The original edited manuscript of A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin features a definitive rebuttal of a long-held theory.
The manuscript, which is on display at the Cushing Library at Texas A&M University, contains hundreds of questions, comments, and quips from Martin’s editor Anne Groell. In the pages of an early chapter of A Dance With Dragons, told from the point of Bran Stark, Reddit user _honeybird discovered a particular exchange/a> about the character of Coldhands. The passage, we must warn, is not only a spoiler but extinguishes a theory many fans have held for over a decade.
“Is this Benjen?” Groell writes, referencing a passage about the mysterious, seemingly un-dead Night’s Watchman. “I think this is Benjen.” The editor punctuates her theory with a smiley-face.
Martin’s definitive answer is, “No.”
The theory that Benjen Stark might be the frigid, elk-riding, not-quite-wight originated after the first appearance of Coldhands in A Storm of Swords. Benjen, the Night’s Watch’s First Ranger and brother of Eddard Stark, disappeared without a trace early in the first book of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series – though the men who accompanied him on the fatal ranging returned to the Wall as reanimated corpses.
The bizarre circumstances of Coldhands’ existence, his identification as a ranger, and his guidance of Bran led many readers to suspect that the character held the key to Benjen’s fate. This theory weakened somewhat after the publication of A Dance With Dragons, when Coldhands was referred to as ancient, and left the scene with little to-do. Still, many fans had kept the faith until the note in Martin’s manuscript was uncovered.
Other notes from the manuscript reveal the playful and occasionally adversarial relationship between George R.R. Martin and Anne Groell. Debates about phrasing, numerical details, and teasing reminders about the book’s long-delayed publication speckle the editorial pages of A Dance With Dragons. Even if no other secrets of A Song of Ice and Fire are revealed, it still seems to be a fascinating look at the development of this seminal work of epic fantasy.