Welcome back to A Read of Ice and Fire! Please join me as I read and react, for the very first time, to George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.
Today’s entry is Part 13 of A Game of Thrones, in which we cover Chapters 24 (“Bran”) and 25 (“Eddard”).
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, The Powers That Be at Tor.com have very kindly set up a forum thread for spoilery comments. 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 24: Bran
From his window seat, Bran watches his brother Rickon play with the wolves, and tries not to cry. He says it was lie about his flying, and Old Nan agrees that crows are all liars. Bran thinks the crow tricked him, and he just wants things to be the way they were before. Old Nan offers to tell him a story, and he tells her he only likes the scary ones, so she tells him about the first coming of the Others, and how they almost wiped everyone out, until “the last hero” set out to find the children of the forest to find out how the Others could be stopped.
The story is interrupted by Maester Luwin and Hodor, the simple stableboy, to summon Bran, as Robb is meeting with Tyrion Lannister. Hodor carries Bran down to the hall, where Robb is in the middle of very rudely refusing Tyrion Winterfell’s hospitality. Tyrion sees Bran, and comments that “you Starks” are hard to kill. Tyrion asks Bran how he fell that day; Bran insists that he never fell, but Luwin interjects that Bran doesn’t remember the fall or the climb before it. Tyrion then tells Bran he has a gift for him: a design for a special saddle that will allow Bran to ride, if he uses a specially trained horse. He tells Bran that “on horseback you will be as tall as any of them.”
Robb wants to know why Tyrion is doing this, and Tyrion tells him, because Jon asked it of him. Rickon enters with the wolves at that point, and all three of the wolves immediately bristle at the sight (or smell) of Tyrion. They nearly attack before Bran, Robb, and Rickon call them off. Shakily, Tyrion decides it’s time to leave. Luwin has a word with Robb, and Robb offers an apology and hospitality. Tyrion tells him to save the false courtesy, and leaves.
Bran goes back to his room for a nap, and dreams of climbing among watching gargoyles, who Bran tries to assure that “he didn’t hear.” Later at dinner, Yoren tells Robb that their uncle Benjen is missing and probably dead. Robb angrily denies the possibility; Bran remembers Old Nan’s story and blurts out that the children of the forest will help him. Luwin tells him the children of the forest have been gone for thousands of years, but Yoren isn’t so sure. Robb carries Bran up to bed after and promises to find him a horse. He assures Bran that their mother will be home soon, and that they will go on an adventure to visit Jon one day.
“An adventure,” Bran repeated wistfully. He heard his brother sob. The room was so dark he could not see the tears on Robb’s face, so he reached out and found his hand. Their fingers twined together.
Aw, poor Robb, and Bran. I know what a basket case I would be if anything happened to my sisters, so I won’t lie, I choked up a little bit when I read that Robb was crying. Many hugs have I for brothers who care about each other.
Man, I knew Bran was going to be all amnesiac about what happened, just because it would be too easy otherwise. The gargoyle dream, though, is a pretty strong indication he’s going to remember at some point, probably at the least convenient moment possible, because I sense that that is how Martin rolls.
But, special saddle for Bran! Letting him ride! I am a thousand percent in favor of this. Tyrion’s awesome quotient gets bumped up yet more.
It’s interesting that Old Nan knew Bran was referring to a crow when he said the flying was a lie. I suppose he could have told her about the dream at some earlier point, though.
“Oh, my sweet summer child,” Old Nan said quietly, “what do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods.”
Wow. You think Martin might be driving home a point about the suckiness of winter here? Because congrats, man, I’m convinced. Really, I think everyone on this planet should just move.
“The last hero,” eh? Wasn’t that an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie? And why is “Schwarzenegger” in Word’s spellchecker dictionary? These are the mysteries I ponder!
Oh, and the children of the forest? So not gone. Which is, of course, because any time someone declares in a fantasy story that some race/species/nation/thingy is dead, you can be pretty much 100% certain that that race/species/nation/thingy is both (a) not dead, and (b) essential to the plot in some way. It is A Rule. I expect no less here.
I’m also going to make a wild prediction now that Bran ends up being The Last Hero: The Next Generation and finds them, once he gets his riding mojo on, so they can tell him how to defeat the Others again. It would be fitting for it to be him, for sure. We’ll see if I’m right!
As far as what the children of the forest actually are, I’m guessing they’re Martin’s version of Tolkien elves: woodsy, magical, way older than humans, don’t seem terribly fond of us but will (evidently) help us if absolutely necessary, etc. And even if they aren’t anything like elves and I’m way off, I’m probably going to start calling them that anyway, because “children of the forest” is very annoying to have to type over and over. Get a pithier name, woodsy people, jeez.
Hodor: Is adorable. There’s always a simple stableboy, isn’t there? Of course, there’s also a tradition that simple stableboys often turn out to be much less simple than they seem, but I sort of doubt that’s the case with this one.
Robb’s hostility toward Tyrion is puzzling me a little, because as far as I can recall he has no real basis for it yet. Catelyn isn’t back yet with her information about the dagger, and of course no one knows yet what really happened the day Bran fell. I suppose she might have sent a bird with the info on ahead, but no one said so if that’s the case, and anyway, that really seems like the sort of thing you don’t want to put on paper, you know? I feel like I’m missing something here.
I mean, sure, maybe Robb just doesn’t like Lannisters, a sentiment with which I can heartily sympathize, but simple dislike is a very thin reason to risk alienating such a powerful and politically connected family. If Robb actually thought Tyrion had something to do with the assassination attempt that would be one thing, but since he doesn’t (as far as I know), it’s a pretty dumb move.
I wondered, at first, if the direwolves were all hating on Tyrion because he’d recently come from the Wall, but that doesn’t seem to make sense in retrospect. I had some idea they smelled the proximity of the Others on him or some such, but if so, why wouldn’t they have attacked the Black Brothers as well?
*shrug* Maybe they also just do not care for Lannisters. Again, not really blaming them on that one, even if I do like Tyrion individually.
Chapter 25: Eddard
Ned visits Grand Maester Pycelle to find out what he knows about Jon Arryn’s death. Pycelle tells him that Arryn had seemed out of sorts for some time, but otherwise healthy until the day he’d come to borrow a book from Pycelle, the morning after which he was too sick to get out of bed. Ned observes that Pycelle had sent Arryn’s original physician, Maester Colemon, away, and Pycelle agrees, telling Ned that Colemon was purging Arryn with “wasting potions and pepper juice,” which Pycelle thought might kill him. Pycelle says that Arryn called out “Robert” several times in his last hours, and then “the seed is strong” to the king and Lysa just before he died. Ned presses him, asking if Pycelle thought there could be a possibility that Arryn’s death was due to poison. Pycelle opines that it is possible, but unlikely. Ned asks for the book Arryn had asked for the day before he died, and Pycelle promises to get it for him. He also tells him that Cersei had not been in town when Arryn had fallen ill. Ned leaves, uncertain of Pycelle’s loyalties.
He runs into Arya on the tower steps, practicing balance drills, and teases her gently. Arya asks what Bran will do when he grows up, and Ned reassures her he still has options even if he cannot become a knight, though he is privately saddened by all Bran will not be able to do.
Ned meets with Littlefinger, who informs him that he has located four former servants among Jon Arryn’s retinue, left behind when Lysa departed with the bulk of the household, one of which was Arryn’s squire, Ser Hugh of the Vale. Ned proposes to send for them immediately, and Littlefinger points out to him the numerous spies who are watching Ned in the Red Keep. He tells Ned to send a trusted servant to the four former servants instead. Ned offers his gratitude for the help, and opines that perhaps he was wrong to distrust him; Littlefinger replies that distrusting him is the wisest thing Ned has done since arriving here.
Ooh, what is the book? And will we ever know, because Pycelle could totally just give Ned a random one and he would never know. Though I have some trouble thinking a guy as old as Pycelle could really be all shady and intrigue-y, but that’s probably just me being ageist or something.
Littlefinger: Dude, I hate guys like this, with the “I’m telling you not to trust me so you will trust me, because I wouldn’t tell you not to trust me if I were actually not trustworthy, but maybe I’m just saying that because that’s exactly what a trustworthy person would say, and I’m untrustworthy enough to use that, and oh no I’ve gone cross-eyed.” Seriously, don’t bother, Ned. He’s either untrustworthy or really into playing head games, and why would you want to deal with that either way?
Yeah, okay, beggars can’t be choosers, I know, and Ned has precious few allies in his current situation. But man do I want to kick Littlefinger in the teeth on general principle.
“I have heard it said that poison is a woman’s weapon.”
Pycelle stroked his beard thoughtfully. “It is said. Women, cravens and eunuchs.”
My, what lovely company to be in. This has always struck me as a stupid saying, not because it’s not true (though of course it’s only as true as any cliché, which is to say it’s only true often enough to become a cliché), but because the implied value judgment attached to it strikes me as idiotic.
Murder is murder, people. If you’re going to be amoral enough to indulge in the practice in the first place, how is one method “better” than another, empirically? The idea that smashing a guy’s head in with a sledgehammer or something is somehow more “honorable” than, say, slipping him an arsenic mickey, is frankly bizarre in my opinion. If you’re going to kill someone, ideally you do what works and what won’t get you caught. How does it matter if that method turns out to be poison? Sheesh.
Arya cocked her head to one side. “Can I be a king’s councillor and build castles and become the High Septon?”
“You,” Ned said, kissing her lightly on the brow, “will marry a king and rule his castle, and your sons will be knights and princes and lords and, yes, perhaps even a High Septon.”
Arya screwed up her face. “No,” she said, “that’s Sansa.” She folded up her right leg and resumed her balancing.
Oh, Arya. Such a freak you are, wanting to have your OWN accomplishments instead of just hoping your male relatives will get them! YOU CRAZY MINX YOU.
Man, I hope she grows up to kick everyone’s ass.
Aaand that’s all there is, there ain’t no more! Have a lovely Father’s Day weekend, peoples, and see you next week!