Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis – Bran II

“Stannis and Renly are one thing, and Eddard Stark is quite another…My husband grows more restless every day. Having Stark beside him will only make him worse…How long till he decides to put me aside for some new Lyanna.”

“We ought to count ourselves fortunate…Give me honorable enemies rather ambitious ones, and I’ll sleep more easily by night.”

Synopsis: King Robert, Prince Joffrey, Lord Eddard Stark, Robb Stark, Benjen Stark, Ser Rodrik and Jory Cassel, Theon Greyjoy, and for some reason Tyrion Lannister go out on their last hunt before leaving for King’s Landing. A knight-crazy Bran is left in the castle, but feels somewhat ambivalent about leaving his home or naming his direwolf. Bran goes climbing around some very significant Winterfell landmarks, until he overhears a very significant conversation between Queen Cersei and Jaime Lannister until he is discovered and the best swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms decides to attempt murder on a seven-year-old.

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels (and this time, including a preview chapter of Winds of Winter) and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

For my purposes, this chapter is one of the most invaluable in the entire novel, because it’s one of the few times in which we see participants in a political conspiracy talking openly about what they are doing and how they perceive the other political actors in Westeros as opposed to trying to convince someone with their acting, because they think they’re totally unobserved (which is a bit of an obvious literary ploy, but given that the two people in the conversation are reacting to new developments, it’s certainly plausible) – which happens really only once again in the novel.

And we learn a lot in this conversation. We learn that the Lannisters are contemplating the death of the King, that they attempted to take Robert Arryn hostage in order to buy Lysa Arryn’s silence, that they consider Renly, Stannis, and Littlefinger to be their enemies, and that they see Stark as dangerous because Robert trusts him, because Stark has no loyalty to Joffrey, and because Stark may reinvigorate the King to the point where he replaces the Queen with a Lyanna look-alike (and we find out later that Renly and Loras are trying to inveigle Margaery Tyrell into the King’s bed).

This gives us a fairly good overview of what I’ll be referring to as the Lannister Conspiracy. The purpose of the conspiracy is quite simple – to place a Lannister on the Iron Throne as quickly as possible before the truth of Joffrey’s birth can be exposed, and then thereafter to make the Lannister bloc hegemonic by appointing Tywin as Hand and Jaime Lannister as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. I think the element to have the King killed is a recent addition – after all, Cersei had a lot of opportunity to poison Robert, but she knew that it would have to happen at a time when she could deal with the Hand, who would be the most likely candidate to stand in as Regent rather than Cersei. It’s also likely that Cersei would have preferred to wait for Joffrey to come of age before killing the King to avoid the danger of a non-Lannister Regent.

This conspiracy shows clear signs of being put together rapidly once it became clear that Jon Arryn was investigating Joffrey’s paternity – there doesn’t seem to have been a plan on how to deal with Jon Arryn until after his death (unless the Lannisters contracted his assassination with Petyr Baelish, which seems unlikely as I’ll discuss in a second) or how to deal with the Renly/Tyrell threat, they let Lysa Arryn and Stannis Baratheon slip out of the capitol, and there’s very poor information control within the conspiracy (in part because Cersei can’t risk daddy finding out about her and Jaime’s little indiscretions), which leaves Maester Pycelle dangerously out of the loop given how much incriminating information he has on hand. Cersei’s limited skills in covert conspiracy show in her incredibly risky decision to continue her affair in Winterfell and then to throw Bran from the Tower – while the two chose an unused tower and most of the men were absent at the hunt the entire female population of the castle as well as various guards and servants were still present and could have discovered them instead of Bran, and Cersei and Jaime were conspicuously nowhere to be seen at the time of the “accident.”

We also learn a lot about what the Lannister Conspiracy knows about the other political actors. They know that Jon Arryn and Stannis Baratheon were investigating Joffrey’s birth, but they don’t know whether either of them have any proof or what to do about it – and this point is very important. At the end of the day, we’re not dealing with a constitutional monarchy; if Robert wants to violate custom and have Cersei killed for adultery, incest, and treason, no one can stop him, and Cersei knows it (this is something that the audience and even Ned Stark seem to forget). They know that Renly is trying to oust the Lannisters by planting a Tyrell in Robert’s bed, which is a major threat, because their main hold on power comes through Cersei’s ability to nag Robert into appointing Lannisters. Given that Cersei doesn’t really have a hold on Robert’s emotions or appetites, which is really a weakness on Cersei’s part in terms of their control over the monarchy, their passivity here seems to be a signature of the Conspiracy – Cersei tends to react rather than act, which is something of a double-edged sword. It’s extremely interesting that they consider Littlefinger to be an enemy or rival of some sort, although unfortunately we don’t learn anything about why they may think that; whatever it may have been, it wasn’t enough to prevent them from working with Littlefinger to capture the Goldcloaks before Ned’s abortive coup. Critically, they don’t seem to know anything about what Varys is up to – and it’s this intelligence failure which is the most dangerous.

Finally, we get to the issue of how the Lannisters view Eddard Stark as Hand. There’s three things that worry them – first, Eddard Stark is someone who’s loyal to Robert personally, not the Iron Throne, and has been known to overthrow kings he believes to be beyond the pale of acceptability. The Lannisters are basically right about this; while Eddard Stark’s rebellion against King Aerys II was prompted by the Targaryen’s attack on his family and himself, when push came to shove, he made the choice to oust Joffrey and replace him with Stannis. Second, they fear Robert will listen to Eddard Stark. This turns out to be more ambiguous; Eddard is unable to get Robert to cancel the Hand’s Tourney or to shift him on the Wardenship of the East, although he ultimately does get Robert to listen to him about Daenerys’ assassination, albeit too late. The tricky thing here is that it’s extremely unlikely that there three things are the only issues that Eddard Stark dealt with as Hand, but they’re the only plot-essential issues that we get to see in our few scenes of Eddard Stark’s interaction with the Small Council or the King. Third, they fear that Robert will get restless and invigorated by the presences of his childhood companion, which might prompt him to welcome Margaery Tyrell into his bed. This may well have been a genuine longer-term fear, but there just wasn’t enough time for us to see this play out.

Historical Analysis:

 The Renly/Tyrell plot to inveigle Margaery Tyrell into the bed of Robert Baratheon, along with her later trial for adultery, is the main reason I think the best historical parallel for Magaery Tyrell is Anne Boleyn. Both were dark-haired beauties who had been schooled in courtly arts and manners in the very heart of chivalry (in Anne’s case in France, in Margaery’s the Reach, which closely resembles late Medieval France), both were used as political pawns by ambitious relatives (Renly, Loras, and Mace standing in for Thomas Cranmer, George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, and Thomas Boleyn the Earl of Whiltshire), and both showed an aptitude for influencing monarchs quietly to their political ends (although Margaery had the easier task in Tommen than Anne did in Henry). Both were accused of adultery in virtually identical indictments – Anne was accused of adultery with a Flemish musician, Mark Smeaton, a number of courtiers, and her brother George Boleyn, Margaery was accused of adultery with the Blue Bard, a number of knights, and Cersei considers naming Loras and Garlan first of all before she realizes that bringing up incest is perhaps not a wise course of action for a woman living in an extremely fragile glass house.

Anne Boleyn or Margaery Tyrell? Which is which?

Like Episode 2, Season 2 of Game of Thrones, Anne Boleyn’s historical example points to the extremely gendered nature of political power in the Medieval world; not only was the patriarchy explicitly held out as the ideal of government, religion, society, and family, but  queens’ political power was ultimately dependent on their sexuality (not merely their physical beauty, but also their skill with the rhetoric and movements of courtly love, especially their facility with witty repartee) and their fertility (the paramount importance of a male heir, but also the reality that queens could best exercise political power through their children). As a result, a queen’s position was never safe if she was seen to fall short on either of those qualities. While the divorce that Anne Boleyn prompted was unique, annulments, the legitimization of royal bastards, even bigamy was known throughout the courts of Europe (the position of royal mistress was formalized at several), a constant sword of Damocles over the heads of many a queen. At the same time, a mistress’ life offered equal risk – as the case of Anne Boleyn shows, becoming the king’s mistress offered landed wealth and titles to one’s entire family despite the hint of scandal (and even then, it was not uncommon for a king to find a wealthy and compliant husband for his mistress), but at the same time, it also put a major target on one’s back. A mistress only held power as long as she held the king’s interest (although in the case of royal mistresses like Diane de Poitiers, this could be for a long time and with more than one king), and kings are notoriously fickle when it comes to women.

A final point that I think sometimes escapes fans of the series – while we inhabitants of the 21st century are used to thinking of adultery as a personal transgression, in the Medieval era it was very much still a criminal offense punishable by whipping, mutilation (often of the nose or ears, symbolically attacking the source of vanity and lust), and death. This went doubly for royal adulterers; in law, crimes were not acts committed in violation of a statute as much as they were an attack on the sacred body of the king, whose “majesty” from which laws derived their force was deemed to be a physical quality. To commit adultery was to attack the king’s person in the most egregious form possible, given the implications for the line of succession – the fear was that someone would do what Cersei did deliberately, to change the succession by cuckolding the king and denying him legitimate heirs. Cersei’s plot certainly did not lack for ambition – in one generation, she was trying to bring a purely Lannister dynasty to the Iron Throne, and so far, she’s succeeded.

What If?

There are two main counterfactuals that Bran II suggests.

  • What If Bran Isn’t Thrown from the Tower? This is perhaps the most obvious divergence from the major consequence of the chapter, and it has some interesting longer-term consequences. Firstly, it means that Bran doesn’t get crippled, and likely obviates Joffrey’s assassination attempt – this makes the Stark-Lannister feud much more long-term, since it means that Catelyn Stark has no reason to go to King’s Landing, which means that in all likelihood Tyrion never gets captured, and it means that Bran likely goes to King’s Landing with dreams of knighthood in his eyes (I like to think that Eddard might have arranged for Bran to squire with Ser Barristan, which would possibly have led to a Stark in Daenerys’ retinue). It may also mean that Bran’s greenseer abilities lay dormant, although it’s unclear how important the trauma of his injury was in the awakening process or whether Brynden Bloodraven would have been able to open Bran’s third eye regardless. It also means that Eddard starts his investigation knowing much earlier what’s going on with Cersei and Jaime (since Bran’s inability to keep promises is foreshadowed in this chapter, and I don’t see a seven year old boy being able to keep this under wraps) and is thus less likely to be led up blind alleys by Littlefinger – instead of pursuing a mystery, he’s collecting evidence for a formal charge of treason. I think this last issue lays to rest Cersei’s protestations of innocence in his maiming; at the end of the day she and Jaime are too exposed to leave it up to chance that knowledge of her incestuous adultery can further spread, which means it probably was never going to happen that Bran actually makes it down unharmed.
  • What If Renly’s Plan Paid Off? Had Renly managed to place Margaery Tyrell in Robert’s bed, this would have been a quite potent threat to the Lannisters’ position in King’s Landing. Margaery is very skilled at the arts of courtly love, and Robert is known to be rather lavish with those she loves – it’s likely that several Tyrells make their way onto the Small Council and the Tyrells replace the Lannisters as the King’s “bank.” This political power would have been quite tenuous given the presence of Joffrey – had Robert installed Margaery as the King’s mistress/second-wife-to-be, it’s likely that Cersei would have accelerated her assassination attempts in order to get Joffrey on the Iron Throne as soon as possible. In this situation, it’s absolutely in the interest of the Tyrells to displace Cersei’s children in place of a Baratheon/Tyrell heir, which brings in the question as to whether Renly actually knows about Cersei’s adultery (given his constant sarcasm in Clash of Kings, it’s a bit hard to say. While Eddard would have likely viewed Renly’s plot with a very cool eye, especially if Renly had brought up the memory of Lyanna, he would ultimately back a legitimate heir over Joffrey, and with Tyrell military assistance, his coup might well have succeeded.

Book vs. TV:

Ultimately, Benioff and Weiss decided against explicit exposition, which is understandable in an episode heavy with the same, although I do think something is lost when we don’t see the Lannisters not just an inexplicably unnatural force of malice but as political actors in a political environment with real enemies around them.

Another thing we lose is some key foreshadowing moments – Bran is frightened of the heart tree, since “trees ought not have eyes…or leaves that looked like hands,” which calls to mind his eventual use of that very tree in Dance With Dragons; he prefers to go barefoot when climbing because “it made him feel as if he had four hands instead of two,” which is reminiscent of his warging into Summer beginning in Clash of Kings; and he describes the secret tunnels of Winterfell in great detail, which makes me think that a key part of the “Battle of Ice” in Winds of Winter will involve Bran giving Stannis a way past Winterfell’s walls when Stannis comes to the godswood to execute Theon.

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51 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis – Bran II

  1. so, funny story: natalie dormer, who plays margaery tyrell in GoT, also played anne boleyn in showtime’s “the tudors.” haha. i loved that show.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Yep, which makes it really good casting. However, it’s going to look really odd to see her next to Tommen.

      • SabaneroX says:

        It’s three years for GoT to have Margaery and Tommen close to each other… they might place a 15 years-old as Tommen so that don’t look that odd

        • stevenattewell says:

          They’d need to age him up a tad, but since the current actor’s had a total of two lines spoken so far, I don’t think recasting would be that odd.

  2. edwin says:

    Love your analyses. I have one what if for you to consider and I think a big one. What if Bran Died?

    • stevenattewell says:

      Yeesh, hadn’t considered that one ’cause it’s really dark. I don’t know how much it would change – since Bran’s mystical plot isn’t really resolved yet, the major change is rather similar to Bran not dying in terms of Catelyn not going south, etc.

      • beto2702 says:

        A few things are different actually:

        -Ned has the letter but he doesn’t have Bran’s words on twincest. Surely Littlefinger tries something else at KL, but what?

        -He dies and no one is there to save Jon at Queentower. So, all those consequences from Jon dying before assault on Castle Black apply

        -Winterfell. I know Rodick doesn’t allow Bran to do any significant decision with Hornwood case, but would Rickon as the stark in winterfell change things? Maybe with the walders?

  3. Sean C. says:

    You mention how many errors the Lannister faction made with regards to Arryn in terms of letting loose ends get away, and I agree. Actually, the single most egregious strategic error in this book is when Cersei is apparently so fixated on Ned Stark that she lets Renly escape King’s Landing (despite that the Lannisters obviously have men around the city, since they went to the trouble of arranging a trap for Ned, albeit one that he ultimately couldn’t fall into). If not for Stannis fortunately having Melisandre in his camp, Renly would have brought the full weight of the Stormlands and the Reach down on King’s Landing, and there’d have been nothing to stop him (even if Jaime’s army hadn’t been destroyed, they’d have been outnumbered in the field; as it was, Tywin’s forces amounted to about a third of Renly’s host).

    • stevenattewell says:

      True, but it’s not clear how much Cersei knew – she knew about Renly’s Margaery plot, but I don’t think she knew about how close he was with Loras. Most likely, she didn’t think about the Tyrells as a military threat.

  4. edwin says:

    You say that you don’t know if Bran’s greenseer ability is related to him being crippled. I don’t think so. In acok there are a couple of references of magic returning in to the word. The art of Pyromancing, street magic in Quarth spring to mind. So it might have happened to him anyway. Imagine Dany with dragons and a greenseer.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Except that Bran’s awakening preceded the birth of the dragons by quite a bit. I don’t think his ability comes from him being crippled, but the event may have been a catalyst.

    • venatrixavia says:

      In terms of the shamanic tradition that Martin is obviously mining for inspiration with Bran’s story, his fall is rather essential. The usual route by which traditional shamans came into their power was through life-endangering illness or injury — to the extent that in some shamanic cultures, someone who claimed to have such powers without such an event in their past would simply not be taken seriously at all.

      • stevenattewell says:

        That’s a possibility. On the other hand, he certainly could have received his trauma another way (Bloodraven lost an eye, for example).

      • Vash the Stampede says:

        Speaking of shamans, don’t forget about Mirri Maz Duur and her favorite line,”only death may pay for life”.

        Doesn’t Bran wake up after Ned “sacrifices” Lady? Perhaps the fall plus blood magic speedballs Bran into greenseer/warg mode.

  5. bridiaz says:

    Where did you get that great pedigree of the GoT characters? Would you be willing to post the link?

  6. Brett says:

    In Littlefinger’s case, I get the impression that everyone thinks he’s sleazy, cunning, and ambitious – but they also all think that they’ve got him under their respective thumbs, since he has no long-standing titles, banner-men, or patrons. Jaime thinks that explicitly in A Feast for Crows, when he decides that Littlefinger would be the perfect Hand of the King for those reasons.

    It’s also, of course, what allows him to make all his dangerous, self-centered power plays.

    • scarlett45 says:

      That is also the reason they let him go to The Reach to discuss Joffrey’s potential marriage to Margery with the Tyrells. Thats the amazing thing about Littlefinger- EVERYONE knows how he is, yet they all underestimate him. Their own social prejudice maks them disregard him as a real threat to their own detriment. I mean, did Cersei really not see how obessed he was with Sansa, after that marriage offer?

      • Brett says:

        I guess not. She probably just wrote it off as him reaching beyond his station again, and dismissed his offer (and him).

        It’s crazy. Even Tyrion doesn’t really grasp how dangerous Littlefinger is, although he knows what Littlefinger desires. Varys seems to have some idea that Littlefinger is dangerous, but nobody listens to the eunuch in that regard.

      • stevenattewell says:

        The one exception – Varys. Varys never underestimates Littlefinger.

        It is surprising that Tyrion doesn’t have Littlefinger imprisoned or executed, but I think it was a matter of time. Had he had longer in office as Hand as wasn’t so wrapped up in the Battle of Blackwater, I think he would have moved against the man who he knew was responsible for his kidnapping/arrest.

        • LadyKnitsALot says:

          Oh yeah. If Tyrion hadn’t had to be a wartime Hand and deal with Stannis’ assault on the capital, Littlefinger would have been in deep shit. And he knew it.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Good point. Which I guess leaves open my theory about Jon Arryn and Hugh of the Vale’s deaths.

  7. Haven says:

    Cersei’s plot certainly did not lack for ambition – in one generation, she was trying to bring a purely Lannister dynasty to the Iron Throne, and so far, she’s succeeded.

    This observation floored me.

  8. […] has been made of Margaery’s resemblance to Anne Boleyn, but here she’s just as much Catherine Howard: a woman chosen by scheming relatives/courtiers […]

  9. […] of their incest go unrevealed for most of the rest of the book, but so does their conversation from Bran II regarding what Jon Arryn was up to, their attempt to quasi-legally kidnap Robert Arryn, and […]

  10. […] we saw in Bran II, Cersei isn’t very well informed as to Jon Arryn’s investigation (she knows he was […]

  11. […] 6/04/12 Game of thrones image from https://racefortheironthrone.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/chapter-by-chapter-analysis-bran-ii/ accessed […]

  12. […] 6/04/12 Game of thrones image from https://racefortheironthrone.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/chapter-by-chapter-analysis-bran-ii/ accessed […]

  13. […] Game of Thrones – Bran II (Bran goes climbing, introduction to the Lannister Conspiracy) […]

  14. […] struck a bargain with Cersei for his support, given that he survives the cabinet reshuffle despite Cersei hating him. On the other hand, we know that Cersei turned down Littlefinger’s bid for Sansa’s hand […]

  15. Gale says:

    Thank you for your blog! I have a long and possibly mistake-ridden thesis on covert politics of King’s Landing and secret of Cersei’s bastards for your enjoyment and criticism.

    About Renly/Tyrell plot. I feel that he did know. Some pretext for getting rid of Cersei and her children should have been presented, otherwise there would be no point in making Margaery queen. Mace Tyrell wanted Margaery to be queen very badly. Olenna, a more savvy character, is explicitly critical of both Renly’s crowning and desire to make Margaery queen. The Tyrells haven’t been involved in the Iron Throne’s politics since being defeated in Robert’s Rebellion, only lending money, but are very ambitious and eager to reclaim the position they had under Targaryens and strengthen their claim for Reach.

    Renly has had Edric Storm under his guardianship at Storm’s End, so he knows how one of Robert’s sons of uncontested parentage looks. When you reread Eddard VI from AGOT, you may notice that Renly and Loras are both his customers and buy all their armor from him. Renly is noted to look like young Robert. It takes Ned and Brienne one glance to ascertain that Gendry is Robert’s son, How could Renly and Loras not see it is beyond comprehension.

    Of course Renly wouldn’t uncover bastardry of Robert’s children after Robert’s death. This hurts his purpose. If he declares Cersei’s children bastards, he declares that Stannis has better claim on the Iron Throne. If not, they are both usurpers but his army is bigger and he ostensibly replays Robert’s scenario. What is actually very unsympathetic about Renly is that his homosexuality could actually threaten his possible heirs from Margaery in the same way that Cersei’s children were called into question. Also see amazing symmetry of King-Queen-Kingsguard, husband-wife-brother-in-law affair with Robert and Renly.

    Moreover, Robert is actually aware of Renly/Tyrells plot and could understands its purpose. Renly told him about it at some point before the Tourney of the Hand.
    This casts a very interesting light on Jon and Stannis’ investigation of royal bastards. Remember how you’ve pointed out in Eddard IX that it was Littlefinger who got Jaime Lannister to attack Eddard. Well, remember this: there is a secret passage from Red Keep to this specific brothel. Littlefinger knows at least of one secret passage through Red Keep. And Varys tells Tyrion about the passage built for another Hand, presumably Tywin, as soon as it is needed. Having been a Hand for 15 years and having good working relationship with Varys it seems unlikely Jon never knew of that and couldn’t visit the brothel without being seen.

    Moreover, this brothel offers another puzzle: why was Barra, a bastard from this brothel, even born? Don’t they have moon tea? Everyone knows of Cersei’s cruelty and distaste towards her husbands bastards and their mothers, she sold one from Casterly Rock to slavery after killing her twins. She threatened Mya when Robert raised the question of bringing her to court. Barra and her daughter get killed in ACOK so the risk was always there. But still, the story is very weird. Barra, a virgin not older than 14 by the time of conception, in a very expensive brothel, has only been with one guy: Robert, since she has conceived. Jon Arryn has doubtlessly paid for 6 months of her maternity leave, but even so, it seems like a tremendous waste to let a whore in an expensive brothel have only one customer for more than a year.

    Jon Arryn was the one who arranged the conception of Barra. Not only to see the coloring of the child and confirm his suspicions, but also to check whether Robert is fertile and this whole thing with getting rid of Cersei and marrying Margaery was worth it. Robert has really let himself in five-six years gap that Ned hasn’t seen him. Being fat is bad for fertility, drunkedness is bad for erection as we are reminded through the famed floppy fish Edmure Tully and the stories of how Robert was too drunk to actually conceive a child with Cersei. Despite what the TV show has portrayed, in AGOT Robert has never been described as having relationship with women other than Cersei. His youngest known bastards prior to Barra were born in a few years before her, no other kids in King’s Landing are known, so there was no knowing if his seed was still strong. Barra is an experiment to estimate whether the plot to get rid of Cersei and marry Margaery should actually proceed.

    Jon Arryn knew of Renly/Tyrell plot and was willing to capitalize on it. If you really expect Robert to set Cersei aside, who could be the possible new queen? The only three daughters of High Lords at that time who were unwed but flowered were Asha, Arianne and Margaery, Margaery being youngest, virginal and from the least rebellious family. She is the only option and has strategic advantage of her house being extra-rich, being able to field a great army and her region having natural border with Westerlands.

    But wait, wouldn’t Robert actually kill Cersei, Jaime and the children if he ever found out? Ned and Catelyn seem to think so but they are unable to predict his reactions. Let’s examine the situation. The closest situation to this is portrayed in Daenerys’ plotline: Viserys believes there were assassins, Daenerys hasn’t seen any, and Robert confirms that on insistence of Jon Arryn, the children were left at peace. When Ned Stark was arrested Cersei, a worse politician than Jon Arryn, saw benefit in keeping him alive and hostage.

    Wait, why would Jon actually conceals their knowledge of these events? He could just crush Tywin in the field if he wanted to get rid of Cersei and her brood. Except that is not the optimal case. Recall this quote from Eddard IV.

    “Once you are home, send word to Helman Tallhart and Galbart Glover under my seal. They are to raise a hundred bowmen each and fortify Moat Cailin. Two hundred determined archers can hold the Neck against an army. Instruct Lord Manderly that he is to strengthen and repair all his defenses at White Harbor, and see that they are well manned. And from this day on, I want a careful watch kept over Theon Greyjoy. If there is war, we shall have sore need of his father’s fleet.”
    “War?” The fear was plain on Catelyn’s face.
    “It will not come to that,” Ned promised her, praying it was true. He took her in his arms again. “The Lannisters are merciless in the face of weakness, as Aerys Targaryen learned to his sorrow, but they would not dare attack the north without all the power of the realm behind them, and that they shall not have. I must play out this fool’s masquerade as if nothing is amiss. Remember why I came here, my love. If I find proof that the Lannisters murdered Jon Arryn …”

    If Ned understood that such preparations were to be made, why not Jon Arryn? He must play this fool’s masquerade if nothing is amiss, why not Jon Arryn? And also, we can recall what happened in AGOT and ACOK, Tywin’s forces butchered people throughout Riverlands, causing immense loss of prestige for the Crown and House Tully. Would Tywin still attack the Riverlands? He could. And remember this: after being without any allies at the beginning of the War of Five Kings, Tywin emerged victorious.

    The sensible way of action was imprisoning Cersei, Jaime and children, binding Tywin’s hands with hostages and marrying Robert to Margaery to produce an heir and blocking any possible alliance with any Great House: neither Greyjoys, nor Martells or Tyrells support Lannisters in that case.

    What went wrong in this plan? Stannis. Stannis supposedly suddenly understood that Cersei’s children were not Robert’s. But how? He shuns brothels, sent Edric Storm to Renly immediately, never saw Mya or arranged for Gendry’s wellbeing and overall, never had any interest in Robert’s bastards. Was there someone who was interested in putting a wrench into Jon Arryn’s plot of peaceful resolution of this problem? Well, you know the answer.

    Littlefinger made first attempt to botch this plan and sow seeds of war by impeding Jon Arryn’s secret work with Stannis who was disinterested in Margaery being wife to Robert and giving him trueborn children. He hates the Tyrells for Storm’s End and wishes to be the King, or at least the Hand. Jon Arryn understands he wants to hedge his bets, so he allows Stannis to feel his superiority and walk him through this mystery. But as soon as he publicly promises to foster his son on Dragonstone, he is a dead man. He has no way but to seal this alliance with Stannis than with his son. Declaration of siding with Stannis, the man who hates Littlefinger and would want to remove him from his position if not execute him urges Littlefinger to ask Lysa to poison Jon “for the sake of her son and so they could be together”. So Jon Arryn failed exactly where Eddard did: he sided with Stannis.

    • I think Arryn arranging the conception goes too far. Aware of the conception, certainly.

      As for the danger of the Lannisters, remember that Ned was imagining fighting them mostly by himself. In a scenario in which Cersei et al. are dead, Robert could marry into the Tyrells and wouldn’t have a problem.

      And Arryn didn’t know before Stannis did.

      • Gale says:

        Thank you, your grace. I shall depart in peace and ask no further. You are the one to decide what to do with my comments.

    • LadyKnitsALot says:

      “About Renly/Tyrell plot. I feel that he did know. Some pretext for getting rid of Cersei and her children should have been presented, otherwise there would be no point in making Margaery queen.”

      I posted a blog about this recently on here and /r/asoiaf and you should see how many people are so insistent that Renly was ignorant of the twincest “because he says so in ACOK.”

      No shit. Of course he ‘says so’ when it makes him look like the real traitor. He cannot logically openly say “Yeah, I know what Stannis is saying is true – but I want to be king anyway” and still get away with the support of the Reach + Stormlands that he’s accumulated through charm and flattery. They support him because, on paper at least, he’s *as good* an option as Stannis. But the moment that it becomes an accepted fact that Stannis is right – Renly’s claim to the throne is vaporised. When both brothers are rebels against their nephew because no one wants Tywin Lannister to be the ruling Hand behind a boy king, that’s one thing. It’s quite another when Renly is the little brother rebelling against his older brother to prevent Stannis from taking the throne from the incestuous bastard Lannister/Waters boy through which Tywin will rule.

      Also: do you think that Renly, Stannis and everyone who found out about the twincest thought that Tywin knew, and it was part of a broader Tywin plan to turn the Baratheon throne into a Lannister throne? Or do you think everyone realised it was all Cersei’s narcissistic planning?

      Anyway. It really pisses me off that so many people are resistant to the extremely obvious implication that GRRM puts forward: Renly *had* to know about the incest **in order to seriously think he could make his lover’s sister a queen.**

      I think the problem is that so many (show watching) fans think in 21st century terms: oh Renly was just planning for Robert to divorce Cersei and replace her. They aren’t thinking in a medieval context. Even if Cersei gets shuffled off, her children still remain in the line of succession. You need to make them bastards, and in this case the easiest way to do that is to prove that they are, in fact, bastards!

      Stannis and Jon Arryn had Gendry, Mya Stone and Barra. Renly has Edric Storm. They all know what Robert’s children look like, and that their “nephews and niece” do not look like their brother. Plus, based on what we see of Cersei and Jaime in AGOT…. they aren’t that subtle! It wouldn’t have taken a rocket scientist to work out that the twins spent a lot of time alone, at night, or in the queen’s chambers during the day, having dismissed her handmaidens etc. You think the handmaidens who had to wash Cersei’s cum-soaked sheets after she’d been banging Jaime all night kept quiet? Someone talks. Someone ALWAYS talks. Renly is far more likely of the two Baratheon brothers to pay attention to that kind of gossip and innuendo, and to work out how to use it for his own advantage.

  16. Scott Trotter says:

    I don’t think that Cersei knows at this point in time that Renly specifically is planning “to plant a Tyrell” (who could only be Margaery) in Robert’s bed. Her actual words are “How long till he decides to put me aside for some new Lyanna?” To me this implies that she is aware of the possibility of this happening, but not that an actual plot to do just that is in fact underway, nor any attendant details. If she was aware of the plot, wouldn’t she just say so outright since she has no reason to guard her words with Jaime?

    • Because if she is aware, it’s quite likely they’ve already talked about it. They talk in allusions throughout most of the conversation, because they only need to allude to stuff they’re both familiar with.

      As for Renly’s plot specifically, unless she’s got zero informants in court, Renly’s plot had to be fairly visible by this point. He’d been commissioning portraits, he’s showing them around, he’s starting to talk to Robert about it.

      • Scott Trotter says:

        Given how freely Cersei and Jaime are talking about Lysa and Robert Arryn, I think that she would just say “put me aside for Margaery Tyrell” if that’s what she thought was happening.

        I’m doing my 3rd re-read of ASOIAF in order to try and connect the dots for myself, and I find your blog posts to be extremely valuable. Thanks! For myself, I’m trying to be conservative when it comes to interpreting the facts that we find in the text. In this case, I think that Cersei is understandably concerned about being supplanted as queen because of the prophecy she heard as a child. However, I don’t think that her actual statement is enough to prove that she knows about Renly’s plans. IMHO of course!

  17. […] are a couple things that jump out here: first, Cersei is being unusually active against Tyrion, which on a second read-through we know is partly because of Maggy’s […]

  18. […] to Tyrion). I don’t buy for a minute Cersei’s claim that she had nothing to do with Bran falling from the tower and didn’t want it to happen; at the time, her actions were nothing like this calm […]

  19. […] are rooted in her relationship with Jaime in such a way that renders their relationship in an even more dysfunctional light than we’d seen […]

  20. […] callback to Bran’s fall from the tower is both deliberate and thorough – it’s more than just the location, it’s the […]

  21. beto2702 says:

    Okay, on the What if of Bran doesn’t fall. You gave for granted that the Lannisters made him swear not to tell, but there are two significant variants:

    1. He escapes without swearing anything. In which case Bobby B finds out about everything at Winterfell. No much proofs, but no much trust in Cersei and Jaime either. Probably times vary but the mostlikely case is all Lannister heads roll in WInterfell.

    Then, Tywin raises banners in the south, but he is going to be easily outnumbered by Forces unified behind Robert: Tyrells, Stormlands, Tullys, Crownlanders and Stannis. The only question is if they leave some action for Robert who will surely race south trying to get himself in a battle again.

    Summary: Tywin’s head on a spike. Ned is hand for a while, more stable but with Littlefinger, Pycelle and Varys around him. No much brighter future in the long term. Bobby B+ Margeary subplot. A match is made for Ned, but probably not one as good as Joffrey-Sansa. Maybe Shireen-Bran? When dragon tidings come, that is going to get Robert full of energy for a fight, but Varys won’t like that. Who knows what happens with the WW.

    2. Bran doesn’t see the Lannisters al together. Mostly your case but without Ned advancing faster at KL. Maybe they are all peacefully seated by the time dragons and WW come. Maybe not. Cersei is going to want to kill Robert eventually, Littlefinger will want chaos, Varys would want dragons to have an easy target.

  22. beto2702 says:

    Are we so sure that the whole dagger thing does not happen if Bran doesn’t fall? I mean, I could see the reasoning behind that, Joffrey taking advantage of the weak guy and all but… this was not a random hit entirely. Joffrey was resentful towards Robb and Bran after the sword practice with Tommen…

    Couldn’t have he left orders to attack Bran either way? Or to attack Robb?

    So, I want to ask your thoughts on some juicy what ifs here:

    1. What if Bran is killed with no fall? Probably he goes to KL so… somewhere along the way or even as far as at the capitol? A blatant murder would shake things for Ned, Cersei and Robert at KL… and would put a smile on LF’s face.

    2. Joffrey leaves the same guy to attack Robb after they leave. Where we have 3 theories:

    2.1 What if Robb dies? Mayhem as with point 1 above, but this guy is the heir to the North. Things should be messier.

    2.2 Robb seriously injured but able to get in shape by the time Catelyn returns from her investigations

    2.3 Robb injured and his fighting skills are reduced.

  23. […] but was arguably one of the biggest villains in the series to date. It was Jaime Lannister who flung Bran from the tower, who attacked Ned in King’s Landing, and whose defeat by Robb is the major Stark victory to […]

  24. […] needed to do to remove Tyrion as a thorn in her side was to go and tattle to daddy, and given how lazy Cersei is as a conspirator, she likely refrained to avoid alienating their father at a time when she was trying very hard to […]

  25. […] back in AGOT, I argued that Margaery Tyrell’s historical parallel is Anne Boleyn – the beautiful and […]

  26. […] we see, Jojen is worried that Bran is in danger of losing his identity to the wolf; to continue the flying metaphor from earlier, that Bran, like Icarus, will fly too close to the sun. This is where the Campbellian […]

  27. […] father’s plans for their selfish ends (which happens so often throughout the series, from Cersei’s affairs to Jaime attacking Ned to Cersei screwing up the coup). Indeed, I think a big part of the reason […]

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