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 17 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 33 (“Eddard”) and 34 (“Catelyn”).
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 33: Eddard
Ned pleads with Robert to reconsider his intention to kill Daenerys, now that Varys has brought them the news (via Jorah Mormont) that she is pregnant. Robert raves that he warned Ned of the danger of leaving her and her brother alive, and Ned replies that Robert will dishonor himself forever if he does this. He points out that even if the child is born a boy and alive, the Dothraki still fear the sea, and the child will not be a threat for years. Varys counters that sometimes vile things must be done to protect a realm, and Renly doesn’t see what the big deal is. Ned asks if the years have “unmanned” Robert so that he fears an unborn child, and Robert warns him to watch himself.
Ser Barristan declares himself on Ned’s side in this. Pycelle gives a speech preemptively mourning all those who would be killed if war came again, and votes in favor of killing the girl. Littlefinger yawns and opines that when you’re in bed with an ugly woman, you might as well get it over with (meaning he agrees with Robert). Robert declares the matter settled, and they begin to discuss how best to do it. Varys suggests poison, specifically Tears of Lys, which makes Pycelle look at him suspiciously. Ned stands and announces he will not be part of this. Robert is disbelieving for a moment, then tells Ned that he’ll do it, or Robert will find a Hand who will. Ned removes his badge, and tells Robert sadly that he’d thought Robert a better man than this. Enraged, Robert shouts at him to get out, and never show his face to Robert again, or he’ll have Ned’s head on a spike.
Ned leaves and summons his steward Poole, and tells him they are returning to Winterfell. Poole says it will take a fortnight to arrange, but Ned is not sure they have that long, especially once the news about Catelyn and the Imp comes to Robert’s (and Cersei’s) attention. He tells Poole that he and his daughters will go on ahead. Poole leaves, and Ned thinks of how he is glad to be returning home, but also angered that so much is left undone, including the matter of Arryn’s murder, and how Robert et al will continue to botch matters without him. It occurs to him that he could go by sea, and stop on the way to talk to Stannis Baratheon, who has yet to respond to Ned’s inquiries, though he wonders if perhaps it would be better to leave the matter alone.
Littlefinger comes to see him, and Ned tells him flatly that he is not interested in talking to him. Littlefinger protests that he arranged things so that the assassination attempt on Daenerys is very likely to fail, but Ned is skeptical of his altruism in this. Littlefinger is amused, and Ned asks if he finds murder so funny.
“It’s not murder I find amusing, Lord Stark, it’s you. You rule like a man dancing on rotten ice. I daresay you will make a noble splash. I believe I heard the first crack this morning.”
He asks if Ned plans to return to Winterfell soon, and Ned confirms it, and asks why he wants to know. Littlefinger replies that he can take Ned to the brothel that Jory has been searching for, tonight.
Jeez, Ned. While I totally sympathize with your position here, have you ever even heard the word “diplomacy”? You couldn’t pull your punches even a little? I might be the pot calling the kettle black here re: blunt speaking, but ye gods and little fishes.
And plus, you know, I’m generally not speaking to people who can say they’ll put my head on a spike, and not be speaking metaphorically. Self-preservation, Ned, it’s a thing you should have, look into it please. Sooner would be better than later!
Also, Robert, you are a douche. Like, seriously a douche, as in Massengill is about to sue you for patent infringement, that’s how much of a douche you are. YOU ARE THIS KINGDOM’S NOT SO FRESH FEELING, ROBERT. God.
(For those who miss the “read more” cut language: Did you know that the S.E. Massengill Company accidentally poisoned over 100 people in 1937, and that this was directly responsible for the passage of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act a year later? I DID NOT.)
Actually, pretty much everyone on that council except for Ned and Barristan is a douche. Including Renly, who I’d had higher hopes for. That’ll show me!
By the way, this isn’t even to say I think Robert is necessarily wrong that Dany is a threat to him. Not because she’s going to have a kid, but because she’s going to hatch herself some dragons Real Soon Now, though of course no one on the council is in a position to actually know that (and indeed, Dany isn’t yet in a position to know that). That said, planning the assassination of a fourteen-year-old pregnant girl is disgusting and wrong, full stop, and if that’s the only way you can hold onto your kingdom then maybe you don’t deserve to have that kingdom, ROBERT. So, still on Ned’s side even if I think he’s wrong about the lack of threat there.
Little bit of subtle intrigue here, in that I’m pretty sure Varys mentioned the name of the poison that killed Arryn just to see what reactions he would get, and Pycelle bit. Hmmmmmmm. And no one else did. Hmmmmmm.
And for the love of God, Ned, please don’t tell that asshole Littlefinger ANYTHING more about your travel plans, ever. And don’t go to that brothel! And don’t go see Stannis! Just get the hell out! Go, go!
…He’s so not going to listen to me, is he. Goddammit.
Chapter 34: Catelyn
Catelyn’s party has lost six men total by the time they reach the Vale, where they are met by Ser Donnel Waynwood, who tells her the clansmen’s raids have grown bolder since Lord Arryn’s death. They are greeted at the Bloody Gate by Catelyn’s uncle, Brynden Tully; they are mutually delighted to see each other. Brynden tells her that it will take two days to reach the Eyrie from here, but Rodrik apologizes to Catelyn that he can go no further. Catelyn proposes she and Tyrion go on without the rest of her party, but the singer Marillion asks to go as well, and when she consents the sellsword Bronn announces he will come too. Catelyn is uneasy about this considering how close he and the Imp had grown on the journey, but agrees.
As they travel, Catelyn tells Brynden the whole story. He comments that her father (his brother), Hoster Tully, must be told, as Riverrun lies directly in the path between the Lannisters and Winterfell; Catelyn agrees, and asks for the mood in the Vale. Brynden tells her the people are angry about the insult of Jaime Lannister taking the title of Warden, and Lysa is not the only one who suspects Jon’s death was not natural. Brynden goes on that the boy, Robert, is a problem, though: sickly and “prone to weep if you take his dolls away.” Many think Lysa should marry again, but Brynden thinks she is only toying with her suitors, intending to rule herself until Robert comes of age. Catelyn doesn’t see what’s wrong with that, but Brynden tells her Lysa is not Catelyn. He tells her she may find her sister much changed from what she remembers.
“Your sister is afraid, child, and the Lannisters are what she fears most. She ran to the Vale, stealing away from the Red Keep like a thief in the night, and all to snatch her son out of the lion’s mouth . . . and now you have brought the lion to her door.”
In chains, Catelyn replies, but it doesn’t look so to Brynden. Catelyn insists Lysa would want him brought to justice as much as she, but Brynden only smiles wearily. They reach the foot of the mountain upon which the Eyrie perches by nightfall; Tyrion tells them that he would rather they kill him now than make him climb that trail in the dark, but Brynden assures him they will wait until dawn. However, they are met by Lord Nestor Royce, High Steward of the Vale, who tells Catelyn that Lysa has ordered her to precede the rest of the party up to the keep, that night.
Catelyn and her guide, a bastard girl named Mya Stone, travel all that night up the tortuous trail to the Eyrie; at one point Mya has to lead Catelyn across a three-foot-wide shelf of trail with her eyes closed. At last they reach the Eyrie, where Catelyn is escorted to Lysa, who greets Catelyn warmly, but the moment they are alone demands to know what Catelyn was thinking to bring Tyrion here, and “drag us into your quarrels with the Lannisters.” Catelyn is incredulous, and points out that Lysa was the one who sent the letter saying that the Lannisters had murdered her husband.
“To warn you, so you could stay away from them! I never meant to fight them! Gods, Cat, do you know what you’ve done?”
They are interrupted by young Robert, who Catelyn notes is indeed very sickly. Lysa fusses over him, and when Catelyn tries to resume their discussion Lysa yells at her not to upset the baby, and begins breastfeeding him. Lysa insists they are safe here, and Catelyn tells her she is a fool to think so, but Lysa doesn’t listen. She wonders out loud what to do with Tyrion, and Robert suggests they “make him fly.” Lysa says that perhaps they will.
Okay, so before I shot my mouth off about this I went and did some research online, because I know this is a topic that tends to throw people into tizzies of the highest order of tizziness, and not being a mother myself blah blah blah. And, as a result of what I’ve read I’m softening my original opinion, which was that if the kid is old enough to ask for it, he’s too old to breastfeed.
The problem with that, as several sources pointed out, is that some kids start talking as early as five or six months. (I did myself, according to my mother.) And the World Health Organization as well as a number of other reputable sources recommend that six months is the bare minimum length of time that babies should be breastfed, and that a year is better, and that it’s perfectly fine to breastfeed the kid for up to two years or even longer.
So, okay, fine. I don’t think this is ironclad must-be-followed policy for every baby ever in the world, obviously, but I’m willing to take it as a general baseline guide for Normal and Sane breastfeeding habits.
However. Six years old, and still nursing? NO.
I’m gonna say, no. That’s too long. That is, in fact, ridiculous. I found sources which claimed that nursing up to seven years is okay, but I am absolutely balking at that, because hell to the no. That is like fifty kinds of wrong. Maybe basing it on when your kid can talk is not a good barometer, but I’m going to go ahead and say that if your kid can ride a bike, there should be no more nursing. Sheesh.
That said, this scene actually somewhat disgusted me for reasons which perhaps are not the ones the author intended. Because while I certainly agree that young Robert there should not be breastfeeding anymore, and I also agree that there is a serious problem presented by Lysa being the pseudo-medieval equivalent of a helicopter parent, I find the implied connection between Robert being “a mama’s boy” and his physical sickliness, not to mention his heavily implied “effeminate” (read: weak) qualities (oh, he likes dolls, does he), to be cliché-laden and sexist.
I also think that no one will find my opinion on this to be controversial in any way whatsoever.
Ha! I crack myself up.
And mind you, just to be clear I am not being critical of the attitudes of the characters, as such, because them being sexist is perfectly consistent with the world we’re working with here, but rather I am being critical of the (as I read it) inherent implication by the author that the characters are right.
Because while I will totally give you that Lysa’s overbearing and smothering mothering (wow, I didn’t even mean to make that rhyme) is going to seriously mess with that kid’s ability to find his own backbone, the idea that her behavior is responsible for his physical ailments is clearly ridiculous when viewed logically. And yet I get the distinct impression that that is the conclusion the reader is meant to draw.
And… eh, well. I should probably let this play out for a bit before I make any definitive calls on it. But this is what jumped out at me at first reading, and so you have it. But in any case, Lysa’s turned out to be quite the disappointment. I was so looking forward to meeting her, too. Grump.
Seven towers, Ned had told her, like white daggers thrust into the belly of the sky, so high you can stand on the parapets and look down on the clouds.
The description of the Eyrie (and the path that led up to it) was pretty damn crazy, and again makes me wonder about the practicality of Martin’s approach to architecture. I mean, keeping that place supplied must be an absolute nightmare. And sure, no army may be able to breach it (though I wouldn’t lay money on that, personally), but what’s to stop besiegers from simply camping at the foot of the mountain and starving them all to death? If you take the Moon Gates or whatever they were called, the keep above is doomed eventually anyway, unless there’s something about the place I don’t know. Which, of course, is completely possible.
Tyrion is totally planning something with Bronn. And I totally can’t decide if I’m in favor of this or not.
What I’d be most in favor of, of course, is someone finding evidence to satisfactorily clear Tyrion in Catelyn’s eyes. But I’m not holding my breath on that one.
[Lysa:] “Isn’t he beautiful? And strong too, don’t you believe the things you hear. Jon knew. The seed is strong, he told me. His last words. He kept saying Robert’s name, and he grabbed my arm so hard he left marks. Tell them, the seed is strong. His seed. He wanted everyone to know what a good strong boy my baby was going to be.”
Yeah, I’m pretty sure Jon wasn’t talking about Robert Jr. there, kiddo. This obviously has something to do with Gendry and the whole “bastard” mystery that Ned is risking his goddamn stupid life to look into, but I’m still not getting it, mainly because I still can’t come up with a reason why Robert having bastards around should matter to anyone. Yeah, Robert’s seed is strong, obviously; my question is, so frickin’ what?
I’m sure I’ll have lots of fun kicking myself for being an idiot on this matter later.
But you can do it now! Just not here, over on the spoiler thread. Have a great weekend, O my peeps, and I’ll catch you next week!