The Hooded Man Uncloaked


Probably one of the biggest mysteries in A Dance with Dragons is the identity of the hooded man. Many people have been proposed, from Robett Glover to Harwin to Theon himself in some dissociative state.

However, I believe I can make the most compelling case that the hooded man is none of these more well-known options. This essay explains my theory about the hooded man and his purpose in Winterfell.

Laying my cards on the table, here are the key assertions I make:

Roger Ryswell either an idiot or is actively hampering the investigation into the murders at Winterfell.

That’s because the first person assassinated in Winterfell was in fact Roger Ryswell.

Mors Umber had the ruby cuff originally worn by Mance Rayder.

Roger’s likeness was thereafter assumed by Mors Umber, permitting him entry into Winterfell.

Mors Crowfood (in the guise of Roger Ryswell) is the Hooded Man.

Access to Winterfell is what enabled Mors to verify the readiness for the rescue mission, prior to sounding his horns.

NOTE: This essay may be controversial in its construction and conclusions. It should be noted that the identity of the hooded man is not truly critical for the remainder of the Mannifesto to be worthwhile. This essay is rather self-contained, affecting nothing else in the Mannifesto.

In other words, if you don’t like this essay, you can just ignore it and continue on.


  1. The Ruby Cuff. The whereabouts of a magical manacle.
  2. Early Signs of the Giant. Mors Umber’s silent arrival at Winterfell.
  3. The Idiot of Ryswell. Various oddities concerning Roger Ryswell. The argument that he is the hooded man.
  4. Death of a Ryswell. Roger Ryswell’s death as an element of the rescue mission.
  5. Setting the Stage. How does the Hooded Man play into Crowfood’s actions.
  6. Implications. What all of this means.

*   *   *


20130822_160510I’d like to take a brief moment and highlight something important.

“To fight Lord Stannis we would first need to find him,” Roose Ryswell pointed out. “Our scouts go out the Hunter’s Gate, but of late, none of them return.”

Scouts are vanishing outside the Hunter’s gate. This is the same gate where Mors Crowfood appears to arrive at a day or two later:

The drumming seemed to be coming from the wolfswood beyond the Hunter’s Gate. They are just outside the walls.

The vanishing of scouts seems like something Mors would be responsible for. It is consistent with what we find in the Theon sample chapter from The Winds of Winter: building deadfalls and otherwise hampering/killing those who depart the gates. At the very least, Mors doesn’t want any scouts to find his band of boys and report it back to Roose Bolton.

More importantly, the missing scouts indicate that Mors was actually outside Winterfell at least a day (and perhaps more) prior to playing his warhorns.

But why would he sit there in secret?

To answer this question we have to delve into the mystery of the hooded man.

<table of contents>

*   *   *


It’s hard to imagine the kind of oblivious mind it takes to be Roger Ryswell. There is something suspicious about the magnitude and nature of his idiocy.

The Idiot of Ryswell

I’d like to take a moment and provide a few excerpts:

“A drunk,” Ryswell declared. “Pissing off the wall, I’ll wager. He slipped and fell.”

“These dead were all strong men,” said Roger Ryswell, “and none of them were stabbed. The turncloak’s not our killer.”

Roger Ryswell grunted. “If not him, who? Stannis has some man inside the castle, that’s plain.”

Ryswell was not convinced. “He loves his steaks and chops and meat pies, though. Prowling the castle by dark would require him to leave the table. The only time he does that is when he seeks the privy for one of his hourlong squats.”

Now this might just be me, but doesn’t it seem like he’s almost deliberately denying any possible explanation for the murders?

From a reader’s perspective, isn’t it also bizarrely coincidental that Roger makes claims that contradict several tricks we actually do see in A Dance with Dragons:

  • He implied that the killer(s) are male when we know they are female.
  • He said Manderly is too fat and lazy to be an enemy, while readers know that Wyman’s visits to the privy are quite plausibly full of conspiracy.
  • While Theon is not the killer, he does eventually join the conspiracy.
  • And further, when he can’t find a good explanation, Roger declares that the victim was a drunkard and dismisses the issue.

Roger denies the three of the different conspiracies which we learn are either true or come to be true later in the book and quickly discounts the remainder.

How does a person get to be that good at accidentally stymieing a murder investigation?

*   *   *

A Lack of Eye Contact

When you think of the Hooded Man, and the description we have of him, there are only two details that come to mind: his cloak and his eyes.

Farther on, he came upon a man striding in the opposite direction, a hooded cloak flapping behind him. When they found themselves face-to-face their eyes met briefly. The man put a hand on his dagger. “Theon Turncloak. Theon Kinslayer.”

So we see that Theon takes brief notice of the man’s cloak. We also see that Theon avoids eye contact with the man.

This lack of eye contact may be important to ascertaining the hooded man’s identity. There is no doubt that Theon avoids eye contact in general, we can assume it happens quite a bit.

However, I would like to point out another very interesting example that shows Theon deliberately avoiding eye contact or looking at a person’s face:

Steelshanks led him back to the Great Keep and the solar that had once been Eddard Stark’s. Lord Bolton was not alone. Lady Dustin sat with him, pale-faced and severe; an iron horsehead brooch clasped Roger Ryswell’s cloak; Aenys Frey stood near the fire, pinched cheeks flushed with cold.

“I am told you have been wandering the castle,” Lord Bolton began. “Men have reported seeing you in the stables, in the kitchens, in the barracks, on the battlements. You have been observed near the ruins of collapsed keeps, outside Lady Catelyn’s old sept, coming and going from the godswood. Do you deny it?”

“No, m’lord.” Theon made sure to muddy up the word. He knew that pleased Lord Bolton. “I cannot sleep, m’lord. I walk.” He kept his head down, fixed upon the old stale rushes scattered on the floor. It was not wise to look his lordship in the face.

Did you notice the face that Theon failed to account for?

Lady Dustin sat with him, pale-faced and severe; an iron horsehead brooch clasped Roger Ryswell’s cloak; Aenys Frey stood near the fire, pinched cheeks flushed with cold.

Why is it that we get descriptions of the faces of Barbrey Dustin and Aenys Frey but only the cloak and clasp of Roger Ryswell? Heck, even though Theon doesn’t look at Roose Bolton he at least accounts for the reason for not doing so.

Keep in mind this interrogation happens shortly after Theon’s encounter with the hooded man, so the furtive eye contact may be indicative of behavior continued from that prior encounter.

Further, an extremely minor detail is that Theon dwells on Roger’s cloak, the only other detail we have about the hooded man.

There are other interesting elements of Theon’s interrogation as well:

Missing Fingers

When Lady Dustin demands Theon to remove his gloves: Roger Ryswell shows no interest in Theon’s missing fingers. The other attendees (Barbrey Dustin and Aenys Frey) both specifically comment on his hands. Ryswell does not, instead immediately discounting Theon as a suspect not on the basis of fingers, but on Theon’s lack of strength. He calls him a turncloak here as well. Perhaps his lack of interest in Theon’s hands is because he’s already seen them.

Feuding Bannermen

The other interesting thing about Ryswell here is his particular distaste for Wyman Manderly. Although insulting Manderly’s character is very common, Manderly and Ryswell have no great cause for animosity and thus Ryswell’s remarks about Wyman are quite emphatic:

Ryswell was not convinced. “He loves his steaks and chops and meat pies, though. Prowling the castle by dark would require him to leave the table. The only time he does that is when he seeks the privy for one of his hourlong squats.”

This is a particularly venomous insult.

There is one man in the north who had made such characteristically crude comments about Wyman. Mors Crowfood Umber:

“Manderly?” Mors Umber snorted. “That great waddling sack of suet? His own people mock him as Lord Lamprey, I’ve heard. The man can scarce walk. If you stuck a sword in his belly, ten thousand eels would wriggle out.”

The Umbers and Manderlys are known to clash over various issues, like the inheritance of Lady Hornwood’s holdings. Regardless of any current truce they may have, Mors remains a person unlikely to restrain such disparaging remarks.

*   *   *

By now you can see that I’m beginning to assert the following two points:

  • Roger Ryswell seems like either an accidental saboteur or a covert antagonist. In particular he’s mucking with the murder investigation.

  • Roger is also likely the hooded man.

I must admit that I’ve only presented interesting-but-circumstantial evidence thus far.

I don’t doubt that these points feel only partially constructed at this point. Have faith. The rest is coming in a few moments.

<table of contents>

*   *   *


Mance_Rayder_by_Lukasz_Jaskolski,_Fantasy_Flight_Games©So where is the “ruby cuff” – the cuff that Melisandre put on Mance Rayder in A Dance with Dragons?

We know that this cuff seemed to create and sustain a glamor (or illusion), that Mance Rayder was actually Rattleshirt.

This seems like an incredibly valuable tool, particularly when you talk about the kinds of furtive activity that Mance and Mors are involved in.

So where is it? What could be done with it?

Mance Revealed

First of all, we know that Mance is not currently wearing the ruby cuff, or it is disabled at the very least. His appearance as Abel is very much like his original appearance in A Storm of Swords:

A pregnant woman stood over a brazier cooking a brace of hens, while a grey-haired man in a tattered cloak of black and red sat crosslegged on a pillow, playing a lute and singing

The King-beyond-the-Wall looked nothing like a king, nor even much a wildling. He was of middling height, slender, sharp-faced, with shrewd brown eyes and long brown hair that had gone mostly to grey.

Abel’s fingers danced across the strings of his lute. The singer’s beard was brown, though his long hair had largely gone to grey.

So how did he remove the ruby cuff?

  • Mance took the cuff off himself, without Melisandre’s permission or knowledge.
  • Melisandre took the cuff off of Mance.

The text makes it clear that the ruby cuff in no way interferes with Mance’s free will, as implied by Melisandre’s comfort that her visions would tell if Mance was a threat to her, and because she feels that having Mance’s son is what compels his loyalty.

With that in mind, there’s no reason to leave the cuff on Mance.

An additional factor is the fact that Rattleshirt is absolutely hideous. Nobody would believe that he’s a singer and performer, and even if they did his appearance would merit more derision than anything else.

Further, Melisandre has a vested interest in seeing Mance succeed. If the ruby cuff can help with that effort, there seems to be no reason she would interfere with that. After all, Mance’s is mission is vital for Stannis’s campaign, how important are her secrets compared to that?

*   *   *

The Rules of the Game

Melisandre reveals some of the inner workings of her glamors:

“The bones help,” said Melisandre. “The bones remember. The strongest glamors are built of such things. A dead man’s boots, a hank of hair, a bag of fingerbones. With whispered words and prayer, a man’s shadow can be drawn forth from such and draped about another like a cloak. The wearer’s essence does not change, only his seeming.”

This is interesting because it’s inconsistent with Martin’s preferences on the implementation of magic in fantasy novels:

I find myself more in sympathy with the way Tolkien handled magic. I think if you’re going to do magic, it loses its magical qualities if it becomes nothing more than an alternate kind of science. It is more effective if it is something profoundly unknowable and wondrous, and something that can take your breath away.

This should be an immediately signal to readers that something important is going on here: Martin had decided that revealing the inner workings of glamors was more important to the story than preserving the wonder of magic.

Although this isn’t evidence of anything in particular, it certainly opens the mind to the fact that Martin did not haphazardly introduce the underlying mechanisms of glamors for no good reason. The excerpt regarding glamors is conspicuous precisely because it is uncharacteristic of his depiction magic in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Setting aside Martin’s opinions on magic in fiction, it’s also conspicuous that Melisandre provides these explanations when she does. After all, we apparently never see the glamor or ruby cuff again. Why bother explaining it at all, if it’s irrelevant to Mance or Jon Snow?

Coupled, these ideas seem to suggest that Martin thought glamors were important enough to explain to readers, suggesting future importance.

*   *   *

So who has the cuff?

If Mance isn’t wearing the cuff, then where is it?

The best way to tackle this question is to consider the root source… who will have ultimately authority over who gets the cuff initially?


Now consider:

  • She explained the cuff’s nature to Mance,
  • Mance has mission of critical importance to Stannis’s campaign.

It makes all the sense in the world that she would let him use it. There’s absolutely no evidence that Jon had it, and its highly doubtful that she would give it to anyone else or deprive Mance of its utility.

This means that Melisandre gave the cuff to Mance, putting him in the position of giving it to anyone he encounters. Therefore the idea that Mors Crowfood had the cuff is plausible at the very least.

The idea that Mors has the cuff makes a deal of sense: it provides a way from him to access Winterfell and ensure things are in place for the rescue mission. After all, Mors must have considered the possibility that Mance failed in his mission, Mors couldn’t just beat his drums and blow his horns indefinitely.

However, making ‘a deal of sense’ and being the definitive answer are two very different things. It will take more investigation to make this claim convincing.

*   *   *

No, I have not explained or articulated that Mance knows how to use the cuff. But I believe that the case for the cuff’s use can be made without that fact being revealed.

<table of contents>

*   *   *


war_general_by_allnamesinuse-d7xe6t5Do I believe that Ryswell is a covert antagonist?

No. Roger Ryswell is dead.

Let me explain.

A Horsehead Brooch

Roger Ryswell uses a unique brooch to clasp his cloak:

…an iron horsehead brooch clasped Roger Ryswell’s cloak…

Remember what Melisandre said:

“The bones remember. The strongest glamors are built of such things. A dead man’s boots, a hank of hair, a bag of fingerbones. With whispered words and prayer, a man’s shadow can be drawn forth from such and draped about another like a cloak. The wearer’s essence does not change, only his seeming.”

It seems to be a fair observation that the brooch (and perhaps the cloak) would be an ideal source for a glamor.

*   *   *

Theon’s Confusion

There has been a passage early in A Dance with Dragons that always puzzled me:

A column of riders came wheeling up behind them, led by a lordling with a horsehead on his shield. One of Lord Ryswell’s sons, Reek knew. Roger, or maybe Rickard. He could not tell the two of them apart. “Is this all of them?” the rider asked from atop a chestnut stallion.

So we see that Theon has trouble differentiating between Roger and Rickard. It’s possible then that he could confuse the two, given the right circumstances.

I’m sure the confusion isn’t present in group situations, as he could deduce which was which based on the actions of others. This confusion would be more prominent in situations where he did not have others to help: in quiet, lonely situations.

The most prominent application of this difficulty occurs the night before the murders begin:

Beneath the Burned Tower, he passed Rickard Ryswell nuzzling at the neck of another one of Abel’s washerwomen, the plump one with the apple cheeks and pug nose. The girl was barefoot in the snow, bundled up in a fur cloak. He thought she might be naked underneath. When she saw him, she said something to Ryswell that made him laugh aloud.

It’s interesting to consider that this might have actually been Roger Ryswell.

*   *   *

The Opportunity

Based on the description, the spearwife in this scene is Frenya, a heavy-set woman who is quite skilled in combat: managing to wrestle a spear from one of Bolton’s guards and stab him with it during the escape attempt.

When you consider the possibility that Frenya was actually endearing herself toward Roger (not Rickard), the hypotheses suddenly bloom to life!

Roger is alone in an isolated area of Winterfell, with the spearwife Frenya. The opportunity to kill Roger for his brooch and cloak has appeared.

Keep in mind that the murders start happening the morning after Theon sees Ryswell with Frenya.

*   *   *

The Theory

Using the ideas I’ve presented thus far, I’d like to assemble a theory regarding Roger Ryswell.

  1. Frenya lured Roger Ryswell to the top of the inner wall of Winterfell. She acquired his cloak from him and then pushed him to his death.

  2. This cloak was then thrown or otherwise sent to Mors Crowfood.

  3. Mors, possessing the ruby cuff used the cloak to don Roger’s appearance and enter Winterfell.

  4. He then hangs around, perhaps discussing things or gathering knowledge. He participates in screwing with the murder investigations.

  5. He encounters Theon in the notorious “Hooded Man” scene, and again in the interrogation.

  6. His presence in the interrogation is what gives Mors the confidence that the mission can begin.

This theory makes sense for a couple of reasons:

  • It explains Roger’s stupidity when it comes to assessing the murders and the suspects. Particularly since his dismissal of the many valid suspects has great benefits for Mance and his spearwives.
  • It provides a valid explanation for how Mors is able to determine when to blow the horns.
  • It provides a context for why the assassinations began when they did.

But these aren’t the only things explained by this theory.

*   *   *

Shared Vernacular

There has long been a noticeable similarity in two statements, one made by Mors Umber, the other by the hooded man:

The man put a hand on his dagger. “Theon Turncloak. Theon Kinslayer.”

“I’m not. I never … I was ironborn.”

“False is all you were. How is it you still breathe?”

Instead he had whimpered through his broken teeth and said, “I am — ”

” — a turncloak and a kinslayer,” Crowfood had finished. “You will hold that lying tongue, or lose it.”

It’s notable that very few people refer to Theon as a kinslayer: Mors, Rowan, and the Hooded Man.

But that nothing compared to the fact that the hooded man and Mors both call Theon a turncloak, a kinslayer and a liar/false… in the exact same order.

This has for some time suggested the possibility of Mors being the hooded man, but his missing eye prevented explaining that possibility.

However the ruby cuff subverts that problem neatly.

*   *   *

Concealing the Body

Let’s revisit the first murder, using this theory as a guide.

To refresh your memory:

A body is found buried deep in the snow next to the inner wall of Winterfell. The body was so well hidden it might not have been found for years, if it wasn’t for the dogs. The dogs ate so much of the person’s face that identification was all but impossible.

Eventually Roger Ryswell declares that it was a man-at-arms that journeyed with him. He says that the man was a drunk and that the entire thing was an accident.

With this theory as a guide, it suddenly becomes clear: The first murder victim, the body buried in the snow, was actually Roger Ryswell’s.

First of all, there is something quite different about this murder compared to all the others: the body was concealed.

The other murders were all prominent, and had a clear, psychological component to them. This body was not meant to be discovered:

If Ramsay’s bitches had not dug him up, he might have stayed buried till spring. By the time Ben Bones pulled them off, Grey Jeyne had eaten so much of the dead man’s face that half the day was gone before they knew for certain who he’d been: a man-at-arms of four-and-forty years who had marched north with Roger Ryswell.

Further, its interesting that the face was eaten off because it rendered identification impossible. It would be almost entirely up to “Roger Ryswell” to ascertain the man’s identity. Perhaps this is why Roger is so quick to dismiss the body as just a drunkard.

One more thing to note is that “Roger” declares that the victim was most likely pissing off the wall:

“A drunk,” Ryswell declared. “Pissing off the wall, I’ll wager. He slipped and fell.” No one disagreed. But Theon Greyjoy found himself wondering why any man would climb the snow-slick steps to the battlements in the black of night just to take a piss.

Could this somehow imply that the dead man’s breeches were open or down?

If this was the case, couldn’t it be more likely that the man was engaged in a sex act when he fell and died? At the very least it certainly seems more plausible that a man would find seclusion enough for sex atop the walls than it would be that he would climb the wall for a mere piss.

Summarily, if the dead man was engaged in anything that involved his penis being outside his pants while atop the walls, it would be most likely for sex and not for a piss.

If this is the case, we have to recognize that on the day prior to finding the body Theon saw a Ryswell with Frenya. At that time, Theon observes that Frenya is probably naked under her bearskin cloak. This would seem to imply that they were having (or were going to) have sex.My personal belief is that Frenya lured Roger Ryswell to the top of the walls promising oral sex. While in the act, she made her move and killed him.

<table of contents>

*   *   *


deepwoodearlyimageReturning the initial issues of this essay, there are questions that need answers:

Given that Mors and Mance collaborated on the rescue mission, how would Mors know that Mance was ready to conduct the mission?

How would Mance know that Mors was outside Winterfell, ready to receive Arya?

Why would Mor linger in secret outside Winterfell for a day or more in advance of blowing his horns?

Mors could easily indicate to Mance that he was in place: the warhorns do that well enough.

The real problem is informing Mors that the rescue mission is ready to take place. For that, the wildlings need to have some sort of signal or other way of communicating with Mors. There could also be particular details that modify whatever plans Mors and Mance may have initially plotted.

Ultimately, Mance and Mors would need some way of speaking.I believe this is why Mors lingers for several days outside Winterfell before announcing his presence with the warhorns. He uses his unknown presence in order to somehow access Winterfell and verify that everything is in place for the rescue attempt. Perhaps that is why the scouts have been vanishing, to secure a disguise or something similar.

<table of contents>

*   *   *


There are some interesting ideas (and questions) that grow from this essay:

What happens to the ruby cuff?

I believe it is handed over to Mance prior to Crowfood’s final departure from the castle. This is because there is evidence that it is paramount to Mance’s “exit strategy”.

Would Lady Dustin or the other Ryswell’s notice?

The Ryswells openly hate each other. They don’t pay that much attention to the nuances of their siblings’ behavior.

Wouldn’t the Ryswells eventually notice that Roger was missing (after Mors left)?

Eventually. I don’t think Mors or Mance would really care, and nobody would have a clue what actually happened.

<table of contents>

<the mannifesto>

*   *   *

8 thoughts on “The Hooded Man Uncloaked

  1. varys' swimsuit area

    This is amazing stuff. I’m in awe of your attention to detail. Whether or not this is actually what has transpired, you have me convinced. And we may never get the payoff ah ha moment from Martin, so bravo, I say you’ve nailed it until proven otherwise.

  2. Flavio M.

    I just finished reading this and I also read that Mance is galmoured as Ramsay, how does the switch happen? How does Mors give Mance the ruby and stuff?

  3. thespidersgreatballsoffire

    The one issue I have with this is the fact you name umber and manderly as enemies. They have been working togethor for years to build the northern fleet which is as we know quite substantial. It doesn’t really poke a major hole in your theory, and to be honest I greatly appreciate the vast amount of reading you provide while I wait for the next book. I have simply been fascinated by house manderly since the world of ice and fire came out. The fact that they call themselves “knights of the order of the green hand”. It makes me wonder why house stark gifted them lands and titles. Are they part of the “green men”? Are they closely tied with the children of the forrest? Ae they wars in their own right, possibly warning sea creatures instead of land animals? The sigil of the merman could be a hint to such. All in all I believe they have a true, strong tie to the rule and benefit of house stark, as do the umbers. I just don’t see them working closely and continuing to be at odds

    1. MK

      thespidersgreatballsoffire: I wouldn’t say they are “enemies.” I’d characterize their relationship more as “antagonistic rivalry within the family.” Sure, they are no great friends and look down on each other, but still members good standing of the Northern family. Note that thought Umber and Manderly do in fact collaborate on the building of the fleet, they have to be ordered to check their bickering when they do so

      1. cantuse Post author

        I should probably reword some of what I said to avoid confusion. I really meant what you said, that its just a sort of antagonistic, but still friendly, rivalry. You could almost compare it to the rivalry between branches of the military: teasing as long as the days are peaceful but collaborative and serious when called for.

  4. Dale Taylor

    Excellent theory there buddy! Certainly the best one so far and with the best evidence (i don’t subscribe to “Fight Club Theon” at all).

    Just thought i would offer a little something i read somewhere.

    I think i remember reading that one small thing your theory was stuck on was “how did/could the ones inside the castle contact the ones outside the walls?” Of course, they had the horn in the woods to communicate to the conspirators inside, but how did the conspirators communicate with those outside?

    SNOWMEN!!! (“,)

    [copied from a reddit user] “The squires of House Dustin and House Ryswell have been building snowmen on the walls of Winterfell in the forms of Lord Manderly, Lady Dustin, Lord Stout, and Whoresbane Umber. They are on the taller wall, visible from outside Winterfell.”

    Coupled with the Pink Letter, stating to the reader that “Stannis’ friends” are on the walls and imploring them to come and see them!

    Does this help at all buddy?

    1. cantuse Post author

      The idea of the snowmen as a signal is interesting. I’ve never considered it, mostly because I was trying to keep the ‘conspiracy’ to as few people as possible. I don’t know how it might work if the snowmen were indeed part of any plan to signal Mors.


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