A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 6

Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Today’s entry is Part 5 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 10 (“Jon”) and 11 (“Daenerys”).

Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, The Powers That Be at Tor.com have very kindly set up a forum thread for spoilery comments. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.

And now, the post!

 

Chapter 10: Jon

What Happens
Jon goes to see Bran, dreading confronting Catelyn, who has not left Bran’s side since the accident. Catelyn orders him to leave, and threatens to call the guards, but does not follow through when Jon refuses. Jon apologizes to Bran, weeping, and begs him not to die. Catelyn suddenly confesses aloud that she had prayed for Bran to stay with her, and now her prayers are answered. Jon tries to comfort her, which she rejects viciously. As he goes to leave, she stops him and tells him “It should have been you.”

Jon meets briefly with Robb, and lies to him that his mother was kind when Jon went to see Bran. Robb tells him Benjen is looking for him, but Jon tells him he has one more goodbye to make first. They exchange warm farewells.

Jon finds Arya repacking her trunk with help from her wolf Nymeria. Arya is ecstatic to see him, and Jon tells her he has a present for her: a sword made especially for her, slender but deadly sharp. Arya is delighted, but worries that Septa Mordane will take it away; Jon tells her she must keep it a secret, especially from Sansa, and find someone in King’s Landing to practice with. Arya is sad to see him go, but he cheers her by telling her the name of her new sword, a joke that delights them both: Needle.

Commentary
Okay, Jon is officially my favorite character in this series as of this moment, and possibly in my top ten for favorite characters ever. I will hug him and squeeze him and call him George, for reals.

You guys. YOU GUYS. He gave Arya a sword. That he had made special. For her. That is seriously the sweetest most awesome thing EVAR. I might possibly have little glistening anime hearts in my eyes right now. It’s kind of disturbing.

Trust me to get all girly and sigh-y over a sword, y’all. My priorities, let me show you them, eh? What can I say, I love me a nice shiny lethal weapon. I should probably be studied.

But seriously. A sword! Called Needle! For Arya! How perfect is that?

Perfect enough to almost make up for the scene before it, anyway. “Almost” being the operative word, because wow.

I think I saw it mentioned that Catelyn is one of the more polarizing characters in the series, and I can well believe it after this. Her behavior toward Jon was nothing short of despicable in its misguided cruelty, and certainly there is no other character we’ve met so far who deserves such treatment less than Jon Snow, in my opinion.

On the other hand…well. This is a woman who’s literally seen her child shattered before her, and who partially blames herself for it. Grief and guilt together, in such magnitude…I don’t think anyone operating under that burden could really be considered completely sane.

I know a little about grief; not anything near on this scale, perhaps, but enough to know that it does funny things to your brain. It’s almost like being drunk, in a very weird way, in how it can allow you to ignore socially-imposed inhibitions. People who are intensely grieving can say and do things that they would never in a million years say or do otherwise. And unfortunately the instinct to lash out, to try and make someone else feel as terrible as you do, can be very strong. It’s not right, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

I guess the question, then, is whether you think that’s a good enough excuse in Catelyn’s case. I…kind of think it isn’t, but at the same time I hesitate to judge her for it, in the same way I hesitate to judge someone for what they do when they are three sheets to the wind. Neither case is featuring a person in their right mind, in my opinion.

Doesn’t make it suck any less for the recipient, though.

Sigh. I’d hope that things get better for Jon up at the Wall, but I don’t think I’m reading the right series for that. At least he’s independently awesome.

(A sword! For Arya! *clasps hands*)

 

Chapter 11: Daenerys

What Happens
Forty thousand Dothraki warriors and their women and children have come to Khal Drogo’s wedding, making the city nervous. Viserys is impatient for Drogo to get on with getting his crown back, but Illyrio and Ser Jorah Mormont advise him not to push the khal. Dany dreams of dragons and her brother beating her that night. The wedding is huge and barbaric and frightening to Dany, with both public sex and duels to the death being standard entertainment fare. Viserys is incensed that he is required to sit below Dany and Drogo. Dany feels her dread increase until sunset, when it is time for the gifts. Viserys gives her three handmaids, Mormont gives her books, and Illyrio presents her with three huge beautiful eggs:

“Dragon’s eggs, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai,” said Magister Illyrio. “The eons have turned them to stone, yet still they burn bright with beauty.”

She ritually refuses the gifts of weapons so that they go to Drogo instead, and Drogo gives her his own gift: a magnificent filly. Dany is afraid that her horsemanship will not be adequate, but riding the filly proves to be exhilarating, and she boldly gallops the horse through the camp, ending by leaping a firepit. She asks Illyrio to tell Drogo that he “has given me the wind,” and Drogo smiles for the first time. Surreptitiously, Viserys threatens her if she does not please Drogo, and all Dany’s pleasure disappears.

She and Drogo ride out together to consummate their marriage, and when they reach their destination Dany begins to cry. He surprises her, though, by his tenderness and attention to her own pleasure, and in the end she goes willingly to him.

Commentary
Hoo boy.

Um. Well, that was…a lot.

But I’m…glad for Dany? I think?

Yes, okay, I am, mostly. I mean, the Dothraki are clearly not going to be earning top ranking in the human rights arena anytime soon, or non-human rights for that matter (a gown made from a thousand mouse skins? Holy hell), but…well. I can’t help but get the overwhelming impression that for Dany, living with Drogo is going to prove to be about a thousand percent improvement over living with Viserys.

Granted, this may qualify as damning with faint praise, but whatever. I am very proud, though, that Dany herself seems to have at least partially paved the way for this improvement by impressing Drogo with her riding stunt.

Imagine it though, that the slim possibility of your happiness hinges on what amounts to Russian roulette—taking the shot and just hoping that the guy you’re forced to marry is at least a halfway decent human being instead of, well, Viserys. Except the way these things go, instead of five empty chambers and one asshole bullet, the odds are the other way around. I really don’t see how anyone couldn’t find this system horrifying, even in the abstract.

Well, but Dany lucked out, yay. (Sigh.) Or at least so it seems at the moment, anyway. God knows it certainly all could change.

Anyway, let’s talk about the other thing that got dropped in here oh-so-casually, which maybe I’m totally wrong about this but as far as I am concerned at the moment has Chekhov’s Gun written on it in LETTERS OF FIRE, and that is Illyrio’s stone dragon eggs he gave to Dany as a wedding gift.

“Stone,” my ass.

Seriously, I know this series is very magic-lite and all, but if those eggs don’t hatch at some point I will seriously eat my hat. Even though I don’t wear a hat. I will go out and buy a hat and eat it, okay?

Because, just—no. You do not give fossilized dragon eggs to a girl who is supposedly literally descended from dragons and who keeps dreaming about dragons and reminding herself about being descended from dragons and dragons dragons dragons, and have nothing happen with them. Sorry, forget it. Even Martin can’t be that deconstructivist.

(Right?)

Well, I’ll find out, I guess.


But not today, for this is where we stop! Have a lurvely weekend, y’all, and see you next Friday!

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