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Unraveling The Mystery Of The Three-Eyed Raven From ‘Game Of Thrones’

Season six of Game of Thrones returns in April, and with it comes Bran Stark, who was last seen going under a weirwood tree beyond the Wall in season four to meet the Three-Eyed Raven. This mysterious entity has featured prominently in the series since the first episode, and it has been teased that it will teach Bran how to harness his magical abilities. But who is the Three-Eyed Raven? What do we know about it?

Through the show… very little. But thanks to George R.R. Martin’s books and compendiums, we have a pretty extensive history of the man we saw under the weirwood tree at the end of season four. (Warning: Book spoilers and speculation ahead!) While Jojen Reed has referred to the Three-Eyed Raven as an embodiment of Bran’s own powers, it is generally agreed that the one controlling it and pushing Bran to come north is a greenseer once known to the Seven Kingdoms as Bloodraven.

Lord Bloodraven was born Brynden Rivers in 175 AD, a bastard child of King Aegon the Unworthy. He was an albino with white skin, red eyes, and a birthmark on the side of his face that some said resembled a raven, earning him the nickname Bloodraven. But that moniker didn’t come into wide usage until Brynden made a name for himself during the first Blackfyre Rebellion. He lost an eye during the Battle of Redgrass Field, but still managed to kill his half-brother Daemon Blackfyre, effectively ending the rebellion.

Afterwards, Bloodraven served King Aerys I and his successor King Maekar as both Master of Whisperers and Hand of the King. During this time, the realm went through a period of plague, drought, and heavy raiding from the Iron Islands. Many commoners blamed Bloodraven and accused him of being a sorcerer who held the king in thrall with magic.

Bloodraven was also meticulous about sniffing out potential rebellions in the Seven Kingdoms and beheading anyone caught supporting the remaining Blackfyre pretenders. His uncanny ability to discover plots across the realm led to the widespread use of the riddle, “How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? A thousand eyes, and one.”

While his political savvy and iron fist undoubtedly helped keep his branch of the Targaryen family on the throne, he fell into disrepute with the crowning of Aegon V in 233 AC. Aegon’s first act as king was to throw Brynden into the Black Cells below the Red Keep. Bloodraven was subsequently sent to the Wall with the same group of Black Brothers who brought Maester Aemon north.

He became Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch in 239 AC and then disappeared while ranging north of the Wall in 252 AC. From here, nothing more is known of his fate until Brandon Stark discovers him under the weirwood tree in 300 AC. That would make Bloodraven 125 years old.

That brings you up to date on Bloodraven’s history, but what about his powers? The historians of Westeros make many accusations that Bloodraven was a sorcerer, but here’s what we know for sure. First off, his blood is split between powerful magical dynasties — that of old Valyria via his Targaryen blood and that of The First Men via his mother who was a Blackwood. Under the weirwood, the Children of the Forest call him ‘the last greenseer,’ and it’s noted that the most powerful greenseers are born with disfigurations… like white skin and red eyes.

At this point, it’s important to discuss the nature of magic. There are several different kinds of sorcery at play in A Song of Ice and Fire. There’s the magic of the Children of the Forest, some of which was passed onto the First Men, such as skinchanging and greensight. Valyrian dragonlords were said to be powerful sorcerers, and the Targaryen bloodline is known for producing prophetic visions and the ability to control dragons.

Then there’s the magic of R’hllor, which is very wide ranging and involves everything from prophecy to shadowbinding to resurrection. Other maegi practice shadowbinding, as well, and there seems to be no limit on who can perform blood magic, so long as they’ve got the blood. And that doesn’t even get us started on whatever’s going on with the Others.

The point is, Bloodraven is something of a triple threat; he’s a Valyrian Maegi Greenseer. Through his actions as the Three-Eyed Raven, we know Bloodraven has the power to enter and influence dreams. He is also a skinchanger and there are many well-researched theories that he was often inside Lord Commander Mormont’s raven, subtly guiding the thoughts and actions of Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch.

We can also be sure he has any power Bran has. Bran is already able to see through the eyes of the faces carved into weirwood trees. Bloodraven says those are “the first eyes a new greenseer learns to use … but in time you will see well beyond the trees themselves.” At this point, Bloodraven can see things anywhere the world, and can also see back and forth through time.

While Melisandre and other Red Priests can see the future in their fires, greenseers receive their prophecy via dreams. Bran Stark experienced this when he dreamed of the sea engulfing Winterfell; Theon Greyjoy and his band of raiders sacking the castle. Jojen Reed also had greensight, and knew he was destined to die bringing Bran to the Three-Eyed Raven.

At this point, it’s unclear exactly how much Bloodraven knows about the future, but he undoubtedly has the answers to many of the questions held by characters and viewers alike. Will he simply divulge them or have Bran learn them for himself?

So, what are Bloodraven’s motives? That remains unclear. His former life was spent protecting Targaryen power, but there seems to be very little left of the politically active Lord Bloodraven left in the tree-bound Three-Eyed Raven. Some suspect him of being in league with the Others, but there’s not much evidence for this, and a lot against. For one, he lives under the weirwood with the Children of the Forest, who teamed up with the First Men during the Long Night to fight the Others. Would they have let him join their weirwood if he was working with the Others?

It seems like Bloodraven is using the last of his power to train Bran and show him what he needs to see in order to help humanity take on the Others. Those hoping for Bran to have a ‘Neo moment’ that will allow him to single handedly defeat his enemies are probably going to be disappointed. Most likely, Bran will simply be the messenger that guides people like Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen to their destiny.

The Three-Eyed Raven bridges generational gaps, providing the answers to history Bloodraven has witnessed with his thousand eyes and one. But will knowledge alone be enough to overcome the might of the Others?

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