After the Starks are gone, in exile or in the grave,
George Martin's Song of Ice and Fire brings us back to Winterfell for
a story of tension and confinement. Only four chapters starting with a
wedding and ending with an escape.
The drama involves what are, after all, secondary characters, largely untouched by our emotional attachment. We hardly recognize the family home where the story started. Nevertheless, we watch events unfold with the vague hope that some justice will be restored.
Our witness, our mediator, is a broken man, deeply
tormented by guilt, deranged by psychological and physical torture,
and little invested in the events around him. All this makes for a
queer reading, uncharacteristic of what we see in the other parts of
And little seems to happen. As our eyes expect a resolution, our minds are only left with an enigmatic letter received at the Wall.
This poor reader fell into the psychological trap of
feeling challenged by the letter. One observation led to another, and
I found myself having written fifteen thousand words, and still
feeling superficial. So I embarked in a study of the whole Winterfell
huis clos in the hope I wouldn't feel compelled to enlarge the scope
of investigation to the whole series of books.
The investigation can not be summarized shortly. I
have included here all my thinking, and discoveries, great and small,
and many detours.
Of course, I have missed much, I have been victim of
illusion or the confirmation
bias sometimes. Even if I do my best to be objective, I am just
reporting on my subjective understanding of the story, on my
personal experience as a reader.
A word on method: speculation is easy and should be avoided in favor of analysis. Generally, I begin to feel uncomfortable when the discussion is more than five sentences away from a quote. So be prepared to read many quotes, and to read them again. I operated with the faith that no important event has happened fully hidden. After this assumption about the fairness of the author, I made an assumption about the economy in the storytelling: every sentence has significance and deserves attention. The author did his sweat. But he did not leave us the means to solve every mystery. Martin's fiction needs hidden things to maintain narrative tension. For us readers, knowledge and indifference are reached at the same time.
We will examine lesser mysteries as thoroughly as possible: the identity of murderers, the role of shadowy characters, and our understanding will lead to new questions. Mundane events will be shown to be startling. And a story will be proposed to explain the final letter. But true? What is true in fiction, after all?
What is true is what the author says is true, of
course. But as long as the author is silent, I would argue that truth
can be defined by two properties: consistency and elegance
— the muses we will try to follow. They are discordant
sometimes and we will keep in mind a certain (not
entirely serious) pronouncement on the tension
between truth and beauty: improbability shall not prevent us from
considering intriguing speculations.
Finally, when I consider the usefulness of my task, I
can't help contemplating a biting irony.
If the books of the faithless conform
with the holy Qur'an, they are superfluous; if not, they are