Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Bran V

“Only a Stark would be fool enough to threaten where other men might beg.”

Synopsis: Bran, Robb, Theon, and Maester Luwin go out riding in the Wolfswood. On the way, they discuss recent news about their mother and father. When Bran is momentarily left alone, he’s mugged by a group of wildling and deserter raiders. Robb returns and, with the help of the direwolves, leaves four of them dead in the blink of an eye. Theon’s indifference to the principle of the Dornish standoff ends the conflict, and Osha is brought back to Winterfell as a captive.

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:

Bran V is a nice change from previous Bran chapters, as we get a nice burst of action and something for me to sink my teeth into when it comes to the politics of Westeros. In this recap, I’ll discuss primarily Winter Town and what it tells us about the political economy of the North, make a brief correction regarding Catelyn and talk about Robb’s path to becoming a lord, and then get into the meeting with the wildlings.

Winter Town

As Bran and the hunting party pass through the outer walls of Winterfell, they ride through the winter town, one of the stranger urban environments of Westeros. Unlike most castle towns, Winter Town (as one might guess from the name) is a seasonal settlement: despite the “rows of small neat houses of log and undressed stone…less than one and five were occupied.”  Unlike the South, where we see more of the classical blurred lines between rural farmstead, village, market town, suburban estates, and cities, the North is rural until winter comes. Then, the political economy of the North shifts, and the rural becomes urban again, as “farmers left their frozen fields and distant holdfasts, loaded up their wagons  and then the winter town came alive.”  This means that, despite their low population density, the North is actually very sensible about their human capital, maximizing agricultural production during the Spring, Summer, and Autumn, and then turning their population towards manufacturing in the long Winters.

Winter Town is the most profound explanation for why Winterfell is the heart of the North more so than any other regional capital in relation to their own territory: because of its warm springs, its greenhouses, and its vast storehouses, Winterfell is the one place in the North where complete safety from the winter can be found, and in winter, warmth means life and cold death. This goes a long way to explaining why House Stark is the longest dynasty in Westeros (and is 2-3 times longer than any historical dynasty, the longest of which stretch to a mere three thousand years): as long as there is a Stark in Winterfell and Winter can last for years, the North will need to bow the need to the Starks eventually or die.

A Brief Correction

In this chapter, we see that “a message had arrived from the Eyrie, from mother. She did not say when she meant to return, only that she had taken the Imp as prisoner.” I had previously argued that Catelyn didn’t send word of her actions and had thereby damaged the war effort, and this was incorrect at least in part. Granted, the letter doesn’t definitely contain the orders Eddard Stark gave for his bannermen, but Robb Stark’s reaction points to something of the kind being included. At the same time, it’s clear that there was a significant delay in terms of information getting to Riverrun (Edmure only mobilizes once word comes of Tywin’s mobilizations) and Winterfell, and it’s also clear that no information about what Tyrion said about the dragonbone dagger made it to Eddard at King’s Landing.

All the same, my previous comments were unfair to Catelyn Stark, so I’ll eat my words for the sake of accuracy.

The other thing that we learn from mention of the letter is that we a further step in Robb’s transition into becoming Lord of Winterfell and leader of the Northern war effort – he’s graduated to taking preliminary steps toward calling the bannermen and reinforcing Moat Cailin. Moreover, Robb seems to have learned some of Ned’s theory of lordship in establishing a policy of listening to all of his advisers to help him sort through the difficult problem of how to react to violent provocations, although his indecision in the face of what to do with Osha shows it’s very much a work in progress. At the same time, as we’ll see when the widlings show up, he shows no such hesitation when it comes to battle – a trait he’ll carry forward through the rest of his life.

Meeting the Raiders

The meeting with the raiders is an interesting moment where two groups of very different cultural and class backgrounds suddenly and violently intersect. Bran begins the conversation thinking that they are the same as the “foresters [and] farmers” who “bent the knee when they saw the boys” and were “greeted…with a lordly nod.” Suddenly, he realizes his mistake and his peculiar mix of privilege and vulnerability: “suddenly conscious of how richly he was dressed,” Bran tries and fails to ward of these deserters with a declaration of his rank and a threat of death, but the reality is that his disability undercuts his class position. When Bran is cut down from his horse, the truth is made clear, he’s completely exposed and likely to die.

From the raiders’ point of view, they are confronted with a rare opportunity and danger all rolled up into one. The silver pin on Bran’s shoulder, a mere bagatelle to the young man, represents a year’s income easily; the horse means the possibility of getting out of the North where they will be hunted down by a population vigilant against wildling raiders and Nights Watch deserters.  The boy’s person itself means much more: “think what Mance would give to have Benjen Stark’s own blood to hostage?” On the other hand, when Rob appears, the discrepancy in strength is notable; even outnumbered and a mere boy, Robb’s castle-forged sword and his horse and his wolves allow him to cut through four opponents in the blink of an eye. Even threatening a child’s life can’t save them from a disastrous conclusion.

GRRM leaves this incident somewhat ambivalent. On one level, this is the story of a group of rich people who respond to an attempted mugging by murdering a bunch of poor people, who are driven by the most human of motives: the desire for life. Osha’s comrades just want to get the hell out of the North (“as far south as south goes”) before the White Walkers show up, and they probably desperately need the resources that Bran’s silver and horse represent, and everyone in the North wants them dead because one of them is an escapee from a penal legion and the rest are foreigners.

At the same time though, GRRM doesn’t truck with simplistic notions of wholly evil aristocrats and an innocent proletariat. The sad and illiberal truth is that suffering does not necessarily ennoble; sometimes it just grinds down consciences. As Ned Stark says of deserters, “no man is more dangerous…the desert knows his life is forfeit if he is taken, so he will not flinch from any crime, no matter how vile or cruel.” These raiders attempt to rob and kidnap a child, they threaten to sexually mutilate said child, and wind up threatening his life; when Robb cuts them down, they’ve got weapons in their hands and are just as eager to end his life as he is to save his brother.

Historical Analysis:

In an agricultural society based on fixed tenancies, and extremely localized communities wary of strangers, vagrants and “able-bodied beggars” posed an almost existential threat to the medieval social order, and it’s not an accident that the concept of outlawry has such a close association to the vagrant from the “Merry Men” of Sherwood Forest on down.

The first vagrancy laws emerged in the wake of the Black Death, where the vast loss of life (modern estimates suggest that 45-50% of Europe’s population died in the 1348-1350 pandemic) had disrupted the system of serfdom by which peasants were bound to the land as quasi-property of their feudal overlords. With so many lords dead and unable to keep them on the land, and with the plague having greatly increased demand for labor and thus wages, millions of peasants fled their masters in search of a better deal – and thus creating the figure of the “sturdy beggar” who was seen as a thief, a con-man, and a potential murderer, unrestrained by the normal relationships of serfdom and feudalism. The response was the Ordinance of Laborers of 1349 (which capped wages at pre-plague levels, banned employers from “enticing” other men’s servants to leave their jobs, and made it illegal to be unemployed), and the Statute of Cambridge of 1388 (which made it illegal for any laborer to leave their home without papers of leave granted by local magistrates). By this method, the danger of peasants becoming free men who demanded wage increases was supposedly restrained.

It didn’t work, of course. Laws designed to prevent workers from leaving their manors in search of employment instead sparked rebellions – the Great Revolt of 1381 in England, the Jacquerie in France, revolts in Hungary and Estonia, etc. Moreover, the feudal state simply lacked the capacity to prevent peasants from slipping away from their farms and making their way to the city, which meant that the “sturdy beggar” remained an object of fear for hundreds of years. Little separated the “vagabond” from bandits, and as late as the 18th century, bands of roving beggars (who were just as often rural laborers migrating from one seasonal crop to the next) were seen as violent drunks who had to be fobbed off with alms lest they begin stealing, damaging property, or beating people.

Which I think gets us closer to understanding the mindset of the people of the North in how they see wildlings and deserters. Life in the North is hard enough, with the constant pressing need to harvest enough food to make it through a winter that might last a decade. But however romantic the wildlings’ belief in freedom might sound to our 21st century ears, what the people of the North are most concerned with is that the wildlings’ belief in freedom extends to the idea that the wildlings are free to rob them, and to kill anyone who tries to stop them.

What If?

Any clash of arms, no matter how small, brings with it the risk of death and therefore major changes in the plot. Some hypotheticals that are suggested by the encounter with the wildlings are:

  • Osha dies? Either in the fight, when she’s in serious danger of being torn apart by a direwolf, or after when Theon recommends executing the wildlings, Osha comes very close to death. If she had died, then Bran and Rickon lack an able-bodied adult to help them hide when Winterfell is taken by the Greyjoys, which might mean their “escape” is foiled, leading to their genuine death. Even assuming that they make it out of Winterfell, we now have the problem that there’s no one to look after Rickon when Bran, Hodor, and the Reeds (Westeros’ #1 rock band north of the Wall) split off heading for the Wall. Which, let’s face it, is kind of par for the course with Rickon.
  • Bran dies? Robb dying at this point is extremely unlikely, given how handily he cuts through the wildlings. But Bran comes quite close to death three times in this chapter: first, the leg wound that could have easily opened up a major artery; second, the wildling who puts a knife to this throat; and third, Theon’s extremely risky bow-shot. Now, the direction of the Bran storyline is the most opaque at the moment – GRRM hasn’t really written much of Bran’s stories in comparison to other plotlines, and the metaphysical nature of his particular story-arc shrouds much of what’s to come in mystical vagueness. However, there are some concrete things we can point to: first, with Bran dead, he’s not around to give the fatal order that left Winterfell defenseless, which means Winterfell perhaps doesn’t fall which in turn perhaps forestalls the Red Wedding. Second, Bran doesn’t awaken Jon Snow’s warging abilities, which might mean that Jon doesn’t make it back from his brush with death.
  • Theon kills him? I doubt Robb would kill Theon for an accidental death, but there’s no way in hell Theon’s getting leave to go to Balon with his offer of alliance. In turn, this potentially means that Balon is forestalled from invading the North lest his son pay for it with his life, which in turn might obviate the Red Wedding and allow Robb to be reinforced by the 17,000 or so Northmen left unmobilized when he departed South. So a potentially very different War of the Five Kings from this rather gruesome hypothetical.

Book vs. Show:

The main difference here is that we don’t get the direwolves acting so dramatically to protect their Stark charges. I understand from the showrunners that the animal actors in Season 1 were incredibly difficult to work with, doubling shooting times and causing great expense, but some of the thematics of the direwolves is lost.

What people often forget about the direwolves is that they’re not sweet and cuddly, and they’re definitely not safe. They’re terrifying and dangerous, and we see that this chapter both in their attack on the wildlings and the genuine fear that peasants and guardsmen alike feel when they see them. The direwolves will kill people – sometimes real threats (Joffrey, the assassin, various Freys that Nymeria is busy killing), and sometimes people who are no danger at all (Shaggydog attacks Winterfell guards pretty indiscriminately, the various attacks on Tyrion). Like all magic in ASOIAF, the direwolves are a “blade without a hilt,” performing acts of a quasi-supernatural nature (Ghost finding the wight corpses, Grey Wind finding the goat path, Nymeria pulling Catelyn’s body out of the river where it can be found by Beric Dondarrion, etc.), but not in a way that’s predictable or consistent. 

The Old Gods are not fuzzy New Age conceptions of paganism with the edges sanded off. The First Men used to string up corpses in the godswood as a human sacrifice; the Faith of the Seven believed in exterminating other religions in war. For all that the fandom often looks askance at Rh’llorism, it’s not that unusual for a religion in ASOIAF.

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47 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Bran V

  1. Brett says:

    Great post, as usual. The laws against people migrating to better prospects in the Middle Ages seemed doomed to fail from the get-go, since the lords themselves had incentives to subvert them (more labor for me!), and they had fewer people to keep peasants constrained.

    I think the main difference with the Red Faith is the degree of evangelism that it has, plus the actively hostile exclusivity to other religions. The Southron Nobility have both godswoods and shrines to the Seven in their castles, something that would be much less acceptable if the Red Faith were the dominant one. Moreover, the Faith of the Seven seems heavily tied to the general Andal ethnicity and culture, and they don’t appear to proselytize – the North is still almost exclusively devoted to belief in the Old Gods after at least 2000 years of Andal and Sevenfold Faith cultural domination in the more populated South, and in spite of the types of incentives that got pagan hold-outs in real life Europe to convert to Christianity (like how Russia was christianized after Vladimir converted in 988).

    • stevenattewell says:

      I think it’s more that the evangelic impulse in the Faith of the Seven burned out – the Andals have been on Westeros for 6,000 years, and have converted all they’re going to.

      • Sean C. says:

        I expect that’s the main reason, though I find it interesting how tolerated mixed-faith marriages are in Westeros (the Blackwoods seem to mix with the Faith-following lords in marriage, or else you’d expect them to have had to have been constantly intermarrying with the Northern noble houses; and there are the Manderlys, obviously).

      • stevenattewell says:

        In the case of the Blackwoods, they wouldn’t be able to marry anyone around them if they didn’t do interfaith marriages.

  2. Sean C. says:

    The photo at the beginning of the post just drives home how much Isaac Hempstead-Wright has grown by now, after last Sunday’s episode.

    Regarding the delay between news getting to Winterfell and mobilization in the Riverlands, arguably that’s an manifestation of one of the problems that ultimately undid the Stark-Tully cause (for now, I guess): lack of communication between Winterfell and Riverrun. A more coordinated mobilization strategy would have fundamentally altered the war, and, given the way the Lannister invasion happened, might have offered the possibility of a Summerhall-like double-victory that would have effectively broken the Lannisters right out of the gate.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Agreed.

      • Sean C. says:

        Just to follow up, since I enjoy wargaming. In the initial faceoff, I think there were three basic scenarios:

        Lannister Best Case Scenario: Tywin splits his forces (always risky), sending Jaime east to smash the Riverlords, while his army wheels in from the south (I’ve never been clear on what route Tywin’s army took) to guard the Kingsroad and hold the Northern host at bay. Riverrun falls, knocking the Riverlords out of the war, and the Northern host either retreats or offers battle to Tywin, and either loses or fights to a draw, but with no allies, sues for peace, leaving Tywin to deal with the Baratheons.

        What Actually Happened: More or less splitting the difference, the Riverlords are weakened, and the Northern host loses its diversionary battle, but Jaime’s army is destroyed, creating a temporary strategic and political stalemate (which also leads to the Stark-Tully faction declaring itself an independent state).

        Stark-Tully Best Case Scenario: The Tully army mobilizes earlier, and rather than attempting to screen the Golden Tooth or defend Riverrun, withdraws to the Twins to rendezvous with the descending Northern host. Jaime doesn’t bother laying siege to the garrisoned castles, pursuing the Tullys east at all speed. He arrives too late, and finds himself facing 40,000+ Stark-Tully soldiers, and meets more or less the same fate as in the books. Robb and Edmure then wheel back across the Green Fork to face Tywin’s army, which, depending on how close it was, means either Tywin’s army is destroyed as well (I tend to think Tywin would have realized the danger and tried to head off the linkup between Robb and Edmure at the Twins, which, having failed at that, would leave him too close to get away easily), or else a full retreat back to King’s Landing, setting the stage for a final siege (which the Baratheons probably join in short order, recognizing the importance of being there when the city falls, setting the stage for some serious squabbling over who takes the throne afterward).

        • stevenattewell says:

          I’m not sure I agree on abandoning Riverrun. Honestly, it’s equally good for the Tullys just to keep the Lannister armies divided.

          The main mistake after Jaime’s defeat was allowing the Riverlords to scatter. Right after the Battle of the Camps, Robb has 40,000 men and Tywin’s the only army in the field with only 20,000 men. Smart move would have been to take the 20,000 Riverlords and do a coordinated push down the Red Fork, pushing the Mountain’s Men towards Harrenhal and put Harrenhal under siege while Robb takes 20,000 men and invades the Westerlands with a force that could take Casterly Rock.

          This gives strategic flexibility: the Stark/Tullys can either keep Tywin in Harrenhal while Stannis attacks King’s Landing and Robb attacks Casterly Rock, or do the original Robb Stark drawing him out plan.

      • Sean C. says:

        An alternative, more modest scenario would be that the Riverlords do better in the initial stage of the war, which isn’t that hard. For starters, have Edmure abandon the idea of the Vance and Piper men screening the Golden Tooth (which is a good idea, if you have enough men, but 4000 isn’t enough for that unless there was some kind of fortification or geographic bottleneck) and keeps all his men around Riverrun. With good dispositions, Edmure beat Tywin himself at the Battle of the Fords, despite being outnumbered. With better advance warning, it’s not hard to imagine a Riverlord victory, particularly since Riverrun offers many of the same advantages that they had at the Fords.

      • stevenattewell says:

        Precisely. And a Riverrun victory may mean that Robb goes straight for Tywin, or has the numbers to do so post-Battle of the Camps.

  3. John Galvano says:

    I don’t think the direwolves are handled well in the show.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Sometimes they’re handled well, sometimes not. Poor handling would be Ghost disappearing for an entire season; good would be Bran’s wolf in Season 1 for example.

  4. shaunpeacock says:

    Looking at the map I’d say Tywin marched along the gold road then cut the corner from the point where the gold road crosses the blackwater to the kingsroad at the isle of faces and then marched up the Kingsroad. As much as I like the idea of the Stark-Tully alliance defeating the Lannisters (and I think a stark victory in the war of the five kings would make a great fic, hint hint) how do Edmure and Robb co-ordinate their armies across close to a thousand miles once Robb leaves winterfell?

    • Sean C. says:

      It wouldn’t really require a huge amount of coordination to agree on a meeting place by raven at the outset. Obviously, as von Moltke observed, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy, but it’s a start, and a similar linkup was already performed in the War of the Usurper at Stoney Sept.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Actually Tywin didn’t march along the roads:

      War of Five Kings

      Instead, he swung around south to grab the outlying Riverlands while Jaime thrust to the heart. The Battle of the Green Fork took place just north of Lord Harroway’s Town.

      As for how to coordinate, he’d have to send ravens from Moat Cailin or the Twins. But by the time Robb Stark’s that far, Riverrun is already under siege.

  5. John Galvano says:

    Another good if (probably better for ACOK) is what if Robb, Renly, and Stannis coordinated better?

    • stevenattewell says:

      Yeah, I’ll get into it later. Short answer: Robb and Renly probably could have coordinated, maybe Robb and Stannis if Robb had bent the knee, but no way would Stannis subordinate himself to Renly.

  6. Meereenese Liberation Front says:

    Are you sure that the North, with more time to prepare, could have mobilized that much larger an army? In AdwD, Alys Karstark tells Jon that the crops are rotting in the fields because too many men went south, the Umbers are down to boys and old men, and most other houses don’t seem to have too many men to spare as well.

    • stevenattewell says:

      You also have to take into account losses due to the Ironborn attacking when the North wasn’t armed and ready for them.

      Low-end estimates for the total military strength of the North is 35,000. High end is 45,000. So there’s anywhere from 17-27,000 men who weren’t mobilized.

      Keep in mind, Stannis was able to round up 3,500 men from the mountain clans and some stragglers, the Manderlys have 5,000 men who never made it to the war, etc.

      • Sean C. says:

        King Torrhen had 30,000 men when he surrender to Aegon the Conqueror, and I can’t imagine the North’s population has gone down since then with so little warfare (however harsh this or that winter might have been). That’s 10,000 men right there, at least.

        Ser Rodrik had about 2000 men with him when he confronted the Greyjoys; the Boltons sent another 600. The vassal houses’ contributions appear to have been rather uneven in terms of the total strength of their house (House Umber, more than any other, seems to have gone all-in, which is probably what you’d expect of the Greatjon).

      • stevenattewell says:

        With vassal houses, you have to keep in mind that it takes time to mobilize, and distance from Winterfell matters. Robb was leaving in a hurry, because he was trying to free his father. Had Eddard not been a prisoner, Robb would probably have waited to leave until his forces were fully mobilized.

      • Sean C. says:

        It would also be fair to note, realistically, that the numbers used in the books don’t always make total sense (the information we’ve been given on the War of the Usurper, especially, has several issues regarding its length/numbers of forces/disposition that I don’t think really fit with the world as it would come to be fully developed).

  7. Andrew says:

    Great post as usual. I never caught to social class dynamics involved in the scene with Bran and the wildlings and NW deserters.

    The Old Gods are more based on the ancient Celtic practice of arbor worship were certain trees were regarded as sacred. The Celts would perform sacrifices before oak trees, usually by slitting the throat.

    It makes me wonder if the Faith Militant will head North against followers of the Olds Gods and R’hllor akin to the Northern Crusades in the Baltic which were directed at Northern pagans and the Russian orthodox church. The Battle of Ice occurred during that time, and it will likely happen in TWoW, given the spoilers.

    • stevenattewell says:

      Will the Faith Militant head north? Probably not. Lots going on in their front yard, lots of lords who won’t want them marching through their lands, etc.

      • Andrew says:

        If they side with Aegon, Connington could send them North to keep Stannis blocked at Moat Cailin, so they can continue to focus on the South.

        • 1. That won’t stop Stannis from taking ship at White Harbor.

          2. Sending an army of amateurs on an extended march North is a recipe for mass desertion.

          • Andrew says:

            1. Stannis won’t want an army on his doorstep.

            2. The followers of the Faith Militant seem quite devoted. They would at least keep Stannis stalled for time.

          • Bwbah says:

            Sending an army of hard-to-control fanatics North in winter is a good way to get them out of your way.

            On the other hand, if they’re inspired to crusade against the faith of the First Men, the godswoods are a far closer target… though IIRC, most southron godswoods don’t have a weirwood heart tree.

  8. John W says:

    Remind me when did Bran awaken Jon’s warging ability?

  9. Andrew says:

    DIrewolves are dangerous. Dany has a similar revelation with her dragons. Like the direwolves, she has the newborn dragons when they are first, small and harmless, but then she gets a rude awakening when she learns that Drogon ate a 3 year-old girl, remembering that dragons are extremely dangerous beasts who don’t regard humans as above them in the food chain.

  10. dan says:

    Hi, peeked in and saw this. Interesting to do this sort of thing with the books. Still, I appreciate that this is essentially literary appreciation and not history but there are some questionable assumptions on the historical front that these arguments are being padded out with.

    Firstly, anyone interested in medieval history should not be using the terms ‘feudal’ or ‘feudalism’ unapologetically. Most medievalists would completely reject the concept and even if you do believe in them there are better terms to use for something targeted at a general audience without further perpetuating misunderstandings. In any event, in most of the contexts its used here manorialism would appear to be what you’re actually talking about and so you’re actually distorting the period on as great a scale as someone like Marx… Tyranny of a Construct indeed!

    Perhaps more significantly there is a seeming contradiction in your co-opting laws made in response to the labour shortage following the Black Death to illustrate your argument. The supposed ‘golden age of the working man’ meant that there was a surplus of jobs and high wages for doing them, even for unskilled labourers. So why would they be becoming beggars? Sure, these people needed to get from a to b to find these jobs but they’re still not the same thing as the footloose beggars you’re talking about.

    That’s not to say that wandering beggars weren’t perceived as troublemakers in medieval and early modern times – what you’re talking about is indeed a deeply rooted social construct. It’s just that your illustration looks suspiciously like hot air and a misleading display of knowledge for its own sake. It’s also worth noting that the greatest term of abuse that has survived is ‘villein’ which was for a serf, not for a free man.

    That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the analysis of Winterfell’s seasonal economy and settlement patterns. Good stuff.

    I’m not sure that Winterfell’s uniqueness is entirely plausible, surely these facilitries could be built elsewhere in the north by the Starks’ bannermen (they can’t be the only warm springs in existence and greenhouses aren’t exactly inimitable) -but its interesting to see this sort of detail included anyway.

    • stevenattewell says:

      1. I don’t hold with those medievalists who reject feudalism as a concept; yes it’s been over-extended, but it’s broadly useful and people understand it. I don’t care that it wasn’t used at the time – capitalism doesn’t appear as a term until the 1830s but it sure as hell existed before then.

      2. Peasants leaving their farmers were seen as beggars regardless of whether they were actually beggars; for example, most of the 18th century “sturdy beggars” that the ancien regimes freaked out about were agricultural laborers migrating between different seasonal crops. To take the two statutes I mentioned as examples, both apply to beggars and laborers interchangeably.

      3. They’re the only major hotsprings and greenhouses mentioned at all in the series. If there are more, you’d expect that to be mentioned as a major feature of a given castle or holdfast, but there isn’t.

  11. jackkm says:

    “…Balon is forestalled from invading the North lest his son pay for it with his life….”

    This got me thinking: was it Theon being held hostage that restrained Balon’s rebelliousness and eventual invasion? Did Balon make his plans, then wait to invade to see if Theon had been softened up by living in the North? Or did Robb gathering the Northern lords and their armies and marching to the Riverlands present an opportunity Balon hadn’t previously had?

    I know Balon didn’t invade until after Theon returned. I’m just wondering if we have any information other than the fact that the intent behind hostaging Theon was to restrain Balon’s hand and that once Theon was back, the Ironborn invaded the North. And I’m not suggesting that we don’t have enough information to presume that holding Theon hostage did work. I’m simply curious if there’s any other info about Balon’s intents and plans that bring more light his decision to invade the North.

    • We don’t have much information. What we do know is that during Theon’s hostage-hood, Balon remained loyal and peaceable. Certainly, Eddard Stark believed it would work and he knew war.

  12. Abbey Battle says:

    Which offers a potentially interesting insight into the psychology of Lord Balon and perhaps explains his behaviour towards Theon – whose absence was a perpetual reminder of his failure and an anchor chain dragging any opportunities he may have been offered between his Rebellion and the War of the Five Kings to a wintery death.

    Perhaps it’s unsurprising that he treated his son with such barely-restrained anger after Theon’s return.

  13. Kevin says:

    I just found your blogs when I started doing a series re-read a couple weeks ago and I’ve found them both highly enjoyable and immensely informative, especially as an undergraduate history and poli sci major. Now I’m disappointed that I have to wait for the next post and can’t follow the blog along with the book anymore. Great work!

  14. Remind me, what fatal order did Bran give that left Winterfell defenseless?

    • stevenattewell says:

      He sent the whole of the garrison to defend Torrhen’s Square.

      • Terry says:

        Wasn’t that decision Rodrik Cassel’s alone under his authority as castellan of Winterfell? Even if Bran had to officially approve, there was no way he was going to veto Cassel’s military decision.

  15. […] Bran V (class, disability and the meeting with the wildlings, the history of vagrancy) […]

  16. […] completely bypassed, such that Robb Stark is now loose in the west with no one left to oppose him. As I have said before, these are medieval, feudal armies, not professional standing armies; they fight out of political […]

  17. […] restore the social and economic order by fixing the peasantry in place, King Edward III issued the 1349 Ordinance of Laborers, which set a maximum on wages and forbade workers to leave their masters, in an attempt to roll […]

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