Also called a beastling, many skinchangers appeared in A Song of Ice and Fire. The most notable are the Stark children. Though they can possess animals, skinchangers cannot alter their physical form. After Eddard Stark discovered six direwolf pups, he gave them to his children. Upon getting their direwolves, the Stark children began dreaming in the body of their animals. Over time, they saw clearly and even felt the emotions of the direwolves. One of the Starks, Bran, gets the extra ability of greensight and goes on a dangerous journey beyond the Wall to seek out the three-eyed crow.
Characteristics of Skinchangers
To be a skinchanger, one has to inhabit the mind of an animal and experience the world through their senses. Because humans are more intelligent than animals, being a skinchanger can detrimental to a person’s mental state because once one takes over the mind of an animal, one feels the brute animalistic instincts of the creature. Therefore, many transfer their minds to animals already bonded.
For bonding with an animal, the closer the creature is to humans, the easier the connection; this is why dogs are relatively the easiest for skinchangers. Once bonded to an animal, a person can unconsciously slip into the bonded animal’s body, especially when they are sleeping. On the hierarchy of transferring one’s consciousness, wolves are one of the fiercest creatures to enter as they are wild. A person who can enter the body of a wolf is called a warg.
Greenseers are people who can see through weirwood trees; this makes them see the past and present. Besides seeing into the past, greenseers are the strongest skinchangers. They can enter any animal and, on rare occasions, possess the minds of other humans.
Though skinchangers have great power, they get limited by the bond and the type of animal they choose to enter. Many of them begin emulating the characteristics of the animal type they enter. For skinchangers that enter birds, they may get detached from the world and lose themselves in the obsession to fly. Those that enter animals of prey can become cowards. Those that enter wild animals can lose their sense of calm reasoning and begin behaving wild.
Though there are no official rules for skinchangers, many cultures have ethics that govern how they behave. For most, the worst abomination is possessing the body of another man. Also, eating human meat while in a wild animal is taboo.
While in an animal, a skinchanger may experience its death. However, this will not lead to death. They only die when their physical body gets fatally wounded. However, witnessing an animal’s death in its body can mentally damage a person as they will experience the emotions that accompany hurt, pain, and death. Throughout the seven kingdoms, skinchangers got hunted. However, the Free Folk worshipped them.
Relevance in History
The first record of skinchangers began with the greenseers of the Children of the Forest. During their war with humans, the Children tried to use wolves to wage war. After their retreat beyond the Wall, the Free Folk began seeing the first skinchangers; this marked the first record of humans with the ability. When conflict arose between Gaven Greywolf and House Stark, the War of the Wolves began. The Starks won and later defeated the Warg King.
Relevance in A Song of Ice and Fire
After Eddard Stark gets killed, his son Bran Stark gets wolf dreams where he possesses the body of his direwolf Summer. Upon telling maester Luwin what had happened, the maester tells him the skinchangers are extinct as magic had vanished from Westeros. However, Jojen Reed, a visitor from House Reed, tells Bran he is special. In his campaign against the Lannisters, Robb Stark avoids the Golden Tooth, a stronghold controlled by House Lefford, with the help of Grey Wind, his direwolf.
In Castle Black, Lord Commander Jeor Mormont decides to go on the Great Range to find Benjen and learn of Mance Rayder’s plans. On the range, Jon Snow kills Orell, a skinchanger, and later slips into Ghost. Arya gets dreams of Nymeria and frees some Northmen, who take over Harrenhal.
Though Orell gets killed, part of him lives on in his eagle. Orell’s eagle tries to kill Ghost but fails. Later, Jon gets captured. Varamyr Sixskins takes control of the eagle. Varymyr tries to scout Castle Black to get more information on Stannis Baratheon’s army. However, Melisandre burns his eagle, causing him to go temporarily mad and lose control of his animals.
Arya Stark dreams of Nymeria killing Iggo, a Dothraki from the Brave Companions. She later sees her direwolf pull a body from the Green Fork. In Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy takes over, but with Osha’s help, Bran Stark, Rickon Stark, Jojen, Meera, Hodor, and escape from the castle. They split ways, and Bran travels North to meet the three-eyed crow.
When Varamyr gets ambushed by wights, he tries to possess Thistle, a spearwife, but she resists. Before he dies, he escapes into one of his wolves. Later, Summer forces him to submit. On the journey to meet the three-eyed raven, Bran enters Hodor and uses him to fight. Later, he learns tricks like how to fly from Brynden Rivers, the three-eyed crow. Meanwhile, in Braavos, Arya gets blinded and sees through the eyes of a cat.
Skinchangers: A Contraption of Nature
Though skinchangers are supernatural beings with an advantage over others, their lives are a double-edged blade haunted by the curse of transferring their consciousness. Because entering a beast changed their very nature, skinchangers were dangerous to themselves and others. Their existence in A Song of Ice and Fire explained the danger of having massive power.
Who are skinchangers in A Song of Ice and Fire?
Skinchangers can enter an animal’s body and take control of its actions. They can experience the world through an animal. Though they are powerful, skin changers sometimes become the animals they possess.
Who is a warg?
A warg is a skinchanger that can possess a wolf. Because wolves are wild and hard to control, those who can enter them are special.