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GAME OF THRONES’ Brother Ray and What Might the Books Foretell

It’s truly a shame that Ian McShane‘s role on Game of Thrones was so brief, but he certainly made quite an impact as the penitent Brother Ray. (His short but powerful stay in the Seven Kingdoms reminds us of the old Lao Tzu quote: “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.”) While Brother Ray’s time in the Seven Kingdoms came to an abrupt end, his contribution to the goings on in Westeros might be felt for a long time—and with huge ramifications—because of what might be next for Sandor Clegane.

Before we get there though lets take a step back and examine where McShane’s former mercenary-turned-septon may have come from. No, we don’t mean the Vale or Riverrun, we mean from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, because it just might help us figure out where The Hound will be going with that axe and the teachings of Brother Ray in mind.

In the books there are two septons (the Faith of the Sevens’ priest equivalents) that appear to have been the inspiration for McShane’s Brother Ray.

The first is Meribald, a “wandering septon” who travels barefoot to atone for his sins through the Riverlands, ministering the Faith of the Seven to smallfolk. Many of whom, like Brother Ray, have unwholesome pasts. Though Meribald’s family was called to battle during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, where Ray’s past makes him sound more like a soldier-for-hire, both characters have blood on their hands, because Meribald became what he calls a “broken man.”

Anyone that has read the books knows that the chapter where Meribald talks about what that means is one of the best in the entire series, but for those of you not familiar with it, the short definition for a “broken man” is a soldier who fled war and became an outlaw, one that forgot all sense of self and home and became a lost criminal—one that Meribald says should be feared, but pitied even more.

The title of Ian McShane’s one episode stint? “The Broken Man,” and Septon Meribald was broken himself before turning to the Faith, just like Brother Ray.

In the books, Meribald tells Brienne and Podrick (who are looking for Sansa) about the broken men as he escorts them to the Quiet Isle, where they meet the second character that contributed to Brother Ray on the show: a man known only as the Elder Brother.

Quiet Isle is a small island in the Trident, but one that is very hard to safely get to without intimate knowledge of the path. It is home to sworn followers of the Seven, and the men who live there are trying to atone for past sins through prayer, contemplation, and silence (though they may speak to confess).

The Elder Brother, believed to be a skilled healer with magical tendencies, is the leader of the Quiet Isle. He fought for House Targaryen at the Battle of the Trident (where Robert slew Rhaegar), but—thought to be dead—was thrown into the river, where he floated until he awoke on the Quiet Isle. He spent the next ten years in silence.

Now here’s where this gets really good. The Elder Brother tells Brienne that he found a dying Sandor Clegane, a man that was full of hate, a man whose only wish was to kill his own brother, and that The Hound cried as the Elder Brother held him, wishing for mercy from the pain. The Elder Brother says that The Hound died in his arms.

Yet, in spite of that story from the Elder Brother, no book readers were surprised to see him reappear on the show this week, because there’s been a theory that while The Hound—a man full of hate and pain and suffering—died, Sandor Clegane did not. While on the island, Brienne sees a giant of a gravedigger at work; a man who pets a dog, whose face is covered indicating he is new to the island, and who seems to have an injury similar to one The Hound suffered earlier.

On top of that, the Elder Brother seems to know a lot about The Hound’s life and feelings, way more than you might imagine him hearing from a dying man. Plus, The Hound’s horse, Stranger, is in the Quiet Isle’s stables, but it is believed no one but Sandor Clegane could lead that horse anywhere.

So there’s always been a lot of evidence that the Elder Brother, who (like Brother Ray) found a dying Sandor Clegane, was only speaking metaphorically about the death of The Hound, and not about the literal death of Sandor Clegane.

Big deal, now we know the theory is right…right? Nothing that happens on the show guarantees it will be the same in the books (for example, there is almost no way Benjen Stark will end up being Coldhands in the books, it wouldn’t really make sense), but this one does feel like confirmation of the theory.

Which is good, because when we tie in the new information from the show with what we know from the books it certainly points to….drum roll please…CLEGANEBOWL!

Here’s the passage from A Feast For Crows where the Elder Brother speaks about the dying Hound:

Where other men dream of love, or wealth, or glory, this man Sandor Clegane dreamed of slaying his own brother, a sin so terrible it makes me shudder just to speak of it. Yet that was the bread that nourished him, the fuel that kept his fires burning. Ignoble as it was the hope of seeing his brother’s blood upon his blade was all this sad and angry creature lived for … and even that was taken away when Prince Oberyn of Dorne stabbed Ser Gregor with a poisoned spear.

So Sandor Clegane believes his brother dead. Everyone believes Sandor is dead. Yet they are both very much alive, and both in service to two entities that just so happen to be heading towards a Trial by Combat.

Cersei’s champion will be The Mountain.

Might the Faith of the Seven’s be Sandor Clegane?

Could the two brothers finally come together then, with the reformed Sandor given an opportunity to slay his brother in the name of the gods? Could that epic, monstrous battle really come to fruition? On the show Sandor is alone now, and while looking for peace he knows that violence cannot be ignored—even by men of faith. Or could it be that her knows that kinslaying is most horrible sin, and he won’t be able to do what he once dreamed of?

It’s Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin, so it’s foolish to even try to say definitively how this might play out. Cleganebowl is far from a guarantee since The Hound could end up involved in a storyline with the Brotherhood Without Banners and never head south or be of service to The Faith. Besides, even if we got The Mountain vs. The Hound why would we ever expect to get the outcome we wanted? When will we learn!

However, there is one more element to consider: Maggy the Frog’s prophecy to Cersei that she would die at the hands of the volonqar.

“Volonqar” is High Valyrian for “little brother.”

…Soak it all in.

Now, there are other theories that the volonqar could be Tyrion (Cersei’s fear), or even Jaime (it makes sense as a theory in the books), but why does it have to be her own little brother? Could it not be The Mountain’s little brother? He is her champion after all.

So Brother Ray’s stay may not have been long, but the influence he had on the man he saved, a man formerly known as The Hound, Sandor Clegane, could shake the Seven Kingdoms from King’s Landing to Lannisport. Because the gods might not be done with Sandor Clegane, they might call on him as their champion.

What do you think? Are we heading towards Cleganebowl? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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Images: HBO

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