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 Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 21 (“Jon”) and Chapter 22 (“Tyrion”).
Previous entries are located in the Index. The only spoilers in the post itself will be for the actual chapters covered and for the chapters previous to them. As for the comments, please note that the Powers That Be have provided you a lovely spoiler thread here on Tor.com. Any spoileriffic discussion should go there, where I won’t see it. Non-spoiler comments go below, in the comments to the post itself.
And now, the post!
Chapter 21: Jon
Jon fears for the fates of Sam and Aemon and Gilly and the babe. He has refused to move back into Mormont’s old chambers after Stannis left. He rides out with an escort to Moletown, ignoring Bowen Marsh’s opinion that his plan is folly and reminding him that they need fighters, desperately. On the way, they see three trees carved with the faces of the wildlings’ gods. Dolorous Edd comments that Melisandre won’t be happy about that, and Jon says they must not tell her about it. Edd points out that she sees things in her fires, but subsides.
The wildling refugees squatting in the remains of Moletown are in a poor state, but Jon notes that there are still hale fighters among them, in particular six Thenns, a couple of Hornfoots, and Halleck, brother of Harma Dogshead. The brothers begin passing out food to the wildlings, but they become angry at the paucity of supplies, and a scuffle ensues. The wildlings complain that the crows on the Wall eat better, and Jon reminds them that those on the Wall are their only defense now against the Others, and that any of those who wish to come defend the Wall with them will eat the same as the brothers.
Sigorn, the new Magnar of Thenn, is scornful, and another man shouts that they will not be slaves. Jon tells them that he does not care which gods they worship, nor will he force them to take the vows of the Night’s Watch or ask them to kneel to him, as long as they agree to obey whoever commands them on the field. He says he will take anyone over the age of twelve, even those who cannot fight; after discussion with one of the younger women, he agrees that this includes girls as well as boys.
The young girl is the first to volunteer, then a few more, but the tide turns when Halleck steps forward, and soon they have sixty-three new recruits, though none of them are Thenns. Bowen Marsh points out that with women around, there will be rapes and fights, but Jon tells him that these women know how to defend themselves. Bowen asks what happens when one of them slits the throat of a brother, and Jon replies that then “we will have lost a man,” but will still be sixty-two ahead.
Marsh was unconvinced. “You’ve added sixty-three more mouths, my lord… but how many are fighters, and whose side will they fight on? If it’s the Others at the gates, most like they’ll stand with us, I grant you… but if it’s Tormund Giantsbane or the Weeping Man come calling with ten thousand howling killers, what then?”
“Then we’ll know. So let us hope it never comes to that.”
Well, this chapter was just super boring.
I suppose I’m not being fair—not every chapter can have something major happen in it, obviously—but, well. One of the perils of reading only a couple of chapters at a time is that there can sometimes be quite a gap between setup and payoff of Things. This chapter is nothing but setup, and who knows when it’ll pay off? It might not even be in this book, for all I know. So it’s frustrating, a little. But, them’s the breaks.
Things being potentially set up in this chapter:
- Melisandre finding out that the wildlings are not buying the Holy R’hllor shtick and deciding to have her a good old-fashioned Inquisition
- The wildling recruits deciding to bite the hand that feeds, more or less literally
- The Thenns drumming up new and exciting raiding habits in the countryside
- Bowen Marsh and/or the other brothers mutinying over ICKY GIRL COOTIES, and/or ICKY FREEDOM COOTIES
- Something else I haven’t thought of
So, all fun all the time, basically.
On the subject of ICKY GIRL COOTIES, I’m fairly certain everyone knows my opinion there already, but I’ll just idly observe that it’s hilarious how guys who Just Can’t Control Themselves around women (and that’s why it’s not their fault when they rape them) can suddenly, mysteriously discover vast reserves of self-control when the likely result of losing it is a slit throat, instead of an indulgent “boys will be boys” slap on the wrist. Funny how that works. Ha. Ha. Ha.
“Free folk don’t follow names, or little cloth animals sewn on a tunic,” the King-Beyond-the-Wall had told him. “They won’t dance for coins, they don’t care how you style yourself or what that chain of office means or who your grandsire was. They follow strength. They follow the man.”
And I think that’s probably just as dumb a way to decide who to follow as any of the others, but hey. Unless Mance meant “strength of character” as opposed to physical strength, in which case I’ll allow it, though I am compelled to point out that one can be charismatic and appealing while also being a terrible leader. But really, pretty much every system of deciding who is in charge of things sucks, so sure, why not.
And, I guess, you work with what you’re given. Ergo, Jon had better figure out a way to make the wildlings perceive him as a “man of strength” toot sweet if he doesn’t want this whole thing to blow up in his face.
“And people burning. Me, most like. With leaves up my nose. I always feared I’d burn, but I was hoping to die first.”
Eh. Not the funniest Dolorous Edd quote (though it is certainly appropriately morbid), but it’s the best one in this chapter, so it’ll have to do.
Chapter 22: Tyrion
Tyrion wakes back aboard the Shy Maid, where Haldon tells him that they have reached Selhorys, and makes Tyrion test himself for evidence of greyscale. He finds none, but Haldon tells him he will need to keep checking for it for the rest of his life. Young Griff is annoyed that he has to stay behind on the ship, but Haldon says there are Dothraki near the city and Volantene warships everywhere. Tyrion watches Lemore disguise herself, and wonders who she really is and what her goals are. He taunts Young Griff into a game of cyvasse to distract him.
As they play, Tyrion observes it is a pity that the boy’s false father wasn’t there to save his good friend Rhaegar’s son from being murdered, and challenges the boy’s assumption that Daenerys will obviously agree to marry him. He points out that she is “Aegon the Conqueror with teats”, and someone with her history may not take kindly to someone with a stronger claim than hers to the Iron Throne showing up. Young Griff insists Lord Connington/Griff will handle it, but Tyrion warns him not to trust anyone.
He suggests an alternate plan: Young Griff should go to Dorne and raise his banners there. He assures the boy that Tyrion’s sister Cersei is foolish and corrupt and bound to alienate all Tommen’s allies, and if Young Griff rises up against her before she is ousted, that men will flock to his cause, and then all he needs to do is hold until Daenerys joins him. Young Griff protests that Tyrion just said she might not want him, but Tyrion tells him this way, he will be a rebel instead of a beggar. He says Daenerys is above all else “a rescuer,” and if she hears her brother’s son is alive fighting bravely to take back his birthright, she will come running. He then beats Young Griff at the game, and Young Griff petulantly knocks over the board and makes Tyrion clean it up. Tyrion thinks that perhaps he is a Targaryen after all.
The others return with the news that Volantis may soon join the war against Daenerys in Meereen. Griff sends Haldon and Tyrion to find out more from a customs officer named Qavo. On the way they see a red priest preaching that the High Priest in Volantis, Benerro, has sent word that Daenerys is the fulfillment of the prophecy about Azor Ahai. They find Qavo, who tells them the city “thirsts for war” against the barbarisms of the dragon queen, who is apparently a monster with insatiable lust for both blood and sex, but whose real sin is threatening the institution of slavery. Qavo opines that Benerro should keep his mouth shut about supporting her unless he wants trouble.
They leave Qavo, and Tyrion convinces Haldon to let him go buy the services of a whore. He does so, feeling more wretched than sated by the experience, and drinks a flagon of wine as well, and proceeds to get roaring drunk and vomits on the girl’s carpet before taking her again. When he goes to leave, he falls down the stairs, and attracts the attention of a Westerosi knight with a bear on his surcoat, who calls him “Imp.” Tyrion tells him he is mistaken, that his name is Hugor, and offers to buy him a drink.
“I’ve drunk enough.” The knight shoved his whore aside and got to his feet. His sword belt hung on a peg beside him. He took it down and drew his blade. Steel whispered against leather. The whores were watching avidly, candlelight shining in their eyes. The proprietor had vanished. “You’re mine, Hugor.”
Tyrion could no more outrun him than outfight him. Drunk as he was, he could not even hope to outwit him. He spread his hands. “And what do you mean to do with me?”
“Deliver you,” the knight said, “to the queen.”
Before I even read the chapter: HA! Not dead!
When I finish the chapter: …Yet. Not-Ha.
Jeez, Tyrion. Please quit being in mortal peril for ten goddamn seconds, kthxbi.
I am almost sure that the knight in the brothel is Jorah, because I am almost sure that bears are the sigil of the Mormonts. I am not a hundred percent sure, but I’m pretty sure. And also mildly impressed that I remembered that, if so.
Assuming it is Jorah, that means it is kind of up in the air which queen he was actually referring to. Because Cersei is the one who has the nice juicy price on Tyrion’s head, but Dany is the one Jorah is likely more desperate to get back into the good graces of.
However, I’m not really sure why bringing Dany Tyrion would be enough to accomplish that, because why would she know who he is, or care if she did?
I mean, we know Tyrion could be a distinct asset to her, but it’s not like she would know that, or believe it if anyone told her—especially not if it’s Jorah telling her. And it’s also not like Tyrion’s any good to her as a hostage against the Lannisters, either.
So I dunno. But I definitely hope anyway, for Tyrion’s sake, that they’re going to Dany and not Cersei. Even if Cersei herself has been toppled by the time they got there (I’m not at all clear on when this timeline catches up with hers), there’s still the general charges of treason and patricide against Tyrion that I’m sure everyone else would be happy to enforce even without Cersei’s personal vendetta reasons. So, yeah, no going to King’s Landing, please.
As for Tyrion’s alternate proposal to Young Griff (and wow am I tired of typing that, but the text doesn’t seem to be making much effort to call him “Aegon,” so I am irritably following suit), that sounded… like a really pretty good idea, actually. I mean, I’m suspicious of it, if for no other reason than that Tyrion himself bracketed the proposal with admonitions that no one, including himself, should be considered trustworthy, but on the surface at least it seems workable.
Doran might even be willing to ally with YG over Daenerys, provided Dorne’s inheritance laws agree that “offspring of heir” trumps “sibling of heir”—which it seems logical that they would. I could be wrong, obviously, but I get the impression that the only way Dorne’s rules of succession differ from the rest of Westeros is that they are gender neutral.
Anyway, it’s also pretty impressive that Tyrion has so accurately nailed down Dany’s primary psychological motivators without ever even having met her. Because yes, she absolutely is “a rescuer.” The only place where he might have miscalculated, I think, is in his certainty that Dany would immediately abandon Meereen to rush to YG’s aid. Nothing else has managed to pry her loose from that benighted city, after all. That said, nothing else has been her beloved Rhaegar’s son come back from the dead, either, so who knows.
This is all a purely intellectual exercise, anyway. Probably. Because, yes, it’s possible that YG may have the will to railroad Griff the Elder into following a mad dwarf’s plan when said mad dwarf is (presumably) not even going to be there to encourage him, but I tend to doubt it, myself.
I don’t even really want to talk about the interlude at the brothel, except to note that Tyrion certainly has cornered the market on being awesome and impressive in one breath, and then being utterly gross and pathetic in the next. That was just… yuck. Get your shit together, man.
Also, if there is a worse job out there than being a prostitute in ASOIAF, I absolutely do not ever want to hear about it.
“Give me priests who are fat and corrupt and cynical,” he told Haldon, “the sort who like to sit on soft satin cushions, nibble sweetmeats, and diddle little boys. It’s the ones who believe in gods who make the trouble.”
Very glib, Tyrion, but I’m betting those little boys would probably beg to differ. Ugh.
I feel like the idea that Dany, and not Stannis, is Azor Ahai reborn is old news, but I can’t remember if I got that from the books themselves or from inadvertent comments on the blog. *shrug* Either way, I think it makes a lot more sense to suppose Dany is the Chosen One than that Stannis is. This is possibly only because I like Dany and not Stannis, but I also think that there is enough hinkiness going on with Stannis’s supposed Chosenness that there is more than reasonable doubt there. I guess I should keep an eye out to see if Dany ends up acquiring any flaming swords.
“And now when they look east, they see this young queen shining from afar, this breaker of chains. The Old Blood cannot suffer that. Poor men hate her too. Even the vilest beggar stands higher than a slave. This dragon queen would rob him of that consolation.”
Wow, how wonderfully petty. Which is probably why it rings so true. Sigh.
The greyscale thing is just awful. Imagine having something like dangling over your head for the rest of your life. I suppose the jury’s going to be out for a while on whether Tyrion’s actually going to contract it or not. I know it’s not a perfect correlation, but I keep associating greyscale with leprosy, and Haldon’s words to Tyrion in this chapter only reinforce that. Haldon says Tyrion will have to keep checking himself for the disease his whole life, and this corresponds with leprosy often taking years to progress from initial infection to onset of visible symptoms. Even the uncertainty over how exactly the disease is transmitted fits the analogy, as I understand that even today no one is completely sure how one catches leprosy.
(Although, in retrospect it makes Tyrion’s adventures in whoring even more reprehensible, since he didn’t even stop to consider that he might be giving the poor girl greyscale on top of the rest of the shitpile her life already is. Not cool, Tyrion. Not cool at all.)
But hey, I got my wish. Tyrion is still alive. Yaaaaaaay.
And, yeah. But look, a weekend doth approacheth! Let’s all go enjoy that, and I’ll see you next Thursday!