13 December 2010

Bran Stark featured at Tower of the Hand

The stone is strong, Bran told himself, the roots of the trees go deep, and under the ground the Kings of Winter sit their thrones. So long as those remained, Winterfell remained. It was not dead, just broken. Like me, he thought. I'm not dead either.” - Bran VII, A Clash of Kings
Bran Stark from HBO's Game of Thrones

In the North, for ages gone and many winters past, it appears that change comes not often. The Starks rule the North a thousand miles from King’s Landing to the south; their castle has stood for 8,000 years since it was raised by Bran the Builder. The cold lands lead to a staid people, unlikely to change often or easily - or so we would expect.

Not all is as it seems. Certainly not for a winter-lands child who can name his wolf Summer.

The Starks have wolf-blood,  even down through the last Stark in Winterfell - Bran the Broken. Bran’s capabilities are unknown to him, though, until he is crippled, by Jamie Lannister, when Jamie shoves Bran out a high tower window.  Bran spends weeks in a coma, watched over by his mother, Catelyn Stark, and guarded by Summer (and perhaps kept alive by the direwolf as well) - though the extent of Summer’s efforts are unknown until the wolf stymies an assassin.

Summer and Bran become closer still as Bran wakes from his coma and develops his warging abilities. Soon Catelyn heads South, Robb rides to war and Bran takes command of Winterfell, meeting with the Stark vassals and planning with his advisors for winter. He frets the whole time though that he will never be enough for the role; that as a cripple he is washed up. His dreams of knighthood evaporate, and he mourns their loss. How pitiful to see a child facing losses that would undo even a brave man. Fortuitously, then, the Reed siblings arrive to guide him, protect him, and shepherd him to a new life beyond the wall, to the three-eyed crow. Bran sets aside his childish dreams for truer dreams..

Westeros is changing - the North is changing - and who better to lead the North than a boy who can change not only his dreams of knighthood but even his very skin? Superficially, he is a paralyzed boy unable to sit a horse without a special saddle - but once we move beyond the surface of things, we find a boy who can be a giant with an unorthodox batte-cry of "Hodor!" or a wolf with an intelligent gaze. While there is some debate as to whom Robb Stark may have named as heir, or whether Jon Snow could accept and hold Winterfell, there is no debate as to who the last Stark was to sit in the high hall; that was Bran.  It was he also that knew Winterfell in and out, from up and down, and knew its passages and walls better than anyone. Bran has long odds to beat in just surviving in such a harsh land. But if you are already known as dead, perhaps survival will be easier.There is not much room for cripples in Westeros at war anyway.

Bran's fall and survival presages the fate of the Starks; they will fall, but rise again, fundamentally changed. Bran’s fate awaits him beyond the black gate with Coldhands; “the Black Gate, Sam had called it, but it wasn’t black at all.” Of course it wasn't black. Nothing, in this unchanging land, is really what it seems.

This post published at Tower of the Hand as part of the Top 30 Characters profiles on 12/7/2010. A previous character profile on Oberyn Martell was published on 11/22/2010.