Monthly Archives: June 2012

AGoT Eddard 3: Cersei and the men who do despicable things for her

“The things I do for love,” he said with loathing. [Jaime in Bran 2, just before putting an innocent child to (presumed) death on Cersei’s demand]

“Damn you, Cersei,” he said with loathing. [Robert in Eddard 3, having just agreed to put an innocent animal to death on Cersei’s demand]

Robert seems to be under no illusion of “loving” Cersei, so why did he do it? He’s intimidated by her family’s power, no doubt — but mostly he just can’t be bothered to do the right, but marginally more difficult, thing. Instead he “shrug[s] irritably” and lets her have her way. It speaks to how well Robert’s character is drawn that I found this completely believable — I’ve met the type (though thankfully not any who were in that kind of position of power). And once again, Robert is not Ned’s friend, and is possibly to self-absorbed and emotionally lazy to be anyone’s (whether inherently so, or because Cersei has worn him out).

Other notable stuff from this chapter:

  • The name-check of House Darry, one of whose members was Dany’s guardian, serves to nicely tie disparate threads of the story together.
  • Renly’s reaction to Joffrey’s defeat in, er, battle is hilarious. “Lion’s Tooth!”
  • Arya’s immediate, unconditional defense of Lady (and by extension Sansa, who just betrayed her) is both believable and endearing.

AGoT Sansa 1: potpourri

In a delicious little touch adding to the sense of mystery around Jon’s parentage, we learn that Sansa once asked her mother if Arya was a bastard (because, after all, Arya looks like Jon). Answered in the negative, “Sansa could not think why Mother would want to lie about it, so she supposed it had to be true.” If Jon isn’t really Ned’s biological son, Ned’s counting on everyone to have exactly that kind of reaction to Ned’s claim that he is.

We also see Joffrey’s mask really slip for the first time, revealing behavior that startlingly echoes Robb’s in Arya 1: both characters, in their respective chapters, let out streams of curses, threaten other characters with violence, and must be restrained (in Joffrey’s case, by Arya’s wolf). The underpinnings of Robb’s actions are completely different–he isn’t a sociopath–but something is being said about his own maturity and preparedness for responsibility.

I do find it a bit implausible that Sansa still seeks Joffrey’s approval after his behavior in this chapter, particularly the “terrible…filthy words” and his final rejection of her.

Characters we meet in this chapter:

  • Barristan Selmy, described only as an old, white-haired, but fit man. I love how his spoken language sets him a generation apart from the other adult characters, whether he’s solemn (“[Ilyn Payne] has a fearsome aspect”) or joking around (“a prancing jackanapes*”).
  • Renly Baratheon is about twenty and is the handsomest man Sansa has ever seen, tall and well-built with long black hair, green eyes, and a clean-shaven face.
  • Ilyn Payne, “a gaunt grim man….pockmarked and beardless, with deepset eyes and hollow cheeks” and “colorless” eyes, not old but bald except for for a fringe “as long as a woman’s.”**

*BTW, according to Wikipedia “jackanapes” was the nickname of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk and is short for “Jack of Naples.” If Braavos is Venice, where is Naples 😉 ?

**OK, this has been bothering me: every description of a Westerosi male character so far which has mentioned the character’s hair length at all, has specified long hair. So how could long hair be considered specifically characteristic of women in this society?

AGoT Catelyn 3: Robb and his undermining mother

Robb at first appears more grown up than in past chapters, offering to make household decisions in his mother’s psychological absence and wearing real weapons and armor. However, he’s soon dangerously waving that real sword around in friendly company and making rash vows in response to his mother’s coincidentally correct, but essentially evidence-free conviction of Jaime as Bran’s attempted killer.

Catelyn, for her part, displays a condescending attitude toward her son, declaring him “utterly confused” and too lazy to “think things through” when really, it sounds like he’s just thinking aloud and would have come to the correct conclusions on his own. She doesn’t believe he’s ready to lead, and is (consciously or not) communicating these sentiments to him in a way that can’t be helpful, even if she’s correct. Possibly there’s some jealousy of or unhappiness at Robb’s growing independence here: no wonder her younger, and now completely helpless and domitable child is a more appealing focus for her attention.

BTW, I am willing to cut Catelyn some slack for her Bran-monomania during the first part of the chapter: while it’s not an admirable state of mind, it’s understandable, vividly and believably depicted, and an effective bit of commentary on our own society’s attitude that proper parents, particularly mothers, must be completely consumed by their involvement with their children.

AGoT Tyrion 2: no grumkin, all snark

Tyrion calls Jon “remarkably polite for a bastard.” I’d say he’s remarkably polite because he’s a bastard. Either way, Tyrion manages to break Jon’s cool for the first time in the book, by stating what he believes to be the unromantic truth about the Night’s Watch: that they’re a bunch of criminals (true) guarding the wall against imaginary foes (yeah, right, and–as Tyrion also says in this chapter–“there are no dragons.” But “life is full of these little ironies.”)

Tyrion also reflects that Jon’s unknown mother “had left little of herself in her son.” We’ll see.

Other fun facts about Tyrion we learn in this chapter: he is a pyro(!), has homicidal fantasies about his immediate family, and has difficulty walking (less than a hundred pages after doing a handspring/somersault).

Finally, #love this line:

The Lannisters never declined, graciously or otherwise. The Lannisters took what was offered.

Bonus: in this chapter we meet Yoren: “stooped and sinister” and unwashed, with matted and lice-filled black hair and beard and a twisted shoulder.

AGoT Eddard 2: miscellanea

  • I’m surprised at the extent to which both of Ned’s first two chapters are “about” Robert. I had forgotten that Ned’s is the only POV through which we directly observe Robert to any significant extent.
  • I am not convinced, however, that Robert is, or possibly ever was, Ned’s “friend” in any real sense. No one who actually knows Ned would propose to him a life of knight errantry and tavern wenches. And it takes a lot of doublethink on Ned’s part to remain “friends” with someone who condones the murder of an infant.
  • Still, “you were never the boy you were” is a pretty great line.
  • This chapter has the first mention of Varys that I’ve noticed (as the source of Robert’s intel about Dany’s marriage).
  • We learn in this chapter that Jorah sold slaves, though no reason is given beyond simple monetary greed.
  • Robert is mean to his horse. Boo.
  • Robert: “give them half a chance, [the Targaryens] will murder me in my bed, and my sons with me.” Umm, no, that’s not the Targaryens, it’s your wife.
  • More Robert wisdom: “Lord Tywin looms eternal as Casterly Rock.” Ha. (There’s a definite lack of clarity about Jaime’s status here, though: Robert does seem to think he will eventually “succeed” his father, despite being a Kingsguard.)

AGoT Eddard 2: what we know about the past, so far

(Originally the R+L=J evidence thread, now expanded to include the Robert’s rebellion historical morass that surrounds it)

About Lyanna:

  • She died of bleeding and/or fever (AGoT Eddard 1)
  • She extracted a promise from Eddard just before her death, implied to be a promise that he see her buried in the Winterfell crypt (AGoT Eddard 1)
  • Robert believes she was raped “hundreds” of times by Rhaegar (AGoT Eddard 2)

About Jon Snow’s parentage:

  • Ned will not name Jon’s mother (AGoT Catelyn 2)
  • Winterfell servants once spread rumours that Jon’s mother is Ashara Dayne. Ned was not thrilled with this and silenced the servants (AGoT Catelyn 2)
  • Ned told Catelyn not to ask about Jon, and called Jon his “blood” (AGoT Catelyn 2)
  • Robert believes Jon’s mother is a commoner named Wylla (AGoT Eddard 2)
  • Ned says of Wylla, “I dishonored myself and I dishonored Catelyn” (AGoT Eddard 2) [Now that is interesting, assuming you don’t believe Jon is the biological son of Ned and Wylla. Is lying about Jon’s true parentage (rather than anything to do with Wylla) the “dishonor” Ned is really talking about? It’s a bit of a stretch to see that lie as dishonoring Catelyn. Or did Ned in fact sleep with Wylla, thus giving Ned’s statement the same sort of grain of truth as “he is my blood”?]

About Robert’s rebellion:

  • Aerys did something “unspeakable” to Ned’s father and brother, which led to at least the father’s death (AGoT Eddard 2)
  • The Lannisters did not take sides until late in the game (AGoT Eddard 2)
  • After taking Robert’s side, Tywin took possession of King’s Landing by pretending to be allied with Aerys (AGoT Eddard 2)
  • Tywin presented Robert with the corpses of Aerys’ wife and children. Robert’s uncritical acceptance of this caused a brief schism between him and Ned (AGoT Eddard 2)
  • Jaime, who was seventeen, killed Aerys, then briefly sat on his throne and behaved in a flippant manner(AGoT Eddard 2)

AGoT Daenerys II: foreshadowing, etc.

Here Dany’s dream sequence foreshadows the pregnancy/miscarriage/dragon connection, and features Viserys yelling “you woke the dragon,” a statement that will become literally true. (Also there’s a soon-to-be-ironic conversation between Viserys and Illyrio about the former’s impatience for his crown.)

The words fear, afraid, frightened/ing, terror/ified are used incessantly in association with Dany, not to mention the times she is described as shaking, stomach-roiling, etc. It’s almost overdone. The consummation/conjugal rape scene is a surprisingly evocative and plausible presentation of her feelings, though, given that I remember ASoIaF sex writing as being mostly either perfunctory or embarassingly cheesy.

(I so wanted Dany to be a horse girl, too, but now she’s described as knowing little about horses or riding. Darn. Maybe does love horses, but has had insufficient opportunities to actually ride them?)

As a bonus, we learn a little bit more about what Dothraki look like: “men and women alike wore painted leather vests over bare chests [on the women? if so, why is Qartheen costume made to seem such a big deal later?] and horsehair leggings cinched by bronze medallion belts.”