George R.R. Martin has big plans for The Winds of Winter.
The author has been attempting to finish the sixth book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series while in quarantine and he's been providing blog updates on his progress every so often. Martin’s last major update on The Winds of Winter’s publication suggested that he would have it completed at some point in 2021. However, given that the book’s release date has been delayed for several years now, it may be best to keep expectations low until a concrete date is confirmed.
While fans wait for the sixth installment, Martin and Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been dropping morsels of information about the HBO show. That includes the Game of Thrones scene that Martin hates the most, why Lady Stoneheart wasn't included in the series, and, most recently, how Hodor's death will play out differently in The Winds of Winter (or A Dream of Spring, depending on when it happens).
Fans will remember Hodor’s death as one of the most heartbreaking of the series. The gentle and loyal Stark caretaker sacrificed himself to save Bran, who had warged into the gentle giant's mind and commanded that he “hold the door” while he and Meera escaped the White Walkers’ attack in Season 6. It was at this moment that Hodor’s past and present collided and the origin of his name — as a child he was known as Wylis — was revealed. But things may play out slightly differently in Winds of Winter.
In Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon, a new book about Game of Thrones by James Hibberd, Martin explains how Hodor’s death in the books will play out differently.
“I thought they executed it very well, but there are going to be differences in the book. They did it very physical — 'hold the door' with Hodor's strength. In the book, Hodor has stolen one of the old swords from the crypt. Bran has been warging into Hodor and practicing with his body, because Bran had been trained in swordplay. So telling Hodor to 'hold the door' is more like 'hold this pass' — defend it when enemies are coming — and Hodor is fighting and killing them. A little different, but same idea.”
In Game of Thrones, Hodor’s mind was twisted and permanently changed due to Bran’s tinkering with memories of the past while honing his skills as the Three-Eyed Raven. It was the biggest indication that Bran’s powers were much more powerful than simply warging, which allowed him to enter the minds of living beings.
Thanks to Martin, we now know that Hodor will fight the White Walkers back with a sword by way of Bran’s mental manipulations. Commanding Hodor to protect an entire pass and fight off the White Walkers for more than a few minutes takes far more mental prowess than guarding a door. So if Bran can make people fight at will, what else is he capable of?
Following Hodor’s death, Bran rarely (if ever) was shown using his Greensight skills again. He became little more than a blinking shadow of his former self after merging with the Three-Eyed Raven. Game of Thrones stalled Bran’s storyline a lot because his story had gotten way ahead of the books.
However, controlling Hodor to wield a sword and fight may only be scratching the surface of Bran’s full abilities — and how evil they can be. While Hodor’s fate may be the same, the book’s changes to the White Walker attack could have major repercussions on future events. This direction could lead to the reveal of Bran’s true powers in The Winds of Winter.
Bran, the all-powerful
The last time we saw Bran in A Dance with Dragons, he had just begun training with the Three-Eyed Raven (three-eyed crow in the books). He was seeing visions of the past and the present, an amalgamation of events that came in flashes. While the three-eyed crow tells Bran that he can only see the past and not change it, we know that’s not true. In the books, however, warging is not unique to Bran. In fact, all of the Stark siblings can do so to varying degrees, and Arya and Jon Snow have warged into their direwolves before.
But Bran’s powers far exceed that of his siblings. For example, he can warg and see visions at the same time. However, the fact that he’s been practicing his warging skills on Hodor speaks to how cruel Bran can actually be. Entering someone’s mind is considered a violation, commanding them to kill for you without consent even more so. Hodor’s mind may no longer be what it is, but Bran’s mental invasion is simultaneously brutal and an example of his skills.
“The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother's milk. Darkness will make you strong.” — The Three-eyed crow, A Dance with Dragons
The Winds of Winter is expected to delve further into Bran’s storyline. We know he can also see things through weirwood trees, an ancient species of trees with faces carved into its trunks. At one point, Theon believes that he saw Bran’s face carved into one of the weirwoods after hearing his name whispered. If Bran can “see” through other means, then he might even know when the White Walkers are approaching Winterfell.
Being able to control Hodor to fight the White Walkers may also foreshadow what’s to come for the young Stark. After all, if he can command Hodor to do his bidding, it’s possible his warging skills will become powerful enough to control an entire group of people or creatures. If that happens during the final fight with the White Walkers, Bran he could easily destroy their zombie army. Who knows, Bran may prove powerful enough to take over the Night King's mind if he ever shows up in the books. These actions could even explain why Bran ultimately becomes King of Westeros (if Martin goes down that path).
However, Bran’s mental manipulations may also give him too much power, giving fans the long-theorized Evil Bran that the show never delivered. These actions, despite his best intentions, could lead Bran's story down a dark path. After all, taking over people’s minds and controlling their actions whenever he sees fit never bodes well. It could make it all the more difficult for others to fight him off (especially if he’s in someone else’s body). But regardless of what happens, Bran and Hodor’s storylines in The Winds of Winter will likely take a more exciting turn than they ultimately did in Game of Thrones — not that the show set a very high bar in the end.