SPOILERS: My GoT theory I’ve been going on about for nearly a decade might be true

Jennifer Harrison
May 20 · 13 min read

Firstly, I need to be clear that I don’t think I’m the only person who has come up with this theory. My evidence is that I believe GRRM is leaving clues in the books so naturally I expect others to reach the same conclusion. But it’s funny to me because I’ve been telling my friends this theory for almost a decade and swearing that I know exactly who will eventually sit on the Iron Throne and it looks like I was right. Although the final episode didn’t outright confirm it I’m more sure than ever that I’m on the right track.

OBVIOUSLY SPOILERS AHEAD!

OBVIOUSLY SPOILERS AHEAD!

OBVIOUSLY SPOILERS AHEAD!

OBVIOUSLY SPOILERS AHEAD!

OBVIOUSLY SPOILERS AHEAD!

OBVIOUSLY SPOILERS AHEAD!

OBVIOUSLY SPOILERS AHEAD!

OBVIOUSLY SPOILERS AHEAD!

OBVIOUSLY SPOILERS AHEAD!

Bran is the villain and a lot more

Stick with me.

I’ve got to be clear here, “villain” doesn’t have to be an evil character twirling their evil moustache while torturing people for fun. One of the things I like about the books (and seasons 1–6 of the show) is that most characters are morally grey. Only a handful of characters are just pure evil and torture for the hell of it. I think we can all agree that Ramsey is evil. But most characters are complex and often wouldn’t see themselves as the villain. Cersei is responsible for some of the most selfish, evil actions in the show but feels she’s looking out for her family. Dany is a violent, genocidal tyrant but feels she’s making the world a better place. Characters like Varys often talk about “the good of the realm” and plenty of opposing characters feel that’s exactly what they’re working towards.

When I say Bran is the villain, I just mean that he’s working towards his own ends and some of his actions lead to innocents dying and all sorts. I can’t say whether Bran is doing what he does purely for himself or if he feels like’s in the right and doing it “for the realm” but either way he’s a character very much like Dany but far more devastating. Just because he’s the three-eyed raven doesn’t mean he isn’t human. He has biases and grudges and desires.

GRRM does a lot of foreshadowing in the books and for most of seasons 1–6 the TV show used the same moments. If you’ve been paying attention, the big twists aren’t usually all that surprising. I’m seeing some people shocked that they did a LOTR and had Sam name the book about their history A Song of Ice and Fire. But when he’s in the Citadel he jokes at the time that the book doesn’t have a very good title and he’d choose something more poetic. A lot of people knew Sam was going to add to or name A Song of Ice and Fire.

Bran, being the perhaps the most supernatural character in the show, has a lot of visions and time traveling etc that give clues as to where the story is going. He has dreams of being a direwolf, which we later find out aren’t dreams but him warging. He has visions of a dragon egg in Winterfell and a dragon hatching out and flying above the Stark home. That was several books/seasons before it was confirmed that there is a Targaryen in Winterfell: Jon/Aegon. More often than not, when GRRM leaves a weird little detail like that in the books it comes to be important or make sense later on. That’s one reason I’ve always felt this way about Bran, because there are a lot of things GRRM has deliberately let us know about but haven’t been officially resolved.

The three-eyed raven who trains Bran can view the past as visions but doesn’t seem to be able to interact with or change the past. He warns Bran that it can’t be done and seemed horrified when Bran does the impossible. There are three times when it’s obvious in the show, without reading a single book, that Bran can change the past. One is when he tragically and accidentally causes some time-fuckery to happen to Hodor, which leaves him as… Hodor. One is when he’s seen by the night king (I assume that’s happening in the past) and he grabs and forms a connection with Bran. The third is when he calls out to Ned at the Tower of Joy (where Jon/Aegon was born) and Ned actually turns, hearing something in the wind.

I can’t overstate the importance of that last one. Bran views the past, tries to interact with someone, and they hear voices in the wind. There are countless examples of people hearing voices in the wind, in the flames, in water etc. Some are prominent in the TV show, like Varys hearing an important message in the flames when he was cut: a message that a red priestess knew. The Mad King claimed to hear whispers before he began making his weird decision to burn the place down.

The books have so much more. Jon hears someone calling his name in the woods when nobody is there. Arya hears someone saying “please” over and over in the wind. She also hears voices in Harrenhal. Theon isn’t a Stark but hears his name in the trees and fog at Winterfell. The voice is “as faint as rustling leaves” but he hears it and it’s not the only time. Other times Theon hears his name called from the trees in the godswood, which is ultimately where he dies. Characters hear voices in flames or even as the wind rustles the grass. Ned has several of these moments and some explicitly name the voice as Bran in the books. In A Dance with Dragons, Ned is in the godswood and GRRM literally writes:

“Winterfell,” Bran whispered.

But Bran isn’t actually there. It’s just Ned. But this time GRRM states explicitly that the voice Ned hears is Bran’s. At the time it just seems weird or that maybe Ned cares for his children so much and has them on his mind that he’s hearing things that aren’t there. But looking back it’s interesting that GRRM says Bran whispered the word.

When Bran is learning from the three-eyed raven he is sure that Ned heard him. But the raven shoots down the idea straight away:

He heard a whisper on the wind, a rustling amongst the leaves. You cannot speak to him, try as you might. I know. I have my own ghosts, Bran. A brother that I loved, a brother that I hated, a woman I desired. Through the trees, I see them still, but no word of mine has ever reached them. The past remains the past. We can learn from it, but we cannot change it.

In passages like these the books explicitly explain that when Bran talks it just comes across as sounds in the leaves or on the wind. But while the raven never seems to make sense to people in the past beyond that, we have evidence that Bran can actually interact with people (e.g. Hodor). I don’t know why Bran can do what the raven cannot. There seems to be some development of his skills throughout the books/show. When he’s first learning to do all this, he manages to catch people’s attentions without changing much, like when he calls out at the Tower of Joy and Ned hears it. There’s an early scene like this where Bran is trying to talk to Ned in the godswood and Ned clearly looks right at the weirwood tree and senses something but Bran despairs because he can’t be understood:

He was back at Winterfell again, in the godswood looking down upon his father. Lord Eddard seemed much younger this time. His hair was brown, with no hint of grey in it, his head bowed. “… let them grow up close as brothers, with only love between them,” he prayed, “and let my lady wife find it in her heart to forgive …”

“Father.” Bran’s voice was a whisper in the wind, a rustle in the leaves. “Father, it’s me. It’s Bran. Brandon.”

Eddard Stark lifted his head and looked long at the weirwood, frowning, but he did not speak. He cannot see me, Bran realized, despairing. He wanted to reach out and touch him, but all that he could do was watch and listen. I am in the tree. I am inside the heart tree, looking out of its red eyes, but the weirwood cannot talk, so I can’t.

But this is before he has done some drastic things like mess up Hodor. The books and show stress several times that Bran evolves as the three-eyed raven and has much to learn. Just because his voice is nothing but a rustling wind early on, it seems he gets better and better. That combined with the fact that Ned specifically hears Bran’s voice in the wind leaves me to believe that all of these voices are Bran. He does what the previous three-eyed raven couldn’t do and calls out to those in the past, sometimes even warging into them (e.g. Hodor). If you think about what this could potentially mean… Bran could be able to manipulate anyone in the past for his own purpose. He could move and conquer kings and queens like they were pawns in a game (of thrones). Even in the final episode when Jon apologises for not being there when he needed him, Bran tells Jon knowingly that he was exactly where he needed to be. Jon was where Bran planned for him to be.

I’ve always felt I’m on the right track because many of the decisions seem to directly assist Bran in getting where he needs to be. Jojen sees helping Bran as his mission and it’s because he heard voices in the leaves telling him to guide Bran to where he needs to be. Did Bran do this to ensure he makes it to the three-eyed raven? Perhaps some of the bigger connections in the Stark family’s past are to ensure that Bran is around. For example, Bran The Builder proposed the construction of the Wall and built Winterfell. If Bran the Builder was Bran warging his consciousness into the past, he could have been doing that and creating the Night’s Watch so the white walkers would be kept at bay and Winterfell kept safe until the time is right. There are a lot of small details about the Starks that I don’t think are coincidences. Bran the Builder named their home Winterfell: the place where “winter fell” (past tense). Bran knows that’s where the white walkers are beaten so perhaps while living in the past he proposed the name. Even the phrase “there must always be a Stark in Winterfell” is passed down throughout the ages and is important to the family. Is that because Bran said it must be so in the past? One of the most interesting characters in the books is Old Nan, who speaks to Bran differently than the rest and talks to him like she’s actually talking to one of the Starks of the past. This is one of my favourite lines in all the books:

She had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.

The books portray Old Nan as a mysterious character who has known many Bran Starks, which I believe might literally be the same Bran Stark at times. There’s another great moment between them when a young Bran complains about her stupid stories and she says they’re not her stories but that they’re before and after her. I think this implies that she got the stories from Bran, either for no real reason or so Bran would one day hear them himself. It’s especially interesting that she says some of the stories happen “after her”. She knows the future? Well if she’s getting stories from Bran at some point she could potentially know about past and future events! One of the stories she tells Bran is about a man who killed a guest under his own roof (Walder Frey and the Red Wedding?) and even talks of cooking a son into a pie and feeding it to the father (Walder Frey and his worst meal ever?). I really think we’re supposed to look back and realise that Bran was influencing history not only by whispering in wind and flames but by warging into other Starks. That line about the Brans becoming one person in Old Nan’s head comes from this passage I think is worth sharing (note that Old Nan keeps insisting this story is his favourite):

Thousands and thousands of years ago, Brandon the Builder had raised Winterfell, and some said the Wall. Bran knew the story, but it had never been his favorite. Maybe one of the other Brandons had liked that story. Sometimes Nan would talk to him as if he were her Brandon, the baby she had nursed all those years ago, and sometimes she confused him with his uncle Brandon, who was killed by the Mad King before Bran was even born. She had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.

I said my theory was that Bran is the villain and more. The “more” is that I think he’s most or all of the gods in the story. Perhaps the old gods are real but I think the other gods (the seven, the lord of light etc) are people’s different interpretations of Bran’s messages. The red priestesses obey words in the flames. That doesn’t sound particularly different from people hearing Bran in the wind. I believe some or all of the faiths in A Song of Ice and Fire are just people making sense of Bran’s extensive manipulation throughout history. He literally has armies of followers working for him throughout history because he comes across as divine.

I don’t pretend to know what Bran was always thinking or what the whispers always meant but so many of the big events that ripple can be traced to hearing whispers. When the Mad King lost his mind and kept saying “burn them all” it reminds me of Bran causing Hodor to only say “Hodor”. Why would Bran do this to the Mad King? I don’t know. Why would Dany hear voices in the grass? No idea. What was it that Varys was told in the flames? Beats me. But when chatting GoT with my friends I’ve always said Bran will sit on the Iron Throne. I wanted it to be Sansa or Tyrion, but I’ve always felt Bran would influence things so that he ultimately wins.

The reason this makes Bran the villain is that he’s caused or allowed a lot of evil but clearly (from the TV show at least) knows his end goal: the Iron Throne. He’s played the game of thrones and won and is cocky about it when Tyrion proposes Bran be made King. Perhaps Bran is evil in a selfish way wanting to be King. Perhaps he wants to dethrone the Lannisters for what they did to him. Or perhaps he just wants to do what’s right “for the good of the realm” and believes that himself with all his power would be the most sensible choice as ruler. But Dany also felt that way. She had a divine mission and destiny. And we can all agree that she was a villain in the end. I think Bran might be like this, believing he’s doing what’s best for everyone but of course allowing tragedies. Hodor’s death was an accident but with his powers he clearly could have saved countless lives. If he has manipulated everyone to get himself to the Iron Throne that means he’s likely responsible for things like Dany’s murderous rampage in the previous episode. I mean it’s Bran who encourages Sam to tell Jon/Aegon of his heritage. Perhaps he knows it will ultimately lead to Dany feeling lost and betrayed by those around her. If I’m right that the various gods are just people’s interpretations of Bran sending messages through time, think about how many deaths have happened because of those gods. Characters who criticise religion in the books talk of the senseless slaughter and wars that have happened because of voices in flames etc. Bran has let a lot of really bad things happen to get him where he needs to be.

I obviously don’t have all the answers. I don’t know what Bran was always thinking. But I’ve always said that he will turn out to be the most important character in the show and will sit on the Iron Throne because he can manipulate everyone throughout all of history. If I’m wrong, I’m not really sure what all of this means or why GRRM included so much of it. Like I said earlier, I wanted Sansa or Tyrion on the throne but I was a little pleased that I’d guessed correctly it would be Bran regardless of whether I’m right or wrong about Bran being the villain.

P.S. I don’t think I’m the only person who has thought of this. It’s more I’ve been telling my friends it for years and years and we’re loving that it might be true. We’ve had so many arguments that Bran is pointless and he’s boring in episodes and I always say “you’re going to change your mind when he’s the most important character in the show literally running everything”.

P.P.S. Oh and another thing… I think there’s more to Bran and Night King. I don’t know if the “Bran IS the Night King” theory is true but there’s definitely something else there that we’re missing. After all, the Night King can see Bran even when he’s travelling to the past. They have a connection. And I like to think that Bran and Night King are lifelong rivals despite the Night King living for thousands of years. I think he comes across Bran over and over in different forms, warging into different people, and knows Bran well even before we see them meet for what we think is the first time. But I don’t know exactly what their connection is. Interestingly, if Bran is the villain then it does leave the possibility that the Night King is one of the good guys. Ok the Night King would still be evil in the sense that he’s killing innocent people but I wonder if it’s also “for the good of the realm”. What if the Night King is the only person who could maybe stop Bran’s time fuckery? It’s always been assumed that the white walkers are coming to kill everyone for some unknown reason but it seems from the TV show that the Night King’s entire goal moving south and through the wall was to get Bran. There’s something more there.

While you’re here…

The Matrix is a trans allegory and Deckard wasn’t the real blade runner.

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Jennifer Harrison

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Science communicator, programmer, DQ. I write on science, tech, games, LGBTQIA and feminism. If you like my work maybe buy me a coffee? https://ko-fi.com/A220J