Jun 12 2014 1:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows, Part 18

Geroge RR MartinWelcome 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 18 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 25 (“Brienne”).

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

And now, the post!

Chapter 25: Brienne

What Happens
Hyle Hunt insists on taking the outlaws’ heads back to Maidenpool, against Brienne’s wishes. She expects him to claim the kills, but he tells Lord Randyll that Brienne had slain all three of them. Randyll is surprised, but only calls her a freak of nature, and tells Brienne it’s time for her to don “proper clothes” and go home to Tarth. Brienne declines, and says she means to find Sandor Clegane, in hopes he knows where to find Lady Sansa. Lord Randyll says the Hound is with Dondarrion’s crew, and asks how she expects to find them when he cannot. Brienne answers that she can only try. He speculates that maybe she’ll give up after she gets raped, and kicks her out of Maidenpool. Hyle Hunt speaks up on her behalf, but Randyll shuts him down. Brienne leaves, but Hyle follows her, and tells her to meet him the next day at the Stinking Goose, where he might have information about the Hound.

She and Podrick finally find lodging aboard a damaged ship, and Brienne sleeps badly, dreaming about the men she’d killed. She goes to the Stinking Goose the next day, though she tells herself she does not need Hyle’s help. Hyle meets her there, and tells her that according to his cousin Alyn, the Hound was last seen in Saltpans, trying to find a ship. Hyle speculates that Clegane is trapped there by the various groups after his head. He also avers that the Hound is not with Dondarrion; Randyll is merely claiming that to try and turn the smallfolk against Dondarrion.

Hyle says there is a septon called Meribald leaving the next day to make his circuit of the river lands, and that they should go with him to Saltpans. Brienne informs him that he is not coming. Hyle reveals that Randyll not only ordered Hyle not to protect her, but then dismissed him from his service altogether, for his insolence. He says he is a hedge knight now, and speculates that they would be well-rewarded for finding Sansa Stark. Brienne tells him that is why he is not coming, but he does anyway.

Meribald is a humble, cheerful man who talks of his philosophy about the Seven, and why he wears no shoes (as penance for the maidens he deflowered in his younger years). He offers to pray for them when he learns they are seeking the Hound. They travel through the marshlands, the septon ministering to the people living there. He tells them about the terrible great pack of wolves in the area, numbering in the hundreds and led by a monstrous she-wolf who supposedly cannot be killed and only eats human flesh.

They receive warning of “broken men” in the area from one village, and Meribald asks that if they encounter them to leave the men to him to minister to, rather than kill them. Hyle points out that broken men are dangerous outlaws, but Meribald disagrees. He says they can be dangerous, but they should be pitied more than feared. He speaks eloquently of how a simple village man can end up that way, ground up in the machine of war. The others are silent a while, and then Brienne asks how old he was when he went to war. Meribald answers that he was too young, and watched all his brothers die.

“The War of the Ninepenny Kings?” asked Hyle Hunt.

“So they called it, though I never saw a king, nor earned a penny. It was a war, though. That it was.”

Oh, Randyll Tarly. How do I want to facepunch thee, let me count the ways.

It’s probably just as many ways as I want to hug Brienne and give her kittens and hot chocolate and uplifting Wikipedia links for dealing with the shit she does on a daily basis and still doing what she clearly feels she is born to do and fuck the haters.

Reading some of those Wikipedia entries, though, gives me occasion to remember something that the twentieth and twenty-first century debaters of whether women should be allowed to go to war all too often conveniently forget, which is that women have always gone to war. There is no period of history, no region on earth in which women have not fought right alongside the men, either covertly or openly according to the culture in which they found themselves. Women have fought in armies and led them too—and not just Joan of Arc, either, but women, plural. Women have commanded pirate fleets and flown bombing raids and led uprisings and expanded empires.

And the reason we forget this fact, the reason everyone (including me, sometimes) seems to think that this whole question of allowing women in combat is a strictly modern one, is because we are simply not taught about the ones who have already done it. They were always there, but unless you specifically seek out their stories, as a general rule you simply never hear of them. Seriously, I had a pretty good primary and secondary education by most standards, and I can’t remember learning anything about women famous for their military accomplishments, or even that there was such a thing. It was Joan of Arc and that was it—and I have a suspicion that the only reason she was mentioned is because that period of European history literally makes no sense without bringing her up. (And also because I went to Catholic school, and the Catholic Church rather randomly decided later that she was a saint, so avoiding mentioning her would thus have been doubly difficult.)

In American schools, at least, it seems that Joan of Arc is to the history of women in combat what Marie Curie is to the history of women in science: taught because their contributions were too great to safely be ignored (or stolen), but nevertheless presented as once-off anomalies. They were, we were tacitly assured, merely curious and adorable outliers in the bellcurve of Great Men doing Great Things, and certainly there were no other women out there doing much the same things throughout history, because if there were we’d have all heard about them, right? Riiight.

Erasure: it’s what’s for breakfast!

Until the advent of the Internet and the search engine and social media where people can link you to things American schools don’t bother to teach you about, I basically had no idea most of the women I linked above even existed. Ching Shih is considered to be one of the most successful and feared pirates in history, and yet the only pirates I ever learned about were guys like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd. Granted, that is also due to American history curriculums tending to ignore the fact that anything exists outside of Europe and America itself (two erasures for the price of one!), but if you want European/American examples, I am just as boggled that I was dragged through the history of World War II umpty bazillion times in grammar and high school, and yet never even heard of the Night Witches, or that over 2,000 American servicewomen won combat decorations during the war despite technically not being allowed to fight, and so forth and so on.

My reason for bringing all this up (other than that I think it’s interesting and that you should know about it) is that re: Brienne specifically, I like to think that Martin is using Randyll Tarly and his ilk to mirror (and, hopefully, cast a light upon) that real world tendency to forget and erase and dismiss the reality (and validity) of women warriors despite the fact that they’ve been around since forever. Because I know they exist in ASOIAF just as they do in the real world. Even just in Westeros there is that one noble family whose name I am sadly blanking on right now whose women have all traditionally gone into war. Not to mention the first Aegon’s sisters, who, if I infer correctly, kicked just as much ass as he did when conquering the crap out of the Seven Kingdoms back in the day. And yet every time, it seems, that another woman wants to do the same, everyone gasps and clutches their pearls, like it is JUST UNHEARD OF and CANNOT be BOURNE, it will TEAR APART the very FABRIC of SOCIETY. I will SAVE this woman from her foolishness by degrading her and mocking her and threatening her with rape! See how noble I am?

To which I say: you know nothing, Randyll Tarly. Also, please die in a fire.

Aaand now it’s time to move on, I think.

Hyle Hunt: well, it’s one of two things. Either he is genuinely ashamed of the trick he played on Brienne and is genuinely trying to make amends for it, or this is just yet another trick he’s playing on her and it’s all going to end very badly. Obviously we are all hoping for the former. If the latter, then he is an even bigger asshole than Tarly. Tarly, make no mistake, is a giant, huge, unwiped asshole, but at least he has the dubious virtue of being honest about his assholery. Ugh.

Also, yet another mention of Nymeria! Who, I note, besides being a warrior queen of sorts herself (technically. Work with me here) I believe is also named after an actual human warrior queen. OMG SYNERGY

…Though I am really wondering how people know that the giant slavering supposedly-man-eating leader of this giant pack is female. I mean, it’s not like you can tell from a distance, and I would tend to think that people who don’t maintain a healthy distance from Nymeria’s exercitum luporum don’t tend to live to tell wolf gender tales later. Soooo I guess that’s just a little creative license on Martin’s part there.

[Hyle Hunt:] “And there’s this other band, led by this woman Stoneheart… Lord Beric’s lover, according to one tale. Supposedly she was hanged by the Freys, but Dondarrion kissed her and brought her back to life, and now she cannot die, no more than he can.”

Hi there, Catelyn.

Stoneheart, huh? Well, that’s apropos, I guess. It certainly gets the point across, if nothing else. I highly doubt she and Beric are actually lovers, of course. I only saw her for a second in the last book, but that was more than enough for me to conclude that sexytimes are, shall we say, unlikely to be high on her list of current priorities. But thanks for the gruesome image anyway, Hyle. Yeek.

Ooh, does this mean Brienne and undead!Catelyn are going to run into each other at some point? Because that would be… er.

Well, I was going to say “awesome,” but on reflection I don’t know that that’s necessarily the right prediction to make, there. Um. I guess it depends on whether Catelyn blames Brienne for failing in her original mission or not. And seeing as how Catelyn seems to be in a slightly vengeful mood these days… you know what, let’s root for them not meeting up, ever, let’s go for that, much better.

I almost completely elided Meribald’s speech about the broken men, for obvious reasons, but it’s definitely worth noting that it was beautifully written, and evoked the haunting, elegiac air Martin was going for wonderfully. One of the more striking passages I’ve come across in the series, in my opinion.

And last but not least:

Half a dozen [ships] were in port, though one, a galleas called the Titan’s Daughter, was casting off her lines to ride out on the evening tide.

I… think this is the ship that took Arya to the crazy death cult people? The name sounds very familiar, anyway, and later Brienne mentions that it was a Braavosi ship, so it seems reasonable to suppose.

If so, that means Brienne’s timeline is considerably behind Arya’s. Which kind of messes me up, because now I’m not sure whether anyone’s personal timelines are in sync with any of the others. There have probably been more hints like this one scattered through the text to help the reader line up respective timelines, but if so I’m pretty sure I’ve been missing them.

*shrug* Oh well. I’ll be aware of it for now. And it’s a thing I’ve seen done before, where an author will progress fairly far with one character’s storyline and then back up to do the same with another character, and so forth, with the hopeful goal of having everyone match up by the end of the book. We’ll see if that’s what happens here.

And that’s our show, kids! Have a lovely week, and I’ll see you next Thursday!

1. Cass314
"Even just in Westeros there is that one noble family whose name I am sadly blanking on right now whose women have all traditionally gone into war."

I think you're thinking of the Mormonts?

Anyway, thanks for the update! Septon Meribald's speech is one of my favorite moments in the series.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
2. Lisamarie
I loved all your link bait. And that you mentioned Rosalind Franklin :D Years ago I was thinking I might name a daughter after her (her nickname could be Rosie!), although I'm not sure now as a few other names have come into the running (and so far I've had only boys). But maybe :)

I laughed a little at this - especially because I have a tendency to misuse the word 'random' and used to get called out on it - but I've heard many criticisms of the CC but this may be the first time I've heard 'random'. If anything, they are slow/methodical/plodding/cautious/ let's analyze this to death when it comes to making changes or progress. And yes, that includes exposure to things like women saints (sometimes due to outside ignorance that they even exist, sometimes due to an internal lack of promotion/teaching/recognition).

I never heard of the Night Witches either, but that is pretty rad. Weren't there also several women in WWII that were code-crackers too?

There are some other things I want to comment on but they might veer into spoiler territory...although I will say that the timeline issue does continue to be a bit out of synch for awhile. I'm really bad at keeping stuff like that straight though.
3. Narvi
Septon Meribald's speech, as well as a couple other speeches later in the book, are why I think A Feast for Crows, while slow, is an underappreciated book, and necessary to contextualize the entire war.

It's easy to forget, through Martin's simple history book style, that all these maneuvers of war that are so passingly described are huge actions that leave thousands suffering in their wake. The High Lords don't notice, but the peasantry certainly does.
4. o.m.
Re the timeline, hasn't Arya spend enough time as assassin's apprentice for the ship to go back and forth several times over?
Deana Whitney
5. Braid_Tug
Meribald’s speech about the broken men, for obvious reasons, but it’s definitely worth noting that it was beautifully written, and evoked the haunting, elegiac air Martin was going for wonderfully. One of the more striking passages I’ve come across in the series, in my opinion.
Agree. I had to just sit there and think about his speech for several minutes after reading it. It also gets to me every time I re-read the chapter.

As for the Women & science: I love the bit about the "Harvard Computers" / "Pickering's Harem" as talked about in Episode 9 of the new Cosmos.
TW Grace
6. TWGrace
Yeah the timelines are all over the map.

But, dont get too caught up in trying to figure out the timelines...

They dont really work out.
7. TG12
Very nice discursion on the history of women in war...

In a fairly recent interview, Martin actually specifically references that speech by Septon Meribald as one of the pieces of writing he's most proud of, so yeah..
Chris Nelly
8. Aeryl
While each person's POV moves forward chronologically, the story itself doesn't.

So for all we know, the ship Brienne is seeing could have Arya on it, right now.

There are on occasion, instances mentioned in chapters, that help line up the timelines, like Joffrey's birthday taking place at the start of both GOT & COK, or the comet, but not many.
9. DougL
Thanks Leigh, when you are done Dance of Dragons there is a concordance you should read that makes some amount of sense of the timeline. Until then, be confused as all of us were until super geeks tackled the issue. As a super geek yourself (WoT FAQ) I am sure you will enjoy it.
10. autochef
I started to become a little frustrated about the timelines here too.

But what I really came to say is that while I felt bad for Sam before, I felt a lot worse for him after actually meeting his dad.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
11. Lisamarie
Agreed. I always wonder about Lady Tarly myself, too. Sam mentions tha this father says something about his mother 'finding it in herself to care for you' when justifying why he'd lie about killing him to make it sound like he just fell from his horse (so considerate!) so I think her life must be its own kind of special hell. Unless she's just very naive/unobservant and Randyll puts on a hell of an act for her, since she presumably lives up to his ideas of what a woman 'should be'. So in that sense, maybe it isn't even an act, and he feels his actions are perfectly consistent and justified.
Adam S.
12. MDNY
The northern family who are known throughout Westeros for their warrior women are the Mormonts, rulers of Bear Island (to the West of the North), and clan of the dead former Lord Commander of the Night Watch Jeor, the exiled from Dany's presence former slaver Jorah, the protector of King Robb Stark and killed at the Red Wedding Dacey (who you remarked wielded a morningstar and was thus "badass"), Lady Maege (head of the House and wearing mail when we met her), plus several other women.
Yes, the Titan's Daughter was Arya's ship, and if that's the same docking as we saw in the last book, the timelines have gotten very wonky. And yes, that is something to keep in mind, as it is one of the reasons that so many people dislike GRRM's last 2 books in the series so far.
Thanks for all those links above, Leigh. I knew about a fair number of the women you listed, actually, but I majored in history in college or else I'm sure the number would have been much lower, and you included quite a number of interesting links including some I had never encountered before. So thank you. Yes, we do tend to ignore most of the contributions women have made to the history of warfare.
I absolutely loooooved Septon Meribald's monologue about war and how it can break a man. GRRM was a conscientious objector during Vietnam, so his fantastic description of war and its effects on a man are clearly not firsthand, but you get the sense that he has talked to people who have fought. Or else he just has a masterful undertanding of the human psyche, which is apparent at other times throughout this series.
I took the mention of a "monstrous" she-wolf leading the pack to just mean that people have seen Nymeria during the raids. I don't think it's beyond the bounds of possibility that peasants have holed themselves up indoors or behind fences when the pack is near, or have survived even if their livestock and horses were eaten.
I agree that Randall Tarly is an ass, but we already knew that, from the first mention of him by his son Samwell.
Hyle Hunt is an interesting character. We're predisposed to think badly of him, because our initial assessments of him have all come from Brienne, whom he treated badly in the recent past. But if you go back and examine what Hunt and the others did, it was inappropriate and unchivalrous and even cruel, but it was NOT evil. I view it the same as if a bunch of jocks in college made a wager about who could sleep with an unattractive freshman. It's cruel, but it's not unheard-of behavior for people in certain situations (like college athletes or medieval fantasy knights, who in my mind are one and the same).
13. dragonfire613
Another week, another thesis on feminism and Unfair!HistoryEducation. Not that it's invalid, but there is much more to this work than how unfairly the (real) world has treated women throughout history. Or just recent history. Take your pick.
Margot Virzana
14. LuvURphleb
Did i miss something!?
Ive been waiting for your reaction to Stoneheart and you already knew!
Its been a long time since i read the books and they are so depressing i dont like re reading but i thought ive been following the read pretty astutely.
Someone please remind me.
Adam S.
15. MDNY
@14 We met UnCat at the end of ASOS. This is the first mention of the name "Stoneheart", but Leigh already knew that Cat was undead.
16. Cass314

I think her reaction is in the ASOS epilogue.
Chris Nelly
17. Aeryl
Another week, another thesis on feminism and Unfair!HistoryEducation.
Not that it's invalid, but there is much more to this work than how
unfairly the (real) world has treated women throughout history. Or just
recent history. Take your pick.

Then talk about it. Seriously, there is a whole comment thread here, devoted to talking about the things you want to talk about that Leigh didn't, so do that, instead of talking about the things Leigh didn't write about, ok?
18. TBGH
My first time through I figured the ship had come back again indicating she was a couple months behind Arya. Very confusing.

After watching finishing Breaking Bad on Netflix this week, getting talked into watching Les Mis last night, and reading this book . . . I think I need a hug.

@18 Sign me up as one who says, "Same discussion, different post" and wants to skip that whole part. Then again, it's a Brienne chapter so Leigh is correct in that the text really is rubbing our noses in it. Some of us have just seen that particular discussion played out many times and don't care to see it again.
Margot Virzana
19. LuvURphleb
@15 and 16
Ok i read the epilogue for A storm of Swords again and think i completely missed that somehow. But then i am at work while i read this read so i must have gotten sidetracked.
Whoa. That was the reaction i was looking for.
20. Black Dread
@17 - Okay, I'll say it.

I was in a Marine Infantry unit. My experiences with women in and around combat were mixed at best.
Chris Nelly
21. Aeryl
@20, Care to elaborate on that? Personal experiences like that would be a great thing to add.
22. o.m.
@17, 18, this one is just as much about modern education, which is not the same post all over again. Did you know about the Night Witches, and when did you learn about them?

I'm trying to recall if I learned about them at school age or later. Probably not in the history lessons, however. Our teachers tried to explain cause and effect of history (probably simplified) and not the nuts and bolts of warfare.
Rob Munnelly
23. RobMRobM
Nice post, as always.
- Hyle intrigues me, at this point in the story. He realizes that Brienne is not just a dilletante but is a committed, intensely loyal warrior. Respect appears to be growing, no doubt helped by the self-interested fact that if they do eventually stay together and get married, he becomes a lord (a pretty good place to be, especially in comparison to his current low status as a hedge knight).
- I'm almost convinced that Arya is in Saltpans now, getting ready to board the ship, and that the time flow is wonky.
- Septon Meribald is tres cool. That is all.
- yes, Nymeria is the great warrior queen of Dorne, which inspired Arya to name her direwolf after her. Yes, other Targ women were warriors as well - Dany was not the first. And we have seen at least some others (Mormont, Reed, some of the Sand Snakes, Asha).
Tabby Alleman
24. Tabbyfl55
@19 Gibbering, after all, is the appropriate reaction to that epilogue.
25. Black Dread
@21 - I started typing but really don't want to list a bunch of ugly stories here.

1 .Libidos of young people get out of control when far from home and in danger – problems, including #2, ensue. And yes - the men and women are at fault.

2. Our military hasn’t figured out how to handle to problem of pregnancies – either unintended or as a purposeful way to avoid deployment (saw both). Sending them home puts a hole in the unit and breeds a lot of resentment from the people doing the extra work.

3. The physical disparity between relatively average men and average women when they are extremely well-conditioned becomes considerably larger not smaller. I love the Brienne character but Tarly is right in one respect – she is a statistical outlier (freak is a less kind way to say it). Served with lots of tough WMs (Women Marines). Never met even one who wanted to be in the Infantry. Saw some get seriously hurt doing relatively routine stuff - and it was just accepted as routine which surprised me.
Scott Silver
26. hihosilver28
In fairness, that has been tried before and been shut down as "spoilery" since Leigh didn't expressly bring it up in the review.

I thought Leigh's post this week is excellent and continues to bring a perspective on the story that I didn't have when I read it. Educational too! ;-)
27. Gregor Lewis
Some people just can't win eh?

Randyll Tarly deserves more respect ...
... Nah, I can't even write the rest of that even if I'm only pretending to be serious.

But I do understand how he could have a perfectly stable and co-operative family life.

That's because he is scrupulously honest ... with both those he rules (family included, barring the notable exception of Sam's threatened death) and himself.

His boundaries of acceptance and expectation are rigid and unwavering. His manner cruel & outwardly heartless. But for those living within those boundaries, it seems life is comfortable. All aspects of life, from love and kindness to education and learning emminently achievable.

All of Sam's horror stories relate to Randyll terrorizing him as a result of Sam's very existence continually 'threatening', or at least traversing the edges of those boundaries, with no alternative on the horizon.

When Dickon proves to be the alternative Randyll 'needed', Sam's left alone to live his life until the General in Randyll needs to ensure his succession, according to his rigid ideals.

Even then, he is considerate (as much as a straight-talking uber-dick can be) of his wife's feelings.

Doesn't stop him from achieving his strategic goal, but to do any less would push past his own rigid boundaries.

Not gonna happen.

As for how he treats Brienne...

Cruel Certainly.
But also more honestly and honourably than anyone else she has encountered thus far. Even though Tarly doesn't want her as one - and openly says so - he still treats her exactly as he would any other person under his command.

Or do we think he is all fuzzy-lovies with his 'men'?

If not quite an agenda - he doesn't care enough - Tarly has an expectation of what Brienne's place should be, and promotes it to the point he feels would be most impactful.

We know Brienne is a million-kinds-of-wonderful, and won't bite, but being as those million all lie outside of Tarly's rigid boundaries, he is coldly blind to such magnificence.

But he never plays her false. Nor does he try to trick her or interfere.

Scrupulously honest, even when he doesn't have to be.

A tolerable shit whose eyes I look forward to being opened by the son he disowned.

Not that he would accept & acknowledge it himself. But just to see it happen on the page would be nice.

Adam S.
28. MDNY
@27 grl- I can almost agree with you. The fact is, Randyll Tarly is one of the most able generals in Westeros (as Jaime noted when he urged Cersei to appoint him as Hand/to the council). He is perceptive, he upholds the law (harshly, but most of the rulings we saw in the Brienne chapter earlier in the book were both fair and displayed intelligence), and he is widely respected. However, his treatment of Sam is so abhorrent that I just can't find it in myself to ever consider him a decent man. His treatment of Brienne is bad, but he doesn't treat her that way to disparage her, he does it because he is a traditionalist, and her very existence is unnerving to him. I can understand where he's coming from, even as I hate him.
Chris Nelly
29. Aeryl
perfectly stable and co-operative family life.

No, living with that kind of person can never be stable and cooperative, unless you consider stifling your every independent thought "stable and cooperative"

I know women married to men like Tarly, who enforce such patriarchal ideas at home. They are not above violence when "their" women "defy" them, and that defiance can be something as small as preparing the wrong meal.

If they have somehow, created a home that's not prone to violence, it's by subsuming their own personality in favor of his, of following his every whim and desire, and acqueiscing to all his demands.

That is not stable and cooperative for the woman living in it, no matter how much a good face they put on it.
Sky Thibedeau
30. SkylarkThibedeau
I didn't take SOVIET WWII history in school so knew about the night witches later from different books I grazed on. The necessity of losing 3 million men in the first months of the war opened a lot of positions for women in addition to the irregular roles as Partisans nurses cooks and spies we've always done.

@20 I did take the Army ROTC Basic Camp at Ft Knox in 1979 when Carter was President. We were one of the first groups where they had a mixed gender platoon. 3 squads of men and 1 of women. We didn't have to meet the same physical standards as the men and there was the issue of coed ed pup tent hook ups in bivouacs and the general sexual harrassment of the 70's but they did end the sexist jodies after a girl platoon leader switched the gender and non of the guys sang. Nevertheless I think only MP and Air Defense Artillery were open to women officers in those days.

Mud and I don't mix well so I dropped out of the program before going to Ft. Riley. It wasn't worth $100 a month.
31. Black Dread
@27 - Good points. I bet men don't leave meetings with Tarly thinking "what a great guy," either. He seems hard and rigid.

I wonder if that might be a weakness if he ever encounters a more dynamic thinker on the other side a battlefield? (i.e. Tyrion or Jon)
Sasha P
32. AeronaGreenjoy
This chapter evokes a peculiar combination of feelings. Brienne's noble quest, and the endless belittlement she gets for it, inspire us to acknowledge and celebrate the female warriors of her world and ours, even as Meribald's speech reminds us of the toll war takes on both fighters and non-combatants.

Why does she get so much more flak than the other Westerosi warrior women we've met? I don't know, but a few possible factors are that she: 1) wields a sword, 2) calls herself a knight, though I doubt anyone was willing to "anoint" her and all that nonsense, and 3) has lived and fought in the stormlands, riverlands, and Reach, the heartlands of Westerosi patriarchy. Our other ladies mostly hail from outlying areas such as Dorne, the North (above and below the Wall), the Mountains of the Moon, and the Iron Islands. They use all kinds of weapons -- axe, bow, spear, morningstar, dagger, poison, etc. -- but aside from Arya, I can't think offhand of other current-day swordswomen. Randyll and his ilk would probably consider them unnatural creatures skirking their childbearing duties, but even people who would tolerate such behavior from 'backwoods barbarians' get upset when their oh-so-sacred institution of knighthood is invaded.

I enjoyed most of Meribald's utterances in this chapter, and the landscapes they pass through.

@19: The ASOS epilogue was too horrible for me to read the first time. Then Leigh read it, and her reaction made everything better.
Georgianna Miller
33. gomiller
If it IS the same ship Arya's on RIGHT NOW, then that kind of implies Nymeria followed her to Maidenpool, yes? That would be kind of cool.
34. zambi76
If it IS the same ship Arya's on RIGHT NOW, then that kind of implies Nymeria followed her to Maidenpool, yes? That would be kind of cool.
I'm actually kinda baffled by this idea. I never thought anything other than o.m. in 4. about the timeline here, i.e. the Titan just came back from Braavos. Especially considering the next chapters. There are definitely timeline issues with the story but that was never one of them for me.
35. Josh Luz
Thanks for the links, Leigh! Some interesting reads, probably half or so I'd never heard of, especially the military figures. I'd imagine much of the reason I'd never heard of many, is, like Leigh says, much of those periods and regions just aren't covered by American history classes (I know very little about middle ages Georgia, ancient Vietnam, or even details of the Soviet side in WWII). Even when they are, though, it wouldn't surprise me if many of those figures are still likely omitted. The scientific figures are especially notable, as I don't think I'd heard of any of them before the internet became what it is.

If 300: Rise of an Empire was good for nothing else, it did make more of us aware of Artemisia. Maybe we just need more prominent movies featuring them, since that seems to be how we learn history these days.

I'm glad we reached Meribald's monologue. It's easily one of my favorite parts in all of ASoIaF.
36. Lyanna Mormont
Oh, Rosalind Franklin. I have a special soft spot for her, and have had ever since I first heard of her. (My particular "favorite" excuse for the theft is that they didn't like her because she wasn't personable. Because clearly that was more important that her intelligence and her work.) Also, Ada Lovelace, Grace O'Malley, Mary Somerville, Saint Hildegard, and many more.

I love Septon Meribald, with his Dog and his stories of Nymeria and his understanding of broken men.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
37. Lisamarie
Yeah, because Watson/Crick were SUCH nice guys (can't remember which one, but I think I heard one of them was a real prick).

Also, didn't one of them ridicule her clothes or manner of dress in his book? Or am I just making things up now?
38. rstipati
I loved Meribald's speech and Brienne's response

"The quiet stretched and stretched, until finally she said, 'How old were you when they marched you off to war?'”
Joe Vondracek
39. joev
Leigh, if you found the Night Witches interesting then you should read up on the Soviet's 1077th Anti-Aircraft Regiment at Stalingrad. This regiment was largely comprised of young women volunteers in their late teens & early 20's. During the German's Stalingrad offensive, the regiment turned its anti-aircraft guns horizontal to fight off an attacking Panzer Division. They fought unsupported for two days before they were overrun; most of them were killed during the fighting.
Steven Halter
40. stevenhalter
Chapter 25 - Brienne:Hyle Hunt has a cast iron nose at the least. Three rotting heads are not what I would choose to travel with. He also doesn't take credit for Brienne's fight. I think we'll have to keep watching Hyle.
Randyll Tarly continues to show himself to be a massive a-hole. He can't allow himself to believe that Brienne is fully capable in her own right and that she isn't just a freak. She just happens to be a well trained and capable woman. I am guessing that Tarly has some fairly deep seated insecurities that we are seeing manifest themselves here. He can't allow himself challenges to his preconceptions. We see this with Brienne and we saw it with Sam. All that may be, but, of course, that leaves Tarly as the essence of a complete dick at this point. I look forward to his eventual demise/downfall in the story.
Brienne sticks to her guns and insists on continuing her quest to find Sansa.
We hear some possible news on the Hound who seems to have gone feral and on Dondarrion and on Stoneheart (whom I wager is Cat and I will bet Breinne meets her at some point. Not sure if that will be a good thing).
Ooh, Brienne just misses getting on the Titan's Daughter. I wonder how long it is since Arya was on the ship? Or if she is on it right at that point? Nice tease there GRRM.
While I would like to see what is going on at Winterfell, I don't think Brienne is going there any time soon. She is, however, going to the Saltpans and Hunt seems to have been fired (or he could be a double agent so to speak).
We learn a little bit about the Seven from Meribald and then a little about life in the Saltpans. Dog is a cool dog. Nymeria (Queen of the Wolves!) continues to roam at large.
Meribald then gives us a very nicely told tale of what happens to peasants who seek glory in the service of the armies of their lords. Short version--nothing good.
This was another good Brienne chapter. GRRM is displaying some of his nicest writing in these. The Quest continues.
41. jerec84
Every time Randyll Tarly shows up, I just feel sorry for all the shit Sam had to deal with growing up.
42. Gregor Lewis
@31. Black Dread -

And that's something I'm looking forward to finding out.

Part of the reason I'm such a fan of boxing is the control metaphor. You often have dominant fighters becoming utterly discombobulated when they encounter someone who can resist their 'irresistable force', not necessarily by being the veritable 'immovable object', but as you say, thinking outside the square.

Tarly seems to me to be the ultimate preparer as a soldier. Moreover, his rigid nature leads me to believe he would be completely convinced of victory prior to a battle, instead of the prosaic realists most authors favour as POV characters, more often than not.

Of course I am making a leap of faith on a huge assumption, having not seen it 'live' in-story. Even so, I am almost sure Tarly would be utterly convinced of victory - and would say so ... Loudly - before any battle he'd prepared for on his terms.

No false bravado. But no false modesty either. Really looking forward to seeing a confrontation get out of control, to the point where he has to think on his feet. Hopefully as a result of some post-Citadel machination of Sam's. That potential eye-opening experience, I mentioned earlier.

@29-Aeryl - I agree with every contemporary point you make.

None of them have anything to do with the story, what I wrote, or Randyll Tarly's character as portrayed in the books. He's a particularly nasty piece of work when confronting those who don't fit into his rigid, narrow, tightly wound parcel of expectations. Having acknowledged that ... AGAIN (*sigh*)... Despite ample opportunity we have no in-story evidence that Tarly's character skews to the sort of insidiousness you describe. In fact we have clear evidence to the contrary, in that Sam is raised lovingly - by everyone but Randyll (and those he hires to 'Man Sam up') - and Sam is very-well educated and versed in all manner of Westerosi culture that isn't actively martial.

I'm sure those contemporary examples you describe would not have been so accomodating.

As I said, Randyll Tarly is scrupulously honest with himself and others. The one potential exception is his threat to kill Sam and lie to his wife, to spare her pain. Again, that is borne out of strategic necessity Tarly as a General feels, is needed to protect his preferred succession.

And because he is honest enough with himself to see Sam's clear intelligence as a threat.

Tarly himself, is intelligent enough to recognise there are other avenues to power, and seek to exploit Sam's innate aversion to violence by forcing him into an environment replete with it.

If he was truly of the ilk you describe, none of this would have occurred to him. But, unfortunately when you feel your agenda is threatened, you draw a long bow to make contemporary equivalencies that are false, and in no way supported in the story.

That's unfortunate, because your argument is valid in so many sadly tragic contemporary situations. It is however seriously misplaced here.

44. o.m.
@30, should the Night Witches be limited to classes on the Soviet side of WWII, or should they belong into a general Western Civ or World History course?

One could argue that these women did not matter in the big picture, that a compressed overview has to concern itself with the (male) leaders and the big events. Is it more important to tell about the Night Witches or the Rape of Nanking? The Treaty of Rapallo? The Warsaw Uprising? The Munich talks?

Or one could argue that a compressed overview should highlight general trends and correct common misconceptions (about gender roles and other things). Then the curriculum should make room for specific examples, and cut out repetitive lists of kings and wars and battles.

Should time be made in class for Boudica even if she displaces Vercingetorix? Does she get 1% of the total page count? 0.5%?
45. just some guy
I wouldn't want Randyll to be my dad, my direct supervisor, or even an acquaitance.

But I do think living in a land where he rules and sets the laws down, is going to be much better, orderly and just than with an amiable bro like King Robert.
Birgit F
46. birgit
We didn't learn about Jeanne d'Arc at school, at least not in history (I don't remember if she was mentioned in French). I know about Ada Lovelace because there is a project in Germany named after her that wants to encourage girls to study maths and sciences.
Captain Hammer
47. Randalator


re: Cat and Dondarion

I highly doubt she and Beric are actually lovers, of course. I only saw her for a second in the last book, but that was more than enough for me to conclude that sexytimes are, shall we say, unlikely to be high on her list of current priorities.

Actually, given Un-Cat's appearance, I'd say sexytimes is unlikely to be high on ANYONE'S list of current priorities. Unless you're into that whole necrophilia/gore thing, in which case OMGWTF IS WRONG WITH YOU EWWW DO NOT WANT!

re: female pirates

While I never heard about Ching Shih before, at least hereabouts you couldn't have an even cursory glance at pirate history without Anne Bonny and Mary Read being mentioned extensively and pretty much on equal footing with Blackbeard and the likes. Usually not as a novelty but as an example of how Ye Olde Pirates were all "Equality YAY!" and "Democracy YAY!" when those concepts were still mostly non-existant or on the "... BOOOOOO!" side of things in western societies.

But still, the XY crowd as a whole seems to have a testies-shrinky sort of problem with displays of female badassery. Except when there's T'n'A poses involved, apparently...

@23 RobMRobM

Yes, other Targ women were warriors as well - Dany was not the first.

Right now, I wouldn't include Dany in our list of warrior women at all. She certainly has intentions of riding into battle on the back of a dragon, but so far she hasn't done anything of the sort. She's never been involved in an actual combat situation and as far as I recall her battle/strategic knowledge doesn't exceed "Stick'em with the pointy end" and "If you kill the other army enough, you're the winner". All the actual war stuff she delegates to men.

She's a ruler, not a warrior. She might become one if she can avoid GRRM long enough, but she isn't one yet...
Rob Munnelly
48. RobMRobM
Incipient/intended warrior woman, I'd say, assuming she intends to ride on dragon back to conquer Westeros. But, yes, not yet.
49. species5618w
Wow, what an interesting read.

I wonder whether Leigh realized that Sam's last name is Tarly.

I have to say I am little confused by the feminist talks. Women don't have to be warriors to be men's equal.

I also think Leigh is not giving Tywin enough credits. It's said that Tywin brought prosperities to both the westland as the lord and the 7 kingdoms as the hand. Tywin was also not as coldblooded as people though he was. He has not married since his wife died. That's a massive sacrifice personally and politically, but he did it anyway despite the importance he placed on family. Part of his hatred towards Tyrion was also based on his love for his wife who died giving birth to Tyrion.

I also want to point out that a lot of major events were foreshadowed via prophecies beforehand. It would be nice if Leigh can record those prophecies and refer back to them. For example, from an ealier chapter (so not a spoiler): "I dreamt I saw a shadow with a burning heart butchering a golden stag, aye. 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. dreamt of a roaring river and a woman that was a fish. Dead she drifted, with red tears on her cheeks, but when her eyes did open, oh, I woke from terror." In retroperspective, it's fairly easy to figure out what these referred to.
Chris Nelly
50. Aeryl
@29, Yes, Leigh is very aware that Sam is Randyll Tarly's son, it's been covered a great deal other chapters that Tarly has been in.

Part of his hatred towards Tyrion was also based on his love for his wife who died giving birth to Tyrion.

I don't give him a pass on this, because to me, that's dishonoring the love you have for your wife to fail to love her child.

That's why Cersei vindictiveness over losing her mother, especially as a mother now, is so infuriating, IMO. She now espouses the idea that mothers will do anything for their children, but never bothers to reflect that her mother would have gladly died so Tyrion could live, or that loving him in their mother's place was the best memorial to Joanna she could have done.
Rob Munnelly
51. RobMRobM
Re Tywin not remarrying - I'm not convinced that it is a personal sacrifice of any kind. To the contrary, with one son in the KG and another one expressly declared not fit to inherit, an argument remains he should have remarried to provide more potential heirs. He knows he should - he just doesn't want to do it.

Also, not a spoiler, but I'm convinced that Tywin secretly makes use of whores (which is why he is so intolerant of Tyrion sharing his weakness). Part of this can be seen with his "use" of Shae at the end of ASOS; another is the reference in ACOK to a previous Hand who built a secret passage to Chattayah's brothel. Not confirmed as Tywin but why not - he was Hand to Aerys for quite a while.
52. Bill D5
Brienne is an exception, like most of the women Leigh cites (at least those who were not outright failures - the fact that their queens tried REALLY hard to keep their nation from being conquered and destroyed was probably not a comfort to the subjects of Boudicca, Zenobia or the Trungs). Aside from her extreme physical aberration, she is an aristocrat, and thus elevated above the common soldier. The heroism of a single individual does not qualify her gender for combat anymore than the ineptitude of Cersei disqualifies her gender for rule. Funny how that rule is only recalled when convenient, eh?

In a setting like aSoI&F, training warriors is cost-prohibitive, which is why it is the exclusive province of the aristocracy. It also requires that they be fed, and the concept of food-based loyalty is a repeated theme throughout these books. Dunk maintains his allegiance to Ser Eustace despite the former's history of treason, because he's eaten his food. Ser Kevan expresses his power to Cersei by saying that he feeds 200 knights. In a world without supermarkets (or tractors, combines, sprinklers and pesticides), warriors cannot get their own food, except maybe in cities, and rely on a noble to provide it. This economic arrangement also means that nobles have to be careful whom they spend their hard-earned/stolen food, steel and coin on, because foolishly misspent resources could mean the deaths of their families and loss of their power. Given that, spending precious resources on a potential warrior who will not be as strong as most, and thus not as competent as most, who will have addition medical complications (i.e. Leigh's comment about RJ ignoring the issue of menstruation for women traveling the world and frequently camping in the rough), and possibly pregnancies to further degrade their utility, is counter-indicated. Maybe it's not the fault of your lady knight if she happens to get pregnant when the enemy comes raiding, but you're still going to suffer militarily for it. And while you can always make them refrain from pregnancy in favor of their military duties, all you are doing there is removing wombs from the population, meaning there will be fewer recruits for your son to employ defending the family castle and lands.

It's just amazing that people can read RJ & GRRM and their attention to detail on sexism issues, and ignore all the not-explicitly-stated details that undercut the women-as-soldiers stuff they put in there.

The constant citation of the expense of maintaining warriors, as well as the oft-demonstrated brutal consequences of having the second-best military in a fight, along with Brienne's aberrant size and circumstances should preclude any assumption that sexist opinions are all that stands between women and martial glory.

For modern times, the assertion that women have always fought in wars, even if stipulated, is irrelevant. Civilians have always fought, and children as well. That does not mean these are acceptable as the standard for a professional military, as opposed to ad hoc contributors in an emergency. Armies have also always raped and looted in large numbers (the latter practice actually being appallingly treated as an amusing quirk in the haigiographic HBO miniseries Band of Brothers). That does not mean it is an acceptable practice or contributes to the optimal function of a military force. Unless you think the "finest soldier," and biggest jerk in the realm hangs looters and rapists out of the goodness of his heart? Of course not! He's doing it to maintain discipline, which translates into military effectiveness, which is why he is the only general with an unbeaten record against Stark allies.

Furthermore, the use of women in the military will result in large numbers of dead young women in their prime, and a shortage of children in the following generation, along with the inevitable decline and defeat of the society. If I have to explain how dead males of a similar age do not have the same demographic impact, you are not worth the trouble of an explanation until mommy or daddy explains the birds and bees to you, and you take elementary school math again.

In modern times, particularly as regards to America and similarly developed nations (Europe & the Pacific Rim), the circumstances under which so many aberrant historical examples (and Asha or Brienne or Maege) came to prominence are not applicable. We don't have an artistocracy or monarchy that can propel a woman to the top without working her way up through normal military service. We discourage the kind of religious culture that allowed Joan of Arc to have her legendary status (as seen in Leigh's customary & gratuitous swipe at Catholicism). Furthermore, those women were not fighting. When they were not figureheads or cheerleaders, their contributions were purely intellectual and not true leadership, warrior-to-warrior. Joan of Arc in particular is a bemusing example, since contrary to what Bill & Ted might show you, she did not fight. She led her men into battle, but by carrying a banner, and only used a sword to fend off personal attackers. Obviously the situations of Zenobia, or Isobel of Castile (who has the distinction of actually winning her wars, unlike Leigh's examples) have little to no bearing on the utilization of women in a democratic military, much less on the experience of an enlisted recruit or officer cadet. As for the Targaryen women, the applications of dragonfire to a battlefield are hardly relevant to a dragonless world, and beyond that, the caveat about aristocrats applies.

In practice, the issue of women in the military is simply the problem of fraternization in the workplace, magnified a hundred-fold, with lethal consequences, for everyone from the individuals involved, to the fate of the nation their army fights for. As annoying as it is to see the supervisor's girlfriend getting an extra break, or the manager's girlfriend getting first choice of vacation days, that's nothing compared to the effect on morale of the captain's pet or sergeant's honey getting to shirk the various military tasks or duties, all of which are onerous, physically gruelling or fatally dangerous (or some combination thereof). Setting aside chauvanism and reflexive male protection of women and children (which as far as the species goes is a feature, not a bug), human beings simply do not apply rationality or duty to a loved one or mate being in danger. No amount of diligent and superhuman attention to duty will keep people from reacting to that. And even if that is NOT a factor and commanders are being absolutely objective, that will not be the perception of the troops, who will assume the commander is doing what 99% of people would be doing, and protecting a loved one. Favoritism, or the perception thereof, no matter how true or false, kills discipline and destroys armies.

Or did anyone miss the rationale for why the Kingsguard, maesters and Night's Watch have no families? In spite of that, you have cases like the Ryswell son or Jon Snow who attempt to desert to their kin. Jon was brought back by peer loyalties, but that's a case of discipline being reinforced by bonds, rather than torn apart as they are when romantic feelings get involved.

Or look at Loras' calm and measured reaction to the death of his commander Renly - you know, when he flat out murdered two of his supposed "brothers" out of grief for his lover? Or when Renly gave him a prime command position, passing over the man called "the finest soldier in the Reach"? How about Ygritte? She fraternized with a fellow soldier, and her unit ended up being betrayed and wiped out, all because of her sexual involvement with a man who would never have been as accepted and trusted as he was without her support. If the Magnar of Thenn, the Lord of Bones and Tormund Giantsbane had adhered to an all male roster, they might have been two or three fighters short, here or there, but the attack on Castle Black would not have been betrayed.

You cannot simply cherry-pick the rudeness Brienne endures as representative of real world phenomena and ignore all the other instances in the same books that support other models of human behavior!

Similar things can be observed in WoT, which for all that combat veteran RJ skewers sexism and gender-views, he still cannot bring himself to buck realism. Rand's chauvanism is compared to that of the Borderlanders by Moiraine. The Borderlanders are a culture of constant military readiness, with the war against the Shadow paramount in any cultural mentality. Saldaean wives ride to war with their husbands, but not into the Blight, where the Shadow does not respect their gender privileges. Among human opponents, where total war is anathema, because you might need these adversaries as allies against the Trollocs someday, bringing along the wives can serve as a moderating influence, and we still see how Deira takes pride in her obedience to her husband's official orders, and Faile is incensed when Perrin apologizes for making a command decision against her suggestion. In other words, Saldaea has made a cultural custom of incorporating military discipline into a marriage (as do the Sea Folk), in order to avoid the issues I talked about above. The Shienarans would die to defend the sacrosanct women's quarters, because it is in those quarters that the next generation of warriors will be incubated. A woman traveling alone can demand that Malkieri warriors put aside their agenda and priorities, because again, there cannot be anything as important as the maintaining of a good supply of wombs, to keep up the numbers for the fight against the Shadow, whether as soldiers, or as the ten civilian men each soldier needs to feed, shelter and arm him.

The Andoran female aristocracy, while ready to fight any man who dares sit on the Lion Throne, nonetheless defers to men on military matters in many subtle ways. Morgase refuses to learn to use a knife, saying that's a man's job. Catalyn Haevin's aunt holds similar views. The Andorans who confront Egwene are led by a woman who is highest-ranking among them, but who Gareth Bryne says will defer to the ranking-male on military issues. Arymilla, in considering coordination of a military attack, leaves the details to one of her male followers. The earliest queens of Andor lost all their sons in battle, until the tradition of only daughters inheriting the throne became the rule, instead of the practical outcome. The only cited instance of martial heroism by a queen of Andor was to carry the banner alone into the enemy lines to inspire her men to rally to rescue her. Finally, the only known exception to this, prior to the events of the books, was Tigraine, who was a skilled archer and ran off to join a female army, only to die, because she refused to abstain from battle while pregnant and the general she was sleeping with let her have her way! With the end result that the Aiel twenty years later were left bemoaning that their messiah figure didn't care about them because he was not raised by Aiel. Women in the military has societal consequences!

As for Robert Jordan's Aiel, note how they isolate the female fighters to a degree, with all sorts of customs to prevent relationships or minimize their importance, or else maximize the commitment of a serious relationship (a committed relationship being the exception to the dangers of fraternization as long as they are sharing the danger inimately, e.g. the Sacred Band of Thebes), with their "remember honor" ritual. There are also elaborate practices to put into play to minimize the adverse reproductive effects, by removing breeding females from combat, with shame and honor issues discouraging pregnancy as a malingering tactic (a rampant problem in the US military), and at the same time, maximizing the chances for the survival and well-being of the offspring, by forcing the mother to either forego the military to care for the child, or by placing the child with committed parents.

You can look at all the WoT and SoI&F characters who are belittled or marginalized because of prejudices and gender assumptions, and say "That applies to the real world." But you also have to stipulate the other examples are equally valid, regardless of how well they support the agenda of womynkind.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
53. Lisamarie
@50 -YES.
Dare I even go into the Snape argument here. No, I won't open that can of worms ;)
Maiane Bakroeva
54. Isilel
Randalator @47:
She's never been involved in an actual combat situation and as far as I recall her battle/strategic knowledge doesn't exceed "Stick'em with the pointy end" and "If you kill the other army enough, you're the winner". All the actual war stuff she delegates to men.
Well, it seems to me like you really need to re-read Dany's chapters in ASoS, because she is the one who sets the battle tactics. Yes, using advice of her commanders, but synthesizing different suggestions from different people and modifying them extensively to formulate a coherent battle plan.

She doesn't participate in battles personally, since she wasn't trained to fight, and being a small small woman doesn't have any natural advantages in battle either. Once she can ride a dragon, this is going to change, of course.
55. species5618w

I don't disagree that we shouldn't give Tywin a free pass, but it's a common reaction from fathers and silbings. It's an emotional response rather than a rational one.

Another issue is that we only saw things from the children's POV, never from Tywin's POV. Kevan (not an incapable man himself) thought very highly of Tywin.

I remember Leigh scoffed his comments that "Explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men in battle than a dozen at dinner." However, I don't remember she ever had an answer for it. More importantly, did peace return to the riverland and did the lives of the commoners improve due to the red wedding? Do the people even care whether their lord's last name was Tully or Lannister? I doubt it.

@51 What Tywin Lannister care the most was the family name. He put that in real danger by not remarrying, therefore it's a personal sacrifice. To be honest, I don't like what Martin did with Shae. It allowed Tyrion to get his revenge, but it's a little out of character for Tywin. (Not that he wouldn't use whores, even Dany uses them, but he wouldn't have been so careless about it) However, even with that, whores are different from wives. He could use whores in secret, but he would not make a whore his wife or whoring opening, thus damage the family name. That's the difference between him and Tyrion. He wasn't angry with Tyrion because he was using whore, but because he did so indiscreetly.
Chris Nelly
56. Aeryl
Or when Renly gave him a prime command position,

He didn't have a command position, he was a member of Renly's Guard, he wasn't commanding troops, he commanded the guards, and you know what, you can pick the person you trust more than any other to be your chief bodyguard, that's ok.

She fraternized with a fellow soldier, and her unit ended up being
betrayed and wiped out, all because of her sexual involvement

Um, no, Jon was going to betray them whether he slept with Ygritte or not.

If the Magnar of Thenn, the Lord of Bones and Tormund Giantsbane had adhered to an all male roster,

No, because Jon, a male, would still have been on said roster.

You lose all credibility when you have to reach for ludicrous examples to prove your point, especially when those examples don't even represent what you say they do.

Furthermore, the use of women in the military will result in large
numbers of dead young women in their prime, and a shortage of children in the following generation,

Yet, for centuries, wars have always resulted in "large numbers of dead young women in their prime" and we are still here. You also fail to recognize, that for many of the women who chose to march to war, childbearing wasn't something they cared to do anyways, like Brienne. If they were never going to have children in the first place, their death in war does not affect the birth rate.

Or did anyone miss the rationale for why the Kingsguard, maesters and Night's Watch have no families?

Neither did the Jedi, and you saw how well that worked out.

And did you miss how Martin has explicitly shown that Night's Watch is a corrupted institution, therefore bringing all it's reasoning into question? How it's been shown the Kingsguard puts family over duty all the time?

It has these strictures, but they are worthless strictures.

There are many examples through history of people putting duty over family. It's just that it must be taught and socialized amongst them. The Romans were excellent with this. These strictures against families don't create systems where people choose duty over family, it creates people incapable of making that choice.
57. Bill D5
Oh, Aeryl.

- The position to which I referred was command of vanguard against Stannis. Why would he consider Randyll Tarly for a bodyguard? Jon Fossoway and Guyard the Green both asked for the honor of leading the vanguard, Tarly made his case based on experience, and others all called for it. He gave it to Loras. Your point is well taken about someone trustworthy guarding his back, but he did not give Loras that job, he sent him to lead the main attack, choosing affection over, well, any qualifications, whatsoever. Tywin might have sent a warrior with only skill at arms to command his van against Roose Bolton, but that was because it was a feint and a sacrifice. Renly was picking a commander to strike a decisive blow in his first battle, and gave it to his boyfriend.

- My point was not that Jon was driven to betray the wildlings by sex, but that sex with Jon blinded Ygritte to his intentions and faults. She was attracted to him, so she repeatedly stuck up for him when he was caught in evasions or half-truths. She complained about Orell's eagle marring his looks. These are not soldierly concerns, they are romantic issues, which she was bringing to bear on military things. Without Ygritte's defense, Jon might not have been put in a position to be trusted. He might have been killed outright, or kept close to Mance where his fellow turncloak crow could keep an eye on him. Jon, the male, would have been under more scrutiny without a sexual partner to vouch for him.

You lose all credibility when you have to reach for ludicrous examples to prove your point, especially when those examples don't even represent what you say they do.

Your ability to interpret books written in an often quasi-archaic style loses credibility when you misunderstand plain facts. Your drumbeat of unreasoned female chauvanism loses credibility when you repeatedly refuse to admit objective reality.

- The women who "marched to war' were not being killed on the scale of the men who were. I defy you to find a case of female military deaths (in numbers, not generalized or hyperbolic claims of conspiracy theories) came remotely close to males in the same large-scale action. Whatever Leigh wants to claim, there was never a war where anything close to similar numbers of women fought in military ranks beside men and suffered similar casualties (and I don't think she was claiming that, because unlike certain commentors, she is at least grounded in reality with demonstrable reading comprehension skills).

- What do the Jedi have to do with anything? We don't remotely have any information about gender relations in a society, nor is anyone going off on long digressions about how this problem or that problem in Star Wars reflects some aspect of reality. Tell me how teenage Senators reflects our political practices, if you please? How does the Force affect the military?

I am not even sure what your point is about the Jedi. They had a rule, they deviated from it, and a guy who put his emotional attachments to a sexual partner, was driven by those attachments to betray them! Seriously, what on earth are you thinking?
And did you miss how Martin has explicitly shown that Night's Watch is a corrupted institution
I did miss that, because, unless you show me a quote, he has not explicitly shown that. In fact, I question your understanding of the word "explicitly." Whatever is being said about any institution in the books is only implicit. It seems to me that Martin is only reaffirming the ideals of the order, and calling into question its failure to live up to them. Perhaps the tolerance of whoring in Mole's Town is intended to be one such weakness? In any event, the Night's Watch corruption has not been their ideals or excessive adherence to them, but the acceptance of their role as a dumping ground for the unwanted men of the realm. In spite of that, many such rejects have been whipped into shape and achieved a level of honor not previously expected. Jon, Sam, a number of outlaws and criminals I don't want to bring up for spoiler reasons... The men who mutinied at Craster's Keep were putting selfish desires ahead of duty. The toleration of Craster is another example of laxity that hurt them. There is no instance of the Watch's ideals specifically being at fault, only the failure to live up to them.

The Kingsguard does put family over duty, and this is regarded as an abhorrent and fallen practice. There is absolutely no indication that it is the natural order of things, or if it is, if their vows and ideals are honored only in the breach, that is still not proof that abandoning those ideals, even as impossible aspirations, will make a more effective institution.

Soldiers desert in battle all the time, and violate discipline and regulations in hundreds of little ways. It does not mean discipline is worthless. Even in a totally non-sexualized military there will favoritism. There are undoubtedly lapses of discipline among the Unsullied. It does not mean that there is no point to standards. A common, even overused, military aphorism is that no plan survives contact with the enemy. That does not invalidate the practice of making plans.

Rather, the qualities that win wars are borne out of the continual struggle to achieve that impossible perfection. Every little bit that contributes to discipline and good order helps. Everything that moves troops in the other direction should be discarded.

To quote the soldier's poet (paraphrased for proper spelling):

"Of all his five years' schooling, they don't remember much,
Except the not-retreating, the step and keeping touch.
It looks like training wasted, when they duck and skip and hop,
But if he hadn't learned them, they'd be all about the shop."
- Rudyard Kipling
Chris Nelly
58. Aeryl
When I pointed out the women who died in war, I did not state they marched to war. Women are the majority of casualties in war, even without fighting, yet according to you, if that happened, humanity would die out, but we are still here.

In spite of that, many such rejects have been whipped into shape and achieved a level of honor not previously expected.

It's wierd you see it that way, because I see the NW completely different, a complete skewering of the idea of honorable redemption through military service.

What do the Jedi have to do with anything?

What does WOT examples have to do with anything? I used the Jedi of a specific example of another fictional* order that has the same requirements, and because their adherents weren't ever taught how to deal with their emotions and to make decisions rationally despite them, they were destroyed, which was the point I was making when I said the strictures on family didn't create people more willing to choose duty over family, but people incapable of making that choice.

*Real life examples of enforced celibacy amongst orders doesn't have a good historical track record either, but that's neither here nor there.
59. Amaryllis
"Furthermore, the use of women in the military will result in large
numbers of dead young women in their prime, and a shortage of children in the following generation, along with the inevitable decline and defeat of the society. If I have to explain how dead males of a similar age do not have the same demographic impact, you are not worth the trouble of an explanation until mommy or daddy explains the birds and bees to you, and you take elementary school math again."

Well, speaking of the birds and bees, you want to know what killed "young women in their prime" in pre-modern societies? Childbearing, that's what, whether or not there was a war on. In fact, there was in much of Western thought a direct equivalence between the two: it was a man's duty to risk his life in battle if necessary, and it was a woman's duty to risk her life in childbirth as a matter of course.

And yet somehow we're still here.

You could perhaps argue that a woman who was going to undergo the risks of pregnancy and delivery shouldn't be subject to double jeopardy, so to speak. But why shouldn't the choice be hers?

Nor is it necessarily clear that young women dying in war would have a more significant impact on population than young men dying in war. Westeros, if I understand correctly, is not a polygynous society. Not officially anyway; yes, the great lords have mistresses and have children by them, but I doubt that the average villager or craftsman could be expected to support two families. If a young woman can't find a suitable marriage partner because the young men were all killed off in war, she's likely to remain unmarried and childless, not join a plural-woman household. But, if I understand correctly, such impacts are usually fairly transitory. Most populations will adjust themselves within a few years of the war's end. I dont' see why that wouldn't happen if the war dead included women-- which, as Aeryl points out, they usually do anyway.
Sasha P
60. AeronaGreenjoy
Yeah, the "womam's war is in the birthing bed" line from the likes of Randyll and Victarion could indicate a belief that women aren't necessarily weak or craven but should devote their strength and courage to an essential task which men cannot do. In the case of those two, though, I'm inclined to doubt it.

For a ruler or commander, there would be a difference between your women dying in combat and your soldiers killing non-combatant females on your enemy's territory. But the latter is more of a problem in a civil war like the current ASOIAF one, e.g. the riverlands being "set ablaze" at Tywin's explicit command. Or when your agression brings a similar invasion of your territory. Er. Admittedly, I don't actually know anything about military strategy. :-P
61. species5618w
I think there are two separate things.

1. Can women be good soldiers?
2. Should we have a mix gender army?

The anwser to the first question is yes with proper trainings. This is true for both genders.

The answer to the second question is a lot less clear. It's really men's fault to be pigs, but the complications remain. Lord Tarly wasn't wrong about it. Mind you, cute boys can be a problem for female soldiers as well. However, it wouldn't be a problem if we had an exclusively female (or male) army.

Now, mixed gender army does have its advantage too, which shouldn't be overlooked.
Janice Boyd
62. scaredicat
Can women be good soldiers? Of course.
Can mixed-gender armies work? Yes. Ask the Israelis.

The demographic impact of women vs. men dying in war is overstated. More people, men and women, died in the 1918 influenza pandemic than were killed in WWI. There was no "inevitable" decline or defeat of society.
63. r.e. Bill D5
There's obvious snark about humans making crappy soldiers in general to be made according to your criteria for an effective soldier (i.e. most of your arguments apply to gay men as well--if you really want to argue they make shitty soldiers, go ahead).

Just want to point out that exhibits A and B from WoT for mixed sex armies are the Seanchan and Aiel. The two most effective militaries (outside channelers of course) in WoT are again?

The lack of pregnacy opportunity is nonsense of course, but math is scary for lots of people too. There's enough known matter in the universe to make about 10^56 human bodies. At 1% population growth on the ~7 billion people alive now, how many thousands years will it take to reach that limit?
64. species5618w
I asked "Should", not "Can". I can smoke cigrette, doesn't mean I should. Modern armies are somewhat different since the supply system has been greatly improved. Even so, having mixed gender can be logistically difficult. Also, based on the experience with the US army, rapes and sexual harassments are still wide spread. It's not just women, homosexuality also causes problem. Certain armies even refuse left-handers to avoid having to support two different set of guns.

Should we also compaign for mixed gender prisons?
65. Amaryllis
Well, single-gender prisons are not exactly known as being free of rape, assault, harassment, favoritism, cronyism, all those things. Or all those nervous and unfunny "jokes" about what happens to men in prison wouldn't be a thing.

And usually the abusers, in prisons or the military or other such single-gender institutions, are men who wouldn't consider themselves gay; they're just exercising their privilege to be "on top," so to speak, with whomever's available.

It's not the presence of women or LGBT people in the military that causes problems with sexual brutality, it's the presence of brutalizers and the absence of command discipline that allows brutalizers to be brutal.

In fact, that's one of the criticisms that's been leveled at GRRM and other writers of grimly "realistic" fantasy: it's only realistic in one direction. But men and boys get raped and abused too, if they find themselves a vulnerable position, captives, slaves, students, or sometimes just military subordinates.

But with I suppose the one glaring exception, all the sexualized violence in GoT is male-on-female, even in circumstances where male rape would seem to be a possibility. And that's an authorial choice, not an inevitable bow to realism.
66. species5618w
The reality is that a single gender army with opposite sex camp followers is easier to manage, the reasons for that is irrelevant. Lord Tarly was wrong to blame Brienne, but he had a good point about the problems associated with a mix gender army. Of course, a non-sex army, aka the unsullied, is better still.
Julian Augustus
67. Alisonwonderland
This read is becoming less and less appealing to follow as it degenerates into a gender battle on an almost weekly basis.
68. Dingo
@67 Agreed.

I don't mean to give offense, as I still find Leigh's writing to be of very high quality, but I feel like even that loses a lot of its charm when she's on feminism mode. She cuts down on her charismatic writing style and I feel like she loses all the good humor she usually instills in these reviews which was one of the main reasons I started reading this in the first place.

It is also becoming repetitive. I'm sorry to say it, but I think there's something in the range of 7 more Cersei and Brienne chapters in this book, and they will all inevitably fall on this issue, every single time. There is no way around this; it's a motif in these characters' lives. Do we really need to revisit the topic every time that it happens? This is not to mention when the issues are going to be brought up in the next Arianne, Arya, Sansa, Victarion and Jaime chapters as well, whose connections to this topic, while less direct, are also very much there. Are we going to keep having this flame war in the comments for every consecutive week until this book ends? What about the 500 Dany chapters that touch on these issues in the next one?
(Whited out text comments on the structure/focus of upcoming chapters--no specific plot spoilers)

Just to give you an example on how this is completly removing the focus from the rest of this story, in the review above we had 840 words dedicated to the (already pretty extensively discussed) topic of women in combat (namely, how it's all unfair to Brienne, with which I 100% agree. I don't think a lot of people actually disagree with that particular notion).

However, we had only 49 words dedicated to Septon Meribald's speech, and it was pretty much "it was awesome, you guys". Why not dissect it a little bit further? I agree, it IS awesome. One of the best and most haunting passages in all 5 of the ASOIAF books. So why not spend some of that considerable intellect and research power into analysing and drawing parallels between the peasant's experience of war in real life and the speech written by Martin, instead of just going back yet again to the warrior women topic?

And please, before anyone posts inflammatory responses, once again: this is not a slight on Leigh. She's free to write however she damn well pleases, yes, I am quite aware of that. I'm trying to offer (as have quite a few commenters before me in this week and weeks past) just my 2 cents as to what I feel make these reads interesting. Where before I opened every new one with great anticipation of what the reactions and analysis would be, now it's "Is it a feminism rant again? Oh, Brienne chapter, yeah, here we go". The plot and characters are taking a backseat to this, and with absolutely no offense intended, if this keeps up I'm afraid I'm just going to stop reading and wish the people who enjoy reading this a great trip :)

Thank you for the great work, Leigh!
Birgit F
69. birgit
It is also becoming repetitive.

What is repetitive is the complaining, Leigh always finds new things to say about chapters with the same topic.

However, we had only 49 words dedicated to Septon Meribald's speech, and it was pretty much "it was awesome, you guys". Why not dissect it a little bit further?

Your post has 0 words about the content of the speech and how many words of complaining? (too lazy to count)
Sasha P
70. AeronaGreenjoy
@: The second paragraph is a giant series-structure SPOILER, methinks. If I'm right, would someone please flag it for whiting out? (I'm on mobile, so can't do it).
Steven Halter
71. stevenhalter
I, for one, find Leigh's writing to be interesting, fun, useful and on point.
73. sonstwohin
You cannot be surprised. Posts about what happens in the chapter get considerably less comments, actually you are encouraging her to write about the feministic stuff.
74. Amaryllis
But surely "the feministic stuff" is a major theme of the books themselves? I don't very well see how such discussions could or should be avoided. So when Randall Tarly tells Brienne that she'll chage her mind after she's raped-- implying "when," not "if "-- why isn't it legitimate to mention that not all women warriors inevitably get raped, and that not all male warriors are inevitably protected from rape? Why, when Taryly speaks for those who talk about Brienne as freak completely unheard-of in military history, is it a derailment to mention the real-world counter-examples?

The septon's speech is indeed moving. But maybe it doesn't get much play because it is almost a "set-piece," not really related to rest of the story. The treatment of women in Westeros is a constant theme, and it's to be expected that people are going to want to discuss that theme and the author's handling of it. The plight of the common soldier or villager during a Game of Thrones, a War of the Roses, a King Stephen's Rebellion-- not so much so.

And it may be worth noting that the speech, like so much else in Westeros, ends with a mention of rape, one of the septon's youthful acquaintances having been hanged for it. Isn't it worth thinking about who, in this story, gets punished for what kind of rape, and who rapes with impunity?

I've been a lurker on these posts, but one of the reasons that I read them is Leigh's insights on "the feminism stuff," as it "happens in the chapter." And I hope she continues to write them.
75. Wicked Woodpecker otW.
I don't suppose there are real problem with Titan's Daughter. Yes, timelines can be mess, but they shouldn't be within A Feast for Crows.
It could easily went all way through Braavos in first Arya's chapter, and then came back to Crab's Bay. Because Narrow Sea is kinda... y'know narrow.
76. Black Dread
@62 - The Israelis had horrible experiences with women in combat in their early conflicts. Casualties among men in mixed units were catastrophically high. Turns out chivalry is not dead and the men in those units could not deal with their woman comrades being wounded and killed – so they were taking ridiculous risks to protect the women in their units.

As a result the Israeli military made all combat units male only. There is now 1 infantry battalion in the Israeli Army that is mixed gender (out of I think 18 Infantry battalions total).

Women who have tried to pass the U.S. Marine Officer Infantry course always have problems with the marching (speed walking with 100lbs of gear on). Even women in non-combat roles such as MP often end up with back and hip problems from the weight of armor and gear. There have been several good articles on the topic by female officers in the Marine Corps Gazette. Women have succeeded very well in other roles with different physical demands such as pilots.
77. rstipati
I'm sick of guys whining about "feminist" reviews and reviewers. Go read something else. There are more than enough non-feminist reviews to keep your lips moving for days.
Tabby Alleman
78. Tabbyfl55
@77 So you're complaining about having to read something you'd rather not read, which is:

People complaining about having to read something they'd rather not read.

Just making sure I got it straight. : )
Chris Nelly
79. Aeryl
@78, The difference is, we don't go to the non feminist review and start whining "Where's the feminist perspective?"

The content of Leigh's posts have been known for awhile, her focus on feminism has been a hot topic for awhile.

So yes, I second #77s comment that I'm tired of hearing people complain about something that's not going to change. No amount of complaining is going to get Leigh to stop making this her focus, nor is it going to stop getting the dander up of the portion of the commentariat that values these reviews for that feminist focus.

It's become pointless and it should stop.

If they feel that something has been ignored, talk about it instead of complaining that Leigh didn't.

If the feminist focus makes them feel unwelcome, there are other places, in numbers that far outnumber the feminist ones, that will welcome them.
Jeroen van Berkel
80. Heronimus Rex
And here I was, thinking it would be the actual story that would be the focus... You know, I may be wrong, but I think a lot of commenters would really, really want this read to be a feminist blog. Instead of, you know, a cool read. I can remember it was a read. You know, about a cool story. Where sometimes people (and gosh! women too!) get to be in a very bad place with very bad people.
Chris Nelly
82. Aeryl
@80, Those of us that enjoy the feminist focus aren't the ones derailing the conversation week after week. There was discussion about the book, the story, the plot.

Its the ones who come in and complain "feminism AGAIN"

Leigh's read has always had a feminist focus, but that's only become an issue recently.

I think its because this particular book seems to be the least liked amongst fans, and they are redirecting their frustration at the read instead.

Some of it likely comes from the fact that feminism means every women, not only the women we like, so while we can find characters like Cersei flawed, we are also expected to find them sympathetic, and some people can't have that. Evil woman must be evil.

And again, if there is something you feel should have been talked about, but wasn't, that's what the comment thread is for. I mean, your only comment on this has been to complain that people aren't talking about what you want to talk about.
Bridget McGovern
83. BMcGovern
Given all the discussion of what Leigh should and shouldn’t be focusing on in these posts, I just wanted to weigh in on behalf of and point out that this series has been, from the very beginning, an experiment. When we asked Leigh to read The Song of Ice and Fire series, none of us knew how it would play out, or even if she’d connect with the books at all. All we ask of her is that she share her initial reactions each week as she works her way through the books, and that’s what she’s doing—she’s reacting to whatever aspects of each week’s chapter(s) strike her interest, as a first time reader. That’s how the experiment is playing out, and we’re quite happy to have Leigh continue on doing her thing, moving forward.

Would a different reader focus on different aspects? Sure. Would the Read be different if Leigh were writing it as a Reread? Absolutely. But that’s not what this series is doing, and that’s not going to change. As other commenters have pointed out, week after week, you should all feel free to bring up topics not covered in the original post relating to the chapters under discussion, either in the post thread or in the spoiler threads provided, as is appropriate—just because Leigh doesn’t discuss something that you find relevant or interesting doesn’t mean other readers won’t want to talk about it. And if this series just isn’t what you’re looking for, there’s a lot of discussion of these books on the internet—different strokes, and all. But this remains an experiment in progress—our thanks to everyone who’s coming along for the ride and adding to the discussion each week in an engaging and constructive way!
Bill Stusser
84. billiam
@ 82 & 83

But we've been told more than once not to bring up things that Leigh doesn't specifically talk about in the post because on this blog it is considered a spoiler.
Scott Silver
85. hihosilver28
Just chiming in with @billiam here, several times a discussion on things that Leigh hasn't brought up has been shot down.

That said, I keep coming back because of Leigh's perspective. That and AFFC is inherently interested in the role of women in Westeros, so for that to be a focus of Leigh is textual, not subtextual. It is a theme of what Brienne, Cersei, Alayne, Arianne, Asha, and to a lesser extent Arya are going through. Most of the viewpoint chapters in this book are female. To expect Leigh to not comment on it is a little silly because in a large part, it's what the book is about.
Bridget McGovern
86. BMcGovern
And as I've said before, I know separating everything that's even remotely spoilerish into a separate thread isn't a perfect solution, but it's the only way to keep the discussion on the posts spoiler-free. The spoiler thread(s) seem like the best place to bring up anything that might fall into the category of speculation, or connections Leigh may not have made yet, in addition to more obvious spoilers--that's what they're there for. The discussion over there isn't less valid because it's not on the post thread, and plenty of people have no problem commenting in both places, so when in doubt, I'd direct people over to the spoiler discussion as much as possible, for those that have read the novels. If you haven't read the books, I'd assume you'd want to avoid (even inadvertent) discussion of potential spoilers in the post threads as well.
Scott Silver
87. hihosilver28
That's why the spoiler thread is there, and I think it's a great way to have a completely open conversation. Billiam and I were just saying that this thread is by its very nature limited to solely what Leigh brings up. Not that we don't have a place to discuss what Leigh doesn't cover, as we do have the spoiler thread. But to say that we can bring up other topics that were relevant to the chapter, but Leigh didn't cover, in this thread isn't really true and has been quickly shut down in the past. The commenters and mods have taken the view that anything that Leigh doesn't mention is by its very nature a spoiler. Like I said, that's fine, but it is the way that this thread has run, and to say that we can discuss things that Leigh hasn't on this thread isn't really true.

This is the only read and commentary of ASoIaF that I come to on the internet and it is fantastic. Leigh, you've done an amazing job, period. You've brought a perspective that I didn't consider my first time through the series. And Bridget, you've done an excellent job moderating. Thanks for all the work the both of you have done.
Bridget McGovern
88. BMcGovern
@87--I see the confusion; I wasn't clear about delineating between the non-spoiler and spoiler threads as equal options in my post, and I've edited accordingly. Obviously I didn't meant to encourage anyone to bring up potentially spoiler topics in the post threads, sorry for any confusion, there :) Thanks, guys!
89. Ryamano
Regarding being taught about women in battle, I guess we Brazilians have one more example to remember: Maria Quitéria, a illiterate woman that volunteered to the independence war (in 1822), disguised as a man, and that kept serving the army during the war (in battles) even after it was discovered she was a woman (she started wearing a uniform with a skirt after she was discovered). She was even knighted after the war was over (Brazil was a monarchy after independence until 1889). She's now one of the patrons of the Brazilian army (more especifically of the complementar office corps).

Anyway, regarding women in battle and people "forgetting about it", I guess most people have throughout time had an idealized vision of war and didn't understand that, in lots of times, everybody fought, not just the soldiers or the men. And I mean everybody. In a siege situation, for example, everybody's lives are at stake, so it makes sense for everybody to fight (even if it's just by pouring boiling oil on the besiegers). In other desperate situations lots of womens fought, like in the eastern front of world war 2 (like as snipers in the battle of stalingrad).

I guess sexual dimorphism and the different bell curves that exist regarding physical atributes that happen due to it are responsible for the attribution of warfare to males. In ancient warfare this difference in strength and endurance (on average) was even more important, since war then was fought with swords and axes. After more reliable firearms were invented, this difference in average physical atributes is less of an issue. It seems to matter more regarding carrying equipment and marching, which are deemed traditional in drilling, but don't impact modern warfare that much (most infantry divisions are supposed to be mechanized and motorized nowadays).

And these technical advances in warfare have made it so that anyone can be drafted as a soldier nowadays. This issue of women in war reminds me of the issue of children warriors. Both are seemed like morally wrong to some people, but the technical advances in warfare have made it so that they can fight as well as men. Like the Liberian warlord says in the 2005 movie Lord of War:

Andre Baptiste Sr.: A bullet from a 14-year-old is just as effective as one from a 40-year-old. Often more effective.
Chris Nelly
90. Aeryl
@89, In addition, who do you think has an easier time hauling weight through the desert? The 250 lb musclebound person with a 60 lb ruck, or the 150 lb lithe and muscular person with a 60 lb ruck.

The Sailor witnessed this a great deal in SBU school, and with his friends who did BUDS, where the bigger muscular guys quit in higher numbers, because doing that kind of strenuous exercise is harder when you have more mass.

Higher muscle mass does not automatically equal better soldier.
91. trolllol

the stronger one, obviously.
Chris Nelly
92. Aeryl
Really, endurance, lung capacity, none of that got anything to do with it?
93. trolllol
not as much as you might think. no.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
94. Lisamarie
Well, yes, the stronger one, but the 250 lb man isn't necessarily the 'stronger' one. Strong is kind of a subjective term, anyway.
95. trolllol
you get it.

although stronger is not subjective, its pretty easy to measure. power lifers and weighlifters have been doing it a long time.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
96. Lisamarie
Well, I guess I just meant that when you say somebody is stronger, do you mean that they can lift the most, or lift something for the longest amount of time, or run longer, or run faster, etc. There are objective things to measure, but I think people might use the term differently in different contexts.
George Jong
97. IndependentGeorge
I'm late to the conversation due to work that I couldn't procrastinate any longer, but I may as well state my position again: Leigh can and should write about whatever she wants to write about, and commentors can and should feel free to disagree with her (and each other). As long as it's polite and somewhat pertinent, as far as I'm concerned it's all in the game (though the meta-commentary is starting to get irritating).

As to the issue of Brienne and women in combat in general:

1. Randall Tarly's an ass.
2. He's also a damned good officer who keeps his troops well-disciplined.
3. But still an ass.
4. Brienne is an the extreme end of the bell curve when it comes to her strength - she's significantly bigger and stronger than most noble-born men in the series, which means she can do a lot more than most of the men in the series.
5. There's a reason Jon gifted Arya a foil or rapier, and a reason why Ned hired Syrio to be her instructor: she likely will never have the build to wield a broadsword effectively or wear mail for extended periods. Brienne does.
6. There is no substitute for sheer physical strength. Skill beats size, but size is itself a skill - there's a reason weight classes exist in most of the martial arts, and why the bigger fighters tend to win in the ones that don't.

After more reliable firearms were invented, this difference in average physical atributes is less of an issue. It seems to matter more regarding carrying equipment and marching, which are deemed traditional in drilling, but don't impact modern warfare that much (most infantry divisions are supposed to be mechanized and motorized nowadays).
That's been the theory for a while now, but it's also proven to be largely untrue in practice. Modern soldiers actually carry more weight than their medieval counterparts, except it falls strictly on their shoulders & hips rather than being distributed over their entire bodies. Mechanized Infantry means you have vehicles carrying you to and from battle; once you get their, you've still got to physically schlep your gear from one point to the next, and that gear is heavy. Ammo is heavy. So are batteries (and the multitude of things which now require batteries).

I'm a pure civilian, but have heard enough stories from friends/family in the know that most of military life consists of lugging gear around. My favorite description came from a reservist (artillery - can't remember his MOS) who said his job consisted of 80% moving heavy shit around, 15% Powerpoint, 4% porn, and 1% actually working with the giant gun he mentioned on his resume. Granted, that description was skewed for the sake of humor, but the point was that even in a largely stationary job with a 10-ton vehicle hauling gear, he still spent most of his time moving shit around. (Or doing paperwork... most of which was related to the aforementioned moving of shit).
98. trolllol
I would argue that the strongest is the one who can "lift" the most. this will have the most carryover to everything else. ie rucking, endurance, running, etc.
conditioning is pretty easy to attain, strength however, is not.
are there diminishing returns? sure, where do they occur? higher than you might think.
also to clarify muscle bound=/= strength.
Steven Halter
99. stevenhalter
All people vary in their attributes. Some have better physical attributes. Some have better mental attributes. If a person has the ability to do something or has the capacity to be trained to do that thing (and they want to do it) then they should go ahead and do it.
Adam S.
100. MDNY
Okay, I'm going to step in here, despite my fear of getting burned. Given what was said by our moderator @83,86, 88, I am going to talk a little about this chapter, and some of the things that were not explored in depth during the read, but are also not spoilers (I hope).
Regarding sexism, yes it is prevalent in this series, and especially in many chapters in this book (Cersei and Brienne most notably). However, it was only really relevant to the beginning of this chapter, when Brienne faced Lord Tarly, yet it comprised the majority of Leigh's commentary. I'm not complaining in this instance, because I thought her examples of women in warcraft were educational and fascinating, but it did leave a lot out of her commentary on other aspects, especially the septon.
Septon Meribald is one of the most fascinating minor characters we've come across in a while (to me, at least). He is one of the common men ("I am nothing if not common", I believe he tells Brienne at one point) who suffer the most in times of war. The Riverlands have been ravaged from Harrenhall to Riverrun, first by Tywin's pets The Mountain That Rides and Amory Lorch, plus what is probably the scum that all other Free Companies rejected on humanitarian grounds, the Brave Companions. Then the northerners came in, ostensibly to help, but with their armies they, too, brought death and destruction, and mostly it was the common people who suffered. A knight can expect to be given food and have his wounds treated if he survives a battle, even if captured. A commoner is left to find his own way penniless, or else take up a sword or pike or axe for whoever grabs him up and presses him into service. As I mentioned above, GRRM objected to the Vietnam War (he became an official conscientious objector and served in Americorps instead), but I can't help but feel that his pages long speech about war was influenced by people GRRM knew who did serve. I loved that speech, and Leigh said that it was moving but gave us very little other reaction or description of it. I would love to hear her thoughts on what war is like for common soldiers like Meribald, and how the war of the five kings has devastated the center of the 7 kingdoms just as winter is around the corner (and it looks like a bad winter, judging by events north of The Wall, you don't need the Starks to tell you that much).
This is also one of the chapters that really touched strongly on religion, something that I feel is one of the stronger minor themes of this book. While we didn't get into specifics, we did find out that the Faith of the Seven is, in fact, a monotheistic religion- not polytheistic as Leigh believed when she discussed the monotheism versus polytheism in her discussion of one of the Davos chapters after we met Melisandre. In some ways, I see this as GRRM co-opting some of Christianity's roots, where things were borrowed from some of the pagan religions and incorporated in the new bible, resulting in the split of God into three parts, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There are 3 aspects of the Christian God, yet people refer to Jesus separately from God, just as people worship specific aspects of the Seven (Jaime always worshipped the Warrior, as does Pod and most boys, while Meribald now worships the Smith, or the Cobbler Above as he dubs him). I found this aspect of Meribald's speech utterly fascinating.
I would also like to bring up another point, one which is more questionably spoilerific, but I will do my best to avoid getting into spoilers. The Hound. We have now heard multiple references to a massacre at Saltpans, supposedly done by Sandor Clegane. What does it mean? There has been little to no speculation on this point, but on my first read it was one of the things driving me to keep flipping forward, despite the absence of my favorite character (Tyrion) and the dearth of chapers with my second favorite (Arya). I always liked the Hound- well, since we really met him in Sansa's chapter when he shared the story of how Gregor scarred his face, and later in GOT he rescued her from the rapist mob. I never bought that he could possibly be committing these supposed atrocities. So what's going on? Is Randall Tarly just making things up to turn the people against Dondarrion? Hyle Hunt discovered that Dondarrion's crew are looking to punish the Hound as well, and Tarly is spreading false rumors that they are working together in the hopes of turning the smallfolk against the Brotherhood Without Banners (proving that he is indeed a smart and effective ruler, if not a likeable one). So again, what is the deal with this apparent massacre? Do we believe that Sandor really raped a preteen girl and a novice septa? I won't answer, but these are questions that drove me mad (and to rampant speculation) at this point in my initial read.
There, I feel better now. Those are just some of the things that I felt could/should be discussed here in the normal section, rather than over in the spoiler section. If I strayed into spoiler territory, I apologize, I tried hard to remain focused on what we've read, if not always on what Leigh has written. I'll do better next time.
Chris Nelly
101. Aeryl
For all the comments that discussion outside of what Leigh talked about has been "deemed" spoilers, that mainly pertained to Renly/Loras.

It wasn't that people can't talk about the things Leigh skimmed, I think MDNY@100 did it just fine.

It was when people would start quoting specific lines, and being all "ooooh, look, Leigh, this is important!"

If it's an event that happens in this chapter, and it's NOT an attempt to "help" Leigh make a connection she has no reason to even think about making yet, I don't see why talking about the events of the chapter skimmed by Leigh would be considered spoilers.
102. Black Dread
@89 / 97 - The amount of weight carried by Marines and Army Infantrymen is beyond belief. When you add up the rifle, food, water, gas mask, chemical warfare suit, helmet, body armor, e-tool, etc. in the basic load, it’s easily 60 lbs. Then add all the unit stuff that gets distributed when it’s real such as ammo (think lead), more water, radio and batteries, etc… 100 lb loads are not out of the question. And it gets worse for the poor saps on mortar, anti-tank, or machine gun teams. An 81 mortar baseplate alone is 27 lbs.

Marine infantry marches often, far, and fast with these loads – at least a 4 mph pace all day. I’ve been on 40+ mile marches. Just brutal.
But, it is still important. There are light infantry units on patrol in the hills of Afghanistan right now. In 1991 the 7th Marine Regiment (Task Force Grizzly) did a foot-mobile infiltration into Kuwait before the ground war began. They march 20 miles or so a night and hid all day for 3 days before attacking and seizing the main Kuwaiti air base.

@90 – Most of the muscle bound guys were somewhat downsized by the time we graduated Boot Camp so I didn’t see them having more trouble than most in Infantry School. On the other hand, some of the real “PT Studs” (the skinny marathon runner types) absolutely broke down in infantry school. Many a hot day marching past guys flopping on the side of the trail in heat stroke convulsions, or as we called it, “the fish out of water”. The Corpsmen would pick them up after the column passed.
Tabby Alleman
103. Tabbyfl55
I'm not intending this as a complaint, MDNY, because I appreciate the thought and care you've put into your post.

I suppose though, that here in the Leigh-posts, anything that resembles a "Leigh didn't mention this..does that mean she missed it, or missed its is a thought she may not have considered..." could be something the moderators would wish to avoid having Leigh read, since it could affect her reading of future chapters, and I think in this case we're supposed to be under the prime directive of observing without interfering, in even the slightest way.

Now I have my doubts as to whether Leigh even reads these comments anymore, so I'm certainly not castigating. Personally I think the stuff you talked about could only make this read a better experience in the future if they did catch Leigh's attention and give her some food for thought that she wouldn't have found on her own. But there are as many opinions as there are commenters, so I won't pretend that that counts for anything. One reader's improvement is another reader's spoilage.

To further expound on your second paragraph, though, when 90% of a blogger's post is about sexism, it shouldn't surprise anybody when 90% of the comments are about sexism as well. It would seem that there are those of us who would rather discuss the books as a work of fiction and those who would rather use it as a lens to focus on real world social issues, with most of us being somewhere on the spectrum in between.

I guess on chapters like this, the thing to do if you want to discuss the plot and not the social message is to roll your eyes and go to the spoiler thread.
Nicholas Gaulin
104. nickgaulin
I want to dress as Jon Snow for Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade Ball

Where would I go about getting a cloak like that does anyone know? Also, the wolves head on Longclaw, is that treated steel or stone? I want to get it right cause I really love Jon Snow. Also quick question, is anyone else going to Labryinth in Los Angeles? Maybe we could get the whole of Game of Thrones characters to take over the labryinth!

PS: To anyone who doesn't know what i'm talking about its this -
Adam S.
105. MDNY
@103 Tabbyfl55- I did preface my (long) post by saying that I only posted it here, on the main thread, because BMcGovern specifically stated that we can say things like that in the main thread in an attempt to move the discussion along, rather than having it dissolve into bickering about sexism, and whether aspects of a chapter are sexist, and whether sexism is the most important aspect of a chapter, and whether there are other things being missed because of the focus on sexism, and whether Leigh's views are skewed, and whether readers who disagree with Leigh's views are sexist, and on and on until two thirds of the discussion end up being things that I have no interest in. So I was just attempting to direct the discussion in a way that our noted moderator SPECIFICALLY stated was acceptable. I know that there are things that need to be said on the spoiler thread, and I often use it, but I prefer to talk here about many things, as I appreciate the input of all the readers, not just those who know the series well (e.g. stevenhalter, whose first-time read is very enjoyable to follow alongside Leigh's).
@104 I believe the hilt of Longclaw was carved stone, but I've seen several reproductions online, all of which use steel or another metal. Then again, none of them used real Valyrian steel for the blade, so I don't think it matters what is used for the pommel anyway, as long as it looks real enough.
Deana Whitney
106. Braid_Tug
@MDNY: I liked your comments at 100.
It really does suck to be a commoner. Or an innkeeper that gets hung for "treating the other guys well when they were in power."
Really a damned if you do or don't situation.

This Septon, I love. His speech was one of those perfect pieces of writing.

And like you, I was wondering WTH? with the Hound. Leigh may not be interested in him because she believes he is doing those things. His brother sure was. The Hound has been kicked so many times maybe he's just become a rabid dog.

@104: The Pommel piece can be either carved stone or metal. In the HBO show it looks to be a carved ivory (in color), in book, I can't remember the material being described. Just that the Bear needed to be changed for the Wolfhead. If it's ivory, it would be Walrus ivory, since the North dosen't have many elephants.
But since that's illegal, there are some nice plastics that can be carved. That is, if you want to go that detail in your cosplay.
Tabby Alleman
107. Tabbyfl55
@MDNY, what did you see BMcGovern say? She says in her second post that she edited her first, so maybe you're looking at something that's not there anymore? Because here's what I see:
The spoiler thread(s) seem like the best place to bring up anything that might fall into the category of speculation, or connections Leigh may not have made yet, in addition to more obvious spoilers
And again, I'm in agreement with those who say your post was a positive contribution to the discussion. But also, my opinion isn't any more valid than anyone else's who might have been upset because in their opinion it's a spoiler and against the stated wishes of the moderator.
Scott Silver
108. hihosilver28
It wasn't about Renly/Loras, there was a huge disagreement among the commenters during The Sworn Sword about what discussion constituted a spoiler.
Adam S.
109. MDNY
@107 Tabbyfl55: It was actually comment 83: "As other commenters have pointed out, week after week, you should all feel free to bring up topics not covered in the original post relating to the chapters under discussion, either in the post thread or in the spoiler threads provided, as is appropriate—just because Leigh doesn’t discuss something that you find relevant or interesting doesn’t mean other readers won’t want to talk about it."

Based on that statement, I decided to try to bring up some points here in the main thread that are NOT spoilers, but are sometimes called spoilers because Leigh hasn't said them. Thanks for your positive thoughts on my long post, and thanks to Aeryl and Braid_Tug as well. Oh, and I diidn't realize it at the time, but whoo! I got my second ever Hunny! (Victory dance)
110. OldWoman
OMG. Feels like high school again sometimes. I'm really enjoying Leigh's thoughts. I believe it's all about choice. Do I have a choice to move up in society? Do I have a choice to be a soldier and not a mother? Do I have a choice to marry the person I want. People who have power try to remove individual choice. That's how they keep their power. Rape is not done because someone is attractive or not, it is an assault meant to put someone in their (lessor) place.
Keep it up Leigh, you are sparking plenty of comments whatever tack they take.
Jeroen van Berkel
111. Heronimus Rex
@100 MDNY - Well you sure made me feel better too. Great comment, thanks! I remember I had exactly the same feeling with the Hound when I first read about all those reports. What the hell was up with that! I felt a bit angry at George Martin for torturing me that way :-)

And Septon Meribalds speech. The first time I read it I was like "sure, whatever" because I just wanted to get to the events with the main characters as soon as possible after waiting for so long. I didn't appreciate it as much as I should. As much as it deserved. Even forgot all about it the second I turned the page... (I think that is the real curse for readers who have to wait for years before the next book is out: reading feverishly to get to the juicy stuff (racing through the country) and in doing so missing the subtle beauty all around and everywhere. I guess I took the highway instead of cruising through all the country roads.

But! On reading it the second time (and the third time) it really struck me hard. Like accidentaly finding a beautiful gem just lying there beside the road as I was really taking my time strolling around the country. It made me wonder who George Martin would have interviewed to get to this deep understanding of the collateral damage of war.

Septon Meribald also reminded me of the good people can do in the name of whatever god they worship. Gave me a good feeling.
Tabby Alleman
112. Tabbyfl55
Ah I didn't look back that far. This read walks a tricky line: In the Malazan read/re-read, one of the bloggers is reading the books for the first time and so the commenters are requested to refrain from spoilers, but in that case, once we've gotten to a spot in the books, it's fair game to discuss it even if the first-time reader missed it. In fact, she appreciates having things clarified if she either missed it, or just didn't follow what was going on with it. But here, Leigh chastised the commenters for cluing her in on the Loras/Renly thing, even though it was there in the book at that point, and it seems like the mods are generally erring on the side of "if Leigh didn't talk about, shhhh!"

Well at least if there is some doubt as to whether something is a Leigh-spoiler, there is the white-out option.
Rob Munnelly
113. RobMRobM
Re spoilers - key point is that we want to avoid overly-specific references to subtle points that become important later, that Leigh did not pick up on. "Leigh, you should pay particular attention to the color of Ned's socks...." is a (hypothetical) spoiler. (The real spoilers were talking about all the subtle facts that lead to conclusion that Renly and Loras were having an affair when Leigh just wasn't getting it; or telling Leigh that Arya was having a discussion with her fiance (Elmer Frey) back in ACOK when she didn't put the pieces together).

General discussion of what Leigh covered and really obvious things that Leigh clearly saw but didn't choose to comment should be ok (except, again, for subtle future looking conclusions from general facts; those should be reserved for spoiler thread).

Does this make sense to all? It seems to reflect our modus vivendi since this re-read began.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
114. Lisamarie
I like your comments me they just seem like an expansion/musings/reactions on parts of the book, not speculation or hinting at something in the future, or purposefully attributing extra importance to it. Just saying that it's YOUR reaction to it. So I think those kind of comments should be okay.

I actually had some other thoughts on the comparison of the Trinity to the Seven but I can't articulate them because it's a tricky subject (I think there is some legend surrounding St. Augustine who was trying to think about/explain the Trinity and he encountered some kid trying to put the ocean into a little hole on the beach who told him that was like trying to fully comprehend the Trinity while still on earth and then vanished). I don't see the Seven as a perfect analogy myself but there are definitely some commonalities. I think one of the main differences for me is that peopel seem to have devotions to certain 'aspects' of the Seven, whereas the Trinity is a little more interdependent...separate persons, yes, and certainly there are prayers that may focus on one or the other...but I get the impression a person could go their whole life only praying to the Mother or the Smith or whatever, whereas that would be a bit neglectful, in Catholicism at least (I know some denominations don't even believe in the Trinity at all). Not to mention the idea of the Stranger being a little 'dark' for the Trinity. But, you've inspired me to go back and reread that section because I actually dont' remember them emphasizing monotheism in the faith of the Seven, and that is pretty interesting.
115. mmaak
Didn't read through all the posts above, but wanted to mention a series of books by Vicki Leon called Uppity Women. It's all about various historical women who did extraordinary things. Most of the books are set by time period, for example "Uppity Women of the Renaissance". Thoroughly entertaining history reads.
116. emeraldreverie
Re: strong women and our ignorance of - y'all might enjoy this
117. Beastofman
I want to take Septon Meribald's speech and use it as a dramatic monologue. It's so well written and my hands-down favorite moment of the book series.
R. Burke
118. Maester Tarly
@Black Dread and others...
The issue of women in combat seems fairly straightforward(ish):
1. Keep the requirements identical. If they're valid for a reason, then that validity remains, regardless of who qualifies.
2. No, not many women will make it. Some will.
3. Enforce rules about sexual harrassment and fraternization.

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