Monday, May 17, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-read: A Game of Thrones, Part 15

Good evening, readers. Welcome back to the thing we like to call a re-read of the series known as A Song of Ice and Fire. This post is brought to you by a photo from the upcoming HBO production of A Game of Thrones. Whee!

Today's post follows the Monday trend of the last couple of weeks. That is, it's coming late in the day. I have my reasons. They will be revealed soon.

Furthermore, this post will only be able to cover a single chapter #35 to be exact.

This and all #ASOIAF-related posts contain spoilers for the series. The intro to the posts is here. Entries can be tracked with the ASOIAF tag (#ASOIAF on Twitter).

That's all. Weigh in with your comments in the ... um... comments section. And stay tuned after the post for An Announcement.

Chapter 35: Eddard

What Happens

Ned emerges from a room in a brothel and tells his men they're leaving. The three men (Jory, Heward, and Wyl) go fetch the horses while Littlefinger mockingly inquires whether Ned was doing business on behalf of the king within the room. Ned tells him he is grateful that Littlefinger showed him to this particular brothel, but He doesn't want to hear Littlefinger's quips.

The five of them leave the establishment, and Littlefinger muses that he should buy the place since brothels are more reliable than ships. Ned lets him talk; his mind is elsewhere.

"Robert will never keep to one bed," Lyanna had told him at Winterfell, on the night long ago when their father had promised her hand to the young Lord of Storm's End. "I hear he has gotten a child on some girl in the Vale." Ned had held the babe in his arms; he could scarcely deny her, nor would he lie to his sister, but he had assured her that what Robert did before their betrothal was of no matter, that he was a good man and true who would love her with all his heart. Lyanna had only smiled. "Love is sweet, dearest Ned, but it cannot change a man's nature."

He thinks about the girl he just spoke to at the brothel, so young that she must have been a virgin before Robert. She had shown him her daughter, Barra, who had several of the Baratheon features. The girl told Ned that she wouldn't need jewels or anything. She only wants Robert. He had promised her that he would tell Robert about the baby, and that she would never go wanting.

As they ride in the rain, Ned broods about bastards and their sad fate. He asks Petyr how many bastards Robert has. "Well, he has more than you, for a start," Littlefinger replies. There are a few. At least one has been acknowledged by the king, and is currently under Renly's care at Storm's End. There are rumors of twins that Robert fathered at Casterly Rock and Cersei had killed. Only a rumor, but Ned can believe it.

Ned wonders aloud why Jon Arryn was interested in Robert's bastards. It had to be more than the king's interest in providing for them, else why kill them? He finds himself thinking about Rhaegar Targaryen for the first time in years. He doesn't think Rhaegar was the sort to frequent brothels.

Jory suddenly cries out, and within moments some twenty Lannister guards, led by Jaime, surround the small group. Littlefinger asks what Jaime thinks he's doing, but Ned knows what's coming. Jaime asks for the whereabouts of his brother. He says that Lord Tywin is very upset about what happened to Tyrion. He draws his sword and tells Ned to do the same, unless he'd like to die like Aerys. He also tells Littlefinger to leave, unless he'd like to get blood on his clothes. Littlefinger takes the opportunity to go, promising to bring back the City Watch.

Ned knows there is no chance to win by fighting, so he uses the only defense he has. He warns Jaime that if Catelyn will kill Tyrion if Ned dies. Jaime considers the possibility, and decides he doesn't think so, but he is not willing to risk his brother's life on it. He puts his sword away and tells his men not to hard Ned.

"Still... we wouldn't want him to leave here entirely unchastened, so"--through the night and the rain, he glimpsed the white of Jaime's smile--"kill his men."

Ned pulls out his sword and tries to defend his men. Jory is able to break free, but comes charging back a few moments later. Ned breaks a leg when his horse falls, and he sees all three of his men get killed. He blacks out because of the pain. He wakes up after a while, and pulls himself over to one side of the street. When Littlefinger and the City Watch arrive, they find Ned cradling Jory's body.

Ned loses consciousness again, and wakes up in the Red Keep. Grand Maester Pycelle gives him milk of the poppy, and Ned passes out once more.

Commentary
The sudden murders suck. Of all the shocking events in this series (and there are a few), it's the sudden murders that always leave the worst taste in my mouth. Did we know Heward and Wyl? Not at all. Jory? Barely. But their deaths seem so arbitrary and unnecessary, that they only help to cement Jaime's perception as a monster.

There's no real excuse for Jaime's actions. His order was unlawful by any stretch. Even if he thought he was enacting retribution for the kidnapping of his brother, Ned's men still deserved a trial. If any captain or Kingsguard ordered the deaths of people for every grudge they held, the kingdom would descend into lawlessness. Jaime acts like he has honour by offering Ned the chance to draw his sword, but killing three men with twenty guards is despicable. I think more than one person will eventually tell Jaime that he has s*** for honour. Regardless of how he is in the future, at this point they'd be right.

We briefly see the insides of a whorehouse, where Heward is playing some version of strip poker (and losing), and then it's off to the city streets. Littlefinger's crack about wanting to buy the brothel because of its reliability makes pretty good business sense, but it makes me wonder about the state of prostitution in Westeros.

Clearly, it's legal. Yet for all that Westeros is a supposedly slave-free land, there don't seem to be any qualms about selling children for sex. The girl Robert slept with to father Barra is described as too young, and likely a virgin. This in a land where 13 and 14-year-olds can marry. How young must this girl have been? I don't care how tough and mature some of the Westeros kids can be, you can't tell me that a virgin girl who might be 10 or 11 would choose a life of prostitution without either being raised for it or sold into it. So, what's up with the brothels?

(You'll notice I'm not even touching the subject of Robert and any of the rules of leadership, morality, and husbandry that he's breaking. Judging him by my more modern sensibilities would be pointless. Besides, his clock is ticking.)

Oh, and the brothel is owned by one Chataya, who I believe resurfaces again due to the law of conserving characters.

Ned's flashback certainly implies that Lyanna was not going to be happy with Robert. So she was not blinded by the prospect of being married to a Baratheon youth (i.e. Sansa with Joff). Furthermore, she came to that conclusion right away, on the day her father made the proposal. And then, because she didn't own a copy of The Iliad, she got herself abducted like Helen of Troy.

Speaking about her abductor, we get just a couple of sentences about Rhaegar, but he sounds like the kind of guy who would have fit in with the Starks. Just imagine if Ned had grown up with Rhaegar instead of Robert.

Littlefinger is playing his game. He is either very convincing in this scene, or Ned trusts him more now. It amounts to the same thing. Now Ned is seemingly in a world of trouble, and he's being drugged by the suspicious old maester. S***.

***

Will our daring hero manage to survive? Will he live to fight another day? The answer will have to wait.

Sorry to leave off on such a gloomy chapter. However, it's time for The Announcement:

The re-read is going to have to halt for a bit. I am going on vacation for a couple of weeks on Thursday. There's so much I still have to do for my job and packing, and even more packing. (That's why this post was late.) This will be the last ASOIAF post until I return for Part 16, but I'll put a separate post up tomorrow or the day after. Until then, thanks for reading!

7 comments:

Lya said...

He doesn't think Rhaegar was the sort to frequent brothels. You know I think my estimation of Rhaegar has come full circle. I initially took Robert's account of the Rebellion and the battle of the Trident at face value. Then we start hearing about how Rhaegar is OMG the best thing to happen to Westeros since Baelor Breakspear. Barristan's praise sort of cinched it for me. So Rhaegar is the shining paragon of Westerosi manhood. Okay I can live with that. Only not, because the more I think about it, the more I become convinced that the fall of House Targaryen was caused at least in part by the fact that Rhaegar couldn't keep it in his pants. Granted, most men can't, but if he is going to achieve such iconic status as a hero I feel like we are justified in holding him to a higher standard. Yes, I'm a Rhaegar-hater.

Have fun on vacation! When you come back you should co-write a treatise with Stannis Baratheon on how to combat the Westerosi sex trade. *goes back to reading The Girl Who Played With Fire*

Also, you can bash my Jaime all you want but for the love of all that's holy spell the poor man's name right!! :P

Errant Knave said...

Oh, for the love of all that is holy! What is wrong with me? And I LIKE Jaime. What's next? Caitlyn? Sandro? Danny? Ugh. *smacking myself upside the head

I can't say I'm a Rhaegar-hater, but while I think there are several allegedly awesome things about him, the thing that always bothered me was that he was married to Elia. "R+L 4eva" might be all tragic and romantic, but... there's that wife and kid to think about as well. I'm curious why that hasn't been a bigger factor so far. I was hoping someone like Oberyn would have an opinion on the matter, but the only one still upset about the way things fell out is Robert. So the Rhaegar/Elia relationship is one of two that haven't been explained to my liking. The other is Ned/Ashara, although a rumour isn't the same thing as a marriage.

To make a long story short, I don't know what to think about Rhaegar.

Oh, are there any inappropriate sexual situations in the Stieg Larsson books? I am all innocence.

Stannis already contacted me about the treatise, but talks ultimately broke down. He's against anything related to sex (except for Melisandre), and I'm just against child prostitution and funding mafias. He decided my morals weren't rigid enough. I expect my shadow to turn on me any day now.

Of course, if that doesn't happen, I'll be enjoying my vacation. Thank you.

Lya said...

It's possible that the reason Oberyn "doesn't have an opinion on the matter" is that he's actually relieved Rhaegar is philandering, because that means he [Oberyn] gets Elia all to himself. I mean, when he went up agains the Mountain he didn't seem like somebody who was in his right mind. Driven out of his mind with grief, probably, because he loved Elia so much, and still hasn't gotten over her some fifteen (?) years later.

But your point about how Rhaegar abandoned not just Elia but Aegon and Rhaenys is well taken.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is about serial murder and pedophlia with a liberal dose of BDSM. The Girl Who Played With Fire is about the Scandinavian sex trade. At this rate The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest is going to be about how North America + Europe is actually one big narcotics trafficking + prostitution emporium. Seven help us all.

Errant Knave said...

Oberyn and Elia.. like I said, I'm waiting for more explicit explanations. I wonder if we'll get them.

I meant "wife and kids", not "wife and kid". It looks like I made one of Elia's kids disappear. I started small by changing the spelling of names. Now I'm out to alter genealogy.

I fibbed about being innocent, but I thought the Larsson books were murder mysteries that included some sex. Interesting. Aside from being bestsellers, I hear differing opinions about their quality. And the Hornet's Nest is already available in Canada. I understand it wasn't supposed to be on sale yet, but booksellers jumped the gun. No idea about availability in the US.

mel said...

i am lost on this series of re-read posts, but i must respond to your comment.
a) the poem was in french
b) it was fruit and dessert themed
c) bold, innuendo filled fruits
d) you can see it in person in the fall
hope all is well. enjoy your euro-trip, and if you find yourself in the south of france before wednesday....

Rogerdering said...

Yes. All hail Rheagar. The man that knighted Gregor, rode past his pregnant wife to award another, already betrothed woman his Queen of love and beauty, ran off with her, took the better part of a year doing her before trying to help out fix the mess in created (including the death of his loves brother and father).

What an awesome guy. Ned would so respect this man obvious honour.

Errant Knave said...

Do I detect a tongue-in-cheek comment? ;) Yes, there's plenty of skewed morality to go around. I think my second comment on this post sort of sums up how I feel about Rhaegar, but if not, here it is in a nutshell: ambivalent. The little we know about him doesn't add up to a complete portrait of the man.

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