This chapter opens with Catelyn explicitly comparing herself to Alyssa Arryn (Catelyn hasn’t actually lost all her loved ones yet, but it still has to be all about her). The legend suggests that the gods punished Alyssa for being stoic through the deaths of her (male) family members. But wouldn’t dignified stoicism be expected of a noblewoman? When Catelyn believed Bran was dying, Robb told her she was crying too much.
It’s almost enough to give me some sympathy for Catelyn. Until she says, “My place is at Winterfell with my sons” — to which the only possible reaction is, then why on earth didn’t you stay there? I tend to find characters defined solely as mothers annoying or just uninteresting — no doubt sometimes unfairly so, so on this reread I’ve made a conscious effort to find Catelyn’s admirable side. Nonetheless, I continue to find her beliefs and behaviors very problematic.
In addition to equating herself with Alyssa, Catelyn associates the duel between Bronn and Ser Vardis with that between Petyr Baelish and Brandon Stark. This is a much more complex comparison. Petyr and Bronn, the more lowborn contenders in their respective matches, are also alike in being lightly armored against heavily armored opponents. Surrounding nobles implicitly assume both men will lose (though I think Vardis may have some idea what he’s in for). Both duels begin with the favored contender raining blows on the less favored contender, while the latter flees. The Petyr/Brandon duel “was over almost as soon as it began”; a few paragraphs later, Bronn and Vardis’ initial skirmish “end[s] as swiftly as it had begun.” I’m thinking that the presumed end of the Petyr/Brandon duel was only the end of the initial skirmish, and that the opponent wasn’t just Brandon.
Petyr believed (believes) he was (is) fighting for an honorable cause, his love for Catelyn. Bronn is fighting for potential future earnings, but he is a surrogate for Tyrion, whose honorable cause is his own innocence. By the standards of Westeros, both men behave dishonorably: Tyrion by tricking Lysa into allowing the trial by combat and then using a dirty-fighting mercenary as a surrogate; Petyr, in his ongoing duel with the social forces that oppress him, by his shameless and ultimately murderous manipulation of other people. Tyrion, of course, is in the right, and his real opponent, Lysa, is secretly behaving even more dishonorably than he is by accusing him of a crime that she herself committed. Petyr’s actions are monstrous, but in a society whose concept of honor leads to predicaments like Tyrion’s, is it surprising that the concept could be so perverted?
I have to stop, this is making my head spin.
Elsewhere in this chapter:
- First mention (I think) of Edmure.
- “I believe the Lannisters murdered Lord Arryn,” says Catelyn. Once again, it’s great to read a story where a major “good” character’s gut feeling can be so well-founded and yet so wrong.
- Lysa’s maester tries to tell Catelyn that Jon Arryn intended his son to be fostered by Stannis.
- Too bad we’ll probably never know what Tyrion whispered in Bronn’s ear before the duel.
- Lysa, unlike HBO, can afford to give Tyrion and Bronn horses.