Influences: And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

And Seven Times Kill Man! has probably the largest influence on A Song of Ice and Fire of any of Martin’s other works. First published in Analog in 1975, it tells the story of a race of primitive religious pacifists who are largely annihilated by a cult of warlike humans who seek to colonize their planet.

There is so much clear, potent influence on A Song of Ice and Fire it’s practically Martin plagiarizing his own work.


Contents

  1. Synopsis
  2. Surface Similarities
  3. Deeper Connections
  4. Major Themes
  5. Implications & Speculations

Synopsis

And Seven Times Never Kill Man! tells of a trader in alien artifacts who lives on a planet inhabited by a peaceful and enigmatic non-human race called the Jaenshi. They worship the mysterious plastic/obsidian-like pyramids they build their settlements around.

The peace is shattered by the arrival of a militaristic religious cult known as the Steel Angels, who worship a god called Bakkalon. These zealots begin to claim increasingly large sections of the alien’s land as they try to colonize the planet. The Angels destroy several of the Jaenshi pyramids and scatter many clans.

The trader tries to organize the aliens to fight back, but they seem largely indifferent to the threat. This is an excellent story, the aliens are interesting and original, it’s well-written and it has a very effective ending.

   —From Voidhawk.com

Important Characters

Arik neKrol: The ‘main’ character. A trader who arrived at Corlos in search of valuable trade goods. He finds himself increasingly sympathetic to the oppressed Jaenshi.

Proctor Wyatt: The religious and military leader of the Steel Angels. He is a prophet and visionary.

Jannis Ryther: Arik’s trading partner. She picks up his trade goods and attempts to find buyers off-world.

C’ara Haran: The weaponmaster of the Steel Angels. Something of an independent figure who questions his faith and Wyatt’s visions.


Surface Similarities

  • The title itself and the wolf pack
    The title of the story itself is a reference to a well-known poem from Rudyard Kipling, Law of the jungle. The concepts in the poem are almost directly quoted during Eddard’s talk with Arya, when he talks about how the pack survives.
  • Winter is coming
    The iconic words from House Stark is uttered quite prominently in a key scene: “Winter is coming, Proctor, and much must be done.”
  • The Jaenshi and the Children of the Forest
    The Jaenshi are a primitive culture that primarily build tools and weapons from bone and wood. They live closely with nature, are pacifist in nature and center their culture around the worship of idolized pyramids in their villages. Most notably, the Jaenshi are known for their carving of wood statues, a striking parallel to the carving of weirwoods.
  • Golden-eye natives
    The Jaenshi are noted as having golden eyes, which is indeed a superficial parallel to the children of the forest.
  • Steel Angels and Andals
    The Steel Angels arrive at Corlos, the planet of the Jaenshi, and set about destroying the Jaenshi culture and religious pyramids using lasers and advanced technology. The name, Steel Angels is very close to the Andals, who arrived in Westeros and set about destroying the weirwoods with steel and fire. They also bear a strong resemblance to the red priests of R’hllor and their rather zealous, belligerent nature (as depicted by Melisandre).
  • Pyramid destruction and weirwood burnings
    The Angels destroy the Jaenshi culture by demolishing their religious idols, the miniature pyramids that are found in their villages. This is strongly reminiscent of the weirwood burnings performed by the First Men before the pact and the Andals thereafter.
  • The Heart of Bakkalon
    The cult of the Steel Angels is focused around the worship of a fiery god called Bakkalon. Their faithful are said to burn with fiery hearts.
  • Bakkalon in ASOIAF
    Bakkalon even appears as a deity in Essos (in a scene at the House of Black and White): “Soldiers lit candles to Bakkalon, the Pale Child, sailors to the Moon-Pale Maiden and the Merling King.”
  • Bakkalon and Azor Ahai
    Bakkalon is described as a pale child armed with a beaten sword of black metal. According to myth he defeated the armies of alien invaders using nothing but his black which they could not withstand. Sound familiar?
  • The Sons of Hranga and the Others
    There is the story of how Bakkalon defeated the Sons of Hranga, an invasive army of creatures with demon-teeth and red eyes that came from ‘above’ (since this is sci-fi, one must figure that it means they came from outer space). Likewise, the Others come from a place that exists beyond the borders of the known world.
  • Dragonglass
    The peaceful Jaenshi race build their religious pyramids out of a black-red, slightly translucent material. It shatters into sharp jagged pieces that resemble a very sharp jagged plastic, or arguably obsidian. When you consider that Bakkalon defeated the Sons of Hranga using a black metal sword, it seems to be a parallel to the dragonglass and the Others.
  • The White Knife
    There is a river called the White Knife, just like the river that ends at White Harbor in Westeros.

Deeper Connections

A Loss of Faith

Although I’d rather not dwell on it overmuch, once again Martin has a story full of idle agnostics and doubters. The central character is a trader who seems to try and sit astride the cultural borders between the Steel Angels and the Jaenshi. He shows no indication of belief for any particular belief. In fact he outright states his concerns about the subject:

“It is often better to be without gods,” neKrol told her. “Those below us have a god, and it has made them what they are. And so the Jaenshi have gods, and because they trust, they die. You godless are their only hope.”
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man

Additionally, we see that the Weaponmaster C’ara of the Steel Angels begins to doubt the veracity of the claimed miracles put forth by their religious leader Wyatt. He confides doubts about the faith in Bakkalon to Wyatt as well, and later has concerns about the validity of claimed miracles. In both cases Wyatt uses his position as Proctor to austerely reprimand or silence C’ara.

These attitudes manifest themselves most readily in A Song of Ice and Fire in the character of Tyrion, and perhaps others that escape me.

In their respective tales, Tyrion and Arik neKrol are both protagonists of a sort. Additionally, I believe community consensus is that Tyrion is the closest to an authorial character in ASOIAF (this may have been made explicit by Martin but the source eludes me).

The strong suggestion here is one that is pervasive throughout Martin’s writings: a concern with faith in gods, how they drive both compassionate and inhuman behaviors. And yet contrasting with that is the somewhat lonely feeling of being an outsider and a skeptic.

The Texas Sharpshooter and the perils of prophecy

Take a gun and shoot over and over again at the side of barn. Then go up and draw a bulls-eye around the largest cluster of bullet holes. Congratulations! You have committed the ‘Texas Sharpshooter fallacy’, finding facts to suit an opinion after the data has been gathered.

Twice in Seven Times we see that prophecy and visions behave this way. First the talker (religious leader) of one of the Jaenshi clans refuses the laser rifles neKrol offers:

“I have had a vision, Arik. The god has shown me. But also he has shown me that it would not be a good thing to take this [a laser rifle] in trade.”
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

The details of the talker’s vision are not explained, but suffice it to say the vision must have detailed how the problem of the Steel Angels would be resolved for his clan. Which must not have happened since the clan’s pyramid was taken and the clan sundered by the Angels. And yet the story’s ending shows us in fact that the talker’s vision may have indeed indicated how the Angels could be defeated (explained below).

Similarly the religious leader of the Angels, Wyatt, declares that he has had prophetic visions. These visions tell him that the Jaenshi will eventually come to realize the greatness and truth of Bakkalon and will therefore submit readily.

At a later point in the story, the Angels begin finding statues of their god Bakkalon in the rubble of shattered Jaenshi villages. Wyatt takes this as an indication of the vision’s accuracy, and that the Jaenshi have recognized their subordinate position.

However, this is proven somewhat incorrect later on. While the Jaenshi majority are indeed quiet and non-combative, the ‘godless’ Jaenshi children kill the Weaponmaster at the story’s climax (again, explained below).

The lack of specificity in these visions allow for a variety of ways to later see how they came true. There are two central flaws with this reasoning:

The concept of proving a prophecy true ‘after the fact’ creates a bias and incentive to find proof. It abuses the human desire to find a pattern where none might exist (the sharpshooter fallacy).

It makes it far too easy to see a simple explanation that fits the prophecy and accept that as fact and proof of the vision, instead of finding the explanation that best fits the evidence. It undermines the use of Occam’s razor in our attempts to deduce the prophesied events.

This concept of “rendering prophecy devoid of preemptive actionable value” has often been used in A Song of Ice and Fire. Pick out a prophecy or vision and virtually all of them have clues that are appear obvious only in hindsight. Although the visions were given in advance there was no way characters could put them to practical use.

A classic example among the ASOIAF community is the ‘maid who slays a savage giant in a castle of snow’. The most straightforward interpretation is that the vision symbolized Sansa destroying Robert Arryn’s doll. Yet many readers believe it foreshadows Sansa killing or defeating Littlefinger. They look for the situation that best confirms their idealized interpretation of the vision.

The subtle victory

It’s striking to note that the Jaenshi eventually defeat (in a roundabout fashion) the invading Steel Angels. To explain the general details of this subterfuge, and how it relates to ASOIAF, requires some exposition.

  • Arik neKrol is a trader. He came to Corlos and the Jaenshi in search of valuable trade goods.
  • The only apparent trade good are the statuettes that the Jaenshi carve into the likenesses of their gods.
  • He trades and gathers these statuettes and has them shipped off to other worlds to determine if they are valuable. He’s convinced they will be immensely valuable.
  • The Steel Angels cannot communicate with the Jaenshi and their religion declares that they are soulless. Arik is the only person who can communicate with them.
  • There is no evidence to suggest that they ever knew about Jaenshi craftsmanship. Indeed the story makes it explicit that they have no awareness of Arik’s trade goods or statues.
  • The story begins with the hanging of Jaenshi children from the walls of the Angel’s base. This is the by-product of the Jaenshi managing to kill one of the Angels.

With these concepts in mind we proceed to the mid-point in the story. In the middle of the Angels crusade against the Jaenshi, they begin to find statuettes carved into the likeness of their god Bakkalon.

The Angels’ prophet Wyatt concludes that these events confirm his prophesy: that the Jaenshi have realized their status as sub-humans and are no longer a threat, that no more Angels will perish. This appears to buy the Jaenshi peace for a time. However, the creatures begin to amass in a sort of refugee camp at a village at the base of a waterfall.

The sizable congregation appears as a threat to the Angels, who move to destroy the village’s pyramid, in an attempt to scatter the creatures to the wilds.

During this mission one of the Angels is killed, proving the Proctor’s vision false. The Angels retaliate by attempting to decimate the remaining Jaenshi population. However, they find that the waterfall village’s religious pyramid-monolith has become transparent and contains a perfect likeness of Bakkalon.

The Angels are transfixed by this apparent miracle, the transformation of Jaenshi pyramid into an icon of Bakkalon. They transport the pyramid back to their fortress and use it as a new focal point of their worship.

However, in their redoubled fanaticism, they begin destroying their winter stores and hanging their own children from the walls. This is done under the bizarre auspices that such a winnowing and hardship will only further temper the Angels, and that winter will not come this year. Further there are subtle indications that the Angels are perhaps slowly undergoing a metamorphosis into the Jaenshi themselves:

His eyes burned as he spoke to her; eyes darting and fanatic, vast and dark, yet strangely fleck with gold.
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

And further, the tale makes it all but explicit at the end:

The Heart of Bakkalon was sunk forever. In a thousand thousand woods and a single city, the clans had begun to pray.
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

The only city on Corlos is the home of the Steel Angels. The text refers to the Angels as one of the ‘clans’, strongly suggesting that they too have begun to worship as the Jaenshi do. After all, are they not worshiping at a Jaenshi pyramid (even if it appears like a glass case with their idol inside)?

Given the immense similarities between the Jaenshi and the children of the forest, would it be at all surprising that the same concept is how the First Men came to eventually worship the same weirwoods as the children? That the ‘old gods’ and the children somehow made the weirwoods seem to physically resemble the gods of the First Men? Thus over time merging the culture of the First Men with that of the children?

It seems like a perfectly rational possibility.

The universals of myth

Is there any evidence to suggest that the Angels would eventually, fully convert to the same form of worship as the Jaenshi?

If the symmetry between the Angels/Jaenshi and First Men/Children extends beyond the superficial, I believe so.

When the trader Arik is gathering the Jaenshi statuettes, we have some intriguing excerpts:

The statues were his favorites, always; so often alien art was alien beyond comprehension, but the Jaenshi workmen touched emotional chords in him. The gods they carved, each sitting in a bone pyramid, wore Jaenshi faces, yet at the same time seemed archetypically human: stern-face war gods, things that looked oddly like satyrs, fertility goddesses like the one he had bought, almost-manlike warriors and nymphs. Often neKrol had wished that he had a formal education in extee anthropology, so that he might write a book on the universals of myth.
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

What’s significant about this is that Arik knows these statues are of Jaenshi gods, but bear strikingly similar features to that of human deities and fey creatures. He also seems to find them strikingly beautiful, touching ’emotional cords’ in him.

When the prophet Wyatt receives the first Jaenshi statuette, he immediately recognizes it as Bakkalon. But is it really?

In accordance with the above passage, could not the likeness of Bakkalon instead be a statuette of some Jaenshi god, simply mistaken by prophetic zeal?

Lastly, there is one other passage in Seven Times that reinforces the suggestibility of man, that we can see importance in situations that are in truth random:

The Proctor glanced briefly beyond the walls. The night was crisp and cold and there was no moon. He felt transfigured, and even the stars seemed to cry the glory of the pale child, for the constellation of the Sword was high upon the zenith, the Soldier reaching up toward it from where he stood on the horizon.
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

As with astrology and real-world constellations, while it is a natural affair to see images and meaning; the real truth is that they are human projections of our own symbols.

Soul-feeds, weapons of the old gods

Another interesting observation: Both Arik the trader and Wyatt the prophet become dedicated to the idea of preserving the pyramid from the waterfall clan. The extent of these protective compulsions is so strong it threatens (and ultimately takes) their lives.

Despite the ‘heroism’ we readers initially see in Arik’s attempts to train the Jaenshi to fight back, he’s still just a trader at heart. He takes an extreme risk, under what readers assume is some sort of compassion. Compassion or no, he was one man against an entire military and would likely never have a happy resolution.

Arik even points how that his association with the Jaenshi and their plight has started to make him (an apparent atheist) more religious:

“Do you believe in evil?” Arik neKrol asked Jannis Ryther as they looked down on the City of the Steel Angels from the crest of a nearby hill…

“Evil?” Ryther murmured in a distracted way…

“Evil,” neKrol repeated. The trader was a short, pudgy man, his features decidedly mongoloid except for the flame-red hair that fell nearly to his waist. “It is a religious concept, and I am not a religious man. Long ago, when I was a very child growing up on ai-Emerel, I decided that there was no good or evil, only different ways of thinking.” His small, soft hands felt around in the dust until he had a large, jagged shard that filled his fist. He stood and offered it to Ryther. “The Steel Angels have made me believe in evil again,” he said.
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

He also acknowledges that there is no real plan or hope for the Jaenshi even if they succeed against the Angels:

And neKrol watched her, and wondered. He and his six were the hope of the Jaenshi, he had said; if so, was there hope at all? The bitter speaker, and all his exiles, had a madness about them, a rage that made him tremble. Even if Ryther came with the lasers, even if so small a group could stop the Angels’ march, even if all that came to pass—what then?
Should all the Angels die tomorrow, where would his godless find a place?
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

Also suicidal in another fashion was Arik’s decision to try and trade Jaenshi statuettes. When his trade partner Jannis returns to Corlos after attempting to find a buyer for the first shipment of statuettes. Jannis ruminates on how worthless the statues in fact were: she cannot fathom what moved Arik to care so greatly about them when there were much more lucrative products at hand:

“Statues,” Ryther muttered, half to herself and half to the Jaenshi. She
shook her head. “Why did he do it?” she asked them, knowing they could
not understand. “A trader of his experience? You could tell me, maybe, if
you knew what I was saying. Instead of concentrating on deathcloths and
such, on real Jaenshi art, why did Arik train you people to carve alien
versions of human gods? He should have known no dealer would accept such obvious frauds. Alien art is alien.” She sighed. “My fault, I suppose.
We should have opened the crates.” She laughed.
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

Arik clearly had a distorted perception of the value of the statuettes. It’s ironic because he at one point declares that he came to Corlos to look for drugs, herbs or some alcohol that would trade well. However, he overlooks those items that almost exactly fit those criteria:

As it was, he had been sent here entirely on speculation, in hopes of finding a Jaenshi drug
or herb or liquor that might move well in stellar trade.
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

For food, they foraged; juicy blue-black fruits grew everywhere, and there were three varieties of edible berries, a hallucinogenic leaf, and a soapy yellow root the Jaenshi dug for.
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

Perhaps I’m overstating the value of the hallucinogen, but he never even tried.

Finally, Arik (the professed non-religious trader) expresses this distorted thinking in his inner monologue, described in religious terms:

…nowhere had he found artists like the Jaenshi. Not for the first time, he wondered why neither Kleronomas nor Chung had mentioned the native carvings. He was glad they hadn’t, though, and fairly certain that once the dealers saw the crates of wooden gods he had sent
back with Ryther, the world would be overrun by traders. As it was, he had been sent here entirely on speculation, in hopes of finding a Jaenshi drug or herb or liquor that might move well in stellar trade. Instead he’d found the art, like an answer to a prayer.
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

There’s an amusing irony that the statuettes are not only the answer to his prayer, but to Wyatt’s and the Jaenshi as well.

Wyatt the prophet and leader of the Angels seems to experience a similar kind of enchantment. He tells his followers that the winter has given him dark and troubled dreams. Prophetic dreams that only he could riddle out. These dreams gave him the vision that the Jaenshi have learned and accepted their sub-human status.

However, the Weaponmaster C’ara seeks a private counsel with Wyatt. He expresses his concern that sometimes a vision can be false, a manipulation by some alien means:

“In the old days,” C’ara DaHan was saying, “many weapons were used against the children of Bakkalon. Some, today, exist only in tales. Perhaps they never existed. Perhaps they are empty things, like the gods the soft men worship. I am only a Weaponmaster; such knowledge is not mine.

“Yet there is a tale, my Proctor—one that troubles me. Once, it is said, in the long centuries of war, the Sons of Hranga loosed upon the seed of Earth foul vampires of the mind, the creatures men called soul-feeds. Their touch was invisible, but it crept across kilometers, farther than a man could see, farther than a laser could fire, and it brought madness. Visions, my Proctor, visions! False gods and foolish plans were put in the minds of men, and …”
— And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

This begs the question: Could the Jaenshi or their pyramids somehow be ‘injecting’ such false visions into Wyatt’s dreams and fostering Arik’s irrational affection for the Jaenshi statuettes and pyramids? Alternatively, could they be reading Wyatt’s dreams and visions?

If this was the case, it certainly makes sense of some conspicuous events that happen. Suddenly what looked like a miracle to the Angels and proof of Wyatt’s prophecy, is instead some the product of some being or force which had induced (or learned of) the visions it could later make true.

It should be noted that C’ara’s concern was not based entirely on superstition. His official position in the Angel hierarchy is “chief of Psychological Weaponry and Enemy Intelligence”. Thus his concern about ‘soul-feeds’ was rooted in the suspicious nature of Wyatt’s dreams.

When he tells Wyatt these concerns, the Proctor tells him he’s wrong and only if his vision is proven false could they suspect a ‘soul-feed’. Wyatt then challenges C’ara that soulless creatures like the Jaenshi cannot work miracles, that suggesting otherwise is heresy.

Thus later when the statues are procured and hailed as Wyatt’s foretold miracle, C’ara expresses his doubts. When the other officers insist it is a miracle, C’ara quiets because he knows protesting further marks him as a heretic.

Thus the pride of the prophet prevents him from valuing the counsel of loyal doubters.

How does all of this relate to A Song of Ice and Fire?

  • Bloodraven (and Bran) are shown to be capable of communicating with dreamers.
  • Jojen Reed points out that weirwoods are believed by the children to in fact be the old gods:
    Maesters will tell you that the weirwoods are sacred to the old gods. The singers believe they are the old gods. When singers die they become part of that godhood.”
    — BRAN III, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS
  • Thus Bloodraven or Bran are effectively analogs for the Jaenshi pyramids, and much like the soul-feeds of Seven Times are perfectly capable of entering and altering the dreams of others.
  • Subsequently, couldn’t they induce ‘prophetic visions’ in Melisandre and subsequently prove them true in an effort to manipulate her and others?
  • Considering that the Jaenshi soul-feeds appear to trick the prophet Wyatt into worshiping the old gods, this strongly suggests that Bloodraven/Bran might do the same with a prophet in A Song of Ice and Fire.
  • The strongest candidate for this would be Melisandre. And in fact, there is even the suggestion that Bloodraven and Bran are indeed aware of her presence.
  • The idea that dreams are a source of manipulation has precedence in ASOIAF:
    She had no time for sleep, with the weight of the world upon her shoulders. And she feared to dream. Sleep is a little death, dreams the whisperings of the Other, who would drag us all into his eternal night.
    — MELISANDRE, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS
  • Like the glass pyramid with Bakkalon inside, couldn’t Bloodraven or Bran engineer a method to re-appropriate the red god such that the R’hllor worshipers actually act to preserve (or even revere) the weirwoods instead of burning them?
  • Further, couldn’t they induce ‘prophetic visions’ in Melisandre and subsequently prove them true in an effort to manipulate her and others?
  • Howland Reed is stated as being able to ‘talk to trees’. This suggests that he can commune with the weirwoods (and thus the old gods, aka Bloodraven and Bran).
  • This implies that Howland may have a role in enacting whatever deceits the old gods pursue. Particularly if it involves tricking others into religious compatibility (a variation on the Catholic idea of inculturation).

Possibilities deriving from these observations will be more fully explored in the Implications section below.


Major Themes

The corrupting desire to see meaning where none exists

We see this in Wyatt’s obsessive affection for the Jaenshi statuettes, and that he thinks they are human-like. And yet no other humans care for them. We see Wyatt’s prophecy ultimately will result in the end of the Steel Angels.

Melisandre’s obsessions with Stannis as Azor Ahai has caused her to multiple times incorrectly interpret her visions or approach them with an open-mind.

We see that Daenerys had become greatly concerned with the prophecies given to her by Quaithe, constantly suspicious of betrayals and perfumed seneschals.

Cersei has gone mad with her fear of the valonqar.

The compassion and madness of religious fervor

The Quiet Isle and Septon Meribald show us that religious compassion can bring about true ‘goodness’ in the world (or at least the most reasonable good we can expect in Westeros).

Conversely, we have Melisandre burning people alive, Baelor the Blessed imprisoning his sisters, and the various crusades against the children of the forest and the First Men.

Doubt and yet faith

A common theme that emerges from this comparison (and the other essays I’ve written in this series) is that Martin is preoccupied with a doubt in the existence of higher powers, and that the great and evil things that happen (both on earth and in Westeros) are the products of mortal men and women.

And yet, this is coupled with a faith in some basic concepts:

A belief that one should have compassion for the suffering,
a respect for the desire to live,
and the chance to pursue some measure of peace and mastery of the chaos that exists in the world.

These observations are consistent with the most ambivalent, the most Martin-like protagonists in his fiction: Tyrion in A Song of Ice and Fire and Arik neKrol in Seven Times, and both Lukyan Judasson and Damien Har Veris from The Way of Cross and Dragon.

Still waters run deep

ASOIAF and Seven Times share the element that the Jaenshi and children both worship apparently idle gods in silence. There is no easy evidence to find that their gods are even listening.

And yet, in both cases we see astounding manifestations of their capacity; the transforming pyramid and Bloodraven’s greensight.

The perception that emerges is that the most subdued of faiths are no less rewarding than the flashy and dramatic.

If I may be so bold as to inject some of my own bias, I find that Martin’s writing is suffused with Taoist philosophical principles:

  • That good and evil may exist, but only in context
  • These contexts which are constantly changing and evolving
  • Therefore the meaning of good and evil are perpetually undefinable as constant unwavering absolutes.
  • Additionally, the concepts of good and evil (and other similar dichotomous constructs) require each other in order to be understood in rational terms.
  • In conclusion, an understanding of the complexity of the world goes beyond simple judgments and requires a holistic ability to perceive the totality of life, good and bad; the ability to see such duality as elements of a larger whole.

Is this indicated in the text anywhere? Yes:

“Up and down,” Meera would sigh sometimes as they walked, “then down and up. Then up and down again. I hate these stupid mountains of yours, Prince Bran.”

“Yesterday you said you loved them.”

“Oh, I do. My lord father told me about mountains, but I never saw one till now. I love them more than I can say.”

Bran made a face at her. “But you just said you hated them.”

“Why can’t it be both?” Meera reached up to pinch his nose.

“Because they’re different,” he insisted. “Like night and day, or ice and fire.”

“If ice can burn,” said Jojen in his solemn voice, “then love and hate can mate. Mountain or marsh, it makes no matter. The land is one.”
— BRAN II, A STORM OF SWORDS

Thus the idea that the Jaenshi or the children are just simple people who worship gods who do nothing is an incomplete representation. It would be more correct to observe that they simply do not perceive spirituality or morality as a concept that can be distilled or encapsulated into any ideology which could be written down or communicated.

The silent, solemn worship of the old gods (in both Seven Times and ASOIAF) are strikingly compatible with these ideas. There is a relevant quote here:

As any old Taoist walking out of the woods can tell you,
simple-minded does not necessarily mean stupid.
— Benjamin Hoff, author of The Tao of Pooh

Now these Taoist similarities may be entirely unintentional. Despite that they remain a valuable method of inquiry into the religious and skeptical themes that permeate Martin’s work.


There is a favorite Taoist parable that neatly conveys one of its central messages, the one most relevant to our discussion:

“When an old farmer’s stallion wins a prize at a country show, his neighbor calls round to congratulate him, but the old farmer says, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

The next day some thieves come and steal his valuable animal. His neighbor comes to commiserate with him, but the old man replies, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

A few days later the spirited stallion escapes from the thieves and joins a herd of wild mares, leading them back to the farm. The neighbor calls to share the farmer’s joy, but the farmer says, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

The following day, while trying to break in one of the mares, the farmer’s son is thrown and fractures his leg. The neighbor calls to share the farmer’s sorrow, but the old man’s attitude remains the same as before.

The following week the army passes by, forcibly conscripting soldiers for the war, but they do not take the farmer’s son because he cannot walk. The neighbor thinks to himself, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” and realizes that the old farmer must be a Taoist sage. ”
— from Know No Limits

Thanks for reading. The remainder of this essay consists of speculations which you may or may not care for.

E N D

*   *   *


Implications & Speculations

  • One of the most notable speculations is that Howland Reed may be complicit in some scheme to realign one of the other religious factions, to suit the purposes of Bloodraven and/or Bran. Is this possibly an indication of the High Septon theory?
  • Could Bloodraven/Bran be planting visions in Melisandre’s head, and subsequently proving them true?
    After all, there is some doubt about who planted the three eyeless heads outside the Wall in Melisandre, ADWD; and if those heads are actually the proper fulfillment of that prophecy. It’s entirely plausible that Coldhands could have killed the three rangers and planted the bodies. Thus Melisandre wholeheartedly believes her vision has been correctly fulfilled when in fact it was simply ‘faked’ by Bloodraven.
  • I strongly believe that Jon is being similarly manipulated by Bloodraven, via Ghost. The idea extends beyond the linked post, and I believe Ghost’s physical touch transmits suggestions (similar to a soul-feed), as evidenced in Jon’s final chapter in A Storm of Swords and Jon VII, ADWD. The purpose of these manipulations is to secure the movement of the large wildling force south of the Wall. These certainly line up with some rather ridiculously serendipitous events, such as Jon ending up back in the hall in time for Mormont’s raven to make its surprise entrance.

11 thoughts on “Influences: And Seven Times Never Kill Man!

  1. warenhaus

    hi cantuse, thanks a lot for this post.
    I just finished “And Seven Times…” and didn’t quite get the ending, mostly because I didn’t know the word “cull” (not a native speaker), so I saw now connection/reason to the hanging of their own children.

    thank you for the explanation/confirmation.

    Reply
  2. itsaclassicc

    First of all, great post. I also noticed a similarity between these two quotes:

    And the children cried out, ‘We have beaten them into plowshares, oh Bakkalon!’
    “And He was sore angry. ‘With plowshares, then, shall you face the Sons of Hranga! With plowshares shall you slay the Horde of Fyndii!’ And He left them, and heard no more their weeping, for the Heart of Bakkalon is a Heart of Fire.
    “But then one among the seed of Earth dried his tears, for the skies did burn so bright that they ran scalding on his cheeks. And the bloodlust rose in him and he beat his plowshare back into a sword, and charged the Sons of Hranga, slaying as he went. Then others saw, and followed, and a great battle-cry rang across the worlds.
    -Seven Times

    And more succinctly: “Peace,” said her uncle Brynden. “Peace is sweet, my lady… but on what terms? It is no good hammering your sword into a plowshare if you must forge it again on the morrow.
    -A Game of Thrones

    Reply
    1. cantuse Post author

      Interesting find. It’s novel to see that Brynden prefers to avoid making plowshares at all… why bother attempting peace if the specter war is on the far horizon.

      Reply
    1. cantuse Post author

      Interesting comparison… not sure entirely about the roles though… Wyatt might be more like Melisandre than Stannis.

      But the story similarities are definitely interesting in that ASTNKM! begins with children hanging from the walls of the Steel Angels’s fort.

      Reply
  3. Alex

    I largely agree with this analysis of the short story but I think think it’s pretty clear that it’s not that the humans are having a distorted perception of the statuettes and interpreting them according to their own lights, but that the statuettes were created by telepathic Janeshi who read the humans’ minds and used that information to create things that would appeal to them. The descriptions of the statuettes don’t really have any ambiguity in them; they’re clearly depictions of human gods, even Jannis acknowledges that. But Arik remarks on how odd it is that nobody who studied the Janeshi before mentioned the fact that they carve statues; and when he asks the Janeshi talker who the statues depict, she has no idea. And he thinks the statues are very valuable and fascinating, when, on the market, they objectively are not. They are also reading the Steel Angels’ minds to create the statues of Bakkalon

    Reply
  4. Edgar_in_Indy

    I was going to post the same thing as Alex, that the statues and the Bakkalon imagery were likely lifted from the minds of the humans.

    I don’t have the story in front of me, but looking back, it seems clear that the beings in the pyramids were able to not only read minds, but also to exert control over minds, as is demonstrated very clearly in the end by the actions of the proctor, as well as by his earlier visions.

    So I’m wondering what the strong motivation was for the three Janeshi to leave the planet to go to other worlds. Were they just wanting to get away? Or was it a case of the pyramid beings wanting to explore and/or colonize other worlds?

    I also recall that the appearance of the Janeshi eyes were also mentioned several times in the story. Something about them lighting up or glowing gold at key moments. Looking back, it may have foreshadowed when the Janeshi were being controlled by the pyramids.

    Perhaps if I had the story in front of me, a second reading would answer these questions…

    Reply
  5. Samuel Rooke

    Excellent, excellent analysis. Really liked how you formatted and set it all out too. There’s not a lot of online discussion on some of GRRM’s earlier stories, so it really pleases me to see a big comprehensive analysis like this of one of my favourites. Great work!

    Reply

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