Oct 21 2011 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones, Part 29

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 29 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 59 (“Catelyn”) and 60 (“Jon”).

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 59: Catelyn

What Happens
As Robb’s army approaches the riverlands, Catelyn tries not to worry about all the other members of her family for whom she can currently do nothing. Her uncle Brynden has gone ahead to scout, and sends reports back that Lord Walder Frey has assembled a force of four thousand men, but is still holed up in his holdings at the Green Fork, which Catelyn thinks is typical of him (“Expect nothing of Walder Frey, and you will never be surprised”). Walder therefore holds the only viable crossing (a bridge called the Twins) over the river. She tells Robb that Walder has ties with the Lannisters despite being sworn to her father, but thinks that even Walder himself does not know which way he’s going to jump.

Brynden sends another message (via Theon Greyjoy) to report that he’s killed some of Tywin Lannister’s scouts, and vows they will not know when Robb splits his army; Brynden already plans to keep watch on the Twins to make sure Walder does not send a bird out to report it. Theon thinks Robb can take the Twins by force if necessary, but Catelyn counters that he can’t do it in time to prevent Tywin reaching them and attacking from the rear. Robb asks her what Ned would do, and she replies that he would find a way to cross, whatever it took.

Brynden himself returns the next day to report that Jaime has routed Catelyn’s brother’s army and taken Edmure captive, and the survivors are under siege at Riverrun. Robb curses Walder for blocking his way, and vows to “pull the Twins down around his ears if I have to.” Catelyn chides him sharply for thinking like “a sulky boy” instead of like a lord; chastened, Robb asks what she means, and she tells him the Freys have always been amenable to allowing crossings as long as they are paid their toll.

The army reaches the Twins, and it is immediately obvious to everyone that there is no way to take it by force. They are greeted by Walder Frey’s heir, Ser Stevron Frey, who invites Robb to dinner in the castle to explain his purpose there. The lords bannermen immediately all decry this as a trap, and hostilities are escalating until Catelyn loudly volunteers herself to go. Stevron agrees, and in exchange leaves his brother Perwyn with Robb as insurance.

Ninety-year-old Walder meets Catelyn in his castle surrounded by his twenty other living sons and veritable army of daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and bastards, as well as his sixteen-year-old eighth wife. He greets Catelyn rudely and bluntly, and shouts at his sons when they try to rebuke him for it. Catelyn tells him simply that they request passage to Riverrun, and asks Walder why he is not there; Walder lies that her “fool brother” lost to the Lannisters before the Freys had a chance to march. He then kicks all his family out to speak to Catelyn privately.

Walder sneers at her son’s army, and asks why he should help them instead of the Lannisters, even though he loathes Tywin for his haughty ways. He then tells her at length the ways in which the Tullys have insulted him as well. In doing so, he mentions that Jon Arryn had told him a year ago that his son Robert was to be fostered at Dragonstone with Stannis Baratheon.

Catelyn frowned, disquieted. “I had understood that Lysa’s boy was to be fostered with Lord Tywin at Casterly Rock.”

“No, it was Lord Stannis,” Walder Frey said irritably. “Do you think I can’t tell Lord Stannis from Lord Tywin? They’re both bungholes who think they’re too noble to shit, but never mind about that, I know the difference.”

Finally it gets down to haggling, and Catelyn returns to Robb at sunset to tell him that their passage is secured, as well as Walder’s gathered swords. In return, she has agreed to foster two of Walder’s grandsons at Winterfell, take on his son Olyvar as Robb’s squire – and that Arya and Robb are both to be married to one of his sons and daughters, respectively. Robb is not thrilled, but agrees, and Catelyn is very proud of him. She and Robb cross the river that night with the smaller part of the army, while the larger remains on the east bank under Roose Bolton’s command, who will continue south to engage Tywin’s forces.

For good or ill, her son had thrown the dice.

Twenty-one sons? Holy lack of motility issues, Batman!

Excuse me, I have to boggle quietly for a moment.

(and that’s not even counting the daughters holy crap)

Okay, I’m back.

Well, Walder Frey’s a cantankerous son of a bitch, that’s for sure (and his attitude toward women is SUPER SPECIAL, oh yeah), but it appears that he’s not particularly stupid, either. I agree with Catelyn that it’s shitty of him the way he plays fast and loose with his oaths, but he certainly knows how to squeeze a situation for the most possible benefit to himself. Which is a kind of virtue, I guess, in a depressing way. I guess that makes him the Gordon Gekko of the Seven Kingdoms, eh?

I entirely do not know what to make of Walder’s claim that Jon Arryn had intended to foster his son with Stannis and not Tywin, contrary to what Catelyn (and we) had been told before, but I do entirely know that it Means Something. That was like a giant red flag, the way that tidbit was tossed out here, that something is most definitely fishy in Denmark — or the Vale, as it were. The problem is that it’s been so long (from my perspective) since it’s been brought up, that I can’t remember — hmm.

Okay, I went back and checked some of my own previous posts, and it turns out we first learn of the plan to foster young Robert with Tywin from King Robert himself, who mentioned it to Ned when he first came to Winterfell, whilst complaining about Lysa’s nuttiness re: it. So I can only assume the plan was changed sometime between when Arryn talked to Walder and when he died. The question is, who changed it, and why does it matter?

I don’t know, but I’m sure that it does. Dun!

Catelyn is again awesome here, and once again proves what a fucking waste it is that she is barred from more than an honorary leadership role just because she doesn’t happen to have a penis. Not that Robb isn’t doing as well as can be expected, but by all rights Catelyn should be in command here, not him, in my opinion. God knows what would have happened if she hadn’t been there to correctly divine the most effective method by which to circumvent Lord Fossil McCrankypants — or if Robb hadn’t had the sense to listen to her (for which he gets major kudos from me).

That said, ouch. Arranged marriages are something of a bugaboo of mine, in that my opinion on them is most emphatically HELL TO THE NO. And yes, I recognize that in this type of setting, where marriages are just as much (if not more) about political maneuvering as they are about love and happiness and silly stupid stuff like that, that arranged marriages are only logical, yes, fine, whatever, I don’t care, they suck. So There.

But it especially epically sucks that Arya got roped into this one. Because Arya’s my awesome independent sword-fighting girl, and so in this case my HELL TO THE NO comes with a side of FUCK THAT with Tabasco sauce and arsenic on top.

Robb looked nonplussed. “Arya won’t like that one bit.”

I hereby nominate this for Likely Understatement of the Geological Age. Gee, Robb, you think?

Of course, who knows whether Arya will ever even be in a position to have to agree with me on the suckiness here, because assuming she isn’t dead (which she had BETTER NOT BE, MARTIN), if she has a lick of sense in my opinion she should currently be on a ship (or a wagontrain, or whatever) to Anywhere That Isn’t This Clusterfuck, at least for the nonce.

(Okay, fine, I’m sure she’s actually trying her damndest to get back to her family right now, and I don’t really blame her at all for that, but I kind of wistfully want her to say “screw this shit” and go off and be, like, a lady pirate or something. That would rock.)


Chapter 60: Jon

What Happens
Mormont asks Jon how his hand is healing from the severe burns he received from throwing the burning drapes on Othor, and Jon lies that he is fine, and tries to forget how he had dreamed that the corpse had had his father’s face. Mormont comments that there will be more of these creatures; summer is ending, and a winter “such as this world has never seen” is approaching. Jon asks for news, hoping to hear of his father, but Mormont tells him the recent messages concerned Ser Barristan Selmy, who is wanted for treason, and killed two of the watchmen sent to seize him before escaping. Jon knows there is more to it than that, for Sam had seen the letter to Aemon, and told him his half-brother Robb had called the banners and ridden south to war; Jon feels craven for not being there with him, and resentful that Mormont is keeping the information from him.

Mormont then presents Jon with a sword of exquisite workmanship, whose trappings had been destroyed in the fire and Mormont had had remade with a wolfshead on the pommel. Jon is shocked when Mormont tells him it is his family’s sword, called Longclaw, passed down for generations, and tries to refuse it, but Mormont tells him his own son is a traitor and insists he take it. Jon knows he should be honored by Mormont’s gift, and yet:

He is not my father. The thought leapt unbidden to Jon’s mind. Lord Eddard Stark is my father. I will not forget him, no matter how many swords they give me. Yet he could scarcely tell Lord Mormont that it was another man’s sword he dreamt of . . .

Mormont also tells him that he has sent Ser Alliser Thorne to King’s Landing, to show the new king Jafer Flowers’s severed hand in the hopes that it will spur Joffrey to aid in recruiting for the Black Watch, but Jon knows it was also for his sake as well. Mormont dismisses him, and Jon is accosted outside by his friends, who demand to see the sword. Jon tries to sound as pleased as he should, but thinks of the wights and how Flowers’s corpse had killed Ser Rykker and four others even after being decapitated, and excuses himself abruptly. He shows Ghost his new sword, and remembers how he had found the pup, alone because the others had pushed him away for being different.

Sam comes to tell him Maester Aemon has summoned him, and Jon divines that Sam has confessed to Aemon that he told Jon about the news about Robb, and leaves angrily. Aemon has him help feed the ravens raw meat, and asks him why he thinks the men of the Watch have no wives or children. Jon doesn’t know.

“So they will not love,” the old man answered, “for love is the bane of honor, the death of duty.”

Aemon asks that if Jon’s father had to choose between honor and those he loves, which would he choose? Jon hesitates, and then answers he would do “whatever was right.” Aemon replies that most are not so strong, and that the men of the Watch knew they could not have divided loyalties between family, and their duty to protect the realm from “the darkness to the north,” and thus have always stood aside from all the internecine strife of the Seven Kingdoms no matter who was involved. And now it is Jon’s turn to choose: love or honor?

Jon replies bitterly that Aemon could not understand, but Aemon counters that he has had to make that same choice three times now, most recently when his brother’s grandson and great-grandson and “even the little children” were slaughtered.

“Aemon… Targaryen?” Jon could scarcely believe it.

“Once,” the old man said. “Once. So you see, Jon, I do know… and knowing, I will not tell you stay or go. You must make that choice yourself, and live with it all the rest of your days. As I have.” His voice fell to a whisper. “As I have…”

Well, damn.

Old Aemon, a Targaryen. I was not expecting that!

I think that makes Aemon either an great-uncle or great-great-uncle to Dany, but I’m not sure, because (a) I’m avoiding the genealogy indices at the end of the book for fear of spoilers, and (b) I don’t even know how you define these things when siblings are marrying each other as a matter of course. Talk about your gnarly family trees….

I guess Hollywood has trained me well, because I was immediately indignant at Aemon’s declaration that love is the bane of honor. And even after his (really quite cogent) explanation of that statement, I still want to be all “But — but — love, maaaaaan!”

How can you not be down with love, I am apparently conditioned to protest? And yet, I do see his point. And of course, his relating it back to Jon’s father is not evenly slightly accidental, narratively speaking, since that just happens to be the exact dilemma Ned is currently faced with. Funny, that!

And I see Jon agrees with me that Ned will let honor win, but I’m really not sure which way Jon himself is going to jump. My feeling is that Jon’s being set up way too significantly to be stuck on the Wall for this whole series, but I can’t currently see how anything’s going to work out re: him being a Leader of Men if he’s also being hunted as a deserter and oathbreaker. Not to mention, how could he be of help to Robb or Ned that way anyway?

[Jon] had burned himself more badly than he knew throwing the flaming drapes, and his right hand was swathed in silk halfway to the elbow. At the time he’d felt nothing; the agony had come after. His cracked red skin oozed fluid, and fearsome blood blisters rose between his fingers, big as roaches.

OW OW OW. The worst burn I’ve ever received to date (*knocks on wood*) was a few years ago when my potholder slipped as I was taking a pan out of a 400˚F oven, and my thumb and part of my palm came squarely down on the grill underneath. (My life of danger, let me show you it.) That was no more than a second-degree burn, and yet it felt like my hand was still frying for almost a full day afterwards.

(I actually tried to go to sleep that night with my fist plunged into a pot of ice water, that’s how bad it hurt; as you can imagine, this approach did not work at all. On the, er, upside, you could play tic-tac-toe with my blister pattern, which was kind of hilarious. Later. Much, much later.)

My point is, if my wimpy little grill burn hurt as much as it did, I can only imagine what Jon’s burns felt like. Third-degree burns are supposed to be some of the most painful injuries it is possible to receive, and I believe it. Ow. Poor Jon.

But hey, at least he gets a Significant Sword in return! I do love me a weapon of symbolic portent, you guys. It is one of my very favorite fantasy tropes. It’s a shame Jon wasn’t really in the right headspace to fully appreciate the honor being bestowed upon him, but at least he wasn’t a dick about it. Mormont is so looking to replace traitor Jorah with a new son, you guys.

And now, of course, it is totally inevitable that Jon and Jorah will cross paths one day, and Jorah will be all WUT and Jon will be all YOU! and Jorah will be all MAH DADDYS SWORD ARGH JORAH SMASH, and happy dueltimes will ensue.

Or, you know, not. But that would be the logical thing to happen! Yes.

(My brain, ladies and gentlemen. Take a good look now, it’ll be gone soon!)

Um. What was I talking about? Oh, yes, swords. Can pommels of working swords really be made of stone? I’m hardly an expert, but I’ve read about a lot of swords in my day, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of one with a stone pommel before, so that made me blink a bit. Oh, well, it sounded cool, anyway.

And Thorne is gone! HOORAY. Now Jon won’t have to kill him! Very awesome. Of course, that also means that Mormont just hinged his recruiting hopes on Alliser goddamn Thorne, which has disaster written all over it, but I’ll take my silver linings where I can find them. Hit the road, Jack, and dontcha come back no more no more no more no more! Whee!

And of course Ser Barristan is still on the loose, hah. I still feel very sorry for him, but I confess I grinned when Mormont mentioned he’d killed two of the guys sent to catch him. Take that, Joffrey! Neener!

And last:

“Lord Mormont’s raven likes fruit and corn.”

“He is a rare bird,” the maester said. “Most ravens will eat grain, but they prefer flesh. It makes them strong, and I fear they relish the taste of blood. In that they are like men . . . and like men, not all ravens are alike.”

Mmm-hm. No meta commentary here, no sir!

And that’s what I got for this one, kids. So have a good weekend, and many mighty cheers to ya!

1. __Dan__
Do not be afraid of the Apendices, they never reveal any secret and are always updated with the information from the *last* book so you can consult them as you read.
2. andNowMyWatchBegins
OMG! things are rattling towards the finale and I cant wait to sit in you head for the ride! I've been fervently refreshing all morning to get this update and now the long wait for next week begins.

On the subject of love honor and duty. Martin challenges these Fantasy Hero tropes often to both keep us guessing and make us think what should and would come first in a given situation. Not to mention the consequenses of those choices (as counter to your Catelyn Praise the Tyrion arrest may have seemed right at the time but Damn if that wasnt a stupid mistake which put Ned in some hot Honour water)!

also: Pommel of stone, the pommel is TECHNICALLY only the bit at the bottom of the handle that stops the sword slipping out when you swing it with sweaty hands (also a counterweight) so it could easily be made from stone as long as the weight was right.

Anyone else have any GoT based plans for Halloween. I am going to be Jon Snow complete with mini white wolf plushie...Its gonna be awesome

Counting the days til the next update! cant wait! any chance of gdoing the last 4-6 chapters in a week or are you writing them just in time for release?
Sanctume Spiritstone
3. Sanctume
"Ninety-year-old Walder meets Catelyn in his castle surrounded by his twenty other living sons and veritable army of daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and bastards, as well as his sixteen-year-old eighth wife."

Yeah, he's a busy fellow.
Vincent Lane
4. Aegnor
If you remember, it was also brought up in the Vale that Stannis was chosen by Arryn to foster his son. It was right be for Bronn dueled Ser Vardis, some knight or other mentioned it and Catelyn tried to correct him, but then the fight started. The fact that it was mentioned twice always indicated to me that it was signaling that it was IMPORTANT.

I understood it as Arryn agreeing to foster him with Stannis, then Arryn dies, and Robert agrees to foster him with Tywin. As to why that is important...RAFO.
5. Belarion
Lord Frey's story about where Robert Arryn was to be fostered confirms what Maester Coleman told Catelyn in the Vale, that Catelyn didn't believe, I believe you commented on it in your Part 20 review.
Rob Munnelly
6. RobMRobM
Re the Sweetrobin fostering issue. No direct evidence, but likely course is that Jon Arryn and Stannis are together on the Small Council and reached an understanding that that time had come to send Sweetrobin to be fostered at Dragonstone. One can hypothesize that the arrangement had some connection to the secret that the two of them were jointly investigating relative to King Robert's "children." Perhaps Jon A. thought he's like to have his son fostered with the future lawful King of Westeros. Then, presumably, Jon rebuffed an inquiry from Lord Walder by pointing to the arragements that were already in process, giving him access to the deal. The question of how that scenario turns into the King reporting that Sweetrobin would be fostered at Casterly Rock and Lysa fleeing to the Aerie requires analysis, which can be made easier and more certain by knowedge of future events. As I have read forward, I decline to offer the appropriate analysis. Any newbie should feel free to dive in.

I love both the Walder and Aemonn chapters. Both made of awesome. I was shocked by the Aemonn revelation when I read this the first time. I had no idea Targs were not wiped out during Robert's rebellion.

By the way, to avoid geneology based spoilers: Aemonn's brother was the King Aegon). Aegon had a child (Jahaerys) who had a child (Aerys) who had a child (Danaerys). So, your great great uncle guess is correct by my reckoning.

Sam Brougher
7. Azuaron
Are you sure you haven't read the entire series? I won't tell you which of your statements is eerily accurate... but there is one.
Jeremy Goff
8. JeremyM
Leigh your commentary is so awesome it leaves me feeling all giddy and happy inside. I have to keep myself from laughing out loud while I read it at work. If I had to describe it in one word I would go with......Scrumtrulescent!

As for the post, I remember being shocked as well by Aemonn's reveal here. I also had a similar reaction to Arya's arranged marriage, because seriously...Fuck that (excuse my language). I haven't read the other books yet opting to read them as you do so I can only go along with your hope that she becomes a Pirate Queen.

Thanks for all the work you do here! Have a great weekend.
John Mann
9. jcmnyu
For me, Aemon's reveal that he is a Targaryen is most significant in that he was still alive. Robert hated the Targaryens so much he sent assassins to kill Dany a continent away. Robert wanted all Taregeryens dead, and Aemon is on the wall. Yet, because he took the vows, he is without a house, considered no threat, and ignored. That shows how seriously everyone, even enemies, takes being on the wall. He was the brother of a king. When you go to the wall, you cease to exist to the rest of the world.
Janet Hopkins
10. JanDSedai
re: the fostering of Sweetrobin
It is important to remember that the ruler in the Vale is Warden of the East, just as Eddard is Warden of the North. Tywin is Warden of the West. If he were fostering Robin, presumably that would put an inordinate amount of political power in Tywin's hands, especially since he will also be the King's Hand. The marriage of Jeoffry and Sansa would also give him leverage in the North; this is why the union still stands at this point. I can't recall who is Warden of the South; Highgarden or Dorne. Maybe that explains the plots about Marjory.
11. Lsana
One minor point: I seem to recall that thrid degree burns don't actually hurt because the nerves have been destroyed. It's second degree burns that hurt like no one's business.
Juliet Kestrel
12. Juliet_Kestrel
As much as I want Jon and Cat to meet up again, I don’t want it to happen YET. In my opinion Jon hasn’t leveled up enough yet. If he were to run away from the wall to meet up with Robb, Cat would be mean and “you can’t even be a black brother right” or something. Jon would turn her from competent politically savvy Cat, to claws out “why aren’t you the broken son?” Cat. I would like it best if he came to her as an up and up on the wall to save the day, not as a deserter.

I think a key problem with the Arya arranged marriage is the fact that no one knows where she is. At this point I don’t think anyone but Queen C is putting any resources into finding her. And Cearsi has no incentive to uphold a marriage contract between two rebel houses. And if Lord Frey were to flip flop his loyalties, because the Lannisters gained the upper hand, I doubt he would want his offspring married to a disgraced rebel house. Arya, however, is awesome, and I have full confidence that if she is caught by the Lannisters, she will be more than they bargained for. Otherwise she will escape and do some awesome on her own.

As to the little Robin fostering mystery, I am intrigued, but I am content to RAFO.
Juliet Kestrel
13. Juliet_Kestrel
@9 jcmnyu

Did King Rob even know that Aemon is a dragon? He never mentioned him in any of his anti Targ ranting. Aemon is supposed to be REALLY old, so it’s been a very long time since anyone thought about him. None of the Southern lords give a damn about the Wall. Also the Lannisters seem too politically ruthless to leave a member of the old ruling house alive, hence the baby killing. It’s not like Tywin or Queen C has expressed a great deal of respect for the Wall. I don’t think we have much evidence to decide what this important revelation really means yet. ::Shrugs::
Birgit F
14. birgit
It makes sense that there is a Frey married to a Lannister. If they all want to find a husband/wife, they have to marry into most noble houses. That might be the reason why they try not to take sides in conflicts. If they can convince everybody that they are on their side, there is a better chance that every house agrees to marry some Freys (especially if they need to cross the river).
tatiana deCarillion
15. decarillion
I attribute the discrepancies about who was to foster Robert to this: Arryn was happy to foster his child with Tywin, until he found out about the incest. Predicting there would be some fall-out against the Lannisters because of this, he changed his mind and decided to foster his child with the rightful heir to the Iron Throne: Stannis.

If there's more to it than that, well--I didn't pick up on it LOL
Captain Hammer
16. Randalator
I don't get the love vs. honor mumbojumbo. If I were in the Night's Watch why should I have any interest in getting myself killed defending a country that I have no stake in and that doesn't give a rat's ass about me?

Usually it's love that makes us give our lives if needed...
Stefan Mitev
17. Bergmaniac
I got to say I quite dislike the way Jon got his super awesome special named sword here. That sword was a family treasure belonging to the Mormonts for generations, even Jorah, who went so far as to sell slaves to get money, didn't sell it. Yet here his father gave it away just like that when he had a sister and nieces who should've gotten instead. This whole thing always felt was a contrived and implausible way to get Our Hero his ultra special sword.

Cat is great in her chapter, and I totally agree that she should've been in charge of the Starks instead of a 15 year old boy.
Matthew Watkins
18. oraymw
9: This is exactly right. Martin is showing us that everyone in the seven kingdoms thinks of the wall in this way. The whole kingdom is based on this idea that the wall is politically neutral, and that when someone goes to the wall, everything about them is forgotten. You can have hardened criminals on the wall, and that's fine because they took the black. You can have nobles who opposed the king on the wall, because they took the black.

Also, I think it's interesting that at least Robb considers what Arya thinks. You think old Tywin Lannister would ever have thought about how one of his daughters or sisters felt about an arranged marriage?

Also, Mormont's raven gives me the wiggins.

When I used to work in fast food, I was cleaning out one of the deep fryers, and I accidentally got my hands drenched in 400 degree fry oil. I have never felt anything so painful in my life. When it happened, I felt a brief pain, but immediately went into shock, which prevented me from feeling the complete pain. I was somewhat delirious, but I had my hands under cold water for something like 2 hours immediately afterward. I went to the doctor the same day, and he gave me this silver concentrate stuff to put on my hands, which if sunlight touches it, it gives you a permanent black tatoo :( So my hands were bandaged for something like two weeks, I can't remember precisely. The worst part is that they literally felt like they were on fire for that entire time. I slept with my hands in a bucket of ice water every night (sleep having a subjective meaning).

When the skin started to peel, it was incredibly painful. It came off in sloughs of burnt skin, exposing the bright red raw sking underneath. I actually had very little scarring, simply because my entire hand was burnt, so the first few layers of skin all had to come off of my hand, and they all did so within a short period of time.

In any case, I sympathize with Jon. Grrm is absolutely right that the worst part is the nightmares. Since you don't really sleep, only get snatches of about 30 minutes or so, you end up with these bizarre, intense and extremely disturbing nightmares. I kept having dreams of the actual incident, but I also dreamed of people holding me down while they poured the hot oil on me.

Just for some context on burning yourself...
Vincent Lane
19. Aegnor

Only one problem with that, I don't think there has been any indication that Arryn ever intended to foster Robin with the Tywin. I believe that was Robert's idea after Arryn had already died.
Vincent Lane
20. Aegnor

While with todays sensabilities that makes perfect sense, in the time period of the story, or at least the time period it is trying to emulate, such a thing would just not be done. If there was no male in the line of succession, than ok (such as the case with Mormont), but there is no way the wife of a deceased lord would take over.
21. JoeNotCharles
Aegnor @20: that's true for most of Westeros, but Bear Island actually is currently being ruled by women, Maege Mormont. Also we're talking about Jorah's sister, not his wife.

About Aemon Targaryen: as with Old Nan's story about the White Walkers, the TV show absolutely nailed this scene, and it needs to be seen:
22. sofrina
@20 - the story is at least internally consistent. lysa arryn takes over the same way cersei takes over as joffrey's regent. they're both in charge until their sons come of age.

@14 - really? it seems that all of the noble houses, and their bannerman, look down on the freys. it would appear that no one wants to wed to them for a number of reasons, mostly stemming from lord walder's personality. i don't see the 'golden lions' being eager to join forces with that lot. if little arya won't be happy, imagine what some ravishing cersei-type would think. isn't the crux of lord frey's complaint that no one will marry his heirs?

@12 - "Arya, however, is awesome, and I have full confidence that if she is caught by the Lannisters, she will be more than they bargained for. Otherwise she will escape and do some awesome on her own."

i'm not so sure. the more i consider the way in which sansa has been isolated by the lannisters, the more i believe that arya would never last in the same situation. sansa is learning to use her up bringing to say on the right side of the lannisters. it's her best protection in this situation. arya...seems too young and too feisty to adopt this kind of behavior even as cunning. i tend to think that if arya winds up hostage to the crown, she will provoke king joffrey to murder her.

just my opinion.

also, maester aemon is so elderly, that i think the only ones who remember who he is are the maester's of the citadel. people on the wall aren't completely forgotten. they are in regular contact with the citadel and with king's landing. the problem is that it has been so many eons since anything came from beyond the wall that few living people are learned enough to appreciate it's necessity. so the numbers of noble volunteers decreased, the towers fell into disrepair, their funding dwindles, the wall itself begins to weaken. just when it looks like nothing will ever happen, here comes an unimaginable winter and a slew of others ready to stage a landing on westeros.
Don Barkauskas
23. bad_platypus
Bergmaniac @17: I think it ties in with Sam's analysis about Mormant's training Jon for command. He sees Jon as a son and potential successor, so with no (suitable) male heirs, it doesn't seem unnatural for him to give Jon the blade as a sort of adopted son. It might be a little early in the relationship for this, but I don't think it's that out of place.

oraymw @18: Yikes!
24. Wortmauer
Oh man, you didn't quote my favorite line!
Her father had once said of Walder Frey that he was the only lord in the Seven Kingdoms who could field an army out of his breeches.
Come on, that's hilarious. And (maybe it's just me) so is Lord Walder, the Late Lord Frey. One of GRRM's most fun characters. He's not witty like Littlefinger or Tyrion, but he sure has the "irascible old person who doesn't see why he should let anyone half his age tell him anything" act down.

The 21 sons and numerous daughters is not so improbable, given he's been married to women presumably of childbearing age for the past 70 years or so. Probably some twins in there; it's his House sigil, after all. Heh. But the outliving 7 wives part is a bit of a stretch, if not outright suspicious. If he's had 7 wives over about 70 years, and his brides averaged 25 years old when they got married, their life expectancy was around 35. Sure, that can happen once or twice, but gosh, as an average of seven? If two of his wives lived to the ripe old age of 50, the other five had a life expectancy of 30.

Count me with Leigh that Robb having to accept not one but two arranged marriages was kinda disturbing. Made me sit back and think about noble privilege. They've got cushy lives, they're up there in what the whiny class is now calling "the 1 percent," but dang, having to marry for politics? Or in this case, not even for politics, but for military logistics? And the Freys don't seem particularly respectable, the Starks will definitely be marrying down.
25. MaestressSands
Re: burns. Omg, an oil burn on my right lateral ring finger was the most painful thing I've experienced in recent memory. All i wanted was to keep it on ice, for i dont know how many days. So yeah, terrible means of injury. It wasn't anywhere near as extensive as oraymw's burn. Medically, I'm 99.999% sure the previous statement about third degree burns being painless, while logical, is inaccurate. Fire/oil/chemicals/whatever don't burn off external tissue uniformly or neatly, so you have mixed levels of tissue remaining. Plus, nerves are not just located in your skin; sensory nerves take many routes to get from your spinal column to whatever they innervate, and their courses can be rather tortuous. Also, while skin is our most sensitive sensory organ, we have innervation of varying degrees to most tissues. Unless it's your brain (no sensation) or in your abdomen (diminished, vague sensation), it's innervated. Not all by sensory nerves, but somewhat.

Anyways... I remember I didn't take Arya's "betrothal" seriously on first read. She's on her own, far from family and supposed-betrothed. And, I mean, it's Arya! So I breezed right by that one.

But I was no where near as disciplined on avoiding spoilers as Leigh - the revelation of Aemon's heritage was so amazing to me that I spent who knows how much time afterwards digging through the book and reliable-website genealogies until I came up with a complete (as possible) Targaryen family tree. ...Which I eventually expanded to the rest of the characters in the series. ...And imported heraldry images for. ...But no, I'm not obsessive.

Debbie Solomon
27. dsolo
I can see where someone like Walder Frey would wear out a few wives. Prior to the advent of modern medicine, childbirth was one of the leading causes of death in young women. Delicate young noble women were the preferred mate, but were not exactly hardy stock (Cersei and Catelyn excepted). Multiple pregnancies over a few years would wear out many women (keeping in mind, there are 21 sons, and an unknown number of daughters). Walder doesn't strike me as the type to take a women's health or needs into consideration. And no, he is not fun.
Rob Munnelly
28. RobMRobM
Miscellaneous thoughts now that I have more time.

- The Blackfish remains a cool character.
- Catelyn's thought about Robb: "Did you teach him wisdom as well as valor, Ned? ... Did you teach him how to kneel?" Another echo of Ned's current situation.
- Love the way Cat considers herself to be lying to her son as she claims confidence in able to get a deal and her personal safety while there. Pretty good picture of how she views Lord Walder, that.
- "Lady Stark wants to talk to me in private. Maybe she has designs on my fidelity." LOL. Very dry.
- Agree with Wort that the fielding an army out of his breeches line is amusing.
- Referring to Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers, as "Ser Daisy they call him, something like that." LOL!
- "The rest was only haggling." Perhaps my favorite line of the chapter.
- Note that the two grandsons named Walder are the same two he was trying to foist on the Arryns.
- Arya gets assigned a specific Frey - Elmar, the youngest son. Robb gets to choose: "He has a number he thinks might be suitable." Perhaps my second favorite line of the chapter. (I don't want to do many comparisons to the HBO show, but Cat's delivery of this line in the show, and the verbal and nonverbal responses of Robb and Theon, are priceless.)
- Isn't it awesome that Selmy got away? At least someone with honor will get out of Kings Landing.
- I love Sam - passing along illicit backchannel info to Jon "all the time saying that he shouldn't." So Sam-like....

- Mormont is awesome in his handling of Jon.
- Love that everyone but Jon knows he is getting Longclaw.
- The loss of Jeremy Rykker was a big deal. He was one of the senior rangers. The fact that a wight killed Rykker and four others -- and, due to Jon's action, no one died from Other was a big factor in earning Jon the sword.
- From a writer's standpoint, loved the long lead in to the honor discussion. Showed that Jon was savvy enough not to rush Aemon.
- "Yet soon or late in in every man's life comes a day when it is not easy, a day when he must choose." "And this is my day...." Beautifully written.
- Love when Emo Jon shows up, just for a line or two, until Aemon brings him back in line.
- Here's the thought question: when Aemon is telling Jon to choose, does he, in heart, want Jon to choose the Watch or to abandon it for his family obligations. This was a hot debate on a TV show website, with a bunch arguing the latter position - that Aemon regretted staying. I don't have an answer.

In sum, two really well crafted chapters, with sharp 90 - plus year olds playing vital roles and both echoing Ned' s ethical dilemma. Well done, GRRM.

Other notes -

- In the discussion above, Lord Mormont certainly could have given the sword to his sister Maege. But the discussion states that Maege got it from Jorah gave it to him while at the Night's Watch - evidently, she didn't expect to get it back. Probably ok for him to give it away.
@19 - not Robert's idea, Cersei's idea. And wouldn't Sweetrobin have made a lovely hostage to deter Lysa from spreading any nasty rumors she may have heard from her suddenly dead husband. Imagine that. Quelle coicidence.

@20 - Maege, now the Lady of Bear Island, is Lord Mormont's sister, not Jorah's sister.

I'm sure some of us mentioned the Dunk and Egg stories set 80 or so years earlier in the days of the Targaryens, but one of the minor funny bits is that Walder Frey shows up in one as a toddler.

29. AO
Childbirth still kills many women worldwide. I haven't seen recent stats, but I remember a 1992 World Health Organization Report which stated that on average a woman dies every minute somewhere in the world due to complications from pregancy or childbirth. Hopefully the spread of medical care has reduced that, but with subsequent population growth it's possible that the situation is still as bad, or even worse.
30. MaestressSands
Regarding childbirth as COD for many Mrs. Walder Freys... I've actually always heard that in a medieval-type environment, noble women are likely to be healthier than other classes. They're more likely than anyone else to have had proper nutrition their whole lives. Off hand, I can see this helping in terms of reducing anemia at the very least, not to mention their social status helping in terms of assistance, access to clean birthing supplies, etc.

But yeah, childbirth is a big killer if you don't have antibiotics or surgical options.
31. Megaduck
@ Leigh "(Okay, fine, I’m sure she’s actually trying her damndest to get back to her family right now, and I don’t really blame her at all for that, but I kind of wistfully want her to say “screw this shit” and go off and be, like, a lady pirate or something. That would rock.)"

The problem with this idea is that Martin tends towards deconstructions of fairy tale tropes. He takes them out of a fairy tale and puts them into the 'Real' world. So while Young Female Nobility running away from home onto a Pirate Ship might seem cool in theory, Martin would then proceed to show us all the myriad of ways it could go badly wrong.

@24 Wortmauer "they're up there in what the whiny class is now calling "the 1 percent," "

While I appreciate that everyone has different opinions, can we please try to not inject real world politics onto this board? Especially not in an inflammatory fashion.
Philbert de Zwart
32. philbert
Note that if Jon were to go to Robb's side, Robb would have to kill him as an oathbreaker. And being his lord father's son, he would.
33. SerenaButler
Has anyone noticed the WOT reference in ASOIAF? "Archmaester Rigney once wrote that history is a wheel... What has happened before will perforce happen again, he said."
34. fanganga
I find it funny that Leigh's saying that Jon's too important to be stuck on the wall - it contrasts so much with the impression I formed by this point in the book that the story was going to come north to meet Jon - we know about the ice zombies, and the primary viewpoint character so far (Ned) has just been offered a chance to take the black.
Rob Munnelly
35. RobMRobM
@34 - precisely.

@33 - ROFL. I didn't see that.

@32 - certainly should pose a problem. Jon better have a go between to clear the way before he strolls into camp.


And, as per custom, here is the relevant entry on the Blog of Ice and Fire. Pretty funny this week, especially in the Frey is Hugh Hefner comparison.

Walder Frey is the Hugh Hefner of the Seven Kingdoms. He's old, he has
many wives, he's slow, and everyone operates on his time. His castle is
called "the Twins," presumably due to his love of boobs. I'm calling it
right now, once the war is over, Lord Frey is going to start up the
first major porn magazine, rated NC-8. That's right, children under the
age of eight won't be able to read it -- the harshest, most stringent
rating ever given in Westeros. Question: What's the best way to cross
the Twins? Answer: a motorboat. Haha.

Lord Hefner has
quite an ego, taking a page from George Foreman's book and naming all
his sons after himself. He wisecracks that Catelyn just wants to get him
alone because she has "designs on his fidelity," and makes her jump
through all the requisite hoops to make him feel big and important. It
seems Walder and Hoster are not the best of friends, and in the only
measuring stick that matters (number of sons), Cat's father simply
doesn't have enough. Walder Frey must be a medical marvel to be able to
still make sons at the age of ninety, and he is unimpressed by just
about everything. But in the end, all it took to secure safe passage
was a marriage pact between Robb and one of Walder's many daughters.
Just like that, the northern host crosses the equator. To the south lies
lions, battles, and Robb Stark's first real test.


hears that Robb is marching south, and that the rest of his half-family
is either preparing for battle or already captured. Jon relives his
battle with zombie Othor at night when he dreams about the undead corpse
with Eddard's features, and during the day when he endures the pain of
his burned and bandaged arm. It must be quite "hard" for him, to
forswear women and also lose usage of his right hand. But Emo Jon
doesn't return, because the Lord Commander gives him House Mormont's
prize Valyrian steel sword "Longclaw." It was meant for Jorah but we all
know he's kind of a loser, so Jon gets it instead. While a flamethrower
would be more useful, the sword is an awesome, well-deserved gift.

Jon's friends are impressed and clearly jealous, but then again they
never had to fight zombies. Sam even had a greatsword named "Heartsbane"
once. But rearrage that name and you get "he eats Bran," so Jon
shouldn't let Sam near his little brother. At least not when Sam is
hungry. Jon goes to MC Aemon, and they have a
heart to heart chat about decisions. You see, MC Aemon isn't just a
blind man. He's the brother or uncle or whatever of the Targaryen kings
that Robert hates. He's the Master Emo that even Jon can respect --
Aemon went from royalty and dragons to books and ravens without making
even one blog post. And he says its Jon's decision to make; to stay or
go. I think he'll stay. How much help could one extra bastard sword be
36. carolynh
@34fanganga: That was how I read this chapter my first time through the book, too. My take was that the Wall would be become the central location of the story, along with Winterfell, and that King's Landing and the action there was just background material for the action on the Wall. So it made sense to me that Ned would come north to the wall. After the Aemon /Jon exchange, I was sure having a Targaryen on the Wall would cause all manner of difficulties at some point. As well as the gift of the sword to Jon.
37. sofrina
@32 - i seriously doubt robb would behead jon. they are close, almost twins. i'm not even sure catelyn would insist on it for her all her determination to keep jon from staking a claim on robb's throne. i think robb would find a way to make a new rule to at least delay such a ruling. but it is up to him.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
38. tnh
Serena Butler @33: Sure, I noticed it. Shout-outs aren't all that rare. Writers are forever tucking odd things into their books.
Philbert de Zwart
39. philbert
@37: but Robb's a Stark. Starks do their duty no matter what. What's more, he is currently at the head of all of his bannermen watching. What would he say? I'm going to not follow this 5000 year old law because ehm... he's my bastard half brother? He would look to be weak-willed and to be playing favoritism.
40. Wortmauer
SerenaButler@33: Has anyone noticed the WOT reference in ASOIAF?
I never noticed that one. The better known one is buried in the appendix. The banners of House Martell (whose lands are, of course, on the eastern seaboard of the Deep South of Westeros) include one House Jordayne. In A Feast for Crows, the appendix is more explicit: Lord Trebor Jordayne of the Tor (with all the Robbs and Roberts in Westeros, go figure that Lord Jordayne is a Trebor).
Rob Munnelly
41. RobMRobM
And to make it even more explicit, Jordayne's castle is called the Tor - no doubt a famililar name on this website.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
42. tnh
Serena, Wortmauer, RobM: I was also thinking of oddments like his mention of banner devices featuring blue beetles and green arrows, and his trio of characters named Lharys, Mohar, and Kurliket. A Song of Ice and Fire has no shortage of them.

This is a known thing that authors do, as witness the photograph of Buzz Aldrin in Gene Wolfe's Shadow of the Torturer, the Mercedes-Benz hood ornament in Jordan's The Shadow Rising, or Roger Zelazny in Isle of the Dead mentioning that a planet's three moons are named Flopsus, Mopsus, and Kattontallis.

My favorite is from Neil Gaiman's Sandman, "The Wake", where Bhartari Raja says that he is "presently living under the name of Silas Tomken Cumberbatch." When Samuel Taylor Coleridge got into difficulties while at university, he ran off and joined the 15th Light Dragoons under the name "Silas Tomkin Comberbache", so his initials would match the ones already on his bag. I neither know nor care how many readers caught that reference, but it made me laugh out loud.
43. sofrina
@39 - well, this scenario supposes that jon snow, also a stark, would abandon his duty to even create this conflict for robb. i don't think he'd do it without considering what his brother would truly do in light of the law. at the same time, i can't see why the lords bannerman would care so much. ned means so much even his bastard son came to his defense. they have much bigger concerns than this.
Kevin Maroney
44. womzilla
A little bit of Googling lead me to an article from the Journal of Legal History on the legal age of majority for European monarchs, which obviously varied over a wide range of nations over a thousand-year span. I was surprised at how widespread 17 and 18 were, especially in northwestern Europe in the late medieval era. So Robb taking on the duties of his House is a bit precocious if you think of Westros as War of the Roses-era England, but I think you would agree that the circumstances are fairly extreme.

There's also some indication within the novel that the concept of majority is generally at a low age in Westros--the coronation of Joffrey, some of the treatment of Sansa, the fact that Jon Snow is packed off to the Wall at 16, the pressure on Bran to start thinking like an adult and on Ricon to not act like a baby (at 4!). What we think of as "just a 16-year-old" is "a newly minted adult" there.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
45. tnh
I can't remember -- does GRRM ever specify how many days there are in a year?
46. Giacomo
Nothing about Sir Barristan walking out of the throne UNARMED and still killing two guards, getting away so effectively they send to the Wall for information, and he's an old man (yes, a jouster and kingsguard) - Does this not count as a Moment of Awesome?
I just wish we'd gotten to see it.
47. Giacomo
Also, Pommel = pummel. The pommel of the sword was used to bash helmets and heads. It was a common move and the word pummel came out of it. Stone works for the counterweight aspect, but might be a little weak (compared to steel) for smashing plate armor.
Hugh Arai
48. HArai
tnh@42: A little off topic, but your Sandman comment reminded me you had a couple of Sandman reread posts on a while back. I enjoyed them a lot. Any chance of more some day in the future? Apologies if I'm bringing up something you've covered too many times before...
Marcus W
49. toryx
Just as an off-hand note, GRRM has an agreement with some company to have reproductions of various swords from the series made in limited production runs. I just happen to have Longclaw hanging up in my home office. Sadly, the pommel isn't made of stone (I don't think) but it sure looks nice there on the wall.

I hear that Ice is even more badass.
Juliet Kestrel
50. Juliet_Kestrel
Lev Grossman also put many of these real world fiction tidbits into his work The Magicians. The one most appropriate to this comment board is the name of the grass field outside the wizard college “The Sea” in reference to the Dothraki sea. In fact, he wrote an article for pointing out the rest of them.
Juliet Kestrel
51. Juliet_Kestrel
Lev Grossman also put many of these real world fiction tidbits into his work The Magicians. The one most appropriate to this comment board is the name the grass field outside the wizard college “The Sea” in reference to the Dothraki sea. In fact, he wrote an article for pointing out the rest of them. I tried to post the link, but I forgot how eats links. So just search for Lev Grossman on tor’s main page it will come up.
52. Dragonara
The sword given to Jon is made of Valyrian steel. The closest thig to a magic sword in GRRM's world. It will cut armor that normal swords will bounce off of.

If memory serves (it has been a long time) the only other Valyrian sword we have seen yet is Eddard Stark's Ice.
Rob Munnelly
53. RobMRobM
@52. We just saw a reference to the Tarly's Valyrian sword in the last chapter. I also believe the dagger used in the Bran attack was made of Valyrian steel, coupled with a dragonbone handle. Agree that I don't recall others at this point. Arthur Dayne's sword (discussed in a Ned flashback dream) is of a special material (meteorite?) but not Valyrian steel.

@49 - you and Sheldon from Big Bang Theory have similar tastes, safe to say.
54. Dragonara
Yes! Forgot about the dagger.

Valyrian steel was made using lost technology / magic before the DOOM consummed that city. Lighter, far stronger and sharper than normal steel.

That means Longclaw (and Ice) is truly irreplacable - one hell of a gift.
Marcus W
56. toryx
RobM @ 53:

That's right, I'd heard about that. I don't watch the show myself but I'm always glad to hear mention of ASoIaF on other media sources.
Tom Feltes
57. tomf
RobM@55: Agreed. *twitch*

GoT was also referenced in Parks & Rec. I'd heard about the mention in BBT in advance and watched, then caught the one in P&R as serendipity. Love when that happens...

YouTube, Find video "ToMbp7VgoRc". Yeah, that's what I feel like sometimes...
Rob Munnelly
58. RobMRobM
It's GOT all the time this Fall. Castle and Greys Anatomy has references as well. But having Longclaw permanently displayed on the wall of Sheldon's apartment set (where apparently it is now) is a significant step up in magnitude.
Bill Stusser
59. billiam
One thing I have'nt seen any else comment on, Longclaw is a 'hand and a half sword', also known as a 'bastard sword'. So that makes it an appropriate sword for Jon.
60. Seven
Leigh, you also didn't count Walder's bastards. How very Catelyn of you.
62. jayar
Again, spam filters caught my link I tried to post so interested ppl can 'google' it. But anyways, concerning the multiple progeny of a monarch has real parallels - King Saud (of Saudi Arabia, duh) had over 100 children (legitimate) so Walder was a piker.
63. CarpeComputer
@ 53 Wait, so you say that the dagger used for the attempted assasination of Bran was both Valyrian steel and dragon bone... and Littlefinger suggests to THROW IT INTO A RIVER?!

I guess that is one (more) time the Starks were/would be better off not listening to him...
64. niner
Jon didn't say Ned would choose honor. He said he'd do the right thing. And in the situation Ned is actually in, there is a difference. This is a place where honor and duty don't necessarily mean the same thing, IMO. He has a duty, as a father (and a good one at that), to protect his daughters, and the only way to do that is to throw his own honor under the bus.
And just as a sidenote, I really like how accurately Martin describes getting a 3rd degree burn. It doesn't hurt right at the moment because the nerve endings are cauterized. It's the next day that is horrifying.

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