The Winterfell Huis Clos


Here is a list of confusing passages, apparent contradictions, and even errors. I restrict myself here to the Winterfell situation and its ramifications (that is the chapters in the north).

Both letters sent by the Boltons from Barrowton contain oddities in their signatures.

Here is the one sent to the Wall.
Beneath Bolton's signature, Lord Dustin, Lady Cerwyn, and four Ryswells had appended their own marks and seals.
(Jon VI, ADwD)

Of course there is no Lord Dustin. So it is safe to call the signature a mistake. Perhaps the maester was in his cups, perhaps Asha misread the signature etc. Errors happen in transcription. This is of no consequence.

The letter to Deepwood Motte.
“The Bastard of Bolton?” asked Qarl, beside her. “Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell, he signs himself. But there are other names as well.” Lady Dustin, Lady Cerwyn, and four Ryswells had appended their own signatures beneath his. Beside them was drawn a crude giant, the mark of some Umber.
(The Wayward Bride, ADwD)

It doesn't make sense that Ramsay would call himself Lord of Winterfell, moreover he has signed under Roose's supervision. In some sense, it's justified since Ramsay has taken Winterfell from Theon (right of conquest). But, of course, Arya is the Lady of Winterfell from the Bolton point of view, and Ramsay is not Lord as long as he hasn't wedded her. The letter should have been signed Lord of the Hornwood, perhaps heir to the Dreadfort, like in the other letter. We have to accept that Roose anticipated on the title of Lord of Winterfell.

About the Winterfell wedding, all the northern lords are summoned in Barrowton by Roose. Let's return to the letter sent to the Wall.
“Moat Cailin is taken. The flayed corpses of the ironmen have been nailed to posts along the kingsroad. Roose Bolton summons all leal lords to Barrowton, to affirm their loyalty to the Iron Throne and celebrate his son's wedding to ...”
(Jon VI, ADwD)

There is no mention to a wedding in Winterfell. Ramsay expected the wedding to take place in Barrowton. But Roose changed course abruptly.
“You will plant a son in her,” Roose Bolton said, “but not here. I've decided you shall wed the girl at Winterfell.”
That prospect did not appear to please Lord Ramsay. “I laid waste to Winterfell, or had you forgotten?”
“No, but it appears you have ... the ironmen laid waste to Winterfell, and butchered all its people. Theon Turncloak.”
Ramsay gave Reek a suspicious glance. “Aye, so he did, but still ... a wedding in that ruin?”
“Even ruined and broken, Winterfell remains Lady Arya's home. What better place to wed her, bed her, and stake your claim? That is only half of it, however. We would be fools to march on Stannis. Let Stannis march on us. He is too cautious to come to Barrowton ... but he must come to Winterfell. His clansmen will not abandon the daughter of their precious Ned to such as you. Stannis must march or lose them ... and being the careful commander that he is, he will summon all his friends and allies when he marches. He will summon Arnolf Karstark.”
(Reek III, ADwD)

At this point Ramsay just came back from a sixteen days long search for the lost Freys. So sixteen days before, he understood the wedding to take place in Barrowton. This passage took place after Stannis had taken Deepwood Motte, that is after letters to the Wall and to Deepwood Motte had been sent. So before that point, there was no intention to hold the wedding in Winterfell. That is curious since at that time Wyman Manderly has reached Barrowton, and he had said a few weeks before.
Even so, I must go to Winterfell. Roose Bolton wants me on my knees, and beneath the velvet courtesy he shows the iron mail. I shall go by barge and litter, attended by a hundred knights and my good friends from the Twins.
(Davos IV, ADwD)

At that point the Freys have not even left White Harbor. How could Wyman have known that the wedding would happen in Winterfell? It's not even knowledge, it's divination. But the error is of no consequence, except perhaps for the good conservation of the food brought for wedding.

The same question could be asked of Mance. Indeed Mance left the Wall for Long Lake.
“I will need horses. Half a dozen good ones. And this is nothing I can do alone. Some of the spearwives penned up at Mole's Town should serve. Women would be best for this. The girl's more like to trust them, and they will help me carry off a certain ploy I have in mind.”
(Melisandre, ADwD)

How is it that Mance showed up in Winterfell? And what was the ploy? This is a very interesting plot point, which leads to a significant conclusion. However, the reasoning is weakened by the fact that the text contains an apparent mistake for Manderly. One wonders if the same mistake has not been made for Mance. Annoying.

About Mance appearance in Winterfell, we learn.
Lord Manderly had brought musicians from White Harbor, but none were singers, so when Abel turned up at the gates with a lute and six women, he had been made welcome.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)

But we never see Manderly's musicians mentioned in Winterfell. For instance, here is the wedding scene.
Beyond the door, the music called them, lute and pipes and drum.
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)

Those instruments are played by Abel and the washerwomen. Here are the instruments of Manderly's musicians at the Harvest Feast.
Lord Wyman’s musicians played bravely and well, but harp and fiddle and horn were soon drowned beneath a tide of talk and laughter, the clash of cup and plate, and the snarling of hounds fighting for table scraps.
(Bran III, ACoK)
Harp and fiddle are never heard in Winterfell.

Mance adds about the spearwives.
On the strength of those words he had loosed Mance Rayder and six spearwives on the north. “Young ones, and pretty,” Mance had said.
(Jon VIII, ADwD)

And Abel's washerwomen can not be said young and pretty, at least in Theon's eyes. Only Holly appeals to Theon. Myrtle has grey hair. Rowan is too skinny to be called pretty. Frenya is quite fat. The contradiction is minor, and does not lead me to think that the spearwives are not the washerwomen.

While we are talking about Mance, there is a contradiction in the account of his origin. Qhorin Halfhand had said.
He was wildling born, taken as a child when some raiders were put to the sword.
(Jon VII, ACoK)
But Selyse asserted.
“Gerrick is the true and rightful king of the wildlings,” the queen said, “descended in an unbroken male line from their great king Raymun Redbeard, whereas the usurper Mance Rayder was born of some common woman and fathered by one of your black brothers.”
(Jon XIII, ADwD)

It might not be a mistake. I tend to believe Selyse is wrong, just like she seems to be wrong about Raymun Redbeard.

Not a mistake, but less than optimal storytelling coming from GRRM: Abel sings twice a sad, soft song in Winterfell (when Theon left the Great Hall and met the hooded man, and when Roose Bolton commanded Abel to play something soothing after Little Walder's murder). Indeed, Martin seems to always avoid repetitions. It's all the more curious that none of these songs are named or play a clear role in the story.

On another point, Mance behavior seems to contain a contradiction. First he tried to calm Theon's fears.
“Lord Stannis is outside the walls, and not far by the sound of it. All we need do is reach him.” Abel's fingers danced across the strings of his lute. The singer's beard was brown, though his long hair had largely gone to grey. “If the Bastard does come after us, he might live long enough to rue it.”
(Theon, ADwD)

The trumpet seems to be common in the south of the Seven Kingdoms. The Freys use them as well, even in Winterfell.
Outside a horn was blowing. A trumpet. The Freys, assembling for battle.
(Theon, ADwD)

But Mance knows very well that Stannis announces himself with trumpets, since during the battle at the Wall
Trumpets were blowing all around, loud and brazen. The wildlings have no trumpets, only warhorns.
(Jon X, ASoS)

I chose to believe there is no error and that Mance knows Stannis is not outside and lies deliberately to Theon.

Mance's pilosity seems a bit odd.
The singer's beard was brown, though his long hair had largely gone to grey.
(Theon, ADwD)

Usually beards go grey before hair do. This is why many middle-aged men get rid of their beard. Mance is first described thus.
He was of middling height, slender, sharp-faced, with shrewd brown eyes and long brown hair that had gone mostly to grey.
(Jon I, ASoS)

When Mance fight Jon at Castle Black, under glamor.
Once clad in mail and plate, the Lord of Bones seemed to stand a little straighter. He seemed taller too, his shoulders thicker and more powerful than Jon would have thought.
(Jon VI, ADwD)

One would tend to believe that the real Mance is appearing to Jon. So Mance doesn't seem of middling height and slender. Rattleshirt is a smaller man than Mance. Here is Mance after the glamor has dissolved.
All at once he was bigger than before, broader in the chest and shoulders, long-legged and lean, his face clean-shaved and wind-burnt.
(Melisandre, ADwD)

The contradiction is not blatant with Mance's first description. But one gets a different impression. Let's turn to Mance's eyes. When "Rattleshirt" is with Melisandre.
The wildling's own eyes narrowed. Grey eyes, brown eyes; Melisandre could see the color change with each pulse of the ruby.
(Melisandre, ADwD)

There might be no contradiction, and the grey eyes might belong to Rattleshirt. However, there seems to be an eye color contradiction with Val. Here she is at Melisandre's ceremony:
Her eyes were grey and fearless, unflinching.
(Jon III, ADwD)
And now at her return to the Wall:
...her eyes were blue...
(Jon XI, ADwD)

Of course, blue and grey are close enough, and some eyes in the real world can pass for either color. But, the distinction is often made between the Starks' grey eyes and the Tullys' blue eyes, for instance. So I am not sure what to make of the change.

A blatant, and even funny mistake. During Alys Karstark wedding to the Magnar of Thenn, a septon appears.
Septon Chayle had emerged briefly from the sept, fingering the seven-sided crystal on the thong about his neck, only to retreat inside again once the prayers began.
Septon Cellador is much in his cups that he thinks he is Septon Chayle, who had been drowned in Winterfell by the Ironmen.

Another oddity during a wedding. Facing the Winterfell heart tree, Ramsay says:
"Who comes before the god?"
(The Prince of Winterfell, ADwD)

This is the only time in the story that the singular is used to invoke the divinities in the north.

A few more oddities. The Great Hall of Winterfell is impressive. It can hold easily five hundred men.
There were no more than fifty men at the trestle tables, most of them his. Winterfell’s Great Hall could have seated ten times the number.
(Theon V, ACoK)

It held probably more for the wedding feast. When the new stable collapsed, all horses in Winterfell were brought to the Great Hall.
That night the new stable collapsed beneath the weight of the snow that had buried it. Twenty-six horses and two grooms died, crushed beneath the falling roof or smothered under the snows. It took the best part of the morning to dig out the bodies. Lord Bolton appeared briefly in the outer ward to inspect the scene, then ordered the remaining horses brought inside, along with the mounts still tethered in the outer ward.
(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)
The Freys alone have five hundred horses or more, as we can see in Moat Cailin.
Three days later, the vanguard of Roose Bolton’s host threaded its way through the ruins and past the row of grisly sentinels—four hundred mounted Freys clad in blue and grey, their spearpoints glittering whenever the sun broke through the clouds.
And at the rear, more Freys. At least a thousand, maybe more: bowmen, spearmen, peasants armed with scythes and sharpened sticks, freeriders and mounted archers, and another hundred knights to stiffen them.
(Reek II, ADwD)

Of course, the Freys constitute less than half of the army in Winterfell. There are likely to be a thousand horses or more in Winterfell. How could all these horses fit in the Great Hall and leave space for the men?

On the day of the escape, the snow falls heavily in Winterfell. Here is the last mention of it.
The passage twisted to the left. There before them, behind a veil of falling snow, yawned the Battlements Gate, flanked by a pair of guards.
(Theon, ADwD)
This is just before Holly is shot by a crossbow bolt from the inner wall.
Then she grunted and grabbed her stomach. A quarrel had sprouted from her gut. When she wrapped a hand around it, blood leaked through her fingers. “Kneelers on the inner wall ...” she gasped, before a second shaft appeared between her breasts.
(Theon, ADwD)
The previous night, Theon had described the outer wall seen from the inner wall.
Theon trudged through the storm until his arms and legs were caked with snow and his hands and feet had gone numb from cold, then climbed to the battlements of the inner wall again. Up here, a hundred feet high, a little wind was blowing, stirring the snow. All the crenels had filled up. Theon had to punch through a wall of snow to make a hole ... only to find that he could not see beyond the moat. Of the outer wall, nothing remained but a vague shadow and a few dim lights floating in the dark.
(A Ghost in Winterfell, ADwD)

It is not entirely clear night has fallen. However, the snowfall should have reduced the visibility of the archer. Given those conditions, it seems unlikely that he could shot with much precision.

The age of Domeric is puzzling. Here is briefly Domeric's story, told by Roose to Theon.
For the moment. I had another, once. Domeric. A quiet boy, but most accomplished. He served four years as Lady Dustin's page, and three in the Vale as a squire to Lord Redfort. He played the high harp, read histories, and rode like the wind. Horses ... the boy was mad for horses, Lady Dustin will tell you. Not even Lord Rickard's daughter could outrace him, and that one was half a horse herself. Redfort said he showed great promise in the lists. A great jouster must be a great horseman first.
(Reek III, ADwD)
Here is the rest of the story.
In the Vale, Domeric had enjoyed the company of Redfort's sons. He wanted a brother by his side, so he rode up the Weeping Water to seek my bastard out. I forbade it, but Domeric was a man grown and thought that he knew better than his father.
(Reek III, ADwD)
Domeric's death is dated when Ser Rodrik tells what he knows about Ramsay.
He lived with his mother until two years past, when young Domeric died and left Bolton without an heir.
(Bran II, ACoK)

One has the impression that Domeric died at the Dreadfort as soon as he came back from the Vale. It that is correct, he was probably around sixteen years old, and would be around twenty at the time of the conversation between Roose and Theon. But that seems contradicted by the fact he rode concurrently with Lord Rickard's daughter, presumably Lyanna Stark, who would be over thirty, and it wouldn't make much sense comparing them. To reconcile Lyanna's and Domeric's chronologies, it is necessary to push back Domeric's birth by a few years, so that he was Barbrey Dustin's page at the time Lyanna was alive.  However, Lady Dustin has hoped to marry Brandon Stark and then Ned Stark, after Brandon's death much after the Harrenhal tourney, and married Lord Dustin during the war of the five kings. So Domeric was Lady Barbrey's page, when she was still a Ryswell, in the Rills. That would be curious, since Roose says Lady Dustin's page. Moreover a maiden does not have a page, I believe. So I find more and more unlikely that Domeric rode concurrently with Lyanna Stark. Moreover, Roose Bolton is said well past forty (that is less than fifty). He had another family, including more than one son, before he married Bethany. So one can hardly see how could Domeric be an age with Lyanna. Perhaps Lady Dustin made a comparison between Lyanna and Domeric on what she saw at different time periods.

Another contradiction with concerns the Ryswell family. Roger and Rickard Ryswell are said to be Lord Rodrik's sons, while Roose Ryswell is Rodrik's cousin.
A column of riders came wheeling up behind them, led by a lordling with a horsehead on his shield. One of Lord Ryswell’s sons, Reek knew. Roger, or maybe Rickard. He could not tell the two of them apart.
(Reek II, ADwD)
Later, Roose Bolton confirms and completes the description of the four Ryswells.
“Barbrey Dustin is my second wife’s younger sister, Rodrik Ryswell’s daughter, sister to Roger, Rickard, and mine own namesake, Roose, cousin to the other Ryswells."
(Reek III, ADwD)

In the appendices of AFfC and ADwD, Roger, Rickard and Roose are said to be Rodrik's cousins. It is of some importance. If they are cousins, and considering that Rodrik has Barbrey has his only living child, and that Barbrey is childless, all three cousins could be considered for the inheritance. That could explian the Ryswell quarrel. However, I have chosen to believe the text, rather than the appendices.

The comparison of the timelines at the Wall, in Winterfell and at Deepwood Motte seems to lead to a contradiction. The most blatant is the trip of Tycho Nestoris from the Wall to Winterfell to Deepwood Motte.

Tycho arrived at Castle Black with Selyse after Val has gone ranging north of the Wall, and after Stannis has sent his letter announcing that he would leave Deepwood Motte. The moon is half-full and Val said (twice) she will be back by the full moon. The full moon is a quarter of a moon turn of three quarter of a moon turn in the future. We have no confirmation that Val came back at the full moon. Three days after her return Tormund's people arrive at the Wall. Tormund leaves for Oakenshield and comes back immediately (a few days). Then Ramsay's letter reaches the Wall. Of course, the letter has been sent after Theon's escape from Winterfell (possibly thirteen days after, if we believe that a seven days battle happened three days from Winterfell). Even if Tycho has left the Wall the day after Val's departure, if the letter has been sent on the day of the escape and reached the Wall the same day, Tycho Nestoris had less than a month to make his journey, mostly in the blizzard. The only solution is to abandon the idea that Val came back on the full moon that followed the half-moon.