Why did Benjen take the black?

At least once a month, if not more on /r/asoiaf someone asks…

Hey guys – does anyone know why Benjen Stark took the black?

I mean, House Stark had just been decimated and sure, Ned was married but he only had one (legitimate) son and his wife was pretty pissed with him for bringing home a bastard… wouldn’t it be more prudent for Benjen to hang around, get married and supply some spare Starks?

Without fail. Every few weeks.

YES THIS IS A GOOD QUESTION. But from now on, I’m just going to copy/paste a link to this blog as my response.

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A hero of many names

The Prince That Was Promised.

The dragon must have three heads.

Azor Ahai Reborn.

The Last Hero.

The Stallion Who Mounts The World.

There are lots of prophecies floating around in ASOIAF about the person who will lead the armies of Westeros against the Others in the new Battle for the Dawn. Or at least, that’s what we readers think the prophecies are about. In universe, the characters think these prophecies are about a number of other things – for instance, Dany believes that the prophecies about Targaryen dragons and the Dothraki Stallion Who Mounts The World speak to her success in regaining the Iron Throne.

What prophecies of dominant leaders are likely to be about one figure? And if there is a clear idea of there being one figure, who is most likely to fulfil that role?

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Quick post: bastard names

Something that is often brought up by new fans, and I sure as hell was one of them, is the realisation that if Rhaegar Targaryen + Lyanna Stark = Jon Snow, then our dearly beloved bastard of Winterfell isn’t actually a Snow!


Yeah nah. Not how bastard names in Westeros work.

Here is a quick guide to my interpretation (opens to feedback otherwise!) about how GRRM intends bastard names to work in Westeros.

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Ned’s promises

One of the first mysteries in ASOIAF that we are introduced to is in Ned’s first chapter.

He could hear her still at times.Promise me, she had cried, in a room that smelled of blood and roses. Promise me, Ned. The fever had taken her strength and her voice had been faint as a whisper, but when he gave her his word, the fear had gone out of his sister’s eyes. Ned remembered the way she had smiled then, how tightly her fingers had clutched his as she gave up her hold on life, the rose petals spilling from her palm, dead and black. After that he remembered nothing. They had found him still holding her body, silent with grief. The little crannogman, Howland Reed, had taken her hand from his. Ned could recall none of it. “I bring her flowers when I can,” he said. “Lyanna was … fond of flowers.”

These words, “promise me Ned”, echo throughout ASOIAF.

But what did Ned actually promise? And what promises does he punish himself for breaking?

TLDR: Ned couldn’t keep all his promises to Lyanna, and I suspect one of them was to tell Jon the truth of his parentage

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Hidden Targaryens

Everyone loves a hidden Targ theory, right?

I want to go over the popular, the accepted and the contentious tinfoil theories about whether various characters are knowing or unknowing hidden descendants of House Targaryen and its offshoots. Some of these has been touched on previously, when discussing “Aegon”/Young Griff.

TL-DR: There’s a lot of hidden Targ theories, but only a handful are credible – Jon Snow, Varys, and fAegon the hidden Blackfyre. 

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Jon: the Hour of the Wolf Comes

The biggest cliffhanger for us Stark loving ASOIAF fans at the end of ADWD: Is Jon dead or is he just mostly dead?

GOT actors, producers and GRRM himself haven’t helped the debate. “Dead is dead” claim HBO and their actors. “Oh, so you think he’s dead do you?” says GRRM.

The latest teaser poster from GOT twitter continues the theme of the teaser trailer, of all the faces of Westeros in the House of Black and White. That doesn’t mean Jon is dead, of course…. but he isn’t looking particularly alive either.


The general consensus is that Jon is totes dead, and will be resurrected by Melisandre or some other hand wavy magic to continue his role in ASOIAF. I don’t propose to go over that ground – instead, I suggest people read this excellent blog on the topic instead.

But what if… he’s just mostly dead? How might that pan out?

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Tywin Lannister: War Criminal (Part 2)

Previously we looked at my accusations that Tywin Lannister, Lord of Casterly Rock, Lord Paramount of the Westerlands, Warden of the West, father of the Queen and (after Joffrey’s accession to the Throne) Hand of the King (again) is a war criminal.

The TL;DR for that one is…

  1. While I think that the elimination of Houses Reyne and Tarbeck in the infamous “Rains of Castamere” assault is a truly revolting mass murder, I am not convinced that it is a war crime as I do not believe the rebellion of the Reynes and Tarbecks, and Tywin’s forces riding out to quash it, adequately meets the criteria for a non-internaitonal armed conflict. If it’s not a war, it’s not a war crime – it’s just a CRIME.
  2. However the murders of Elia Martell and her children, Rhaenys and Aegon Targaryen, are most definitely a war crime, because Tywin ordered his men to eliminate the children – who were not a military target.


What I didn’t go into much in the second example was the issue of command responsibility, which I will raise more in this blog, because it comes up again. What makes Tywin Lannister a war criminal is not that he actually literally dirties his hands with the blood of his victims: he simply orders men under his command to do it. But he is responsible for it as their commander.

The raiding and pillaging of the Bloody Mummers is another grey area: is it a non-international armed conflict, or is it an act of aggression in peacetime?

What I propose to question in this blog is raiding of the Riverlands by Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane and the band of distasteful mercenaries called properly the Brave Companions, but known more by their sobriquet “The Bloody Mummers” – Vargo Hoat, Biter, Shagwell the Fool, Septon Utt, Qyburn the disgraced and ‘defrocked’ maester, and Urswyck the Faithful. They pillage, reave and rape their way across the Riverlands, ending up squatting in Harrenhal, holding that ancient castle for the Lannister armies. We encounter them in Arya and Jaime’s misadventures in the Riverlands through the first act of ASOAIF (AGOT-ASOS).

  1. Tywin ordering the Bloody Mummers to pillage the Riverlands was an act of aggression – but was it the start of the War of the Five Kings, or did Catelyn Tully Stark do that when she seized Tyrion Lannister?
  2. Tywin ordered his men to ravage the Riverlands, to provoke a response from the then Hand of the King – Ned Stark. Why was this not dealt with within the Westeros justice system as an act of treason or breach of the peace?
  3. Is Tywin responsible for all of the acts of the Bloody Mummers?

Continue reading “Tywin Lannister: War Criminal (Part 2)”