CW: violence, maiming
Hello again everyone, welcome back to Red Mice at Play. It’s still spoopy season and so we’ll be continuing with our saga of analysing the literal worst human beings in A Song of Ice and Fire: the Brave Companions. In particular, their second in command, known as Urswyck the Faithful.
One of the more prominent scenes involving the Brave Companions is their appearance at the end of Jaime and Brienne’s duel and, subsequently, they cut off Jaime’s hand. Jaime and Brienne’s duel is not only one of the most erotic scenes of the novel (seriously, have you read that thing? *fans self*), but it is also an excellent piece of Long Night symbolism: they are fighting in the stream, which involves Ravenous Reader’s amazing green sea/green see pun, and thus suggests some greenseer symbolism; Jaime’s sword cuts Brienne’s thigh so he is symbolically taking her maidenhead, so we can see the prominent sex and swordplay motif; Jaime pins Brienne against a tree in a symbolic reference to the sacrifice of Nissa Nissa. As expected, we see this kind of “start of the Long night symbolism” and, bam! Others appear – this case in the symbolic form of the Bloody Mummers.
As is quickly becoming par for the course with this blog, we see a fair few parallels to the A Game of Thrones Prologue. One example is that both Jaime and Will symbolically call for the Others. In Will’s case, we have the following description:
He [Will] whispered a prayer to the nameless gods of the wood, and slipped his dirk free of its sheath. He put it between his teeth to keep both hands free for climbing. The taste of cold iron in his mouth gave him comfort.
Down below, the lordling called out suddenly, “Who goes there?” Will heard uncertainty in the challenge. He stopped climbing; he listened; he watched.
The woods gave answer: the rustle of leaves, the icy rush of the stream, a distant hoot of a snow owl.
The Others made no sound. (AGOT, Prologue)
As Ravenous Reader has described in her seminal Killing Word essay, Will whispers a prayer to the woods, which answer with the Others. Importantly, Will at this moment in time has symbolically entered the tree by climbing it upon Waymar’s command, so he has become a symbolic greenseer.
In a very similar vein:
Grunting, she came at him, blade whirling, and suddenly it was Jaime struggling to keep steel from skin. One of her slashes raked across his brow, and blood ran down into his right eye. The Others take her, and Riverrun as well! (ASOS, Jaime III)
Brienne cuts him above the brow, which symbolically implies Jaime losing one of his eyes – this is an allusion to Odin, who sacrifices his eye to acquire metaphysical power. A lot of Odin and Norse mythology appears to be reflected in the symbolism around greenseeing, so Jaime symbolically losing an eye here would seem to reflect him becoming a greenseer figure. In that moment, when Jaime (symbolically) becomes one of the gods, he then prays for the Others. Lo, the
Others Brave Companions appear:
She let him go, and he went down with a splash.
And the woods rang with coarse laughter.
These were not the outlaws who had killed Ser Cleos, Jaime realized suddenly. The scum of the earth surrounded them: swarthy Dornishmen and blond Lyseni, Dothraki with bells in their braids, hairy Ibbenese, coal-black Summer Islanders in feathered cloaks. He knew them. The Brave Companions. (ASOS, Jaime III)
Jaime calls for the Others, and the Brave Companions appear from the woods; this is akin to Will’s prayer to the nameless, faceless gods of the wood leading to the Others emerging from the woods, suggesting a symbolic parallel between the Brave Companions and the Others. In addition, the coarse laughter of the Brave Companions would seem to be reminiscent of the Others’ “laughter sharp as icicles” (AGOT, Prologue). Altogether, this would appear to place the Brave Companions in the role of symbolic Other of this scene.
This scene culminates in the Brave Companions maiming Jaime and cutting off his sword hand. We previously identified Jaime’s maiming as his breaking event, as the loss of his hand appears to be the catalyst for Jaime’s transformation into the apparent Last Hero archetype and, after losing his hand, Jaime acquires the “broken” symbolism we’ve been discussing recently. As we have seen in some of the other essays, the Other-archetype appears to be the one who initiates the “breaking event” of the Last Hero: the Other breaks Ser Waymar’s sword; Ser Arthur Dayne breaks the Smiling Knight’s sword; Ramsay Bolton castrates Theon; pre-broken Jaime throws Bran from the window; and so on and so forth. With this in mind, it is interesting to note that the Bloody Mummers are the ones who “break” Jaime. Indeed, the description of the arakh that maims Jaime is described as turning the sunlight silver, and it comes “shivering” down to cut off Jaime’s hand. This, to me, is suggestive of the arakh turning the sunlight cold, and being cold itself, symbolically invoking the idea of the ice swords of the Others themselves. Altogether, I think that this shows that the Brave Companions appear to be acting in the role of symbolic Other in A Storm of Swords, Jaime III.
One of the Bloody Mummers who gets the most coverage in this chapter is Urswyck the Faithful, who has a ton of Others symbolism as well, it seems. For starters, the Faith has a ton of icy symbolism – for instance, the crystal at the heart of the religion is like the icy crystalline Wall and the Others’ ice sword like a shard of crystal – so Urswyck being nicknamed “the Faithful” seems to suggest a link to some icy symbolism.
In addition, a lot of the descriptions of Urswyck appears to show him as a symbolic Other – namely, he is a cadaver with blue blood:
Brienne found her voice. “I have a hundred stags—”
A cadaverous man in a tattered leather cloak said, “We’ll take that for a start, m’lady.”
“Who commands here?” Jaime demanded loudly.
“I have that honor, Ser Jaime.” The cadaver’s eyes were rimmed in red, his hair thin and dry. Dark blue veins could be seen through the pallid skin of his hands and face. “Urswyck I am. Called Urswyck the Faithful.”
“Urswyck! A word!”
The cadaverous sellsword in the ragged leather cloak reined up a moment, then fell in beside him. (ASOS, Jaime III)
Being a cadaver symbolically suggests Urswyck as a wighted corpse of some description and Urswyck’s “pallid skin” would appear to match the “flesh gone white as snow” description of the wights (ADWD, Prologue). In addition, Urswyck is described as having dark blue veins, which may be a reference to the blue blood of the Others (ASOS, Sam III).
In a more roundabout piece of symbolism, Urswyck’s leather cloak would appear to be a symbolic reference to skinchanging as Urswyck is literally wearing another skin as a cloak. Moreover, one of the prominent examples of people wearing skins as cloaks is the Boltons, who allegedly flay the skins of their enemies and wear that skin as a cloak; this could suggest that Urswyck symbolises a skinchanger of humans, in particular. Given that the Boltons are symbolically acting as Others in most scenes, this potential parallel between Urswyck and the Boltons would also lend further credence to the Brave Companions acting as symbolic Others.
In a continuation of the parallels between the Others in the AGOT, Prologue and the Brave Companions here, we see the following:
“Are you such a fool as to think the goat can outfight the lion?”
Urswyck leaned over and slapped him lazily across the face. The sheer casual insolence of it was worse than the blow itself. He does not fear me, Jaime realized, with a chill. “I have heard enough, Kingslayer. I would have to be a great fool indeed to believe the promises of an oathbreaker like you.” (ASOS, Jaime III)
Urswyck slaps Jaime “lazily” with “sheer casual insolence“, just as the Others’ parry was “almost lazy” at the end of the duel with Ser Waymar Royce. This once again creates a parallel between the Brave Companions and the Others. Importantly, Jaime realises that Urswyck does not fear him, which is extremely reminiscent of the Night’s King “who knew no fear” and reinforces these Other-like connections.
Urswyck is also linked (loosely) to trees:
Urswyck’s chuckle was papery dry. (ASOS, Jaime III)
Having a papery voice could be an allusion to trees, or speaking with the voice of the trees, which may be important given that the Others themselves appear from the trees. In a similar way, the Undyng Ones in Qarth (who themselves are Other-y greenseer figures). That it is Urswyck’s laugh which is papery may again be an allusion to the Others’ icy laughter.
Urswyck also notes that he has killed his wife:
“Ser Urswyck,” the man said, savoring the sound. “How proud my dear wife would be to hear it. If only I hadn’t killed her.” (ASOS, Jaime VII)
This is very suggestive to me of some kind of Azor Ahai action, what with Azor Ahai killing Nissa Nissa and all that. Moreover, there are some strong connections between Azor Ahai and the Night’s King, most notably Stannis who wield Lightbringer but insists on doing Other-y things like kinslaying and (presumably, relatively soon) child sacrifice.
The cherry on the cake for me is that Urswyck is literally called an Other:
“If you know me, Urswyck, you know you’ll have your reward. A Lannister always pays his debts. As for the wench, she’s highborn, and worth a good ransom.”
The other cocked his head. “Is it so? How fortunate.” (ASOS, Jaime III)
As I say every time I mention this, “other” is an ubiquitous word in the English language, so not every instance of the word “other” is a pun on “Other”. However, as we’ve covered so far and as we’ll cover in future, there is a ton of symbolism that would appear to suggest that the Brave Companions are symbolic Others, so it would make sense for one of the leaders of the group to be labelled with “the other” in a punny sense.
Urswyck is one of the few members of the Brave Companions who has not died yet – we last learned that Urswyck had headed down to Oldtown with a few other members of the company. They haven’t yet popped up, but we are likely to see a significant amount of bloodletting in that region, likely culminating with arch-Night’s King figure Euron Greyjoy invading the town in some Eldritch horror style. We know that George loves to layer his writing to get as many different examples of the same symbolism in one space as possible, so it seems likely to me that these remnants of the symbolic Others/Bloody Mummers will appear in and around Oldtown at roughly the same time.
So that’s it for today – a much shorter essay than usual, given that Urswyck isn’t really a feature of most of interactions with the Brave Companions. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this quick trip through Urswyck’s chapter and reminiscing over the joys of Jaime’s breaking event. I’d love to hear your thoughts, which you can share via the comment box below or by finding me on Twitter @elsmith1994. You can find more of my essays in here, you can find some of John’s excellent work here, and you can subscribe to the blog using the box on the right hand side.
See you soon!
– Archmaester Emma x