Aug 7 2014 1:00pm

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Feast for Crows, Part 25

George R R Martin Song of Ice and Fire A Feast For CrowsWelcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.

Today’s entry is Part 24 of A Feast for Crows, in which we cover Chapter 35 (“Samwell”).

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 35: Samwell

What Happens
On board the Cinnamon Wind, Sam performs funeral rites for Maester Aemon, eulogizing his wisdom and heroism, and weeps when he is done. After, Xhondo and the crew honor Aemon in their tradition, which is to “drink his life,” and celebrate him with a party. Sam mourns that they were not able to get Aemon to Oldtown in time for the healers there to save him. He remembers how Xhondo’s talk of dragons in Braavos had seemed to revitalize Aemon, who excitedly made plans to find Daenerys and advise her. Sam had given everything he had except the clothes on his back and the broken horn Jon had given him to get passage on the ship, but the stormy voyage was too much for Aemon, whose health deteriorated quickly.

He remembers how Aemon charged Sam with convincing the archmaesters at the Citadel of the dire conditions at the Wall. He’d spoken of how Melisandre had misread the signs about Stannis, and how Daenerys is their true hope. He said she must be sent a maester to advise her, and lamented bitterly that he learned about her too late to go to her himself. Sam tells Gilly that Aemon should never have left Castle Black, but Gilly points out that the red woman would have likely burned him for his king’s blood if he’d stayed, same as Dalla’s child that Gilly now cares for. She suggests naming the child Aemon Battleborn in his honor, and Sam agrees.

Kojja Mo, the captain’s daughter and commander of the archers, adores the child and has him for the evening. Sam and Gilly get drunk on the rum being served, and when he walks her back to the cabin, Gilly kisses him. Sam tries to tell himself he cannot do this, but quickly succumbs and they make love. She tells him she is his wife now, and though he thinks it can’t be, he says yes. After, he curses himself for breaking his vows, and considers jumping into the sea, but falls asleep instead.

Sam is miserable and hungover the next day, working with the crew to earn their passage, and avoids Gilly until Xhondo drags him to see Kojja, who threatens to throw him into the sea unless he goes to see Gilly. She makes a speech declaring that love is a natural and good thing, and that the Westerosi gods are demons if they condone shaming love. Sam protests that he took a vow, and Kojja tells him that Gilly knows she cannot keep Sam, but he is all she has for now, and again insists he go to her.

He went to Gilly. “What we did… if I could take a wife, I would sooner have you than any princess or highborn maiden, but I can’t. I am still a crow. I said the words, Gilly. I went with Jon into the woods and said the words before a heart tree.”

“The trees watch over us,” Gilly whispered, brushing the tears from his cheeks. “In the forest, they see all… but there are no trees here. Only water, Sam. Only water.”

Aw, Sam. And aw, Aemon.

This was a very sad chapter. And a very problematic one, but I’ll get to the latter in a moment.

I won’t lie, I got genuinely choked up at Sam’s eulogy for Aemon, but even more so at the depiction of Aemon’s regrets re: Dany. How terrible to discover what you’ve been looking for your whole life, just a little too late. Not exactly a fulfilling end. Granted, it’s a rare person indeed who comes to the end of his or her life without at least some regrets, but this one is a bit more acute than most, I think.

I left this bit out of the summary, but it is very interesting that the Baratheons are Targaryens by Salic descent; I don’t think we’ve been told that before. And Egg’s direct descendants, too. I sort of doubt he’d have been proud to know that his daughter’s descendants were responsible for massacring his son’s descendants and plunging the entire continent into a bloody civil war. Assuming, of course, that the agnatic line wasn’t broken between Egg and Aerys, which I’m not sure is the case, but it was only like three generations so it seems reasonable to suppose. (For the sake of sanity I am ignoring the ritualized incest thing, because it seems that Rhaelle at least married outside the family, so those two lines of descent would be separate. I think.)

Well, nobody can fuck you up like family can fuck you up, I guess. Yay?

[Aemon] spoke of dreams and never named the dreamer, of a glass candle that could not be lit and eggs that would not hatch. He said the sphinx was the riddle, not the riddler, whatever that meant.

Crap, I know that this is referring to something I read earlier and I can’t for the life of me remember what it is.

As for Sam, it would be pretty easy (and tempting) for me to say that his vow of chastity is bullshit and no one in the Watch honors it anyway and he should just be happy with Gilly—and maybe I have said that in the past, about both him and Jon, I can’t remember—but I have to acknowledge my own personal biases on this score. I do rather think that vows of chastity are unnecessary at best and actively counterproductive at worst—but at the same time, it behooves me to acknowledge that advocating sexual freedom also includes advocating for the right of people not to have sex, if that is the path they freely choose.

Sam’s case is a little problematic on the “choosing freely” front (as, indeed, many of the Night Watch’s cases are, since “take the black or die” is hardly much of a choice), but technically, no one forced him to take that vow, and having taken it, it is a problem that he’s now violated it. And saying “everyone else is doing it” is a shitty and lame excuse, and we all know it.

But, well. ASOIAF does glory in its gray areas, and this is most definitely one of them. I can acknowledge that by the letter of the law what Sam did was wrong, while still feeling that on a more spiritual level (ironically), acting on his love for Gilly was right, and wishing he could stop beating himself up about it.

Sigh. But, given that “beating himself up about things” is pretty much Sam’s core character trait, I’m not holding my breath on that one. Especially since, unlike so many other things Sam berates himself for, this one actually is a fault of his own doing.

(Same goes for the flip side of the equation; I can acknowledge that Gilly was wrong to seduce him while still feeling total sympathy for why she did it.)

Very parenthetically, I get the feeling I was supposed to be shocked by the lactation kink thing, but yeah, I have been on the Internet way too long for that to be shocking. And besides, kink-shaming is also shitty and lame, and as these things go, this particular kink is actually pretty mild. So whatever with that.

The Cinnamon Wind was a swan ship out of Tall Trees Town on the Summer Isles, where men were black, women were wanton, and even the gods were strange.

Ho, boy. And now we reach the problematic portion of our program.

Okay, so. Whenever evaluating something a character says, does, or thinks about a thing—particularly when that character is doing/saying/thinking something highly questionable for whatever reason—it inevitably comes down to the question of authorial intent versus authorial bias. In other words, how much of that problematic thing the character is thinking is because the character thinks that, and how much of it is because the author thinks that?

Because, it’s ridiculous to suppose that an author is never going to write a character whose views or beliefs differ from his or her own, unless you have a hankering for some seriously crappy and monotone writing. Ergo, an author can have a character say deeply racist things, for instance, without it necessarily indicating that this is a viewpoint the author herself endorses. In fact, more often than not, the intent is to point out how very much not cool the author thinks that attitude or belief is.

This has been my general supposition with regard to Martin and his portrayal of the rampant misogyny endemic to most of his invented cultures in ASOIAF, for example. And I have been making that judgment based on a bunch of factors, but mostly on the fact that though his female characters are consistently demeaned and dehumanized by other characters, the text itself generally does neither of those things. The other characters may not see these women as real people, but they themselves do, and so, by inference, does the author.

That said, there have been points at which (in my opinion) his portrayal of that misogyny has crossed beyond the point of anti-sexist commentary and into a realm which verges uncomfortably close to fetishization. Or, at least, into using it as an excuse to be grim and edgy for the mere sake of grimness and edginess, which isn’t much better. Case in point would be the recent Reaver chapter, which as I’m sure you noticed I was less than complimentary about.

“I was afraid of her at first,” said Gilly. “She was so black, and her teeth were so big and white, I was afraid she was a beastling or a monster, but she’s not. She’s good. I like her.”

Therefore, believe it or not, this quote was not what made me uneasy about the portrayal of race in this chapter, because my evaluation of the author’s intent (obviously subjective, of course, but whatever, this is all subjective) is that Gilly’s statement was about establishing her character’s general ignorance and naïveté, and certainly not endorsement of the racism inherent in that ignorance.

But there is a racism issue in this chapter, and I’m calling it out because unlike Gilly’s blatantly ridiculous fears (and Sam’s equally ludicrous prejudices reflected in the quote I used earlier), it was endemic to the worldbuilding itself, and therefore I regard it as far more potentially problematic.

The culture of the Summer Islanders as presented in this chapter is, on the surface, seemingly a good thing. They are obviously far more egalitarian with regards to gender, for instance, than any other culture we’ve seen so far with the possible exception of Dorne, and they reflect what seems to be a marvelously enlightened and liberated attitude toward death and sex and life in general compared with what we’ve seen elsewhere.

All of which, to me, especially Kojja’s speech to Sam about the follies of his people’s ways, fell on the scale of Unintentionally Racist Tropes somewhere between Noble Savage and Magical Negro. There’s also something in here I can’t quite articulate about the perceived “barbaric” (and incidentally dark-skinned) society being so much more “free love” and “back to nature” and full of wisdom than those silly over-civilized white people, which has the same flavor of being intended as a compliment to that society but actually isn’t.

Those links explain what these concepts mean (and why they are problematic) fairly cogently, so while I normally warn y’all not to click on the timesuck vortex that is any given TV Tropes link, in this case you probably want to peruse them before commenting on my assertion here.

I am hesitant to expound more on this issue at this juncture, because I have at this point really only had the barest of introductions to the Summer Islander culture, and perhaps later on they get a fairer shake in being presented as flawed individuals rather than a monolithic collection of stereotypes. So maybe I am jumping the gun here. But nevertheless it was a thing that definitely jumped out at me when reading this chapter, and it’s subtle enough that maybe a lot of readers would not have noticed it (and, perhaps, is subtle enough that the author didn’t notice it, which is the problem) and so I point it out.

And that oughta be more than enough for you guys to chew on for this week, I reckon, so we’ll stop here. Be nice in the comments, and I’ll see you next Thursday!

Chris Nelly
1. Aeryl
I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children.

That's all Sam swore. He has no intention of raising any children Gilly might get pregnant with, and he has made it clear that they will never marry.

There isn't anything in there about not getting it on all you like with a consenting partner.

Sam broke no vows.
George Jong
2. IndependentGeorge
Your TVTropes link has a great Discworld quote regarding positive discrimination, in 71-Hour Ahmed's rebuke to Vimes:
Truly treat all men equally. Allow Klatchians the right to be scheming bastards.
Rob Munnelly
3. RobMRobM
Re the mysterious Aemon candle and sphinx quote, a re-look at earlier Oldtown chapters may be worth your time. Not saying more.
4. beastofman
Ah poor old Maester Aemon. He was the link we had between our current stories and the Dunk and Egg stories. But it least it explains the family background and why it was Robert, and not Ned or Jon Arryn, who took the throne after the rebellion, since he actually had a claim.

I thought of something interesting. This chapter is really about breaking vows in more ways than one. Consider the scene way back when when Aemon was telling Jon that his vows were tested during the sack of King's Landing. If Aemon was a younger man when he heard about Dany, would he have broken his vows and went off to find her? I don't think there is any doubt. Much as Sam broke his vows to be with Gilly, it's a matter of a chioce between keeping those riduculous vows and doing what is right.

Although no one is happier than I to see Sam get laid, I feel that is this is sex between two broken people. We already know Gilly's deal. Her father raped her and she had to leave her son behind, we now have Sam who was never welcome in his own home, finding a place on the wall. You can understand why he would be so reluctant to break those rules, since it was only through that brotherhood he was able to come into his own. (which of course makes his decision to leave the baby anywhere near his horrid father rather questionable)
Sky Thibedeau
5. SkylarkThibedeau
Well at least when Sam produces Gilly and the Wildling Babe to his family as his Woman they will at least look the part. Ole Randal might be proud of his eldest son for once. Especially if Gilly tells them about killing the Other.
z drake cupsford
6. zdrakec
"...broken horn Jon had given him..."

If this is the same horn that Sam found with the cache of obsidian weapons, my money is, that it is the *true* Horn of Winter.

Adam S.
I didn't have a problem with the depiction of the Summer Islanders. Yes, the thoughts of both Sam and Gilly are racist in some regards, but both of them learn to accept people beyond their race. They are both from regions that have no racial variety, so even if there isn't preestablished racial doctrine that colors their worldviews, it is not surprising that they might be initially wary of people that appear so different from what they are accustomed to.
The portrayal of the Summer Islanders' culture as so essentially primitive could be taken as demeaning and racist, but I choose to view it as an outside view of a way of life so different from Westeros (and from our own) that it is impossible NOT to portray them that way. And when you get down to it, Xhondo and Kojja Mo are not depicted in any significantly racist way, it's really just in Sam's and Gilly's thoughts and statements about them that it comes up.
Aemon's words on his deathbed are very significant. They refer to things in the prologue of this book, if you're wondering, Leigh. I won't say exactly what they refer to, but if you look back you should easily find what the glass candle that could not be lit, and the sphinx, might refer to.
It's VERY interesting, the things Aemon says about how Dany fits the prophecies, thus confirming that Melisandre is actually on the right track in most regards, just not in supporting Stannis, who it appears is not Azor Ahai reborn, because Mel is trying to force the prophecy to be about him. Part of this stems from his being the Lord of Dragonstone, but remember that Dany herself was actually born there, even if she's never lived there for an extended period.
Rob Munnelly
8. RobMRobM
I like this chapter very much, principally because of all the Aemon insight and goodness (that needs to be re-read multiple times to understand all of the implications) but also for the Sam personal growth and Sam-Gilly "romance," if we can call it that. Sam is growing up, even though he is mentally kicking and screaming to himself all the way. His eulogy for Aemon was awesome and it's impressive how he dug in and worked menial labor on the ship to get his charges to Oldtown. Well done.

Interesting thoughts on the overall view of Summer Islanders. So far in the books, they are uniformly made of awesomesauce. Great and wideranging world sailors, friendly to those in need (one talking to Dany in ACOK, one helping Sam earlier in this book, Alleras the half-Summer Island acolyte in the prologue, all of the people on the Cinnamon Wind), progressive and free-lovian belief systems, etc. Do we need some jerky counter-examples to make them less magical? Perhaps we do. Good point.
George Jong
9. IndependentGeorge
What makes Aemon's death extra sad for me is that Dany and Aemon were each other's last living family; they both could have gained much by meeting.

On the other hand, Aemon managed to just do something no other named character has managed so far: he died of natural causes, attended to by someone who loves him, after a long, rich, fulfilling life.

It doesn't matter to me that his last task remains incomplete, because everybody's last task will remain incomplete. Instead, he passed his burden on to his chosen successor, who accepted it voluntarily and will attempt to fulfill it to the best of his ability.
10. DougL

I think dodging a bullet by sheer luck of not getting Gilly pregnant, and hey, I don't know whether he did or not, you are using an active term of father, rather that the actual way it is used in almost ever society, which is as the sexual partner in a union which resulted in a child.

If Sam got Gilly pregnant, he broke his vow, since there are no condoms present, he's taking a shot in the dark, it's breaking his vow in spirit at the very least.

Sam did not want to have sex, he did not want to make Gilly sad because he loves her, but he did not want to have sex. This is not rape in the classic sense and I am not meaning to place it in that category, but Sam felt immense pressure here. This was not a romantic scene.

As to the racism you mentioned Leigh. Well, Gilly is lik;ey comfortable to some degree with Giants, I mean, she would know the exist, but there probably are not too many more sheltered people than this generational incest baby of Craster's. If she is presented with a huge black person for the first time in her life, well, that could be a little frightening. Since I grew up with a mid toned Asian girl in my class, and had a few Asian friend's in the family where my Dad leased a hayfield from, I was not taken aback when I met my the first black person I'd ever seen when I was about 12. Yes, there were not too many black people in the Okanagan in the 1980s. I had seen the Crosby show and the Jeffersons and so on, so I was not caught off guard. I am guessing Craster didn't have cable.

Sam's attitude is totally proper in context, the Summer Islanders flow trade around the world, but don't live anywhere else. We've seen a grand total of one living outside of the Summer Islands, the exiled King that wants help to go back and claim the throne. Does anyone want that to happen since every Summer Islander we've met so far has been happy? Obviously there present ruler is not exactly a tyrant.

There is no hate in Sam's quote, and while it is ignorant, it is not hateful, and Sam can be excused because he will learn through, probably his first time ever, interacting with Summer Islanders for any significant length of time.
11. olethros
It might be useful to remember that the supposedly problematic description of Summer Islanders is Sam's, not necessarily the author's. On this subject, at least, Sam is likely just as ignorant as Gilly, and it's entirely possible that his description is something he got from his father, a man not noted for his inclusive broad-mindedness.
12. just some guy
I find it slightly more insulting and "white man's burden"/
noblesse oblige to try to coddle these fictional dark skinned people. Every culture portrayed has been rooted somewhat in popular perception for a general template, why should a dark skinned people be treated any different? The shipbuilding, navigation, mercantile instincts and bowcrafting of the Summer Islanders are well respected and are "civilized" traits. The Wildlings already fill the "noble savage" role.

Just cause I book a vacation to the Jamaica (Summer Isles) with certain expecations of the culture and personality of the locals, I somehow am ascribing to some "magical black man" myth and don't believe they are capable of being surgeons and CEOs?

Every faction has some traits rooted in recognizable aspects of modern/historical society. Good and Bad. Its condescending to say "because they are a dark skinned group, they must be purged of the our modern-real life stereotypes, even though the European analogues don't"
Chris Nelly
13. Aeryl
I have always viewed the vow as meaning, to be an active participant in the child's life, not the genetic donor.

The vow is worded very specifically to ALLOW sexual activity. If it wanted to forbid sexual activity, it would have spelled it out, but it didn't, it said, Don't get married, don't take titles, don't abandon the watch to raise your kids.

I agree that there is some coercion here, but the thing pressure Sam was feeling to not have sex, came from something that didn't exist.


The show even has Sam be the one that points this out, so I am not the only one who sees it this way.

George Jong
14. IndependentGeorge
The oath's explicit purpose is to prevent the Watch from becoming a legacy which can be passed on to heirs, and therefore an independent army which could threaten the North. The theory is that no wives + no lands + no heirs = no incentive to rebel.
15. Ryamano
What a mistake Leigh.

The Summer Islanders aren't uncivilized barbarians. They've got the best nautical technology in the world, as far as the books have established it. Are they considered weird to the eyes of the Westerosi? Yes, as has been seen in Tyrion chapters before. But are they considered barbaric? Not more than the Ibbenese (sailors that come from the Northern island and deal mainly with whale oil. Two of them were bodyguards hired by Tyrion to oversee Shae due to them being gay), that are described as very hairy white people. King's Landing court has a Summer Islander refugee, Jalabhar Xho, an exiled prince that always asks the ruler of the 7 realms (Robert, Joffrey, Cersei) for help in taking back his crown. Is he described as a magical negro or noble savage? No, just a guy asking for help in taking back his kingdom (something that happened a lot in Europe. See, for example, Mulei Mohammed, exiled sultan of Morocco that asked King Sebastian I of Portugal for help in the 1570s). There's much more variety in the description of Summer Islanders than your post today implies. Just because they have a freer attitude towards sex doesn't make them inherently magical negroes. The people of Qarth also were more open about sexuality than Daenerys POV, that doesn't imply that they are more right about such matters than the Westerosi.
Maiane Bakroeva
16. Isilel
Well, Summer Islanders are hardly "noble savages", given that they are perhaps the most advanced and wide-ranging seafarers in this world.

OTOH, our other example of a summer islander with a bit of personality is Chataya... So yes, I can kinda see the issue.
We don't actually know anything about the exile king as a person, except that he did well in an archery competition during the tourney back in AGoT.
something something
17. Minstral
One thing that I would note is that Sam is really just as naive about this people as Gilly is, but in a different way. Before the Watch he lived on Horn hill, which is close enough to Oldtown to hear information of ships that come to trade. But what he will have heard, and read potentially, is from the tales of sailors and potentially a few sentences from a Maester in a book. Essentially, he received filtered views from sources that probably contain their own flaws and are unreliable.

Furthermore, medieval history was not particularly informative to their contemporaries. When the Muslims first came to Iberia, the Church was convinced that the Arabs worshipped a Pantheon of sin and decadence for at least a generation. Likewise, by the time the Mongol tribes had conquered and converted to Islam in Persia their ruler made a commission a scholar to write a book that detailed all people in the world. The mention that he paid to the Europeans was about two or three sentences, and he let it be about the Kingdom of "Franks" which had transitioned itself to France centuries before. It was at the time that European kingdoms were becoming powerful (14th or 15th century) and had contact with the east for trade for centuries. The scholar actually could have conducted research into the peoples of Europe by consulting the many Italian and French merchants that had set themselves up in small communities in his city (I don't remember the name of the scholar or the source). And after reading the “Princess and the Queen” by Martin, I fully believe he is aware of this (I mean that he is aware that these historians are not very reliable to the standard of today).

In this sort of light, we have actually had three depictions of the Summer Islanders in this series so far. The most obvious is the crew of the Cinimon Wind, the Second is that Exile prince in Robert's court that sought his aid to conquer his home, and the nameless men who were part of Vargo Hoat's mercenary band. The second example is not the most flattering; he absconded from his home and is now seeking aid in its conquest from a foreign power. The third is the most reprehensible, considering the atrocities that were committed by Hoat and the "Brave Companions" (or Bloody Mummers), but is not indicitive of the people just the individuals (they play no part except brief mentions by Arya and Jaime) . However, the first is a fairly positive portrayal of the Summer Islands, while also marking them for a bit more complex in terms of their industries then what you normally find black people portrayed as. Specifically their ships being described as better then anything that Westeros can produce is potentially a hint that they are more sophisticated than the Westorosi in some respects and not the people of little consequence, aside from slaves, that European imperialists that they were in this world.
Nathan Martin
18. lerris
@ 1, 13. Aeryl

I normally agree with your opinions, but I think you're wrong on this one.

"Father" as a verb refers to, in your words, being a genetic donor, and applies to unacknowledged bastards. The specific wording of the oath forbids the conceiving of children.

While the watch turns a blind eye to liaisons in Mole's Town, presumably due to the difficulty of identifying the father of a particular child, your argument flies in the face of Jon's oathbreaking with Ygritte standing as proof that he has abandoned the Watch.

Remember, there is a difference between a father and a dad.
19. GarrettC
@Aeryl: I agree that the vow is worded to allow sexual activity, but I also think it's a stretch to interpret the word "fathering" the way you are. Even today, using father as a verb pretty much only ever means taking part in the conception. Other words are used when we mean to say "being a father." Like "rasing" a child. And while I'm not a dictionary prescriptivist (dictionaries are problematic), I also can't find a decent referent to "fathering" being used as a synonym with "raising". I'll say a bit more about ambiguity later, but "father" as a verb doesn't seem to be ambiguous in its usage.

Aside from which, the "genetic donor" aspect of the whole thing is kind of culturally important to these people. Remember the hunt for Robert's bastards? A bit of a special circumstance there, I admit, but we've seen plenty of other "bastards" who have clear paths toward being granted legitimacy, which brings us right back to IG's point about why the oath is there. Having children is as much of a problem for the Watch as raising them.

It seems the simpler and, to me, more plausible interpretation of the oath is: Go ahead and have sex with whores, because you're horny, sure, and whores can be trusted to use those magically effective abortifacents Westeros is known for.

I think there's also some POV semantics worth playing here, because part of the problem is the intent that the oath was taken in. Jon, for example, clearly took the oath interpreting it as one of chastity. For Jon, how the oath is worded is kind of a trivial point at that point. He took an oath on the basis that for him, it meant chastity, whether or not the words were ambiguous (and that is kind of the point of ambiguity -- it's the individual's interpretation that matters). That appears to be the way book Sam took it, as well.
George Jong
20. IndependentGeorge
I have to admit - I'm just excited I can now make 'Fat Pink Mast' jokes without spoiling Leigh.

Because I'm twelve.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
21. Lisamarie
I had a lot of similar thoughts, especially regarding Sam/Gilly. On one hand, I was all happy and squishy for them, but on the other...

I do believe chastity vows CAN BE edifying and healthy and a good thing, even if they can be hard, but that is assuming you are really choosing it, and also if the context makes sense. Not many people in the Night's Watch can truly be said to have chosen it. Plus I agree with some of the above that there may be some blurry consent issues what with Sam feeling pressured and them being intoxicated, even if he did want it on some level.

I also very very similarly (and thought of those same tropes) regarding the portrayal of the Summer Islanders - although I do think Gilly's comment is a little more obviously 'character intent', not author intent, especially as she overcomes it.
Tabby Alleman
22. Tabbyfl55
@9 IndependentGeorge:
On the other hand, Aemon managed to just do something no other named character has managed so far: he died of natural causes, attended to by someone who loves him, after a long, rich, fulfilling life.
What about Hoster Tully?
Steven Halter
23. stevenhalter
Chapter 35 -- Samwell:We begin with the funeral of Aemon on board the  Cinnamon Wind. (we also have a call out to Lake Wobegon in the opening sentence).
Aemon's desire to help out Dany seems like a really good thing. Too bad that he won't be able to do that. I am guessing that Sam will have some problems explaining this to the maesters of the citadel and getting them on board. I am also guessing that Aemon's muttering a will prove useful in the future.

Sam and Gilly finally "hook up." That seems to have been arriving for some time now and will no doubt also cause problems. Sam seems to take his vows seriously even while violating them in spirit if not to the letter.

(Typed in Paris while massively jet lagged. Currently bemused to hear "Hooked on a Feeling" from a car driving by.)
Chris Nelly
24. Aeryl
Part of what makes the Magical Negro trope what it is, in this country, is that African Americans are oppressed, and the MN expresses no anger about it, but maintains a sunny friendly disposition despite that, with the wisdom of weather that oppression.

This is not the case with the Summer Islanders. They are not from an oppressive culture that we can see. They are more enlightened, because they are, not because they've been through suffering and have learned better.

This is why I think it fails the to meet the trope, though I can agree it can be a bit problematic
Chris Nelly
25. Aeryl
@18, I think those people were more motivated by a personal dislike of Jon, than any belief that he actually abandoned the Watch, and the story has borne that out.

And would this really be the first thing about the Watch and it's duties that it's current members have misinterpreted?

@19, But that wasn't done to protect the bloodline, it was that their uniform appearance gave lie to the claims of Joffrey's legitimacy. I don't think anyone, not even Cersei, seriously thought a whore's child had a legitimate chance of sitting on the throne and had to be eliminated.

And illegitimacy doesn't really matter for those of low birth, which is the majority of the Watch. The oath seems to me to obviously forbid them from becoming attached to their illegitimate offspring, which is what would lead them to wish to create a legacy for them.
26. Annara Snow
On the subject of "civilized people" and "savages" (noble or not), I think it's pretty interesting that the Astapori slavers think of the Westerosi as unwashed "savages" and that their "savage knights" (who apparently are so seen as incredibly dangerous warriors that even the Dothraki fear) are described in the similar tone someone from Westeros or the Free Cities may use in talking about the Dothraki.
Sky Thibedeau
27. SkylarkThibedeau
@22 We don't like Hoster cause he's the one responsible for Littlefinger's Path Of Destruction. His was too minor a House to grant a daughter to so now he's bringing down all the great houses
28. DougL
@27. SkylarkThibedeau

There are a few reasons to dislike Hoster, denying LF Cat's hand in marriage is not one of them, not in this context at least. LF is a power hungry jackass, what makes you think he would not have been a jackass no matter where he was? He just would have started with more power. I mean, he rose to a height that would have allowed him a good marriage, and is still destroying the realm for his own financial benefit.
Nathan Martin
29. lerris
@25 Aeryl

I was actually referring to Ygritte's rationale for sleeping with Jon to earn his acceptance into the Wildlings, not to the repercussions when he returned.

Mance understands the oaths taken by the Watch better than we the readers do.
Julian Niquille
30. Gesar
I mean, when we have very few contacts with a culture, it makes sense to me that it would look one-dimensional. That's what happened in reality, that's how stereotypes came to exist. In the cases where we extended on our knowledge in the cultures of ASOIAF, like for the at first barbaric dothrakis, we found traits that belied the stereotypes (Drogo not wanting to go to war at first, Drogo being a decent human to Dany, Irri and Jhiqui being good people).
Chris Nelly
31. Aeryl
@29, Yeah, but Mance's view of the Watch is just as corrupt as anyone else, they have ALL forgotten the true purpose of the Watch.

In addition, if our suspicions about what happens to Craster's sons are correct, there is a very practical reason for banning children at the Wall.
Sasha P
32. AeronaGreenjoy
I consider this the sweetest and saddest chapter in AFFC. Westeros needs all the wise, kind, gentle people it can get, and now we lost one before getting to know him fully. Maybe I should disapprove of Sam being forced to have sex with Gilly -- physically forced at first, then basically ordered at gunpoint -- but their sex scene was so sweet after he's spent so long bereft of affection from any source. Maybe it's one of the many times when we mentally beg GRRM for something and are then unhappy when we get it.

I’m greatly pleased that Xhondo refers to himself in the third person (and other people by name instead of “you”), just like Jaqen and Strong Belwas. Saaay, maybe they’re the same person! (Just kidding).

Summer Islanders are definitely not primitive, but the relative few we've met all seem to be Good People, which is always suspicious in this grim story.

@23: HA! That never reminded me of Lake Wobegon before.
33. DougL
@32. AeronaGreenjoy

I suppose it's also suspicious that the only slightly unhappy one we've met is the exiled prince or king that wants help seizing the throne, yet he must be good company because Robert liked him and he hangs out with Marg.
Zorila Desufnoc Eht
34. AlirozTheConfused
@Aeryl: he may not have broken the letter of the oath, but he broke the spirit of it. If you take an oath not to kill, you can't just have someone else do you killing for you. If you vow to be honest, you don't just say the truth in a way where every single thing you say is true but together they paint a misleading picture of the situation.

And, back in the medieval era in Europe, oaths were considered to be tremendously important. Breaking an oath was a terrible wrong (coerced oaths do not count as legally, socially, or morally binding, though). Oaths are extremely important in many cultures, but modern Western culture really has lost that value and the mentality that went with it. We are a people of loopholes. Even written oaths (legal contracts) are exploited and filled with loopholes.

We do not feel the magnitude of oath breaking like a medieval person would. Why should Westeros have such a modern western attitude towards oaths? I know it doesn't have to be perfectly realistic, but considering that the audience mostly puts up with the institutionalized awfulness of westeros on a "It's historically accurate, even though it stinks" basis, it rings really hollow to jettison fundamental medieval values and things-that-are-considered-important in this instance. It feels to me like Mister Martin is trying to have it both ways.
Arghya Raihan
35. Umbar
I remember being very irritated with the role Kojja played in this chapter. To be threatened into a sexual relationship (even one you actually want) on pain of death (serious or not) is just not right. She had no business interfering in what was ultimately a private matter. Maybe I'm just a prude, but the Summer Islander 'free love' attitude seriously skeeved me out.

On that point, most people seem to be forgetting Chataya and Alayaya from King's Landing. They were Summer Islanders too. And Chataya had some unsettling (to me, anyway) things to say about sexual attitudes back home.
36. ghallberg
No mention of the "Egg, I dreamed I was old." thing? It's one of my favorite quotes in the series.
37. Lyanna Mormont
I'm a little surprised by the comments about Sam being forced into sex by Kojja, because I never read it that way. All I saw her as saying was "Don't be a jerk by running away as soon as Gilly appears just because you two had sex. Go talk to her." Of course, Kojja is sex-positive and thinks it would be stupid for them not to have sex if they want each other, but at no point did I interpret her threat as being "sex or swim", just "stop making her unhappy by refusing to talk to her, or we'll make you swim."

But hey, different interpretations. I went to check the actual wording, which is "go to her," and I guess it could go either way. It just doesn't seem to gel in my mind that a Summer Islander would be for someone being forced into sex - just against anyone being ashamed of it.
38. WickedWoodpeckeroftheWest
Do we need some jerky counter-examples to make them less magical? Perhaps we do. Good point.
Well there's always Jalabahar Xho, exiled Summer Prince, that was scheming with king Robert to make Summer Islands part of Westeros Empire.

I remember being very irritated with the role Kojja played in this chapter. To be threatened into a sexual relationship (even one you actually want) on pain of death (serious or not) is just not right. She had no business interfering in what was ultimately a private matter. Maybe I'm just a prude, but the Summer Islander 'free love' attitude seriously skeeved me out.
Those bloody shipmaking (ha, pun intended) hippies doesn't care about privacy. Celibacy is dangerous and blasphemous, so those practicing it should be stops. By. All. Means. Necessary.

(In GRRM world even hobbits free love liberals are evil.)

Of course, Kojja is sex-positive and thinks it would be stupid for them
not to have sex if they want each other, but at no point did I interpret
her threat as being "sex or swim", just "stop making her unhappy by
refusing to talk to her, or we'll make you swim."
Well, one way or another it is death threat over Sam's private business, isn't it? "Sex or swim", "talk to her or die", "buy her flowers or we'll feed you to langustas".

Frankly, I find it more awesome than making SI-rs just boring, enlightened liberals. They are enlightened liberals ready to throw unenlightened people to the sea. Proper GRRM quality.
Reese Pistole
39. Domino
@24 Aeryl

Good point about Summer Islanders not being oppressed. They really don't fit the MN trope. Seeing as GRRM seems to be pretty well versed in trope subversion, I doubt he would fall easily into such a problematic one. I wonder if we will get much more info about SI culture in the World of Ice and Fire.

@36 ghallberg

I know! I was looking forward to Leigh's reaction to that since she knows who Egg is. Bummer. That line always gets me right in the feels.

@37 Lyanna Mormont

I agree. I did't interpret it as "sex or swim" either. She was just upset at Sam for ignoring Gilly over what she thought was something rather silly, sex shame.
40. NickH
I am surprised anyone actually thinks that Kojja's threat was real.

I think Leigh raised a valid point about the Summer Islanders. Martin invented some very complex and nuanced cultures: for the 7 kingdoms (that is at least 3 distinct cultures: north, south and Dorne), the wildlings and Braavos. But at the same time (as someone said already in an earlier thread) the portrayal of some other cultures is much more primitive. The ironborn and dothraki for example are somewhat caricature raiders/pirates. The summer islanders are "caricature good people" and this is also not very good.

The chapter is still one of the best in the book in my opinion.
41. olethros
@40 - Well, they're caricatures at least in part because we see them primarily through the eyes of Westerosi, who most likely believe in those caricatures in much the same way the average pre-1950s US resident believed in the "Oriental" stereotypes.
42. Black Dread
@26 - A very old opinion. Every ancient civilization in history started off as slavers. Almost as if bondage was part of the process of turning Cro-Magnon hunters into domesticated farmers – like turning a wolf into a dog.

In 900 AD, the Byzantine and Arab empires were supposedly the height of civilization - and both practiced widespread slavery. When the flow of slaves from Northern Europe dried up at the end of the Dark Ages, they developed the African slave trade – which Europeans later tapped into when they colonized the Americas.

Meanwhile, Dark Age northern Europeans lived more like Westerosi and generally did not own slaves (although peasants weren't much better off). They were also sneered at by the Mediterranean slavers.
43. ChloeJ
Hi. I've been reading Leigh's recaps and catching up on old ones for a few months now. I just wanted to throw my two cents in re: Summer Islander racism.

First, a rhetorical question: If all of GRRM's Westerosi characters were majority black, with less than ten white people thrown in, how would the story change?

Would it need to change at all? Arya Stark could just as easily be a black orphan girl assassin as a white one. We wouldn't have a debate about whether black people are being written with an unfairly one-dimensional culture, because they would be living in the main culture of the story. Black Brienne would still be able to kick ass, black Ned Stark could still vainly try to save the Lannister children and yet remain alive himself, and so on and so forth. I think the real issue of the Summer Islanders, and indeed the Dothraki as well, is that they are uncomfortably one-dimensional with little to no moral conflicts of their own as characters. They tend to be there to steer the white characters in certain directions, but not to exist as their own individual selves.

I took a Game of Thrones class last semester in college (it was bloody awesome, btw), and the teacher brought up another culture that really doesn't get the detail and attention it deserves. The Dothraki are caricatures of extremely violent dark-skinned people. Yes, they ride horses, but they also brutally murder each other at weddings and have sex in public. They don't even get the distinction of being noble savages the way the Wildlings do - they are literally just savages. A couple of things my professor brought up were interesting - how could the Dothraki have survived as a culture with their ideas of murder and mayhem as a lifestyle? And, why do they not have other aspects to their culture? Where is the art? The wood carvings, the beadwork? What do the children like to play at doing? Things like that are what shape a culture much more than what the outside culture sees and perceives.

At least with the Summer Islanders, we see more of their civilized side, but we don't see much of anything negative about them either. They don't get to be bad guys or try to take over Westeros themselves (wouldn't it be cool if they did?) They exist on the periphery of the story, and I can't help thinking GRRM mostly created Summer Islanders so he could say, "Hey, look, I put black people in my story!"
Julian Niquille
44. Gesar
@43: We see other aspects of the dothraki culture, don't we? They are willing to accept money from the free cities over warfare. They have the market thingy at Vaes Dothrak, and a rule of law that, even though it's breakable, is designed to get less people to kill each other in VD. Drogo has positive traits, and Jhiqui and Irri are overall positive persons. We know of Dothraki myths about the moon and the grass. I would argue the treatment of Dothraki culture is a counterargument to what is being said here. And so I'm back to what I said: as long as we have very few contacts with a culture, it makes sense that it would look one-dimensional. There's a reason why most people think of my country in terms of chocolate, watches and banks.
45. GarrettC
@43: I do think the Dothraki are problematic, but I also think it's only fair to point out that literally everything they do culturally that characterizes them as barbaric is also practiced in Westeros, with different window dressing.

Brutally murder each other at weddings, you say? Have sex in public, you say? Well, that's just one night in the Twins!

This doesn't excuse what makes the Dothraki problematic, but it does complicate it. I don't like to play the "trope inversion" card too much, because it's way too easy a handwave for many of the thornier bits of ASOIAF, but their characterization as dark-skinned savages IS deconstructive. That they're arguably more deconstruction than fully actualized culture is itself problematic, though.
Chris Nelly
46. Aeryl
Brutally murder each other at weddings, you say?

That is such a brilliant point, I can't believe I never caught that before now!

It definitely seems as if some points about the Dothraki were purposefully made, to show you, for however much enlightened the Westerosi consider themselves, they really aren't. I mean, the bedding is fucking barbaric and traumatizing, even to women who've been raised to expect it.
Deana Whitney
47. Braid_Tug
Yes, but the difference is that Dothraki consider it a boring wedding if less than three people die.

In Westeros, the Red Wedding violated all the laws and customs of Guest Rights. So while brutal murders happen in both cultures, there is a difference in how they are received.
Chris Nelly
48. Aeryl
That's true Braid Tug, but is still an important point.

The Westerosi consider themselves better, but at the end of the day, to ensure their dominance and power, they will be as brutal as the Dothraki.

There is something to be said about being honest.
49. lololololol
@47: Illyrio said that to Viserys with a very "oh those adorable savages" tone, IIRC.
Chris Nelly
50. Aeryl
First, let me apologize for the WALL O TEXT, but my mind went to some fascinating places as I continued, so I hope you read it.

@49, Also a very good point. We haven't had a Dothraki POV to give us their own perspective.

Blood sacrifice to ensure a fertile marriage, for example, is different that just flat out "kill em for the fun of it" and that's a dilineation the text does make, IMO.

It's the difference between Victarion or Melisandre. Sure, to the people killed by their beliefs, that difference matters little, but for the reader it does matter. These are the things we are here to examine.

Plus when it's posited that these supernatural forces ARE real, well that changes things a bit. You all go on WOT tangents like WOAH around here, so allow me to wander off.

Jacqueline Carey focuses on the idea that to be chosen by diety is to be forced to do endure terrible sacrifice and do terrible things in your life, in her final trilogy in her D'Angeline series. In the final book, the main character is forced to confront the fact that to do something remarkable, as fantasy books try to build to, these forces require the worst sacrifices of all, some time. A character states it as, Sometimes the Gods require blood.

So depending on the way this series ends, if the gods and magical forces that populate this book are REAL and influential, the idea of calculated human sacrifice as practiced by someone like Melisandre isn't as terrible as the slaughter and pillage by Victarion.

The case could surely be made that Victarion views his actions as serving his Drowned God. However, you have to contrast with other followers we've had the POV of, and Asha certainly seems to be a proper believer without the wanton brutality of Victarion or Euron.

However, as Victarion's belief in his god is sending him to Dany, AND if we accept that the Walkers are an existential threat to Westeros that needs Dany's dragons to survive, we have to examine if his actions, terrible as they are, serve the will of the forces we are supposed to look at as "good".

Another example of calculated human sacrifice, is Craster. Whatever the end result is, Craster giving his sons to the Walkers empowers them. Which is an act that can be read as empowering evil, as the Walkers have so far shown no motivation beyond slaughter and an opportunistic attack on LC Mormont(but again, they too lack a POV, nor do any POV character live among them to observe, like we got with the Dothraki and learn there was more under the surface). I think we can all agree that we feel happy to learn that Craster is no more.

Then there is Melisandre, who seems to believe she is serving the "greater good" so to speak, and doesn't believe in indiscriminate destruction to accomplish that work, such as Victarion. Yet, her actions seem ineffectual, insofar to the goals she claims to want to accomplish(Stannis on the throne, dragons from stone, converts through burnings). Does that mean we should judge her more harshly that Victarion, who can be rightly seen as doing something concrete to save an entire, no matter how terrible? Or should we judge her better, because her calling does not call for such brutality? And frustrating again as well, we don't have a POV into Mel, or any followers of R'Hllor, to know how much is "real" or "imagined"(I use quotes because the idea of outer forces influencing this world is still supposition, for all the fantastic things we've seen).

And again, Stannis condones Melisandre's actions and enables her when he can, at the risk of his own health at times. Because he is willing to sacrifice his own life, make his decision that it's acceptable to sacrifice his nephew okay? And, how does that differ from Dany's willingness to sacrifice Mirri Maaz Duur to raise her own dragons? Edric is truly innocent, but was Mirri truly guilty?

Last of all, let me state that we have gone off on this Dothraki tangent in a post about Sam, is one of the reasons why I love this site, and this comment section.
51. NickH
A change in perspective between outside POV and inside POV is a valid point, but I would argue that it doesn't explain the difference in the portrayal of different cultures entirely.

A good example when it does work is with the wildlings. At first they appear to be primitive savages, but our perception changes gradualy as we get to know them better. This is done mostly through Jon-Ygritte relationship.

With the dothraki I don't see much change in perspective, even though Dany's story with them is somewhat similar to Jon's - she is first an outsider, but then becomes a part of the khalasar and earns their respect.

Braavosi culture looks very complex even though we don't have any braavosi POVs. I heard many people say in this read how they like any chapters set in Braavos even when nothing really exciting happens.

Ironborn culture on the other hand is much more primitive even though we have multiple ironborn POVs. Some of them are decent people like Asha and her uncle, but the culture itself is not nice (and what is worth is not nuanced).
Agnaldo S.
52. Greenseer
In the appendix of Agot is mentioned that the founder of the house Baratheon- Orys- was the brother of Aegon The Conqueror. (I believe some of Baratheons characteristics are inherited from Durrandon (descendants of the First Men), for example black hair and not silver-gold hair, etc.). However, despite Baratheons have Targaryen blood; there is no evidence of crazy people in the House Baratheon. Of course Robert, Stannis and Renly are jerks, but not think it is family; perhaps even a lack of father and mother, since they were orphans. Anyway, this helps to prove that insanity is the result of incest between Targaryen. I think this could not be different for Joffrey..

Robert may have started a civil war, but there was also The Dance with Dragons, which was much worse than Robert's Rebellion.
Agnaldo S.
53. Greenseer
Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.
I think the vote Night’s Watch genius.
To every rule, there is an exception. However, I think the oath of the Night's Watch is well aim and unambiguous.Indeed, I think Jon and Sam break their vows when they had sex with a woman. Of course, it is quite reasonable to point out that Jon and Sam, compared to many other officers of the NW did not have a love life, since they were very young when they chose to make the votes.

However, I think that to understand the vows of the Night's Watch, it should be clear that all the votes are denying something that would be in the way of the man who took the oath. For example, Qhorin Halfhand dedicated his whole life to the NW. He became a great official and took very seriously its role of defending the kingdom. I doubt he has broken his vows with a woman (or man, I do not know). However, in retrospect, he was quite unattached his own life and that of other men who played their roles with him. A perfect soldier. Basically, I believe that when the Night's Watch was created, that was the goal. But is it really good? I, indeed, have doubts.

I think the breaking of votes one way or another creates a dilemma: for example, Jon might have decided to stay with Ygritte, and be a perjury or the Night's Watch. In the end, he decided NW.It is the same dilemma Ned in King's Landing: honor or love. A good deed holds true for the other bad?

/ Anyway, I think if Jon and Sam want to have children and a loving relationship, they will have to defeat the Others once and for all. Thus, Sam can bring down the Wall with broken old warhorn and Jon would be the last Lord Commander../
Jonas Schmiddunser
54. Jineapple
To be honest, most of the "exotic" cultures are pretty stereotypical. The summer islanders definitely are, the Ironborn are a pretty extreme viking cliché and the Dothraki as well as the other people living in Essos are quite stereotypical.
GRRM can write great characters, and believable characters, even within these cultures. But on the whole, they all feel very much like imagined by someone who doesn't know these cultures and just goes for the stereotypes.
55. Annara Snow
@22 - 23 I'd say that tricking his daughter into aborting a baby she wanted to have, and then forcing her into a loveless marriage with a much older man who would always resent being basically blackmailed into accepting "damaged goods" for wife, is a much better reason to dislike Hoster. He himself was aware of it and felt guilty.
Adam S.
56. MDNY
@55 Annara Snow- You're judging Hoster Tully by 21st century standards. The fact is that Lysa, as a young unwed daughter of a powerful Noble house, had a duty to remain chaste until marriage and to marry at her father's direction for the good of the family. Cat understood her role, and agreed to marry first Rickard and later Ned because it was arranged by her father, despite leaving her beloved home for a cold, isolated region where her Gods weren't even honored.
"Family. Duty. Honor." are the Tully words, and Lysa, in sleeping with LF, did not uphold those words. This resulted in her being married to Jon Arryn, despite the great age difference, because he was the only member of a great house that would accept a non-virgin (likely because he was so old and had no heir, and was thus desperate for a possible heir, and Lysa had proven herself fertile). Yes, Hoster regretted what he did, but he still acted in the best interests of the family, and what he viewed as the best interests of Lysa herself.
57. AeronaGreenjoy
That's why I could hardly believe my ears when first learning that Asha, Arianne, and Amarei had active premarital sex lives with apparent impunity.
Marie Veek
58. SlackerSpice
I really have to agree with @55 on this one. Hoster betrayed Lysa's trust in her family by making her drink the moon tea, and violated her right to choose in the process. The act damaged Lysa's mind and very likely her body, depending on how far along she was when it happened, and undoubtedly influenced her decisions later in life. It's not Tywin's undisguised loathing of Tyrion, but it is still an act of abuse, regardless of whether or not people recognize it as such in-universe.

Also, yes, Westeros operates by a different set of moral standards than the real world, but I don't think I should be obligated to respect those standards when those standards are actively harmful.
59. AeronaGreenjoy
I feel like I've heard this chapter be referred to as the one where "Sam gets laid and Aemon gefs laid to rest," even if the maester isn't technically in his final resting place yet.
Rob Munnelly
60. RobMRobM
@59 - reminiscent of the episode of the TV show when Jon loses his virginity and Lord Commander Mormont dies and is eulogized - giving a double meaning to the episode title "And Now His Watch is Ended." Here's another linkage of death and broken vows among the NW.

@58 - likely not moon tea. I'm betting on the herb Tansy - which was an abortofacient in high doses during the Middle Ages.

@57 - some have access to moon tea, some are afraid to talk to Maesters to get some.....
61. AeronaGreenjoy
@60: It was moon tea, made of tansy and other herbs. I checked Lysa's Wiki of Ice and Fire page for the quote.

Nice comparison of the chapter/episode!
Adam S.
62. MDNY
@60,61: Lysa actually listed the ingredients of moon tea when she recounted what she was made to drink: "“tansy and mint and wormwood, a spoon of honey and a drop of pennyroyal" (ASOS chapter 80). Both tansy and pennyroyal have been used as abortificants in Europe.
Marie Veek
63. SlackerSpice
@62: She also describes it as "murdered with moon tea".
64. caladria
I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children.

AKA "I shall not let my devotion to the Watch and the safety of the Realm be undermined by familial ties or thoughts of personal gain."

Ironically, those who go into Oldtown, find a prostitute and then return are keeping the spirit of their vows a lot better than Sam ever was. It's not about getting their end away - it's about being separate from the Realm that they're guarding and not involved in its politics. And that means having no family except other Crows.
George Jong
65. IndependentGeorge
As is often the case, the Watch's vows are better in theory than in practice. The letter and the spirit of the vows have diverged pretty far, leaving much room for interpretation as to what their actual duties and responsibilities are.
Simon Ellberger
66. Puntificator
As part of Aemon's ramblings, he says: "Will I talk with Egg again, find Dareon whole and happy, hear my sisters singing to their children?" Why would he worry about finding Dareon whole and happy? I think this is a careless and confusing misprint for Daeron, who was Aemon's brother.
Birgit F
67. birgit
Ironically, those who go into Oldtown, find a prostitute and then return
are keeping the spirit of their vows a lot better than Sam ever was.

Going all the way to Oldtown from the Wall would take a long time. Mole's Town is much closer.
68. Majiq
I think the vow was instituted to keep the brothers from noble houses producing potential heirs.
Tabby Alleman
69. Tabbyfl55
nah, I think it was more likely created to keep brothers from having a reason to desert. No ties to the rest of the world.
70. Annara Snow
@56 - Just because things like marital rape or a father tricking his daughter into abortion are not illegal in Westeros, doesn't mean we should say "oh, it's completely OK." Then you may as well say that forced marriages, marital rape and domestic abuse are perfectly fine IRL in those countries where they are not illegal, while women should be stoned for adultery and men should be executed for homosexuality where that is the law.

And it's not even like the people in Westeros don't know that these things are wrong, even though they may be legal. Hoster himself felt very guilty on his death bed and kept asking Lysa to forgive him.

@57 - No, not really. Arianne lives in a completely different culture with very different views about sexuality and women. Asha has been perceived acting "like a son" of Balon, because he saw her as his son (he even calls her and Theon "my sons"), she is a warrior respected for her warrior prowess; other women would not get that kind of status among the Ironborn, but she is king's daughter and possibly his heir. Arianne is definitely the heir to Dorne. If Lysa had been heir to Riverrun, great houses would be bending over backwards to have one of them marry her to get their hands on the Tully lands. But she was just the younger daughter, coming after Edmure, Catelyn and all their future children in the line of inheritance.
Amarei isn't trying to get married to an heir of a great house; she did get married to a Lannister, but that was a part of the political alliance, Lancel is just a cousin, not Tywin's son, and Lancel didn't care and was himself 'damaged goods' what with going off the rails after BW and wanting to join the Faith.
Anyway, Cersei also wasn't a virgin, but that didn't matter, because it was not public knowledge. Lysa's problem was she got pregnant so it was harder to hide, but she could have been married off to some minor Tully bannerman. But Hoster was too proud and wanted a son-in-law from some great house. (Maybe that's why Edmure was still not married though he was at least in his late 20s? Hoster having trouble finding a suitable bride from a great house? They weren't many available of the right age, and we know that (whited out for what I think is still a spoiler at this point) Doran refused to marry Arianne to Edmure.)
71. Annara Snow
Ugh, the spoiler was whited out in the preview, but not when I posted it. I don't know why that happened? Can someone fix it? Though, I guess, it's not a big spoiler anyway.

Moderator note: done, thanks! SR

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