Fri
Apr 12 2013 12:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 26

A readthrough of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and FireWelcome 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 Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 45 (“Catelyn”).

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 Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler 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!

Scheduling note: The fifth annual JordanCon, and my duties as its Toastmaster is NEXT WEEK OMG. Therefore, The Read of Ice and Fire will be on hiatus for the Fridays of both April 19th and 26th.

Onward!

 

Chapter 45: Catelyn

What Happens
Robb is embarrassed and touched that Jeyne chases after his army once they march from Riverrun, and Lothar Frey makes a dig at Edmure about Roslin being as excited to marry him. Catelyn knows that Robb resents her for insisting that Jeyne stay behind, even though he agreed that it would be too much of an insult to Walder Frey to have her there. She is pleased that Jeyne’s absence now means that Grey Wind is at Robb’s side again, but uneasy that her uncle Brynden must also stay and guard Riverrun instead of accompany them.

They travel through miserable rainy conditions, and Catelyn tries to convince herself not to give in to despair and be strong for Robb. Edmure speculates gloomily on the likelihood of his betrothed’s unattractiveness, and Catelyn snaps that he’d be wiser to hope that she is healthy and good-hearted. He avoids her thereafter, and Catelyn remembers guiltily her own disappointment the first time she’d seen Eddard Stark, but thinks that love had come for her eventually and perhaps the same would happen for Edmure. After five days, they learn that the bridges are out at Blue Fork and the river too high to ford, forcing them to detour around it. Robb hopes Walder Frey will not take the delay as another insult, and that Bolton made it across the Trident before the rains started. He tells Catelyn he plans to go north after the wedding, but fails to elaborate further.

After eight more days, they reach Oldstones. Robb and Catelyn meet at the sepulcher of an ancient king, and he tells her that with Bran and Rickon and Arya dead, Sansa married to a Lannister, and Jeyne not yet pregnant, Robb must ensure he has a named heir. He wants to legitimize Jon Snow as a Stark by royal decree and name him heir. Catelyn protests that he is sworn to the Watch, but Robb is sure the Watch can be convinced to release him. Catelyn argues that the precedent for legitimizing bastards led the last king who did it to years of war and strife. Robb says that Jon would never harm him or his sons, and Catelyn asks, like Theon Greyjoy would not harm Bran and Rickon? Robb is furious at the comparison. Catelyn says she cannot support him in “this folly,” and Robb tells her he doesn’t need her support, and leaves.

Robb also avoids her thereafter, and the weather and the terrain grow steadily worse. Eventually Lord Jason Mallister finds them, and Catelyn is summoned to a meeting in Robb’s tent that night to find Mallister had brought a sea captain with him who had been trapped at Lordsport on Pyke, and brings them the news that Balon Greyjoy is dead, drowned after one of his castle bridges blew away in a storm. He says that immediately thereafter, Balon’s brother Euron Crow’s Eye had appeared and taken the throne, and the captain had slipped away in the confusion. Robb thanks him and sends him out, and tells the assembled lords that Balon’s other brother Victarion cannot possibly do anything other than head back to Pyke immediately to challenge Euron’s claim to the throne, and the same goes for Theon and Asha if they want it.

Robb lays out his plan: he knows Victarion’s fleet will not wholly abandon Moat Cailin, but he and most of the leaders will leave, and reduce the fleet’s numbers there as well. He orders Lord Mallister to sail to Greywater Watch with Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover, to contact the crannogmen and have Howland Reed meet up with Robb’s force and guide them through the Neck by ways only the crannogmen know, so that Robb may circle around to the north and attack from the rear while Bolton and the Greatjon attack from the south in a frontal assault.

The others approve the plan, and Robb tells Catelyn that she is not to come with them to Moat Cailin, but instead go with Lord Mallister to stay at Seagard until the war is done. Catelyn wonders if this is her punishment for her opposition to Jon Snow, and accuses Robb of making her a prisoner. She wants to return to Riverrun if she cannot stay, but Robb tells her he doesn’t want his wife and his mother in the same place. He dismisses her objections and presents to the lords his decree for naming Jon Snow his heir.

A king indeed, Catelyn thought, defeated. She could only hope that the trap he’d planned for Moat Cailin worked as well as the one in which he’d just caught her.

Commentary
Well, it does certainly sound like Robb’s got a good plan of attack, doesn’t it? I look forward to finding out how it’s all going to go horribly wrong!

That’s a lie, of course. Obviously I would love it if Robb’s plan went perfectly; I just don’t have a lot of faith that that’s what’s going to happen. Everybody’s been making such a point about how Robb has yet to lose a battle, and you just know that other shoe’s going to have to drop sometime. Probably at the worst point possible. So I guess the only question is whether Moat Cailin is that worst point, or if we’ve got to save up for something even more dire down the road. Yay?

There is the point that if Robb does win, his reputation will skyrocket even higher than it already has, since as Galbart says, no one has ever taken Moat Cailin by force before. So, also yay? Sort of?

Hm. Here’s hoping.

And whoa, Robb’s making Jon his heir? Dude!

I have no idea, in retrospect, why I didn’t see that development coming, because it’s frickin’ obvious in hindsight, but it never even occurred to me until Robb said it here. Though, in my defense I suppose, my knowledge that Bran and Rickon are really alive may have kept me from connecting the dots. Plus I’m not sure I knew before this that Westeros law allowed for legitimizing bastards (though logically, there would almost have to be some kind of provision for that in place, judging by your average European monarchy’s succession shenanigans).

And of course, Catelyn loathes the very idea. Show of hands if you were shocked. Yeah.

First I anger Edmure, and now Robb, but all I have done is speak the truth. Are men so fragile they cannot bear to hear it?

Ehhh, no, Catelyn. You’ve got a point re: Edmure, and a point in general actually, but on Robb legitimizing Jon you are wrong, wrong, wrong. Because that wasn’t truth, that was prejudice, straight-up.

It’s a damn shame, really, because Catelyn’s unwavering hatred for Jon, while marginally understandable (if appallingly misdirected in my opinion), does a very good job of undermining all the ways in which she is a good judge of character and events. Because I do think that in general Catelyn sees things more clearly than about 95% of the people around her, but on this one point she is just blind, and Robb knows it. And there’s no way that that doesn’t color his judgment of her objectivity in other matters. And that sucks.

This is all in my opinion, of course. And it’s possible that her objections are totally right—there’s no denying that it will be a clusterfuck of epic proportions, after all, if/when Jon is legitimized and then Bran and Rickon come tumbling out of the woodwork. But of course, Robb thinks Bran and Rickon are dead, so he can be forgiven for not seeing that coming, and Catelyn thinks the same, so her objection is reduced to, basically, “bastards are bastards!” Which, even if she has a point there, the fact remains that my own knowledge of Catelyn’s unreasoning hatred of Jon immediately predisposed me to reject her objections out of hand. Which is doubtless the same thing that happened to Robb. So, undermined.

And of course, it must be acknowledged that my own very pro-Jon Snow prejudices may be playing their part here, too. Because I, naturally, think making Jon Robb’s heir is an awesome idea. And not just because I’m pretty sure I predicted way back when that this exile to the Wall thing wouldn’t stick—especially since I only made that prediction because I wanted it to be true, not because I had any kind of certainty it would actually happen. But look, it did! See, wishes CAN come true, even in Westeros! Unicorns! Rainbows!

(Yes, I am aware I’m getting waaaaay ahead of myself here. Shut up, I’m enjoying the moment.)

It also occurs to me that Catelyn might have a legitimate gripe, in that Jon being heir means that her bloodline—hers, not Ned’s—would be cut out of the succession if Jon inherits. However, I’m not really clear on whether Catelyn cares about that overmuch; I’ve always gotten the impression that Catelyn’s hatred of Jon is much more personal than genealogical, but I could be wrong.

In other news: ah, so Balon is indeed dead. And killed by the ironmen’s own Darwinian notions of architecture, too. I am Amused.

And, it turns out, the “squabbling squids” aren’t just limited to Asha and Theon, either. Makes sense. Euron sounds like he’s just as loveable as the rest of his family, so that ought to end up a fine kettle of fish. Pun definitely intended.

(Is Theon alive? I can’t remember if I know or not. Hopefully not.)

Other notes:

Catelyn smiled despite herself. “You are braver than I am, I fear. Are all your Bear Island women such warriors?”

“She-bears, aye,” said Lady Maege. “We have needed to be. In olden days the ironmen would come raiding in their longboats, or wildlings from the Frozen Shore. The men would be off fishing, like as not. The wives they left behind had to defend themselves and their children, or else be carried off.”

“There’s a carving on our gate,” said Dacey. “A woman in a bearskin, with a child in one arm suckling at her breast. In the other hand she holds a battleaxe. She’s no proper lady, that one, but I always loved her.”

I really like Dacey and Maege Mormont, and I like even more that they are proud and happy to be fighters, but man, it’s sad that their existence reminds me of how stupid (and entrenched) patriarchy is. Because here you’ve got these women whose House has evidently proven over generations that women can be mothers and warriors both, and yet going by Brienne’s experience (not to mention the Greatjon’s comments about women having no place in battle, all while he’s riding with the Mormonts, no less!), it’s clear that the Mormont women are regarded in Westeros not as proof that women can be honorable fighters, but rather as a bizarre anomaly.

An accepted and longstanding anomaly, sure, but still the exception that proves the sexist rule. And that is completely looneytunes from a logical standpoint, and yet no one (except Brienne, apparently) ever challenges it! It blows my mind, seriously.

Catelyn’s thoughts on how she grew to love Ned Stark reminded me of something I read somewhere once, that statistically, arranged marriages have no less chance of working out in the long term than “lovematches.” I have no idea whether that is even remotely accurate or not, but even if it were, I feel like that’s completely missing the point.

It’s human nature to adapt and to bear up under adversity. So, yeah, if you’re basically shoved into a situation and told this is the rest of your life, suck it up or everyone will hate you and your life will be ruined, or better yet, suck it up or die, then sure, most people will grit their teeth and make the best of it. I’m just not sure why you would consider this an example of something, quote, “working.”

I guess it “works” if all you want out of it is babies. Blah. Not that I have anything against babies, but crazy me, I think there should be a little bit more to marriage than having compatible gametes. Like, maybe, hey, free will.

*sigh* I know, Westeros. Still.

Woo, tangent.

And Theon Greyjoy fought at Robb’s side, and boasted of how he had almost crossed swords with the Kingslayer. If Theon had died in place of Lord Karstark’s sons, how much ill would have been undone?

Oh, don’t worry, Catelyn. I’m sure this universe would have found a way for it all to go to shit no matter what!

*is helpful*

My lord husband is dead, as is my father. Two of my sons have been murdered, my daughter has been given to a faithless dwarf to bear his vile children, my other daughter is vanished and likely dead, and my last son and my only brother are both angry with me. What could possibly be amiss?

She’s got cause for it, Lord knows, but damn if Catelyn isn’t depressing to read. I really hope she finds out that at least one of her children besides Robb and Sansa isn’t dead before too much longer, because she’s reaching Artex-like proportions here and they’re going to need to start keeping her out of swamps soon.

(And if you got that reference without having to Google it first, I’m sorry for reviving one of your more traumatic childhood viewing experiences.)

Aaand two lines later in the chapter after I stopped to write the above:

“If we cannot cross the Blue Fork, we’ll have to go around it, through Sevenstreams and Hag’s Mire.” [emphasis added]

Oops?

(Heh.)

And last and most definitely least:

“The fifth Tristifer was not his equal, and soon the kingdom was lost, and then the castle, and last of all the line. With Tristifer the Fifth died House Mudd, that had ruled the riverlands for a thousand years before the Andals came.”

So… you’re saying that after that, their name was Mudd?

*runs*


And that’s it for now, kids! I’m off to Atlanta, wish me Toastmastery luck! See you in two weeks!

82 comments
Stro
1. Stro
Thanks Leigh! Hope you are feeling better!
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
2. AlirozTheConfused
One chapter today, Leigh?

That's okay.

Just in a few weeks, when I ask for chapters of three

would you please, just once, do it, miss B?

I can't say more than that just now


Whited out by request.
but my reasons, my reasons, my reasons are WOW.
Steven Halter
3. stevenhalter
Chapter 45: Catelyn -- Marching to wed Edmure with 3500 and then to the North. Seem's like a reasonable plan.
Robb has made Jon his heir--that seems like a really good plan.
Maybe it is Catelyn's mood infecting this chapter, but it seems somberly written. We've got the dead king's tomb and Catelyn thinking (mistakenly) about her dead children.
Hey! Good news--Balon Greyjoy is dead. That fits the Krakken prophecy he had from the short old woman.

"Roose Bolton will have the rearguard" -- I don't like that at all. Having a questionable man in the rearguard seems like an ample point for a betrayal during battle.
Chris Nelly
4. Aeryl
I see Catelyn as very invested in whether her bloodline continues. It's the epitome of womenhood in this culture. If you'll recall, back in CoK, there was much discussion in Winterfell over the future of Lady Hornwood, and who would rule. The discussion centered around awarding the lordship to her husband's bastard son, and how she would be unhappy with that, because that would have no child of her bloodline, and the compromise was to marry the legitimized bastard to a relative from Lady Hornwood's family.

Cersei and Catelyn both are examples of how this extreme devotion to this concept of "ideal" motherhood are poisonous, though they exhibit the problems in different ways. Cersei protects her children, from responsibility and accountability as well as harm, to their detriment. Catelyn can't find it in her heart to love Jon Snow, because he threatens her status as the mother of Ned Stark's children.

I also have to add, that I roll my eyes everytime Cat starts to worry about her daughters. She never seemed to concerned about her daughters when she had them, pawning off raising them onto Septa Mordane, allowing Sansa's head to be filled fairy tales and believing them true, and forcing Arya to fulfill a role that she didn't fit, instead of allowing her to grow as an individual. The overwrought desire to carry another son for Ned, not a child, but son. All of it totals up to reveal Cat as a woman who doesn't value other women(an Exceptional Girl there).
Juan Avila
5. Cumadrin
That is a really clever connection you pulled, Leigh. So clever it prompted me to comment for the first time in months.

The horse was named Artax though.
Marie Veek
6. SlackerSpice
@3: Both prophecies, actually. The first time (Chapter 22), ol' Ghosty mentioned a bridge and a crow, as well as a guy with no face (because prophecies are annoyingly vague little shits that way.)
Stro
7. o.m.
Right now, Jon is the perfect heir for Robb, if you go into that monarchy business to start with. He'd be better than Bran or Rickon, simply because he is that much older.

But Catelyn is right. If Jon is legitimized now, he can't be un-legitimized later. Ten years from now, Robb might have a son, Catelyn's grandson, and what if he breaks his neck then? Will Jon step back and let an untried kid take the throne?
Stro
9. sooner_fan1222
@4

I agree completely.

While Catelyn is one of the smarter characters in the book, she makes a lot of stupid decisions. I honestly can't stand her. A list of a few of her really dumb decisions:

1. Persuading Ned to take the job as Hand, when he is nowhere near suited for such a position. It shows a pretty amazing lack of recognition of her own freaking husband's strengths and weaknesses. She has only herself to blame for putting him in a situation he did not belong.

2. Assuming that Littlefinger is a "friend" and buying into the fact that Tyrion was responsible for Bran. Then on top of it, taking Tyrion hostage when she had no proof other than Littlefinger's word. Not to mention the fact that he did not even have anyone with him to "threaten" her. This one decision is responsible for Jaime killing Ned's men and resulting in Ned with a broken leg, as well as the numerous innocents that are killed when Gregor is set loose in the countryside.

3. Releasing Jaime Lannister. This results in undermining Robb's authority, the loss of the Karstarks, and best of all she gave away one of their best bargaining tools.

Well done Catelyn.
Chris Nelly
10. Aeryl
@9 Even with all of Catelyn's faults, I still love her. And I don't necessarily agree with your #1. Cat's motives were never that the move to Hand was good for Ned, it was that you don't say no to a king, even with that king was your childhood best friend.

#2, I have a little more nuance about, she was terrified the Lannisters would discover she and Ned were investigating them, so taking Tyrion prisoner was necessary to keep that knowledge from them. I don't think she felt physically threatened, but the knowledge that she wasn't in Winterfell was the threat.

#3, I completely agree.
Rob Munnelly
11. RobMRobM
Interesting set of facts - Balon's bridge "blows away in a storm" and brother Euron shows up immediately and claims the crown versus prophecy that involves a man without a face with a kraken on a bridge. Accident (as described to Robb) versus something else....?

Re Jon - I think we discussed way upthread that Cat's hostility to Jon may have rested entirely or substantial part on the potentially reasonable fear that he would be legitimized and usurp the rights of Cat's true born kids. This is her nightmare scenario coming true - of course she's ticked.

The Mormont women ... are cool. That's all.

I'm dying for a Howland Reed POV. Hope we get one.
Stro
12. Dingo
Hey Leigh (and mods)! (Roll over to read):

Just to reinforce what Aliroz @2 said, could you bring to Leigh's attention to do Chapters 51 and 52 together? This could be achieved by getting 3 chapters in after she's back, then 2 chapters each friday the following 2 weeks. If that's overworking her, then a one chapter Friday somewhere before 51 and 52 and then 2 each time.

Thanks :)
Marie Veek
13. SlackerSpice
@11: Crow, not kraken. But yes, methinks I smell something fishy.

Well, squiddy, tecnically, but meh...
Aaron McGrady
14. westernstorm
Balon dying right before his exiled brother shows up, was a little convenient for Euron.
Stro
15. sooner_fan1222
@10,

1. It was my understanding that that wasn't her main reason for suggesting that he take the job. Maybe I'm misremembering, but I thought she tried to talk him out of it, until they received the raven from Lysa about Jon Arryn. I thought that was the main reason she had a change of heart.

2. I understand her reasoning, I just don't really agree with it. Taking a Lannister prisoner was the worst possible way to keep secret the fact that they were suspicious of the Lannisters. Unless she was an idiot, she should have had no illusions that Tywin and Jaime would find out from a witness. She could have come up with a number of reasons for why she was not in Winterfell. I understand she was also emotional about her son, but she could have made things a lot easier for her loved ones.
Stro
16. zambi76
I'm with you Aeryl. I like Catelyn too with all of her fuck ups, and I'm not even much of a Stark fan at all. But she's a very unique "classic" female perspective in the story IMO.

@12 (roll over to read):
Chapter breaking from here could be:
46/47
48/49
and I think 50/51/52 is doable as both Arya chapters are rather short .
Chris Nelly
17. Aeryl
@15, I may be confusing the show and the book, I'll check! But I'm pretty sure she didn't want him to go, just didn't see how he could say no. She has this internal monologue where she's like "How can I convince him he MUST do this" Then the letter from Lysa shows up, which gives her the leverage to convince him.

Ah, went back to Leigh's read, part 4, and here is how she describes Catelyn and Ned's convo

After they make love, Catelyn and Ned discuss the king’s offer. Ned
wants to refuse, but Catelyn insists that would make Robert suspicious.
Stro
18. Asbjorn
@12 I don't think she should do that. Explanation in the spoiler thread.
Jamie Watkins
19. Treesinger
I can't remember but did we have the Stannis "leech" scene yet? (roll over to read)
Marie Veek
20. SlackerSpice
@19: We did. One leech down... (roll over to read)
Rob Munnelly
21. RobMRobM
Aeryl - watch out for fundamental difference on this between book Cat (Ned, you must go) and TV Cat (Ned, don't go).

To all - I agree that we have some chapter grouping recommendations to make regarding some of the upcoming chapters, especially as Leigh will be out of pocket for a bit at Jordancom. Let's get together in the Spoiler thread and make a recommendation to Leigh so that we all can have as much fun as reasonably practicable with these upcoming linked chapters.
Stro
22. Black Dread
@17 - You are confusing the bookand the show - they were absolute opposites in that scene.
Stro
23. insomnia333
@7 - Yes he would have to step back unless he wanted to start a war. Jon's legitimization is only as a backup plan in case Robb dies before he get's a heir. Once he has a heir, the heir jumps to the front of the succession line no matter his age.
Someone correct me if I'm wrong but I believe succession goes Sons > Brothers > Daughters > Sisters. At this point Robb believes Bran and Rickon dead, so with no sons, if he dies Winterfell goes to Sansa, who is currently married to Tyrion the despicable Lanister.
Jon is mearly an insurance policy to keep Winterfell out of Lannister hands until he gets an heir.
Chris Nelly
24. Aeryl
@22, No I'm not, BookCat insists he must go, which is what I said. I quoted from Leigh's read, too, and that's what she says.
Peter Stone
25. Peter1742
It seems to me that Catelyn makes a lot of good suggestions, and these are generally ignored. When she makes bad suggestions, people follow her advice. Clearly, the author is torturing Catelyn by doing this.
Stro
26. MGP
@6: If Robb has a son, the son automatically displaces Jon as the heir to the throne (just as Joffrey displaced Stannis as Robert's heir).

All this does is prevent the kingdom from collapsing into civil war if Robb dies before having any children.
Stro
27. GarrettC
/piles on Catelyn

This was around the time when I started to feel very weary of Cat chapters. The reason, though, was more narrative than character.

I do agree that there are a lot of reasons to both love and hate Cat as a character. She's very intelligent, worldly, and empowered--she even has a decent mind for warfare. Except when she's doing something remarkably stupid, close-minded, or militarily counter-productive. She can be admirably calm and reasoned. Except when she's constantly bemoaning the same things over and over ("Robb is a king! But he's a boy! But he's a king! But it seems only yesterday he was at my breast!"). She's, like, a perfect split between awesome and ridiculous.

And I do agree that while I've found some of her thought processes completely inexplicable (There was really no conceivable, realistic benefit to Jaime's release, except that it made the story more interesting, and I don't think Cat had that in mind, exactly... I was equally puzzled, though on a smaller scale, by her rationale that her dad was just calling for Lysa by a nickname that nobody had ever heard him use before...), she's generally awesome enough in other circumstances that these aren't deal breakers.

So where she actually loses me starts with desire and ends with POV. One of the building blocks of character is desire, and Cat has no real desires of her own. All of her desires are for others, and specifically her family. She wants a son FOR Ned. She wants to make things easier FOR Robb. Etc. She has few desires of her own which would characterize her as a person with individual needs, and certainly no long-term desires of her own that I can discern. So, ultimately, the more I read her, the more I read her as half a character.

This is emphasized by the POV problem. Catelyn is one of several POV characters who function, for the most part, at least for a time, as proxies. The vast majority of what Cat's chapters do is show us what Robb is doing. (Davos is similar for a while, mostly showing us what Stannis is doing; Jaime is this way for a much shorter period w/ Brienne before he becomes firmly ensconsed as the subject of his own POV). But for wide swaths of these books, Cat is not there to show us what Cat is doing, or what Cat wants.

So I get more and more tired of her chapters, wondering why it's not just Robb's POV. At least then we'd know whether or not he ever got wargy with it.

/stops piling on Catelyn
George Jong
28. IndependentGeorge
I dislike Cat precisely for the reasons enumerated by #9 above, but she's absolutely right about Jon Snow here (though she's also wrong in the bigger sense that he really is Robb's best option).

Suppose Jon becomes heir, and then Robb gets killed shortly after getting Jeyne pregnant. Legally, Jon becomes the Regent for the next 16 years or so while Lil' Rob grows up. While Jon today might love Robb and honor his bloodline, 15 years as Lord of Winterfell/King in the North might change his mind. I'm not saying he'll turn into Richard III, but ceding power you've held a long time is difficult even for the best people (especially if that power was attained legitimately).

Even if Jon is 100% honorable and raises Robb's son as his own, there will always be those at court trying to influence things to their own benefit. What if Jon marries a Karstark to try to unify the north and put their feud with Robb to rest; will his wife be keen on giving up her children's inheritence for Robb's? What if Jon dies in battle at some point; what loyalty will his son have to this uncle he never met, or this cousin he might or might not like?

There's a lot that can go wrong, and Cat is right to worry about them even if she's doing it for the wrong reasons. And given that her husband was King Robert's BFF, it had to have always been in her head that Jon might someday be legitimized, causing all this to play out.
Chris Nelly
29. Aeryl
@27, That is all very true. But I think another part of the reason that Cat expresses no desires for herself, is that she truly has none. Wanting anything for yourself has been drummed out of most women in Westeros, the ones we get POVs on are the exception to that rule except for Cat.

Which is why one of the strangest criticisms I find is that she's selfish. In my mind, she's incapable of being selfish, because she has no sense of self, just of obligation.
Stro
30. Lsana
Cat has two very legitimate gripes about what Robb's doing with Jon here:

1) It is a big deal that her bloodline is being cut out of the succession. She married Ned Stark precisely because her father wanted his grandson (and his sons) ruling in Winterfell. Legitimizing Jon pushes her children to the back of the line; if he's legitimate, he's in line right after Robb, and nothing can be done about that. Yeah, she thinks Bran and Rickon are dead, so she's not worried about them, but the girls are out. Even if Arya turns up alive or Sansa gets out of her marriage to Tyrion, they're still after Jon now.

2) Last time a king decided to legitimize his bastards, it caused 100 years of civil war; it's reasonable Cat is worried about that. For that not to happen this time, not only does Jon have to be trustworthy--and it's worth pointing out that while Cat's not objective on that point, neither's Robb, and he doesn't have a great record of judging people *cough* Theon *cough*--but at any rate, not only Jon, but his sons and grandsons have to be trustworthy. One of them decides to accuse Jeyne of adultry, and the North could get it's own version of the War of Five Kings.
Jeremy Morton
31. Raistlan
@30 They're in a war in which five guys considered themselves kings already...
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
32. AlirozTheConfused
No, four guys and a stinking pile of excrement.

Wait, now I have to apologize to the stinking piles of excrement of the world.
Jeremy Morton
33. Raistlan
It's interesting how some people say that this series doesn't have all black or all white characters, just various degrees of grey, though Joffrey is obviously a counter-example. Up to this point in the books, I don't recall any attempt to put a positive personality attribute onto him. People have various judgements of most everyone else, but one character unites us all. At least, in the future, we don't have to insult other things to denegrate awful people/characters; we can just say that they're a "Joffrey".
paul Hend
34. tugthis
Free will and marriage? Marriage is where free will goes to die.
Stro
35. elen
@27 and @29: Catelyn's desire is to protect her family and watch out for the welfare of her children. That is what she wants. How is caring about others not caring about yourself? She will feel better once she knows her children are happy and safe. She does have her own wants and desires. They just happen to not be about wanting power or being the ruling monarch. Instead, her desires are to see her children survive the war and to have them with her and for the war to end. Just like a negative attitide spreads to other people, happiness can be pervasive too. Why can't one find happiness in the happiness of others?

Also, the fact that a character like Catelyn is given so much attention and pages by Martin, in a fantasy series, is a big factor in making A Song of Ice and Fire stand out from the innumerable fantasy novels out there. Almost none of them give so many words to a woman in her 30s and who is also a mother. The fact that she can be considered a central character and a heroine of this series is simply astounding, if you think about it. Despite the sadness that pervades her chapters, she is very realistic and not at all an archetype, unlike her HBO alter-ego.
Bridget McGovern
36. BMcGovern
Hi, all! Just wanted to let you know that your comments about upcoming installments are being noted, here and in the spoiler thread. How the upcoming posts break down is obviously up to Leigh, but I've passed along some suggestions. Thanks, and happy weekend!
Stro
37. Bombur the Elf
Hag's Mire. Am I the only one who doesn't get it?
Stro
38. GarrettC
@35 I don't dispute that Catelyn would find great happiness and fulfillment if she got nothing else but the health and happiness of her children, and there are only positive things to be said for being able to derive happiness from the happiness of others, but I don't think it's realistic for a person to be completely selfless in his or her desires, except in--as Aeryl suggests--a pretty unhealthy way. As much as it's a positive (and necessary) to derive happiness from the happiness of others, isn't it also necessary to care for one's own needs independent of others. Could one be a whole and healthy person without both?

I certainly didn't mean to diminish selfless desire. I meant only that in not providing Cat with independent desire on top of it, GRRM was only creating half a character for me. Or at least, I could amend, an unhealthy one (which actually may help explain some of her more bizarre behavior patterns, though I'm not convinced this was the intent).
James Kendall
39. JKsilver
I really like this chapter, partly because I've always enjoyed Catelyn as a POV character, partly because it has a reflective, autumnal feel to it. Catelyn's musings on how it's been a year since the battle of the Whispering Wood and how much has changed for them all since then is a nice reminder of the passing of time and what it's brought.
Stro
40. argilac's antler
@37. A mire is a swamp. Leigh suggested Cat stay away from swamps. Then she read ahead and saw a swamp is one of their next possible travel routes. It made her go 0.O
Stro
41. Nessa
4: I agree with you that both Cersei and Catelyn are to some extent GRRM's depictions of bad mothers. Many people who read the books seem to think of Cersei and Catelyn as foil to each other: the "bad" and the "good" mother. But in some ways, their actions are parallel. While they both love their children very much, their single-minded devotion to them sometimes blinds them to reality and causes them to act very stupid.

Catelyn especially is a product of Westeros' patriarchal culture that doesn't allow women to really strive for anything other than being good mothers. Even though she mostly fulfils that role that has been picked out for her at birth ("family, duty, honor"), GRRM has shown us many times that this is an unhealthy path to follow. But because Catelyn follows this code almost absolutely, her actions can get borderline ridiculous. When her husband brings a bastard home from the war, she doesn't blame Ned (who is supposedly the root cause of the problem) because he's her lord husband and she has to follow him in everything he does, but instead takes it out on Jon (innocent kid blamed for his mere existence). And all the other stupid decisions she's made (kidnapping Tyrion, loosing Jaime) are basically extensions for her thinking of her children's immediate safety as much more important than anything else. Even though she should know that both these actions could have horrible consequences (she's not a stupid woman, she's pretty savvy politically), she goes on with them anyway, just because HER CHILDREN. (Not that I necessarily agree with Sady's infamous review of ASOIAF, but I straight up lol'd at her description of Cat)

I would disagree that Cat didn't care about Sansa and Arya though. From what I've seen in the books, she does love them. While she seems to think boys are more valued that girls, I think that's because in Westerosi society, boys are more valued than girls, and Catelyn's deal is that she always follows the rules of Westerosi society.

@27: I think of Cat as one of those characters who normally has a clear head about things and is usually very smart, but the problem is when her children get involved and her thinking just gets hysterical. Everytime I get involved in a Cat debate in ASOIAF forums (people are always calling her a bitch and whatnot) I keep wanting to defend her, because she's such an awesome ground-breaking character (how many fantasy novels have a mother of five as a POV character?). But while shielding her is possible to an extent, I do get tired after a while, because in some ways her detractors have perfectly reasonable explanations for hating her. While I do like Cat, I'm very glad she's not a favourite character of mine. Otherwise, defending my love of her could probably get very exhausting in the forums I'm part of.
Chris Nelly
42. Aeryl
@41, I pretty much agree with all that. It's not that I don't think Cat loves her daughters, they just seem very much like afterthoughts I guess.
Grainne Forde
43. McGiftens
I'm conflicted about Cat. I think she does love her daughters and part of her hatred and fear of legitimising a bastard like Jon Snow, regardless of his qualities, is that it would seriously threaten her daughters and grandaughters. If all a woman can be in Westeros depends upon her production of "trueborn" children there is no security at all for a female child when any child can be legitimised. There is no need then in Westeros for the rituals of marriage that awful as they are at least grant a sliver of respect for a woman albeit as mother of heirs.
Stro
44. Typhoonclass17
Artex!?!?

Really Leigh! Really!!!

I thought I was done worrying about those reoccuring nightmares 25 years ago
Manar
45. thelastgoodkiss
I totally understand and respect the reason for the hiatus, but it sure is an inconvenient time in the book to pause. ;)

I'm really excited for the upcoming chapters.
Stro
46. phuzz
If Robb dies, and leaves Jon next in line, how's that going to work? Is Robb's army going to march all the way to the wall, and assuming they bump into him say: "hey, you're our king now, shall we go try to take over the 7 kingdoms?"
Jon would most likely be more interested in fighting the white walkers etc. and I suppose having an army would help. However, that might be a Good Thing, and as we know by now Good Things don't happen to nice people in Westeros.
Chris Nelly
47. Aeryl
Well, I would assume that a raven would be sent to the Wall, telling he's now King in the North, and he would be expected to come to the army.

We know the idea is ludicrous because of what Jon is doing and how his priorities have changed. Robb doesn't because he doesn't even know that Jon's not even ON the Wall at the moment.
Stro
48. TaisharMorgan
Artax! I had a cat named Artax. It was my way of making that scene in that movie a bit less soul-wrenching...

He was an awesome cat.
Stefan Mitev
49. Bergmaniac
Probably nobody would read it, but I just have to say it. Catelyn is right about Jon being made the heir. It's a bad idea for many reasons. It's Robb who's deluded because of his emotions.

The oath to the Night's Watch is taken very seriously. There are really no precedents for being released from it. Undermining the NW for personal convenience is not something which the Northmen would welcome from Robb. And Jon would have major trouble establishing himself as the King if he was to inherit - people would have both his bastardy and his questionable release from the oath as tools to use against him. Most likely there would've been some sort of succession struggle.

Cat is also not wrong about Jon's personality - she never claims he's a bad guy. Her dislike of him has nothing to do with his personality.

And it's quite absurd blaming her for not recognising Ned is unsuited for being the Hand. Ned was a successful lord of half the realm for 15 years. How could she predict he would lose 50 IQ points in KL and act like a fool time and time again? By all accounts, Jon Arryn was quite similar in personality to Ned and he was a good Hand for 15 years.
Chris Nelly
50. Aeryl
Ned was a successful Lord during peacetime who didn't have to do anything to be Lord accept live his ideals(like do your own beheading). I think there really is something to be said about the fact that Ned wasn't raised to rule. He wasn't raised to be political, he was raised as a warrior. Brandan was raised to be political(and not very well, by all evidence, dueling children, running off to KL), much like Cat was. I think she knew Ned didn't have what it takes, but was too scared to encourage him to say no.

And I have to disagree with the assertion that Jon Arryn was a good Hand for 15 years. Arryn allowed the crown to become deeply indebted to the Lannisters and the Iron Bank of Braavos, he encouraged the terrible match between Robert and Cersei, and backed Robert as King.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
51. AlirozTheConfused
Leigh, what the hey!

Why in the world did you have to say

that reference; despair and dismay

Poor Artax, that scene always ruined my day

Good gosh, all the memories; why won't they stay

forgotten like they're meant to; faded and okay?
Stefan Mitev
52. Bergmaniac
Being a second son doesn't mean you don't get a political education. After all the second son has to step in if something happens to the first. Besides, after 15 successful years as Lord, Ned had gotten plenty of valuable practical experience.

Jon Arryn wasn't perfect, but overall he did well as Hand. The debt was on Robert, and marrying Cersei to Robert wasn't a bad idea based on what he knew - how was Jon supposed to know about the twincest?
Chris Nelly
53. Aeryl
Except that Ned says he never was expected to be Lord and was never taught to rule.

I just don't accept that the condition of Westeros was in, you could judge Jon Arryn as alright. I'm certain he was a good man, and devoted to the realm. But he backed Robert for king, which was obviously a bad idea, based on what was known about him. Remember, the womanizing was always there and(can't remember if this is a spoiler or not, so highlight to see)

the womanizing was the thing that drove Cersei back into the twincest

So there's that. He was the only father figure Robert had known, but he couldn't reign him in? I don't buy it. I think he was as ill-equipped to rule as most the other people in Robert's Rebellion, with the exception of Tywin Lannister, who is disqualified for other reasons.

None of these people deserve the power that they have, Jon Arryn is no exception, IMO.
Deana Whitney
54. Braid_Tug
Robert and Cersei started out as a smart politcal match.

Jon Arryn had no way of knowing how badly the two would mess up their own marriage.

The Lannisters were a powerful family under the last King, and had money. Two things a new King needs is money and powerful allies.

But yes, Arryn messed up later.
Chris Nelly
55. Aeryl
Well, like I keep saying, backing Robert in the first place is the first mistake. All others follow from that.
Stro
56. Deadly Kwob
@50: It wasn't all peacetime during Ned's reign. At least one major military conflict, Balon Greyjoy's rebellion, happened. Ned had to call his banners and march South to fight. Also, it's pointed out at several places in the books that Winterfell is the backup if the Night's Watch gets into trouble, so he had to be ready for that.
Stefan Mitev
57. Bergmaniac
Where does it say Ned was never taught to rule? I don't remember it.

I am not a fan of Robert at all, but him being a womaniser is hardly a reason to think he'd be a bad king. Plenty of good kings throughout history had the same trait. Robert's Targaryen blood was a big help in providing legitimacy for the new regime, and he had charisma n spades, which is crucial. Who else could've been chosen anyway? Jon Arryn was too old and didn't have a heir, Ned was a northerner with a different religion than most of the population. Hoster Tully maybe, but he joined the rebellion later on.
Chris Nelly
58. Aeryl
@56, I'm not denying any of that. That actually goes to the point I'm making. Greyjoy's rebellion was simplistic and never forced Ned to compromise politically. Same thing if the Wall falls, it's simplistic, Winterfell must respond.

None of that was something that would've shaped Ned into the type of person who would do well as Hand. Instead, as Lord, he was a man who was used to getting his own way, and had no clue how to handle not getting it, like when Robert decided to assasinate Danaerys, he just quit being Hand. Never mind how vulnerable that left his family, never mind it abdicated him any ability to influence policies, that it could've been considered treason and killed his whole family. Ned didn't get his way, so he took his ball and went home.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like Ned. But he was never meant to rule in the North, he was never prepared for it, and because of events outside of his control, he never was really forced to learn to rule.

Which all added up terribly for Westeros.
Chris Nelly
59. Aeryl
Berg, are you on the spoiler thread? Cuz I'd have to get into some stuff that may or may not been discussed yet.

But I remember Ned saying that EARLY in GoT, I'd have to go back and read it to find it for sure.

I can say that I don't buy the charisma part. He was blustery, a fighter and a drinker. That encouraged people to like him. But I felt that he was percieved as a boorish lout by the time we met him, but that might be dislike coloring my perception.
Stro
60. DougL
Ned was a second son. They are not traditionally getting the same lessons, at least in these books. We can presume he didn't get much one on one time with his Father who was killed while he was still probably 17 years old or so, plust he was fostered somewhere else.

Well, in this case it is a point in his favour, Jon Arryn, not having a son of his own, probably spent a lot of time with Ned and Robert.
Tabby Alleman
61. Tabbyfl55
@19 & @20: BOOOO!!!!! I was about to mention the same thing, and then thought better of it. You should have, too.

Better to remind her of it AFTER the final leech.

I keep trying to white out the previous sentence, but it just won't take. Mod help, please?
George Jong
63. IndependentGeorge
@57 - Had he declared earlier (and not slaughtered Elia and her children), Tywin Lannister would have been a natural choice, and the realm probably would have prospered as a result. Cruel and evil as he is, the man might be the single most competent executive in the entire story.
Chris Nelly
64. Aeryl
@63, This just goes to show you how stuck everyone is in this dynastic mindset. Robert was the only acceptable choice because of Targ blood. No one else thought of declaring, because they didn't have Targ blood.

As much as I love Dany, her ending up on the throne will disappoint me, because it legitimizes this mindset, IMO.
Brandon Lammers
65. wickedkinetic
if Dany ends up on the throne - it won't be any bloodline legitimacy - it will be the reason her bloodline took over Westeros in the first place.. DRAGONS!!!!!!!

now taking over is easy when you have overwhelming force - ruling the kingdom, maintaining the peace, balancing wisdom/guidance with the threat of force (and not getting assassinated like Robert or tricked into the dungeons like Ned) that's the tricky part

yet - I heard one of the major historical framings for this series was a parallel for Europe ignoring the threats, rumors, and reports they had of the coming Mongol invasion (Genghis taking over the world) and spending all their time trying to kill each other to decide who would be King instead of preparing for the biggest fight of their lives...... which maps to the Westeros drama of the houses trying to kill each other and totally ignoring the threat of invasion from the North - Winter is coming and the wars and pillagers and have wiped out pretty much anything saved up for the long winter - at least in the heart of Westeros - from Kings Landing to Casterly Rock......

doomed!!! they're all doomed!!!! Winter is coming and they dont' even have a light jacket......

(no spoilers implied or intended - I think at this point its fair to say that Martin doesn't write happy endings - regardless of what is to come, in the published or yet-unpublished material - it's going to get a LOT uglier before it gets better.......)
Chris Nelly
66. Aeryl
@65, Sure, but the common narrative will be that the gods/magic/wev gave her the dragons SO she could reconquer her "rightful" kingdom. That's certainly how she feels about it.

I also don't know if I buy the "GRRM doesn't do happy endings" line either. You could say the same thing about Whedon, who kills characters at a higher rate, but still writes perfectly happy endings to stories. Just because none of the novels have had a happy ending is not conclusive, the STORY hasn't ended yet. Sure, it'll get worse before it gets better(though HOW in the time left, IDK), but I do believe people will end up better by the end.
George Jong
67. IndependentGeorge
As much as I love Dany, her ending up on the throne will disappoint me, because it legitimizes this mindset, IMO.
I have considerably less love for Dany, in small part because of the way her entire identity is based around this mindset, and because a Targaryen restoration effectively whitewashes and legitimizes the reign of her murderous, psychopathic father.
Chris Nelly
68. Aeryl
I can see what you're saying IG, especially you're second point. The first, while I see it, I am more forgiving. That identity is ALL she's ever known, all she's ever been taught. And even through it all, she has still grown into a compassionate caring woman who wants to rule WELL. So that's why I love her, though I have issues with restoring her to the throne.
Rob Munnelly
69. RobMRobM
I don't have a problem with restoring Dany to the throne so long as it is shown that she's earned it or, at least, is better than the available options.

I don't view it as a whitewash of her father, either. As the Jackson 5 would say, one bad apple shouldn't spoil the whole bunch. "Oh, give her one more chance before you give up on Targs...."
Chris Nelly
70. Aeryl
Well I hope the Iron Throne doesn't exist anymore at the end of this book, so I'm of the opinion none of them get it.
Birgit
71. birgit
If you don't like dynasties and want to replace monarchy with democracy maybe you are reading the wrong genre.
Chris Nelly
73. Aeryl
No, I just have high hopes for THIS set of books in this genre. There has been too much deconstruction of the genre for me to believe the author intends to slap a same old same old fantasy ending on it.
Stro
74. GarrettC
Not to butt-in here (or, rather, totally to butt-in here), but Democracy/Monarchy seems like something of a false choice here. There are lots of ways the Iron Throne could go away without necessarily having the First President of Westeros sitting in some kind of... er... Wooden Chair.
Deana Whitney
75. Braid_Tug
If GRRM wanted to go the way of democracy, we would be needing to get a few viewpoints of or from "unhappy masses demanding change / a say in what is going on." So far I’ve only seen “unhappy masses worried about their food in the coming winter.”

Democracy can only grow and thrive in an educated population. And when they are not super worried about where their next meal is coming from.

So many people don't realize that the only reason the "American Experiment" work was:
We had 40+ years of history of almost self-government. We were raised / educated to expect a type of government.
England was too far away, and then Napoleon stepped up to occupy their time. Once they defeated him, we had the War of 1812.

Hence when the USA /NATO in the modern era "frees & liberates" a country from a tyrant, the rise of a second “tyrant” is common. Unless the populous is educated to believe and want to self-govern. (Which takes about a generation. )

Then evolve into the whole "bitch about the government, but never bother to show up to vote" populous.
Chris Nelly
76. Aeryl
I don't feel that Westeros is going to become a democracy. But I do think some disruption to the concept of monarchy is coming.
George Jong
77. IndependentGeorge
I would throw the book out the window and scream if Democracy is the endgame; that just makes no sense in the context of the story. As you say, the American experiment was a natural evolution of the British parliamentary system, which had itself been growing and evolving over the previous 200 years. //Democracy in Westeros would essentially result in what we saw in Astapor - the former subjects tearing their former masters to pieces and declaring themselves the new rulers.//

Some form of constitutional monarchy, though, is both historically relevant and a logical consequence to the issues we've seen crop up in the story.
Stro
78. DougL
@73. Aeryl

Democracy works if the citizens are active and participate, which is, umm, not the case anywhere I am aware of. Democracy has not been around long enough to say if it is a good form of governance. Let's give the the West another 100 years and see how we are doing. I think we will find that like most other forms of government, it's a bit of a mixed bag but in this case, largely a poor form of governance.

I am a pretty big cynic though.
Thomas Simeroth
79. a smart guy
Surprisingly, the Mountain clans have a rudimentary democracy, even allowing women to vote. I'm not sure how this impacts the discussion, but I just thought I would share it.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
80. AlirozTheConfused
Well, every other system has been proved to have major problems.

It's about 200 years too early to judge Democracy yet.

Seems alright so far, if inane and pointlessly dredged with politics.
Chris Nelly
81. Aeryl
Where did I ever say I wanted it replaced with democracy?

I just want the dynastic monarchy done away with, and some other form of governance established. (Dany's a decent bet for this, provided the infertility sticks, she'll have no heirs to be concerned with, and could appoint the the best person as her successor, but that contradicts the whole dynastic monarchy thing I'm hoping won't come to pass).
Tabby Alleman
82. Tabbyfl55
You're all assuming the human race will even survive the frozen zombie apocalypse. My money's on the zombies personally.
Stro
83. CarpeComputer
I find it incredibly ironic and a tad bit disgustingly hypocritical when I hear from someone that a character who is of a proper bloodline should not be a monarch because of his/her bloodline to demonstrate that bloodlines do not matter. Providing that you believe Danny to be most competent, either you root for hereditary monarchy, in which case Danny is the best character to win it all in the end (by blood), or you root for meritocracy, in which case Danny is the best character to win it all at the end (by smart tactics and dragons). Not wanting Danny just to say "in your faces, monarchists!" is so incredibly childish that I just can't bear to read it.

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