Monday, January 25, 2016

Tanselle's Shield

Spoiler Alert: This piece may contain spoilers from any material of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Dunk's coat of arms by Crackclaw
   Readers have already speculated that the kissing couple in Bran's vision is Ser Duncan the Tall and a young Old Nan, and that Hodor and a few others at the Wall are Dunk's descendants in addition to Brienne.  I won't rehash those details, though they're quite convincing.  Instead, I have my own heartwarming contribution to add to the Dunk and Nan romance:

   Old Nan is Tanselle Too-Tall.

   I'm not the first to guess at this, but until now the idea has been quickly dismissed.  (Update: Found a good previous analysis here.)  After all, Nan is too short, isn't she?  Take a second look at the way George describes Nan's height.  He uses the word, "shrunken."  This careful wording is a clue - a suggestion that she used to be taller than she is, perhaps significantly so.  I don't recall any mention of exactly how short she really is, so this may merely indicate something to the effect of her being hunched over.  Let's take a look at Bran's vision of Young Nan:

   "Then there came a brown-haired girl slender as a spear who stood on the tips of her toes to kiss the lips of a young knight as tall as Hodor."

   Now, let's compare it to Dunk's descriptions of Tanselle:

   "The puppeteer who worked the dragon was good to watch too; a tall drink of water, with the olive skin and black hair of Dorne. She was slim as a lance with no breasts to speak of, but Dunk liked her face and the way her fingers made the dragon snap and slither at the end of its strings."

   "He liked the way she ran, though. A pretty girl, and tall. I would not have to kneel to kiss that one. He knew how to kiss.  A tavern girl had showed him one night in Lannisport, a year ago, but she'd been so short she had to sit on the table to reach his lips."

   "She was a head shorter than he was, but still taller than any other girl he had ever seen."

   "Slim as a lance" and "slender as a spear" are huge clues.  The hair descriptions aren't exact, but brown hair often appears black.

   The height works very well here.  Dunk is 6 feet 11 inches, and it would be difficult for most women to kiss him while standing.  The Winterfell woman, however, merely stands on her toes.  I personally happen to be a head taller than my wife, and she says that it is a regular occurrence for her to stand on her toes when we kiss.  These descriptions work so well that it seems likely that Bran indeed saw Tanselle in Winterfell.

   Let's not forget that both Old Tan and Nanselle Too-Tall have a love of storytelling, and both have a knack for doing it well.  As a young lady, she told her stories with puppets.  In her old age, she merely entertained the children verbally.  Several of Old Nan's stories are mentioned as being performed by Tanselle.  Furthermore, there is this hint:

   "'Aerion the Monstrous?'  Jon knew that name.  'The Prince Who Thought He Was A Dragon' was one of Old Nan's more gruesome tales.  His little brother Bran had loved it."

   I'm thinking Nanselle made that story especially gruesome.  Aerion made a point of thinking he was a dragon when he punished Tanselle for making the puppet dragon die in battle.  I wonder if Old Nan has ever had a broken finger...

   This is enough to have me convinced that a future Dunk and Egg will reveal that there's a very good reason Dunk never found Tanselle in Dorne: she instead fled to Winterfell.  As of our last Dunk and Egg tale, Dunk has been talking of heading north, and he also has a new shield in dire need of repainting.  Remember that Tanselle's first shield was destroyed by Ser Lucas the Longinch, even though Brienne tells that such a shield later resided at Evenfall Hall's armoury.  A second shield must have been remade.  How sweet it would be to have Tanselle repaint the sigil - I'm sure she remembers every detail of the true knight who stood up to the dragon for her.

   One of Dunk's first tasks as a Knight of the Kingsguard was to escort Brynden Rivers and Maester Aemon to the Wall.  Perhaps this journey had a second purpose - a last farewell to his only love.  This bittersweet moment is what Bran saw.

   "Bran was going to be a knight himself someday, one of the Kingsguard.  Old Nan said they were the finest swords in all the realm."

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