Bran and Bloodraven
This is the first article I have written that has not appeared elsewhere.
Bran and Bloodraven have more weight within the story, particularly Bran, than their rather limited appearances would indicate. Neither ranks among the most important. Those are Jon, Dany, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion, and Cersei.
But Bran is definitely the most important among the second tier characters; Brienne, The Hound, Jamie, Barristan, Sam, and so on.
The main question arises due to the TV show's portrayal of Bran, especially the ending. Is Bran going to be king of Westeros? The answer - is no.
But that does not mean he won't be of critical importance to the ending. As some have suggested, most notably In Deep Geek, Bran's ending as king in the show is significant. Just not for the reason he suggested. Gemma of Secrets of the Citadel has also raised the fact that Bran has the first POV chapter in the story. This could or could not be important. What they and others have failed to notice is that one can be the most powerful figure within a country without necessarily sitting in the central chair. Bran will most definitely be the most powerful in Westeros, quite possibly ever. But he will not be king.
How did this misunderstanding come about? I believe, as with the Others/White Walkers, that Benioff and Weiss misunderstood Martin's explanations. It has been apparent for some time that neither is into fantasy and don't understand it. It is entirely conceivable that they just didn't get his explanation of the ending and so ended it in the only way that thought possible. See my article on the Others for more information.
What is of greater significance is Bran's direwolf Summer.
As Gemma and others have noted, the names of the direwolves are direct hints as to what the fate of the Starks is. The fact that Bran's direwolf is named Summer is clear evidence that Bran will be directly responsible for the return of summer. Needless to say, that doesn't require him to be king. My article on the direwolves goes into this in more detail.
The question is: how does this come about? Exactly how does Bran bring back the summer? To answer this question we need to go into the history of how Bloodraven got stuck in a tree and why he wanted to communicate with Bran in the first place. The personal history of Bloodraven is already spelled out in various works by GRRM, so I won't go into it here. What matters is what happened to him on his last ranging north of the Wall. Though others have put forth various ideas. Here is my conclusion:
Bloodraven was attacked by the Others.
Contrary to what just about everyone believes, I am certain that the White Walkers never went away. Nor were they sleeping. I believe that there was at least one, and likely more than one, Walker active throughout the time between the Long Night and the beginning of the story. It is probable that at some point before Bloodraven was sent to the Wall they began to increase their numbers and attacking more people. We will get into the why shortly. What matters here is that they attacked Bloodraven and his party. It has been mentioned how Martin's story repeats itself and this is no different. Bloodraven was almost certainly crippled in the attack just as Bran would later be by Jamie. It was in this condition that the Children found and saved him.
As a side note, it is also this attack which led to the creation of Coldhands. Coldhands, at a guess, was probably Bloodraven's closest friend. He was created in exactly the way Benjen/Cold Hands described it in the show. The Children put obsidian in his chest before he could turn into a wight.
Why did the Children save him? This is the most crucial question of all and speaks directly to why Bloodraven wanted Bran, and quite possibly others. It goes to the heart of why the Others were missing for all those centuries and why they have made a comeback. This is an extremely complicated explanation so bear with me.
First, you have to understand the mind of the weirwood. I say mind singular because the weirwoods are a collective, a gestalt. Their group mind is totally alien to human understanding and does not work according to rules we recognize. Nevertheless, there is one thing upon which I have concluded. Just as the human mind is separated into parts, conscious and sub-conscious, so is the weirwood mind. I call them the Ego and the Id.
The Ego works much like the conscious mind does for a human, albeit more slowly. The Id by comparison is the dark underbelly of the weirwoods. Their evil half as it were. This is not to say that weirwoods are benevolent. Far from it. In fact, I estimate they are the most evil things in the story. To understand think Cthulhu.
The weirwoods are more akin the Lovecraftian Elder Gods than anything else in Martin's writings. But even they have a dark side. And it is that dark side, the Id, which rules the Others. I go into greater detail in my Others article.
It is sufficient for now to concentrate on the Id. The Children recognized the connection between the Others and the weirwoods from the beginning. After all, they created them. But it is doubtful they blamed the weirwoods for this. Contrary to what most people are assuming, the Children have no more understanding of the mind of the weirwoods than men have. The Children are more closely related to men than they are to the trees after all. It is probable that the Children continued to believe in the benevolence of their gods all the way until the end. What they also did not understand was that the Others were controlled by the weirwoods darker half, the Id.
We don't know what the weirwoods thought of the Children, assuming they 'think' in the sense that we understand the term. What does seem certain is that they cared nothing for the welfare of their servants. Indeed, they appeared to find them an annoyance. Thus the Children were the very first victims of the Others.
What the Children did know, after the Long Night ended, was that by having a greenseer connected to the weirwood net it was possible to keep the Others suppressed. It is doubtful the greenseers ever had control of the weirwoods. Rather, by having a conscious mind within the net this put the Ego to sleep. By having the 'brain's' higher functions disabled this also hindered the Id's ability to run riot. Thus the Others were prevented from acting freely, being able to only maintain their existence.
But at some point prior to Bloodraven's arrival at the Wall, likely a century or more, the last of the Children's greenseers died. There was nothing to prevent the Others from awakening. The Ego was awakened and the Id was unleashed. Bloodraven was likely the first person the Children had found who possessed greenseer abilities. But it was already too late by then. The Others had escaped their containment. Ideas for one believes the Children, and Bloodraven, are the villains. In fact, the Children are the story's unsung heroes.
Bloodraven did not have the power to control either part of the brain. All he could do was watch. This is what led him to find Bran and the others. Knowing he would die soon, he was seeking his successor. Someone who had the power to control the brain. Though the Children may never have lost their faith in the weirwoods, it is probable that Bloodraven, who had no relationship with them prior, never had such delusions. Whether Bloodraven knew the end was coming or was simply trying to forestall a reckoning has yet to be established. I doubt Bloodraven ever believed in the Prince that was Promised prophecy. He likely only cared about Bran because Bran was a greenseer.
How does this effect Bran? If Bloodraven knows about the evil of the weirwoods, Bran is almost certainly going to understand it even better. Brans's fate is to tame the weirwoods. That is his function. He will do what neither the greenseers of the Children or Bloodraven could do. He will dominate and control the brain. More specifically, the Ego. It's doubtful that anything can control the Id, but the Id is powerless on its own. Eventually there will be a reckoning, but it won't be painless.
First, Bloodraven is going to have to die. In this, as in few other instances, the show is accurate. Bran will be driven out of the cave, though it is doubtful that this will be the 'hold the door' moment. Summer will probably die as in the show. The significance of this is explained in my direwolf analysis.
Bran and co will flee back to the Wall with Coldhands help. It is likely that they will get back south of the Wall the same way they went north, through the secret door to the Nightfort. But they will have to fight to get there. This is where Cold Hands will buy it. It is also here that Hodor will 'hold the door'.
In order for Bran to tame the weirwood net however, it will require a sacrifice that he will be very reluctant to make. And that will be his own body. Bran must become, essentially, a Force ghost. His physical body must be killed, likely by the Others, in order for his mind to perminently enter the weirwood net. This is when the ultimate battle takes place. Bran will battle the Ego in the dreamscape of the visions. And he will have to win to save the world.
I confess that for a long time I did not understand Martin's 'cleansing of the Sire' comment. For a long time I tried to reconcile it with what I knew was going to happen in the story. Only recently have I had an epiphany. The battle everyone thought was going to be the final confrontation, ie: Jon's battle with the Others, is in fact the afterthought.
Talk about subverting expectations. The hero of the story is not the main character. Nor even one of the top five. Bran's battle to control the Ego is the true climax moment. This is what saves the world. It has been postulated that Jon is akin to Frodo. This is incorrect. If there is any character who resembles Frodo it is Bran. The 'Ring' he possesses is his greenseer abilities. His Gandalf would be Bloodraven. Bran has also been compared to Leto II. If there is any Dune character he resembles it is Paul Atreides. Bran saves the world and, with total control of the weirwood net, becomes more powerful than any superhero. Though it will likely take him centuries before he reaches his full potential.
Defeating the Ego will not grant Bran the power to destroy the Others. Defeating the Id requires defeating its instruments. That is why Jon and the other Heads of the Dragon are necessary. Bran will naturally play an important role in that battle as well. But ultimately Jon's disposing of the Others is just finishing the job.