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The Bible, and Old Nan in A Song of Ice and Fire

moral-symbolism-in-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-using-literary-devices

The Bible's reflection in A Song of Ice and Fire

In A Song of Ice and Fire, there are several religions: The Old Gods, The Faith of the Severn, The Drown Gods, R'hllor, also known as Lord of Light, etc. The Bible can help us to explain some of the hidden symbols, concerning The Commandments and not only.

moral-symbolism-in-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-using-literary-devices
  • Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

The Old Gods are many and nameless. Weirwoods are considered holy for their followers. It has a white wood and red leaves like bloody hands. It's equivalent in the Old Testament is the Tree of life that is seen as the tree of knowledge. It is not possible to lie in the presence of a Weirwood; the Old Gods can see through the eyes carved on Weirwoods.

Personification: “The weirwood’s bark was white as bone, its leaves dark red, like a thousand bloodstained hands. A face had been carved in the trunk of the great tree, its features long and melancholy, the deep-cut eyes red with dried sap and strangely watchful. They were old, those eyes; older than Winterfell itself. They had seen Brandon the Builder set the first stone, if the tales were true; they had watched the castle’s granite walls rise around them.” (A Game of Thrones: 25-26)

moral-symbolism-in-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-using-literary-devices

Parallelism: The Sept and The Bible

  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. The seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.

Number seven had significance in almost every religion. In the Old Testament, the world was created in six days, and God rested on the seventh day. In the New Testament, number seven symbolizes the unity of the four corners of the Earth.

In A Song of Ice and Fire, number seven is overly used. For example; The Faith of the Seven; Seven faces of God; Sept (Latin) - a building where the followers of the Faith of the Seven worship; Septon and Septa - priest and priestess of the Faith; High Septon - The head of the Faith that speaks in the name of new gods on the Earth; Seven Hells and Seven Heavens, which can be compared with Seven deadly sins (also known as Capital vices or Cardinal sins) and Seven Virtues of the Bible. We can not tell whether or not George Martin hid meanings in the concepts of the Seven Kingdoms and Seven volumes, as well.

The most significant appearance of this number is expressed through The Seven-Pointed Star, the holy text of the Faith of the Seven. The Seven-Pointed Star, a heptagram, is present in several religions, Christianity included. The Seven-Pointed Star was used in Christianity to symbolize the seven days of creation and became a traditional symbol for warding off evil. The Seven-Pointed Star is used in some Christian churches such as Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity.

moral-symbolism-in-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-using-literary-devices

The holy book of the Faith has its own seven commandments;

  • Spirits, wights, and revenants cannot harm a pious man, so long as he is armored in his faith. (A Feast for Crows: 355)
  • Men bow to their lords, and lords to their kings, so kings and queens must bow before the Seven Who Are One. (A Feast for Crows: 365)

I am the Lord thy God. (The Bible)

  • Married men and women must stay faithful to each other until death. (Fire&Blood)

Thou shalt not commit adultery. (The Bible)

  • Pride goes before a fall. (Fire&Blood)

Thou shalt not covet. (The Bible)

  • Death is never far in this world, and seven hells await sinners who do not repent their sins. (A Feast for Crows: 397)

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. (The Bible)

  • Incest is sinful. (Fire&Blood)

Thou shalt not commit adultery. (The Bible)

  • All sins may be forgiven, but crimes must still be punished. (A Feast for Crows: 567)

Thou shalt not kill. (The Bible)

  • Married men and women must stay faithful to each other until death. (Fire&Blood)

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (The Bible)

  • Pride goes before a fall. (Fire&Blood)

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (The Bible)

As can be seen, the Faith of the Seven derives from the Bible. As number seven also means completeness and perfection, its usage might be a call for creating a better world.

moral-symbolism-in-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-using-literary-devices

Old Nan and Her Stories

Old Nan tells stories out of the sheer enjoyment of telling stories, always looking for hooks or opportunities to start telling a story. Hence, the ancient stories remain alive for another generation. Literally, she is one of the essential characters in the first book.

She symbolizes the narrative oral tradition; the North remembers they say, but the North acts as if it has forgotten. She remembers. The first men didn't record things with ink on paper; instead, this is how the truth was passed down from mother to daughter and father to son through stories, fairy tales, and legends embellished or simplified over time, but retaining their central truths. Stories and legends are about teaching morals, binding people together with a shared heritage, or explaining why things are as they are. The legend of the rat cook is about teaching the importance of entertaining guests right; the burning of Harrenhal teaches about hubris and false confidence, as well as how scary dragons are.

These are stories that are told to all children everywhere in Westeros, not just to the Starks; they were shared stories, not only older Nan's.

"My stories? No, my little lord, not mine. The stories are, before me and after me, before you too." (A Game of Thrones: 223)
—Old Nan

There is a common thread running through the tales Old Nan chooses to tell. They are all fantastical in some way: nameless monsters, legendary heroes, ghosts, dragons, and white walkers. All of the characters that are presented as wise, i.e., maester Luwin Tyrion, scoff at these tales.

George R.R. Martin used Old Nan as a flag to alert the reader that there is magic in this world, that there are truths to be found in stories and fables, that we should look for echoes of these things in the story to come.

moral-symbolism-in-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-using-literary-devices

The importance of guest rights in the story of the rat cook underlines the horror of the Red Wedding when guest rights are contravened.

The terror of dragons shown in the story of Harrenhal will surely be echoed in the appearance of Danny's dragons in Westeros.

Old Nan is seemingly ageless, the depository of humanity's history and knowledge like the way woods are for children of the forest. For her time blurs into one and ebbs. It flows one Brandon Stark after another history repeating itself: what was happening then is happening now.

Hyperbole: She was a very ugly old woman, Bran thought spitefully; shrunken and wrinkled, almost blind, too weak to climb stairs, with only a few wisps of white hair left to cover a mottled pink scalp. No one really knew how old she was. (A Game of Thrones: 223)

Old Nan lives on regardless of whether she is still alive in the books, her stories, wisdom, and knowledge have already been passed on. The Stark children still remember what she taught them, and they will pass the stories on to their children. That is how the North and everyone remembers.

Old Nan just lived on and on, doing her needlework and telling her stories. (A Game of Thrones: 224)

Old Nan's comprises the character of a storyteller and a spinster. Although she was married once and had children, all of them were killed. Now, she is a toothless old woman telling stories and working with her needles.

Onomatopoeia: He [Bran] thought back on the tales that Old Nan used to tell them, when he was a boy at Winterfell. He could almost hear her voice again, and the click-click-click of her needles. (A Game of Thrones: 511)

We can compare Old Nan with the most famous Armenian storyteller, Granny Gyulnaz (Գյուլնազ տատ), as nowadays Granny Gyulnaz is associated with false information. And people find it hard to believe Old Nan's stories as well.

"That's just one of Old Nan's stories," Bran said. A note of doubt crept into his voice.
"Isn't it?" (A Game of Thrones: 526)

moral-symbolism-in-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-using-literary-devices