What Exactly Is the Three-Eyed Raven on 'Game of Thrones'?

He's become very, very important in season 8.

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It's easy to hate the Three-Eyed Raven on Game of Thrones. Mostly because it's turned Bran into one of the creepiest characters on a show that also features ice zombies. Plus, if we're being honest, the whole storyline is a little confusing. On that note, here's what you need to know about the Three-Eyed Raven—because it's actually really important to Game of Thrones.

The term "Three-Eyed Raven" comes from the literal bird that appeared to Bran in a vision dream meant to guide him to his future as the new Three-Eyed Raven. If you're thinking HUH?, that's a totally appropriate response.

Even though the moniker Three-Eyed Raven has stuck, the old man in the tree (AKA the old Three-Eyed Raven) and Bran Stark (AKA the current Three-Eyed Raven) are actually "Greenseers." In the GOT world, Greenseers are people with the ability to perceive past, future, and current-but-distant events through "Green Dreams." In other words, they are all-seeing and all-knowing.


Why did Bran become The Three-Eyed Raven?

Process of elimination, really. The old Three-Eyed Raven needed to train a replacement, and decided Bran was the best candidate. So, he reached out to him with creepy vision dreams, and lead him to the "Tree of the Three-Eyed Raven" for training.

Even though Greensight is dealt with less in the show than in the books, Bran isn't the only character who possesses it. His little brother Rickon also had the gift, and so did Jojen Reed. But both Rickon and Jojen are dead, so even if Bran wanted to pass the baton, it's not an option.

Why did becoming the Three-Eyed Raven make Bran so creepy?

You have to understand that Bran is no longer really Bran. He still looks like Bran, but he's basically just a vessel for the Three-Eyed Raven. Bran is now akin to a super computer, with vast (actually, infinite) knowledge that he's still learning to process. He's dealing with information overload, so you should really think of him more like a robot than a human at this point.

What role has The Three-Eyed Raven played in the show thus far?

Bran is the only person in Westeros who knows the truth about Jon Snow's parents and birthright. As we learned in "Eastwatch," Rhaegar got an annulment—presumably to marry Jon's mother, Lyanna. This makes Jon the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne, and could change the course of history in Westeros.

Of course, omniscience is a powerful thing, so Bran/the Three-Eyed Raven's impact is going to continue to be large.


Why does the Night King want him so badly?

Season 8 has super-charged Bran/the Three Eyed Raven's relevance to the story. The now-invading Night King wants to destroy the world, and Bran/The Three Eyed Raven "is its memory." In other words, because the Night King wants to destroy any remnant of humanity not just for the present time, but also any trace of humanity ever, Bran is the best way to do that. So, Bran's planning on heading to the Godswood and drawing out the Night King, with Theon Greyjoy as his protector. The argument is that, since the Night King touched Bran and always knows where he is, he'll be compelled to try and kill him in the middle of the battle. What could possibly go wrong?

There are a ton of other theories about why the Night King is doing what he's doing (after all, he doesn't speak, so it's not like he's going to tell us or the characters), including one terrifying one that he's a Targaryen coming to claim what he believes is his birthright. The creators did say that they really liked the idea of the Night King being made, not born, and having a real "historical cause" behind his actions. So if he's going to remake the Seven Kingdoms by taking the throne, he needs Bran's power to do it—and get rid of anyone who might oppose him.

Why doesn't he just tell everyone how the battle will end?

Given that Bran, uh, knows everything past, present, and future, you think he'd be a bit more helpful as all of the other characters collectively freak out and accept their fates. He does tell Jaime in episode 2, "How do you know there is an afterwards?" which is not reassuring. Either a pretty horrible hint that the White Walkers might win the war, or a steadfast refusal to influence Jaime's fate one way or the other, it does not bode well.

The show hasn't made this explicit, but one of the common reasons why all-knowing characters don't just spill the beans is that humans should be allowed to "choose" their own destinies, even if Bran would technically know their decision and fate. If Bran told everyone, "You're going to die," people might run from their fates and cause more trouble. This season, Bran's kind of been transformed into the ultimate quiet overseer, piping up when he needs to impart relevant information and otherwise silent. It's kind of frustrating, as well as, yes, still creepy.

The actor who plays Bran, Isaac Hempstead Wright, also admits that since Bran is young, he hasn't accessed every single memory and thus isn't as truly all-knowing as previous Three Eyed Ravens. "The way Bran's power works at the moment is that he's basically got a Kindle library of the whole history of the universe. He just hasn't read every book yet."

This was obvious in episode 2, in which Bran said he wasn't sure if the Night King could be killed with dragon fire. "No one's ever tried," he said, almost looking vulnerable. So there's also an argument to make that Bran, even though he's technically got this amazing gift, still has limitations to it. (Again, you'd think he could just look ahead to the end of the battle, but again, that would spoil the anticipation, so the showrunners won't go there.)

If he survives the big episode 3 battle, Bran's identity as the Three Eyed Raven as well as his unique gift will continue to be really, really important.

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Kayleigh Roberts
Weekend Editor

Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.