Thursday, April 8, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-read: A Game of Thrones, Part 5

It's Thursday! That means a re-read is in order.

In Part 4 I wanted to check that I wasn't breaking copyright law by quoting sections of the book. I think I'm ok (key word: think) because it falls under fair use laws, and I own the actual book. So that's that, in case you wonder about that kind of stuff.

The intro post is here, and all posts are tracked with the #ASOIAF tag. There are some spoilers in these posts. Granted, it's not like finding out that Snape kills Dumbledore, Verbal Kint is Keyser Soze, or the passengers on Oceanic Flight 815... wait... that one hasn't happened yet. But, yeah, I advise caution. Let us proceed.



Chapter 13: Tyrion

What Happens

Tyrion is surprised by just how much distance there is to cover on the kingsroad from Winterfell to the Wall. The weather keeps getting colder, and there is little company after the first three days. He is travelling with Benjen Stark, Jon Snow, Jon's direwolf, and a couple of Lannister servants. After a while they are joined by Yoren, a man of the Night's Watch, and two youths that Yoren calls "Rapers".

One day, the company is setting up camp for the night and Tyrion hobbles off to drink some wine and read about dragons. The history of dragons has fascinated him all his life, and he reminisces about finding the dragon skulls in King's Landing. He is interrupted by Jon, who wants to know why Tyrion reads. The dwarf's answer is that he is restricted in most physical matters, but he can exercise his mind.

The subject turns to the reading material, and Tyrion tells Jon that even a stunted man can look down on others from atop a dragon. Then he says he used to fantasize about watching his father or sister burn, and Jon must have had similar fantasies about his own family. Jon's shock turns to anger when Tyrion's wit exposes the circumstances leading to Jon's enlistment in the Watch. Tyrion feels guilty for being too harsh, until Ghost knocks him down. Tyrion is hurt from the fall, and asks for aide, but Ghost is still in the way.

"Don't help me, then. I'll sit right here until you leave."
Jon Snow stroked Ghost's thick white fur, smiling now. "Ask me nicely."
Tyrion Lannister felt the anger coiling inside him, and crushed it out with a will. It was not the first time in his life he had been humiliated, and it would not be the last. Perhaps he even deserved this. "I should be very grateful for your kind assistance, Jon," he said mildly.

After Jon helps him up, the two actually form a bit of a bond. Jon realizes that Tyrion spoke the truth; the men of the Watch would be mostly criminals and bastards. Coming to terms with the truth will help him in the long run. The chapter ends with Tyrion feeling sorry for Jon.

Commentary
This chapter brings a couple of our dear misfits together again, and we learn a bit more about each one. Tyrion, for example, is eloquent, witty, and he seems like a genuinely nice guy, despite being a Lannister. However, he's had a lifetime of disappointment to grow a thick skin. Jon, on the other hand, is still growing his.

I have to say that I was not impressed with Jon's petty display, however brief it was. Tyrion is already deformed. Was it really necessary to humiliate him for daring to say the truth? Fortunately, Jon recovers after that.

The bit about dragons was interesting, especially the parts involving three dragon siblings, the largest ever. They were used by Aegon Targaryen and his sisters, three years earlier to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. What a perfectly random bit of history. Of all the things for Tyrion to be reading...

Also making appearances in this chapter: Benjen Stark (who shares Ned's dislike for Lannisters) and Yoren, in all his greasy surliness. Night's Watch or no Night's Watch, if there is lice crawling through your matted hair and beard, shave them off!


Chapter 14: Catelyn

What Happens

Eight days after Ned and the others left Winterfell, Maester Luwin tries to get Catelyn to see to the affairs of the keep. She rounds on him in fury for suggesting that she do anything other than care for Bran. Robb interrupts her, taking charge of the situation. When they are alone, Robb chides his mother for neglecting everything in favour of Bran, including three-year-old Rickon. Cateyln is embarrassed, but also sad, and she is overwhelmed by grief.

Just then, a fire breaks out in another part of the keep. Catelyn stays in the room while Robb runs off, and then a small, dirty man she doesn't recognize enters the room, holding a dagger. He's as surprised to see her there as she is to see him. When Catelyn realizes he's there to kill Bran, she runs to scream for help, but the man attacks her. She stops the dagger with her bare hands, and bites a piece of flesh off the man's hand. They tussle a bit more, and then a direwolf is there, taking out half the man's throat. It's Bran's wolf. Catelyn thanks it, and then begins laughing hysterically until Rob and the guards arrive. Catelyn is taken to her rooms, her wounds are tended, and she goes to sleep.

She awakes four days later, determined to be a stronger woman. Robb comes to see her, along with Ser Rodrick, Theon, and the new captain of the guard. She asks how the attacker got into Winterfell. He was a stranger, and hiding in the stables for quite some time. The others are surprised and puzzled when Catelyn says that the man was there for Bran, and not her. Maester Luwin arrives just as Robb deduces that someone wanted to kill Bran because he knew something he shouldn't have. The captain leaves to place guards around Bran.

Ser Rodrik mentions that the villain was using a knife worth far more than he could ever have afforded, therefore it had to have been given by someone rich. Catelyn decides to trust her secrets to them, first saying that Jon Arryn might have been murdered by Lannisters, and that Jamie Lannister may have thrown Bran from the tower. The others are shocked at the suggestion, but the situation seems plausible in some ways.

Catelyn decides to go to King's Landing to find proof. The others protest, but she ignores them, taking Ser Rodrick with her, and leaving Robb as the Stark in Winterfell.

Commentary
Ned's wife is a piece of work wouldn't you say? I have to say that Catelyn's prolonged depression feels believable. The way she lashed out at Maester Luwin and then broke down in front of Robb was tense and uncomfortable, but completely believable. Robb's take-charge attitude was refreshing, and I still wish we'd get a POV from him.

It's good to see how Catelyn reacts to save one of her children, considering this won't be the only time. She fights with desperation, and without regard for her own safety. Her fingers were cut almost to the bone. Yikes. I'm not squeamish, but that description was vivid enough that I cringed. Oh, and she starts laughing hysterically after the bloodshed. Just pointing that out for no spoiler-related reason at all. Nothing to see here. Carry on.

Catelyn's a surprisingly good detective, by the way. I mean, she has no motives to connect Jamie to Bran, and no evidence except that Jamie stayed behind on that day. This is one case where Jamie's reputation as the Kingslayer and his last name are working against him, but it doesn't matter because the readers know she has the right suspect. So, can she prove it?

I find it interesting that Theon says "Lord Eddard is a second father to me," when he swears to secrecy. He is also the first to swear, and when the prospect of having to fight Lannisters is raised he says, "My Lady, if it comes to that, my House owes yours a great debt." We know little about Theon so far, other than Jon dislikes him, but he's friends enough with Robb. It seems he admires Ned as well. Theon has a larger role to play, so I'd like to keep tabs on him in these early parts.


Chapter 15: Sansa

What Happens

The king's party is camped near the Trident, and Sansa is delighted to hear about an invitation to ride in the wheelhouse with Queen Cersei and Princess Myrcella. Arya has been invited too, although when Sansa finds her sister brushing mud from her wolf, Arya is not interested in the least. She insists on going exploring with Mycah, a butcher's boy, and tells Sansa she's be better off riding with them. "I hate riding," Sansa replies.

She reflects on how different the two sisters are, despite being born only two years apart. She cannot understand why their father puts up with Arya's antic when she is irreverent and unladylike. Sansa tries to again to convince Arya, but her sister just says she doesn't like the queen. Arya runs off with Nymeria, leaving Sansa and her wolf (Lady) alone on the way back to the inn where they are staying.

There is some commotion around the inn as three escorts from King's Landing have arrived. The first is an old knight, and the second is a young and handsome knight, but the third stranger frightens Sansa so badly that she stumbles back. She bumps into Sandor Clegane, another unfriendly, frightening figure. Then Joffrey is by her side and everything is better. The old knight is introduced as Ser Barristan Selmy, of the Kingsguard, and the handsome one is Renly Baratheon, Robert's younger brother. The frightening man is Ser Ilyn Payne, and he cannot speak because Aerys Targaryen had his tongue ripped out.

Cersei tells Joffrey to entertain Sansa, and when he suggests they go riding, she replies: "Oh, I love riding." He leaves the Hound behind, and she leaves Lady. Her only protection is Joffrey and his new sword "Lion's Tooth". They do all kinds of exploring, and Joffrey is gallant enough to order some unsuspecting country folk to provide food and drink for their prince and his lady.

Later on, they are approaching the Trident, scene of Robert's victory over Rhaegar, when they hear sounds nearby. They discover an older boy using a stick to play-fight at swords with a younger girl who turns out to be Arya. Sansa is horrified at the embarrassment, but Joffrey is amused, and he challenges the boy, Mycah, to a real fight, stick against Lion's Tooth. Mycah tries to back out, but Joffrey has his sword at the boy's neck, and it's drawing blood. Arya attacks Joffrey with her stick and throws a rock at his horse. Joffrey is furious and swings his sword at her, backing her up against a tree. Sansa is crying because everyone is spoiling her day, until Nymeria appears, biting Joffrey's arm until he drops the sword. Arya takes Lion's Tooth, throws it into the river, and runs away. Sansa is crying over Joffrey's wounds, but he just snaps at her, telling her to go get help.

Commentary
It took this long to get Sansa's POV, and what a treat that was. At this point, she's a candidate for either the Bratty Teenage Daughter (without being a teen yet) or the Brainless Beauty, if not both. There's not much good I can say for the girl this early in the series. I'm actually surprised at how much there was to include from that chapter, so I'm just going to condense some of the commentary. Sansa: blah. Liking Joffrey: ick. Crying and wishing that everything goes perfectly super: blah.

Then the escorts arrive and things get interesting. There's Barristan the Bold, probably the first example of what a good knight should be, and there's Renly, all young and good-looking, cracking jokes like he hasn't a care in the world. Ser Ilyn is an intimidating figure, but I wonder if he just has a bad rap because he's the king's headsman. I think his worst crime is that he's a Lannister man, but I might be forgetting something. (Oh, I haven't forgotten about You-Know-What, but he does that on royal orders. Again, it's his job.)

Joff is a coward who has all the makings of a tyrant, but Sansa thinks he's brave and gallant. Fine. Whatever. But not only does the creep attack a younger, unarmed butcher's boy with a real sword, he also attacks Sansa's sister with that same sword. Does Sansa care? It doesn't look like it.

I know I'm coming down really hard on a twelve-year-old girl. I think it's partly because Martin wrote her that way, and partly because of the stark (no pun intended) contrast to the rest of her kin. Earlier in the chapter, Sansa remembers thinking that she and Arya couldn't be related, that the grumkins had to have switched her real sister. I can't answer for the grumkins, whatever they are, but on this much I can agree with Sansa: she and Arya are definitely cut from a different cloth.

***

Sorry to end on a down note, but things don't exactly get better after this. Tune in Monday for Part 6 to see what happens when fit hits the shan. Have a great weekend!

7 comments:

ibeeeg said...

The bit about the dragons is interesting, now that you bring it up and now that I am done with this book.

I kinda like Tyrion, and I do like Jon.

Catelyn, I was glad to see her come out of her funk. The knife cutting to the bone part did not bother me while reading, but most certainly would if it happened to me! Ummm...I am not a huge fan of Catelyn. It is not that I don't like her, but she is not ranking up there as a favorite. Maybe that will change.

Sansa is 12? I thought she was 11. Oh well..no difference really... 11 or 12.
As for the age of the children, the things that they do, experience, expected of them is one aspect of the book that kept getting me, most especially when I would pause and remember their ages.

Sansa...I do not like her much. She grated on my nerves each and every time she would choose position or Joffrey over her sister. She grated on my nerves, all the time, period. I can only hope that she becomes a bit more like her sister after life has dealt her a hard blow.

Errant Knave said...

I agree with you about Sansa, but she does improve. Just wait til you start feeling sorry for her.

Stacy said...

I just discovered your blog and I am loving it. I just wanted to add that the part where Sansa picked Joffrey over Arya always struck me as false. I have an older brother and we hated each other growing up (much like Sansa hates Arya). That being said, we closed ranks against outsiders. While it was perfectly acceptable for us to hit each other, it was not okay for other people to hit us. For that reason, I could never accept that Sansa would not back Arya when someone outside the family was picking on her.

Errant Knave said...

Stacy, you've just about summed up how my sisters and I act. We bicker like crazy, but any outsider who does so is in for a verbal smackdown at least. I think a lot of people would agree with you as well, but Joffrey is more than an outsider to Sansa. He is a shining prince, and she will someday be queen of all the land. She stands to gain everything by being with him. It's better than any of the songs or stories for her.

The part I don't understand is how she could be so naive. Robb, Jon, Bran, and Arya are all serious and insightful. You can argue that Jon has to be serious because he's a bastard, and Robb has to have a good head on his shoulders because he's the exemplary older brother, but Bran can understand serious situations even though he's seven and dreams of being a knight, and Arya is ... well, Arya.

Which is the long way of me saying that I agree; something about Sansa's choices doesn't ring completely true. But... it is what it is. At this point we just have to work with it. Characters are flawed, sometimes for inexplicable reasons.

Thanks for your compliments! I hope you're just as happy with the rest of the posts :D

Darth Rachel said...

I started re-reading Game of Thrones last week (after a heated debate with my boyfriend about prince rhaegar made me realize i had no idea what anyones names were anymore).

Anyways, I just found your blog so YAY! Thanks for this!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, no kidding about you coming down on Sansa like a sledgehammer, holy ****ing crap.

I mean, at least initially Joffrey IS trying to act like a decent human being to get along with Sansa. And

"By your extreme youth, you can only be Renly Baratheon and so I name you"

was the closest Sansa ever gets to Tyrion level.

Errant Knave said...

I think Sansa is being shown in a more negative light at first to highlight her change over the course of the series. I think there are various points in this book (mostly towards the end) where I point out how much she has to go through, and how she's probably just as tough or as good as, say, Arya.

Thanks for commenting. :)

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