Bran has rejoined the waking world and the first thing GRRM does is make the paraplegic boy sit on a windowsill and watch his brother play tag with the direwolves. Remember when life didn’t suck Bran? Yeah, that’s never happening again.
On the upside, Baby Rickon is having a moment of joy in his otherwise bleak life. Having been abandoned by his parents and lost more than half his siblings, Mowgli is running with the wolves. Shaggydog, Grey Wind (Robb’s wolf, I’m not sure I’ve had a chance to mention his name yet) and Summer are all babysitting, like Nana the Saint Bernard only toothier. If Peter Pan tried to pull his kidnapping bullshit in Winterfell, they’d find his body with its throat ripped out and the only trace of Tinker Bell would be sparkly dust on Shaggydog’s muzzle.
Bran is understandably angry and bitter at his new situation, but having recently turned all of eight years old, he considers himself “almost a man” and “too old to cry.” I think witnessing the execution was some kind of Winterfell bar mitzvah.
One of the things Bran is angry about is the crow from his near-death coma because it lied about him being able to fly. Maybe you just need to think a happy thought, Bran. (It would be just like GRRM to insert Peter Pan flying mechanics into his world and then proceed to suck all the happy out of it, wouldn’t it?) Old Nan says that all crows are liars. What does that mean in a world where ravens are used to transmit messages, I wonder. She offers Bran a story about a crow, but he doesn’t want anything to interfere with the pity party he’s throwing himself, he hates this new life he woke up to, he hates Old Nan and her stories too!
Old Nan, to her credit, has dealt with so many generations of Stark brats, particularly ones called Brandon, that she doesn’t even blink at his rudeness. She’s been in Winterfell for so long that even Ned has only ever known her as Old Nan, ever since she came to be a wet nurse to aBrandonwho was Bran’s grandfather’s brother or uncle, or someone like that. Her own children have either died in the various wars or moved away and now the only relative she has left in Winterfell is Hodor the stableboy (whose actual name is Walder, Hodor’s just the only thing he can say), her great-grandson.
Old Nan, Hodor, Robb, and Rickon: these are the few people left in Bran’s life. I mean, there’s a castle full of servants, but other than that, Bran feels abandoned and forgotten. Especially so because messenger birds have been sent with news of his recovery to his parents and Jon, but nobody’s written back. Meanwhile, Bran is stuck spending his days in a room with Old Nan for company, because Robb has to be Lord of the Manor now. Rickon has major abandonment issues, any time Robb needs to go away for business, he cries. They better not tell Ned about that, he’ll think Rickon is a sissy.
Old Nan offers Bran a story about Brandon the Builder, the Stark who built Winterfell, but that’s not the story our Bran likes. Bran likes scary stories. Have you heard the one about the hitchhiker with a hook for a hand, Bran? Old Nan doesn’t know that one, she tells him a story about the coldest winter and the Others and the lone hero who tried to seek out the children of the forest to stand against the Others, and just as the story reaches its climax, the hero alone and surrounded by giants white spiders (archery from stealth, then one-handed sword and fire in the off-hand! Wait, sorry, wrong fantasy, wrong medium) the door opens with a bang, as doors are wont to do during a tension-building moment.
It’s Maester Luwin and Hodor. Luwin is here to inform Bran that guests have arrived and his presence is required. Hodor is here to carry Bran to the hall because wheelchairs haven’t been invented yet and even if they have, what would be the point without an elevator and accessibility ramps?
Bran is carried into a tense stand-off between Robb and the Winterfellows and Tyrion and the Imps. Sadly, a motherfucking walk off doesn’t happen, instead they just snipe at each other. Robb pointedly welcomes the Night’s Watch men but not Tyrion and Tyrion pointedly refuses to ignore the rudeness. The real reason Tyrion is here at all is his promise to Jon to help Bran, but first he asks if Bran remembers anything about his fall. (He doesn’t and he never falls!) The help comes in the shape of plans for a saddle that will allow Bran to ride a horse without the use of his legs. There’s a nice little parallel to Tyrion teaching Jon to accept the “bastard” label when Bran objects to being called a cripple. Robb is suspicious of Lannisters bearing gifts and Tyrion does this thing where he tells the truth (that he cares about people who need help) in a sarcastic way that makes no one believe him.
Then Mowgli and the wolf pack burst in and decide Tyrion is perfectly snack-sized. Well, the wolves decide that, Rickon’s not that feral yet. Tyrion’s only slightly mauled before the boys call their direwolves off. Robb very thanks Tyrion for the saddle plans and invites him to stay, but Tyrion spares everyone the awkwardness and chooses to stay at an inn. Robb extends a welcome to the Black Brothers, who do take him up on it.
Bran is carried back to bed where he cuddles his wolf and thinks happy thoughts about horseback riding. Hey, a happy thought! Maybe he can fly now. His dreams, however, are not happy. What they are, are highly symbolic. In the dream, he’s climbing a tower and above him are whispering gargoyles who look like misshapen lions. They go after him and he tries to beg for mercy by saying “I didn’t hear.” Those are the words he’s still saying as he wakes up. After the nightmarish nap, it’s time for dinner with the visiting Night’s Watch brothers who tell them about Jon, and about Ben. The Black Brothers seem resigned to having lost Uncle Ben, but Robb refuses to do the same. Remembering Old Nan’s stories, Bran voices a hope that the mythical children of the forest will help his uncle. While some laugh (coughTheonAssjoycough), Yoren of the Watch says that no one really knows what’s myth and what’s real beyond the Wall.
After dinner, it’s back to bed, and this time Robb take Bran up himself. He blows out the candle and then it’s just two little boys alone in the dark. They talk about the horse Bran is going to ride and about their parents coming home and about visiting Jon at the Wall. And then they hold hands and cry because when was the last time any such pleasant plan went well in the world they live in?
It’s very touching and heartstring-tugging. Even sadder is the fact that Rickon, conspicuously absent from this scene of brotherly comfort, is probably curled up in a stable somewhere with only his direwolf for company. Poor Rickon, even GRRM himself forgets him.