In Lady of the Golden Sword of Winterfell I showed a connection between Ned Stark and Catelyn Tully as that having pointed echoes of the myth of Osiris and Isis. Catelyn’s link to Isis does not end with her being shown Ned’s bones and noticing he is missing his sword. And the mystery of Eddard Stark’s remains remains related to chthonic beliefs and practices with regard to Osiris. Catelyn orders the silent sisters, escorted by Hallis Mollen, to bring the bones to Winterfell. In this essay I will explore the possible fate of Ned’s bones. This fate itself can be deduced through pure analysis of the books, but I also tie it to Egyptian mythological beliefs as well as James Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake to illustrate George’s possible inspirations for his choices of that fate.
A proper burial
“I am grateful for your service, sisters,” Catelyn said, “but I must lay another task upon you. Lord Eddard was a Stark, and his bones must be laid to rest beneath Winterfell.” They will make a statue of him, a stone likeness that will sit in the dark with a direwolf at his feet and a sword across his knees. “Make certain the sisters have fresh horses, and aught else they need for the journey,” she told Utherydes Wayn. “Hal Mollen will escort them back to Winterfell, it is his place as captain of guards.” She gazed down at the bones that were all that remained of her lord and love. “Now leave me, all of you. I would be alone with Ned tonight.” (aCoK, Catelyn V)
One of Isis’ roles was making sure that the dead were properly buried and protected. That is why she is so often depicted on ancient thombs. The proper way to bury a Lord Stark is to lay his bones at rest beneath Winterfell, in the crypts, with a statue, a direwolf at his feet, and a sword across his knees. It is his place. We get an echo of that particular phrase for Hallis Mollen, as escort. In this way, Catelyn takes on the Isis role of ensuring the correct burial rituals are preserved.
A proper burial is something that every culture known to man finds important. It does not matter what you believe or even that you believe in an afterlife, but the majority of people hold to some type of ritual that respects the integrity of the deceased’s body. Purposeful desacration of the remains of the deceased is one of the biggest taboos and therefore often used in wartime as the final demoralizing insult to the enemy, which is exactly what Lady Dustin intends to attempt and what the Freys certainly did to Robb Stark and Catelyn.
The silent sisters are an order of the faith of the Seven sworn to the Stranger, the aspect representing Death itself within the Faith. They are called the Stranger’s wives or death’s handmaidens. They prepare the dead’s bones for burial and accompany them to their resting place or family. In essence, they are akin to psychopomps who deliver the dead from the living world to the underworld. Every feature about them fits the chthonic lexicon:
- their vow of silence: the dead do not speak, at the most whisper or echo
- their vow of chastity: the dead do not reproduce
- they keep their faces cowled, except for their eyes: the dead are anonymous
- they are shrouded in grey garb: black, white and grey are the dominant colors. Brown, green, red and blue only chthonic in certain hues, such as the cold blue of ice and stars, the brown of earth and gnarled roots, the dark red of blood, or the green of moss and lichen.
By ordering Hallis Mollen to escort the silent sisters, Catelyn makes him a psychopomp as well. As Captain of the Guards of Winterfell and House Stark with the grey direwolf as sigil, we can regard him as serving the role of Anubis (with the head of a canine), who was the embalmer god before Osiris and later became the guide of the dead souls. While Anubis had the head of a canine, he was heavily associated and conflated with Wepwawet, a god of war whose name means opener of the ways, and had the head of a grey wolf. He was initially seen as a scout our outrider, and the one who accompanied the pharaoh. Because war leads to death, he too became a chthonic deity who opened the ways for the dead to enter Duat, the Egyptian underworld. With dead Eddard Stark without his phallic sword being shifted by George from Hades to Osiris, and Hallis Mollen the Captain of the Guard, he would indeed serve perfectly as the one to accompany Ned Stark to Winterfell.
As Lady Stoneheart, Catelyn herself becomes a figurative silent sister, wife to the Stranger. While she made no vow of silence, her ability to speak is severely hampered, because of her cut throat. Lady Stoneheart is her most often used epiteth, but people also call her The Silent Sister. She wears grey garb, a cloak and tends to disguise her face most of the time with the hood of her cloak.
“She don’t speak,” said the big man in the yellow cloak. “You bloody bastards cut her throat too deep for that. But she remembers.”(aSoS, Epilogue)
“Some call her that. Some call her other things. The Silent Sister. Mother Merciless. The Hangwoman.”
A trestle table had been set up across the cave, in a cleft in the rock. Behind it sat a woman all in grey, cloaked and hooded…[snip]… Her eyes glimmered under her hood. Grey was the color of the silent sisters, the handmaidens of the Stranger. (aFfC, Brienne VIII)
So, as the grey-garbed Silent Sister, Catelyn fully becomes a figurative sister-wife to Ned Stark, such as Isis was to Osiris.
The Two Ways through the Land of Rostau
The Book of the Dead is one of the more famous titles of a selection of Egyptian texts and spells regarding the journey into the underworld with an elaborate focus on the judgment of the dead souls – the Egyptians believed the deceased’s heart would be weighed against a feather Ma’at (truth). These incantations and spells to be recited by the deceased were written on papyrus and copied over a milennia. The first mentioning of a weighing ritual can be found in the much older Book of Two Ways. This is not an actual book, but a collection of spells deciphered and gathered from coffin wirting in the 19th and 20th century, for which much of the analysis was compiled in 1961. There is no papyrus version of this book, only what was carved into the coffins (and rarely on tomb walls). The spells in the coffins were meant to help the deceased in reaching their chosen destination in the afterlife. The lid of a coffin contained images and spells regarding the sky (the sky-way to join Ra). The spells written on the bottom of the coffin were of use to voyage into the subterranean, the way of the resurrected Osiris, where the soul’s goal was to be seated next to Osiris in Duat and be resurrected like him. Before the period of the Coffin Texts, there were the much older Pyramidic Texts, engraved in the walls of the pyramid. They were spells asking and ordering gods to open the way for the pharaoh to join them in the heavens, with ladders, wings and sky-barges as methods of ascension. So, the afterlife concept in ancient Egypt evolved, first from an exclusive celestial afterlife with the gods that only a king could hope to achieve, to that of a concept where commoners also could achieve an afterlife, in the underworld and join the company of Osiris.
In the Greek Hades, the destination of a dead soul is predestinated by their actions and choices in life. The judges, such as Minos, decided whether a shade goes to Elysian Fields, just Hades or Tartarus. But the Duat concept of the Egyptians is different. The soul decides for itself where he (or she) wants to go. However, the dead must overcome obstacles, challenges, guards, tests and demons along the way to reach it1. If the dead soul failed, he or she died a second death and it was game over.
Since Osiris did succeed in such a voyage himself and Ra traversed that very realm every night, the deceased would identify himself as Osiris or Ra when dealing with these guards, gods and demons in order to succeed when they used the spells. We could regard the dead rulers of Winterfell seated on their throne in the crypts as a series of Osirises, one seated next to the other. Since the crypts of Winterfell is his place, Ned’s dead spirit would choose the way of Osiris, like his forefathers, and take his rightful place next to them for an eternal second life. If given the choice, Eddard Stark would not choose the celestial way.
The lands and realm the soul must travel through in order to reach Osiris in Duat is called the Land of Rostau, meaning the Land of Necropolis (the city of the dead). The path leads through a realm of rivers and roads.
“The paths by water and by land which belong to Rostau” (CT1074)
The lands that the silent sisters and Hallis Mollen had to traverse in order to get to Winterfell were the Riverlands. Not only are the Riverlands a land of nine rivers, but also the region where several main roads intersect into the crossroads: the riverroad, the kingsroad and the high road. Hence, the Riverlands is the land of water- and landways.The lands around the Gods Eye burn and the fighting reaches as far as the Twins. Here are several poignant passages from aCoK, aSoS and aFfC.
It was midday when they arrived at the place where the village had been. The fields were a charred desolation for miles around, the houses blackened shells. The carcasses of burnt and butchered animals dotted the ground, under living blankets of carrion crows that rose, cawing furiously, when disturbed. Smoke still drifted from inside the holdfast. Its timber palisade looked strong from afar, but had not proved strong enough.
Riding out in front of the wagons on her horse, Arya saw burnt bodies impaled on sharpened stakes atop the walls, their hands drawn up tight in front of their faces as if to fight off the flames that had consumed them. (aCoK, Arya III)
Two days’ ride to either side of the kingsroad, they passed through a wide swath of destruction, miles of blackened fields and orchards where the trunks of dead trees jutted into the air like archers’ stakes. The bridges were burnt as well, and the streams swollen by autumn rains, so they had to range along the banks in search of fords. The nights were alive with howling of wolves, but they saw no people. (aSoS, Jaime III)
After that, hardly a hundred yards went by without a corpse. They dangled under ash and alder, beech and birch, larch and elm, hoary old willows and stately chestnut trees. Each man wore a noose around his neck, and swung from a length of hempen rope, and each man’s mouth was packed with salt. Some wore cloaks of grey or blue or crimson, though rain and sun had faded them so badly that it was hard to tell one color from another…[snip]… Some of the dead men had been bald and some bearded, some young and some old, some short, some tall, some fat, some thin. Swollen in death, with faces gnawed and rotten, they all looked the same. (aFfC, Brienne VII)
High Sparrow: “Most have lost their homes. Suffering is everywhere . . . and grief, and death. Before coming to King’s Landing, I tended to half a hundred little villages too small to have a septon of their own. I walked from each one to the next, performing marriages, absolving sinners of their sins, naming newborn children. Those villages are no more, Your Grace. Weeds and thorns grow where gardens once flourished, and bones litter the roadsides.”
The Riverlands are effectively turned into a dangerous underworldly realm, a Necropolis littered with bones left and right – a land of Rostau where death triumphs as Pieter Breugel the Elder depicted so well.
The spells on the coffin aimed to help the soul in preventing dying a second death in the Land of Rostau and are a conceptual map of places to avoid. The Book of Two Ways compares to a cheater’s guide that helps a gamer to avoid the traps or know the combination of buttons to get across an unavoidable deadly obstacle as well as the hidden perks. The Book of Two Ways does indeed look like a visual map of a house infested with dangers and obstacles in different rooms where the player hopes to reach the final succesful destination.
Below is a photograph of the Book of Two Ways in color as it was engraved in the coffin. The black and white renderings above give a more detailed black & white look of the imagery to help you understand what you’re looking at. We “read” the cheater’s guide from right to left, top to bottom.
The Two Ways do not solely apply to the choice between two possible final destinations, but if the dead soul chooses the way of Osiris, he can choose between two different paths:
- the Abode of the Knife Wielders crossing and following rivers
- the demonic Announcers crossing and following roads, into tombs, and so on.
Let’s call the two paths separated by a red band (a like of fire), box I. When either one of those is succesfully traversed, without dying a second death, the deceased gets clothing and items to give the dead his status. Moving to the left, the dead soul then enters the Land of Rostau. First, he or she enter a hall divided in three compartments by walls of flame, passing entities called the Watchers (box II). Next, the paths criss cross in confusion (box III). Scarab headed demons holding lizards and snakes lie in wait there. At the end of it, the dead soul reaches Osiris. At least, he does if he chose the short-version.
There is also a long-version, which continues in the lower band, again from right to left. After the dead soul traversed the Land of Rostau, he or she meets Toth first who weighs the heart (what later becomes the Book of the Dead). If the deceased had a featherlight heart they could embark on Toth’s barge to pass along seven gates in the circle of fire, with three gatekeepers at each gateway. The guardians of the first four gateways need to be repelled, whereas the last three are protectors. After that the dead finally gets to meet with Osiris, and all ends happily and truly ever after. (Truly, the ancient Egyptians would totally think Tombraider the bomb)
George plays with this concept when even a dead Eddard Stark faces numerous difficulties in arriving at his place. Neither Hal Mollen nor Ned’s bones have reappeared in the books, or at least not recognized as such. Catelyn wonders about the final resting place of her husband’s bones as she accompanies Robb and Edmure to the Twins.
It made her wonder where Ned had come to rest. The silent sisters had taken his bones north, escorted by Hallis Mollen and a small honor guard. Had Ned ever reached Winterfell, to be interred beside his brother Brandon in the dark crypts beneath the castle? Or did the door slam shut at Moat Cailin before Hal and the sisters could pass? (aSoS, Catelyn V)
Notice how Catelyn thinks of Moat Cailin as a door that may have been shut, and is thus comparable to a gate that needs to be overcome.
Moat Cailin, north of the Neck, certainly serves as a gate to keep people outside. While much of the building is now ruinous, three gatehouse towers remain. It is thus a gate with three guardians. Here follows Catelyn’s integral description of Moat Cailin, where she explains to the Blackfish how it is an unavoidable death trap where snakes and lizard lions in the bogs and moat are its natural guardians.
Just beyond, through the mists, she glimpsed the walls and towers of Moat Cailin … or what remained of them. Immense blocks of black basalt, each as large as a crofter’s cottage, lay scattered and tumbled like a child’s wooden blocks, half-sunk in the soft boggy soil. Nothing else remained of a curtain wall that had once stood as high as Winterfell’s. The wooden keep was gone entirely, rotted away a thousand years past, with not so much as a timber to mark where it had stood. All that was left of the great stronghold of the First Men were three towers … three where there had once been twenty, if the taletellers could be believed.
The Gatehouse Tower looked sound enough, and even boasted a few feet of standing wall to either side of it. The Drunkard’s Tower, off in the bog where the south and west walls had once met, leaned like a man about to spew a bellyful of wine into the gutter. And the tall, slender Children’s Tower, where legend said the children of the forest had once called upon their nameless gods to send the hammer of the waters, had lost half its crown. It looked as if some great beast had taken a bite out of the crenellations along the tower top, and spit the rubble across the bog. All three towers were green with moss. A tree was growing out between the stones on the north side of the Gatehouse Tower, its gnarled limbs festooned with ropy white blankets of ghostskin.
“Gods have mercy,” Ser Brynden exclaimed when he saw what lay before them. “This is Moat Cailin? It’s no more than a—”
“—death trap,” Catelyn finished. “I know how it looks, Uncle. I thought the same the first time I saw it, but Ned assured me that this ruin is more formidable than it seems. The three surviving towers command the causeway from all sides, and any enemy must pass between them. The bogs here are impenetrable, full of quicksands and suckholes and teeming with snakes. To assault any of the towers, an army would need to wade through waist-deep black muck, cross a moat full of lizard-lions, and scale walls slimy with moss, all the while exposing themselves to fire from archers in the other towers.” She gave her uncle a grim smile. “And when night falls, there are said to be ghosts, cold vengeful spirits of the north who hunger for southron blood.” (aGoT, Catelyn VIII)
Now tell me that Moat Cailin does not sound like an Egyptian’s wet dream of what one of the gates of the Land of Rostau would be like.
Lady Barbrey’s words to Theon in the crypts seem to confirm that them bones as of yet have not reached their destination. Though she wishes to prevent Ned’s bones from reaching the Winterfell crypts, she does not have them herself either. Instead, she is waiting for Hallis Mollen to emerge from the Neck.
Lady Barbrey Dustin: “….but I promise you, Lord Eddard’s bones will never rest beside [Lyanna’s]. I mean to feed them to my dogs.”…[snip]… “Catelyn Tully dispatched Lord Eddard’s bones north before the Red Wedding, but your iron uncle seized Moat Cailin and closed the way. I have been watching ever since. Should those bones ever emerge from the swamps, they will get no farther than Barrowton.” (aDwD, The Turncloak)
Lady Dustin takes the role of a demonic guardian or one of the Watchers of the Land Of Rostau, lying in wait to feed Eddard’s bones to the dogs. She even uses the phrases of “the way” and “watching”. Barrowton is a land of barrows, or burial mounds and thus tombs. A town of barrows is a necropolis.
A wide plain spread out beneath them, bare and brown, its flatness here and there relieved by long, low hummocks. Ned pointed them out to his king. “The barrows of the First Men.”
Robert frowned. “Have we ridden onto a graveyard?” (aGoT, Eddard II)
Barbrey Dustin mentions how the goal of Ned’s bones is to rest beside those of his sister. In the depictions of dead Osiris on his throne, in general his sister Nepthys and his sister-wife Isis are depicted beside him too. In that sense, Lyanna can be seen as taking Nephtys’ place. Nephtys and Isis personify two sides of the same coin, where Nepthys belongs to the night and Isis to the day. By Roman times, Nepthys was regarded as the wife of Set (the benevolent aspects of Set) and the mother of Anubis, who was raised and adopted by Osiris and Isis, not unlike Eddard Stark raising Jon as his own bastard son, while he is widely believed to be Lyanna’s son by most readers.
If Lady Barbrey succeeds in her plan perhaps Eddard Stark dies a second time, for the bone marrow seems to preserve some memory.
Summer dug up a severed arm, black and covered with hoarfrost, its fingers opening and closing as it pulled itself across the frozen snow. There was still enough meat on it to fill his empty belly, and after that was done he cracked the arm bones for the marrow. Only then did the arm remember it was dead.(aDwD, Bran III)
Guardians of the Crossing
Another Egyptian book of coffin spells (mostly found on Seti I’s coffin), the Book of Gates, are an expansion on the spells for the twelve gates of the night, one for each hour. This tells the tale of Ra who has to travel through the underworld each night, starting west in order to come out east and shine for another day. For example the serpent Saa-set is the guardian of the first hour gate.
He who is over (i.e. has mastery over) this door opens to Ra. Sa [divine intelligence] says to Saa-set, “Open your door to Ra, throw wide open your door to Khuti. The hidden abode is in darkness, so that the transformations of this god may take place.” This portal is closed after this god entered in through it, and there is lamentation on the part of those in their mountain [a barrow] when they hear this door shut.” (adapted from the translation by E. A. Wallis Budge, Book of Gates, Chapter III, Gate of Saa-set)
Similar words are used over and over to open each gateway for the sun Ra traversing the night sky, and this was the phrase Catelyn thought of in relation to Moat Cialin.
The first passage is not really a gate as it is a mountain pass or valley in the West, with a river cutting the mountain in half, guarded by buried gods of the mountain. The second gate is but a leaf serving as a door with the Ahau as guardians. These guardians spring or stand up from the earth to fetter souls they capture. The Battle of the Whispering Woods feature several references to this first and second gate.
We see the Whispering Woods for the first time as Catelyn waits at night on top of a ridge of a valley, while her son hid his army beneath ground leaf, bushes and trees. As Robb’s men wait for Jaime to enter the narrow valley, they whisper. Hence, the valley and its woods are referred to as the Whispering Woods ever after. Once Jaime and his warriors arrive, the Northerners and Freys seal off the passage of the valley behind Jaime and the fighting breaks out.
The woods were full of whispers. Moonlight winked on the tumbling waters of the stream below as it wound its rocky way along the floor of the valley. Beneath the trees, warhorses whickered softly and pawed at the moist, leafy ground, while men made nervous jests in hushed voices…[snip]…To east and west, the trumpets of the Mallisters and Freys blew vengeance. North, where the valley narrowed and bent like a cocked elbow, Lord Karstark’s warhorns added their own deep, mournful voices to the dark chorus. Men were shouting and horses rearing in the stream below.
The whispering wood let out its breath all at once, as the bowmen Robb had hidden in the branches of the trees let fly their arrows and the night erupted with the screams of men and horses. All around her, the riders raised their lances, and the dirt and leaves that had buried the cruel bright points fell away to reveal the gleam of sharpened steel. (aGoT, Catelyn X)
We have a moonlit night scene with whispering, hushes, woods, mourning, dirt and ground, men buried beneath foliage, or hidden. By itself the above scene already has many chthonic lexicon references, and is in general underworldly. But notice some of the specific details. It is a passage in a valley, that is orientated from west to east, with a stream passing through a rocky (mountainous?) bedding. Towards the north, the valley itself bends like a cocked elbow, not unlike the mummy guardians at the gates in Rostau. And when Ra speaks unto mummified guardians he speaks of their hidden arms, meaning the swaddled bent limbs. George cleverly uses it to hide the weapons (double meaning of arms). Here is an example of such speech:
O UTAU of the earth, whose duty it is to stand near his habitation, whose heads are uncovered, and whose arms are hidden, may there be air to your nostrils, O UTAU, and may your funeral swathings burst open, … (The Book of Gates, chapter IV, Gate of Asuebi, adapted from the translation of Wallis Budge in 1905)
Leaves litter the soil and are used hide the guardian army of Robb, like a door, who rise or spring up from their graves. Or we could see the leaves as the swathings of Robb’s men that burst open after which they jump up like the Ahau.
The third gate crosses water, a type of corridor between two walls with swords, spikes or arrows on the top. It is referred to as the Double Bull. Two uaraei (cobras standing on their tails) spew divine fire that strengthesn Ra into the corridor. The corridor itself or the crossing of it is personified by a great, monstrous snake beared by a procession of men. Snakes are featured constantly at these gates, some are benefactors, some are enemies, such as Apep (Chaos), who coils itself around Ra’s barge and attempts to eat it. But the Ra incarnation Atum (or Tem) chops its head off.
Catelyn to Robb: “You may have lopped the head off the snake, but three quarters of the body is still coiled around my father’s castle.” (aGoT, Catelyn X)
And in the middle section of the gateway is a lake or pool of water. Architecturally the Twins resemble the concept of the repeated gates with its corridor. It even has swords on the walls and a water tower in the middle. And when Robb’s army crosses from east to west, the procession is referenced to look like a snake.
They shifted Lord Walder from his litter and carried him to the high seat of the Freys, a tall chair of black oak whose back was carved in the shape of two towers linked by a bridge… [snip]…”I called my swords, yes I did, here they are, you saw them on the walls…”
They crossed at evenfall as a horned moon floated upon the river. The double column wound its way through the gate of the eastern twin like a great steel snake, slithering across the courtyard, into the keep and over the bridge, to issue forth once more from the second castle on the west bank. Catelyn rode at the head of the serpent, with her son and her uncle Ser Brynden and Ser Stevron Frey. Behind followed nine tenths of their horse; knights, lancers, freeriders, and mounted bowmen. It took hours for them all to cross. (aGoT, Catelyn XI)
The gates that follow after the second are similar, each time with several enshrined or entombed guardians that are mummified and thus have their arms crossed or bound. These guardians must be appeased, goaded, commanded or praised in order to allow a crossing. The Lord of the Crossing, Walder Frey, has that same posture when Catelyn haggles for her son’s army to cross.
“Well, you can’t!” Lord Walder announced crisply. “Not unless I allow it, and why should I? The Tullys and the Starks have never been friends of mine.” He pushed himself back in his chair and crossed his arms, smirking, waiting for her answer. The rest was only haggling. (aGoT, Catelyn XI)
Not only is Walder Frey referenced as a guardian of the type of gate that Ra crosses every hour between dusk and dawn, he is also identified by George as one of the Watchers of the Land of Rostau, just like Lady Barbrey is one.
Afterward, Catelyn would remember the clatter of countless hooves on the drawbridge, the sight of Lord Walder Frey in his litter watching them pass, the glitter of eyes peering down through the slats of the murder holes in the ceiling as they rode through the Water Tower. (aGoT, Catelyn XI)
At the sixth hour, Ra arrives at the hall of judgment where a soul’s heart is weighed against a feather and Osiris is seated just beyond. Ra gets to sit beside Osiris and basically becomes Osiris. After that the voyage continues where more and more people are depicted as having been taken captive, tied by a noose to banners, representing Ra who defeats the night and begins his journey towards rebirth as the day-sun. Many of the figures at the Twelve Gates are mostly different representations of Ra in his various states through the night – lions, lizards, mongoose, bull, ape – revealing in part the creation story of the world and humanity out of chaos.
Notable characters as guardians are an old man Tem (or Atum) with bent back, leaning on a cane in the company of knife wielding guardians who slew the sun’s enemies and are lords of the boiling waters. Walder Frey has much in common with Tem. Re-Atum in his old man form represents the evening sun or night sun, the rays of the setting sun who begins his journey into the night lands. Tem means the completed one and he is a creation god. First, he created himself out of chaos and water. Out of loneliness he masturbated to beget his children. When they went exploring by themselves into the darkness, he was heartbroken. In order to find them again, he created the sun (the eye of Ra). When his children returned to him, he cried tears of joy, from which humanity was born. Despite being a creation god, he was also feared for apocalyptic reasons. Because when old, he had grown so weary of life that he desired to bring creation back to its primal chaotic state, and thus undo his own creation.
Walder Frey is very much introduced to us as a creation figure, said to be able to create his own army with his seed.
Her father had once said of Walder Frey that he was the only lord in the Seven Kingdoms who could field an army out of his breeches. When the Lord of the Crossing welcomed Catelyn in the great hall of the east castle, surrounded by twenty living sons (minus Ser Perwyn, who would have made twenty-one), thirty-six grandsons, nineteen great-grandsons, and numerous daughters, granddaughters, bastards, and grandbastards, she understood just what he had meant. (aGoT, Catelyn IX)
Walder Frey is ninety, gouty, unable to stand on his own.
Lord Walder was ninety, a wizened pink weasel with a bald spotted head, too gouty to stand unassisted…[snip]… “Now my bastards presume to teach me courtesy,” Lord Walder complained. “I’ll speak any way I like, damn you. I’ve had three kings to guest in my life, and queens as well, do you think I require lessons from the likes of you, Ryger? Your mother was milking goats the first time I gave her my seed.” (aGoT, Catelyn IX)
Gout and brittle bones had taken their toll of old Walder Frey. They found him propped up in his high seat with a cushion beneath him and an ermine robe across his lap…There was something of the vulture about Lord Walder, and rather more of the weasel. His bald head, spotted with age, thrust out from his scrawny shoulders on a long pink neck. Loose skin dangled beneath his receding chin, his eyes were runny and clouded, and his toothless mouth moved constantly, sucking at the empty air as a babe sucks at his mother’s breast.(aSoS, Catelyn VI)
At the mentioning of a paper dry kiss, the thought of papyrus is not far away. Later we are reminded of his crispiness too.
When he was settled, the old man beckoned Catelyn forward and planted a papery dry kiss on her hand. (aGoT, Catelyn IX)
One of Walder’s favorite words is boil and boiling, especially in relation to his children and grandchildren. While Walder Frey has always been proud, with age he has become so petty that it has turned on his own brood even. It seems that he actually looks forward to the chaos his death will cause, which is not unlike the old Tem.
[Catelyn to Walder Frey] “I have every hope that you will live to be a hundred.”
“That would boil them, to be sure. Oh, to be sure. Now, what do you want to say?”
He bobbed his head side to side, smiling. “Oh, yes, I said some words, but I swore oaths to the crown too, it seems to me. Joffrey’s the king now, and that makes you and your boy and all those fools out there no better than rebels. If I had the sense the gods gave a fish, I’d help the Lannisters boil you all.”
Lord Walder jabbed a bony finger at her face. “Save your sweet words, my lady. Sweet words I get from my wife. Did you see her? Sixteen she is, a little flower, and her honey‘s only for me. I wager she gives me a son by this time next year. Perhaps I’ll make him heir, wouldn’t that boil the rest of them?”(aGoT, Catelyn IX)
They heard the Green Fork before they saw it, an endless susurrus, like the growl of some great beast. The river was a boiling torrent, half again as wide as it had been last year, when Robb had divided his army here and vowed to take a Frey to bride as the price of his crossing.(aSoS, Catelyn VI)
Here is a quote of one of the translated text of the Book of Gates with regards the third gate where we first meet Tem and its green boiling waters.
“[Here is] the lake of water in Duat, surrounded by the gods who are arrayed in [their] apparel and have [their] heads uncovered. This lake is filled with green herbs. The water of this lake is boiling hot, and the birds betake themselves to flight when they see its waters and smell its fœtid smell. (The Book of Gates, chapter IV, Gate of Asuebi, adapted from the translation of Wallis Budge in 1905)
At the fouth Egyptian gate of the night, we are introduced to the dozen maidens of the night (one for each hour) where six stand on land and the other half on water. And Walder Frey introduces us to twelve maidens as well. Well, he introduces thirteen girls, but one is a widow and not a maiden.
Lord Walder named the names. “My daughter Arwyn,” he said of a girl of fourteen. “Shirei, my youngest trueborn daughter. Ami and Marianne are granddaughters. I married Ami to Ser Pate of Sevenstreams, but the Mountain killed the oaf so I got her back. That’s a Cersei, but we call her Little Bee, her mother’s a Beesbury. More granddaughters. One’s a Walda, and the others . . . well, they have names, whatever they are . . .”
“I’m Merry, Lord Grandfather,” one girl said.
“You’re noisy, that’s for certain. Next to Noisy is my daughter Tyta. Then another Walda. Alyx, Marissa . . . are you Marissa? I thought you were. She’s not always bald. The maester shaved her hair off, but he swears it will soon grow back. The twins are Serra and Sarra.”…[snip]… “There they are, all maidens. Well, and one widow, but there’s some who like a woman broken in. You might have had any one of them.” (aSoS, Catelyn VI)
Oldstones is another gateway in the books. It is an old ruin castle on top of a hill overlooking the Blue Fork. Its curtain walls have long been gone, not unlike Moat Cailin. What remains is the winding path that coils around the hill and a weathered sepulchre (tomb) of a king long gone. A tomb and a hill makes for a barrow.
Yet in the center of what once would have been the castle’s yard, a great carved sepulcher still rested, half hidden in waist-high brown grass amongst a stand of ash. The lid of the sepulcher had been carved into a likeness of the man whose bones lay beneath, but the rain and the wind had done their work. The king had worn a beard, they could see, but otherwise his face was smooth and featureless, with only vague suggestions of a mouth, a nose, eyes, and the crown about the temples. His hands folded over the shaft of a stone warhammer that lay upon his chest. Once the warhammer would have been carved with runes that told its name and history, but all that the centuries had worn away. The stone itself was cracked and crumbling at the corners, discolored here and there by spreading white splotches of lichen, while wild roses crept up over the king’s feet almost to his chest. (aSoS, Catelyn V)
Though it is probably not how you culturally imagined the likeness when you first read it, you can see that King Tristifer is depicted with all the typical features of the depiction of a pharaoh in his tomb – crown, beard, smooth faced, hands folded across the chest holding a shaft or staff (of a warhammer).
The road up to Oldstones went twice around the hill before reaching the summit. Overgrown and stony, it would have been slow going even in the best of times, and last night’s snow had left it muddy as well…Once more around the hill, and there I am…The curtain wall of Oldstones had once encircled the brow of the hill like the crown on a king’s head. Only the foundation remained, and a few waist-high piles of crumbling stone spotted with lichen. Merrett rode along the line of the wall until he came to the place where the gatehouse would have stood. (aSoS, Epilogue)
George does not use snake related vocabulary here, but he is indeed describing a coiling road. Where Robb’s army was a snake crossing the Twins, here the road is like a snake. The hint to this snake is the comparison he makes with the curtain walls being like a crown. The crown encircling a pharaoh’s head had an uraeus on the brow. Every legitimized Egyptian king had this king-cobra on the brow of his crown since the Old Kingdom of the 3rd millenia BC and every Rostau gate from the third hour on had two of these snakes inside the corridor passage breathing divine fire. The pharaoh’s crown also shows us why George uses the phrase curtain walls. Curtains are made of cloth, and aside from the uraeus, so is the pharaoh’s crown made of cloth.
The lack of standing walls does not make Oldstones any less of a gateway. It are not its walls that are dangerous, but who and what resides within. Despite the walls and actual gate being gone, George mentions the invisible gatehouse and walls to make clear to the reader that this is a Rostau gateway. He even reminds us of the Whispering Wood with Merrett’s thoughts of outlaws hiding in the trees of the lower slopes of the hill, and then springing up from out of nowhere, much like those Egyptian enshrined guardians, who tend to appear in groups of nine or twelve.
Beneath the castle ruins, the lower slopes of the hill were so thickly forested that half a hundred outlaws could well have been lurking there. They could be watching me even now. Merrett glanced about, and saw nothing but gorse, bracken, thistle, sedge, and blackberry bushes between the pines and grey-green sentinels. Elsewhere skeletal elm and ash and scrub oaks choked the ground like weeds. He saw no outlaws, but that meant little. Outlaws were better at hiding than honest men.
Bloody outlaws, always hiding in the bushes. It had been the same in the kingswood. You’d think you’d caught five of them, and ten more would spring from nowhere. When he turned, they were all around him; an ill-favored gaggle of leathery old men and smooth-cheeked lads younger than Petyr Pimple, the lot of them clad in roughspun rags, boiled leather, and bits of dead men’s armor… [snip]… Merrett was too flustered to count them, but there seemed to be a dozen at the least, maybe a score. (aSoS, Epilogue)
And of course, the right time for all of this is during or after the sun is setting in the west and starts it journey in the Lands of Rostau. Both when Catelyn and Robb talk at Oldstones and Merrett brings the ransom it is dusk already. In the Land of Rostau you die after the sun has set.
It was there that Catelyn found Robb, standing somber in the gathering dusk with only Grey Wind beside him. (aSoS, Catelyn V)
But only if he was there by sunset with the gold. Merrett glanced at the sky. Right on time… In the west, the sun had vanished behind a bank of low clouds…[snip]…Leaves crunched beneath their heels, and every step sent a spike of pain through Merrett’s temple. They walked in silence, the wind gusting around them. The last light of the setting sun was in his eyes as he clambered over the mossy hummocks that were all that remained of the keep. Behind was the godswood.
Petyr Pimple was hanging from the limb of an oak, a noose tight around his long thin neck. His eyes bulged from a black face, staring down at Merrett accusingly. You came too late, they seemed to say. But he hadn’t. He hadn’t! He had come when they told him. “You killed him,” he croaked. (aSoS, Epilogue)
We also have a reference to the concept of judgment of the captured soul – whether he speaks truth and whether he lived a righteous life or not.
Robb studied the sepulcher. “Whose grave is this?”
“Here lies Tristifer, the Fourth of His Name, King of the Rivers and the Hills.” Her father had told her his story once. “He ruled from the Trident to the Neck, thousands of years before Jenny and her prince, in the days when the kingdoms of the First Men were falling one after the other before the onslaught of the Andals. The Hammer of Justice, they called him. He fought a hundred battles and won nine-and-ninety, or so the singers say, and when he raised this castle it was the strongest in Westeros.” She put a hand on her son’s shoulder. “He died in his hundredth battle, when seven Andal kings joined forces against him. The fifth Tristifer was not his equal, and soon the kingdom was lost, and then the castle, and last of all the line. With Tristifer the Fifth died House Mudd, that had ruled the riverlands for a thousand years before the Andals came.” (aSoS, Catelyn V)
“Get off there,” Merrett said. “You’re sitting on a king.”
“Old Tristifer don’t mind my bony arse. The Hammer of Justice, they called him. Been a long while since he heard any new songs.” (aSoS, Epilogue)
Merrett’s comment follows the older Egyptian concept that only a king could sit with the gods. But the chance to sit with Osiris, who was once king of Egypt, is available to anybody. George portrays this idea superbly with the commoner Tom O’ Sevens of Sevenstream sitting on the king’s tomb. And that King Tristifer Mudd is connected to Osiris becomes clear with the nickname Hammer of Justice. Of course, a hammer of justice is a modern court symbol. The Feather of Justice as a nickname for a king would not sound as formidable to our modern ears, especially since we associate feathers with quills to write, rather than a weapon of war. It is at Oldstones where Lady Stoneheart and her personal band of the Brotherhood without Banners hang Petyr and Merrett Frey for their participation in the Red Wedding.
Something that all the gateways had in common so far is that they are tied to maidens. For example the name Cailin in Moat Cailin is an Irish Gaelic word that means girl or maiden. So, Moat Cailin actually means Maiden’s Moat. And at the Whispering Woods the fighting is overseen by Catelyn at the top ridge of the hill overlooking the valley. Catelyn Tully may not be a maiden anymore, but Cateline is the French version of the Irish Cailin. In other words, Catelyn’s name itself means maiden. At the Twins, the Lord of the Crossing introduced us to twelve maidens and Walder Frey organized the Red Wedding to avenge these maidens who were spurned by Robb when he married Jeyne Westerling. Lady Stoneheart is not to be fully identified with Catelyn anymore, and hence at Oldstones the maiden is Jenny of Oldstones, with the flowers in her hair like Persephone.
“There’s a song,” [Robb] remembered. “‘Jenny of Oldstones, with the flowers in her hair.'” (aSoS, Catelyn V)
From somewhere deep within the castle, faint music came drifting through the trees…[snip]…[Merrett] took another swallow, corked the skin up, and led his palfrey through broken stones, gorse, and thin wind-whipped trees, following the sounds to what had been the castle ward. Fallen leaves lay thick upon the ground, like soldiers after some great slaughter. A man in patched, faded greens was sitting crosslegged atop a weathered stone sepulcher, fingering the strings of a woodharp. The music was soft and sad. Merrett knew the song. High in the halls of the kings who are gone, Jenny would dance with her ghosts . . . (aSoS, Epilogue)
The sole line we know about this song, so far, is the line that Merrett thinks to himself -“High in the halls of the kings who are gone, Jenny would dance with her ghosts.” That line portrays Jenny as still being eerily present at Oldstones somehow, dancing with the ghosts.
This concludes the introduction into the concept of the ancient Egyptian Two Ways and Gates, and how there are stylistic links between the Riverlands and Barrowlands as a Land of Rostau, Moat Cailin and the Whispering Woods as a death trap gateway, Lady Barbrey as one of the Watchers lying in wait to prevent Ned’s Bones to reach his destination, the Twins resembling the typical night gateway for Ra’s nightly voyage, Walder Frey featuring as the aged Tem or Atum and Oldstones as a gateway that is also a hall of justice. It is time to apply the Two Ways concept to Hallis Mollen and the silent sisters traveling with Ned’s bones. Which route would they have taken initially? Which problems might they have encountered? And did they attempt to reach the North via an alternative route – a second way?
The Ways of Hallis Mollen
We do not have explicit confirmation which route Hal Mollen took, but Catelyn’s thoughts in the Whispering Wood on her way North to the Twins with Robb’s army suggest that Hal and the silent sisters went directly north of Riverrun. Robb’s original intended route north from Riverrun is the short way through the Riverlands – through the Whispering Woods, then cross the Blue Fork at Fairmarket, and from there straight to the Twins where they would cross the boiling Green Fork to reach kingsroad and follow it into the Neck and open the shut door of Moat Cailin with a military plan. It seems logical that their planned route would also have been Mollen’s overland short way.
Like Catelyn and Robb, Hal Mollen would have managed to enter Rostau and pass through the leafed Whispering Woods without any danger. The next gates are Ramsford, Fairmarket and Oldstones. Robb and Catelyn could not cross there, as both bridges had been washed away by the overflowing Blue Fork, foreshaodwing how the gates in Rostau area closed to Robb and he lost the power and knowledge to open them.
Five days later, their scouts rode back to warn them that the rising waters had washed out the wooden bridge at Fairmarket. Galbart Glover and two of his bolder men had tried swimming their mounts across the turbulent Blue Fork at Ramsford. Two of the horses had been swept under and drowned, and one of the riders; Glover himself managed to cling to a rock until they could pull him in. “The river hasn’t run this high since spring,” Edmure said. “And if this rain keeps falling, it will go higher yet.”
“There’s a bridge further upstream, near Oldstones,” remembered Catelyn, who had often crossed these lands with her father. “It’s older and smaller, but if it still stands—”
“It’s gone, my lady,” Galbart Glover said. “Washed away even before the one at Fairmarket.”
But Hallis Mollen left long before the heavy rains started and would have crossed the Blue Fork fine at either Fairmarket or Oldstones. We have no description of Fairmarket, but we know it was the end of the lifeline for Ryman Frey, the heir of Walder Frey after his father Stevron Frey died at the Battle of Oxcross and one of the names Merrett Frey gives as organizer of the Red Wedding to the Brotherhood without Banners. It was also the location where Arrec Durrandon was massively defeated by Harwyn Hoare, and thereby the Storm Kings lost dominion over the Riverlands to the Ironborn.
“Has some ill befallen Ser Ryman?”
“Hanged with all his party,” said Walder Rivers. “The outlaws caught them two leagues south of Fairmarket.”
Jaime frowned…Still . . . these outlaws are growing bold, if they dare hang Lord Walder’s heir not a day’s ride from the Twins. “How many men did Ser Ryman have with him?” he asked.
“Three knights and a dozen men-at-arms,” said Rivers. “It is almost as if they knew that he would be returning to the Twins, and with a small escort.” (aFfC, Jaime VII)
If you are curious what the Brotherhood without Banners may possibly plan as actions for tWoW then I recommend Lady Gwyn’s essay Riverlands Edition: the Capitulation of Riverrun, or Wolfish Hearts in the Riverlands. It is also incorporated in the radio westeros podcast episode BWB – the Last King’s Men.
At first sight, there is not much in Fairmarket’s name to link it to a maiden. From the series alone it seems nothing but a town at the Blue Fork with a bridge. Except, as a noun a fair and a market are synonomous. As an adjective fair is related to justice or beauty. And then there is of course the song The Bear and the Maiden Fair, where the bear is taken to a fair and meets a maiden. Any other information we have about Fairmarket comes from the world book. Aside from the battle between the Stormlands and Ironborn, one of the nine mistresses of Aegon the Unworthy was a common woman, Megette (or Merry Meg), who he bought from her blacksmith husband under threat.
MEGETTE (MERRY MEG): The young and buxom wife of a blacksmith
While riding near Fairmarket in 155, Aegon’s horse threw a shoe, and when he sought out the local smith, he came to notice the man’s young wife. He went on to buy her for seven gold dragons (and the threat of Ser Joffrey Staunton of the Kingsguard). Megette was installed in a house in King’s Landing; she and Aegon were even “wed” in a secret ceremony conducted by a mummer playing a septon. Megette gave her prince four children in as many years. Prince Viserys put an end to it, returning Megette to her husband and placing the daughters with the Faith to be trained as septas. Megette was beaten to death within a year by the blacksmith.
Children by Merry Meg: Alysanne, Lily, Willow, Rosey. (tWoIaF, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon IV)
If you read some of my bear-maiden essays, you might see how Megette and the blacksmith of Fairmarket are apt figures for the fair maiden and the bear at a fair, albeit a darker version as the blacksmith murdered Megette after she was returned to him (a bear taking his revenge). Notice too how two of her children were named after flowers. George could have chosen Megette to come from any town as well as give her a husband with any type of profession. But he crafted her to be linked both with flowers and bears in a subtle way.
After Fairmarket, Hallis would have gone straight for the Twins. I can see no reason for Hallis to insist the silent sisters to journey straight into the Neck over the kingsroad, unless there is dire need for it. So, one of the questions is whether Hallis Mollen reached the Twins before Walder Frey learned that Robb married Jeyne Westerling, especially since the Freys showed a particular enjoyment in desacrating both Robb Stark’s body as well as Catelyn’s, nor do they show any fear for the gods by breaking guest right. At least Walder Frey, nor any other Frey, assures Catelyn that Hallis and the silent sisters crossed the Twins. Timeline projects suggest that Hallis would have had time to cross the Twins before Walder Frey learned of Robb’s marriage. Walder Frey not mentioning Hallis to the Starks might be out of pettiness.
Since Lady Dustin has been watching for Ned’s bones to emerge from the Neck, Moat Cailin was most likely already in Ironborn hands, before Hallis reached it. Lady Dustin’s assumption about Hallis Mollen being trapped in the Neck also lends credence to the belief that the Freys did not hamper Hallis in crossing the Twins. Lady Dustin would have inquired with Roose Bolton as well as Aenys and Hosteen Frey regarding Ned Stark’s bones (though neither of them would have been at the Twins at the time to confirm the crossing with their own eyes).
It is a reassuring thought that crannogmen came to Hallis’s aid and that Ned’s bones are veing hosted at Greywater Watch in the Neck for the time being. Since Isis managed to hide Osiris’s remains in a swamp, it seems fitting for Ned’s bones to be in the Neck at present. However, after Isis hid Osiris’s body in the swamp, Set discovered it and scattered his remains all across Egypt, prompting Isis to search and recompile the remains for years. And yet, it seems unlikely that Hallis would prefer to hang around at Greywater Watch, while Ironborn attack the North and his king is south. Is it not far likelier that Hallis would try to get back south to warn an outrider, a scout, the Freys, as well as make sure the silent sisters can continue their voyage North with Ned’s Bones? To reach the North, one does not always need to ride solely in the northern direction. There is an alternative route, a second long way. Hallis could have turned back south with the intent to escort the silent sisters to a port, such as Saltpans or Maidenpool, from where they could embark and sail to White Harbor. And if that is the case, then their fate would have been more akin to what the High Sparrow reports to Brienne on the road from Duskendale to Rosby and to Cersei in King’s Landing.
The septon had a lean sharp face and a short beard, grizzled grey and brown. His thin hair was pulled back and knotted behind his head, and his feet were bare and black, gnarled and hard as tree roots. “These are the bones of holy men, murdered for their faith. They served the Seven even unto death. Some starved, some were tortured. Septs have been despoiled, maidens and mothers raped by godless men and demon worshipers. Even silent sisters have been molested…” (aFfC, Brienne I)
Maidenpool inthe Bay of Crabs was sacked thrice, by Lannister forces, Stark forces and finally Bloody Mummers. The latter foraged, knifed, raped and burned their way up as far as Saltpans in the north-east of the Riverlands, Maidenpool in the east, and any septry in the areas in between. Jaime renders us the description of Maidenpool.
Their host shook his head. “You’ll never reach Maidenpool by river. Not thirty miles from here a couple boats burned and sank, and the channel’s been silting up around them. There’s a nest of outlaws there preying on anyone tries to come by, and more of the same downriver around the Skipping Stones and Red Deer Island. And the lightning lord’s been seen in these parts as well. He crosses the river wherever he likes, riding this way and that way, never still.”(aSoS, Jaime II)
At Maidenpool, Lord Mooton’s red salmon still flew above the castle on its hill, but the town walls were deserted, the gates smashed, half the homes and shops burned or plundered. They saw nothing living but a few feral dogs that went slinking away at the sound of their approach. The pool from which the town took its name, where legend said that Florian the Fool had first glimpsed Jonquil bathing with her sisters, was so choked with rotting corpses that the water had turned into a murky grey-green soup. (aSoS, Jaime III)
I do not have to fall back on the World Book to link Maidenpool to a maiden. It is supposedly the location where Jonquil and her sisters bathed.
Jaime took one look and burst into song. “Six maids there were in a spring-fed pool . . .”
“Care for a bath, Brienne?” He laughed. “You’re a maiden and there’s the pool. I’ll wash your back.” (aSoS, Jaime III)
Maidenpool’s name actually makes it the alternative to Moat Cailin. With the gate shut at maiden’s moat, the maiden’s pool would have seemed the best alternative, at that side from the Twins. It also features judgment when Brienne witnesses Randyl Tarly judging criminals.
And then there is Jon’s dream about Maidenpool. Well, not literally about Maidenpool, but figuratively.
When the dreams took him, he found himself back home once more, splashing in the hot pools beneath a huge white weirwood that had his father’s face. Ygritte was with him, laughing at him, shedding her skins till she was naked as her name day, trying to kiss him, but he couldn’t, not with his father watching. He was the blood of Winterfell, a man of the Night’s Watch. I will not father a bastard, he told her. I will not. I will not. “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” she whispered, her skin dissolving in the hot water, the flesh beneath sloughing off her bones until only skull and skeleton remained, and the pool bubbled thick and red.(aSoS, Jon VI)
The weirwood has his father’s face. In aCoK, he once dreamed about a weirwood sappling with Bran’s face talking to him, while Bran was hiding in the darkness of the crypts to stay safe from Theon and Ramsay. It seems that the weirwood’s face indicates which spirit or soul is sending the dream. In this case, Ned Stark appears to cause the dream. It is not Ned Stark doing the talking though, but Ygritte. Meanwhile Ygritte is a maiden – in the sense that she is a young woman, not necessarily a virgin – in a pool, basically telling hm that he is a fool. And she dissolves into a skull a bones. So we have Ned Stark, Maidenpool and skull and bones left.
Thrice the sparrows mention bones together with the claim that even silent sisters were raped:
- The High Sparrow tells it to Brienne.
- A one legged sparrow repeats the speech to Cersei when she asks them about their intentions with all them bones at Baelor’s statue.
- The High Sparrow repeats the crime against the silent sisters in his first conversation with Cersei as well as asking whether she has seen the bones.
When she saw what they had done to Baelor the Beloved, the queen had cause to rue her soft heart. The great marble statue that had smiled serenely over the plaza for a hundred years was waist-deep in a heap of bones and skulls. Some of the skulls had scraps of flesh still clinging to them. A crow sat atop one such, enjoying a dry, leathery feast. Flies were everywhere. “What is the meaning of this?” Cersei demanded of the crowd. “Do you mean to bury Blessed Baelor in a mountain of carrion?”
A one-legged man stepped forward, leaning on a wooden crutch. “Your Grace, these are the bones of holy men and women, murdered for their faith. Septons, septas, brothers brown and dun and green, sisters white and blue and grey. Some were hanged, some disemboweled. Septs have been despoiled, maidens and mothers raped by godless men and demon worshipers. Even silent sisters have been molested. The Mother Above cries out in her anguish. We have brought their bones here from all over the realm, to bear witness to the agony of the Holy Faith.”
[High Sparrow:] “Yet everywhere septs are burned and looted. Even silent sisters have been raped, crying their anguish to the sky. Your Grace has seen the bones and skulls of our holy dead?” (aFfC, Cersei VI)
When George repeats teamed phrases thrice in a chapter or arc of the same book (The High Sparrow’s arc in this case), then he usually wants us to pay attention to it .It is not just there for the High Sparrow’s sake or to tell the tale of war’s impact. Bones and silent sisters are mentioned in combination with each other to not make us miss the clue. And be honest – at least at second read your mind wondered once to the thought, “Could it possible be?” Very likely you dismissed the idea as soon as you thought it, clinging to the High Sparrow’s assertion that those are the bones of septons. In reality, the High Sparrow would be unable to tell whose bones they find. If hypothetically Hal and the sisters went to Maidenpool or guested at a septry along the way and chanced on the Bloody Mummers, then the High Sparrow could not have known the box with Ned’s Bones were not a septon’s bones. Hence, we should indeed ask ourselves whether some of the bones the High Sparrow has in his cart may actually be Ned’s bones.
There is actually a subtle passage shortly after Brienne met with the High Sparrow, where George suggests to the reader to ask themselves whose bones they might be. Brienne wonders whether the septon she saw being strung up by the Bloody Mummers once lies in the High Sparrow’s cart. Meanwhile, Creighton mentions the rape of a silent sister (again) and how they are wives to the Stranger, cold and wet as ice. Brienne carries half of Ned Stark’s reforged Ice with her. She is a bit of a silent sister as well. She may be a chatterbox in her mind, but sullen and silent most of the time. Later on, Brienne meets The Silent Sister, who once wondered in the Whispering Woods where Ned’s bones found their last resting place.
Ser Creighton lifted one cheek off the saddle to scratch his arse. “What sort of man would slay a holy septon?”
Brienne knew what sort. Near Maidenpool, she recalled, the Brave Companions had strung a septon up by his heels from the limb of a tree and used his corpse for archery practice. She wondered if his bones were piled in that wayn with all the rest.
“A man would need to be a fool to rape a silent sister,” Ser Creighton was saying. “Even to lay hands upon one . . . it’s said they are the Stranger’s wives, and their female parts are cold and wet as ice.” (aFfC, Brienne I)
Initially the sparrows pile the bones around Baelor’s statue in King’s Landing. This is the same square where Ned confessed to treason and was beheaded on Joffrey’s order. The High Septon at the time considered it a profanity of the holy location, just as Cersei uses the same argument to the sparrows over piling bones at Baelor’s statue.
“This business with Eddard Stark . . . Joffrey’s work?”
The queen grimaced. “He was instructed to pardon Stark, to allow him to take the black. The man would have been out of our way forever, and we might have made peace with that son of his, but Joff took it upon himself to give the mob a better show. What was I to do? He called for Lord Eddard’s head in front of half the city. And Janos Slynt and Ser Ilyn went ahead blithely and shortened the man without a word from me!” Her hand tightened into a fist. “The High Septon claims we profaned Baelor’s Sept with blood, after lying to him about our intent.”
“It would seem he has a point,” said Tyrion. (aCoK, Tyrion I)
Brienne learns of molested silent sisters and the bones that the High Sparrow has in his wayn, shortly after leaving King’s Landing to search for Sansa who fled from the city on the night that Joffrey was murdered. Ned Stark confessed to his treason at Baelor’s Sept for Sansa’s sake and safety.
Afterwards, the Sparrows cleaned up the square, and I assume they buried the bones beneath Baelor’s Sept along with the kings of Westeros and the caches of volatile wildfire.
So His Grace commanded his alchemists to place caches of wildfire all over King’s Landing. Beneath Baelor’s Sept and the hovels of Flea Bottom, under stables and storehouses, at all seven gates, even in the cellars of the Red Keep itself.(aSoS, Jaime V)
“There is a vault below this one where we store the older pots. Those from King Aerys’s day. It was his fancy to have the jars made in the shapes of fruits. Very perilous fruits indeed, my lord Hand, and, hmmm, riper now than ever, if you take my meaning. We have sealed them with wax and pumped the lower vault full of water, but even so . . . by rights they ought to have been destroyed, but so many of our masters were murdered during the Sack of King’s Landing, the few acolytes who remained were unequal to the task. And much of the stock we made for Aerys was lost. Only last year, two hundred jars were discovered in a storeroom beneath the Great Sept of Baelor. No one could recall how they came there, but I’m sure I do not need to tell you that the High Septon was beside himself with terror. I myself saw that they were safely moved. I had a cart filled with sand, and sent our most able acolytes. We worked only by night, we—” (aCoK, Tyrion V)
If those two hundred jars beneath Baelor’s Sept were the sole cache of wildfire located beneath it, then it is likely the only safe location in King’s Landing. The allusions to Cersei using wildfire to set King’s Landing ablaze are too numerous to ignore. And in that case Ned’s bones would be at the heart of that Egyptian underwordly ring of fire.
And yes, the thought of Ned’s bones circling back to King’s Landing and ending up beneath the sept of the Faith of the Seven hurt. Unfortunately, for the time being we cannot rule it out, not through logic, nor through symbolism. It is all so circular.
The location where Ned’s bones were last seen is quite suspect for a circular fate. Riverrun is the opening word of James Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake. It is one of the most mysterious books written by Joyce, and considered one of the most difficult. Though published in 1939, two years before Joyce’s death, and lots of essays have been written on it, it still remains one of the most elusive books in English literarure. It was also Joyce’s ultimate Opus on which he worked for seventeen years. The opening sentence of the novel should actually be attached to the last unfinished sentence at the end of the book. Once you do that you get
a way a lone a last a loved a long the / riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. (Finnegan’s Wake, James Joyce)
The sentence’s subject is about recirculation. The book is circular because of that cutting of the sentence. Its theme is the circle of life and death. Finnegan is a character from an Irish song, Finnegan’s Wake. Drunk from whiskey he falls from a ladder while building a wall. Breaking his skull, everyone believes him dead. During his wake, the mourners get rowdy and spill whiskey on Finnegan’s body who wakes from his coffin and is thus resurrected by the same element that killed him, whiskey or “water of life”. In Joyce’s book though the guests tell him he is better off where he was and put him back to rest (and thus kill him).
Rivers are Joyce’s ultimate symbol in the book to evoke this circle of life and death. One of the most favored and hailed sections of the book is about two washerwomen washing clothes at either side of the river (the Liffey), gosipping about the wife of the man accused of a crime. As the day grows darker into night, the river gets wider and overflows, while the washerwomen turn slowly into stone and tree and their voices become whispers.
And in relation to that renowned passage of the book, I want to point out the paragraphs of the chapter where Catelyn and Robb cross the Whispering Wood back to the Twins and then learn Fairmarket was washed out. Catelyn and Robb reached Riverrun via the Whispering Wood, and now they have to journey the same way back.
As the gods would have it, their route took them through the Whispering Wood where Robb had won his first great victory. They followed the course of the twisting stream on the floor of that pinched narrow valley, much as Jaime Lannister’s men had done that fateful night. It was warmer then, Catelyn remembered, the trees were still green, and the stream did not overflow its banks. Fallen leaves choked the flow now and lay in sodden snarls among the rocks and roots, and the trees that had once hidden Robb’s army had exchanged their green raiment for leaves of dull gold spotted with brown, and a red that reminded her of rust and dry blood. Only the spruce and the soldier pines still showed green, thrusting up at the belly of the clouds like tall dark spears. (aSoS, Catelyn V)
Immediately after Catelyn remembers her marriage to Ned, including her wedding and how different Ned Stark was to her than Brandon Stark, follows the above paragraph where George starts by alluding to the gods. Even if there are no actual gods in Planetos and even if you are an atheist, some turns in life have an unavoidable ironic recirculing to them that it does feel as if some god or gods are pulling a prank on you that can only be droll to them. Sometimes life and fate just seems bigger than rationally negotiable. The Whispering Wood can be seen as one of the two washerwomen whispering and turning into a tree at one side of the stream that is starting to widen and overflow the banks.
While obviously the above paragraph foreshadows Catelyn’s and Robb’s fate at the Twins where they will be unable to negotiate with the Lord of the Crossing to avoid death, the next paragraph pulls in Ned Stark’s fate as well. The whole paragraph is a reflection back onto the past and what-ifs.
More than the trees have died since then, she reflected. On the night of the Whispering Wood, Ned was still alive in his cell beneath Aegon’s High Hill, Bran and Rickon were safe behind the walls of Winterfell. And Theon Greyjoy fought at Robb’s side, and boasted of how he had almost crossed swords with the Kingslayer. Would that he had. If Theon had died in place of Lord Karstark’s sons, how much ill would have been undone?
Then the paragraph after that alludes to the second washerwoman who turned into stone, while even the dead are nourishing life. Where the initial paragraph in the Whispering Wood uses nothing but chthonic lexicon to only denote death, in this one death has been long past and bright colors and faces re-emerge. What lives must die, but recyles back to new life. The sun must set and Ra must voyage the night lands, but comes out the other side to start a new day. It portrays the cycle of life and death and back to life.
As they passed through the battleground, Catelyn glimpsed signs of the carnage that had been; an overturned helm filling with rain, a splintered lance, the bones of a horse. Stone cairns had been raised over some of the men who had fallen here, but scavengers had already been at them. Amidst the tumbles of rock, she spied brightly colored cloth and bits of shiny metal. Once she saw a face peering out at her, the shape of the skull beginning to emerge from beneath the melting brown flesh.
Right after, Catelyn wonders about Ned’s final resting place.
It made her wonder where Ned had come to rest. The silent sisters had taken his bones north, escorted by Hallis Mollen and a small honor guard. Had Ned ever reached Winterfell, to be interred beside his brother Brandon in the dark crypts beneath the castle? Or did the door slam shut at Moat Cailin before Hal and the sisters could pass?
As the snake of Robb’s leftover army passes through the valley, Catelyn questions whether she will ever see Riverrun again, this of a place named after a circular sentence of a circular book.
Thirty-five hundred riders wound their way along the valley floor through the heart of the Whispering Wood, but Catelyn Stark had seldom felt lonelier. Every league she crossed took her farther from Riverrun, and she found herself wondering whether she would ever see the castle again. Or was it lost to her forever, like so much else?
As I said, Riverrun is the opening word of Finnegans Wake, and every extra word and sentence you read takes you farther from it, and yet the end of the novel takes you back to the start. So, at some point as you read, you are not going farther away from Riverrun, but approach it again.
Finally, the passage concludes with the news that Fairmarket’s bridge has been washed away, with Galbart Glover clinging to the washerwoman who turned to rock for dear life.
Five days later, their scouts rode back to warn them that the rising waters had washed out the wooden bridge at Fairmarket. Galbart Glover and two of his bolder men had tried swimming their mounts across the turbulent Blue Fork at Ramsford. Two of the horses had been swept under and drowned, and one of the riders; Glover himself managed to cling to a rock until they could pull him in.
So, overall we have a very vivid scene with a stream overflowing in a wood of trees that whisper, two bridges being washed out, Glover clinging to a rock for dear life, and Catelyn reflects on the passage of time, cycle of life and death, all twisting and curving around thoughts of Ned Stark. In total there are seven paragraphs that reference the two washerwomen whispering as stone and tree at the overflowing banks of the Liffey of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, and at the heart of it, Cat wonders where Ned’s bones lie now.
“Where are the rest of you?” Bran asked Leaf, once.
“Gone down into the earth,” she answered. “Into the stones, into the trees…” (aDwD, Bran III)
You may ask yourself what Finnegans Wake has to do with the Two Ways and Gates of Egyptian myth. Well, at the heart of Egyptian mythology of Osiris and Isis as well as the Rostau voyage of Ra is the concept of the cycling of the sun and of life – a daily resurrection for the sun and a resurrection of the dead in some way. One source is ancient, the other of the 20th century, but in essence are about the same issue on which humanity has pondered ever since humans evolved to a level of cognitivity to wonder about it and even in our dreams rivers and roads are a symbol where we reflect on the state of our life and the passing of time.
Time is different for a tree than for a man. Sun and soil and water, these are the things a weirwood understands, not days and years and centuries. For men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. … (aDwD, Bran III, courtesy The Fattest Leech)
For a tree time is circular. Even the age of a tree can be counted through tree-rings. And there are indications that Ned Stark’s spirit managed to reach out for the weirnet, and has become part of the world, not unlike the wood witch tells Varamyr’s mother.
“Your little one is with the gods now,” the woods witch told his mother, as she wept. “He’ll never hurt again, never hunger, never cry. The gods have taken him down into the earth, into the trees. The gods are all around us, in the rocks and streams, in the birds and beasts. Your Bump has gone to join them. He’ll be the world and all that’s in it.”(aDwD, Prologue)
Varamyr experiences this, before he chooses to use his spirt to live a second life in his wolf.
For a moment it was as if he were inside the weirwood, gazing out through carved red eyes as a dying man twitched feebly on the ground and a madwoman danced blind and bloody underneath the moon, weeping red tears and ripping at her clothes. Then both were gone and he was rising, melting, his spirit borne on some cold wind. He was in the snow and in the clouds, he was a sparrow, a squirrel, an oak. A horned owl flew silently between his trees, hunting a hare; Varamyr was inside the owl, inside the hare, inside the trees. (aDwD, Prologue)
Since Ned Stark has not shown any sign of being a skinchanger, he would have been unable to actually go into an animal’s skin, but the wood witch’s words as well as Leaf’s would indicate that his spirit could have gone into the environment. The Starks are a family steeped in chthonic symbolism while alive, whose power may actually grow as dead spirits roam the underwordly realm that is the North (see the Cursed Souls of Eddard and Robert). And the links to Osiris suggest that Ned Stark’s spirit might be stronger than just anybody’s. Even Ned’s southern wife ends up being resurrected as Lady Stoneheart, and she is only wedded to a Stark. Had the Freys buried her properly according to Tully customs of burning a body on a boat, Beric could never have resurrected her.
Bran and Rickon meet and talk with Ned Stark down in the crypts at his empty tomb in a dream the night before they receive the confirmation message that Ned is dead.
The mention of dreams reminded him. “I dreamed about the crow again last night. The one with three eyes. He flew into my bedchamber and told me to come with him, so I did. We went down to the crypts. Father was there, and we talked. He was sad.”
“And why was that?” Luwin peered through his tube.
“It was something to do about Jon, I think.” The dream had been deeply disturbing, more so than any of the other crow dreams.
“Shaggy,” a small voice called. When Bran looked up, his little brother was standing in the mouth of Father’s tomb. With one final snap at Summer’s face, Shaggydog broke off and bounded to Rickon’s side. “You let my father be,” Rickon warned Luwin. “You let him be.”
“Rickon,” Bran said softly. “Father’s not here.”
“Yes he is. I saw him.” Tears glistened on Rickon’s face. “I saw him last night.”
“In your dream …?”
Rickon nodded. “You leave him. You leave him be. He’s coming home now, like he promised. He’s coming home.” (aGoT, Bran VII)
Both Bran and Rickon appear to have had the same dream about Ned Stark in the crypts several days after his death. The raven arrives with the message about Ned’s fate, but it would take days for the raven to fly. That this is a special dream is emphasized with the three eyed crow, which would be Bloodraven, making Bran go down into the crypts (and perhaps Rickon too). Ned is not just talking with Bran father to son, but about Jon, something about him that Bran is as of yet unaware of. This indicates that Ned’s spirit is acting and communicating days after his death, independently from Bloodraven.
Arya talks with a voice she believes to be her father at the weirwood of Harrenhall before she decides to escape.
Then, so faintly, it seemed as if she heard her father’s voice. “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives,” he said.
“But there is no pack,” she whispered to the weirwood. Bran and Rickon were dead, the Lannisters had Sansa, Jon had gone to the Wall. “I’m not even me now, I’m Nan.”
“You are Arya of Winterfell, daughter of the north. You told me you could be strong. You have the wolf blood in you.”
“The wolf blood.” Arya remembered now. “I’ll be as strong as Robb. I said I would.” She took a deep breath, then lifted the broomstick in both hands and brought it down across her knee. It broke with a loud crack, and she threw the pieces aside. I am a direwolf, and done with wooden teeth. (aCoK, Arya X)
While initially her father’s voice repeats what he once said to her in King’s Landing, and it can be waved off as a memory of her father, his second reply is not an actual memory, but that of a father in the present referring to the past. It is possible that his spirit was indeed talking to her through the weirwood. And then I have already argued that Ned Stark’s spirit tries to show Jon the fate of his bones and how it is linked to Maidenpool.
Osiris only became the ruler of the afterlife in death, but Ned Stark already was a ruler of of the underworld in life. Why would death make him less so? Because the previous Lords of Winterfell and Kings of Winter do not seem to have power anymore? But they are actually properly buried within the tombs of the crypts, beneath their statues, with swords in their laps, well those that have not rusted away or have been taken. Their residual power seems contained at one location.
By ancient custom an iron longsword had been laid across the lap of each who had been Lord of Winterfell, to keep the vengeful spirits in their crypts. The oldest had long ago rusted away to nothing, leaving only a few red stains where the metal had rested on stone. Ned wondered if that meant those ghosts were free to roam the castle now.(aGoT, Eddard I)
But as long as Ned Stark is not properly buried, he seems to be free to manifest himself or appeal to Jon, Bran and Arya from anywhere, wherever they are.
The Greek myth of King Sisyphus (of present day Corinth) is a fine example to make my point. In Ancient Greece it was believed that those who were not properly buried would be ignored by Charon, the ferryman, and left at the shores of the upper world at the Achethon, denied both the afterlife in Hades and life in the flesh with the living. King Sisyphus did not wish to be in Hades at all, and he used this to his advantage. Before dying, he requested his wife to prove her love for him by throwing his naked corpse onto a public square once he was dead. When she had done so, he begged Persephone for permission to be allowed to return to the upper world to scold his wife for the improper burial. Persephone allowed it, but Sisyphus refused to return to Hades after his wife finally buried him as custom decreed it. Hermes had to drag him down by force. At heart the message is that improper burial can enable the deceased to remain an influence in the upper world. This seems to be what Ned Stark’s spirit seems to be doing. And without a living Lord Stark of Winterfell, the threat of the Others and the upper world messing with the underworld this may actually be for the ultimate benefit of all.
While we hope that Ned Stark’s bones are safely waiting in the Neck with Howland Reed to be brought to Winterfell, it is not certain that Hallis Mollen and the silent sisters would have waited there, but instead may have decided to turn south for Maidenpool (that was sacked thrice) in order to board a ship for White Harbor. Their fate after exiting the Neck south again would have been dire. George repeatedly informs us of the fact that silent sisters were molested, and always in combination with bones they carry of people the Sparrows believe to have been septons. Jon’s dream of Ygritte in the godwood pool while the weirwood has his father’s face, suggests that Eddard Stark is trying to show that his skull and bones found their way to Maidenpool at the time. Those bones were carried back to King’s Landing, displayed at the location where Ned was beheaded, and presumably buried beneath Baelor’s Sept. The sole balm to the grievous idea that Ned’s bones circled back to rest at the location where he was killed, with no one ever able to figure out which of those bones are indeed his and thus forever lost, is that it might enable his spirit to be free to help his children (and nephew), for there is no sword to lock him in the crypts of Winterfell.
The Riverlands, Neck and Barrowlands seem to belong to a type of underwordly realm that the Ancient Egyptians would refer to as Land of Rostau, a necropolis, full of dangerous gateways where guardians and watchers aim to capture and kill souls to prevent them from reaching a status like Osiris. The identifiable gates are Whispering Woods, Fairmarket, Oldstones, Twins, Moat Cailin and Maidenpool. All are related or feature maidens. Both names Catelyn and Cailin mean maiden. Catelyn is the supervizing “maiden” at Whispering Woods. At Oldstones we have Jenny and her song, while the information on Fairmarket in the world book puts Aegon IV’s mistress Megette forward as the maiden fair in relation to the Bear-song. At the Twins, Walder Frey introduces us to twelve maidens, one for each hour of the night. Moat Cailin is actually Maiden’s Moat, making Maidenpool its alternative counterpart.
Furthermore, the name of the keep Riverrun where Ned’s bones were last seen in the text and the passages where Cat wonders about their fate are steeped in allusions and references to some of the most famous features and paragraphs of James Joyce’s novel Finnegan’s Wake, a book that was written to be circular and has as its major theme the circle of life and death.
I would like to thank Daendrew for pointing out that Riverrun is the opening word of Finnegans Wake and looking up the meaning of the name Cailin. Thank you also to the Fattest Leech for challenging me to delve deeper into the possibility of the Maidenpool route of Hallis Mollen and finding related quotes in relation to the Riverrun concept of recirculation.
- The Egyptians were not the sole culture with such a journey concept of the dead. The Mayan Popul Vuh describes a similar underworld of tests, crossroads and fiends, where the deceased either dies or succeeds in being resurrected. And the Christians have a concept of purgatory where the dead soul has to go through stages of punishment in order to reach heaven and be in the presence of God.