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 12 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 22 (“Arya”) and 23 (“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 22: Arya
Arya can tell her father has been fighting with the council when he comes in to dinner. Jory brings up the rumor that there is to be a tourney in Ned’s honor, and Ned replies that it is the last thing he wants. Sansa is delighted, though, and begs to be allowed to attend; Arya opines that she doesn’t want to go, and she and Sansa snipe at each other until Ned reprimands them sharply. He leaves soon after, and Arya desperately misses the dinners and company they used to have back at Winterfell. Now, though, she resents Jory and the rest of her father’s guard, for not doing anything to help Mycah or Lady. Feeling sick, she runs to her room, ignoring Septa Mordane’s orders to come back.
She pulls out Needle from its hiding place and berates herself for asking Mycah to practice with her, and contemplates running away. Her father knocks on her door then, and she lets him in before remembering to hide the sword. To her surprise, her father is only mildly exasperated by the revelation that Arya has a bravo’s blade, and tells her she has a touch of the “wolf’s blood” in her, just like her aunt Lyanna and uncle Brandon. He warns her, though, that both of them had died young.
Arya confesses that it was her fault Mycah died, and cries, but Ned tells her the blame lies with the Hound and the “cruel woman he serves.” Arya further confesses that she made Nymeria run off, which doesn’t surprise Ned at all. He tells her there are some hard truths she must learn: winter is truly coming, and they are surrounded by enemies. They cannot afford, therefore, to be fighting among themselves; she must put aside her differences with Sansa and begin growing up. Arya promises she will.
Three days later she is summoned to the Small Hall, where she meets a man named Syrio Forel, who introduces himself as her “dancing master,” and begins teaching her “the bravo’s dance, the water dance, swift and sudden,” with wooden swords.
ARYA GETS SWORD LESSONS YAY
I have such a thing about this. I have always, always wanted to learn sword-fighting, but I’ve never really been able to make it happen, either for financial or scheduling or simple logistical reasons. Turns out sword fighting is kind of a niche industry in the twenty-first century, I can’t imagine why.
Anyway, it is AWESOMECAKES that Ned wasn’t a dick about Needle, and that he is open-minded enough to let Arya try to be her own person instead of fitting into some girl-shaped cookie-cutter… er, thingy. You know what I mean. Even if he views it as frivolous indulgence to keep her out of trouble, because hey, I’ll take what I can get at this point.
It’s interesting that from what I’ve seen so far I think Ned is, quite by accident, a better father to his daughters than to his sons. And it’s weird, because I know in his cultural mindset he probably would think the exact opposite. Or not the opposite, exactly, but certainly he wouldn’t agree. From my point of view, though, it’s completely the case.
It just seems like he gives Sansa and Arya leeway and forgiveness and affection because to him they’re (weak) girls who need mollycoddling and indulging (up to a point, anyway), and (from what little I’ve seen so far) he’s much harsher and more unyielding to his sons because he thinks they need to be Manly Men and all. Like that business earlier, where he got upset because his three-year-old son was scared of wolves (sheesh). And, I get the distinct impression that he would think it’s the girls who are getting the short end of the stick by this, whereas I think it’s actually the other way around.
Because maybe this is all way too Oprah of me, but I tend to think that if you want your children to be strong, having a foundation of love and support and acceptance for them to build their characters upon is going to go a hell of a lot further than the so-called and disgracefully overrated “school of hard knocks.” Children get plenty enough “hard knocks” from everyone else in their lives; they don’t need them from their parents, too.
Then again, I’m not training my hypothetical sons for a wintry apocalypse, so maybe I just don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m just saying, though, that sometimes I get very tired of this idea that tenderness and affection are antithetical to fostering strength, because they’re really, really not. Arya’s going to be a stronger person because of the care and tolerance her father showed her in this chapter, and I don’t just mean because she’s getting to learn how to wield a sword. So why can’t the boys get some love, too, eh?
Chapter 23: Daenerys
When the khalasar reaches the edge of the grass plain called the Dothraki Sea, Dany tells Ser Jorah to command the rest of her party, including Viserys, to wait as she rides down into it alone. She knows Viserys is miserable out here, but he had refused to wait in Pentos for his promised army. Dany thinks of how miserable she had been the first few days of riding, her saddlesores exacerbated by the sex Drogo had with her every night, but one night she dreamed a black dragon bathed her in fire, cleansing and purifying her, and after that the riding and Drogo’s attentions became less and less painful. She began to enjoy the riding, and appreciate the beauty of the land around her, and sometimes to find pleasure in her lovemaking with Drogo.
Now she rides out, and dismounts to enjoy the plain, but Viserys thunders up in a fury that she had issued a command to him. He tries to manhandle her, but Dany shoves him away, for the first time. Viserys is enraged, but then her party catches up, and one of the Dothraki riders takes him down with a whip. He asks if Dany would like Viserys killed or maimed (with her handmaid Irri as interpreter), but Dany says no, and orders that he be made to walk instead, which is the greatest insult to offer a man among the Dothraki. She realizes for the first time how pathetic Viserys is. Viserys pleads with Ser Jorah to punish Dany and the others, but Jorah refuses.
Dany and Jorah talk about Viserys on the ride back, wherein Jorah opines that far from being a dragon, Viserys is “less than the shadow of a snake.” She is shocked by his lack of loyalty, but realizes he is right, and that Viserys will never take back the Seven Kingdoms. She asks what Jorah longs for, and he tells her “home,” bitterly. He tells her she is already home, but when she thinks of home Dany sees King’s Landing, not the plains.
That night she examines the eggs Illyrio gave her, and thinks they feel almost hot, but tells herself it is merely warmth from the sun. She asks her handmaids about dragons; Irri and Jhiqui assure her that all the dragons are gone, but Doreah tells her a tale of how dragons originally came from a second moon, and when the remaining moon kisses the sun, “it will crack and the dragons will return.” When Drogo comes to her that night she asserts herself in the lovemaking for the first time, and the next day (her fourteenth birthday) Jhiqui tells her she is pregnant.
VISERYS GETS BITCHSLAPPED YAY
Really, I’m a simple girl when it comes to things that make me yay. Okay, that’s a lie, whatever.
Anyway, seeing people get horsewhipped isn’t generally my thing, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Couldn’t happen to a nicer dickwad, if you ask me. Really, I will be amazed if Viserys survives this book. Hell, I’ll be amazed if he makes it one more Dany-centric chapter, for all that she’s a hell of a lot more forgiving than I would be. Survival skills, he does not have them:
“And if [Drogo] tries to cheat me, he will learn to his sorrow what it means to wake the dragon,” Viserys had vowed, laying a hand on his borrowed sword. Illyrio had blinked at that and wished him good fortune.
Hah! That cracked me up. Seriously, what a tool.
So, not that this wasn’t obvious almost from the get-go, but clearly the threat to Robert et al is not from Viserys at all, but from his sister, who looks well on her way to having three dragons of her very own to play with Real Soon Now. Hot from the sun, suuuuure. And we’ll also have to be on the lookout for an eclipse, I see.
And then there’s all this hoopla:
Magic had died in the west when the Doom fell on Valyria and the Lands of the Long Summer, and neither spell-forged steel nor stormsingers nor dragons could hold it back, but Dany had always heard that the east was different.
Yeah, I have no idea what any of this means. The “Doom”? …Of Magic, I guess? How does that work?
Well. Presumably someone will esplain at some point. (Note: This is NOT a request to explain it to me in the comments. I’ll find out on my own, thanks.)
So I’m still pleased, mostly, I guess, that Dany is settling in to her new life and finding some enjoyment in it, though I could have done without freakin’ Drogo having sex with her while she’s covered in saddlesores, because really? Really? Urgh. (If you’ve never experienced saddlesores or the equivalent, be very, very grateful, is all I’m saying.)
And yet even still, it’s a hell of a lot better than what she had before, no matter that this is a textbook case of damning with faint praise. Man.
I’m not even going to bother, by the way, to be horrified about the whole “pregnant at fourteen” thing, because the Wrongness ship that is this whole marriage has long since sailed by now anyway, so at this point I’m just going with it. I’m guessing, given what we’ve seen of Dothraki culture so far, that she’d better hope it’s a boy, though. Bleah.
“The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave a shrug. “They never are.”
I don’t have anything to say about this, I just thought I should quote the eponymous quote for, like, posterity or whatever. Ta da!
And for my next trick, I will end this post! Amazing, eh? Have a lovely weekend, and I’ll see you next Friday!