A Song of Ice and Fire fans have been waiting for The Winds of Winter for more than a decade now. One thing that's kept them going is that author George R.R. Martin has, over the years, released a number of preview chapters and given live readings of portions of the book. This vein has long since dried up, with the last new material surfacing at a reading in
Baltimore in 2016. Fans on Reddit, though, believe they’ve isolated a page of the forthcoming fantasy novel from one of these previous readings and they’re looking for help deciphering what it says. It may sound like an impossible task, but they’ve pulled it off before.
Redditor BryndenBFish—a novelist and authority on Winds of Winter-related arcana—caught a glimpse of the page while rewatching a reading Martin gave at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2012. “He only read part of the chapter. I was re-watching George read this chapter, and then I noticed something at the end of the reading,” BryndenBFish wrote in a post on the A Song of Ice and Fire subreddit. “At the very end, George flipped to the next page of the Victarion chapter for a brief moment, didn't read any further and then set the manuscript aside. But for a moment, a whole page, previously unseen was visible.”
The thread has generated more than 200 comments as fans try to piece together the fragments of the page. Two separate fans have attempted to enhance the page to make it more visible. As of this writing, the community has only put together a few strings of broken words from two paragraphs. “When the priest was gone, the dusky woman [illegible] the [illegible] [illegible] and [longer word but has to be a verb] and [illegible] it in the smile from hell,” the community currently believes the text says. “His left arm, the [illegible] and dressing from his arm. [First underlined portion], he thought.”
The whole project may seem like a fool’s errand, but this community has pulled off the impossible before—repeatedly.
In 2015, George RR Martin recorded a video for Conan O’Brien that poked fun at his slow writing speed. For a moment, we can see Martin’s word processor over his shoulder, covered in words that the community assumed were from The Winds of Winter. BryndenBFish posted the image to /r/asoiaf and asked the community to help them figure out what it said.
They did. It’s called the Asha fragment and contains a portion of a chapter about Asha Greyjoy, called Yara in Game of Thrones. Similar sleuthing by members of the westeros.org forums and Reddit users previously uncovered much of a redacted portion of Martin's original pitch letter for the series, which contains such oddities as Arya Stark falling in love with her half-brother Jon Snow.
Now the community is trying to pull off the same trick again. It’s a rallying cry for a fandom that’s fallen on hard times. Two years after the finale of the television show, many have tuned to posting about the crushing disappointment of the HBO adaptation.Others wait for the books, hopeful that Martin will deliver a better ending than showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss did. But A Dance With Dragons came out a very long time ago and Martin has been saying that the next book is coming “soon” for almost that entire time; some have even theorized that aside from the already-released material, all of it seemingly left over from the last book, he has no pages.
“Maybe this is something we can't do, but I don't know,” BryndenBFish wrote of deciphering the new fragment. “I think the community needs a pick-me-up, and what better way to pick us up than to go on a community-wide scavenger hunt.”