Tag Archives: SamwellTarly

AGoT summation: obesity

I chose to track obese characters on this reread because I remembered the series as being curiously full of contenders for “fattest dude POV Character X has ever seen,” and wondered if there were any discernible patterns in the ways Martin uses this characteristic.

Obesity played for simple comic relief. Here we have Mord the Eyrie jailor and the pseudo-Baratheon kids’ nameless septa. As of the end of AGoT, the Manderlys are in this category; it’ll be a few books before we find out that at least the paterfamilias is actually/also an exemplar of…

Obesity as disguise. Varys manages to at least partially hide his scheming under his obese and effeminate appearance (not to mention his perfume). Illyrio belongs here, too. These characters might not have become obese on purpose, but they certainly use the characteristic to their advantage in distracting others from their more important non-physical qualities. Then there’s…

Obesity as the outward sign of corruption or fallen-ness. Here are Robert, Lysa, and the High Septon.

Obese characters who defy categorization.Sam Tarly is the prime exemplar here: he’s not corrupt or fallen, he’s not comic relief (sure, Jon pokes a little silent fun at him, but his hazing is mostly played as the horror it is), and he’s not cleverly hiding behind his bulk (though he might learn). He’s simply Sam, a person with many characteristics, one of which — but not the only defining one — happens to be great physical size. (Judging by Sam’s dialog in this book, his self-declared cowardice is much more central to his own self-concept than his obesity.)

I think Fat Tom belongs in this last category too: to Arya he’s comic relief, but Ned clearly views him as a full-fledged person and valuable employee.

Overall, Martin has a good record of portraying obese characters: most obese characters (like most non-obese characters) are occasionally the butt of humor, but only “extras” are played strictly for comic relief (and one senses a little sympathy even for Mord). Obese characters can be smart, brave, and likeable (or smart, scheming, and dislikable). And they’re not always fat because they’re lazy or decadent, although occasionally (Robert, the High Septon) this may be the case. I’m most fascinated by the characters who use their obesity to help make themselves seem innocuous, and wonder if Sam, jaded by his exposure to those scheming southron maesters, will eventually end up in this category.

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AGoT Jon 7: the things they do for love? (more spoilery than usual)

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!”)

AGoT Jon 4

Meet Sam Tarly: “the fattest boy [Jon] had ever seen,” weighing “twenty stone” — that would be 160 to 320 pounds, 280 by the most common definition of “stone.” Here fat is associated with cowardice and (once again) with effeminacy, but there’s no hint of schemey-ness (fat as disguise) or fallen-ness (fat as outward sign of a decline in morality or dignity).

I find it hard to believe that even Thorne would disallow Sam’s armor because it wasn’t black (leather and wool can be dyed and wood painted, after all), and even harder to believe that he would encourage the boys to break a helmet just to humiliate Sam. Possessions were not cheap or disposable in such times; that broken helmet would take a lot of Noye’s time to fix or recycle.

In Jon’s dream: “I scream that I’m not a Stark, that this isn’t my place.” And later: “he had never truly been one of them [the Starks].”

First mention of blue-lipped Qartheen warlocks — being hired by Randyll Tarly(!). Who is a tool, but a very evocatively described one. In Sam’s story, he expresses his disapproval to his son while skinning a deer: the ultimate source of the Tywin-introducing scene in the TV show?

Overall, this chapter is a bit too after-school special: in a very brief span of pages, we move from Sam as “accidental” hazing death waiting to happen, to his “fitting in” and becoming one of the guys due to Jon’s heroic principles. Jon’s use of force to achieve his goal does lend a little moral complexity, though (and perhaps foreshadows his later attempt at autocratic leadership).