Meet Sam Tarly: “the fattest boy [Jon] had ever seen,” weighing “twenty stone” — that would be 160 to 320 pounds, 280 by the most common definition of “stone.” Here fat is associated with cowardice and (once again) with effeminacy, but there’s no hint of schemey-ness (fat as disguise) or fallen-ness (fat as outward sign of a decline in morality or dignity).
I find it hard to believe that even Thorne would disallow Sam’s armor because it wasn’t black (leather and wool can be dyed and wood painted, after all), and even harder to believe that he would encourage the boys to break a helmet just to humiliate Sam. Possessions were not cheap or disposable in such times; that broken helmet would take a lot of Noye’s time to fix or recycle.
In Jon’s dream: “I scream that I’m not a Stark, that this isn’t my place.” And later: “he had never truly been one of them [the Starks].”
First mention of blue-lipped Qartheen warlocks — being hired by Randyll Tarly(!). Who is a tool, but a very evocatively described one. In Sam’s story, he expresses his disapproval to his son while skinning a deer: the ultimate source of the Tywin-introducing scene in the TV show?
Overall, this chapter is a bit too after-school special: in a very brief span of pages, we move from Sam as “accidental” hazing death waiting to happen, to his “fitting in” and becoming one of the guys due to Jon’s heroic principles. Jon’s use of force to achieve his goal does lend a little moral complexity, though (and perhaps foreshadows his later attempt at autocratic leadership).