Art by Marc Simonetti, via Google search and asoiaf.westeros.org
Bran, who by the end of ADWD is still only about 9-10 years old, goes through some pretty confronting stuff in ASOIAF.
Pushed out a window, left paraplegic in a society where physical disability was considered a condemnation of one’s masculinity and capacity to be a lord or knight, and charged with a metaphysical mission to go into the least hospitable climate in Westeros to seek out the semi-mythical Children of the Forest.
But he does it! You go Bran!
But what else does he do on this journey? Eat people. Possibly more than once.
There’s two potential incidents of Bran unknowingly eating human flesh:
- the “pork” Coldhands finds for them during their trip north
- the paste he is given to open his greenseer abilities which may contain Jojen’s blood or… other bits.
This got me thinking about the links between the old gods, the children of the forest and blood sacrifice.
The ideas that crossed my mind
- is blood sacrifice or taking in human flesh/blood necessary to connect to the weirwood network?
- NB this is the only way I can see Jojen paste being legit – if it’s a gruesome necessity for Bran to access the secrets of the weirwoods/COTF.
- if the COTF encourage blood sacrifice or cannibalism to connect to their weirwoods, what does that mean (if anything) for the assumption the Bran has from Old Nan’s stories that the COTF are helpful little fairy people?
- in bran’s first weirwood vision we saw First Men and Northerners, possibly of House Stark, engaging in pretty bloody rituals – draping entrails through the weirwoods, killing people at the feet of the Winterfell heart tree so that the blood of the victim/sacrifice drained into the weirwood’s roots. What does all of this mean for bran’s future role in the War for Dawn?
- are the Free Folk/wildlings more closely tied to their First Men ancestors than the Northerners south of the wall who have had their culture and rituals softened by the “civilising” impact of the Andals and then the United Westeros kingdom under the Targaryens?
Now Bran realises that he, Meera, Jojen, Hodor and Summer are eating “long pork” when Coldhands brings back meat for them after going off to attack wights – going by their clothing, these are the same men of the Night’s Watch who were attacked during the assault on the Fist of First Men and coup d’etat on Jeor Mormont at Craster’s Hut. So they’re not exactly the nicest, bravest or most essential people in Westeros but still…. DUDE YOU ARE EATING PEOPLE!!!
By this point in their journey north, Bran and Co are starving, having exhausted their supplies, and wholly dependent on the mystical help Coldhands can provide them in reaching the Cave of the Three Eyed Crow. In fact, Coldhands says he was sent by the Crow to help them. So … you do what you’ve got to do to survive, right?
What is possibly more disturbing is the much touted “Jojen Paste” theory. Jojen becomes more and more morose as he goes north, knowing through his own greensight that his death is coming. After they enter the cave, Bran (and thus the readers) don’t see Jojen again. Bran is fed a red foul tasting paste by the Children of the Forest to open up his greenseeing capabilities, which results in his first trip through the Weirwood.Net.
For what it’s worth, I think that Bran’s belief that the Children of the Forest are cutesy helpful fairy folk is naive and incorrect. But I’m not convinced they’re evil either. I just think they are heavily tied to nature – and nature isn’t always nice and sanitised, you know?