The Others and the Weirwoods
When one discusses the Others or the weirwoods it is not possible not to discuss the other. For the two are inextricably linked.
Another key link is between the weirwoods and blood.
It gave me a thought. It had to do with a pair of books, a duology, written by C. J. Cherryh, called the Dreamstone.
The story in them is based on Irish mythology. In the story the faeries, or sidhe, pronounced shee, had once made war on mankind while allied with the dragons. To the sidhe mankind represented change and the sidhe hated change. What they didn’t understand was that to the dragons, who were older than the sidhe, the sidhe were also change. When given the chance the dragons had all but exterminated the sidhe.
What do we really know about the minds of the wierwoods? Is it even possible to know them? We know how the Children felt about the weirwoods, but that is solely from their perspective and not a very complete one. How do we know the weirwoods felt the same? Do they even feel? It is always assumed that the Children and the weirwoods are friends, but aren’t we assuming too much? Isn’t it possible that the wierwoods looked upon the Children, not as friends or worshipers, but as annoyances? Couldn’t it be like the horse who has to tolerate the flies because he can’t do anything about them? How did the Children lose control of the Others? Did they ever have control over them in the first place?
The Children created the Others using the magic of the weirwoods. It may be that by doing so they gave the weirwoods the one thing they lacked: appendages to carry out their own will. The Children may have worshiped the weirwoods, but they were not their slaves. The Others have no will of their own. They act out the will of the weirwoods exclusively.
Is it possible for us to know what their objective is? Ultimately we can never know what the ‘mind’ of a tree wants, but we can draw some conclusions based on how trees, and plants in general, behave in the real world. When thinking on this I was reminded of a passage from the Two Towers between Gandalf and Treebeard:
Treebeard: Still, if I were overcome and all my trees destroyed, I would not come while I had one dark hole to left to hide in.
Gandalf: No. But you have not plotted to cover all the world in your trees and choke all other living things.
In the end plants have only one objective beyond living - to breed and spread. Is this not the objective of the weirwoods? When the First Men came to Westeros the first thing they did was to cut down the weirwoods. As Gray Area says in her videos, the weirwoods appear to need blood. It fuels their magic. Could this be the true objective of the Others? A blood sacrifice so huge it will cause the weirwoods to sprout and grow across all of Westeros?
Although all the weirwoods south of the neck were supposedly cut down, their roots and stumps are still there. And as Jamie discovered, they're still potent. There is nowhere in Westeros where blood will not touch the weirwoods.
If sacrifice is their objective than their target is Kings Landing. Before you object and mention that wars and bloodshed have covered Westeros for thousands of years, remember that magic has rules. You can’t just spill anyone’s blood at any time. It has to be done in a certain way.
Can this give us additional insights? Having thought this far I also started to think about the unnatural seasons of Westeros. Despite the fact that Martin has already said the seasons were caused by magic, people stubbornly insist on trying to attribute scientific explanations for it. Here is my magical explanation. We don’t know if the rest of Planatos experiences these strange seasons. Certainly not to the same degree. We have to assume it is a phenomena unique to Westeros. This strongly suggests that the weirwoods are involved. Given that the weirwoods are magical, this is how I interpret the situation:
The weirwoods cause the extended summers. Being denied blood because men cut down most of them, the trees need to use an alternative source for magic: sunlight. They are able to hold back the winter temporarily to maximize the sun. Inevitably they have to stop, which causes the extended winters. The trees hibernate during this time. This effort also uses magic, so the amount of magical energy they’re able to store up is tiny, requiring that they have to repeat this process many, many, many times over THOUSANDS of years.
The Children used the weirwoods to bring down the Hammer of Waters and it was described as ‘waking giants in the earth’. This is correctly identified as an earthquake. The weirwoods intend to use their stored up magic to bring down the Wall by ‘waking giants in the earth’. The Wall has literally walled them off from the blood they need to carry out their plan. When the Andals invaded they set back their plans even further.
This got me to thinking about something else. Tad Williams is the author of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy. His books are just as long and convoluted, though not as interesting, as Martin’s. Ironically, his books were also inspired by Irish folklore. Martin has said that this trilogy was one of the inspirations for ASOIAF.
In it the hero, whose name is Simon, is driven by a prophecy, or vision, he receives in the first book. The thing is he discovers at the end that the vision he’s been following was sent by his enemy. It was his enemy’s plan all along. Is it possible that the same thing is happening in Westeros? In my article on Bran and Bloodraven I go into the almost schizophrenic nature of the weirwood's hive mind. It seems more than possible that Melisandre's god R'hllor, the Lord of Light, and the Great Enemy are one and the same.
The weirwoods may very well be responsible for the Long Night as well as the extended winters, but that doesn’t mean they want them to last forever. Could it be that the Other will no longer be of use to them once the blood sacrifice is made? Wouldn’t they then need a new instrument to get rid of the now inconvenient ice creatures who need darkness and cold to live? Could Jon Snow and the prophecy of the Prince that was Promised be part of their plan from the beginning? The weirwoods win either way.
If so, does this make Jon and his people the new ‘Children’ who will worship the trees and give them blood? There are still many things I am unclear on, but one thing I have been certain of from the beginning, since I first became interested in GOT. Jon, Daenerys, Arya, Tyrion, Davos, Brienne, the Hound, Sansa, and many others will survive.
I have never interpreted Martin’s comment about a ‘bittersweet’ ending as so many other people have. Before, like most people, I had assumed that Martin was leading us down a path well-trodden. That, like in Lord of the Rings, magic would disappear and the world will become boring and normal.
But from the beginning Martin has always subverted tropes. Surprising we haven’t connected this with the biggest fantasy trope of all, the end of magic. Terry Brooks in his many efforts to end his own fantasy Shannara novels tried this very thing too.
Could Martin actually be doing to opposite? We must remember, magic, which is so often looked upon as a wonderful thing, is actually very dangerous. It is evil magic users who are most often the villains in fantasy stories. Magic is like nuclear power; it can bring great benefits, but always at a high cost. The world of Planatos has already been described as ‘post-apocalyptic’, except in this case the apocalypse was caused by magic. If the weirwoods grow and spread throughout Westeros it will once more fill the world with magic. But will it be fantasy land, or more like a nightmare?
Isn’t that a ‘bittersweet’ ending?
So what are the Others?
The Others are not truly alive in the sense we think of that term, but they are also not undead. They are remote bodies made of ice, similar to what’s in the movie Avatar. You might think of them as android or golem bodies.
Their minds come from the weirwoods.
In order for the weirwoods to create the ice bodies they need humans, or Children, to power the magic. It works like this: The Others place human babies within the branches or roots of the Heartree, the weirwood which is the focus of their collective mind.
I am not sure why they use babies. It could be some limitation of the magic, but I think it is most likely longevity. The Heartree most likely extends their lives, like Bloodraven, but each year they have already lived shortens the resultant ‘life’ of the ice body created. Say, ten years for each human year of life. The ice bodies are also sexless. Whatever sexual traits they have are purely cosmetic. So they cannot reproduce sexually. They need a constant supply of babies. It is probable that most of these babies were given to them voluntarily by the Wildlings, ala Craster. But they would resort to stealing them when necessary.
The Heartree then implants the mind of a weirwood into the new body. Whether this ‘mind’ dies when the body ends is unknown, but it could quite easily return to the collective.
When the Children created the Others the weirwoods realized they no longer needed the Children and attacked them. This is what led directly to the Children and First Men becoming allies. Neither realized it was the trees who controlled the Others.
After the Long Night the trees had lost most of their remote bodies and these bodies were trapped north of the Wall. In order for them to return south they needed to slowly build their magic energy to bring down the Wall. Thus the long absence. Over that time some Wildlings came to worship the Others as gods, giving them sacrifices of their babies. This was likely all they needed most of the time because they only needed enough to maintain their existence. Other Wildlings attacked their worshipers wherever they found them, so there weren’t very many. It is likely that Craster’s mother was the last one before he was born. He probably only gave his sons because he didn’t want to share his daughters. Because he was the last the Others attacked anyone who tried to molest him and his mom, which is why the Wildlings left him alone. Why the Watch left him alone is actually stated in the text and doesn’t need to be explained here.
At a point in the near past, probably close to when Bloodraven was sent to the Wall, the weirwoods sensed that the time was finally coming. They stepped up their attacks on the Wildlings in order to acquire more bodies. It was likely one of these attacks which was what spurred Bloodraven to go on his ranging. Bloodraven was attacked by the Others only to be saved at the last minute. His closest friend who went with him is almost certainly the man who became Coldhands. Bloodraven was saved by the Children, but was crippled, like Bran. So the Children brought him back to their cave, recognizing him as a greenseer.
The Others mission, or objective, is to spill enough blood to once again cover Westeros with weirwoods. This requires the death of almost everyone in Westeros.
Once the Others succeed in their task, however, they will cease to be of use. Because they cannot breed naturally they will always require a human population to maintain their numbers. Given that the weirwoods have to make adjustments for them, with the extended winters and all, they will simply be more hindrance than help. As to why they can’t destroy themselves, this is also likely a limitation of the magic. Se also the article on Bran and Bloodraven. A human agent is needed to dispose of them. It is doubtful that the weirwoods intend for their Heartree to be destroyed, but I am guessing that is how Jon will ultimately defeat them. Regardless, whoever survives will end up worshiping the weirwoods.
And so the circle will be complete.