The Ghost of Lann


I’ll get straight to the point:

Previous essays in the Mannifesto argue that Mance has plotted to infiltrate and capture Winterfell; he will use a glamor and assume the role of Ramsay Bolton.

Let us assume that these assertions are correct (or temporarily suspend our disbelief). This leads to a subsequent observation, the central argument of this essay:

Mance’s theorized plot to surreptitiously takeover Winterfell was inspired by the songs and stories of Lann the Clever.

The tale is even directly invoked while Mance is inside Winterfell.

NOTE: The most relevant essay is Showdown in the Crypts. As far-fetched as the use of a glamour is, I recommend reading (or at least skimming) this essay before dismissing this one.

I wrote another essay analyzing the Pink Letter: Decrypting the Pink Letter. In it, I concluded that the letter confirms Mance’s survival and the use of a glamor. While I no longer believe that essay to be entirely correct it still has some relevant data, you may wish to skim or read it yourself.


  1. Every Bawdy Song. Does Mance actually know the tales and songs about Lann the Clever?
  2. A Certain Ploy. Would Mance be willing to use a song to inspire his actions in Winterfell?
  3. No Weapon but his Wits. The story of Lann from an unlikely source.
  4. Howling from the Darkness. How The World of Ice and Fire expands on these ideas. The extreme parallels.
  5. Proving my Point. Making the connection between Lann the Clever and Mance Rayder as clear as possible.

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mance_fighterBy Mance’s own admission, he is inspired by the songs he knows:

I will not deny that Bael’s exploit inspired mine own . . . but I did not steal either of your sisters that I recall. Bael wrote his own songs, and lived them. I only sing the songs that better men have made.

Furthermore, Mance boasts that he knows every song ever made:

He laughed. “I know every bawdy song that’s ever been made, north or south of the Wall.

Throughout A Song of Ice and Fire, we see evidence to support both of these claims:

  1. The lynchpin in Mance’s march toward the Wall was his possession of the alleged Horn of Joramun. Thus, he was obviously inspired by the myth of Joramun and his fabled horn: how he led the wildlings in a campaign against the Wall.
  2. Jon finds it odd to hear “The Dornishman’s Wife” north of the Wall, suggesting that it is truly unusual for a wildling to know such songs.
  3. Mance confesses to Jon that the songs of Bael the Bard inspired his first infiltration into Winterfell.
  4. Mance leverages the legend of Bael the Bard once more, when he poses as Abel and infiltrates his six spearwives into Winterfell during Ramsay Bolton’s wedding.
  5. In the appendix Six Maids in Winterfell, I argue that the actual rescue of “Arya” (Jeyne Poole) is clearly influenced by the stories of Florian and Jonquil. Most especially, I believe he draws from the song “Six Maids in a Pool”.

This pattern of behavior seems to confirm Mance’s claims: his schemes draw heavily from an extensive collection of songs and stories.

But does he actually know the songs and stories of Lann the Clever?

Yes, beyond any reasonable doubt. Eddard has this to say about the mythical hero:

The Lannisters were an old family, tracing their descent back to Lann the Clever, a trickster from the Age of Heroes who was no doubt as legendary as Bran the Builder, though far more beloved of singers and taletellers.

Any singer worth their salt would know about Lann the Clever, particularly one that boasts of knowing every song ‘north or south of the Wall’.

Most important, I can prove beyond doubt that Mance knows the song, courtesy of a detail I will reveal at the end of the essay.

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Knowing that Mance is familiar with Lann the Clever, we can look at a conspicuous excerpt from A Dance with Dragons.

Near the end of Melisandre’s point-of-view chapter, Mance begins what he will need in order to conduct his mission at Winterfell:

“I will need horses. Half a dozen good ones. And this is nothing I can do alone. Some of the spearwives penned up at Mole’s Town should serve. Women would be best for this. The girl’s more like to trust them, and they will help me carry off a certain ploy I have in mind.”

Given Mance’s pattern of behavior, It seems perfectly natural to assume that this ‘ploy’ has its roots in songs and myth. Indeed, I used this very line as a major component in my essay about his use of Florian and Jonquil.

Yet I don’t believe that this ‘ploy’ ends with Arya’s rescue:

  • In the essay Showdown in the Crypts, I asserted that Mance does not intend to escape Winterfell.
  • Rather, I argue that Mance intends to stay and attempt to aid in undermining the Bolton presence.
  • Specifically, Mance plans to impersonate Ramsay Bolton through the use of a glamour, provided by the magical ‘ruby cuff’ Melisandre gave him.
  • After donning Ramsay’s likeness, Mance will covertly assist in a campaign to drive Roose Bolton and his allies from Winterfell, thus allowing Stannis’s forces (having faked their own deaths) to surreptitiously take control of the castle.

NOTE: The arguments in favor of these points span almost the entirety of the Mannifesto. If you have not read the core volumes I would recommend it (if you have the time). At the very least, the essays Showdown in the Crypts, Decrypting the Pink Letter and The Dark Fortress are the fundamental elements supporting the bullet-points above.

With all of these ideas in mind, I arrive at the question that I believe most interests readers:

What is the relevance of songs and stories about Lann the Clever?

<table of contents>

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702px-Allan_Douglas_ManceHilariously, the answer to this question lies in the most unexpected of places. Eddard Stark is oddly a prominent source of knowledge about Lann the Clever:

In the songs, Lann was the fellow who winkled the Casterlys out of Casterly Rock with no weapon but his wits, and stole gold from the sun to brighten his curly hair.

The relevance to Mance’s presence in Winterfell is self-explanatory:

  • Lann the Clever somehow managed to trick the Casterlys into losing possession of Casterly Rock.
  • Likewise the theories in the Mannifesto indicate that Mance Rayder will use trickery to effectively steal Winterfell from the Boltons.

Restated in simpler terms:

Just as Lann the Clever tricked the Casterlys out of Casterly Rock, so too will Mance Rayder trick the Boltons out of Winterfell.

I can however provide more details for those that want them…

Wanting for a Plan

The tale of Bael the Bard ends with the death of Bael’s son, his skin worn as a cloak by another lord. In Showdown in the Crypts I asserted that Mance will figuratively emulate this ending by assuming Ramsay’s visage courtesy of a glamour.

However, this is the end of Bael’s story.

What then does Mance do next? What is his plan?

In wanting for a plan beyond impersonating Ramsay, we can expect Mance to find further inspiration from other songs: it’s consistent with Mance’s pattern of behavior.

Even if that was the case, how can we be sure that Mance would specifically take inspiration from Lann the Clever?

In The Dark Fortress, I proposed that Stannis plans to draw the Boltons from Winterfell by attacking the Dreadfort. When Roose Bolton marches in response to this, Stannis will sneak in and steal Winterfell facing little or no resistance.

While there is scant direct evidence for this, there are profound reasons for such a ploy. At the very least it is perhaps the only cogent explanation for how Stannis seriously planned to capture Winterfell, a castle occupied by a vast number of men and led by the infamously cautious Roose Bolton.

This theory – that Roose Bolton and others can be coaxed into leaving Winterfell so that Stannis can steal the castle– draws strong parallels to Lann the Clever.

These parallels exist regardless of Martin’s intent, readers are free to note them without necessitating Mance’s involvement. What suggests his involvement however, is Mance’s pattern of behavior: that all of his plots heretofore are derived from song.

Thus if the events predicted in the Mannifesto are correct, the theory that Mance gleans inspiration from Lann the Clever has both tremendous appropriateness and probability. Not just because it conveniently bookends my earlier theories, but because it presents a theory of Mance’s larger plans in fashion consistent with his record.

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tumblr_n8c9riwLfY1sy618eo1_1280Ned Stark is not the only source of knowledge regarding Lann the Clever. The World of Ice and Fire also discusses Lann the Clever at length.

When you examine the book’s details about Lann and compare them to this essay and the Mannifesto at large, we find something profound:

The details of Lann the Clever’s theft of Casterly Rock, as described in the most common version of the tale, dramatically parallel what we see happen at Winterfell.

Not only the does it parallel events that we definitely know happen in A Dance with Dragons, but the theories proposed in The Mannifesto as well.

When Maester Yandel discusses Lann the Clever in The World of Ice and Fire, he relates a number of different versions of the tale. Some are far-fetched and some aren’t, one even sounds almost plausible.

Yandel has this to say about the most popular version of Lann’s tale:

In the most common version of the tale, Lann discovered a secret way inside the Rock, a cleft so narrow that he had to strip off his clothes and coat himself with butter in order to squeeze through. Once inside , however, he began to work his mischief, whispering threats in the ears of sleeping Casterlys, howling from the darkness like a demon, stealing treasures from one brother to plant in the bedchamber of another, rigging sundry snares and deadfalls. By such methods he set the Casterlys at odds with one another and convinced them that the Rock was haunted by some fell creature that would never let them live in peace.

NOTE: This excerpt was brought to my attention by the glorious /u/Darth_Rasputin32898.

As a person who boasts of knowing every song north or south of the Wall, you can expect Mance to be familiar with this version.

In that case, aren’t there a startling number of similarities to the events at Winterfell?

Let’s see:

  • First of all, no one can really dispute that Mance and his spearwives were quite literally ‘working mischief’ and setting the residents at Winterfell at odds with each other.
  • Isn’t it noticeably convenient that Theon –and likely others– start to think that Winterfell is haunted?
  • We know that Mors arranged the deadfalls that killed Aenys Frey and perhaps others. We know that the stables collapsed unexpectedly.
  • When Mors Crowfood first reveals his presence by blowing his warhorn three times, its is in the dead of night; and the sound is terrifying:

A long low moan, it seemed to hang above the battlements, lingering in the black air, soaking deep into the bones of every man who heard it.

  • Lastly, its interesting that the tale states that Lann entered Casterly Rock naked. It would suggest that he had to don the clothes of someone who resided there. A powerful connection to the idea that Mance would ‘borrow’ Ramsay’s quilted doublet and even his likeness via a glamour.

These are a tremendous number of similarities, and all but the last don’t even rely on the theory of Mance’s use of a glamour. In essense…

Mance’s connection to Lann the Clever stands on its own, without presuming that the Mannifesto is correct.

However, the connection does strongly intersect with the Mannifesto:

If Mance is emulating Lann, and Lann stole Casterly Rock after sneaking in, then what do you think Mance is going to do?

*   *   *

As I said before, we could easily dismiss this as just being coincidence or perhaps only a novelty ‘easter egg’ left in the books.

But we have verily established that Mance has a penchant for musical inspiration.

Therefore it seems unreasonable to believe that the connection is anything less than deliberate.

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*   *   *


There is one final detail that I believe clinches the case: one of the spearwives makes reference to the song, drawing loose parallels to Theon.

Specifically, Rowan says the following:

“If you have no smile for me, tell me how you captured Winterfell. Abel will put it in a song, and you will live forever.

“As a betrayer. As Theon Turncloak.”

“Why not Theon the Clever? It was a daring feat, the way we heard it. How many men did you have? A hundred? Fifty?”

Fewer. “It was madness.”

“Glorious madness. Stannis has five thousand, they say, but Abel claims ten times as many still could not breach these walls. So how did you get in, m’lord? Did you have some secret way?

It’s readily visible that Rowan is suggesting that Theon could live on in songs like Lann the Clever. She is clearly comparing Theon to Lann, particularly with regards to capturing a castle with ease.

That she mentions the song in comparison to Theon is interesting by itself, but there is one other striking similarity to Lann’s story: the idea of a ‘secret way’.

Rowan asks about a ‘secret way’ into the castle. The term is specific. Compare to Yandel’s notes:

In the most common version of the tale, Lann discovered a secret way inside the Rock…

This bookends Rowan’s references to Lann the Clever and makes it clear that she is both aware of the song and is using it in reference to Theon’s exploits.

However, the rest of Yandel’s description of the tale does not correspond to any part of Theon’s tale, nor did Theon capture Winterfell with naught but his wits. Thus the tale is not truly applicable to Theon despite her mention of it.

Once again, this leads me to believe that the tale of Lann the Clever is being used as a sort of metaphorical skeleton from which to create Mance’s schemes.

In any case, it certainly proves that Rowan knows the song, and thereby Mance most certainly as well. Given that so many details of Lann’s tale match with events at Winterfell, it seems undeniable that the song inspires Mance and his spearwives.

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<the mannifesto>

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Revision History

  • 12/8/2014: Added section regarding Rowan the spearwife and her reference to Lann the Clever. Added ToC and fixed some grammar, editorial stuff.

3 thoughts on “The Ghost of Lann

  1. Tom H.

    If Mance is indeed trying to winkle Winterfell a la Lann the Clever, why are we so sure he will turn around and give it right back to Stannis? Couldn’t Mance’s plan be to take Winterfell for himself? I’m not sure if there’s much evidence for it – he certainly doesn’t have the manpower to hold the castle – but if you take the parallel with Lann seriously, that’s where it leads.

    1. cantuse Post author

      Even Mance must realize that the entire north would be against him if he tried to assume true ownership of Winterfell. Plus, many of the wildlings are hostages of some sort at the Wall, it would be a gamble to take.

      Recall JON I ADWD, it was revealed that Stannis planned on giving castles to Rattleshirt and Sigorn of Thenn.

      I am of the opinion that Stannis will reward Mance(“Rattleshirt”) with a castle, one that will be without a successor after he is through with its Lord. If Mance is given any castle, it would be the Dreadfort. At least, that’s my opinion.


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