Recently, I’ve noticed just how much I love the way Game of Thrones focuses on non-perfect individuals. Imps, cripples, bastards, and the like are all inspired to be themselves and are quickly becoming some of the most popular characters on the show. Although they are mocked at times, characters like Bran, Tyrion, Arya, and Jon Snow are breaking out and showing us that it’s cool to be a little bit different. Inspired by these unique individuals, over next several weeks I will be writing a series of articles detailing everyone and everything odd, magical, and bizarre about the world that George R.R. Martin created. That being said, the series starts now with Part I: Wargs, Wolfdreams, and Greenseers.
Note: Since we are primarily an HBO blog, I’ll try to only include information that has been presented in the show. Unfortunately, this can be difficult at times when trying to write an in-depth and interesting article. Therefore, I will note when any spoilery content is posted, but will also make sure that they are only MILD spoilers at best, so I don’t ruin the viewing/reading experience for anyone.
To start, before you truly understand the nature of Wargs, Wolfdreams, and Greenseers, you need to know a little Westerosi history:
More than 12,000 years ago, before the Dawn Age and the arrival of the First Men, a mysterious and magical group of people existed on Westeros. Known as The Children of the Forest, or simply the “Children”, they lived alone for thousands of years until the First Men crossed over into Dorne from the eastern continent of Essos. Once they arrived, they spread out across the forest, cutting down the sacred Weirwood trees. Outraged at the destruction of thier homeland, the Children took up arms and a war ensued in which they were ultimately defeated. Afterwards, a time of relative peace existed between the two groups and the Children began teaching the First Men about the Old Gods, as well as their unique knowledge and understanding of nature.
Legend says that the Children possessed supernatural powers and magic. They were believed to have power over the beasts of the forest, the ability to wear an animal’s skin, and the skill to create beautiful music. Smaller than men and with nut-brown skin, the giants called them “woh dak nag gram”, or little squirrel people. In their own language, they called themselves “those who sing the songs of the earth”. It was the Children who carved the faces into the sacred Weirwood trees in order to keep watch over the woods, and they believed that their own wisdom resided within the tree. They had large, golden cat-like eyes that could see things when most men only saw darkness. Only a few had green or red eyes though; these had the gift of greensight and were called the greenseers.
Now that you understand that this story wasn’t to bore you with a history lesson, we can now start to delve into the really good bit:
Basically, a greenseer is the name given to the wisest of the Children. These people possessed a magical power over nature and had prophetic visions called “green dreams”. Greensight is the ability that allows greenseers to have these dreams, and they are filled with symbolic images and metaphors that tell of future events. The meaning of the green dream is not always known, but once it is experienced, the greenseer’s vision will start to unfold in the world around them. Sometimes they may dream through the eyes of another person, but the dreamer can always tell the difference. It is believed that greenseers could even see through the faces of Weirwood trees. While all this is very odd indeed, where this story really gets interesting is when we start to discuss the wargs.
So, after the war with the First Men, the Children slowly retreated deeper into the forests and beyond the Wall. However, some of the First Men kept the Old Ways and Northerners, like the Crannogmen, are still known to have the greensight. It commonly said that all greenseers are wargs, but only one warg in a thousand is born a greenseer.
A warg, or skinchanger, possesses the ability to enter the mind of an animal and control it’s actions. Warging becomes much easier if a bond already exists between the two and skinchangers who have not fully honed their skills may unconsciously enter into the mind of an animal. This is much more likely to happen while asleep, as the person is already in an unconscious state. The interaction between the skinchanger’s and animal’s mind is extremely influential. The human has to continually fight off the animal’s influence or it will soon become overwhelming. Killing an animal while it is being controlled can have devastating consequences to the warg. Once a warg dies though, he can go on living a much simpler “Second Life” through mind of the animal they are bonded to. However, the human’s memory slowly diminishes until only the animal remains.
For those of you who may be wondering where I am going with this article, well, we are finally here. The Wolfdreams exhibited by Bran this season are a direct result of his warging capabilities. Actually, there are two other Stark children that have Wolfdreams as well, but none are as proficient as Bran’s.
Spoiler Alert: From here on, the information in this article contains VERY MILD spoilers! They don’t include any major events in the story, however, but read at your own risk.
House Stark claims to be direct descendants of the First Men of Westeros. Just like the Crannogmen, this may explain where their abilities come from. The warging ability of the current Stark children is depicted throughout the novels. All of them have had certain emotional ties to their direwolves and shown possible signs of warging, however, most of the time this is entirely unconscious. Only a few Stark children are actual skinchangers.
Bran Stark – Due to his experiences while unconscious from his fall, Bran’s abilities are much more developed than his siblings. At first, he was warging into Summer while he slept, but it soon turned into much more than that. From season one we are shown the symbolic image of the three-eyed raven, while it is never specifically stated, we assume it has something to do with Bran’s warging abilities. During ASoS, Bran has a hard time fighting off the influence of Summer. He enjoys warging into his direwolf a little too much because he can use his legs to run and hunt. In Episode 15, Bran describes a recent dream he had to Osha. He dreamt that the sea came to Winterfell, a giant wave crashed into the walls with water spilling over the top, people drowning in the yard, and Ser Rodrick Cassel was one of them. Bran thought he was just having vivid dreams and Osha, being much more knowledgeable in the Old Ways, was reluctant to tell him what she obviously already knew. We found out later that his dream was a symbolic metaphor for Theon invading the castle and that Bran had a very special gift; he was a greenseer.
Arya Stark – Arya had an extremely close relationship with her direwolf, Nymeria. She kept her close at all times, even allowing her to sleep at the foot of her bed. A good example of the bond between the two was when Joffrey attacked Arya and Mycah on the shores of the Trident. When Joffrey pointed his sword at Arya, her fear triggered the bond with Nymeria, and the direwolf came pouncing in to attack the young prince. During her journeys after the escape from King’s Landing, Arya experiences Wolfdreams of her own but is unsure as to what they mean. She dreams of Nymeria leading a large wolf pack and even awakens at times with the taste of blood in her mouth. Throughout first three novels, we are given clues as to what the direwolf is up to and it seems as though Arya only has her Wolfdreams when she is close by.
Jon Snow – While being held captive, a wildling skinchanger named Varamyr Sixskins notices that Jon Snow has strong warging capabilities. He also notes that Jon is untrained and unaware of his abilities, and knew that he was a skinchanger as soon as he saw Ghost walking by Jon’s side. Jon, like Arya and Bran, has a secret connection with his direwolf and experiences Wolfdreams. Although he is confused at first, Ygritte helps him understand the true nature of his abilities and helps him to accept them. Later on in the novels, Jon is able to communicate with Ghost as he sends him on a mission back to Castle Black in order to deliver a message.
Due to their close ties with nature and their knowledge of the Old Gods, there have been quite a few wildling skinchangers. Here are three of the most notable:
Orell – A skinchanger whose eagle was was a scout for Mance Rayder’s army. While on a scouting mission with Ygritte, Orell was killed by Jon Snow while still warged with the eagle, causing it to hold the remains of Orell’s consciousness. As a result, it despises Jon Snow.
Varamyr Sixskins – A wildling raider who holds a strong bond with three wolves, a snow bear, and a shadowcat. He is probably the most talented skinchanger that anyone south of the Wall has seen in recent memory. After Orell’s death, Varamyr took control of his eagle, using it as a scout.
Haggon – He was the mentor of Varamyr Sixskins. He was also a friend of the Night’s Watch and possibly the most talented skinchanger alive, but anything more than that is starting to get too spoilery for this article. Haggon raised Varamyr, teaching him the differences between the animals and which were better to warg with. He insisted that warging into another person was an “abomination”. When Haggon was dying, Varamyr repaid his teacher by ending his life and then forcing him out of his wolf, denying him Second life.
Notes on Warging, from Haggon:
– Dogs already have strong bonds with humans, so they are the easiest warg with.
– Wolves are harder to warg with than dogs. A long-lasting and deep bond has to be forged first in order for it to work. It is said that a man might befriend a wolf, even break a wolf, but no man could truly tame a wolf.
– Birds are the most tempting, but the human may develop a desire to fly all the time.
– Cats can only be forced, and not controlled.
– Prey animals, such as elk and deer, will turn the bravest man into cowards if their skin is worn too long.
Unwritten code of ethic for wildling Skinchangers:
Wargs are forbidden to:
– Eat human meat.
– Mate with a wolf as as wolf.
– Warg into another person’s mind.
Pretty cool, huh? You book readers probably already knew all this, but maybe you didn’t. Anyways, it amazes me how GRRM can create such a rich and odd history. I mean, how freaking cool would it be to warg into a direwolf? Are you kidding? That would be the epic! However odd or bizarre the ability may seem, I can’t help but be a little jealous of the Stark kids. Warging and greenseeing are extremely cool, and definite oddites.
So that’s it, look for the next addition to my GoT Oddities Series in a few weeks. Peace.
Note: If you want further information about anything discussed in this article, you can visit A Wiki of Ice and Fire. They are an excellent source, just be very mindful of spoiler content, especially on the character pages.
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