Jan 23 2014 2:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: “The Sworn Sword” Part 3

The Song of Ice and Fire Readthrough on The Sword Sword, Part 3Welcome 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 3 of “The Sworn Sword: A Tale of the Seven Kingdoms,” which originally appeared in the anthology Legends II: New Short Novels By The Masters of Modern Fantasy, edited by Robert Silverberg.

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!


The Sworn Sword: Part 3

What Happens
Dunk goes to the dam, but it is guarded, and he retreats. He and Egg have a conversation about whether Egg’s father Prince Maekar sulks, and Dunk points out that retiring from court because the king named Lord Bloodraven his Hand instead of him could count as sulking. Egg declares that his father should have been the Hand, not some bastard-born sorcerer. Dunk reminds him that Bloodraven was washed clean of bastardy by his father King Aegon the Unworthy, but Egg retorts that all bastards are born to betrayal. Dunk tells of how he never knew his parents, how they could have been whores or thieves, and that Egg is most likely squiring for a bastard. Egg is silent after this.

Back at Steadfast, Bennis is unsurprised either by the Red Widow’s failure to yield or Egg’s news that their liege lord fought for the black dragon. Dunk goes to see Ser Eustace and reports on what happened. Ser Eustace says he will not stop Dunk if he decides to leave after learning of his rebellion, but insists he did not lie: his sons died for the rightful king, Daemon Blackfyre, and if things had gone differently he would be the one called “loyalist.” He speaks bitterly of losing his daughter Alysanne as a hostage in return for his pardon, and that he should have died instead with his sons.

Egg enters, and says the Red Widow claims he rebelled to get Coldmoat. Eustace seems confused by this, so Egg asks him why he became a traitor, then.

“Treason… is only a word. When two princes fight for a chair where only one may sit, great lords and common men alike must choose. And when the battle’s done, the victors will be hailed as loyal men and true, whilst those who were defeated will be known forevermore as rebels and traitors. That was my fate.”

Egg asks why he chose Blackfyre over Daeron, and Eustace says Blackfyre was an unparalleled warrior, while Daeron was “spindly,” and preferred consorting with septons, singers, and Dornishmen. He names the great knights that came to follow Daemon, because he was the better man. Egg says his father said “the sword is not the kingdom,” and Eustace calls Egg’s father a fool and threatens to beat him.

Dunk interrupts to say they are leaving at first light. Eustace asks angrily if he is going to “that whore’s bed,” but Dunk says no. Eustace insults him and yells at him to get out, then, and Dunk and Egg leave. Dunk spends the night guiltily daydreaming of Lady Rohanne, then dreams she is shooting him with arrows, naked, and he kisses her. Then he and Egg are woken by the commotion, and see that Wat’s Wood is on fire, and Dunk remembers what Rohanne had said about fire and sword.

Dunk tries to convince Bennis to run, or give himself up, but Bennis is having none of it, and talks with Eustace about how they should burn Coldmoat’s crops and mill as vengeance. Egg is dismayed, but Dunk assures him they are just talking. They decide to head to Fair Isle. Dunk makes ready to leave, trying to ignore where Bennis is drilling the peasants, but then asks what Bennis means to do. Bennis says they will hole up in the tower, and Dunk points out all the ways that won’t work.

Egg urges him to leave before they are trapped, but Dunk draws his sword and tells the peasants to go home. They stare at him dumbly, and he screams at them to go or they’ll all be slaughtered. The peasants scatter, ignoring Eustace’s shouts, leaving only Dunk, Egg, Bennis, and Eustace behind. Furious, Eustace asks what the Red Widow offered to Dunk to sell him out, and Dunk says he still owes some service to him, and is not leaving.

Eustace decides it’s better to go out fighting in the open, anyway, and goes to get his armor. Dunk sends Egg for his armor, and something else. They leave Ser Bennis behind to guard the castle, and ride to the smoking wasteland that used to be Wat’s Wood. Eustace suggests obliquely that the best way to end the conflict is to kill the enemy’s leader, referring to the story of the Littlest Lion; Dunk wonders if he can kill a woman, and resolves not to let it come to that. They wait at the stream, and Lady Rohanne soon arrives, accompanied by Inchfield, Septon Sefton, her maester Cerrick, and over thirty men-at-arms.

Rohanne immediately accuses Eustace of having set the fire, but Eustace insists she did it, and accuses her of witchcraft besides. Rohanne demands he produce Ser Bennis, and Eustace refuses. Rohanne’s men make ready to attack, but Dunk calls out that if she crosses the stream she is breaking the king’s peace. Sefton points out that the king will never know nor care if he did. Dunk says he will stop them if they attempt to cross. Longinch laughs, but Rohanne wants to know how he proposes to stop them. Dunk says he will tell her, but only her. She rides out into the middle of the stream and invites him to join her there, and promises “not to sew him in a sack.” Eustace bids him to remember what he’d said earlier about the Littlest Lion.

Dunk goes to meet her. She apologizes for slapping him, and briefly reminisces about Addam. Dunk tells her that the king pardoned Eustace for Daemon, and that it is time for her to pardon him for Addam. Rohanne wants Bennis, but Dunk wants the men who set the fire and the dam down, giving Eustace the water in return for the loss of the wood. She still claims the fire was an accident, and wants to know how he will stop her crossing. Dunk shows her a signet ring. She demands to know where he got it, and Dunk tells her “in a boot, wrapped in rags.”

Dunk explains that if she tries to cross, he would fight, and likely die, whereupon Egg would go home and tell what happened here. She points out she could kill Egg too, but Dunk doesn’t think she will risk it: “…might be a spotted spider’s bite can kill a lion, but a dragon is a different sort of beast.” Rohanne concedes that she would rather be the dragon’s friend, but she still wants Bennis. Dunk refuses. She says she cannot afford to look weak by returning empty-handed. Dunk calls this kind of thing “a pissing contest,” and Rohanne is shocked and amused that he actually said that to her.

She points out, though, that those “pissing contests” are how lords judge each others’ strength, and as a woman, she “must needs piss twice as hard.” She names her enemies, and includes Inchfield among them, and says only her reputation keeps them at bay. Dunk draws his dagger, to her shock, but then lays the blade against his own cheek, and says it was he who cut the digger, not Bennis, and cuts himself in turn as recompense. Rohanne opines that he is quite mad, and that if he were better born, she’d marry him. She still maintains that she did not set the fire, and tells Dunk to tell Eustace that if he will not withdraw his accusation, she demands a trial.

The septon ritually blesses the stream, the site of the trial, and asks Rohanne and Eustace both to consider backing down, or taking the matter to Lord Rowan, but neither will agree. Inchfield is furious, and vows that Rohanne will marry him once this “farce” is finished. Dunk gives Egg back his father’s signet ring and instructs him to get safely back to Summerhall if Dunk dies. Egg replies that he would prefer Dunk didn’t die.

Dunk and Inchfield meet in the river. The duel is ferocious, and soon enough both men lose their seats and fall into the river. Dunk loses his sword, and can only defend against Inchfield’s relentless attack. Then Inchfield splits Dunk’s shield and temporarily blinds him; Egg screams directions to him, though, and Dunk lunges, knocking the other man down. They sink to the bottom, and Dunk manages to find his dagger and kill Inchfield with it before passing out.

He wakes in Maester Cerrick’s chambers in Coldmoat. Cerrick tells him he is badly injured and nearly drowned, but Cerrick knew how to revive him, and that Inchfield is dead. Dunk asks for Egg, and Cerrick calls him “a queer child,” but very devoted to Dunk. Cerrick says Egg is attending the wedding ceremony; apparently Coldmoat and Standfast are reconciled now. Rohanne had asked to see Addam’s grave, and her emotion over it had so moved Eustace that they are getting married. Dunk has no response to this, and hears rain as he falls back asleep.

Dunk sees her again the day they leave, over Cerrick’s protests at the amount of healing he has to do. Sefton hopes Dunk is not planning to go after Bennis, who’d ransacked Steadfast and taken off as soon as he was alone, but Dunk says Bennis “will keep” for now. Sefton despairs of him, and leaves. Rohanne meets him in the stables, and is glad Egg ratted Dunk out so that she had a chance to say goodbye.

She offers him a place at Coldmoat as Captain of the guard, but Dunk declines with a pointed remark about Ser Eustace. She looks angry a moment, but then says she must make amends, and offers him a magnificent blood bay mare to replace his old destrier. Dunk says the mare is too good for the likes of him, and Rohanne bursts out to say she had no choice but to marry Eustace, and insists he take the horse. He grabs her and kisses her instead, and says he knows what he wants to remember her by.

Egg is confused when Dunk comes out with Thunder instead of a new horse, but Dunk shows him the lock of red hair he has instead. They discuss which way to go; Dunk points out that Summerhall and Egg’s father is south, and Egg points out that the Wall is north.

Dunk looked at him. “That’s a long way to ride.”

“I have a new horse, ser.”

“So you do.” Dunk had to smile. “And why would you want to see the Wall?”

“Well,” said Egg. “I hear it’s tall.”

Dude, the Wall? Don’t go to the Wall! The Wall sucks!

Eh. Well, it’ll be another adventure, there’s no doubt about that. Which I suspect I will get to read about, eventually.

Something which I can’t decide I like or hate about ASOIAF is the extent to which Westeros society (and most or all of the other ones in this world, for that matter) is positively crippled by its worship of unbridled testosterone. Eustace’s rant about how Daemon Blackfyre’s prowess on the battlefield automatically made him a better king than Daeron—i.e. a skinny guy who “consorted” with scholars and artists, i.e. an intellectual by any other name—is insane from a logical point of view, yet this assumption goes absolutely unquestioned by either Eustace or Dunk (or Egg, or probably just about any other character who could have been listening). Because obviously a guy who’s good at bashing things with swords is also going to be a genius at statescraft, right? Riiiight. Muscles good! Uhnnn!

Mind you, I’m certainly not saying that all soldiers make bad kings, or that smart guys all make good ones. It’s perfectly possible that Daemon would have made an awesome king and Daeron would (or did) suck donkey balls at it. (As an aside, did the two contenders really have to have such similar names? Sheesh) The “insane” part of Eustace’s assertion lies in the assumption that good warrior skills always translate to good kinging skills—are, indeed, a prerequisite for the role—even though logic (and history) would suggest that someone with education, actual training in statescraft and (presumably) native intelligence would be on average far better at the job.

Not that these things are necessarily mutually exclusive with being a good warrior, but (a) serious training for one generally precludes serious training for the other, and (b) Eustace’s speech makes the dichotomy pretty explicit: you can be a badass warrior, or you can be a nancy-boy nerd, and never the twain shall meet. So both logistics and cultural prejudices would seem to work against anyone being excellent at both things. And yet, the assumption that “good fighter = good political leader” goes unexamined and unchallenged—at least by the characters.

Of course, Westeros is hardly alone in that attitude, as the number of U.S. Presidents who have also served in the military shows (a whopping 32 out of 43, in case you’re curious), but Westeros takes it to a fairly psychotic extreme, in my opinion. And I guess my like or dislike of this fact is based on whether I believe that this is a trait of which Martin is unconsciously approving, or if it is one he is sending up to demonstrate its ridiculousness.

But then, Martin seems pretty cognizant of tropes and unexamined cultural assumptions in general—you can’t deconstruct a thing if you’re not even aware it exists, after all—and so previous history leads me to think that he probably knows exactly what he’s doing on this count.

So, uh, yay for that. Although I also feel compelled to point out that knowing Martin is doing it on purpose does not actually make the phenomenon any less annoying.

Now, there is an obvious caveat here in how often leaders of Westeros, from kings all the way down to petty lords, are obliged to fight to keep their leadership positions—in fact that truth is pretty much the entire theme of this story—but that just devolves into a chicken or the egg argument over whether war would still be the way things were always settled if you stopped putting warriors in charge, so I’ll let you guys duke that out (heh) in the comments if you so desire.

(I will say that the one part of Eustace’s rant that rang absolutely true to me was the part I quoted, about how, essentially, the victors write the histories, and you’re more often than not only a traitor if history decides you are. He may have been wrong about a lot of things, but he was completely right about that.)

My initial argument, however, also leads into the other big point made here about leadership, which of course is Rohanne’s reflections on what a woman must do to lead in such an overwhelmingly patriarchal system. And her answer, it seems, is that if you cannot make your enemies fear you by making muscles at them, your alternative is to make them fear you by being, or at least appearing to be, absolutely bugfuck crazy. As one would have to be to murder four husbands in a row (or however many it was supposed to be), and sew people in sacks and drown them like kittens, and so forth and so on.

I’m not clear, by the way, on whether I’m supposed to know if she actually did those things or not, or just pretended that she did. Probably it’s confirmed or not somewhere in the story, but if so I missed it and I don’t have the moral fortitude to go searching to find out, frankly, so I’m going to assume that my impression (that it was left open to question) is correct for now. In which case, I have to say I find it equally plausible for either possibility to be true.

I… have a lot of feelings about the idea that women must either be or pretend to be maniacally unstable and/or evil in order to compensate for the fact that men will always dismiss or underestimate them as a threat otherwise, and most of them are terribly ambivalent. This is a trope, by the way, which I’ve seen continually repeated in stories, and if I’m going to be brutally honest, I’ve always been torn between being really angry at it, and kind of nodding and saying, well, if that’s what gets the job done…

Not to mention, just guiltily enjoying seeing the shoe on the other foot every once in a while. Women have always had to live in fear of men, and I’m not going to lie and say there’s not a bit of visceral satisfaction in seeing the tables turned.

And maybe admitting that means I have to turn in my feminist card, or maybe just my logic card, because surely ruling by means of atavistic terror is no better than ruling by means of I’ll smash your face in if you don’t, so by those lights Rohanne’s method is no better than what I was just complaining about above. Fear is fear however you achieve it, after all, and it remains a stupid way of determining who gets to be in charge.

Then again, I could also argue that Rohanne’s method is no worse, either, at least not from where I stand. And saying that ruling by fear is stupid doesn’t change the fact that more often than not that’s the way things end up getting done. Blah.

Ugh, ASOIAF. Why must you always make me think thinky thoughts?

Anyway, I suppose at some point I should also talk about the actual protagonist of this story, eh?

‘Cause, see, Dunk is sort of almost a cheat by Martin standards, because he is one of the very few ASOIAF characters I’ve come across so far who really is a straight-up hero. Which explains why he’s been relegated to side-story status, maybe, since apparently we can’t be having any of that nasty unambiguous heroism clogging up the grayness of the main storyline, now can we? HEAVEN FORFEND.

But seriously, Dunk seems to be that thing we don’t really get in the main novels: a character whose honor is not only mostly pure, but whose mostly-pure honor actually helps solve problems instead of making them infinitely worse.

Not only that, but he’s the rare whole package of battle prowess and statesman’s savvy that is precisely what people keep expecting their warrior-kings to be, and what they so seldom are. Dunk talks a lot of shit about himself and his supposed lack of brainpower, but the fact is that he was the only one of this sorry lot who figured out how to resolve the conflict without it becoming a massacre, by driving off the peasants, by requesting the one-on-one with Rohanne, and by waiting until just the right moment to apply the one bit of leverage he had (i.e. Egg’s ring) to its highest possible effectiveness.

And yes, that was dependent on Rohanne also being smart and savvy enough to recognize that leverage for what it was and give him the out, but that in turn was dependent on Dunk’s accurate judgment of her character, on what he thought she would and would not do. Which he was right about.

So, yeah. Dunk, basically, is the unicorn of ASOIAF.

…Right down to the virginity, hah. But hey, at least he has his first kiss under his belt. Progress, baby! You’ll get laid eventually! I hope!

(As an aside, was I the only one who found the idea of Rohanne having to sleep with Eustace now kind of really icky? Because, dude. She was in love with his son. That is all kinds of creepy. Politically expedient, yes. But also, creepy. Erg.)

And, yeah. I feel like there is more I could say—like about how I have all kinds of feelings about Egg and his slow education on How Not To Be An Over-Privileged Douchenozzle, courtesy one Dunk, and his obvious devotion to his knight and how they mask their affection for each other with insincere threats of violence because BOYS and how that’s kind of stupidly adorable, but I think I just did say that, if rather incoherently, so I should probably just leave it.

All in all, this was a really good story with some very thought-provoking themes, fun banter, exciting action, and of course a little soupçon of heartbreak, because how else would we know what series we’re reading? I approve, would recommend.

That said, while I have enjoyed the Dunk and Egg stories very much, I’m sort of relieved to be getting back to the main storyline, because I kinda really want to know what happens, yo. But we will be coming back to Our Unicorn eventually, never you fret.

And that’s that! So stay tuned for the beginning of my Read of Book Four in A Song of Ice and Fire, A Feast For Crows, going up next Thursday! Whoo! Adios, muchachos!

Brandi Carrier
1. Brandi
Thanks for another interesting reread, glad you're feeling better! I share some of your ambivalence about the idea that women have to go to such extremes to stay in power, it's an appealing thought but I find it to be pretty realistic. I also found it to be a relief to find that Rohanne is NOT batshit crazy but using her intelligence to perpetuate the perception that she is. Seems to be a pretty smart plan and seems to work for her. Whether that SHOULD be required or not is a totally different issue.

Dunk has to be one of my favorite characters in ASOIAF for all the reasons you mentioned, hope we do get to see more of him soon.

Can't wait to get into the next book! I know I'm a year or two early but can we please please do a reread after the read so we can get into all the fun theoris and tinfoil? :)
Michael Duran
"And I guess my like or dislike of this fact is based on whether I believe that this is a trait of which Martin is unconsciously approving, or if it is one he is sending up to demonstrate its ridiculousness."

Well, in the main storyline Robert is talked about as having been a warrior without peer and yet is a bad king. At least one character (Donal Noye, the one armed armorer who died fighting the giant) said that he had expected Robert to make a great king and seemed disappointed in the type of king he actually was. So I think Martin is trying to show the backwardness of medieval thinking both here and with how Rohanne has to deal with being in a position of power.
Deana Whitney
3. Braid_Tug
Dude Egg, way to show off your place of privilege, even if you are squiring for a hedge knight.
Eustace does have a point about treason. But you already covered that.

Sigh… Everyone wants to see the Wall. Hope Thunder makes it that long.

Well, look at Robert: great warrior, piss poor King, but don’t tell that to anyone.

We can hope Eustace doesn’t live long.
chris reiser
4. halibulu
Leigh- the Wall reference and Egg saying he hears it's "tall" is because Dunk once mused that perhaps up at the Wall there is some exceptionally tall man there who was sent from King's Landing, and is in turn Dunk's unkown father.
Adam S.
So it's been a while since I read the story, but I'm pretty sure Rohanne explained about the 4 dead husbands- one of them was really old to start with, one of them was only 10 years old and died before it could be consumated, etc.... In the end, I was given the distinct impression that she suffered bad luck in her love/marriage life, but used whatever advantage she could get by reinforcing the notion she was a dangerous sorceress (or at least not contradicting it).
On Eustace's whole blackfyre was the king who should have been rant, I think he is still being dishonest, maybe even with himself. Certainly, part of the reason he joined the rebels was because he hoped to recover his family's ancient status with 4 castles, even if he denies it.
The question of good warriors making good kings is complicated. Ned was an awesome ruler of the North, but he made a terrible hand because of his brutal honesty, and Ned was not a good warrior (capable, yes, but never a feared master of the blade like Jaime or Barristan or even the Hound). I never felt like Martin was reinforcing this stereotype in any way, as we all saw how inept Robert was as king, and in his day Robert was one of the most feared warriors in Westeros. The background of the Blackfyre rebellion isn't just about the bastard son being a warrior and thus getting support- it's also the fact that Daemon seems to have been a more amiable fellow, a more regal fellow, than his half brother. So when he tried to take the throne, he got a lot of support because not only was he a better warrior, but I get the sense he was more likeable, especially by most lords, who were raised in a society where battle prowess is revered (the best analogy to today would be a combination of a military leader like so many presidents, plus a professional athlete becoming a politican- so Blackfyre would be Bill Bradley and Andrew Jackson combined).
Remember, this is almost 100 years before the white walkers returned, so I felt no dread at all of D+E going to the wall, I'm excited to finally meet an old Stark (and maybe even Nan as a young girl?)
6. DougL
Thanks Leigh, hope you are feeling better.

Well, there are one or two really good people in ASoIF, but we haven't had a PoV with any of them yet. Martin chose who to put the story on, I guess Ned was close, but as you rightly pointed out, Dunk is smarter than Ned was.
7. OsRavan
Yeah I do think a lot of it had to do with midieval settings. Look at how low the literacy rate was among *our* lords in the middle ages. Not that litteracy directly connects to being 'smart' but it shows the value of education in non martial stuff.

I also tend to think its connected to feudal systems in general. I mean the whole feudal system is based around military needs. Lords dont pay direct taxation to a central state (ussualy) instead they rule their lands like mini kings almost. But they have a *military* responsibility and loyalty to a liege. They need to soldier for that liege when he demands, they need to equip x number of men (which costs them money). And stability (such as it is) is maintained via how well the kings utilize this military system or the threat of it. After all, the king has very few troops of his *own*. No more than many of the other lords. He is relying on feudal obligaitons as the support of his power.

Which means (to un-side track) that the very state itself is held together via military obligations. It makes sense then for the king to be favoring those lords who bring him the most military strength because he relies on those lords for his army and enforcment. Therefore if you want to get the kings favor as a lord... be useful to him militarily.

After all, if you are a great custodian of your land, that's not of direct USE to your king. The extra money you raise from treating your peasents right and making peace doesnt go into *his* pocket. Your king cares about how many soldiers you bring and how well you will lead them. Thus again, to get ahead at court, you need to favor the military.

This sort of arrangment likely also has cultural impacts... where the traits praised and admired are military traits (strength, loyalty sometimes, tactics, etc). People like Ned for example arent admired or respected I would bet because they are 'good' people. Rather because they are loyal to their liege, care for their soldiers needs, and can be counted on to respect their liege lord and be loyal to him. A good soldier essentially. Thats what 'honorable' is in westeros culture.

Anywho just my rambling thoughts.
8. Tenesmus
Will you consider the recommended blended reading order of Crows and Dragons? I've done it both ways, and the blended order is much easier to follow.
Deana Whitney
9. Braid_Tug
@8, That's been covered before. No. Not the first time around.
Maybe if she ever does a re-read. Otherwise it will be in a strict order of publication.
10. Rancho Unicorno
I would point out that it isn't a case of "best fighter" = "best leader", but "best war-time leader" = "best not war-time leader".

While there is a strong correlation between being an effective fighter and leading armies, I don't see anybody suggesting that The Mountain would make the best king in Westeros. Swordsmanship is a positive, but it is strategic and tactical thinking that the people are looking for in a leader during both war and not-war (I'm hestitant to call anything in Westeros "peace").

There are some political questions involved - does Westeros operate as a zero sum game? I'd say yes. While it would be nobler to have leaders who cooperate, and thus eventually remove military leadership as an essential attribute towards developing political leadership, Westeros isn't there yet. Besides, modern America is demonstrating that the military leadership void is being filled with business leadership instead of philosophical or social leadership. Is that really much better?
Thomas Thatcher
11. StrongDreams
I wonder if Ser Eustace should hire a food taster?
12. Wandering 1
Martin is absolutely aware of the tropes and expectations he's playing with: the spindly intellectual was after all King Daeron The Good, and his reign was one of the highest points for the Targ dynasty.

What I really find Eustace's speech indicative of is one of the dangers of a societal structure where people are raised from birth to be warriors: what happens when they spend all their lives preparing for war and there is none? Especially when it gets coupled with the fact that the main means of social climbing is through advantagous marriage or being a really good warrior? The answer is that those people wind up looking for a fight, hence why the great warrior Daemon had so many famous knights behind him, or why so many "Knights of Summer" fell behind Renly, which one of Renly's Rainbow Guard (Robar Royce, I believe) explicitly said.

Last thing: this is one of the times that I wish Leigh either read the stories faster or stayed fresh on it in between reads, since the answer of whether Lady Rohanne had anything to do with the death of her husbands (she didn't) was answered earlier in the story, and it would completely change what Leigh takes away from the a big chunk of the story. (And just in case some conspiracy theorist makes a comment about Rohanne having caused the deaths of her husbands and then passed it all off as accidents and natural causes: yeah, she did that, and then kept supporting all of her in-laws from all of the marriages there at Clodmoat. Yeah, no.)
13. Ryamano
As far as I remember, the deaths of Rohanne's former husbands were due to old age, war and great spring sickness. What I understood was that she didn't muder anyone, but kept the reputation, as it suited her purposes.
Tom Smith
14. phuzz
There's another thing about Eustace supporting Daemon. By the sound of it he declared for Daemon when it was obvious there'd be a fight coming, so it makes sense to support the best fighter. Especially as he's also going to attract all the other lords who think fighting is a good thing, and presumably are quite good at it themselves. If you're good at something you usually think of it as a good trait, so the fighters followed Daemon.
PS, hope you're feeling better Leigh :)
15. kolchin
I've heard it said that Dunk is the Forrest Gump of Westeros. I thought it was a great way of describing him and thought I'd pass it on.
Lauren Hartman
16. naupathia
Great read, but just a comment about the majority of US presidents being in the military:

Not really the same thing as battle prowess = uber statesman. When the US was founded the federal government was way different than it is now - way less involved in day-to-day affairs and was really implemented as the dealer in foreign relations. Also, keep in mind our president is the CIC so is essentially the head of the military in times of war, so having military experience makes a lot of sense in that context.

Of course nowadays the president abuses the hell out of executive orders, forget about cheques and balances, and the election is basically American Idol: Politics. Yea, I'm jaded.

But men (and maybe the eventual woman?) with military experience are still attractive to put in places of leadership because 1) military service is voluntary, so going into it shows you care about the country and 2) usually people who are involved in that chain of command can then understand it. Are those things necessarily true? No, but they are the broad generalisations that get us there.

Point is, it's not *just* because we think swinging a sword/gun = good leader.
17. Bravosi
"…Right down to the virginity, hah. But hey, at least he has his first
kiss under his belt. Progress, baby! You’ll get laid eventually! I hope!"

I kind of thought thats what Dunk got in the barn along with a lock of hair...I wonder if Eustice will have a very tall son?
John Brown
18. Seerow
Re: The whole "Someone good at swording people will make a better king", I'm going with Westerosi people playing too much D&D. Being good at swording people = high level = higher max skill ranks = better at skills.

Of course the best warrior will be the best king, he can have a +15 in his Profession(I'm the king baby!) while the guy who doesn't fight for a living is only level 1 or 2 and gets stuck at around +4-6.

It's really the only logical explanation.
19. 1rio1
I just have to say that this is my favorite of the Dunk and Egg stories, simply because the stakes are so small. It feels like a real moment in time in a real backwater part of the world - when Dunk and Egg are penniless and free before the weight of the crown and the Kingsguard inevitably traps them down. The other Dunk and Egg stories are so plot heavy I find them less real and more manipulative for the reader. Here we get to see how clever and brave both are in a way that feels organic.

You also missed my favorite part of the entire story - when a nervous Dunk was given the advice to say a girls eye color matched her dress. It was given terribly the first round, then at the end after Dunk manages to avoid a minor war and save the estate he confidently says it to Rohanne right before he leaves the stables in the rain. A subtle way to show how much he has grown in this little adventure alone.
20. some other guy
This is also my favorite novella. Not every world building excercise has to expand the greater plot. I learned so much about Westeros from this simple conflict full of small details.

Lady Rohanne is more well-written than Dany as being a sort femme-fatale/vulnerable woman.
Steven Halter
21. stevenhalter
I thought it was particularly good of Dunk to not pull the peasants (serfs?) into the fray. They weren't qualified and would just have died. All in all, it was a nice solid story.
I was also wondering just how far Dunk went with Rohanne in the stables there. It seemed a tad ambiguous. Also, in the line:
“I took something else to remember her by instead. A lock of that red hair.” He reached under his cloak, brought out the braid, and smiled.
A braid would be quite a bit more than a lock and I wonder if she was expecting to lose quite so much hair.
22. caladria
@16 - the leaders of most (western, at least) countries are effectively the CIC of their country's military*, but the military - or non military - background of candidates seems to be a mainly US obsession.

But for Westerosi purposes, I can see why a man who could lead men into battle might be conceived as the best men to keep those same men (and the ones they battled against) in line post-war. It just ignores the fact that the men who are good at leading men into battle might not want to be good at peacetime (looking at you, in the bottle, Robert Baratheon. We don't know if he could have been any good, because in the end he couldn't be bothered.)

*Ignoring ceremonial Heads of State who are CIC (i.e.Kings/Queens) because they are for waving purposes only.
23. zambi76
Last thing: this is one of the times that I wish Leigh either read the stories faster or stayed fresh on it in between reads, since the answer of whether Lady Rohanne had anything to do with the death of her husbands (she didn't) was answered earlier in the story, and it would completely change what Leigh takes away from the a big chunk of the story.
Strongly agreeing with all of this. Holy crap that really led to a whole different reading of the story. Leigh sounds actually rather mad about it. Some other folks have said they find this the most boring of the three D&E, but I have already said how much I love The Sworn Sword.

I can't even count the ways in how adorable I find it. I love all the characters, the Septon, Eustace, Rohanne. Hells, even horrible Bennies is adorable in his horribleness. (Just Longinch is a bit lacking *harrharr*)

GRRM is known for his avoidance of tropes but THIS IS A FUCKING (REALISTIC) FAIRY TALE! They marry and live happily ever after in the end. (Shut up! They do! Sorry Leigh, but I find Eustace/Rohanne hilarious and not icky at all. But then I'm weird.)

Also the German translation did something funny here:
Instead of "pissing contest" they used something akin to "cock measuring contest" (Schwanzlängenvergleich), which makes Rohannes reaction even more amusing.
24. Bill D5
I think the whole "rule by making your enemies fear you" thing is simply a realistic portrayal of human nature. That's basically how affairs between sovereign powers have ALWAYS been borne out - reciprocity. Things like "diplomatic immunity" are the now-established end result of everyone coming to the realization that things work better if we both agree to do things a certain way. In other words, everyone recognizes that what I do to your emissaries, you can do to mine. People follow customs, because if they don't, no one will trust them to behave according to custom, and thus they forfeit the protection of them. As per one example, I would guess that in the future, no Frey is going to be able to claim their guests owe them any of the traditional obligations. No guest in the Crossing will feel obligated to surrender his sword, or obey Walder's rule beneath his roof. No one will feel obligated to protect any Freys who come into his house asking to be his guests. No one will trust them or take them at their word, without a lot of security or collateral.

The difference between a moral guy like Dunk and one like Ned, is that Dunk has the courage of his convictions and puts it on the line. Ned lacked the guts to do that. His fatal mistakes were confiding in Cersei, because he didn't want to confront Robert when the king heard the truth about "his" children. Ned knew it would be wrong to kill Tommen & Myrcella, at least, for their parents' crimes, but he also knew that Robert was capable of doing it (or a Henry2-esque "Will no one rid me of these turbulent children?"). He didn't want to have to stand up to Robert again and say "No way, Bob. You don't want them messing up the succession, I'll take them to Winterfell and keep them from causing trouble, but you are not going to kill them, and I'll fight you on this." So he gave Cersei a warning, hoping she'd leave and remove the issue of contention. Later on, when he was threatened by Varys in the dungeon with Sansa's death, he lacked the nerve to say "She has lived a pampered privileged life to this point, because by her right of birth, she is noble of the Seven Kingdoms. The duties that go with those privileges include dying for your rightful king, so if you think killing her will make me lie and cheat the rightful king of his throne, and allow a douchenozzle like Cersei/Joffrey to run this country, go ahead and try it." Because if he thought with his brains, instead of his heart and parental instincts, he'd realize that if the Lannisters murdered an 11 year old prisoner in order to induce her father to make a false confession, no one would EVER trust the Lannisters again. No one would ever surrender to the Lannisters, or give them hostages as a condition of peace. Balon Greyjoy could give Theon to Ned, because Ned was trustworthy and would not murder him for spiteful reasons. The Lannisters would never be trusted again, and no one would feel obligated to accept the surrender of any Lannister, because they had demonstrated they don't follow the conventions of proper behavior. And Ned would have held out a little longer, and the Starks would have captured Jaime and his cousins, and then Tywin would have fallen all over himself to make a trade, and Ned would be back home safe with his wife and all five kids still alive.

We see the reciprocity principle at work with Tywin, whom everyone is afraid to cross. His reputation for finishing off people who make trouble, but being reasonable with people who can bring something to the table, inspires the Freys and Boltons to turn on Robb. He explanis this to Joffrey, saying that you have to show mercy to people who do what you want (i.e. surrender), otherwise no one ever will, they will keep fighting against overwhelming odds, because they think that they are assured of destruction if they do surrender. That was why Hitler stayed in power throughout an unpopular war, and why the various coups and conspiracies against him didn't get more traction. FDR unilaterally proclaimed that the allies would only accept unconditional surrender, and the revanchist behavior of the same countries after the previous war combined with his declaration (and a healthy dose of Nazi propaganda) to convince the vast majority of Germans that as bad as Hitler was, he was their only hope to survive. Even Stalin was critical of FDR's declaration, and he was hardly the humanitarian type, because he knew it would have that effect.

All in all, my point is that with the reciprocity principle, there are good and bad aspects, as there are with almost every mechanism for the operation of human society. The bad aspects are having to be all ruthless, as Rohanne says, but the good aspects are that it reigns in troublemakers to some extent, as long as everyone keeps playing along. That's also the significance of rightful claims of kings, as opposed to Renly's or Jaime's assertions that force trumps right. Robert had the best claim compared to the Starks, or Arryns or Lannisters, but since Dany & Viserys were still alive, he wasn't the rightful king, so he set an example of violating the succession through force, and gave Renly the idea that he could do the same thing, which in turn gave Stannis justification for his extreme tactics against Renly, because he's the only one following the law.

Speaking of whom, while Dunk might be fairly unique in following the course of honor all the way through, and thus making things work, it is worth noting that of all the contenders in the War of Five Kings, the legalistic & straight-and-narrow Stannis is the only one left alive and still in the game at the end of Storm of Swords. The one time he seriously contemplated veering off the straight-and-narrow was when at the nadir of his fortunes, he was suckered into an ends-justify-the-means argument by Melisandre. The books keep referencing similar attempts to make dragons, by past kings that ended in disaster, foreshadowing that his evil sacrifice of Edric would have brought him disaster as well, and he was saved from that wrongdoing by Davos, whom he raised to power because Davos gave him honest and honorable moral counsel, despite strong incentive to simply rubber-stamp Axel Florent's revenge raid. And because he listened to the Hand he promoted for his moral qualities, he lived to fight another day. He is now on the Wall, out of the reach of the Lannister armies, where he has the gratitude of some people he saved, and the chance to step into a power vaccuum, with the Starks dead or hiding, and their appointed replacement, Roose Bolton, still trapped in the South by the ironborn holding the Neck.

I explained above how Ned died because of his failure to go all out and do the right thing all the way down the line, but we see Duncan actually did that (granted, being dirt poor he had less to lose than Ned), and the person in the main series who comes closest, Stannis, is still alive when his rivals are not (though at least one of them has a replacement in Tommen), despite having the weakest starting position of the Five Kings. When he started, he was limited to a tiny island, practically in sight of the seat of Lannister power. After his defeat, he was even worse off. But because he recalled his duty and rode to the rescue of the Watch, he has a chance to win the loyalty of half the kingdom.

And it should be noted that even sharp cookies like Varys and Tywin respect Stannis' willingness to follow through on his claims, rights or duties.

There are other points in the series where expedience is undercut by actual events. Joffrey's execution of Ned left him in trouble at the end of GoT. Mormont & Jon Snow argued about Craster, with Jon contending that they should have nothing to do with this scumbag, and maybe get rid of him. Mormont argues for tolerating his infanticide, because he provides a safe haven for the black brothers beyond the Wall, and an ally against the wildlings. But when he is dying (in that very safe haven, ironically enough), he realizes his error, that the wildlings are not the true foe the Watch was founded to fight. And according to Craster's wives, the children he has been leaving out to die, have instead been taken by the Others, whom they call "Craster's sons". So in exchange for some piddling aid against a lesser foe, Mormont has been allowing a disgusting child-rapist to reinforce their real enemy! So much for pragmatic expedience. If someone had followed the narrow moral teachings of the Starks back when Craster married his first daughter, the ranks of the Others might be a lot thinner. Too bad Dunk didn't visit the Wall sixty years later. He could have set things right.
25. zambi76
Dunk is smarter than Ned was.
Man is he ever. I quite like it when he always thinks of Arlan's putting down of him. Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall right before he does something really clever.
Deana Whitney
26. Braid_Tug
@21: A braid of hair was acutely a common memento during the Crusades. Wives, girlfriend, etc. would cut a lock of hair and braid it for their soldier. Often made into the form of a bracelet.
Since I haven’t actually read the story, not sure how long her hair is, but the braid doesn’t have to be super thick, to be a good memento.
27. some other guy
Its just a lock of hair from her head. This is Dunk we're talking about, not Littlefinger or Tyrion. If he did something weird and pervy to acquire that lock of hair, I don't think he'd be coy and too cool for school.

Also, its reminds me of Patty and Selma having a ball of MacGuyvers hair in their drawer.
Steven Halter
28. stevenhalter
Braid_Tug@26:Earlier in the story, Rohanne was described as:
Her red hair was bound up in a braid so long it brushed past her thighs, and she had a dimpled chin, a snub nose, and a light spray of freckles across her cheeks.
So, the use of both the term braid and lock in:
“I took something else to remember her by instead. A lock of that red hair.” He reached under his cloak, brought out the braid, and smiled.
seemed ambiguous to me. It seemed that since she had deliberately been described with the long red braid before, this emphasized that it was that braid rather than a simple lock.
29. OsRavan
umm what you had me until you got to stannis. Last I checked, murdering your brother (before your sworn truce was up too) with dark magic that you achieved via cheating on your wife and breaking your vows to her was not the "straight and narrow."

The lesson from stannis is that he is a hypocrite. He demands others walk the straight and narrow and achieve a level of perfection that he himself doesn't have to. That he excuses himself FROM.

Hell you only need to look at what Davos pointed out. Stannis condemns all these people for following 'false' kings... but what did he do when he chose robert over the targs? He betrayed his rightful king.

Yeah... stannis may be rigid but he certainly isn't honorable or comparable to ned and dunk.
Deana Whitney
30. Braid_Tug
Well she could have let the long hair down for awhile. Then cut a small section for a smaller braid. If a tumble in the barn happend, it happened. Good for them booth.
31. Josh Lu
The Wall only sucks if by "sucks" you mean "rules".

Martin is clearly aware of the "great military leader" =/= "great peacetime leader" idea. I think Egg quoting his father with "the sword is not the kingdom" is another indication of that.
32. Booksnhorses
My impression of this story was influenced by the final section because I thought that dunk was a bit of a dick about the marriage. Whatever the ugh factor Rohanne did the practical thing and will probably be left in control of both holdings, and a relationship with an unknown hedge knight was never really on the cards. He should have accepted the horse with good grace rather than taking the hair which seemed designed to cause trouble for Rohanne.
Sasha P
33. AeronaGreenjoy
Even more than Hedge Knight, TSS seems made to demonstrate that Chivalry Is Stupid And Gets People Unnecessarily Killed. Dunk nearly died (nice when an Ironborn, e.g. the maester, does something useful eh?) and killed Inchfield (who's obnoxious but didn't need to die lke that) to save Bennis's face, while the putrid pile of decomposing slugs robbed liege lord blind and ran off. Sickening!!

The saving grace, enjoyment-wise, is that Dunk and Egg might be the most entertaining duo in the history of Westeros.

Next week: A Feast for Crows, my favoritest favorite!!! Yayayay!!!! *mentally runs in circles*
Deana Whitney
34. Braid_Tug
@32, how would a small section of missing hair cause problems ? It's not like Dunk walked away with the whole thigh length of hair. That would be a rope of hair which would not fit in a pocket easily.

Now if they did have sex, and the child looks like Dunk, there would be problems. We can hope that her 5 the husband doesn't live that long.
Captain Hammer
35. Randalator
@12 Wandering 1

Last thing: this is one of the times that I wish Leigh either read the stories faster or stayed fresh on it in between reads, since the answer of whether Lady Rohanne had anything to do with the death of her husbands (she didn't) was answered earlier in the story, and it would completely change what Leigh takes away from the a big chunk of the story.

Yeah, Leigh should at least re-read (heh) the last two or three of her chapter summaries/commentaries. Or better even, re-read the last two or three respective POV summaries/commentaries to bring her up to speed again with what is going down. That shouldn't take up too much time but would greatly improve her experience of the story overall.

With the long time passing between each installment (even if it's "just" one week, it's a lot more between POVs) it's become kind of her thing to miss really obvious stuff that she had picked up on earlier. That can get a bit annoying since I get the feeling that a lot of her insight goes to waste. She notices so much that I didn't notice back when I read ASoIaF for the first time and it's a real shame when she doesn't develop an interesting thought/theory/theme or completely misunderstands something she did understand previously just because she forgot about it in the mean time.

On the other hand, that gives her ample comedy material for her eventual re-read of her re-read...
36. zambi76
Like Bookhorses said, that's not very nice Braid. Why would you wish death in poor Eustace just because your 21. century sensibilities don't like his convenient marriage with Rohanne? Maybe they will fall in love and have a wonderful marriage, maybe it's just for the best of their estates, but I don't think Rohanne would be that wild about becoming a widow for the fifth time.

I do understand Dunk getting a bit miffed about it though. He obviously found Rohanne hot and she pretty much said (and showed with her marriage to Eustace) that he's beneath her station. I chuckled when he made fun of her with the "high mother (in law)" joke.
Rob Munnelly
37. RobMRobM
Sorry I couldn't post yesterday - on the road all day.

1. Lady Rohanne didn't kill her husbands and doesn't seem to be playing up a reputation for sorcery. She's just a tough one and her opponents are making up tales to slander her. It's akin to a forceful female leader in a business, whom everyone refers to as a bitch behind her back for actions that would be praised if she were a male. Very praiseworthy, modern character, stuck in a horrible situation because of her father's obnoxious condition upon death and the presence of the obnoxious Longinch.

2. Eustace clearly isn't worthy of her but there were longstanding friendship ties between the families and a marriage is a win/win for all involved. It might even turn out to be a happy match if Eustace can father healthy kids.

3. Septon Sefton is one of the funniest names in all GRRM.

4. I'm in the just a kiss and a significant chunk of braid school. That's enough for Dunk at his point in his career, and Egg is sitting outside wating.

5. I would say that Dunk is especially intelligent but he's incredibly wise about everything and everybody other than himself.

6. I wouldn't say he has good battle skills at this point. In the first two stories he's getting by based on his size and streetfighting skills. No doubt his knightly skills will improve over time.

7. So much good humor in these stories. Love it when he turns down the horse by saying "it's too good for me," drawing a direct implied parallel to her statements she'd marry him if he were better born. He was trying to irk her and she's smart enough to understand. They actually are quite well matched, and they both know it. It's cute.

8. The overall leadership thing that Leigh commented on at length is interesting. Compelling military leaders can make cruddy kings (viz., Robert). Scholarly non-military leaders can make cruddy kings (viz, Aerys). But someone patently dynamic to a sufficient degree that is father the King gives him the kingly Valyrian sword rather than the lawful heir? It does seem that the former King was making a statement and that Eustace may have had a point in supporting the rebels.

So...onto AFFC, and whole set of new characters and situations to chew over. Looking forward to it! Onward!
Tabby Alleman
38. Tabbyfl55
But seriously, Dunk seems to be that thing we don’t really get in the main novels: a character whose honor is not only mostly pure, but whose mostly-pure honor actually helps solve problems instead of making them infinitely worse.
What about Davos?
Pyrrhus Aeacides
39. Pyrrhus
Quork! Quork! I wonder how much of this lord bloodraven saw coming?
Michael Duran
40. MRHD
@37: As to point eight, let's not forget that said king was Aegon the Unworthy, by many seen as the worst king the seven kingdoms ever had (at least before Aerys II). So I don't necessarily think the act of giving Daemon Blackfyre says anything good about Daemon in particular.
Rob Munnelly
41. RobMRobM
@38 - Davos, Brienne, Maester Leuwin, Maester Aemon, the Blackfish....
42. zambi76
Not sure if it's cool to hold Aegon (Mr. 400% Robert Baratheon) against Daemon either though MRHD. I thought it quite honorable of him to let himself get killed because he was so impressed by his opponent on the Red Gras Field, that managed to hold him of for so long, that he wanted to make sure his body would not be messed with. Then again dude had at least 9 kids himself and died at 26, so some genetics did get through. ;P
43. some other guy
@38, @41.

Most of Davos's children are dead in the service of Stannis.

Maester Luwin for all his loyalty and following duty as Maester got killed by the Ironnmen.
Sasha P
44. AeronaGreenjoy
@42: According to timeline analysis on the Wiki of Ice and Fire, Aegon IV lived to be at least 84. And yes, he was a lot like Robert for some reason. ;-)
Sky Thibedeau
45. SkylarkThibedeau
"Dunk is sort of almost a cheat by Martin standards, because he is one of the very few ASOIAF characters I’ve come across so far who really is a straight-up hero."

Well there is Brienne of Tarth who follows in his footsteps but Brienne is not as Realistic about how life works like Dunk is and it bites her in the rear time after time.
Sasha P
46. AeronaGreenjoy
I'd put Sam on the courageous-and-pure-of-heart list, though his actions have mixed results.
47. zambi76
I meant Deamon died at 26, Aerona. Good old Aegon had 21 (ex-) bastards alone.
48. zambi76
Well there is Brienne of Tarth who follows in his footsteps but Brienne is not as Realistic about how life works like Dunk is and it bites her in the rear time after time.
This probably stems from Brienne being raised as a noble woman after all, while Dunk is from a Flea Bottom orphanage.
Julian Augustus
49. Alisonwonderland
RobM @37.8
But someone patently dynamic to a sufficient degree that (h)is father the King gives him the kingly Valyrian sword rather than the lawful heir?It does seem that the former King was making a statement and that Eustace may have had a point in supporting the rebels.
On the other hand, it could be the king was letting the lawful heir have the crown and was trying to placate the (ambitious? favorite?) younger brother with the sword. I think Daemon was reading too much into his father giving him the sword. If Aegon really wanted Daemon Blackfyre and not Daeron to inherit, he would have found a way to get Daemon the crown instead of the sword. Witness Randyl Tarly.
Maiane Bakroeva
50. Isilel
AeronaGreyjoy @44:

Wiki is wrong about Aegon IV's age. There is no way he could have lived to be 84. His son Daeron II became king in 184 and his father Viserys II was a younger brother of Aegon III, who himself was still a child when he came to the throne in 131. It looks more like Aegon the Unworthy didn't live to be fifty.

Re: occasional necessity of strong military leadership from the king - first of all, one needn't be a kick-ass fighter to be a competent general. There are numerous examples of this iRL and of course in ASOIAF we had Tyrion. And while Stannis technically can fight, he never did in any of his battles, because he doesn't like to relinquish overall control over his troops as anybody in the thick of it has to.
Being a great fighter is mostly a PR advantage, though, of course, in certain critical situations it can be extremely helpful. But still, it is something even a military leader can do without, if they are otherwise talented enough.
But even besides that, Daeron II's heir was Baelor Breakspear, who was a great knight and of an age with Daemon. And his youngest son Maekar was no slouch in that department either. So, yet again, just like with the sword, the lawful regime being lacking in military respect was a self-serving lie/hypocrisy of the rebels.

The truth was that many disliked peaceful incorporation of Dorne into the realm and attendant loss of military opportunities provided by frequent conflicts with it.
And Daeron II, who never saw eye-to-eye with the Unworthy likely also dismissed his father's favourites and hangers-on from the court, so there were unavoidable grudges due to establishment of new administration.
Sasha P
51. AeronaGreenjoy
*looks again* *facepalms* You're right; he's estimated to have died at 45. That was my miscalculation. Coincidentally, I can recall 9 children of his being mentioned thus far, though I could be forgetting many.
52. zambi76
I also meant Daemon with the 9 kids (as far as we know all from his wife from age 14 to 26). I didn't really formulate it quite right, I guess.
Sasha P
53. AeronaGreenjoy
Most of the family trees (or wreaths) I've found show Daemon with seven Blackfyre children. Still quite an indication of fertility.
54. Bill12
Not to mention, just guiltily enjoying seeing the shoe on the other foot every once in a while. Women have always had to live in fear of men, and I’m not going to lie and say there’s not a bit of visceral satisfaction in seeing the tables turned.
Hmmmm, that may be a little twisted.
55. zambi76
Yes, Aerona, those seven are his sons but I think there is also talk about two daughters somewhere, who never show up on the family tree, because after seven sons, who cares, right? ;)
Jerry Grzeskiewicz
58. SwordOfMidAfternoon
Ah, I had not noticed this ASOIAF re-read before… I only followed the Rothfuss Kingkiller re-reads. I’m glad I found this.

In ASOIAF and in general - I wouldn't say excellent fighting skills are perceived as evidence of one’s ability to rule effectively... I would say rather than being an excellent leader of men in the field is viewed as evidence that one would make a good leader of men off the field. Sometimes this holds true, but more often it does not. There are countless examples in the texts. For all of the carnage and violence, warfare is often much, much simpler than governing a realm. The decisive actions that constitute warfare are all but removed from governance. Ruling in peace time requires a degree of subtlety and patience that vex a leader like Robert Baratheon

What else would you have them measure men by? They do not have standardized tests… in ASOIAF there are only a few ways in which a man’s worth may be measured - Most notably ancestry and martial ability. Not that these are particularly meaningful measurements, but they are the ‘yard sticks’ of the day. We shouldn't project our views onto their world. We are not comparing apples to apples when we do so.
Jerry Grzeskiewicz
59. SwordOfMidAfternoon
I rather enjoy the Dunk & Egg storyline... In the character of Duncan it is strangely satisfying to see an actual hero-arc-following character in ASOIAF without repeated 'grey-ing' deviations. With the vast untapped reservoir of historic events that occurred during the reign of Maekar I & Aegon V, the potential for future Dunk & Egg novella (dare I suggest novels?- AFTER(!!) Winds/Dreams are completed, of course)
Joe Vondracek
60. joev
Eustace’s speech makes the dichotomy pretty explicit: you can be a badass warrior, or you can be a nancy-boy nerd, and never the twain shall meet.
Baelor Targaryen was a badass warrior, who appeared to be both well-read and wise, from what we saw of him. And then he got his skull crushed by his brother's mace.

Rhaegar Targaryen was a bookish lad and a harpist, who became an accomplished fighter and even won the tourney at Harrenhal. And then Robert Baratheon smashed in his chest with a warhammer.

So, the twains meet, it just doesn't turn out so well when they do.
Ned was not a good warrior
Eh? My impression has always been that he was instrumental in winning the war for Robert Baratheon's side. Under his leadership, the northerners saved the day at the Battle of the Bells, and after the rebels won the Battle of the Trident, Ned led the rebels to King's Landing. After that, he broke the siege at Storm's End, and then went south with 6 companions to engage three of the most accomplished swordsmen of all time. Only him and Howland Reed walked away from that. He might not be a "master of the blade," but there's every indication that Ned Stark is one of the better warriors of his era. Remember, he is a hands-on kinda guy (e.g., doesn't use a headsman), so we can assume that he did a heckuva lot of killing during the war, and wasn't someone who led from the rear. To survive that with all limbs intact and no major injuries means he must have been a pretty good warrior indeed.

GRRM wrapped this story up a little too neatly. At the end, the maester tells Dunk, "Lord Wyman and Ser Eustace were fast friends, until the Blackfyre Rebellion." However, earlier in the story Ser Eustace says that Lord Wyman wouldn't consent to a marriage between Addam and Rohanne, and that he heard Lord Wyman laughing with Ser Inchfield as he left. That event was prior to the rebellion, and doesn't sound like an interaction between "fast friends." But the "fast friends" thing makes the marriage seem a bit more plausible, I guess.
Michael Duran
61. MRHD
@59: Yeah, I'm excited about seeing where the next stories go, considering. Although I'm pretty sure some of those details Leigh hasn't picked up on and there was a big fuss over it in one of the first Dunk reads, so I think we're leaving out historical details of the Targaryen succession in the non-spoiler section for now.:)
Maiane Bakroeva
62. Isilel
Joev @60:

Ned was a competent warrior, but no more than that. He was a brilliant general, though. GRRM himself said so. The show seriously amped Ned's and Stannis's fighting prowess.
Yes, Ned survived the war despite fighting in the thick of battles, but don't forget that as a high lord he had the best weapons, armor and warhorses and was surrounded by his loyal guards besides. That goes a long way to keep a guy alive, if he is practical and doesn't try to duel the opponent's champions, etc. (viz: Rhaegar).
As to the Tower of Joy, Ned himself attributed his survival to Howland Reed. He didn't go toe-to-toe with Arthur Dayne and win, though his men liked to believe that he did.
Tabby Alleman
63. Tabbyfl55
But Ned was holding his own against Jaime until somebody backstabbed him in the knee.

Or is that one of those things that got amped in the show? It's been ages since I read that scene.
Lindy Brown
64. lbrown
@63 Tabbyfl55

In the book, Ned's leg was actually crushed under his horse, instead of being speared. I can't remember the other particulars.
Lindy Brown
65. lbrown
@63 Tabbyfl55

I went back and reread that passage. Ned did kill Tregar but the passage is so short that there's not enough to confirm or deny Ned as being a great warrior.
Bill Stusser
66. billiam
A couple of comments/questions before we get back to the regular series.

First, a question for Leigh and others who think that Eustace is a traitor for supporting the Blackfyre rebellion. What does that make Dany in the regular series and does that change the way you feel about her?

Also, the Blackfyre rebellion was the very thing that was Cat's biggest fear regarding Jon and a big part of why she felt the way she did about him.

One last thing, I read The Princess and the Queen novella over the weekend and thought it was pretty damn cool. I agree with RobM that Leigh should consider reading it before ADwD.
Maiane Bakroeva
67. Isilel
Tabbyfl55 @63:

Actually, Ned refused to duel Jaime, because he knew that he would lose ;). Instead, he reminded Jaime that captive Tyrion would pay the price, should Jaime kill him. He was not even remotely in Jaime's league as a fighter. He wasn't even as good as Bronze Yohn Royce, who, while a notable warrior, isn't among the very best that Westeros has to offer.

Yes, Ned killed a couple of Lannister guardsmen - who were on foot and forbidden from attacking him in return. They killed his horse trying to fend him off, though, and it fell on his leg and broke it.

Yes, the show completely changed this fight and amped Ned's abilities as a swordsman considerably.

Billiam @66:

Not really sure what Eustace's rebellion has to do with Dany. Daemon accepted Daeron as his king for dozen or so years, remember, before he decided to rebel. Dany never did the same with Robert.
That's besides the fact that Dany's claim actually has more substance than a sword and some unproven accusations of bastardy.
Tabby Alleman
68. Tabbyfl55
Gah! stupid show....

Thanks for the refresh.
Bill Stusser
69. billiam
@ 67

Beacause Dany is not the rightful ruler of the seven kingdoms and really has no claim to the throne whatsoever. If she is going to take back what she believes is hers by right then she is going to have to lead a rebellion against whoever does sit on the iron throne.

It doesn't matter whether Dany ever accepted Robert as king, the seven kingdoms did and if she comes back to take the throne then the kingdom will most likely split again as some lords flock to her (the old dynasty) while others fight for Tommen (the established dynasty) and others still follow Stannis (the rightful heir).

Remember, Stannis considered Rob a traitor because he wouldn't bend the knee to him, the rightful heir to the iron throne.

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