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Game of Thrones Theorycrafting: Who actually wrote the Pink Letter?

Greetings, my Lords and Ladies. It seems like ages since we last talked Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire theories together. Our last discussion revolved around the Grand Northern Conspiracy, and how the Lords of the Noble Northern Houses planned on reinstating a Stark in Winterfell and as King in the North. Today I want to take a new direction, as this theory has really nothing to do with the show, and more to do with the books.

Warning: Spoilers follow for A Dance with Dragons and The Winds of Winter. Also there will be speculation about how events from the books may or may not correlate to Game of Thrones. Consider yourself warned.

The Mystery of the Bastard Letter

or

Who actually wrote the Pink Letter

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The Bastard Letter, more commonly called the Pink Letter due to the color of wax used to seal it, is a letter received by Lord Commander Jon Snow in A Dance with Dragons. Addressed to “Bastard,” meaning Jon, it contained a menacing threat from Ramsay Bolton.

Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore. 

Your false king’s friends are dead. Their heads upon the walls of Winterfell. Come see them, bastard. Your false king lied, and so did you. You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Instead you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me.

I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell.

I want my bride back. I want the false king’s queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want this wildling princess. I want his little prince, the wildling babe. And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard’s heart and eat it.

Ramsay Bolton, Trueborn Lord of Winterfell.

Pretty straight forward, yes? This is a letter from the now legitimized Ramsay Bolton to the former Bastard of Winterfell, Lord Commander Jon Snow, demanding the return of his bride and his Reek, along with Stannis’ family, sword, and his “Red Witch.” But is it really that straight forward? Did Ramsay really pen this letter? If not Ramsay, then who? These are the questions that we will do our best to suss out, in today’s edition of Game of Thrones Theorycrafting.

Ramsay Bolton in Mother's Mercy (cropped)--Official HBO

First of all, let’s look at some evidence that seems to indicate that Ramsay Bolton did not actually write the Pink Letter. One must look at the contextual clues from Ramsay’s previous letters, which he’s been known to send to various people in Westeros in the past. Here are some examples.

  • After Ramsay took Winterfell from Theon, he sent a scrap of skin to Robb Stark to show that he’d gotten revenge on King in the North’s behalf for the murder of Robb’s brothers, even though he knew Theon did not kill Bran and Rickon. This happened right before the events of the Red Wedding, in A Storm of Swords.
  • Lord Balon Greyjoy received a box with a letter, stamped with the sigil of House Bolton into pink wax, with Theon’s member in it. (This is a slight change from the show to the books.)

“Balon Greyjoy, Lord of the Iron Islands and invader of the North. I give you until the full moon to order all Ironborn scum out of the North and back to those shit-stained rocks you call a home. On the first night of the full moon, I will hunt down every islander still in our lands and flay them living the way I flayed the 20 Ironborn scum I found at Winterfell. In the box you’ll find a special gift: Theon’s favorite toy. He cried when I took it away from him. Leave the North now or more boxes will follow with more Theon. Signed Ramsay Snow, natural-born son of Roose Bolton, Lord of the Dreadfort and Warden of the North.”

  • The Bastard Letter did not contain the House Bolton button imprinted in the pink wax. Instead it is described as a pink smear.
  • During the siege of Moat Cailin, Ramsay sends Reek, in the guise of Theon Greyjoy, to treat with the Ironborn fortified there. Theon convinces them to surrender under the promise that they would be allowed to return home to the Iron Islands, but in true Ramsay fashion, he betrayed them and flayed/killed them all, placed their bodies on spikes, then wrote a letter in their blood.
  • Ramsay’s handwriting is often described as spiky and written in flaky brown ink, which turns out to be dried blood.

These are all established examples of Ramsay’s correspondence with various other characters in Westeros. He is unusually cruel and sadistic, and seems to never miss an opportunity to attach a piece of human skin or a body part to his letters, which are almost always written in the blood of his victims. Now let’s dissect that Bastard Letter.

Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore. 

  • The wording here is what sends up the first red flag. First of all, as we all know, Ramsay utterly despises the word “Bastard.” Now, he could be using the term to rile up Jon Snow, but both the books and the show go to great lengths to explain that “Bastard” is off limits to Ramsay.
  • Your false King is an odd phrase. How does Ramsay, who is busy with the chaos in Winterfell, know that Jon may or may not consider Stannis the true king?
  • “Smashed in seven days of battle” is also odd. We know from Theon 1, a released chapter from The Winds of Winter, that Stannis is at stationed at the Crofter’s Village near a frozen lake. His men have punched many holes in the ice, so any mounted cavalry charging into that village will most certainly fall under the water to their deaths.

RamsayBanner

As we determined in our look at The Great Northern Conspiracy, House Manderly is not loyal to the Boltons and hates the Freys, and therefore would probably not help the Frey cavalry attack Stannis. Any battle that were to happen at the Crofter’s Village would mean a quick and decisive win for Stannis. It’s also very important to note here that Stannis has no sellswords with him at this point in the book, and his men are loyal unto death…they will not abandon their King.

asha greyjoy dame of thrones

We also know that Asha/Yara has some of her finest warriors returned to her when the banker from Braavos finds Stannis’ camp, thus bolstering his army with some badass Dickheads from Asshole Island. So a seven day battle seems highly unlikely at this point.

Your false king lied, and so did you. You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Instead you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me.

  • Did Jon actually tell “the world” that he burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall? The answer is no, because Jon was not the one who burned Mance (actually Rattleshirt with a glamour). Melisandre set this particular event in motion.
  • Jon eventually found out that Melisandre had glamoured Mance to look like Rattleshirt, but it came as a shock to him. He was not in on it.

I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him.

  • The author of the letter is assuming that False Arya (really Jeyne Poole) is at Castle Black, and not with Stannis. This seems to me like a ruse to get Jon to leave the confines of the Wall and break his oaths to march on Winterfell…something that Melisandre and Stannis both desperately want. Jon had learned that Ramsay was going to marry his sister Arya before, and doesn’t know that she’s a fake, so this might inspire him to action.
  • “If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him.” Ramsay is not the kind of person to keep a traitor to his cause alive. As book readers know, Mance is parading around Winterfell under the guise of Abel with six spearwives posing as washerwomen. If in fact Ramsay had captured Mance and his women, there is contextual evidence that they would not and could not be broken by Ramsay’s torture. That means they wouldn’t divulge this kind of important information to Ramsay. (See Mance choosing burning in Game of Thrones Season 5 over bending his knee to Stannis.) These wildlings do not yield.

The letter also refers to the women Mance brought with him as “the six whores.” How does Ramsay know there were six women involved with the conspiracy to spring false Arya? This continues to serve as proof that Ramsay had nothing to do with the Bastard Letter.

I want my bride back. I want the false king’s queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want this wildling princess. I want his little prince, the wildling babe.

  • How does Ramsay know about the “false king’s queen?” How does he know about Shireen and Melisandre? Moreover, how does he know about Val—the wildling princess—and his little prince?

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Even if Roose Bolton, Ramsay’s father, were to tell him of Stannis’ family, there is no contextual evidence that Ramsay would know anything about Val or Mance’s child. Also, there are two words to look closely at here. The use of “this” in reference to wildling princess, and “his” in reference to the little prince.

And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard’s heart and eat it.

“The north remembers.  The Red Wedding, Lady Hornwood’s fingers, the sack of Winterfell, Deepwood Motte and Torrhen’s Square, they remember all of it…Frey and Manderly will never combine their strengths.  They will come for you, but separately.  Lord Ramsay will not be far behind them.  He wants his bride back. He wants his Reek.”  Theon’s laugh was half a titter, half a whimper. “Lord Ramsay is the one Your Grace should fear.”

  • He wants his Bride back. He wants his Reek.” Now compare these words to the Bastard Letter. “I want my bride back….And I want my Reek.” It’s quite a coincidence that Theon’s words are repeated almost verbatim in the letter. Odd, no?

BOLTON ART

There’s one more clue as to why Ramsay is not the author of the Bastard Letter. Tormund Giantsbane is present when Jon reads the letter…and he immediately calls its validity into question. Although claiming to be an illiterate man, Tormund recognizes that the ink used was “Maester’s black” and that he could write a better letter with his member—HAR! So we have a letter that:

  • Is not sealed with a House Bolton button but rather with a pink “smear” of wax.
  • The handwriting does not warrant comment from Jon, who has seen other letters from Ramsay, describing the handwriting as large and spiky.
  • The ink is not brown or dried blood, which is the usual method of writing for Ramsay, but rather is it Maester’s black ink.
  • There is no skin attached to the letter, skin being Ramsay’ call sign, if you will. If the letter were in fact from Ramsay, then he could have and more than likely would have used the skin he flayed from the spearwives that he claimed to made into a cloak for Mance.

Assuming that this evidence is pointing us toward the conclusion that Ramsay is not the author of the Bastard Letter, the question becomes: who is? There are several candidates. Let’s list them here.

Ciaran Hinda as Mance Rayder in Game of Thrones

  • Mance. He is now in Winterfell and going by the name Abel. Many point out that this name is an anagram of Bael. Bael the Bard was a man who stole a Stark King’s daughter from her bed and got her with child before returning her. He was a King Beyond the Wall, and when he brought his wildling army to bear on the North, his own son slew him in battle—not knowing Bael was his father—and returned his head to his mother, who committed suicide out of grief for the death of her son’s father by his own hands.

Mance certainly knows all the logistics mentioned in the letter. He knows about Stannis, Melisandre, Val, and “his prince.” There’s also the use of the phrases like “False King” and “Black Crows,” which are part of the wildling vernacular.

Melisandre at Castle Black--Official HBO

  • Melisandre. Melisandre has been seeing Jon Snow in her fires of late. However, she is still loyal to Stannis, and what does Stannis want? He wants Jon and the wildlings to bolster his army, so that he can take Winterfell, eradicate House Bolton, and legitimize Jon as Lord Stark of Winterfell, thus rallying the noble Houses of the North behind his claim for the Iron Throne.

Jon’s death at the hands of the traitorous brothers of The Night’s Watch was unexpected…despite Melisandre warning Jon of daggers in the dark. If Melisandre is in on the Bastard Letter, whether by directly writing it, or in cahoots with someone else like Stannis, then Jon’s death would be an unfortunate outcome for both her and Stannis.

STANMELTHEON

  • Stannis, Melisandre and Theon. From “seven days of battle,” to “I want my Reek and bride back,” the information in this letter points to these two men as the co-authors of the Bastard Letter.

But how would Stannis send a raven from the Crofter’s Village to Castle Black? In The Winds of Winter, Stannis uncovers a traitor in his midst: Maester Tybald, the former maester of the Dreadfort. Stannis interrogates the maester and finds that he has two ravens: one to send to Winterfell, and the other to an unspecified location. During this chapter, Stannis is constantly annoyed by the squawking of a particular raven that seems highly intelligent.

The raven repeats many words and even calls Theon by name. What other highly intelligent raven have we been introduced to in this story? That’s right, the late Lord Commander Jeor Mormont’s raven. The last time we see this raven, he is locked up in Jon’s Lord Commander’s quarters, and Jon opens a window to set the raven free.

Here’s the stretch: it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Melisandre sent Mormont’s raven to Stannis at the Crofter’s Village. It’s also not too far of a stretch to think that, once encamped at the Crofter’s village, Stannis would begin correspondence with Melisandre at Castle Black.

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It is my theory—and I hope I have conveyed it clearly enough to you—that Stannis and Theon worked through ravenmail to conspire to get Jon Snow and his wildling army to march on Winterfell. By the time Jon’s army would have arrived at his former home, the Umbers outside the walls, who are digging pitfalls and blowing horns, would point Jon in the direction of Stannis’ location. From there, they would march on Winterfell and unseat House Bolton.

There’s just one problem. Neither Stannis nor Melisandre counted on the men of the Night’s Watch killing their Lord Commander (or at least trying to kill him).

The mystery of the Bastard letter remains just that…a mystery, at least until George R.R. Martin publishes The Winds of Winter. I welcome and await your thoughtful responses, below.

51 Comments

  • Awesome! A theorycrafting peice! Way to go WiC! Woot. I’m at work and cannot extrapolate my thoughts to the blog yet. I guess you’ll all have to wait for my coveted anylasis lolz…

  • Not sure if I’m allowed to post links and stuff here, but anyway… This “mystery” is all but solved imho.

    It’s Mance.
    There’s a million things that just fit better if it’s Mance, or just don’t fit at all if it’s anyone else.

    • Yup.
      It’s gotta be Mance…the letter’s contents concern wildlings more than anything else. Chaos at the Wall can also be really advantageous for Mance.
      I’m also wondering though…Tormund claims to not be able to read but says many things that make me think he really can read:
      “Dark Wings Dark Words…”
      “Maester Black”…
      If he can read..was the letter something Mance wanted him to read?
      Was it code?
      Was this letter a signal for Tormund to tell Wun Wun to suddenly go crazy? (Just before Jon is stabbed)

  • Or maybe it was the Nights watch. Gives them the perfect excuse to kill Jon without reprisals if he across in the letter and takes part in the wars of the 7 kingdoms.

  • I have never understood why they cut the mystery of the pink letter in the show … When I read the book I believed it was Ramsay and the poor women he tortured provided him with the information he needed. It was quite cool, because I thought Stannis was going to win and then you read the letter with the aftermath … I believed Ramsay was lying though …

    • Yeah, I was confused by it and thought Ramsay was making things up to force Jon into acting. After watching season 5 I thought it was now confirmed that it was definitely Ramsay who wrote the letter and that the battle of ice just happened “off screen.” Also Ramsay’s men were approaching Theon and Jeyne right before they jumped and if memory serves me right then the spear wives were also in their proximity. Their torture would have revealed Jon and Mance’s involvement to Ramsay.

      • The show didn’t include The Pink Letter as it went down its own road. The same goes with The Battle Of Ice. That was excluded in favour of Ramsay’s Massacre, to build up Ramsay as The Biggest Bad on the show. I doubt the next book will take that route, which makes the show more flawed. Shortcuts leave too many ragged edges.

        It was very definitely NOT Ramsay who authored this infamous letter, for all the facts pointed out above.
        It was crafted, for sure, with definite chosen words. That points to someone with an agenda to serve.
        Theon seems to be taken into the ring, because of words he’s used. Stannis could draft out the core of such a letter. Mel could apply the finishing touches.
        You can rule Mance out. He’s still undercover, and unlikely to break cover for any reason, including torture.

        The question to ask is – Who has an agenda requiring such a letter to work its spell?

        Mel! Why? She is seeing signs that move her thoughts from Stannis to Jon Snow. She grasps the greater significance (even if she gets a few details incorrect).

  • First of all: Love theorycrafting! More, more, more!!!

    Second: I think you make some good points. When I read it in the books (before I started following these theories, speculations, etc.) I thought it was immediately fake. Just had a feeling because the language wasn’t right and it was so out of left field. Caught me by surprise, which had only happened in those super-surprise (Red Wedding, Beheading Ned, et al.) plot twists before. And wouldn’t Ramsay just march right on up there and take what he wanted and flay everybody on the way? I thought so.

    I almost think that Stannis is too nobel to do this though! He is a strict rule-follower and enforcer… Is he really going to lie and trick Jon into helping his cause? IMO, no. But, I have no better ideas!

  • (This is not advertisment, just a suggestion) if anyone wants good, concise videos on GoT/ASoIaF theories, Preston Jones and RedTeamReview are youtubers who are pretty clear, and I’ve found their info quite helpful… Just another source :)

  • Good work Razor. Lots of good stuff to think about. It’s also a good example of how and why the TV show will never be able to perfectly adapt all of the details in the books. The book is just way too rich with all sorts of thought provoking stuff that a TV show cannot convey to the viewer.

    The only thing I’m having trouble with in your theory is the motive and strategy employed by Stannis. I don’t understand why Stannis would think saving Mance Rayder would be a priority for Jon. If anything, Stannis would want Jon to believe that Arya is the one in danger and needs saving. And even if Jon decides to take action based on the assumption that somehow fArya is in danger, based on the letter there’s no reason for Jon to believe that Arya is still at Winterfell. This is part of the reason why I always had a problem with Jon’s decision to go to Winterfell in the first place. What exactly is he (Jon) hoping to accomplish? Was he thinking that somehow he would stumble upon Arya on the way and that he was going to retake Winterfell on his own or with a handful of guys? The decision never made sense to me.

    It makes me feel like there is some kind of manipulation taking place by Melisandre both in the letter and/or with Jon’s decision making. There’s a chance that Ramsay really did send a letter and that someone intercepted it(maybe Melisandre or maybe a Wildling who found out that Mance was still alive) and reworked the letter to their liking.

      • No, I think that is the last reason why Jon would ride out. At the start of AGOT he might have done something like this but not at this stage.

        There is nothing that states, that Jon was planning on riding to Winterfell directly. He was planning to ride out of Castle Black, but it seem like he was planning on meeting Ramsay along the the way instead of at Castle Black. Castle Black cant be defended from the South so it would be much better to meet Ramsay at a place of his own choosing.

        It was impossible for him to meet Ramsay’s terms in the letter, even if he did hand over the Queen, Melisandre, Val and Shireen, he still did not have fArya or Reek to hand over. Going by what the letter stated if he didn’t meet these terms then Ramsay would come and destroy the Nights Watch. So Jon did not really have many choices here, by deciding to ride out of Castle Black he is going for a preemptive strike.
        His only other real option was basically to ignore the letter.

        I think Ramsay is the one who wrote the Pink Letter. Ramsay just wrote the letter from the information he had in that moment of time. Ramsay’s wrote the letter prematurely. If I put together what I ve read from TWOW and from what I ve seen on the show, then I think Ramsay or the Bolton’s are being misguided.
        There was a battle between Stannis and the Freys, but Stannis the Manderly’s and some Karstark forces, constructed a plan where they pretend that Stannis is dead and his army defeated. They bring Stannis’s sword to the Boltons and they bring in most of Stannis’s army. Once they are inside of Winterfell they will attack the Boltons. I think Ramsay wrote the Pink Letter just after the Manderlys had come through the gates and announced that they have beaten Stannis. Ramsay most likely wrote the letter from that perceptive.
        I think Stannis will win Winterfell with this strategy, but as soon as the Boltons are defeated he will be betrayed by the Northern Conspirators, and they will kill him. It does not seem like he has a long time left to stay alive in the books.

        The show could still do some version of the Pink Letter. Ramsay specifically told Sansa that Jon is now the Lord Commander of the Nights Watch. If Jon is resurrected and he learns about Sansa and Ramsay’s marriage, he might decide to ride out against the Boltons. But in the show they can skip the whole Stannis plot now that he is dead, and Jon could just win against the Boltons with some help from the Wildlings and the Northern Conspirators.

        • Going by what the letter stated if he didn’t meet these terms then Ramsay would come and destroy the Nights Watch. So Jon did not really have many choices here, by deciding to ride out of Castle Black he is going for a preemptive strike. His only other real option was basically to ignore the letter.

          That’s a very good point. Probably the most logical reason I’ve heard so far. But I feel like if that’s the case, then Jon did not sell this rationale to his men. By that I mean he did not say to the Night’s Watch something like “we (the Night’s Watch) are in danger if we do not strike Ramsay first”. Instead, if I remember correctly, in Jon’s mind he feels like he knows he is breaking his vows and that he cannot compel his men to follow him to Winterfell. But if he truly believes Castle Black is in danger of being attacked, then I would think he would pound his fist on that point to his men.

          Still though, I like the idea that Jon fears an attack from the South. Fearing such an attack would also explain why Jon and Tormand Giantsbane spent hours talking to each other AFTER Jon showed him the Pink Letter. They were probably coming up with a strategy on how to deal with an attack from Ramsay.

          • $Bill,

            I agree, there is a great essay called “A Case for Oathbreaking” that a fan put together discussing Jon’s motivations and how the Pink Letter gave him an opportunity to March on Winterfell WITHOUT breaking the NW vows due to the fact that The NW and Castle lack are specifically threatened and that the South side is the weakest. Thus his best strategy is a preemptive strike, which is his prerogative as LC.

    • IMO Jon wanted to kill the bastard and his traitor father since he killed Robb and took Winterfel. Ramsay threatening him as Lord Commander and having the wildling’s leader in custody gave him the opportunity to fight against them without the help of the Night Watch.

      • That may be true. But Jon already knew about Roose Bolton taking over Winterfell well before the Pink Letter. And if he felt that he wanted to kill Ramsay and Roose, then his best opportunity to do that would’ve been to take the offer made by Stannis to legitimize him and make him (Jon) Lord of Winterfell. If you’re going to abandon the Night’s Watch, then being legitimized by the new King (Stannis) is the best way to do it. Otherwise you risk having your head chopped off.

  • I think it’s Mance. Preston Jacobs on YouTube explains in excellent detail just why it was him.

  • The Pink Letter…

    Someone wanted to get a reaction from Jon Snow… and it certainly had the desired effect both in ADWD and GoT. It is like a Clue Game within the ASOIF World… Who is the Guilty Party?

    None of us KNOW exactly what GRRM has in store for us, but taking into consideration events from Season 5 of GoT, who are the likely candidates? Let The Speculation begin! I will post this in segments to make it easier to read.

  • Theon: Alive-we think.

    There may be passages in TWOW that hint at a possible connection to Theon’s involvement in the Pink Letter, but from a GoT standpoint, Theon has not been in a position to be that crafty.

    The decisions he makes in Mother’s Mercy are done on impulse rather than through careful planning. He was only able to save Sansa and himself when Myranda threatened her with physical torture. Once Myranda fell to her death and the Bolton forces started returning to the castle, he knew they would be severely punished by Ramsay if they were caught. Thus Theon made that Fight or Flight decision to go Westerosi Cliff Diving.

    At this point in GoT, I don’t think Theon has regained his identity enough to have sent The Pink Letter. Also, in the books he is missing numerous fingers, could he have physically managed a Quill? If Yara had been captured by Stannis on GoT, there would be more reasonable doubt that Yara had revealed Theon’s status as Reek to Stannis and Melisandre. I just don’t think D&D are going in that direction. It’s harder to tell with GRRM.

  • Mance: Currently Dead.

    While a strong case could be made for Mance in ASOIF, he was long dead in GoT by the time the letter arrives. I suppose he could have had Tormund hide it and send it after his death, but I doubt it. First of all Mance doesn’t have any skin… literally or figuratively in the Game of Thrones. With D&D’s edits, Mance does not go to Winterfell with a coterie of Spearwives, has no wife or son and he was not saved by Melisandre’s Glamour. Mance is Dead. He has no other songs to sing in GoT.

    Tormund and Mance have both developed a grudging respect for King Crow, what would conspiring against Jon gain them? They do not know Robb Stark, have no idea Jon may be his true heir like the Northern Lords. Jon Snow is the only ally the Wildlings have, killing him serves no purpose. Drawing Jon to Winterfell does not further their cause. They could kill the last remaining Black Brothers at Castle Black and take over the Gift, but drawing Jon to Winterfell is not really necessary if that were their plan. Tormund could have taken Jon out directly if he wanted to secure Castle Black for the Wildlings. Somehow I get the impression that Wildlings tend to skip the Middleman- and the whole For The Watch business.

  • Stannis: Currently Dead.

    Stannis could have written the letter or enlisted someone like Melisandre to write it for him, but would he have taken this action? Stannis hates lies, he would not allow Davos’ son to leave off the title of Ser in a letter accusing Jaime of incest with his sister. Even in desperation, Stannis is too rigid to do something as deceitful as posing as Ramsay Bolton in a letter to Jon. Even if Stannis had Mormont’s raven, I just don’t see subterfuge as his strong point. Plus Stannis is unaware of Ramsay’s marriage to Sansa/Jeyne. He is unaware of Ramsay’s capture of Theon and his subsequent torture. In GoT Stannis has not captured Yara/Asha and interrogated her for info on the IronBorn or the Boltons.

    Stannis is a bit preoccupied by being trapped in the snow, a lack of food and resources, killing his daughter and his wife’s suicide. Melisandre abandons him before his final defeat. I just don’t think Stannis is a good fit for the Pink Letter. Jon refused his offer and so he has decided to plow straight into battle alone, because he believes it is his Destiny to be King… and he’s a stubborn SOB!

    • Now that Stannis’s time table has been moved up in GOT, there will be no meeting with Theon or Yara. The Pink Letter is Sent. The Boltons retain Winterfell and Stannis is dead.

  • Melisandre: Alive and at Castle Black!

    Thankfully we have a POV chapter in ADWD to help illuminate her motivations. Melisandre commits deplorable acts in the name of The Red God. She has admitted to using tricks and lies to gain and engage her followers. She tells Selyse about the potions and powders she uses to perform her parlor tricks. Even though she had already seen Robb Stark and Joffrey Baratheon’s deaths in her visions, she uses the leeches as a trick to make Stannis and Davos believe that the King’s blood within the leeches caused the deaths of the False Kings. Melisandre is Westeros’ version of a Television Evangelist. She knows how to manipulate the Red God’s followers to her agenda. The scariest part is that she actually believes she is doing God’s work. She sees her manipulations, machinations and murders as justified for the greater good. She would have no qualms about sending a false letter to manipulate Jon.

    In Mother’s Mercy, after the sacrifice of Shireen, Selyse’s suicide and the desertion of the Sellswords, Melisandre abandons Stannis for Castle Black. Why? Did she see something in the Flames? Did she finally realize that Stannis was not really Azor Ahai? She could have sent the Pink Letter before the Battle of Winterfell to rally extra help from Jon, the Wildlings and possibly the NW. This is possible in the Books or the Show. In the books, Mormont’s raven would be a nice little clue, that it carries the Pink Letter to Castle Black. She could have used any number of magic tricks to make the letter “seem” like it was from Ramsay.

    Before the failed Battle for Winterfell begins, she could be going back to CB to try one last time to get Jon to save Stannis in his final hour. She could also have sent a Raven ahead of her arrival. She could be there because, frankly there aren’t a lot of other choices for shelter nearby. She returns to CB abject and beaten, I doubt if she saw Jon as a Prophet or Hero in her visions, otherwise she would not be in such a state of apathy. Even after her gross errors in reading the visions, she would spin it all, that Stannis was a means to an end and Jon was really Azor Ahai all along. Who knows what role she will have to play in what happens next at Castle Black, the Night’s Watch and Davos story arcs? But I do think Melisandre is the most likely candidate to have used the Pink Letter as a tool to manipulate Jon into either:

    1) Helping Stannis in his bid for control of Winterfell.
    2) Rescuing Stannis in his Darkest Hour
    3) Leaving Team Dragonstone and hitching her wagon to Team Snow! Remember Melisandre asks for visions of Azor Ahai and all she sees in SNOW.

  • I like this theory the only problem is from the show we know that Stannis and his army die so I think its save to assume they lose the battle in the books too. Its hard because the storyline i the show left out show much from the books like Mance realy died and the north wasn’t helping Stannis. Plus Jon didn’t even get the letter. I don’t know when I read the books I think so many things are important and then the show doesn’t even mention them.

  • Did HBO Game of Thrones burn Mance utterly (no glamour), as Rattleshirt was also killed in the show by Tormund?
    Strange deviation if Mance still has an important part to play in the books.But then again, Val was cut from the show altogether.
    Thoughts on this…

    • I think the changes to Mance ‘ s role in the show indicates that either his trip to Winterfell didn’t produce anything vital to the story going forward or whatever fruit his mission bears will be crafted into another character’s arc.

      That’s why I think Melisandre may be the character that has an involvement in the Pink Letter. With Stannis dead, she needs something to do and we all know she is devious enough to have crafted it.

      • I think the major divergences from the books to the show, have been explained by D&D and Gurm as … and I’m paraphrasing here “The show may take a completely different path, but it will reach the same conclusion as the books.”

  • just watched the three part preston Jacobs breakdown of the pink letter theory on youtube as referenced above. might be the most convincing analysis I’ve seen of an asoiaf mystery I’ve seen in the 20 or so years I’ve been reading them.

    • I just watched the Pink Letter series as well and found it well researched and put together. As Razor stated above, GRRM and D&D state that the show will arrive at the same destination as the books, but that the various paths may be altered for TV.

      That is why I stated that while there is a great deal of evidence for Mance in ASOIF, that ultimately since Mance is dead on GoT, that any of his story arc that remains important, will likely be crafted into another characters story arc on TV. Just as Jeyne Pool’s story arc and the Alys Karstark story were eliminated and Sansa absorbed some of those details into her story line.

      I feel with Melisandre’s return to Castle Black, if the Pink Letter gets any additional screen time, it will have been her plot rather than Mance, Stannis or Theon.

  • To be honest I’ve never once doubted that the letter was genuine, and all the theories I’ve read or heard just seem like an enormous stretch to me (and make neither logical nor thematic sense). I’m amazed that so many people dispute the validity of the letter, and get the feeling that those pushing this theory are probably just in denial about the fates of Stannis and Mance – and feel anger that once again the ostensible ‘good guys’ have lost, and the ‘bad guys’ have won. Any last shred of doubt I had (based on hearing the theory after reading the books) went up in flames when season 5 of GoT made it abundantly clear that Stannis’ crusade is utterly doomed.

    Admittedly the ending of ADWD is a cruel twist, but to me it all makes total sense. As the story goes on, Jon gets more and more drawn in to the politics of the North (all the while convincing himself he has plausible deniability), but he’s been playing with fire, and the Pink Letter is his chickens coming home to Roos(e)t. As for Stannis, this seems like the logical place for his story to come to an end. He’s obviously not Azor Ahai and he will never sit on the iron throne, Melisandre has found a new savior, and Davos (the most compelling and sympathetic character in Stannis’ arc) is off on his own quest. As with the Red Wedding and Mountain vs Viper, these plot twists are gut-punches that in retrospect were completely inevitable (and this is what makes Martin’s writing so great).

    Ultimately, while it’s a fun discussion to have, and I love a good tinfoil theory as much as the next guy, I put the ‘Who Wrote the Pink Letter?’ theory in the same box as Euron= Daario. You can make a compelling case for it based on circumstantial evidence, but ultimately I don’t buy it.

    • Very well stated Radiatorrr,

      When I first started researching ASOIF discussion boards and Fan Theories about six months ago… I was amazed at the amount of speculation out there. I’ve always been a rabid reader, and I was aware many popular books had communities of fans who wrote fan fiction, but I was unaware of the communities that produced such well thought out analysis of ASOIF.

      After I first read GoT, I thought I was rather clever for deducing R+L=J! I had no idea there was a whole movement around it!

      For me I also took the Pink Letter at face value. I never really considered it as a “Conspiracy Theory” against Jon. There have been some very cleaver theories out there in the ASOIF Universe, but sometimes the most simple answer is the most true. I Guess we’ll see when TWOW is published… or maybe the Meereenese Knot will continue to unravel in DoS!

  • “Bastard” is off limits to Ramsay.

    He hates being called it himself, not calling others it. Now that he’s legitimised, Ramsay is clearly lording it over Jon, a fellow bastard. Nothing suspicious about that at all – it seems totally in-character for Ramsay.

    “Your false King“ is an odd phrase. How does Ramsay, who is busy with the chaos in Winterfell, know that Jon may or may not consider Stannis the true king?

    Because Stannis has marched on Winterfell from The Wall, and Stannis is in league with Mance, and by extension, Jon. Again, nothing suspicious.

    a seven day battle seems highly unlikely at this point.

    Why? While Stannis is a great military mind and appears to have a few things in his favour, his troops are on unfamiliar territory, starving and freezing. It is entirely possible that he will lose the battle. He may well defeat the Frey host, but, as Theon says, Ramsay will come for him in the end.

    The author of the letter is assuming that False Arya (really Jeyne Poole) is at Castle Black, and not with Stannis. This seems to me like a ruse to get Jon to leave the confines of the Wall and break his oaths to march on Winterfell…

    But Stannis is dead by this point, and it seems perfectly logical for Ramsay to assume that after escaping Winterfell, ‘Arya’ would have headed for The Wall.

    “If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him.” Ramsay is not the kind of person to keep a traitor to his cause alive.

    This one really made me laugh – what, you mean a traitor like…. THEON GREYJOY? This is, unequivocally, exactly what Ramsay would do, and has been doing throughout all his time in the books!

    The letter also refers to the women Mance brought with him as “the six whores.” How does Ramsay know there were six women involved with the conspiracy to spring false Arya? This continues to serve as proof that Ramsay had nothing to do with the Bastard Letter.

    Erm, because they failed, and were captured, and have obviously been tortured into confessing?

    How does Ramsay know about the “false king’s queen?” How does he know about Shireen and Melisandre? Moreover, how does he know about Val—the wildling princess—and his little prince?

    See above.

    “He wants his Bride back. He wants his Reek.” Now compare these words to the Bastard Letter. “I want my bride back….And I want my Reek.” It’s quite a coincidence that Theon’s words are repeated almost verbatim in the letter. Odd, no?

    No. It’s not odd at all!

    So we have a letter that:

    Is not sealed with a House Bolton button but rather with a pink “smear” of wax.
    The handwriting does not warrant comment from Jon, who has seen other letters from Ramsay, describing the handwriting as large and spiky.
    The ink is not brown or dried blood, which is the usual method of writing for Ramsay, but rather is it Maester’s black ink.
    There is no skin attached to the letter, skin being Ramsay’ call sign, if you will. If the letter were in fact from Ramsay, then he could have and more than likely would have used the skin he flayed from the spearwives that he claimed to made into a cloak for Mance

    So you’re assuming that Ramsay writes every single letter in blood, with skin attached? That’s ludicrous. As for the smear, one can assume that the letter was written in a rage, so that makes perfect sense.

    • Also, regarding the suggestion that the raven who speaks Theon’s name is actually the Old Bear’s: I’ve always thought it rather clear that at this point in the story, Bran’s warging abilities have allowed him to communicate via raven in a way that even the Three-Eyed Crow believed impossible. Theon hears his name spoken by (what he believes are) the Old Gods while standing in Winterfell’s godswood; clearly this is Bran as well. Another reference like this is made in one of the Jon chapters in ADWD, when he hears the ravens and makes note of one of them speaking his full name “Jon Snow” and it being “queer”, that previously they’d been taught by Sam to say “Snow”, but not his full name. Again, this is Bran.

    • You have to admit that this would be a bizarre way to tell the reader about the end of the “Battle of Ice”, though, particularly since we are still getting pre-Battle chapters in TWoW. Like, why would GRRM write it in such a way that we already know the outcome (i.e. the letter stating outright that Stannis loses and Mance et. al. are captured and additionally implying that Jeyne and Theon somehow escape the fracas) but then actually write chapters leading up to it (e.g. Theon I in TWoW)? To me that only makes sense if he’s going to subvert the contents of the letter.

      • I think the only reason the Pink Letter exists at all in the books is because George R.R. Martin cut the battle from A Dance With Dragons, but didn’t want to leave his readers with nothing, so he gave them a clue as to what’s to come in the form of the Pink Letter. This may also explain why D&D have excluded the letter from the show.

  • I just have one comment. Die Ramsay die!! Die a slooooooow painful death as soon as possible. Oh, and take Cersei and the Freys with you. That is all.

  • OK, here is the deal…
    Stannis is desperate and sends the letter via Mormonts’ smart raven. Melissandre sends the raven back telling Stannis that Jon SNow is dead. Stannis is even more desperate as Ramsay has raided his camp and destroyed a lot of his supplies and siege equipment so he tells Mellissandre to do whatever she can to aid his cause. Melissandre takes that as permission to sacrifice Shireen, which she does and she prays over Jon Snow. When Shireen passes, Jon SNow comes back. Selyce has the same reaction to Shireen burning as in the show and Hangs herself. The weather finally clears enough for Stannis to move but he marches right into a trap and is defeated. Being Stannis, he won’t yield and is killed in Battle. Mance Rayder is found out and flayed by Ramsay which causes the Wildlings to unite against the Boltons and THEY capture Winterfell before the great Northern conspiracy can get off the ground.

  • The clues from combining the shows plot points and the book plot points, thru the process of elimination, leads to a clearer view of the direction that both are headed.
    The Wildlings resent many of the traditions of the Kneelers, but may respect one. The transfer of the power of leadership.
    On the show Jon Snow is the hand that kills Mance Rayder, and Jaime Lannister is the hand that killed the Mad King. By rights, and magic, the person that belongs on the Iron Throne is Jaime “Targaryan” Lannister and the person that belongs as leader of the Free Folk is Jon “Targaryan” Snow. Everyone Baratheon on the throne was a mistake, because of Jaimes unknown Targaryan blood, that will only be corrected by uniting the kingdom against the Others. That is why the power of kings blood and the visions of Melisandra have been so weak and unreliable, and the pink letter may have been a desperate attempt by her to increase the red gods magical power back to Stannis that misfired. But why would a fire Gods priestesses magic be stronger at a wall made of ice? This is my favorite theory of all that will surprise even Melisandre: her true strength lies in being an Ice Priestess or a combination of both.