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.

Continue reading “Why did Benjen take the black?”

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!

Right?

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.

Continue reading “Quick post: bastard names”

Who are the main players in the Game of Thrones after AFFC/ADWD? (Part 1)

The War of the Five Kings, and its ignoble ending at the Red Wedding, eradicated a lot of the claimants for the Iron Throne or any regional thrones in Westeros.

As we prepare for the launch of season 6 GOT, let’s review where we left everyone at the end of A Feast for Crows/A Dance of Dragons – specifically, those main characters that many think (or hope!) will go on to be future pawns in the Game of Thrones, or major players.

NB: I’m not up to date on the TV show. I’ve monitored Buzzfeed and Tumblr, and have a reasonably good idea of the deviations in plot and major points, but I haven’t actually watched past season 2 GOT myself. It’s on my To Watch list and I recently got the 5 season box set… but I haven’t actually sat down and binged yet as I’ve had stuff to do.

Continue reading “Who are the main players in the Game of Thrones after AFFC/ADWD? (Part 1)”

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.

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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)”

Robb & Honour: What was Ned’s example?

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Gif sourced from FanPop

One of the Young Wolf’s major disastrous decisions is his hormonally-influenced rash choice to totally ignore the marriage pact his mother arranged with Walder Frey to guarantee the Northern armies could cross the Trident during the War of The Five Kings, in favour of wedding the girl whose honour he had besmirched by bedding her when upset after learning about the “deaths” of his younger brothers.

Would Robb have made a wiser decision if he had learned different lessons about honour from daddy dearest Ned Stark?

What impact does Robb’s relationship with his much loved and, by his mother, much hated bastard brother do to inform Robb’s decision making process?

Or was Robb’s dick just making all the decisions for him?

Continue reading “Robb & Honour: What was Ned’s example?”

What is the “Song” at the heart of ASOIAF?

I’ve thrashed around some ideas in the past putting forward the hypothesis that GRRM is telling two stories within ASOIAF: the Song of Ice & Fire, and the Game of Thrones.

By taking the dual series names, I’m not advocating for book wank over TV fanboys. (Although I am, in general, a proud book wanker – as far as ASOIAF goes. Some of the changes made by the TV show are perplexing and remain to be seen if they are editorial shortcuts or just very bad ideas…)

What I mean is that two complex stories are being told within the one field of war: a mystical story that we don’t understand yet about the Song of Ice & Fire, and the War for the Dawn; against the political shenanigans which we do understand, with a plethora of interested parties duking it out for absolute monarchical control of Westeros.

The Game doesn’t really require extensive analysis, because it’s familiar to us. It’s the political machinations of King’s Landing, the chaos of Littlefinger, the long game of Varys: we recognise it because we see it daily, or can reflect upon history.

But the Song…. what is the Song? Is the Song about magic in all its forms? Or is it specifically about the Others and the Long Night? Is it about balance between Fire (Valyrian/dragon magic) and Ice (Winter/Others’ magic)? Or is it something else entirely?

Now, despite a litany of hilarious suggestions for appropriate ASOIAF music choices on reddit, I didn’t actually mean this question quite so literally. I don’t mean “what is the Song?” as in who is singing it and why, I mean what is the story at the heart of the more magical and metaphysical side of ASOIAF.

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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

Continue reading “Southron Ambitions – turned up to 11”