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Bittersweet tales of a ghost

Updated: Jan 10, 2019

The Ghost of High Heart

Art by Raluca Iosifescu

In fantasy, inconsistencies are often found. Aragorn claims to know all the lands between the Shire and the Misty Mountains, having wandered over them for many years, but then on the path, he says he doesn't know the way or that he has little knowledge over a passage. Ron Weasley's first wand was a hand-me-down from his brother Charlie, but "the wand chooses the wizard". Why put so much emphasis in Arthur pulling the sword from the stone if that sword was not to be, in most versions, Excalibur? And in the Aquaman movie, bullets and explosives can't penetrate the hero's skin, and yet, he is tattooed all over. Every fantastic universe has inconsistencies and the universe of Ice and Fire is no exception - However, when analyzing the details of this literary masterpiece, George R.R. Martin seems the be the author who lives in his own created universe the most. He promises a bittersweet ending to the story, and bittersweet is what the readers get all throughout. The Ghost of High Heart is an albino dwarf woods witch presented in the Arya chapters when she is with the Brotherhood without Banners. The Brotherhood itself is extremely closely related to literature. Contrary to being a sellsword company, they are the last remnant band formed during Robert's regime, fighting to bring the king's justice to the fallen knight Gregor Clegane. Once the Lannisters usurp the throne, they become outlaws and even marauders, after a fashion. Contrary to Gregor, however, the Brotherhood's knighthood is not removed and that is a spot of honour they carry. "Any knight can make a knight ... and every man you see before you has felt a sword upon his shoulder. We are the forgotten fellowship." Having been appointed to exercise justice, they eventually evolved into a "brand" of justice - especially after Lord Beric gave his flame to Lady Stoneheart - that had little to do with their objectives and they become as violent and unyielding as the people they oppose. In a way, they are a Robin Hood troupe or sorts, pro-peasant, anti power. While the lords of Westeros serve as justice for their lands where they imprison and execute as they see fit without impunity, the brotherhood allows commoners to speak of the abuses they suffer, act as witnesses, oftentimes against those of high birth, and although they are a long way from the presumption of innocence, they offer a significant improvement for the poor. The issue is that they progressively turn from a Robin Hood perspective into a more extreme and fanatic one, akin to the Knight Templar, where they are judge, jury and executioners for their own principles. The Brotherhood without Banners is sent out like a humanitarian relief. A "Doctors without Borders" in that universe, but with Stoneheart, they become a terror in the land. In lady Arya's chapters, however, before lady Stoneheart comes into play, the Brotherhood takes the girl and attempts to "sell her" to her mother. It's through that path to lady Catelyn that they cross the Ghost of High Heart and are presented with her dreams. "The old gods stir and will not let me sleep, I dreamt I saw a shadow with a burning heart butchering a golden stag, aye. I dreamt of a man without a face, waiting on a bridge that swayed and swung. On his shoulder perched a drowned crow with seaweed hanging from his wings. I dreamt of a roaring river and a woman that was a fish. Dead she drifted, with red tears on her cheeks, but when her eyes did open, oh, I woke from terror."

By this point, the old gods were stirring, as Bran was being summoned to their path. Renly had already died and the reader can easily see what that one dream means. The interpretations then, take an interesting turn, as they talk about a faceless man with a crow on his shoulder. Once Balon Greyjoy dies, we see his demise and understand the foresight of the Guild of the Faceless Assassins relationship to the death, which is of paramount importance. The details relating to Euron still leave an open path for discussion, though, because Euron Crow's Eye is the black sheep of a family marked by darkness and cruelty. The fact that he terrified his own brothers is very significant. Even the Mountain never raped the Hound. Euron raped two of his younger brothers, raped his sister in law, killed his eldest and one of his younger brothers, wears a suit of Valyrian Steel that should cost more than any lord or even country can presume to be able to afford, gathered a dragon's egg, psychologically tortures priests from different faiths to steal their religion after a fashion - something akin to what the Biblical god does in the Book of Job - seems to be collecting those priests to offer them in blood sacrifice, has the tongues of the entire crew of his ship ripped out. The petty girl, Falia, who was his lover, ends up pregnant, he has her tongue removed and ties her up naked to the prow of his ship, showing that not even his own children can escape his cruelty - Euron is a beast apart from the rest. And to finish the dream, she sees lady Catelyn transforms into lady Stoneheart. There were many indications that she would become Stoneheart, since a Game of Thrones, but it is the Ghost of High Heart who gives the reader the first answer to the horrors she will bring. It's the ultimate irony that the same brotherhood that wanted to sell a child to her mother ends up with the dead mother, without any financial recompense and far away from the principles they once upheld. When the Ghost of High Heart returns later, she shares a different dream. "I dreamt such a clangor I thought my head might burst, drums and horns and pipes and screams, but the saddest sound was the little bells. I dreamt of a maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair, venom dripping from their fangs. And later I dreamt that maid again, slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow." This time around, she goes to show how cruelty begets cruelty. The dread of the Red Wedding is followed by one sane voice, the voice of an ancient woods witch, pointing out that although the Red Wedding was unjustifiable and tragic, it was a sad, cowardly and dishonourable consequence of war. Killing the fool, however, is wrongdoing hidden behind a veil. What guilt could the poor lackwit have? It might be worth pointing out that honour comes from deeds, and George R.R. Martin writes those shades of grey better than anyone. Killing an innocent fool is endlessly sad, but it's not the first death that comes from lady Catelyn's hands nor is it the last. The rest of the dream is background noise and part of the growth of one single character that has been discussed too many times to be worth mentioning. What the Ghost brings the readers, however, are not the prophecies - those are fun to read and to interpret, although the events will come regardless - but the proof of how dangerous the prophecies and dreams can be. The Ghost of High Heart was likely responsible for the union between Prince Duncan and Jeyne, which broke the betrothal with lord Baratheon and started the riff between the Baratheon and the Targaryen. What the Baratheons wanted was one of theirs as queen. Sending Rhaelle Targaryen to marry Ormund Baratheon did not appease the wounds that had been opened. The consequence of that wound lived on. Equally important is to highlight that king Jaehaerys II forced his children Aerys and Rhaella to marry because of the Ghost's dreams. One hundred years after the death of lady Jeyne, she still mourns, and the tears she sheds might well be for the dreams that she did not have.

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