Fri
Jun 3 2011 2:14pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 11

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinWelcome 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 11 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 20 (“Eddard”) and 21 (“Tyrion”).

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 20: Eddard

What Happens
An exhausted and troubled Ned arrives in King’s Landing to find that the small council is already waiting to see him. He finds Varys, Maester Pycelle, Littlefinger, and Renly Baratheon in the chamber. He remarks on Renly’s astonishing resemblance to his brother and has a barbed exchange with Littlefinger before they begin; Ned suggests they wait for the king (and Stannis and Barristan), but Renly laughs and says they will be waiting a while in that case. Ned is appalled to discover that the king has ordered a great tourney in honor of his appointment as King’s Hand, but he is even more aghast when Littlefinger informs him that the money for it will have to be borrowed, as the crown is currently in debt for over six million in gold, mostly to the Lannisters. Ned declares he will speak to the king about this, and closes the session.

He intends to go to his rooms, but Littlefinger intercepts him and tells him his wife is here; Ned doesn’t quite believe him, but follows anyway. Littlefinger leads him to a brothel, which Ned interprets as a bad joke; he slams Littlefinger up against the wall and threatens him until stopped by Rodrik, whom Ned takes a moment to recognize. Catelyn is waiting in a private room; she and Ned embrace fiercely, and Catelyn tells him the whole story.

Numbly, Ned asks why Tyrion Lannister would want Bran dead, but Littlefinger opines that the Imp would hardly be working alone. Pained, Ned wonders if Robert might be involved, but Littlefinger points out that the king is very good at not seeing what he doesn’t want to see; thinking on Robert’s behavior during the incident on the road, Ned reluctantly agrees. He can well believe that the queen was involved, though. Littlefinger says such an accusation is treason without proof, and the dagger alone is not good enough; he suggests tossing it in the river and forgetting the whole thing. Ned is coldly contemptuous of this, but Littlefinger replies that he is a survivor, reminding Ned that he, Littlefinger, is still alive while Ned’s brother is long dead. He says, however, that he will help them for Catelyn’s sake.

Catelyn tells Ned that she told Littlefinger of their suspicions re: Jon Arryn’s death, and that she is convinced Varys is aided by dark arts in his spying. Littlefinger scoffs at the latter; he tells them he can handle Varys, and that they should be more concerned with the Lannisters. Ned tells Catelyn to return to Winterfell, and then asks for a moment alone with her. Snidely, Littlefinger accepts Catelyn and Ned’s thanks, and leaves. Once alone, Ned gives her instructions for fortifying their and their allies’ defenses in case of war. Catelyn is shocked; Ned hopes it will not come to that, but if he finds proof the Lannisters murdered Arryn… Catelyn trembles, and asks what then.

That was the most dangerous part, Ned knew. “All justice flows from the king,” he told her. “When I know the truth, I must go to Robert.” And pray that he is the man I think he is, he finished silently, and not the man I fear he has become.

Commentary
Oh, Ned. You are so screwed. On the Robert thing, anyway. Well, maybe not, but I will be SHOCKED if denouncing Cersei goes well no matter how much evidence Ned amasses.

And man, this just keeps getting better. Robert’s into the Lannisters for six million? Well, the Lannisters and some other people, but still. Ye gods and little fishes. It’s a miracle he hasn’t already had his kneecaps broken. I really don’t think I could possibly have a much lower opinion of him at this point.

It’s kind of unfair, but it’s almost worse that he clearly isn’t a terrible person at heart. It would be one thing if he was just intentionally letting his kingdom go all to hell, but the fact that he clearly just isn’t competent enough to prevent it from happening is… well, somehow that’s even more contemptible than if he was doing it on purpose.

Or differently contemptible, at least. Maybe because I expect a decent person to recognize when he clearly sucks at kinging, and decide to step aside for someone else to do it. Even though I obviously know it doesn’t work like that. I don’t know, it just sucks. At least don’t bury your head in the goddamn sand, dude. To spend that much blood to overthrow a tyrant and then act like you’re the second coming of Rupert Murdoch, without the bankroll to back it up? Good God. What a bloody idiot.

He remembered what Robert had told him in the crypts below Winterfell. I am surrounded by flatterers and fools, the king had insisted. Ned looked down the council table and wondered which were the flatterers and which the fools. He thought he knew already.

Ha. Yeah, and whose fault is that, Robert? Sheesh, you should have called Ned down years ago. Now it might be too late to fix, if it’s fixable at all.

On that note, Littlefinger is setting off every single bullshit detector I possess, and I possess many. I don’t trust that guy any farther than I can throw a Mack truck, you guys. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I really hope Ned thinks to independently verify every fact that comes out of the man’s mouth, because he seems like exactly the kind of person who could tell a polygraph machine that the sky is chartreuse with purple polka dots, and have the machine be all WOW, SO TRUE.

Skeezy little slimeball. Littlefinger, I mean, not the polygraph. I’m sure the polygraph is a perfectly nice inanimate object. Just gullible. I should probably get more sleep.

The POINT is, I don’t have any proof yet but I feel in my bones that Littlefinger is a lying liar who lies, lyingly. He might even be lying about the debt thing, for all I know… although somehow, I’m pretty sure that part’s true. Goddammit, Robert. I guess it remains to be seen whether Littlefinger has been in on the scheme from the beginning, or if he wasn’t, but is just going along and waiting for an opportunity to screw Ned in revenge for Stealing His Woman.

Or (she supposes, grumpily), there is the possibility that Littlefinger’s declarations of loyalty to Catelyn are actually true, and he’s on the up and up. That, in fact, would be the most shocking option available, given the guy’s behavior, so in this series that might be the one that actually happens. That said, though, at this point I wouldn’t be even slightly surprised to find he’s been in the Lannisters’ pocket this whole time. His suggestion to throw the dagger in the river is highly suspect, if you ask me.

Although, even so I still think Tyrion’s implication is a big fat framejob. You can’t tell me Cersei wouldn’t love to throw that particular baby out with the bathwater, and even if Jaime kind of wouldn’t want to, his track record for not doing horrible things for Cersei’s sake is currently rather less than stellar, so.

Bran’s wolf had saved the boy’s life, he thought dully. What was it that Jon had said when they found the pups in the snow? Your children were meant to have these pups, my lord. And he had killed Sansa’s, and for what? Was it guilt he was feeling? Or fear? If the gods had sent these wolves, what folly had he done?

Well… yeah, that’s about the size of it, isn’t it, Ned? Certain things are always true in stories, and one of them is, if you kill an innocent—and Lady definitely counts as far as I am concerned—then in one way or another, you’re going to pay for it. Now Sansa has no one to protect her, and God is she going to need what she no longer has. So good job, there, Dad!

Pfeh. What a clusterfuck.

 

Chapter 21: Tyrion

What Happens
On his last night at Castle Black, Tyrion dines with Mormont and several others. Mormont opines that they could use a man like him on the Wall, and Tyrion jokes that he will round up all the dwarves he can find and send them to him, then. Most of the men laugh, but Thorne opines sourly that Tyrion mocks them. Tyrion replies that he only mocks Thorne, and Thorne challenges Tyrion to a duel; Tyrion hops on his chair and begins poking Thorne in the chest with his crab fork. The others laugh uproariously, and Thorne storms out. Tyrion tells the others that Thorne is better fit to muck out stables than to be a master at arms, but Mormont grumbles that he has little choice in the matter, with the dregs that are sent nowadays to the Watch. Maester Aemon compliments Tyrion, much to his surprise.

Later, Tyrion joins Mormont in his study. Mormont insists on providing an escort for Tyrion as far as Winterfell, though he rejects Tyrion’s suggestion that Jon Snow be one of them. In return, Mormont asks Tyrion to speak to his siblings and the king about the dire straits the Watch is currently in; at their current numbers, he has three men to defend every mile of the Wall, and most of them either “sullen boys” or “tired old men.” He points out that this summer has lasted going on ten years now, which surely means a terrible winter to follow, and the days are growing shorter. Tyrion feels pity for the old man’s fancies, and promises to speak to his brother and sister and Robert; he doesn’t mention that none of them will listen.

Tyrion leaves Mormont, and on a whim decides to see the top of the Wall. He can’t climb the steps, so has the sentries on top winch him up via a rickety dumbwaiter. They help him up but otherwise ignore him, and Tyrion sets out alone to walk the Wall. He passes a defunct catapult to find Jon Snow and Ghost on the other side. Tyrion asks if Ghost has learned to juggle yet, and Jon grins and says no, but the boys he’s teaching are much improved. Tyrion offers to bring messages to Winterfell for him; Jon tells him to tell Robb that Jon is going to command the Night’s Watch, so Robb might as well “take up needlework.” Tyrion laughs and refuses to bring messages that might get him killed. Jon goes on to tell Rickon that he can have Jon’s things, and then asks Tyrion to help Bran, with words if no other way. Tyrion opines that this is “asking a lame man to teach a cripple how to dance,” but promises to do what he can. Jon calls him “friend,” and they clasp hands. They look out over the forest beyond the Wall, and Jon murmurs that his uncle is missing out there. He declares that if Ben doesn’t come back soon, he and Ghost will go and get him.

“I believe you,” Tyrion said, but what he thought was, And who will go find you? He shivered.

Commentary
Okay, so the crab fork thing was hilarious. I can see it perfectly, and hah!

This chapter is carefully oblique about Tyrion’s possible doings re: assassination attempts on children, but everything Tyrion does and thinks in it tends to reinforce my conviction that he had nothing to do with it. This isn’t to say I don’t think he’s capable of being a ruthless bastard, because I’m sure he is, capable of it, I mean, but, well. I like him.

And I don’t associate “people I like” with “people who put out hits on seven year olds.” I’m just nutty that way. And I will be VERY irate if I find out I’m mistaken. Let that be a warning to you, GRRM! *shakes fist*

It was nice that Aemon complimented him, too. It’s pretty obvious that Tyrion doesn’t get compliments too often, so it made me happy that he got two in this chapter: one from Aemon and the other from Jon, in naming him “friend.”

(And he’d BETTER not be wrong about that. *glares*)

Also, prophetic Jon is prophetic, or so I declare. Certainly we haven’t been introduced to a single other member of the Watch other than Jon who would be a good choice to command it once Mormont bites the big one. Except for Benjen, maybe, and he’s probably dead. Or frozenly undead, whichever.

I was very pleased to hear that Jon’s lessons to the other kids are going well. Hopefully it will soon lead to a confrontation with Thorne in which Jon kills his stupid ass, because that would frankly be the best outcome for all involved if you ask me. Tyrion is possibly many things, but a bad judge of character does not appear to be one of them. I think that last sentence made more sense in my head, but you get the idea, I hope. Basically: Thorne blows large goats, someone get rid of him Real Soon Now plzkthx.

Mormont reached out and clutched Tyrion tightly by the hand. “You must make them understand. I tell you, my lord, the darkness is coming. There are wild things in the woods, direwolves and mammoths and snow bears the size of aurochs, and I have seen darker shapes in my dreams.”

Mammoths and aurochs and bears, oh my! Getting all primeval up in here, I see. Well, that’s probably appropriate, all things considered. I kind of don’t blame Tyrion for thinking Mormont is a bit touched, even while my genre-savvy self is groaning at the obvious Scully-ness going on. No one’s going to take this seriously before it’s too late, are they? And won’t that be fun. Lots of nice details in this chapter to lend to that impression, too, like the defunct catapult on the Wall that no one’s bothered to repair. Oy.

Also, this is kind of random, but whatever: It’s been bugging me for a while, what this whole arc (the attrition of the Watch and their inability to get anyone to listen to their warnings about winter) was reminding me of, and I finally just thought of it: the Pern series, by Anne McCaffrey, the initial storyline of which is remarkably similar in that respect. (I won’t say how, for those who haven’t read the Pern series, but dude, why haven’t you read the Pern series? It’s a classic of the genre! Get on that!)

So, given that, would that make Jon Snow the equivalent of Lessa, or F’lar, I wonder? Maybe both.


And that’s what I’ve got to say about that, thbbt! Have a lovely weekend, all, and I’ll see you next week!

52 comments
Jon Snow
1. Jon Snow
Great post!
Jon Snow
2. Kadere
Hahahahaha. You aren't anywhere NEAR the clusterfuck yet! Some good catches here, some way off. Littlefinger is a character I love to hate (and boy do I hate him) but occasionally I have to tip my hat to him.
Marcus W
3. toryx
To spend that much blood to overthrow a tyrant and then act like you’re the second coming of Rupert Murdoch, without the bankroll to back it up? Good God. What a bloody idiot.

Ah, gods, how I laughed.

I remember thinking in the beginning that killing Sansa's wolf would be a bad thing, but then when Ned finds out about Summer saving Bran and thinks that he might have made a mistake, I got chills, man. Talk about a bad sign!
Jon Snow
4. wcarter4
I have so read the Pern series I did it in middle school! Also, thank you for pointing out what that strange since of familiarity was to me. I started with my own read of the series about the same time you did.
Kerwin Miller
5. tamyrlink
lol almost made a spoiler comment...silly me.

great read L.
Stefan Mitev
6. Bergmaniac
Littlefinger is awesome, I love his antics. The way he mocks Ned here is hilarious.

The thing about Robert which made him an atrocious king is that he's left most of the job of ruling the realm to other people, yet when he feels like it, totally ignores their opinion and do reckless stuff like spent a fortune on a tourney when they are already so deeply in debt.
Jon Snow
7. Rootboy
I look forward to Leigh's book posts more than to new episodes of the TV show. This feature is great. She is an insightful and hilarious lady. Wish it was more than once a week.
Chris Long
8. radynski
I used to blame Robert when I first read this book. Nowadays I just feel sorry for him.
Jon Snow
9. carolyn h
Let's be real here, would YOU trust someone whose nickname was Littlefinger? Me neither.

Poor Ned. It's bad enough that he's more or less forced to leave Winterfell to become the King's Hand, but now when he finally arrives, the whole mess is worse and even messier than he imagined. It's like a barrel-ful of wet, angry cats. This poor guy just can't get a break, though at least he has his own Cat.

And if I didn't realize it before, I know I did here. When Sansa's wolf was killed (and by her own father, yet!) you just know that's going to be a Very Bad Thing. I can't say that I've ever liked Sansa, but I sure do feel sorry for her.

The chapter with Jon and Tyrion and the Wall is a good one, though I like all of those set with the Night's Watch up on that big slab of ice. It's all very weird and mystical up there, while down in King's Landing, well, you have that barrel of wet, angry cats. And doesn't that mess seem as though it could have really happened or maybe even is happening today? Minus the jousting tourney and the swords, unfortunately. The Republicans, Democrats and Tea Party-ers might as well be the Lannisters, the Starks and the Baratheons.

Anyway, back up on the ice, we have a talking raven who always seems to repeat just the right word. Mormont is so obviously one of those people no one Down South takes seriously and yet they sure should be.

And yikes, it's another week before there's more!
Jon Snow
10. carolynh
And yes, the crab fork thing was hilarious.
Jon Snow
11. _Dan_
Robert is unlikely to have bankrupted the kingdom. Someone on reddit computed that to reach that amount of debt, he'd need to organize something the size of the hand's tourney every 3 months.

The kingdom being broke makes Littlefinger absolutely necessary and he most likely likes it this way.
Jon Snow
12. pr
Wait a second....wasn't Maester Aemon mocking Tyrion by calling him a giant? He even seems to confirm this by saying that no one has ever called him kind. That's why Tyrion bursts out laughing instead of feeling touched.
Marcus W
13. toryx
_Dan_ @ 11:

Robert is unlikely to have bankrupted the kingdom. Someone on reddit computed that to reach that amount of debt, he'd need to organize something the size of the hand's tourney every 3 months.


I got the impression that this was exactly what he did. Robert loves his feasts and tourneys and extravagances. There's little doubt in my mind that he called a tourney at the drop of a hat.
Jon Snow
14. cheem
Regarding why Robert hadn't gotten Ned to help run the kingdom earlier, one must remember that Jon Arryn was hand for 15 years before getting killed. Ned takes after him in many ways. Remember, "The King eats, they say, and the Hand takes the shit".
Rikka Cordin
15. Rikka
I am getting all sorts of confused between what the TV eps have covered and what leigh has covered and what I've reread (just finished GoT last night and started on SoS this morning) but leigh, your reactions are priceless. I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should do (personal) summaries and commentaries for all new books I read because I think you're catching on to a lot of things I probably missed the first go-round (though clearly picked up by the second).

Can't wait to see your reaction to when shit hits the FAN!
Jon Snow
16. Wortmauer
Excellent write-up, Leigh. This line in particular....
he seems like exactly the kind of person who could tell a polygraph machine that the sky is chartreuse with purple polka dots, and have the machine be all WOW, SO TRUE.
Ha. That's a pretty excellent, and pretty funny, characterization of Littlefinger. Worth keeping in mind (and you did mention it) is that his complex history with Catelyn means his sense of loyalty to the Starks really could go either way. Lots of other good points you make, too. Robert having run a deficit that turned a healthy treasury into a national debt of 6 million gold pieces in 20 years, yeah, President Reagan had nothing on this guy, and at least he had an actual policy goal. (Arms-racing the Soviets into financial ruin may or may not have been a brilliant plan, but it was a plan - and, for that matter, it worked. Robert doesn't even seem to have a point in depleting the Crown's treasury.) Doesn't really sound like Robert has had that many national emergencies to finance, either, other than putting down Balon Greyjoy's rebellion ten years ago. You especially have to wonder about Robert's budget given the last 10 years have apparently been summer. Presumably this is the best time to be getting healthy tax revenue, as everyone's getting good harvests.

Kadere@2: Littlefinger is a character I love to hate (and boy do I hate him) but occasionally I have to tip my hat to him.
The dude is good. How does he manage to keep borrowing for the Crown? I mean, the Baratheon Administration can't possibly have a AAA credit rating at this point. Tywin Lannister will keep lending, because he has some pretty good holds on Robert, and the Lannisters definitely aren't afraid to use money to buy influence, even if there's a good chance they won't get the money back. But what of the other creditors? Robert's irresponsible financial (and personal) behavior surely is no secret amongst the Tyroshi banker community.

The Tyrion chapter ... yeah, some excellent stuff in there. The trope that nobody in the south really believes the Borderland fables of Trollocs and Fades is, of course, pretty frustrating. Particularly as, in the present story, the people in the south are the only ones who can properly outfit and finance the Borderlanders. I do find it of slight interest that the penal colony is Up Over in this world. But anyway, Tyrion is very much a Lannister - even if some of his actions have proven to be rather un-Lannister, he really hasn't fallen far from the tree in many ways. So, not surprising he's a Southron skeptic.

Maester Aemon: as a blind old man, I suppose any prejudice against short, ugly guys has faded. Whether he's being serious or jesting when he calls Tyrion a giant, it seems like there's some respect there. Which Tyrion rarely gets - though he always has influence because he has powerful relatives, and plenty of gold to fling about.
Jon Snow
17. Enr
Beautiful post Leigh. Always looking forward to your 'reads' (or 'rereads'). I think you should consider becoming a professional novel writer - fantasy or not - you've genuinely got an unusual (in a good sense) writing style. I specially loved the part about polygraph.
Jon Snow
18. _Dan_
@toryx:

Yes, Robert spends like a drunk sail... king but the Hand's tourney is portrayed as bigger than usual to drive everybody to King's Landing. He spends a lot, sure but he's not entirely to blame.

Littlefinger have his hands on the coffers and nobody else around understands or cares about the money flow, plus he owns the best money laundering places around. I'm sure he steals and wastes a good deal to keep himself necessary and it's so damned easy to scapegoat Robert.
Jon Snow
19. mazza313
thorne blows goats! we have proof!
Benjamin Moldovan
20. benpmoldovan
I try to stay out of politics, but re: who would be the Lannisters:

Lots of rich in both parties, it’s a tossup there.
Lots of scumbags in both parties, again, a tossup.

Political savviness: That would defnitiely be the Democrats, surely not the Stupid Party. (Pretty bad when your own supporters think you’re idiots re: political strategy. Rove had his moments, so there are exceptions. Then there’s Gingrich back in the day, who took a boatload of political damage, and then went and caved and just wound up pissing everyone off – and that’s pretty much the norm for that party. Even when they win, they lose, often as not.)

Not to agree with the ridiculous stereotype that every Republican presidential or VP candidate is an idiot. On one hand, very self serving by the other side to say that. On the other hand, also pretty stupid to underestimate your enemies. And anyway, you’d think by sheer luck if nothing else, every once in a while one of the two major parties would nominate someone who ISN”T mentally challenged. (Even THEY aren’t THAT politically dumb.) Or that the other party’s candidate wouldn’t always be The Smartest Person That Ever Lived. What are the odds of that? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Ben
Jon Snow
21. Kvon
I always had the feeling that Arryn was as sensible as Stark and couldn't keep the king from overspending either. I think Ned was right to stay up north away from the court for as long as possible. He doubtless wouldn't have changed the outcome of the Baratheons' rule.
Jon Snow
22. JoeNotCharles
If the King were to fully step out of the way and be a figurehead and let the Hand rule for him, that would be just fine. But it seems Robert's the worst of both worlds: he mostly ignores the realm and lets the Council run it, but he drops back in to meddle whenever he gets an idea in his head without worrying about the consequences.

I got the impression Arryn was kind of a weak Hand - not exactly senile, but overwhelmed by his job and unable to say No to the King. Certainly not strong enough to demand a full accounting from Littlefinger and/or the Lannisters, if part of that debt turns out to be manufactured. It's just a gut feeling, though.

Still, I'm not sure how much to blame Robert and how much to blame Arryn for not standing up to him.
Jon Snow
23. Wortmauer
_Dan_@11: The kingdom being broke makes Littlefinger absolutely necessary and he most likely likes it this way.
Wow. You know, call me dumb, but I never even thought about the possibility of graft. But, now that you mention it, given what we know of Lord Petyr Baelish, it would actually be kind of surprising if some of the revenue from taxes and bonds didn't stick to his little fingers. And you're right, it's not like it would be hard to pull the wool over Robert's eyes.

Thinking about it more, I don't believe those 6 million pesos is all tourneys and fireworks shows. There are a lot of ways for a government to have trouble balancing its budget! Start with the supply side. When you've got a despot like Mad King Aerys, the trains run on time and the taxes most certainly get collected. He probably also tended not to give a lot of tax breaks to, say, nobles whose farmland is yielding poorly due to drought. Or have much sympathy for whoever clamors for lower taxes in general. Then along comes Robert - even if he weren't a criminally negligent executive with a corrupt Secretary of the Treasury, it's easy to see how tax revenue could fall off a bit. Also, general spending (other than tourneys, I mean) could increase, if Robert lends a more sympathetic ear than Aerys did to the various demands on the treasury. (Though we do gather he hasn't been funding the Night's Watch very well.)

Sure, conventional wisdom on the Small Council says that it's Robert's profligate ways that bankrupted the Iron Throne. And there's probably some truth to that ... but it isn't necessarily the whole story. (Of course, some would say the 6 million is just another example of GRRM's sense of scale, the same sense that produces a 700-foot wall and children too young to do the sorts of things they do.)
Tricia Irish
24. Tektonica
Robert is definitely a distracted and therefore irresponsible King. My guess is that he was a very good warrior and finds the whole King thing/adminisration to be a drag. It's just not what he's good at or interested in, other than the ability to have his own way and fulfill his sensual desires.

It hadn't occured to me either that Littlefinger might have sticky fingers and be bankrupting the realm to keep himself rich and necessary. Ummmm. Scumbucket.

Leigh, you are so funny!
Jon Snow
25. Rowanmdm
Leigh, I definitely see the parrallels to Pern. I think Jon is more equivelant to Lessa since he starts out having little idea of what's going on and the dangers, but then becomes converted/convinced, rather than like F'lar who is a believer from the beginning. (Gah, that was hard to phrase in a way that made sense but isn't too spoilery.)
Stefan Mitev
26. Bergmaniac
IIRC, at one point it's mentioned that Littlefinger increased 10 times the revenue of the crown compared to his predecessor as Master of Coin, yet this still wasn't enough to cover all of Robert's spendings. Though this was probably an exagerration, since even Littlefinger is unlikely to be THAT good with money. Or maybe his predecessor was corrupt and incompetent at the same time.
Vincent Lane
27. Aegnor
pr@12

"Wait a second....wasn't Maester Aemon mocking Tyrion by calling him a giant? He even seems to confirm this by saying that no one has ever called him kind. That's why Tyrion bursts out laughing instead of feeling touched."

I'm pretty sure you are misinterpreting that scene. Tyrion did feel touched, but Aemon's response (echoing Tyrion's response to the complement) was humorous so they laughed.

I could be wrong but I interpreted that scene as Aemon "seeing" past Tyrion's diminuitive size and recognizing the giant that he is.
Rob Munnelly
28. RobMRobM
The Aemon-Tyrion back and forth is brilliant.
- A: T, you are a giant.
- T: I've never been called that before.
-A: but it's true.
- T: You are too kind.
-A: I've never been called that before.....

Aemon is being completely sincere, IMO. Interesting to see if his description bears out in future chapters/books.

Rob
Jon Snow
29. Susan Loyal
Thank you. I laughed so hard I became dangerous. Your instincts do you credit, by the way. Ned Stark does bear a curious resemblance to a polygraph, doesn't he? He construes literally and within very small tolerances, lest he admit error. He could do with a crab fork or two.
Rob Munnelly
30. RobMRobM
Leigh - I have to say that both of these were truly epic write ups. Really well. Laissez les bonnes mots rouler!!!!

Also, for entertaiment purposes only, the relevant Blog of Ice and Fire entry:


Eddard has his first council meeting and learns that the treasury is
bankrupt due to Robert's lavish spending, presumably on fatty foods.
Afterwards, Littlefinger leads him to a secret rendezvous with Catelyn.
Thinking Littlefinger was just stringing him along, Eddard almost
punches him, but Ser Rod sans barf beard appears to confirm that Cat was
there. Did Eddard really think Littlefinger took him to a secret
passage that led outside the castle, then down a rock cliff, then on
horseback to a brothel just to set up a one liner "your wife is inside"
joke?

Littlefinger delivers zinger after zinger, taking nothing
seriously apart from his feelings for Catelyn. He shrugs off the huge
royal debt, suggests that Eddard fondle some breasts, and sarcastically
golf claps when Eddard first recognizes Catelyn. I was disappointed that
Littlefinger didn't ask about Jon, and that Eddard didn't politely
request some time alone with Catelyn. Come on dude, it's been a while
since you've last seen your wife, and you're already in a brothel.
Eddard should have done it just to see look on LF's face.


After
hearing Catelyn's story about the assassin and how Bran's wolf saved
both their lives, Eddard suddenly realizes that he probably shouldn't
have killed Sansa’s wolf. Littlefinger suggests that they just pretend
the super recognizable Tyrion knife doesn't exist, but Eddard is too
proud and too righteous to forget about something of this magnitude,
even if it’s in his own best interest. The Lannisters had enough power
and influence in King’s Landing to murder the previous last Hand, so Ned
will ultimately hang his hopes on the King. However, Robert is
politically inept and disinterested, allowing his council to run the
kingdom while he requests another party.
____________________

The
Night’s Watch is such a raw deal. You can’t own land, you can't have
sex, your brothers are the dregs of society, and the guy training you is
Alliser Thorne, an anal, humorless, tool of a man. Predictably, Tyrion
mocks him so badly that Thorne is forced to leave the dining hall, much
to the delight of the others. After dinner, the Lord Commander pleads
with Tyrion to convince the King to send more men. Mormont continues on
about abominable snow men sightings, missing uncles, and mountain people
fleeing, but Tyrion doesn’t take him seriously. Maintaining the Wall is
like paying for asteroid insurance -- it guards against a disaster that
happens so infrequently that it’s easy to forget about it or dismiss
it. Robert isn’t going to send men and resources when he can't even pay
his own debts.

Before Tyrion departs, Jon gives him a few
messages to deliver to Robb, Rickon, and Bran. Didn’t Tyrion recently
try to whack Bran? It would be supremely stupid to return to Winterfell.
Either Tyrion thinks the Starks don’t know it was him, or Jaime and
Cersei acted without his knowledge.
someone else
31. Naraoia
That Snow/Lannister handshake was really touching. But I'm easy to touch with fictional friendship, so yeah ^.^

Also, Jon is so sweet here. The way he's trying to be strong and the love for his brothers that shines through his messages... Aww. Can I just hug him? XD

Wortmauer @23:
I'm reasonably sure it's explicitly stated somewhere that the crown's revenues are higher than ever (followed by "but so were the crown's debts," or something like that)

... oops, Bergmaniac @26 beat me to it. Now, can anyone dig up the quote? XD

Tektonica @24:
"My guess is that he was a very good warrior and finds the whole King thing/adminisration to be a drag."

Not really a guess, he's quite open about it :) Counting coppers and not bothering to turn up to council meetings and going hunting and stuff.
Rob Munnelly
32. RobMRobM
"Also, prophetic Jon is prophetic, or so I declare. Certainly we haven’t been introduced to a single other member of the Watch other than Jon who would be a good choice to command it once Mormont bites the big one. Except for Benjen, maybe, and he’s probably dead. Or frozenly undead, whichever."

You are so funny, Leigh. Don't forget there are two other manned towers (Eastwatch and Shadow Tower) so there may be other candidates out there...or not.
Rob Munnelly
33. RobMRobM
Re compliments: "...so it made me happy that he got two in this chapter: one from Aemon and the other from Jon, in naming him “friend.” Actually three - Mormont telling T he'd love to have clever men like T on the Wall.
Jon Snow
34. Fredweena
This read is the first time I noticed that the Head of the Night Watch is the father of Dany's knight.
Captain Hammer
35. Randalator
Bad omen for Sansa that Ned killed Lady? Yup, very bad omen. Do I feel worried by that? Nope.

I can't stand Sansa up to this point (or several still coming points, as I'm ahead with my read). She's a freaking airhead. She's like a girly-girl version of King Robert WITHOUT the self-awareness. Ye gods! At least Robert knows that he completely sucks at the whole kinging business. Which is somehow better and worse at the same time and now I'm confused, where was I going with th- SQUIRREL!

Anyway, how on earth did the level-headed, intelligent and honorable Starks even manage to produce a Princess Barbie, of all things? It boggles the mind to think about the mechanics at work here. And now Princess Barbie has found her Asshole Ken and all that's missing is a pink Evil Fortress of Doom. I might just get a headache...

Who knows (well, everyone who has read the series, because obviously they will know what happens further on and could tell me exactl... what?), maybe Sansa will have an epiphany and turn into Sweetbuns McAwesomecakes and I will get very choked up, when the direwolf-fiasco bites her in said sweet buns, but right now I'm all "You are stupid and brought all of this on yourself, plzdiekthxbye.".
Nathan Rice
36. quazar87
Littlefinger is pragmatism incarnate. When he was young he cast himself as the romantic hero, but Ned's brother taught him differently. In the show, Benioff & Weiss give him this excellent speech that makes explicit what is implicit in the books. Littlefinger can't fight them, so he has to f*ck them instead. He really does love Cat, but would he risk his life for her sake again?
Mo -
37. Astus
You make me think he'd get along well with Ishy with that description, haha. Or well, be of use to him at least. And I don't think Robert would think too highly of Murdoch. :P
Great post as per usual.
Jon Snow
38. Lsana
@26,

The "revenue" of the crown is a somewhat fungible concept. See the Social Security "trust fund" if you want a RL example of that. I think it has already been mentioned at this point that Littlefinger believes in "sending dragons out to breed rather than locking them up in a vault." My guess is that most of this "revenue" is largely phantasmal.

@35,

While I'm not going to defend Sansa at this point in the series, it's worth pointing out that she is both 11 and a girl. In the real world, 11-year-olds are not known for their savy, and because she's a female in a male-dominated world, no one thinks it's terribly important to give her the lessons that will keep her on her toes.

Robert, on the other hand, is a grown man who has theoretically been groomed his entire life for a leadership position. I think he has to be judged more harshly than the little girl.
Jon Snow
39. Salvation122
As far as Robert's debt goes, it's important to remember that in the sort of feudal environments we're talking about, a large part of tax revenues was actually just food, not currency. This is likely to be even more true in ASoIaF, given that they'd have to hoard for the extremely long winters. This would make it significantly more difficult for the Crown to pay for goods and services - stuff like arms and armor and wages for the City Watch, maintenence on the harbor at King's Landing, Varys's spy network, etc, but would make (for example) banquets or feasts comparatively cheap.

Then again, I guess Aerys managed, so who knows.
Katie Pi
41. Darth_Katie
Yeah, Litterfinger is one I definitely love to hate. There are some characters who I just really HATE, but Littlefinger isn't one of them. He's one of my favorites, actually ...
Brett Dunbar
42. Brett
Medieval monarchies could borrow but the interest rate they paid on the debt was very high, 15% or more was not unusual. They had serious weaknesses in revenue raising extremly rudimentery accounting and a habit of defaulting, which would raise interest rates substantially.

Robert may run up a sizable debt when defeating Aerys and the loss of revenue due to damage in the war then the cost of rebuilding asnd distributing rewards to your supporters. And then Balon Greyjoy rebellion (which mostly hit areas unaffected by Robert's rebellion) led to further loss of revenue due to damage and more rebuilding costs. So there was a big debt which would raise borrowing costs so you have a big expensive debt and limited revenue, especially if the crown had failed to make the payments on occasion pushing up the yeilds on new debt. Even with Littlefinger's revenue boosting the crown's income may have been barely adequate to cover the huge cost of the debt.
Jon Snow
43. Mouette
Loved all your commentary and eagerly look forward to continuing along the book with you - I've read Game of Thrones, and got stuck somewhere in the second book... damn you, you're making me want to give this excellent, disturbing series another go :D
Jon Snow
44. Lacroix
I am half-way through the second book, but only just discovered this webpage after a referral from geniusboyfiremelon. Have just burned through all these articles in about an hour - loving it, and reminding me of all the little bits of foreshadowing thrown in by Martin in the early parts of Book 1.

All I know about the TV series is that Peter Dinklage plays Tyrion (Yay!) and that the guy who played Mayor Carcetti in The Wire plays either Littlefinger or Varys (both could work).
Rob Munnelly
45. RobMRobM
Leigh should note that Friday's read includes a special treat chapter for her. I predict large amounts of squeeing. (Say hello to the dancing master.)

@44. Littlefinger.

@35. Sweetbuns McAwesomecakes FTW!! LOL. Sansa has an interesting path, as series readers will discover.
Jerald
46. Tzwolf
And Jon is obviously Jaxom, not Lessa or F'lar. White Wolf = White Dragon.
Jon Snow
47. hardstor
Hi Leigh, I enjoy your commentary, but it worries me when you overthink this stuff. Littlefinger lies, its obvious and he indicates that NO ONE is trustworthy in the king's court and ned should remember this. It's more useful to try and fathom the motives of his actions... having said this he's one of the more impenetrable characters of the series and it's better to accept that you don't know what he's after than try and break your mind wondering!
Marcus W
48. toryx
hardstor @ 47: I don't know, I think one of the great things about this book (and the series as a whole) is how much fun it is to think about the characters and try to figure them out. Granted, if you read it at a faster pace than two chapters a week there's less time to do that but one of the great virtues of the book is that the characters give you a lot to ponder.

One of the advantages about the waits between each publication is that it gives the readers a lot of time to argue and discuss the motivations of the characters. The disadvantage is that at this point, a lot of us have already discussed it to death.

That's honestly the number one reason I'm thrilled to be sharing in Leigh's first read of it. The discussions aren't exactly new but it's great to be seeing the story through new eyes again.
Melissa Shumake
49. cherie_2137
leigh, you crack me up. brighten my day. all of that sort of thing. and i love it. thank you.
Captain Hammer
50. Randalator
Lsana @38

While I'm not going to defend Sansa at this point in the series, it's worth pointing out that she is both 11 and a girl.

Although GRRM has gone on record saying that he completely screwed up the childrens' ages and that one should probably slap on at least 3 more years to each of them...
Jon Snow
51. Jim Van Zandt
"I feel in my bones that Littlefinger is a lying liar who lies, lyingly."

I invite you to return to this chapter after finishing the book, and count the number of things he says that turn out not to be true.
Jon Snow
52. ThatOneGuy






This chapter is carefully oblique about Tyrion’s possible doings re: assassination attempts on children, but everything Tyrion does and thinks in it tends to reinforce my conviction that he had nothing to do with it.




It's been years since I read Game of Thrones, but I do remember never really thinking that Tyrion was involved in the killing. I thought it was pretty clear that the reason he offered condolonces to Jon was that while he wasn't involved in the assassination, he had surmised from his brother's and sister's reaction to news that Bran was alive that one or the other had pushed him (or at least had some reason for hoping he was dead). Knowing his family, he fully expected them to finish the job off, and is clearly surprised that they failed to tie up the loose end. Tyrion is probably my favorite character in the series (which I must admit I stopped reading after the second or third book, but I might get back into at some point... maybe when it is finished), and one of the things I found interesting about him is that in spite of nominally being a "good guy" (if such a thing exists in the series), he is fully cognizant of just how twisted and evil his family is, but considers it his duty to... if not support them, at least not work against them.
Jon Snow
54. ookpik
Anybody still reading this thread? I just discovered it...probably because I finally started reading the books.

@35: "Princess Barbie has found her Asshole Ken and all that's missing is a pink Evil Fortress of Doom." Awesome sentence; I wish I had a place to quote you. (And yes, I felt the same way about Sansa, until...things changed.)

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