This post will be discussing two children of Lord Eddard “I love that bastard” Stark and Lady Catelyn “I hate that bastard” Stark.
No, I’m not talking about Stark bastards, I’m talking about two of the legitimate children, Arya and Bran.
And as usual, I’ll be spoiling plot points from HBO’s Game of Thrones, so if you’re not caught up, I can’t be held responsible if Arya stabs you in the face with a spoiler. Like she does.
The specific details of Arya and Bran’s stories in Game of Thrones differ, of course, but I feel that they’re both on similar paths. They’re both on a wizard’s apprentice narrative journey.
You know, like Harry Potter.
Yer a Wizard, Arry!
Okay, not exactly like the Boy Who Lived.
Bran is kind of a “boy who lived” since Ser Jaime expected that the fall would kill the little sneaker.
And Cersei will probably be super-surprised if she ever encounters a grim and presumed-dead Arya Stark armed with the slim rapier Needle.
Scene: Cersei’s bedchamber. Lightning outside illuminates Arya Stark at the window.
Cersei: Arya Stark! But you’re dead.
Arya: No. You’re dead!
Cersei: You silly girl. I’m obviously as alive as… oh. *bleeds*
Because Arya is the girl everyone thinks is dead… but she’s really the girl who lived… yes, I shouldn’t explain my jokes. Let’s pretend this never happened.
Where was I? Oh, making Harry Potter comparisons, even though they’re not really there. I’ll think of at least one more…
Like Harry had an ally in the giantish Hagrid, both Bran and Arya have had the assistance of big dudes with names that start with ‘H’.
Ease up, Clegane. Hodor’s real name is Walder, so his name doesn’t start with an ‘H’ either. Let me have this.
Off to Hogwarts
The Stark siblings might not have gotten their invitations delivered to them by magical owls, or even via the Westeros equivalent Raven Network, but they both received a form of invitation to come and train in their respective specialities.
Bran got his from a dream-invading three-eyed raven, and Arya got her introduction from a Faceless Man assassin.
It took them some time (there are no trains running in Westeros or through a tunnel to Braavos) but Bran and Arya both eventually showed up at their respective places that had promised to train them in magic.
In the fifth season, we didn’t get to see any of Bran’s training in the Cave of Skulls at the foot of the Old Guy Sitting in Some Roots. So no explicit insights into what magics he’s being trained in.
But we do know that there are House Elves around.
I mean, the Children of the Forest. Not House Elves. Totally not.
Even without seeing what Bran’s studies were entailing, he’d been doing a lot of magical stuff on his own and had received tutoring sessions by fellow minor wizard Jojen Reed, we can make some speculations about what he might be studying.
We saw Arya’s training at the House of Black and White. It’s assassination training, which might not seem overtly magical. But it’s magic. There’s magic there. They can change their faces. That’s some cool wizardly stuff, so I’m treating it like a Hogwarts run by Death Eaters. They’re just cooler than House Slytherin though.
Fine. She also had to do a lot of sweeping up. Which is only magical if we consider Mickey Mouse animating a broom to do his work. I don’t think that’ll be part of her future studies.
Speaking of studies, let’s examine the potential curriculum at the cold cave, and what kind of degree Arya might get at the House of Black and White.
The Sorcerous Syllabi
Just what are the young Starks going to learn at their versions of Westerosi Wizardry College, and how might their spooky skills influence the seasons to come?
Bran Up North:
We know Bran’s a warg, meaning that he has an affinity for animals and can project his consciousness into them. At least into Summer, his direwolf.
We’ve seen at least two other (non-Stark) wargs on the show, both Wildlings, so we have a sense of some things that wargs are good for.
They can send their perception out across great distances for scouting/spying, using their animal vessel as eyes and ears.
The Three Eyed Raven will probably be teaching Bran to do something other than just warging, but lets consider what advanced warging courses he might be taking. In my opinion, basic out-of-the-box warging is kind of limited. Bran had been warned by Meera Reed that spending too long a time inside Summer is risky, that he might forget he’s a boy and not come back to his own body.
- More Boy, Less Wolf
So the obvious improvement would be for Bran to warg into Summer, and not be in danger of losing himself so fast. I’ve always had the impression that the warg was limited in what they could do, based on the cognitive processes of the host animal. For example, Orell the Wildling had probably flown his eagle over Castle Black and saw that there were men there, but eagles probably aren’t awesome at counting. So he couldn’t call Jon’s bluff about the alleged thousand men at the castle.
If Orell had been more “present” in the mind of the eagle (and Orell could actually count above ten, something I’m skeptical of…) things might not have gone well for Jon and his lying lies.
But that doesn’t sound all that impressive. Would being a smarter lone wolf be worth a season off-screen, learning magic?
- You Might Have the Stronger Claim, But I Have the Bigger Army
One smart wolf might be cool but a pack of smart wolves, being directed in unison, would be much cooler. Maybe Bran will learn to warg into more than one creature simultaneously.
We don’t have any direct evidence of multiple-warging on the show, but we’ve seen two instances that might be explained by that ability.
When Sam and Gilly were fleeing with her newborn son from Craster’s keep, they eventually are tracked down by one of the Others looking to retrieve the child. They’re given a heads up by a weirwood tree filled with crows, making a racket.
Maybe they were just expecting a nice dinner should the White Walker kill Sam. (They’d be eating for days. Ser Alliser would agree.) But they seemed to be actively alerting Sam and Gilly of approaching danger, although for all I know, they were scouting ahead for the Other, and were cawing “here, here!”
But Bran’s magical mentor is the Three Eyed Raven, and since he (or rather his elf) aided Bran against the murderous wights who lying about the impressive weirwood tree cave like a field of antipersonnel mines, I want to say that these crows were being warged into by the Three Eyed Raven to annoy and foil the White Walker’s baby acquisition plan.
So… assuming Bran can warg and control a pack of direwolves perhaps, he’d have many eyes in play and lots of teeth to rip enemies to shreds.
The second example of multiple-warging is a bit creepier. I’m convinced that the White Walkers are animating and controlling the dead in a fashion similar to warging.
I don’t have any evidence for this, it just seemed like that’s the deal. Maybe a corpse is animated and it behaves the way all zombies do: attack the living! But we’ve seen sophisticated behavior from the wights. One of them remained dormant long enough to be taken into Castle Black, where he could shamble his way directly towards Lord Mormont’s sleeping chambers. That kind of implies an intelligence at work.
At Hardhome, the dead were dead. And then the Night’s King raised them up, and they obediently and single-focusedly looked out where he was looking, to the fleeing men in the rowboats.
All by an act of unspoken control by the Night’s King. Until I hear otherwise, I’m calling it warging. Warging on a mass-scale.
But even if it can’t be done across a whole bunch of wights, just being able to do one might be a cool warging trick for Bran.
- Warging the Dead
So, could Bran learn to control the dead? And maybe control a lot of the animated dead?
Maybe not, it seems like a pretty creepy thing for young Bran to do. But it might be necessary for a certain someone killed to be up and about, filming scenes in Ireland. Jon Snow.
Let’s consider that it might just be Jon Snow’s body doing the fighting, but Brandon Stark behind those eyes. (That’s not my preference, but I want credit if it plays out like that.)
- Blazing Saddles
But the scenario that gets most people excited is what the Three Eyed Raven told Bran at the end of Season Four.
You will never walk again, but you will fly.
I doubt Bran will literally fly as Super-Bran, but Tyrion Lannister once designed Bran a saddle so he’d ride as tall as any knight. But what if that saddle was on a dragon? With Bran controlling the scaly beast?
Of course, if Bran can control the dragon warg style, he wouldn’t have to leave the cave. He’d be the dragon.
So, depending on what the Three Eyed Raven wants to focus on, Bran might end up excelling at animal-control, or raising the dead, or raising an army of animals, or razing an army with a fire breathing animal.
Arya Over in Braavos:
Scoring an invitation in the form of a special coin from cool-as-ice Jaqen H’ghar, Arya accepted an unpaid internship at the House of Black and White. As I mentioned before, The Faceless Men don’t seem to be explicitly running a school of magic, but assassins in fantasy stories might as well be wizards, right?
(Much of the ‘magics’ performed by the Warlocks of Qarth were typical shenanigans from any given Sonny Chiba ninja-movie… the assassin/wizard connection runs both ways…)
In the books, there was more of a magical quality in how Jaqen arranged the deaths at Harrenhal than in the show, but in both versions of the story the Faceless Men were undeniably wielding inexplicable miraculous powers in the form of changing one’s appearance.
This might seem pretty much like a one-trick pony, but they have more tools in their deadly utility belts. They definitely have some expertise in poison, something that often falls into the same category of magic. And their training and focus on being able to tell convincing lies and to detect lies tinges on the mystical.
Just how was Arya struck blind?
Until it gets explained otherwise, I’m voting magic.
There was something eerie and supernatural about the way Jaqen was able to kill a bunch of guards at Harrenhal so Arya could escape. I’m not saying it was magic. But it was magic. (Probably. He might have used a gun with a silencer. I wouldn’t put anything past Jaqen.)
Assuming Arya gets her sight back, or just decides to learn to be an awesome blind warrior like Zatoichi or something (or if she gets unbelievably super senses to compensate, like Daredevil) what kind of wizardly shenanigans might she get into over in Westeros?
This doesn’t necessarily set Arya up to be an army-eating machine like Bran might turn out to be. But it’s pretty clear that Arya could get to a point in her training where she’ll be able to get access to and to kill anyone.
She’ll be her own one-woman death-spell.
The Dark Downsides of Magic
Don’t judge me, but my wife and I watch Once Upon a Time with our daughter. And if there’s anything I know about magic, it’s that it comes with a price. Because Rumplestiltskin says that line nearly ever single episode.
We know that the Faceless Men assassins have a system of checks and balances (one we don’t totally understand, but it’s there.) And the price for moving up the ranks is losing one’s identity (something we think Arya isn’t going to go full in on.)
We don’t know what price will be required for the magic that Bran will be trying to harness, and I’ve previously expressed my concerns of what this path might lead to.
Along those lines, the gifts of the Faceless Men might require a price that pushes Arya down a darker path as well.
#$%&^# student loans.
Coming back to the Harry Potter analogy that I’m forcing, lets place Bran and Arya, our little wizards, into the classic Four Houses of Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin.
Should you need a refresher on the characteristics of those houses:
Gryffindor: Characterized by students who are brave. Bravery doesn’t necessarily equate with goodness, though.
Hufflepuff: Eager to help. Hufflepuffs are enthusiastic and energetic. Should you have a bias against these guys, I’d like to direct you to this wonderful article about heroic Hufflepuffs.
Ravenclaw: The smarties. They may not have Slytherin’s natural talent for magic, but they have the intellect to break down the principals of magic rationally, and approach magic logically.
Slytherin: Yes, yes. The “evil” house. Or are they? Slytherin’s are characterized by ambition but more importantly often by a natural aptitude for magic, which might lead them to dismiss the other households as not “true” wizards.
Remember, the heroes of the Harry Potter books could have fit into different houses. Harry himself could have been in Slytherin, because he was a natural at magic. Hermione certainly could have done well in Ravenclaw. And Ron… I think Ron was too lazy for Hufflepuff, not smart enough for Ravenclaw, and not gifted enough for Slytherin. So Gryffindor might be the slacker house.
So what will the Sorting Hat say about the Stark children?
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)
Most images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.) Picture of the Sorting Hat is from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Image of Rumplestiltskin is from the ABC show Once Upon a Time.
I make no claims to the images, but some claims to the text. So there.
If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2016 Some Rights Reserved