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 19 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 32 (“Reek”).
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 32: Reek
When Ramsay’s party returns to Barrowton, Reek knows that his hunt has been unsuccessful, and fears what Ramsay will do as a result. Ramsay tosses Reek a rotting, unidentifiable head; in the stables, Big Walder tells Reek it was the head of a goatherder who made the mistake of calling Ramsay “Lord Snow.” He also tells Reek that they didn’t find his cousins, but hadn’t expected to, since he is sure Lord Wyman had them killed. Ramsay commands a feast from the keep’s dwindling stores, but Roose Bolton arrives in the middle and kicks everyone out of the dining hall but Ramsay and Reek, who is chained by the doors.
The Boltons discuss whether they should care about the disappeared Freys from Lord Wyman’s party and whether to believe that Lord Wyman is upset about it. Roose also notes that Wyman “brought no hostages” and admits he is in “a quandary” over what to do about it. Ramsay is mad that Roose wouldn’t throw him a feast at Barrow Hall, but Roose reminds him that Lady Barbrey Dustin can’t stand Ramsay, and to lose her would lose them too many valuable allies. Ramsey wants to mutilate her, and also slips several times speaking about events at Winterfell. Roose calls him a fool, and reminds him that it is supposed to be Theon Turncloak who killed the Stark boys and sacked Winterfell. He also warns Ramsay to be more discreet with his “amusements.”
They discuss Stannis; Ramsay wants to march on Deepwood Motte immediately, but Roose tells him not until he is married, and has decided the wedding will take place at Winterfell, thus forcing Stannis to march on them rather than the reverse, and also summon all his allies, including Arnolf Karstark, who apparently is a mole for the Boltons. Roose goes to leave, and tells Ramsay he will be taking Reek with him. Ramsay protests, but Roose says that if Ramsay has not “ruined him beyond redemption,” Reek may be of use to them. Ramsay obeys, but whispers to Reek that he will take another finger from him once he gets Reek back. Reek weeps and begs for mercy, and is ignored.
On the road, Roose mocks him for sounding highborn without even realizing it. He tells Reek about the first Reek, who stank constantly no matter how clean he kept himself, and how Roose had given him to Ramsay as a boy as joke, but how they had soon become inseparable. He wonders which of them corrupted the other. He tells the story of how he raped Ramsay’s mother under the corpse of her husband, who he’d hanged, and how she’d also corrupted Ramsay by filling him with tales about his rights as Roose’s son. He disparages Ramsay’s lack of fighting skill and wit, and tells Reek about how Ramsay had murdered his trueborn son Domeric. He supposes that his new wife will give him more sons, but also assumes Ramsay will murder them as well, which he says is for the best, since Roose will not live long enough to raise them to manhood.
Roose tries to convince Reek to bathe and wear clothes instead of rags, but Reek becomes hysterical at the idea and begs to be let alone. Roose tells Reek that he means Reek no harm, for he owes Reek for his chance at the north, which Reek gave him when he sacked Winterfell. They reach Barrow Hall, and Roose takes Reek to Lady Dustin. She takes Reek for an old man, but Roose introduces him as Theon Greyjoy, “rightful Lord of the Iron Islands.” Lady Dustin asks what Roose’s bastard did to him, and Roose imagines Ramsay removed some parts of him, but “nothing essential.”
“Is he mad?”
“He may be. Does it matter?”
Reek could hear no more. “Please, m’lord, m’lady, there’s been some mistake.” He fell to his knees, trembling like a leaf in a winter storm, tears streaming down his ravaged cheeks. “I’m not him, I’m not the turncloak, he died at Winterfell. My name is Reek.” He had to remember his name. “It rhymes with freak.”
GOSH, I DON’T KNOW IF YOU’VE NOTICED, but the Boltons are basically Hannibal Lecter, if Hannibal Lecter were a whole damn clan of psychopaths instead of one guy. Actually, that’s probably not fair: Hannibal Lecter was much more likeable than these shitbags.
Ben Bones, who liked the dogs better than their master, had told Reek they were all named after peasant girls Ramsay had hunted, raped, and killed back when he’d still been a bastard, running with the first Reek. “The ones who give him good sport, anywise. The ones who weep and beg and won’t run don’t get to come back as bitches.”
The really sick thing is, I bet Ramsay thinks he’s honoring them in that way. I’m getting to the point where I would pay actual money for someone to kill this character in some extraordinarily painful way.
Ramsay’s face darkened. “If I cut off her teats and feed them to my girls, will she abide me then? Will she abide me if I strip off her skin to make myself a pair of boots?”
SERIOUSLY, CASH MONEY.
Not that dear old dad is any better; he’s worse, actually. (Right of primae noctis, are you fucking kidding me? Ugh.) At least it’s screamingly obvious to everyone exactly what Ramsay is, but a monster who’s able to even partially hide it like Roose… that’s much more dangerous.
Ugh, kill them all, make them go, I do not want them.
I can’t even be pleased for Reek/Theon to be away from Psycho Shitbag the Younger, because whatever Psycho Shitbag the Elder says about owing Theon for getting rid of the Starks, I’d trust that gratitude about as far as I can throw Mount Rushmore. And even if it were trustable, it’s not like Reek has the mental capacity to deal with it.
This is not to say that I don’t think someone can come back from being broken in that manner, at least to some extent. I’m just saying that the TLC and massive amounts of therapy needed for that process are unlikely to materialize under the patronage of Roose Fucking Bolton, that’s all. (Or anyone in Westeros, honestly, but definitely not there.)
That said, I wonder what his play is here, introducing Reek/Theon by his real identity. An alliance with the ironborn, perhaps, in return for giving them a merely severely traumatized king/lord instead of a batshit crazy one? (Seriously, the sheer number of people who deserve the “Psycho Shitbag” epithet in this series is rather astonishing, and Euron is definitely one of them.)
Except I really don’t see the ironborn going for Theon in any shape, much less the utterly wretched one he’s currently in. If Roose intends to make him capable of taking any kind of throne (hell, if he intends to make him capable of taking a chair) he’s gonna have to be a lot more patient than I would ever believe him capable of.
So maybe it’s something else, then. Guess I’ll find out eventually.
Regarding the original Reek, it turns out that smelling bad for no reason is totally a real thing, because of course it is. If nothing else, ASOIAF has given me knowledge of a literal smorgasbord of horrendous medical conditions I can be grateful not to have. Yay?
It’s interesting, though, Roose’s revelation about the original Reek and the apparently vast influence he had on Ramsay. Though I find Roose’s musings about whether Reek the First made Ramsay into a monster to be disingenuous at best, considering how the genetics side of things seems to have that covered nicely already. But I suppose piling a little psychotic nurture on top of all the psychotic nature could only, er, help. So to speak.
Anyway, the suggestion that Ramsay made himself another Reek in an attempt to replace the bosom companion of his youth is… well, it’s that tiny hint of comprehensible human feeling that just makes all the utter inhumanity slathered all over it that much more horrifying. Like, maybe Ramsay was lonely… and tortured another human being until he was broken almost beyond recognition, to make himself a friend.
In other news, apparently Melisandre’s vision of Jeyne Poole running hasn’t actually happened yet, since the Boltons talk of having her on hand (and also, Ramsay isn’t frothing at the mouth. Well, no more than usual, anyway). Presumably she’s going to take off on the way to Winterfell, then. Go, Jeyne, go!
I also see that Lord Manderly’s little “kill the Freys” scheme seems to have gone off without a hitch, yay. Well, except for the part where everyone seems to totally know he was behind their disappearance. I confess that the bit about “no hostages” confused me at first, but I guess he meant that Wyman had brought no family with him, to be used as leverage? In any case, it seems pretty obvious that Roose is aware that Wyman intends to betray them. Which doesn’t bode well for Wyman.
Speaking of things he knows, I don’t understand Roose at all. He also totally knows that Ramsay murdered his trueborn son, and is all “yeah, he’ll probably murder any other sons I have later too,” and this… is… okay with him?
What. No, WHAT. And also, The Fuck.
Ugh, kill them all, make them go, I do not want them.
And here’s where we stop, sorry, because I saw that the next chapter is a Tyrion chapter, and I feel like I should prepare to devote a lot of space to it, in case it’s the one where he and Dany actually meet. So come on back next Thursday, whydontcha, and see what happens!