While writing about Jaqen H’Ghar and Syrio Forel the other day, it occurred to me that there are a number of characters whose fate is uncertain. Of course, Syrio Forel is one of the most famous and most popular, but there are definitely a few others I have been thinking about.
One that comes immediately to mind for me is Benjen Stark. Benjen goes missing in the first book/first season on a ranging (he is looking for Ser Waymar Royce, the young knight who is killed by White Walkers in the prologue of book one and in the first episode of the series) and he is discussed quite a bit after that. We do know that two of his companions show up as wights. Jon Snow spends a lot of time wondering what happened to his uncle. And his disappearance leads to Lord Commander Mormont deciding to lead a great ranging to try to find them all, and perhaps find some answers.
So what is the likelihood that Benjen Stark will show up later in the books?
Some people seem to think that he has already reappeared in the books, and that he is no longer alive but has returned as a sentient wight in the form of the character known as Coldhands. Personally I don’t think this is likely, as Leaf describes him (Coldhands) as having been killed a long time ago, and Benjen Stark has only been missing for a few years. It’s obvious that Coldhands used to be a brother of the Night’s Watch, but aside from that we know little about him. It is puzzling to wonder how he may have come to be, but I have some ideas about that.
When a White Walker is killed, what happens to the wights brought back/controlled by that White Walker? Do they stay wights? Or do they become corpses again? Is it possible that Sam’s killing of a White Walker may have affected some wights? Or is there a different way for corpses to be reanimated in the North, something besides White Walkers? Some sort of cold, winter version of what happens to Beric Dondarrion and Lady Stoneheart. There may even be some strange way we haven’t really considered: perhaps a warg dying and warging into an animal (which we have seen already), and then warging back into their own body once they have been reanimated as a wight. Kooky, but not outside the realm of possibility, in my mind.
Anyway, back to Benjen Stark. I have a feeling that we will hear more about him soon, probably as we head to the Land of Always Winter in the next book. I can’t help but wonder who will be the POV when we are there, and Benjen Stark would seem to be a good candidate.
The other major missing character that I think about is Howland Reed. We have met his children, Jojen and Meera, and we hear quite a bit about how Howland was one of Eddard Stark’s most loyal and trusted friends. And yet we have never actually seen him in any of the books. I think this is on purpose, and we will see him soon in Book Six. After all, he is apparently the last person alive to have been present at the Tower of Joy. So he (probably) knows what the promise was that Ned made to his sister Lyanna before she died.
We know in the books that one of the last things Robb Stark did before he met his fate at the Twins was send Lady Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover to find Howland Reed. He had planned to enlist Reed’s assistance in retaking Moat Cailin from the Ironborn. But he never gets to carry out his plan, and Moat Cailin is instead taken by Ramsay Snow/Bolton. But we still have not heard back from Reed, Mormont or Glover.
I have heard some interesting theories about Howland Reed, but I have to admit I am not entirely convinced by any of them yet. But I do think that it is certain that we will see him soon, in Book Six.