Monday, July 12, 2010

#ASOIAF Re-read: A Game of Thrones, Part 21

Well, that weekend filled up faster than I expected, and I was unable to finish this post until last night. About my first chance to sit back and relax came on Sunday as Spain and Netherlands did their best to put 3 billion viewers to sleep. It was a spectacularly dull final to the World Cup, but congratulations to the winners.

Spanish readers, you must be feeling great. Dutch readers, I feel your pain. Maybe next time. Or maybe when van Persie and Sneijder learn to get along with each other. They seem to get on like Starks and Lannisters.

Speaking of those crazy families, let's get back to their little escapades, shall we?

Aquí está la entrada más reciente (part 20), the intro post, and the first post. You can follow along using the #ASOIAF hashtag on Twitter, and the RSS button near the upper right of the screen.


Chapter 46: Daenerys

What Happens

As per Dothraki custom, Dany has to eat the raw, fresh heart of a stallion in front of Khal Drogo and the crones. She must do so without choking or puking, otherwise the omens for her child will be less favourable. Dany goes through the ordeal and makes the Khal proud.

The crones say the prince is riding. They speak of visions of the prince as a legendary warrior and leader. Dany tells them he will be called Rhaego. Later, when Drogo leads Dany away, he asks about the meaning of the name. She tells him it is after her brother Rhaegar, last of the dragons. Drogo approves. "Is good name, Dan Ares wife, moon of my life," he said. The child has been foretold as the stallion who mounts the world. In other words, the king of kings.

That night also includes a feast of celebration. Viserys is not present, but Jorah tells Dany that her brother has been drinking with traders and is considering raising his own army. He tried to steal Dany's dragon eggs for funding, but Jorah stopped him. Dany is shocked, but she decides to give her brother the eggs rather than force him to steal them.

When Viserys finally arrives, he is drunk and wearing a sword at his side. He makes a scene, drawing his sword (it is forbidden to shed blood in Vaes Dothrak) and making for Dany, despite Drogo's order to sit and eat far away. He apprehends Dany and puts his swords at her belly, threatening to kill her and the child unless he receives his payment.

Dany tells Drogo what her brother wants, and her husband shouts orders to his bloodriders. Drogo says he will give Viserys his golden crown. Viserys smiles and lowers his sword, saying that was all he wanted. His happiness fades as soon as the bloodriders take hold of him. Drogo has some slaves melt down his belt of golden medallions, and upends the molten metal over a screaming Viserys's head.

He was no dragon, Dany thought, curiously calm. Fire cannot kill a dragon.

Here's something curious about the opening heart-eating sequence: one of the negative omens is that Dany could give birth to a daughter. Well, how do you like that? It had me thinking about what happens to Dothraki women. Some of them might end up as the old crones in Vaes Dothrak, while the rest are passed around like village bicycles among the men, but I think they'd have a better survival rate than the men, who do all they can to ensure they die young. It stands to my reason that the Dothraki should be largely made of women. That does not seem to be the case. Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe the girls are sacrificed or sold into slavery.

Props to Drogo for being a gentle husband, at least during the alone time between him and "Dan Ares." Otherwise, gentle does not enter his vocabulary. Just ask his brother-in-law.

Oh, Viserys. He's a twisted and mean human being, but he's had a lifetime to become that way. He is the rightful king of Westeros, and it's curious that he became a drunk like the Usurper. Power twisted Robert, and the lack of it twisted Viserys. He's an utterly despicable character, but seeing things from Dany's POV made me feel a little bad for the guy and the way his life ended.

Speaking of royals and bad endings...

Chapter 47: Eddard

What Happens

Ned is awoken by the king's steward, who informs him that the king is back from the hunt and wishes to see him. But Ned realizes something is wrong when he reaches the king's chambers. Robert is lying on his bed, covered in blood. Renly tells Ned that a boar gored the king.

Robert tells Ned to get closer. He knows he's dying. He asks for time alone with Ned, driving everyone from the room, including Cersei and Pycelle. He dictates his will to Ned, naming his friend Protector of the Realm, to rule until his son Joffrey comes of age. Ned wants to tell Robert the truth, but he can't bring himself to do it, and so just makes sure the will reads "my heir" instead of Joffrey.

Robert confesses that he's been a bad king, and the realm knows, but at least he's getting his final act right. "At the least, they will say... this last thing... this I did right. You won't fail me. You'll rule now. You'll hate it, worse than I did... but you'll do well."

He orders Ned to serve the boar at his funeral feast and eat it. He also calls off the death sentence on Daenerys. He calls back his courtiers and asks for something to ease the pain and make him sleep. Before taking it, he asks Ned to protect his children. Ned thinks of Robert's bastards, his only real children, and vows to guard them.

Outside Robert's chamber, Ned consoles Ser Barristan. Robert had been headstrong and drunk when the boar charged, reeling from the wine. Varys suddenly appears and asks who supplied the king with so much wine. Barristan says it was the king's squire, Lancel Lannister. Ned is chilled at the thought, but remembers to tell Varys to call off the assassination on Dany.

Renly takes Ned aside, and then asks him to strike now, taking Joffrey away from Cersei and Lannister influence, and securing Ned as Protector. Ned rebukes Renly, saying that Robert still lives. Renly accuses him of wasting time, and then leaves.

Ned calls for Littlefinger, and in the meantime, gives his guard a letter to take to Stannis Baratheon. Littlefinger arrives, and Ned tells him about Cersei's incestuous relationship. Petyr is not shocked. Ned thinks the throne should pass to Stannis, as he is the lawful heir, but Petyr disagrees. Lawful or not, Stannis would make a terrible king, having no compassion and plenty of enemies. He advises Ned to remain as Protector, make peace with the Lannisters, and raise Joffrey well for the next four years until he comes of age. It's only treason if the plan fails.

Ned can't do it. There is too much bad blood between him and the Lannisters, and he can't just put it aside. So it will be Stannis, and war if there must be. However, Ned has few guards left in King's Landing, and what happens when the Queen declares one king, and he declares another? Littlefinger promises to buy the City Watch for Ned, ensuring his safety.

That sound you hear is either George R.R. Martin cackling at the frustration of his readers, or the sound of countless copies of A Game of Thrones being hurled across rooms. Frustration? This chapter has *headdesk* written all over it.

Where to even begin? Ned, tsk tsk... he fudges the truth at the last minute, first by keeping it secret from Robert, and then by changing the king's will. With the best of intentions, of course, but what happens to honest men when they lie? Well, end up working with Littlefinger.

I have to say that Littlefinger's plan has some pretty sound logic to it. It asks a lot from Ned--forget that the Lannisters murdered some of your men and tried to kill your son, and forget that Joff is an incestuous bastard--but he paints a pretty bleak picture of life in the realm if Stannis is king. When we meet Stannis later on, we see just how right Littlefinger is about him.

So... raise Joffrey? I think Cersei would have balked at that just as much as Ned, but maybe she'd go for it since her son would still be king in four years. Then again, Ned knows her secret, so I think she'd try to have him removed at some point.

It feels like a lose-lose situation, and it's a shame that it all falls on Ned. Just when the realm gets its first ideal leader in who knows how many years, he's handcuffed by the colossal screw-ups of the previous regime. (Shades of our modern times?)

The timing of Robert's death (he's practically dead) coincides eerily with Viserys's death in the previous chapter. The search for a good and true king or queen continues. Still, poor Robert. He had his nice-guy moments. Soon he can sit out the rest of the series and enjoy watching the chaos unfold.


There's more that could be said, especially about that last chapter, and if you have anything to add or argue about, put it in the comments. Whether you do or not, thanks for coming by, and come back on Thursday for Part 22. ¡Adiós!

Book lover, art lover, and part-time lover, Francesco wishes everyone a full-on double rainbow kind of day. Double rainbow, all the way :D


IceNeedle said...

Ned's refusal of Renly was THE turning point in the series. It cost Ned his life, Renly his life, and made a lot of crows (the winged kind) happy.

I agree that the previous Ned chapter (with Cersei in the godswood) is probably the best of the book. Before my own re-read, it was the one chapter I remembered clearly.

Darth Rachel said...

ahh this is when things start to get intersting. up until this point the threads seemed to be moving towards a place where they all knot... and then GRRM kills Ned and there are basically two ways this could go

1. we continue towards or arrive at a knot (maybe there are mor knots? maybe there are knots WITHIN knots)

2. there is no knot and we are all suckers

four books later and I'm still trolling dialogue and minor MINOR details trying to find answers to my questions so I'm thinking it was option 2 that GRRM went for.

which makes me think of this io9 article.. and despair

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