Feb 10 2012 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 6

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 6 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapter 11 (“Theon”), and Chapter 12 (“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 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 11: Theon

What Happens
Theon admires his father’s castle from aboard ship, as well as the comet in the sky, which he thinks is for him, before taking the ship’s captain’s daughter below to bed her as he had been the entire voyage, though he thinks she is stupid and unattractive. She asks him about the Iron Islands, and Theon tells her they are bleak and unforgiving; he is not surprised the ironmen turned to raiding. She offers to go with him and be his “salt wife” (as opposed to his “rock wife,” or true bride), but he ignores her in favor of teaching her how to give a blowjob, and thinks to himself that those days when the ironmen kept the Old Ways are long gone.

It had been to bring back the Old Way more than for the empty vanity of a crown that Lord Balon had staged his great rebellion. Robert Baratheon had written a bloody end to that hope, with the help of his friend Eddard Stark, but both men were dead now. Mere boys ruled in their stead, and the realm that Aegon the Conqueror had forged was smashed and sundered. This is the season, Theon thought as the captain’s daughter slid her lips up and down the length of him, the season, the year, the day, and I am the man.

He brushes off the daughter cruelly and goes above, noting how the damage from the rebellion had been repaired, and also that there are a large number of longships in port, including his father’s. He wonders if his father could possibly have anticipated his message from Robb, or if he was just taking precautions. He is surprised that no one from the keep is there to welcome him, but then a priest of the Drowned God announces he is there to escort Theon, and Theon recognizes his uncle Aeron Greyjoy. Aeron is cold, unlike the merry man Theon remembers, and forces him to kneel and reconsecrate himself to the Drowned God on the spot.

Aeron tells him that his mother is living elsewhere for health reasons, and his sister Asha is carrying messages for their father on her ship Black Wind. He also mentions that he, Aeron, almost drowned, and upon surviving found it had “washed my follies and my vanities away.” Theon tries to find out why his father is gathering the ships, but Aeron says they are forbidden to speak of it; Theon insists that he is his father’s heir and entitled to the information. Aeron replies, to Theon’s shock, that that is yet to be determined.

“You have forgotten more than you know. And you are a great fool if you believe your lord father will ever hand these holy islands over to a Stark. Now be silent.”

Incensed, Theon insists to himself that Theon had never been part of the Stark family or accepted by them, though he admits to a certain amount of affection for Robb. Aeron drops him off at Pyke unceremoniously and leaves. No one is there to greet him except an elderly servant, who shows him to a suite of dank and unaired rooms. His attempts to get the servants to bring him amenities meet with limited success, but he eventually dresses in his finest clothes and goes to meet his father in the Sea Tower.

His father Balon is not any more welcoming than Aeron, and mocks Theon’s fancy clothes; he tears off the gold chain Theon wears, which Theon had forgotten was against tradition for ironmen to wear unless they took it off the corpses of their enemies. Balon comments that he’d vowed to live to see Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon dead, and now he has, but takes no joy in it. He mocks Theon for being “the Stark pup’s” errand boy, but Theon insists that the offer Robb’s letter outlines was Theon’s idea, and that if implemented could bring down even Casterly Rock. Theon opines that he could lead the attack himself, and asks for Casterly Rock as his reward for success.

“The pup says nothing about a reward. Only that you speak for him, and I am to listen, and give him my sails and swords, and in return he will give me a crown.” His flinty eyes lifted to meet his son’s. “He will give me a crown,” he repeated, his voice growing sharp.

“A poor choice of words, what is meant is—”

“What is meant is what is said. The boy will give me a crown. And what is given can be taken away.”

He throws Robb’s letter into the fire, backhands Theon, and tells him no man gives him a crown; he will take it. Angered, Theon retorts he will only be king until the victor of the wars bothers to take note of it. Balon laughs and replies he gathers the ships, but not for the boy Robb, nor to attack the Lannisters, which he regards as futile.

No. I hunger for a different plum . . . not so juicy sweet, to be sure, yet it hangs there ripe and undefended.”

Where? Theon might have asked, but by then he knew.

Argh, where?

Rassa frassa goshdurn stupid cliffhanger chapter endings blarg.

King’s Landing would be my guess, but who the hell knows. I imagine I’ll find out in due time, grumble mumble.

So the Greyjoys are delightful people. Really just super special awesome, oh yes. I want to go live with them RIGHT NOW. Their castle is totally my next spa vacation destination.

Yeah, well. I will try to contain my shock to find that they do not spew glitter and rainbows at every juncture, in keeping with, uh, everyone else in the series thus far. ASOIAF: Not A Significant Daily Source Of Glitter. Whoda thunk it.

Anyway! So I thought Theon was a jerk pretty much from the moment I met him, and getting to be in his head… does not change that much, really. I have a certain amount of sympathy for him and his caught-between-worlds-ness, but if I were him I’d take being the Starks’ hostage over being Balon’s son any day. However, family being what it is, it’s not like logic has a great deal to do with it.

Enh, Theon’s probably screwed either way: his father thinks he’s all squishy and Stark-like now (and really, the idea that anyone could find the Starks soft is utter crazypants if you ask me) and will probably cut him out of whatever victories the Greyjoys may or may not procure, and Robb will be after Theon’s head the moment he breaks his word and fails to come back.

Assuming he does that, of course; it’s possible Daddy Dearest will manage to be enough of a dick to him – God knows he started trying from the moment Theon set foot in the joint – that Theon will come to see the light and go back to Robb. One can hope, anyway.

War was an ironman’s proper trade. The Drowned God had made them to reave and rape, to carve out kingdoms and write their names in fire and blood and song.

I doubt the parallel is meant to be one-to-one, but there is certainly a very strong flavor of the Vikings of old in the Iron Islands’ culture as described by Theon, whose view may be a little warped by childhood idolization and nostalgia, but probably not by all that much. Rape and pillage and institutionalized piracy, oh my! Just my idea of fun.

Although I couldn’t help but notice that apparently Theon’s sister Asha gets to have her own ship (her own PIRATE ship, hello), and could even theoretically be allowed to inherit her father’s demesne, which suggests some interesting inconsistencies in the ironmen’s otherwise apparently atrocious cultural practices re: women. Although Balon’s contemptuous-seeming comment about Asha (“My daughter has taken an axe for a lover”) seems to suggest her situation is not typical, so maybe not.

(I mean, I’m assuming I’m not supposed to interpret that remark literally. …Right?)

Or maybe they’re just atrocious to women who aren’t, er, ironmen. Ironwomen. Whatever. You know you’re analyzing a grim culture when you have to seriously consider whether murderous xenophobia trumps galloping misogyny or not.

“What is dead may never die,” his uncle echoed, “but rises again, harder and stronger.”

…Um, I am detecting that there is maybe, possibly, a logic flaw or two in that credo?

Or the Greyjoys worship frozen zombies, one of the two. Whee!


Chapter 12: Daenerys

What Happens
The Dothraki call the comet shierak qiya (the Bleeding Star), and mutter it is a bad omen, but Dany is convinced it is to herald her coming, and show her where she must go. Doreah quails and tells her the way it points leads to the red lands, a grim and terrible place, but Dany is sure, and in any case, there is no other direction her weak khalasar can safely travel. Jorah warns her that her three dragon hatchlings are “beyond price,” and anyone who sees them will want them. Dany thinks of everything and everyone she has lost, and declares she will die before losing her dragons.

The red lands are as harsh as advertised, and soon the old and weak in her party begin dying off, horses and people both, as their supplies run low, and even the healthy become gaunt as the days pass. Dany discovers that the dragons will only eat cooked meat, and marvels as they grow bigger and stronger. She explains to her bloodriders her names for the dragons: the green is Rhaegal, for her valiant older brother, the gold Viserion for Viserys, who she says was cruel and weak, but his dragon “will do what he cannot.” The black dragon she names Drogon.

A third of the khalasar dies as they travel, including her serving girl Doreah, and just as Dany begins to lose hope they come upon an abandoned city in the desert, which provides them with food, water and shelter, though the Dothraki fear that it is haunted. The first night in the city, Jorah comes to visit her, and tells her the story of his second wife Lynesse, and how his mad love for her eventually drove him to ruin and exile, as he tried to keep her in the style to which she was accustomed and which Jorah could not afford. She left him for a merchant prince in Lys. Dany is saddened by the story, and asks what Lynesse looked like; Jorah replies that she looked like Dany, and leaves. Dany realizes that Jorah is in love with Dany too, but cannot imagine giving herself to another man besides Drogo. She vows to give Jorah back his home and honor instead.

She sends Aggo, Rakharo, and Jhogo out in different directions to find whatever may be found near them while the rest of the khalasar recuperates in the city. Aggo and Rakharo return relatively quickly, and report nothing but barren wasteland and more abandoned cities; Jhogo returns last, coming from the southeast, and brings three strangely-garbed riders, two men and a woman, from a city called Qarth. The strangers introduce themselves as “Pyat Pree, the great warlock,”  “Xaro Xhoan Daxos of the Thirteen,” and
“Quaithe of the Shadow.”

“We come seeking dragons.”

“Seek no more,” Daenerys Targaryen told them. “You have found them.”

And heeeeere’s Dany!

Who – yep, concluded the comet was for her. Just like just about everyone else has concluded that the comet is for them. Hah.

Except for those who think it signals apocalypse, of course. There’s always that one guy with the tin foil hat, I swear.

And everything continues being fun for Dany, I see! Hopefully Jhogo’s new friends will help reduce the level of suckage in the near future, but I ain’t holding my breath just yet.

I feel it should be mentioned that while I of course left out all the descriptive passages in the chapter, you should go back and read them if you haven’t recently. The imagery was extremely effectively evocative of the khalasar’s plight:

There was little forage in the red waste, and less water. It was a sere and desolate land of low hills and barren windswept plains. The rivers they crossed were dry as dead men’s bones. Their mounts subsisted on the tough brown devilgrass that grew in clumps at the base of rocks and dead trees. Dany sent outriders ranging ahead of the column, but they found neither wells nor springs, only bitter pools, shallow and stagnant, shrinking in the hot sun. The deeper they rode into the waste, the smaller the pools became, while the distance between them grew. If there were gods in this trackless wilderness of stone and sand and red clay, they were hard dry gods, deaf to prayers for rain.

Just, nicely done.

I’m a little shocked that Dany named one of the dragons after Viserys, but I suppose in a certain way it makes sense. If I were superstitious, though, I would definitely be wary of it as an ill-omened name. Hopefully the dragon will not take after its namesake.

Of course, I have no idea as yet whether these dragons will actually be sapient enough for things like character flaws. I have the (extremely vague) impression that dragons in this world are probably smarter than your average horse or dog, but maybe not much more than that. Like, smart enough to ride, and to be able to take direction on who or what to set on fire/eat/rend/destroy/etc., but not smart enough to be an actual person, if that makes sense.

(And now that I’ve said that, one of them is probably going to start doing differential equations for fun in an upcoming chapter. Or at least start talking. Though I know from experience that having the ability to talk doesn’t necessarily imply the ability to think, ba-dum-dum.)

Jorah: I mostly elided his story about Lynesse because it really did boil down to what I said in the summary despite being pages long. I think I’m probably supposed to feel sorrier for him than I do, but, well. Yes, love is blind and a many-splendored thing and all, but the main impression I took away from it is that Jorah ran his estate, his name, and his integrity into the ground for a whiny, spoiled brat of a girl who evidently didn’t even have the sense to stop her sanity-impaired husband from getting into human trafficking so she could have pretty things.

And yes, I know I’m being very judgy here, and that I probably don’t know the whole story and etc., but even so, ugh. She so wasn’t worth that, dude. And I can’t help but think less of Jorah for not realizing that in time to keep himself from pissing everything away for her.

Unfair? Probably. But damn that’s some seriously poor judgment, there.

Last and quite definitely least, “Xaro Xhoan Daxos”? Really? ‘Cause, wow. Between that and “Pyat Pree” and “Quaithe,” it’s like they’re trying to win every Scrabble game ever. Sheesh.

(And yes, I know you can’t use proper nouns in Scrabble, leave me alone, neener!)

And on that extraordinarily mature note, we out! Have a great weekend, y’all, and see you next time around!

1. ryamano
The Greyjoys, one of my favorite families! They seem so... Shakespearean... in their conflicts.

And that phrase, Leigh, is a reference to Cthullu. Don't forget the Greyjoy symbol is the kraken and our Cthullu has an octpus-like head.
Jennifer McBride
2. vegetathalas
I wonder if they'll kill Doreah off in the TV series, too. It seemed like they beefed up her part a little.
lake sidey
3. lakesidey
“What is dead may never die,” his uncle echoed, “but rises again, harder and stronger.”

I guess this is the extreme version of "What does not kill you makes you stronger"....(or stranger, if you're a Joker type)

And I did feel sorry for Jorah. Even though he had it coming. And his father must have been really pissed.

As for Qartheen names and scrabble - both pyat and pree are acceptable words in the scrabble lexicon - the international one, at any rate!)

Steven Pattingale
4. Pattingale
Rofl "... trying to in every Scrabble game ever"! :D Great read!
Rob Munnelly
5. RobMRobM
Hi Leigh - look, another religion - Drowned God- to add to your collection.

Yes, big Viking raider vibe. Don't forget the Greyjoy family arms: We do not sow.

Re Balon's great plan that does not involve Casterly Rock - you should look at a map and consider the options. Several come to mind in addition to Kings Landing.

I'm looking forward with anticipation to your reaction to Asha.

Re Dany's tale, I had forgotten that Doreah dies. Oh well.

The Jorah story - the age old tale of City girl falling for country guy until she realizes she actually has to live in the country, with log cabins and bears and fishing as the big entertainment. Petticoat Junction without the happy ending.

And you didn't point out why Quaithe is just a bit different from the norm - she wears a mask. And surprised a bit that you didn't comment about what "of the Shadow" might imply. And if PP is a warlock, does that mean he can do actual magic? Time will tell what all this means.

6. Lsana
I've often thought that scrabble with ASOIF character names could be a boatload of fun. Though I don't think your standard scrabble set has the letters needed to spell "Xaro Xhoan Daxos". Ah, well, any one of the three names is going to be serious points.

You are way more generous than I am to Theon. When I read GOT, Theon barely registered, and to the extent he did, I kind of felt bad for him even in his worst moments. Once I got a glimpse inside his mind, however, that changed. It seems to me that Theon combines the sense of entitlement because of birth of mainland Westeros with the brutality, misogyny, and xenophobia of the Iron Isles. I don't find a single redeeming characteristic about him.

I did like Jorah's story about Lynesse. I don't like Jorah precisely, but I liked the way that Martin managed to evoke the story so vividly for me. Though I'll admit that on a second read of this chapter, I did start wondering just WHY Lord Hightower was so willing to marry off his daughter to a minor lord from the North. Had Jorah been sober, he might have wanted to wonder about that too...
Stefan Mitev
7. Bergmaniac
Theon is a massive jerk, but with a really interesting personality IMO. He's caught between two worlds and trying to prove himself, but is really unsure how.

Jorah's backstory only showed again how ridiculous Jon Snow getting Longclaw was. Jorah was really desperate for money to please his wife, he didn't hesitate to sell people into slavery to achieve that, yet didn't sell the family Valiryan sword instead, even left it behind when going into exile. That's how deeply ingrained the mentality of keeping those swords in the family no matter what was in him. Yet his father gave it away to Jon just like that despite having plenty of living close relatives left on Bear Island because Jon's Our Hero, cliched to the bone and had to have an uber sword against all logic.
Matthew Hunter
8. matthew1215
RE: "Or the Greyjoys worship frozen zombies, one of the two. Whee!"

Nah, by the time the zombies get as far south as the Greyjoys, they've melted.
9. andNowMyWatchBegins
Very Minor Spoilers

There are a few people in this series who GRRM takes you on an opinion rollercoaster with them through the story. Theon is definately one of those.

@7 Most of the remaining Mormonts are Women, and one uses a Morningstar, cant remember the other. The Longclaw hand off never seemed as cliche to me. Mormont is in the Nights Watch and is therefore no longer of House Mormont. Jon saved his life and is his steward (and as Sam said being groomed for succession). So giving him 'the family sword' makes sense in that regard
10. Mark Z.
Bergmaniac #7: I stand by my argument that Jon Snow is Jorah's cousin.

I also assume that either Jorah hadn't been given the sword yet, or someone noticed that he was stealing the silverware and had the foresight to put the sword out of his reach.
11. Tenesmus
And so begins Theon's splendid story arc... fun to be had by all!!
12. Joel Prophet
Jorah, I felt sorry for him. GRRM does make you feel sorry for characters you thought were just evil. Selling people into slavery = bad. Doing whatever to please the love of you life = good/stupid depending on your lover.

I can't help but see a simulaity between the last WOT chapters about beautifull women being dangerous. GRRM seems to be agreeing that beautifull women make men do stupid things.
13. Joel Prophet
Theon : His dad gave him up to be a hostage then wrote him off as a total loss. Nice! My take of Theon is he is the anti-Edd Stark. Theon always does the thing which seems to give himself the quickest reward, regardless of the right or wrong of the action. It doesn't work out any better for him then it the opposite did for Edd Stark. Their end is not the same, Theon's is worse. IMHO There are things worse then death.
14. Black Dread
"Argh, where?"

Does the edition you are reading have the maps I used to constantly refer to?
15. Skyweir
@andNowMyWatchBegins: Well, even if the Mormont women have fondness for morning stars, I still think they are cheated out of their birthright here. Why would Jeor even have the sword, shouldn't Maege have it since she is the Lady of Bear Island. Jeor is no longer a Mormont and have no right to the sword.

Also, House Greyjoy! They are awesome (in a nasty way). Chthulu worshiping Vikings, you can't get much better than that.
"That is not dead which can eternal lie, yet with strange aeons even death may die."
16. anyway...
GRRM seems to have a thing for making the reader hate a character right up until they get exactly what you think they deserve... and then much, much worse. You see it first with Viserys, on a slightly less extreme scale.

Then of course Theon, Jaime, Jorah, and Cersei.
tatiana deCarillion
17. decarillion
I always felt like Theon has that 'need to prove myself' thing going on, borne of his own insecurities. He may have been Stark's ward, but he isn't a Stark, and I'm sure he had feelings (real or perceived) of being a second fiddle to the Stark children.

Also, he has to know, on some level, that his family isn't going to fully accept him, after ten years in the north. (Of course, Balon isn't even looking at the fact that the kid didn't exactly choose to live at Winterfell, all those years).

Look at how Theon dresses to greet his father--he dressed to impress--but the Ironmen aren't impressed by fine fabrics and gilt. However, Westerosi culture is ingrained enough in him that he didn't think twice about decking himself out in finery, and his father slaps him back to reality, essentially making his own point about Theon just being a Stark errandboy.

Theon has a chip on his shoulder, and he's got something to prove...
18. The SmilingKnight
Whoa... so many spoilers, hints and direct reveals... And i havent even posted a word yet!

Yipeaaahh! Its spoiler rush holiday!

Just kidding...
Besides, you guys pretty much spoiled everything in these chapters already. :P

Whited out sensitive part about something:
I was so sure someone would guess what Theon guessed at the last line. It seems so obvious. (even without hindsight, it seems to me. But, this way its even better. The reaction will be epic. And you guys better white out all references and hints to it.

That you spoiler happy people should read.

Re to inquiry about is Asha axe her real lover?
- Two of them! And twins to boot! :D

The things just keep getting better and better from now on.
19. Tenesmus
Shagga likes axes. Asha has an axe for a lover. So...

Would Asha shag Shagga's wood if Shagga axed Asha to axe Shagga's wood?
Vincent Lane
20. Aegnor
@13...major spoilers in your post. I flagged it so a moderator can come white it out.


On the location of where the Greyjoys intend to focus their aggressions, I will say that when I first read the passage I knew EXACTLY where Balon was refering to.

Regarding your guess of Kings Landing, keep in mind that KL is on the exact opposite coast from the Iron Islands. It would be kind of like expecting Japan to sneak attack Washington DC to kick off WW2. The Iron Islands are off the west coast of Westeros. Casterly Rock is on the west coast, which is why Robb was wanting Balon to attack Casterly Rock. I know you are not a fan of maps in fantasy novels, but you might want to glance at it this time :P
Sky Thibedeau
21. SkylarkThibedeau
Theon has the best POV's in the whole series.
Julian Augustus
22. Alisonwonderland
I am not a particular fan of Theon, but I have to admit I found his attitude and how it pans out for him entertaining. Some of my best moments in the entire series was being in Theon's head as certain events unfolded.
Juliet Kestrel
23. Juliet_Kestrel
I have to agree with Leigh on GRRMs prose. It is elegant while still being simple and completely serviceable to the story. I really enjoy his more descriptive passages.

The Balon Castle reminded me of something out of the Myst game series. It’s Creepy and creeky and dim, with all sorts of little pockets of castle carved into the rock of the island. Maybe all Theon has to do to fix the problem and move on to the next level is get the wave powered generator up and running by flipping some switches he finds in some of the hard to get to corridors.

Also how many kings and gods do we have now? Too many Jeez.
24. faiz Imam
Aw man. Theon next chapter is one of the BEST in the whole damn series.

I CANNOT wait.

*goes off to invent time machine*

ah well, Chapter 25 in... 6 weeks?
March 23rd here we come!

Also, Leigh and anyone else not up to speed on the series, You should use as a reference.

At the top of every page, there is a "scope" which completely changes the page depending on what book you have read until. Very useful, and impressive, the perfect spoiler free refrence material.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
25. tnh
Guys, I've just gotten a shower of "flagged comment" notices while seeing my cardiologist. Until I can get home and deal with this, could anyone posting spoilers PLEASE white them out?

26. deBebbler
In RPGs, dragons are often creatures of immense intellect with the ability to speak multiple languages, cast spells, etc...truely magical creatures.

So here is one reader who hopes that these dragons aren't just the equivalent of flying horses with scales...that breathe fire.
27. CWatson
When GRRM declined to provide a pronunciation guide, he claimed that everyone should be free to interpret the names however they wanted. (This led to me saying "DAY-ner-iss" until the TV show straightened me out.) However, /I/ am of the opinion that he did this merely to avoid HAVING to pronounce "Xaro Xhoan Daxos"!
28. Naraoia
CWatson@27: or R'hllor :D
Vincent Lane
29. Aegnor
Yeah, I've always pronounced that as Rahlor but that's probably wrong. I never read pronounciation guides whenever author's do provide them. I just make a guess and go with it.
30. Wortmauer
Iron Islands: What a bleak place to live. I love the worldbuilding, and not just because I'm descended from Vikings. The Drowned God religion is interesting to me, and furnishes, one of the coolest opening sentences ever: "The prophet was drowning men on Great Wyk when they came to tell him the king was dead." (AFFC, Chapter 1), IMO. I'm also kind of in awe of authors who can think of euphemisms like "paying the iron price."

Dragons: I'm with Leigh, the vibe is that they're trainable like horses, but not typical fantasy talking dragons.

Comets: Anyone else get a Crossroads of Twilight vibe here or is it just me? Everyone, all over the map, notices the same event in the sky and reacts to it in different ways, for what seems like (but isn't) a good fraction of the book. That's not a bad thing, though. I like the effect.

Doreah: Well, given her function was to teach Dany how to, ahem, please Drogo, she's now basically redundant to the story. I suppose that's why she was killed off. A shame, though, right? I mean, a whore professionally trained from before puberty is a handy sort to have around.

Jorah: Between Lyanna, Lysa, and now his ex-wife Lynesse, does anyone notice a pattern? Let's add the title character from A Song for Lya, GRRM's short story collection.
Tenesmus@19: Would Asha shag Shagga's wood if Shagga axed Asha to axe Shagga's wood?
Hahahaha. Nice. I'm not 100% sure, but I think you win the thread.
Juliet_Kettle@23: Maybe all Theon has to do to fix the problem and move on to the next level is get the wave powered generator up and running by flipping some switches he finds in some of the hard to get to corridors.
Ha. I don't want to spoil it, but since you already guessed it, yeah, that's exactly what happens.
Rob Munnelly
31. RobMRobM
Doreah is played by a startlingly gorgeous actress on the TV show, Roxanne McKie. I'm upset already thinking about it.

Don't forget about the Essos city of Lys (and the Arryn-killing poison Tears of Lys) as wel, and all else Lysenel.

And, yes, I agree that Tenesmus wins the thread.
Juliet Kestrel
32. Juliet_Kestrel
Correct me if I am wrong but so far we have the old gods of the north, the seven gods of the south, the fire god from the other landmass across the narrow sea (I forget where the red priestess is from exactly). and now the drowned gods. Plus the horselords gods. Am I missing any? I know there are more on the other continent but I don’t think Dany will be brining any of the others with her to the main continent.

Then we have Joff, Renly, Stannis, and Dany (all trying to be King/queen of the entire seven kingdoms) King Robb of the North, and King Balon of the Iron islands?

So six rulers battling it out for five religions essentially? This won’t get bloody or anything.

Renly or Joff needs to get a new religion for symmetries sake.
Eli Bishop
33. EliBishop
Juliet @32: Melisandre is from Asshai, which hasn't been seen at all in the books but is described as vaguely far away in the east. But the R'hllor cult has followers all over the Free Cities; Thoros (the red priest who went off with Lord Beric's posse) is from Myr, just across the water from Renly's home of Storm's End. No one in Westeros seemed too bothered by Thoros, they just thought he was weird, and there's no sign that the red priests were aggressively proselytizing anyone until Stannis got involved-- ironically, since Stannis isn't even a believer.

Other gods: old Valyria had a religion that hasn't been described at all (except for a menti0n of Aegon's dragons having been named after their gods) and Dany wasn't raised in it, since the Targaryens converted to the Seven after coming to Westeros. And the Dothraki have some kind of mythology, but they don't talk about it much and they're not interested in converting others, just enslaving them; they think they deserve to dominate the world not on religious grounds, but just because they're strong and awesome-- which is pretty much like the Ironmen.
Eli Bishop
34. EliBishop
About the ironmen: I really like how, just in a couple of scenes seen through Theon's eyes, Martin establishes that this whole culture is sort of caught between two worlds almost as much as Theon is. Most of them are not pirates and adventurers any more and haven't been for generations-- they engage in trade and farming, they have stable communities and a feudal system similar to the rest of Westeros-- but that's still how they like to think of themselves, and someone like Balon can get a lot of political mileage out of romanticizing the "Old Way". For most ironmen I suspect the Old Way is much like imagery of cowboys and the Wild West in America: it represents the idea that their country is forever destined for greatness no matter how uncertain their place in the world seems now, and also an every-man-for-himself philosophy that provides a certain amount of license to be a jerk.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
35. tnh
Juliet Kestrel @32:
Correct me if I am wrong but so far we have the old gods of the north, the seven gods of the south, the fire god from the other landmass across the narrow sea (I forget where the red priestess is from exactly). and now the drowned gods. Plus the horselords' gods.
Yes. That's one of the things I love about GRRM's worldbuilding. Not only are there all these different religions, but every one of them has a different rationale. The old faith of the north is spooky, not designed for humans, and behaves like an alternate set of natural laws. The seven-god faith of the south is the ultimate establishment religion, with something for everyone but nothing really there: conventional, hierarchical, way too cozy with the secular power structure, all faith, no miracles. I'm sure people have died for it, but it's hard to see why. The Red Priestess's fire god is an aggressively evangelical, universalizing religion that doesn't tolerate other faiths. The gods of the Horse Lords and the Drowned Gods of the Northern littoral are ethnic and tribal -- limited gods worshipped by specific populations.

It's realistic. In our own universe, different faiths have different scopes and rationales too.
36. jojozig
re: Jorah, it's even worse if you think (as I do) that Lynesse probably wasn't as spoiled as Jorah makes it seem in his bitter ex sermon. It seems more likely to me that she was unhappy for other reasons, and he tried to "fix it" by throwing jewels, etc her way, rather than solving the real problems with their relationship. She might not have even been aware that he was spending more than he could afford (she was much younger than him, and might not understand much about the financial side of lordship).

Of course, we don't know for sure. Just seems to fit with Jorah's somewhat weak character to me. And I actually like the guy a lot so...
37. Zizoz
GRRM seems to like his 'xh's, and I've always been confused as to how to pronounce them to distinguish them from 'x's. Eventually I settled on pronouncing them as in Albanian: for x and (English j) for xh.
38. Wortmauer
Juliet@32: Correct on all counts, except the Drowned God is singular, not plural. And yes, A Clash of Kings is about five would-be kings and two would-be queens (if you count Cersei). A good book title.

Of these, though, most seem happy enough with the de facto policy of religious freedom and tolerance; only Stannis and Balon seem to want to impose their gods on anyone. Stannis might still be for religious freedom, but if he keeps the Red Woman with him, she's likely to demand more of the idol bonfires we saw in Part 5. And Balon, well, I get the vibe he will care more about demonstrating racial and cultural superiority as he rapes and pillages, than in making sure the broken remnants of the smallfolk in his wake are all properly worshiping the Drowned God. Unless Aeron Damphair can convince him otherwise, but Aeron doesn't really seem to have a lot of influence with his brother Balon.
Eli Bishop
39. EliBishop
tnh @35: The seven-god faith of the south is the ultimate establishment religion

True-- and I love how, in contrast to its obvious parallels to the Catholic Church in Europe, its pantheon sounds like the product of a PR firm hired to create a non-threatening form of generic neo-paganism (three male and three female archetypes of the most obvious kind, plus a faceless figure who represents all scary things but we won't really talk about him). It's not hard to imagine that the Andals' religion started out with more of a home-grown flavor, but that by the time they came to Westeros most of its rough edges had been hammered out into something very smooth and portable.

Even so, Martin makes it clear as the series goes on that the bland establishment aspect isn't the whole story-- the Faith means something really different to small-town peasants than it does to the aristocracy, and different movements have developed within it in response to social change. That's realistic too: when a belief system has spread over such a wide area and become the accepted status quo, people start improvising within it and adapting it to suit their cultural and political needs, in ways that the established hierarchy may try to suppress or co-opt or may be unaware of. It's something you don't see too often in the many, many SFF portrayals of interplanetary religions based on Christianity or Islam.
Katie Pi
40. Darth_Katie
Theon, Theon, Theon. I find often catch myself feeling sorry for him when reading his chapters, and then feel angry at myself because he's such an awful person. One of GRRM's best creations, I think. Really shows you the power of the POV trap.
Eli Bishop
41. EliBishop
jojozig @36: I'm pretty sure Martin meant that to come across as at least a strong possibility. We already know Jorah isn't very honest about things that reflect badly on him (spying for Varys, and being involved in slavery-- he sort of admits the latter here, but won't actually name it or say why it was bad, and it didn't give him any qualms about hanging out with the Dothraki); and he's talking to someone whose approval he desperately wants, and who has limited life experience. So the way he tells his story is all focused on "I was at my worst because of this woman who was awful. She came from a comfortable family, she was into luxuries, and she couldn't handle change-- the opposite of you! So now that I've found you, I'll be great!" Even if Lynesse really was awful, it almost doesn't matter; Jorah can't resist oversimplifying and trying to shape Dany's response. He even has to throw in the part about "I fell for her because she was beautiful, kind of like you" to make absolutely sure that she gets the point-- just before riding away-- the kind of gesture that teenage boys think teenage girls will find romantic, but that mostly conveys "I won't be open with you like a friend would, because I don't want to risk being your friend instead of your boyfriend." It's especially sad because Dany really has brought out the best in him and yet it's not quite good enough.
Rob Munnelly
42. RobMRobM
Blog of Ice and Fire time. Both very strong entries this time. Really nice bits, including the Theon thinking of his father while getting pleasured and the long Jorah analogy.

Another new POV! I had to look up a quick history of Theon before reading this chapter. Theon lives with the Starks, but he's actually a hostage taken to keep his father in line. He also kicks heads and is a bit reckless with his arrows. Robb has decided to send him back to his father to ask for help. I agree with Cat that this seems like a stupid move. Why would you willingly give up the one bargaining piece you have? It ends up not mattering anyway, as Balon doesn't seem to give a rat's ass about Theon, in the Randyll Tarly Sam Tarly you are not my son GTFO kind of way.

Theon's boning the captains daughter. She's trying to convince him to keep her as his "salt wife," but Theon isn't swayed so easily by the promise of a well made peppercrab stew. He then proceeds to teach her how to give a blowjob, Theon style (if she tries to pull away, grab her hair!). You see, like most royal sons, Theon is kind of a misogynist asshole. But the materialistic captain and his slutty gold digging daughter aren't exactly calling him out on it. Theon's mind is on the Robb's letter and what his father Balon would say. That's right, as Theon receives a blowjob, he's thinking about his father.

There's no trumpeting fanfare or welcome reception at Pyke. Theon meets his uncle Aeron, who promptly drops some seawater religion on Theon's head. Quote Aeron, "Men fish the sea, dig in the earth, and die. Women birth children in blood and pain, and die." These islands certainly seem like a fun place. Theon finally meets with his father, who immediately calls Theon a sissy girl. Come on Balon, be nice to the kid -- it's not every day your son thinks of you mid-blowjob. Things don't go well for Theon. He does not say the right things and his pitch backfires badly. Balon isn't going to attack the Lannisters like Robb wanted. Do you hear that? That's the sound of a father's rage, a burning letter, and a son's plan blowing up in his stupid asshole face. Welcome home, Theon. Robb shouldn't have sent you.


I wish there was a fast forward button so we could see Dany's dragons fully grown and kicking ass. It's like Dany has three winning lottery tickets, but she has to walk through a minefield to collect her money. Her measly band of khalasar leftovers drop like flies every day, following the red comet to Asshair. Dany wonders to herself if she went through the entire ordeal in Game just to die from heat exhaustion in the desert. Don't worry girl, writers generally don't kill off their main characters who they spent an entire book developing. Well actually, Dany isn't indispensable, but her dragons are. That would be a cool twist, if Dany died right here. The next POV would be "Drogon" and we would get 15 pages of "hiss meatttt hiss hiss." Instead, Dany and her followers find an abandoned city with figs and water. They're saved!

Jorah tells Dany about his relationship history. He clearly wants to sex up Dany so badly right now. And there's no better way to charm a princess than to tell her that your wife was so unhappy she left you to become the merchant concubine. I'll paraphrase the story. Basically, Jorah was a B-student who received a full ride scholarship at Bear Island Community College. But the day of the college entrance exams, he luckboxed a perfect score. Because of this fluke performance, he got into Lynesse University, the Harvard of Westeros. Tuition was $50,000 a year, but Jorah still went because DAMN that school had a hot young student body. Halfway through his second semester, Jorah flunked out and couldn't pay his student loans, so now he is wifeless and exiled. I suppose he had a chance to get in Dany's pants by playing the Sean Connery-esque suave mature older guy role, strutting around with his manly beard and repeatedly telling the khalasar "stay thirsty, my friends." But after the Lynesse story, and the creepy "she looked like you," Jorah's chances with Dany are as dead as Drogo.

The next morning, Dany decides to send out three riders to scout out the land around her. Two come back with nothing, but the third returned with three visitors from the city of Qarth -- a warlock, a merchant, and Quaithe "of the Shadow," whatever that means.
43. MickeyDee

Tenesmus@19 FTW


In other news: I still didn't think that Theon was anything other than an arse, even after this POV. I will say more when the time comes.

Re: religions.
I loved that Jordan in his WoT had a tangible, real Creator. It shaped everything in that world, starting with no religions: no need with an agreed upon, real, creator deity.

I loved even more that in GRRM's world that the deities are less definite, less tangible, less evident and strenuously defended and preached. From the Lazareen Great Shephard to R'hllor (I sort of went with "rill-or"), to the Drowned God and on and on and on each area and region has gods in abundance in name and yet as intangible and unrealisable as any that we would find on our blue planet.
44. MickeyDee

I want to thank you for putting me, and I bet a stack of others, onto that Blog of Ice and Fire last year.

Some of the funniest and witty and strangely insightful writing I have read. My #3 son opined that this guy is even funnier than Dolorous Ed Tollett. I have, of course, disowned him and thrown him out of the house.

No references to the Gregor Glegane system of parking fine dispute, or Jon Snow wondering how to tell LC Mormont that it was another man's sword he wanted to hold in his hand. Nosirree.
Rob Munnelly
45. RobMRobM
@44. You're welcome. Still a pity that the blogger gives up the effort before the end of this book. Big bummer there. Perhaps we should use GREGOR SMASH to get him back.

@various. List of kings above is incomplete -need to add Mance Rayder, King above the Wall.

Re religions - Rhillor is pretty wide spread, as noted above. Also recall that Illyrio back in Pentos prayed to him too.
46. The Smiling Knight
Thats : King beyond the Wall. Not - above :)
Vincent Lane
48. Aegnor

I've had issues with them as well, when I'm trying to do "whited out" spoiler text. It shows up as whited out in the preview, but as soon as I post it, it is no longer whited out. I then have to edit the post, white it out again, and then it is fine.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
49. tnh
Skylark, have you checked to see whether that works for you?
50. The SmilingKnight
I suggest whiting out in the preview itself. That worked for me.
Sky Thibedeau
51. SkylarkThibedeau
@49 TNH it doesn't. Tried to white out text and redden other text and it comes out in black ink.
52. wickedkinetic
I too knew precisely what daddy Greyjoy was talking about, and felt the dagger turn with every greyjoy chapter henceforth.

Its amazing to me how well Martin muddies the histories - between fosterlings, hostages, marriages, old house enmities, the number of rebellions, who was on which side when. Every house has reasons to hate and love each other, every head-of-household and potential head-of-household has a whole mix of possible preferences.

This chapter was the bonus chapter at the end of the book 1 paperback and I almost didn't read it the 2nd time when I read book 2. Theon is kind of what Joffrey would look like all grown up. Entitled, ignorant/arrogant, smug, irrational confidence, megalomania.... nice people.....

btw - I forget - do we know why Mormont ended up on the wall? Was he sent there for being on the wrong side of the rebellion? I don't remember if that was ever explained. (or if its explained in books I haven't read yet)....

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