Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: ACOK, Jon I

“What will you do…bastard as you are?”

“Be troubled…and keep my vows.”

Synopsis: Jon Snow finds Samwell Tarly in the library of Castle Black and escorts him to Jeor Mormont, and along the way speaks of the nature of kings.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

Not a lot actually happens in Jon I (as opposed to establishing a mood), which makes it a fairly slow introduction to what is actually one of my favorite Jon plotlines in ASOIAF. However, there’s a lot of thematic groundwork and worldbuilding going on that I feel deserves some consideration.

The Night’s Watch’s Intellectual Capital

To begin with, there is the topic of the Night’s Watch’s vast library, the largest we’ve seen first-hand, which makes sense for an institution of the Watch’s extreme duration. As we learn, this store of information represents one of the largest concentrations of intellectual capital in the world, not just for the amount of books on hand but their unique subject matter:

“the books, have you ever seen their like? There are thousands…the important books used to be copied over when they needed them. Some of the oldest have been copied half a hundred times, probably…I found drawings of the faces in the trees, and a book about the tongue of the children of the forest…works that even the Citadel doesn’t have, scrolls from old Valyria…”

Given GRRM’s well-known bibliophile, I have a suspicion that these books are important for more than just world-building purposes (and how interesting that Tyrion, who’s no mean scholar of the written world himself, never seems to have visited one of the great unexplored intellectual treasures in existence) and the dozen maps Sam finds for the Lord Commander. Take a look at the subject matter of these books: the studies of heart trees and the language of the children of the forest may hold the key to the primordial earth magic that built the Wall and brought down the Arm of Dorne, especially when you consider that the children call their language “the songs of the earth.” Scrolls from old Valyria might well be sorcerous in nature, given the nature of that empire’s knowledge. Ever since AFFC, everyone’s focus on mystic knowledge has been on the Citadel – but what if, to quote Raiders of the Lost Arc, “they’re digging in the wrong place”? Or perhaps there are two caches of knowledge, one for Ice and one for Fire?

Finally, as a historian, I appreciate Sam’s defense of historic documents, no matter how mundane – “you can learn so much from ledgers like that, truly you can. It can tell you how many men were in the Night’s Watch then, how they lived, what they ate.” As social historians have known for decades, there is an enormous amount we can learn from fairly mundane sources – indeed, as I hope I’ve shown in my Jon recaps in AGOT, we’ve been able to tell a lot about the functioning and dysfunctioning of the Night’s Watch from rather fragmentary evidence we’ve gathered from Jon and Tyrion’s limited perspective on the institution.

The Great Ranging

As far as plot goes, the central focus in Jon I is Jeor Mormont’s “Great Ranging,” an endeavor that will shape the lives of Jon Snow, Samwell Tarly, and the rest of our cast up at the Wall for the next two books. It’s quite an undertaking: “The Old Bear is taking two hundred seasoned men, three-quarters of them rangers. Qhorin Halfhand will be bringing another hundred brothers from the Shadow tower…the Old Bear was taking two cages of ravens, so they might send back word as they went.” I’ll discuss later the plausibility of 300 men defeating a body of 100,000 people (even if only 20,000 are fighters), but no one could accuse Mormont of treating the situation lightly – he’s committing a full third of the Night’s Watch, and given the overall size of the Watch likely the large majority of their rangers. Just as importantly, the raven-messaging system shows that the Lord Commander is thinking beyond the immediate military issue to the vital importance of bringing back intelligence, so that the Night’s Watch can continue to act as “the horn that wakes the sleepers.”

However, we can see the risk Mormont’s gamble represents through the reactions of the rank-and-file. To begin with, they respond to the appearance of the comet with hopeful, if somewhat strained superstition: “the black brothers had dubbed the wanderer Mormont’s Torch, saying (only half in jest) that the gods must have sent it to light the old man’s way through the haunted forest.” They also go about a ritual common to soldiers facing battle throughout human history. The more earthly go off in search of sex, the more devout in search of reassurance of the next life to come: “the grounds seemed deserted this morning, with so many rangers off at the brothel in Mole’s Town, digging for buried treasure and drinking themselves blind…As they passed the sept, he heard voices raised in song. Some men whores on the eve of battle, and some want gods. Jon wondered who felt better afterward.”

In hindsight, we can see the dramatic reasons for this ranging – it was necessary as a vehicle to get Jon Snow into contact with the wildlings and thus set up his ASOS plot and his policies as Lord Commander in ADWD; as a vehicle to get Samwell Tarly into contact with Gilly, the cache of dragonglass, and the White Walker; as a dramatic device to raise the stakes on the supernatural plot, which has been absent since Jon VII of AGOT and which we won’t see again until Sam’s POV chapters in ASOS, without going straight for the forthcoming attack on the Wall; and as a dramatic device to raise the stakes for the Siege of Castle Black by further stacking the odds against the good guys similarly to what he did with Robb in advance of the Whispering Woods.

New Recruits

We also see the Night’s Watch acquiring more recruits, which provides us another opportunity to check in with the Night’s Watch in terms of overall numbers.

“Ser Endrew Tarth was working with some raw recruits. They’d come last night with…one of the wandering crows…this new crop consisted of a greybeard leaning on a staff, two blond boys with the look of brothers, a foppish youth in soiled satin, and some grinning loon who must have fancied himself a warrior…a lord’s dungeon near Gulltown…a brigand, a barber, a beggar, two orphans, and a boy whore. With such do we defend the realms of men.”

Given that Yoren’s caravan seems to be the main Night’s Watch recruitment and resupply train down to the capital and back – and that caps out at 30 men – we can see that my initial estimates remain on track. These small batches of five men here and five there just aren’t enough to keep the Night’s Watch on a sustainable growth track.

On the other hand, it is interesting to see some future supporting characters popping up here: the “foppish youth” who is the “boy whore” is Satin, Jon’s squire; the “two orphan” brothers are Emrik and Arron who survive the Battle of Castle Black; and Hop-Robin is another survivor. Who the brigand and the grinning loon are I’m not quite sure. (On a side note, I’ve always wondered what Ser Endrew’s relation is to Lord Selwyn, and why the Tarths can’t get their act together on how to name themselves)

Politics Is Everywhere

Another theme that caught my eye was the otherwise out-of-place discussion of kingship – what makes for a good king, how one deals with being the brother of a king, the characters of Renly and Stannis, and the example of Maester Aemon. However, if we think about the larger meta-argument of A Clash of Kings being a debate over the nature of monarchy in a civil war, and especially if we think about Jon Snow as both a younger brother and a prince who is undergoing his own form of political education, it completely makes sense. In the War of Five Kings, the political infiltrates everywhere.

What Makes a King?

To begin with, Jon Snow and Donal Noye discuss the question of what makes for a good king:

“Robb a king? The brother he’d played with, fought with, shared his first cup of wine with…now Robb will sip summerwine from jeweled goblets while I’m kneeling beside some stream sucking snowmelt…”Robb will make a good king,” he said loyally.

“Will he now?…I hope that’s so, boy, but once I might have said the same of Robert…I tell you this- Robert was never the same after he put on that crown. Some men are like swords, made for fighting. Hang them up and they go to rust.”

“Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He’ll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he’s copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth much all of the day.”

“And what metal is Robb?”

Note that even here, the question of envy is right under the surface of Jon Snow’s character. It’s one of the things that makes him human – that at the end of the day, however much he loved his brother (and that love comes through always), he wanted to be a trueborn son of Winterfell, and lord besides. In another time and place, Jon might have been a Loki to Robb’s Thor, a Daemon to his Daeron. But as we’ll see, his decision to join the Night’s Watch will put him on a different track.

However, GRRM is very clear to throw Jon’s loyal instincts into question – a good man can be a bad king. Robert may have been the “true steel,” but once in power he went to rust. And while we’ve seen Robb’s skill as a war leader, there’s every chance that he may be “made for fighting” but not for ruling. The parable of the metals is a fascinating little miniature in itself – for one, it foregrounds Stannis and Renly, as so many chapters will, as larger-than-life figures whose personal qualities will decide the lives of thousands of men. The verdict is not a good one – Stannis is too rigid and unyielding to make the necessary changes that politics demands, whereas Renly is all surface and no substance.

And yet, as I have argued, it’s worth debating how well Donal Noye saw these men – Robert was not a good king, Stannis has shown himself capable of bending in surprising ways.  If GRRM is leaving us a message here, it’s one he’s chosen to muddle beyond a vague sense that the middle path is the best. (Interestingly, Jon Snow seems not to flash back to this advice much once he becomes Lord Commander, compared to Aemon’s mantra)

credit to Hogan McLaughlin

The Unspoken Pact

We also get an interesting tidbit about how the Night’s Watch is handling the War of Five Kings – while the Night’s Watch has a long tradition of neutrality, as we learned about in AGOT, it seems that a key part of that tradition’s functioning is to maintain a studious silence: “…Among the brotherhood of the Night’s Watch, there was an unspoken pact never to probe too deeply into such matters. Men came to the Wall from all of the Seven Kingdoms, and old loves and loyalties were not easily forgotten, no matter how many oaths a man swore…”

Indeed, as we will see, the Night’s Watch can no more ignore the realities of politics than the political world will be able to ignore the metaphysical threat from beyond the Wall – Jeor Mormont sent a hand to *the* king, but the Night’s Watch will have to turn to all the kings when Mormont’s ranging goes awry, Janos Slynt will bring the Lannister political perspective to the Wall, and Jon Snow will have to wrestle with both Stannis and the idea of Tommen as well.

The Man Who Could Have Been King

Finally, we have the thread that brings this all together – the story of how Maester Aemon turned down the Iron Throne of Westeros in favor of his brother Aegon the Unlikely. It’s clearly intended as a parable for Jon Snow – he’s already been tested as to whether he’ll be a dutiful natural son, and now he’s going to be tested as well to see whether he’ll break his vows out of a sense of jealousy or duty toward his brother.

“Aemon knows what he’s about…do you know that he might have been king…the new king summoned all his sons to court and would have made Aemon part of his councils, but he refused, saying that would usurp the place rightly belonging to the Grand Maester…the year of the Great Council…the lords passed over Prince Aerion’s infant son and Prince Daeron’s daughter and gave the crown to Aegon…First they offered it, quietly, to Aemon. And quietly he refused. The gods meant for him to serve, not to rule, he told them. He had sworn a vow and would not break it…so they had no choice but to turn to Aemon’s younger brother.”

“They will garb your brother Robb in silks, satins, and velvets of a hundred different colors, while you live and die in black ringmail. He will wed some beautiful princess and father sons on her. You’ll have no wife, nor will you ever hold a child of your own blood in your arms. Robb will rule, you will serve. Men will call you a crow. Him they’ll call your Grace.”

On the one hand, this parable clearly steadies Jon Snow later on when he comes face to face with temptation in the form of Stannis offering him legitimacy, Winterfell, and Val. Jon holds true to his vows then, without which much of ADWD would not have happened for better or for worse. On the other, I wonder how wise Maester Aemon’s actions were – he didn’t want to be king, and knew his presence would harm his brother – and yet, had he taken the Iron Throne, it’s quite possible that Aerys II would have never come to the Iron Throne, to the downfall of his House.

Historical Analysis:

I want to save the Great Ranging discussion for a bit later, so I thought I’d do a quick bit about Maester Aemon Targaryen. Now, I haven’t exactly found a historical parallel for him – there’s not a lot of examples from the medieval era of a potential king who turned down the crown in favor of an ascetic’s lifestyle. Even devout kings who later became saints used the powers of the office to advance their holy missions, even if they wore hair-shirts underneath.

However, I did find an interesting little trend of people who turned down the crown throughout history – and it is a little trend; most people don’t turn the crown if they can get their hands on it. Some do it because the chalice is poisoned. Wamba, one of the great Visigothic kings of 7th century Spain, repeatedly turned down the crown because the competition for power was so fierce that “so many Visigoth Kings were dispatched to a higher rewards by disgruntled coutiers that the odds of a natural royal death hovered slightly below fifty-fifty.” (A Vanished World, Christopher Lowney)

More frequent is a trend of turning down the title but not the power – following the First Crusade, Godrey of Bouillon turned down the crown of King of Jerusalem but accepted the titel of Baron instead, perhaps of out of some religious scruple that only Jesus could be King in Jerusalem. Charles Martel, the victor of Tours, refused both the title of King of France and Consul of Rome, but still acted as de-facto ruler of France and Germany for decades. Hugh the Great, tehe 10th century ancestor of the Capetian dynasty, refused the crown and gave it to his brother in law, but still ruled over all of France between the Loire and the Seine, and made sure that his son Hugh Capet would be king.

Thus, we can say that Maester Aemon, formerly of the House Targaryen, is truly one man among millions.

What if?

There’s not a lot of scope for hypotheticals here, given that not much happens. However, there are some interesting possibilities:

  • Thoren Smallwood leads the Ranging? Thoren Smallwood is one of those bit players who nonetheless exercise a subtle influence on events – in this chapter, he proposes to lead the expedition in place of Mormont. Now, if that had happened, it’s still likely that the Ranging would have been crushed on the Fist, that Jon would have had his adventures with the wildlings, and Sam his moment of glory. However, it would have definitively meant that Jon Snow would have reported back to Jeor Mormont when he returned to the Night’s Watch – which means no Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt throwing Jon to the wolves, no Bowen Marsh wasting the Watch’s manpower in a botched defense of the Bridge, and no Jon Snow as Lord Commander for several years. Which is interesting – for all his strengths, Jeor Mormont was a traditionalist. I don’t know whether he would have been able to make the necessary adjustments to a status quo with Stannis at the Wall and tens of thousands of wildlings who have to be brought into the realms of men.
  • Sam is sent to Renly? This is an interesting little possibility. If Sam had been sent to Renly – let’s be generous and say he somehow manages to get down to the Stormlands in time – I doubt that Renly would have given him credence…but it would have put him close to Stannis and Melisandre, to say nothing of Catelyn Stark who might have more interest in a threat bearing down on the North. It also means that the Night’s Watch never learns about dragonglass, but it does mean that Sam might have been at ground zero to see a King struck down by dark magics. What would come of that, I don’t know…all I know is that I pity Sam in the presence of his father.

Book vs. Show:

This scene does not appear in the books, which while I understand from a dramatic perspective (nothing much happens here that has to happen), I do think the thematic losses speak to the way in which the show badly mishandled Jon’s storyline in Season 2. More of which when we get to Jon III and Craster’s Keep.

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83 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: ACOK, Jon I

  1. MightyIsobel says:

    Nice commentary on a chapter rich with historical and institutional information. I read Donal Noye’s comments on the Baratheons as accurate up through the time he served their household, so we discover how the brothers matured and changed through the POVs of Ned, Davos/Jon, and Catelyn/Brienne.

    I like the speculation about the Archives of Ice and Fire!

  2. Winnie says:

    Yeah I missed that line of Jon’s from the show as well. And I can’t help feeling all Seven Kingdoms would have been much MUCH better off if A had accepted the Crown.

    OT but am panting for your rundown of episode 8.

    • I’m looking forward to the podcast – it’ll be a bit later in the week because of moving, flying, and a conference, but I have pages of notes and a lot to talk about.

    • John says:

      But why? Aegon was a good king, and Aemon was just as likely to have an insane grandson as his brother.

      • John says:

        (or just because Aemon would still be alive and on the throne? I’m not at all convinced he’d live as long in the South with all the pressures of ruling on him.)

      • David says:

        Just as likely yes, but its not all that likely. The Butterfly Effect that kicks in surely changes a lot that happens and its the Targs are still on the Iron Throne

    • Captain Splendid says:

      That’s the great thing about ASOIAF: There are so many what-ifs like that. My personal favourite one is imagining that the Baratheon brothers are a tighter family unit than usual. That alone would have saved tons of grief for the Kingdom.

  3. David Hunt says:

    I missed how close to the surface Jon’s envy is until ADWD when he has Winterfell and the Stark name dangled right in front of him and we see just how much being acknowledged as Ned’s son really meant to him.

    • Don’t forget Jon Snow going berserk in the practice yard when he flashes back to Robb.

      Gives his reason to Mance more weight in retrospect.

      • WPA says:

        What were your thoughts on the show changing Jon’s explanation-cover to Mance from (though I understand the difficulties of filming) “Did you see where they sat the bastard?”, to “I want to fight for who fights for the living.”?

        • I thought it was ok, given that they hadn’t really hit on the bastard resentment thing that much.

        • Winnie says:

          Also I thought that line of Jon’s foreshadowed
          His making a deal to the Free Folk because he
          Really *does* want to fight for the side of the living regardless of what side of the Wall they live on.

  4. Andrew says:

    Not sure about the brigand, but I think ‘grinning loon’ is killed during the Thenn’s assault on Castle Black. One of the defenders is mentioned as laughing hysterically while he’s fighting before he’s killed. Sounds like a loon who ‘fancied himself a warrior’

    Also, I wonder if Donal Noye would have changed his views on Stannis if he survived the Battle of the Wall.

  5. Abbey Battle says:

    There is one, very slight, parallel to Aemon Targaryen – if I remember correctly there was once a prince who fell out with his father to such a degree that he kept demanding to be allowed to renounce his claim to the crown so that he might become a monk (albeit his motive seems to have been to bedevil his father, rather than honour any principle).

    Frustratingly I cannot remember the name of this prince, although I believe he received ‘The Monk’ as his epithet and if memory serves he was Prince of a Spanish Kingdom (either Spain itself or one of its precursors).

    I shall do my best to dig him up out of obscurity (or Wikipedia, whichever coughs up first!).

    • Abbey Battle says:

      Good old Wikipedia produced the goods!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_of_Aragon_(monk)

    • I’ll add him into the book manuscript, thanks!

      • Abbey Battle says:

        Thank YOU for continuing to post such excellent analysis! (May I please ask if there are any more articles on Essos forthcoming?).

    • Roger says:

      It reminds me Sultan Saladin’s first son. She renounced the crown to become a Muslim mystic (sufi). So Saladin’s brother took the throne of Egypt/Syria. Under muslim law, brothers had the same heritage rights than sons.

      When I read yur comment I first thought of Ramiro el Monje (Ramiro the Monk). A monk already when his brother the King (Alfonso “Battle-monger”) died childless, he took the crown, fathered a daughter, married her to a Catalan count, and went back to the church, renouncing to the throne.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramiro_II_of_Aragon

      Aemon could had done the same!

      • Ok, more edits in the book.

      • John says:

        Saladin had several sons who split up the kingdom. The eldest, Al-Afdal, got Damascus and ended up fighting for several years with his brother, Al-Aziz, who inherited Egypt. Their uncle Al-Adil eventually got sick of it and took over himself. Al-Aziz had died by that point, I think, but al-Afdal was sent off into exile. He may at that point have become a mystic, but that was a consequence, not a cause, of his losing the throne.

  6. Sean C. says:

    In terms of historical AUs, another would be what would have happened had Aemon renounced the throne but remained in King’s Landing. An elder statesman like him might have been a viable alternative power to Aerys when things started to go bad.

    • Winnie says:

      Good point Sean C. Also with Aemon on his side Rhaegar might have actually been able to depose his father peacefully.

    • Or a potential candidate for Grand Maester instead of the vile Pycelle.

      • David Hunt says:

        Now THERE’S an interesting What If! I was tying to write a bit on what that would change and realized that it was beyond me. I keep coming up with new wrinkles that it causes. Like: would Bloodraven have been sent to the Wall if Aemon hadn’t gone?

        • Yeah, I think BR would have gone – I don’t think Aegon V would have forgotten BR trying to politely take him hostage back in the day.

          • David Hunt says:

            I think that too, actually. I brought that up to emphasize just how far back into history Aemon goes and how much could change if he took a different route.

  7. Andrew says:

    It is interesting to note that Mormont’s raven first says “king” right after Mormont tells Jon “Jaime Lannister put an end to the line of Dragonkings.”

    I do wonder what happened to Aerion’s infant son. Most likely, he likely died. A bit ironic that they gave the crown to Aegon only to end up with someone very much like Aerion on the IT, Aerys II.

    As for the library, I wonder what Valyiran scrolls would be doing there. I guess they would have to be sorcerous in nature like you said, or at the very least containing information about the Long Night.

    • Abbey Battle says:

      I would be surprised if Aerion Brightflame’s boy died young; for a while now I have suspected that it was not House Blackfyre, but the heirs of Daeron the Drunken Dreamer and Aerion who triggered the tragedy in Summerhall – either them or the heirs of those twins begotten by Prince Rhaegel or all of the above.

      Nothing I’ve heard to date has convinced me the the Tragedy of Summerhall was one made when the senior line of the House Targaryen decided that they were sick of being kept from the throne by the line of Aegon the Unlikely …

      • Andrew says:

        I think it was the Blackfyres in an attempt against HouseTargaryen, possibly to wipe the whole house out. The War of the Ninepenny Kings was launched the same year as the Tragedy of Summerhall.

        • Abbey Battle says:

          I see nothing in that theory which is incompatible with mine own; there’s no reason that The Golden Company might not have quietly backed Targaryen conspirators in order to open the way for their latest invasion attempt!

        • That’s odd – could have sworn that in an earlier version Aegon V fought the War of Ninepenny Kings.

          • Andrew says:

            Me too, but in WOIAF, it is stated that Jaehaerys II was king during the War of the Ninepenny Kings. The Tragedy of Summerhall was the same year as the start of the war. The event left House Targaryen in a weakened state with only three male Targaryens left, frail Jaehaerys II, his only son Aerys, and his newborn grandson, Rhaegar.

            Aegon V fought the Fourth Blackfyre Rebellion with Dunk managing to kill Daemon III.

          • Yeah, that’s definitely a retcon, and definitely puts a different spin on Aegon’s rule. I always thought that Aegon’s perspective of the Blackfyre Rebellions were the reason he went for a preemptive strike.

            But…it does explain why Ser Barristan likes Jaehaerys II.

    • Is there a database of Mormont’s raven? I can’t be arsed to go through and find every last croak, but it would be useful to have.

      • Tom says:

        Someone on reddit put together a comprehensive list, I’m not able to search for it but I suspect it’ll be easy to find

  8. Winnie says:

    I firmly expect that there will be texts in that library relevant to the Long Winter at some point in the stories. In fact I think the show might just do away with Sam’s trip to Oldtown altogether, (and that whole stupid Maester conspiracy thing,) and let him romance Gilly while doing important research right there at the Wall.

    • Son of fire says:

      With the casting call for maggy the frog & young cersei getting leaked for S5,i now believe theres gonna be 10 seasons with plenty of time for oldtown.
      S5 watergardens/sandsnakes imprisoned/margaery’s imprisonment/soth & dani marriage.
      S6 sunspear/Queenmaker/kingsmoot/tyrion inslaved/cersei locked up
      S7 The dragontamer…ect,you get the idea.

      • WPA says:

        I think they’ve only got the cast under contract for 7 seasons, and at that point you risk one of the genuinely irreplaceable cast members deciding to cash out (or worry about their career being dominated by one role) and refuse to extend or make unreasonable money demands. It’s not like they can threaten anybody with a trip to the Dreadfort to keep them under contract.

        So I doubt they can do more than 7- unless they effectively make an 8th season by having season 7 be 15-20 episodes and broken into two airing blocks like AMC does with some of its vehicles.

        • Son of fire says:

          All valid points.
          I suppose it will come down to dvd/blu ray boxsets sales.
          HBO should be treating this as their star wars & go all out,well thats what i hope.

        • JT says:

          Actually, the cast is supposedly under contract for only 5 or 6 seasons, depending on the source.

          Given that some of the cast members (Emilia Clarke, Dinklidge, Heady, NCW, Harrington) have recently picked up major movie roles, it would be prohibitively expensive to re-up them for 10 seasons even with great Blu-ray sales (and if anything, Blu-ray sales are trending down, not up).

          Also, some of the plot lines (Theon, Brienne, Dany) have already moved into book 4/5 territory. You’d have really stretch those plotlines out in order to make the show go more than 7 (or maybe 8) seasons at this point.

          • Son of fire says:

            All true & very well could happen!
            I will say that books 4&5 are really one novel of about 2000 pages and Asos is about 1200 pages long(not exact),and for every 2 cool events that happen on page in asoiaf 1 cool event happens off page eg bronn winning a castle via dirty tactics in a duel.Thoses 800 pages with a little ingenuity on the writer’s side can be almost a seasons worth of material alone.Then theirs all the new characters who’s screen time will take away from the ones you listed,if they can drop a f*#king epic character like coldhands and STILL make brans story great then they can do the same for sansa,theon,dani & brienne.
            I just really want to see lady nym ask ser strong to remove his helm after he’s splatted lancel all over the red keep……in my mind thats season 8.

  9. Son of fire says:

    Great stuff as always
    keep it up.

  10. Brett says:

    I wonder where they’re getting the money to pay for sex in the brothel at Moles’ Town, since Watch members don’t appear to draw wages AFAIK.

  11. Roger says:

    Great analysis.

    Heh, I also thought of Loki and Thor (Marvel comics version) reading the Jon’s extract! Loki had never Jon’s noblesse, of course.

    I think the problem with the Night Watch is the lack of war in Westeros. Before Aegon, there was a great war (kingdom against kingdom) every generation. Nymeria sent a dozen kings to the Wall, chained in gold. Taking the black was more honourable than being beheaded. Black Harren’s brother, Lord Commander during the Conquest, had 10.000 swords. But under the Targaryens, wars were scarcier, and less recruits come. Last good catch were probably survivors of KL sacking (Alliser Thorne and such). And the second last Brynden Rivers and Maester Aemon.

    I think Aemon choice was wise and prudent. If he had took the Crown, nobody would had trusted maesters no more. Or little brothers. Remember Renly! Also, Aemon couldn’t knows Aerys would become a monster (probably Aerys wasn’t even born at that moment). WHo knows if Aemon would have been better or worse than the Mad King? Only the Father and the Crone!

    The Great Ranging was a good idea… While it remained a Ranging. When Mormont turned it into an attempot of “Arranged” battle, it became a fracas.

    One of the greatest kings of Aragon was Peter the Great. He conquered Sicily and humiliated the Pope and the King of France. You know what was one of his first acts? Killing his older bastard’s brother (a rebel). Curiosly, he ordered his men to drown him ina river. No blood spilled, no God’s haunt! (well, Peter died young, but…)

  12. Excellent as usual Steven. What I find very interesting is that while Tyrion takes a dragon book from Winterfell, he never seems to pay a visit to the Wall’s library. And now I’m wondering where did that dragon book ended. Maybe there is something there on the Wall, perhaps not for dragons, but about the Long Night and Others.

    Oh boy, Jon’s envy has always been there. I took notice when he called poor Myrcella “insipid”. And Mormont’s raven is someone I pay close attention to, his choice of wording is always interesting, possible hint from Bloodraven?

    And Noye’s comment is likely based as far as he could recall them. I find that he got Robert and Stannis wrong and Renly mostly true. Robert was steel when he was younger, most specifically, a warrior. He was ill suited for Kingship and he was morally lacking (hitting Cersei and Joff, the killing of Lady just so Cersei would shut up, etc) and Stannis may be unyielding in some ways, but he’s willing to bend in surprising ways. Renly? He was more about the here and now.

    And yes, massive kudos to Sam for that comment!

    • Roger says:

      Perhaps Tyrion returned the book when he visited Winterfell for last time.

      Remember also when Jon had a flashback of Robb in the training yard and snaped and almost killed Iron Emmett.

      I agree with Noye.

      What does “kudos” mean? English is not my native language, sorry.

      • David says:

        Kudos means ‘receives praise for a job well done’

      • Kudos is like saying ‘well done’ or bonus points.

        He might returned the book. I just found it curious that we never get to know what happened. Specially considering that Brandon Snow thought he could defeat the Targ dragons with the info there.

        Yes, Jon has a lot of anger and resentment inside.

        On Noye, he’s mostly correct, but his assessment is mostly to what he knew of the Baratheon brothers and later we see how he’s not entirely wrong, but not completely right either.

    • Maddy says:

      I think it’s realistic for Jon to feel envy – I mean he didn’t go full Ramsay and kill Robb or anything (never go full Ramsay). I really like all of his interactions with Stannis but especially his internal struggle about being legitimised and then his decision that Winterfell belongs to Sansa (sobs forever because I’m pathetic).

      Sam is the best. I know GRRM talks about being most similar to Tyrion, but I’ve always felt like Sam’s love of books and learning came from him as well (because clearly I know GRRM personally).

      • Oh it is very realistic, as a matter of fact, it would be unrealistic if he didn’t. I think that during the royal visit is when he really, for the first time ever, felt truly out of place.

        I know, I wanted to hug him when he said that and truthfully, punch Stannis for calling Sansa “Lady Lannister”.

        Yeah, Tyrion may be in a way his avatar, but it’s with Sam that his love of books truly shines. IMO.

  13. S. Duff says:

    I was rereading Game of Thrones and I noticed that when Bran first hears that Benjen’s gone missing he immediately thinks that the Children of the Forest will help him. I think that may be a possibility, but if that’s true I wonder why/if the CotF are withholding that information from Bran.

  14. David says:

    Stephen – Looks like you left an unfinished sentence/paragraph right after quote about the metal of kings.

  15. Jack says:

    Martin has compared Stannis to Henry VII, Tiberius and Louis XI. I can definitely see a lot of Tiberius in Stannis especially the portrayal of Tiberius in I, Claudius. But what does Stannis share in common with the other two men?

    • Henry VII was a rather sour, penny-pinching, ascetic type who was very my-way-or-the-highway with his subjects. Little loved, much feared. He even looked Stannis-like in the face.

      Louis XI is weird, because he was a hell of a schemer and realpolikian, a brilliant administrator and civic reformer, but not particularly Stannislike in many other ways.

      • Roger says:

        Personaly I hope Stannis will end being a sort of John II Komnenos (Byzantine emperor), man famous for his austerity and justice. Who reached the throne despite his own mother and sister shameless scheming. A man who raised to Grand Domesticus (general) a former Turkish slave, instead of giving that title to a nobleman (remember Davos?). A man who ruled despite the resentment of the nepotistic aristocracy.

        Ironicaly, John II’s son and successor, Manuel I, was a real Robert Baratheon. A giant man of inmense apetites, great physical courage, little moral courage, great charisma and no patience.

        Also John II died hunting a boar (just like Robert!), probably murdered by a conspiration (real Robert-like).

  16. Iain Roberts says:

    Another historical parallel: Holy Roman Emperor Charles V did not refuse the throne, but he did abdicate two years before his death, leaving his realms to his son and his brother (King Philip II of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I respectively), and retiring to a life of religious contemplation.

    There are also examples of elderly churchmen inheriting the throne, or at least a claim to it: King Henry of Portugal (reigned 1578-80) and the last Stuart pretender to the British throne, Henry Cardinal York (Bonnie Prince Charlie’s younger brother, “reigned” 1788-1807). In both cases they accepted the title of King but kept their positions in the Church (along with their vows of celibacy).

    • zonaria says:

      It’s rather easier to think of cases where it would have been better for all concerned if the monarch in question had declined the throne and gone into the Church – English kings Henry III and Henry VI spring to mind.

  17. Maddy says:

    I feel kind of bad about admitting this but I wasn’t really that interested in Jon chapters or his character until ADWD (when I felt like a fairly stereotypical fantasy character finally came up against some more grounded obstacles and we didn’t just get a simple ‘good noble leader’ story). This was great and made me realise there is much more going on in these Jon chapters than I initially realised so thanks!

    I hope we get to see more of Maester Aemon in the show. And we actually get to see Sam’s intelligence and usefulness which they have really underplayed so far. I really like book Sam but they don’t seem that interested in his character. I hope we at least get to see his role in Jon getting elected as LC and using his political smarts. I’m worried they’re going to just rush that into the last episode this season though and just have Jon being elected because of his role in the battle. I’m really disappointed in their treatment of the politics at the Wall it’s just the same scene over and over.

    Anyway this is all speculation at this point! Can’t wait to listen to your podcast on the latest episode. I have conflicted Sansa thoughts.

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