Made of Black Steel

THE MANNIFESTO: APPENDIX II, CHAPTER II

The central argument in The Ghost of Lann is that Mance Rayder’s subversion and capture of Winterfell clearly drew inspiration from the tale of Lann the Clever. Likewise, Six Maids in Winterfell shows how Mance almost certainly designed Jeyne Poole’s rescue based on the story of Florian and Jonquil.

Both essays show striking parallels between Mance’s actions and what is known about these songs and tales. These parallels are present even if you completely dismiss the Mannifesto and its theories concerning Mance,

However, if the Mannifesto is correct, the parallels become even more pronounced, strongly buttressing the Mannifesto’s theories about Ramsay, Mance, and the subversion at Winterfell.

It’s fascinating that both songs appear to have relevance for Mance in Winterfell. It raises an interesting question:

Does it end there? Are there even more songs that inspire Mance inside Winterfell?

I believe the answer is a resounding yes.

There is at least one more song that profoundly parallels the events at Winterfell, known or theorized. As such it further reinforces the notion that Mance draws from multiple songs while posing as Abel, thereby enhancing the previous song analyses and the Mannifesto itself.

*   *   *

Cutting to the chase, this essay asserts the following:

Mance’s plans in Winterfell were also inspired by the song “The Dornishman’s Wife”.

The song –particularly Mance Rayder’s variation on it– is overwhelmingly congruent with the Mannifesto: it as an allegory for a secret plot.

By establishing the connection to the Mannifesto, the song strengthens support for specific theories in the Mannifesto.

Most notably, it enhances the theory that Mance will use a glamour and assume Ramsay’s role as Lord of Winterfell.

Contents

  1. Basic Facts. The significance of Mance’s variation on the original song.
  2. Kisses, Teeth and Black Steel. A massive parallel between Mance’s ruby cuff and “The Dornishman’s Wife”, revealed by Mance himself.
  3. The Darkness Around. Finding meaning in the final verse.
  4. Conclusion.

A Caveat For Newcomers

NOTE: This notice is only directed at readers who arrive at this essay without prior familiarity to the Mannifesto series.

This essay presumes that readers believe (or can temporarily believe) that I’m correct on the following points:

Mance has plotted to infiltrate and capture Winterfell: he will use a glamour and assume the role of Ramsay Bolton.

Meanwhile, Mance will trap Ramsay in the Winterfell crypts.

Mance will thereafter intensify his campaign to compel an exodus from Winterfell, thereby leaving it ripe for a quick takeover from Stannis.

These assertions are based on the thorough analysis provided throughout Volumes I and II of the Mannifesto.

NOTE: The most relevant essays are Showdown in the Crypts and Decrypting the Pink Letter. If these premises appear far-fetched, I recommend reading (or at least skimming) these essays before dismissing this post.

*   *   *

BASIC FACTS


comp_blizzardBefore beginning a deep analysis, I want to establish some basic observations.

The Original

A good place to start would be with the song itself. To make it easier for readers to follow this essay, I am posting the original version of the song here:

“The Dornishman’s Wife” – Original Version

The Dornishman’s wife was as fair as the sun,
and her kisses were warmer than spring.
But the Dornishman’s blade was made of black steel,
and its kiss was a terrible thing.

The Dornishman’s wife would sing as she bathed,
in a voice that was sweet as a peach,
But the Dornishman’s blade had a song of its own,
and a bite sharp and cold as a leech.

As he lay on the ground with the darkness around,
and the taste of his blood on his tongue,
His brothers knelt by him and prayed him a prayer,
and he smiled and he laughed and he sung,
“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done,
the Dornishman’s taken my life,
But what does it matter, for all men must die,
and I’ve tasted the Dornishman’s wife!”

This is the version we first hear Mance play in A Storm of Swords.

*   *   *

The Ad-Lib

Mance plays the song once more in A Dance with Dragons. However, he significantly modifies the lyrics:

He was still waiting for his porridge when Ramsay swept into the hall with his Bastard’s Boys, shouting for music. Abel rubbed the sleep from his eyes, took up his lute, and launched into “The Dornishman’s Wife,” whilst one of his washerwomen beat time on her drum. The singer changed the words, though. Instead of tasting a Dornishman’s wife, he sang of tasting a northman’s daughter.

He could lose his tongue for that, Theon thought, as his bowl was being filled. He is only a singer. Lord Ramsay could flay the skin off both his hands, and no one would say a word. But Lord Bolton smiled at the lyric and Ramsay laughed aloud. Then others knew that it was safe to laugh as well. Yellow Dick found the song so funny that wine snorted out his nose.
— THE TURNCLOAK, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

By changing the song this way, he changes the characters in the song. Theon’s concerns here make it clear:

Mance’s ad-lib makes Ramsay a central character in the song, and not a role that Theon expected Ramsay to like.

*   *   *

Casting the Parts

In the original song there are only three characters: the Dornishman, his wife, and the unnamed man who lusts for the wife, whom I call “the lustful man”. In light of Mance’s adaptation and its obvious aim, its trivial to determine who plays two of these roles:

  • Ramsay is the lustful man. Since he is the one who sleeps with “Arya”, a northman’s daughter, its clear that this is his role in the song. It is also the only role that explains Theon’s concerns.
  • “Arya Stark”, aka Jeyne Poole, is the Northman’s Daughter.

The true mystery is the identity of the “Northman” himself. Taken literally it should be Arya’s father Eddard. However, in the song the Northman apparently kills Ramsay. Therefore it clearly can’t be the already-dead Ned. Likewise, even if someone knew it was really Jeyne Poole, her father Vayon Poole is dead as well. In the context of Mance’s ad-lib, there is no viable ‘father’ to “Arya”. The Northman must be someone else.

In the absence of a relevant ‘father’, it is only prudent to then look at the father’s role in the story, the function he serves: the father is the one who kills Ramsay.

This is where I bring up one of the claims made in Showdown in the Crypts:

Mance Rayder is the one who defeats Ramsay.

The linked essay provides a comprehensive series of arguments in favor of this claim. However, the most relevant sentiment can be neatly expressed in a single sentence from Mance himself:

“If the Bastard does come after us, he might live long enough to rue it.”
— THEON, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

NOTE: A third possibility is that Mance meant to refer to Eddard Stark’s ghost, and that it had no sinister connotations.

However when the assassinations in Winterfell begin, Theon and likely others start fearing that the castle is haunted. Recall that in The Ghost of Lann, I argue that Mance draws from Lann’s tale. A significant element of the tale is that Lann convinced the Casterlys that the castle was haunted.

Thus, if you believe that Mance was merely referring to a ghost, it still works its way back to Mance.

With no valid father figure available and Mance’s veiled threat, I assert that Mance Rayder himself is the Northman.

So… what’s the point of identifying these roles?

  • It undeniably proves that Mance established deliberate parallels between the song and events at Winterfell.

If Mance can make such superficial details in the song have relevance, could he have done the same with the rest of the lyrics?

  • It’s laughably bold of Mance to outright sing about “someone” killing Ramsay right to his face. This is why Theon expressed his shock at Mance’s moxie.
  • Lastly, knowing the actors playing each role in the song is only the first step in deciphering the song’s allegorical importance.

As we unravel the song’s mysteries I will be repeatedly displaying the lyrics to Mance’s “The Northman’s Daughter”. When the lyrics are shown, they will be modified or annotated to reflect its changing meaning. Changes will be highlighted.

The lyrics for the “The Northman’s Daughter” are shown below. They have been modified to show the actual characters for each role:

“The Northman’s Daughter” – Mance’s Variation

“Arya Stark” was as fair as the sun,
and her kisses were warmer than spring.
But Mance’s blade was made of black steel,
and its kiss was a terrible thing.

“Arya Stark” would sing as she bathed,
in a voice that was sweet as a peach,
But Mance’s blade had a song of its own,
and a bite sharp and cold as a leech.

As [Ramsay] lay on the ground with the darkness around,
and the taste of his blood on his tongue,
His brothers knelt by him and prayed him a prayer,
and he smiled and he laughed and he sung,
“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done,
Mance has taken my life,
But what does it matter, for all men must die,
and I’ve tasted “Arya Stark”!”

Of course, even if Mance is the Northman in this song, it raises a significant question:

Where or what is the black blade that he uses to kill Ramsay?

 

<table of contents>

*   *   *

KISSES, TEETH AND BLACK STEEL


Mance_Rayder_by_Lukasz_Jaskolski,_Fantasy_Flight_Games©In Melisandre’s point-of-view chapter, she converses with Mance Rayder about his glamour and the ruby cuff that sustains it:

“The glamor, aye.” In the black iron fetter about his wrist, the ruby seemed to pulse. He tapped it with the edge of his blade. The steel made a faint click against the stone.
— MELISANDRE, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

The fetter that empowers Mance’s glamour is made of black metal. Although iron is not steel, the fetter is at-a-glance indistinguishable from black steel.

This of course spoils the surprise and reveals my hypothesis:

In Mance’s ‘tailored’ version of the song, the ‘black blade’ is an allegory for the ruby cuff.

On its face, I find this hypothesis very exciting: it neatly matches my theories from the Mannifesto.

However, this is obviously a bit contentious.

*   *   *

Kisses and Teeth

Isn’t it a logical leap to declare that the ‘black blade’ must refer to the ruby cuff?

Perhaps.

Even if the lyrics do refer to Winterfell and mention a black metal, we cannot show a definite connection between the ruby cuff and Mance’s “The Northman’s Daughter”.

However, there is explosive evidence that shows the ruby cuff is most definitely associated with “The Northman’s Daughter”.

While talking to Melisandre about the ruby cuff, Mance utters the following:

“I feel it when I sleep. Warm against my skin, even through the iron. Soft as a woman’s kiss. Your kiss. But sometimes in my dreams it starts to burn, and your lips turn into teeth. Every day I think how easy it would be to pry it out, and every day I don’t. Must I wear the bloody bones as well?”
— MELISANDRE, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

This is mind-blowing. Take note of the bolded segments!

Mance says that the ruby cuff feels like a woman’s warm kisses.

Seven hells! Compare it to the first verse in the song:

“Arya Stark” was as fair as the sun,
and her kisses were warmer than spring.
But Mance’s blade was made of black steel,
and its kiss was a terrible thing.

The parallels here are beyond conspicuous:

  • The song says that “Arya” has warm kisses, just like Mance’s comment. A woman’s kiss is warm. The context of the first two lines doesn’t exactly make sense right now, since “Arya” is not as fair as the sun, nor are her kisses ‘warm’.

In truth this is because I believe the first verse is actually not about “Arya” but another woman entirely. explain this much later.

  • The song clearly suggests that the ‘black blade’ has some sort of metaphorical kiss. Mance says the exact same thing about the ruby cuff.

But what about the teeth?

First of all, observe what Mance says about the cuff near the end of the excerpt:

Mance says that the ruby cuff’s ‘warm kisses’ start to burn, turning into teeth.

And once again there is a striking match in the song:

The “Arya Stark” would sing as she bathed,
in a voice that was sweet as a peach,
But Mance’s blade had a song of its own,
and a bite sharp and cold as a leech.

The song clearly shows that the ‘black blade’ had a figurative bite, thus figurative teeth. It is yet another massive congruency between the song’s ‘black blade’ and the ruby cuff.

*   *   *

Context Matters

A critic might feel that these observations are merely the product of fabrication and accidental coincidences.

Just because they are very similar, we still haven’t established a direct connection between Mance’s comments on the ruby cuff to the song itself.

We need to demonstrate a clear connection between Mance, the ruby cuff and the song.

In this case, context matters. I need to present a larger excerpt to show the temporal and thematic locality of these elements. I apologize for the lengthy citation, but it is relevant to show context:

“The glamor, aye.” In the black iron fetter about his wrist, the ruby seemed to pulse. He tapped it with the edge of his blade. The steel made a faint click against the stone. “I feel it when I sleep. Warm against my skin, even through the iron. Soft as a woman’s kiss. Your kiss. But sometimes in my dreams it starts to burn, and your lips turn into teeth. Every day I think how easy it would be to pry it out, and every day I don’t. Must I wear the bloody bones as well?”

“The spell is made of shadow and suggestion. Men see what they expect to see. The bones are part of that.” Was I wrong to spare this one? “If the glamor fails, they will kill you.”

The wildling began to scrape the dirt out from beneath his nails with the point of his dagger. “I’ve sung my songs, fought my battles, drunk summer wine, tasted the Dornishman’s wife. A man should die the way he’s lived. For me that’s steel in hand.”
— MELISANDRE, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

The first paragraph has the references to the black iron fetter, a woman’s warm kiss, and teeth which I used in the previous sections.

Now look at the last paragraph. Mance specifically mentions ‘tasting the Dornishman’s wife’. Furthermore, his statement in the paragraph is a response to Melisandre’s comments about the ruby cuff and the glamor:

  • The entire conversation shown here concerns the black iron fetter.
  • In describing the fetter, Mance uses several metaphors that that precisely match terms used in “The Dornishman’s Wife”.
  • Then, only moment’s later he conspicuously refers to “The Dornishman’s Wife”.

How does this show a connection between the cuff and the song?

Well, let me ask you a question:

If Mance had already tasted the Dornishman’s wife, shouldn’t he be dead?

Important points:

  • In the song, the man who tasted the Dornishman’s wife dies: it is the last thing the man does.
  • When describing the way he lived, Mance mentions tasting the Dornishman’s wife last
  • By comparing himself to the lusty man in the past tense, Mance should be dead.
  • Mance did appear to die.
  • Thus Mance has made a direct connection between the song and his execution, and thereby connected to the ruby cuff.

By such conventional reasoning, we have shown that Mance deliberately connected these elements together:

Mance has made an explicit connection between the ruby fetter, “The Dornishman’s Wife” and himself.

*   *   *

Cold as a Leech

There is also an intriguing bit in the last line of the second verse:

But Mance’s blade had a song of its own,
and a bite sharp and cold as a leech.

The line clearly uses a simile to establish a parity between the bite of a leech and the manner in which the ‘black blade’ causes harm.

The song implies that somehow the ‘black blade’ will figuratively leech its victim.

In Mance’s adaptation of the song, this suggests that Mance Rayder will leech Ramsay in some sort of allegorical fashion.

Could this somehow correspond to the theory that Mance will –in Melisandre’s words– draw Ramsay’s ‘essence’ and wear it like a cloak?

Indeed, it certainly seems like the most viable explanation. I can’t think of anything else that Mance could ‘leech’ from Ramsay.

NOTE: Another trivial observation–leeches are informally associated with Roose Bolton.

*   *   *

Collectively there seems to be great synergy here, the Mannifesto’s theories greatly coincide with the observations about the ruby cuff and Mance’s version of “The Dornishman’s Wife”.

Before moving on, I want to once more present Mance’s version of the song, edited to reflect the theorized interpretation (annotations between verses):

NOTE: The subtext in Mance’s descriptions of the ruby cuff suggest that the cuff’s kisses and teeth are both manifestations of some sort of magical power, with the teeth seemingly more cruel in nature. Hence I will make that substitution in the song. I also make an alteration to the leech simile, reflecting a general ‘draining’ effect.

“The Northman’s Daughter” – Ruby Cuff Interpretation

“Arya Stark” was as fair as the sun,
and her power was warmer than spring.
But Mance’s ruby cuff was made of black steel,
and its power was a terrible thing.

The third and fourth lines are essentially a fanciful way of saying that Mance has a weapon, made of powerful metal and possessing terrible power.

The use of ‘but’ shows suggests that while Ramsay has a desire for “Arya”, Mance has a foil in his ruby cuff.

“Arya Stark” would sing as she bathed,
in a voice that was sweet as a peach,
But Mance’s ruby cuff had a song of its own,
and a cruel power that acts like a leech.

The third and fourth lines here continue the ‘black blade’ motif. They essentially state that Mance’s weapon can protect Arya using its magic to siphon something from Ramsay.

As [Ramsay] lay on the ground with the darkness around,
and the taste of his blood on his tongue,
His brothers knelt by him and prayed him a prayer,
and he smiled and he laughed and he sung,
“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done,
Mance has taken my life,
But what does it matter, for all men must die,
and I’ve tasted “Arya Stark”!”

You’ll notice that the third verse is conspicuously devoid of insight.

What can be gleaned from the last verse?

<table of contents>

*   *   *

THE DARKNESS AROUND


raven-crypt1We have to look at things differently in order to find anything useful in the third verse.

If Mance’s version of the song is indeed an outline of Mance’s scheme against Ramsay –a scheme involving the ruby cuff– then the third verse describes the aftermath of Ramsay’s defeat.

Thus, instead of finding passages in the text that directly map to the song, I feel that we are better served by comparing elements of the Mannifesto to the song and evaluating the strength of the parallels.

Trapped in the Crypts

In Showdown in the Crypts, I asserted that Mance would trap Ramsay in the Winterfell crypts. One can only assume that it extremely dark in the crypts:

Lady Dustin’s serjeant raised the lantern. Shadows slid and shifted. A small light in a great darkness.
— THE TURNCLOAK, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

If Ramsay is fated to meet his end trapped in the crypts, it certainly parallels the first line of the third verse:

As [Ramsay] lay on the ground with the darkness around,

*   *   *

Taken My Life

Mance’s variation of “The Dornishman’s Wife” suggests that Ramsay will die, slain by Mance Rayder.

However, that may be an unfortunate product of reading into the text:

“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done,
Mance has taken my life,

The verse doesn’t say anything about actually killing Ramsay, it says that Mance “takes his life“. In fact the song doesn’t show the lusty man’s death at all.

By stealing Ramsay’s likeness and assuming his role as Lord of Winterfell, Mance would effectively be taking Ramsay’s life.

If you recall the previous section, I showed that Mance made a clear connection between his execution and “The Dornishman’s Wife”.

Notice that Mance has taken Rattleshirt’s life.

This is a compelling –and sinister– similarity to the theory of Ramsay’s doom from the Mannifesto.

NOTE: Another curious observation – Jon Snow ruminates on that very same verse of the song during Mance’s execution.

*   *   *

Before continuing, here is the song, once again revised to show the interpretation thus far:

“The Northman’s Daughter” – Third Verse Interpretation

“Arya Stark” was as fair as the sun,
and her power was warmer than spring.
But Mance’s ruby cuff was made of black steel,
and its power was a terrible thing.

“Arya Stark” would sing as she bathed,
in a voice that was sweet as a peach,
But Mance’s ruby cuff had a song of its own,
and a cruel power that acts like a leech.

As [Ramsay] lay on the ground in the Winterfell crypts,
and the taste of his blood on his tongue,
His brothers knelt by him and prayed him a prayer,
and he smiled and he laughed and he sung,
“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done,
Mance has assumed my identity,
But what does it matter, for all men must die,
and I’ve tasted “Arya Stark”!”

<table of contents>

*   *   *

THE MISSING PIECES


rattleshirtThroughout this essay I’ve shown that “The Dornishman’s Wife” has had specific applicability to Mance, not once but twice:

  • Mance deliberately invokes terminology from the song while talking with Melisandre. Subtle cues indicate that he uses the song as an allegory for his falsified execution.
  • Later at Winterfell, Mance in fact performs a version of the song tailored to his audience. If the Mannifesto is correct, then this version of the song provides tremendous insight into his plans.

There’s just one problem with this: several of the verses seem to be conspicuously incompatible with the suggested scenarios.

The Missing Piece

Early in the essay, I pointed out that the ‘warm kisses’ in the first verse seemed like an odd fit for the first verse: it makes the verse seem confusing as to its subject.

If the song is an allegory for Arya Stark, why does it mention warm kisses from her which are not seen?

What is the significance of the line that mentions “Arya Stark” singing as she bathes?

If Mance truly did use the song as an allegory in both instances, how in seven hells can you reconcile these gaps?

I believe I can answer this with a rather self-explanatory hypothesis. Under the auspices that Mance uses the song allegorically:

The first verse is actually about Melisandre.

After all, Mance did specifically to Melisandre’s kisses as being warm, and that the ruby cuff would ‘bite’.

The second verse is about “Arya Stark”.

Jeyne bathes every night, and she cries all day. The first line of the second verse is about “Arya” singing while she bathes. It’s only a small leap to see how a person could call it singing.

The third verse is about Ramsay or Rattleshirt interchangeably.

Since Mance takes both of their lives, you can see how the third verse could equally be about Rattleshirt or Ramsay. In other words, Rattleshirt and Ramsay both play the lusty man in the song.

Since Melisandre is the subject of the first verse, and “Arya” the subject of the second; it seems obvious that Rattleshirt is the lusty man in the first and Ramsay the second.

*   *   *

To better explain, here is the new, final version of the song:

NOTE: I am also changing the word ‘power’ to ‘glamor’ because it better reflects the specific power of the ruby cuff.

“The Northman’s Daughter” – The Ramsay/Rattleshirt Split

Melisandre was as fair as the sun,
and her glamor was warmer than spring.
But Mance’s ruby cuff was made of black steel,
and its glamor was a terrible thing.

“Arya Stark” would cry as she bathed,
in a voice that was sweet as a peach,
But Mance’s ruby cuff had a song of its own,
and a cruel glamor that acts like a leech.

As [Ramsay/Rattleshirt] lay on the ground in the Winterfell crypts,
and the taste of his blood on his tongue,
His brothers knelt by him and prayed him a prayer,
and he smiled and he laughed and he sung,
“Brothers, oh brothers, my days here are done,
Mance has assumed my identity,
But what does it matter, for all men must die,
and I’ve tasted Melisandre/“Arya Stark”!”

Notice the subtle implication:

It implies that Rattleshirt (the lusty man in the first verse) received Melisandre’s ‘warm kisses’. Her glamor.

The reason this intrigues me is because at Mance’s falsified execution, Rattleshirt seems completely at home despite the fact that he is horribly under-dressed for a wintery climate:

Mance Rayder [Rattleshirt] wore only a thin tunic that left his limbs naked to the cold.
— JON III, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

Mance Rayder’s [Rattleshirt’s] thick grey-brown hair blew about his face as he walked. He pushed it from his eyes with bound hands, smiling.
— JON III, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

Now call me crazy, but it certainly seems like Rattleshirt should be freezing his balls off.

But he isn’t – indeed he’s smiling.

This strongly suggests he is being kept warm somehow, and since we know he was being glamored, its almost a certainty that Melisandre’s glamor warmed Rattleshirt against the cold.

With that in mind, we have sudden clarity regarding the first verse.

*   *   *

Put together, this final version of the song is amazingly precise.

CONCLUSION


Put together you have a pretty striking picture:

Mance deliberately used elements of “The Dornishman’s Wife” as part of his schemes at Winterfell.

Of course this presumes that the Mannifesto is correct regarding Mance’s actions. You may or may not have been convinced by those essays.

However, if you combine this with the other essays regarding Mance’s songs (The Ghost of Lann and Six Maids in Winterfell), you can begin to see a formidable body of very conspicuous similarities emerging:

For a certainty, Mance’s schemes in Winterfell were drawn from multiple songs and legends.

<table of contents>

<the mannifesto>

*   *   *

2 thoughts on “Made of Black Steel

  1. heidelbergchad

    I would find it fitting if Ramsay, trapped in the Winterfell crypts, were forced in the manner of Lady Hornwood to eat his own fingers to stave off starvation. Poetic Justice.

    Reply
  2. ecr56

    In the ‘Kissed, Teeth and Black Steel’ section you say Mance would be the lustful man because he tasted the Dornishman’s wife, according to himself. But the final version of the song has Ramsay and Rattleshirt as the lustful man and Mance as the northman. I think I understand what you meant and I agree with you, but it could maybe be worded a little bit differently to avoid the seeming confusion I just mentioned.

    Reply

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