Tag Archives: PetyrBaelish

AGoT Catelyn 7: Catelyn, Littlefinger, Tyrion, Lysa, and honor (more spoilery than usual)

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.
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AGoT Eddard 8

It’s hard to tell what Varys and Baelish are angling for in this chapter. Do they want Robert to attempt to assassinate Dany, or don’t they? The previous chapter suggests that Varys, at least, intends for the Dothraki to invade and so should not want Dany dead. Does he believe (correctly) that a failed assassination attempt will hasten the invasion? Or is he using reverse psychology on Robert, thinking Robert would do the opposite of what he was advised (in which case Ned and Selmy may have ruined it for him)? Was he in cahoots with Baelish to prevent the hiring of an all-too-effective Faceless Man, or was that Baelish’s own initiative?

Elsewhere in this chapter:

  • More of Robert’s lovely attitude toward women: Dany is a “whore” for having a child with her husband. (Oh, and we see where Joffrey got his fondness for heads on spikes.)
  • Robert: “I am not so blind that I cannot see the shadow of the axe when it is hanging over my own neck.” Once again, he sees the axe as held by Dany when really, it’s Cersei. (But Ned’s “There is no axe” is even more clueless.)
  • We learn that Selmy has “pale blue eyes,” and much about his character and affinity for Ned.

AGoT Eddard 4

  • The theme here is clearly decadence: we hear all about the opulent furnishings of the council room, Renly’s clothing budget, and once again, Varys’ perfume.
  • Famous last words: Ned: “I do not plan on melting soon, Lord Baelish.”
  • Pycelle is introduced: he’s bald, with a wispy white fringe, and wears a compound of about two dozen normal Maester’s chains. (Decadence again.)
  • Aerys was apparently a good financial manager, or anyway not a spendthrift. Who knew?
  • The fat lady sings in this chapter. (It’s all over for Ned when he accepts Petyr Baelish’s “help.”)
  • Petyr uses some nice reverse psychology on Ned re: the dagger and whether to further investigate it.

AGoT Catelyn 4: introducing Petyr Baelish and Varys

Petyr Baelish is introduced in an interesting step-wise fashion: first there was a passing mention by Cersei. Now he is further illuminated via Catelyn telling a story about his past, before finally showing up in the flesh.

He is described as a small, slender, sharp-featured man, not quite thirty years old, with “laughing” green eyes, dark hair with a little gray, a goatee, and a silver mockingbird brooch. And he demonstrates trick knife-throwing skills; does he ever do this again?

Varys, meanwhile, is yet another overweight, perfumed character. He also uses face powder, is completely bald, wears what Westerosi culture would consider effeminate clothing (a sparkly vest over a silk gown and velvet slippers), “giggle[s] like a little girl” and “squeal[s]” at the sight of a drop of blood. As with Illyrio, we experienced readers now know Varys is using these culturally despised (in Westeros) traits as sort of a disguise; it’s interesting to remember that a first-time reader wouldn’t know that yet.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in this chapter:

  • Like the earlier and related introduction of the murder mystery subplot, the whole song and dance about Ser Rodrik going to fetch the king’s armorer seems rather drawn out and contrived now that I know it isn’t going anywhere.
  • WiC #4.
  • Catelyn is noble to pay the oarsmen herself, but naive to think they’ll be allowed to hold on to the money if their employer doesn’t wish it. There’s probably a “company store” situation going on: after all, where else will the rowers get their food at sea?
  • Catelyn also reveals her unconscious commitment to the hereditary nobility system by dwelling on the fact that Varys isn’t a real lord (Petyr Baelish is, even if a minor one, and therefore worthy of at least slightly more respect in her eyes).
  • First mention of Loras Tyrell.

AGoT Bran 2: out of the mouths of babes

Bran demonstrates his observational skills (considerably greater than his father’s!) by noticing that “Jon seemed to be angry at everyone these days” … but immediately demonstrates his naivety by romanticizing the Night’s Watch.

Other notable tidbits from this chapter:

  • the first mention of Hodor
  • the first mention of Grey Wind, Lady, and Shaggydog’s names
  • possibly the first mention of Petyr Baelish, by Cersei (I might have missed an earlier mention of him)
  • Ned says “You’re not my son” — fodder for a new theory? (Kidding, kidding. He follows it with, “you’re a squirrel.”)

AGoT Catelyn 2 – the murder mystery

I always thought of the introduction to the Jon Arryn murder mystery as a bit contrived (the symbolic lens, Catelyn burning the note without letting the others see it first — after all, getting rid of it is so urgent that she can’t even take the time to put a robe on). But an interesting fact that I don’t think I ever noticed before is that, as Maester Luwin observes, someone in the King’s party must have delivered the message. Who would Petyr Baelish pay to do this?