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 28 of A Dance With Dragons, in which we cover Chapter 48 (“Jaime”).
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 48: Jaime
Jaime and his company arrive at Raventree, home of the last of Robb Stark’s loyal holdouts the Blackwoods, which Lord Jonos Bracken has been besieging in desultory fashion for the past six months. Jaime thinks of Cersei’s letter begging for his aid, and tells himself that even if he had gone back for her, he would not have been able to save her, but knows he will have to face her eventually. He goes to see Lord Bracken and interrupts him mid-coitus with a “war prize” named Hildy, who seems shy at first, but also brazenly propositions Jaime before Bracken kicks her out.
Jaime tells Bracken he means to offer Lord Tytos Blackwood terms for peace. Bracken warns him that all Blackwoods are turncoats, and suggests Jaime take Blackwood’s only daughter as hostage, and campaigns for the lands he was promised by Tywin Lannister for subduing Raventree. Jaime points out that Bracken has only partially subdued the place, and promises only partial rewards in return, which Bracken accepts. Jaime thinks that perhaps Blackwood’s staunch opposition was more admirable than Bracken’s capitulation to the Lannisters even in the face of the wrongs done to him (by Gregor Clegane and at the Red Wedding).
Jaime’s parley with Lord Blackwood goes without incident, and he enters the keep to discuss terms without forcing the man to kneel to him in public or private. Blackwood will not say whether Brynden Tully is sheltering in his walls, and Jaime lets it go. Blackwood is stricken when Jaime brings up taking his daughter Bethany as hostage, and Jaime accepts his second-oldest son Hoster instead. Blackwood advises Jaime to take a hostage from among Lord Bracken’s progeny as well. Jaime warns Blackwood, though, in front of Hoster, that if he finds that Blackwood is aiding or hosting any of the rebels in the area (Lord Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Sandor Clegane, Brynden Tully, the woman Stoneheart), that he will send him his son’s head. Lord Bracken is dismayed by Jaime’s order to send one of his daughters to King’s Landing, but Jaime ignores his protests, and leaves.
As they travel by a different route in hopes of luring out Dondarrion or the Blackfish, Jaime talks with Hoster Blackwood about the thousands of years of feuding between his family and the Brackens. Jaime comments that you’d think someone would have made a peace by now, and Hoster says they have, over and over again, but something eventually always happens to rekindle the feud. Jaime tells him the way to prevent that is to make sure there’s no one left to carry it on. Hoster asks if that’s why he killed all the Starks, and Jaime tells him the daughters still live, and wonders where Brienne is and whether she’s found Sansa.
They go to a village named Pennytree, where Jaime declines to roust out or molest the villagers hiding from them. Near midnight, the sentries bring him a woman who they say rode up and demanded to see him.
Jaime scrambled to his feet. “My lady. I had not thought to see you again so soon.” Gods be good, she looks ten years older than when I saw her last. And what’s happened to her face? “That bandage… you’ve been wounded…”
“A bite.” She touched the hilt of her sword, the sword that he had given her. Oathkeeper. “My lord, you gave me a quest.”
“The girl. Have you found her?”
“I have,” said Brienne, Maid of Tarth.
“Where is she?”
“A day’s ride. I can take you to her, ser… but you will need to come alone. Elsewise, the Hound will kill her.”
OMG, Brienne! OMG OMG *jumps up and down*
Oh, but wait. I’m not supposed to be excited about this. Because Brienne is lying about Sansa, because she is supposed to kill Jaime, because Catelyn is all undead and has no happy feelings anymore and Brienne is all disfigured and everything is awful. Right. Sorry, no joy here, my bad!
…Eh, fuck that. I can hope that she’s not going to do it anyway, because I wanna. I know that’s just WILD-EYED OPTIMISM on my part, but whatever, I’mma gonna hope that Brienne will be all “Screw you, undead no-feelings lady!” and join up with Jaime and not kill him, unless and until such time as I am rudely disillusioned of that hope, and you can’t stop me. SO THERE… even though I don’t know that this is even the correct thing to hope for.
“Perhaps it is time we talked of terms.”
“Is this where I get down on my knees?”
“If it please you. Or we can say you did.”
It’s sort of both heartening and depressing, the way Jaime continues to comport himself in general. Heartening because he is one of the very few characters in ASOIAF who consistently shows actual compassion and leniency towards his adversaries, and depressing because of how he’s never ever going to get any recognition for that fact because of his past actions – and maybe because of how he shouldn’t.
It’s the eternal question, I suppose. Can a projected lifetime of attempted good deeds atone for one (or two) acts of atrocity? Or are some things unforgivable? Does it make sense for me to want Jaime to escape Catelyn’s vengeance, even while acknowledging that I myself, were I Catelyn, would probably be hard-pressed to put what he did to Bran aside even if I weren’t in an undead semi-deranged rage-spiral of revenge?
Because some things, you know, you don’t have to be undead or deranged to rightly want justice for.
And yet, there’s the unavoidable truth that on balance, even with all the bad things he’s done, Jaime seems to be more of a force for good in the world than the opposite – or, if “good” is too strong a term, at least a force for order rather than chaos. And in ASOIAF especially, there’s not so many of those around that it seems like a good idea to get rid of even one of them.
So, in conclusion, I dunno. I don’t really feel it is right for me to root for Jaime over Catelyn, and yet I do anyway.
Ethics suck, sometimes.
Maybe I can just root for Brienne instead, who really has done no wrong and really doesn’t deserve Catelyn’s vengeance in any way. And if Brienne’s success happens to also involve Jaime’s success as well, then that’s just wacky coincidence, right? Right!
In other lady-oriented news, I have to say the whole thing with Hildy was… weird and distasteful. I’m not sure why this particular objectification of a female character bothered me so much more than, well, most of the many (many) other times that’s happened in this series, but it did.
Maybe because, with the others, there seemed to be a tacit recognition of the essential grossness factor of the objectification – by the text if not actually by the POV character – but that awareness seemed to be missing from this scene. Also, the overtones of that whole schizo impossible-standards thing about wanting women to be simultaneously sleazy and demure were pretty off-putting as well.
*shrug* It gave me the creeps, make of it what you will.
“For a thousand years it has not shown a leaf. In another thousand it will have turned to stone, the maesters say. Weirwoods never rot.”
“And the ravens?” asked Jaime. “Where are they?”
“They come at dusk and roost all night. Hundreds of them. They cover the tree like black leaves, every limb and every branch. They have been coming for thousands of years. How or why, no man can say, yet the tree draws them every night.”
Damn but that’s creepy. I wonder if maybe the ravens come because the tree is dead, and so the greenseers need the ravens to see the weirwood in its stead?
Or, you know, the ravens could just be huge Hitchcock fans. One of the two.
Hoster’s tale of the millennia(s)-long feud between the Brackens and the Blackwoods makes me shake my head in unflattering but not skeptical wonder. Because yes, it seems, as Jaime points out, completely absurd to maintain a rivalry so old that no one even remembers when it began, but on the other hand that is absolutely a thing that has happened and continues to happen in the real world. (Technically, for example, Rome and Carthage were at war for 2,100 years.)
I am reminded of my own astonishment as a student to learn that England and France had fought with and generally loathed each other for the vast majority of their history as sovereign nations, when my overwhelming association with them up to that point had been as staunch allies with us (and, by extension, each other) in World War I and II, and basically ever since then as well. Cognitive dissonance, yo. And yet, one has to wonder, given their history, how temporary this latest peace might end up being as well. I can’t personally picture the circumstances under which it might be broken – Western Europe, at least, seems to be pretty thoroughly sick of internecine war at this point – but then again, what do I know?
And blarg, I was going to do two chapters I swear, but my brain has officially thrown in the towel for now, so come back next Thursday for more! Cheers!