Monday, April 12, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-read: A Game of Thrones, Part 6

Hiya! Welcome back from the weekend. We begin this week with some ASOIAF related news: Rand al'Thor has defeated Jamie Lannister. You can see how the rest of the Suvudu Cage Match 2010 went down, but the final was really, really close. My favourite series up against my second-favourite series. Any guess to how I voted?

Anygeekiness, we have a re-read to get to, one with a bit of good news sandwiched between chapters of doom. Let's move on from Part 5 and go to Part 6.

The intro post is here, and all posts are tracked with the #ASOIAF tag. There are some spoilers in these posts. Ignore the caution at your own peril. Proceed.

Chapter 16: Eddard

What Happens

Three days after the incident with Joffrey, Arya is found. She is being brought before the king, in an audience chamber of a minor lord's castle. Ned is both angry and worried about losing control of the situation to Cersei. He reaches the chamber and finds Arya in the center of the room, with everyone except his man, Jory Cassel, looking at her. This has the feeling of a trial.

Ned goes to comfort his daughter, and then faces the king, demanding to know why Arya wasn't brought straight to him. Cersei does little to curb her anger. Her account of what happened by the river is inaccurate, claiming that Arya and Mycah beat Joffrey with clubs. Robert is angry and uncomfortable with the whole process, but he tells Arya to give her side of the story. Renly laughs when she is finished. Robert kicks him out of the hall, but before he leaves, Renly has some parting words for his nephew:

"Perchance later you'll tell me how a nine-year-old girl the size of a wet rat managed to disarm you with a broom handle and throw your sword in the river." As the door swung shut behind him, Ned heard him say "Lion's Tooth" and guffaw once more.

Then it's Joffrey's turn, and his account is very different from Arya's. Robert doesn't know what to do, since the stories contradict each other. That's when Ned reminds him that Sansa was there as well. He gets her to step forward and tell everyone what happened. She looks at Arya, then at Joffrey, and then breaks into tears, claiming not to remember. Arya jumps on her, furious at her sister's betrayal, and Ned and Jory have to pull her off Sansa.

Cersei wants Arya punished, but Robert doesn't see what he can do to a child. He claims that children fight. When Cersei says that Joffrey will carry scars for life, Robert thinks that's ok, if it teaches his son a lesson. He ends the discussion by telling Ned to discipline Arya, as he will discipline Joffrey. Ned is relieved at the outcome until Cersei asks what they'll do about the direwolf. Fortunately, Nymeria hasn't been found, and even Robert is relieved.

Cersei offers a hundred golden dragons for the wolf's pelt, but Robert says he will not pay for it. The queen taunts her husband, but there's nothing Robert can do without a wolf. Cersei tells him they do have a wolf. When the king realizes what she means, he agrees to it. Ned protests, but Robert has had enough of the whole mess.

That's when Sansa realizes they mean to kill Lady instead of Nymeria. She screams and cries, and even Arya tries to explain that Lady wasn't even there. Ned pleads with Robert. The king swears at his wife for making this decision, but he doesn't change the sentence. When Ned asks if Robert can at least have the courage to kill Lady himself, the king walks away. Cersei calls for the wolf and of Ilyn Payne. Ned says no, and tells Jory to bring him Ice. Lady deserves better than Ser Ilyn.

Ned finds where Lady is chained, and sits with her for a while. When the deed is done, he tells Jory to take four men and bury the direwolf's body at Winterfell. He doesn't want Cersei to ever have its pelt.

As he leaves for his room, Sandor Clegane rides into the castle with a bloody bundle. Ned fears it is Nymeria, but it turns out to be Mycah, cut down from shoulder to waist.

"You rode him down," Ned said.
The Hound's eyes seemed to glitter through the steel of that hideous dog's-head helm. "He ran." He looked at Ned's face and laughed. "But not very fast."

Holy jumpin'! There are some chapters that resist being compressed, and this is one of them. Sansa, Sansa, Sansa. For a look at her character in a nutshell, check out her Twitter. That is not a typo.

Where to begin? How about we start with Cersei. I don't know why she feels so vindictive about all of this. Yes, her Joff got hurt, but he'll live. (Incidentally, I'm not sure if this injury or the scars are ever a factor after this. Nymeria was too easy on him.)

Joff is a coward. Nothing new there. Also, Renly doesn't seem fond of him. That's another uncle who dislikes the heir to the throne. I like that Renly laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, but it irritates me that he couldn't take the matter seriously enough to be of any use once the verdict came down. We can chalk that up to establishing his flaky character.

Not that Robert is much better. Some king/father/husband he is. It'll be a little longer before Ned finds out how badly managed the kingdom really is, but you can start to see why: Robert has no head for law and order. He might be a smart guy, but his actions are irrational and arbitrary. Being married to Cersei might do that to a man, but I get the feeling Robert never tried that hard to win her love and respect anyway. Now he's stuck with a shrew, and he'll do anything to shut her up.

That leads us to Lady, but first, a comment on Sansa. Why didn't she stick up for her sister? I guess she couldn't stomach the thought of ruining her relationship with Joff and the queen. Because of that, it's curtains for Lady. The scene where Ned goes to Lady is about a paragraph long, but it's absolutely heart-breaking. Kudos to Ned for giving her the honourable death.

Of course, that death if followed right away by Mycah's. (Betrayal and Mycah? Does anyone think Arya's not going to hold a grudge against Sansa for a long time?) I quoted the last bit because it's the Hound who delivers the body of the unlucky kid. I've been looking for clues to the Hound's character, trying to see if maybe he's better than he seems. The few times he's spoken, he's either angry or laughing. I used to think he was laughing out of evil enjoyment. Now I wonder if his laughter is sardonic. There is no proof that that's the case; it's just my personal hope that he's a good guy working for bad people. This particular murder will be revisited in one of my favourite scenes in A Storm of Swords, so, that's enough for now. We have another chapter to recap, so let's leave the tragic mess on the kingsroad and go to...

Chapter 17: Bran

What Happens

Bran dreams about falling. A three-eyed crow is with him, urging him to fly. Bran thinks he'll wake just before or just when he hits the ground, but the crow tells him he'll die instead.

As Bran plummets from somewhere above the world, he can see farther and clearer than anyone ever could. He sees Robb in Winterfell, and Catelyn taking a bloody knife south on a ship. He sees Ned pleading with Robert while Sansa cries and Arya becomes secretive. He looks east and sees the land of the Dothraki across the sea, and beyond those lands are the Jade Sea and Asshai, where there may be dragons.

Then he looks north, seeing Jon asleep on the south side of the Wall. Bran's sight goes beyond the Wall, past forests and frozen wastelands, into the very heart of winter. What he sees there makes him cry out in fear. The crow tells him that now he knows why he must live. The bones of dead dreamers are impaled on spires of ice below him, and that frightens Bran even more.

"Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?" he heard his own voice saying, small and far away,
And his father's voice replied to him. "That is the only time a man can be brave."
Now, Bran, the crow urged. Choose. Fly or die.

Bran flies, narrowly avoiding the spires below, but he is surprised when the crow beats its wings in his face. The crow's beak stabs Bran's forehead. He shrieks, and there is a scream. The crow disappears and a woman comes into focus. It is a serving woman from Winterfell, and she runs away from the room shouting, "He's awake, he's awake, he's awake."

Alone, Bran feels his forehead where it still hurts from the crow, but there is no blood. Something jumps on his legs, though Bran can't feel a thing. He recognizes his wolf pup, bigger than he remembered.

Robb bursts into the room to see the direwolf licking Bran's face. Bran looks at him and says: "His name is Summer."

I think dreams are the biggest differences between humans in fantasy worlds and humans in the real world. We have scientific and psychological explanations for dreams and for what happens when the subconscious mind is free to broadcast surreal signals in tune with REM sleep-cycles. In fantasy worlds, dreams take on extra life. Sometimes they are completely different worlds, accessible by the mind and the body. (See Tel'aran'rhiod, in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, for the most detailed example I know of.)

Bran's coma-dream gives him the power to see things that are actually happening. I don't think anything special ever comes of that, but it sounds cool. Then there's the three-eyed crow, giving advice at first, and pecking a hole in Bran's forehead. This is presumably for Bran's own third eye, although the lack of a hole in the waking world suggests the third eye is more metaphorical than literal. The third eye is traditionally used as a spiritual symbol for seeing beyond the mundane reality. What is Bran supposed to see?

He certainly sees something scary in the north during the fall. Without explicit confirmation, I'm guessing that would be the Others, although if anyone thinks its something else (ie Coldhands), let me know.

In the end, Bran wakes up (yay!), and Summer gets his name. I was so happy about that, because, really, who kills off the sweet little kid in the beginning?

All this is after we get the creepy image of the dreamers who died because they didn't wake up before hitting the ground. Have you ever dreamed about falling? I know I have. If there is a foolproof method of waking up, I would like to know it now. Thanks.

Chapter 18: Catelyn

What Happens

Catelyn's ship is nearing King's Landing, having made excellent time on a Tyroshi ship. She and the half-sea-sick Ser Rodrik discuss business. Ser Rodrik advises caution since they cannot know who to trust with the information about the killer's blade. Also, she will be recognized by some at court. He means Lord Petyr Baelish, more commonly known as Littlefinger. He was once the ward of Catelyn's father, and he had feelings for Catelyn. He challenged Brandon Stark for Catelyn's hand and barely escaped with his life. Catelyn is not surprised that Littlefinger rose so high in life (he sits on the king's high council), but she hopes he has become wiser since they were children.

King's Landing comes into view, the city built by Aegon the Conqueror three hundred years earlier. The Red Keep looks over the city, and the stag of House Baratheon flies overhead. Ser Rodrik advises Catelyn to stay somewhere safe while he goes to the Red Keep and brings Ser Aron Santagar, the king's master-at-arms. They take rooms at an inn, and Catelyn goes to sleep when Ser Rodrik leaves.

She is awakened in the evening by pounding at her door. Men of the City Watch are there to escort her to the castle, courtesy of Lord Littlefinger. The men do not know who she is, and they have orders not to mistreat her, yet Catelyn is worried. Littlefinger shouldn't have known she was there. Ser Rodrik wouldn't have said anything, meaning the Tyroshi captain of the ship must have sold her out.

Catelyn is escorted to a room where Littlefinger is waiting for her, alone. He calls her "Cat". He is small in stature, and there is silver in his hair even though is not yet thirty. Catelyn does not trust him, and she asks how he knew she was in the city. He claims that Lord Varys knows all, and he told Petyr the information. Yet he does not know why she is there. She claims that she wanted to be with Ned, but he brushes aside the lie, deducing that only an emergency would have brought her like this.

They are interrupted by the arrival of Varys. If Catelyn is unsure of Littlefinger, she certainly dislikes Varys. The spymaster is all politeness and full of sympathy, especially concerning Bran's accident. He admits that he was the one who knew about her arrival, and he asks to see the dagger. Catelyn is stunned that he knows about that, and Littlefinger is confused by the new topic. Varys assures Catelyn that Ser Rodrik is perfectly safe; he and Ser Aron actually returned to the inn and are waiting for Catelyn's return.

Catelyn produces the dagger. Varys tests the sharpness and cuts his finger on the blade. Littlefinger takes the knife of Vaylrian steel and tells Catelyn she should have just asked him about it. The knife belongs to him, or it did until he lost it in a bet. He wagered that Jamie would win Prince Joffrey's name day tourney, but Jamie was unhorsed by Ser Loras Tyrell. And the winner of the bet was Tyrion Lannister.

The Imp?! My, how perceptions change once you know who's lying, and when. Knowing now what I did not know then, I can now see Littlefinger's smooth accusation for the lie it always was.

Tyrion betting against Jamie is patently ridiculous. Tyrion would back Jamie out of loyalty even if he were up against the biggest, bad-assest opponent of them all. Which isn't to say Jamie is unbeatable. After all, we just heard that he lost to Ser Loras (well, hello, Knight of Flowers). BUT... we don't know that the first time through. We don't know enough about Tyrion, and we know nothing about Littlefinger.

So, even if we're suspicious of the accusation--and I'm almost certain I wasn't--we're at least vary about the Imp now. Did he try to kill Bran? It seems like a stretch, considering how nice he seemed, but if he did... well, he's with Jon now. What chaos could he do up on the Wall? Al of a sudden, that one lie creates a ripple effect of suspicion, all because we don't know it's a lie. Sneaky, thy name is Littlefinger.

Speaking of sneaky, there's the introduction of Varys, the eunuch and spymaster. Catelyn finds him distasteful, and Ned seemed to feel the same way when Varys was mentioned by Robert a few chapters ago. Can Varys be trusted? Is he a reliable spymaster, or is he a schemer?

For all that this was Catelyn's POV, we don't exactly know why conclusions she's coming to. We'll have to wait until the next time we see her for that information.


And that information will be in Part 7, this Thursday, during a touching reunion of husband and wife. Won't that be sweet?


ibeeeg said...

Ayra holding a grudge against Sansa? She gets angry at her, and they may not get along, but I don't see her holding a grudge against her sister. Holding a grudge against other people? Yep.
Currently, Ayra impresses me.

Hound: I wonder about him. I read and wonder what side he truly is on.

Bran: I am not much into his chapeters. Therefore, I have not thought much abouth is dreams. Maybe I should pay attention more.

Errant Knave said...

I don't know... The relations between Arya and Sansa are strained at best beyond this point. True, Arya doesn't hate Sansa, but I don't think she ever forgives anyone involved in Mycah's death. Sansa never thinks about it, but she's as much a culprit there as Joffrey.

Anonymous said...

I used to think that Theon was, for once in his fictional life, successfully being sneaky a sneaky bastard there. Then I thought Cat was just strung too tight to notice his duplicity. Now I'm entertaining the possibility that George might have written him out of character? That whole exchange about Ned being a second father puzzles me.

I cried when Lady died. After rereading the scene I've come to the same conclusion as you re: Renly being a flake. He's actually got a good head on his shoulders; more's the pity. But I reserve the bulk of my opprobrium for Robert. Seriously. Joffrey is senselessly cruel but he's hasn't exactly had great role models. Cersei is hysterical and borderline insane but we knew that already. Robert, however, is king. He KNEW his wife was lying.

Anyway, I'm glad that you decided to share your thoughts on here. The first reread is the best, IMO. You know when your favorite parts are coming up but you haven't memorized every last iota of trivia yet. There are still surprises awaiting you in the minor plotlines.

I also want to thank you for being super hyperlinked and cool like that. I haven't spent much time in troperville myself but it seems you're a veteran troper and I would welcome more trope-related insights.

Two questions for you: Which one *is* your all-time favorite fantasy series, and why in the Dark One's name would they pit Jaime Lannister against Rand al-Thor? Jaime knows less about magic than Hot Pie knows about swordsmanship.


Errant Knave said...

Anonymouse: I think it's too early for Theon to be sneaky. Remember that after the rude welcome of his homecoming, he thinks very highly of Ned. It's too late by then, but I think he genuinely regrets losing Ned as a father.

Joff seems like the kind of kid who would have been cruel no matter who his parents were. I forget who mentioned it now, whether it was Tyrion, Robert, or Renly, but there was an incident with Joff killing a dog or a puppy. He's a bad apple and that's all there is to it.

Nice use of "opprobrium" :D Does Robert know Cersei is lying? I'm not sure if she knows Joff is lying. Robert might suspect, and Cersei might not care, but I agree with your opprobrium because it still comes down to Robert being a coward. Which is sad.

Tropeville: That place is like going down the rabbit hole. Fun, informative, and incredibly time-consuming.

"Jaime knows less about magic than Hot Pie knows about swordsmanship." hehe, true, but it was a bracket challenge via process of elimination, with random rules (ie Jamie is outside the Pattern and therefore unaffected by ta'veren). It was all about fan voting. Rand ended up having a few more fans.

And my favourite series is the Wheel of Time. Hands down. (Stumps down?)

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