Spoiler Warning: This post contains MAJOR spoilers from Game of Thrones Season 6, Episode 5, entitled “The Door” and also Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Swiftly Tilting Planet. If you do not wish to be spoiled, turn back now!
This post is the third in a series of blogs linking HBO’S Game of Thrones, in light of recent plot developments from Season 6, Episode 5 entitled “The Door”, to Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet. You can link to the previous entries below.
Kything vs. Warging
In the world of Game of Thrones, warging is an ability originally associated with the children of the forest. Originally, greenseers had the ability to see events from a great distance away or to communicate to the next realm over, allegedly through the carved faces of the weirwood trees.
The weirwood tree above the Three Eyed Raven’s cave
From their ability to communicate with animals arose the legend of skinchangers. Skinchangers could not only communicate with animals, but could control their behavior by a mingling of spirits. As George R.R. Martin’s A World of Ice and Fire denotes:
Some tales speak of skinchangers losing themselves in their beasts, and others say that the animals could speak with a human voice when a skinchanger controlled them. But all the tales agree that the most common skinchangers were men who controlled wolves–even direwolves–and these had a special name among the wildlings: wargs.
We’ve already witnessed the wildling Orell warg into an eagle. In Telltale’s Game of Thrones game, you encounter Josera Snow (bastard son of Lord Forrester) who wargs into a polar bear. And of course, young Brandon Stark has repeatedly warged into his wolf, Summer and gentle giant Hodor.
According to the rules of Martin’s universe, if the animal dies while the warg has entered its mind, the warg will survive, though the animal dies. However, if the warg is killed while inhabiting the mind of the animal, the warg’s consciousness can live on inside the animal. We witnessed this when Jon Snow killed Orell: he warged into the eagle and survived to do some damage to Jon’s face with his talons!
In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, abilities quite similar to warging are “kything” and “going Within.” Siblings Charles Wallace and Meg are able to “kythe” with each other, which is similar to an extrasensory perception that manifests between people with a close relationship:
Kything was being able to be with someone else, no matter how far away they might be, was talking in a language that was deeper than words…. Kything went far beyond ordinary ESP, and while it came to Charles Wallace as naturally as breathing, for Meg it took intense concentration.”
Kything is less invasive than warging because the kyther does not necessarily control every action but can influence actions. This is opposed to warging, where the warg enters the consciousness of another being and control their movements. However, throughout A Swiftly Tilting Planet, we view a deeper extension of this kything ability, called “going Within.”
Gaudior, the time-traveling unicorn
A time-traveling unicorn (yes, you read that correctly) shows up to assist Charles Wallace with his new mission: to”go Within” various people in the past to influence their actions with the hope of averting eventual nuclear disaster in the present. He “goes Within” various individuals including:
Madoc – A legendary Welsh prince who comes to the New World and marries a native princess named Zyll. His jealous, power-hungry brother Gwydyr sought to claim Zyll and her tribe’s resources for himself by challenging Madoc to a duel using fire. Charles Wallace gives him the rune, which allows Madoc to summon “the fire with all the strength it hath.”
Brandon Llawcae – Young boy living in Puritan times who uses St. Patrick’s rune (given to him by Charles Wallace “going Within” his consciousness) to save his sister-in-law from being hanged as a witch. When Brandon uses the rune, to call upon the “lightning with its rapid wrath,” which promptly strikes the church and sets it on fire, much to the chagrin of their judgmental preacher Mortmain.
Chuck – At one point Charles Wallace “goes Within” a young boy named Chuck (brother of Branwen/Beezie who you can read about here) who suffers a tragic accident and whose brain is permanently damaged, similar to Bran warging into Hodor who suffers a tragic accident at the abusive hands of Pa. Charles Wallace is still Within Chuck when Chuck has his accident. Charles Wallace’s consciousness is also distorted while he experiences Chuck’s head trauma along with him and fades in and out to another time, thus affecting Charles Wallace’s lucidity as well. His dialogue reads like an excerpt from The Sound and the Fury:
Smell. Bad smell.
Gun. Gedder’s gun. Stop him
crystal horn heals
Matthew’s unicorn comes
tip touches head with light heals
Beezie! Grandma! Ma! Pa!
Two stones in the cemetery.
A fight at the edge of the cliff, like Gwydyr and Madoc at the edge of the lake. Bad. Bad.
Beezie, never let him touch you.
Much like Hodor, Chuck’s fragmented reality allows more of Charles’ consciousness across different times to seep into his awareness. Thus, Chuck is inadvertently pulled in and out of time along with Charles Wallace and experiences Charles’ past “going Within” experiences with Madoc, Brandon Llawcae and others.
Matthew Maddox – Charles Wallace wargs into Matthew Maddox, crippled twin brother to a Bran Maddox. Matthew Maddox lost the use of his legs due to a horse riding accident which crushed his pelvis, legs and permanently damaged his spine. Charles Wallace experiences the pain and paralysis right alongside Matthew Maddox.
Though in A Swiftly Tilting Planet, it’s difficult to determine which actions come strictly as a result of Charles Wallace’s interference, there seems to be a clear correlation between use of the rune and his ability to influence and change the past.
In this past weekend’s episode “The Door,” we witnessed Bran learning for the first time that his actions in meddling with time via greenseeing and warging can affect others with devastating consequences. His ability to warg while greenseeing essentially set Wylis forever on a path to becoming Hodor.
Will we continue to see other events in Westeros’ history that Bran may have caused (the building of the Wall and Winterfell? Driving King Aerys II mad?) Will Bran with his newfound powers attempt to change the past (i.e., tell his young self never go up in the tower, warn Ned Stark not to go to Winterfell?)? How will these powers help him defeat the Night King?
So much of Game of Thrones’ storytelling power is in the willingness to subvert traditional hero’s tale. We are constantly disappointed, frustrated, shocked and heartbroken at the sheer volume of loss of life in this show. Only time will tell, but it seems to me that Brandon Stark may be–even more than Jon or Dany–the key to unlocking the destiny of Westeros. Maybe through Bran, as C.S. Lewis said, “Death itself would start working backwards.”