Explaining Bran Stark’s Super Powers
A quick tutorial in basic ‘Greenseeing’ and ‘Warging’
Many of you may have heard of the theory that Bran Stark is the Night King and some of you may have even read my response to this theory.
Why Bran Stark Is not the Night King
Unless Benioff and Weiss Really Don’t Care About Logic
Today, I am going to try to go much deeper into the basic mechanics of greenseeing and warging.
The Bran = Night King Theory is based on the belief that Bran can use his ‘greenseeing’ powers to go back in time while simultaneously using his ‘warging’ powers to take over the minds of influential people in the past who might have been critical to the rise of the Night King.
I have three major disagreements with this theory:
- Greenseeing does not allow people to time-travel
- Warging does not allow people to possess other people in the past
- Warging is really hard with animals and nearly impossible with humans
And I have had some pretty serious support, including from Elio and Linda at Westeros.org (they literally wrote the book, with George R.R. Martin, about the history of Westeros):
But, to really understand all of this, you have to first understand greenseeing and warging. And it occurred to me that I hadn’t really discussed this part of my argument in depth yet.
So, What Is Greenseeing?
Greenseeing is the ability to see what the trees see (or, with enough training, to see even more than what the trees see).
The important part of the name that often gets ignored is “see.”
Greenseers have subscription access, through trances, to a streaming video service that allows them to search and discover anything in the world that trees have seen. So, the combined memory of all trees forms the streaming library and the trance is the VR headset that connects the greenseer with that streaming library (Treeflix).
The confusion that created this theory probably started when, on the Game of Thrones television show, Bran had a momentary experience which gave him the impression that he could directly interact with the people he was watching on Treeflix.
While he was in a greenseeing trance, Bran called out and the historical Ned Stark looks up as if he was able to actually hear future Bran’s voice (a similar scene, also with Ned, happened in the books).
Bran’s guide Brynden (the three-eyed Raven or three-eyed Crow), explains Bran’s feeling in the books as a kind of greenseer’s curse (ADWD Bran III):
Brynden: “A man must know how to look before he can hope to see. Those were shadows of days past that you saw Bran. You were looking through the eyes of the heart tree in your godswood. Time is different for a tree than for a man for men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. A thousand human years is a moment to a weirwood, and through such gates you and I may gaze into the past.”
Bran: “He heard me”
Brynden: “He heard a whisper on the wind, a rustling amongst the leaves. You cannot speak to him try as you might. I know, I have my own ghosts Bran, a brother that I loved, I brother that I hated, a woman I desired. Through the trees, I see them still. But no word of mine has ever reached them. The past remains the past. We can learn from it, but we cannot change it.”
And it is probably important to mention that later, in that book, Bran tries several times to make contact with no success.
I appreciate that many people will wonder why GRRM and showrunners Benioff and Weiss would include this detail at all unless they planned to use it later, so, for the sake of argument, let’s assume Bran’s voice could theoretically be heard by people in the past.
This still does not explain how this would translate to Bran being a time-traveler. I get that, it appeared as if Bran and Brynden were walking through the scenes of history together but that was a shortcut created for the viewer to understand that Bran and Brynden were using Treeflix not an approximation of their corporeal selves being present in the scenes.
Greenseers are in a trance when they are using Treeflix, they are not walking through history in physical bodies (this is depicted multiple times on the show, most famously in the Hold The Door scene with Hodor).
Maybe it is possible that Bran will figure out a way to make contact with people in the past, but that certainly wouldn’t translate to his being able to
physically exist in the past
easily converse with anyone in the past
take over people’s minds in the past.
And remember, the Night King theory relies on Bran’s ability to go back, pick specific people, and take over their minds.
So What Is Warging?
Wargs have the ability to enter the minds of animals and perceive the world from their point of view, sometimes this includes being able to control their actions. It is important to remember, as with greenseeing, that a warg’s body becomes more or less comatose during the process of warging.
<It gets a bit confusing here as well, because in the books skinchangers could enter the minds of animals while warg’s could enter the minds of both animals and wolves, the television show removed this distinction>
Generally, warging is easier if the warg has a pre-existing relationship with the target and warging humans is nearly impossible and rarely attempted.
As most everybody knows, Bran was able to warg Hodor and this ability culminated with destroying Willis (Hodor before his mind snapped) by connecting him to Hodor (Willis after his mind snapped).
And this is where the second problem arises regarding the Night King theory. Believers in the Bran = Night King theory assume that Bran connected to Willis in the past which means, as the theory goes, that Bran is capable of warging anyone in the past.
First, Bran did not warg Willis, he warged Hodor.
If you re-watch the scene, you will see that Meera is calling Bran back from his greenseeing so that he will take over Hodor and use Hodor to get them to safety. Bran manages to warg Hodor in the present while he stays in his greenseeing trance.
It has long been my contention that since Hodor and Willis share the same brain, this insertion of the same exact same brain in two places created the time-paradox causing Willis to become Hodor.
In other words, while Bran cannot warg or talk to Willis in a greendream, Hodor IS Willis and because Bran is controlling Hodor at the same time he is watching Willis on Treeflix the Hodor/Willis brain literally broke in the process (to be 100% honest, I am not sure that even Benioff & Weiss themselves could explain what happened here).
Let’s assume he can warg other humans in the present, or at least humans he knows (and who have mental health issues), how would he set this up so that he could use his greenseeing + his warging to get the right person in the present to be present as he took them over during greenseeing?
Or, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Bran can warg someone in the past. It was VERY hard for Bran to warg Hodor (who he had known his entire life). How exactly would this translate into his ability to warg less mentally challenged folks that he didn’t know in a time period where he was totally alien?
It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It seems, even in this world, almost entirely implausible.
Anyway, hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of why I have been so skeptical of this very popular theory.
Game of Thrones Season 7: My Ongoing Guide
Everything Josh H has written about Game of Thrones Season 2017