Mormont: “The things we love destroy us every time.” Is this true? Just sticking to the major POV characters:
- Ned is destroyed by his love of (his idealized image of) Robert, and his resulting blindness to crucial aspects of his situation. (His love of honor figures in also, but this reread has shown Robert to be much more important than I previously realized.)
- Catelyn is destroyed by her love of her family(or of her concept of herself as perfect family woman), and of drama (e.g., foolishly insisting on traveling to King’s Landing herself; kidnapping Tyrion and then ignoring all logical arguments as to his innocence).
- Jon is destroyed by his love of being right (see his own comment about himself below). Ultimately this stems from his love of his father and yearning for a level of security and recognition not afforded by his social status.
- Daenerys was, for quite a while, on the path to being destroyed by her love of her people, or more cynically, of her image of herself as mother savior and emancipator. (Daario’s just a blip on the radar screen.)
- Theon is destroyed by his yearning for validation, stemming from his frustrated love of the Starks and what they stand for.
- Jaime did rather poorly living a life defined by his love of his sister.
- If Brienne has been destroyed, it’s by her love of honor and, possibly, Jaime.
On the other hand:
- Arya loves her family, her freedom, and the satisfaction of attaining mastery, and has mostly benefited by at least the latter things. And she’s about as far from destroyed as any major POV character at this point.
- Sansa loves her illusions, and is also far from destroyed yet.
- Tyrion loves his own intellect and the idea of being in love with a woman. Things haven’t gone well for him, but when it comes down to it, most of his misfortunes have been visited on him by others in spite of his efforts to avoid them. In particular, the bane of his existence is his father, who he mostly has the sense to hate.
- Bran suffered significant harm due to his love of climbing, but once again, I think the blame for that (as well as for his increasingly creepy situation) largely falls on others, including possibly the gods/fate.
- Davos seems to love his family and to have a generally strong but realistically calibrated moral compass, which one could describe as a love of goodness. He’s lost a lot, but once again, largely due to the actions of others, and he has remained more stolidly himself (i.e., undestroyed) than any other major adult character.
- Sam loves knowledge, comfort, and his brothers (particularly Jon), and is doing quite well so far.
- Cersei loves herself (her brother/husband and children, I think, are loved only as extensions thereof). I don’t think I’d call her destroyed as all her sufferings don’t seem to have made much of a psychological dent.
Elsewhere in this chapter.
- I think this is the point where Jon chapters, never my favorites, become the boring stuff I have to get through to reach the good stuff (like, yes, Sansa chapters). I’m just not that into zombies, male bonding, or teen angst.
- “Jon Snow was nothing if not stubborn.” Word.
- Jon was “a babe in arms” when the current summer began. So Robert’s war took place in winter?
- Old Nan says: in the past, the Others invaded the south and destroyed human cities and even kingdoms.
- Jon is bright enough to doubt that Joffrey would allow Eddard to live (Joffrey’s handlers apparently weren’t).
- “If Lord Eddard was killed, [Catelyn] would be as much to blame as the queen.” Word again.
- Mormont’s raven initially screams “corn,” but is later able to manage the much more situation-appropriate “burn.” If the raven is a front for the three-eyed crow, this suggests a limited degree of control of its faculties (insufficient, for example, to make it say “There’s a zombie in the solar!”)
…which is not the same as loving Sansa.
The presentation of her insensitivity to, and denial of, Jeyne’s plight … just classic Sansa, wildly pathological adn totally believable. The hostage/brainwashing stuff is pitch-perfect, too.
- Sansa dreams of being queen with Joffrey … the Joffrey part won’t come to pass, but could “everyone she had ever known came before her, to bend the knee” be foreshadowing?
- The mere fact that Petyr asks for Jeyne ought to clue anyone in that he has some plan for her which will likely be to his advantage and no one else’s, and that therefore the person able to hand her over to him shouldn’t, if only to guard their own self-interest. Cersei takes the bait, though.
- We only learn indirectly that Fat Tom is probably dead.
Syrio is dead. His really being Jaqen, etc. would greatly cheapen this gorgeous scene.
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- The coincidence of Arya running across Hullen just as he dies is a bit much.
- “This time the [dragon skulls] did not frighten her. They seemed almost old friends.” Foreshadowing?
- Old Nan says: there are spiders and “rats as big as dogs” in the Winterfell crypt.
- Great line: “she’d killed him, and if he jumped out at her she’d kill him again.”
Ned actually tells Septa Mordane to let Sansa go (tell the queen his plans). Then he leans on Littlefinger for support.
Random thought: in this chapter, Ned is described as having “forced” Jaime Lannister off the throne during Robert’s coup. Previously, Jaime was depicted as having surrendered the throne willingly, if snarkily.
After that very heavy Ned chapter, it’s almost a relief to get back to Jon’s after-school special.
Septon Celladar: assigned to the Wall because he was an alcoholic, or an alcoholic because he was assigned to the Wall? Discuss.
“A man of the Night’s Watch lives his life … for the realm … [and] takes no wife and fathers no sons.” Know who else fits that description, or at least claims to?
How could this one-last-chance-to-not-take-the-oath thing work? The boys who were sent to the wall as felons surely can’t get off that easily. Is their choice “take the oath, or leave and be subject to execution/castration/amputation/whatever the alternative punishment was for your crime?” And while the boys in this chapter are told to forget their families, noble-born Benjen has apparently been allowed to maintain his ties. Bit of a double standard going on here!
“On the wall, you grew up or you died.” Interesting flip-side parallel to Cersei’s “when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”
Boros Blount, Preston Greenfield, and Barristan Selmy are explicitly compared to the three knights at the Tower of Joy. Presumably only Selmy resembles the stylized, archetypal knights of Ned’s fever dream. (I say presumably because I’m not sure about Greenfield: if the books ever tell us anything of note about him, I don’t remember it.)
That fever dream left me with the feeling that Ned believes, sometimes and on some levels, that he should not have survived the encounter at the tower. Are the present “three men in white cloaks” ghosts come to take the life that he got to keep only by mistake, as Jaqen H’gar will later take three lives in recompense for the three Arya prolongs?
Then Robert becomes Lyanna: “Promise me, Ned.” Will we eventually find out that Lyanna’s demand was as mundane as “eat the pig that killed me?” I somehow doubt it. Now the three knights look more like a debased mirror of the past: noble knights and noble promises replaced by base and shallow ones. But if that were the idea being communicated, it would have been more effective to use a third lesser knight in Selmy’s place.
On reread, the irony in this chapter is nearly unbearable: “His regency would be a short one.” “[S]harp as the difference between right and wrong, between true and false, between life and death” — even the last being, in this world, not a very sharp distinction at all.
Miscellanea from this chapter:
- Third occurrence of the phrase game of thrones, in Ned’s head as a memory of Cersei saying it.
- Ned continues to perceive Tomard, the overweight commoner, as a real and valuable human being.
As of the end of ADwD, I’m beginning to think it’s the mare (Dany) who will “unite the Dothraki into a single khalasar” and all that.
Viserys’ end is one of the series’ great scenes. Daenerys, like Sansa, goes “cold” and “curiously distant,” but here it feels like an appropriate response to the situation. Maybe because, unlike those whose deaths Sansa dismisses from her consciousness, Viserys is known to have brought his fate upon himself. (And Daenerys will never remember this as the most magical time of her life, or silver-lining philosophize that now she can find someone handsomer to hang out with.)