and wind outside. She notices he wears a sword (real steel) and that his face is stern, hard, northern like his father, the ruler of the underworld Eddard Stark. And he commands like a lord.

[Robb] had come from outside, Catelyn saw;  his cheeks were red from the cold, his hair shaggy and windblown….[snip]… “Leave us now,” Robb said…[snip]…Robb closed the door behind him and turned to her. He was wearing a sword, she saw. “Mother what are you doing?
Catelyn had always thought Robb looked like her; like Bran and Rickon and Sansa, he had the Tully coloring, the auburn hair, the blue eyes. Yet now for the first time she saw something of Eddard Stark in his face, something as stern and hard as the north.

Though Ned instructed her to teach Robb how to rule, Robb is the character who attempts to teach Catelyn something about the underworld outside of that tower. He tells her that Bran is not going to die, the danger has passed, that Bran needs to hear the direwolves sing. To Robb they are singing, not howling. He can even tell them apart as individuals by sound. For Robb the underworld is alive and lively and not a deadly, scary world. And he attempts to make Catelyn see this. While Catelyn regards them as the purest symbol of the emotional hell she has found herself in.

“He needs to hear them sing,” Robb said. Somewhere out in Winterfell, a second wolf began to howl in chorus with the first. Then a third, closer. “Shaggydog and Grey Wind,” Robb said as their voices rose and fell together. “You can tell them apart if you listen close.”… [snip]…”Don’t be afraid, Mother. They would never hurt him.”

Robb is not afraid of cold, outside, wind or the song of the pet direwolves. They might be associated with death, but the underworld protects their own. Catelyn fears symbols and reminders that are no threats to her nor Bran. And this is followed with Robb showing fear for actual threats, the fire, which is supposed to be a symbol of life, as a fire keeps people warm. He stops breathing, he turns pale, whispers and does not hear Catelyn. Meanwhile Catelyn’s senses start working again. She hears, she looks, sees and is relieved when she is secure the fire cannot harm Bran. To her the fire is a flickering reddish light, a source of light in the night, like the lamp Luwin brought in earlier. And when Catelyn thanks the gods, she thanks the seven, not the Old Gods. It is also interesting that a tower is set on fire, after all it is a tower room where Catelyn hoped to protect Bran from underwordly symbols. And yet it is a symbol of life that devours and destroys a tower filled with knowledge (the opposite of the long ago dead that are forgotten). When she looks out of the window of her tower room, she sees flames shoot out of the window of the library tower and smoke rise. Life destroys life. Death is just the state or world after one life kills another life.

Catelyn heard his breath catch in his throat. When she looked up, his face was pale in the lamplight. “Fire,” he whispered…[snip]…Robb did not seem to hear her. “The library tower‘s on fire,” he said.
Catelyn could see the flickering reddish light through the open window now. She sagged with relief. Bran was safe. The library was across the bailey, there was no way the fire would reach them here. “Thank the gods,” she whispered.
Robb looked at her as if she’d gone mad.
…[snip]…
Outside, there were shouts of “Fire!” in the yard, screams, running footsteps, the whinny of frightened horses, and the frantic barking of the castle dogs. The howling was gone, she realized as she listened to the cacophony. The direwolves had fallen silent.
Catelyn said a silent prayer of thanks to the seven faces of god as she went to the window. Across the bailey, long tongues of flame shot from the windows of the library. She watched the smoke rise into the sky and thought sadly of all the books the Starks had gathered over the centuries. Then she closed the shutters.

And while the yard turns into a cacaphony of sound, action and movement, the direwolves themselves become silent. It is almost as if “life” is trying to attack and overpower “death”. And Catelyn shuts the outside world out of the tower room again, only to find a southern very alive, dirty, smelly man with a dagger of Valyrian steel and dragonbone handle in his hand with the intent to kill Bran.

When she turned away from the window, the man was in the room with her.
“You weren’t s’posed to be here,” he muttered sourly. “No one was s’posed to be here.”
He was a small, dirty man in filthy brown clothing, and he stank of horses…[snip]…He was gaunt, with limp blond hair and pale eyes deep-sunk in a bony face, and there was a dagger in his hand.
Catelyn looked at the knife, then at Bran. “No,” she said. The word stuck in her throat, the merest whisper.
He must have heard her. “It’s a mercy,” he said. “He’s dead already.”

The catspaw is a southerner. He stinks hours in the wind of horses. Brown is the color you achieve when you mix all the primary colors red, blue and yellow in paint form together. His hair is blond, and pale eyes are light blue eyes. So, we do have a figure of life, but he is subverted into a death figure: dirty, filthy, gaunt, limp, pale, deep-sunken, bony. No one knows him. He is a “stranger”. He is described like Charon, the ferryman, who helps the shades of the dead across the Achethon into Hades. Hence, why he declares Bran is “dead already”. The catspaw sees himself as a ferryman, who ferries a dead-already Bran to actual death – merciful. He received the money to arrange for the “crossing” too: ninety silver stags in a leather bag.

It is in the consecutive scene that Catelyn begins a transformation process. She moves into action and wants to scream for help? Where does she seek help? From the underworld outside the window. But her airway is deliberately blocked, by a hand over her mouth and a dagger is held against her windpipe.

“No,” Catelyn said, louder now as she found her voice again. “No, you can’t.” She spun back toward the window to scream for help, but the man moved faster than she would have believed. One hand clamped down over her mouth and yanked back her head, the other brought the dagger up to her windpipe. The stench of him was overwhelming.

Catelyn finally gets in touch with life again, as a natural shot of adrenaline kicks in and helps her gain an unprecedented strength to push the dagger away from her throat. And yet she simultaneously bites and tears at the man like a she-wolf or a rabid dog and tastes blood, like a chthonic character. Next, she sucks in air and screams (alive symbolism), and yet he manages to make her stumble and go down (chthonic), while he stands very much alive and breathing hard over her.

She reached up with both hands and grabbed the blade with all her strength, pulling it away from her throat. She heard him cursing into her ear. Her fingers were slippery with blood, but she would not let go of the dagger. The hand over her mouth clenched more tightly, shutting off her air. Catelyn twisted her head to the side and managed to get a piece of his flesh between her teeth. She bit down hard into his palm. The man grunted in pain. She ground her teeth together and tore at him, and all of a sudden he let go. The taste of his blood filled her mouth. She sucked in air and screamed, and he grabbed her hair and pulled her away from him, and she stumbled and went down, and then he was standing over her, breathing hard, shaking. The dagger was still clutched tightly in his right hand, slick with blood.

Are you confused already? I am sure Catelyn is too, when all the “alive” versus “dead” symbolism switches constantly between herself and the catspaw. Even the blood is confusing – Catelyn’s blood of her hands is on his dagger, while his blood of his palm is in her mouth. But in both cases the blood loss is none-life threatening and is associated with life saving adrenalin or taste and filling like food. It is a total jumble, and a liminal scene between life and death, where you don’t know anymore which is which.

The biting and drinking of blood alludes to Greek chthonic personifications that are daughters of Nyx (night), who herself is the daughter of Chaos.

  • The Keres are female spirits that personify violent death and they drink blood of fallen men in battle.
  • Lyssa stands for Mad Rage, Frenzy and Rabies, which is a disease most famously known for making animals, particularly dogs, madly aggressive and eager to bite (with the extra reminder that the hellhound Cerberus is a dog)
  • the Maniae is a spirit group of Insanity, Madness and Crazed Frenzy.

And then Bran’s wolf enters the room. Chthonic help has come.

Catelyn saw the shadow slip through the open door behind him. There was a low rumble, less than a snarl, the merest whisper of a threat, but [the catspaw] must have heard something, because he started to turn just as the wolf made its leap. They went down together, half sprawled over Catelyn where she’d fallen. The wolf had him under the jaw. The man’s shriek lasted less than a second before the beast wrenched back its head, taking out half his throat.
His blood felt like warm rain as it sprayed across her face.

The direwolf is described as a shadow, very silent, taking down the catspaw – a beast that “silences” the catspaw by taking out the man’s throat, who but a minute ago blocked Catelyn’s airway and held a dagger to her throat. And yet the wolf “leaps”, and both this Charon-like catspaw and the direwolf are positioned higher than Catelyn. This time it is blood of the dead that sprays across Catelyn and yet it feels like warm rain of life. It is as if Catelyn is baptized in the blood of the dead, and the direwolf symbol she feared and wanted to shut up and be killed to protect Bran turns out to be a life-saver. He was one of the three wolves that howled in chorus song with Shaggydog and Grey Wind. The three-headed hellhound Cerberus protected the underworld from invaders who were not supposed to be there and who intended harm. One of his heads would tear an invader up until only blood and bone was left. Summer who kills the catspaw acts like one of the heads of Cerberus here.

The wolf was looking at her. Its jaws were red and wet and its eyes glowed golden in the dark room. It was Bran’s wolf, she realized. Of course it was. “Thank you,” Catelyn whispered, her voice faint and tiny. She lifted her hand, trembling. The wolf padded closer, sniffed at her fingers, then licked at the blood with a wet rough tongue. When it had cleaned all the blood off her hand, it turned away silently and jumped up on Bran’s bed and lay down beside him. Catelyn began to laugh hysterically.

The mix of life-dead symbolism does not end with the baptism of the catspaw’s blood. It continues after in the interaction between Bran’s wolf and Catelyn. His jaw is be red and wet from the dead catspaw’s blood that he killed, after he entered the room like a shadow. While Summer (yes I know he’s not named yet then) is an underworld symbol who delivers death to the catspaw, his interaction with Catelyn is very much alive. Summer is not a shadow anymore. Instead, the room is dark, but his eyes glow golden like a lamp. He comes to sniff and taste. His tongue has texture. The blood that he licks from her hands is hers, from her knife wounds. It is not the dead assassin’s blood. Summer is silent, but he looks at her.

As tend to happen to memory, a lot of readers remember it as a scene where a mother protects the body of her son with her own life, and thus an iconic image of the idealistic mother. However, Catelyn is in fact fighting for her own existence in this scene, and Bran’s by extension. It is an outwardly manifested struggle that is happening within Catelyn and perhaps one of the most mysterious chthonic scenes (apart from her impending death at the Red Wedding) in Catelyn’s chapters – a struggle for life and death, where the symbolism of both, twists, turns and convulates. Catelyn is alive and kicking, but also wounded, about to die and turning into a rabid biting hellhound tearing flesh. She can smell and hear and taste, but is silenced and left without air. She is also reborn like a newborn, sucking in air and screaming, before stumbling and falling. It is a twisted fight where a Chthonic Catelyn fights to be born, and her views are permanently altered. If in Dany’s tent we saw a twisting shadow of wolf and man, Catelyn’s struggle with the catspaw is its physical parallel, while we are in the mind of the person transforming. It is a transformation scene of Catelyn’s perspective, and Catelyn’s face being sprayed with blood signals the completion of the transformation, because when she looks at Summer afterwards, she sees how alive the direwolf is and is grateful for him.

Catelyn wondered early on what was happening to her. The answer is that she is transformed and that in terms of the darkest personifications of the underworld – Nyx the dark fiery night, fighting Charon and Thanatos (death), and Nyx’s bloodlusty frenzied daughters of madness. Catelyn is reborn in the Night and baptized into the underworld by Death.

Aphrodite and Aeneas

We are often reminded of Catelyn’s wounds and scars on her hands, and the pain of those wounds stays with her throughout her arc. They are a constant reminder and manifestation of the transformation I pointed out above. The motif of blood, wounded hands, raised hands, transformation with a female character is rather specific and shows up in but a few select motifs. One of those is Aphrodite‘s iconic rescue of Aeneas.

Diomedis fought on the side of the Greeks against the Trojans in the Iliad. He was Athena’s favorite, because he was cunning like Odysseus and though he was the sole mortal given the strength to fight immortals aside from Hercules he lacked hubris and was humble. He owned a sword that bore designs of a lion and a boar, and his cuirass was smithed by the god Hephaistos himself. On a certain day of battle, Athena gives Diomedis the special power to see the gods on the battlefield, so that if Aphrodite may come to her son’s rescue, he could see her and wound her.

He battles with Aeneas who has by then lost his horses (descending from Zeus’s immortal ones) and manages to crush Aeneas’s hip with a rock, upon which Aeanas faints and is completely helples. Aphrodite appears and puts herself into harm’s way. Diomedis wounds Aphrodite’s wrist and her immortal blood (ichor) flows. Shocked at being wounded (she is immortal) by a mortal no less, Aphrodite flees to Mount Olympus on Ares’s chariot horses, where her mother, the Titanesse Dione, cleans the blood and dresses Aphrodite’s wrist while Dione tells tales of other wounds the immortals begot in the past by mortals (Ares, Hades, Hera). Dione simply means generic “goddess”, as it is a feminization of Dios.

Meanwhile, Apollo comes to Aeneas’s rescue. Apollo was a god of light and the sun, golden, patron god of Troy. Amongst the animals sacred to him was the wolf (as well as crows, ravens, swans, …). Diomedes attacks Apollo twice, though Athena had warned him not to go after any other immortal aside from Aphrodite. Apollo manages to warn Diomedes off and Diomedes retreats. While Diomedes is not killed, his transgression has as a consequence that Ares, the god of war, enters the battlefield and fights on the side of the Trojans. Ultimately, Diomedes failed in killing Aeneas, but he manages to acquire Aeneas’s horses. Aeneas never gets them back.

Though George gives us several pointers to this story within the Iliad, the clearest confirmation of it is this small passage.

When the laughter finally died in her throat, they wrapped her in warm blankets and led her back to the Great Keep, to her own chambers. Old Nan undressed her and helped her into a scalding hot bath and washed the blood off her with a soft cloth.

Old Nan, who is known for telling legendary tales of the past, cleans Catelyn’s wounds and washes the higborn blood off, after Catelyn was carried back to her own room. As old as she is, Old Nan is pretty much everybody’s mother, and her name is rather generic. Combined with the knowledge how Catelyn acquired the wounds on her hands, we have Old Nan as Dione cleaning the hand wounds of  iconic-mother-to-the rescue Aphrodite. It is an etirely different iconic mother act though than keeping vigil at a son’s sickbed. Where Isis uses magic and hides to protect Horus, Aphrodite uses her physical body.

While the catspaw may not look like the valiant Diomedes, but as Charon instead, there is the horse connection, for he hid in the stables and smells of horses. He mentions several times that Catelyn was not supposed to be there. Catelyn also remarks how silently Summer entered the room like a shadow (almost invisible in the dark room) , and yet the catspaw heard him and turned around to face Summer, knowin ghe was there. The catspaw carries a ‘magically forged’ dagger with him given to him by a Lion, but actually belonged to the king who ends up killed by a boar. Though Catelyn thinks him ‘stupid’, he was cunning enough to start a fire in the library to distract people away from Bran, who lies unconscious, helpless and broken like Aeneas. Bran later loses his special trained horse Dancer in the ‘sack of Winterfell’ and will never ride it again.

We can see a hint to Apollo coming to the rescue of  Bran-Aeneas in Summer, after Catelyn is wounded and falls to the floor. Summer is described by Catelyn as almost a source of light itself in the dark room. The direwolf is the sigil, the patron of the Starks of Winterfell, just like Apollo is the patron of Troy. When Bran finally names him Summer, we get another tie to Apollo, because during winter Apollo was not present at his oracle of Delphi. During winter, Delphi was left to the chaotic Dionysus and his Maenads. Apollo was a god of summer, not winter.

In that sense, George chose the library to be set on fire as a hint. A library is a storage room for books, and in Winterfell’s case ancient books. While Catelyn is relieved the fire cannot harm her son Bran, she does lament the loss of books. Applying the principle of looking deeper into it with a Myrish looking glass, George is saying – look for ancient literature. And of course one of the best known ancient writing involving a spectacular fire is Troy and thus Homer’s Iliad.

What was Homer’s point? When the gods and fate are at work, an individual’s choices and actions cannot alter fate. Diomedis adheres to fate, while Achilles tries to defy it. And George has constructed his narrative similarly. George makes it all look like certain horrific outcomes are the consequence of a character’s choices and actions, but the powers working against Robert, against the Starks and others were already in place, plotting and murdering independently from other plotters and those who attempt to counter them. The path to the outcome might be slightly different for a short while, but Robert and Ned would still die, Boltons and Balon would make a move against the Starks, Freys would turn their coat for a Tyrell-Lannister force and have a Red Wedding even if Robb was the groom, and so on. George deliberately set so many domino stones into a race to drop from several angles, that even if a major domino stone refuses to drop, the rest still keeps going and going.

It is a crucial underlying intent by the author that he reveals it in Catelyn’s third chapter through her wounded hands and Old Nan washing the blood off. And it is especially important in Catelyn’s arc who makes several controversial choices with seeming bad consequences. More, ironically she herself is under the impression that she has in fact the power to influence outcomes. Even in Bran’s room you should wonder whether Catelyn made an actual difference, since Summer killed the catspaw. Summer came and followed him on his own accord, since Catelyn had been unable to cry for help.

“He came for Bran,” Catelyn said. “He kept muttering how I wasn’t supposed to be there. He set the library fire thinking I would rush to put it out, taking any guards with me. If I hadn’t been half-mad with grief, it would have worked.”

Let us imagine that Catelyn had rushed out, taking guards with her. The catspaw would have had to wait a little longer before entering Bran’s room, to allow her to pass with the guards and remain unseen. This would have given Summer the same amount of time necessary to attack him. So, when Catelyn says the above, she is wrong.

What about the neglected appointment of a master of horse, captain of the guard and steward? All three appointments together would have made a difference, yes, but only if they had been appointed well ahead in time, before Ned Stark left, or intended to leave the first time around (before Bran’s fall), and if they did their jobs well. However, Ned, Luwin, Robb, Vayon Poole (steward), Jory Cassel (captain of the guard), Rodrik Cassel and Hullen (master of horse) did not regard it a pressing matter. If they did not think of it as vital importance, then Catelyn can hardly be blamed for letting the matter lie as well. And certainly after Bran’s fall, it should have been evident to them all that Catelyn was not in a state of mind to be left with such a task and responsibility.

Hence, Catelyn cannot be effectively proclaimed the savior of her son, nor can she alone be blamed for the lack of security at Winterfell at the time. All we can say is that Catelyn acted bravely when her life was threatened, that she was not in her right mind to declare she would gladly butcher all the horses and desires the wolves to be killed and that she had an epiphany at the end of the struggle with the catspaw.

The Poppy Goddess

Now that we know that Catelyn’s actions and choices in Bran’s bedroom (and her arc in general) have no causal bearing on the outcome, we understand that her transformation experience that involves her hand wounds is what truly matters. Regularly, Catelyn feels them, thinks of them or someone comments on them throughout her arc.

Beneath the linen bandages, her fingers still throbbed where the dagger had bitten. The pain was her scourge, Catelyn felt, lest she forget. (aGoT, Catelyn III)

poppy_goddess

The hands are important, because the transformation was important, but not the actual wounds, since wounds heal. The Poppy Goddess is the name of a Minoan figurine discovered in Crete in 1959 that dates back to the 13th century BCE5. Her hands are raised and she wears three poppy seeds on her head6. The raised hands indicates the poppy goddess gazes at the visitor (whomever looks on her) and that she has an epiphany, resulting from a transformed perspective. Her eyes appear to be closed, and the folds in her cheeks give the impression of a smile, and yet her lips have the typical passivity of someone under the stupor of an opium-trip.

Catelyn raised both her hands in the air against the dagger held to her throat. She looked the visitor in the face. She ends up having an epiphany, a deeper understanding and laughs hysterical. They found her laughing. After Old Nan washes the blood away and Luwin dresses her wounds, she is given milk of the poppy, and she closes her eyes.

Afterward, Maester Luwin arrived to dress her wounds. The cuts in her fingers went deep, almost to the bone, and her scalp was raw and bleeding where he’d pulled a handful of hair. The maester told her the pain was just starting now, and gave her milk of the poppy to help her sleep.
Finally she closed her eyes.

So, who is this Poppy Goddess? To the people of Knossos in the bronze age she was a bringer of death or sleep7, who soothes pain with poppy-derived opium, but also a goddess of ecstacy. The poppy itself was used as a soothing narcotic, to induce sleep, and to perform euthanasia8. It is therefore little surprising that later the Greeks depicted many chthonic personifications with poppy flowers in their hands or wearing wreaths of poppies, such as Nyx (night), Hypnos (sleep) and Thanatos (peaceful death). The poppy itself was a chthonic symbol. But it was simultaneously a symbol of fertility, as a poppy can produce many seeds and multiply rapidly. The poppy flower and seed had a dualistic meaning – both life and death combined – the exact same dualism we witness in Bran’s room from start to its conclusion when Catelyn laughs hysterically.

The Greeks themselves identified the Poppy Goddess with Demeter. Demeter consumed opium to sleep and forget her grief over the loss of her daughter. And in depictions Demeter is not only shown to carry ears of corn in her hands, but poppy flowers as well. The Corinthian statues of the temple of Eleusis were decorated with depictions of poppy seeds and it is speculated that an opium ritual was performed during the mysteries with the initiates. The Greeks would have adopted it from Knosses Poppy Goddess rituals.

Notice that not only Catelyn’s hands were wounded, but the catspaw pulled her beautiful, rich hair – a Demeter feature – and Catelyn’s scalp is raw and bleeding. This implies the transformation is Demeter related, not Isis, nor Aphrodite. The Catelyn who is reborn and baptized in blood during the struggle is not exactly a woman of the underworld, like Nyx, but dual in nature, of two worlds, which is why Catelyn thinks the following after waking up.

Catelyn remembered the way she had been before, and she was ashamed. She had let them all down, her children, her husband, her House. It would not happen again. She would show these northerners how strong a Tully of Riverrun could be. (aGoT, Catelyn III)

She understands now what it means to be a northerner (chthonic), but still identifies herself as a Tully of Riverrun in the South. Why Demeter and not Persephone, since Persephone is also dualistic living one half of the year in the underworld and the other half with her mother at Mount Olympus? At this point in the story it does not seem to matter all that much to make the distinction. But more and more figurative symbolism (hair, baths, iconic mother, poppy hands) ties better with Demeter for Catelyn than it does for Persephone.

The crucial difference between both figures is that Persephone is a far more passive character than her mother and has no issue whatsoever with her duties as Queen of the Underworld. She shows no hostility towards Hades or the underworld. Persephone may lead a dual life, her views are not. When she appears in other legends, aside from her abduction, it is always in the underworld as its Queen. In that sense Persephone is wholly chthonic. Meanwhile the myth of Demeter-Persephone is mostly about Demeter – how she deals with her loss, causes trouble for humanity, does not get her way and has to live with the compromize.

Demeter starts out as seeing the underworld as her enemy. For example, one of Demeter’s eptithets is Aganippe, which means “The Mare who destroys mercifully” or just “nightmare”. In this form she was a black winged mare with a mane entwined with Gorgon Snakes. Catelyn certainly spoke and behaved venomous to Jon, Luwin and even almost Robb since Bran’s fall. Meanwhile the catspaw talked of “mercy”, poppy can be used to euthanize someone mercifully, and Catelyn refers to her mental state until the struggle as that of a “nightmare”.

When she opened them again, they told her that she had slept four days. Catelyn nodded and sat up in bed. It all seemed like a nightmare to her now, everything since Bran’s fall, a terrible dream of blood and grief, but she had the pain in her hands to remind her that it was real. She felt weak and light-headed, yet strangely resolute, as if a great weight had lifted from her.

The main point is that Catelyn comes away from the transformation, enriched, able to see both worlds, and dual. She can see death in life and life in death.

Pandora emerges from the underworld

pandora_bornIn the previous essay (see Lady of Winterfell of the Golden Blade) I mentioned how Pandora was probably a chthonic goddess like Persephone or Demeter, an all giving goddess with two jars (good and bad), rather than all gifted; that Hesiod portrayed her one-sidedly and stripped from her dual role. There are only five depictions known of Pandora on vases and reliefs currently. Two of those show Pandora being given gifts by the gods, another depicts her peeking into the box, and then there is one where she emerges from the  soil and hails her hubsand-to-be, hands and arms raised.

When Catelyn emerges in King’s Landing and Varys appears at Littlefinger’s he mentions Catelyn’s hands a few times, and says this:

Varys: “Oh, your poor hands. Have you burned yourself, sweet lady? The fingers are so delicate … Our good Maester Pycelle makes a marvelous salve, shall I send for a jar?”(aGoT, Catelyn IV)

Given the lie about the dagger by Littlefinger as well as Lysa’s lie in her Pandora box, and how Catelyn ends up choosing the wrong path of lies, because her curiosity gets the better of her, it seems doubtful that jar and hands (that were raised against the dagger once) in one and the same paragraph is a coincidence. And if George combined ‘raised hands’, ‘jar’ and ‘playing detective’ for Catelyn, then he is aware that Pandora was originally a dualistic earth-goddess character.

The latter half of Catelyn’s chapter actually shows time and time again that Catelyn thinks in dual terms, and he always combines it with a reminder of her hands. Catelyn is continually confronted with a wider scope of decisions and choices, but Catelyn reframes it each time again as a binary choice between two options.

George illustrates this preferred mindset with Catelyn through her order of food. After she comes to from her four day sleep, and has the pain in her hands as a reminder that the nightmare was real, Catelyn orders bread and honey.

“Bring me some bread and honey,” she told her servants, “and take word to Maester Luwin that my bandages want changing.” They looked at her in surprise and ran to do her bidding.
…[snip]…
Before he could answer, the servants returned with a plate of food fresh from the kitchen. There was much more than she’d asked for: hot bread, butter and honey and blackberry preserves, a rasher of bacon and a soft-boiled egg, a wedge of cheese, a pot of mint tea. And with it came Maester Luwin.
“How is my son, Maester?” Catelyn looked at all the food and found she had no appetite. (aGoT, Catelyn III)

A deeper analysis of the food ordered by Catelyn and actually presented is in my opinion of crucial fundamental importance to chthonic goddess mythology in general, but would take me away immensely from the angle of this essay. The easiest chthonic explanation for a scene where Catelyn does not eat, not during her vigil in the first half and not now either, is because eating the food of the underworld binds the character to the underworld. This is a common belief in most pantheistic mythologies, including the Japanese one. Persephone is bound to Hades because she ate the pommegranade seeds. And in Japanese myth Izanami, wife of Izanagi, says she cannot return to the world of the living, because she ate the food of the underworld. Of course, Catelyn must have eaten food at Winterfell the past years, and so George simply uses the not-eating by Catelyn as a stylistic symbol, where in the first half of the chapter Catelyn does not eat, because she is hostile to the underworld, and in the second half Catelyn ends up deciding to leave the North and go South to King’s Landing.

But there is also the layer of Catelyn feeling as if she “has more on her plate than she asked for”, implying responsibilities. Catelyn wants to keep it simple. Bread and honey is as simple a dish as you can ask for. If served only that, Catelyn has only two choices to make: do I dip the bread in the honey or do I spread the honey across the bread? What she is eventually served might look like a light meal, but multiple choices need to be made. Will she have the bacon first, or the boiled egg, and then the bread? Does she eat it with butter, cheese, honey or blackberry jam? Catelyn cannot handle so many options all at once and she turns it into, “Shall I eat or not at all?” She makes the simplest choice: she has no appetite, so she does not eat.

What the “bread and honey” exemplify most is that Catelyn prefers binary choices. This is echoed with the choice that Catelyn perceives herself in between the time she orders the dish and its arrival.

Robb arrived before her food. Rodrik Cassel came with him, and her husband’s ward Theon Greyjoy, and lastly Hallis Mollen, a muscular guardsman with a square brown beard. He was the new captain of the guard, Robb said. Her son was dressed in boiled leather and ringmail, she saw, and a sword hung at his waist.
…[snip]…
“Why would anyone want to kill Bran?” Robb said. “Gods, he’s only a little boy, helpless, sleeping …”
Catelyn gave her firstborn a challenging look. “If you are to rule in the north, you must think these things through, Robb. Answer your own question. Why would anyone want to kill a sleeping child?

Catelyn sees her son dressed as a warrior and having a sword, the coming War Horus. Just before the food is brought in, Robb depicts Bran as the Youth Horus, the helpless sleeping child. We thus have the near adult Horus already in warrior attire versus the helpless child boy Horus. Which son needs her the most –  Robb or  Bran?

But Catelyn forgets her third Horus – baby Rickon – who is left unmentioned and not in sight, and who is in immense need of his mother as Robb already relayed to her four days before that. But the moment she woke up, Catelyn decided to be the fatherly ruler (strong Tully of Riverrun), and lets go of the caretaking mother role (as if those are mutually exclusive roles). She lets go of Bran for the same reason, and it is shown in two separate instances:

How is my son [Bran], Maester?”…[snip]…
Maester Luwin lowered his eyes. “Unchanged, my lady.”
It was the reply she had expected, no more and no less. Her hands throbbed with pain, as if the blade were still in her, cutting deep. She sent the servants away and looked back to Robb. “Do you have the answer yet?”
…[snip]…
What about Bran?” Robb asked. The poor boy looked utterly confused now. “You can’t mean to leave him.”
“I have done everything I can for Bran,” she said, laying a wounded hand on his arm. “His life is in the hands of the gods and Maester Luwin. As you reminded me yourself, Robb, I have other children to think of now.”

Luwin’s reveal that Bran is still unconscious, in a coma, unchanged, while she contemplates choosing between Robb’s needs or Bran’s needs subconsciously right before, makes her choose Robb. Yes, the conversation that follows right after that is about safeguarding Bran, but she lets Robb make those decisions, through her guidance.

When she declares that she will go to King’s Landing, and Robb asks her confused why a mother would leave Bran, she answers in terms of “Bran” or “Other children”.

Notice the hand references and reminders in these passages, though. Bran’s unchanged status cuts deep, not only for Bran but for herself. Foregoing the motherly caretaker role is painful for her. It is something Catelyn feels she must do, rather than something she wants to. By the time she chooses to go to King’s Landing she has accepted that. It is however a self-imposed binary view by Catelyn. If say Catelyn sent other people to King’s Landing with the dagger, there is nothing theoretically that would truly prevent her from taking Rickon in her lap while she sits with Bran to talk to him about this or that as well as make an authoritive decision over how Winterfell should be run. It is imperative to know this about Catelyn when reading her POV in her continued arc. Her POVs deceive the reader into believing that Catelyn only has two options to choose from in any given situation, because that is how Catelyn reframes any situation.

Once, decisions have been made with regards guarding Bran, the “whodonnit” (catspaw) becomes a “who ordered it” situation as Rodrik reveals details about the dagger. This leads to new choices, where once again  Catelyn is reminded of her hands, before the introduction of the issue.

Lady Stark,” Ser Rodrik said when the guardsman had gone, “did you chance to notice the dagger the killer used?”
“The circumstances did not allow me to examine it closely, but I can vouch for its edge,” Catelyn replied with a dry smile. “Why do you ask?”
“We found the knife still in the villain’s grasp. It seemed to me that it was altogether too fine a weapon for such a man, so I looked at it long and hard. The blade is Valyrian steel, the hilt dragonbone. A weapon like that has no business being in the hands of such as him. Someone gave it to him.”

Its implications broaden the scope. It is not about Robb or Bran anymore, but now Ned Stark and her daughters need to be taken into account to, and that leads to the binary question, “Who is in most danger – my sons in Winterfell or my husband and daughters in King’s Landing?”

“What I am about to tell you must not leave this room,” she told them. “I want your oaths on that. If even part of what I suspect is true, Ned and my girls have ridden into deadly danger, and a word in the wrong ears could mean their lives.”

This reflects her state in Bran’s room in the first half of the chapter. Rickon needs her, Robb needs her, but she cannot let go of Bran’s hand nor move. She wishes to keep it clear and simple – Bran’s sick, so I must be with him. By the end of the chapter she must choose who will warn Ned and her daughters in King’s landing as well as play detective and accuse Lannisters.

There was only one place to find the truth of it, Catelyn realized. “Someone must go to King’s Landing.”
“I’ll go,” Robb said.
“No,” she told him. “Your place is here. There must always be a Stark in Winterfell.” She looked at Ser Rodrik with his great white whiskers, at Maester Luwin in his grey robes, at young Greyjoy, lean and dark and impetuous. Who to send? Who would be believed? Then she knew. Catelyn struggled to push back the blankets, her bandaged fingers as stiff and unyielding as stone. She climbed out of bed. “I must go myself.”

Catelyn decides to “move” and takes on the responsibility entirely on her shoulders alone. By making that choice though, she does end up with too much on her personal responsibility plate.  Is the assumption that she would have traveled slower or less undetected if she had taken a few more people alone correct? Given the fact that Varys and Littlefinger both knew of her presence immediately anyhow and she sailed for King’s Landing, having Theon and a few more guards might not have had a negative result, and it might have been to her benefit.

While I presented Catelyn’s binary approach as a flaw, I would also like to point out it is her strength just as well. Where others only see one option, she always seeks an alternative. Theon, Robb and Rodrik assume Catelyn will go to King’s Landing by kingsroad. That is the sole road to follow to get South. In their mind there is no other option. But once Catelyn has chosen to go, Catelyn’s dual mind automatically seeks for a second option to choose from, and she chooses White Harbor in order to sail to King’s Landing.

Ser Rodrik protested. “My lady, let me accompany you at least. The kingsroad can be perilous for a woman alone.”
“I will not be taking the kingsroad,” Catelyn replied. She thought for a moment, then nodded her consent. “Two riders can move as fast as one, and a good deal faster than a long column burdened by wagons and wheel-houses. I will welcome your company, Ser Rodrik. We will follow the White Knife down to the sea, and hire a ship at White Harbor. Strong horses and brisk winds should bring us to King’s Landing well ahead of Ned and the Lannisters.” And then, she thought, we shall see what we shall see.

Catelyn intended to travel alone to King’s Landing, which surely is not the most rational and sound idea, given that she just woke after four days of poppy-sleep and witnessed and survived an assassination attempt. Catelyn thinks in steps. She did not want a bunch of guards with her, so she thinks she must go alone. Someone else would have immediately thought – ok, so not a whole gang of people, but maybe two or three would do fine. Catelyn can see the sense in that when pointed out, but she simply was not at that stage yet, because she was thinking “a bunch of us” or “myself”. Two is an agreeable number to her, since after all she tends to limit herself to two foods, two sons, two locations, two ways to travel, etc, etc. Rodrik can be the “bread” and she can be the “honey”.

I also red marked the last line of the chapter, “We shall see what we shall see,” which rounds it nicely back to Pandora who is curious to see what is in that box of hers, well jar, or better yet her two jars. And in Catelyn’s case one jar is a lie of doom (red for wrong) and the other is an intuitive hit right on the mark (green light for correct).

“My sister Lysa believes the Lannisters murdered her husband, Lord Arryn, the Hand of the King,” Catelyn told them. “It comes to me that Jaime Lannister did not join the hunt the day Bran fell. He remained here in the castle.” The room was deathly quiet. “I do not think Bran fell from that tower,” she said into the stillness. “I think he was thrown.”

Summary (tl;tr)

When Ned decides to go to King’s Landing to be Hand of the King, a feudal role reversal takes place between Ned and Catelyn. She is now to be the authorial parent of the sons, while Ned becomes the custodial parent of the daughters.

Still, Catelyn struggles with this role reversal after Ned has left and Bran is in a coma because of his fall. Like iconic mother Isis she holds vigil over her youthful Horus, clings to life symbolism and wishes to keep underworld symbols away from the greenseeing Horus. As a result though she neglects the needs of her other two Horuses (baby Hunter Horus and teen War-intent Horus) and the rule of Winterfell. She herself is like a dead woman, not sleeping, not eating, isolated and hostile. Holding on to the wrong priorities is the reason why Bran’s life is threatened by the catspaw, who looks and speaks as if he is Charon to help those who are already dead across the Achethon. The actual threat to her son’s life does not come from Winterfell, the direwolves, the cold air of the night, but from the South.

Robb attempts to make Cat see that the underworld is very much alive, beautiful, a song, a chorus. All the life-death paradoxes merge when Catelyn fights for her own life against the dagger and the catspaw. It is not just a physical struggle between an assassin and mother, as it is also an internal battle for Catelyn to transform and overcome her fears of the underworld’s nature.

Catelyn has a raised hands Poppy Goddess epiphany in a fit of madness, when the deadly direwolf kills the catspaw and thereby saves her life as well as Bran’s. She is reborn in the Night (Nyx) with a dualistic perception like Demeter – life in death and death in life. It leads however to Catelyn leaving her Horuses behind as a Pandora with a binary mind whose strength is that she tends to look for two options, but still limits herself to seeing only two. She re-emerges from the underworld, carrying with her a truth and a lie, and a dagger of doom in  her wounded hands.

And yet, as much as we and Catelyn are eager to regard her as someone whose choices will have an impact on the story, good or bad, George has cleverly hinted that her tale is much like that of the Iliad. When the gods and fate are operating against you, ultimately your choices and actions are of little matter. And we should keep this in mind with whichever choice Catelyn makes afterwards. Catelyn is no more to blame than others for failing to appoint three replacements for the open positions than others, and given the circumstances probably less so. Meanwhile Summer saved Bran, not Catelyn, and he always would have.

Note: a head’s up to my good friend Lucifer Means Lightbringer. I think the Catelyn-catspaw fight scene with Summer coming to the rescue and Catelyn’s hands are certainly something to consider in similar terms the way he superbly analyses The Mountain vs The Viper. We have “pale (moon) eyes” for the catspaw, wounded hands, a dagger, silencing, a scream, blood spraying, Summer light and sun related and the sun and moon fighting on top of Catelyn.

Summary of chthonic roles

Mythological characters or gods Roles aSoIaF characters
Horus Skygod, hunter (of lions), warring dynastic king who avenges murder of father and unifies a northern and southern region, all-seer, son of iconic mother, nursing or thumb sucking baby son, sickly boy, boy needing protection of assassination, falcon, Rickon, Robb and Bran Stark, Tommen, Sweetrobin, Monster, Aemon Steelsong
Isis mother and wife goddess, wife of the ruler of the underworld, mother of a king, goddess of the children and magic. Iconic nursing mother of son, very protective of boy against illness, accidents and assassinations Catelyn Tully Stark, Lysa Tully Arryn, Cersei Lannister, Gilly, Val
Aphrodite Iconic protective mother who protects her son Aeneas with her body and is wounded at the wrist/hands Catelyn Tully Stark
Dione Simply “goddess” who is mother to other goddesses, storyteller, cleans Aphrodite’s wounds Old Nan
Aeneas Aphrodite’s son fighting for Troy, his hip his crushed by stone used by Greek Diomedis, he faints and falls unconscious and is helpless Brandon Stark
Diomedis Cunning warrior (like Odysseus) carrying a sword with a lion and boar symbol, and attempts to kill Aeneas. First he crushes his hip. Then tries to strike the final blow, but is warded off first by Aphrodite who is wounded at the wrist and flees and then warned off by Apollo Jaime Lannister, catspaw sent to kill Bran Stark with a Valyrian steel dagger from the King’s armory on the order of Joffrey( truly a Lannister)
Apollo God of light and sun, patron of Troy, has wolf as one of his dedicated animals. Saves Aeneas. direwolf Summer
Charon Ferryman who helps dead shades cross the Achethon to enter Hades in exchange for obol (money), filthy, meager looking catspaw
Demeter (Aganippe) Chthonic dualistic female earth goddess who can unleash doom or punish, but also brings life.  // Black mare of mercy with a mane of poisonous snakes (nightmare) Catelyn Tully Stark after transformation, but before as hostile as “nightmare” Demeter
Nyx Nyx was the daughter of Chaos and the chthonic fierce goddess of Night. At Ephese there was a statue of her holding two nursing sons in her arms, one black (death) another white (sleep). In one of the traditions, her son is a sleeping oracle in a cave. Catelyn Tully Stark during her struggle with the catspaw, as mother of oracling Bran
The Keres The Keres are female spirits that personify violent death and they drink blood of fallen men in battle, daughters of Nyx Catelyn Tully Stark tasting the catspaw’s blood, sprayed with catspaw’s blood on her face
Lyssa Lyssa stands for Mad Rage, Frenzy and Rabies, which is a disease most famously known for making animals, particularly dogs, madly aggressive and eager to bite.Daughter of Nyx Catelyn Tully Stark biting and ripping at the catspaw’s hand and tearing flesh
The Maniae The Maniae is a spirit group of Insanity, Madness and Crazed Frenzy. Catelyn Tully Stark laughing hysterically
Poppy Goddess Great Mother Goddess with raised hands having an epiphany through opium Catelyn Tully Stark
Cerberus Hellhoud that protects underworld against invaders, three-headed Summer, Shaggydog & Grey Wind combined
Persephone Wife of Hades, Queen of the Underworld, dual worlds Catelyn Tully Stark
Pandora Pandora is shown to emerge from the ground with arms raised. Most likely just another iteration of the Poppy Goddess, Demeter or Persephone, with two jars, one for good thing for humanity, one for bad things for humanity Catelyn Tully Stark believing a lie and realizing a truth, who decides to leave Winterfell and go to King’s Landing

Summary of chthonic items

Mythological items Function aSoIaF items
Ichor Sacred blood from immortals Catelyn’s blood of her wounded hands
Poppy Goddess raised hands Sign of ecstasy and trance-like insight Catelyn’s hands raised against the dagger and consecutive new insight through transformation
Poppy flowers or seeds to induce sleep, dreams, trance, or kill/end someone’s life mercifully, euthanasia, also fertility symbol Milk of the poppy
Pandora’s raised hands Pandora emerges into the world from the underground with raised hands Catelyn’s wounded hands
Pandora’s box/jar Actually two jars: one containing death, ilness, old age, poverty, hunger, war. It was opened whereby humanity has to suffer all these ills ever since. It is believed Pandora also carried another jar with good things for humanity Lysa’s box with the lie about Lannisters murdering Jon Arryn, the dagger, and Catelyn’s correct suspicion that Jame threw Bran from the tower
Obol The money a dead shade needs to pay Charon the ferryman to ferry them across the Achethon into Hades, the underworld Ninety silver stags paid to the catspaw

Notes

  1. It may seem surprising that Tommen features as Cersei’s Horus over Joffrey, because clearly her first born Joffrey was the son she admired and indulged, and yet Tommen is the one through whom she gains the most power.
  2. Yes, Robert Arryn, aka Sweetrobin, immediately comes to mind in relation to the “falcon” and “making people fly”
  3. The “eye of Ra” is linked to the sun and can be destructive to restore order, which I will leave to Lucifer Means Lightbringer.
  4. While the deocration style and grooving of vases from Cyprus in Egypt are used to argue knowledge of the poppy in order to get opium predating dat of the Minoan poppy goddess, the poppy goddess figurine is the oldest direct evidence that opium was used in the Medditeranean area at least since 1500-1300 BC.
  5. There exist other female terracotta figurines with raised hands but having other symbols for a headdress like doves, or snakes wrapped around the arms.
  6. J.A. Sakellarakis. Herakleion Museum. Illustrated guide to the Museum. Ekdotike Athinon. Athens 1987. p. 91.
  7. Link to a UN paper regarding the ancient history of the use of opium and the knowledge on how to retrieve it from the poppy flower: https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/bulletin/bulletin_1967-01-01_3_page004.html.

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