Author Archives: cantuse

Cow Tools: On prophecy and writing new ASOIAF theories.

I have perhaps more drafted essays on ASOIAF than published ones at this point.

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  • Why is that?

I’m reminded of the cartoon shown at the beginning of this post. It’s an infamous strip from Gary Larson’s The Far Side, known as “Cow Tools”. You have to understand that the reason its infamous is all because of that one tool that vaguely resembles a wood saw.

The mere appearance of the ‘quasi-saw’ automatically compels the viewer to attempt to figure out what the other tools do. This is hilarious, because Larson later admitted that they were never meant to do anything, the appearance of functionality was entirely accidental. Subsequently, a cow tool is something that looks like it serves a function, but in reality does not. One might call it the opposite of a Chekhov’s gun.

As such, I constantly find myself stumbling across cow tools in my research and in my writing. A seemingly great bit of insight can be ruined when the facts don’t align enough to support a hypothesis. The realization that I’m dealing with cow tools can completely gut an entire essay.

One example would be my recent observation that Bran and Bloodraven are reminiscent of wendigos. It was an interesting observation, but critics are absolutely right to point out that wendigos are, according to most myths, mindless and voracious. So you see, its a cow tool… not all the details fit the narrative—in my haste to write an essay about wendigos I overlooked key details, I looked for functionality where there was none.

A more recent example of my own cow tool would be the discovery of the animated film The Flight of Dragons. It has a number of initially compelling observations:

  • A psychic girl named Melisande
  • A wolf that comes back from the dead after being killed by a giant squid
  • A musical instrument that controls dragons
  • An asshole that actually looks like GRRM who has a library of finished versions of half-finished books, including the eponymous The Flight of Dragons

But then you start to realize all of the things that don’t connect or make sense and realize you’ve really got nothing interesting to write about at all. There are tons of extraneous details in the film that don’t relate to anything in the books. It’s just more cow tools.

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  • How does this relate to prophecy?

I feel that cow tools manifest themselves all the time in prophecy because people will see one or two items that correspond to a prophecy and then do a lot of unnecessary work in an effort to make their vision of the prophecy work.

This is most obvious when it comes to ‘salt and smoke’ but it appears in other prophetic visions as well. You’ll see one half or more of the prophecy appear to be fulfilled, and then rush to fill in the second. I think this is a tempting, but dangerous mistake. Of course, if you can make a prediction that works without error, I’m all ears… but almost every theory out there has its ugly underbelly… the parts that don’t work… the cow tools that render them imperfect.

I guess what I’m saying is that I (and other people) need to realize when we writing something truly novel, and when we are working with cow tools.

My Own Private Hardhome

I regularly get inquiries about my health, especially since I haven’t posted an update since last August. I figure my latest correspondence with my headache specialist should suffice:

Hello Dr. Liu:

I am in agonizing pain. It seems that the second round of Botox has yet to have helped me at all. As of right now, I am hurting a great deal and have taken two sumatriptan and have taken all fourteen of my nightly pills (exedrin/ibuprofen, olanzapine, topamax, indomethacin, gabapentin, verapamil, prilosec, buproprion) and my head still hurts really bad.

Dr. David’s office says that my insurance will not cover the neurostimulator they wanted to consider, and that they have referred me back to your office for further care/treatment. I was desperate and asked how much it would cost me if I wanted to pay myself ($100,000)… I can’t afford that much.

I need to know if there are other providers that could help me out with more permanent/advanced options that might be covered because I’m in a living hell. The meds I’m on make me drowsy and stupid, they mess with my stomach and they probably aren’t good for my organs (at least not at the doses I’m taking). I haven’t slept the night through in almost a week because of head pain, it’s making me crazy. I’m terrified of trying to go to sleep tonight.

Please help me.

To put it simply… life with 100% never-ending excruciating head pain is so … so monstrously ruinous, it destroys all quality of life.

Moon Visions: Bran is Already Seeing the Future

I’ll get straight to the point:

Bran’s last chapter in A Dance with Dragons is rife with hidden meaning.

In particular, there are carefully hidden allegories buried in the various transitions of the moon.

By unraveling these mysteries, we realize that Bran’s powers of omniscience were already blooming, even before he—or the reader—was consciously aware of them.

Specifically: We can find intriguing possibilities that might support predictions about the fates of both Jon Snow and Stannis.

Lets start with Bran’s narrative: upon finally settling in at the cave of the Three-Eyed Raven, his narrative becomes increasingly distorted.

Bran’s last chapter in A Dance with Dragons is especially conspicuous, containing frequent—almost rhythmic—breaks in the storytelling—breaks which in almost every case describe the the moon overhead. These interludes all begin with one of the following phrases:

The moon was a crescent, thin and sharp as the blade of a knife.

The moon was fat and full.

The moon was a black hole in the sky.

These phrases clearly mark the passage of time, and make it clear that BRAN III—ADWD covers a period spanning several months.

Now this leads to an interesting question:

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  • Can we connect these passages to events happening elsewhere?

At first blush that seems absurd because Bran’s chapter and these sentences seem so abstract and independent of everything and everyone else. But all I’m really asking is–Can we find events in other chapters where the moon can be found in the same phase, or other evidence that events are happening concurrently with the events in BRAN III—ADWD as shown by Bran’s descriptions of the moon?

You may harbor serious doubts about this idea. However, if you’ll indulge me the opportunity to compare two passages from A Dance with Dragons, I believe you will be convinced that reading the remainder of this essay is worthwhile. Continue reading

An update

I’m sure by now some people would like to see something new from me, or at least see me back in the community. That hasn’t happened yet, due to some major problems with my surgery.

I’m only putting this out there so that people know just how difficult writing is for me at the current moment. Since my brain surgery, I have been to the Emergency Room three times. Last night was the last, and by far the worst.

I am dealing with some sort of inflammatory process that will not relent and only responds to really strong steroids (dexamethasone) and opiates. I am essentially a non-functioning human being at the present moment. I want to write, I want to play with my kids and squeeze my wife. Heck, I almost want to work.

But I can’t. Further, I don’t have the energy right now to be involved in the threads on /r/asoiaf that I interest me. There are lots of good things I see that I can’t talk about these days.

Temporarily out of commission

Just a small alert to the community and anyone who might try to contact me in the near future: I am having brain surgery July 20th, and fully expect to be completely offline for at least two weeks.

The surgery is relatively minor as far as brain surgeries go… only a procedure called a microvascular decompression, designed to treat my ongoing trigeminal neuralgia. It’s just that any time you operate on the brain, healing can be slow.

Feel free to comment as usual, but I won’t be responding for quite some time. Seven blessings and all that.

Eye of the Storm

Bran listened. “It’s only the wind,” he said after a moment, uncertain. “The leaves are rustling.”

“Who do you think sends the wind, if not the gods?”


In this quiet passage Osha introduces Bran, and the readers, to a recurring concept: the wind itself may occasionally carry supernatural importance.

Osha’s comment can certainly be dismissed as the primitive superstitions of a wildling—but as we’ve seen throughout A Song of Ice and Fire, folk myths often conceal compelling truths.

Getting to my point, I believe that Osha is largely correct in her statement:

The gods do appear to ‘send the wind’.

The reason for this claim is based on a more important observation:

Men and women can appeal to their gods for these winds.

Indeed, as I will show you there is plenty of evidence to suggest this is somehow true.

These are fun, insightful observations on their own—nice to know—but they do not inherently reveal details into the events that occur in the books. The only way to really generate exciting ideas from these findings is if we use them to explain or predict phenomenon. To that end, this essay proposes a possibly fantastical idea:

The blizzard that blankets the north was a deliberate ‘conjuration’.

It was conjured by someone allied with Stannis.

The two most likely candidates are Melisandre and/or Stannis himself.

Furthermore, I argue that such sorcery was likely a deliberate component of Stannis’s strategy, a key requirement for enacting the “Night Lamp” and subsequent plots. Even setting aside the Night Lamp theory and The Mannifesto, the ideas presented herein are thought-provoking at the very least. Continue reading