“Only Cat”: The Un-Killing Word and the creation of the Night’s Queen

Hello and welcome back to Red Mice At Play, it’s great to see you back in my little corner of the internet. For Spooky month 2020 we’ve been exploring the symbolism of the Brave Companions and discovered a ton of Others-associated symbolism. But, it’s Hallowe’en day Spooktacular so I need a grand finale. With no more Brave Companions to explore, I thought I’d publish this essay about Lady Stoneheart, one of the staple characters of spoopy analysis in the fandom.

Like a significant portion of the fandom, I’ve been following along with History of Westeros’ Valar Rereadis project and the Scraps and Scrolls companion podcast from Ser Joe Buckley and, after some comments in the community VRR discussions and with some priming from Joe, I noticed that there was some really interesting the chapter sequencing at the end of A Storm of Swords. Namely, that we see Lysa killed in one chapter and, in the next, Lady Stoneheart emerges in all her terrifying glory. This sequencing presented a tantalising piece of symbolism that I’m really excited to explore with you guys shortly; before we begin though, I need to introduce the idea of the Killing Word.

Ravenous Reader wrote a stunning and seminal piece of symbolic analysis titled ‘The Killing Word’ – A Re-examination of the Prologue. Ravi takes the idea of the killing word from the 1984 Dune movie (where a word can gain an almost magical power and be weaponised) and applies it to the A Game of Thrones Prologue in a variety of ways. The most important aspect for this analysis is that, after increasing tension between the Night’s Watch brothers, Will whispers a prayer to the woods, and the woods answer:

Will turned away, wordless. There was no use to argue. The wind was moving. It cut right through him. He went to the tree, a vaulting grey-green sentinel, and began to climb. Soon his hands were sticky with sap, and he was lost among the needles. Fear filled his gut like a meal he could not digest. He 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)

In essence, symbolically, Will used a whispered prayer to summon the most powerful weapon of all: the Others. With that weapon, Will manages to defeat his (symbolic) rival, Ser Waymar Royce – only for that killing word to backfire upon him:

The right eye was open. The pupil burned blue. It saw.

The broken sword fell from nerveless fingers. Will closed his eyes to pray. Long, elegant hands brushed his cheek, then tightened around his throat. They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold. (AGOT, Prologue)

If you’ve not checked out this analysis before, I’d highly recommend it. We’ll be leaning quite heavily on Ravi’s conception and interpretation of the killing word motif throughout this analysis, and applying it to A Storm of Swords, Sansa VII and Epilogue. 

Dance with me then by sanrixian

Now, without further ado…

Only Cat

As a brief recap of A Storm of Swords, Sansa VII, this chapter includes snow at the Eyrie, Sansa building snow Winterfell in the Eyrie’s godswood, Littlefinger’s kiss, Lysa’s big villain confession monologue and some casual wife murdering. We’ve covered Sansa’s snow castle scene before, analysing some of the potentially interesting dawn connotations there and others have done deep dives into this scene so I won’t dwell on it too much here. Instead, we’ll enter the chapter straight into the High Hall of the Eyrie, after Sansa has been summoned.

The floors and walls of the High Hall were made of milk-white marble veined with blue. Shafts of pale daylight slanted down through narrow arched windows along the eastern wall. Between the windows were torches, mounted in high iron sconces, but none of them was lit. Her footsteps fell softly on the carpet. Outside the wind blew cold and lonely.

Amidst so much white marble even the sunlight looked chilly, somehow . . . though not half so chilly as her aunt. Lady Lysa had dressed in a gown of cream-colored velvet and a necklace of sapphires and moon-stones. Her auburn hair had been done up in a thick braid, and fell across one shoulder. She sat in the high seat watching her niece approach, her face red and puffy beneath the paint and powder. 

[…]

“Will you play the coy deceiver with me?” her aunt said. “I was not speaking of Robert’s doll. I saw you kissing him.”

The High Hall seemed to grow a little colder. The walls and floor and columns might have turned to ice. (ASOS, Sansa VII)

As with the rest of the chapter, we see that winter truly appears to have the Eyrie in its grip, with cold winds buffeting the castle and pale, chilly daylight illuminating the High Hall. In particular, Lysa is fulfilling the role of ice queen, up in the high seat, wearing her blues and creams. The marble is even veined with blue, bringing up some of the blue blood imagery associated with the Others, and the marble turns to ice. All of this is priming us for some good symbolic Others action.

So, Lysa confronts Sansa with the bard there singing irritatingly and somewhat terrifyingly to mask the sounds of Lysa dragging Sansa over to the Moon Door and hanging her over the edge, when Littlefinger arrives to save the day *cue the most lackluster of hurrahs for Petyr*. To stop his wife from murdering his ward hostage pawn fake daughter future child bride whatever he thinks Sansa is to him, he gives Lysa the platitudes she wants to hear:

“Nor have I. We’re together, just as you always wanted, just as we always planned. Just let go of Sansa’s hair . . .”

“I know, love.” He took another step. “And I am here. All you need to do is take my hand, come on.” He held it out to her. 

“Lysa,” Petyr sighed, “after all the storms we’ve suffered, you should trust me better. I swear, I shall never leave your side again, for as long as we both shall live.”

“Truly?” she asked, weeping. “Oh, truly?”

“Truly. Now unhand the girl and come give me a kiss.”

Lysa threw herself into Littlefinger’s arms, sobbing. (ASOS, Sansa VII)

These platitudes are barefaced lies, which is something that Littlefinger is known for:

It was not Robert at all; it was Littlefinger, grinning, mocking him. When he opened his mouth to speak, his lies turned to pale grey moths and took wing. (AGOT, Eddard XV)

Notably, this quote pairs Littlefinger’s lies with Littlefinger’s mockery, which is quite important in the context of the killing word motif as framed by Ravenous Reader. In her essay, she points out that an important part of the motif is the mocking and condescending tone of Waymar Royce’s commands and demonstrates how Will’s symbolic calling of the Others is a counter to that. Within the essay, Ravi even points to Littlefinger’s mockery as a core part of this motif. It seems interesting to me then that, in a very similar killing word circumstance, Littlefinger is mocking his wife by lying to her, with those lies in turn being linked to mockery. In particular, this line caught my eye:

“I swear, I shall never leave your side again, for as long as we both shall live.” (ASOS, Sansa VII)

This, to me, is particularly cruel – Littlefinger is clearly planning to off his wife at this stage so it’s a real dig that he promises to stay with her for as long as she’s alive. I can just picture him doing the troll meme face at this point – “for as long as we both shall live so like the next thirty seconds then loooool”. That language is also most commonly seen in wedding vows, so he is alluding to their (on Lysa’s part) long-awaited and yearned-for marriage and throwing that back in her face with those words. This double-speak leads us to the most cruel mockery of all:

“My sweet silly jealous wife,” he said, chuckling. “I’ve only loved one woman, I promise you.”

Lysa Arryn smiled tremulously. “Only one? Oh, Petyr, do you swear it? Only one?”

“Only Cat.” He gave her a short, sharp shove. (ASOS, Sansa VII)

This is just a bit of an unnecessary gut punch, right? So check on the mockery front. Moreover, “Only Cat” is a killing word of sorts, as this is Littlefinger’s personal cue to murder Lysa. We know from Ravi’s analysis that the killing word summons the Others (symbolically), so where are they?

And this is where the chapter sequencing becomes veeeery interesting…

Snow in autumn in the riverlands, it’s unnatural, Merrett thought gloomily. It had not been much of a snow, true; just enough to blanket the ground for a night. Most of it had started melting away as soon as the sun came up. Still, Merrett took it for a bad omen. Between rains, floods, fire, and war, they had lost two harvests and a good part of a third. An early winter would mean famine all across the riverlands. (ASOS, Epilogue)

We start the Epilogue with a continuation of the wintry transformation of Westeros, which, given the chapter preceding, I think is meant to show a symbolic throughline in the narratives of the two chapters. We then get the idea of the watchers in the woods:

Beneath the castle ruins, the lower slopes of the hill were so thickly forested that half a hundred outlaws could well have been lurking there. They could be watching me even now. Merrett glanced about, and saw nothing but gorse, bracken, thistle, sedge, and blackberry bushes between the pines and grey-green sentinels. Elsewhere skeletal elm and ash and scrub oaks choked the ground like weeds. He saw no outlaws, but that meant little. Outlaws were better at hiding than honest men. (ASOS, Epilogue)

This language sounds to me to be eerily reminiscent of the precursor to the big Others reveal in the A Game of Thrones Prologue:

A cold wind was blowing out of the north, and it made the trees rustle like living things. All day, Will had felt as though something were watching him, something cold and implacable that loved him not. Gared had felt it too. (AGOT, Prologue)

And, when Merrett finally reaches the ruins of Oldstones, the outlaws appear as if from nowhere which matches with the description of the Others in the A Game of Thrones Prologue emerging silently from the trees. 

They emerged silently from the shadows, twins to the first. Three of them … four … five … Ser Waymar may have felt the cold that came with them, but he never saw them, never heard them. (AGOT, Prologue)

Merrett’s throat was dry. Bloody outlaws, always hiding in the bushes. It had been the same in the kingswood. You’d think you’d caught five of them, and ten more would spring from nowhere.

When he turned, they were all around him; an ill-favored gaggle of leathery old men and smooth-cheeked lads younger than Petyr Pimple, the lot of them clad in roughspun rags, boiled leather, and bits of dead men’s armor. (ASOS, Epilogue)

Altogether, this would suggest that the outlaws here are symbolically acting as the Others – I know, I know that’s literally the exact opposite of the outlaw essay’s conclusions, but I think there is an extenuating circumstance in this symbolic analysis. 

That extenuating circumstance being the appearance of Lady Stoneheart:

The outlaws parted as she came forward, saying no word. When she lowered her hood, something tightened inside Merrett’s chest, and for a moment he could not breathe. No. No, I saw her die. She was dead for a day and night before they stripped her naked and threw her body in the river. Raymund opened her throat from ear to ear. She was dead.

Her cloak and collar hid the gash his brother’s blade had made, but her face was even worse than he remembered. The flesh had gone pudding soft in the water and turned the color of curdled milk. Half her hair was gone and the rest had turned as white and brittle as a crone’s. Beneath her ravaged scalp, her face was shredded skin and black blood where she had raked herself with her nails. But her eyes were the most terrible thing. Her eyes saw him, and they hated.

“She don’t speak,” said the big man in the yellow cloak. “You bloody bastards cut her throat too deep for that. But she remembers.(ASOS, Epilogue)

Ok, while this is technically not her first appearance (Arya has a wolf dream of Nymeria pulling Catelyn’s corpse from the river and the Ghost of High Heart prophesied it), this is the first time we see Lady Stoneheart on page in all of her terrifying resurrected glory. 

She is the ‘extenuating circumstance’ for the usual outlaws symbolism because she is the epitome of a symbolic Night’s Queen figure. One part of this symbolism is that Lady Stoneheart cannot speak, with silenced women being a key motif in A Song of Ice and Fire and this seems to be linked to the Others – more on this later in the essay. She also parallels another arch-Night’s Queen figure, Thistle:

She sucked down a mouthful of the frigid air, and Varamyr had half a heartbeat to glory in the taste of it and the strength of this young body before her teeth snapped together and filled his mouth with blood. She raised her hands to his face. He tried to push them down again, but the hands would not obey, and she was clawing at his eyes

—-

And in the pits where her eyes had been, a pale blue light was flickering, lending her coarse features an eerie beauty they had never known in life.

She sees me. (ADWD, Prologue)

In this scene, Thistle scratches out her eyes, bites off her tongue and becomes a silenced woman and “sees” Varamyr, the man who perpetrated this atrocity upon her; just as Catelyn scratches out her eyes, becomes silenced and “sees” Merrett, a man who perpetrated the atrocity of the Red Wedding upon her. In addition to that, Stoneheart is also the supposed lover of Beric Dondarrion:

And there’s this other band, led by this woman Stoneheart… Lord Beric’s lover, according to one tale. Supposedly she was hanged by the Freys, but Dondarrion kissed her and brought her back to life, and now she cannot die, no more than he. (AFFC, Brienne V)

The notion that the Beric and Stoneheart are lovers reminds us of the tale of the Night’s King, the 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who fell in love with “a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall”, a woman with white skin, blue eyes and skin cold as ice, who he declares his queen and who is described as his “corpse bride”. Here, Beric Dondarrion becomes the ‘lover’ of Lady Stoneheart, a corpse woman with cold blood, pale white skin and blue eyes (before clawing them out at the Red Wedding, anyway), and together they rule the symbolic Night’s Watch the Brotherhood without Banners: this would seem to be a very strong parallel between the two stories and places Lady Stoneheart squarely in the role of Night’s Queen. 

In a more general sense, Stoneheart has also co-opted the Brotherhood Without Banners for her own purposes – rather than their original purpose of protecting the smallfolk of the riverlands, they have now become instruments of Stoneheart’s revenge against the Freys. This fits with the theory that the Others were originally created as some kind of protective force and that this original purpose was subverted. In this case, Stoneheart as a Night’s Queen figure is the subverter. This parallels the original myth of the Night’s King and Queen, where the Night’s King effectively defected from the Watch and broke his vows because of the beauty of the Night’s Queen. There is a fair amount of debate about the willingness of the Night’s Queen figure in this story (much as there is a fair amount of debate about exactly how willing a sacrificial victim Nissa Nissa was), but at least one interpretation of the Night’s Queen figure is the manipulative sorceress figure, which appears to be the role that Stoneheart is playing in the Brotherhood. This Night’s Watch to Other transformation also parallels the killing word from the A Game of Thrones Prologue, as identified by Ravenous Reader: Will whispers a prayer to the woods, which symbolically brings the Others to fulfil his desires to kill Ser Waymar, thus Will betrays the Watch, and Ser Waymar’s death converts him from a defensive force (the Night’s Watch) into an attacking one (a wight in the undead army of the Others). 

Yet another parallel between the Others in the A Game of Thrones Prologue and the Brotherhood in the A Storm of Swords Epilogue is that the Others figures appear to be hunting the protagonist of the chapter. In his brilliant Killing of a Ranger analysis, JoeMagician lays out a very convincing argument that the Others were tipped off to Waymar Royce’s presence and that they laid a trap for him and his men so they could kill them. In exactly the same way, Merrett is lured to Oldstones on the pretense of giving a ransom for Petyr Pimple and is captured and killed by the outlaws instead. Once again, this places the Brotherhood led by Stoneheart in the role of symbolic Others.

The only thing missing from this comparison is what happens next: in the A Game of Thrones Prologue, Will descends from the tree and is murdered by Waymar, the killing word backfiring. So, in this potential comparison, how does (symbolically) resurrecting Catelyn backfire upon Littlefinger? I’m not entirely sure, but my guess would be something to do with the Brotherhood gaining hold of Harrenhal after the Red Wedding 2.0. This would then create an interesting parallel with another witchy woman based in Harrenhal, who led a group of outlaws and broken men in the aftermath of a devastating civil war: Alys Rivers, supposedly a sorcerous queen who “used her poisons and potions to bind men to her, body and soul”. As with the women we’ve seen so far in this essay, Alys is another Night’s Queen figure, as the language describing Alys’ magic clearly parallels the myth of the Night’s King and Queen:

He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. (ASOS, Bran IV)

So, that’s the main bit of killing word analysis I wanted to explore with you guys, but there are another couple of points in Ravi’s killing word essay which are applicable that I’ve not touched upon yet. I know you’re there thinking “blimey, she made it through an essay without mentioning weirwood trees or greenseeing”. Well, not quite…

The silence in the trees

So, I’ve glossed over the greenseeing symbolism so far to really focus in on the symbolism of the killing word and how it applies to Littlefinger, Lysa and Lady Stoneheart in the last A Storm of Sword chapters. As you can see, there are some strong parallels to be drawn between the A Game of Thrones Prologue and the sequencing of the final two A Storm of Swords chapters. Ravenous Reader also includes another two very important aspects to the killing word analysis: greenseeing and silence.

Taking the greenseeing aspect first, Ravenous identifies Will as the greenseer in the scene – Will has to climb the tree to utter the killing word i.e. Will symbolically enters the weirwoodnet. In a similar fashion, we see greenseeing symbolism all over these Storm chapters – or, more specifically, a corrupted form of greenseeing. Huge shout out here to Aemy Blackfyre and All Hail the Night’s Queen, who’ve collaborated on a brilliant essay looking at the Shade of the Evening trees as a corrupted version of weirwoods (the written version can be found on Aemy’s blog and an audio version plus panel featuring Aemy, AHTNQ, Crowfood’s Daughter and myself can be found on Aemy’s YT channel). While we won’t be talking about shade trees explicitly, they share an absolute ton of overlapping, icy symbolism, so I recommend checking that out if you haven’t seen it yet. 

The Eyrie by Anebarone

In Sansa’s Storm chapter, we’re primed for some corrupted greenseers in her description of the godswood at the Eyrie:

The garden had been meant for a godswood once, she knew, but the soil was too thin and stony for a weirwood to take root. A godswood without gods, as empty as me. (ASOS, Sansa VII)

A godswood without gods sounds awfully like something has gone wrong in the weirnet. In addition, godlessness is frequently associated with Others figures, such as Euron Greyjoy (“no godless man may sit the Seastone Chair!”) and the wildlings (who are called “godless savages” [ADWD, Jon XI] from “the godless wild beyond the Wall” [ADWD, Cersei II]).

This godswood scene is where Sansa builds her snow castle and Littlefinger kisses her, an act silently witnessed by Lysa. Lysa’s presence in this part of the chapter is a little odd in that she disappears and re-appears, witnessing but not participating:

Sansa saw Lady Lysa gazing down from her balcony, wrapped up in a blue velvet robe trimmed with fox fur, but when she looked again her aunt was gone. 

[…]

“You’re supposed to kiss her.” Sansa glanced up at Lysa’s balcony, but it was empty now. “Your lady wife.” (ASOS, Sansa VII)

The role of Lysa as witness but not participant is very similar to the (supposed) role of the greenseers watching snippets of past events as they peer through the weirwoodnet – especially as we next see Lysa in the high seat of the Arryns:

Lady Lysa sat on the dais in a high-backed chair of carved weirwood, alone. (ASOS, Sansa VII)

That’s right – Lysa is in a weirwood throne as she’s (symbolically) peering into the shenanigans occurring in the godswood. To me, this is very evocative of Bran in his weirwood throne watching the Winterfell godswood through the eyes of the weirwood tree and quite clearly places Lysa in the role of a symbolic greenseer in this chapter. I assume that we’re going to get more of an idea of what kind of purpose the greenseers are supposed to serve in Winds, but I imagine it isn’t “spy on your husband to find out if he’s perving on adolescents”. This suggests that, symbolically, Lysa may be corrupting the powers of the weirwoodnet to serve her own ends.

In fact, to say the godswood couldn’t support a weirwood tree, the Eyrie sure does have a lot of weirwood around, with Lysa sitting in a weirwood throne and then trying to shove Sansa out of the weirwood Moon Door:

Lady Lysa pulled at Sansa’s arm. It was either walk or be dragged, so she chose to walk, halfway down the hall and between a pair of pillars, to a white weirwood door set in the marble wall. The door was firmly closed, with three heavy bronze bars to hold it in place, but Sansa could hear the wind outside worrying at its edges. When she saw the crescent moon carved in the wood, she planted her feet. “The Moon Door.” She tried to yank free. “Why are you showing me the Moon Door?” (ASOS, Sansa VII)

Doors and doorways symbolise transitional or liminal places, and symbolically they can act as a means of magical transcendence. This symbolism is even more potent when it is a door made of weirwood, given that weirwoods are a literal mechanism for magical transcendence of space and time in A Song of Ice and Fire. It is also symbolism that we see George utilise in a number of places: for example, the Black Gate under the Nightfort is a moving weirwood face which acts as a doorway under the Wall and a symbolic magical transition for Bran and companions, and the House of Black and White has doors of ebony and weirwood which symbolise Arya’s passage between the physical (Braavos) and magical (House of Black and White) realms. 

The Black Gate by Karry Barnett (c) Fantasy Flight Games (picture cropped from Passing the Wall, retrieved from A Wiki of Ice and Fire, 21 Oct 2020)

And what does the weirwood Moon Door allow you to do?

Tyrion glanced at her Moon Door. Mother, I want to see him fly! (AGOT, Tyrion V)

Lord Royce of Runestone gathered forces that swept away the rebels under Jonos Arryn, penning him and his followers in the Eyrie—although this led directly to the murder of the imprisoned Lord Ronnel, when Jonos sent his brother flying out the Moon Door to his death. (TWOIAF, The Targaryen Kings: Aenys I)

The Moon Door allows you to fly, exactly the same language and metaphor that Bloodraven uses to describe greenseeing (and greenseeing adjacent) powers:

Now, Bran, the crow urged. Choose. Fly or die. (AGOT, Bran III)

“You will never walk again, Bran,” the pale lips promised, “but you will fly.” (ADWD, Bran II)

And, of course, this is exactly what Littlefinger makes Lysa do – by pushing her out of the weirwood Moon Door, he makes her fly. However, unlike Bran, Lysa does not get the same choice: fly or die. This will be the subject of a future essay (at some point, probably several years from now at my writing pace) about the choice and choosing; often the Others figures are directed or puppeted in some way, i.e. they don’t get to choose. This is most explicitly shown in the Bronn vs. Ser Vardis Egen duel, as analysed by Bronsterys. Again, this places Lysa in the role of an Other-y, Night’s Queen figure, as she does not get a choice about whether to fly or die: Littlefinger makes the decision that she will fly and die.

Speaking of death, while I don’t think it is made explicit in the text (yet), I do think that most ASOIAF analysts would agree that blood sacrifices seems to be an important part of connecting to a weirwood tree and accessing the power of greenseeing (gestures at the conspicuously missing Jojen and a suspicious bowl of blood-like substance in ADWD, Bran III). Littlefinger has, in effect, performed a blood sacrifice to the weirwood tree in pushing Lysa out of the Moon Door and then, himself, gains the high seat of the Eyrie – symbolically, Littlefinger has gained access to the weirwood throne (and thus the powers of greenseeing) by killing his wife. Hey, doesn’t that sound a lot like Azor Ahai killing Nissa Nissa for a magic sword that could also be a metaphor for the powers of greenseeing? (For what it’s worth, Varamyr does the same with Thistle in the ADWD Prologue, in another symbolic Night’s King-Night’s Queen reenactment.) However, it is a very strange version of blood sacrifice – in that no blood is shed to the weirwood and the weirwood door itself is probably not connected to the weirwood net as a whole. This makes me wonder if this could represent a kind of corrupted blood sacrifice – think of Euron (arch Night King figure) drowning Sawane Botley so as not to shed the blood of another Ironborn, of Drogo (a similar dark lord figure) crowning Viserys so as not to shed his blood in the Mother of Mountains, or of Craster abandoning his sons “to the woods” rather than killing them himself.

So, having flown, where does Lysa land? In literal terms, she has probably landed on an ice spire somewhere off the Giant’s Lance which doesn’t bode well for other flyers in similar circumstances:

Below them was only Sky and sky. Six hundred feet of sky. For a moment she found herself wondering how long it had taken her aunt to fall that distance, and what her last thought had been as the mountain rushed up to meet her. No, I mustn’t think of that. I mustn’t! (AFFC, Alayne II)

Bran looked down. There was nothing below him now but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears. He saw the bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled upon their points. He was desperately afraid. (AGOT, Bran III)

In Bran’s coma dream, we see that similar imagery to Sansa’s description of her aunt’s fall has been used. The impaled on ice language makes me compare these ice spires to the weirwoods, which impale the greenseers underground (ADWD, Bran III), and so this imagery could be considered as an icy, dead, corrupted version of skinchanging/greenseeing.

As I argued above, by taking the chapter sequencing into consideration, Lady Stoneheart could also be considered as a symbolically resurrected Lysa Arryn – it seems an interesting parallel that, as Lysa was sacrificed to the weirwood moon door, Lady Stoneheart appears to us in a godswood. Even earlier than that, we see that Catelyn’s corpse is pulled from a river (ASOS, Arya XIII), alluding to another of Ravenous Reader’s excellent catches: the green sea/greensee pun. Again, this implies Lady Stoneheart as being from the weirwoodnet in a sense, thus tying her to greenseeing. However, by being pulled out of that river, she is symbolically no longer connected to the weirwoodnet; again suggesting some kind of corruption of the weirwoodnet as a whole.

Another important aspect of the killing word essay was, interestingly, silence. Ravenous Reader points out that Will’s ability to speak is frequently taken away from him in the AGOT Prologue, the killing word itself only being a whispered prayer. In addition to that, “no one could move through the woods as silent as Will” and, lo, the Others “slid forward on silent feet”. Silence also appears prevalently in the two ASOS chapters.

One example of this is Lysa’s death. Having spilled the beans, Littlefinger murders her in cold blood (see what I did there? *finger guns*). This symbolic silencing of the truth is also represented by Lysa’s silence in death:

Lysa stumbled backward, her feet slipping on the wet marble. And then she was gone. She never screamed. For the longest time there was no sound but the wind. (ASOS, Sansa VII)

Lysa is literally silent as she is killed. As I briefly mentioned further up the essay, this silenced woman motif is integral to A Song of Ice and Fire, especially around women who speak uncomfortable truths like, say, advertising that the downfall of Ned Stark was orchestrated by Littlefinger to one of the daughters of Ned Stark, and many of these silenced women appear to have Night’s Queen symbolism. The only remaining sound being the wind also invokes greenseeing imagery:

Bran listened. “It’s only the wind,” he said after a moment, uncertain. “The leaves are rustling.”

“Who do you think sends the wind, if not the gods?” (AGOT, Bran VI)

Similarly, Catelyn as Lady Stoneheart is also silent:

“She don’t speak,” said the big man in the yellow cloak. “You bloody bastards cut her throat too deep for that. But she remembers.” (ASOS, Epilogue)

Lady Catelyn’s fingers dug deep into her throat, and the words came rattling out, choked and broken, a stream as cold as ice. (AFFC, Brienne VIII)

Again, as with Lysa in death and as with the AGOT Prologue, Catelyn has been silenced. Notably, her voice becomes cold and broken, sounding like an icy stream. This is very akin to the description of the Others, who are themselves mainly silent and whose voice sounds like ice cracking on a winter lake.

All of this analysis led to some quite interesting discussion points when chatting to Bronsterys a while back that tie into the mythology of the series – which is important, as the mythology frequently references the onset and/or end of the Long Night, so finding out what happened then may provide important clues about the future of the main series (if we guess right). So, let’s break this down (with thanks to Bronsterys for bringing these ideas up). Firstly, Littlefinger and Lysa have some Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa symbolism, as he is her husband and he kills her. They also have some Bloodstone Emperor and Amethyst Empress symbolism: the Bloodstone Emperor murdered his sister, the Amethyst Empress, to become the leader of the Great Empire of the dawn; Littlefinger was raised as a ward at Riverrun, making him and Lysa are foster siblings, and he murders Lysa so he can rule the Eyrie. Secondly, the Eyrie itself is built at the top of a mountain, which is highly suggestive of being the realm of the gods – think here of Mount Olympus, home to (a lot of) the main deities of Ancient Greece. This is also reflected in the presence of a weirwood throne, with weirwood thrones primarily inhabited by greenseers, aka the old gods. Thus, when Littlefinger kills Lysa, he therefore pushes her out of the realm of the gods and into the physical world. In doing so, Lysa symbolically transforms into a vengeful revenant. This suggests that Lady Stoneheart, a blatant Night’s Queen figure, could be the physical manifestation of Nissa Nissa, whose claim to the weirwoods was wrongfully taken from her. Another potential implication is that Night’s King could be Azor Ahai who tried to resurrect his wife and something about it went wrong – recall that Littlefinger says he loved “Only Cat” when doing his Azor Ahai/Bloodstone Emperor wife/sister murder thang, and lo a resurrected Cat appears.

Conclusion

So, let’s sum up what appears to have happened symbolically. Littlefinger sacrifices his wife, Lysa, with a mocking killing word – “Only Cat”. In true “only death can pay for life” fashion, the death of Lysa leads swiftly to the extraordinary resurrection of Catelyn, presumably fulfilling Littlefinger’s deepest wish, signalled by his killing word. Lady Stoneheart then usurps the Brotherhood to enact her vengeance against the Freys, thus co-opting the formerly defensive force into an attacking one. All of this is deeply tied to the weirwoodnet, again reinforcing the proposed links between the Others and the weirwoodnet. This thens suggests that one interpretation of the original events of the Long Night could be the usurpation of the Nissa Nissa figure creating a physical manifestation of vengeance: the Others.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this essay, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on all things Stoneheart and cold killing words. You can comment down below or you can @ me over on Twitter: my handle is @elsmith1994. If you liked this essay, more of my essays can be found here. My good friend, Bronsterys, also has some of his essays on this blog too, and I’d highly recommend checking those out here.

See you all soon, and stay safe folx!

– Archmaester Emma xx

Happy Hallowe’en!

3 thoughts on ““Only Cat”: The Un-Killing Word and the creation of the Night’s Queen

  1. Now *this* is the best one of the Halloween series. Just a tour de force. Too many huge, groundbreaking, revelatory insights to discuss here. So I’ll mention only a tiny side note that I could easily be wrong about. Perhaps the non-blood killings by Drogo (of Viserys), Euron (of Sawane Botley), Littlefinger (of Lysa), and Craster (of his sons) relate to the way that NK-type greenseer figures avoid getting blood on their hands. Just a thought. Either way, I think you’re edging closer to a separate and more consequential point, namely that blood or lack thereof could be involved somehow in the mechanisms of magic. And if so, that’s probably right because it could tie into what Melisandre says about king’s blood, and how the Valyrians made steel with blood sacrifice, and how the weirwoods seem to drink the blood of the sacrificed, and how the mixing of bloodlines might have had something to do with the ancient creation (and/or the recent revival) of the Others and possibly even the dragons as well. Regardless, bravissimo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi John! I’m so glad that you enjoyed this one – any comment from you is always a joy! ❤

      Your points on bloodlessness are great – the lack of bloody hands is a great and really obvious point that I can't believe I overlooked! :facepalm:

      Tying that bloodlessness back to the idea of kingsblood and blood sacrifice is a really exciting idea… Could it be related to the idea of corrupting traditional/self-sacrificial blood sacrifice rituals perhaps? (Thinking here of the work All Hail The Night's Queen and Aemy Blackfyre did on the Shade of the Evening as corrupted weirwoods, with SOTE often having symbolically icy connotations?) Random idea which is probably very wrong, but thought I'd throw it out there 😀

      Like

      1. Yes, I think it’s a great idea for us to start thinking about the event that started the Long Night as a corrupting event in various different ways, starting with the corruption of the weirwoods but perhaps including additonal features as well. We’re told in ADWD that the CotF upon death joined the godhood of the weirwoodnet, so that’s a little bit like acquiring power through self-sacrifice (or at least one’s own death rather than someone else’s). But maybe NK corrupted that by sacrificing someone else instead of, or in addition to, himself? Just speculating wildly here.

        One interesting thing about your analysis in this essay is that it suggests that NQ gets pushed *out* of the weirwoodnet when NK creates her. As you know, the theme of the female puppeteer implies that NQ was herself a greenseer, which would ordinarily place her inside the weirwoodnet. But the two are not necessarily inconsistent, because we know that skinchangers can exercise their powers in the corporeal world: We see it with Varamyr, Bran, Jon, Arya, Coldhands, etc. So it could be that NK is in the tree, NQ is in the corporeal world, and both control Others and wights. But of course now I’m getting into tinfoil speculation.

        I’m enjoying your references to AHTNQ and Aemy Blackfyre’s work, as well as your appearance on the latter’s channel. She seems great.

        Like

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