In the interview quoted in this answer, Anne Groell mentions a three step revelation strategy for plot elements employed by George R. R. Martin in the A Song of Ice and Fire series:

That said, now that I’ve realized his three-fold revelation strategy, I see it in play almost every time. The first, subtle hint for the really astute readers, followed later by the more blatant hint for the less attentive, followed by just spelling it out for everyone else.

But I can't say I'm familiar enough with the works to spot it. Can someone find, for example, the three steps of revelation for Eddard Stark's death near the end of A Game of Thrones?

  • Eddard's death is not really a secret to be revealed. What the article is talking about are secrets, for which GRRM gives increasingly strong hints. This is also just one person's opinion. I'm not so sure at all that it is 100% accurate.
    – TLP
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 17:34
  • 5
    I'd say that the dead stag and direwolf that Eddard and his posse find on the way back from beheading that guy who ran away from the Epilogue is somewhat of a foreshadowing. But I agree that something which happens within the first book is not exactly a secret.
    – user24620
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 19:49
  • @Michael: I think that GoT is a particularly striking example, because I don't know of any other very popular series of books (and a TV show) that have killed so many main characters, and had so many twists that one might mistake it for an intestinal tract. I agree, however, that most twists are foreshadowed, which is why it's so damn fun to rewatch The Usual Suspects and Fight Club so many times!
    – user24620
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 23:52
  • As to Eddard's death, there is also the conversation that Varys and Ilyrio have: "If one hand can die, why not another?" And the Lannisters' indirect and unjust murder of the direwolf. And Littlefinger telling Eddard not to trust him. Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 2:03
  • @LordSnow: Spooks killed far more main characters, and far more frequently at that. Having recently caught up with GoT I've been disappointed that this "everyone keeps dying" mantra that everybody keeps spewing turned out to be a load of nonsense. Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 14:59

3 Answers 3


There are many hints of Eddard's fate.

As already pointed out, in the first chapter:

The dead stag and direwolf that Eddard and his posse find on the way back from beheading the Night's Watchman from the Epilogue is a subtle hint

Then in Chapter 27 as Eddard discusses the upcoming King's Tourney with the small council, Janos Slynt mentions:

"The night before a woman's head was found in the Great Sept, floating in the rainbow pool". - A more direct hint of Ned's fate since Slynt assists in Ned's beheading on the steps of this Sept.

At the end of Chapter 32, Arya asks one of her father's guardsmen

"What if a wizard was sent to kill him?"

And he responds:

"Well, as to that," Desmond replied, drawing his longsword, "wizards die the same as other men, once you cut their heads off."

There are other hints in addition to the ones mentioned above, such as Illyrio and Varys's conversation and Littlefinger telling Ned not to trust him. And then of course we find out Ned's fate towards the end of AGOT.


As TLP wrote, I'm not sure there are always three components, and not all events are foreshadowed. But there are many events that are foreshadowed over the course of the series. One memorable example is the Red Wedding, which is heavily foreshadowed:

  • Patchface sings about it in the prologue of ACOK:

"Fool's blood, king's blood, blood on the maiden's thigh, but chains for the guests and chains for the bridegroom, aye aye aye."

A feast of slaughtered corpses holding cups, spoons, and food, with a dead man with a wolf's head sitting on a throne wearing an iron crown

  • Later in ASOS, Grey Wind growls at Lothar Frey and Walder Rivers upon Robb's arrival at the Twins.

  • Finally we have Walder Frey's comments, the bad food, bad music, lots of drinks, etc leading up to the actual events of the Red Wedding.

  • 3
    There are more foreshadowings of the Red Wedding than that. Patchface predicts it. Walder Frey says "The red will run". And probably more besides.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 20:30
  • 2
    In ACOK, when Arya is at Harrenhal, she and a young Frey have a conversation in the yard about how he was supposed to marry a princess, but now he's not going to anymore. The princess is Arya (Robb had to promise her to a Frey as part of the deal to cross the Frey's bridge) and he "lost his princess" when Robb broke his promise. Also, Tywin makes mention of winning a war with a letter he wrote in one of Tyrion's chapters (late ACOK or early ASOS) Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 23:37

The two young Walders Frey at Winterfell play a game called King of the Crossing in which the King must hold to an oath unless he slips in the word "mayhaps" unnoticed. If you look at the interaction between Lord Frey and Robb & Catelyn right before the Red Wedding, Frey does just that- slips in a "mayhaps" when the Starks ask for food. Thus, it's not suprising that he does not hold to his oath.

  • Oh snap, I never made that connection! Thanks, it's about time for another read through anyways!
    – Telestia
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 21:02
  • He event taunts Rob about it. Something like "You wanted to cross the river and get army in exchange for my daughter's hand, but you didn't say mayhaps".
    – Zikato
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 5:58

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