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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Littlefinger, the Man with a Plan – or not?

Petyr Baelish, or Littlefinger as he is more commonly known, is one of the most skincrawlingly creepy and fascinating characters in ASOIAF. He appears to be an agent of chaos, prodding chess cyvasse pieces around on the Game of Thrones to profit from the destruction and fall out.

But does he have a bigger plan?

Honestly, if he does, I can’t work out what it is. I know there’s a few theories floating around that try to set up Littlefinger as someone with a big grand plan, but I suspect he is actually at the apex of his plan – and what will come next will show us that he only ever planned to gain the basest of desires: power.

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“Knowledge is Power” by Robert del Espacio

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Gender in Westeros: Moon Tea

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This gorgeous piece showing a teenage Lysa, Cat and Baelish came from here 

One of the things that’s awesome about GRRM’s work is that, although he’s an older bloke, he does a pretty good job of deconstructing and accurately representing the experiences of women living in a misogynistic society.

This comes up in lots of different ways, but one of the big ones is the knowledge (or lack thereof) of contraceptives and ways to overcome the expectation of noble women that they’re nothing more than brood mares for the noble MALE lines of Westeros.

I do plan to do a lot more essays/rants about gender issues in ASOIAF, but for now I want to focus on two things that were revealed in ASOS/AFFC that I thought were really obvious but, based on the surprise of various redditors on /r/asoiaf whenever these two things come up, were apparently not that obvious. Maybe it’s like Jenny dying of AIDS in Forrest Gump, which isn’t explicitly stated but is pretty obvious – but apparently not to many.

These two cases involve the use of “moon tea” – Westeros’ version of a herbal abortifacient. Firstly by Jeyne Westerling, forced upon her by her mother, and then the case of Lysa Tully Arryn, forced upon her by her father. The connecting factor is Catelyn Tully Stark: Cat doesn’t seem to know anything about moon tea or any other birth control, because she doesn’t pick up on either incident. Apparently because Cat doesn’t figure it out (in Lysa’s case, until way too late) many readers don’t pick it up either.

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Southron Ambitions – turned up to 11

BRING OUT YOUR TINFOIL!

Southron Ambitions is the name for a much touted fan theory that Rickard Stark married off his sons and daughter to southern houses for the purpose of aligning with other Great Houses. It’s pretty well accepted because it fits with the recent history of ASOIAF:

  • Brandon Stark was betrothed to Catelyn Tully
  • Eddard Stark was fostered at the Eyrie by Jon Arryn
  • Hoster Tully was negotiating with Tywin Lannister for Lysa to marry Jaime
  • Lyanna Stark was betrothed to Robert Baratheon
  • Oberyn Martell reminiscences with Tyrion about Oberyn and Elia visiting Casterly Rock with their mother, who had ambitions to match off her kids to the Lannister Twins (can you imagine Cersei and Oberyn? Hilarious.)

So we know for a fact that there was a lot of marriage alliances going on between all the major houses in Westeros, except for the Tyrells, who at that point didn’t have anyone of marriageable age (remember – Loras and Margaery are only 15-17 at the time of ASOS)

But I think there was more than just plans to get to know each other at the heart of these marriage alliances. Remember, in medieval times, marrying your sons and daughters off was the best way to seal a political union.

The TLDR version is:

  • Bitter Lady Dustin is correct that Rickard Stark had “southron ambitions” in arranging Southron matches for his children
  • but she doesn’t know the bigger picture: the Great Houses involved in these matches were preparing to overthrow the Targaryens for ever.
  • plan was massively accelerated when Lyanna ran off with Rhaegar as Aerys’ over reaction to Brandon’s behaviour, and killing Brandon and Rickard, gave the would be rebels the perfect excuse to launch their planned rebellion.

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Rhaegar v Robert, as depicted in The World of Ice & Fire

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Mothers in ASOIAF 1: Cersei & Catelyn

Mothers in A Song of Ice and Fire range from the overly loving to the point of smothering Lysa Tully Arryn, to the total narcissism of Cersei Lannister.

According to the Faith (itself representative of medieval Catholicism) and the medieval style gender-based roles for society, being a mother is the sole purpose of noble ladies. Breed and get out those heirs and spares, and raise them to be great lords and supple brides for other lords.

But what can we see in various mothers in ASOIAF? I might come back to this line of analysis in the future, but for now, have some thoughts on Cersei and Catelyn. Cersei’s is truncated a bit as I later adapted some of this for a more complex and nuanced analysis of Cersei herself, so bear with it…

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Sansa: Ned’s naive daughter

This is something I posted on /r/asoiaf way back when… now that I’ve made a blog to consolidate all my ASOIAF theories, I’ve copied, pasted and updated it. 

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A while back I had one of those lightning bolt moments where you realise something really obvious.

Fans have all commented endlessly about Ned and Sansa’s individual naivety and romanticism in how they view the world.

I guess I had always done what Westeros did – lumped Sansa in with her mother, because she looked and acted like the perfect Southron lady, with her Faith in the Seven and perfect manners for court, her Southron hair styles and enthusiasm for King’s Landing.

But…

Sansa really is Ned’s daughter. She might not have the same hair, same look, follow the same gods but she has the same stupidly naive world view.

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