Thu
May 1 2014 12:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows, Part 13

George R R Martin A Song of Ice and Fire Feast for CrowsWelcome 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 13 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 18 (“The Iron Captain”) and Chapter 19 (“The Drowned Man”).

Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread here on Tor.com. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.

And now, the post!

 

Chapter 18: The Iron Captain

What Happens
Victarion Greyjoy recalls the story of the crowning of the first king Balon as his fleet enters the bay of Old Wyk. Victarion had been resistant to the idea of leaving his post at Moat Cailin and challenging his brother Euron for the crown until he heard that Aeron Damphair had summoned the kingsmoot, and then decided to let the Drowned God decide who rules. He sees Euron’s ship Silence in the bay, and the sight fills him with fury. He commands the fleet to seal the bay so that no ship may leave.

He commands Nute the Barber to guard the chests, and goes ashore, where Aeron greets him. They pray together, and commiserate over the disgusting display their brother is putting on, consorting with “godless men and monsters”. Victarion reminds himself that he’d promised Balon not to murder Euron. He greets those who come to show their support for him; that night he hosts a great feast for the famous captains who have come to the kingsmoot. Hotho Harlaw offers him his daughter for his queen; Victarion remembers how he’d sobbed while killing his third wife, and promises only to consider it. Baelor Blacktyde demands to know if Victarion will end “this mad war” if he is crowned, and moves away when Victarion declines to agree.

Then Victarion sees Asha in the tent, and calls her over. She tells him she is pleased to see him at her queensmoot, and Victarion laughs and asks if she is drunk. He tells her a woman “wants a husband, not a crown”, and promises to give her one when he is king. She promises in return to give him a pretty wife when she is queen; Victarion answers that he has no luck with wives. Asha says her claim supersedes both his and Euron’s. Then they are interrupted when Euron Greyjoy enters the tent with a dozen men. Victarion greets him as “Crow’s Eye,” but Euron corrects him that it is “King Crow’s Eye.” Aeron declares that no godless man may sit the throne, but Euron declares that he is more godly even than Aeron, by raping and pillaging thousands of those who worship other gods, thus proving them false. His followers laugh, and Aeron spits and storms out.

Asha swiftly brings up the suspiciously convenient timing of Euron’s return, less than a day after her father’s death. Euron protests he was at sea when Balon died. He suggests giving her as wife to one of his followers, and Asha shoots them all down in turn with withering wit. One threatens to spank her, and she invites him to try. She informs Euron that her axe is her husband, and any who have a problem with that “should take it up with him.” Victarion declares there will be no bloodshed here, and kicks Euron out; he notes that several of the captains slip away afterward. Asha asks Victarion to walk with her.

Asha asks Victarion why Euron really left for so long, and observes that Victarion’s new wife was dead by the time he left. Victarion answers that she was only a salt wife, but thinks of how he had not touched another woman since he’d killed her. He avoids the question, and changes the subject. He tells her that as a woman, Asha cannot hope to rule. Asha admits he may be right, and tells him she will throw her support to him if he agrees to share the rule with her as his Hand. Victarion thinks that no King of the Isles had ever needed a Hand, much less a female one.

Asha says she can make a treaty with the northmen and end the war before it becomes a disaster, but Victarion sees no reason to settle for a smaller portion when they can have all the north. Asha says they will not be able to hold it, and Victarion advises her to go back to her dolls and leave the wars to warriors. Asha points out she has House Harlaw via Rodrik the Reader, but Victarion counters that Hotho Harlaw has already promised him his daughter. Asha warns him that all the talk among the campfires is only of Euron. Victarion confesses that Euron got Victarion’s new wife pregnant and “made me do the killing”, and that he would have killed Euron as well except Balon forbade it and sent Euron into exile.

“I am sorry for you,” said Asha, “and sorrier for her… but you leave me small choice but to claim the Seastone Chair myself.”

You cannot. “Your breath is yours to waste, woman.”

“It is,” she said, and left him.

Commentary
Ah, so much sexism, so little time.

I mean, toward Asha, obviously, that goes without saying (go play with your dolls, Victarion? Really?), but this whole thing with Victarion killing his wife is just… well.

*headdesk*

Because it is just hilarious that Balon is all “No, you can’t kill your kin, that is MAAAAADness” to Victarion re: Euron, and Victarion is all “Yes, you are right kinslayage bad I MUST NOBLY REFRAIN”, but apparently killing your wife is, like, totally fine. Because getting married apparently… doesn’t make you kin? Even though that’s… exactly what marriage is supposed to do? What, is it that you just can’t kill male kin?

…That’s totally what it is, isn’t it. Jesus H.

*gives the entire ironborn nation the finger*

In related news, dammit, Victarion sucks too! And I had such hopes that at least one of the candidates would be someone I could even somewhat like. Thanks for shitting on my dream, Victarion!

I guess I’m rooting for Asha, then. I mean, I sort of was on principle already, but I was willing to switch to Victarion if he turned out to be at least marginally not a douche. Alas.

And don’t try to tell me he’s not a douche, because he totally is. Anyone who has the gall to sit there and nurse their manpain over losing a wife he himself murdered needs to be slapped silly and voted off the island toot sweet. Are you kidding me?

Then there’s this, when Victarion is looking at Euron’s ship:

On her decks a motley crew of mutes and mongrels spoke no word as the Iron Victory drew nigh. Men black as tar stared out at him, and others squat and hairy as the apes of Sothoros. Monsters, Victarion thought.

Oh, good, racism too. We certainly are covering all our bigotry bases today! All we need is some ableism and homophobia thrown in and I think we get Asshole Bingo! YAY.

I still don’t know about Asha’s accusation that Euron somehow engineered Balon’s death. First of all, if Euron arrived the day after Balon died then he had to have been at sea when it happened, because that’s how time works. And also, I am privy to information that Asha is not; namely, that Balon’s death was almost certainly due to Melisandre’s pan-regicidal bad juju. So while applying the term “innocent” to Euron in a general sense is laugh-out-loud hysterical, I think it is possible that the timing of his arrival really was just a giant coincidence.

Though I do wonder what he was planning re: Balon before Balon died, seeing as Balon had told him “leave and don’t come back”, and generally when kings say things like that they really really mean it.

Last and most definitely least: Why are like 87% of all ironborn dudes apparently named “Ralf”? And why don’t I have the maturity to not giggle every time I see that name? The world may never know!

 

Chapter 19: The Drowned Man

What Happens
Aeron emerges from the sea, and reminds himself that he has been reborn harder and stronger, and that no mortal man can frighten him. He goes to Nagga’s bones, which legend said were the bones of the great sea dragon the Grey King had slain and the Drowned God had turned to stone. Aeron thinks of the glory of the first Balon’s court, and how it is all gone now, but the ribs are enough to remind them. Aeron prays all night for the Drowned God to bestow his wisdom upon those gathered for the kingsmoot, so that they may pick the right candidate. He believes he hears the voice of the god in the sea, assuring him that no godless man will sit the Seastone Chair. He sends his drowned men to sound the summons to the kingsmoot.

Once everyone is gathered, Aeron looks at Victarion and is certain he will be their next king. Aeron begins the kingsmoot with the proper ritual and asks who shall be king. He hopes Euron will be impatient and speak first, for whoever does will almost certainly lose, but Gylbert Farwynd speaks up first instead. He is slightly mad, and his support is almost nothing, and Aeron asks again. Erik Ironmaker declares next, but he is almost ninety and hugely obese. Asha tells him she’ll stand for him if he can stand up himself. Erik cannot, and retires. The next claimant (The Drumm) fares no better than the first two.

Finally Victarion makes his claim, to a great roaring of support. Euron hopes that this will end it, but then Asha jumps in. She praises her uncle Victarion, but tells the crowd that Balon’s brother cannot come before Balon’s son. Ralf the Limper shouts that all he sees is Balon’s little daughter. Asha pretends to be surprised that she has breasts, making the crowd laugh, and makes her case. She says Victarion promises to give them more of what Balon gave them, but she opines that what Balon gave was defeat and death. She makes a dramatic presentation of all they’re not getting from the northland, and promises them peace with the northmen and new land if they crown her queen. Aeron is astonished to see how many of the crowd take up the cheer for her, but just as many are shouting for Victarion, and just as it seems like it is about to turn violent, the crowd is stunned silent by a deafening and magically-augmented horn call from one of Euron’s “mongrel” followers.

Euron enters dramatically, and makes a stirring speech in which he promises to give them not just the north, but all of Westeros. Asha asks how they are to hold the whole continent if they can’t even hold the north. Euron counters that Aegon the Conqueror did it, but Asha points out he had dragons. Euron answers that so shall he. He claims that the horn they’d heard was a dragon horn, which can bind dragons to the sounder’s will. Asha laughs, and says there are no more dragons.

“Again, girl, you are wrong. There are three, and I know where to find them. Surely that is worth a driftwood crown.”

His men spill out his gifts for the crowd, and the chanting overwhelms the cheering for either Victarion or Asha. Aeron tries to find the voice of the god and hears nothing except the scream of a rusted iron hinge.

Commentary
Well, shit.

Dang it, I was really thinking for a minute there that Asha might actually win. Curses!

I was rooting for her not just because she was a woman, mind you (though it would have been awesome to have a woman win the throne of one of the most overtly misogynistic societies in ASOIAF), but because she also appears to be the only candidate who was not all wanting to go make everyone else’s lives in Westeros completely miserable. But noooooo, we end up with the most megalomaniacal dickbag of all. Because of course we did.

And oh ho, the plot thickens re: dragons! I’m going to assume that Euron’s Horn O’ Grand Theft Dragon does exactly what he claims it does, for the very simple reason that that ensures everyone’s going to have as sucky a time as possible because of it. Especially Dany. Because that sucks! Don’t take Dany’s dragons!

Although, it’s kind of hilarious that I would say that, since Dany is planning to do pretty much the exact same thing with her dragons as Euron wants to do with them—i.e. conquer Westeros. But, you know, I stand by it, because while I’m not entirely sure I want Dany taking over the Seven Kingdoms, I’m definitely sure I don’t want Euron up in there, because he is a world of No and I would like to request that he get messily murdered immediately.

Fortunately there seem to be at least a couple of candidates eager for the task. You know you must be a terrible person when both of your brothers actively and devoutly want to kill you, or at least want you to conveniently drop dead in Aeron’s case. And for what seems like good reasons in both cases; at least I’m assuming that this “rusted hinge” business refers to a memory of something Euron did to Aeron back in the day that I’m positive I really, really don’t want to know the specifics of. (Possibly I already did learn the specifics of it, granted, but if Aeron explained the hinge thing in his other POV I’ve forgotten it. Possibly deliberately.)

“Crow’s Eye, you call me. Well, who has a keener eye than the crow? After every battle the crows come in their hundreds and their thousands to feast upon the fallen. A crow can espy death from afar. And I say that all of Westeros is dying. Those who follow me will feast until the end of their days.”

TITLE SHOUTOUT SAY HAAAAAY

Also, way to be super creepy, Euron. “I will bring you thousands of rotting corpses to nosh on! Yum! Vote for Crow!”

Ugh.

Well, at any rate, I suppose we should congratulate the ironborn on managing to hold the closest thing to an election Westeros is likely to see anytime ever, AND to do it without any bloodshed. Assuming party fouls like chopping off one’s own finger don’t count, of course. I was really rather startled that it happened so fast, actually; I was expecting this storyline to drag out much further than that. Not that I’m complaining!

Also, I did quite the double take when I realized that Aeron honestly believed that the first King of the Isles lived for a thousand years and married a mermaid and so forth and so on, but then I was like, duh, because (a) Aeron is clearly a very large fan of believing in things, and (b) for all I know every last word of that legend is completely true. That’ll learn me!


And that’s what I have to say for today, Jennie May! Have you a weekend, and I’ll see you again next Thursday!

107 comments
Deana Whitney
1. Braid_Tug
Busy week Leigh, 3 chapters on WoT and 2 here.
Thanks.

What "fun" these two are. You held it together better than I expected.

Euron’s Horn O’ Grand Theft Dragon – Oh you should trade mark that one.

And the Ironborn are defiantly not Andoran. So swift brutal elections have they. Let the biggest jerk win.
Chris Nelly
2. Aeryl
Lord, we all hope there won't be any arguments over whether this was REALLY sexist.

There are other hints about who/what may have also been involved in Balon's death, but it's from a prophecy chapter in ASOS. Needless to say, it doesn't look good for Euron's innocence.

Also, you saud Euron a few times when you meant Aeron(that's why we call him Damphair).

Did you also notice that the horn was killing the guy who blew it? Doesn't bode well for a non-Targ wielder, IMO. My main concern, with all this talk that Dany is, at least in part, actual dragon, is will the horn bind her?
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
oops, duplicate.
litg
4. litg
Leigh, so do you think that Robb and Joffrey's deaths were the result of Melisandre's bad juju or the result of the murderer's making the decision to kill them. I'm not saying one way or the other (or even if book readers know at this point) but couldn't Euron have arranged something to off Balon the same way Walder Frey et al did for Robb?
litg
5. litg
And please pardon my terrible grammar in the previous comment. I must be half asleep.
Steven Halter
6. stevenhalter
Chapter 18 - "The Iron Captain":Victarion is heading towards the King's Moot. His inner thoughts are not particularly endearing:
He had beaten four men to death with those hands, and one wife as well.
and
Men black as tar stared out at him, and others squat and hairy as the apes of Sothoros. Monsters, Victarion thought.
A sexist and a racist.

But, his helm wrought in the shape of an iron kraken sounds pretty coolly badass, though. So, at least he has a nice hat.
The crew of Silence are all mutes. That says rather a lot about the captain.

But, Victarion is basically completely out of touch. He would do well to
take Asha's advice but he clearly doesn't place much value in women (see dead wife). The North is much larger than his thinking. He may be engineering himself right out of the throne.
So far, Asha seems like the only even slightly palatable choice and I doubt these crazed people will go for a Queen.
Rob Munnelly
7. RobMRobM
Leigh - you are the funniest. You mention in the first one that all forms of discrimination are covered except "ableism" and then, in the next chapter, a King candidate gets shouted down because he was unable to stand up. You are a prophet!
litg
8. blergy
I'm glad I'm not alone in thinking Victarion is pretty much the worst. He is a HUGE fan favorite in some circles and I never understood why. (Okay, I understood why, but it made me feel pretty cynical about human nature.)
Julian Niquille
9. Gesar
Baelor Blacktyde is named Baelor Noirmarées in french. I mention it because it's probably the only time in the history of the world that a name looked more awesome in french than in english.
litg
10. Black Dread
Glass half empty!

I was kind of impressed that a fair number of these pseudo-Vikings cheered for Asha. Sounds like she would have been 2nd if they counted ballots.

Only Martin can draw a character as deep as Victarion in a couple paragraph. A giant fearsome Viking who doesn’t question the horrible rules of his society, but carries a sadness for the wife he killed. Wild.
litg
11. Athreeren
Melisandre certainly did something, but it was Olenna Redwyne who killed Joffrey and the Freys who killed Robb. Whatever Melisandre did, that doesn't mean Euron is innocent.
Adam S.
12. MDNY
Yes, the ironborn all pretty much suck, except the Reader who is absolutely awesome. Asha is pretty smart and reasonable, even if she doesn't stand much of a chance of winning the queensmoot, but she does enjoy her share of raiding and pillaging. I tend to think that if Balon truly intended her to follow him, as he apparently did, he would have acted more on her behalf as he got older to pave the way. Unfortunately for her, he died suddenly. Which brings up his death, and things I really want to say about it but I'm not sure I'm allowed to. I'll just say that I believe Asha's suspicions re: Euron are spot-on, and we actually had a passage in the last book that implied it was an assassination and not an accidental death.
Victorian is not likeable, his killing of his third wife was a terrible act, but at least he seems to have truly felt something for her, as he has refused any other woman since her death. He's got issues, but he's definitely better than Euron, who enjoys raping and murdering and manipulating people like a Bond villain. Victorian is just a straight-up fighter captain, straightforward, no-nonsense, and at least sometimes willing to listen to reason. His killing of his wife was a terrible act, but we can see why he felt it was necessary given the society to which he belongs. If only he'd gone ahead and killed Euron as well.
As for your title "shout-out", I actually think it comes from Jaime's chapter (chapter 16) when he has the thought "The crows will feast upon us all if you go on this way, sweet sister".
litg
13. Athreeren
@9: that's certainly better than Aeron "Tifs-Trempes".
Marie Veek
14. SlackerSpice
In case anyone needs a reminder:

"I dreamt of a man without a face, waiting on a bridge that swayed and swung. On his shoulder perched a drowned crow with seaweed hanging from his wings."

Presumably what we're supposed to take from this is that Euron didn't kill Balon personally, but apparently hired someone from the same group as Jaqen to do the job, giving him a measure of plausible deniability.
litg
15. Eendje
"I suppose we should congratulate the ironborn on managing to hold the closest thing to an election Westeros is likely to see anytime ever"

Just wanted to point out that the lord commander of the Night's Watch properly elected. So there are at least two pockets of (sort of) democracy in Westeros as far as we know.

On the topic of Mel's VooDoo, I think I believe that she foresaw the deaths and used that info to gain Stannis' trust and pretend she could arrange the pan-regicide (nice coinage, Leigh).
Sasha P
16. AeronaGreenjoy
Aw, yeaaah. How long I've waited for you to share my hatred of Euron and Victarion, both high on my list of Despicable Characters Who Must Die. Actually, I find Euron morbidly fascinating in the manner of Littlefinger, so am temporarily okay with his fictional existence, but Vic's first chapter left me anxious for him to become some creature's lunch ASAP. Though I think the kinslaying taboo applies to blood kin, male or female, but not to spouses (or in-laws.)

Ironborn...pillage for a living, throw axes at each other in a friendly manner for fun, kill wives for honor. Why do I associate with these people, again? Oh right, they worship the ocean.

Chapter 19 is tied with -- might even exceed -- AFFC chapter 34 as my favorite ASOIAF chapter published thus far. Not for the ending, obviously, but for the parade of colorful characters and the raw visual-verbal-aural power struggle for a nation's allegiance. And my darlin' Damphair, of course.

Psst, Ironborn -- winter is coming, sooner or later. When it does, those turnips will be less valuable than dragons, but a lot more valuable than gold.
Chris Nelly
17. Aeryl
@16, Aerona, are you watching History Channel's Vikings? If you aren't you should.
litg
18. o.m.
Remember that the wife in question was a 'salt wife'. No wonder that the Ironborn didn't hold that against Victarion. Charming fellows ...
Rob Munnelly
19. RobMRobM
And talk about party fouls - Vic killed her because Euron slept with her and got her pregnant. Book seems unclear on the level of coercion implied (i.e., whether he asked and she felt compelled to comply or whether she threw Vic over for some Crow Eye sumptin sumptin). Killing her is at least understandable (taking Vic's perspective) in the latter case, but a tragedy in the former.
Steven Halter
20. stevenhalter
Chapter 19 - "The Drowned Man":Back to Aeron. Or as I'm thinking now, Uncle the Nutty priest. "Still stiff with salt from their washing a fortnight past." Well, at least he spends a lot of time in the water. He must have a unique smell about him. I would be thinking that all these iron men should have some real problems with chaffing. Salt water isn't kind to skin. Maybe that is the true benefit they get from their god. The miracle of uncracked skin!

Gylbert wants them to sail to the land beyond the Sunset Sea. I can't say I am opposed to the ironborn sailing away, but that sounds like a longshot political campaign.

Erik tries to bribe the Moot, but can't stand up. Good question, Asha.
Drumm doesn't bring enough goods. It seems the ironborn want their king well supplied with money for bribes.

Victarion is doing well, but he really should have allied with Asha. She pretty much takes the wind out of his sails and makes her claim.

Euron has his man blow a magic horn and asks them why stop at the North. They can take all of Westeros. Well, it is a dragon binding horn he claims. That is an interesting turn of events. The moot thinks so also and elects Euron.

That wasn't really unexpected although the horn was something pulled out of nowhere. The ruins of Valyria are still smoking--that's interesting. Blowing the horn seems to take quite a toll upon the blower. Also, just how does Euron know that this random horn he found works to enslave dragons and just how it should be used. Lot's of story room for missteps there although it does give a reason for this whole ironborn storyline.
litg
21. Bill D5
Regarding the kinslaying/wifeslaying thing...uh, no. They are NOT the same at all.
1. A wife, for obvious reasons, is not blood kin. Unless you are a Targaryen. The cultural priorities are preservation of the bloodline and support the family over all other things. The family might do a lot of shit, and some individuals will have their personal agendas compromised, but the family keeps going. An ideal no one has a problem with when reprimanding Robb for marrying for love instead of advantage, or ignoring the sons who die in battle, but which offends an awful lot of modern sensibilities when the girls have to pay the piper and marry for the advantage of the family who gave them better food, shelter, clothing, protection and education than 99% of the population.

With the ideal of family and preservation of the bloodline in mind, a wife who cheats is the ultimate toxic asset. This is sexist only the degree that recognizing actual differences between the sexes is such. I find it amazing that I have to keep repeating this point in regards to a series containing Cersei & Joffrey, but there it is. Furthermore, a wife (or any spouse) is only "family" by virtue of her marital allegiance. cheating pretty much cancels out that allegiance, no? And if you think Asha would not do the exact same thing to a husband who cheated on her, you are not paying much attention to her character (and selling her short).

As regards to the ironborn specifically killing an unfaithful wife, I would like to point out that a significant proportion of the reflexive feminist sympthy for Cersei attempts to excuse her intrigues and murders by pointing out that Robert would almost certainly have visited the same fate on her.

2. Victarion's wife was a salt wife. That is not the same as a spouse, more like a concubine or paramour. In other words, she's an exclusive sex worker who failed at half her job description. So again, not exactly something that should inspire loyalty and kinship and not-murdering.

Finally:
Yes, they are sexist. So what? The non-female blood on this guy's hands is pretty thick, but all he gets chided for is being rude to a character who delights in insulting people and mocking their masculintiy, and for killing a woman who cheated on him?

Yes, it is appalling that they have institutionalized rape with the salt wife thing, but you know what happens to the men who were in the same position as those salt-wives prior to their "marriage"? They all got murdered. The whining about rape, when the alternative fate was murder, gets a little tiresome, and I am not singling out Leigh (she is merely a product of her culture, and given her obvious focus on challenging certain unexamined notions, she can't be expected to challenge ALL of them) in this regard, but genre commentary in general. As inhumane and monstrous as the institution of salt wives is, it is also, fundamentally, a motivation to spare the lives of some women. So when the ironborn attack a place, which they are going to do anyway, because their homeland is insuffiiciently productive, maybe 20% of the women survive, while 100% of the men do not. Sexism? Maybe. But there are a lot of corpses, who, if given the choice, might very well have accepted being patronized or objectified, over being murdered.

I find it amusing that for all the pity and excuses we are willing to make for an individual who does horrible things with a background of poverty and deprivation, we are not willing to do the same for a society that is similarly blighted. At least the individual had the free will to choose not to be an asshole despite his bad luck. The society, on the other hand, has no individual will or motivation beyond self-perpetuation, and through trial and error, develops a set of practices that allow maximum survival of its population. So the ironborn culture institutionalizes raiding, because it is the only way to sustain their population, both in killing off the most superfluous members of the society (young, unproven males) and in bringing in material and commodities that are not otherwise available. Also, women, in the form of salt wives, who breed additional manpower. Note that while not eligible to inherit, the children of salt wives are nonetheless, apparently permited to keep their father's name and are apparently able to become free warriors and rise on their own merits. I say this not to praise the institution, of course, but to point out the objective value of the practice to the collective benefit.


As bad as Victarion is, he always seemed to me to be the ultimate product of his culture. He lacks the self awareness or intelligence to rise above the unwritten rules of his society or to break out of the mold he was placed in. He just does what he has been shaped to do, the ideal ironborn nobleman and captain, and it's a hollow sort of existence.
Lauren Hartman
22. naupathia
"but apparently killing your wife is, like, totally fine... What, is it that you just can’t kill male kin?"
I don't think so. Not saying Vic isn't a horrible guy, but from the context I take it as 1) she was a salt wife, so obviously "worth less", and 2) I get the impression that he killed her more because she cuckolded him and it was a revenge/honor killing. I doubt anyone would have been fine with Vic killing Asha, say. That would be deemed kinslaying even with her being female.

And yea I'm sure it also has some to do with inherent sexism in the Ironborn society. But I honestly think Vic treats Asha with a little more respect than he would if he were just flat out sexist. I felt the "play with dolls" thing was really just a "this is the way ironborn view women" and as a petty insult rather than Vic's true ideas. Since the man seems to have very little capacity to think for himself outside the bounds of societal expectations, I don't see it as a far stretch.

I was rooting for Asha too and was impressed the ironborn nearly backed her. But I would gladly take Vic over Euron. That guy just oozes trouble.

@21: Good points all. Said it better than I could.
litg
23. just some guy
I'm not sure if Victarion is racist as in "lighter skinned" people are superior (as an undefined minor character in ADWD will reveal), but rather just scared of the very different. The concept of modern day racism is probably unknown to them. These men on Eurons ships weren't just Summer Islanders, it was more fear of "savage" than "black".
Chris Nelly
24. Aeryl
@Bill D5, The whining about rape, when the alternative fate was murder,

And the complaints about complaining about rape get pretty tiresome too, when in fact no one(for the most part) condones murder, and the fact that getting raped in this story means you get accused of "cheating" and murdered anyway.

The society, on the other hand, has no individual will or motivation
beyond self-perpetuation, and through trial and error, develops a set of practices that allow maximum survival of its population.

Yet, the story has provided several examples of prominent people who don't adhere to their societal standards, like Asha or the Reader. It's almost as if you don't HAVE to be brainwashed by your society.
Lauren Hartman
25. naupathia
@24: Not to put words in Bill's mouth, but I think your last point missed the mark. Bill was essentially pointing out the hypocrisy in how we (nowadays) are willing to excuse people as being "a product of their environment" but you are unwilling to do so in the case of Vic. Simply because he is sexist (because no one seems to think that a guy who murders people every day could possibly be evil enough to be sexist).

I'm fine with people discussing the sexism apparent, but when it's all people focus on - as if being sexist is somehow more evil than being a murder or some such - well its... odd, to say the least. Getting huffy over the sexism in Ironborn society is like getting mad when the burglar in your house pissed on your bed. Yea it was mean/stupid/evil but there are kind of other issues at hand.
Deana Whitney
26. Braid_Tug
@23: I really hope I'm reading your comment wrong.

Racism is about one person of a certain race, disliking / hating someone else of a different race, because they are "different" than themself.
It's not exclusive to any color or ethnic background. It's about thinking less of another person simply because their background is different than yours.

So yes, Victarion is a racist. Anyone who is not an Ironborn male is less than he. And hell, half the Ironborn males are less than him. But Eurons’ crew strikes him with extra vibes of “not right.”
Marcus W
27. toryx
I think Martin actually did something really interesting in these chapters and especially with the Iron Born as a people. We've already gotten to know a fair amount about Theon, after all, and what a total bastard he was. Now we're getting insights into the other members of the ruling family and while they're all bastards they're all pretty different. Nevertheless, they have similarities as well and it's this opportunity to see the way the family members are alike and different that we get a really good idea of what the Iron Born as a whole are like.

I don't think I've ever seen a more efficient illustration of a people and their culture than Martin has pulled off here. Very effective.
Tabby Alleman
28. Tabbyfl55
@4, 11, and everyone else who doesn't know. A couple weeks ago somebody posted something back in aSOS part 37 that dredged up the whole chicken vs. egg debate over whether Mel killed the kings or the killers killed the kings. It might be fun and poignant to go back and read that post and the later comments in light of today's post/discussion.

And I'm still waiting for a yes/no on Randalator's obscure reference.
George Jong
29. IndependentGeorge
I find the Greyjoy chapters a bore for largely the same reasons as the Essos chapters: the societies as described are utterly contemptible and without nuance. While most of Westeros was inspired by Medieval Europe, Essos and the Iron Islands are inspired by how Medieval Europe perceived the East and the Vikings, and not what they were actually like. They're caricatures, and that makes them inherently less interesting to me (in addition to the darkness-induced audience apathy). How the hell do they survive the multi-year Winters when they can't steal other people's food?

Euron is pretty horrible, but I at least find him interesting as a villain because he's clearly smarter and more worldly than any of the yahoos living on the Iron Islands. The prevailing culture makes me wonder how in the hell this utterly backwards society with no natural resources has managed to survive as long as it has. Usually, the answer is commerce, but that's apparently frowned upon by this seafaring culture.

Asha is the only person who actually comprehends the concept of geopolitics; "How can I hold on to my newly-gotten lands" seems to be a foreign concept.
litg
31. Black Dread
@27 - Yes! Just incredible how effeinctly Martin conveys the culture of the Ironborn and who the main players are. (I read so many books which I can hardly remember the names of the characters but I won't forget Victarion or Eron Crow's Eye).

Right after he's introduced we know that Victarion is bright enough to understand what's happening, but is an otherwise "inside-the-box" thinker. I got the impression he tried for the thrown becuase he thought he was supposed to, not because he really wanted it.
litg
32. Bill D5
I suppose we should congratulate the ironborn on managing to hold the closest thing to an election Westeros is likely to see anytime ever, AND to do it without any bloodshed. And that turned out SO well didn't it? I hate to keep beating this dead horse, but the assumption of elections as being "advanced" is a common and completely wrong cultural prejudice and form of condescension to less developed societies. In fact, medieval society and its antecedents were a LOT more democratic than people give them credit for. Barbarian societies lack the economic surplus to allow a leader disproportionate power. Everybody is a fighter, to some degree or other, and there is no set of military specialists under some central authority, so in order to get a bunch of warriors to do anything, you need them to agree to it. That was why Europe was able to eventually fight off the vikings - because the Vikings were too democratic and egalitarian. They could not agree to concentrate their efforts and resources in order to maintain wars against settled nations, whose leadership was able to ignore the wishes of the individuals and compell them to maintain armies and build forts and the rest. We didn't get totalitarian nations on a large scale until the 20th century provided the technology to enable a government and military to keep tight control over the population. Authoritarian government is always a result of a relatively advanced and sophisticated society. The social progression is not monarchy giving way to democracy, it is democracy being eroded or manipulated into a monarchy. Constitutions are almost universally established to check or limit central power, and are then eroded by popular interests to allow a central authority. Basically, people want stuff, so they give a guy power so he can get them that stuff. Thomas Hobbes called it Leviathan, and there are arguments both ways as to whether or not it is good or bad. There are obvious advantages to central authority over democracy, and vice versa. But it is arrogant and kind of patronizing to presume that elections (or any other practice currently in vogue) are either 1. a result of an advanced or superior culture, or 2. automatically and inherently good. Ned Stark never won an election. Euron Greyjoy did. Janos Slynt almost won a popular vote, until a couple of hierarchal leaders influenced the vote to pick Jon Snow instead. I would also like to point out that Slynt was a commoner who rose on merit to a position where he was able to do the dirt we saw him do, while Jon was raised in a life of privilege thanks to his noble blood. He also had to have the whiny emo adolescent attitude (woe is me! I am highly privileged, but not the MOST privileged, my life is so hard) slapped out of him by a hierarchal organization and immersion in a barbarian culture. Martin has deconstructed too many tropes, not just in genre fantasy, but in our cultural assumptions, for us to be blindly adhering to them at this late date, in regard to the story.
litg
33. just some guy
@26 I just don't think its accurate to portray Victorian as having our exact modern style of racism Yes, by our definition he is racist, but in the same way 90% of Westeros is. The Andals look down on the First Men, and the Queen of Thorns said Summer Islanders had no imagination.

The Romans thought they were obviously superior to the whole world, but not at all in the same way some American white supremacist does.

For Victorion I believe, its a matter of "the more degrees of different you are than me, the scarier you are.", not "I hate dark skinned people".
Chris Nelly
34. Aeryl
@25,
Bill was essentially pointing out the hypocrisy in how we (nowadays) are willing to excuse people as being "a product of their environment"

If that's the case, I'd need to see some examples of people doing it. I may be able to understand how someone's environment shapes them, but I can't for life of me remember anyone excusing their behavior on that front. The only prominent examples I can think of, are rich people getting ridiculously easy sentences because "prison wouldn't be good for them" and I have a suspicion that's not what Bill's referring to, instead more along the lines of "poor people are driven to steal to eat", which is completely not equivalent to "I belong to a society of murderers and rapists, so I must as well".
litg
35. Josh Lu
Yes, Leigh, welcome to the wonderful world of the Greyjoys, where a bloodthirsty idiot blames his brother for the death of the wife he killed himself, a religious zealot impotently tries to use his god to bring his brother down, and the ruler who clearly seems so many steps ahead of the other two to be laughable is likely the worst of the three. I remember when you didn't like Asha at all. How scum can change our perceptions.
litg
36. Bill D5
Regarding #30, I have no idea how that happened. I was trying to post #32, but my browser swapped the content of the last box I had typed in on the preview screen. If a moderator could delete #30 I would appreciate that.

Aeryl @23
My point was not that society imposes behavior on people, rather it was just the opposite. I addressed Victarion's inability to break the mold. My point was judging a society which lacks free will is like judging a predator, and while we are willing to make excuses for people who HAVE free will but choose not to exercise it (a real-world criminal who had a harsh environment), we instead judge the collective consensus and accumulated practices that form the abstract concept of a "culture". The collective has no free will as the individual does, and like an animal, evolves to fulfill the best niche in its environment to self-perpetuate. The ironborn people, are, each one, a bad person, with Rodrik and Baelor demonstrating how the excuse of culture and environment does not limit your choices (I would argue that Asha is not really breaking the mold, just reacting as a typical ironborn would when faced with the resistance and suspicion she encounters - her father raised her like a boy, and even refers to his children collectively as his sons, so she is just behaving as a guy would when arbitrarily denied an entitlement - even her snark is shared to a degree by her brother and uncle, suggesting a family trait), and stripping Victarion et al of that very excuse. The Iron Islands are Westeros' equivalent of "the 'Hood." Just because it's a ganster's paradise and a rough life does not absolve people of the crimes they commit with the approval of their peers and role models.

However, condemning the culture as evil, and the people who share its assumptions as lacking, is to both mitigate the wrongdoing of said people, and ignore the lack of moral culpability in an abstract concept. The culture is what it had to be to keep people alive in that time and place, and very few cultures were actually designed and planned (offhand, the Spartans are the only ones I can think of who might vaguely qualify), they adapt and evolve to fit their conditions. That does not excuse people stooping to the lowest level of permissable behavior, whatever their culture or to spite their culture (e.g. Cersei).
Tabby Alleman
37. Tabbyfl55
What about "I belong to a society where if my mistress cheats on me and I don't kill her, everybody below me on the pecking order will be lining up to put a knife in my back to make room for a stronger leader at the top"?
litg
38. Black Dread
Victarion's reaction to Euron's ship full of savage / exotic looking foreigners probably says more about Euron. I took Victarion's reaction to be that of the average Pike captain.

Euron seems a bit like the Red Viper – exotic and dangerous and embracing the dark arts.
Steven Halter
39. stevenhalter
The ironborn we have seen are nasty people in a nasty culture. No one's saying that holding an election excuses them of anything. Elections aren't inherently good or evil. You can sort the morality out by who is doing the killing and raping.
None of the societies we have seen so far here have been sterling examples of moral behavior. Many of the individuals slot nicely into these molds. In the few cases (Brienne?) where people act with actual honor, we get to be pleasantly surprised.
litg
40. hix
Hm... about the wifeslaying/kinslaying thing. Technically, she was pregnant with his brother's baby, so in killing her, he killed his nephew/niece as well, which I think definitely falls under 'kinslaying' no matter what we consider about the wife's status. Just saying.
litg
41. DougL
What's crazy is that on the forums, Victorian has fans, and even Theon does. I guess nobody cares about wives, raping, pillaging, or two little kids and probably the Miller and his Wife as well. Just like all the Jaime fans, who, well, yes, I also like his chapters, say he's not a bad guy despite having thrown a kid out a window. I don't even like kids and I would never do that.
Chris Nelly
42. Aeryl
Nice to know I was correct in my assumption that poor people resorting to criminality to survive is where you were going. That's pretty bad. And again, you keep using the word "excusing" when no one is doing that.

In what way does Victarion, or any of the nobles in Ironborn culture, lack free will? They feel their culture is the most free of all. Certain conditions make their rampant pillaging understandable, especially for the lowest born among them, but Victarion does it because he likes it and he worships the Drowned God, because like all asshole religious people, his god shares his prejudices and encourages him to do what he wants.
Lauren Hartman
43. naupathia
@34 Oy, head hurt.

Fine, you say no one ever excuses behavior based on society because you can't think of any examples. Then you turn around and say something classist that is also not a specific example by any means as it is a simple strawman.

Excusing that let's go with your point and say that you are willing to understand someone's behavior because of society. In which case you are flat out lying since you harp on about Vic's sexism acting as if someone raised in the Ironborn society should know better:
"It's almost as if you don't HAVE to be brainwashed by your society."
Because Asha is able to rise above it then so should Vic! That's not understanding his actions in any sense of the word.
litg
44. Black Dread
Aeryl - But - Victarion was born and raised to it. It doesn't sound like he was ever presented with alernatives. And, he isn't the type to jump the rails and seek them himself. He is what he is and isn't self-aware enough to second guess it.

Loving or hating him is silly - like loving or hating a tiger for being a killer.
Chris Nelly
45. Aeryl
@43, You can understand while still feeling they are inexcusable because you do not have to be defined by your culture.

Most people aren't actually defined by their culture. We all grew up with "Girls do THIS Boys do THAT" and yet, every single one of us can name ways in which we do not conform to that gender essentialism.

And as far as "not based on any examples", well the examples are irrelevant to the discussion but if you want them, the two specific cases I had in mind were the Texas teenager who killed 4 people while drunk driving, and was sent to a resort rehab facility, and the heir to the Dupont family who raped his children and was sentenced to time served, because they were wealthy and wouldn't "do well" in prison. Both judges excused their behavior. That is a completely different thing, than understanding why a poor black man may rob a convenient store to get money for formula.
Chris Nelly
46. Aeryl
@44, No, the Drowned God only made it's resurgence amongst the Ironborn in the past 20 years. That's not "born and raised" to it.
litg
47. olethros
Wow, the level of annoying in these comments every week is getting bad. Can we go back to arguing about spoilers now?
George Jong
48. IndependentGeorge
Loving or hating him is silly - like loving or hating a tiger for being a killer.
Or, more accurately, hating a man for acting like an animal.

One can sympathize with a monster who was shaped by forces outside his control, but that does not absolve him of moral culpability. Whatever path he took in getting there, if he acts the monster today, he's a monster.
litg
49. Kimsie
Bill,
Watch yourself. Rape is a far worse crime than murder, because the victim still lives. The loss of autonomy, of personal power, can indeed be ravaging. We are right, in some sense, to focus on it.

That being said, yeah, the murdering is still wrong. And yes, this is a bloody caricature of what the Vikings were actually like (Do you have honey? We will trade for honey!).
Chris Nelly
50. Aeryl
@49, That's why I'm liking the History Channel show I mentioned earlier. Yeah, many of the characters are kinda like Victarion, but the main one, he's like "Give me land! Just a bit, and I won't raid you anymore! I like your priests!"
litg
51. Rowboat
Without saying too much about it yet, I think the reason a lot of people like Victarion is just that he's refreshingly straightforward. He's an idiot and a bigot and a murdering brute and just terrible all around, but he moves in a straight line.
George Jong
52. IndependentGeorge
@39:
None of the societies we have seen so far here have been sterling examples of moral behavior. Many of the individuals slot nicely into these molds. In the few cases (Brienne?) where people act with actual honor, we get to be pleasantly surprised.
There's a significant difference, though. When someone in one of the other Kingdoms in Westeros acts badly, it's usually very much outside the bounds of morality there. It's a sign of the social norms breaking down. When someone in the Iron Islands or Essos acts badly, it's usually very much in line with the cultural expectations there.
litg
53. Josh Lu
@49
Wow, that's the first time I've actually seen that argument. I would certainly argue the opposite, that murder is the worst crime because the victim is dead. No chance for recovery, no more chance at life. It's hard for me to accept that Vic's wife (assuming Euron forced himself on her) was better off beaten to death than, say, Vic disobeying Balon and killing Euron.
Sasha P
54. AeronaGreenjoy
Asha's great in these chapters. I tend to jealously resent yet admire her; the rejection of Tristifer made me simultaneously want to high-five her for successfully standing up to a man in this setting (without needing to kill him), be upset by the prospect of her forcing some other woman into his bed instead, and give him a sympathetic hug because that's the end of the interaction I've been on. But here she sasses everyone, and then makes the first call for peace we've heard from the nobility in a while, in a powerful, intelligent, and even humorous way. Too bad Euron had that horn...

I just remembered the bit in Asha's chapter where she remembers telling her mother that her "baby boy" Theon was reaving the stony shore and now dreads needing to tell her of his death. Another show of values, where "Your son is dead" is worse than "Your son is off raping and murdering poor fisherfolk because your husband sought to dishonor him with such drudge work."

@17: I haven't watched it. I didn't think real Norse mythology put heaven under the ocean. But I could see if it gives other useful background info on the ironborns' real-world counterparts and their differences to the portrayal here.
litg
55. Black Dread
@51 - Yes. You said it better than me.

While I don't like Victarion, I can't be bothered to be mad at him. I never feel like he made a wrong choice because he never made any choice.
litg
56. Black Dread
AeronaGreenjoy - If you hate the Greyjoys so much, don't look up Harald Hardrada. He was the real-life Crow's Eye.
Steven Halter
57. stevenhalter
IndependentGeorge@52:That's an interesting point. The ironborn are working within their (nasty) cultural norms. Cersei, as an example, operates outside of the expected behavior of people in the main line southern Westros culture but also within the protective shell of her "nobility". The standards don't seem to quite apply to nobels as the Targs have a long history of poor behavior. So, it isn't quite clear that it represents a breakdown over time as opposed to nobles always being in their privleged state of moral turpitude.
Chris Nelly
58. Aeryl
@54, You should check it out just for the opening credits. And badass Vikings queens(and scheming ones, and kind ones, and thoughtful ones, it has an excellent collection of women characters).
Chris Nelly
59. Aeryl
oops, BlackDread I read your comment wrong.
Julian Niquille
60. Gesar
@Independent George: I don't know that I can agree with what you're saying. The idea that the other cultures are seen as caricatures implies that the westeros one isn't, which it is. A lot of the events that happen in Westeros are taken from history, but it's a history of several hundred years, happening in like 15 years on Westeros... At the bare minimum, there is amplification going on. I've always said and argued that Martin's basis wasn't mediavel Europe, but medieval Europe as it is seen in fantasy. Deconstructing that, as he does with everything else, Martin adds to it what's wrong with medieval Europe, showing the violence, the patriarchism, and overall how it's actually not as glorious a time as fantasy would have you think. The result looks caricatural if your basis is the real world. If it's a fantasy world, however, it makes more sense and the message becomes clearer.
Rob Munnelly
61. RobMRobM
Comments are getting a little chippy above. Let's exercise our usual restraint, shall we?

Bill D5 and others above - I may be reading the discussion wrong but I don't think anyone here is excusing bad behavior by anyone - free will and all that, even if you grew up in bad circumstances. Ser Duncan the Tall exemplies that principle (so far anyway) in the first two D and Es. Rodrick the Reader similarly appears to choose to avoid most, if not all, of the Ironborn bad characteristics. But the bad circumstances may add perspective as to why someone may have chosen to commit bad behavior.
Sasha P
62. AeronaGreenjoy
@56: Probably true. I still wear the kraken sigil (OK, octopus pin) out of love for Aeron, Asha, and in-law Rodrik, but Vic is a boring brute and I suspect I wouldn't like learning about a real-life Euron in detail.
litg
63. Black Dread
@62 - He died in 1066 invading a kingdom by sea - opening the way for a successful invasion from the other direction...
Chris Nelly
64. Aeryl
I remember reading the Targs represent the Normans, so that works, huh?
litg
65. Black Dread
William was a bastard...
Bridget McGovern
67. BMcGovern
Bill D5: Comment unpublished--I think we've drifted far, far off topic here and are losing the thread of the conversation. This isn't the place for a political debate, and I would ask that you, Aeryl, and everyone else participating in the thread refocus on the book and the chapter at hand and keep your comments reasonably within the scope of a discussion of GRRM's writing and Leigh's commentary. When "real life" examples become the primary focus of a discussion about fantasy, things tend to get shrill--this site is intended to foster discussion between fans, not partisan posturing on contemporary politics.

Further, your decision to include racially-charged language in your comment (even a censored version, placed within quotes) is ill-advised at best, and has no place here. Please do not do that again.

@Bill D5, Aeryl, and everyone weighing in on the more emotionally charged aspects of this conversation so far: Please be civil. Stop being completely dismissive of one another--if you can't engage with one another in a meaningful way, agree to disagree and move on. Thank you.
George Jong
68. IndependentGeorge
I always thought more in terms of Harald Hadrada = Mance Rayder, Harold Godwinson = Stannis, and William = Dany, though I guess the Greyjoys fit, too.
Sasha P
69. AeronaGreenjoy
Factoid: There are 5 ASOIAF characters named Ralf, according to both Tower of the Hand and the Wiki of Ice and Fire.
litg
70. sofrina
this is a section i definitely need to re-read, because i missed whatever it is that victarion and damphair have against euron. but please clarify this 'salt wife' dynamic. my impression was that this is the term for a woman who has been kidnapped on one of the ironborn's reaving forays. instead of killing her or leaving her in the wake of their attack, some guy decides to keep her. so she's basically a captive, if not a slave.

wasn't there another region/group of westeros with similar practices?
litg
71. Alex2
@70

Generally, yeah. But that doesn't need to be the case. A salt wife is a concubine, she isn't an official wife and she doesn't have the same rights as one. That's the gist of it, not the way they acquired them in the first place, though it usually is through violence, the iron price and all.

Wildling do bride kidnappings, but I believe that those women are valued and cared for as wives.

As parasitic and terrible as the Iron Born are, from what we have seen of Asha and her queensmoot, Iron Born women, or at least the highborn ones, enjoy more equality than their greenlander counterparts. It ain't Dorne or Bear Islands, but it still seems to be better than most.
Adam S.
72. MDNY
Salt wives are unofficial "wives", or consorts, not women who have been married via religious ceremony. However, even though Victorian dismisses his dead wife as "only a salt wife", he seems to have really cared for her, as illustrated by his never touching a woman again for 3 years and crying as he killed her. The fact that he killed her seems to contradict any statements of love, but he is a man who has been conditioned to believe in the iron law, and he was forbidden from killing the one who he really wanted to kill (Euron). His act was not a nice deed, and I'm not a Victorian fan, but I do believe he is better than his brothers and does hold to a certain code of honor, even if it isn't one in which I believe. As opposed to Euron (or the Boltons or Gregor Clegane or LF, or now Cersei, who all seem to have little to no conscience or adherence to any law but their own desires).
Jeez I'm away for a few hours and I miss all the heated arguing. Drat!
litg
73. Bill D5
An interesting thing with the salt wives, and related to my point about the cultural functionality, is that the less advanced, and more atavistic fringe cultures seem to have less functional sexism. The rape of woman on military campaign is hardly unique to the ironborn, but they at least accord such victims a degree of status. For all the dismissal of Asha, no one seriously disputes her right to be at the kingsmoot or captain a ship. And while her uncles have some derisive comments on her taking a traditionally masculine role, you could also interpret those comments as "she is not accustomed to being balked and will not find others so accomodating of her wishes, nor so indulgent of her attitude as Balon was" which is something one could say about any number of children with doting parents, from Joffrey to Jon Snow.

We see the same with the more tolerance among the northerners and wildlings for female combatants, such as the Bear Islanders, and Arya being given a sword (Jon could not have done that without Mikken's willingness to make the sword, or assumption of Ned's approval), or Lyanna having been a noted equestrienne. You can claim they are isolated incidents, but they are sanctioned by people who are not exactly progressive or iconoclastic, who are very tradition-oriented.

As far as the comments against Asha that target her femininity, they do not necessarily reveal sexism on the part of the speakers. People in the series insult and snark at each other all the time, citing whatever trait or attribute is convenient. In actual debates over strategy and political authority, they cite each other's heraldry as arguments for or against. They bring up marital status, sexual proclivities, appearance...all sorts of things. Asha's gender could be an issue that is deciding men against her, and it could also be simply a convenient point of conversation.

I think a reason for this sort of repartee is connected to a behavioral phenomenon seen among sports teams, and in military or similar organizations (even more prevalent among elite or high performance units), where the members haze each other relentlessly, playing practical jokes and imposing humiliations on one another to an appalling degree to outsiders. It has to do with bonding and peer approval, and breaking down individual barriers to encourage the loyalty to the group and smooth functioning in the face of danger. It's also a way to test an individual's commitment and a degree of his personal fortitude. A player or soldier or cop or fireman who can't take some embarrassment or inconvenience is unlikely to face mortal danger all that well, and might not be someone you can count on to watch your back, if he won't undergo some physically harmless harassment for the sake of the group.

By these verbal jabs and insults, the members of the warrior culture demonstrate their awareness of each other, their own cleverness and mental agility, and their nerve. Bear in mind, they are shouting out these insults to armed men, in a culture that permits, and even encourages violent responses to insult. Asha challenging Erik to stand up to gain her support was not ridiculing his ageism, but calling him out on his bragging when there were limits to his abilities, highlighting his age and how his achievements and subjects of braggadocio were in his rather than present, and at the same time, demonstrating her own boldness, willingness to make a commitment, and ability to call a bullshitter on his bullshit. She got people to like her with her burn, which is really no more or less applicable to the serious political issue at hand than a contemporary candidate's ability to look telegenic, find old people and children to pose with him in commercials, and repeat talking points in a highly formalized "debate". The sort of insult exchange at the kingsmoot is more of a rough and ready demonstrating of candor and character traits, such as adaptability, wits, knowledge and understanding of one's peers, and personal charisma, and arguably a more accurrate and telling sampling of those same traits than any of the Kabuki-esque rituals in modern electoral cycles which are theoretically designed to do the same thing.

It's like with the gifts. In a more advanced and prosperous society, the ability of a rich man to spend money on his candidacy doesn't really say anything other than the fact that he has a lot of money. But in the Iron Islands, where wealth is so dear, the offerings are not only indicative of wealth, but of the ability to obtain it, and thus, proof of one's success in warfare. An example from elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms would be how Robb won the allegiance of the Greatjon by first siccing Grey Wind on him and then deftly offering him a face-saving way to back down from a hasty line-crossing. He showed his willingness to back up his authority, while allowing for human error, and at the same time, his capacity for mercy. In one sentence he demonstrates the all qualities in the lecture Tywin gave to Joffrey
"when your enemies defy you, you must serve them fire and steel, but when they go to their knees, you must help them up or no man will ever kneel to you"
What takes the best and brightest statesman in the civilized south to figure out, is something the northern barbarians get without needing to articulate.

I think, overall, there is a tendency to insult people by whatever attribute or turn of phrase is most convenient, rather than articulating a complex thought like "I disagree with your point of view", "I disapprove of those actions", "What you just said was very hurtful or offensive" or "I wish I had been given what you possess". So instead, out comes the handiest epithet, like "bitch" or "shut up and have some babies". It doesn't necessarily mean that someone is opposed to a woman in a position of a authority, just that they are being emotional in their disapproval of this particular person in authority, who happens to be a woman. And of course, some people ARE sexist assholes. The problem is, overreacting or making blanket condemnations, is simply being the same kind of asshole, just from the other angle.
Rafael
74. Ryamano
If I was in the Kingsmoot I'd have voted for Farwynd. Fuck Westeros and Essos. Let's head west and discover Americos. I'm sure it'll prove much profitable in the long run. In the real world, in the end, the fact that the USA spoke English (due to being an English colony) and not German was the deciding matter in both World War 1 and World War 2. And in the short run it helps as well (Spain was able to punch way above her weight in the 1500s to the 1700s due to owning half the world as colonies). Let's see the big picture here, Ironborn.
litg
75. just some guy
@73 Nice take I enjoyed reading it
@74 I hope in the end Farwynd, rides back with Dany a whole slew of Dragons and technology from an unknown continent.

The Lonely Light is the farthest west of Westerosi landholdings?
Sasha P
76. AeronaGreenjoy
In another site's discussion of the moot, someone compared Euron's speech to Gylbert's. But Euron was able to back up his conquest promises with a clearly-powerful horn, persuasive talk of dragons, and lots of treasure. Too bad; I'd have been tempted to vote for Gylbert if Asha weren't an option. Or just flee to the Lonely Light meself, if impending winter weren't a fear. It sounds beautiful, and I muchly like the idea of people turning into (or warging) seals and whales.
C R L
77. Maac
I'm not sure if Victarion is racist as in "lighter skinned" people are superior (as an undefined minor character in ADWD will reveal), but rather just scared of the very different. The concept of modern day racism is probably unknown to them. These men on Eurons ships weren't just Summer Islanders, it was more fear of "savage" than "black".
There is no practical difference between these things in terms of harm.

Other stuff — Look, we can understand behavior and forces that shaped it and how inescapable it is for the people (who are fictional people created by one guy and moved around the plot by him like game pieces, not actual living people) who live under these forces, we can understand all day long, but why on earth should we have to pretend to LIKE the behavior, or pretend to think it’s less serious than we do? The story and its world are not separated from us in a decontamination bubble -- it's a part of our world.

There’s a line between the analysis of real humans and the analysis of fictional characters that, I do understand, gets a bit blurry. But created characters can be judged as if they are real people only up to a point (and inasmuch as they reflect real people and cultural forces that we deal with today — or how they influence the opinions of real readers reading), but there’s no real point is reifying their circumstances to the point where we have to pretend to approve, “because relativism.” Their circumstances “relative” to us do not exist, as opposed to the author, who lives in our world. Westeros isn’t a strict historical representation of any societies that we’ve had. There are exaggerations, amplifications, and systems that outright would never have sustained themselves in our own past, because the food supplies would have been stagnated (you can’t just go free-for-all on all the peasants and serfs and people who grow the food) and people would have up and left, on foot if necessary, or died. People will deal with tyranny in exchange for stability — there isn’t any of that here.

Still other stuff: Victarion is another character who moved swiftly and well beyond the pale for me for reasons that are spoilers, but I have never found him sympathetic. I found him terrifying and creepy even before I outright hated him. .

I want so much for Asha. Fingers crossed.

All the above said — I still feel like the Ironborn belong in a different book, but yes, the complexities of their society are fascinating, and so well-drawn in a few short strokes by Martin, even though I wouldn’t want to wake up within a continent’s distance of their world. I have some trouble associating them with Vikings (I know that’s what they’re clearly meant to represent, but I personally have trouble).

They’re somewhat democratic (at least as far as actual royals go),but I believe the Vikings were somewhat more so (at least amongst the ones who were not actual thralls). I don’t believe they prohibited women from inheriting quite so much, and they could hold property, initiate divorce, and keep the kids depending on her own family’s status. (Women were also not considered blood kin to their husband, so that’s a similarity.) Further (and this is TOTALLY subjective) their polytheism, inasmuch as religious beliefs, parables, and stories are windows into a culture’s thought processes, seems to add more...verve and variety to them, a greater spectrum. Warmth. They travelled all over and interacted with all kinds of people and considered that traveland interaction to be a status symbol -- everything wasn't about pilliaging with them; they were traders as well, and had dealings as far as Rome.

And this is where you cite my own words at me and point out that the Ironborn are not actually real people — but the coldness of their god puts a chill on their whole situation to me. I feel like they belong in a different tale where they can openly admit they are totally worshipping Chthulu.

History Channel’s “Vikings” is an AWESOME show. Not perfect, but I love it. It’s not completely historical — the Vikings of the time already knew there were other lands and had been to them, and whether or not the human sacrifice aspect was truly a feature is still a huge matter of debate. Also the show relies at LOT on execution, as opposed to exile, which was far more common amongst Vikings for a wide variety of offenses. But that’s quibbling — the show is fantastic, and the main character is — well, he’s a bit spooky, because the actor’s eyes *always* twinkle as if he is trying very hard not to burst into laughter**, which is fine in someone who is inviting you to a threesome, but a bit scary to see in someone who’s about to, yanno, execute a dude. But I like him.

**Cast interviews seem to prove that this is actually true.
C R L
78. Maac
@74 -- I like your style. (I worry about the indigenous, because the Ironborn, sheesh) but getting the hell awway from Westeros sounds like a fantastic plan to me. :-)
Chris Nelly
79. Aeryl
@77 VIKINGS, In addition the penultimate episode was the slashiest OT3 smut I've ever seen. There was no subtext in that whole Ragnar/Aethelstan/Ecbert thing, it was ALL text. He even left behind the jewelry!

@73, That's all one long way of saying that women who are willing to eschew feminity and embrace masculinity are more than welcome to succeed in oppressive societies, and that's not up for debate. It's also still sexism.

But the fact is, yes, politicians of color willing to implement policies that hurt their own communities, anti-feminist women pundits, immigrant descendants who will shit on new immigrants, and gay people who don't want gay marriage can always find supporters of the status quo willing to embrace and promote them, similar to the way that the Ironborn are willing to accept a woman who acts like a man.

Even amongst the wildlings, women are offered greater protection to the predations of men, much as the Ironborn offer their salt wives.

BUT

I categorically refuse that I'm supposed to find an oppressive culture acceptable, just because it may empower a small percentage of the marginalized, at the greater expense of everyone else.
litg
80. Maddy1990
I've so been looking forward to your rage at Victarion "please feel sorry for me my wife MADE me kill her" Greyjoy. He's kind of funny in how stupid he is in a very dark depressing way. He is a typical manchild taken to the extreme.

I'm forever sad that Asha lost, and I'm not even a big Asha fan. This is typical 'OMG woman suing for peace - clearly she's dumb and softhearted and doesn't understand anything' *headdesk*
litg
81. Gregor Lewis
To those who tried to actually, you know, comment on plot related issues, without ... (where do I start?) painting a picture of prejudice, wiping that with an incendiary rag disguised as reason, or analogical historical knowledge, or philosophical relativism ...
... To those people who saw fit to look at in-story issues and the writer's relative success or failure in conveying them in an engaging manner, my English isn't good enough for me to properly express my admiration.

There have been some salient notes, pointing out just how quickly GRRM effectively envelops the reader, fleshing out a unique society in this wholly created world, that rings so true nonetheless.

There have been some interesting thoughts on the merits of the politics, both of the standard form and the sexual variety. There is low-hanging fruit to pick here wrt culturally entrenched/encouraged/rewarded sexism. If we're hungry enough for dudgeon, we could eat the ass out of the low-flying duck of racism.

I found the speculation regarding Asha's position and how she deals - in the specific instance of the '...moot' - with the entrenched disrespect towards women endemic to the Iron Islands' culture, to be an altogether tastier morsel to chew on.

It's been raised already above, but I'd like to add my share of masticating.

First off though, I gots ta reveal my own prejudice here. I HAAAAATE what I dubbed those 'squiddy interludes' when I first read AFFC. I don't find the Iron Islands interesting. I didn't enjoy the ferverent religious espousal of Aeron then. I still don't. Victarion's a 1-D brute and Euron's a 2-D cypher.

I was beginning to see some 3-D potential in Asha, but her behaviour at the moot ruined it for me. I probably should have picked it up earlier, but I find myself embarassingly slow on the uptake. That's because, the one key point of interest to me in these Chapters was just how much Asha devalues herself, to give others a chance to accept her.

I say this because she gains acceptance for simulation instead of her eventual supporters' realisation. This is the sexism I want to examine, not the cheap outrage and the sardonically reasoned counters.

Asha, has shown some mould-breaking character potential and is in fact a strong, intrinsic leg in the eventual tripod of power, that separates itself from other contenders in the moot.

Technically speaking, I like the fact that GRRM allows this to unfold organically, instead of signposting. Although I find myself emotionally divorced from all three leading 'moot' contenders by the end, I can still admire the way GRRM sets them apart.

Victarion - The epitome of Iron Islands' ruling class.
Asha - The seeming mould breaker.
Euron - the wildcard. Left an outcast, returned a stranger, commands a presence nonetheless.

But in the end - and I can now admire how this was done - Asha is revealed to be, just another one of the boys. While that element was always there, right from when she first reveals herself to Theon, I thought I saw a hidden depth there. I thought I saw a woman who saw promise in herself, beyond earning her crews'/subjects' respect because she could be as bawdy and lusty as they expected their leaders to be. Or because she was a more nimble finger-dancer with the axe than anyone.

The moot proved me wrong, because what Asha gave was a performance. She didn't appear as herself, but as who she thought they wanted her to be, in order to choose her. Her ideas of peace might indeed be laudable. However, IMO that can only be so if you divorce what she is proposing from the setting she is proposing it in.

And this is my complaint to all those espousing historical analogues for a fully realised fantasy setting that doesn't need them. I don't care what the Vikings did or espoused. I don't care how close certain fictional characters hew towards real-life analogues.

What do you imagine Iron Islanders have to offer anyone in Westeros that they don't already have access to, once they have offered them peace? Sure the 'homeland security' might be nice, but unlike well travelled Vikings, with access to trade, plunder and experience, what can anyone but Euron offer mainlanders in response to what the Iron Islanders would need to survive, much less prosper.

IMO, for readers, wrt the 'moot', Asha is only there in the end for two reasons. To propose an alternative that is easily relatable and seems 'wise' on the surface. And to make clear - in an unexpected manner - the inescapable depth of sexism within her own society.

This is what got through to me most in the end. Asha is accepted not for herself, but for her ability to simulate her prospective voters' projected ideal selves. To paraphrase Jaime's observation about his sister covered last week in this forum, 'She fancies herself a cross between Euron & Victarion with teats'.

Asha's manner is just as strong an epitome as Victarion's. Asha's ideas are just as foreign as Euron's experiences. But in the end, the former does not differentiate her enough, while the latter are trumped by the time-honoured notion of vested interest triumphing over logic.

Unfortunately for my developing notion of Asha, as a character I am interested in learning more about, she did none of this as an authentic version of herself, but as an exceptional approximation of what she felt, those she sought to rule wanted her to be.

grl

(Comment edited slightly by moderator, in the interest of keeping things civil and on-point.)
Pyrrhus Aeacides
82. Pyrrhus
"(a) Aeron is clearly a very large fan of believing in things,"

Ha! So droll, Leigh.
litg
83. lfb
Haven't looked in here in quite a while (had a bunch of RL to deal with) but glad I did... the fire was fully stoked there for a while!

@73 - nice dissection there... literate, reasoned... I'm going to go back and re-read it, not to refute or advance it, but just because I like the way you make your case. Better than anything I could do, basically.

@81 - Leadership is sometimes very much constrained by the expectations of those you would lead. Personally, I think that to hang her quest for rulership on an offer for peace in a culture that prides itself on its ability to make war and NOT GET LAUGHED OUT OF THE ROOM by her potential constituency is a good start (and shows that she does have some credability as far as these men are concerned). Maybe I'm too cynical, but just having a good idea when the whole group is pointed in the other direction doesn't usually work unless there is massive force (your own fleet, 3 dragons, approval from top leaders, etc.) or prior credability (pillaging and raiding with the best of them in this case) behind you. I for one am not going to ding her character for putting on a performance to sell her candidacy, because selling IS theatre and its what she needs to do to get the power to change things.
litg
84. Andrada
I find it interesting that the sea dragon's bones are white, while the King Landing's skeletons described in the previous books are black. The dragon families are different in more ways than one.
litg
86. Nelis
I always thought Victarion killed his wife on his brother Balon's command. Balon to vic: "Euron has *** your wife, you should totally kill her or live life in shame", Balon to euron: "Bad crows eye, leave and never return"

Can anyone confirm or debunk this for me?
Bridget McGovern
88. BMcGovern
Comments #85 and #87 unpublished. As with all other comments, civil and reasonable comments that fall within the scope of our Moderation Policy are acceptable, but name-calling and attacks on the moderators of this site are not.
Chris Nelly
89. Aeryl
Asha is accepted not for herself, but for her ability to simulate her prospective voters' projected ideal selves.

This is a good observation, but it's no different than any other politician at the moot, so I really don't understand what your getting it. Was Asha inauthentic at the moot? Yes. But so were Victarion and Euron. They all put on a show.
Tabby Alleman
90. Tabbyfl55
@84, I have the feeling the "Sea Dragon" was never a real dragon.
Adam S.
91. MDNY
Every leader manipulates the public, and especially the noble class, in Westeros. Well, except for Ned, who didn't last long once he entered the public eye. I don't see Asha's actions as being all that disingenuous, nor Victorian's. Even Euron was pretty straighforward in his "here are my great rewards, partake and vote for me". The crow's eye was just disingenuous in how he forced a new king to be chosen in the first place.
Even Jon, one of the most honest and straightforward leaders in Westeros, used perception to win his election. He personally never played politics, but Sam et al did it for him.
Deana Whitney
92. Braid_Tug
You have to give GRRM a tip of the hat.
We have such a short time with the Greyjoys. Yet they bring forth such emotion. That is powerful writing.

@81, GL: Not sure what your first language is, but your English seems great to me. I could not express myself half that well in German, which I sort of know.

@73: I hope I’m misreading the first part of your post. A Salt wife is concubine, a willing partnership. A handful might have started out as a military rape victims. But not every woman who gets raped by an Iron Born becomes a Salt wife. They are not “according such victims a degree of status.” They are either killed, die of injury or become a Thrall (slave). As another poster pointed out, maybe 30% of the women encountered in a raid are spared. So maybe 5% of those might become a Salt wife, but her odds are improved if she’s young and pretty.

Think about the Captain’s daughter Theon fucked on his way home. She asked to become a Saltwife, he left her behind with a pissed off father. I would not be surprised if she’s now a whore in some seaport her father dump her at. That was a willing coupling, but it did not result in any positive status for her.
litg
93. Lyanna Mormont
@69 - There are five characters named Ralf in this Victarion chapter. :)

@84 - After thinking about the story of Nagga the Sea Dragon and the Grey King who killed her, Aeron continues: "Nagga's ribs became the beams and pillars of his longhall, just as her jaws became his throne For a thousand years and seven he reigned here, Aeron recalled. Here he took his mermaid wife and planned his wars against the Storm God. From here he ruled both
stone and salt, wearing robes of woven seaweed and a tall pale crown
made from Nagga's teeth." And then it all rotted away except for the "bones". So, it sounds to me like the "ribs" are actually just ruins with a lot of old stories attached to them.

@86 - This Victarion chapter just says that he "had" to kill her because Euron got her pregnant, and that he wanted to kill Euron too but Balon ordered him not to. There's nothing to suggest Balon ordered the death of the salt wife; Victarion thinks about how if he hadn't killed her people would've mocked him for it, and that's why he thinks he had to do it.

And it really annoys me that this woman who was most likely raped by Euron, and then killed for it by her husband, doesn't even get a name. Come on, Victarion - you can go on and on to yourself about how angry you are with Euron for "making" you kill her, and how you haven't touched a woman since, but you won't even dignify her with a name? Talk about dehumanizing her.
litg
94. Andrada
@ 86 exactly, I feel like Victarion "had" to silence the shame and mocking that would have followed if he hadn't killed her and the baby. Much like his older brother surrounds himself with mutes to keep his secrets if you think about it.
litg
95. Gregor Lewis
Well.

Why am I not surprised? In a modern age replete with easy access to myriad information sources, comprehension is once again - counterintuitively - a casualty.

First I will apologise to the moderators for creating unnecessary work for them.

But to those who did not understand my introductory and wholly on point preamble that has been deleted, I was not seeking to insult anyone but myself and my lack of prowess at something. I was trying to use the contrast of the backhanded insult (to me only, not anyone in this forum) to amplify, thus better illustrating my wholehearted admiration for those above who made the effort of thought to comment on the material.

I'm windy by nature, which can come across as being obtuse. I apologise for that, but I am not sorry for those who see attacks where they do not exist and take offence because they fail to understand and use that failure to attack and insult.

@89 - I didn't see it that way Aeryl. I don't think Victarion has the imagination to be anything other than his authentic self. I don't think authenticity is something I should always like and agree with - certainly not Victarion's - but I can respect it still, even when I can't admire it.

I thought Euron was authentic too, insofar as what his kingship would represent. I am wary of GRRM's penchant for authentic character reversals, but I thought Euron's show was completely honest because he knew he had the showstopper in his kit-bag.

You can be as authentic as you like when your platform is power and you are clearly the most powerful person in the room.

@92 - Thank you!
I'm not sure when you read my wall'o'text, but the edited version places misleading emphasis on my lack of English, when the dichotomy is what I was going for in order to amplify my admiration as much as possible.

Given that the moderators were forced to delete the start, I obviously failed.

My first language is Greek, but my English is serviceable. I consider myself a native - if windbaggy - speaker. That was the point of the entirety of what I wrote, as I explain above.

I admire the commenters, whose quietly intelligent refusal to be sidetracked represents the best example of why I so enjoy this website and the community it promotes and encourages.

grl
Chris Nelly
96. Aeryl
@95, But they were both playing for their audiences, just as Asha was.

She has to play down her thoughtful nature, because she is more thoughtful than Euron and Victarion, and that's not what the voters are looking for, but she was still herself. She wasn't like John Kerry in a hunting vest inauthentic, or Dukakis in a tank, more on the level of George W Bush hauling brush.

*Being a non-American, these reference may mean nothing to you. If you'd like me to expand further on them, just let me know.
litg
98. Gregor Lewis
@96 - *Thanks Aeryl. Will let you know.

As for the meat of what you say, I am not implying what Asha did was illegitimate. I am just noting that - because of the way I had built her up in my head, perhaps because I thought I saw something that really wasn't there - I find her compromise regrettable.

The moot's a show, I agree, but to me, Victarion's performance is best represented by the line: 'This is who I am.'
Asha's performance is best represented by the line: 'This is who I can be for you.'
Of course Euron then owns the floor with the ominous thunder of: 'I AM POWER!'

But of those three, only Asha is compromising what she has to offer, In herself, in order to appear palatable. As a reader, I 'know' Asha can offer so much more - or so I think - so it is the sexism inherent in her compromise which catalyses my own path to deeper understanding, not the risibly generic insults, prejudices and heinous remembrances that preceded it, which wash right over my disinterested, eye-rolling facade.

I get what you're saying with the contemporary political references, but I disagree with the conflation of the corrupted nature of contemporary 'realpolitik', because no-one is being as disingenuous as that 'in-story' IMO, not even the 'moot' itself, in terms of comparative process.

grl
litg
99. Kindlyman
I have to correct the lot of you, again, on pretty much everything you all said so far.

First, a correction of mrs Leigh yet another blunder:

The Ironborn are the least misogynistic of the societies in the book, baring maybe only Dorne.
Asha proves that by her very existence. In all of her adventures you never heard once that anyone mentiones she is a woman in any sort of special derigatory way, even the comment thrown out at the Kingsmoot was nothing more then a bawdy joke.

She is a captain of her own ship, all male crew mind you, who worship her.

She got to that position by her capabilities, skill and wits alone and thats the only thing thats actually valued in the Ironborn society.
Well, you might think being a daughter of Balon might have a bit to do with it but thats just funny. Not only it doesnt matter if the skills and capabilities are not there but having someone as Balon Greyjoy for a father makes proving oneself all the harder and even more demanding then usual.

Whats becoming more and more clear to me is that Leigh is simply applying different deriding attributes to characters she does not like.
Personally.

Likewise Victarion did not kill his wife (salt as she may have been - and that means someone captured in a raid) because she was a woman, but because he had no other way to clear the shame off himself, according to the customs of his people.

While he was forbidden from killing his brother - by his father, who sent that brother into exile.
If anything Victarion is stupid. And quite ignorant about things outside of his little brain immediate range.

Especially concerning that Euron probably raped his wife. Or used some of his vile tricks to wooe her (i just love that kind of half assed forced movie fantasy speach, it just makes me chortle all the more, imagining the situation)
Thats atleast as possible as the other option of her volountarily cheating on Victarion, which can be done only by someone who is braindamaged or completely suicidal.

*Comment edited by moderator
Birgit
100. birgit
If Asha's existence proves that the Ironborn are not misogynistic, then Brienne's existence would prove that Westeros is not misogynistic. Just because a few women manage to do what they want despite the society's prejudices doesn't mean those prejudices don't exist.
Bridget McGovern
101. BMcGovern
Comment #99 edited slightly. Please do not use the word "retarded" as an insult.

Kindlyman@99: The tone of your comment is rather condescending and dissmisive toward the author of the post and other commenters. If you'd like to participate in the conversation, please adopt a more civil approach to making your points. Thank you.
Stefan Mitev
102. Bergmaniac
Wait,"Asha got to that position by her capabilities, skill and wits alone"? That's completely bogus. She got to that position mostly because she was was Balon's daughter. No question about it. How do you think she got a ship so young?
litg
106. Lyanna Mormont
@ Kindlyman - You come into the thread with the words "I have to correct the lot of you, again, on pretty much everything you said so far." If that's not the very epitome of condescending, I don't know what is. NOT condescending would be something like "I disagree" or "IMO you're missing an important factor" or "I read it very differently." When you proclaim yourself to be Right and everyone else to be Wrong, don't be surprised when people take offense. You don't have access to some hidden truth that the rest of us are missing - it's all a matter of opinion and interpretation.

In other words, learn to be polite when uttering your opinion, and you may find people more willing to engage in debate with you. Until then, I'm done talking to you.
Deana Whitney
110. Braid_Tug
@100 & 102: I agree. Balon focused on his daughter Asha after all his sons were either dead or taken as hostage.
Wonder how she was treated prior to this? Did Balon already have her set on a course that would make her a captain? Or was she his consolation prize and he turned her into a "son" via making her a great captain / warrior.

Since she's the only female captain we see, and she's the daughter of the King, that's pretty telling.

If there had been 1 or 5 more female captains at the Kings moot, there would be a better argument for the Ironborn to be more egalitarian in regards to its noble females.
Brandi Carrier
111. Brandi
RE: Victarion

I don't think he's playing anyone or "politic-ing" with his persona at the moot, I think that's really who he is. Honestly this is a character who is described by the person who wrote him as being "dumb as a stump," so he probably doesn't have much of a mind for politics. His lack of intelligence probably also goes towards him truly believing that every prejudice, belief and rule he grew up with is true since he likely never gives them any critical thought. His culture and traditions say he has to kill his salt wife because he was dishonored? "OK I guess that's what I have to do." Women and other people who are different from me aren't as good as me? "Sure, why not?"

This is what some people like about Victarion, he is a badass from the Iron Islands and his thought process is always straight forward and never confusing. He is easy to read, but not likeable in my opinion due to the prejudices/attitudes mentioned above. I have a feeling his stupidity has/will lead to him being easily manipulated and probably dead.
litg
112. Bill D5
Braid_Tug @ 92
That's interesting. I pretty much just assumed them to be war captives, and the implied acceptance of their status by the salt wives in Theon's & other characters' narration to be self-justifying bullcrap (the slaves are happier when they don't have to think for themselves or worry about paying rent or taxes), having a hard time going right to the notion that in a more atavistic culture, which places a high value on honor, women would seek out such a status. Theon's mistress aboard the ship was not ironborn and did not understand the institution as a native would, so her request would not indicate the reality of the status. It also had, IMO, a bit of the connotation of an ignorant girl playing at something she didn't understand, like a cheerleader or schoolgirl uniform fetish that seems to be a topic of winking amusement in popular culture, without ever examining the implications that men are supposed to be aroused by pedophilia. In other words, incorporating into sex-play a romanticized version of an ugly reality. It might be that I am conflating the primary precept of the iron way (paying the "iron price" as opposed to the "gold price") and assuming that a salt wife must be obtained in the same way, rather than simply agreeing to provide for a woman in exchange for sex. That sounds a little too much like paying the gold price of sex, to me.
But then, contempt for prostitution in its less obvious forms seems to be one of my blind spots, or at least accounts for a significant difference in my perception of certain characters from how others in this community view them.

Aeryl @79
Every society has sexist aspects, beliefs and practices. Thus, every society is sexist. Thus, calling a society sexist is a pointless exercise in negativity, not unlike repeating, in response to every comment about an episode of "The Sopranos," that all the characters are criminals who belong in jail.

Not everyone cares about nailing down where someone or some group lies on a moral purity scale. Some people even find the ability to suspend or reserve moral judgment an asset or a virtue. Sometimes a dispassionate observation of a culture's practices and institutions is no more than an observation. It is certainly not automatically a solicitation on that culture's behalf. Your acceptance is not required, and in the case of #73, was not sought, either. Taking every statement as an argument for a position one must either accept, concede or refute is a primary cause of the discussions on these boards turning in a direction the moderators disapprove of.

I also am not sure what your point is. Judging someone on the basis their inherent attributes, like gender or skin color is not acceptable. Judging someone based on his behavior is not only acceptable, but necessary! Whatever your intended meaning, the denotation of your words is that the ironborn must approve of Asha on a sliding scale based on her sex, and you are attributing (and condemning) the following attitude to them: "If she behaves like one of us, we will treat her like one of us." But there is nothing wrong with that attitude. That is how people are SUPPOSED to treat and judge one another.
What would be wrong would be if the ironborn condemned Asha's behavior because she was a female who deviated from traditional feminine roles. Accepting her because she behaves according to the standard for a leader and ship captain and warrior, regardless of her gender, is just and fair and right. Period. Or are you saying that warrior-captains should have different standards of behavior if they are women?

My point was that the typical behavior has a purpose and functionality based on the practical needs of their common occupation. You seem to be saying that women should be immune to those needs. That Asha should not have to prove herself in the same way that every other warrior-captain does, but should be accorded a degree of acceptance, simply by virtue of her gender, because such behavior is atypically feminine?

Maybe it is sexism when women who behave like men are given the same opportunities that those men are, but I don't care if it is. That's your shibboleth, not mine. I do wonder though, how the acceptable line is determined. Usually, that is some sort of societal consensus, but in the general course of things, I would guess that you reject the standard of societal consensus. You seem to be saying that approving of a woman who behaves according to the acceptable standards for men in the same occupation is sexism, but I assume you would call also call it sexist for those men to express approval of a woman who adheres to a traditional feminine role… I am having trouble reconciling your position in this case with the beliefs you seem to be espousing in general.
litg
113. Bill D5
Also, Aeryl @79:
Speaking seperately from the direct aSoI&F issues, I actually find, compared to the real world examples you cite, your implied condemnation to be more offensive and egregious than the actions you attribute to them. You seem to be expressing an expectation that all people of color must hold particular views and embrace certain policies; that all homosexuals are required to hold the same political positions and view of social institutions; that immigrant groups must welcome competitors or traditional enemies simply because you and others like you do not perceive the differences they do; that all women must embrace or accept, or forebear from opposing, your ideology, because you perceive your ideology to be in the best interests of women.

That is nothing more or less than prejudice. What you are doing with that statement is judging people according to their skin color, sex, ethnicity and sexual orientation. What is more, it is unbelievably arrogant (unless you are a gay, feminist immigrant woman of color) to presume that you know better than they what is in their interest! And even if you are a member of any or all those groups, your position precludes honest disagreement about the best interests of said groups. What Herman Cain might claim to be a policy that is contrary to the interests of the black community, Al Sharpton might claim is abetting those interests, both of them honestly expressing what they sincerely believe to be true. For you to condemn either of them for acting in a manner different from what you think to be appropriate for a black person is nothing more or less than racism, because you are saying "a black man should be X, should believe X and should want X" and you would be saying those things only because he was black.

I am not saying this to score points off you, or make you angry, I am trying to get you to see a disconnect I am perceiving between what I assume to be your desire for fairness and equal treatment, and your expressed standards, that are based on group labels. I believe you to be someone opposed to prejudice, and opposed to attributing qualities or prescribing behavior to particular groups, but that's what you are doing with your list of examples.
Katharine Duckett
114. Katharine
@113 Moderator here: let's stay focused on the issues brought up by Leigh's post specifically, and not get too far off topic. Thank you!
Chris Nelly
115. Aeryl
@113, I am not saying anything more than there are always people who are a part of an oppressed minority, who are willing to the kyriarchy's dirty work. If you somehow discerned that I am advocating ANY specific policy ideas out of my comment, you are reading way too much into it.
litg
116. Black Dread
No offense to anyone here, but I have never once read a comment more than about 3 inches long on my computer screen. No essays for me, thanks.
litg
117. SwordoftheMorning
Finally all caught up to this read!

I don't find it hard to enjoy reading about Victarion, as much as someone can find it hard to like pirates. Everyone (your mileage might vary) likes pirates, we just choose to 'forget' the bad aspects for a while, and bask in the yarr! and general badassness for a while. Not to mention it is always interesting to me to see a different character's points of views and values.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: That's the whole point of reading fantasy, at least for me. I can pillage and drink with the Ironmen, and then jump to something else entirely, like snoring with Brann for a couple of books.
Joe Vondracek
118. joev
Since Euron has traveled to Essos, it’s entirely possible that he’s encountered assassins and may have engaged one to off Balon. Then he swoops in after the fact and claims innocence because he was at sea. A man could do this, it is true.

I like how people write “Victorian” instead of “Victarion.” It makes me think that we’re talking about some stuffy 19th century English dude in top hat and waistcoat, sporting an Ascot. Which is a nice mental image, given that the topic is the Ironboring.

@99: Balon, Victarion’s older brother and his king, forbade Victarion from killing their other brother, Euron, whom Balon sent into exile. Their father Quellon was not involved.

Well, here’s to hoping that Euron ends up eating crow…

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