Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Bran IV, ASOS

“It is only another empty castle,” Meera Reed said as she gazed across the desolation of rubble, ruins, and weeds.No, thought Bran, it is the Nightfort, and this is the end of the world.

Synopsis: Bran tells some stories, and then becomes one.

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.

By Popular Demand: Machiavellianism for a Purpose

550 Years Since Niccolo Machiavelli Was Born—How to Check How Machiavellian  You Are


“In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.” – much of the fandom seems to internalize the cynical logic that ruthlessness is the prime determinant of success. We can see this most vividly in the “Stupid Ned” meme, where the doomed protagonist of the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) is mocked for his hapless naiveté in the midst of King’s Landing’s “nest of vipers.”

But is it accurate that ruthlessness, pure and simple, is the key to victory and survival in Westeros? The thesis of this essay is, in so far as we can take success or failure in the narrative of ASOIAF as a hint to George R.R Martin’s own political theorizing, that this is not the case. An idealistic attachment to codes of honorable behavior can trip up politicians who fail to guard themselves from the unethical, but it’s also the case that those who embrace Machiavellianism for Machiavellianism’ sake ultimately find their achievements last no longer than their ability to inspire fear. More lasting success ultimately comes from those who can marry pragmatism in their methods to an overarching purpose that can inspire the hearts and minds of Westerosi.

After all, if brutality was the only measure of a prince, why is it that the blood-soaked Maegor the Cruel reigned for only six years, failed to sire an heir, and ended up murdered on his own throne, while the peaceful Jaehaerys the Conciliator ruled for over fifty years, sired the Targaryen dynasty, and is remembered three hundred years later as the best of kings?

RFTIT Tumblr Weeklyish Roundup, Part II

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Ok, time to finish off the Tumblr backlog before diving into the Nightfort!



Patron Questions:

  • 1. Since the next Daenerys-Chapter is coming up, I wanted to ask, if the “White Saviour”-Dilemma in the Slavers-Bay-Storyline is not perhaps a bit of a Catch-22? I mean, if it is wrong for Dany to participate in slavery (or at least commit the sin of omission by tolerating it), but also wrong to act against slavery, then what possible choice is left? 2. A Non-ASOIF-Question: Your thoughts on Wandavision?
    • 1. Well, arguably the answer is to support existing indigenous voices for change, but that’s not really possible in the setup GRRM went with, so Dany really did have to make use of her privilege as a force for good.
    • 2. Wrote about it here.
  • What does the structure of the existing novels, especially the first three, suggest to you about the remaining story? If ASOIAF is following a rough three-act structure, where do you think we are at the end of ADWD and how much is left? (To me, Books 1 – 3 read as Act 1, but I don’t think we’ll reach the end of Act 2 until the Battles of Ice and Fire and maybe the second Dance of the Dragons are done. This says to me there has to be at least an eighth book and maybe even a ninth. I suspect Winds is taking so long because George knows this too and is fighting it.)
    • I don’t think 1-3 are Act 1. If anything, I think they’re Acts 1-3. With 4+5 acting as a very long Act 4, with the last two books being a very long Act 5.
  • What’s your favorite Historical Economic Event and what happened?

If you’d like your question answered each month, consider becoming a Patron!

Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Jon VII, ASOS

Synopsis: the Battle for Castle Black begins.

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.

Non-ASOIAF Content: People’s History of the Marvel Universe, Wandavision Edition


The following is originally a Tumblr post from a couple years back (as you can see from some of the contemporary references) that I held back from publishing because I wanted to have a Roma sensitivity reader take a look at it first, and then never got around to finishing when other things came up despite their very kind assistance. However, the popularity of WandaVision brought back some pre-existing discourse around Elizabeth Olsen’s casting as a non-Romani actress and Joss Whedon and pre-Feige Marvel executives’ decision to reimagine Wanda and Pietro Maximoff as radicalized Sokovian nationalists rather than Romani.

This reminded me of the unfinished post I’d written about the difficult question of Romani representation in comics rooted in problematic decisions made during Marvel’s Silver Age and its particular relationship to subtextual Judaism in the work of assimilated Jewish creators. So after the break, I’ve posted an edited and elaborated version of my original post.

Tagged ,

RFTIT Tumblr Weeklyish Roundup

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Hey folks! Next up is a pretty big chapter, where Jon fights in the Attack on Castle Black to the tragic conclusion of his and Ygritte’s relationship. However, I haven’t even outlined that chapter so it’s going to be a while coming (especially since I have grading right now).

In the mean-time, though, I’ve got some choice stuff on the tumblrs…



Patreon Questions:

  • “1. Dear Steven, since the focus of your “The Mystery Knight”-essay lies on the Blackfyre Rebellion, do you have any thoughts on Ser Glendon Ball, Ser Kyle the Cat and Ser Uther Underleaf, and what these characters say about knighthood and chivalry? 2. If Rhaegar hadn’t abducted Lyanna Stark (or she hadn’t run off with him), and thus Brandon would never have had any reason to storm off to King’s Landing, what would have probably been the most likely political developments in Westeros? Thank you for your efforts.”
    • 1. So Kyle and Glendon are the most direct opposites, in that Kyle takes a fall in order to get a position and fails and Glendon refuses to take a fall in order to get a position. I think we’re meant to think that Glendon is the truer knight of the pair. Uther is somewhere near to Kyle in that he deliberately manages his tourneys in order to never win and gain reknown, but he maintains more independence and self-respect, although his attitude is more mercenary than chivalrous.
    • 2. Eventually Rhaegar overthrows his father. Whether that happens peacefully or involves a civil war is uncertain.
  • “Hi! Had Westeros had something like a magna carta, do you think it would have changed anything in asoiaf? Or would it be just ignored during the 5 kings war?”
    • Magna Carta was designed to manage royal versus noble relations, not noble versus noble relations, so I don’t think it would be relevant to the War of Five Kings breaking out, because it wouldn’t really have applied to the Starks and Lannisters.
  • “1. Do you think the Valyrians avoided conquests in Westeros because of bad omens from their sorcerers? 2. One of the adaptations being is of the Nine Voyages of Corlys Velaryon. What destination do you think would be the neatest to see on screen? 3. Just speculating, but do you think Sothoryos looks like an inverted Africa, with a big, vast desert south of the jungle parts? Or that Essos’ Gray Waste curves up into the Lands of Always Winter?”
    • 1. Somewhat, but I think the bigger issue was the difficulty of administering so far westward. Easier to run trading outposts.
    • 2. I want to see Asshai.
    • 3. Maybe, no I don’t think they link up.

Hey folks, if you’d like to have a guaranteed monthly question, consider becoming a Patron!

Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Davos V, ASOS

“…what is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom?”

Synopsis: Stannis’ camp learns of the Red Wedding, debates what to do, and Davos reads a letter.

Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VI, ASOS

Game of Thrones - Small Council and the Red Wedding - YouTube

“Monsters are dangerous beasts, and just now kings seem to be dying like flies.”

Synopsis: Tyrion has dinner with his wife, is the last to be informed about an important message, has a tense conversation with his father, and goes back to his unhappy marriage.

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.

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