Near the end of a book, and immediately after one of its two major climaxes, is a heck of a place to put a giant infodump about distant past history and legend. Nonetheless, it works all right here.
- Old Nan says: there was once a blind knight, Symeon Star-Eyes. Also, she is apparently a pretty effective teacher of Stark family history.
- …but Luwin protests her story of the children of the forest: “The man who trusts in spells is dueling with a glass sword.” Which is, of course, exactly the kind of sword you need against the others.
- “Hodor is a man, not a mule to be beaten.” Or, you know, possessed. Even if it makes you like “a knight together.”
- Luwin: “[Eddard’s death] will not be for many years, gods be good.” Yikes.
- The First Men’s intimidation of the children with horses reminds me of the Conquistadors in Latin America.
Once again, two year old horses are rarely ridden except in a modern racing or (very recently) show context, and generally would not be considered safe to ride by a small child, let alone a disabled small child still acclimatizing to his disability. Nice to see Robb riding a gelding instead of stallion, though (stallions are relatively impractical mounts, and the number of them encountered in many fantasy novels is quite unrealistic).
- WiC #7.
- Robb is now adopting the hippie look.
- Old Nan says (again): “Dark wings, dark words.”
- Bran tells another story of Jon’s overcompensating generosity: he once gave Bran his fish when Bran failed to catch one.
- Introducing Osha, an alternate model of womanhood: a head taller than Robb (who is himself described as tall), lean, hardened, “scarcely … like a woman,” a reasonable match for Robb in battle, and happy to talk back to the man she’s with when he gives nonsensical orders.
- Robb is getting a little more nuanced: he restrains himself when his rash actions could endanger Bran, controls his anger at Theon and is “relieved” to be given an excuse not to kill Osha. (Has Robb ever killed anybody at this point? Probably not.)
“If [Ned] could prove that the Lannisters were behind the attack on Bran, prove that they had murdered Jon Arryn…” Honorable Ned, trying to prove an untruth! Then, later: “The dagger, Bran’s fall, all of it was linked somehow to the murder of Jon Arryn, he could feel it in his gut.” It’s fabulous to read a genre novel where a “good” character can have a *wrong* gut feeling, where his problem is less the existence of the array of baddies out to get him than his inability to correctly grasp the nature of their badness and thereby maneuver around it.
I’m wondering what this chapter’s non-effeminate Varys knows, though. He asserts that Arryn was killed for “asking questions,” which is only indirectly true if at all. Baelish, not the by-amateur-genetic-studies-threatened Lannisters, instigated Arryn’s death. Like Varys, Baelish may want to delay the coming succession crisis, and silencing Arryn would work in service of that — but clearing the path for further psychosexual manipulation of Arryn’s wife seems a stronger motivation. Does Varys know Baelish was responsible for Arryn’s death (in which case he’s deliberately allowing/leading Ned to think it was the Lannisters) or would he be as surprised by that knowledge as I was when I first encountered it?
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- Robert comes around with a bullshit after-the-fact apology for killing a little girl’s dog. Sure, Robert, you’re real sorry.
- He also wonders, “How could I have made a son like [Joffrey]” while calling Loras “a son any man would be proud to own to.” Surprisingly un-homophobic, or just oblivious?
- Renly knows that Tyrion never bets against his brother … but Ned and Catelyn? Nope. (Also, this is Jaime’s second unhorsing in recent memory — was he already slipping as a jouster at this point?)
- Another horse (and human) realism fail: book Loras, like TV Loras, is “slender as a reed,” as is his horse … never mind that a man and/or horse of that build could never carry a suit of armor.
- First mention of Mya Stone (though not by name).
Another Bran chapter that’s a rich source of insight on Robb. Robb is going through the motions of being Lord of Winterfell, but seems awkward and uncomfortable in the role. He also demonstrates a worrying lack of anger management skills, waving a naked sword at Tyrion, and almost drawing one on Yoren(!) for implying that Benjen is dead. I can’t blame him for finally crying in Bran’s room: he’s out of his league.
More stories from Old Nan (who was originally a wet nurse!):
- “Crows are all liars.”
- Brandon the Builder built Winterfell and possibly the Wall.
- Long ago, there was an epically bad winter, featuring Others, flesh-eating wights, giant spiders (?!), and “a night that lasted a generation.” The Last Hero sought out the children of the forest. (Old Nan is interrupted before we find out what happened after that.)
Miscellany from this chapter:
- Bran is now eight.
- The famous “You Starks are hard to kill” is uttered in this chapter.
- Annoying lack of horse knowledge: yearling horses are generally not ridden (except for modern race horses which have been bred to mature early).
- “Theon Greyjoy had once commented that Hodor did not know much, but no one could doubt that he knew his name.” That’s either a big coincidence, or some epically long-term foreshadowing.
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.”