“Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues.”
— THOMAS HOBBES, LEVIATHAN
The Mannifesto is an exhaustive analysis of Stannis “the Mannis” Baratheon’s entire northern campaign. It currently covers everything from his departure from Castle Black up to his destruction of Roose Bolton.
Explaining the entirely of Stannis’s campaign is a huge undertaking. To lighten the load, I have written it as a series of essays.
- I – A Decisive Battle, A Deceptive Campaign
- II – A Tale of Two Kings
- III – Striking from Beyond the Grave
- IV – Strange Bedfellows
- V – The Pink Letter
- VI – Endgame
- VII – Additions, Errata & Kruft
NOTE: The Mannifesto can also be directly navigated via this blog’s ‘main menu’ at the top.
Although you are free to jump around, later essays often build off of points established in early entries.
UPDATE July 5th, 2015: The main Mannifesto page (this essay) and the Main Menu bar have been dramatically retooled to incorporate essays written and revised since the Mannifesto was first released. Returning readers may find things to have been moved around. For the most part however, I have tried to preserve links.
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A DECISIVE BATTLE, A DECEPTIVE CAMPAIGN
The first task of the Mannifesto is to show how Stannis will prevail at the crofter’s village. Once I’ve convinced you of that, the second task was to explore the tremendous ramifications of the revealed strategies. Thus this first part is a bit bipolar: it examines a single battle, and then uses those findings to extrapolate insights into Stannis as a character, as well as his overall campaign plans.
If I had to pick the two most formative essays for the Mannifesto, they would be the theory of the Night Lamp and my examination of Stannis’s entire campaign strategy.
The Night Lamp essay is probably the best place to start, because I believe it is damn convincing—and it opens the door for you to consider the ideas I write about throughout the remainder of the Mannifesto.
This essay is a step back from the Night Lamp. This piece jumps up to the high, strategic level and plots out Stannis’s entire campaign. It discusses the historical influences (in Westeros) that influence Stannis and how they dictate his game plan. It is a thorough analysis and provides links to many other essays in the Mannifesto. This essay is something of a rabbit hole to Wonderland, between it and the many essays it links to… you could end up reading for hours.
You can either essay first. If you prefer jumping into something juicy with immediate appeal, I recommend the Night Lamp. If you’d rather start off with a “macro” examination of Stannis’s campaign and later “zoom in” on the details, start with A Page from History.
Underpinnings of the Night Lamp
The Night Lamp is predicated on two major ideas:
- Stannis knew about the Karstark betrayal, but allowed it to happen because he could profit from it.
- Stannis knew about Mance Rayder’s survival—having made the King-Beyond-the-Wall a vital element of his campaign strategy.
While the previous two essays provide a general argument in favor of these claims, I wrote three essays that analyze these claims in detail:
Understanding the King (Optional)
The essays above begin to outline a picture of a much more devious king that previously believed. However, the evidence of such deceptive guile goes beyond analyzing his military strategy: there is ample evidence that it permeates his character in general.
The following essays are all somewhat “optional” in that they don’t directly explain Stannis’s actions. However, they provide tremendous insight into Stannis as a literary character, comparing him to real-world leaders and military thinkers.
This is a lengthy piece that shows how duplicitous Stannis has already been in the books. Perhaps more important though, the essays establishes why Stannis’s likely deceptions do not violate his dogmatic devotion to justice and duty.
A simple essay that shows just how much of Stannis’s behavior and strategies correspond to the tactics espoused by Niccolo Machiavelli, as he wrote in his famous works The Prince and Discourse on Livy. The point? To establish how Stannis actually seems to embody the deceptive genius recommended by real-world military scholars.
Going even further, this thick essay provides some extremely compelling evidence of strong parallels between Stannis and Napoleon Bonaparte. In particular Napoleon’s Ulm Campaign has uncanny similarities to my theories about Stannis’s campaign for Winterfell.
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A TALE OF TWO KINGS
The first part of the Mannifesto has already made numerous, extensive claims regarding Mance as a covert ally of Stannis. But I have yet to fully articulate just how Mance actually executes his mission to save Arya. Part II aims to remedy this.
First and foremost, Mance Rayder has perhaps the most immediately important task: to rescue Arya and thus prompt the Bolton army into combat. But precisely how Mance engineers this feat is quite long in the telling.
It begins with his departure from Castle Black and ends with a likely showdown with Ramsay Bolton.
All we see in A Dance with Dragons is that Mance departs from Castle Black and eventually just appears outside Winterfell. What happened in between those two periods? In fact, we see that Mance was perhaps already establishing his alias as Abel, as well as gathering valuable information on the political climate surrounding the Boltons.
One element the previous essay does not cover however, is the unlikely relationship that appears to have been established between Mors Umber and Mance Rayder. How could sworn enemies appear to be acting in concert? What could compel such behavior? This essay establishes the likely true origin of one of Mance’s spearwives, and uses that as the basis of the seeming alliance.
I believe this to be the centerpiece of my analysis of Mance’s rescue plans—and their fallout. It provides an exhaustive assessment of just how Mance planned to escape (and perhaps more) his pursuers in Winterfell once Arya’s absence was discovered. It ends with a decidedly awesome twist.
Musical Inspiration (Optional)
It is well-known that Mance took inspiration from Bael the Bard when he infiltrated Winterfell in A Dance with Dragons. Indeed, the previous essay Showdown in the Crypts showed the likelihood that the tale provided much more than just a clever name.
However, I believe that is not the only song to aided Mance Rayder in his plans. I believe that three other tales and/or songs may have greatly inspired our intrepid former king. Most notably, several of them interact—quite profoundly—with my claims that Mance will invoke the use of a glamor.
These essays are “optional”: they are fun analyses of how Mance was likely inspired by multiple songs. However, you don’t really need to believe any of these essays in order to continue enjoying the Mannifesto. In other words, your mileage may vary.
The tale of Lann the Clever seems strangely apt for Mance’s plans, particularly in light of the essays previously introduced. Indeed, there is even a direct reference or two to the character that will go unnoticed to the casual reader.
This is an analysis of Mance’s “Northman’s Daughter” variation on The Dornishman’s Wife, as he performed it for the Boltons. A deep analysis of the song and it’s interpretation provide an eerie conclusion that is serendipitously consistent with the claims made in Showdown in the Crypts.
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STRIKING FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE
Between the first two parts of the Mannifesto, I’ve made some compelling arguments. But so what if Stannis crushes the Freys at the crofter’s village—how does he plan on taking an occupied Winterfell?
Once again, I return to the various essays that have led to the point and tell you this: Stannis will win through guile and misdirection.
First and foremost, Stannis will “pretend” to lose the battle at the crofter’s village.
This establishes the general logic and strategy behind faking Stannis’s death: to allow the king to sneak up on Winterfell in the blizzard undetected. Furthermore, it will lower the guard of the Boltons. In particular, the essay proscribes that Arthor Karstark will be Stannis’s agent in ‘selling’ this lie to the Boltons.
A Calculated Feint
Even if Stannis fakes his death—it alone is not enough to simply hand him a victory at Winterfell.
So how does Stannis actually plan to do win at Winterfell?
The answer is simple:
Stannis will not attack Winterfell first—he will attack it after distracting the Boltons will an attack elsewhere.
This goes back to one of the earliest essays (Deception in Siegecraft), where I pointed out the likelihood that Stannis engineered the Boltons stationing their entire army at Winterfell.
Why would he do that?
If the entire Bolton army is at Winterfell, then other vital Bolton interests are therefore vulnerable.
And one target is of paramount importance—the true seat of Bolton’s power:
Stannis has engineered the vulnerability of the Dreadfort.
This of course leads me to another central claim of the Mannifesto:
Stannis’s ostensibly ‘doomed’ march to Winterfell was nothing more than a convincing feint. Stannis’s true military strike will occur at the Dreadfort.
Keep in mind that these other attacks will be occurring whilst Stannis is presumed dead. Thus they will necessarily have the appearance of “false flag” attacks—that is to say, they must not appear to have been associated with Stannis’s campaign.
CINDERS FROM BARROW HALL (OPTIONAL)
This “optional” essay describes a situation wherein Stannis might have coordinated with the men from Bear Island to attack the wooden town of Barrowton… in an effort to draw the Dustins, Ryswells and possibly the Flints from Winterfell.
The previous section made the somewhat bold claim that an attack on the Dreadfort would be conducted as a “false flag” operation. Who in seven hells could execute such an attack on the Dreadfort on Stannis’s behalf without appearing to be on the king’s side?
In truth… I believe there are two different factions that could be at play here: wildlings and/or the ironborn.
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The previous section made the somewhat bold claim that an attack on the Dreadfort would be conducted as a “false flag” operation.
But who in seven hells could execute such an attack on the Dreadfort on Stannis’s behalf without appearing to be on the king’s side?
In truth… I believe there are two different factions that could be at play here: the wildlings and/or the ironborn. Explaining both options is a sizable effort, and is spread across several essays for each.
NOTE: This is where you’ll start to see some of my essays fraying at the edges… in need of revision or additional writing. The notes presented below will—hopefully—serve to temporarily bridge the gaps in my material.
The Wildling Option
There is substantial evidence of a secret pact between Val and Stannis, perhaps extending to even include Mance Rayder. Furthermore, I believe that Val was poised to escape from Castle Black on the night that Jon Snow was murdered—and in fact had already done so by the time of Jon’s infamous stabbing.
This essay outlines the evidence of a conspiracy between Stannis and Val, the “wildling princess”. It also makes the claim that Val may have sought out a ‘marriage’ with Jon Snow, perhaps even against his will.
In this entry I provide an exhaustive look at Val’s likely escape attempt, her methods and motive. In particular, I believe that she had a secret agreement with Stannis to perhaps initiate a false flag attack on the Dreadfort. Furthermore, I make the tentative argument that the lunar cycle was being used by both parties as a means of coordinating their efforts.
As I said, both of these essays may feel somewhat incomplete. My general emphasis would be on the fact that a secret pact is an almost certainty, regardless of any difficulties in deciphering its goals. Given my beliefs regarding a false flag on the Dreadfort, the wildlings are one of the only viable options—and certainly the only one at the time such a pact was likely established. I’m essentially making an educated guess at a connection between the two, but it seems entirely valid and makes a tremendous amount of strategic sense.
The Iron Bank and the Ironborn
It may seem far-fetched to believe that Stannis might use the ironborn to attack the Dreadfort. However, I believe it will make a tremendous amount of sense once I show you the chain of events that lead up to that claim.
Before I can directly tackle the ironborn, I must begin by discussing the Iron Bank and Tycho Nestoris. I believe the Braavosi banker plays a pivotal role in why Stannis would elect to use the ironborn. The rationale for this belief is spread across three essays:
This essay is in dire need of revision. When I first wrote it, I claimed that Tycho Nestoris was in disguise at White Harbor, and gathered intelligence on Davos’s movements while there. However after extensive discussion in the comments, it is much more likely that a general ‘agent’ of the Iron Bank was in White Harbor instead. This would explain how Stannis suddenly knows about Davos’s “beheading” after Tycho’s arrival.
This essay makes the argument that Tycho’s presentation of the ironborn and Theon to Stannis was not just a ‘gift’, but a calculated venture, designed to aid Stannis… so that Stannis would be more likely to repay his newly acquired debts. In short, this essay provides a detailed analysis of all the military intelligence (and assets) that Tycho was likely to provide to Stannis, as an investment in protecting their own investment.
A NEFARIOUS INVESTMENT (OPTIONAL)
This essay is somewhat ‘optional’ and has elements some readers may find indigestible. Put simply, it argues that the Faceless Men are merely a sect within the Iron Bank, and that the Iron Bank knows it has the true Arya Stark. Thus, this represents another extremely valuable bargaining chip when negotiating with Stannis. The essay is worth reading for the comments alone, for Wolfson makes the brilliant observation the Many-Faced God could simply be coin… since coinage has a multitude of faces (and Arya spent all that time feeling the faces).
Regardless of just how much of these essays you believe, I do contest that they thoroughly establish the deliberate use of Theon and the ironborn. If you don’t believe me yet, the following essay will almost certainly sway you (I hope). I wrote it much later and makes more compelling arguments in my opinion.
I present a ton of evidence and logic that supports the extreme value that Theon has for Stannis, provided Stannis keep him alive rather than execute him. In particular, Theon knows of a secret entrance to the Dreadfort and also bears a striking resemblance to Arnolf Karstark… a possible disguise. I also explain just exactly why the ironborn would actually concede to aiding Stannis.
In truth, I don’t believe that Theon would be traveling alone. Instead he would be traveling with several members of Stannis’s army, Mors Umber and a few Karstark hostages. This essay documents that and further speculates as to how Theon would execute the capture of the Dreadfort.
As with the Wildling essays, these two entries in the Mannifesto are somewhat imcomplete. The general premises of both should be easy to grasp however.
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THE PINK LETTER
At some point, we know that the pink letter enters into the proceedings. Among the many things the letter claims, it says that Stannis is dead. This is incongruent with the findings of the Mannifesto. It suggests that the letter is disingenuous—perhaps sent with ulterior motives.
I have two separate theories regarding the author and intent of the message.
This was the first theory I wrote, concluding that Mance Rayder wrote the Pink Letter, while glamored as Ramsay Bolton. Many readers will find this to be extremely persuasive. That said, I no longer believe it to be the case.
This essay purports that the Pink Letter was authored by Theon Greyjoy, dictating to the maester Tybald and sent from the Dreadfort after successfully capturing the castle. This essay explains some of the more challenging elements of the letter in my opinion.
The motive for the letter is the same in both cases—to signal Melisandre and Val to initiate the wildling escape and perhaps a move to strike the Dreadfort (or join with Theon’s forces at the castle).
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So what happens now?
I have yet to write up dedicated essays to fully answer this question. For the time being, let this section be your guide.
By this point, the Mannifesto presumes the following:
- Stannis has successfully faked his own death. Arnolf Karstark’s second son (Arthor) has been leveraged by Stannis to falsely inform the Boltons of the king’s defeat. The effectiveness of this ruse may be greatly enhanced by the possibility that Mance (a Stannis ally) has glamored himself as Ramsay.
- A false flag attack at the Dreadfort (possibly Barrowton as well) will serve to draw the majority of Bolton’s forces from Winterfell.
It’s pretty clear what will happen at this point:
Stannis will claim Winterfell while it is vulnerable.
Of course the next challenge is clear:
How could Stannis defeat the Boltons in the field and cement his legitimacy in the north?
To this end, I believe Stannis will borrow a strategy from his brother Robert—Stannis will use forced marches to catch up with the Bolton armies, hoping to catch them outside the walls of the Dreadfort. This idea is precisely while I named one of the core essays A Page from History, because Stannis borrows from Robert (and others as well, such as Daeron Targaryen).
So assuming Stannis arrives at the Dreadfort in time to confront the Boltons, how does he win?
The answer to this question requires we first glance at what I proposed is the distribution of forces:
- Bolton’s Army:
- Bolton men, likely led by Bolton himself.
- Karstarks, led by the leveraged Arthor Karstark.
- Umbers, led by Hother Umber.
- Perhaps others, but they may have departed for home, or been drawn away by other false flags (such as the proposed strike on Barrowton).
- Inside the Dreadfort:
- Theon and the ironborn, initially disguised as Karstarks (Theon himself disguised as Arnolf).
- Mors Umber’s green boys.
- Maester Tybald
- A few other odds and ends.
- Possibly a small force of wildlings, led by Val.
Herein lies the rub: I believe that the trick to defeating the Boltons was foreshadowed in one of Theon’s early chapters.
The Drunkard’s Tower leaned as if it were about to collapse, just as it had for half a thousand years. The Children’s Tower thrust into the sky as straight as a spear, but its shattered top was open to the wind and rain. The Gatehouse Tower, squat and wide, was the largest of the three, slimy with moss, a gnarled tree growing sideways from the stones of its north side, fragments of broken wall still standing to the east and west. The Karstarks took the Drunkard’s Tower and the Umbers the Children’s Tower, he recalled. Robb claimed the Gatehouse Tower for his own.
If he closed his eyes, he could see the banners in his mind’s eye, snapping bravely in a brisk north wind. All gone now, all fallen. The wind on his cheeks was blowing from the south, and the only banners flying above the remains of Moat Cailin displayed a golden kraken on a field of black.
— REEK II, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS
Theon remembers the inspiring sight of the Karstark and Umber banners, very specifically. Why does this matter?
It matters because I believe that Theon will fly these banners from the Dreadfort walls after Bolton’s army arrives. The purpose? To force the Karstarks and Umbers to abandon the Boltons, or even better change their allegiance in favor of Stannis Baratheon.
Recall something that Jon says early in ADWD: “Umber will not fight Umber for any cause.”
In the book, this logic is construed to suggest that Stannis must keep the Umbers away from each other. But it hides another insight: that forcing them to confront each other will most certainly nullify their threat.
Likewise, seeing Karstark banners will suggest that Karstarks (or Karstark hostages—such as the sons of the leveraged Arthor) are inside the castle. Once again, this would cause Arthor to betray the Boltons. Once again, I believe this is slyly conveyed in ADWD:
Worse and worse. He had known that Lord Wyman had two sons, but he’d thought that both of them were dead. If the Iron Throne has a hostage … Davos had fathered seven sons himself, and lost four on the Blackwater. He knew he would do whatever gods or men required of him to protect the other three. Steffon and Stannis were thousands of leagues from the fighting and safe from harm, but Devan was at Castle Black, a squire to the king. The king whose cause may rise or fall with White Harbor.
—DAVOS II, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS
Like Davos, Arthor Karstark is bound to lose two of his four sons to the injuries sustained when they tried to attack Stannis. Thus Arthor will almost certainly betray Bolton if its necessary to protect his two remaining sons.
Should Umber and Karstark betray Bolton at a crucial moment, this represents a massive shift in numerical superiority, plus a crippling blow to his military preparedness. Coupled with Stannis’s arrival, it’s devastating.
So there you have it, Bolton defeated outside his very own castle, likely in full view of the Greyjoys, the wildlings, the northern mountain clans, the Umbers, the Karstarks, and so on.
Keep in mind, I don’t make any claims to Stannis’s success or failure afterwards. It’s widely agreed that Stannis may not be likely to succeed in his overall campaign for the throne. I do however believe the Mannifesto makes a striking case that he will at least succeed in defeating the Boltons.
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ADDITIONS, ERRATA & KRUFT
These essays do not form a necessary part of the Mannifesto, but often discuss elements that are closely related:
Magical Power (Optional)
There is the remote possibility of a supernatural influence behind the calamitous blizzard affecting the north. This essay explores the inner workings of ‘wind magic’ and presents a compelling hypothesis regarding Stannis’s possible relationship with the blizzard.
These essays describe supernatural methods by which Stannis might have enhanced his campaign’s success. One involves the blinding power of his sword Lightbringer (regardless of the sword’s likely falsehood). The other essay provides for a magical explanation of the blizzard in the north, and its serendipitous benefits to Stannis’s efforts.
Justin Massey and Richard Horpe appear to be the two most prominent knights in Stannis’s service. They were his “wrong-way rangers” that treated with Mors Umber. They also appear to have special significance at the end of A Dance with Dragons, and into The Winds of Winter. What purposes are they serving? What secrets can we glean from taking a closer look at these two figures?
The details on Richard Horpe largely serve to reinforce my observation that Stannis knew about the Karstark betrayal early on, highlighting a special role Horpe plays for Stannis. Contrariwise, Massey is being sent on a very different mission with a very duplicitous purpose.
This essay explores an important relationship between two minor characters: Clayton Suggs and maester Tybald. It specifically asserts that Stannis deliberately establishes a gaoler-prisoner dynamic between these two, something Stannis implicitly intends to use in a ‘remote’ capacity.
Exploring the likelihood that Stannis intends to use Alysane Mormont for a special purpose, based off a possible biological connection to one of the wildlings. It specifically considers a way that Stannis may have thought to compel a wildling surrender, one that goes undeveloped by the end of A Dance with Dragons.
There are elements of this essay that may be controversial, particularly with regard to the hooded man’s identity. That said, it does provide great insights into the coordination between Mance and Mors and what that necessitates.
The remaining essays are entries in the Mannifesto that I no longer feel represent an accurate prediction of the future, or, they are irreparably designed or articulated. They are mostly here for posterity.
NOTE: This essay has been more or less rendered obsolete… the ‘endgame’ section of this essay provides the entire analysis a person needs.
Notes: While this essay may have some useful observations, I believe it also makes far too many tenuous (or even unnecessary) claims.
Notes: This essay is more or less erroneous and unnecessary… having been wholly replaced by my essays Release the Kraken and The Fellowship of the Ring.