Sep 2 2011 2:08pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 22

A Read of Ice and Fire on Tor.comWelcome 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 22 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 44 (“Sansa”), and 45 (“Eddard”).

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 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 44: Sansa

What Happens
Sansa is telling Jeyne Poole about the audience from earlier in the day over supper. She had been terribly upset that her father had refused to let Ser Loras go after Gregor Clegane, as she had thought it would be just like a story come to life, with the handsome knight sent after the monster. She had told Septa Mordane this, and to her humiliation Lord Baelish had overheard her. He had touched her cheek and told her that she may learn one day that life is not a song; the memory makes Sansa uneasy.

Jeyne opines that Ser Ilyn Payne should have gone, but Sansa thinks he’s more like a second monster, and is glad he didn’t get chosen. Jeyne approves of the choice of Ser Beric, because Sansa knows Jeyne’s been in love with Ser Beric since the tournament. Sansa tells Jeyne about a (mostly fictional) dream she had about Joffrey bringing her a white hart, and Jeyne mentions she saw Arya in the stables walking on her hands. Sansa tells her about the rest of the court session, which included a Black Brother recruiting (to no avail) for knights to join the Watch, and then the girls go to bed.

The next day Sansa watches Ser Beric’s party ride out, and then gets into a fight with Arya about the Joffrey/Mycah incident. Sansa tells Arya she won’t dare call Sansa names once she is married to Joffrey, and Arya throws an orange at her, ruining her dress. Sansa screams that they should have killed Arya instead of Lady. Septa Mordane sends them both to their rooms.

Later, Ned summons them both; Arya apologizes, to Sansa’a amazement, but Ned distracts them with his announcement that they are both returning to Winterfell. Both Sansa and Arya are appalled, and argue that they want to stay, but Ned replies that it is for their own safety. After a moment, Arya asks if Syrio can go with them, but Sansa continues to plead, insisting that she loves Joffrey and must stay so they can be married. Gently, Ned tells her that the betrothal to Joffrey was a mistake, and he will find her a husband worthy of her, but Sansa insists that he is. Arya opines, not if Joffrey’s like his father.

Sansa felt tears in her eyes. “He is not! He’s not the least bit like that old drunken king,” she screamed at her sister, forgetting herself in her grief.

Father looked at her strangely. “Gods,” he swore softly, “out of the mouth of babes…”

Ned tells them he is looking for a galley to send them on, and assures Arya that Syrio can come if he agrees to enter Ned’s service. Arya tries to cheer Sansa with the thought they they will see their brothers again, but Sansa is inconsolable.

I had to chuckle that Arya is fine with anything as long as she can keep Syrio. I like a girl who has her priorities straight.

As for what Sansa said about Robert, I totally thought Ned was just realizing from her comment of “old drunken king” that no one had any respect for Robert anymore.

And then I read the next chapter, and thenceforth became completely uninterested in thinking of anything else to say about this one.

Because, well. Down you scroll!


Chapter 45: Eddard

What Happens
The next day, Pycelle tells Ned conspiratorially that Cersei received a letter from her father that morning, which indicated Tywin is “greatly wroth” about Ned’s edict regarding Gregor Clegane. Ned tells him Tywin can be wroth all he wants, but if he intereferes with the king’s justice he will have Robert to answer to. He is sure that Pycelle will immediately carry the tale back to Cersei, just as he’s sure Cersei had told Pycelle to tell Ned in the first place. Ned reflects that he will have to tell Sansa one day how she had innocently made it clear to him what had gotten Jon Arryn killed, and thinks that it will kill Robert too, if more slowly.

Littlefinger visits briefly to tell him sellswords have been flocking to Casterly Rock, and also that Robert is still hunting in the forest, though Joffrey and several others have returned, which means that Gregor’s brother Sandor is back too, and no doubt knows about Gregor. Ned points out that Sandor loathes Gregor, but Littlefinger replies that even so, he doubts Sandor will thank Ned for killing him. Littlefinger comments in passing on the genealogy book Ned is perusing as he leaves, and Ned wishes he could trust him, or anyone on the Council, with the secret. Ned realizes that Robert will “kill them all” when he finds out, but knows he cannot keep silent, nor can he afford to delay even for his daughters’ safety. Ned has Tomard, his new commanding guardsman, help him to the godwood, and orders the guard doubled on his apartments. Ned gives him a note to deliver, and waits.

At length, Cersei joins him, and Ned tells her he knows the truth: that she and her twin brother Jaime are lovers, that they tried to kill Bran because he caught them, and that all three of Cersei’s children are Jaime’s, not Robert’s.

The seed is strong, Jon Arryn had cried on his deathbed, and so it was. All those bastards, all with hair as black as night.

Cersei admits all of it with pride and no remorse, and tells him Robert got her with child once, but she managed to get it aborted, and that she has not had sex with him for years now. Feeling sick, Ned asks why she hates Robert so, and Cersei answers that on their wedding night, he called her “Lyanna.” Ned says that she knows what he must do, and Cersei offers herself to him as a bribe, both in body and as political ally. He asks if she made Arryn the same offer, and she slaps him.

She demands to know how he thinks he is any better than she, with a bastard of his own. Ned replies that he doesn’t kill children. Ned tells her he will tell the king as soon as he returns, and advises her to take her children, and her father and brothers too, and leave the Seven Kingdoms, to run as far as she can, because Robert’s wrath will follow. Cersei asks him softly, what of her wrath?

“You should have taken the realm for yourself. It was there for the taking. Jaime told me how you found him on the Iron Throne the day King’s Landing fell, and made him yield it up. That was your moment. All you needed to do was climb those steps, and sit. Such a sad mistake.”

“I have made more mistakes than you can possibly imagine,” Ned said, “but that was not one of them.”

“Oh, but it was, my lord,” Cersei insisted. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

She turned up her hood to hide her swollen face and left him there in the dark beneath the oak, amidst the quiet of the godswood, under a blue-black sky. The stars were coming out.

Oh. Oh. OH.

Excuse me, I have to smack myself around for a moment.





Okay, I’m back. (Ow.)


Jesus, I am officially the world’s biggest idiot, you guys. How could I have not gotten this before now? This makes my total failure to guess the ending of The Sixth Sense look like Sherlockian deductive brilliance, here. Sheesh.

…I’m pretty pleased I didn’t, though. Because finding it out “properly,” so to speak, was pretty cool. Nothing like a really good dramatic reveal for visceral awesomeness in your entertainment consumption, I always say. And I swear that sentence makes sense in my head, hopefully it will to you, too.

Anyway. And I have to admit, all other considerations aside, as a plan of revenge it is a masterpiece. I mean, damn. Cuckolding your husband with his biggest rival, who also happens to be your twin brother? That is bloody epic.

And, you know, deeply fucked-up and a million kinds of wrong, but, yeah.

Ye gods. I have so many feelings about this chapter I don’t even know where to start.

I guess one place would be to express my urgent desire to shake Ned until his teeth rattle for his positively suicidal sense of fair play. What the hell is he doing? He’s giving Cersei Lannister a heads-up that he’s about to blow the whistle on her whole life, and he honestly expects she’s going to turn and run? That she will docilely accept exile? Has he met her?

Because, yeah, no. Not when the far simpler course of action is to just get rid of Ned before he can spill the beans. Which, I might add, Ned has just given her THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY to do. Robert might be dicking around in the forest for another two weeks for all he knows! And meanwhile Ned’s relying on a guy named “Fat Tom” to guard him? Oy.

Seriously. Seriously, Ned. In the words of one of my more entertaining former co-workers, that boy ain’t right.

Because look, I admire honor and integrity and all that as much as the next person, but there is a limit, okay? Playing fair with people who you KNOW are not going to play fair back isn’t honor, it’s just rank stupidity. Honor isn’t honorable when it not only could get you killed, but could get innocent bystanders — like, say, your children — killed as well. Not to mention what will happen to this kingdom if it’s left to frickin’ Robert to run.

“When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

Girl is crazy and evil, Ned, but she isn’t wrong.

Speaking of children, I am also beboggled that Ned can be so calm about the confirmation that the woman in front of him tried to murder his son, and succeeded in crippling him for life. I mean, I know that Ned thinks Robert’s probably going to kill her (and the rest of the Lannister clan) with extreme killination without Ned having to lift a finger, but even so, not even a blip of anger there? Nothing? Wow.

So, assassination attempt in our immediate future, check. Unless Cersei just tries to shut him up politically, but I personally can’t think of anything that would actually do that. It’s not like we’re dealing with a guy who has even a passing acquaintance with the concept of “self-preservation,” after all, so I can’t imagine what kind of leverage she could successfully apply. Demonstrably, not even threatening his family would work. If I were her (and really, thank God I’m not), assassination would seem like the only workable route.

“And why not? The Targaryens wed brother to sister for three hundred years, to keep the bloodlines pure. And Jaime and I are more than brother and sister. We are one person in two bodies. We shared a womb together. He came into this world holding my foot, our old maester said. When he is in me, I feel… whole.” The ghost of a smile flitted over her lips.

…I am floored that Cersei actually managed to make incest sound logical for a second there. And admittedly, as she points out, there is precedent for it. Even in post-ancient times, the monarchies of Europe (and elsewhere too, I believe) were rather intent on keeping things in the family — really, really in the family, sometimes, though I don’t think that any of the European royals ever went quite as far as brother/sister marriage. (Did they?)

Still, even leaving the incest aspect out of it, the sheer number of political and moral wrongs she and Jaime are committing is amazing. It’s so diabolically over the top it’s almost perversely admirable, like Martin decided to make Cersei the living logical extreme of the quote Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Which is a phrase that I’ll admit has always rather irritated me, for reasons which are probably obvious, but I can’t deny that in this particular case, it really, really applies.

Because, you know, it’s easy to say that her response to the slight Robert gave her (calling her another woman’s name in bed) was extreme and disproportionate. Because, well, it was. But then again, what other kind of redress can she have? It’s not like she could divorce him. In a place and society where her only source of power over Robert is her womb and its ability to produce his legitimate heirs, what other form of revenge could be more effective? There’s probably answers to that, but I have to admit I was breathless for a moment at the sheer elegance of what she and Jaime are doing.

That said, they are still both monsters who threw a kid off a window ledge, and are well on their way to plunging an entire nation into war just to give Robert a big genealogical fuck you, so thus far my admiration of their cleverness does not diminish my desire to see them both get their extremely well-deserved come-uppance.

Whether I will ever actually get to see that, of course, is an entirely separate question.

And one which we will not answer today, my chickens! Enjoy your weekend, and assuming Tropical Storm Thirteen doesn’t drown us all down here on the Gulf Coast, I’ll see you next week!

Brian Vrolyk
1. vyskol
We've been waiting a long time for this big reveal, and your reaction didn't disappoint in the least.

This is where things get really interesting. :)

p.s. Oh, and for the record, I figured it out the same time as Ned, from Sansa's comment. Actually, it would have been a couple seconds after. When I saw Ned's lightbulb go up, mine did too. And I totally didn't see the 6th Sense ending coming either.
Stefan Mitev
2. Bergmaniac
It sure looks really obvious in hindsight, but I admit I alo didn't figure the revelation about the royal children until this chapter. So you are not alone in this, Leigh.

Though of course I read the book until this point in about a day or two, not 6 months.

Great commentary on Ned's chapter, I was looking forward to the reread reaching this point for some time and I wasn't let down.

"Because look, I admire honor and integrity and all that as much as the next person, but there is a limit, okay? Playing fair with people who you KNOW are not going to play fair back isn’t honor, it’s just rank stupidity. Honor isn’t honorable when it not only could get you killed, but could get innocent bystanders — like, say, your children — killed as well. "

Totally agreed. This is my main problem with Ned.
Chris Chaplain
4. chaplainchris1

So, ok, way back on a Read of Ice and Fire part 5, April 22, which is MORE THAN FOUR MONTHS AGO, somebody brilliant named Leigh Butler wrote this:

(Yes, I know Joffrey is technically a Baratheon, but whatever. If we’re going strictly by personality, he’s a goddamn Lannister through and through, and you know that’s what he considers himself anyway. Bah.)

I have been waiting to marvel, laugh, chortle, and chuckle at this ever since. You called it AGES ago, just didn't realize you had.

Also, for all the comments have occasionally flirted with spoilery accidents, everyone seems to have been really good about this one. Yay us! And thanks for the read, Leigh! Great and entertaining as always.
5. Jeff R.
You know, it's not entirely fair to Ned to couch this in terms of abstract 'honor'. This is about being directly responsible for the murder of innocent children (Tommen and Myrcella at least, even if Joffrey doesn't count) or not, and his decisions here aren't entirely indefensible on those terms.
Brian Vrolyk
6. vyskol
Great job pulling out that quote, chaplainchris1. I remember well the feeling of 'Holy crap! She's so close!' :)
Francesco Paonessa
7. ErrantKnave
Holy flip! It's the big reveal. Leigh, I am quite glad you didn't figure it out, because that just makes it so much more effective. And, really, aside from Ned, Jon Arryn, Cersei & Jamie, and a devious character or two, no one in the realm either knows or suspects. Because why would they?

Also, I would argue that while honour (Ned's brand, particularly) is good, laudable, and something people should strive for, I can't see it working in this feudal sense. In the medival European world that ASoIaF mirrors, we got beautiful stories ofkings and knights, accompanied by a whole history of politicking and back-stabbing. Ned's reasoning is more in line with Sansa's dreamland of good knights, and less in keeping with reality.

Depressing, but true. At least, that's how it seems to me. I'm still hoping for a positive, "good" outsome for the Starks and Westeros.
8. J-Ro
If it makes you feel any better, I didn't get the ending to Sixth Sense either. And the only reason I got this before the big reveal was that I watched the HBO series before reading the book and it is much more obvious when you look at the characters.

"Hello, ladies, look at Joffrey, now back to Gedry, now back at Joff, now back to Gedry. Sadly, he isn’t Robert's son, but if his mother hadn't been an evil witch, he could have been." Wow! Thanks old spice guy!
Francesco Paonessa
9. ErrantKnave
Also also, @chaplainchris1, I believe my reaction to Leigh's paragraph at the time was something like: "She's got it. OMG, she's going to miss it. LEIGH... IT'S... RIGHT... THERE!"

Also also also, @Jeff R, I second that.
Genevieve Williams
10. welltemperedwriter
I agree with Jeff R as well--Ned even says it: "I don't kill children." It's his unyielding sense of honor, yes, but he also doesn't want to be responsible for the deaths of Cersei's kids, regardless of who their father is.

Admittedly, I did figure out the big reveal before it happened when I first read GoT; I think it was when Ned went to meet Gendry and there's a big deal about him being dark-haired. But the reveal was still very satisfying because I was waiting to see how it would happen.

It occurs to me that Sansa's romantic idealism is, in a way, in keeping with the rest of her family's beliefs that the world ought to work in an honorable fashion. (Catelyn knows better, of course, but it seems the North has made her as rash as the rest of them...)

To my knowledge, Leigh, sibling royalty wasn't ever a feature of European monarchies, though it was elsewhere (Egyptian dynasties being the famous example). But there was a definite emphasis on keeping thrones within family lines, with eventual results like King Charles II of Spain.
11. Carolynh
Oh, Leigh, you are so funny. You were so close SO many times to guessing this. And you are so astute about so many other points of this book, points that I totally glazed over the first time around. I just couldn't believe that on this one point you just couldn't guess it.

So now, here we are. The secret is revealed for all to see in Big Black Letters.

And then there's Ned. Has there ever been anyone in this history of the world, in fiction and in real life, who took honor to this level of madness? Truly, what Ned doesn't seem to get is that you can be honorable and not be totally, freakin' stupid. A truth unspoken is NOT a lie.

Why, oh why, did he think that he should tell Cersei what he knows? Did he really think she would quietly trot off into the night? Would he have treated a man the same way? Is it only because she's a woman that he so underestimates what she is capable of? I mean, this is the woman who told Jaime to push Bran out the window. (In fairness, Ned doesn't know that, but he does know that a Lannister is responsible).

I love Ned to death for so many things, but the man is completely unsuited to be the Hand.
Vincent Lane
12. Aegnor
As Jeff R said @5, Ned's actions aren't all about HONOR. Think about it. He saw the bodies of a young girl (still in her nightdress and bare feet), and the body of an infant boy, brought up to his friend and new King's feet, and watched his friend accept and reword the killing. Ned also surely feels some direct responsibility for the killing of Rhaegar's children. It was a critical event in his life that helped define the person that he is.

With Cersei he is terrified of the same thing happening again. And what's more? He's right to be afraid of that possibility. If he would have waited until Robert got back, and told him, without giving Cersei a heads up, than Robert would have killed them all. Cersei (who cares, she deserves it), Joffrey (who cares, he deserves it even if he is a kid), Tommen (who ca...wait a sec...he's just a good innocent child), and Myrcella (again... an innocent child).

That is what he KNOWS will happen, without a doubt, if he goes the politically savy route. That he will be indirectly responsible for the brutal murder of innocent children. Again. That is too much for Ned to take, and I can completely understand that.
Rob Munnelly
13. RobMRobM
Yeah Leigh, and yeah Chaplain Chris. (My memory is that Leigh can look back at several other comments over the past month that are OH SO CLOSE and chuckle at them now. Or cry.)

I know you're distracted by the latter chapter but, really, Leigh, I was looking forward to yet another Littlefinger rant re the first chapter. Actually touching Sansa's cheek - eeewww.

I also don't have my book but isn't this the one with the great hilarious bit - where Ned says some something like "I'll find you a husband who is honorable and brave" and Sansa responds "I don't want that, I want Joffrey." ROFLMAO.

Vincent Lane
14. Aegnor

Holy crap, I just looked up Charles II after your comment, and I ran across a picture of his family tree.
Stefan Mitev
15. Bergmaniac
Come to think of it, I don't think honour is the most precise word for Ned's actions here, at least not in its common definition in Westeros. The honourable thing to do in this situation would've been to tell Robert ASAP so he can punish the lawbreakers - an adultery by the Queen is high treason. But Ned was incapable to even indirectly cause the death of children, so he gave Cersei a chance to go into exile and save the kids. I don't have a problem with that in principle.

My problem with his action here is that if he wanted to be merciful, he should've arrested Cersei and put her on a ship bound to the Free Cities with the kids, thus not giving her a chance to retaliate. The way Ned did it, it left him and the whole realm exposed to the Cersei's counter-attack, and he knows she is capable of murdering even children to protect herself. It's a huge risk. And yes, I know that Ned had few men loyal to him in KL and arresting Cersei and the kids would've been hard, but if he couldn't do it, then he should've kept his mouth shut and think of something else than just tell Cersei he knows and expect her to give up. We've seen time and time again how dangerous Ned's situation in KL is and how few allies he has, so what he did was a huge risk not just for himself, but for his family and the whole realm.
Vincent Lane
16. Aegnor
Lol...welltemperedwriter@10, after you mentioned Charles II I looked him up. Here is a picture of his family tree...
17. Lsana
In the first of these chapters, I did actually feel kind of sorry for Sansa. The dress was important to her, now it's ruined, and no apology of Arya's (whether sincere or not, which I kind of got the impression it wasn't) is going to fix it. Could be considered symbolic of...well, a lot of other things in the series, actually.

Everyone else has pretty much nailed the reason that Ned did things as he did: the kids. Myrcella and Tommen don't deserve to die. Heck, Ned's probably generous enough to believe Joff doesn't deserve it. That's the same reason Ned can forgive Cersei for the attempt on Bran: he understands that she saw it as a choice between the lives of her own children and the life of a boy she barely knew, and Ned can't blame her for choosing her own kids.

Ned addresses her here as one parent to another: she loves her kids, as he does, and he's offering her an opportunity to save them. He figures she would sacrifice her power to keep them safe. Unfortunately, while putting himself in her shoes, he's not paying attention to the other options she might have for keeping her kids safe...
18. TG12
Leigh, loved the reaction, more than a bit surprised (pleasantly so) that you managed to stay unspoiled. Very much hoping you're managing to stay pristine for the end of the book, although especially with the HBO series (and reactions thereto) floating around out there, it's got to be hard...
Astute of you to predict assassination attempt in our immediate future...heh. But you know Martin still has a few jokers up his sleeve, right?
We're shifting firmly into sh*t-hitting-fan mode at this point in the story, so hold on!
19. Marcela
I'm giggling like a maniac while reading these. Super fun to see you discovering this all little by little (even though I'm just as big a n00b, being only halfway through A Clash of Kings myself).

Keep on keepin' on!
20. Kadere
Yeah, the metophoric shit hitting the fan hasn't even begun, really, but it's about to. Oh, is it about to. ;)
Sky Thibedeau
21. SkylarkThibedeau
The Bourbons of France and Spain intermarried so much they were quite ugly. When Goya painted the Family of Carlos IV he had a Princess modestly turn her face away so her ugliness would not be shown to the public.
22. Pheran
Finally, the big reveal, and I loved your reaction. :)

Brace yourself, Leigh. You've just reached the top of the roller coaster.
Jared Wright
23. J Town
"Because look, I admire honor and integrity and all that as much as the next person, but there is a limit, okay? Playing fair with people who you KNOW are not going to play fair back isn’t honor, it’s just rank stupidity. Honor isn’t honorable when it not only could get you killed, but could get innocent bystanders — like, say, your children — killed as well. "

Actually, that is almost PRECISELY what honor is. There IS no limit.
Honor must exist regardless of consequence. If honor is honorable only when it isn't hard, then it's of little to no consequence and has no true power. Honor encompasses more than that.

Regarding Ned having responsibility to not get innocents killed: You are making someone (Ned) responsible for the (assumed) evil choices of another (Robert/Cersei). That isn't how it works, nor is it the point. Ned didn't choose to kill anyone innocent, nor was it his intention that they die. Don't assign responsibility to a person for decisions that other people make. "If so and so hadn't made this decision, then this horrible thing wouldn't have happened" is a natural reaction; it's also usually wrong. There are any number of variables involved in such a scenario, both known and unknown, the most important being free will of ALL individuals involved.

No, the problem with Ned is that he attempts to be honorable (and succeeds much more often than most of us, in all likelihood) and yet he tries to make accommodation with it (such as trying to manuever things in such a way as to spare Cersei and her children.) He's trying, because he is a good man, to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to be honorable and yet somehow control the consequences of that decision in such a way that the negative results only fall on him. And I admire him for the effort. But it doesn't work. It CAN'T work.

You can't predict or control consequences in the way that such decisions imply and trying to do so is futile, even if well intentioned. At the end of the day, all you have complete control over is your own choices and what you do and do not believe in and what you are willing to sacrifice for that.

The game of thrones is one thing. You win or die. Well enough. But honor transcends decisions of life and death and is, consequently, much more real than the game of thrones. Honor is forever. I love Ned's character because he tries so hard to do it right. He may fail, as many of us do, but it's not because he's stupid. It's because few things are harder than being truly honorable. But he gives a it a darn good try and I honor him for that.
24. fanganga
I also didn't realise until the reveal - like some of the commenters had said earlier, I was making the same mistake as Ned and thinking the bastards were significant in themselves - I'd even thought that the point of the book was that it had precedent for a bastard son inheriting somewhere in it. I was reading the book on a train, so I couldn't headdesk without being escorted off before my stop, but it was certainly chuckleworthy to look back at all the clues I misread.

As for Ned - trying to protect the children is admirable, but his timing is horrible. If he'd waited and told Cersei "I have messengers carrying sealed letters to Robert, Ser Barristan and Janos Slynt, and a ship waiting for you - grab the kids and go", that would be one thing - instead he shows his hand when he's at his weakest.
25. stampey
I think it can't go without saying that Ned also is underestimating Cersei b/c she is a woman. He really can't see that she's a player in "the game of thrones" and that she'll be able to retaliate against him in a meaningful way.
Kat Blom
26. pro_star
J-Ro@8, you had me giggle. I even read that in the old spice guy voice. That, was awesome.
Matthew B
27. MatthewB
I don't think I was actually surprised at this revelation when i read it, but maybe i've just forgotten since it's been so long. I feel like this was something i instinctually understood as soon as the creepy twins' creepiness was revealed.

I remember very clearly that i immediately knew that the way he revealed it all to Cersei was a mistake. Even though it clearly laid out the rest of the book's plot points as logical consequences, I spent the remaining chapters chanting that "" refrain.

Let's just step back for a moment and admire the writer here. Ned is so amazingly and utterly noble, likeable, predictable, flawed, and tragic. His mistakes are telegraphed so far ahead and yet, when the hammer drops, you cannot help but think that no other action would have fit this character. To make him so real in that sense...that is great writing. Mr. Martin, i salute you.
28. Dragonara
Ned Stark is a box of rocks. What a big dummy.
Drew Holton
29. Dholton
I was also one of those doing a headdesk over the "Baratheon" kids' parentage. But I think there's a reason we were all doing a collective headdesk. Incest is so transgressive to us, that even though we knew about Cersei and Jamie, we couldn't wrap our heads around the logical consequences despite the fact it(they) was(were) staring us in the face. As it did Ned, and everyone else.

As for Ned, when I first read the book, I was thinking Cersei would be panicked at being discovered, and that it was so simple for Ned to out her, that she would have to flee. I guess I just didn't know hew vewwy well, did I? Which isn't to say Ned wasn't stupid for telling her he knew without taking any precautions whatsoever.
30. lampwick
I don't think this is a spoiler, so here goes -- All through these books there's a tension between those who follow honor, who believe that knights should love justice, who try to live according to a personal code, and on the other hand those who look at the world and come to the conclusion that to get ahead means to lie, cheat, and steal (as well as assassinate and sleep with anyone you want). In a way it's a comment on Tolkien's books and Tolkien clones, which tend to be mostly about the first kind of character, but Martin never makes it cut and dried -- sometimes those who favor honor come through, and sometimes the calculating bastards do. It's wonderfully subtle, and amazing that Martin keeps it that way throughout.
Leigh Butler
31. leighdb
chaplainchris1 @ 4:

Holy crap, I really did write that, didn't I? HAHAHA THAT IS AWESOME.

Yes, I suspect that when at some later point I go back over what I've written before all the various reveals that it will be lots of zany facepalming fun. Heh.
tatiana deCarillion
32. decarillion
I was trying to remember when I figured out what was up with the children--I really think it hit me, after we discovered that Jaime and Cersei were lovers--due to the blonde hair. The idea clicked on the two of them having the color hair they have (I seem to remember descriptors on more than one occasion, in the early chapters). I haven't read the book in awhile, but it seems to me that their 'blondeness' is pushed in our face, several times.

Robert is a brunette--a dark brunette. It would have been unusual to produce two golden-haired children, when the dark is usually dominant (I don't know if I recalled my couple of weeks of h.s. biology correctly, but it was that thinking that colored my perception of the children)
Lon Kelley
33. Mathguy

I think you're onto something, but I don't think it's honor and integrity vs liars, cheats and thieves.

I think it's "rigidity" vs "fluidity". If you consider how stuff works out, those who lock themselves into a certain behavior find themselves punished, while those who adapt the quickest find themselves succeeding.

Not all adaptations have to be of the "trying to get ahead" type, either. In fact, if a character always uses the same methods to get ahead, they find themselves punished (no, really, think about it). Once someone locks themselves into a certain behavior, doom falls upon them.

I'm not gonna name names, but I wanted to point this out. I'm reading the series for the first time (and I am about 1/2 way through SoS now), and that's the correlation I am going with.
Matthew Hunter
34. matthew1215
Lsana@17: Arya's apology is sincere. Remember Arya got Ned's "a lone wolf starves, but the pack survives" speech recently; she's trying to live up to it. Sansa did not get that speech. (I recommend people keep this in mind when reading Sansa's POV chapters in the future). Also, re whether Cersei's children deserve to die, nothing that we know Joff has done so far seems worthy of execution; Myrcella and Tommen are young enough to be innocent by definition. I agree with you thoroughly about Ned connecting to Cersei as a parent; he's offering her the chance to do what he would do, abandon his position to save his kids.

Other commenters have been mentioning when they figured out what Ned has called "the secret that killed Jon Arryn". That's worth a chuckle in itself. If I recall correctly, I suspected it pretty early on, based on the genetics (blonde hair is usually a recessive trait). Then the visit to Gendry firmed up my suspicions. I wasn't sure until this scene.

As for Ned's actions... Ned is less an honorable man than a *good* man. To be a good man requires that you act honorably, because in most cases, the good action and the honorable action are the same. Sometimes they are not the same, and when Ned is faced with that choice, he consistently chooses the good option (warn Cersei regardless of consequences to himself, so she can save her children) over the honorable option (inform Robert at once) and the practical option (take her prisoner).
35. Lsana

I don't know that we ever get Arya's perspective on the apology, so it's hard to say. My reason for thinking that it wasn't was the way she phrased it: "I humbly beg my sweet sister's forgiveness." That (a) doesn't sound much like Arya, and (b) sounds like the sort of thing you say when you aren't sorry but think it is what your parents want to hear. I sort of feel like if Arya had been sincere, the apology would have sounded a lot more like her talk with Ned. OTOH, it may be that she said it this way because she thought that's what Sansa would want.

Anyway, that was less my point than the fact that sincere or not, an apology can't really make things right.
36. Wortmauer
Lsana@35: Anyway, that was less my point than the fact that sincere or not, an apology can't really make things right.
But not for lack of trying. Arya offers to wash the dress. Sansa points out that it won't work, the silk will hold the stain regardless. Then Arya offers to make her a new dress. Sansa points out, nastily but accurately, that Arya sucks at sewing. Seems to me Arya really does want to make it right.

Anyway, I find it hard to find much sympathy for Sansa in these scenes. She says "Go ahead, call me all the names you want. You won't dare when I'm married to Joffrey. You'll have to bow to me and call me Your Grace." She follows it up with "You're horrible. They should have killed you instead of Lady!" It's been a long time since I've had sisters that age, but I don't remember any of them being that mean, to their siblings or to anyone else.
RobMRobM@13: I also don't have my book but isn't this the one with the great hilarious bit - where Ned says some something like "I'll find you a husband who is honorable and brave" and Sansa responds "I don't want that, I want Joffrey."
Good stuff. But there are bons mots in the next chapter too. Littlefinger:
"I cannot visit long, my lord," he announced. "Lady Tanda expects me to lunch with her. No doubt she will roast me a fatted calf. If it's near as fatted as her daughter, I'm like to rupture and die." ... "And now you must forgive me. Lady Tanda awaits with her fatted calves."
And Ned:
"Did you make the same offer to Jon Arryn?"
She slapped him.
"I shall wear that as a badge of honor," Ned said dryly.
Katie McNeal
37. Katiya
Woo! I'm with many others, Leigh, I didn't get it either. The most awesome thing about it, and why so many proficient fantasy readers really didn't get it, IMHO, was because we thought we had all the info (ie, the secret of Lannister incest.) Covering up a secret with another pseudo-secret is pretty sneaky sneaky of the author, and very cool.

I find your take on the Jamie/Cersei relationship to be very interesting. I never thought about it in terms of revenge or a plot concocted between the two siblings, despite Cersei's (flimsy) reasoning for hating Robert. Since we don't know as much about her character at this stage as we do later, though, I can see your point, and it does paint a rather different picture of their relationship. Seeing as how Cersei claims that she and Jamie have been lovers since they were children, I always assumed that it was more about her affection and love for her brother than about hating Robert. Wouldn't she rather bear Jamie's children simply because she loves him, with the added bonus of totally fucking Robert's world up?

Spot on comments regarding Ned...I really love how Martin has us examine traditionally "good" morals and values and plays them out in a realistic setting. It makes us think about if these morals are really the right choices, and what being "good" means, at the cost of what. Highly enjoyable!
38. Wortmauer
And here's today's Blog of Ice and Fire. A nice nod to "Casey at the Bat" there at the end.

Sansa is puzzled that her father sent the "too old" 22-year-old Beric Dondarrion instead of Loras to deal with GREGOR, explaining to her friend Jeyne that Eddard's injured leg was probably impairing his decision making. No you stupid girl, the reason he didn't send Loras was because GREGOR would absolutely destroy pretty boy. Sansa needs to learn that in a fairy tale, the hero may slay the monster and marry the princess, but in real life, being eight feet tall, angry, and ridiculously strong easily trumps magical flower powers. In addition, Sansa still has no idea that pedo Littlefinger is only nice to her because he wants to proxy-fuck Catelyn by getting into Cat's daughter's pants.

Amazingly, Sansa is still in love with Joffrey, conveniently forgetting that his family executed her pet, attempted to assassinate her brother, and killed several of her household guard after severely wounding her father. She reasons that it wouldn't be fair to blame Joffrey for something his uncle Jaime did, because that would be like "blaming Sansa for Arya's actions," conveniently ignoring that Cersei did exactly this a few chapters ago. Sansa gets into yet another argument with Arya about Mycah's death, prompting Arya to nail her in the face with an orange, adding yet another badass skill (throwing accuracy +10 points) to Arya's growing list of badass skills. Unable to cope with Arya's awesomeness, Sansa retreats to her room, where Eddard informs his daughters that they will be sent back to Winterfell. The two girls finally agree on something: they love King's Landing, albeit for vastly different reasons. Sansa is in full fledged teen freak out mode now that she won't be marrying Joffrey, her dreams of being queen crumbling right before her eyes.

I feel pretty stupid that I didn't see that Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen were products of incest. In retrospect it seems so obvious. George mentioned hair color a dozen times and kept calling them "lions," but the most obvious clue was that they all acted like prissy, pretentious jerks. Now that Eddard knows the big secret that the previous Hand died for, he just needs to wait until Robert gets back to smash some Lannisters. Instead, Eddard decides that it's a good idea to tell Cersei that he knows her secret. Since there's no poison lying around and no window to push Eddard through, Cersei admits to the whole thing. We also learn that Robert and Cersei don't have the healthiest of marriages. They barely ever have sex, and in the rare instances they do, Bob is always drunk. Once, he even called Cersei "Lyanna" in bed (hahahaha).

Cersei then busts out her version of the Godfather offer: don't tell anyone and I'll have sex with you. Eddard's response:
Eddard says, "Did you make the same offer to Jon Arryn?"
She slapped him.
"I shall wear that as a badge of honor," Ned said dryly.
Somewhere in the King's Landing, the sun is shining bright; the knights are jousting somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, and somewhere wolves are howling, and the treasury is broke; but there's shock in the godswood -- Eddard Stark has cracked a joke.

Cersei doesn't think it's funny, and hits Ned below the belt, making fun of his bastard son. If I had three kids with my brother, I'd probably refrain from making fun of the pedigree of other peoples' kids. Also, if I was Hand and I found out the secret that got the previous Hand killed, I wouldn't warn the person that did the killing.
Bill Stusser
39. billiam
Awesome Leigh, thank you. I've been waiting for you to get to this point in the story and you did not disappoint. Good stuff =)

While I was pretty sure that the kids were products of the twincest at this point I thought that the reveal was still very satisfying.

I know that Ned is trying to do the right thing here but he should have made sure that the choice that he is giving Cersei here was the only option left to her. He leave things way to open at a time where he isn't at his strongest. I want to say so much more about Ned's decisions but I think it would be better to wait until a later time.
Julian Augustus
40. Alisonwonderland
jajwright @23:
"I love Ned's character because he tries so hard to do it right. He may
fail, as many of us do, but it's not because he's stupid. It's because
few things are harder than being truly honorable. But he gives a it a
darn good try and I honor him for that."

I have a very different opinion of Ned, but now is not the time to bring it up... I'll try to remind you at the appropriate time.
jon meltzer
42. jmeltzer
@32: Blonde hair is recessive, and for Robert's bastards to only have brown or black hair would mean that he doesn't have any blonde genes.

So, it's impossible for the kids to be his. Genetics 101.

Hee hee hee.
Captain Hammer
43. Randalator
re: honor

The really stupid thing Ned does here isn't even being honorable. I can perfectly appreciate him trying to save innocent children's's the fact that he's being honorable without a safety net.

It would have been perfectly acceptable (yes, and honorable, Ned) to have the exact same talk with Cersei. Just, for the love of god(s), Ned, PLEASE, end it with "By the way, if you plan on John-Arryn-ing me, of course I have taken precautions that in that case everyone in all of Westeros will be given proof of your bedroom fun with Jaime. I'm honorable, not stupid."...jeez!

But he is, so he didn't and thereby basically gave Cersei an open invitation to royally fuck him (in the not pleasant way)...

...yes, I went there. I shall wear it as a badge of honor...
44. NotBuyingItForaSecond
Leigh wrote this on Tue September 9th, 2009 in one of Jo Walton's blog posts

19. leighdb

I read A Game of Thrones some ungodly number of years ago, and immediately failed to pick up any of the others in the series - not because I didn't want to read them, but because I was already suffering from Unfinished Epic Fantasy Series Syndrome (guess from where), and I resolved that I wasn't going to start another multi-volume series until it was finished.

She's already read the book folks. These are her words. I don't care if it was in 1996 the week after it came out, and she forgot everything about the book. Even if she couldn't remember anything about the book when she started the series, I can't buy for one second that someone as intelligent as she is wouldn't have figured this out before the reveal having read the novel before.
45. AgingComputer
@44 NotBuying It:

Curious, I checked the post from that date and couldn't find that comment. Do you have a link? The funny thing is, now that you quote it, I almost remember reading that somewhere.
Matthew Hunter
46. matthew1215
43: I agree that it would be honorable for Ned to take some sort of precautions, but it's not possible for him to pull a dead-man's-switch insurance scheme here. He has no *proof*, only suspicions and very suggestive evidence. Bran doesn't remember what he saw, and telling Robert is bound to shame and infuriate him. Shaming and infuriating the king with wild accusations is more likely to lead to a quick execution than the opportunity to offer evidence in support of your accusations, unless you are someone the king already trusts implicitly -- and that list is very short indeed, probably consisting of Ned and Jon Arryn.

In the time period and political environment we're talking about, accusations of this type will be laughed off if they are coming from anyone who isn't a noble with the swords to back up his claims. Ned doesn't have anyone to leave evidence with, not anyone that could make it stick in Ned's absence. As such, I don't think this is a case of Ned being stupid. I think he thought it over, acknowledged the personal risk to himself, and decided to take precautions (doubling his guard, sending away his kids) and accept some personal risk to himself in order to do the right thing.

He's definitely more focused on doing the right thing than on winning, but in this case, I don't know that he had any options for an insurance policy.
Eric Lesch
47. EricLesch
I always have to laugh when people try to bring real-world genetics into the discussion of Robert's progeny. I think it is pretty clear that doing so has as much relevance as trying to apply real-world seasonal changes.
Matthew Hunter
48. matthew1215
47: Don't be silly. I thought of that when I was doing my first read -- I remember telling myself that hair color wasn't absolute proof because Martin could simply not have remembered that odd bit of genetics, or have chosen for it to work differently in his world, or whatever. So in one sense, you're right, we can't count real-world genetics as solid proof in Martin's world.

However, it would be even more absurd to assume with no positive evidence, and in the face of evidence to the contrary (Jon's geneological tome), that real-world genetics doesn't apply. In general, I'm going to assume that scientific rules apply in a fantasy world until I am given specific evidence to discard each one individually. That holds doubly-true for this world, which seems to place a heavy thematic emphasis on gritty realism rather than idealized fantasy.

... and yes, I have spent a fair bit of time trying to figure out what sort of planetary orbit would result in extended seasons of varying length. The best I can come up with so far combines an elliptical orbit with very slow planetary rotation. There's enough there to make up a looney theory about the planet being a far-future colony world following a tech-disruptive disaster event.

Luckily, there's NOT enough there for that to be any kind of spoiler, just wild speculation. :)
49. mike shupp
Eric Lesch @ 47.

Well now, I gotta disagree. It strikes me as extremely likely that GRR Martin wrote all this stuff about black haired Robert and his black haired bastards and his blond "official" progeny while howling like a banshee, knowing that just about everyone in the world who took 10th grade biology ought to be putting the pieces together... but that they wouldn't because psychologically little Joffrey is a dead-ringer for his royal papa. We've seen one or two of the bastards by now and what are they like? Black haired, competent, generally likeable. And we've seen Joffrey -- who is is selfish, self-indulgent, , vindictive, cowardly, stupid, and a braggart. Oh, boy, that's Robert's kid alright!
50. fanganga
There are two parts to the genetic argument as I see it.

The first is, Does the blonde hair prove, to someone with a modern knowledge of genetics, that Robert is not the father of Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella? I don't know much genetics, so please point out anything I'm missing. If Robert had one copy of the blondeness gene, and Cersei had two, I'd think there would be a 1/8 chance of producing three blonde children. GM Pycelle's Big Book of Family History would probably establish that it would be vanishingly unlikely for the blondeness gene to exist on Robert's father's side, but I don't know how well it would cover his mother's. As for the bastards, there's probably a lot of selection bias with them - if there were bastards of Robert's lacking his most distinctive feature, would people know they were Robert's?

The second part is, would the blondeness prove to someone in Martin's world that the father is not Robert? In a pseudo-Medieval world, peoples' understanding of heredity need not bear much relation to Mendel's understanding - and in a fantasy world the truth need not be related to Mendel's understanding either (although I agree with Matthew in assuming a fantasy world to be like our own except where explicitly demonstrated to be otherwise). Could supporters of Joffrey's inheritance simply claim that Lannister blood is stronger than Baratheon blood and be believed?

Of course, I'm not trying to argue against the story here - we know, as most people in the story don't, that there is a candidate for the father of Cersei's children who has slept with her often enough, and carries a full set of blondeness genes. I'm just throwing out some thoughts in the hope that I will be enlightened by the responses.
51. mike shupp
A bit more on this, speculating. I wonder if GRRM might have read a novel, THE GOLD BUG VARIATIONS, by Richard Powers, which appeared in 1991. It got a fair amount of praise at the time (Powers went on to get a Macarthur Foundation "Genius" award), and it's the sort of literary-but-science-related tale a SF writer might happen to pick up. One of the subplots involves a scientist, a genetics researcher during the 1950's, who becomes persuaded from the color of her hair that his beloved daughter cannot be his child. Which has stuck in my mind for 20 years, and I can well imagine another author picking up that idea from Powers and transforming it into a plot device.
52. mike shupp
Fanganga -- I think this is pretty clearly GRRM weaving word magic, with the deliberate intent of inducing Leigh and others of us to bang our heads through desk tops. To medieval folk, or even modern people up to the start of the 20th century, this stuff about hair color would have meant nothing at all. They'd have been totally clueless.

OTOH, it means something to modern folk, and one of the major reasons it ought to mean something is that the business about blonde hair being recessive is a _standard example_ in high school biology texts. If GRRM had picked say the ratio of index finger length to ring finger length to distinguish Robert's offspring, 99.999% of us would still be mumbling to ourselves , even after the reveal.
Nathan Rice
53. quazar87
The best thing about this twist is that in retrospect it's totally obvious. But by pairing the reveal of Cersei and Jaime bumping uglies with Bran's fall, and focusing on the latter, Martin effectively diverts our attention.
I'll admit, I figured it out when we find out the child of the prostitute had dark hair coupled with John Aryn saying "the seed is strong". But I didn't notice till then, and I usually pick up on that stuff a lot sooner. It was very cleverly done.
Nathan Rice
54. quazar87
And yes, Ned Stark makes a bag of hammers look sharp. That's basically a fandom meme now.
Matthew Hunter
55. matthew1215
52: I think you are somewhat overestimating the medieval level of cluelessness about genetics. It's true we didn't get Mendel's heredity until 1866 (still well before the 20th century), but heritability of traits was well known if not well understood. That's why the geneology is key. People from our medieval time period wouldn't have the standard HS genetics textbook in front of them, but they would certainly be able to reason from specific historical examples -- as in fact Ned did, and presumably Jon Arryn before him.
57. Michael F Flynn
Regarding medieval knowledge of "genetics," the following may be entertaining. Thomas Aquinas is discussing how original sin might be inherited and mentions in ST II-1, Q.81, art. 2:

Yet if we look into the matter carefully we shall see that it is impossible for the sins of the nearer ancestors, or even any other but the first sin of our first parent to be transmitted by way of origin. The reason is that a man begets his like in species but not in individual. Consequently those things that pertain directly to the individual, such as personal actions and matters affecting them, are not transmitted by parents to their children: for a grammarian does not transmit to his son the knowledge of grammar that he has acquired by his own studies. On the other hand, those things that concern the nature of the species, are transmitted by parents to their children, unless there be a defect of nature: thus a man with eyes begets a son having eyes, unless nature fails. And if nature be strong, even certain accidents of the individual pertaining to natural disposition, are transmitted to the children, e.g. fleetness of body, acuteness of intellect, and so forth; but nowise those that are purely personal

Or, we might say, the blond hair of House Lannister. I don't think ol' Tom would have been fooled for long. In a similar wise, he also writes in ST II-1, Q.81, art. 1:
For some, considering that the subject of sin is the rational soul, maintained that the rational soul is transmitted with the semen, so that thus an infected soul would seem to produce other infected souls. Others, rejecting this as erroneous, endeavored to show how the guilt of the parent's soul can be transmitted to the children, even though the soul be not transmitted, from the fact that defects of the body are transmitted from parent to child--thus a leper may beget a leper, or a gouty man may be the father of a gouty son, on account of some seminal corruption, although this corruption is not leprosy or gout. Now since the body is proportionate to the soul, and since the soul's defects redound into the body, and vice versa, in like manner, say they, a culpable defect of the soul is passed on to the child, through the transmission of the semen, albeit the semen itself is not the subject of the guilt.

So Tommy has noted genetics, and has rejected Lamarckism, even if he doesn't know about "genes" and says "semen" instead. He also knows the difference, if not the terminology, between a genetic defect and the disease that it causes.
Westeros seems more primitive than High Medieval Europe - closer to the Early Medieval in many respects, but with some High and Late matters thrown in. There are laments on record about the decay of knightly honor as early as 14th cent.; and Huizinga's classic treatment of the decadent Franco-Burgundian chivilry of the 15th cent. is also pertinent. (I laughed aloud when I read an oath a knight took in book 4, so like the extravegant oaths of the 15th cent.!
58. Saso Alauf
I love your reading of the series, and the way you're writing about it, but I have to admit, that it does bug me now, that you claimed to read it for the very first time. Since it seems you've forgotten everything anyway, what difference would it make to say so at the start?

Unless, of course, that comment was a bit untruthful and you really haven't read it back then...

Oh well, it's still a great read, no matter what, I just feel a bit let down...
59. mike shupp
matthew1215 @ 55
Michael Flynn @ 57

Okay, I probably got it wrong on medieval cluelessness. At least I got shot down by a canon rather than an air rifle....
Jonathan Levy
60. JonathanLevy
@44 and @45
I did a quick google search and found the quote, in the same place as in the link provided by @56.

The actual date was September 8th, not September 9th, which explains why not everyone found it right away.

Curiouser and Curiouser! :)
61. NotBuyingItForaSecond
I said that Leigh posted the comment on September 9th, not that Jo's blog post was Septembert 9th. Sorry for the confusion. Let's not make this a bigger deal than it is. I'm just saying I don't buy the big surprise on the big reveal. If you look at the introductory post to this series carefully, and the intro to each post, it doesn't actually say that she is reading the book for the first time, it says she is reading and reacting to the book for the first time. I fine distinction I think any Wheel of Time fine can appreciate.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
62. tnh
NotBuyingItForaSecond, since I trust you aren't questioning Leigh's honesty, an apology for accidentally appearing to question it would be in order. Sooner would be better than later.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
63. tnh
Mike Shupp, Matthew1215, Michael Flynn --

It's easy to establish that the Middle Ages understood inherited characteristics, since they developed all kinds of specialized breeds of livestock and were acutely familiar with their quirks.

I noticed back up the thread that someone got a look at the genealogy of Charles II of Spain, and a portrait of the man himself. Remarkable, eh? I consider it proof that there were inappropriate race and class issues at work in the eugenics movement of the late 19th and early 20th century that they never identified hereditary sovreignty as a cause of toxic inbreeding.
Captain Hammer
64. Randalator
matthew1215 @46

The former Hand Jon Arryn was killed over the information he found, so apparently it's incriminating enough and being not only the King's Hand but also his most trusted friend, it would be even more so coming from Ned.

So, what exactly is keeping Ned from sending handwritten letters with his signature, personal seal and the seal of the King's Hand to Winterfell, Riverrun and a dozen other allied houses with detailed instructions what to do with them in the case of his death?
Matthew Hunter
65. matthew1215

Scientist: "King, you are clearly an example of toxic inbreeding. For generations, your royal family has married its cousins , with disastrous results. You are insane, murderous, and ugly as sin. You have two many toes, not enough fingers, and no earlobes. I will be publishing a book on this matter as soon as the monks are done illuminating it."

King: "Off with his head. Chewing the scenery is my divine right."

64: I wasn't disputing that the information was incriminating, just that in our hypothetical situation, without Ned and his personal authority and close relationship with Robert to push the evidence, the information itself isn't going to make much difference. It's not like Ned has pictures as proof of infidelity. All he has is a logic chain, a few bastards, and the contents of a book.

Remember, Robert himself is a raging drunk and he's just about out of people to trust. If Ned comes up to Robert and says "Hey, your wife has been unfaithful and your kids ain't your kids" Robert is going to be *furious*. Since it's Ned, he might also listen long enough to matter. But there's no one else Robert would trust enough for that; anyone else saying it will be perceived as an insult and probably executed on the spot.

So let's suppose Ned sends the ravens to winterfel, riverrun, etc. Catelyn and his kids he hardly needs to convince. But anyone else? They aren't in King's Landing, they don't have access to any of the evidence. As Ned's allied houses, if they come to King's Landing and start making inquiries they will be immediately suspected, even assuming the evidence hasn't been destroyed. And what of Robert's reaction to the news of his cockalding being broadcast throughout the seven kingdoms before he even hears of it?

Remember, in our world we have effectively unlimited numbers of reasonably impartial judges and distinct separation of powers. In Westeros, Robert will be judge and jury and victim. Simply describing the facts of the case is likely to be considered treasonous and the executioner is standing right there as soon as the King feels ready to make a judgement.

There is a quote that's relevant here: "If you strike at a king, you must kill him." Otherwise, the king's response will certainly destroy you... using this information is definitely striking at a king (his honor and pride, if not his physical safety) and if you don't convince him at once you're not going to live long enough to try again.

The only people who have a chance of convincing Robert of this are Ned and Jon Arryn. Arryn's dead. That leaves Ned as the only person who has any real chance of telling the King what's happening and being alive to finish the explanation.

Re: Leigh: If she says she forgot the events in the book, I believe her. She's had over 10 years to do it after all.
66. NotBuyingItForaSecond
I apologize.
Captain Hammer
67. Randalator
matthew1215 @65

And again: Why wouldn't handwritten letters, signed and sealed by the Nedster himself, to be delivered to Robert Baratheon upon an untimely death of our favourite honorable man, not do the trick...?

"Yo Robster,

what up, dawg? Right, you're reading this so I've kicked the bucket. Just thought you should know that your royal biatch Cersei snuffed my lights out cuz I found out that she's been bumping groins with the Kingsslayer. Also her kids are big J's...wicked, right? Just dig that funky lineage-book-thingy down here, serious hair color stuff: your offspring dark, Lannisters blonde. Primo smoking gun-o, homey.

So you know what to do...fury, unleashing, hammering time, yadda-yadda. Anyways, that's all folks. Have one on me and all that.

Peace out,
Snoop Woolfy Ned"

That's basically "Staying Alive with Crucial Information 101"...
Antoni Ivanov
68. tonka
Have you read the books I assume yes but I cannot be sure

This is going to be a bit of a spoiler from ahead of the book.

{highlight to read}
Ned does write a letter and he instructs his second hand (Tom the Fat or whatever) to hand it personally to Stannis. Considerring the sensitivity of the information (and also being treason unless he could managed to produce absolute proof and he cannot easily) that was the only course of action.
69. mike shupp
TNH @63

Some years back, about 20, I used to get visits every few weeks from a trio of Seventh Day Adventists. They'd press the Watchtower into my hands, I'd give them a buck or two and invite them in. We'd chat for a while. Pleasant people. Anyhow, over time, it emerged that they were quite comfortable with the 20th century -- they knew about chromosomes and the genetic code, they were aware that germs evolved with resistence to antibiotics in places like hospitals, they knew that paintings showed how varieties of spaniels had changed over a few centuries (the young lady was quite a dog fancier). So basically their understanding of evolution was not much different from mine -- except for "that Darwin stuff, that silliness about monkeys and humans, y'know?"

I conclude people make an exception for people, and what might hold for Colorado in 1990 might also hold in Westeros 300 Years After the Conquest. If you didn't start off with the knowledge that hair color was a hereditary characteristic in humans, how easy would it be to accept the idea, especially if the idea required that you also accept that the queen and her brother engaged in incest? It might be difficult.

Retrospectively, I think Martin might well have spent a little bit of space -- just a couple of paragraphs -- elaborating on that book of Westeros noble families. There might have been some word portraits of previous Baratheons, perhaps some tipped in colored images of various families. Something for Ned (and Jon Arryn) to rush off to, to leaf through feverishly while confirming their horrid but inescapable conclusions. ...

Just my thoughts, after three readings in fifteen years. Trite, possibly. But I might have put something like that in, if I'd been in GRRM's shoes. Likely an editor would have marked it out with a big fat X.
70. Maac
@69 you mean Jehovah's Witnesses. Seventh-day Adventists do not produce or distribute (or, for the most part, read) "Watchtower" - among several other key differences of practice and belief from Jehovah's Witnesses.
71. Maac
@ 69 (Sorry - Your larger point stands, though. Neither group is big on Darwin. :-D)
72. jcfocarino
Hey Leigh, love the re-read as usual, just wanted to let you know that you're in my thoughts as Tropical Storm Lee crawls across the south, hope you're doing good and staying safe!
73. Subnumine
There may be another source. There was an Anne McCaffrey story, non-series, about a group of psychokinetics, each with his own power; the chief female character tests well on the indicators, but displays none. The ending is that she and her equally dark-haired, dark-eyed husband have a (perfectly legitimate) blonde green-eyed baby.
74. mike shupp
Maac @ 70&71

You're correct, thinking back. Jehovah's Witnesses.

Of course, the bit about rejecting Darwin, while applicable to to our discussion of A Game of Thrones, is only a portion of reality. I came to appreciate those visitors, despite our disagreement about biology -- and that's been a factor in my thoughts, ever since.
75. Dragonara
I too was surprised by the bug reveal, even though in retrospect I should have seen it coming many chapters earlier.

My blindspot was Robert. While he is a dummy and a drunk, I still assumed he was getting it done in the bedroom. The shocking thing to me was that he wasn't making getting his pretty young wife pregnant too regularly for Jamie to sneak one in.
76. MickeyDee
tnh@62 wrote :
NotBuyingItForaSecond, since I trust you aren't questioning Leigh's honesty, an apology for accidentally appearing to question it would be in order. Sooner would be better than later.

Seriously WTF? You expect someone to apologise for "accidentally appearing to question" someone else's honesty? I note that NBIFAS did tend you an apology, but I for one would have stood shoulder to shoulder with her/him if they chose not to. She/he brought up something interesting and put forward an opionion. I too have read books years ago that I can't remember more than an odd scene from (Achebe's Things Fall Apart for example: I know I read it, but apart from someone killing their son I couldn't tell you a thing about it).
No one should be expected to apologise for an opinion that they have based upon a fact. They should however be expected to revise their stance in the face of counter evidence or logic.

Re the application of sciences on Martin's or anyone else's fantasy worlds...why bother? This is the author's world. Bloody long seasons. Shape shifters. Honest Bankers. Technology and society changes so slowly that I keep expecting to see pocket sundials. Magic. Zombies. etc etc. I just go with it and try to reason out a few things within the author's boundaries.

BTW I really, truly think that Martin is a master at hiding things out in the open. That and he has shares in a desk repair business. ;)
77. Kainser
Cersei didn't throw any kid out of a window, that was all Jaime.
78. fanganga
Dragonara@75: There was a clue a bit earlier, when Ned's dissuading Robert from fighting in the tourney, Robert complains about Cersei being "cold" and acting as if she had "all the gold of Casterly Rock between her legs". Easy enough to dismiss as just a sign of Robert's unreasonable appetites - I certainly did the first time I read it. I'm guessing that for a long time the only time Cersei's slept with Robert has been when whe suspected she might have a child of Jaime's to cover up. Would it be Pycelle who delivered the babies? Would he have reason to be suspicious given the shortness of the term Robert's idea of the conception date would suggest?
Michael Maxwell
79. pike747
It just seems strange to me that, in a world that places such significance upon heredity, only two people who matter think to question the royal childrens' parentage.
81. Dragonara
fanganga - I see that now, but I still made incorrect assumptions. I assumed that 15 years earlier, Robert wasn't such a whoring slob. I assumed that it took a little time for him to get past Cersei's beauty to see her inner bitchiness. I also incorrectly assumed this story was about Robert, Eddard, and Tywin.

Wrong on all counts.
Juliet Kestrel
82. Juliet_Kestrel
Of course I go away for the weekend when we get to the one chapter that everyone has been talking about for months. Sheesh.

I figured it out before this point. I think the only reason I figured it out before the reveal though was because of some leading comments on the blog. I have to admit I should have gotten it much, much sooner. Not only did I get half of a genetics B.S. Before switching to conservation biology, I worked in a tomato genetics resource lab for the four years I was in college. I think it just never occurred to me to use real life science to figure out a fantasy world puzzle.

In other news, as I have mentioned before, the tension ratcheting up is still getting to me. I thought the big reveal would lead to a little deflation of tension, but no. Ned chapters stress me out, for exactly the same reason everyone has previously mentioned. There has got to be a way to act both honorably and not suicidally in westeros. I am holding my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop.
83. MickeyDee

Ahh but there are soooo many ways to commit suicide within the Seven Kingdoms, that don't need questions of honour:
Cross Tywinn Lannister
Be a Stark
Reject Cersei
Accept Cersei
Be a smallfolk
Look sideways at someone whilst getting a bowl of brown in Flea-Bottom
Carry quantities of gold around with you at all times
Be a Kings Guard
Be a Lady with lots of land
Be a Brother of the Night's Watch
Strike the daughter of a Lord whilst playing with her
But the survey says the #1 way to commit suicide in the Seven Kingdoms is.....

Be the Hand of the King.

Part way through typing my list I started hearing in my head 'that's a paddlin' .

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