Greenseeing STILL isn’t time travel
Look, I didn’t mean to be a stick in the mud a few days ago when I suggested that the “Bran = Night King” theory had some serious flaws.
Why Bran Stark Is not the Night King
Unless Benioff and Weiss Really Don’t Care About Logic
There are elements of the “Bran = Night King” theory that are beautifully rendered (it is apparently very hard to warg a human as compared to an animal, for instance, which would explain why Bran could try and fail many times).
My problem with the theory is pretty simple. Greenseeing isn’t time travel (and you can’t use greenseeing to warg long-dead people). Bran can probably warg people in the present (Hodor) who are also alive in the past that he is at the same time viewing through Treeflix/greenseeing (Willis), but you can’t go back, for example, and warg Aerys II.
To put it even more simply:
The “Bran = Night King” theory requires Bran to be able to travel in time and to warg people in the past and he is neither capable of traveling in time or of warging people in the past (with the caveat, of course, that I never put anything past Benioff and Weiss).
Answering The Responders
In the 28,000 views and over 10,500 reads of my Bran Stark article (can’t really believe it myself, thanks for all of your readership), there hasn’t been much pushback (I am not trying to invite more, just suggesting that there has not been much to date). I certainly have yet to hear any convincing evidence that Bran can either times travel or warg people who are long-dead.
Here are some responses to the comments that I have received so far.
Your Theory Was Self-Defeating
One reader suggested that because I argued Bran could warg Hodor in the present and also effect him in the past that it undercuts my theory (if he can effect the past, he can become the Night King). To some extent that is true, Bran can effect the past through warging someone in the future but there would be no way of his predicting how it would happen or to use that knowledge in his strategic planning (at least not that I have thought of).
Yes, Bran effected Willis because he was controlling Hodor’s mind in the present while he visited his past but Bran clearly didn’t intend to break Willis’ mind in the process. Bran’s violence to Willis’ mind wasn’t an intentional act and the conduit for the damage was the Hodor/Willis reaction to the paradox more than it was Bran’s application of his will.
So, yes, it is possible Bran could change the past through the present, but it would be pretty hard for him to use this information (and it is not even clear he is aware he did it) to make an effective plan that he could use to change the past.
Bran Can Talk To People In The Past
Several people suggested that Bran could clearly change the past because it appeared that Ned heard Bran speak while greenseeing (during the Tower of Joy scene from the television show).
Oddly enough, nearly this exact same event happened in A Dance With Dragons (Ned was in the Godswood at Winterfell and not at the Tower of Joy but it seemed like Ned heard Bran here too).
Bran was certain Ned heard his voice, so he asks old 3–Eye who responded (ADWD Bran III):
Brynden: “A man must know how to look before he can hope to see. Those were shadows of days past that you saw Bran. You were looking through the eyes of the heart tree in your godswood. Time is different for a tree than for a man…for men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction…A thousand human years is a moment to a weirwood, and through such gates you and I may gaze into the past. Bran: He heard me Brynden: 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, I 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.”
You might respond that GRRM including this much exposition clearly means that Bran can change the past, and maybe that is true (we have no way of knowing). However, in the subsequent Bran passages in ADWD’s Bran tries several more times to break the veil between greenseeing and communicating with people in the past and can not. In addition, if the Hodor/Willis episode was as GRRM designed it, Bran’s Hodor loophole could have been why GRRM included so much discussion of communication with the past.
Greenseers Can See “Beyond the Trees”
Another commenter raised a really good point about how far greenseers can potentially see.
This commentator mentioned that it is probably possible to greensee without use of trees. I had forgotten this, but technically this is correct.
One of my main points it the first piece was that greenseers can only see what the trees have seen (I call it Treeflix, a streaming service of the entire history of the trees memories).
Let me foreground my answers to this argument with a passage that suggests that the conduit to seeing “more than what the trees see” would still probably happen in connection, while in a warging trance, to the trees (from ADWD Bran III):
Brynden: “Close your eyes, slip into your skin, as you do when you join with Summer <the Direwolf> but this time go into the roots instead. Follow them up through the earth, to the trees upon the hill, and tell me what you see.”
The reader was correct, however, that one of the very last things Brynden says to Bran in ‘A Dance With Dragons’ is that he will (for sure) be able to see ‘beyond the trees’ eventually, here is that passage:
Brynden: “Once you have mastered your gifts you may look where you will and see what the trees have seen, be it yesterday or last year or a thousand ages past…A weirwood will live forever, if left undisturbed…Nor will your sight be limited to your godswood. The singers <a specific type of Child or the Forest> carved eyes into their heart trees to awaken them, and those are the first eyes a new greenseer learns to use…But in time you will see well beyond the trees themselves.”
Brynden: “In a year, or three, or ten. That I have not glimpsed. It will come in time I promise you.”
We should probably take caution here because in all of the writing about greenseeing in the entire canon, this is one of only three references to seeing beyond the trees (and what it might mean is never explained). There are two other references to seeing what the God’s see or as the God’s see, two have already been quoted and here is the other one (ADWD Bran II):
Jojen: “It is given to a few to drink of that green fountain while still in mortal flesh, to hear the whisperings of the leaves and see as the trees see. As the God’s see. Most are not so blessed. The God’s gave me only greendreams.”
But, and I don’t mean to complicate this at all, there is a HUGE difference between seeing beyond what the trees see and being independent of the trees entirely (or the need to enter the trees in a trance in order to greensee events).
And, even if you 100% embrace this argument entirely (and believe that Bran can now see everything in history) there are still two major problems here:
- This argument doesn’t help the “Bran = Night King” theory at all because seeing things beyond the trees is still not time travel.
- It also doesn’t help the “Bran = Night King” theory at all because seeing things beyond the trees does not also convey the ability for Bran to warg human beings as he is watching events in the past.
Now, just because I am a sporting fellow, let me suggest that there is a chance, that Bran could theoretically learn how to do unforseen things (like warging in the past) because, as JoJen tells him in ADWD (Bran II):
Bran: “What do the trees remember”
Jojen: “The Secrets of the old Gods.”
Who knows what the old God’s know?
I guess it could be possible that one of the secrets of the old Gods was how to warg people in the past? But, if this were true, and Brynden had this power, which he likely would, why wouldn’t he know it or share it? Cold Hands (aka BenJen) described Brynden as (ADWD Bran II):
Cold Hands: (describing Brynden) “A friend, a dreamer wizard, call him what you will. The last greenseer.”
My best guess is that Bran has some ability to change the past, but only in ways that incredibly complicated and hard to control. It seems unlikely to me that Bran has new powers cut entirely out of anything greenseers have seen or used before.
It is still my best guess that the NK is a Stark himself, and has many of the same abilities (which makes it easier for him to fight Bran on Bran’s terms).
If Bran actually turns out to be the Night King on Game of Thrones, someone will inevitably say “Josh, you were wrong” and I guess that will be fair (although I will still believe that it makes no sense absent a new souce of information on the history or scope of greenseeing).
Anyway, If you missed my recap this week, you can find it (and all my other recaps) here:
Game of Thrones Season 7: My Ongoing Guide
Everything Josh H has written about Game of Thrones Season 2017
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