Jul 13 2012 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Clash of Kings, Part 26

Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Today’s entry is Part 26 of A Clash of Kings, in which we cover Chapters 53 (“Jon”) and 54 (“Tyrion”).

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 53: Jon

What Happens
Jon and the other rangers travel through the Skirling Pass as stealthily as possible. When they stop to rest, Jon goes to Qhorin to confess what he did re: Ygritte. Qhorin is unsurprised by the news, and asks why he spared her. Jon replies that he could see no evil in her; Qhorin points out that the other two weren’t evil either, but Jon counters that it was their lives or the rangers’, but Ygritte is behind them, unlikely to be a threat. Qhorin agrees, and tells Jon he told Jon to do “what needed to be done” to see what Jon thought that was.

“To lead men you must know them, Jon Snow. I know more of you now than I did this morning.”

“And if I had slain her?” asked Jon.

“She would be dead, and I would know you better than I had before.”

They also discuss Ygritte’s story of Bael the Bard. Qhorin comments that Mance used to sing it when he was a ranger, and Jon realizes Qhorin had considered him a friend. He asks why Mance deserted, and Qhorin says the wildling in his blood was too strong to resist. That night Jon dreams of direwolves: five instead of six, scattered and lonely where they should be together. He howls, and hears someone calling his name. He turns and finds a weirwood with his brother’s face, with three eyes. He smells death and darkness on the tree, which makes him bare his fangs, but his brother tells him he likes it in the dark.

But first you have to open your eyes. See? Like this. And the tree reached down and touched him.

Jon is suddenly back in the mountains, traveling with Ghost as he creeps near enough to the wildlings’ camp to see it is at the foot of a giant frozen waterfall, and that there are thousands of them. He also sees giants astride mammoths, and then Ghost is attacked by an eagle. Jon lurches awake, calling for the wolf and rousing the other men. Jon tells them about what he saw in his dream, and to his surprise Qhorin takes it seriously. Ebben asks “skinchanger?”, and Jon doesn’t know if he means the eagle or himself.

They set out again, and see an eagle watching them out of bowshot. They travel on uneasily until they find Ghost, wounded but not fatally from the eagle’s talons. The others help Jon doctor the wounds, and Qhorin declares they are turning back; the eagle knows they are here. They travel through the night until they reach the place where Jon and Stonesnake had ambushed the wildling scouts, and Qhorin comments one man could hold a hundred from here. Squire Dalbridge bows his head and tells the others to leave him as many arrows as they can, and Jon realizes he is volunteering to stay behind and die to buy them time. As they travel on, Jon hears the call of a hunting horn, and Qhorin says they are coming.

Oh, cool.

Right, Jon and everybody are in shitloads of danger right now, so that should probably not be my primary reaction to this chapter, but sorry, I am still just bouncing all over to know that Jon can do the dreamwalking thing with Ghost just like Bran can do with Summer. Because Bran gave him the power to do it. Because that is so cool. I am totally geeking out over this right now.

Ooh, ooh, does this mean ALL the Stark kids could potentially dreamwalk with their wolves? I may have to seriously squee, if so.

Well, except for Sansa. Man, this makes Lady’s death about a million times more tragic, now.

Although, I might (probably) be proven wrong on this, but I’m currently tending toward the theory that Jon and Bran might be the special snowflakes when it comes to magical wolf-communing abilities. Robb strikes me as far too – I dunno, practical? Down to earth? Something like that – to be up for this kind of thing. Rickon’s just too young yet (either that, or he’s been doing it all along and no one’s noticed because he’s so young, and wouldn’t that be hilarious), and Arya… hmm. I don’t know about Arya, but you’d think if she were going to hook up clairvoyantly with Nymeria she would have done it by now. Well, we’ll see.

Either way, super-plus double coolness, people. I am agog. *glee*

I was kind of surprised that Qhorin both instantly figured out that Jon hadn’t killed Ygritte, and that he wasn’t particularly upset about it. But I suppose on reflection his reasoning makes sense. And I liked what he said about observing Jon’s response to the order letting him know what kind of man Jon is. My only complaint is, now I want to know what conclusions he actually drew.

I think he thinks Jon’s act of mercy is a good thing, but I’m honestly not sure. And there’s just as strong a case to suppose that the important thing to Qhorin isn’t the mercy, but the fact that Jon deliberately disobeyed an order, i.e. a bad thing.

I’m inclined toward the former interpretation merely on the strength of the fact that Qhorin also totally took the revelation that Jon could dreamwalk with Ghost in stride, and instead of freaking out just used it for tactical purposes. I’m always much more inclined to believe the best of people who are practical and common sense-like about things.

(I suppose I should be saying “skinchange” instead of “dreamwalking,” as it is the canon terminology, but that term is annoyingly inaccurate to me. As I currently understand what’s going on here, Bran and Jon aren’t changing into direwolves, which is what “skinchange” certainly seems to imply; they’re just hitching a ride in their wolves’ consciousness, as far as I can tell, which is a totally different thing. Words mean things, fictional people, get it right!)

I don’t think I knew before this that Mance was a former ranger. So that’s… interesting, I guess? Does add a little to the drama of it all, that they’re going to be fighting against one of their own. Also makes me wonder what Mance’s ultimate goal is in all this.

Here’s a random question: if a waterfall is so high up in the mountains that it is permanently frozen, how did it get to be a waterfall in the first place?


Chapter 54: Tyrion

What Happens
Tyrion is on his way to have supper with Cersei when Varys intercepts him with a report from the north, [in which it is implied] that Rickon and Bran Stark are dead. Tyrion then takes the note to Cersei. He comments that she must be pleased, as she’d wanted the Stark boy dead. Cersei retorts that Jaime threw him out of that window, not her; she would have been content to frighten the boy into silence. Tyrion comments that she’d better hope Lady Catelyn believes it was Theon Greyjoy’s work and not Cersei’s, otherwise she might kill Jaime. Alarmed, Cersei counters that she still has Sansa.

They eat, and Tyrion says there is still no news from Bitterbridge. Cersei opines that Littlefinger may have defected to Stannis, but Tyrion counters that Stannis is “too bloody righteous” for Littlefinger to be comfortable with. They discuss other matters, and Cersei tells Tyrion he puts too much trust in Varys, who tells other people secrets too – for example, he’s told her that Tyrion plans to take the Hound from Joffrey. Dismayed, Tyrion says he needs Clegane to lead sorties, and that Joffrey will be safe enough with Ser Osmund Kettleblack and Meryn Trant. Cersei protests that Joffrey is too young to be in the fighting, but Tyrion counters that he needs to be seen, and that Jaime would have done no less at his age. Cersei asks if the city will fall; Tyrion says no, but privately he is not so sure. Tyrion promises to release Ser Gyles and Boros Blount, but Cersei only cares about Tommen. Tyrion says Tommen is safer with Lord Jacelyn than he ever would have been with Gyles.

Over dessert, Cersei comments that the reason Varys is so dangerous is that he “doesn’t have a cock,” unlike Tyrion and every other man who lets “that worm between your legs” do half his thinking. Tyrion makes as if to leave, uncomfortable, and Cersei tells him she has her own ways of finding out things: she has his “little whore.” Tyrion is filled with dread, but tries to play it off. Cersei says that Tyrion has “sold” Myrcella and stole Tommen, and now plans to kill Joffrey so he can rule through Tommen. Tyrion says this is madness, and that she needs him for the upcoming battle, but Cersei disagrees. She promises not to kill him, though, or the whore either, unless something happens to Joffrey, in which case the whore will die “more painfully than you can possibly imagine.” Tyrion is incredulous that she actually believes he would kill his own nephew, and tries to think what his father would do in this situation.

He demands proof that Cersei’s captive is alive, and she smirks and calls for her to be brought in, bloody and bruised. When Tyrion sees her, he asks if Cersei promises to release her after the battle, and Cersei says she will if he releases Tommen. Tyrion imitates his father’s voice, and tells her coldly that she’d better be kept safe, because whatever happens to her will also happen to Tommen – including beatings and rapes, and Tyrion will see to it personally. Cersei goes to hit him, but he catches her wrist and bends it back painfully before shoving her to the floor and ordering the girl unbound. Alayaya thanks him and gives him a chaste kiss, and Tyrion turns back to Cersei.

“I have never liked you, Cersei, but you were my own sister, so I never did you harm. You’ve ended that. I will hurt you for this. I don’t know how yet, but give me time. A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you’ll know the debt is paid.”

Cersei yells at him to get out, and he bows and leaves. He returns to his rooms to find Shae there. He asks where the hidden door is that allowed her to get there, but Shae says that Varys covered her head with a hood so she couldn’t see, although there was one place with a red and black tile mosaic floor. Tyrion pokes around, trying to find the secret passage, but is unsuccessful. Eventually he joins Shae in the bed, but finds he cannot perform, thinking of Cersei’s words about thinking with his cock, and finally just goes to sleep.

Although I totally enjoy fakeouts/psych-outs/what have you as literary devices (when they’re done well, anyway), it is incredibly annoying to have to try and summarize them in a way that makes sense. Especially when you’re not reading ahead first, and the chapter ends without letting you know whether the intended assumption is actually the wrong one or not.

Thus the brackets in the first paragraph, because we’re obviously meant to infer that the note Varys gives Tyrion says flat out that Rickon and Bran are dead, but Martin very carefully doesn’t give us the text of the letter verbatim, which is a red flag to me that it’s probably a lot more ambiguous than that. But I don’t know yet what the deal actually is, so what am I supposed to put there except what I think is going on? Rrggh.

This has nothing to do, of course, with my staunch refusal to believe that Bran and Rickon actually are dead until I metaphorically see the bodies. Given Martin’s track record, this is a much more foolish hope for me to cling to than it would be for practically any other story, but in my defense, it seems especially narratively insane to kill off Bran in particular at this juncture. There’s so much foreshadowing to fulfill! Magical forest folk to find! Dreamwalking with wolves to, er, dream! Bran’s got shit to do, y’all!


Man, I am going to be PISSED if he’s dead. No, like, I might actually have to throw something. Probably the book.

But hopefully Greyjoy’s just putting it about that the boys are dead to save face over the fact that they escaped, or something similar, and I won’t have to dent my walls with large chunky epic fantasy novels. *crosses fingers*

As for the other fakeout in this chapter, nicely done. I totally thought it was Shae until Tyrion thought Alayaya’s name.

But poor Alayaya. Though hopefully Tyrion’s threat will keep her from any more harm.

Although, damn, Tyrion. I know you didn’t mean it, but threatening to personally rape your own nephew is… well. Yikes doesn’t even begin to cover it. And the fact that he got to that mental space by invoking his father… Lordy.

Seriously, could this family BE any more fucked up?

Don’t answer that.

“Why must I suffer accusations every time some Stark stubs his toe?”

Hah. For some reason this cracked me up, even though it really shouldn’t.

I have a very strong impulse here to simply call Cersei a heartless bitch and be done with it, but the good and yet also frustrating thing about Martin’s “villains” (and the quotes are applied advisedly) is that he truly manages to accomplish with them what so many other writers do not, which is to realistically convey that they are not villains in their own minds.

It’s a standard warning to writers, to remember that really, no one actually considers themselves the bad guys; each of us believe we are the protagonist, the hero of our story, no matter what we might actually be doing. Not to Godwinize this post at the outset, but I’m willing to bet that Hitler was absolutely convinced that he was the beleaguered tragic hero of World War II, instead of, you know, the mass-murdering fuckhead he actually was. Our ability to rationalize our own behavior even in the face of overwhelming evidence that that behavior is, in fact, batshit insane, is really kind of scary.

So Cersei is evil, yeah, but at the same time it is impossible to avoid realizing that from her point of view, she’s doing what she has to do protect the ones she loves. And that therefore, as far as she is concerned what she is doing is right.

It comes down to a question of priorities, I guess. If you believe that your loved ones are of paramount importance, above and beyond all other considerations, then Cersei’s actions are in fact completely rational. And the disturbing part is that there’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea that the welfare of your family should be your top priority; it’s only when you take that notion to extremes, as Cersei has clearly done, that the more unpleasant implications of that stance become clear. If you’re willing to burn an entire nation to the ground to protect your children…. Well.

And of course, there is also the point that most of us would not have to make that kind of choice in order to protect our children. Why does anyone daydream about being royalty, again? Because really.

In other news: Jeez, I forgot all about Littlefinger. Where the hell is that weasel?

Anyway, good speech from Tyrion. If I were in his place I would totally be done with Cersei too, sister or not. It does make me worry for Tyrion, though. I’m remembering the movie Dangerous Liaisons, and how once Glenn Close and John Malkovich declared war on each other, it promptly went straight to hell for both of them. It’s understandable on both sides why Cersei and Tyrion have felt pushed to this extreme, but nevertheless I’m sure absolutely nothing good can possibly come of it. It may end up costing them the city and the throne. And while I’m not exactly unhappy about the idea of Joffrey’s stupid ass getting booted off the throne, I worry about the collateral damage. Tyrion, Sansa, Shae, and even Clegane are in the line of fire here, and I do not want them there.

(It’s pretty significant that this is not the first time this series has reminded me of that movie, either. Horrible yet awesome people doing horrible yet awesome things to each other: how can I have seen a connection? Yeeeah.)

Tchah. I guess what will happen will happen, eh? And I will find out soon enough! Have a weekend, alla y’all, and I will see you next Friday with more!

Emmet O'Brien
1. EmmetAOBrien
I continue to greatly enjoy these recaps, but I'd just like to note in response to

no one actually considers themselves the bad guys

that I've personally met two people who made it unambiguously clear that they did, and delighted in it; they generally did rather a lot of harm and I am very glad that me and mine are well away from them at this point.
Vincent Lane
2. Aegnor
It was the first chapter here that convinced me that Bran and Rickon were dead at this point. Jon sensed Bran as smelling of death, and being in the dark.
3. tenesmus
Nicely Done! I missed you last week.
Stefan Mitev
4. Bergmaniac
If we look at things objectively, Tyrion kidnapped Cersei's son. She had a good reason to be mad at him, yet he as always acts as if he's completely innocent and only the others are in the wrong, he's quite the hypocrite. Both of the Lannister siblings are really childish about their feud, BTW, it's not just Cersei. It's really stupid on Tyrion's part to threaten the Queen this way especially since he knows his Handship is just temporary even if the Lannisters win the war. I am also not sure he won't rape his own nephew if he had to get back at Cersei.

Jon - I find it extremely hard to believe that Qhorin, the leader of an important mission, during which remaining unseen is paramount, left an important decision (leaving Ygritte alive) to Jon just to test him.

Of course, the whole thing ahas deeper roots. The fact that of all the hundreds of experienced rangers in the NW Qhorin chose Jon, who had zero experience North of the Wall, is also illogical. If he had taken a tried and experienced ranger instead as common sense demanded, there would be no need to test him during the mission.

I was hoping for three chapters today, since I really love the next one. Oh, well, next week, I guess...
5. KingsGambit
Great post, as allways.

You say that Jon disobeyed an order by Qhorin, but you quote Qhorin as saying he deliberately ordered Jon to 'do what needs to be done' and left it to Jon to figure out what that was.

Also, I think the term skinchanger means that the person 'jumps into' the skin of another creature. In that sense he, changes his skin. It's like changing clothes: the clothes themselves don't change, but you change the ones you wear. (I hope that makes sense)

Was it George Martin who said that every character is a hero of their own story, or is that a quote from someone else? Whoever said it first, I have to agree with you that Martin is a master in making that happen in his stories.

Btw, are you planning to include "The Hedge Knight" and its sequals in your read? The stories are great and there are some minor (but very nice) links to the main story. I was especially pleased to learn that George Martin was able to actually finish a story - even if it's a story with sequals.
Peter Reen
6. pnr060
"Skinchanger" seems like a pretty appropriate term. One of the connotations of "skinchanger" implies that Jon is changing which skin he is wearing (contrasted to making changes to the skin he is already wearing). In the same sense, I might be called a "clotheschanger" even though I don't have any tailoring experience.
Steven Halter
7. stevenhalter
The various clues (the smell of death in the dream and the letter) do seem to be pointing towards Bran and Rickon being dead. I'm with Leigh on this though and am calling misdirect at this point.
While GRRM has shown very little restraint in killing off characters, he has been building Bran up--it would seem like a narrative waste to just kill him off screen.
On the other hand, Bran could be some sort of sacred tree ghost now--he has become "one with the force trees". No picture--it didn't happen.
Also, if he just casually discards Bran, what about Arya? So, a)it seems narratively suspect and b) I don't want it to be true. So, there.
8. Lsana
Qhorin does seem awfully cold on this re-read. In some ways, his taking Jon's not killing Ygritte in stride is worse than him asking Jon to kill her in the first place. He implied he wanted her killed, putting her in mortal danger just to "know more about than he did before." It would be one thing if he believed Ygritte needed to die in order to keep the rangers safe, but that level of complete not-care about another human life is frightening to me.


That's a good point about Tyrion. We read about him mostly from his PoV, and he's an amusing little fellow, so it's easy to fail to notice the many places where Tyrion is in the wrong. It's easy to hate Cersei, but it's also true that Tyrion was never willing to work with her in good faith. From the moment he arrived in King's Landing, he was working on how to double-cross her.

Re: Qhorin choosing Jon, I got the impression that Qhorin had suspected that Jon was a skinchanger pretty much from the moment he met Ghost. That was the reason Jon was chosen, not for his brilliant 15-year-old skills, but because Qhorin knew the Wildlings used skinchangers and wanted one of his own.
9. TG12
Just have to note that the on-screen delivery of Tyrion's "I will hurt you for this..." line: Loved it SO MUCH!
Deana Whitney
10. Braid_Tug
"Here’s a random question: if a waterfall is so high up in the mountains that it is permanently frozen, how did it get to be a waterfall in the first place?"

I think the answer to this questions is: geology and earthquakes
the water was once a river, then drastic things happened to the land, parts fell away, parts rose up, climate change, "winter came", and the waterfall froze.

Of course I could also be really wrong or applying half understood real world concepts to an epic fantasy novel. But there are some waterfalls that are so tall that water from the top never hits the ground.

Totally agree with your assessment of the Alayaya / Shae fake out. I thought Shae was the victim. This family takes sibling in-fighting to a whole new level of dysfunctional.
Sky Thibedeau
11. SkylarkThibedeau
I had forgotten about Jon's dream it makes a few things clearer now. Leigh's un spoilt POV of things always produces a Gem or two about the series I missed or forgot.
Steven Halter
12. stevenhalter
re:frozen waterfall--There is probably an ice field in back of that waterfall somewhere. A little melt from the sun on ice, a long drop and some time=1 frozen waterfall.
Ruth Vincent
13. LadyAtarah
Seems to me GRRM's characters tend to die on screen if they have any importance at all, and Bran is pretty darn important! He can't be dead! I hope!
Also, the skinchanger thing is my favorite part so far and definitely shows the Starks' blood-ties to the north with the fact that the Watch is like, "Oh yeah, we know exactly what that is."
Man, I thought Stephen King was hard on his characters, but seriously, I think I keep reading GRRM just to see who lives the longest.
14. Steve B
I have a friend in Switzerland who spends a good portion of his winter fun time ice-climbing frozen waterfalls. Google "Frozen Waterfall" and you'll see no shortage of images that show that this is a common occurence in the real world. In mountainous areas, as winter approaches, the meltwater from glaciers or snowpacks that has been running down since spring starts to freeze, and it accumulates in the same manner as icicles, until it reaches the ground.

I'm guessing it's particularly common when the waterfall is on the north side of a cliff, where it will get minimal exposure to sunlight, and therefore be several degrees colder than the top of the sun-drenched plateau.
lake sidey
15. lakesidey
If a waterfall is so high up in the mountains that it is permanently
frozen, how did it get to be a waterfall in the first place?

Four words: "Ice Age: Continental Drift" :P

Pirmin Schanne
16. Torvald_Nom
That's a good point about Tyrion. We read about him mostly from his PoV, and he's an amusing little fellow, so it's easy to fail to notice the many places where Tyrion is in the wrong. It's easy to hate Cersei, but it's also true that Tyrion was never willing to work with her in good faith. From the moment he arrived in King's Landing, he was working on how to double-cross her.
Well, remember that he has dealt with his sister for years. I'd really count that down to experience.
17. Joel Prophet
Frozen waterfall: It's a regular waterfall then winter comes and it freezes and spring never returns. Also any sun melt above the waterfall will freeze as it moves down the frozen waterfall building it up over time.

I totally thought Brad and Richon were dead at this piont too, but I hoped it was just a mistake, I agreed with Leigh no can you be sure.

To Leigh: I've thrown these books into my walls a number of times. At one point it sat there for 6 months because I was so pissed at what GRRM had done to a character I loved.

I'm with the group that thought it was Shea being beaten. WTF. That it was an innocent girl just made it worse. Her honor in keeping the secret got her in trouble. GRRM seems to think honor is dumb.
Steven Halter
18. stevenhalter
When Halfhand says:
They name themselves the free folk, and each one thinks himself as good as a king and wiser than a maester.
It rather makes me want to get on the side of the Wildlings. The wisdom part can cut both ways but as for kings, I say well rid of them.

It would be interesting to see more of just how Wildling society is structured.
Peter Reen
19. pnr060
Here's a time-lapse video of the Khumbu Icefall on Mt. Everest. Icefalls are rapidly flowing segments of glaciers that could be loosely described as permanently frozen waterfalls:
Vincent Lane
20. Aegnor
Tyrion working to double-cross Cercei is really the only option he had. He had to work to counter Cercei from the moment he got there. To do that effectively, he had to get some leverage on her. To not do so, would have given her all the power, which he knows would have led to not only his death, but Joffrey, Tommen, Myrcella, and Cercei herself's death as well. He knew that Cercei would be to foolish, and focused on her own power games to see it. Her reaction to Myrcella being sent to Dorne shows that.
21. pwl
Rickon’s just too young yet (either that, or he’s been doing it all along and no one’s noticed because he’s so young, and wouldn’t that be hilarious)
This sort of depends on if you see there being a matter of "degree" with regard to skinchanging. Recall how Bran's feelings seemed to mirror with Summer's? Rickon seemed to exemplify this even more than Bran, in their time at Winterfel. Rickon seemed half-feral at times, and as a four-year old had no real emotional control. This was clearly reflected in Shaggydog, who was quite feral. It seemed obvious to me, at least, on first readthrough that there was emotional bleed-through between the two.
Rob Munnelly
22. RobMRobM
Love both chapters, especially the first one. Quick thoughts.
- Must not discuss the Bran-Jon interaction. Must...Not...Discuss....

- I like it when legendary characters act in legendary fashion. Qhorin is the man. The test makes perfect sense. Starks are critical resources to the NW, coming along once in a while. Better to start knowing wht they have now. Also, willingness of the team member to die for the group is a testament to Q's leadership.

- I agree that there are commonalities between Rickon and Shaggy at this point in story. Recall that Rickon, like Bran, dreamed of his father's death in AGOT.

- Re Tyrion, I'm fully in his camp. If Cersei senses weakness, she'll strike. Have to fight fire with fire - or at least the appearance of fire or T will be crushed. Note that it is a high risk "game" for both - have to see how it plays out.

- Shalter - yes, i want to see more about Wildling culture as well.

23. Michael F Flynn
Both the Wildings and the Ironborn talk a lot about being free. (So did the Germans who wrecked the Western Empire, now that I think on't.) But I sense a subtle difference between the Ironborn and the Wildings. The former want to be free to do whatever they want -- to other people. The Wildings want to be free, as in left alone. If they're a threat to Stark's Country, it's because something Really Really Bad seems to be building in their rear driving them south. The Ironborn are a threat because they "take what is ours," viz., anything they want that belongs to someone else.
I think there are a number of dualities like that running through the books.
24. Lsana

Cersei agreed to send Myrcella to Dorne. And that was after Tyrion went behind her back to make the arrangements, and she only found out from someone else after the offer had been made. She might have agreed much more quickly, and not have been nearly so pissed off about it, if Tyrion had talked to her when he was first planning to approach the Martells.

I'm on Tyrion's side too, if only because Cersei is so awful, but let's not pretend he hasn't given her plenty of reasons to mistrust him. He arranged a marriage for her daughter without telling her. He essentially kidnapped her younger son. And now he says, "Trust me" while he's planning to take her remaining child into the thick of the fighting. Yeah, not going to happen.
Tricia Irish
25. Tektonica
I'm just loving this book through your eyes, Leigh!

As for Quorin's response to Jon.....I do think he meant for Jon to follow his orders and kill Yagritte, but since Jon didn't follow orders, The Halfhand chose to learn something about Jon, rather than just be mad. They are out in the frozen tundra after all, what's he going to do to punish Jon? Instead, he learned that Jon has a heart, thinks for himself (for good or ill), is noble and chivalric as a Stark, didn't follow orders, and probably really likes women.

As for Tyrion and Cersei..... I think he is playing the game he's had to play his whole life with his family. He knows how ruthless Cersei is. I doubt she's ever shown him much respect, or anything but disdain.

I do kind of get where she's coming from in certain respects, however. She's a mother and has that mother-bearcub-protector thing going on. And Tyrion has not been forthcoming with her. (Which was no doubt wise, on his part.) She's rather backed into a corner and has her claws out. Plus, women are totally Marginalized in this society. She should've been a fact, I think she says that!

All that said, these people are beyond ruthless and cruel. Do you think it really was like this in medievil times? No value for life.Argh.
Birgit F
26. birgit
Jon only talks / thinks about seeing "his brother" in the dream, he never says which one. It makes sense to assume that it is Bran, but the book never says so.
Jennifer McBride
27. vegetathalas
Re: The Cersei/Tyrion conversation.

I would like to know more about their past interactions. Whenever it refers to their childhood, its always a kick-the-dog moment. If Robert wed Cersei at age 19, and Cersei is nine years older than Tyrion, then how much interaction did they really have?

And what has Tyrion been doing from then until now? Hanging out at the Rock? Staying in King's Landing? Roaming the countryside in search of whores? He was included in the King's party to Winterfell--so I guess that implies he's been in King's Landing?

Wow, I didn't realize Tyrion was only 24 years old at the start of GOT until I just now looked at the wiki of Ice and Fire to see if I was forgetting something. That puts a whole different spin on his becoming Hand of the King, doesn't it? I guess people end up coming to responsibilities earlier in Westeros, but I think of when I was 24, still in college, and to suddenly be promoted to ruling the whole kingdom? Crazy. Especially since his qualifications were watching his father and being in charge of castle plumbing... (that's not really a spoiler, but I'm whiting it out anyway). I wonder if Tywin was desperate when he appointed him to Handship, or deliberately setting his son up to fail? Or perhaps Tywin realized no one else would dare interfere with Cersei's Cerseing?
Rob Munnelly
29. RobMRobM
Lsana and others - the question is: what would Cersei have done if Tyrion had sat down to propose marrying Myrcella off to a Dornish prince? I'm seriously doubting she'd cooperate or be reasonable. I'm betting she'd either send Myrcella away or take an "over my dead body - or, preferably, yours" position. Sandbagging Cersei is the only way to get an alliance with Dorne that might be critical to saving Joff's rule.

Veg - good reminder that Tyrion is so young.
Rob Munnelly
30. RobMRobM
So hard not to talk about Jon-Bran, on any of several levels. I'm going to do a post up in the spoiler area to let off steam.
Bill Stusser
31. billiam
Thanks for the post, Leigh, I don't comment much on these reads because of the whole spoiler thing but I read it every Friday.

I have to disagree with you re: Bran giving Jon the ability to skinchange. In my opinion Jon was warging Ghost from the beginning of the dream, after all he was wearing the wolf when tree Bran touched him. Also, I think Rickon was warging Shaggydog from the very beginning of the story, it explains why he is so feral.

I think that Skinchanging is an apt term, but don't won't to say anymore about it here to avoid possible spoilers. I will comment more about it on the spoiler forum.

I also don't think that Jon disobeyed any order. Qhorin never told Jon to kill Ygritte, he told him to do what must be done. Not only that, I don't think Qhorin even expected Jon to kill her. He even tells Jon that if he had wanted her dead he would have given the task to one of the other men. Jon acted exactly like Qhorin believed he would. Also, I am firmly in the camp that believes that Qhorin brought Jon along because he thought he might be a warg. The first thing he says to Jon after telling him could come along is 'Best find that wolf of yours.' It explains why Qhorin isn't surprised by Jon's dream too.

Now for Tyrion's chapter. For those who think that Tyrion should have tried to work w/ Cersei, that obviously never would have worked. From the moment that Tyrion got to KL Cersei said she didn't want him there and told him to leave. She didn't want him as hand, was pissed that Twyin couldn't come, threatened to have Tyrion thrown in the dungeon, and slapped him like three times. Yep, working with her seems like it would be a great idea.

Also, everything Tyrion does re: Cersei's children, is to protect his family. In fact, he seems to be doing a better job of seeing to her kids safety than Cersei herself. He is going to great lengths to make sure that Joffrey will be well protected during the battle and will see very little action. He also has plans in place to remove Joff from the scene should the battle go bad for them.

I also don't for a second believe that Tyrion would rape his nephew. At the point that he says that he already knows that Cersei doesn't have Shae. He is only pretending to be pissed so that Cersei won't realize that she has the wrong woman. His thought right after the part that Leigh quoted are 'If she thinks me such a monster, I'll play the part for her.' He is totally playing his sister here.
32. Michael F Flynn
All that said, these people are beyond ruthless and cruel. Do you think
it really was like this in medievil times? No value for life.

Westeros differs from medieval Europe in a number of ways, including the degree of industrialization and the position of women. For that, see Jean Gimpel, The Medieval Machine or Gies&Gies, Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel; and Regine Pernoud, Women in the Days of the Cathedrals.

That said, it was certainly more rugged than a modern suburban neighborhood, though maybe less rugged than a modern drug gang. In wartime, participants typically become less kindly disposed toward one another. Otherwise, the closer you get to the Modern Ages, the nastier it gets. For every Sack of Beziers we can match a firebombing of Hamburg.

The anti-feminist movement that is marked by the abrupt change in attitude in the second part of the Romance of the Rose culminated on 28 June 1593, well after the beginning of the Modern Ages, when the French parliament prohibited the participation of women in the government of the kingdom. This certainly implies that before that point Bertrada of Montfort, the Empress Maude, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hroswitha of Gandersheim, Hildegarde of Bingen, and all the rest were not entirely exceptional.
33. King of Flames
Gotta say, Leigh, for somebody usually so alert to gender generalisations, I'm mildly surprised that you didn't comment on Cersei's opinion about Varys versus other men.
34. nominallyXian

Sigh. You've been immersed in Randland too Leigh (if I can call you Leigh). In ASOIAF they're not inhabiting a dream world they way they do in Tel'aran'rhiod/Wolf-Dream; they're inhabiting another body in the actual world. I think skinchanging is a more suitable term. But if it chafes you, just call it "Warging."

35. Looking Glass
Bergmaniac @4: Qhorin doesn’t seem to be of the opinion that Ygritte’s disposition is particularly important, though. That may or may not be overly optimistic on Qhorin’s part, but the wildlings do find them entirely without Ygritte’s help, so he’s not wrong.

As far as taking Jon on the mission to begin with… it’s a little convenient, but only a little. IIRC, they only have a few hundred men out there with Mormont’s whole party; the actual number of talented, motivated candidates for Qhorin’s team is probably a lot lower. Given the caliber of the typical recruit, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jon was already more skilled than average, and he actually volunteered for the dangerous mission.

He’s untried, true, but you’ve got to take the new guys out some time… and it’s not as though there’s likely to be many less perilous rangings in the near future.

KingsGambit @5: Jon believed he had clearly understood the order, and intentionally disobeyed it. Both points are probably relevant from a commander’s perspective. So is the fact that Jon didn’t try to weasel his way out of the consequences by invoking Qhorin’s exact words himself.

I think Qhorin meant the implication to be clear, with the wording as an excuse to take no action- maybe “failsafe” would be a more appropriate term, since I do think it was premeditated. That is, Qhorin intentionally put Jon into that scenario believing he had an order, as a test, while the actual wording was designed so no decision on Jon’s part would actually prompt a crisis in the chain of command.

Lsana @8: Tyrion never really gives cooperation with Cersei a shot, no, and he does spend a lot of his time sticking the knife in her one way or another. That said, Tyrion and Cersei’s relationship began long before it came on-page; given how close Tyrion is with Jaime, and how hung up he is on family and being loved, I think he’d have coexisted peacefully if that were an option.
36. Black Dread
The whole Lannister family dynamic is an intriguing lost opportunity (for them). With Tyrion’s brains, Jamie’s sword, and Cersei’s beauty and ambition, they should be ruling Westerous unopposed by now. But the family is so messed up (thank you Tywin), they spend more energy screwing each other (literally and figuratively) than they do on anything else. It’s not a spoiler to say that we’ll be having this conversation again - win or lose the coming battle.
37. J Snow
First, I wanted to say that I have enjoyed reading through this blog. However, my least favorite thing about the blogs is how it seems on nearly every blog post you go on a feminist rant about how women are mistreated in Martins world and our world at pretty much every opportunity.

I am not very surprised that you didn't comment at all about Cersei's comment: "Cersei comments that the reason Varys is so dangerous is that he “doesn’t have a cock,” unlike Tyrion and every other man who lets “that worm between your legs” do half his thinking." If there was a similarly offensive comment made about women, you would have undoubtedly talked about it.

I bring this up not to say your thoughts on how women have historically been treated aren't valid, but that if you are going to bring it up so often, then could you also give some equal treatment to negative stereotypes about men. Women have obviously been mistreated and have not been given equal rights historically, and that is something I hope that we work on. However, just because men have been more privileged does not mean that there aren't negative stereotypes that can hurt men (sorry for all the negatives in that sentence).

My overall point is that there have been so many examples of negative treatment and stereotypes about people. We need to get past simple stereotypes and realize that we are all people and individuals with value and should be treated as such. The balance has overwhelmingly favored men, but that doesn't mean there aren't hurtful things about men too and if you want to put as much of a focus on these issues, then please point it at for both sides (though honestly, I would prefer a reduction of the rants in general).

I don't know if you read through any of these old comments or see this, but if you do I hope you see it as valid constructive criticism.

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