This chapter introduces Brynden’s refusal to marry. If said refusal is the only grounds for believing Brynden to be gay (as it seems to be), I’m not buying it. Marriage in Brynden’s social milieu need have nothing to do with sexual desire: noblemen can and do marry for political advantage and to produce heirs, while having sex on the side with people (including, in Renly’s case at least, male people) they’re more attracted to. Lack of attraction to women would be no reason to refuse marriage; indeed, marriage to a sexually undemanding woman would provide much more effective cover than conspicuous refusal to marry. Faithfulness to an unattainable woman, like Hoster’s wife, seems more plausible, but couldn’t it be that the guy just doesn’t want to be tied down?
But, “Walder Frey … any of three, he said…” Hilarious.
Also in this chapter:
- The titular phrase again, from Stevron Frey.
- Catelyn: “We went to war when Lannister armies were ravaging the Riverlands…” Yes, because of YOUR actions! And now you want peace! Sheesh.
Here comes some backstory about the tournament at Harrenhall:
- Ned was eighteen.
- Brandon was present.
- Robert fought well (if “berserk”ly) in the melee.
- Jaime was inducted into the Kingsguard.
- Rhaegar won the joust, and gave his favor to Lyanna instead of his wife.
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- Two more mentions of the titular phrase: Ned once again repeating Cersei’s words in his head; and Varys, in a populist usage reminiscent of Jorah’s.
- Ned still dwells on how he “failed” Robert. Come on, Ned, has it never yet occurred to you that it’s the other way around?
- The “scarecrow” of a gaoler (the one that isn’t Varys) reminds me of a passage I just heard in the audiobook of Roger Zelazny’s The Hand of Oberon: Zelazny puts himself in the book as a cadaverous, novel-writing dungeon guard. I doubt GRRM could be mistaken for a scarecrow, though.
- “Catelyn held [Cersei’s] brother; [Cersei] dare not kill [Ned] or the Imp’s life would be forfeit as well.” Really, would Cersei care about Tyrion’s life? (Not according to Varys a few paragraphs later.)
- “There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.” I dunno, Stannis (the subject of this little speech) hasn’t been all that terrifying. Daenerys has perpetrated some (mostly unintentional) terror in the name of justice. But the most terrifying characters so far (Gregor, Ramsay et al.) have nothing to do with justice.
- “…or he could bring you Sansa’s head.” Gorgeous, chilling writing.
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.
Ah, the irony: Ned will someday tell Sansa how helpful(!) she was to him this day. Varys is “worse” than Littlefinger because he “[does] too little.” (Yeah, what was he thinking prepping only three or four Targaryen heirs?) Jon Arryn died “for the truth” (although Ned is finally right about Bran almost-dying for it).
I forgot that Sandor is now technically lord of Cleganeland, or whatever it may be called.
To Ned, the guardsman Tomard isn’t laughable “Fat Tom,” but a sensible and trustworthy supporter.
This chapter is probably Cersei’s sympathetic peak.
“What would Catelyn do, if it were Jon’s life, against the children of her body?” Is that some kinda foreshadowing?
Ned, still snarky!
Second use of the titular phrase, by Cersei.