Fri
Feb 8 2013 1:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 17

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 17Welcome 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 17 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 29 (“Arya”) and Chapter 30 (“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, please note that the Read of Ice and Fire spoiler thread has been moved to a new thread here on Tor.com. 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 29: Arya

What Happens
As they arrive in Stoney Sept, Harwin tells Arya how her father and King Robert fought a great battle there, but Arya thinks that the town has seen much more recent combat than that. The gatesman who lets them in to the walled town tells them wolves and Mummers alike have been pillaging and raping in the countryside, and also that the Kingslayer is on the loose; he opines that the Huntsman should let his dogs tear the fugitive apart, but Lem returns that “a chewed-up corpse [of Jaime Lannister]’s no good to anyone.”

In the town, Arya sees a number of men in crow cages, either dead or swiftly getting there. A woman tells them they are Stark allies, to Arya’s shock, and that they were being punished for the atrocities they committed at Tumbler’s Falls when they failed to find the Kingslayer there. Arya is horrified that men loyal to her brother could do such things, but gives the ones still alive water, with Gendry and Harwin’s help, and after that Anguy puts the survivors out of their misery with a few well-placed arrows. Arya thinks “Valar morghulis” to herself.

They go to an inn called The Peach, where the proprietor greets them with familiar and very bawdy cheer, and insists on bathing all of them, including Arya, and puts her in female clothing which Arya despises. After observing for a while, Arya opines to Gendry that this inn is actually a brothel; Gendry storms off after one of the girls offers herself to him, but comes back when an old man begins hitting on Arya, driving him off by claiming to be her brother. After, they get into a rather petty fight, and Arya storms off, thinking him a “stupid bullheaded bastard boy.” She recites her list to herself before going to sleep.

She dreams of wolves, and stalking through a forest with her pack. She feels fierce and fearless and free as she and her brothers and sisters bring down a horse. She is woken the next morning by barking dogs, and goes to the window to see that a prisoner has been brought in by the Mad Huntsman. One of his riders laughs and calls the prisoner a “bloody Lannister bastard,” and tells him he will rot in his “new castle” (meaning the crow cage), “and when them crows are done, we’ll send what’s left o’ you to your bloody brother.” Gendry wonders if they have caught the Kingslayer.

Down in the square, a thrown stone caught the captive on the cheek, turning his head. Not the Kingslayer, Arya thought, when she saw his face. The gods had heard her prayers after all.

Commentary
AGH CLIFFHANGERS.

Well, not so much this time, because I actually have a solid guess on this one: Arya’s comment about her prayers being answered means that the prisoner almost certainly has to be someone on her list. Most of whom she conveniently enumerated for us just a few pages earlier, so yeah.

So, who is it from that list? Well, for obvious reasons, I think we can discount Cersei, Joffrey, Ser Ilyn, or Ser Meryn. I don’t even remember who Dunsen, Raff, Polliver, and The Tickler are, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because the guy heckling the prisoner mentions sending “what’s left o’ you to your bloody brother,” so that means he almost certainly is either Gregor or Sandor Clegane.

For maximum angst and drama, therefore, I’m going to bet that it’s Sandor, because God knows most readers would not give even two small craps about Gregor being condemned to having crows pluck his eyes out. Hell, I might throw a parade over it.

Not that the Hound is so very pristine and pure or anything, but as far as I can remember, compared to his brother he’s practically St. Francis of Assisi. With, granted, less of the “peaceful communing with animals” thing and more with the “ruthless slaughter of my liege’s enemies” thing (at least until he ran off, anyway), but whatever. Potay-to, potah-to!

So now we’ll just have to wait and see whether Sandor invokes his protection of Sansa to Arya to prevent her from murdering him—and whether that will actually work. I dunno: Sansa is not exactly Arya’s favorite person, sister or no, and Arya probably won’t believe Clegane anyway. We Shall See.

Valar morghulis: Interesting that Arya still doesn’t know what the words mean, but uses them in the completely correct context here. Of course, given that she learned them as words you say when you’re killing someone, it’s probably not rocket science to make the subconscious connection even without knowing the literal translation of the phrase.

Another important (and depressing) lesson Arya learns here is the truth that people on your side can be just as despicable as those on your enemies’ side. Arya’s youth rather excuses her on this ignorance, of course, but it remains funny to me (though certainly not in the sense of “funny ha-ha”) how fiercely some people who really ought to know better resist that truth, or ignore it, or justify it.

Human nature, I suppose. Arya makes reference to “her pack” (meaning wolf pack) in her disbelief that Stark allies could behave so horribly, but the thing is, that’s not a wolf thing, that’s a people thing: that instinct to defend your own even in the face of overwhelming evidence that that defense is not deserved.

Usually the assertion that beneath cultural divides we are all the same is meant to be a good thing, but it definitely has its flip side as well. I don’t know about you, but the fact that the human tendency toward sheer assholery respects no cultural, racial, religious or gender-based boundaries is not exactly a cause for celebration in my view. Sigh.

Still, nice of Arya and Co. to help the prisoners, though you gotta love when “help” is (legitimately) defined as “shooting you dead.” Damn, but this world is fucked up.

“They say King Robert fucked my mother when he hid here, back before the battle. Not that he didn’t have all the other girls too, but Leslyn says he liked my ma the best.”

The girl did have hair like the old king’s, Arya thought; a great thick mop of it, as black as coal. That doesn’t mean anything, though. Gendry has the same kind of hair too. Lots of people have black hair.

Holy crap. Robert Baratheon left more bastards floating around in his wake than most men do farts. Sheesh. Also, I completely can’t decide whether the fact Gendry could have ended up screwing his own half-sister without even knowing it is horrible or hilarious, but as is all too often the case in this series, I’m pretty sure it’s both.

Also, I cannot help but find Gendry and Arya’s little mutual pigtail-pulling proto-romance absolutely adorable. Most likely because I watched far too many sitcoms as a child, and now this particular trope is burned into my brain. (Don’t click that.)

Random confusion: is the “Huntsman” they keep referring to in this chapter Ser Beric? I think it is, but I’m not 100% sure on that.

Arya’s wolf dream: TOTALLY ACCIDENTAL WARGING WITH NYMERIA. It was! Because I said so, that’s why! Yay!

 

Chapter 30: Jon

What Happens
Ghost is gone when Jon’s party heads to the Wall, and Jon hopes that he understood what Jon wanted him to do. The Magnar spreads his men out to keep watch for patrols while Jarl and three teams of raiders set out to scale the Wall with makeshift pitons and ice-climbing equipment. As he watches, Jon wonders where he stands now. He thinks the Magnar would kill Ygritte if he left, but even if he could convince her to come with him, he could hardly take her back to Castle Black with him.

Jon, Ygritte, the Magnar and the rest watch as the three teams laboriously scale the giant Wall, and Jon admits to himself that whatever else the raiders are, they are brave. John reflects that raiders have often scaled the Wall, but managed to return much less frequently. However, no patrols appear, and the teams seem to be succeeding until a fifty foot-wide slab of ice detaches from the Wall, sending Jarl and the rest of his team plummeting to their deaths.

They burn the bodies as the other two teams reach the top of the Wall and rig a ladder to bring the rest of the raiders up. Ygritte is shaken by the perilous ascent, and comments that she hates the Wall, and that it is “made o’ blood.” Jon tries to comfort her, but she angrily insists that he knows nothing.

“I’m crying because we never found the Horn of Winter. We opened half a hundred graves and let all those shades loose in the world, and never found the Horn of Joramun to bring this cold thing down!”

Commentary
Hm. Was that what Mance Rayder was looking for in the mountains, the Horn of Winter? Because if so, and if Ygritte is right that they never found it, then… well, that’s a bit anticlimactic, as far as solving that particular mystery goes. Of course, Ygritte could be wrong, and Mance did find this Horn and just didn’t tell the rank and file about it. Which, okay, but if so, why not use it? Why do all this stupid, highly dangerous free-climbing nonsense instead?

Not that I see how a horn, even a magical one, can bring down a wall that apparently  makes the Great Wall of China look like a weekend DIY construction project, but what the hell do I know. Not to mention, I would think that something called a Horn of Winter would tend to bulk up something constructed of ice, rather than the opposite, but again, what do I know.

If Mance does have this Horn and is simply choosing not to use it for whatever reason, than this whole expedition takes on a distinctly more pointless—and malevolent—air than it did before. Maybe this is Mance’s version of culling the herd? I dunno, that doesn’t seem right, but really I’m basing this entire thing on one declaration from Ygritte, who is hardly in Mance’s inner circle, so maybe I should quit before I conspiracy-theory myself into oblivion.

I have no idea what’s up with her statement that they opened “half a hundred” graves and let “shades” loose in the world to look for this horn thing. It sounds like standard bullshit ghost story superstition to me, but in a world with wargs and dragons and frozen zombies, assuming bullshit on the notion of ghosts is probably a tad shortsighted, to say the least. So, that may be a thing that no doubt someone (probably Jon) will have to deal with at some point. Yay?

Speaking of Jon, Ygritte has certainly done her job well, whether she intended it that way or not. Jon’s loyalty to her may be purely awesome-sex-based, but it’s not like most kids his age can even tell the difference between that and True Love™, and regardless of whether this is puppy love or the real thing, she has thus poised him on the horns of his dilemma far more precisely than he ever had been before.

Before, I think, Jon would have betrayed the wildlings without compunction, given the opportunity, but now that he has feelings for Ygritte, the knowledge of the repercussions she would bear for his betrayal have trapped him. I’m not really judging Jon for this, quite the contrary in fact, but that doesn’t change how much more difficult his situation is now—and it was hardly a fun-filled picnic before this. Oy.

Jarl: what a way to go. I hesitate to call it a shitty way to go, considering how many much more horrific methods of dying we’ve seen in this series—at least getting impaled on a tree was quick—but it still seems, I dunno, kind of just awful and dumb. I imagine Mance’s lady-love (whose name is escaping me at the moment) will be less than pleased—assuming it wasn’t all a plot to get Jarl and the Magnar both out of Mance’s hair in the first place, of course. Either way, blah.


And that’s what I got for this one, kids! Have a delightful weekend, even if your weekend does not happen to contain a parade or two, and I’ll see you next Friday!

39 comments
AllHailTheDragonQueen
1. AllHailTheDragonQueen
Yes! my weekly fix. Also, Mance's Lady Love Dalla wouldn't be especially upset by Jarl's demise. Her sister, Val, who was dating him is going to be pissed though.
David Simmons
2. bgdaves
I believe the huntsman is the one who was bringing in the captive.
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
Raff, Dunsen, Polliver and The Tickler are the Lannister assholes that took her to Harrenhal and got their giggles torturing people for information about Ser Beric. Polliver or Dunsen is the one that took Needle. Funny how Arya made the connection to the girl's thick black hair and Gendry's, but then didn't make the connection as to who Gendry could be that the queen would want him captured. I can forgive her for missing it though, poor thing.

There is so much going on under the surface of the Jon chapter, and you kinda skimmed over it I don't want to really say anything. But, I have faith that you'll figure out why the Horn of Winter could be a BAD THING.
AllHailTheDragonQueen
4. corejay
Well, I think you're looking at this whole Horn business the wrong way, Leigh. I don't think using it would do the Wildlings much good, even if they had it. Why?

Roll over for speculation (though not necessarily spoilers below):
Well, why are they uniting in the first place, trying to get all of them south of the Wall? My guess would be that they face genocide by the Others, and the only way to go for them is South. Yes, there's this Wall in the way - but at the same time, once they are on the other side, they'll be safe from the Others. But if they destroy the Wall, they'll lose the very protection they seek.

So the Horn of Winter, if he has it, is nothing more than a bargaining chip for Mance. He can threaten to tear down the Wall, and might scare the Watch into letting them through; but actually tearing down the Wall would mean that their entire endeavour has been utterly pointless. So whatever happens, no matter if Mance has the Horn or not, I don't see him using it.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
5. AlirozTheConfused
There's a phrase often abused
"Half a hundred"'s how it goes
Here's the first time that it's used
but from here it only grows

Say good bye to number fifty
Don't expect it any more
Because Martin thinks it's nifty
to write ten as "half a score"
Rob Munnelly
6. RobMRobM
Two worksmanlike, well-crafted chapters. The scenes in the Peach are generally hilarious and well done, including the banter between the proprietress and members of the gang. Yes, pretty icky that Gendry almost ended up with his sister (and LOL for Arya's matter of fact observation regarding the type of hair). Reference to Arya taking special note of "his face" also probably weighs in favor of the Hound as the prisoner du jour.

Really nice Ygritte discussion making clear that difference between the Night Watch and Free Folk views of the Wall. Jon really does "know nothing" but is learning Ygritte's perspective. Yes, the emerging conflict of interest, it burns....
Chris Nelly
7. Aeryl
@4, Comment removed as the issue is being addressed.
Rob Munnelly
8. RobMRobM
And re Ygrittee's discussion about opening graves and letting "shades loose in the world" - does it imply that they accidentally brought the Others back to life? Horrifying thought, if true. (Remember, the zombies are created by the Others, but are not the Others - thus, wargs, dragons and zombies are not the most important potential things that could have returned to the world as a result of the Wildling's search.)
Chris Nelly
9. Aeryl
@8, That's how I read it. But at the same time with how the cycles of Winter goes, I kinda feel like the Others never went anywhere.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
10. AlirozTheConfused
We take great care, we make a toil
to not reveal and not to spoil
Don't make me summon Carl Gauss
to solve this problem like a boss
there is a thread for such posts
where the mods don't hang o'er your head
where letters do not look like ghosts
Corejay, take it to the spoiler thread.

Poetry that's obsolete
but too good to delete.
The spoiler's gone
this post means naught
it just goes on
no spoiler caught.
Steven Halter
13. stevenhalter
Chapter 29: Arya - A bit of interesting history. All these bits we get make it sound like Ned really should have been king.
Even if she doesn't know what it means,Arya seems to be using valar morghulis correctly.
The Gendry--who's brother am I exchange was a bit sad. How far the mighty fall. Arya is reciting her list and dreaming (walking) with wolves (Nymeria for sure).
The new prisoner must be someone from her list. The Hound would be my guess as the others are pretty unlikely. He also has a brother and the Mountain seems unlikely also.
Thomas Simeroth
14. a smart guy
@AlirozTheConfused
Join the rhymes of ice and fire thread.
Although it is quickly becoming dead.
You can ressurect it instead. So go on ahead.
http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/78370-rhymes-of-ice-and-fire-v-16/
Thomas Simeroth
15. a smart guy
This might be a double post.
In that case my ass is toast.
Sitting in a chair while i mused,
on the skills of AlirozTheConfused,
I came across a rhyming thread
on Game of Thrones but as I read
I saw that it was somewhat dead
but he could save it instead.
Join it soon while there's still time
And save it with the sweets of rhyme.
http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/78370-rhymes-of-ice-and-fire-v-16/
Steven Halter
16. stevenhalter
Chapter 30: Jon -- A nice, dangerous jaunt up the wall. The big ladders are a good idea; I was wondering what they were going to do. I'm thinking that the horn "bringing down the wall" could be metaphorical. Since the wildlings are now on top, the wall has been brought down in a manner of speaking.
AllHailTheDragonQueen
17. Megaduck
"If Mance does have this Horn and is simply choosing not to use it for whatever reason, than this whole expedition takes on a distinctly more pointless—and malevolent—air than it did before. Maybe this is Mance’s version of culling the herd?"

Seems rather Wheel of Timish actually. That sort of complicated betrayal and double betrayal doesn't seem to work so well in aSoIaF.

Mostly because the Demon Murphy is alive and well and something WILL go wrong.
Peter Stone
18. Peter1742
Even if Mance doesn't have the Horn of Winter, this plot thread isn't necessarily anticlimactic—the wildlings aren't the only beings who live North of the Wall and who might want to bring it down.
AllHailTheDragonQueen
19. Jaehaerys
@ 8, you have a chicken and egg problem with that theory. The Wildings had no pressing need to go south of the wall (except for raids, the loot from which they took back to their holds and homes north of the Wall, where they were "free"). There was no desperation to drive them ALL South to prompt a search for the Horn of Winter until there was an existential threat that they suddenly had to get away from.

I, too, agree with those who note that blowing the Horn would be a last resort kind of option, as using it would destroy the shelter they're seeking behind the Wall. Many "rank and file" wildlings might resent the Wall and dream of bringing it down with the Horn (which might even be a rational strategy if the Others were wiped out and no longer posed a threat), but Mance Rayder is not quite so stupid about the current strategic situation, I think.

But, if they can't get over the Wall, it's better to be able to threaten to bring it down and subject the southlands to the same fate the Wildlings already are facing. At least that way SOME wildlings might be able to go further south and survive (at least for a time), instead of them all being slaughtered to the last man between the Others's forces and the defenders on the Wall.
Lani Gallimore
20. evilminion
Why my weekend does have a parade or two (or three, or four)!
Buddy Grizzard
21. aenor
"Two worksmanlike, well-crafted chapters."

Seriously. There's so many of these.
Rob Munnelly
22. RobMRobM
@21. Amen to that. This is why ASOS is the favorite of most all ASOIF fans.
Rob Munnelly
23. RobMRobM
The Arya chapter included something that might be a clue -or a red herring - to a previously discussed mystery. Details limited to the spoiler thread, of course.
George Jong
24. IndependentGeorge
The Huntsman most definitely not Lord Beric.
..."Aye," said Lem. "Lord Beric don't hold with caging men to die of thirst. Why don't you hang them decent?"

"There was nothing decent 'bout them things they did at Tumbler's Falls," the townsman growled right back at him.

..."The Mad Huntsman will hear of this," a man threatened. "He won't like it. No he won't."

"He'll like this even less, then." Anguy strung his longbow, slid an arrow from his quiver, nocked, drew, loosed.
Rob Munnelly
25. RobMRobM
@24. Agreed. Also, if Beric were the Huntsman, it would have been referenced somewhere in the earlier chapters.
George Jong
26. IndependentGeorge
Alas these threads - we've rhyme, but no meter!
Cadences are lost, unsteady, unsure
Verses in the void, wailing in ether
Cling tight with frayed nerves to the line before

The easy path is one full of regrets
What comes cheap is not worth the price; else one
Had just as well play tennis without nets
And the game is lost before it's begun

Inspiration is there for they that seek
Bold words to push we who would carry on
The thoughts, theories, and jokes to share each week
On the Starks, the Targs, or Dondarrion

Thus my challenge on this - our weekly toil:
To compose sonnets for this read unspoiled.
Vincent Lane
28. Aegnor
Valar morghulis
Arya did say to herself
She is pretty smart
Rob Munnelly
29. RobMRobM
There was a Lord Stark from the North
Who down to the South sallied forth
But sneaky Lannisters were thinking
and got the King killed while drinking
And Stark learned what his honor was worth
George Jong
30. IndependentGeorge
@27 - Many thanks. Ironically, one of the hardest parts was rhyming "carry on" with "Dondarrion". I just had to put that in there, but couldn't figure out how to do it while staying within the mood, tone, and subject of the rest of the poem.

@28 - Haiku is especially versatile because "I've made a huge mistake" has a quite convenient five syllables. There is so much potential there - you can write an entire book of haikus that end with it. There's no chance in hell I'm writing a new sonnet every week, but "I've made a huge mistake" is definitely making an appearance in SOS.

ETA: Ironically, I made a huge mistake because I apparently can't count.
AllHailTheDragonQueen
31. MightyToucan
There once was a princess Targaryen,
Who married a horse lord barbarian.
And then when he died,
Hatched dragons to ride,
Rhaegal and Drogon and Viserion.
Rob Munnelly
32. RobMRobM
Nice work on the poetry - disappointed that we can't work "Nantucket" into it somehow. ;-)
Chris Nelly
33. Aeryl
It's GOT, you could rhyme "Nantucket" fairly easily if you wanted. :D
Rob Munnelly
34. RobMRobM
Nice, but I can't use it if it doesn't exist in this world. Maybe we can say that Nantucket exists in the far continent beyond the shadowlands past Asshai?

A shadowbinder from west of Nantucket
Had a ___ so long he could_____
etc
Chris Nelly
35. Aeryl
Nantucket should be a village on Pyke. That lyrics certainly fit!
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
36. AlirozTheConfused
I should have learned before this time.

Nine posts since that "weekly rhyme"

post was said, and ah, deah laudy

You guys are already getting Baudy!

This icky mess, I see, it be already a'startin'

why should I expect more from fans of Jar Jar Martin?
AllHailTheDragonQueen
37. ChillinLikeSerIlyn
Mance sent Jarl b/c he and his men had been over the Wall before. He sent the Magnar b/c the Thenns are better organized than the rest of the Wildlings. If he wanted to get them out of his hair it was probably incidental.
Rob Munnelly
38. RobMRobM
@36 "Baudy" - and I thought we were well past the time of dial-up internet. Maybe we'll have to decrease our signal transmission rate to compensate.

LOL
Michael Booth
40. Etherbeard
I like the part when they rig a ladder to climb a 700 foot wall.

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