Oct 31 2013 1:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 49

George R R Martin A Song of Ice and Fire Storm of SwordsWelcome 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 49 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 75 (“Samwell”) and 76 (“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 Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread here on 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 75: Samwell

What Happens
Sam watches Jon smile sadly at Gilly nursing Mance Rayder’s newborn son, and is glad to see even a sad smile from him. Sam and Gilly had walked from the Nightfort to Queensgate, and had been joined on the way by a company of brothers including Ser Denys Mallister, Bowen Marsh, Dywen, Giant, and Dolorous Edd Tollett; Sam had wept to see the latter three. They had told him about Stannis’s battle against the wildings and how Mance had been taken captive. Castle Black has a king in residence for the first time in living memory. Pyp and Grenn had been overjoyed to see Sam, and explained to him what the fiery heart on Stannis’s banner meant, and about the “red woman,” Melisandre of Asshai.

Even though Jon had captured the Horn of Winter and Mance Rayder’s son, Thorne and his allies still named him traitor, and Sam knows he still grieves for his wildling girl. Now, Val comments that she’s heard Melisandre means to give Mance to the fire. Jon points out that he would have been hung as a deserter from the Night’s Watch by now anyway, had he not been the king’s captive. Val wants to show Mance his son; Jon tells her regretfully that he cannot make that happen, but promises to ask.

Later, Sam is embarrassed when Jon asks about his feelings for Gilly, but only says she made him feel braver. Jon reminds him he cannot keep her. Sam tells him of his idea to send Gilly and the baby to his family at Horn Hill, and claim her baby is his. Jon allows that the child would likely have a better life there, even as a bastard, but only if Gilly can play the part and convince Sam’s father that he truly is the baby’s father.

Sam tries to assure Jon that only Thorne’s cronies believe he is a turncloak, but Jon says Thorne claims Jon failed to kill Mance because he was in league with him. Sam counters that every man who knows Thorne despises him and knows what kind of man he is, but Jon replies that Thorne is of noble birth, while Jon is a bastard and a warg. He adds bitterly that he doesn’t even dream of Ghost anymore, and his dreams are only “of the crypts.” Sam longs to tell Jon that Bran is alive, but he had sworn thrice over not to tell, to Bran, Jojen, and lastly to Coldhands before they parted ways. Sam avers that Janos Slynt will never be chosen Lord Commander, but Jon calls him “a sweet fool,” and heads to the practice yard. In the absence of a master-at-arms, Jon had been fulfilling the duty of training new recruits.

Sam goes to the maester’s keep to help with the wounded, and then to the rookery to feed the ravens, reflecting on Jon’s words. He thinks that surely either Ser Denys Mallister or Cotter Pyke will be chosen over Slynt, but recalls that both Mallister and Pyke have been losing votes in each successive tally, while Slynt has been gaining. He thinks that the fanatical “queen’s men” of Stannis’s army made him uneasy, but that at least they had come to the Night Watch’s aid, unlike Joffrey or Tommen.

At dinner that night, Sam notes that Slynt has a better seat than Mallister or Pyke, and Pyp points out Thorne talking to Othell Yarwyck. Then Bowen Marsh withdraws from the voting, throwing his support to Slynt. Sam wonders where Jon is. The new ballot is taken, and Sam and Clydas help Maester Aemon count the votes; Mallister is still in the lead, but Slynt has gained considerably since the last vote, though he is still in third place. There is not enough of a majority to call a winner.

Later, a slightly drunk Sam tells Pyp and Grenn that Mallister and Pyke have nearly two thirds of the vote between them, and that someone needs to convince one of them to step down and support the other in order to beat Slynt. Pyp opines that “someone” should be Sam the Slayer.

“I could,” said Sam, sounding as gloomy as Dolorous Edd, “if I wasn’t too craven to face them.”

Okay, so wait wait wait wait.

Seriously? We’re just jumping right over the whole Coldhands thing? We are not explaining who or what he was? Just that he has an extremely axiomatic nickname and wants Bran’s survival kept secret? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

I am not pleased! I want answers!

“The world believes the boy is dead,” [Coldhands] had said as they parted. “Let his bones lie undisturbed. We want no seekers coming after us. Swear it, Samwell of the Night’s Watch. Swear it for the life you owe me.”

From this I can infer that Coldhands, whoever/whatever he is, is also going with Bran on his quest to find the little people the children of the forest, but that tells me FUCK ALL otherwise. I am officially Annoyed. I mean, sure, the obvious assumption (once I get over my knee-jerk initial thought that the guy might have been a deity) is that Coldhands is himself a child of the forest, but I want confirmaaaaaaation, maaaaan. Screw this coy hinty shit!

(No, I’m not grumpy today, why do you ask? Just because I’ve been coughing for two weeks straight is no reason to be grumpy, that’s just crazy talk! No, I have absolutely not been attempting to kill things with my brain, what are you talking about sheesh you so silly.)

Also, making Sam swear not to tell about Bran’s survival is obviously a good idea for any number of reasons, but it is total bullshit that he should also keep the truth from Jon. I’m just saying, that omission is going to come back to bite someone in the ass sooner or later. These things always do.

Dolorous Edd got up, stone-faced and glum as ever. “I just want to say to whoever is voting for me that I would certainly make an awful Lord Commander. But so would all these others.”

HA. At least I can always count on Dolorous Edd to cheer me up.

Speaking of the election, dude. I sort of want to say that any organization dumb enough to actually vote for the likes of Janos Slynt deserves what they get. On the other hand, I’m sort of stunned at the sudden appearance of something even remotely resembling a democratic process in Westeros (like, where did they even get the idea? Is there a Westeros historical equivalent to the ancient Greeks I haven’t gotten the memo about?), and so I contrarily feel that all attempts should be made to encourage this practice, and not let Twathammer One and Two make a mockery of it with their bribes and/or blackmail or whatever it is they are doing to sway votes.

(Because that kind of thing never happens in modern-day, real-world elections. *cough*)

(*hack* wheeze*)

Where was I? Oh yes, twathammers. Slynt and Thorne need to be beaten down hard, y’all (I was going to say “nailed down” but then I would have had to slap myself), and apparently it comes down to Our Hero Sam to get it done! Hooray!

(I hope?)

On a random side note, “Janos” is remarkably close to “Janus”, which is the name of the two-faced Roman god who (among other things) represented the transition between war and peace. Coincidence? I THINK NOT.


Chapter 76: Jon

What Happens
Jon is sparring with a recruit when Melisandre appears to summon him to a meeting with the king. Jon thinks from her words that she is Stannis’s true queen, not the one he’d left behind at Eastwatch. He cleans up and meets her at the cage to go up to the top of the Wall; he asks her what the king wants from him, and she replies “all you have to give.” He thinks she even smells like fire, and she tells him “The Lord’s fire” lives within her, so that she is never cold.

Atop the Wall, Stannis studies Jon, and Jon sees his tenseness, and remembers what Donal Noye had said about how Robert was steel, but Stannis was iron, hard but brittle. Jon says he knows all the stories Stannis has heard about him, and provides his own version of his story. Stannis says that he believes him, which shocks Jon. Stannis says he knew both Slynt and Ned Stark, and no one would doubt Ned’s honor or honesty. He says he knows Jon was the one who found the dragonglass dagger that Samwell Tarly used to slay the Other, and that he held the gate at Castle Black until Stannis arrived.

Jon counters that Donal Noye held the gate. Stannis laments his demise, as he thinks Noye would have made a better Lord Commander than any of “these fools” contending for it. Jon protests that Cotter Pyke and Ser Mallister are good men whom Mormont trusted. Stannis says dismissively that Mormont trusted too easily and that’s what got him killed. He points out that Jon also found the magic horn and captured Mance Rayder’s child. Jon replies that Dalla died in childbirth, so there was not much “capturing” involved. He asks if Melisandre was responsible for the death of the skinchanger’s eagle, and she replies “The Lord of Light has fiery talons, Jon Snow.”

Jon brings up Val’s request to show Mance his son, and Stannis asks why he should do a deserter such a kindness. Jon asks it for Val’s sake. He tells Stannis that the wildlings have their own brand of honor, including Mance and Tormund, though he hesitates to attribute that trait to Rattleshirt. Stannis says that his true fight is here, against what Melisandre calls “the God of Night and Terror,” and that perhaps this is Jon’s fight as well. He says that Robb Stark failed him by trying to become a king instead of remaining Lord of Winterfell, and now what Stannis needs is a Lord of Winterfell loyal to him.

Stunned, Jon points out that Theon Greyjoy destroyed Winterfell, but Stannis says it can be rebuilt, and that he needs a son of Eddard Stark to win the northmen to his banner. Melisandre adds that Stannis can make him a Stark in truth, instead of a bastard. Jon stammers that he also took a vow to the Night’s Watch, to hold no lands and father no children, but Melisandre tells him that R’hllor is the only true god, and “a vow sworn to a tree” has no power. Jon thinks of his ashamed fantasies as a child of becoming Lord of Winterfell.

All he had to do was say the word, and he would be Jon Stark, and nevermore a Snow. All he had to do was pledge this king his fealty, and Winterfell was his. All he had to do…

…was forswear his vows again.

Stannis says he has been speaking to Mance Rayder, and that he plans to let the wildlings through and let them settle in the North, in order to ally with them against their common foe beyond the Wall, though Rayder himself will be executed, and also to wed the new Lord of Winterfell to “the wildling princess,” meaning Val. Jon laughs at the idea of Val submitting so easily, and Stannis angrily asks if Jon means to refuse him. Quickly, Jon asks for some time to consider. Stannis tells him not to take too long.

Stannis put a thin, fleshless hand on Jon’s shoulder. “Say nothing of what we’ve discussed here today. To anyone. But when you return, you need only bend your knee, lay your sword at my feet, and pledge yourself to my service, and you shall rise again as Jon Stark, the Lord of Winterfell.”

Well, damn.

That… did not go where I was expecting it to. Though in retrospect it makes much more sense that Stannis would want Jon as Lord of Winterfell more than he would want him as the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (which is sort of what I was expecting).

Yeah, and no moral dilemmas here! That’s right, Jon, you get your guilty childhood dream of being a Real Live Stark AND the Lord of Winterfell, all for the low low price of repudiating not only your vows to the Night’s Watch (which you have already been accused of forsaking), but also to your entire religious and cultural upbringing! Whaaaat a deal!

But wait: there’s more! You ALSO get to retroactively shit on your half-brother Robb’s memory by throwing in with one of his sworn enemies! It’s amazing, and just that simple! Two for the price of one! Just dial 1-800-ENDLESSGUILT in the next twenty minutes for your chance to win!


Obviously, my immediate reaction (whether right or not only time will tell) is that Jon shouldn’t touch this deal with a ten-foot pole. Even aside from the general moral malaise dirtying up this entire proposal, the reiteration of the whole “Stannis = brittle iron” analogy is a giant red flag that throwing in with him is A Bad Idea. Because while I do still give props to Stannis for stepping up to the plate and protecting Westeros from the Frozen Zombpocaplyse™ when no one else could be assed to do it, I still am fairly convinced he is a terrible choice for a high king-type. Better that he go off into the north and be whatever vaguely Messianic figure Melisandre has envisioned he’s supposed to be, and leave the “running the nations” bit to someone else.

I’m… not exactly sure who that someone else would be, but, well.

(At least it won’t be Joffrey YAY)

On the other hand, I’m not sure Jon may even have the option to refuse Stannis’s “offer”. Technically he can, of course, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Stannis would not take kindly to an answer of “No.” Call me crazy.

It is just so much damn fun to be Jon Snow, ain’t it?


So regardless of my thoughts on whether Jon should take the deal, I guess I should predict whether he will take it anyway.

I… am really kind of torn, because I kind of get the impression that Jon is about 1000% done with people accusing him of being an oathbreaker, but on the other hand, what will there be for him if he doesn’t take the offer, and then Slynt is elected Lord Commander? Or even if he isn’t?

I think the relevant term here is “jackshit,” so, yeah. But then, Jon is stubborn as hell, and Stannis is scary, so there’s that. Tough call, and I really can’t decide which way I think he’s going to jump. Though I’m marginally leaning toward the idea that Jon will refuse the offer. Once again, time will tell, I suppose.

In other news, Melisandre continues to embody everything I can’t stand about religious fanaticism. Which in this case is, perhaps contradictorily, that one of the things that annoys me the most about rabid proselytizing is the assumption that the proselytizer’s religion is obviously superior to the faith of that other guy, which is just the height of arrogance as far as I am concerned.

I get, to some extent, why devout people of this particular bent feel that it is their duty to spread the good word about their faith (and Melisandre perhaps has even more reason for that than nonfictional versions of herself, given the at least nominally indisputable magical evidence that her god is out there), but it is virtually impossible for me to separate that brand of evangelicalism (which historically has been almost entirely associated with Christianity) from the ugly overtones of imperialism, racism, and general intolerance that has inevitably accompanied it.

In other words, fuck you, Melly: if some people want to pray to a tree instead of your big mean fire god, then that’s their business, not yours. Butt out.

*sigh* But the world doesn’t work that way, does it. And there’s certainly no reason to think it’ll be better in Martin’s world. Quite the opposite, in fact.

[Stannis:] “Yes, I should have come sooner. If not for my Hand, I might not have come at all. Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty, when all I could think of was my rights. I had the cart before the horse, Davos said. I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.”

Yeah yeah, whatever, but the important thing is: where is Davos? Is he alive or dead? Is he here with you at the Wall or back home? And if the latter, is he rotting in a dungeon or running your shit while you’re away? ANSWER ME DAMN YOU

Pfeh. Apparently I get no answers today.

But maybe you do! Share and Enjoy, my darlings, and have a Happy Halloween if that’s your thing. Cheers!

Marty Beck
1. martytargaryen
Welcome back Leigh. Nasty illness came through our home too, and I am sorry you suffered. Glad to see you are doing better (?).
Also, thank you for the (two-chptr) post!

I don't know HOW you can stop at this point in the book, though.

Also also, YAY RED SOX!!!
Steven Halter
2. stevenhalter
Chapter 75-Samwell:Jon is back and free with Sam, so that is a good sign and better position than we last saw him. Mance is a captive--not dead. That's a very useful and interesting piece of info. Mel is planning on burning Mance--I guess he is close enough to a king for her. That could go either way with Mance buring or escaping somehow.
Sam is keeping his word about not telling that Bran is alive. GRRM is also not telling us much here. Kind of want to know more about guys that ride giant elks.
Dolorous Edd is dolorous:
“No,” said Dolorous Edd. “He was dead already, from that axe in his head. Still, it was pretty lucky, missing the rocks.”
Slynt would be a bad Lord Commander--hopefully something stops his election. Maybe Sam will step up and get Cotter Pyke and Denys Mallister to combine.
Rob Munnelly
3. RobMRobM
Yay Red Sox is right! What a fun season and a nice way to end it. (And those Saints are doing pretty darned well themselves, yay for them too Leigh.)

Leigh - hope you are feeling better.
Church Tucker
4. Church
but it is virtually impossible for me to separate that brand of evangelicalism (which historically has been almost entirely associated with Christianity)
Historically in the US, maybe.
5. DougL
Thanks Leigh, I hope you feel completely better soon, just rest up and have lots of, hopefully homade, chicken soup or something.

Nothing much revealed in these chapters, just a bit of set up, but it's nice to have Sam back in the fold. Another bit of calm before some nifty stuff to come. This was one of the better longish books I've read. Nice and meaty with very few slowdowns.
Pyrrhus Aeacides
6. Pyrrhus
We are deep in the heart of the Stannis Renaissance - as a character that (half) the readers can love. Passages like:
Few of the birds that Aemon had sent off had returned as yet. One reached Stannis, though. One found Dragonstone, and a king who still cared. A thousand leagues south, Sam knew, his father had joined House Tarly to the cause of the boy on the Iron Throne, but neither King Joffrey nor little King Tommen had bestirred himself when the Watch cried out for help. What good is a king who will not defend his realm? he thought angrily, remembering the night on the Fist of the First Men and the terrible trek to Craster's Keep through darkness, fear, and falling snow. The queen's men made him uneasy, it was true, but at least they had come.
"I am no lord, sire. You came because we sent for you, I hope. Though I could not say why you took so long about it." Surprisingly, Stannis smiled at that. "You're bold enough to be a Stark. Yes, I should have come sooner. If not for my Hand, I might not have come at all. Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty, when all I could think of was my rights. I had the cart before the horse, Davos said. I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne."
and even
"Your brother was the rightful Lord of Winterfell. If he had stayed home and done his duty, instead of crowning himself and riding off to conquer the riverlands, he might be alive today. Be that as it may. You are not Robb, no more than I am Robert." The harsh words had blown away whatever sympathy Jon might have had for Stannis. "I loved my brother," he said. "And I mine. Yet they were what they were, and so are we. I am the only true king in Westeros, north or south. And you are Ned Stark's bastard."
paint a pretty complex picture of Stannis, honest to a fault, unbending but trying to do what's right.

I think GRRM tips his hand to his own viewpoint when he has Jon think of Stannis as the "brittle king," but he also seems to acknowledge that some people will see Stannis as Sam does, the dutiful king who cared.
Adam S.
Dolorous Edd had so many good zingers in these chapters. Even Sam channeling him to end the Samwell chapter was hilarious, but the best was the one stevenhalter quoted @2. I would totally vote him as Lord Commander.
(whited out for possible spoilers)
Leigh- you've been speculating from the beginning that Jon's tenure at the Wall wouldn't stick. Now here's his get out of jain free card, and you reject it just because it's Stannis? I think you're as bad as everyone in Westeros, picking on poor Stannis who gets no love like his brothers got (the above sentence had my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, btw).
I can't say much about coldhands at this point, but I will say that if you want definitive answers on who/what he is, you have to read past the currently published books, cause I still don't know for sure after Dance with Dragons. However, from his first appearance I speculated that he might be a missing member of the Night Watch that we've been wondering about since he disappeared in the first book- remember Benjen Stark?
Slynt and Thorne working the brothers with their evil political acumen is teffifying for a Jon-Snow supporter. Unless Jon manages to escape the wall and become the Lord of Winterfell.
George Jong
8. IndependentGeorge
@6 - I don't have my book handy right now - is this also the chapter where //Jon notes that Stannis does not tolerate rape by his men, and immediately gelded any soldiers guilty of doing so to the wildling women//?

That was a pretty big deal to me, because there's no indication that even Robb ever kept that kind of discipline among his own men, and changes the context of a Cersei monologue in COK.
Steven Halter
9. stevenhalter
Chapter 76-Jon:Ah, we're staying at the wall, then. Stannis has sent Mel to get Jon. I think Stan is going to get along with Jon (as opposed to just tossing him off the wall). I'm going to call him Stan from now on, I think.
And so it is:
Stannis snorted. “I know Janos Slynt. And I knew Ned Stark as well. Your father was no friend of mine, but only a fool would doubt his honor or his honesty. You have his look.”
That line pleases me a great deal. Stan may be brooding and brittle but he seems to be a decent judge of character.
Ooo, interesting:
That did not please the king. Stannis ground his teeth and said, “I need more than a sword from you.” Jon was lost. “My lord?” “I need the north.”
Stan is offering Jon Winterfell. So in addition to making him legitimate, he will release him from his vows (that Mel considers invalid anyway). And, have the wildlings settle the Gift and marry Val. No one in this party (if anyone, anywhere does) knows that Robb wanted Jon to have Winterfell also. That would, I think, tilt Jon over the edge on this decision. I have a feeling he is going to turn it down somehow and Stan doesn't seem like the type to be happy about that. GRRM could have bad things turn out with either choice.
10. a1ay
Yeah yeah, whatever, but the important thing is: where is Davos? Is he alive or dead?

Wherever he is, Stannis is talking about him in the present tense. It's "Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth", not "was"...
Caleb Mauer
11. calebm
Dolorous Ed the Man seeks no fame
Colorless Red Woman, queen of dames
Polar mess, folks play mind games
Dollar-less, broke, still they find change

Caught in a snow or a brain storm
A drier form of rain storm
The stormlord's main form
is warlord, flame born

Leigh's blog is no slog
She's reflects truth clearer than a mirror
The post with the most
westeros news well wrote

Anthony Pero
12. anthonypero
The line Martin walks with Stannis is what makes him the most intersting non-Lannister in this series.

Also, and no spoilers here, its obvious that Mellisendre has real powers right? Even if she doesn't always get her visions right, she has real power, makes real shadow babies, etc... isn't it at least POSSIBLE that she has some real magical influence over Stannis, and not just the obvious kind of magical influence that ladies have over men? Maybe, until we know more, we should reserve judgement on Stannis entirely until that plays out?

Melli and Davos seem to represent two opposing forces of Stannis' own nature.

The bad that Stannis has done is no worse than the bad that Jamie has done. He even owns up to it like Jamie has done, on occasion. Of course, part of what makes Jamie (more) likeable to some is the fact that Stannis has others do some of has bad crap for him. Jamie has the balls to just do it himself and own up to it.
Chris Nelly
13. Aeryl
I don't remember if this has been touched on, so I whited it out below

There are democracies is Essos.

So there is that.
Adam S.
14. MDNY
@12 Stannis never pushed a kid out a window, yet he is not nearly as likeable as Jaime. GRRM walks a very fine line with Stannis, making a character who is honest, hard-working, and has the best legitimate claim of anyone in Westeros currently, yet who is instantly unlikeable. No one likes Stannis, no one has ever liked him, and that makes him even more brittle than he already was- leading to things like embracing a new religion just to gain an advantage.
Pyrrhus Aeacides
15. Pyrrhus

Yeah, in the Sam chapter, Jon says that: "King Stannis keeps his men well in hand, that's plain. He lets them plunder some, but I've only heard of three wildling women being raped, and the men who did it have all been gelded."
16. olethros
@4 - No, it's been pretty much global - Christianity essentially invented the entire concept of religious evangelism. Prior to that, the idea of converting to a religion other than that of your family/tribe wasn't really an option. All religions have since opened themselves to converts, and Islam in particular has some right-wing evangelical types not very different from the Christian counterparts, but historically that particular trait has been most frequently and successfully practiced by Christians.
Anthony Pero
17. anthonypero
@14: THat's my point. Stannis didn't push a kid out of a window. He just tried to have his people burn one to death.
Anthony Pero
18. anthonypero

Of course, if your core belief is that if they don't believe that Christ died for their sins, then they will burn for eternity in a fiery hell, the motivation for evangelism is perfectly understandable.

Please note that what passed for "evanglism" in the middle ages wasn't about salvation, but about building an institute's political power base. Those two things are hardly the same thing.
George Jong
19. IndependentGeorge
@14 - I made this comparison before, but Stannis most reminds me of F*ckin' Harry from In Bruges.

Sure, he's a completely unlikeable jerk, but... there's a certain integrity there that I can't help but admire. And somehow, he's generally viewed as worse than the guy who actually killed a little kid.
Pyrrhus Aeacides
20. Pyrrhus

That's a pretty audacious claim considering the facts that the pre-christian bible contains conversion stories from Abraham onward, Christianity was preceded by proselytizing religions like the cults of Mithra and Isis, Romans typically imported their religion to conquered territories, and no shared global attitudes would be expected to exist regarding conversion because no shared global culture existed in the first place.
21. John Th
I'm trying to think of a way to comment without sounding anti-Muslim (which I am not).

But to associate Melisandre's type of "my religion is better than yours" attitude almost exclusively with historical Christianity is to ignore the vast majority of the history of Islam.
Deana Whitney
22. Braid_Tug
“Screw this coy hinty shit!”
Oh, Leigh… so glad you are better. So sorry you are grumpy. Amazing how GRRM makes people grumpy.

Second John chapter. Just love all your comments.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
23. AlirozTheConfused
@Calebm: Good, good, it's your second rhyme thread!

I finally have someone with whom to break rhyming bread!

I like your Brain-Storm, Rain-storm, Main-form, Flame-born alliterative rhyme.

No need to apologize.

@Leigh Butler:

Religious belief should motivate us to heal, not harm

Belief is like a blanket, to keep you comforted and warm

A missionairy should say "This's my blanket, it's kept me warm just fine

I hope yours keeps you warm, but you're always welcome to borrow mine

I hope you have comfort, I hope you have hope; I hope you find joy

Whatever your fabric, your pattern, or the style you employ

an afghan, a quilt, a patchwork, eiderdown, or anything

but I'm here if you need me, my blanket is fuzzy"

now if you say that someone's blanket is scuzzy

or if you try to poke holes in it to make your own blanket look better

you're doing it wrong, yes, an F is your letter.

Religion should accept all people, all kinds, all beliefs, yes it should

Or, in other words, (I hope some of them're good):

Religion is like a blanket. You want to go and make blankets for
everybody so they won't be cold anymore. You want to spread your warmth and comfort and help people. Other people make different kinds of blanket, and they're not your blanket, and that's not what keeps you warm, but the important thing is that somebody goes out into the cold world and gives the freezing people blankets and comforts them.

You don't say "Oh, you're wearing X blanket? It's full of holes
and is wrong!" You say "I hope that you are happy with your blanket, and that you keep warm beneath it, but if it does not keep you warm enough then you may share mine.".
If you go around tearing up other people's blankets, you're missing the point of religion. You're not helping.
Also, for the purposes of this metaphor, atheism and agnosticism count as religions.

Leigh, I know that fanaticism is a terrible thing, and that extremism is a terrible thing; but I hope you can separate the missionaries who are like my older brother (who wouldn't hurt a fly) and the missionaries that are like Girolamo Savonarola.

I mean no disrespect to you at all, I am a fan of your posts.
24. The Black Dragon
Anthony Pero
25. anthonypero
Retracted... misread the post.
Stefan Mitev
26. Bergmaniac
That deal offered to Jon is a complicated form of suicide. Nobody in the North would follow an oathbreaker (because Stannis proposed excuse wouldn't fly for anyone who believes in the Old Gods or even the Faith followers who tolerate the Old Gods and accept the validity of the oaths sworn in their name, which means everyone in Westeros except the few thousands Melisandre converted) who burns the Winterfell weirwood trees. Oh, and a bastard to boot.
27. bookworm1398
Can Stannis be considered a sworn enemy of Robb? They never fought each other and might have worked out a peace if the Lannisters had been removed from the equation. Not too likely, but possible.
People don't like Stannis because they feel, correctly, that Stannis is always judging and condeming them for their faults. And he thinks that he is morally better than everyone else. Jamie doesn't have that.
Anthony Pero
29. anthonypero
No, Jamie just has other forms of arrogance. People (both fictional characters in this book and readers) tend to overlook the faults of others when they don't directly effect them. In the case of a reader, its when they directly effect a liked POVs character. Which is why Jamie was enemy number 1 early on. And why Stannis' superiority and intolerance towards what everyone we seem to like believes makes him dispised by a lot of readers now.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
30. AlirozTheConfused
@Darkdoug: Agreed, brilliant post.

Also, remember that Saxon England had the Witangemot.

But then again, GRRM does not seem to be a history professor; so maybe I can cut him some slack.

EDIT: Wait, what? What happened to Darkdoug's post? It was right there and then it wasn't. And now it's there again, but parts of it are missing.

Did get hacked or something, or am I the only one seeing this?

EDIT: Oh, that's why certain parts are missing. Wait, no, it's completely gone now.
Katharine Duckett
31. Katharine
@30 The post has been removed because the user had been asked multiple times to avoid personal attacks on bloggers and other commenters, in keeping with our Moderation Policy, but has chosen to disregard those requests.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
32. AlirozTheConfused
I didn't know we had a rule against personal attacks and such behavior (though, it seems reasonable to suppose there would be one).

Not that I would have gone around insulting people, but it's good to know.
33. olethros
@20 - You got links for any of that? I basically just repeated what the World Religions professor said in class 25 or so years ago. It's not a topic I have much interest in pursuing in depth, but a quick Google doesn't turn up anything on pre-Christian conversion. I didn't intend to imply that there was a "shared globabl attitude" as you put it, just that the concept simply didn't exist, so there couldn't be one. Again, that's straight from religious studies professor's mouth, could easily be wrong.
Deana Whitney
34. Braid_Tug
Aliroz, @ 23: I really like your analogy.
Mary Stallworth
35. Dilecta
I am of two minds on Stannis' offer: on the one hand, Jon has proven himself and would be a wonderful Lord of Winterfell. On the other, I have a sense that if he doesn't earn it in the "right" way, it will not go well. I don't want Jon to accept anything from Stannis - not because I have anything against Stannis - but because I think Jon needs to "earn" Winterfell in a different way. Stannis' way seems too easy. And having to give up the Starks' gods makes his offer a bridge too far, IMHO. I have a feeling that the old gods are going to be instrumental in restoring what was.

I was really hoping Stannis was going to offer Jon the command of the NW. But it really isn't his to give Jon, so even if he did, that would have been wrong as well. *sigh*

I am not a Stannis fan, but I respect that *he* respects those who will tell him the truth, e.g., Davos and even Samwell. My hope is that Jon will be able to turn down the offer in a way that Stannis can respect. That still leaves Jon in the NW with Slynt as Lord Commander, so yeah.

My other thought is about Gilly and her baby. When I first read Sam's idea and Jon's reaction, I was all for it. However, unlike Leigh, I missed Jon's reservations about Gilly being able to keep up the lie. If Sam's dad discovered that Gilly's boy is a child of incest, I see a fiery fate for the baby.

See why I just get all depressed when I think of the future of this series?
Fredrik Coulter
36. fcoulter
@16 and the other religion comments.

Early Islam was very "convert or die pay lots of extra taxes and become a second class citizen." The result of this was that the conversion of masses of people across huge stretches of land to Islam happened far faster than any other religion I know of. (Made Alexander the Great look like a piker.)

On the other hand, if there is any one factor that ended the European Dark Ages and got civilization moving again, it was the Islamic civilizations that existed on Europe's eastern border. They were more open to people who disagreed with them and maintained "western" knowledge while western Europe was busy trying to become cave men again.

I'm not going to discuss current Islamic civilization and their view of The Other. However, there were huge changes in the first thousand years. Cultures change. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes for the worse.

But forced conversion is hardly a christian monopoly.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
38. AlirozTheConfused
If you are forcing people to convert to your religion, you're doing it wrong.

If you are killing people for your religion, you're doing it wrong.

If you fight over religion, then you are doing it wrong.

Religion should be the cause of peace and forgiveness, not of hatred and war.

Saying that Religion is worth fighting for us like saying that love is best achieved by hatred.

Is Religion worth killing for? No. Religion is worth much more than
that. Religion is more important than that. Religion is worth living
for, worth giving for, worth forgiving for, worth giving the time of
your life in service for, worth peacemaking for, worth laying down your
gun and putting away your wrath for.

Wouldn't you agree that giving is worth more than taking? That peacemaking is worth more than war? That forgiving is worth more than hatred? That it is harder to do good than bad?

Religion isn't worth dying for; it's not worth killing for, it's worth more than that; it's worth LIVING for; and giving for, and saving lives. Who is truly great? He who destroys, or he who builds?
Adam S.
37. MDNY
Forced conversion is long-standing, and not just with Christianity or even monotheistic religions. According to tradition, the Trojans brought the Greek gods to Rome and started the Roman empire, including the spread of Roman religion throughout Europe (north to Britain, West to Spain, even across the sea to Egypt and northern Africa). The spread of Roman gods was by forced conversion on a huge scale, over 2,000 years ago, often going hand-in-hand with conquest
Melisandre is trying to force conversion to her God, but she does have a slightly more legitimate reason for doing so than economic or political reasons. Her reasons aren't even necessarily reflective of religious fanaticism. She has pretty good reasons to believe that her God is true, and there is ample evidence that a force of Winter is brining the Coldpocalypse, so even if I think she has things wrong I can understand where she is coming from. She is ALMOST right, just missing on a few of her assumptions/conclusions.
Scott Silver
39. hihosilver28
Thank you for both of your posts. They were incredibly well spoken. I always get incredibly uncomfortable when Leigh harshes on religion (specifically Christianity), and your posts gave voice to everything I wanted to say but couldn't find the words.
40. Ryamano
I like both Jaime and Stannis. I like morally ambiguous characters. And to those that compare Stannis thinking about burning Edric Storm with Jaime tossing Bran from the tower, I don't think that's comparable. Sure, they both contemplated killing children, but the first is to save the world (according to Melisandre, who seems right until now) while the second is to save himself and his family. I think the first is less morally wrong.

Regarding religion in the old times and in the world: it's always been used as a reason to do violence. Of course most of the time states go to war it has to do with geopolitics and not actually religion, but still, religion is a good excuse.

One of the points of argument between Rome and Carthage in the 1st Punic War was whether the cities in Sicily were in Rome or Carthage's sphere of influence, and one of the ways they used to see that was knowing which gods were being worshiped in that city. They weren't monotheistic at all, but religion was used as a reason to go to war.

Socrates was accused of inventing new gods and of trying to corrupt the youth of Athens (converting them), and for that he was sentenced to death. Again, this happened in a polytheistic society. Religion was a big deal until nationalism started to kick in, in every society in the world.

In Islam's history, a place was set to exist in their society for the "People of the Book", which in Mohammed's time meant Christians and Jews. This place was subservient to the Muslim authority (so Christians and Jews would always be second class citizens in a Muslim society), but it was an improvement over the behavior Christians had over pagans once they took over power. Heathens, on the other hand, didn't get much good treatment in Islam, because most of the time those Heathens meant Traditional Arab Religion, which was clearly against Islam from day 1. So most of the Quran and the quotations of Muhammad were clearly opposed to non-monotheistic religions. The definition of "People of the Book" got expanded or diminished over history, according to the political reality of the time. In the early years of the Muslim conquest over Persia, the Zoroastrians were considered to be "People of the Book" even though they were dualistic, because most of the population was following that religion, including the bureaucrats, much needed to rule the country. Over the years the attitude changed, and nowadays Zoroastrians are considered heathens, the few of them still remaining having fled to India to avoid persecution. In India that definition of "people of the book" was enlarged again, to include Hindu. This was very polemical at the time, considering the way Hindu religion is. The reason again was political, to allow the Muslim elite to rule over the Hindu majority without riots over and over. That attitude was sometimes changed, and then persecution of Hindu temples would happen. The polytheists of Africa didn't have such good treatment, however, so the relationship between Islam and the religions of West, Central and Eastern Africa was mostly violent.

Anyway, for most of history one had to follow the religion of the state they were in (or the ruler of that state), or at least try not to get in the way of it (trying to proselytize, etc). There were religious conflits when buddhism was introduced in Japan, but it is clear, from the arguments written at the time, that people weren't actually discussing religious dogmas or beliefs. It was basically a conflict between powerful noble families over influence over the country.
Steven Halter
41. stevenhalter
At this point, it seems clear that there are powerful forces that work outside of normal channels in the world of ASoIaF. Some people are able to tap into these forces (priests and magicians). Some of these forces are termed gods/goddesses. Some of these forces are declared evil and some are declared non-existent or illusory.
What these forces actually and which ones are which seems quite undefined at this point.
Chris Nelly
42. Aeryl
I just want to say that, the fact that in every post where Leigh, rightfully IMO, criticizes religion, that there are always comments shaming her for that, because it bothers the feelings of (apparently)religious people, who are pretty privileged in our society, bugs me to no end.

This is the worst kind of "But what about the _____*?" tone policing derailment. If your aren't wearing the shoe Leigh is describing when she vents her frustration about religion, stop trying to wear it. Stop expressing your concern about how she so's negative about it.

Trust me, Leigh, awesome as she may be, has very little institutional power to suppress the free practice of religion. And if she has a beef with religion, it's likely earned, and the fault of that should be put on the people out there giving religion a bad name, not on Leigh. Stop demanding that she, as a marginalized individual(as all non religious people are) cater to the feelings of those who are privileged over her.

*Men, white people, take your pick.
43. Davyd Snow
While I would agree on the point that forcing your religion on someone is bad (and arguably, forcing it on someone as part of an extortionary deal might be worse), I can't really get behind the out-of-hand judgement of missionary work like Melisandre does in this chapter. Sure, she does it as part of her political scheming and manipulation, and that's sinister, but when looking just at the act of telling someone that your religion is better, you have to understand the mind of the religious person.

Telling Jon that his vows are invalid because his gods don't exist is sort of like telling a christian that it's fine to be gay because the bible and god is made up by, as atheists are so happy to point out, desert dwelling shepherds from thousands of years ago. From Melisandre's point of view, Westeros is full of ignorant, lost people, who's failure to see the Light of the Lord not only keeps them from knowing the One True God, but in a very real sense will lead to their demise as the Long Winter comes. How could she NOT try to evangelize?

(And the important point, why I'm writing this, is that atheists can and should imagine other people's views too. I used to be a christian, but no longer believe; but it still irks me when self-righteous atheists sneer at how arrogant it is to believe that you have the truth, while self believing to have the truth.)
45. Davyd Snow
Aeryl@42: I agree with you! I hope my post right beneath yours doesn't come across as what you're criticizing, I just wanted to give another perspective.
Deana Whitney
47. Braid_Tug
Don’t forget; the Roman state religion was about political control, especially once it became a type of ancestor worship in the form of the emperors became gods after death / living gods.
But they mostly left the “locals” alone so long as they incorporated the official state worship into their local traditions. So it was a matter of the two sets of gods walking next to each other.

The “problems” arose in the monotheistic religions when they would not incorporate the state worship.

Since my 20s, the Historian in me has read the line “Thou shall have no god above me” / as a recognition that there were other “gods”, but that the Hebrew God was to be Their god. Since they were living an area were poly-theistic religions were the most common.
But this is only my take on the subject.

In a way that parallels Pope Gregory’s way of converting early worshipers. “The locals already worship at a spring? Great! Dedicate it to a Saint, suddenly it’s a Christian sight and the local traditions are kept.” Just modified to serve the Catholic purpose.

This is Leigh’s blog. She’s never said she was going to be 100% PC. She’s also aware that Melly hits cords in her. She’s not saying that real life people like Melly are evil people who need to be destroyed. She’s saying that real life people like Melly, are people who bother her and she will try to stay away from. Sounds reasonable to me.

Back to Book:
Sam is so sweet about Gilly.
Anthony Pero
48. anthonypero
I certainly don't find any personal attacks on Leigh for expressing what she believes about Christianity to be either right nor very Christ-like. However, I also have no problem with people who are offended by what she says pointing out that they are offended, and articulately expressing why.

Nor do I believe it is a personal attack to cry foul and point out a logic fail when modern Christian evangelism is equated and lumped in with Medival church soldiers putting people who refuse to convert to death, as was done in the comments.

Nor do I have a problem with Moderators deciding when enough is enough, even when its not in my favor. But as a general rule, I feel if I'm expressing what I believe without personally attacking someone else, I'm probably ok.
Scott Silver
49. hihosilver28
Agreed. I would never want to shut out someone on either side of any discussion/disagreement. Same thing for disparaging them or personal attacks. That is unacceptable for a multitude of reasons. The whole reason these comment boards exist is to talk with people of all walks of life who have been inspired by SFF and Leigh's fantastic commentary of the books she's decided to read in the open here on Tor. I'm incredibly thankful that there are people who come from different backgrounds and beliefs than me, and I want the open discussion with anyone and everyone to continue.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
50. Lisamarie
@42, I do see your point, but obviously people disagree on if her criticisms are correct or completely applicable. I think there have been many failings by people of religion, and she is therefore justified in her negative feelings. I think it is important for people to recognize privilege and that, yes, they have it, even if it is a blind spot. But that doesn't make it okay to generalize. While I enjoy 99% of the content of her posts, those aspects bother me as well (although I don't feel personally offended by it or anything, or like she owes me something), and I dont think it's right that you can tell me I'm wrong to feel that way or am not allowed to express that. Leigh is offering her perspective, which I am happy to read. And others are offering theirs. I don't see any shaming going on (unless there have been some deleted comments) - although that is in the eye of the beholder, so hopefully Leigh doesn't feel shamed. I don't expect Leigh to censor or change her beliefs either, necessarily. But it irritates me when we have to act like it's off limits to comment on it. In general I find to have mostly mature and respectful commenters (and very good moderators) so I have enjoyed reading the discussions, usually.

I think the marginalization is partially a factor of region - I live in a pretty liberal area and until I know otherwise, I make no assumptions about religion at all (in other words, my default is not 'Christian' when I meet somebody). I'd say most people I know are athiest, agnostic or 'spiritual'. I'm a bit of a minority among my circle for being part of an organized religion. But, I know it's different in more conservative areas, very much so. And there was an interesting post I read awhile back about Christian privelege specifically that I do think is pretty apt and important to remember - even if most people don't actively practice it, it's still pretty mainstream and embedded in our culture, and it isn't difficult to practice your faith (although I wouldn't say it's easy either, and I definitely notice a lot of subtle, cultural things that make it difficult - but they are more a pebble in my shoe than true marginalization, so I'm not trying to be all, poor me, I'm so persecuted. Although there are countries where that's not the case).

Also - and I have noticed this about generally nerdy people regarding all topics - I think we just have a tendency to want to pick out the exceptions to any rule/statement and really dig into it and be all "but...but...what about..." and nitpicky.

I also enjoy the blanket analogy :)

I actually wanted to comment on Stannis here - my beef with him here is that he's kind of hypocritical. I can appreciate his desire to do the right thing (even though he seems to take no joy in it) but it strikes me as pretty off putting that he's willing to tell Jon to forsake HIS vows. Even if you take the religious aspect aside, it's still a vow that Jon made, that Jon feels he should respect, and that is recognized in Westeros as binding from followers of both the Old Gods and the Seven. Unless there is some precedent for a ruler being able to release the vows of a man in the Night's Watch (I can't remember if there is but I don't think so) - I think that's pretty shifty of him.
George Jong
51. IndependentGeorge
In all of this discussion of Melisandre, I think everybody's a very real (and frightening) possibility.

What if she's right?

We keep trying to think of Rh'llor in modterms of real-world history and religion; but look at it in terms of Westeros. Or, rather, think of it the way the ancient greeks would.

Melisandre clearly has some very real powers. We're skeptical that they're the work of the one true God because that's how we'd view it in our world. But the story's not in our world.

What if Rh'llor is not only real, but humanity's only hope to defeat the Others? What if the other Gods of Westeros are either not real, or too small in stature to fight the Others. What if Rh'llor is the Others counterbalancing force in their Pantheon?
Adam S.
52. MDNY
@51 nice point. Without touching on spoilers, it seems to me that Melisandre is right about danger from the force of darkness, whatever it is that drives the Others, and she is only wrong in assuming that Stannis is Azor Ahai reborn. If she wasn't so convinced that she should back Stannis, she might be right about everything.
Steven Halter
53. stevenhalter
Blankets are great. Unless they smother or someone doses them with smallpox.
Adam S.
54. MDNY
@53 My alma mater was named in honor of a man who defeated the Indians in the French and Indian war by that very method.
Steven Halter
55. stevenhalter
@54:Good old Jeffry Amherst. In terms of the reread maybe we should call him Joffry Amherst.
Vincent Lane
56. Aegnor
but it is virtually impossible for me to separate that brand of evangelicalism (which historically has been almost entirely associated with Christianity) from the ugly overtones of imperialism, racism, and general intolerance that has inevitably accompanied it.
Lol...stirring the pot today I see. I do take issue with your statement, as it's fairly obviously incorrect. Christianity certainly wasn't the first religion to encourage evangelism, though it certainly was the first to be successful at it on a world wide scale. It is true that many of the religions of that time were not evangelical, and in fact did not allow conversions. For some, if you were not of the dominant religion, there was no option to convert, and you were considered a 2nd class citizen (or worse).

Much of that early evangelism was done from a position of little power, so forced conversion wasn't even an option. It wasn't until hundreds of years later that forced conversions came into play. And much of that was politically based. The idea that a nation had to be culturally homogenous to be viable was strong. So even though there is absolutely nothing in the Christian religion about forced conversion, political leaders themselves would enact forced conversions as a way to further homogenize the nation's culture.

Islam was more direct about forced conversion via conquest. That is how the religion began. Now that didn't necessarily involve directly forcing conversion on an individual level, just conquering a nation, enforcing Islamic rule, and setting up rules to make others 2nd class citizens.

Regarding your ascribing "imperialism, racism, and general intolerance" to evangelism...that applies to humans in general. Certainly the racism and general intolerance. As one example, of many, Japan is an incredibly racist country when compared to the U.S., and there is little to no evangelism. I think you are blaming Christianity for being made up of humans.

Imperialism is nearly entirely politically and economically driven. You are misinterpreting history. You may see religious motivations espoused for imperialism espoused, but that is just political machinations. Leaders have historically used all sorts of motivations for imperalism. I would be surprised if you can come up with a single example of a country going to war to convert another nation. It just doesn't happen that often. They go to war for political or economic reasons, and then use religion, or xenophobia, or any number of other things, as cover. The Soviet Union, athiest by law, used belief in an economic system as an excuse for its imperialism. Spoiler alert, it wasn't about spreading communism, but spreading their power and influence, and raking in cash to support their system.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
57. AlirozTheConfused
"I just want to say that, the fact that in every post where Leigh,
rightfully IMO, criticizes religion, that there are always comments
shaming her for that, because it bothers the feelings of
(apparently)religious people, who are pretty privileged in our society,
bugs me to no end.

People don't like it when their feelings are bothered; whether religious or not; privileged or marginalized. Your feelings are bothered so you are posting your opinion, and that's okay. My feelings were bothered so I posted my opinion, and that's okay. I fail to see the relevance of privilege here; as stating your opinion should be a universal right.

"Trust me, Leigh, awesome as she may be, has very little institutional power to suppress the free practice of religion. And if she has a beef
with religion, it's likely earned, and the fault of that should be put
on the people out there giving religion a bad name, not on Leigh. Stop
demanding that she, as a marginalized individual(as all non religious
people are) cater to the feelings of those who are privileged over her."

Alrihgt, here's another way to word your last sentence: Stop demanding that she cater to the feelings of others.

And yes, I can see the reason in how it would be a bad thing to demand that Leigh cater to the feelings of other people; because she should be allowed to express her own opinion.

It would be wrong to demand that of anybody. It would be just as wrong for a Christian to demand that an Atheist cater to his feelings as it would be for an Atheist to demand that a Christian cater to his feelings.

Marginalization and privilege don't come into this. Social status and perception don't come into this. It is simply wrong to demand that someone cater to your feelings; even if you are socially marginalized and they are privileged; or even if you are privileged and they are socially marginalized.

I fail to see how marginalization and privilege are relevant in this; as stating your opinion should be a universal right. Demanding that she cater is wrong; but that wrongness has nothing to do with whether or not I am privileged over her. If she was privileged over me, it would be just as wrong.
58. Bill from NJ
First time!

I seem to be having trouble registering so I'll just do it this way. Regarding the issue of Melisande being right, I think you have to seperate the things a person can do naturally from their religion. She attributes her powers to her god, but there are all sorts of other people using powers with or without adherence to a deity. Just because you have tricks with fire doesn't make your Fire god right or real.

It's like Khalid attributing his conquest of the Levant to Allah's intervention. Maybe that proves Islam is right, and maybe it just proved that Khalid was a superb commander. The Church's preservation of knowledge during the barbarian invasions and advancing of science and learning in the Middle Ages don't prove the power of their God either. That's just what people who happened to worship that way chose to do. Maybe they were motivated to do that stuff by their beliefs, just as Khalid was motivated to bring the truth to the Syrians, but it doesn't say anything, one way or another about the veracity of their religion or legitimacy of their PoV. People use this a lot when they point out that during the Middle Ages Islam had the highest degree of civilization, in regard to technology, scholarship, literacy and economic development, and they very often attribute the secular differences to the relgions of the two civilizations. In fact, those areas were well in advance of Europe and the West for centuries before Islam OR Christianity existed. The very oldest civilizations in the western world were in Iraq and Egypt, before Moses ever said "Huh. What's up with that bush?" or Abraham grew a beard. And fallacies like that continued to the New World, where the Puritans and their ilk in New England held that material prosperity was a mark of the elect, by which logic, anything Donald Trump wants to get away with has the stamp of Divine approval, because otherwise he'd be broke.

When someone makes themselves all about their religion, or any other aspect of their personhood, it is very easy to buy into that and ascribe other things to that self-elevated characteristic. Melisande is all "I'm all about Rhollor" and so she suckers people into believing that her power has something to do with Rhollor as well. It got the Brotherhood without Banners because of Thoros' miracles, and it seems to have afflicted the queen's men as well. And Northmen (or readers) who thought for a minute might get confused and think that the old gods are proven real because they sent the direwolves to the Stark kids, with their premonitions of hostility or danger and mental links to the kids. From what Jojen said, that's a pretty rare talent, but all of them manifest it, except maybe Sansa. Arya found Catelyn's body through Nymeria, Robb seemed aware of Grey Wind at his death, Jon saw the wildling army through Ghost, there's Bran, and Rickon's behavior with the Freys (once they have a physical confrontation, he changes his attitude from hostility to complete acceptance to the point where Bran remonstrates with him for sharing private family stuff) is reminiscent of a wolf who has been made to submit to a pack leader. It could be that the youngest and least personally developed kid was more susceptible to the strong instincts of his beast companion, while the more established personalities like Sansa imprinted her own on her more maleable wolf pup. Surely there is something supernatural at work for six out of six kids to manifest a magic ability that only one other person in the entire series is shown to share (and maybe the Targaryens had it with the dragons, but IIRC they never married any Starks). But that does not mean Jon is right when he says the gods sent the wolves.

Interestingly, in the Old Testament, where people are always doing miracles on behalf of God, the story is always explicit that the power is not of their doing, and whatever action they take does not always work unless they are in good with God. One analysis of that is to point out that Moses was not doing magic when he opened the Red Sea and that it was none of his power, but God's. Likewise with other incidents, whenever someone tried to do it on his own, he got smacked down. It was the same in the Gospels, where cures and miracles were worked in all different ways. Sometimes Jesus would do it from a distance, other times after traveling to the patient's home. Sometimes there would be a touch, other times just words. Once it was a mixture of dirt and saliva to cure deafness. The point was that there was no formula, no ritual with its own power upon which Jesus was relying. He did it with divine power, just because.

It would be interesting to see if Martin adheres to the same narrative convention as we learn more about the magic. Thoros' description of his resurrection of Beric implies he performed a ritual, doing specific things he had been taught. Did it work because Rhollor saw the need right then and there and decided to work through his least worthy servant? Although that would not jibe with Melisande's claim about the fight against the Other being of primary importance with the lives of ordinary people being of secondary concern or expendable in the big picture. Rhollor favored Thoros with a miracle, but Thoros has had nothing to do with the big Fight Against Evil, or even a means to that end, of trying to bring the right Supreme Leader to power, and has only been fussing around taking care of the expendable commoners. But obviously Melisande has stuff going for her. So is it simply that they both learned magic that the Red Priests used in ages past, which is only now working for the same reason that Dany's eggs hatched, and the pyromancers productivity has ramped up? Was it the ritual that had the power, or the god or the man? So far most evidence points to the first. If Thoros had the power, he'd have done stuff before. If it came from a god, there would not be such contradictions in the missions of his two servants. Thoros would have been getting more snow-and-zombie-oriented visions, or Melisande would have been getting some sort of "DO NOT WANT" revelations vis a vis sacrificing Edric Storm.

I think we're not supposed to take their assertions of divine influence at face value, but rather a WoT-like indicator about how even mistaken beliefs have real and even beneficial effects. The essence here is that right or wrong, sincere belief can be a good way to get things done, and that decisive action is more important than abstract accurracy. I mean, Lysa Arryn might be a deranged paranoid lunatic, who isolated herself and her lands out of her unreasoning fear but I'd rather have ridden out the war as a peasant in the Vale, than try to survive in the ravaged lands of the smarter or more competent leaders.
Steven Halter
59. stevenhalter
Bill@58:That's essentially what I was saying @41. We don't really know where these powers are coming from. Mel is claiming Rh'llor but she could be deluded and her power really just comes from that red stone or the fact that her left big toe is crooked.
60. Bill from NJ
@57 Aliroz,
Well said. I didn't want to interject myself into the religious debate, but you nailed it exactly. What I got out of that stuff about Christian privilege was "We're right and they're wrong, so there are different standards applied to each side." I mean, the KKK is not exactly in a position to effect change, so do we have to listen to them? Who decides when the scales have tilted enough to grant one side protected underdog status, and make the other shut up because they're in charge.

The bit about Leigh having no power to effect change is a straw man argument, and the part about not taking offense if the comment doesn't apply to you is equally ridiculous.

"First they came for the Socialists, but I was not wearing a Socialist shoe, so I stopped trying to wear it. I was not Socialist, so I did not express my concern about how negative they were about the Socialists... Then they described my shoes, and there was no one left to express concerns about how negative they are about it"

Apologies to Martin Niemoller.
Philip Thomann
61. normalphil
One thing about the brittle iron nature of Stannis is that it makes reading about him exciting. Because we're primed to believe for all that he is accomplishing and enduring, he could break any moment; by the end of things he will have broken. And moment by moment, he hangs in there, and by now I'm whispering "...come on, come on, just a little bit longer, just a little bit further" as I read. It's like betting against mechanical failure for a brittle but crucial part that you just know should haven given out and will. If it could just last long enough, just a bit longer than it has- and really, who thought it could have made it this long- we can bring this thing in.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
62. AlirozTheConfused
Bill, I'm really glad you agree with me (I was worried that I wasn't understanding the concept of privilege right) but I don't think that it is appropriate to use that specific comparison to that specific group.

Leigh, whatever she thinks of religion, would never harm somebody over it, and would never go to the extremes of that terrible group. I can see the point you are trying to make about the ability to effect change; but mentioning such a group can't lead to anything good.

So, let's try not to ignite that sparkplug, okay?

Also, I recognize that it is putting words in mouth; but referring to someone as a being of dry cereal plant stalk can only lower the level of discussion. As is using terms like "rediculous", I think "illogical" would be a better term, and less likely to ignite.
63. Doug who's Dark
The stuff that Aliroz & Bill and others are saying is pretty much my point. I don't care what anyone thinks or says. What I get tired of, is people slamming others for having strong feelings. It's one thing to say "You're wrong, there is no God. I hate people who entertain such delusions." That's fine. But to go around saying "People who view the world through the lens of their particular beliefs and admit no others are absolutely wrong. And this culture being depicted is evil because it does not conform to my preferences regarding economic liberty or gender roles" is hypocritical and gets really tiresome after a while.

- I think slavery is wrong.
- I think all human beings, regardless of gender or race are morally and spiritually equal.
- I do not believe Mohammed was a prophet of God.

These are all my opinions. They are all beliefs I would hope I had the courage to die for if they were ever tested. But there is no proof that they are right. There is no material or objective evidence that they are correct. We can argue back and forth about which ones are true and which ones are not, but all it comes down to is a matter of opinion. You have no more right to impose your beliefs about Mohammed and his message down my throat than I have to force my equally irrational and intuitive belief that blacks are equal to whites down yours. You have the right to refuse to patronize a black man's business, and the right to refuse to serve black customers in your own. I have no right to force you to do either, no matter how contemptible and imprudent I find such behavior, because my opinion of a black man's equality is subjective. It is a belief as surely as my religious beliefs. I believe in the equality of men and women as surely as I (a Roman Catholic) believe in the absolute moral authority of the Pope, but I have no right to impose either belief on anyone. And even that is only because it is my opinion, that I lack those rights. I don't believe that because Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptists, or because of Voltaire's turn of phrase, I believe that because Jesus told a parable.

In this parable, a man had a field of grain, and his enemy snuck in one night and sowed it with weeds. When the weeds started sprouting, the farmhands wanted to go in an uproot them, but the farmer told them not to worry, that they'd all grow and when harvest came, he would take care of sorting the weeds from the grain and disposing of the latter. (Mathew 13:24-29)

Now maybe my belief in equality and Catholicism and the weeds are the weeds and Islam or slavery or racism is grain, or the other way around. By my own beliefs, and because of anything anyone said, I do not have the right to uproot those weeds. I can understand the people who say "raze the whole field." I can understand people who say "let all the different plants grow and we'll see what is useful come harvest". But I cannot sit still while people go around saying "All weeds should be rooted out, and I say what the weeds are! Sexism is a weed, and slavery is a weed and any kind of action motivated by religion is a weed, and people who tolerate these things are horrible. Ugh! Defending weeds! headdesk:headdesk: DoNotWant! Why can't we all just get along and grow grains like feminism and secular humanism?"

It's one thing to say "I do not share (Leigh Butler/Robert Jordan)'s views on gender relations." It is another thing entirely to say "This is horrible! (Leigh Butler/Robert Jordan)'s views on gender relations are absolutely wrong, and a cause of problems in the world today!"

My point is that artificially categorizing some beliefs as religious or political and thus invalid, while holding your own subjective beliefs to be objective fact is a fallacy. Emancipation is no more of an abstract good than primogeniture. Sexism is no more of an objectively wrong belief than transubstantiation or Islam.

I admire Leigh's writing and strongly expressed opinions. Her blog is a delight to read, when she is not using it as a pulpit to take gratuitous potshots at people for the same tendencies and behaviors that she exhibits regarding her own beliefs. If she can be immovable on slavery, to the point that it dominates every post on a chapter featuring slaves, regardless of the positive or negative value of the portrayal, then other people can cling to their own positions and are no less legitimate in their adherence.
64. Doug who's Dark
normalphil @61:

YES!!! You nailed it, about Stannis! That's exactly part of the appeal. For meta reasons, you can't see this guy winning (fanatic good guys never do in contemporary popular entertainment), but if he can just last through this next fight...

And also, because we don't want to see Davos go down with him.
Pyrrhus Aeacides
65. Pyrrhus
@61 Agreed, great comment.

This is exactly what made Stannis's arc the most riveting part of ADWD.
66. Bill from NJ
Straw man is a term for falsely representing the other side's position in a debate, and then arguing against that position.

Re: the bad group, it was not remotely my intention to compare Leigh to them. I used them as an example of a rightfully marginalized group to illustrate the illogic of the idea that degree of privilege should determine who gets to talk. Some people, it's okay to kick them while they're down, so Aeryl's point that the people on top are not allowed to complain about people on the bottom taking shots at them does not hold up to logical examination.
67. Thomas Flynn
On the other hand, I’m sort of stunned at the sudden appearance of something even remotely resembling a democratic process in Westeros (like, where did they even get the idea? Is there a Westeros historical equivalent to the ancient Greeks I haven’t gotten the memo about?)…
Westeros is often an analogue to medieval Europe, many stories are clearly derived from England in the later Middle Ages, specifically the Wars of the Roses. The Night's Watch are like the Templars/Hospitallers who presumably elected their superiors. Religious orders in general elected (and elect) their superiors. Cathdral Chapters elected Bishops (often). Cardinals elected Popes. Membership of the English House of Commons was by election.
Steven Halter
68. stevenhalter
@61:Yes, as you say the waiting is fun, although the whole X is a brittle metal is a fairly heavily used fantasy trope and it would be amusing if it just turns out to be wrong and Stan isn't really any more brittle than any other person and isn't going to break--he's a guy like others in a difficult position.
He certainlyt isn't very brittle. He's had:
1 brother assassinated by others, 1 turn against him and then assassinated by himself, his army soundly trounced and mostly burned up, savage demon/shadow sex and a nice fight with the wildlings.
No breaking yet.
Adam S.
69. MDNY
There was also a jury of 3 judges at Tyrion's totally fair trial. That's democratic.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
70. Lisamarie
@63, I also have some appreciation for the parable you mention, as well as a general feeling that people have to be left to make up their own minds. But (also as a Catholic) I'm not sure I can competely agree with the idea all ideas are equally an opinion as others. I mean, if my beliefs about God and the nature of humanity ARE true (and I admit that I cannot prove or force others to accept that) then there ARE some beliefs that do become objectively wrong, including any belief that attempts to define certain groups as subhuman or morally deficient or not honoring their dignity - and yes I know that there are examples even in my own religion of humans who haven't done that perfectly. But I agree with you that a certain measure of humility is needed. The reason you have no right to impose your belief on anyone isn't because it's just an opinion, but becuase it violates people's free will. (At least in MY opinion, hah). So, based on Leigh's worldview, I do think it's perfectly appropriate for her to view various things (and I don't disagree with her on many of them) as objectively harmful. And at any rate, I think racism/sexism at least CAN be objectively determined to be wrong, just by looking at things scientifically or genetically (this doesn't mean that we won't find generalized differences between genders and races - obviously we look different and there are some traits that are more prevalant in some populations - but we're much, much more similiar than we are different, and pretty much any trait can be found in an individual of any given group.
Chris Nelly
71. Aeryl
The constant requests, politely phrased or not, that Leigh stop being such a big meanie about religion(which, whether it's intended or not, is how it comes across to me), when Leigh has no ability to harm those who have belief, is tone policing.

Tone policing is ALL ABOUT who has the power and who doesn't. Which is why the dismissals of "it's not about who's privileged" are superfluous, and not addressing my critique.

In addition, these comments are not addressing the content of Leigh's critiques. In the terrible analogy to the KKK , it is pointed out that they're a marginalized group, and we don't listen to them. THIS IS A GOOD THING. But Leigh's position is also a marginalized and the fact that it's ignored by mainstream society, is not. The KKK advocate for harm, and they should be ignored. Leigh advocates for greater reason and rationality, to not allow tribal disputes over unprovables to dominate our discourse. This is not a position that should be shouted down, yet, repeatedly, it is.

There are already enough voices in the world telling us religion's just a nice fluffy blanket to cuddle up with when it's cold and dark. There aren't that so many voices saying the important things Leigh is saying, that we should be rushing to quiet them.
72. SKM
@33--I can't vouch for other religions, but Judaism already had a codified conversion process before Christianity. Which is unsurprising, as a decent number of key figures in the Tanakh ("Old Testament" to the Christian-centric, I suppose) were converts, and an entire book of the Writings is dedicated to a Moabite woman who joins the Jewish people and becomes an ancestor of David/the Moshiach. Heck, the Christian baptism conversion process grew out of the Jewish use of mikvah immersion in conversion. To say no concept of conversion existed before Christianity is just plain wrong.

Also, LOL at whoever made the "religious people are privileged" statement. Being an observant Jew is a real privilege in this society, lemmetellya.
73. Aerona Greenjoy
"Twathammer"? Heeheehee. Inventive insults remain a treasured part of this Read; I still chortle uncontrollably when recalling "giant pulsating douchewaffle" (Joffrey).

Can't add much to the religion debate on account of, er, *points at username*
Corey Sees
74. CorwinOfAmber
Say what you will about the various religions of ASoIaF, and about Mellisandre, but so far, her god is the only one who has shown any results.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
75. AlirozTheConfused
Aeryl, I guess my views on religion bother you. I apologize for that. Leigh's views on religion bother me, and it's not fair for me to make myself feel better by bothering you.

Could I reconcile (1) my right to my opinion and (2) my need to express my feelings when I am bothered with (3) your right to not be bothered?

Probably; I think the best way would be for me (and all the other people made uncomfortable by Leigh's opinions on Religion) to post responses to the Read on another site. That way I could vent when I need to, and since it would be on a different site, it would be away from you, and then it wouldn't be bothering you.

I could post my feelings without hurting yours, that way.

And since Leigh wouldn't see the other site, it would no longer be bothering her (assuming that it does bother her).

Would that be okay with you, Aeryl?
76. namle84
@72 -- It's true that Judaism allowed conversion before Christianity came along, but there has never been much Jewish prosletyzing (for much of the past 2000 years, prosletyzing would have gotten Jews killed by their Christian or Muslim rulers). Judaism has actually tended to discourage conversion, and often only allowed people to convert if they could show serious determination and commitment.
77. Doug who's Dark
Leigh advocates for greater reason and rationality, to not allow tribal disputes over unprovables to dominate our discourse.
So what? Honestly, not flippantly or snidely, I ask, so what? That's all well and good if you value those things rather than the others. Who decided whether tribal disputes are good or bad? By constrast, rationality and reason don't have a lot to do with survival skills, and could arguably be called luxuries. The elevating of those qualities or practices could actually be a form of intellectual snobbery. If reason and rationality are the highest absolute, than people of limited rational faculties are automatically morally devalued.

All you are saying is Leigh is on side A, so Leigh is good and should not be criticized. You are elevating one side above criticism, based solely on your predjudices. I know, I know, if it's Good and you are Right, then it's not a prejudice. That's only what every bigot or discriminator in the history of ever has thought about himself.
This is not a position that should be shouted down, yet, repeatedly, it is.
I can tell, what with her repeatedly being afraid to express it and all... Some people would say that the good news of Our Lord and Savior is a not a position that should be shouted down, yet, repeatedly is. That this position is one that should not be shouted down is merely your opinion. It is not objective fact, it is your personal preference. Other people believe it should be shouted down. Who is to say which of you is right?
There are already enough voices in the world telling us religion's just a nice fluffy blanket to cuddle up with when it's cold and dark. There aren't that so many voices saying the important things Leigh is saying, that we should be rushing to quiet them.
Someone who thinks this needs to get out and listen to more voices, because the world is full of them and for every voice who would shout them down, there are a dozen (including fellow believers of the would-be shouters) who would rush to defend their right to say it. Meanwhile, people with different beliefs and opinions perceive the opposite, that they are the ones being hushed and belittled and frozen out of public debate. Which version is more accurrate is a matter of subjective opinion. That people hold both opinions is not a matter of debate, as both sides repeatedly express those claims on many fora.

As far as people asking Leigh to stop it, maybe that's because they want to discuss science fiction and fantasy novels on a website ostensibly about science-fiction and fantasy novels, rather than be subjected to only peripherally relevant harrangues. If this was her own private blog, that would be perfectly acceptable, but some people perceive a certain responsibility to a degree of neutrality when posting under the official aegis of a Sci-fi/Fantasy website.

People also complain (and she has actually acknowledged those complaints) about her fixation with slavery. No one perceives her comments on that subject as personal and no one complains about them because they support the institution, they are just tired of hearing the same old thing when it doesn't have much to do with the work under discussion.

Go back to her discussion in Shadow Rising Part 6, and tell me it is not a digression. Like it or dislike, either way is fine, but she is not talking much about Chapter 20, and talking a lot about one of her personal hot button issues. If you like that content or don't mind it from time to time, it's all good, but if you wanted to discuss Wheel of Time, that post is simply not very helpful. And people have the right to say what they want about it, regardless of how women are treated in the real world. There is a time and a place for all this stuff, and some people want more WoT and SoI&F.

The legitimacy of a complaint about religion or gender relations does not excuse bringing either issue into any or every discussion, and THAT is what people have the problem with. Religion is considered a topic best avoided in polite company, but only one person in this community consistently interjects it into the analysis of these books. For good or for ill.

Not only that, she has, by her own admission, been surprised by developments or character actions, because of her animus to that character or group inspired by one of those issues. In that context, a complaint about her attitude, towards religion OR slavery, could be constructive criticism, aimed at helping her to improve her analytical objectivity (me, I think that makes the blog more amusing, but that's just my opinion).

There are all sorts of reasons for the criticism, many of them valid, and all that I have read to date are at least as valid as the "She is Right and religion is a Bad Thing" line of reasoning. I don't care if she ever changes. I don't care if she clings to her opinions to her dying day, and never alters one iota in her choices to discuss them or not. I will enjoy the blog right down the line, digressions, insults and all. But people can and should speak up if they don't like something. All perspectives are fair game, and no one, on either side, should be made to shut up depending on which side is Power and which side is Speaking Truth.
78. Maddy1990
I vote Dolorous Edd for Lord Commader!

Oh Jon, I feel like his whole life is guilt and moral dilemmas.

I think I share your sentiments on Stannis - I've warmed up to him considerably since he was introduced but he is a hard guy to like. I do like that he doesn't seem to be as blind to the common folk as other lords, and recognises Davos for his intelligence (besides the whole chucking him in the dungeon thing). Maybe it's just me, but he is so dour that he is occasionally unintentionally hilarious.

I totally ship Jon/ Val. Too soon?

Thanks for the double post and can't wait to see your thoughts on the rest of the stuff to come in this book.
79. o.m.
Completely without a religious angle, did you notice how Stannis puts the Wildlings into his familiar frame of reference?

Have a couple of leaders swear to keep the King's Peace, let a prominent noble marry the soon-to-be widow of the defeated king , and all will be fine.

Jon worries about his domestic bliss. Understandable, but he should be more worried that he'd be held responsible when a Wildling abducts a farmer's daughter, or a spearwife abducts a farmer's son. Jon had talked about this with Tormund, but he didn't bring it up now.

BTW, is Val a spearwife or a trophy wife?

Soon-to-be noble.
Assurance that the conquered tribe will have a place in society, and at the same time symbolizing that conquest.
James Wolf
80. JAWolf
This chapter cemented why, of the surviving kings, I'd support Stannis (faint praise considering the competition). Heck, I'd support him over any of the claimants to the Iron Throne w've seen, including Dany. He's not a guy I'd invite to my Superbowl party, but he would dispense actual justice and do the right thing without overmuch prodding.
81. Davyd Snow
As the discussion has shifted to the dos and don'ts of commenting about religion, I would like to say that when I wrote my comment, I did NOT intend it to sound like I was 'shouting down' Leigh, telling her what she can and cannot say, or anything like that. Absolutely not. I merely wanted to share my perspective. And while I don't want to speak for others, my feeling when reading the other comments that defended Melisandre was that neither did those commenters intend to sound like that.

And while it might get tedious at times, I don't think that discussions (or even debate!) about religion is out of place in these comments, when A) The books deal with these things, and B) Leigh writes about them.

That said, I'm very glad this discussion is so civil/well moderated. Just image this reread being done on Youtube! *Shudder*
82. a1ay
I’m sort of stunned at the sudden appearance of something even remotely resembling a democratic process in Westeros (like, where did they even get the idea? Is there a Westeros historical equivalent to the ancient Greeks I haven’t gotten the memo about?)

Another close parallel to the Christian military orders: the Knights Hospitaller (aka the Knights of Malta) elected their grand master, and also, I think, other senior officials like the captain-general of their fleet. 67 was spot on here.
Chris Nelly
83. Aeryl
@7, Believe it or not, I am a religious person.

I'm just of the opinion, that people can make a critique of religion and of religious belief, without the feelings of the religious given primacy in the discussion.

It's not about whether or not you can state opinion, it's just that it's not ALWAYS necessary. When the context of every discussion about Leigh's critique of religion isn't centered on the critique itself, but on how it made people feel, something's been lost there.
Rob Munnelly
84. RobMRobM
Welcome to all the new posters. Got some good ones, it appears. Excellent!

Re all the religious talk - incredible volume of onpoint high quality discussion, on balance great job at keeping things civil. Way to go. And now back to our story....

"Sam knows that he grieves for his wildling girl." Heartbreaking, but it shows Sam's perceptiveness . Sam has his own layer of regrets about his own wildling girl, so he understands.

Where the heck is Ghost anyway? And why is Jon dreaming of crypts?

"I'm not pleased. I want answers about Coldhands." Oh, you sweet summer child.

Really nice comment above that Stannis's purported brittleness makes him a fascinating character to observe because he's tough but may break unexpectedly at any time.

Confirmed that Mel in fact did fry the eagle in mid-air a few chapters ago. Impressive show of raw magical power. "Fiery talons" for Rhillor indeed.

Mel's dismissing of the gods of the north in Rhillor's name sounds suspiciously like another iteration of the ice v. fire theme running through the books.

There's a logical disconnect in Stannis' plan to let the wildlings through to settle the north and having the northerners - who've historically hated the wildings - flock to his banner. Not sure that's going to work out so well unless Jon accepts the offer and works hard to make it happen. Plus the whole "will the north really accept an oathbreaker pardoned by a southron putative king" thing that raises even more of a hurdle. Don't do it, Jon!!

"I’m… not exactly sure who that someone else would be, but, well. (At least it won’t be Joffrey YAY)."

You are so funny, Leigh.

Re Where's Waldo (Oops, Davos). At least Stannis speaks of him in the present tense. And keep in mind Stannis' wife and daughter aren't around. So ... could be with them; could be down South trying to hold the fort; could be on some sort of mission; could be almost anywhere. But no answers for Leigh, no sirrie.
Steven Halter
85. stevenhalter
The (or some of) the various gods that have been mentioned to date:
The Old Gods -- Connected to the Children of the forest & accesible through the weirwoods.
R'hllor -- Clearly a fire god of some sort
The force behind the Others--call it Ice.
The Seven -- Aspects of one
Davos ocean god -- don't recall a name
Theon&co seemed to have some other ocean gods if I recall
The people of Miri seemed to have a god
The Braavos seem to have something going on with the coins and Valar sayings but that could just be a secret society. I don't recall any gods mentioned yet there.
probably others I don't recall or haven't met yet.

Then, there are various people who channel power without a claim to spiritual backing. The gods could be the end result of such people rising in power or the rumors of such people in the past or there could
be entities of some sort filling the roles of gods that either always existed, were created through mass worship or some other means.

These entities don't seem to particulalry want to coexist. R'hllor seems to distinctly not like Ice (we don't know Ice's opinion) and doesn't seem above wanting to chop down weir trees.
The Seven don't like the Old Gods either (really, none of the other gods seem to like the Old Gods).
What I recall, so far, for things attributed to gods is that we have seen Mel do various things and have some prophecies. She ascribes these to R'hllor and Thoros ressurected Beric and also ascribes this power to R'hllor.
Other than that, we saw Davos praying to the ocean goddess and then get saved and various people praying to the Old One's and Seven with other ambiguous results.
The frequency of these events seems to be increasing along with the rise of the powers of the various magicians. Both coinciding with the return of the dragons.
This all gives us not enough information (again that I recall) to make any solid conjectures. There could be god-entities of some sort but we haven't really seen anything that would rule out that there aren't really any gods, everything is just manifestations of the return of the "magic" force to the world.
Rob Munnelly
86. RobMRobM
Need to add Qarth warlocks to the list somehow, but not sure where they stand since Dany fried the Undying. Maybe they fall into your second paragraph re power invoked not with a god.

Davos follows the Seven.

Ironborn follow the Drowned God.

Can't talk about Braavos - more will be learned later.
Steven Halter
87. stevenhalter
RobMRobM@86:I was lumping all the Qarth warlocks and others together with the fire wielders and such.
On Davos, that's good to know. I was clearly not recalling that correctly.
88. Aerona Greenjoy
Davos had his vision while shipwrecked and dying, but it was of the Mother. The Lhazareen have their Great Shepherd, the Dothraki their horse gods, the Qohoric their Black Goat. It often seems like everyone's putting culture-specific images and values to natural and social forces. Magic certainly exists, but has an ambiguous relationship with any possible deity(ies).
Steven Halter
89. stevenhalter
Aerona Greenjoy@88:Yes, the various gods are following fairly standard templates that we can see from our own world. Their effects that we have seen are fairly ambiguous and removed.
We don't know much overall history, so it could have been that this wasn't as true when magic was at its height in the world or it might have always been thus.
I will be interested in how (or if) this develops.
Tabby Alleman
90. Tabbyfl55
@75 et al,

Maybe the PTB could create an ASOIAF religion social commentary off topic debate flame war thread!
Sky Thibedeau
91. SkylarkThibedeau
Personally I feel most discussions on Medieval Europe are clouded by the Italian and Roman Catholic spin on events. After Rome fell in 476 the Western Empire fell somewhat into Ruin but the Eastern Empire in Constantinople which spoke Greek lived on until a few years before Columbus set sail West. The dark ages were even mitigated somewhat by the reconquests made by Justinian's General Belisarius who reconquered much of the mediterranean from the Barbarians who became our ancestors.

The Classical texts and thinking that many attribute as being rescued by the Arabs were common in the libraries of Constantinople until the sack of the city by the Venetians in the 4th Crusade.

The glories of Greek speaking Christiandom was thereafter downplayed by the Latin speaking Western elites who considered them to be heretics for not following the Pope in Rome.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
92. Lisamarie
I'll just say that even when I don't agree with all of Leigh's points or particular hot button issues, I don't mind her discussing them here. Yes, it's a blog about Wheel of Time, or ASOIAF...but why do we enjoy this kind of fiction if not for the ability to talk about it in relation to bigger issues? It's not JUST about the story and the theories, at least not for me. Also, this is meant to be her honest reaction, and it obviously triggered something in her, so I am glad she posts it. I also have a tendency to wander off topic when I write about books I read or other media I consume. Including religion, because it's very important to me :)

Otherwise I do agree with you 77, because I also hear a lot of those other voices, from where I'm sitting - although I recognize they are certainly not the only voices, and other people are sitting in different places, with different acoustics.
Tyler Durden
93. Balance
Eddit: Many many apoligies for the lack of spell and grammer check. My Word is out and I don't have the time to download something else, just work with me on spelling/grammer/syntax plz:)

I agree with our hostess on disliking religious fanatacism. However, I must point out that religious fanatisicsm in our world doesn't make much sense. We could argure all day about which god is real, but noone could actually prove it. (At least compariably to Westeros)

Martin's world is different. Here you actually have Ice Zombies. Here you see a plethera of dieties, each with their own beliefs and followers, but with no real demonstration of their god's power or existance. Rhallor however has some shit going on. We've seen His girl birthing shadow babies. We've seen Mel and the Lightning Lord of Rebirth read visions in the fire. Hell, Lord Can't Beat the Hound has come back to life several times. (That's a pretty big deal). It appears that ol' Mel can create some kind of fireball. And her curses do have a way of working out. This Fire God guy is the only one that seems to have the goods.

Now Jon et al haven't seen all of this firsthand. But we the reader have. You have to figure a few other people have too. (The Brotherhood) Priests of that order can honestly say, "Our god gives us supernatural powers." That's a big deal. I ain't seen the High Septon pull any juice from the Seven. I haven't see the Old Gods smite someone through a tree.

Now you're saying that it could all be parlor tricks or magic (not connected to a God), but I'm working on the assumption that it's true. As in that's how Martin wrote the world) If your a follower of this god you Know exisits, that can affect the world in tangible ways that are both supernatural and verifiable, AND no other religion can pull dick from their god..... Well man, you gotta come to the conclusion that your god is the only one true God. The rest are not on the same level, and therefore no longer qualify as gods.

I know what your saying. "But Balance we have stories like that in our religions here", and this and that I'm not talking about stories. I'm saying You see it. All your buddies see it. You'd believe too after watching Thoros bring back sir D for like the fifth time. You would too after watching the birth of a shadow. You gotta figure the Red God's priests and followers have seen this shit too. They don't just believe. They Know.

I think that's a strong motivation for a character in a fantasy novel. I have an understanding for a character in this situation. I think it's definitly on par with coming to an understanding with a character that pushes little kids out windows.
94. Jepsie
The Seven Kingdoms would be better run under Tywin Lannister or Stannis Baratheon with Davos Seaworth as his Hand.
Mary Stallworth
95. Dilecta
I have a question not directly related to the subject at hand. I, like Leigh, have remained relatively unspoiled about the book series. I have finally caught up to her and have actually continued on and finished ASoS. I have already read the Prologue of AFfC.

I would read Leigh's chapter summaries/reactions after I had read the relevant chapters for myself. Now, of course, that can't be my plan anymore, as Leigh will be taking a detour with D&E and I have already passed her.

Is there somewhere else that I can read chapter summaries/reactions for AFfC and possibly ADwD without getting spoiled? I tried Tower of the Hand's chapter summary for the Prologue of AFfC, but have already gotten spoiled for something by their footnotes.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
Chuck Dude
96. GarrisonPrester
@54 MDNY
You went to AC? Good to see another alum on this board.
Maiane Bakroeva
97. Isilel
Balance @93:

But we already saw various magicians, not assossiated with a priesthood doing stuff or becoming stronger just because magic itself grows stronger. So, does R'llor have "the goods"? Or are Melisandre and Thoros just talented magicians, who used to be able to do some stuff when magic was still weak, but now are becoming abruptly stronger and can do much more? _They_ don't know about magic generally becoming more effective, of course, so they think that they are channeling the power of their god.

But we do. We saw a fire mage in Quarth doing amazing stuff, when he was only able to coax very small fire into life a few months prior, before the comet and hatching of the dragons.
We have heard how pyromancers' spells suddenly became more effective and they were able to produce a lot more wildfire.
Allegedly, formerly impotent curses of the Warlocks of Quarth started to hurt their victims, etc.

And there was some stuff that never went away - like Faceless Men changing their appearance or prophetic dreams that reliably came true, such as those of Jojen Reed and the old albino dwarf woman that Arya ran into when she was with the Brotherhood.
Warging still very much existed beyond the Wall, too. None of which is a proof that the Old Gods are "real" or whoever the FM worship is.
Lindy Brown
98. lbrown
I actually thought that Jon was going to agree to Stannis' deal just for the interest of the story.
Rob Munnelly
99. RobMRobM
This probably has to be said - better to do it now. We're coming up on end of the book. The next chapter is free standing and Leigh's likely to want to cover it all by its lonesome. The next two chapters after that go together well - Leigh should give serious thought to doing them together. The final one is free standing and there is an Epilogue, also free standing. Leigh should consider doing the final one alone and then combining the Epilogue with her usual review of the book as a whole - or do the final and Epilogue together and give herself an untethered week to sum up the entire book. Or just do them one by one. This is all good, what whatever Leigh chooses will work. BM and Katherine - take a look at what's coming and give Leigh whatever procedural advice you want to give.

@95 - best I can think of his Tower of the Hand with proper scope setting and don't look at foonotes for any reason, as the notes have no spoiler restrictions.

@54/96 - I have a different NESCAC school covered (90 miles east of AC).

One funny thought from the bannermen/family tree info at the back of the books - Sam's mother is Queen Selyse's first cousin (both are Florents), so Sam is Shireen's second cousin.
101. Aerona Greenjoy
@99:I just looked on that page and saw that Edric Storm is Shireen's cousin on *both*ssides, since their maternal grandfathers were brothers. Highborn families. :-P
George Jong
102. IndependentGeorge
@99 - I totally agree that this week should be a single chapter, followed by the two linked chapters on the 14th, but I vote for a 1-2-2 schedule instead. This lets us close out before Thanksgiving instead of leaving it hanging over the holiday. Then, if Leigh wants to do a SOS wrap-up, she'll have two weeks to review her previous notes and headdesk to her heart's content. I'm going to self-flag this post so that it gets to Leigh via the moderators.

Jeezey Petes I love this book.
103. Black Dread
Were Stannis and Rob really "sworn enemies"?

Stannis rejected Catelyn's one overture for an alliance, but they never came to blows and I don't recall Rob ever swearing to do harm to Stannis.

If Rob had lived and Stannis had won in Kings Landing, I would have been surprised if they had been unable to reach some kind of accomodation.
Adam S.
104. MDNY
@103 Black Dread: Robb didn't even consider Stannis, either as ally or rival. Robb gave in to peer pressure and accepted his vassals' call for a King in the North. Stannis, however, definitely considered Robb a "usurper", as demonstrated by his burning a leech and naming it "Robb Stark, the usurper". Yes, maybe Robb could have convinced Stannis to ally with him and work together against the Lannisters, but Stannis would only accept that if Robb bent knee and gave up his claim to royalty. They never even exchanged emissaries (unlike with Renly, to whom Robb sent Cat). In Stannis' view, Robb declared himself King and was thus an enemy, and therefore worthy of leech-burning curses.
Mary Stallworth
105. Dilecta
To anyone who, like me, is looking for an unspoiled chapter-by-chapter read of the books - I found one! Not a blog, but a podcast - Unspoiled: Game of Thrones. I've only listened to a couple so far, but it seems a fair substitute.
George Jong
106. IndependentGeorge
@104 - There are so many what-ifs there. Had Robb filled his uncle in on his master plan and trapped Tywin in the west, Stannis would have crushed the Lannisters in King's Landing. Robb very likely would have bent the knee willingly and preserved the Stark-Baratheon alliance.

Or, had Stannis sent his ravens sooner (or Cat remained at Riverrun longer), they might have actually been able to call a Great Council and establish Joffrey's illegitimacy. Robb would have supported Stannis as his father did, but Renly would probably have still crowned himself and gone to war, leaving Westeros in the same clusterfuck.
George Jong
107. IndependentGeorge
I contrarily feel that all attempts should be made to encourage this practice, and not let Twathammer One and Two make a mockery of it with their bribes and/or blackmail or whatever it is they are doing to sway votes.
This is a marked improvement on voting practices here in Chicago. At least when the dead vote in Westeros, they might actually be excercising their franchise.

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