Here is the precocious Brandon Stark of Winterfell and his companion, Hodor. When we first meet little Bran he is a fearless child who climbs up the sides of towers and dreams of becoming a knight. While climbing, he stumbles upon the Queen committing adultery/incest with her brother. In order to keep their secret, Bran is pushed from the window and breaks his back and slips into a coma. We are not given much more information on his actual condition.
The other characters have differing opinions on his situation. Most feel he would be better off dead than a cripple. Others, mainly his family, hope for the best and pray for him to wake while fearing the reality of having a serious disability. We are also given a gimpy perspective through Tyriion, the other brother of the queen, who has dwarfism. While at breakfast with his kid-killing siblings, he mentions that Bran is expected to live. The queen is shocked and states that it is cruel to let a child live as a grotesque, someone should show mercy and kill him. Tyriion, as the loud and drunken dwarf with a quick wit, says “Speaking as one of the grotesque, death is so final, while life is so full of possibilities” .
GRRM has perfectly captured the reactions that people have towards disability. So many people on the outside looking in assume that our lives are horrible, we’re burdens, nothing good will ever happen to us and we should just die. If it is a family member then their reaction changes. They are so afraid for the person who they love so much. They fear that the person they once knew may be totally changed by his injury and have a lifetime of pain and struggling ahead. They also wonder how they can relate to their life and what kind of a part they can play in it. But if you are lucky enough to be disabled yourself, then your reaction will be one of empathy even if it is not the same disability. We remember that fateful day when we became gimpy (through accident, injury, illness . it doesn’t matter now) and our world turned upside down. We understand how sad and heartbroken this kid feels because we felt it too. We understand the trials ahead of him because we had them too. Some of us were lucky enough to have gimpy friends who showed us the ropes and we had an easier time transitioning. While many of us were alone in our journey and have the scars to prove it, but we still transitioned. What matters is that we made it and life is still good.
When Bran wakes, he is very depressed and angry. He often worries about his future and laments how he cannot possibly be a knight, climb again or even take care of himself. Slowly, his situation improves (he begins moving about the castle in a basket on Hodor’s back and learns to horseback ride with a modified saddle from Tyriion), but the road to acceptance is long and twisty.
No matter what kind of craziness happens, his thoughts always return to his broken body. He blames his mother’s departure on his injury. He believes that if he were whole his brother would have taken him to battle with him. He even blames his father’s death and the capture of his home on his inability to fight. Of course, none of that is true, but this angry little boy had far too much to deal with and the unfairness of his injury was a good place to focus his anger.
Bran quickly learns that he has developed psychic abilities through a three eyed crow who haunts his dreams following his fall. After a long, dangerous journey to reach him , Bran’s first question isn’t about his abilities, family, friends, or the impending doom to humanity. He asks if the creepy wizard-stuck-in-a-tree guy can make him walk again. We can all understand his disappointment, but Bloodraven gives him an epic answer —- “You will never walk again, but you will fly”. Bran was so wrapped up in what he lost and what his body could no longer do that he didn’t recognize the amazing possibilities that his psychic ability gave him. I think the lesson here is that life never turns out the way we want it to, but embracing the role we are given can become even more wonderful than we ever could have imagined.