Fri
Sep 30 2011 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 26

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 26 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 53 (“Bran”) and 54 (“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 53: Bran

What Happens
From his improvised seat astride Hodor’s back in a turret high above, Bran watches the last of the lords sworn to the Starks enter Winterfell with his army. Bran is ashamed that Robb will not let him ride out among them in the winter town, knowing it is because of what happened in the wolfswood; he is very conscious of the stares the lords bannermen give him at supper, in the place of honor. Maester Luwin tells Bran that the assembled host now totals around twelve thousand men, and more will join them on the road when Robb leaves, which will probably be the next day. Troubled, Bran decides to visit the godswood, and has Hodor take him there, ignoring the looks and sometimes laughter he gets on the way. His wolf Summer joins them.

Once in the grove, he sends Hodor off to bathe in the hot pools, and thinks of how he is more and more drawn to the godswood lately. He prays to the old gods to keep Robb and his parents safe. Luwin and Bran and Rickon all did not want Robb to lead the army south, but Robb insists that it is his duty to go. Bran thinks of how much Robb has grown up, and how he has faced down the much older lords, even Lord Umber “the Greatjon,” who almost attacked Robb with steel until his wolf Grey Wind tore off two of his fingers.

“My lord father taught me that it was death to bare steel against your liege lord,” Robb said, “but doubtless you only meant to cut my meat.” Bran’s bowels went to water as the Greatjon struggled to rise, sucking at the red stumps of fingers . . . but then, astonishingly, the huge man laughed. “Your meat,” he roared, “is bloody tough.”

Now the Greatjon is Robb’s biggest ally, but Robb confessed to Bran afterward how terrified he had been. They both wish they knew the truth about their father’s situation; Robb had been infuriated by Sansa’s letter, and how it didn’t even mention Arya, and wonders what is wrong with her. Bran points out that she has lost her wolf. Bran thinks of how many of their family, past and present, had gone south and never returned, and now Robb is doing the same, and prays again for his safety.

The wildling Osha appears, and asks if Bran hears the gods. She works in the kitchens now, with her ankles shackled so she cannot run. She tells him that the gods speak in the wind, and say they are sad Robb is going south, where they have no power to protect him, all the weirwoods having been cut down there long ago. Hodor approaches (naked), and Osha opines that he has giant’s blood in him; Bran says there are no giants, but Osha counters that her brother killed one beyond the Wall, and that there are worse things out there as well. She says she tried to tell Lord Robb but he would not listen to her.

“You tell him this, m’lord. You tell him he’s bound on marching the wrong way. It’s north he should be taking his swords. North, not south. You hear me?”

Bran nodded. “I’ll tell him.”

But Robb dines privately with the lords bannermen that night, and Bran overhears some of the lords’ sons saying that they would rather die than live crippled like Bran. Bran tells Luwin that he doesn’t want to be broken; he wants to learn magic. Luwin tells him no man can teach him that, and Bran answers that the children of the forest could, but Luwin advises him not to concern himself with “folly,” about the children of the forest as well as what Osha said.

Robb leaves two days later; before he goes, he tells Bran that he is lord of Winterfell now, and to tell Rickon he’ll be back as soon as the fighting is over. Bran says Rickon said no one ever comes back, but Robb is sure Mother will be back soon, and promises to bring Father with him when he returns. The townsfolk cheer Robb and the host as they leave, and Bran thinks they will never cheer that way for Bran the Broken, and sees that besides Hodor, there are only women, children, and old men left in Winterfell.

Commentary
So Robb goes off south, taking all their liegemen with him, leaving Winterfell defenseless. Well, I’m sure nothing bad will come of that AT ALL.

Oy.

Also, these people are crazy. Anyone who’s all “oh, your wolf just bit my FINGERS OFF, I think you’re awesome now!” is, with all due respect to members of the Planters’ family, completely frickin’ nuts. Seriously. You just lost two fingers! Hello? What?

And then there’s Osha, who will evidently be playing the role of Cassandra in today’s performance, and also handily provides us a name for what Jafer and Othor from Jon’s last chapter were, or are, or whatever. Wights, there’s one I haven’t come across in a while. I remember the barrow-wights from Tolkien scared the crap out of me when I first read LOTR as a kid, so good show there. You guys probably shouldn’t have told me that there’s a difference between wights and Others in the comments, but, well, I know that now. Not that it makes much qualitative difference for me at this point, so there’s that. Right now as far as I’m concerned they’re all frozen zombies, so there, nyah.

Bran’s having a totally understandable amount of angst about his condition still, but I’m actually really proud of him for holding up as well as he is. Who knows whether that will last or not, but I’m hoping that being in charge will help him grow in confidence, rather than crush him. Could go either way, though.

Also, nice reminder here of Bran’s connection to the children of the forest and magic, which I had almost forgotten about. I say, who better to learn magic than a child who can’t fight any other way? Because who are we kidding here, this is about learning to fight; everything in this world is about that, one way or another, it seems.

In general, I also have to remark, I’m kind of torn about the way Martin has been handling the supernatural elements of his world thus far. Aside from the wights and dragons and things which are blatantly fantastical, he’s tending very much toward a sort of — well, I don’t think magical realism is the correct term to use here, but it’s something similar. By which I mean that the “magical” elements could be really magical, but (so far, anyway), they don’t have to be, and it’s more or less up to the reader to decide which she wants it to be.

So, the direwolves might have some mystical connection to/be a mystical reflection of the Stark children, or they might just be really big wolves who are loyal to their masters. The children of the forest might be sort-of-elves with magic to teach, or they might just be creepy isolationists living in the woods. The old gods might really be whispering in the wind, but it might also be just religious superstition that they do. The reason for the Starks’ historically spectacular bad luck in the south might be because the old gods have no power there, or it might just be the whim of chance. Or, you know, that the Starks suck at southern politics.

I both like and don’t like this. On the one hand, subtlety is a rare and precious thing in epic fantasy when it comes to magical elements, and it’s great that Martin is concentrating on building the mundane infrastructure of his world without feeling the need to trowel elves and trolls and wizards and glowy sparkly things into every crack and crevice of it.

On the other hand, there is such a thing as taking it too far. I don’t have any objection to reading a straight-up non-magical alternate history version of the Wars of the Roses, but if this is a fantasy, let it be one, you know? Sometimes I feel like Martin’s trying to tread a line between the two genres, and while it’s an interesting choice, as someone who came here as a fantasy reader and not an alternate history reader, sometimes I’m finding that inability to commit to the magic bits to be a little frustrating.

 

Chapter 54: Daenerys

What Happens
After they make love, Dany tries to convince Drogo that the prophecy about their son includes the Seven Kingdoms, but Drogo, who shares his people’s superstitious dread of the “poison water” (the ocean), tells her that “the stallion who mounts the world has no need of iron chairs.” He leaves to hunt, and Dany summons Ser Jorah. She wants him to help her convince Drogo to cross the sea and invade her former land, but Jorah advises her not to make Viserys’s mistake and push too hard.

Jorah suggests going to the Western Market, as a letter from Illyrio may have come with the latest caravan, and Dany agrees. On the way, she thinks of how she could be happy in her new life with the Dothraki if it were not for the blood of the dragon.

With Viserys gone, Daenerys was the last, the very last. She was the seed of kings and conquerors, and so too the child inside her. She must not forget.

Dany enjoys herself at the market, though she is puzzled by Jorah’s abrupt excuse to go off alone. Eventually she comes across a wine merchant, who when he learns who she is, insists on giving her a cask of his finest wine. She is about to take it when Jorah reappears and stops them. He demands that the merchant take a drink from it first; the merchant tries to flee, knocking Dany down, but Jhogo stops him. Dany asks how Jorah knew, and once they are away from the bazaar, Jorah shows her the letter from Illyrio, which says that Robert Baratheon is offering lands and ennoblement to anyone who kills Viserys or Dany and her child.

On impulse, Dany sends Jorah away and tries submerging the dragon eggs in the brazier fire, but nothing happens. When Drogo returns, she tells him what happened at the market, and Jorah adds that this will not be the last attempt on Dany’s life. Drogo is silent a while, and then orders rewards to both Jorah and Jhogo for saving Dany’s life. Then he says that he will also pledge a gift to his unborn son: the iron chair of the Seven Kingdoms.

“I will take my khalasar west to where the world ends, and ride the wooden horses across the black salt water as no khal has done before. I will kill the men in the iron suits and tear down their stone houses. I will rape their women, take their children as slaves, and bring their broken gods back to Vaes Dothrak to bow down beneath the Mother of Mountains. This I vow, I, Drogo son of Bharbo. This I swear before the Mother of Mountains, as the stars look down in witness.”

Commentary
And your little dog, too!

Ah, Robert. Even beyond the grave you manage to screw everything up, don’t you. Bloody damn fool.

So this should be quite the impressive clusterfuck, considering that the Lannisters and Starks will likely be right in the middle of slicing each other up when Drogo and Dany arrive to kick the shit out of everyone. Awesome.

I wouldn’t want to be a peasant in the Seven Kingdoms right now for all the whiskey in Ireland, because they are screwed. Of course, I wouldn’t want to be a peasant there in peacetime either. Actually I wouldn’t want to live there, period. But you know what I mean!

I wonder whether Drogo will even become aware of the inadvertent advantage he has by happening to choose to attack when the Seven Kingdoms is already in internal strife, or if it’ll all just fly right over his head and he’ll think they fell so easy (assuming they do) because the Dothraki are just that badass. Subtlety, I’m guessing, is not one of their strong suits when it comes to warfare. It’s probably a low-priority trait when you’re a howling horde of screaming berserker barbarians, I’m thinking. Not that I’m judging!

Okay, I’m judging, bite me. I don’t think anyone should be too shocked that any proposal that explicitly includes rape and pillage as part of the game plan is not going to be one I’m in a hurry to endorse. Gah.

Jorah: is definitely Up To Something, though for the moment he seems likeably loyal enough to Dany. I wonder, though, if this whole “conquer the Seven Kingdoms” scheme is something he’s really as gung ho about as he makes it seem. Dany may looking at another betrayal down the line.

I admit, I was totally on the edge of my seat when Dany was heating up the dragon eggs, and then all “Aww!” when it didn’t work. But it’s a fakeout, I’m sure! Maybe she just needs to do it more?

I skipped over a loooot of worldbuilding stuff in this chapter, by the way, mostly because though it was all interesting, right now it’s all kind of random names to me. I do want to state for the record, though: locust pie? EW. I know lots of cultures in the real world eat locusts as a delicacy, but you know, I’m going to be all provincial and go with NO.

I can’t figure out what “tree eggs” are supposed to be, though, so I can’t tell whether I would hate them.


Tis a puzzlement, no? Or maybe not to YOU, but me, I’m done. Have a delightful weekend, y’all, and I’ll see you next week!

59 comments
wcarter4
1. wcarter4
Well--and this is totally safe for you to read btw Leigh--attacking a land whilst it is in the middle of a civil war IS one of the 36 strategems. Also it's worth noteing that that Mongolian hoard is largely responsible for eventual trade between Europe and China in the real world. THOSE barbarians are virtually identical in culture and tactics as the Dothraki so t'would be a mistake to simply write them off as uncomplex savages in warfare and tactics. Afterall the mongolians overtook the Chinese by and their giant "civilization" by simply bribing the guards at the Great Wall.
Samuel Walker
2. lambada
Dammit Leigh!

Yes, it was wrong of people to mention it in the comments, but now you've mentioned it in the post, I know too!

"You guys probably shouldn’t have told me that there’s a difference between wights and Others in the comments, but, well, I know that now."

Gyah, I hate spoilers! So much for reading this unspoilt.
wcarter4
3. Serious77
What, no comment on Hodor's "hodor"? As far as Great Jon... I would say it is better to have him as an ally than as an enemy.
James Z
4. Gibush
Despite having your concerns and so on about magic (and I'm not going to give anything away as to whether the "magic" stuff escalates or stays similarly ambiguous), would you say you're enjoying the book so far? The story, the characters, rather than whatever inconsistencies you may have noticed?
wcarter4
5. Ender
Haha, yeah you are not far off on the GreatJon being a wee bit touched (as the GreatJon himself would say) in the head. But, I actually found that scene to be totally believeable. He was testing Robb's resolve and strength of character. He probably wasn't happy to lose two fingers, but it made him realize that Robb was a true Stark of Winterfell. He probably wanted to follow Robb anyway, being his bannerman and all, but was afraid he was following a mere boy into war.

I think that (even if it isn't necessarily true), the people around them believe that the Starks are connected somehow to the Direwolves. So in the GreatJon's mind, he stood up to a boy, and that boy ripped off two of his fingers.
wcarter4
6. DeJulis
Re: Leigh. "You guys probably shouldn’t have told me that there’s a difference between wights and Others in the comments, but, well, I know that now."

For all that your comments are tending to be so incredibly insightful, I find it hard to believe that something as explicitly shown in the book as the difference between the Wights and the Others evaded you. You see both in the Prologue, and the description of how they move and look when they kill Ser What's-His-Name is so far different from how Jafer and Othor are described that it's frankly incredible that you equated the two together.
Peter Stone
7. Peter1742
Must hold my tongue ... must hold my tongue. There were two or three very prescient observations in this week's commentary, Leigh, and of course I can't say what ones they were. Great job!
wcarter4
8. Marcela
Re locust pies, you may be interested in this blog: http://innatthecrossroads.com/

They're all about recreating the dishes mentioned in ASoIaF. This can be both awesome, and well... locusts.

Bon appétit! :)
Rob Munnelly
9. RobMRobM
Wights v Others isn't a spoiler - been evident since the Prologue. Scary creatures with frozen swords v. reanimated dead.
wcarter4
10. Tenesmus
Nothing bad will come of that AT ALL. Exactly what I thought the first time I read the book.

I previously thought you had read the books and were toying with us, but after your comments this week, I really doubt it. Sorry for suggesting otherwise. I will only say that your thoughts on certain threads are not unexpected, but that where these particular threads actually go have lead some fans to grow weary of the series. Anyway, that's knot your problem yet.
Brennan
11. brentodd
What DeJulis and RobMRobM said - Weights =/= Others isn't really a spoiler.

The spoiler is that Santa Claus ends the Dothraki invasion of Westeros by handing out free Locust Pies to everyone - delicious!
Steven Halter
12. stevenhalter
Leigh, I've had pretty much the same reaction re: magic here as you. It does seem that so far Martin has been treading a little too carefully on the side of leaving out the magic other than the brief glimpses. Kind of a whole teaser thing going on. If he keeps teasing throughout the series (I haven't read the other books) it will get a mite upsetting.
Sky Thibedeau
13. SkylarkThibedeau
@1 The Mongols also beat armored Knights in Russia, Poland, and Hungary when they invaded Europe. Only the Death of the Great Khan kept them out of Germany and France.
wcarter4
14. JLHanke
I wouldn’t want to be a peasant in the Seven Kingdoms right now for all the whiskey in Ireland, because they are screwed.


This should be the motto for this book series. Sit back and enjoy the carnage, Leigh!
Rob Munnelly
15. RobMRobM
Re continuing use of magic as series progresses: *whistles*
Peter Stone
16. Peter1742
I didn't realize that wights =/= Others until sometime towards the end of the Game of Thrones (it might have been this chapter, actually). GRRM gives you all the information you need to deduce it in the prologue, but it's not really spelled out explicitly for you. So I would say it was a spoiler, just not a very important one. Similarly, you have all the information to deduce why Robert's bastards are important long before Ned Stark (and Leigh) realized it, but that would have been a spoiler, and a major one. I'll also note that similarly, you get all the information to figure who was behind Bran's assassination attempt long before some of the characters figure it out. Don't give Leigh hints, please.
wcarter4
17. Tenesmus
The complaint about the magic is unfounded. Martin is tied to his limited POV narrative, and the "eyes" that are seeing the story right now aren't seeing magic. We are only supposed to know what they know, and if the world in which they live in doesn't have unicorns and pixies gallavanting out in the open, then folks aren't going to be taking them too seriously
Emmet O'Brien
18. EmmetAOBrien
shalter@12; for what it may be worth, I rather enjoyed that ambiguity about the nature of magic. There's a non-ttivial amount of fantasy out there that fails for me in trying to have its magic be magical, in the numinous direction, while presenting it as too mundane and pinned down; it pleases me that GRRM so well avoids this. (This is in opposition to books that are trying to present magic as essentially a utility from the get-go, such as Harry Dresden; it being pinned down and clearly understood's not necessarily a problem for me in that kind of case.)
wcarter4
19. DeJulis
Peter1742@16.

Finding out the true parents of Cersei's kids is not even in the same league as the difference between the Wights and the Others. For starters, we're told over and over again that Joffrey, Tommen, and Myrcella are Robert's children. GRRM tells us there's some mystery, and that it may have something to do with Gendry (and another of Robert's bastards) but until Ned figures it out, it's still a mystery.

Not reading the descriptions given of the Others and the Wights, failing to understand that they are inherently two different things... well, it's not meant to be a mystery, and without mystery there is no spoiler. The differences should be clear almost immediately, and the scene with Othor and Jafer should only clarify anything left uncertain.
Steven Halter
20. stevenhalter
Emmet@18:It's all a balance, of course, my preference is for a bit more magic is all I'm saying.

Tenesmus@17:Well, there aren't actually any people seeing anything. Martin's telling the story how he wants it told. That's fine. As Leigh said, if he wants to do a retelling of the War of Roses, then that's a fine story for him to write.
What he seems to be writing so far is War of the Roses with a smidgen of hint of magic. If it kept up being a smidgen the whole way then (for me) it would be not quite what I want to read through. I've got some faith (no knowledge, just hope) that we'll be seeing more fantastic elements mixed in gradually as we go.
I'd be disappointed in glowing unicorns and pixies also--seems pretty unlikely. An army of others with frozen zombies at their beck and some cool dragon fire seem like things that could be being hinted at. If those things (or something along those lines) never emerged, then things would be a bit too mundane.
wcarter4
21. MJM
Regarding the historical fiction vs. fantasy issue...

I believe, that when Martin was originally writing this story, it was written to be a historical fiction saga. It was only after the advice of a few close others, that he adjusted the story to include magic. (I know the dedication of the third book hints at this).
Sean Jones
22. PersonOfTheDragons
When I was reading this, I just assumed tree eggs were songbird eggs... found in a tree.
Steven Halter
23. stevenhalter
MJM@21:That's interesting info. I can see how AGoT could have been retrofitted with fantastic elements fairly easily.
wcarter4
24. serious77
@22 maybe they are acorns?!?
Rob Munnelly
25. RobMRobM
@20. See my comment @15. Spoilers ahoy so furthermore this deponent sayeth not.

Leigh only spent a little time on the various badasses of the north. Greatjon Umber ignores bitten off fingers; the Boltons are rumored to flay the skin off their enemies; the Karstarks mock Bran for not killing himself after his fall, etc. All led by a boy who is not yet 16. Yikes.

Osha's line that Robb's forces should be marching north - ubercreepy.

Love the comic relief of Osha noting size of Hodor's "package" as a main reason for explaining he must have giant's blood in him, and her brother actually killed one north of the Wall. (Magic sign, magic sign!!)
Steven Halter
26. stevenhalter
RobMRobM@25:I'm not asking for anyone to say whether there is any more magic in the books ahead--just stating (as did Leigh) that I have noted that heretofore there hasn't been much and I wouldn't mind there being some more. As far as I know, after this book, Martin goes into a deeply detailed discourse on the mating habits of fruitflies. I hope note and would prefer a direction like I indicated--no actual knowledge one way or the other.
wcarter4
27. I can't think of an alias
It wouldn't surprise me at all if GRRM started this as an alternative history and put in the magical elements to move it into the fantasy category. After all, SFF has a larger audience and GRRM wasn't a best-selling author at the time. With the fan-base he has now, he could write a cookbook and sell millions.
Rob Munnelly
28. RobMRobM
@26. Understood. I can satisfy your curiosity but would have to behead you immediately thereafter. So I shall mimic the Silent Sisters and remain....silent.
wcarter4
29. sofrina
have to second @19 on others vs. the secret of joffrey's paternity. apples and oranges. it isn't just that the others/wight issue is there in the prologue, it's that they are further commented on throughout. old nan's tale to bran - the one i'm still wishing for the end of - makes it even clearer. even watching the tv show, i was unclear on first watch. i had to watch it twice and look at a screencaps, step by step to understand what i saw - and it still left a big question mark. clearly that is meant, but close reading does make it clear.

as for the representation of magic, i've been thinking about that as i read the second book. i agree you do have to decide how to regard things, especially when they are only hints and memories. dragons are not magic. we see proof they are a real species. when martin reveals evidence of a fantastical element, he makes sure it takes your breath away.
Daniel Goss
30. Beren
Hmm . . .
@27 said
With the fan-base he has now, he could write a cookbook and sell millions.

I thought I was the only one who had an advance copy of the manuscript for book six. The chapter on Hodor's favorite recipes is a little tough to get through, though.
"First, take your hodor, add a pinch of hodor and hodor, but make sure you save back about two hodors of the hodor to add after your hodor the hodor for hodor minutes in the hodor."
-Beren
wcarter4
31. Seamus1602
MJM@21

Though you could be right, I must disagree. Without spoiling anything, this story as historical fiction would not include the Wall, the weather system that helps define the Starks, Others, Wights, dragon eggs, crows-as-telegraph, Direwolves, probably no Eerie, not to mention that the 7 kingdoms only exists because the Targs had dragons. I can't imagine wanting to read that story.
Katie Pi
32. Darth_Katie
Leigh, I know you're avoiding the tv show for now, but it's definitely worth watching the scene where Drogo goes on this little spiel. In the book I was like, "meh, that's cool;" but then I watched Jason Momoa do it on tv and I was like "I BELIEVE YOU."

There are no other spoilers in the clip, it's pretty much two minutes of word for word from the book. ;)
Rob Munnelly
33. RobMRobM
Leigh - of course Jorah is up to something. As discussed earlier in the book, he was/is feeding info on the status of Dany and Viserys to Westeros. Pretty easy to imagine him going to hunt down some info from Varys in addition to "legitimate" info sent by Illyrio. Conflicts, thy name is Jorah.
wcarter4
34. nancym
I, too, would love it if magic just suddenly busts out all over the place. But I'm always happy to let the story unfold the way the author intends. George IS a tease, isn't he? Dropping all these bits about ice zombies, and old vs new gods, and wights (brrrr).

But I can't WAIT for the dragons!
Aaron Miller
35. altarego
@Tenesmus #17: That's exactly what I was going to respond with; cool. +1

@Tenesmus #10: Spoiler fail. -1
Bill Stusser
36. billiam
Wow, I don't even know how to comment here. Even when you write a comment that is not a spoiler you get accused of spoiling. Guess I'll just keep reading the posts and avoid saying anything in the comments.

That being said, I love the posts, leigh, I look forward to reading it every Friday. Thank you.
wcarter4
37. sofrina
there is no spoiler in @10. there's a quote from leigh's post followed by a comment that is not about the book.

@32 - i thought momoa did for that declaration what sean bean did for boromir's request for the ring of power in "fellowship of the ring." you cannot do this, not with ten thousand men. it is folly!..
Aaron Miller
38. altarego
Telling someone that their theories will not be bourne out *is* a spoiler - no matter how you dress up the words. It's intentionally leading them away from their current line of thinking and to *your* 'ah-ha!' moment. Instead, he could have said, "Gee, Leigh...I had a certain impression about where you were coming from with these books; I'm so glad it's not true!"

I wish people would think carefully before they make any comment that even vaguely refers to how a reader might judge a certain line of thought regarding future plots.
Rob Munnelly
39. RobMRobM
Blog of Ice and Fire time - why not? First one's not bad but Dany's is just a bit short. Rob

________

Back at Winterfell, a huge army is massing to march south. I thought the Starks were badass, but their neighbors make them look like pansies. Everyone is huge, bearded, and fierce. But the loyalty of Eddard's bannermen was not a sure thing. Robb had to earn every bit, including having Grey Wind bite the fingers off Greatjon Umber's hand. All seem to hold honor, duty, and strength in high regard, the same qualities that doomed Eddard down south. Robb receives Sansa's letter, which is even more infuriating than her actions: it summons him to King's Landing so he can swear fealty to Joffrey to spare Eddard's life.

Bran goes to talk to Osha, the woman who tried to kidnap him a few chapters back. She's Stark-ified now, and dispensing cryptic northern wisdom. She warns that the old gods have no power down south, and that Robb is marching in the wrong direction. At that moment, naked Hodor comes sprinting out of woods. Hodor is the retarded giant stableboy. His "manhood swung long and heavy," and Osha comments, "now there's a big man." It's nice to see Martin isn't above penis humor, but it doesn't lighten the mood in Winterfell. Robb is leaving and may never return, and the two younger brothers remain crippled, Bran physically and Rickon psychologically.

Will the Starks get their happy ending? I hope Robb marches straight into the Red Keep. Remember when Joffrey said that sparring with tourney swords was a children's game? He told Robb to come see him with real steel. Well, he's coming now, and he brought the North with him.

_________________________________

Dany has been trying to get Khal Drogo to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, but he's not interested because they'd have to cross a huge sea. The Rock would sink to the bottom of the ocean and horses can't drink seawater. Dany goes to the Western Market, where someone tries to assassinate her with poisoned wine. Jorah saves her, but only because he's operating on threat level midnight -- he knows an attempt is coming. Afterward, Dany tries to make a dragon egg omelette by cooking them in the fire, but they don't hatch. However, the assassination attempt pisses off Khal Drogo enough for him to declare war on the Seven Kingdoms. Watch out Westeros, the Dothraki are coming!
Captain Hammer
40. Randalator
re: tree eggs

What? No one thought Eggplant...?
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
41. tnh
GRRM is playing with history from a lot of sources, not just the Wars of the Roses. Also, the magic isn't just laid on with a trowel. This is an integrated, organic creation. If there weren't dragons and magic in the background, the Wall and the united Seven Kingdoms of Westeros couldn't exist.

George was a well-known SF and fantasy author long before he went off to Hollywood.
wcarter4
42. Albino
My first thoughts for what tree eggs could be was truffles, mushrooms or maybe acorns? I guess it could be any vaguely egg-shaped thing that grows on a tree though.
Carolyn Hoffman
43. carolynh
Funny, but the magical subtlety Martin operates with here is one of the reasons why I like this series so much.

The world that Martin has created feels real to me in a way that isn't present is so much of fantasy. Now, don't get me wrong. I love fantasy. I read more fantasy than I read any other genre, but sometimes there's just so many dragons and wizards and sometimes it all becomes so unbelieveable that it can ruin the story for me. I like to believe in the characters I read about; I like to believe that their worlds make sense, and I enjoy the taste of magical elements. I'm just a bit weary of the peasant boy who's really the world's greatest wizard and the like.

Martin's world makes sense to me. The magic seems pretty real, too, and I like that it's not a heavy-handed element of the story (for once).
wcarter4
44. polishmagician
tree eggs are probably coconuts
wcarter4
45. EvilClosetMonkey
Well, how did the coconuts get there then? I'm betting on two swallows working in tandem.
wcarter4
46. userj
re: Magic
Just wanted to say, I understand where you're coming from, but I think you may be confusing GRRM trying to "hide" magic with his characters' inability to accept magic.

If you lived in a world that appeared to be governed by natural laws, and then you saw something that might be magic, how would you react? Well if you're like most people you would say "that's impossible - there must be some rational explaination." Hence, this ambivalent attitude towards magic that is held by the characters and subsequently communicated to the reader.

That's my interpretation anyway.

Still loving your rereads!!!
Mo -
47. Astus
Great work as per usual, Leigh. Enjoying seeing your reactions. I was in the same boat last year and it's nice to remember those feelings, haha.

@44 - That's what immediately came to mind on my end too.
wcarter4
48. fanganga
Everything seems to be playing right into Ilyrio's hands right now - Jorah's news provoked Robert to send the assassin and make it clear to Drogo that Robert's his enemy, and thanks to Littlefinger's insistence on doing the assassination on the cheap and Jorah's timely intervention the attempt won't set the Dothraki back any - it looks like Ilyrio and his mysterious friend are getting their war exaclty on schedule.

I've got to say, that I really dig the sense of mounting doom that's building up here - the fighting between the Lannisters and Starks looks to be a distraction, weakening them for the return of the Targaryens - and with the slow reveal of the REALLY FREAKY STUFF beyond the wall, it looks like that too's going to turn out to be a distraction from the ultimate threat.
wcarter4
49. SimoneWantsNeedle
The cookbook is coming:
http://innatthecrossroads.com/2011/09/30/cookbook-of-ice-and-fire/

Also, it took me awhile to pickup on the difference between wights and others, initally I thought they were names for the same thing. #JustSayin.
wcarter4
50. wcarter4
Is it so hard to believe that "tree eggs" are simply that--nuts such as pecans, coconuts and the like...?
wcarter4
51. nancym
Oops, I guess I'd better be careful here or get whited out. My previous comment @34 was not a spoiler, it was a guess- I have not read this series before. Back to lurking.
wcarter4
52. Wortmauer
nancym@51: My previous comment @34 was not a spoiler, it was a guess- I have not read this series before.
It can be hard to tell the difference when you guess correctly. Or even when you guess incorrectly — if the moderators aren't themselves intimately familiar with a series, and a post gets flagged for their attention, they more or less have to take people's word for whether something's a spoiler.

Don't take it personally. And don't go back to lurking! Well, of course you can lurk if you want, but don't lurk just because of the white-out.
Captain Hammer
53. Randalator
The moderators have said in one of the previous posts that they err on the side of caution, hiding spoilers even if they're just correct guesses voiced in a convinced way. Unfortunately that has the side effect of confirming the guesses and thereby spoiling the one who was guessing as well as anyone who read his/her musings so far...
Rob Munnelly
54. RobMRobM
Yes, NancyM, please keep the feedback coming. To paraphrase Shakespeare, be not afraid of white space. Some are born with white space, some achieve white space and some have white space thrust upon them. (Malvolio FTW).

Ultimately, these two chapters are just not that exciting and so we're having a mellow thread about spoilers and tree eggs (good grief). More exciting things to follow.

Rob
Juliet Kestrel
55. Juliet_Kestrel
I know I am late to the party lately, and I hate to do it, but I feel I must play the part of the botany police today (and you thought the grammar/spoiler police were annoying) I just cannot resist, and I apologize profusely.

Coconuts are not nuts. Botanically they are stone fruits, like peaches.

Truffles are mushrooms, and mushrooms are not plants.

Eggplants don’t grow on trees.

I’ve tried to think of what a tree egg might be, and I have no idea. My initial reaction was that the author meant literally eggs in trees, probably from songbirds like another poster up above mentioned. I tried to think of an edible item that grows on trees that resembles eggs and have come up short. Walnut was the closest I could come up with it. A shell that must be cracked with a large protein rich reward inside. But that isn’t really any more satisfying an answer than songbird eggs. Coconuts might work as there is liquid inside, but I don’t recall any mention of any type of palm. Maybe a date palm? Has anyone eaten dates in the story yet? Date palms are much more cold tolerant than coconuts which is probably important in a world with decade long winters.

Speaking of vegetation and temperature. Do we know how the continent Dany is on compares latitudinalially to Westeros? Dany’s lemon tree outside the red door speaks of much warmer climates than what we’ve seen of the seven kingdoms. But then Sansa likes lemon cakes. I believe I have put WAY too much thought into this and am going to stop now.
Rob Munnelly
56. RobMRobM
Juliet - Pentos (red door) is about the same lattitude as Kings Landing. KL is pretty far south in Westeros. Highgarden (Tyrells) and Dorne (Martell) are even farther south.
wcarter4
57. mazridin
pretty sure "tree eggs" are coconuts
wcarter4
58. Cheri
Look up "egg fruit tree" common in India and central america
Tabby Alleman
59. Tabbyfl55
"tree egg" to me, conjures the idea of anything that "hatches" into a tree: acorn, walnut, coconut, etc...

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