I Dream of Ramsay Snow

I would like to regale you with an absurdity. And yet, an absurdity that makes a profound amount of sense.

Jon Snow’s dreams are cryptic visions of events that actually happen to Ramsay Bolton.

Futher, Melisandre’s central prediction about Jon’s death could actually have been about Ramsay.

Can I prove it? Depressingly, no. Can I at least provide an interesting read? I certainly hope so. I hope that some of the things I share herein cause your brain juices to flow. There is certainly something eerie between Jon’s dreams and Ramsay Bolton.

So how to explain… I guess I could say ‘Simply revisit almost all of Jon’s dreams (aside from his visitation with Bran) and re-envision them with Ramsay in his place.’

But that’s not very fun. I want to take a specific dream and start there. Note: Not *all* of Jon’s dreams are actually about Ramsay; i.e. the dream in A Clash of Kings where he is visited by Bran.


A Dream of the Dead Marching

That night he dreamt of wildlings howling from the woods, advancing to the moan of warhorns and the roll of drums. Boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM came the sound, a thousand hearts with a single beat. Some had spears and some had bows and some had axes. Others rode on chariots made of bones, drawn by teams of dogs as big as ponies. Giants lumbered amongst them, forty feet tall, with mauls the size of oak trees.

“Stand fast,” Jon Snow called. “Throw them back.” He stood atop the Wall, alone. “Flame,” he cried, “feed them flame,” but there was no one to pay heed.

They are all gone. They have abandoned me.

Burning shafts hissed upward, trailing tongues of fire. Scarecrow brothers tumbled down, black cloaks ablaze. “Snow,” an eagle cried, as foemen scuttled up the ice like spiders. Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again. He slew a greybeard and a beardless boy, a giant, a gaunt man with filed teeth, a girl with thick red hair. Too late he recognized Ygritte. She was gone as quick as she’d appeared.

The world dissolved into a red mist. Jon stabbed and slashed and cut. He hacked down Donal Noye and gutted Deaf Dick Follard. Qhorin Halfhand stumbled to his knees, trying in vain to staunch the flow of blood from his neck. “I am the Lord of Winterfell,” Jon screamed. It was Robb before him now, his hair wet with melting snow. Longclaw took his head off. Then a gnarled hand seized Jon roughly by the shoulder. He whirled …

… and woke with a raven pecking at his chest. “Snow,” the bird cried. Jon swatted at it.
— JON XII, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

And now to begin attempting my explanation. There will be some presumptions that factor into the interpretations, I will do must best to explain them as they occur, otherwise I will tackle them at the end.

I examine this dream on a line-by-line basis.


That night he dreamt of wildlings howling from the woods, advancing to the moan of warhorns and the roll of drums.

This is consistent with the drums and horns that Mors Crowfood has been furiously bleating and beating outside of Winterfell. Theon even observes that the sounds seem to be coming from the Wolfswood:

The drumming seemed to be coming from the wolfswood beyond the Hunter’s Gate. They are just outside the walls.
— A GHOST IN WINTERFELL, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

So, far so good. Obviously no compelling evidence of a connection on this alone.


Boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM came the sound, a thousand hearts with a single beat.

This is a much more powerful line. First, the ‘boom DOOM’ is also consistent with Mors’s actions outside of Winterfell:

No sooner had the sound of the warhorn died away than a drum began to beat: BOOM doom BOOM doom BOOM doom.
— A GHOST IN WINTERFELL, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

So, chalk up one more point for the similarity between Jon’s dream and the happenings at Winterfell.

But even more striking is the notion of ‘a thousand hearts with a single beat’. Recall that this paragraph is about the advancing wildlings. First of all, we know that Mance likes to play “Two Hearts that Beat as One” as a wedding song, and also refers to it casually when addressing Jon and Ygritte:

Quick as that, it was done. Weddings went more quickly in the north… The musicians began to play again, and the bard Abel began to sing “Two Hearts That Beat as One.”
— THE PRINCE OF WINTERFELL, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS


Mance nodded. “Good. You’ll go with Jarl and Styr on the morrow, then. Both of you. Far be it from me to separate two hearts that beat as one.”
— JON II, A STORM OF SWORDS

These notions strongly suggest a horde of wildlings, wedded to a single cause. And what cause could that be?

“The only man who can bind them to your cause is Mance Rayder.”
— JON I, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS


Mance had spent years assembling this vast plodding host, talking to this clan mother and that magnar, winning one village with sweet words and another with a song and a third with the edge of his sword, making peace between Harma Dogshead and the Lord o’ Bones, between the Hornfoots and the Nightrunners, between the walrus men of the Frozen Shore and the cannibal clans of the great ice rivers, hammering a hundred different daggers into one great spear, aimed at the heart of the Seven Kingdoms. He had no crown nor scepter, no robes of silk and velvet, but it was plain to Jon that Mance Rayder was a king in more than name.
— JON II, A STORM OF SWORDS

Mance it seems is the cause to which these wildlings are marching. Curiously, enough we see in Jon’s final chapter that the wildlings are quite ready to march on Winterfell if Mance is there.


Some had spears and some had bows and some had axes.

This neatly characterizes the Thenns and several other tribes within the wildling clans:

The Magnar would be coming up that road before the day was done, his Thenns marching behind him with axes and spears in their hands and their bronze-and-leather shields on their backs.
— JON VII, A STORM OF SWORDS


Many wielded bronze axes, though a few were chipped stone. More had short stabbing spears with leaf-shaped heads that gleamed redly in the light from the burning stables.
— JON VII, A STORM OF SWORDS


The moonlight glimmered off their spears and axes, and the gruesome devices on their round leathern shields; skulls and bones, serpents, bear claws, twisted demonic faces. Free folk, he knew.
— JON VII, A STORM OF SWORDS


Jon saw men advancing on the Wall with bows and axes.
— JON VIII, A STORM OF SWORDS

So clearly the text has gone well out of it’s way to let us know that the Thenns use spears and axes; and that some element of the wildlings use bows (it’s never quite explained who exactly). What’s wrong with this picture, is that per Jon’s dream, he’s on top of the Wall. If Jon is on top of the wall, then why are the Thenns north of the wall?


Others rode on chariots made of bones, drawn by teams of dogs as big as ponies. Giants lumbered amongst them, forty feet tall, with mauls the size of oak trees.

This is more or less obvious. The first line refers to the wildling clan who lives along the Frozen River:

…the men of the Frozen Shore who rode in chariots made of walrus bones pulled along by packs of savage dogs…
— JON II, A STORM OF SWORDS

The giants are also obvious.

What’s interesting here is the distortion in scale. Jon is familiar with both the wildling clans and the giants, so why the notable distortion? I believe it’s because Jon’s assumed frame of reference -atop the Wall- is actually incorrect. Said another way, the reason the giants and dogs appear so large is not because they are actually large, but rather because the wall Jon is on is much smaller. I hope this will make more sense as I cover more of the dream and pull things together.


They are all gone. They have abandoned me.

My hypothetical explanation for this must be delayed to a later point. It won’t really make sense if produced now.


Burning shafts hissed upward, trailing tongues of fire. Scarecrow brothers tumbled down, black cloaks ablaze.

A lot of this I cannot explain, the burning shafts flying upward for instance.

The idea that burning arrows are being fired upward and are destroying the ‘scarecrow brothers’ again suggests that the ‘Wall’ is much smaller in this dream that in reality.

It should also be noted that there are analogs for the ‘scarecrow brothers’ at Winterfell, in the form of the ‘snowy sentinels’ the squires have built along the battlements.

This begins a pattern that repeats in the dream — descriptions in terms of metaphor or concepts that Jon understands — but refer to other things entirely.


Snow,” an eagle cried, as foemen scuttled up the ice like spiders.

Obviously, “Snow” could just be Mormont’s raven screaming the word at Snow, the first of many efforts to wake him up from the dream. It’s also novel because it’s his surname — and Ramsay’s. But that doesn’t really mean squat for proving anything.

The second thing of note is the description of Jon’s foes ‘scuttling up the ice like spiders’. This is a clear reference to wights and the Others. It suggests that Jon’s foes are the dead returned and the like. An important observation as we head into the next few paragraphs.


Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist.

Being ‘armored in black ice’ could mean anything from wearing some sort of armor to being encased in a layer of ice. However, it is better understood in the context of the second half of the sentence. Clearly the sword is a reference to Lightbringer, and the supposed heat it generates. As a whole the passage suggests that although Jon is enduring bitter cold – perhaps inadequately garbed for the cold, but he feels that the cold is offset by the sword.

But there’s two odd things about that. First of all Jon knows that Lightbringer is false, at least Stannis’s version (and Jon has no interest in finding a real one, even subconsciously). Second, the text very specifically says that ‘his blade burned red’, not ‘his blade burned hot’. Couldn’t this mean that although the sword burns, it generates color – not heat?

I’m left with the impression that the sword is being held by someone (Jon in the dream; Ramsay given my hypothesis) who does not know that the sword is false. Someone who falsely thinks it shields them from the worst of the weather.

This idea is consistent with the theories out there that Stannis will fake his own death (the best example is from the essay written by BryndenBFish about the forthcoming siege of Winterfell). If we believe that Stannis gave up his sword as some sort of proof that he had been killed, one can see how Ramsay would have come to acquire the sword.

Again, I admit that’s speculative. But as per BryndenBFish’s writings, Stannis faking is own death has been quite cleverly foreshadowed – so it’s not unreasonable.

The notion that Stannis fakes his defeat and death is vital to the rest of the dream’s interpretation.


As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again. He slew a greybeard and a beardless boy, a giant, a gaunt man with filed teeth, a girl with thick red hair. Too late he recognized Ygritte. She was gone as quick as she’d appeared.

So first of all, we see that Jon is dreaming about killing dead men. Wait! Wasn’t he just dreaming about wildlings!? I’m confused.

Or am I? If I continue with the idea that Stannis fakes his own death, are there analogues for each of the ‘victims’ described here?

  • The greybeard and the beardless boy. Greybeard could refer to just about any faction, the term is pervasive throughout A Dance with Dragons. What’s interesting is the notion that we’re talking about ‘already dead’ greybeards and beardless boys. Going by the connotation in the books, ‘greybeards’ and ‘beardless boys’ are the last to fight. In fact, the only reason they are a part of any of the northern forces is because they were conscripted as a last resort. Further, the greybeards and green boy wildlings have already either submitted to the Nights Watch and been admitted to the realm, or they fled with Mother Mole to Hardhome. This leads to the obvious conclusion that it makes no sense that he’s fighting greybeards and beardless boys at the Wall.
    Now what is interesting is the reference to beardless boys. ‘Beardless’ is hardly used throughout the book: Asha uses it to mock Qarl the Maid, Tyrion uses it when describing Aegon/Young Griff. Sure it seems synonymous with ‘green boy’, which does appear multiple places, but I don’t think that’s really helpful.
    What really, really nails it — is Theon’s observations about Mors Umber’s forces outside Winterfell:

    Aside from a handful of half-crippled serjeants, the warriors that Crowfood had brought down from Last Hearth were hardly old enough to shave.
    — THEON I, THE WINDS OF WINTER

    This cements the likelihood that this phrase could certainly refer to Mors’s levies.

  • The giant. Combined with the previous greybeard and beardless boy, I think this is quite easily Mors Umber. Although it could obviously just be a giant, too.
  • The gaunt man with filed teeth. Although not quite as impressively deconstructed, this certainly seems like a reference to one of the cannibals from the ice-river clan of wildlings. It could perhaps be a reference to something or someone more obvious that I’m just missing as well.
  • A girl with thick red hair. Although Jon identifies her as Ygritte in the dream, this is clearly Melisandre. Notice that he specifically points out that she ‘vanished’ as soon as she’d appeared: strangely consistent with how Melisandre appeared to him briefly as Ygritte in Jon VI, ADWD. Besides, it can’t be Ygritte anyhow; her burned her body.

So we see there is a lot to suggest that this portion of the dream is referring to an oddment of wildlings and Umber soldiers, with the addition of Melisandre and perhaps a giant or Mors himself.

It certainly makes more sense that Ygritte somehow coming back from cremation, hair and all.


The world dissolved into a red mist.

I believe this signifies a ‘cut’, in the cinematic sense. It separates what came before from what comes after. I say this because what ‘comes after’ makes a tremendous deal of sense for Ramsay, but at a different time.


Jon stabbed and slashed and cut.

If we continue along with my fanciful hypothesis, I believe this is a reference to Ramsay killing Little Walder, alongside Big Walder. It’s a distraction from my essay to try and explain this well-founded theory, if you are unfamiliar with the idea I recommend looking for it on Google, there are many posts written about the idea.


He hacked down Donal Noye and gutted Deaf Dick Follard. Qhorin Halfhand stumbled to his knees, trying in vain to staunch the flow of blood from his neck.

This strikingly matches with the injuries and happenings that occur after Little Walder’s body is brought into Winterfell’s Great Hall:

One lunged at Ser Hosteen with a dagger, but the big knight pivoted and took his arm off at the shoulder.


…one of the Bastard’s Boys, Luton, was dying noisily, crying for his mother as he tried to shove a fistful of slimy entrails back through a gaping belly wound.


Four White Harbor knights had formed a ring around Lord Wyman, as Maester Medrick labored over him to staunch his bleeding.

It’s a striking match to Jon’s dream: a one-armed man, a gutted man and someone bleeding profusely from the neck.


“I am the Lord of Winterfell,” Jon screamed. It was Robb before him now, his hair wet with melting snow.

This is clearly a reference to the segment in A Storm of Swords where Jon thinks back to his sparring sessions with Robb:

And then the years were gone, and he was back at Winterfell once more, wearing a quilted leather coat in place of mail and plate. His sword was made of wood, and it was Robb who stood facing him, not Iron Emmett.

Every morning they had trained together, since they were big enough to walk; Snow and Stark, spinning and slashing about the wards of Winterfell, shouting and laughing, sometimes crying when there was no one else to see. They were not little boys when they fought, but knights and mighty heroes. “I’m Prince Aemon the Dragonknight,” Jon would call out, and Robb would shout back, “Well, I’m Florian the Fool.” Or Robb would say, “I’m the Young Dragon,” and Jon would reply, “I’m Ser Ryam Redwyne.”

That morning he called it first. “I’m Lord of Winterfell!” he cried, as he had a hundred times before. Only this time, this time, Robb had answered, “You can’t be Lord of Winterfell, you’re bastard-born. My lady mother says you can’t ever be the Lord of Winterfell.”
— JON XII, A STORM OF SWORDS

This suggests that the dream represented the idea that Jon killed Robb because he fitfully wanted to prove that he could be the lord of Winterfell. This is disturbingly appropriate if we recontextualize the dream as being about Ramsay; because he indeed killed his half-brother Domeric to lay claim to his inheritance to the Dreadfort.


Then a gnarled hand seized Jon roughly by the shoulder. He whirled … … and woke with a raven pecking at his chest. “Snow,” the bird cried. Jon swatted at it.

This obviously could be an indication of his killer. A gnarled hand suggests someone who is old, wizened, hard.

The raven did its best to peck through his palm. Sam yowled, the bird flapped off, corn scattered.

“Did that wretch break the skin?” Jon asked. Sam gingerly removed his glove. “He did. I’m bleeding.”
— JON II, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

Figuratively speaking, the pecking could be indicative of a stabbing. A point I return to momentarily.

First, I want to jump to Melisandre and look at her vision of Jon:


Melisandre Sees a Bastard

I have seen you in the storm, hard-pressed, with enemies on every side. You have so many enemies. Shall I tell you their names?”

“I know their names.”

“Do not be so certain.” The ruby at Melisandre’s throat gleamed red. “It is not the foes who curse you to your face that you must fear, but those who smile when you are looking and sharpen their knives when you turn your back. You would do well to keep your wolf close beside you. Ice, I see, and daggers in the dark. Blood frozen red and hard, and naked steel. It was very cold.”
— JON I, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

Ramsay is clearly beset on all sides with enemies. There is no doubt that many of the northern lords at Winterfell would love to betray him.


You would do well to keep your wolf close beside you

We all take this to mean that Jon needs to keep Ghost close. However, what’s equally (and bizarrely) appropriate is that Ramsay should have also kept his ‘wolf’ -his false Arya- close.


Ice, I see, and daggers in the dark. Blood frozen red and hard, and naked steel. It was very cold.

First of all, blood frozen red and hard *nails* the description of Little Walder’s body:

The body in Ser Hosteen’s arms sparkled in the torchlight, armored in pink frost. The cold outside had frozen his blood.
— THEON, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

The cold and the ice are heavily represented in the same scene:

A cold wind came swirling through, and a cloud of ice crystals sparkled blue-white in the air.
— THEON, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

And daggers… What’s funny is just how strongly this makes sense for Ramsay given some innocuous flavor Martin added to the Winterfell chapters:

No longswords had been allowed within the hall, but every man there wore a dagger, even Theon Greyjoy. How else to cut his meat?
— THE PRINCE OF WINTERFELL, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

It’s amazing how well it all fits. It strongly suggests that Ramsay could be stabbed with a dagger. But by whom?

Going back to that ‘gnarled hand’; I believe the dream suggests that he would be stabbed by Hother Whoresbane.

Going back to that bit I skipped earlier, where Jon’s dream recounts that he’s been abandoned: I believe that refers to the departure of all but the most stalwart of Ramsay’s allies. It’s all conjecture, but it’s not hard to imagine scenarios that would cause allies to depart. If Stannis was so inclined, he could have sent the Mormont fishing sloops down to encroach on the Rills or on Barrowton itself; in an attempt to draw the Dustins and Ryswells away from the Boltons (particularly after news of a ‘false victory’ arrived). Hell, they could have just departed after a false victory anyhow.


The other dreams…

I don’t particularly believe or enjoy this part that much but what the heck…

Jon has several other dreams from the books that have always implied a strong association between himself and the crypts in Winterfell. There are a great many theories about these dreams.

What if they were about Ramsay as well? I won’t go through them line-by-line like the previous examples, but here are some excerpts:

Last night he had dreamt the Winterfell dream again. He was wandering the empty castle, searching for his father, descending into the crypts. Only this time the dream had gone further than before. In the dark he’d heard the scrape of stone on stone. When he turned he saw that the vaults were opening, one after the other. As the dead kings came stumbling from their cold black graves, Jon had woken in pitch-dark, his heart hammering.


He dreamt he was back in Winterfell, limping past the stone kings on their thrones. Their grey granite eyes turned to follow him as he passed, and their grey granite fingers tightened on the hilts of the rusted swords upon their laps. You are no Stark, he could hear them mutter, in heavy granite voices. There is no place for you here. Go away. He walked deeper into the darkness. “Father?” he called. “Bran? Rickon?” No one answered. A chill wind was blowing on his neck. “Uncle?” he called. “Uncle Benjen? Father? Please, Father, help me.” Up above he heard drums. They are feasting in the Great Hall, but I am not welcome there. I am no Stark, and this is not my place. His crutch slipped and he fell to his knees. The crypts were growing darker. A light has gone out somewhere.


“Sometimes I dream about it,” he said. “I’m walking down this long empty hall. My voice echoes all around, but no one answers, so I walk faster, opening doors, shouting names. I don’t even know who I’m looking for. Most nights it’s my father, but sometimes it’s Robb instead, or my little sister Arya, or my uncle.” The thought of Benjen Stark saddened him; his uncle was still missing. The Old Bear had sent out rangers in search of him. Ser Jaremy Rykker had led two sweeps, and Qhorin Halfhand had gone forth from the Shadow Tower, but they’d found nothing aside from a few blazes in the trees that his uncle had left to mark his way. In the stony highlands to the northwest, the marks stopped abruptly and all trace of Ben Stark vanished.

“Do you ever find anyone in your dream?” Sam asked.

Jon shook his head. “No one. The castle is always empty.” He had never told anyone of the dream, and he did not understand why he was telling Sam now, yet somehow it felt good to talk of it. “Even the ravens are gone from the rookery, and the stables are full of bones. That always scares me. I start to run then, throwing open doors, climbing the tower three steps at a time, screaming for someone, for anyone. And then I find myself in front of the door to the crypts. It’s black inside, and I can see the steps spiraling down. Somehow I know I have to go down there, but I don’t want to. I’m afraid of what might be waiting for me. The old Kings of Winter are down there, sitting on their thrones with stone wolves at their feet and iron swords across their laps, but it’s not them I’m afraid of. I scream that I’m not a Stark, that this isn’t my place, but it’s no good, I have to go anyway, so I start down, feeling the walls as I descend, with no torch to light the way. It gets darker and darker, until I want to scream.” He stopped, frowning, embarrassed. “That’s when I always wake.”

There’s a lot to digest here, but I’ll try to make it quick:

  • Dead Kings stumbling from their graves. Could this be a reference to Mance, who after all is ‘in a cage for all the north to see?’
  • I don’t even know who I’m looking for. Could indicate that he doesn’t know a person’s identity – say the spearwives or Abel?
  • He screams that he’s not a Stark. Doesn’t really need an explanation.
  • Drums from above, but he’s unwelcome. Jon was always welcome in Winterfell’s Great Hall. This only makes sense if he was somehow inside of it while it was occupied by someone else who was feasting –OR– if it was Ramsay and he’s hiding from the forces drumming as they enter the castle.
  • A light going out. This suggests that there may have been a light with him but that it goes out.
  • An injury. Jon dreams himself on a crutch, and that he collapses in the darkness.

Summary

Ok, so I have some spitballs to throw at this. But before we leap into fun speculations, I’d like to summarize what I think are fair observations:

  • Jon’s dream about a battle at the Wall could easily apply to Ramsay at Winterfell instead.
  • Jon’s other dreams could also apply to Ramsay in some fashion.
  • Melisandre’s vision of Jon’s danger could also have been for Ramsay instead, or perhaps both of them.
  • It’s fair to say that Jon’s dreams and the subconscious concerns they indicate help us understand Ramsay.

A Fan-Service Imagining of Events

With those out of the way, I’d like to share a fanciful interpretation of what this all might mean.

  1. Stannis fakes his own defeat. Men of some flavor return bearing Stannis’s Lightbringer as proof of the defeat; while the ‘main forces’ lag behind in their return to Winterfell.
  2. Bannermen depart. I imagine the Ryswells, Dustins and others may depart to return to their homes; or be drawn away by threats to their holdings. Roose Bolton may depart for the Dreadfort.
  3. Armies converge on Winterfell. This being wildlings and the Umbers at least, perhaps Stannis as well. *Yes* I know this presumes a working relationship between Stannis and the wildlings, something I’d like to say ‘let’s talk about that some other time.’
  4. Hother betrays Ramsay. Probably stabs him.
  5. Ramsay survives, flees into crypts. Wounded but alive, he flees into the crypts; to search for his supposed captive, Mance, for leverage. His light source is none other than Lightbringer.
  6. Lightbringer goes out. That chill wind, the ghosts of Winterfell, etc. Lightbringer goes out.
  7. Mance, the dead king, emerges. Maybe he kills Ramsay, who knows. I personally don’t think so. I think he escapes the crypts while Ramsay is stuck.
  8. Armored in black ice. I believe that Mance exits the crypts while Ramsay is in them. The door to the crypts then freezes shut, encased in black ice; preventing Ramsay’s departure.

It’s kind of embarrassing to write that sort of fan-service, but it is perhaps one way of dreamily interpreting these observations. I don’t believe it when I write it, but if GRRM did I would accept it.


Taking a step back from the fan service – I think the key observation here is just how strongly GRRM made the connection between Jon and Ramsay… quite literally the dreams and visions about Jon equally apply to Ramsay to a conspicuous degree.

4 thoughts on “I Dream of Ramsay Snow

  1. Kuruharan

    You make an interesting argument, particularly the point of Ramsey being in possession of Lightbringer when everything begins to go bad for him. However, I still think the idea is a bit of a stretch.

    Reply
  2. Kimberly

    Could you link a story about the whole Ramsay killing Walder bit? I’m googling my butt off and coming up with nothing except Big Walder killing Little Walder

    Reply

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