A Read of Ice and Fire

A Read of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords, Part 26

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 26 of A Storm of Swords, in which we cover Chapter 45 (“Catelyn”).

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

And now, the post!

Scheduling note: The fifth annual JordanCon, and my duties as its Toastmaster is NEXT WEEK OMG. Therefore, The Read of Ice and Fire will be on hiatus for the Fridays of both April 19th and 26th.



Chapter 45: Catelyn

What Happens
Robb is embarrassed and touched that Jeyne chases after his army once they march from Riverrun, and Lothar Frey makes a dig at Edmure about Roslin being as excited to marry him. Catelyn knows that Robb resents her for insisting that Jeyne stay behind, even though he agreed that it would be too much of an insult to Walder Frey to have her there. She is pleased that Jeyne’s absence now means that Grey Wind is at Robb’s side again, but uneasy that her uncle Brynden must also stay and guard Riverrun instead of accompany them.

They travel through miserable rainy conditions, and Catelyn tries to convince herself not to give in to despair and be strong for Robb. Edmure speculates gloomily on the likelihood of his betrothed’s unattractiveness, and Catelyn snaps that he’d be wiser to hope that she is healthy and good-hearted. He avoids her thereafter, and Catelyn remembers guiltily her own disappointment the first time she’d seen Eddard Stark, but thinks that love had come for her eventually and perhaps the same would happen for Edmure. After five days, they learn that the bridges are out at Blue Fork and the river too high to ford, forcing them to detour around it. Robb hopes Walder Frey will not take the delay as another insult, and that Bolton made it across the Trident before the rains started. He tells Catelyn he plans to go north after the wedding, but fails to elaborate further.

After eight more days, they reach Oldstones. Robb and Catelyn meet at the sepulcher of an ancient king, and he tells her that with Bran and Rickon and Arya dead, Sansa married to a Lannister, and Jeyne not yet pregnant, Robb must ensure he has a named heir. He wants to legitimize Jon Snow as a Stark by royal decree and name him heir. Catelyn protests that he is sworn to the Watch, but Robb is sure the Watch can be convinced to release him. Catelyn argues that the precedent for legitimizing bastards led the last king who did it to years of war and strife. Robb says that Jon would never harm him or his sons, and Catelyn asks, like Theon Greyjoy would not harm Bran and Rickon? Robb is furious at the comparison. Catelyn says she cannot support him in “this folly,” and Robb tells her he doesn’t need her support, and leaves.

Robb also avoids her thereafter, and the weather and the terrain grow steadily worse. Eventually Lord Jason Mallister finds them, and Catelyn is summoned to a meeting in Robb’s tent that night to find Mallister had brought a sea captain with him who had been trapped at Lordsport on Pyke, and brings them the news that Balon Greyjoy is dead, drowned after one of his castle bridges blew away in a storm. He says that immediately thereafter, Balon’s brother Euron Crow’s Eye had appeared and taken the throne, and the captain had slipped away in the confusion. Robb thanks him and sends him out, and tells the assembled lords that Balon’s other brother Victarion cannot possibly do anything other than head back to Pyke immediately to challenge Euron’s claim to the throne, and the same goes for Theon and Asha if they want it.

Robb lays out his plan: he knows Victarion’s fleet will not wholly abandon Moat Cailin, but he and most of the leaders will leave, and reduce the fleet’s numbers there as well. He orders Lord Mallister to sail to Greywater Watch with Maege Mormont and Galbart Glover, to contact the crannogmen and have Howland Reed meet up with Robb’s force and guide them through the Neck by ways only the crannogmen know, so that Robb may circle around to the north and attack from the rear while Bolton and the Greatjon attack from the south in a frontal assault.

The others approve the plan, and Robb tells Catelyn that she is not to come with them to Moat Cailin, but instead go with Lord Mallister to stay at Seagard until the war is done. Catelyn wonders if this is her punishment for her opposition to Jon Snow, and accuses Robb of making her a prisoner. She wants to return to Riverrun if she cannot stay, but Robb tells her he doesn’t want his wife and his mother in the same place. He dismisses her objections and presents to the lords his decree for naming Jon Snow his heir.

A king indeed, Catelyn thought, defeated. She could only hope that the trap he’d planned for Moat Cailin worked as well as the one in which he’d just caught her.

Well, it does certainly sound like Robb’s got a good plan of attack, doesn’t it? I look forward to finding out how it’s all going to go horribly wrong!

That’s a lie, of course. Obviously I would love it if Robb’s plan went perfectly; I just don’t have a lot of faith that that’s what’s going to happen. Everybody’s been making such a point about how Robb has yet to lose a battle, and you just know that other shoe’s going to have to drop sometime. Probably at the worst point possible. So I guess the only question is whether Moat Cailin is that worst point, or if we’ve got to save up for something even more dire down the road. Yay?

There is the point that if Robb does win, his reputation will skyrocket even higher than it already has, since as Galbart says, no one has ever taken Moat Cailin by force before. So, also yay? Sort of?

Hm. Here’s hoping.

And whoa, Robb’s making Jon his heir? Dude!

I have no idea, in retrospect, why I didn’t see that development coming, because it’s frickin’ obvious in hindsight, but it never even occurred to me until Robb said it here. Though, in my defense I suppose, my knowledge that Bran and Rickon are really alive may have kept me from connecting the dots. Plus I’m not sure I knew before this that Westeros law allowed for legitimizing bastards (though logically, there would almost have to be some kind of provision for that in place, judging by your average European monarchy’s succession shenanigans).

And of course, Catelyn loathes the very idea. Show of hands if you were shocked. Yeah.

First I anger Edmure, and now Robb, but all I have done is speak the truth. Are men so fragile they cannot bear to hear it?

Ehhh, no, Catelyn. You’ve got a point re: Edmure, and a point in general actually, but on Robb legitimizing Jon you are wrong, wrong, wrong. Because that wasn’t truth, that was prejudice, straight-up.

It’s a damn shame, really, because Catelyn’s unwavering hatred for Jon, while marginally understandable (if appallingly misdirected in my opinion), does a very good job of undermining all the ways in which she is a good judge of character and events. Because I do think that in general Catelyn sees things more clearly than about 95% of the people around her, but on this one point she is just blind, and Robb knows it. And there’s no way that that doesn’t color his judgment of her objectivity in other matters. And that sucks.

This is all in my opinion, of course. And it’s possible that her objections are totally right—there’s no denying that it will be a clusterfuck of epic proportions, after all, if/when Jon is legitimized and then Bran and Rickon come tumbling out of the woodwork. But of course, Robb thinks Bran and Rickon are dead, so he can be forgiven for not seeing that coming, and Catelyn thinks the same, so her objection is reduced to, basically, “bastards are bastards!” Which, even if she has a point there, the fact remains that my own knowledge of Catelyn’s unreasoning hatred of Jon immediately predisposed me to reject her objections out of hand. Which is doubtless the same thing that happened to Robb. So, undermined.

And of course, it must be acknowledged that my own very pro-Jon Snow prejudices may be playing their part here, too. Because I, naturally, think making Jon Robb’s heir is an awesome idea. And not just because I’m pretty sure I predicted way back when that this exile to the Wall thing wouldn’t stick—especially since I only made that prediction because I wanted it to be true, not because I had any kind of certainty it would actually happen. But look, it did! See, wishes CAN come true, even in Westeros! Unicorns! Rainbows!

(Yes, I am aware I’m getting waaaaay ahead of myself here. Shut up, I’m enjoying the moment.)

It also occurs to me that Catelyn might have a legitimate gripe, in that Jon being heir means that her bloodline—hers, not Ned’s—would be cut out of the succession if Jon inherits. However, I’m not really clear on whether Catelyn cares about that overmuch; I’ve always gotten the impression that Catelyn’s hatred of Jon is much more personal than genealogical, but I could be wrong.

In other news: ah, so Balon is indeed dead. And killed by the ironmen’s own Darwinian notions of architecture, too. I am Amused.

And, it turns out, the “squabbling squids” aren’t just limited to Asha and Theon, either. Makes sense. Euron sounds like he’s just as loveable as the rest of his family, so that ought to end up a fine kettle of fish. Pun definitely intended.

(Is Theon alive? I can’t remember if I know or not. Hopefully not.)

Other notes:

Catelyn smiled despite herself. “You are braver than I am, I fear. Are all your Bear Island women such warriors?”

“She-bears, aye,” said Lady Maege. “We have needed to be. In olden days the ironmen would come raiding in their longboats, or wildlings from the Frozen Shore. The men would be off fishing, like as not. The wives they left behind had to defend themselves and their children, or else be carried off.”

“There’s a carving on our gate,” said Dacey. “A woman in a bearskin, with a child in one arm suckling at her breast. In the other hand she holds a battleaxe. She’s no proper lady, that one, but I always loved her.”

I really like Dacey and Maege Mormont, and I like even more that they are proud and happy to be fighters, but man, it’s sad that their existence reminds me of how stupid (and entrenched) patriarchy is. Because here you’ve got these women whose House has evidently proven over generations that women can be mothers and warriors both, and yet going by Brienne’s experience (not to mention the Greatjon’s comments about women having no place in battle, all while he’s riding with the Mormonts, no less!), it’s clear that the Mormont women are regarded in Westeros not as proof that women can be honorable fighters, but rather as a bizarre anomaly.

An accepted and longstanding anomaly, sure, but still the exception that proves the sexist rule. And that is completely looneytunes from a logical standpoint, and yet no one (except Brienne, apparently) ever challenges it! It blows my mind, seriously.

Catelyn’s thoughts on how she grew to love Ned Stark reminded me of something I read somewhere once, that statistically, arranged marriages have no less chance of working out in the long term than “lovematches.” I have no idea whether that is even remotely accurate or not, but even if it were, I feel like that’s completely missing the point.

It’s human nature to adapt and to bear up under adversity. So, yeah, if you’re basically shoved into a situation and told this is the rest of your life, suck it up or everyone will hate you and your life will be ruined, or better yet, suck it up or die, then sure, most people will grit their teeth and make the best of it. I’m just not sure why you would consider this an example of something, quote, “working.”

I guess it “works” if all you want out of it is babies. Blah. Not that I have anything against babies, but crazy me, I think there should be a little bit more to marriage than having compatible gametes. Like, maybe, hey, free will.

*sigh* I know, Westeros. Still.

Woo, tangent.

And Theon Greyjoy fought at Robb’s side, and boasted of how he had almost crossed swords with the Kingslayer. If Theon had died in place of Lord Karstark’s sons, how much ill would have been undone?

Oh, don’t worry, Catelyn. I’m sure this universe would have found a way for it all to go to shit no matter what!

*is helpful*

My lord husband is dead, as is my father. Two of my sons have been murdered, my daughter has been given to a faithless dwarf to bear his vile children, my other daughter is vanished and likely dead, and my last son and my only brother are both angry with me. What could possibly be amiss?

She’s got cause for it, Lord knows, but damn if Catelyn isn’t depressing to read. I really hope she finds out that at least one of her children besides Robb and Sansa isn’t dead before too much longer, because she’s reaching Artex-like proportions here and they’re going to need to start keeping her out of swamps soon.

(And if you got that reference without having to Google it first, I’m sorry for reviving one of your more traumatic childhood viewing experiences.)

Aaand two lines later in the chapter after I stopped to write the above:

“If we cannot cross the Blue Fork, we’ll have to go around it, through Sevenstreams and Hag’s Mire.” [emphasis added]



And last and most definitely least:

“The fifth Tristifer was not his equal, and soon the kingdom was lost, and then the castle, and last of all the line. With Tristifer the Fifth died House Mudd, that had ruled the riverlands for a thousand years before the Andals came.”

So… you’re saying that after that, their name was Mudd?


And that’s it for now, kids! I’m off to Atlanta, wish me Toastmastery luck! See you in two weeks!


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