A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 9

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 8 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 16 (“Eddard”) and 17 (“Bran”).

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 16: Eddard

What Happens
Ned’s steward Vayon Poole informs him that Arya has been found after four days of searching, and taken directly before the king at the queen’s order. Furious, Ned orders Sansa to be brought to the audience chamber of the castle they are housed in (Ser Raymun Darry’s, a former Targaryen ally, and not a friend). Ned hurries to the chamber, and Arya falls into his arms, sobbing apologies. Ned demands the meaning of this of Robert, and Cersei demands justice for the injury done Joffrey, saying that Arya and the butcher’s boy Mycah beat Joffery with clubs, and then set Arya’s beast upon him. Arya denies this loudly, calling Joffrey a liar, and Robert roars for silence. He commands Arya to tell her version of events as Poole enters with Sansa; Arya does, and Renly Baratheon finds the story hilarious. Robert kicks him out, and has Joffrey tell his (very different) version of the events, and proclaims himself bewildered by the differences between the two.

Ned calls Sansa forward, but she claims not to remember what happened; Arya flies at her sister in a fury and has to be hauled off. Cersei declares that Arya must be punished, but Robert decides to let Ned discipline Arya, to Ned’s great relief. Furious, Cersei then demands that at the very least the direwolf must be put down, but Jory Cassel points out that Nymeria has not been found. Robert is relieved, but Cersei taunts him for his failure to bring her the wolf’s pelt, and demands the skin of Sansa’s wolf instead. Robert shrugs and acquiesces; Sansa is stricken, and Ned begs Robert to relent, but Robert only curses Cersei and leaves. Ned then declares that if it must be done, he will do it himself.

After it’s over, he tells Jory to send men to bring Lady’s body to Winterfell for burial, determined that Cersei will never get her pelt. He meets Sandor Clegane’s party returning from a search, and Clegane shows him the butcher’s boy Mycah’s body, cut almost in half. Ned observes flatly that they rode Mycah down, and Clegane laughs and agrees.

Commentary
In which we confirm that Cersei does indeed suck just as much as her twin brother, not that this was really in doubt. Man. Forget kicking the dog, how about having it freakin’ executed? Congrats, woman, your Total Bastard certificate of authenticity is in the mail. Sheesh.

(Warning: do not click the above link unless you have a lot of free time on your hands. Seriously.)

Why, why, WHY is it always the dog, man? Yeah, yeah, direwolf, whatever, my point stands. I haaaaate when they kill the animals, y’all. I think the only reason I’m not more upset about it is that I’m refusing to really dwell on it enough to let it sink in. I know how I am about this stuff; Steinbeck’s The Red Pony practically sent me into a fugue state when I was forced to read it by my EVIL HARPY of a 6th grade English teacher, and I have made a command decision that I will not be doing “massive depression” today. So There.

All averted trauma aside, though, I have to be kind of in awe of a chain of events that leads to the one, er, entity in this drama who wasn’t even there being the one that gets punished for it.

Well. Other than Mycah, of course. Poor boy. Clearly, hanging out with the Starks is rapidly becoming a high-risk venture.

Sansa: the sad thing is, I was actually surprised she merely wussed out on her testimony, because I was honestly expecting her to fully embrace the Stupid and support Joffrey’s bullshit version of events in some pathetic attempt to get back into his good graces.

Although, the path she did choose may be the stupidest of the three, really, because (setting aside all questions of decency and ethics) if she had supported Joffrey’s story, Lady would probably still be alive. If she’d supported Arya, Lady’s fate might have been a little more uncertain, but there would be a better than even chance, because I’d bet Ned would have gone much more strongly to bat against Cersei’s demand if both his daughters gave the same story.

But instead she supported neither, and now she has nothing.

I suppose the only good thing to hope comes of this is that Sansa might finally see Joffrey for what he is, and get past her (frankly dangerous) crush on him. Of course, considering I’m pretty sure she still has to marry him anyway… well, let’s just say I am clearly going to have to make some relative adjustments on my “good/bad” scale. Not that I didn’t already know that, too.

Well, at least Renly’s still kickass:

[Renly] bowed to Joffrey. “Perchance later you’ll tell me how a nine-year-old girl the size of a wet rat managed to disarm you with a broom handle and throw your sword in the river.” As the door swung shut behind him, Ned heard him say, “Lion’s Tooth,” and guffaw once more.

Heh. Awesome.

 

Chapter 17: Bran

What Happens
Bran dreams that he is falling. He speaks with a crow, who tells him he must fly if he wants to live; he will die if he hits the ground. Bran remembers a golden face, and screams, but the crow tells him to forget that, and look down, and Bran sees the whole world. He sees the tree in the center of the godswood look at him, and his mother on a ship racing toward a storm. He sees his father and Sansa and Arya, and that they are surrounded by shadows. He sees dragons in far-off lands, and Jon growing cold at the Wall. He looks beyond the wall, and is afraid, and the crow tells him this is why he must live, because winter is coming.

The crow has three eyes, and tells him to fly or die, and Bran flies. He is delighted, and then the crow stabs him in the center of his forehead, and he wakes to see a serving woman, who shrieks and runs out of his room, shouting that he is awake. Bran tries to get out of bed, but nothing works. His wolf jumps up on the bed with him, and when Robb dashes in, Bran tells him the wolf’s name is Summer.

Commentary
YAY BRAN IS AWAKE *dances around*

Crippled, yes. But awake!

I didn’t even bother, by the way, to try and capture the feel of this chapter in the summary, because it really can’t be done without just going and reading the original, which I highly recommend you do, because it was pretty darn cool.

Sooooo, Bran is apparently a Seer now? Or was that just a one-time vision quest thingy?

Well, either way the significance of the crow was really nicely done. It ties back to what Bran was originally doing when he was pushed—going to feed the crows on the tower—and more generally links into the common recurring symbolism of crows and ravens being both harbingers of/bridges between life and death, and repositories of wisdom and knowledge not readily available to ordinary people. The Norse god Odin (who is strongly associated with the crows Huginn and Muninn, Thought and Memory) sacrificed an eye to gain wisdom; I don’t know whether Bran will feel that his spinal cord is quite as fair a trade for becoming a visionary, but the association is unmistakable to my mind.

That the crow is three-eyed only strengthens the symbolism, as “the third eye” is a well-known representation of psychic abilities. It’s also why I thought it’s possible that Bran’s vision will turn out to be a one-time deal, since the crow stabbed him directly between the eyes to wake him up, which is where the third eye would symbolically be. So maybe Bran’s “third eye” is pecked out now, I dunno. We’ll see, I guess.

This is the bit of the actual vision that caught my eye, heh heh puns are funs, when Bran was seeing his father and sisters:

There were shadows all around them. One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood.

The first two “shadows” are pretty easy to identify: I’m about 99% sure that they represent Sandor Clegane and Jaime Lannister, respectively. But the third—the stone armor guy—I can’t make out at all. I’m going to assume the giant represents either something more esoteric than a single person (like maybe the conflict as a whole?), or he’s someone I don’t have enough information to identify yet. “Black blood”—something inhuman, or just old, dried blood? Huh, no idea at this point.

The point of it all, though, seems to have been a warning: that winter is coming. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess “winter” means more than just a few blizzards in this context. I’m thinking it means FROZEN ZOMBIES. Dun!

(Is it, uh, weird that that phrase still completely delights me? Because c’mon, it’s awesome. Try it: FROZEN ZOMBIES. Yay!)

(I may need help.)

Speaking of winter, I assume someone’s going to explain at some point what the deal is with seasons lasting years or decades or whatever it is instead of months. I’d noticed the mentions of this throughout the chapters I’ve read so far, but I’ve been putting off saying anything about it until it gets explained better. Or, you know, at all. So I guess we’ll come back to that!

And the wolf has a name, yay! A name which is NOT SIGNIFICANT IN ANY WAY, I AM SURE. Nope, naming your direwolf “Summer” right after being told by your magical spirit guide crow guru dude that your survival is the key to heading off the FROZEN ZOMBIE WINTER APOCALYPSE, that’s not symbolic or fraught with meaning at all.

(Okay, so I’m projecting a little with the assumptions here, but it gave me an excuse to say FROZEN ZOMBIE WINTER APOCALYPSE, so I don’t care. Whee!)


All right, that’s clearly enough outta me. Have a delightful weekend, kiddies, and I’ll see you with more next Friday!

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