Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VII

tywin camp

“Tyrion, have you forgotten your courtesies? Kindly acquaint us with our…honored guests.”

Synopsis: Tyrion arrives at his father’s camp with Shagga son of Dolf, Timett son of Timett, and Chella daughter of Cheyk, and the rest of the mountain men. After getting an update from his father about the course of the war, Tyrion watches his father reach an agreement for the mountain men’s military service, and embark on a risky course of action.

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:

In Tyrion VII, we are finally introduced to the biggest off-screen political actor in Westeros to date (at least until Doran Martell becomes more prominent), the one and only Tywin Lannister. In addition to seeing the ice-cold relationship he has with his younger son in person for the first time, we also get a small sample of his political sensibilities, especially when he handles the unexpected arrival of the mountain men with sprezzatura.

Before the mountain men arrive, we learn two things about the Lord of Casterly Rock: first, that “Lord Tywin did not believe in half-measures,” which applies to everything. Even with no one around, he sets up formidable defenses; rather than simple tents, he builds elaborate pavilions; rather than simply punishing the Tullys, Tywin sacks the Inn at the Crossroads, a historic site that has lasted since the reign of Jaehaerys I, as if to erase any trace that a Lannister was once humiliated there. The style is deliberately over-the-top, calculated ostentation to lend Tywin the image of a larger-than-life figure whose wealth and wrath is beyond counting. Second, that above all else “no man sheds Lannister blood with impunity.” As further elaborated in the show, Tywin holds to an almost Confucian conception of family as the ultimate source of all value, such that he’s casually, almost gleefully willing to abrogate every value of his society (loyalty to his king, the protection of innocent, helpless life, the laws of guest right, the social contract in a broader sense) in order to advance his family.

At the same time, though, I think the HBO show slightly misreads Tywin’s philosophy somewhat – this is someone who cares deeply what other people think about him and always has. Hence the shaving of the head the moment he goes bald, hence putting people who make jokes about him in an oubliette, hence the war. This is a man whose entire life has been driven by the desire to silence the laughter aimed at his father; glory counts for everything.

hat tip to FFG

hat tip to FFG

And then we get to Tywin handling the mountain men. It’s an impressive display, especially because someone who in all other respects is the most snobbish man in Westeros (who even looks down on other Great Houses) doesn’t so much as bat an eyelash when he’s unexpectedly thrust into a dangerous negotiation with a bunch of volatile barbarians. It’s a sign that as much as Tywin believes in status and hierarchy, he values his personal dignity and self-image more than the social niceties. In part, I think it explains how Tywin is able to deal with people like Gregor Clegane.

What’s more interesting is how little Tywin’s method of operation follows the stereotype of Lannisters buying their way through life – the clansmen are both incredibly paranoid about being bamboozled in any deal-making  (“lowlands lords have lied to the clans before,” they remind Tyrion even before this meeting begins), and very insistent that Tyrion’s “promise of silk and steel” is the price for him not dying, and that they’re not willing to throw in “fighting for the Lannisters” as a freebie. Instead, Tywin uses a combination of insincere flattery (“even in the west, we know the prowess of the warrior clans of the Mountains of the Moon.”) and reverse psychology to appeal to the warrior pride of these men and women. They won’t march for steel or gold, but mention that “the men of the winterlands are made of iron and ice, and even my boldest knights fear to face them,” and the mountain clans trip over themselves to sign up.

This ability to read other people in political situations is all the more surprising, given how little Tywin displays this empathetic understanding in war, as we’ll see later.

 Tyrion’s Reflection on the Mountain Men

While only a minor detail in the chapter, I did find it interesting that the democratic spirit of the mountain men who believe that “we are free men, and free men by rights sit on all war councils” is seen by Tyrion as a sign of their backwardness and lack of civilization. It’s a moment where the true “otherness” of historical perspective really hits you in the face; we’re used to the 21st century assumption that democratic government and freedom of speech are universal human rights, but the historical reality is that well into the 19th century, “conventional wisdom” viewed democracy as a dangerous and unstable system of government, at best suitable only for small, homogeneous city-states, and at worst doomed to slide into anarchy as Aristotle and Thucydides argued, as the kyklos of political transformation (from monarchy to tyranny to aristocracy to oligarchy to democracy to anarchy, although the precise sequence differs based on which Greek political theoretician one’s talking about) requires.

The idea that the franchise ought to include the entirety of the male population only really took hold in Europe after WWI, where mass mobilization for total war required the participation of the the whole of the population; women’s suffrage followed on the heels of a war ostensibly fought to “make the world safe for democracy” in the U.S, U.K, and Germany but France and Italy didn’t adopt truly universal suffrage until 1944 and 1946 respectively.

At the same time, the readers of A Game of Thrones have been generally used to seeing Tyrion as a sympathetic point of view, in no small part because his views are closer to our modern sensibilities in other regards – his embrace of literacy and intellectualism, his sympathy for social outcasts, his struggles against ableism, and his cynical attitude to feudal mores. It’s therefore that much more shocking that *this* character feels that “this was the trouble with the clans; they had an absurd notion that every man’s voice should be heard in council, so they argued about everything, endlessly. Even their women were allowed to speak. Small wonder it had been hundreds of years since they last threatened the Vale.” At the end of the day, Tyrion is still a feudal aristocrat living in a medieval era, with all of the prejudices of his class and time. In Tyrion’s view, endless talking sessions are inefficient compared to the unquestioned command of a single leader who can provide unity of purpose and make quick decisions (which is ironic, given how much he chafes under his father’s command).

Indeed, his comment that “Tyrion meant to change that,” may suggest that, rather than simply intending to arm the mountain men, Tyrion may have planned to set up one of the Mountain Men (most like Shagga son of Dolf or Timmett son of Timmett) as a client king of the Lannisters and then use the king to enforce lowlander military discipline and training. After all, while steel weapons and armor would allow the mountain men to face the knights of the Vale on equal terms man-to-man, they’re still going to be outfought when guerrilla attacks give away to set-piece battles, and they’re going to have to learn siege warfare if they’re going to take the Vale. So rather than an altruistic proposal to allow the original inhabitants of the Vale to reclaim their lands from their oppressors, Tyrion’s objective here is to raise the classic colonial army of native subalterns armed and trained in European styles to wreak his personal vengeance on Lysa Arryn.

This isn’t to suggest that Tyrion’s necessarily a bad person by the standards of his society, but it does suggest that he’s more like his father than either of them would like to admit.

War of Five Kings – the Lannister Campaign:

In Tyrion VII, we also get an update on the progress of the War of the Five Kings, our first from a Lannister perspective. At the moment, it’s mostly good news from their perspective. Jaime has routed Edmure’s army at Riverrun, taken the heir of House Tully captive (although one wonders what would have happened had Jaime taken the precaution of sending his prisoner off to the Golden Tooth or Casterly Rock rather than keeping him at his camp…more on which later), and is putting the capitol of the Riverlands under siege. With the exception of House Mallister of Seagard and House Frey of the Twins, both of which have the Trident between them and the Lannisters, the Riverlands are no longer a military threat to the Lannisters.

Lannister conquest

The Lannister Conquests

However, as I’ve argued before, the Lannisters’ success is largely due to Edmure’s lack of military sense. Throughout this campaign, Edmure made the classic mistake of trying to maintain a perimeter defense instead of conducting a defense in depth, thus allowing Lannister spearheads to break through his overly-extended lines and rampage deep into the heart of the Riverlands (which is rather reminiscent of France’s initial error in its 1940 campaign). Given his need to gather his forces and drill his levies (to say nothing of giving the Starks time to come to his aid), Edmure would have been much better off if he had accepted that Tully lands between the Golden Tooth and the Red Fork would be lost and fallen back instead on the Riverland’s natural defenses. Given how the Mallisters and the Freys are able to hold out in the face of the Lannister onslaught, I am even more convinced that a successful use of the rivers both as barriers to movement, defensive force multipliers, and interior lines (much in the same way that Frederick the Great used interior lines to defeat the numerically superior French/Austrian/Russian alliance in the Seven Years War) are the key to a defense of the Riverlands.

At the same time, as we learn in this chapter, the flip-side of the Lannisters’ rapid advance is that they’ve massively extended their supply lines (by five hundred miles or more), which leaves their rear vulnerable. Hence “Marq Piper and Karyl Vance…loose in our rear, raiding our lands across the Red Fork,” and “Beric Dondarrion [and] that fate jape of a priest…making a nuisance of themselves by harassing my foraging parties.” For the moment, this isn’t a problem for Tywin because he can live off the land get first ravage on the Riverlands and he’s numerically superior to the guerrilla forces raiding his supply lines and rearguard. However, as we’ll see later, it’ll become much more problematic if an army of equal size can get between him and his base of supply and reinforcements in the Riverlands. In this fashion, the rapid advance resembles trying to ride a runaway bolder; you’ve got to keep the momentum up or you’ll dash to pieces.

If we’re in the business of assessing Tywin Lannister as a military commander, what can we say that this point? In his favor, we can say that Tywin is an excellent coordinator of logistics (in that he’s able to put an army of 35,000 into the field much faster than his opponents), he’s a competent tactician (wins the Mummer’s Ford with some style, pulls off an excellent flanking/encircling maneuver through the Gold Road, executes a flawless chevauchée through the southern Riverlands, etc.) although it should be noted that this is exclusively against numerically inferior troops and inferior opposing generals, and he’s at least a decent strategist (in that every move he’s made so far is directed at the overall goal of knocking out his nearest enemy and get his army in a position to defend King’s Landing). However, as Brynden BFish points out, he makes a critical error of generalship in underestimating Robb Stark: “The Stark boy is a child. No doubt he likes the sound of warhorns well enough…but in the end it comes down to butcher’s work. I doubt he has the stomach for it.” As far as ability to read your opponent goes, a critical higher-order skill for military commanders, Tywin shows little ability.

Likewise, even if he held Robb Stark in “slight esteem” and believed he could easily defeat him in the field, it’s a major mistake for Tywin Lannister to march from his position here at the Inn at the Crossroads, which is not only well-fortified and would allow him to easily crush an overly-hasty assault from the Starks, but is also positioned at a strategically vital crossroads that allows him to easily move west along the Riverroad to reinforce Jaime, east on the Highroad to block the Arryns should they sally forth from the Bloody Gate, or south to protect King’s Landing. His decision to march north makes it impossible for him to come to Jaime’s defense unless he either marches back to the Ruby Ford with a hostile army at his back or forces a crossing over the heavily-fortified Twins, and puts him in real danger of being trapped between the Green Fork, the Trident, and the mountains.

The only logic that explains his actions is that “the boy may hang back or lose his courage when he sees our numbers…the sooner the Starks are broken, the sooner I shall be free to deal with Stannis Baratheon.”  Given how often this sentiment is expressed in the next couple of chapters, I’m really curious as to why Stannis didn’t attack more quickly, before Cersei was able to expand the City Guard and fortify the city or Tyrion was able to arrive; most likely, he was worried about his ability to hold the city against siege with less than 5,000 men, but I can’t help but think that his letters demanding allegiance would have gotten a better reception had he been sitting the Iron Throne at the time.

The Mystery of Bolton’s March

Which brings me to the question: why did Tywin Lannister not fall into that trap? Because Roose Bolton forced the Battle of the Green Fork at a time and place that does not make military sense. Considering that Robb’s orders are simply to “continue the march south, to confront the huge Lannister army,” Roose’s decision to force a night-march down the Kingsroad to fight a battle near the Ruby Ford still doesn’t make sense:

  1. Given that Robb’s strategic plan (which Roose is clearly aware of) is to attack Jaime’s army at Riverrun, the farther Roose allows Tywin to march up the Kingsroad puts Tywin that further away from the Ruby Ford and any ability to reinforce his son. So why prevent Tywin from marching north and increase the risk that he might work out Robb’s plan and shift his army over the Green Fork?
  2. Given that if Robb wins at Riverrun and relieves the forces inside, he creates the strategic possibility to swing east via the Red Fork and the River Road to get behind Tywin and between him and the crossing over the Trident, trapping him between two armies that now both roughly equal Tywin’s in size, potentially ending the war in a single stroke. However, that possibility only exists if Tywin has advanced far enough up the Kingsroad that he can’t scramble back to the southern bank of the Trident – so why prevent him from marching?
    • in a related note, Roose’s casualties plus his retreat practically back to Moat Cailin means that when Tywin realizes he’s been strategically outmaneuvered and has to retreat, Roose isn’t in position to harry him from behind and on the flanks as he marches, the moment of maximum vulnerability for Tywin’s army.
  3. Given that he’s outnumbered by Tywin’s men 20,000 to 16,000 and has few cavalry, an attack is supremely risky. Military doctrine normally suggests that a 3:1 advantage is required to make an attack likely to succeed; that ratio makes it more favorable for Roose to “confront Lord Tywin” on the defensive, where he can make the most of his smaller numbers and weaken Tywin’s advantage. Likewise, the imbalance in cavalry means that Roose Bolton is vulnerable to being flanked and then overrun; a defensive posture would reduce those risks, and would moreover allow Roose to more easily choose a battlefield where he could protect his flanks or find broken/high ground that would allow an infantry army to triumph over a cavalry-heavy force (as was the situation at Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt).

In fact, the explanation that seems most likely to me is that Roose, knowing that his battle was merely a delaying action, decided to use the opportunity to begin putting his plan to weaken his Northern rivals into action. One of the easiest ways to do that without making it obvious what he was doing is to put his army through an unnecessary night march and then attack a larger opponent, making sure to put his own house’s forces in a position of safety while placing his rivals in the position of maximum danger. Night marches are exhausting affairs at the best of time, especially a night march that must have stretched close to 500 miles (from the Twins to the Ruby Ford). Roose’s army would have arrived exhausted and hungry, compared to the well-rested and fed Lannisters. Especially in pre-modern war, one can never underestimate the effect that sleep and food can have on an army. Hand to hand combat in armor is very tiring (hence why the Roman legions learned to rotate their lines rapidly, to give their men time to catch their breath, grab a drink or some food, and keep up their stamina); walking into a battle without a good night’s rest and a good meal has historically been the cause of many a defeat. Indeed, it might well explain why the North’s right flank unexpectedly crumples.

It’s not that Roose wouldn’t have taken a victory if he could have gotten one, but given his failure to adequately screen his advance (compared to the consistent success of Northern scouts throughout the War of Five Kings), it does suggest that victory wasn’t his chief objective at the Green Fork. A successful night march could have allowed the North to defeat an unprepared Lannister force, but the way in which Roose’s decision seems to go against every other military consideration is suggestive that Roose’s self-serving objectives were already in play in this opening battle.

Historical Analysis:

On to historical parallels. In previous segments, I’ve realized that I have neglected to fill in my picks for the Lannisters, so I might as well quickly sketch them out here before filling them in with more detail in later chapters. As you can pick up from my historical discussions in the various Eddard chapters, I see a strong similarity between Cersei Lannister and Margaret D’Anjou, the leader of the Lancastrian cause and Richard, Duke of York’s nemesis. Unfortunately, while that works quite well in describing her relationship vis-a-vis Ned and Joffrey, it doesn’t hold as well for the rest of her family, as Margaret was conspicuously without male family at her side during the Wars of the Roses. What works a bit better is a parallel to Lucrezia Borgia, both as a woman rumored to have an incestuous affair with her brother and a woman who ruled in place of her father. Likewise, Jaime Lannister works rather well as Cesare Borgia, a skilled soldier with no scruples whatsoever and hostile intentions to his brothers-in-law.

For Tywin himself, he does resemble Rodrigo Borgia to an extent, as a political heavyweight who used his immense wealth to its utmost, who sought to build a political dynasty that would live forever (which came crashing down immediately after his death), and who was intimately well-versed in treachery and under-handed dealing. On the other hand, Tywin has zero interest in religion and most of his power has come through war – which suggests a different Renaissance figure, one Cosimo de Medici. The founder of the Medici dynasty, Cosimo used his vast wealth to control Florentine politics without holding public office, and spent much of his career fighting in the Lombardy wars between Milan, Venice, and Florence for dominance over Northern Italy. Not a bad parallel for the Lord of Lannister.

yes, technically this a statue of a Colonna condottieri, but look at that face; that is such a Tywin expression.

At the same time, I also want to talk a bit about the democratic philosophy of the mountain men and why it is that George R.R Martin puts his most democratic principles in the mouths of barbarians (the mountain men, the wildlings, etc.). I have a sneaking suspicion that GRRM is a fan of the great French historian Fernand Braudel, who in his masterwork The Mediterranean in the Age of Phillip the II argued that:

“if social archaism (the vendetta among others) persisted, it was above all for the simple reason that mountains are mountains: that is, primarily an obstacle, and therefore a refuge, a land of the free. For there men can live out of reach of the pressures and tyrannies of civilization…here there was no landed nobility with strong and powerful routes…here there was no rich, well-fed clergy to be envied and mocked…there was no tight urban network so no administration, no towns in the proper sense of the word….the hills were the refuge of liberty, democracy, and peasant ‘republics.'”

To Braudel, the pioneer of the longue durée (the idea that the true drivers of history are long-term forces, rather than short-term crises or episodic events, especially changes in the environment over geological time), the idea that the “steepest places have been at all times the asylum of liberty” was a geological truth, cutting across centuries and cultures, that explained the relationship between all central authorities and outlying regions, be they the Kurds and Druses or the Balkans, Greeks, and Albanians resisting the Ottoman imperial state, or the Abruzzi of the Appenine mountains resisting the power of Rome from the Empire through to the Papacy.

At the same time, Braudel was very clear that this liberty meant something more than un-reflective slogans about “live free or die” – the liberty of the mountains isn’t simply freedom from taxes and central authority, it means severing oneself from civilization, society, and time itself. There is a cost as well as a value to it; the freedom of the mountains brings with it the freedom to enjoy poverty and the grinding struggle for existence in the rocky soil of the high places, the freedom to engage in never-ending vendetta in a world in which there is no law that the weak can apply to against the strong, the freedom to engage in banditry, stealing the property of others and suffering the penalties thereof.

All of this applies to both the mountain men and the wildlings – their freedom does not mean what we think it means.

What If?

Tyrion VII only offers a few opportunities for hypotheticals, so let’s dive in:

  • Tywin doesn’t march? Here, we can see how Tywin might have screwed himself, because had he remained at the Crossroads, he might have gotten warning of the Battle of the Whispering Woods in enough time to move at least part of his army back to Riverrun in time to attack Robb’s army when it attacked Jaime’s main force, potentially ending this theater of the war in one fell swoop, and saving half the Lannister forces for the fight against the Baratheons and Tyrells. Likewise, he might have been able to inflict much heavier casualties from his prepared defensive position than he did in the OTL Battle of the Green Fork. Certainly, he would have been much safer in the event that the two battles go the same way they did in OTL in terms of being able to make it to Harrenhal.
  • Tyrion gets his dad to sign off on his plan for the Vale? Granted, Tywin’s immediate concern is the Starks and then the Baratheons, not the Arryns, but the Vale is still a major player that (unless Littlefinger is being very forthcoming) Tywin has no reason to believe won’t be hostile to his family. Distracting them with a guerrilla insurgency would likely take the Arryns out of the War for some time, and in the worst case scenario, he succeeds in having his son killed as per spec. The interesting thing from Tyrion’s side is that it means he’s not around for the Battle of the Green Fork, where he easily could have died, and not around to become acting Hand of the King (which probably means that King’s Landing falls and/or is burned to the ground), but gets to wreak utter havok in the Vale, possibly taking out the Eyrie itself. Although he doesn’t yet know it, this would massively screw with Littlefinger’s plans, which would suit Tyrion just fine.
  • Tyrion gets sent to fight the Brotherhood Without Banners? This is mostly the same as the one above, with the added wrinkle that perhaps Tyrion gets captured by the BWB and comes face to face with the metaphysical plot of ASOIAF, which he has resolutely avoided to date.

Book vs. Show:

This scene is played pretty straight in the show; not much to report here.


98 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion VII

  1. bryndenbfish says:

    Another factor to consider in arguing that Roose Bolton was actively working against Robb Stark was the absence of any Dreadfort men among the casualties at the Battle. I’m sure you’ll address this in Tyrion VIII, but all of the casualties suffered by Roose’s army are suffered by other Northern Houses. The ones mentioned by name are:

    – Halys Hornwood (Killed)
    – Medger Cerwyn (Killed)
    – Harrion Karstark (Captured)
    – Wyllis Manderly (Captured

    And if you go by this map (, Roose Bolton holds his own men in reserve while placing Freys, Glovers and Karstarks in areas of greatest danger.

    The 3:1 ratio is a principle of attack in U.S. Army Doctrine, but we were always taught that if you have force multipliers, you can attack a force on numerical par or even one with a slight numerical advantage. And the force multiplier in Roose’s case would be the element of surprise.

  2. Meereenese Liberation Front says:

    Stunning analysis, as ever! – I used to wonder about Roose’s night march too; my best guess was that Roose (still being more or less loyal, which I assume he was at the time) tried to give Tywin less time to assess the makeup of the Northern army and thus find out that all the horse (plus “the Stark boy” himself) was missing. But even then, putting his rival lords in the front line of casualties would of course be a nice side effect.

    • That is a possibility, but if Roose wanted to make the Night March work, why not do a halfway competent job with his scouts?

      • David Hunt says:

        It’s been a long time since I read this. How unlikely is it that Lord Roose’s scouts simply messed up? i.e. That he wanted surprise but something went wrong as things often do in war? I don’t know enough (anything) about medieval warfare to know how unusual this is.

        However, given that Bolton’s rivals were in the thickest part of the battle, I suspect that you’re correct. If Bolton had expected the battle to be a success, I’d guess that he would want to be in a position to gain some glory out of it. I don’t think the Leech Lord cares for glory for any personal gratification, but I’m sure he knows the value of a reputation for military success. Putting his rival in the thick of it (or more likely letting them convince/pay him to put them there so they can snag the glory) seems to indicate that he wasn’t expecting a great success. Based on my limited readings on the U.S. Civil War I wouldn’t think that Roose could rework the whole order of battle after he received word that his night march hadn’t achieved the surprise that it was presumably trying for. Therefore, I conclude that was expecting a bloodbath.

        My main question is how Bolton would muck up the scouting without it being known. Given how successful his treachery is in engineering the RW, where he managed to turn thousands of his men on his supposed allies at a moment’s notice without the plan getting out, I believe he could do that, but I don’t know how. My best guess is a keen knowledge of which lieutenants can be trusted to not wag their tongues about damning battle orders and troops that are conditioned by intense training or (more likely) intense fear to follow any order given even if they involve burning their own home town. In such an environment, he could whoever’s in charge of scouting to make it happen.

        • The reasons why I think Roose deliberately screwed it up :
          1. Roose is generally quite meticulous and cautious in the rest of his campaigning; given the risk he was taking, allowing himself to get discovered is quite sloppy.
          2. In virtually all of the engagements of the War of Five Kings, Northern scouts outperform Lannister scouts (Whispering Woods, the Camps, Oxcross, etc.). It seems anomalous that in this one situation the reverse happens.

          In terms of how – pick someone to lead the scouts who isn’t good at it, pick a Bolton man to screw it up, or just don’t send them out at all and claim to forget. Put anyone who questions you in the front ranks.

      • CoffeeHound14 says:

        Isn’t it possible that Robb just took the cream of the scouting crop with him when he separated from his infantry?

  3. Sebastian says:

    I suspected you’d say this about Bolton, but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to read. I’m interested in his work off-screen because I’m examining worldbuilding in A Song of Ice and Fire for a project of my own, and this kind of thing (Bolton’s plotting) that is not spelled out but can be surmised by reading between the lines is the kind of thing that makes terrific worldbuilding. When the fictional world is so rich that there are threads going on beyond what is specified on the page, that means we have a masterpiece in our hands A great thanks to people like you for pointing this kind of things out.

  4. Andrew says:

    Tywin doesn’t seem to be good at reading Robb as he did Edmure. He likely had little info to work with regarding Robb who is 14 and never fought in battle before, and just went with a preferred assumption that broke the first rule of combat: never underestimate your opponent. The Red Lion possibly made the same mistake with a young Tywin when he fought against him.

    Tywin probably was eager to deal with Robb quickly and get the thing over with, thinking that if Robb was killed in battle or captured, combined with Ned’s capture, they would have both the Lord of WF and his heir, along with Riverrun under siege and Edmure captured, Tywin would have all but won the war in the riverlands against the Starks and Tullys.

    • You make a good point, in that Tywin’s desire for a conclusive win got the better of him.

      One thing that might explain the difference outcomes vs the two young men is that the Riverlands and Westerlands have been in conflict for a long time (I get the sense of an ongoing fourway scrum between the Reach, Westerlands, Riverlands, and Stormlands, with the Riverlands getting the worst of it because they’re right in the middle), and so the Lannisters have experience in campaigning in the Riverlands.

      Edmure may have made a classic mistake, characteristic of earlier Riverlords who put their honor over the pragmatism required to retreat back to the rivers and fight a war of interior lines.

      • Andrew says:

        Tywin has been overproud, and 15 year-old, first-timer Robb one upping an experienced older war leader like Tywin hit deep, as this is a man who never forgets a slight. I think that is one of the contributing factors to Tywin’s role in the RW. He wanted Robb to suffer for his “insults.”

        If you’re looking for a man who meets his match in an opponent and shows a chivalric respect for his opponent’s ability like in the ballads and tales, don’t expect it from Tywin. He will want to make the opponent suffer a gruesome death.

  5. Sean C. says:

    Among the Riverlords, also undefeated at this point is House Mooton way out on the eastern fringe, but they’re the equivalent of the Graftons in the Vale (way less powerful/consequential than you would think they would be on paper).

    Since you discuss the mountain men, they’re one of the more implausible details of Westeros, to my mind: namely, the idea that 6000 years after the Andal conquest (the dates are fuzzy, of course, but it’s a long time, regardless) these guys are still around. I could maybe buy that if they were just fringe groups that stayed up in the mountains out of everybody’s way, because there’s precedent for groups like that, but that’s not the case: they’re extremely militant and are constantly harassing the Vale, and anybody who happens to try and visit. It beggars belief that House Arryn (or, later, House Targaryen) wouldn’t have exterminated these guys, or otherwise forced them within the bounds of the feudal system, by this point — for House Arryn, which otherwise possesses perhaps the best perimeter defenses of the Seven Kingdoms, they’re the primary land menace, and a constant irritant; for the Targaryens, having consolidated the seven kingdoms, the mountain clans are a menace to the kingdom’s internal trade, and pretty much the only polity within the realm that does not acknowledge their sovereignty. And it’s not like the clans, for all their bluster, are even especially formidable; they’re numerically small, and are literally millennia behind the Andals in weapons technology. Subduing them once and for all might have been a bit bloody, but it’s something the Arryns would have gotten out of the way by now; it would have seriously threatened their legitimacy not to. It would be like if bands of Picts were still wandering around the Scottish Lowlands, shooting arrows at cars.

    • Honestly, it depends where you are in the world – we just this year found a family living in Siberia that thought the Czar was still alive. The mountain clans are a nuisance, but they’re a useful nuisance because they’re only active on the road heading west (and are normally kept in check by regular pacification campaigns by groups of armed knights; remember, Lysa has disordered the Vale by pulling everyone to the Eyrie) and thus would harass invaders who made it past the Gate.

      They’re not a menace to internal trade because the Vale’s trade runs through Gulltown in the east where they aren’t active.

      • Sean C. says:

        The Vale’s trade runs through Gulltown because it isn’t safe to trade through the Bloody Gate. Otherwise there’s no reason why they wouldn’t, given all the stuff in the Riverlands.

        I don’t see any indication that the Vale considers them a useful nuisance. Everybody sounds like they would very much like to be rid of them. And those regular campaigns would be a slow bleed of men and resources. Eventually somebody would have committed to a final settlement of the conflict.

        • I think the reason they wouldn’t is that Essos is much, much richer than Westeros, and the Riverlands were occupied for hundreds if not thousands of years by a people who didn’t believe in commerce. Which if you think about it, explains why all the commercial hubs are coastal rather than in the interior despite the advantage of shorter distances.

          As for the latter – look how long the Kurds, Druses, etc. lasted. Believe me, there have been plenty of empires that wanted to eliminate bandit tribes in the mountains.

  6. Celestial says:

    Steve, some observations. Since now we are getting into the war proper, some of them are more general in nature and not just about this specific chapter. In short, what I want to say is that GRRM commits a series of mistakes which must be taken into considerations when analyzing the military and political strategies of the conflict (and some of those mistakes you reiterate).
    Sure, one can give the author an “artistic lycence” and tolerate such suspensions of disbelief, but, in political essays focused on realism as these ones, I believe the author’s mistakes should be acknowledged and commented upon.

    1. The problem of supply lines. It is mentioned several times in the books (for instance, when Harys Swift complains that “the Starks and Tullys sit squarely on our line of supply” and you echo this matter when you say that “they massively extended their supply lines” (something which you commented upon also in your essay on Robb Starks’ campaign).
    Actually, the Lannister extended nothing. The problem with this issue is that supply lines extending over such distances were pretty much impossible before the advent of the railroad. You can easily see for yourself if you simply calculate the daily intake of food which an army of 20,000 men needs, then calculate how many oxes/horses and how many men would be required to transport all that stuff over a distance of 500 miles, having in mind the average speed of a cart and the weight an ox/horse can pull. Then consider that all those convoys need to be guarded against enemy patrols/bandits/angry peasants, that tens of outpost would need to be organized along that line of supply for its protection and the coordination of the transport. And, btw, all those men and animals involved in these “rear” duties need to eat as well, etc.
    In short, it is an impossible enterprise with the meager resources available in medieval times. In fact, in hostile territory, medieval armies lived off the land through pillage/requisitioning and this situation endured as later as Napoleon’s era. When Napoleon invaded Russia, his army constantly shrank and not just because of the losses.
    Maintaining a supply line was problematic even in the context of the european medieval warfare, which took place over small areas. Over the Asiatic distances from Westeros, you can forget about it.
    500 miles is almost the same distance as from Paris to Berlin, in a straight distance (878 km flight distance Paris-Berlin, more exactly). If you seriously think a medieval army of 20,000 men could even consider receiving supplies from Ile-de-France while operating between Elba and Oder, I have a bridge to sell you.
    It’s not that Tywin has to feed his army by ravaging the Riverlands. That was his only option to begin with. Anything contrary requires a massive suspension of disbelief.

    2. The problem of all the flanking and envelopment maneuvers. Again, the problem has the same cause as the supply lines issue. Martin is playing European medieval warfare in an area which is several times bigger than whole Europe. As such, the matter of cutting off reinforcements/retreat is not going to work because the medieval armies of Westeros are too pathetic in size in order to be able to block enemy movements over so large a stretch of land.
    For instance, the distance between Riverrun and Pinkmaiden was between 200-250 miles. How on Earth was Robb going to prevent a cross by an enemy army when he has just about 15,000 men to screen a distance bigger than the distance between Paris and Bruxelles?

    3. The fortresses of Westeros. Again, it is very unrealistic – and again for the same reasons. In Westeros, we have this apparently larger-than-life stronghold like Casterly Rock, Storm’s End, Riverrun, Winterfell, Harrenhal, Twins, Eyrie, etc but, as a scholar of medieval history, I can think of even one medieval stronghold which played a role as important of any of those. They were important in the local conflicts, but in larger ones, their significance was tiny – and that in the much smaller Europe. In the larger Westeros, they have too pathetic a garrison and too small a reach in order to be able to project much power – and thus their overestimation is a massive fuck-up from Martin.
    The only exception from real-life are the crusader fortresses – and they assumed a much greater importance because the area they had to control and defend was tiny.

    There are more instances of very problematic aspects of Martin’s understanding of military strategies and logistics or straight inconsistencies in the political movements of the main actors, but as they happen later I will not detail them here.

    • To be fair, GRRM is a sf/fantasy author who likes to read history, not a military historian. And he massively screwed himself on scale. Honestly, it really doesn’t make sense that Westerosi have the same language or that a single polity could ever function on a continent that size.

      1. Clearly they’re relying on both. The more important issue is not so much resupply as reinforcements.

      2. I think you mean Edmure, not Robb. Robb wanted Tywin to cross, remember. As for how, I think the idea is that you concentrate on the major fords where an army could comfortably cross.

      3. mmm…Gibraltar? Constantinople? The Gates of Vienna? They had pretty larger consequences.

      But yeah, Martin is not very realistic.

  7. Celestial says:

    1. IMO, I think the most important matter of Robb’s victory at Riverrun is that it makes Westerlands completely vulnerable to an invasion. Strongholds aren’t just going to cut it, having in mind the distances they are supposed to guard… as Robb Stark’s “wolf” proved.
    Agreed about reinforcements. Albeit it’s a complex matter, Robb can theoretically block the movement of an army from Westerlands towards Harrenhall.
    The supply matter, on the other hand, does not even merit discussion. It’s impossible to supply Tywin’s army from Westerlands. It does not make sense even when looking at the inside-book logic. We see Tywin operate for several months in Riverlands with no communication lines to Westerlands and he had to do that for much longer than his original plan envisioned. So why on Earth would he bother with establishing a supply line between his army and the Westerlands, wasting precious men and resources, when he intended to finish quickly with Robb Stark anyway?
    I know there are 2 or 3 occasional statements in the book which might seem to indicate that Tywin relied on supplies from Westerlands, but I would suggest that they don’t really deserve the weight you seem to give them because Martin lets slip on occasion some statements which are nothing else but intellectual duds.

    I’ll give you some examples from the chapter you already discussed or you will analyze soon. For instance, there is that moment when Tyrion finds out from Catelyn that LF framed him – yet he takes no action over this information. That is something which you remarked yourself, as I recall.
    Also, when Tywin sends Tyrion to KL, the former makes a mention that strange things happened in the capital and suspects treason. The circle of suspects was narrow: Tywin named LF, Varys and Pycelle. Yet when Tywin returns to the capital, he does nothing in this regard! He might have won the battle of Blackwater, but the potential traitor had not been exposed yet! Yet, not only that Tywin does nothing in this regard, but allows LF, Varys and Pycelle to retain their access to sensitive information and the decision-making process!

    Unless Tywin was suffering from Alzheimer, that does not make an ounce of sense.
    GRRM is not a historian, true, but he is also not very good at long-term planning, inserting some things in his narrative without properly considering their long-term consequences.

    2. When I said Robb, I was speaking in terms of nominal command and overall strategic situation, which demanded Stark control of the Riverrun-Pinkmaiden line, not the specific situation when Edmure blocked Tywin’s march west.

    3. Your examples don’t work. First of all, Constantinoples and Vienna were heavily fortified cities, not strongholds. It’s a massive difference between a city which can host at least 10,000 troops with ease and a castle which could barely shelter 1,000. They also had great economical importance and they were seats of government in a practical sense, not just symbols of power. As for Gibraltar (and Constantinople), they were located on maritime chokepoints. That is not the case with most of the stronghold of Westeros. Most of them are straight in the middle of flat stretches of land, can be easily avoided in an area as big as Westeros and they just can’t shelter enough troops to be more than an annoyance.

    The strongholds of Westeros are clearly inspired by the Crusader castles: the Beaufort, Krak des Chevaliers, Kerak, Belvoir, Montreal, etc.These indeed have a comparable significance, but that was possible only because the area they had to protect was very small: comparable with the size of Normandy. Only in this context, were these castles able to achieve such status.
    At the size of Westeros, strongholds like Winterfell or Casterly Rock are nothing but some grains in a barrell full of wheat. If these were cities the size of Paris or Milan, with a vibrant economy and large population, it would be a different story, but they aren’t.

    • 1. To be fair, Robb finding the route around the Golden Tooth is pretty unexpected (although history is awfully fully of goat paths). I think the Lannisters were banking on Golden Tooth taking long enough to siege that they could raise another army.

      2. Eh. At this point, Edmure hasn’t sworn fealty to Robb yet. Technically, they’re allies, not vassal and liege lord. Robb hasn’t even shown up yet to a Tully war council.

      3. Yeah, it was a bit of a stretch. In terms of Westerosi strongholds, their scale might change things: Casterly Rock seems like a city in its own right, and commands a harbor; the Eyrie’s at a massive natural chokepoint and dominates a very fertile valley behind it. Winterfell makes the least sense, since it isn’t positioned well to dominate the countryside; it would make more sense if it was located on the White Knife.

      • David Hunt says:

        I recall that Casterly Rock is very near Lannisport. The Red Keep is right in the middle of King’s Landing. You mentioned the Eyrie’s strategic advantages. I don’t know about Storm’s End’s or Riverrun’s placement in relation to major settlements and have no idea if High Garden is just a stronghold or a real city. Winterfell is the one that seems truly isolated. It’s placed closed the the Wintertown IIRC, but it’s location doesn’t initially seem that important. The town is utterly deserted in Summer. My guess is that the hot springs under Winterfell are so important in Winter that they justify the great keep being there as the capital of the Kings of Winter.

  8. scarlett45 says:

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  9. Hyle says:

    This assessment does seem to suggest that Tywin is not in fact a military leader- his strengths are in administration and politics, not war. His demolition of Houses Tarbeck and Reyne is renowned for the results rather than the tactics. In the Greyjoy Rebellion, the Starks and Baratheons took the brunt of the fighting. During Robert’s Rebellion he sits back until marching on King’s Landing- and no siege takes place. The current campaign is the first one in which he takes full command, and it’s won by words more than by winning battles. His reputation is based on ruthlessness- the butcher’s work- but I wonder whether the weight he ascribes this is him buying into his own legend.

    • That’s a bit harsher than I intended – it’s more to say that as a military leader, he doesn’t succeed because he’s a brilliant strategist (although he’s generally competent), but because he makes use of logistics to ensure he’s got numbers on his side.

    • Sean C. says:

      Steve was talking about how the Lannisters tend not to do well in civil wars in the discussion of “The Princess and the Queen”, and you can add the Greyjoy Rebellion to that trend. The opening moves of that war were the surprise attacks on Lannisport and Seagard; at the latter, Jason Mallister decisively defeated the Ironborn and slew the heir to the Iron Islands; at the former, the Lannister fleet was burnt at anchor (which Tywin doesn’t appear to have ever rebuilt, since the Lannister navy is never considered a factor in the War of Five Kings). And…that’s pretty much it for House Lannister in that war, despite the fact that Tywin, as Warden of the West, should notionally have been leading the kingdom’s response to the Greyjoys, but that Robert decided to take personal command of the operation, and it was to him, along with Eddard Stark, Stannis Baratheon, and Paxter Redwyne that the major victories accrued.

      • Yeah, it’s surprising how little how little we hear about that, given how humiliating it must have been to Tywin.

      • shaunpeacock says:

        Which is probably why we don’t hear about it. Tywin is widely regarded as the most powerful man in Westeros (with a strong basis in fact, though not as strong as he and his children appear to believe) with a prideful streak that stretches from Dorne to the Wall (again with a strong basis in fact). So its unlikely that anyone thinks its a good idea to insult him, even out of his presence.

        Of the four men who did well out of the Greyjoy Rebellion – and so might feel able to make comments about Tywin’s humiliation, Stannis isn’t one to boast or needlessly insult others, nor is Ned, we’ve never met Paxter Redwyne, and Robert is never given an onscreen chance, although its likely that given the “hiding under the Rock” comment, Robert probably insulted Tywin loudly and often.

  10. axrendale says:

    Brilliant post, Steven. I think that you hit the nail on the head with just about every point in this one, except perhaps with the historical parallels.

    Cersei as Margaret D’Anjou sits fine with me, for the reasons that you allude to, but I think that better parallels can be found for Jaime and Tywin than Cesare Borgia and Cosimo de Medici.

    There’s certainly no denying that the Lannisters, taken as a family, have a very strong Borgias vibe about them (perhaps with a dash of the Julio-Claudians mixed in), but I think that the comparison breaks down when you come to considering them as individuals. Cersei’s character is far closer to the myth of Lucrezia Borgia than to what the balance of historical opinion has generally concluded about the historical figure, and I can’t see Jaime as Cesare at all. You have a point about the similarities in their prowess as soldiers and sordid reputations, but I don’t think that there’s much beyond that. The historical Cesare was a master of political intrigue and a highly proficient murderer – things that don’t match up with Jaime at all (even the people who hate him generally take him at his word that he would never stoop to hiring an assassin). Furthermore, Cesare’s personality was almost defined by his intense ambition, and he was a willing partner in many of his father’s political schemes. It’s impossible to imagine Machiavelli ever devoting a section of The Prince to the career of Jaime Lannister.

    Much the same goes for Tywin/Cosimo. There’s some overlap in the great wealth turned to political ends and the dynastic ambitions, but as far as I’m aware, Cosimo never once went to war in person (the statesmen of Florence were prohibited by law from undergoing military training), and furthermore hailed from the sort of family that Tywin probably would have sneered at as up-jumped bankers.

    I’d suggest that a much closer parallel figure to Tywin can be found from the history of England in a slightly earlier time: King Edward I “Longshanks”.

    Admittedly there’s still a difference in their backgrounds – Tywin is not a monarch, although he is often described (especially after his death) as an uncrowned king, and in ADWD is merged in Tyrion’s dreams with the Shrouded Lord, a “stony king”. Beyond that however, the overlaps in character and personal history between the infamous Plantagenet king and the infamous Lord of Lannister verge on the uncanny at times.

    Both of them had to struggle with being the heir to an amiable but weak man (Henry III/Lord Tytos) whose hapless political conduct led them to the brink of political ruin at the hands of overmighty vassals. Edward and Tywin both had their political “coming out” by taking charge of destroying the rebellion, and they both did so with flair – resulting in a pair of notorious massacres that did a lot to cement their subsequent reputations (the “Murder of Evesham” vs the “Rains of Castamere”). This is one of the areas where the parallel becomes uncanny: the sigil of the Reynes of Castamere (a red lion with a forked tail on a silver background) is almost identical to the coat of arms of Simon de Montfort (a silver lion with a forked tail on a red background).

    The effect of this on Edward was tremendous, and most accounts agree that he spent the rest of his life trying to win back the power and prestige that has father had squandered. One popular anecdote tells that at his coronation, he removed his crown and swore that he would never wear it again until he had recovered what his father had lost – a gesture that one imagines Tywin would have approved of.

    As King, Edward developed a reputation for being an exceptionally able and effective administrator (as did Tywin as Hand), and was moreover obviously a master politician – adept at managing even the prickliest personalities amongst his lords (Tywin ticks similar boxes). However, he became more notorious to posterity for the willingness with which he used extreme violence to solve intractable political problems: indiscriminately killing knights and lords in battle, twisting the laws of treason to justify the killings of a long string of opponents, and culminating in the veritable orgies of blood-letting that he commanded in his final campaigns in Scotland. Such ruthlessness netted him many short-term gains throughout his reign, but ultimately may have poisoned his legacy by making many irreconcilable foes who could arguably have been avoided (having an incompetent heir didn’t help). Nor was it helped by other forms of skulduggery, including a reputed willingness to break his word whenever it was advantageous (again, Tywin much?).

    This sort of attitude apparently extended beyond mere statecraft – one telling incident features the son of a Welsh rebel, who was taken as a hostage and who Edward arbitrarily commanded be kept in a wooden cage at night, bound with iron, for the duration of his captivity (which turned out to be several decades).

    Edward I also offers an excellent analogy for your assessment of Tywin as a military commander. Like the Lord of Lannister, Longshanks was demonstratably a brilliant organizer: the armies that he raised for his numerous campaigns were the largest to appear in the British Isles until the 17th century. Furthermore, he possessed many qualities that made him a formidable soldier – the author of The Song of Caerlaverock would attest that in confronting his enemies the king was “like the the lions embroidered in gold on the red of his banner – dreadful, fierce, and cruel” (who does that sound like?).

    Beyond that however, there were obvious limitations to Edward’s generalship: in his entire career he only won two battles (in both of which he outnumbered his opponent by about 3:1), and suffered one humiliating defeat in person. Many of the armies that he entrusted to lieutenants or allies in Wales, Scotland, and France were badly beaten on multiple occasions, and his campaigns are usually considered more notable for their great number and scale, and for the scale of the devastation that he unleashed, than for any particular tactical brilliance. He also sometimes fell short in his ability to read opponents: his miscomprehension of the nature of resistance to him amongst the lords of Scotland had disastrous consequences, and he was once badly tricked by King Philip of France, who he had underestimated as young and tractable.

    Instead, Edward got by as a warlord mostly through his capacity for strategy and diplomacy: quelling resistance in Wales through the construction of a chain of mighty castles (from ACOK – “The talk was that Lord Tywin planned to restore Harrenhal to glory, and make it his new seat once the war was done”); forging a cynical peace with France to rob the Scots of their only important ally (“Some battles are won with spears and swords…”), dealing with treacherous Scottish lords to take William Wallace as a captive, so he could be handed over for execution (“… others with quills and ravens”); labouring tirelessly throughout his reign to butress England’s alliances on the continent; and making calculated offers of clemency to induce certain enemies to capitulate (“When your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their feet. Elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you”).

    Edward’s family relations offer further source of parallel to Tywin. In addition to the Tytos/Henry III comparison mentioned above, we might also note that they both had a deeply beloved wife whose death left a profound effect on them (after Eleanor of Castile died, Edward refused to marry again for almost a decade). Edward also had a younger brother, Edmund – a less domineering personality who served as his most faithful lieutenant and counsellor (shades of Kevan Lannister). Not least of all, they both had deeply disappointing children.

    If we’re looking for further parallels, we might even note that they even look somewhat similar. Descriptions of Tywin’s appearance in the books make note of his height, long legs, wiry build, blond hair, excellent condition (for a man in his late 50s), and above all his deeply intimidating presence – all traits that Edward I was said to possess.

    Last but not least, it would be difficult to find a better summation of Tywin’s character than the assessment reached by one of Edward I’s contemporaries: “He was as great as he was terrible”.

    • Of course George R.R Martin’s going for the legend over the facts; he’s not writing a history book, he’s mining history for juicy details to lend color and drama to his narrative. The Black Dinner was a much tamer affair than the Red Wedding, after all!

      You’re not the first to make the Edward I comparison. I think the Tytos/Henry III comparison works a bit, although the Reynes and Tarbecks don’t really resemble Simon de Montfort. However, I don’t think it works with his kids at all: I wouldn’t consider Jaime to be a disappointment to him until the events of ASOS, he clearly blamed Aerys II for that. Cersei got him a grandson on the Iron Throne, so she accomplished what she was supposed to. (for further discussion on this point, see here)

  11. Abbey Battle says:

    One thought that has recently inspired some musing on my part; at King’s Landing did Lord Tywin permit his soldiers to Cry Havoc in the streets of one of the most crucial cities in Westeros as part of the pre-meditated scheme to prove his bone fides to King Robert, as well as weed out those of his banner men less than eager to betray The Dragons – or was he simply unable to control men doubtless left hungry and footsore after what I suspect was a forced march in the wake of The Trident-fight to beat Lord Eddard to King’s Landing, amidst that crooked warren of a city?

    I ask because the answer would give us a partial answer to the question of whether Lord Tywin’s honour is worth more than a clipped copper (since sacking a town which has opened it’s gates to you without even token resistance would have been a War Crime so extreme by Medieval Standards that it would have overshadowed any personal sin other than that of Ser Jaimie Lannister); I am moved to suspect that Lord Tywin would have rather let his men off the leash by his own word had he seen no way to corral them (to preserve his reputation for utter authority, if nothing else), which says a great deal about the man if true.

    So do you fellows think King’s Landing was a brutally blunt demonstration of The Lion Lord’s sheer ruthlessness, a show of what King Robert might expect of him were Lord Tywin accepted into his service or was it simply the product of a breakdown in the chain of command and a collapse of discipline?

  12. priddy says:

    Great review, Steven.

    However, I am not sure about your historic parallels for Tywin Lannister. While you gave good examples, George Martin writing has oriented itself more on the War of the Roses in English history, rather than Renaissance-era Italy. Could Tywin Lannister character not have been influenced by Henry V of House Lancaster. Both men were competent military leaders, who waged a war, both died before their time, both had lions on their coat of arms, and the names of the houses are very similar. Lannister. Lancaster.
    What do you think?

  13. Matthew says:

    Just as a brief bit on Roose in this battle. I don’t think he was being intentionally deceptive or trying to undermine the Northern cause at this point, however, I also believe he never intended to win the battle. The way I see it is that he only intended to march his forces hard and surprise Tywin (Roose isn’t a noted military commander so its plausible he merely made a military mistake) and his main intent for putting his political rivals in place was to a) weaken them thus forcing House Stark to rely on House Bolton as a necessity and making them one of the more powerful Houses in the North b) Conserve his own strength and win the glory of a fighting retreat for pulling off Robb’s battle plan (I sincerely doubt he would have fallen on Tywin’s rear had the opportunity presented itself as he lacked heavy horse or any horse really) in order to gain political clout.

    This wasn’t yet the time for Roose to be intentionally duplicitous with his Northern allies, but it was a perfect time for feudal jockeying and being able to turn his house into one which would put itself firmly among the most powerful in any future Kingdom of the North, Hence why he kept so much fighting strength at home while still answering the call of the Starks.

    It’s brilliant as either way he has a way to play the outcome of the war.

    • That’s all true, but at the same time, his weakening of his rivals undermined the Northern cause by giving Tywin the opportunity to get back over the Trident.

      And there’s no reason why infantry can’t harry an army in retreat; cavalry is better at that sure, and you’re not going to catch the cavalry, but Tywin’s infantry would be sitting ducks.

  14. somethinglikealawyer says:

    Nice work. Huge fan, of course.

    I’ve always interpreted showTywin’s claim that: “The lion does not concern himself with the opinions of sheep” as a lie that he tells everyone, including his son. Tytos’s weakness of allowing himself to be manipulated by his vassals (nonpayment of loans, Lady Tarbeck’s capture of three Lannisters to force Tytos to release Lord Tarbeck) meant that Tywin needed to display that he did not care about what others thought of him.

    Not much to say that hasn’t already been said by you, or BryndenBFish, and while unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your POV) we have similar views on a lot of things, which probably means I’ll be a very boring commenter.

    • Agreed. If we’re going to get super-detailed, I suppose what Tywin is saying is that Jaime shouldn’t care about whether other people think he’s honorable, which actually does make sense – Tywin has done things that cause him to be widely seen as dishonorable (betraying his children, sacking a city without warning, having children murdered, total war on civilian populations, enslaving them, etc.) and doesn’t care.

      He does care if people are afraid, awed, and jealous of him.

  15. zonaria says:

    Poor old Roose, one morally questionable act and everything he ever has done in the past gets called into question 😉

    In truth it is not important that Roose’s force wins at the Green Fork (although it is important that it avoids being badly defeated and remains a threat afterwards, which it does). As its role is a decoy, what is important is that it keeps the Lannisters’ attention focused on it, rather than on what Robb is doing at the same time. Also, the sooner it advances, the better it is able to fulfil this role; it needs to be detected by the Lannisters before they get a hint that Robb has moved his force elsewhere. So a somewhat precipitous advance and an offer of battle would serve well in fulfilling this goal. It might even have crossed Roose’s mind that this is the sort of thing a bold but inexperienced boy commander might have done.

    • But it’s detected BEFORE the night march is embarked upon. That’s my point. Once Robb’s over the Twins, the battle with Tywin can happen anywhere on that road, but Roose chooses an inopportune location.

  16. axrendale says:

    Two points on the battle of the Green Fork, broadly addressed at the comments aimed above –

    Generally speaking I agree with you Steven, about Roose’s motives/actions in that battle. However, their are two points on which I think he can be excused:

    1) The performance of the Northern scouts. In your comments above, you noted that in most of the engagements (Whispering Wood, Camps, Oxcross) in the war, Northern scouts/outriders consistently outperformed their Lannister counterparts. That’s true, but my impression is that this is not meant to be attributed to Northern scouts being inherently better than the Lannister ones, but rather to the fact that Robb has Brynden Tully commanding his scouts – a man who is characterised as a tactical genius. Roose has no lieutenant of similar calibre to lead his outriders, and in any case has little cavalry to speak of. On the other side, Tywin’s scouts are commanded by Addam Marbrand – described as the most competent soldier of all the Lannister vassals. So I think it’s plausible that the Lannister scouts carry the day on this occasion without any help from Roose.

    2) Advancing so far south to give battle. The orders that Robb gave to Roose were specifically to march south and confront the Lannister host. Also, Tywin had given orders to Marbrand to do his best to draw the Northern host in that direction, and might have grown suspicious if they had dug in close to the Twins instead.

    Roose is still guilty of ordering the wasteful night march, and attacking instead of finding some good ground to defend. I’d say that those two things by themselves are sufficient to convict him.

    • 1. Inherently better? Eh. More experienced at woodcraft? Probably.

      2. Yes, but not to confront them at the Ruby Ford; Robb’s plan hinged on Tywin marching up so that he was free to ride down the west bank. Similarly, giving Marband what he wanted isn’t a good idea – and it’s perfectly fine for Tywin to get suspicious if they dug into the Twins, because for Tywin to get up that far puts him too far away from the Ruby Ford.

      • axrendale says:

        1) I don’t know – from what we’re told, the Westerlands has at least one decent-sized stretch of forest (around Crakehall), and possibly some other smaller ones. I don’t see why Tywin wouldn’t be able to field some scouts with just as much woodcraft as any Northerner.

        2a) Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure that Tywin *does* march up to meet them and the battle takes place quite a ways north of the Ruby Ford. The exact distance isn’t specified, but we do know that the Lannisters put in some miles to get to where they fought (that chapter opens with Tyrion complaining about being saddle-sore from the movement). And later, after they find out about Robb being on his way to Riverrun, Tywin puts his army through a brutal forced-march, implied (I think) to take at least a few days, just to get back to where they started, at the Ruby Ford. So it seems that Roose fulfilled that part of Robb’s objective.

        2b) If Tywin gets too suspicious, then he might not march at all – he might smell a rat and send up more scouts to verify what’s happening, potentially causing the Northern ruse to get blown too early. As long as Roose is marching south (and thereby holding out promise of open battle), Tywin’s eagerness to win a quick victory will keep him marching north – my impression is that the two armies meet roughly equidistant from the Twins and the Ruby Ford (Roose doesn’t launch his night-march until the two are only a day’s ride from each other).

        • 1. That’s a pretty tiny woods compared to the Wolfswood or the forest around Karhold. And in general, the North is just less developed than the Westerlands.

          2. Tywin does march, but less far than he would have done. Critically, had Roose marched at a normal pace rather than doing the night march, Tywin would have been more than one day’s march north of the ford, which would have given Robb the ability to sail down the Red Fork and block the ford in time.

          2b. Why would Tywin get suspicious if Robb’s army marched at normal speed?

  17. Anastasia says:

    honestly I feel like Cersei is more similar to Cesare than Lucrezia. here are some tumblr posts about it since i’m not articulate enough to explain it myself lol.

    also while obviously not historical, i see a lot of parallels between cersei and lady macbeth

    • Definitely a Lady Macbeth type in her relationship with Tyrion and Joffrey.

      The Cesare comparison I’m a bit skeptical of; Cersei’s power rests ultimately on her position as the Queen Mother, not as Tywin’s daughter. As we see, Tywin’s forces ultimately are more responsive to Jaime or Kevan than to her.

  18. Evan says:

    Interesting essay.

    He’s always stated as a great strategist and politician/administrator, but do we ever actually see Tywin go into battle? Presumably, he must have been knighted and know how to use a sword, but I don’t think we ever actually see him in combat.

    Also, I think that Tywin missed one of the great opportunities to secure his dynasty’s legacy: Taking the Iron Throne himself at the end of the Rebellion. Think about it: Tywin’s got 12,000 troops sitting outside the gates of King’s Landing (which will soon be opened for him by stooge Pycelle), a reputation as a Hand of the King who operated in a time of great peace and prosperity (I did find your article on the Hands of the King interesting in that regard, and looking back, I have to wonder if Tywin was that great, or he just benefited from an easy season of ruling), and a desire to solidify his family’s position and legacy. Why didn’t he just claim the Throne then and there, replacing the Targaryen Dynasty with the Lannister Dynasty? Hell, Jaime was sitting on the Iron Throne himself-Tywin could have had him claim it (Granted, Jaime would not make the best of monarchs-He might not be as bad as Robert, especially with Tywin as Hand/de facto ruler, but he wouldn’t be a good one under any circumstances). While there certainly would have been issues, I think Tywin would have overcome them. And he could have dealt with the other claimants-Jon Arryn was too old and had no heirs, Ned never would have taken the Throne unless there was no other choice, and Robert truly never wanted to be King, meaning that Tywin could have bought him off. King Tywin wouldn’t have lollygagged about seizing Dragonstone, meaning that Viserys and Daenerys would have been captured and likely killed or at the very least imprisoned/sent to the Wall or the Silent Sisters as a method of preventing them from rising against the new rulers. Dorne’s probably the stickiest bit of trouble in this particular scenario-Tywin did order the death of Doran’s sister and niece and nephew, but if he talks fast enough, offers up Clegane and Lorch as the men who did the deeds and calls it the unnecessary butchery and brutality of a pair of unscrupulous and overzealous subordinates, agrees to pay some form of reparations he might even be able to talk his way out of an open rebellion from the Dornish.

    • scarlett45 says:

      This is a very interesting theory. Perhaps Tywin’s reputation would’ve prevented him from starting a Lannister Dynasty. Think about it, at the end of Robert’s Rebellion, Robert was THE romantic hero, fiancé killed, rid the country of a mad king, young and fierce in battle. Tywin was…well Tywin. What the people think if you DOES matter when you’re starting a new dynasty without dragons;), would the people have followed Tywin?

    • Sorry, but that wasn’t going to happen.

      1. The Lannisters have no claim to the Iron Throne whatsoever.
      2. They’ve just murdered the royal family in cold blood and viciously sacked the capitol city, which is bad enough for their image to force Tywin Lannister out of politics for 15 years.
      3. Tywin’s army is outnumbered three to one by the Northern Alliance who’ve already proclaimed Robert their king – and Robert has a good claim to the Throne as the second cousin of Viserys and Dany. The Starks, Tullys, Arryns, and Baratheons aren’t going to back down from that, especially against Tywin.
      4. The Martells hate them for killing the royal family. The Tyrells are Targaryen loyalists. The Greyjoys would love to sack Lannisport while the rest of the Seven Kingdoms dogpile them.
      5. By the time that Jaime’s sitting on the Iron Throne, Eddard has a larger army inside the city and is adamantly anti-Lannister.

      • scarlett45 says:

        Basically what you said. The Southern Alliance was the motivating factor that allowed Robert to win the rebellion (along with killing Rhaegar personally). Having all of those great houses behind him made him a premiere candidate in edition to his Targayen heritage.

      • axrendale says:

        Basically agree except for #2.

        There’s no doubt that the Sack of KL created an image problem for Tywin, but I don’t think that it “forced him out of politics” by any stretch. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, he managed to get his daughter married to Robert, and we know from various asides in the books that he visited the capital several times during Robert’s reign, one of which featured a banquet given in his honor (that was when Balerion the cat stole a morsel right out of his hand). Plus, he was acting as the Crown’s main creditor during this period.

        It’s true that he doesn’t seem to have attended the Small Council much during this time, but I think that has less to do with repugnance at his war crimes (which Robert, and perhaps Jon Arryn too, were privately grateful for), and more to do with the fact that he didn’t have much interest in hanging around if he couldn’t be in charge – his time would be better spent in the Westerlands, overseeing his domain, than sitting on a council where he wouldn’t have any real power.

        • All of that is behind the scenes, and at Jon Arryn’s request. But as the Warden of the West, Tywin could have been on hand to lead the dominant faction at court, and doesn’t (despite clearly wanting more influence).

          As a result, the Lannister faction is run by Cersei, who mishandles Jon Arryn, the fostering of Robert Arryn, the naming of the next Hand, etc etc.

  19. drevney says:

    Would I be Bolton there is one trick I would use:

    sending some scouts to the mountains dressed in Arryn flags. So that Tywin scouts will see them. That would make Tywin believe that a Vale army is slowly marching toward him, forcing him to either attack the north army before the fake army can join or retreat towards Kings landing, Either way making the battle much easier for Bolton.

  20. Septawn says:

    I love your analysis in all the chapters. Keep up the good work, and finish Hollow Crowns and Deadly Thrones already!

  21. Good stuff. I don’t think the clans would have actually posed any real threat to the Arryns, giving that they had all their forces still at the Vale. But stirring the clans up may have delayed them moving out to joint the Riverlands, which is what everyone probably expected would have happened and was unexpectedly blocked by Lysa and Littlefinger.

  22. Leee says:

    the rapid advance resembles trying to ride a runaway bolder; you’ve got to keep the momentum up or you’ll dash to pieces.

    Now that I know, I can’t wait to try this out!

  23. Roger says:

    I’m not sure Edmure thought so badly. By blocking the Golden Tought, he both protected the Riverlands and menaced Lannisport (the Lannister couldn’t march through Banefort or the Goldroad without exposing their capital). The problem was he hadn’t enough men (with only two minor Lord forces at his side),and he probably understimated Jaime’s strength. But remember Tywin was already prepeared. Leaving the Golden Tooth free means the lyons could easily besiege Riverrun and raid the southern Trident.And that’s what they did.

    Tywin had a central position at the Inn, yeah, but remaining there had it risks. It means the Arryns and the Starks could surround you. The Vale’s neutrality wasn’t sure, then. When a general is in danger of being surrounded, he needs to retreat or to attack one of the pinces. And that what’s Tywin did.

    Sending guerrillas against the Arryn wasn’t a good idea. It’s a provocation. But that’s what Tyrion did in the second book, where Littlefinger mentioned the clans were sacking the Vale, with better weapons and armor than ever.

    The Whispering Wood battle and the Campements battle happend in a short time. I don’t even know if the besiegers in Riverrun were aware of Jaime’s defeat before the Wolves were over them.

    I think there is another “what if” to consider. What if Tywin had completly defeated Roose Bolton? If Tyrion’s men hadn’t fight so hard, probably the Northeners would have felt into the trap.

    • Mmm…no.

      1. Blocking the pass requires getting between the Golden Tooth and the Lannisters. Given the nature of passes, it requires far fewer men for the Lannisters to defend so they would always have plenty of men to send around the Gold Road.

      2. Besieging Riverrun is what Riverrun is FOR. It keeps the enemy pinned down preventing them from raiding the southern Trident, while ensuring that the Riverlanders get the defensive multiplier from defending a series of chokepoints, and interior lines via river transport, and giving your bannermen time to rally to your side.

      3. They couldn’t surround him faster than he could get back over the Trident.

      4. From Tyrion’s perspective the Arryns are already hostile; better to keep them occupied in the Vale than give them the opportunity to march out.

  24. Roger says:

    Good points but:
    1- According to the FandI wiki, there are two mountains passes at the Golden Tooth. Tully’s bannermen defended the lower one. We don’t know the exact context of the battle or geographical aspects of the terrain.
    2- You only need chains, barges barriers and archers to cut all Riverrun’s communications. Also retreating back to Riverrun means leaving the lower Trident in Lannister’s hand. Looking the map, you can see at least half the castles and cities are Souther (even Harrenhal, with the better lands and food supplies).
    4- I agree that probably keeping behind the rivers would have been better. Defendinf the Golden Tooth without enough men was difficult and risky.
    5- The Clans don’t have enough men to seriously threat the Vale lords. WIth steel weapons, Shagga and the rest can do better ravaging, but I think a competent Ward of the Blood Gates can keep them at bay (that was one of Lysa’s many errors, not apointing another after Blackfish dimision). If a prisioner, for example, revealed they were the Imp’s minions, the pressure of public opinion could have forced Lysa to change her policy. Or even to lose regency of little Robert. Keeping them occupied is one thing; making them angry is another.

    But your points are good, generaly. Is most a matter of opinion.

    • 1. That’s not supported in the text at all, or by the map.

      2. No…in order to cut Riverrun’s communications from the west, you have to get across the Tumblestone and Red Fork rivers. Which means you have to assault said rivers first, which means concentrating at a ford, which means massive defensive multipliers. Which is why Riverrun was built there in the first place.

      Retreating to Riverrun does NOT open up the lower Trident to Tywin – I specifically argued that Edmure should retreat to a defensive line of the rivers, which includes the whole of the Red Fork (thus defending Pinkmaiden, Acorn Hall, High Hill, etc.), but also the Blackwater Rush against an advance from the Gold Road (which would still take longer and allow more time for mobilization.

      5. The mountain men have 3,000 fighting men (which we know from their armor order). 3,000 men, when all of Lysa’s army is concentrated at the Eyrie, could wreak an enormous amount of damage on the Vale – look what the Mountain did to the Riverlands with only 300 men.

      • Roger says:

        1- I’ll re-read the book.
        2- An assault it’s not necessary if it isn’t an enemy at the other side. Jaime Lannister proved it. He was trapped at the Whispering WOod becouse of his own impulsive personality, but had no problems crossing the rivers AND blocking Riverrun. When Rob started his second battle, Riverrun defenders had no idea he was coming.
        3- Theoricaly you’re right. But that means over-extending your forces. The rivers aren’t a big obstacle. The Riverlands are too flat to offer much resistance. Excepting when the enemy is an a rush and needs to cross a ford (like happens in the Twins or Stone Mill). For example, if Robb had had enough time, he would had simply travel souther to cross the river (like his father did during the Rebelion), not accepted Freys’ terms.
        4- The Clans haven’t an army of 3.000 soldiers. They have a horde of 3.000 raiders. And that’s asuming you can manage to keep the feuding clans together. Remember that Roose Bolton killed half them in the battle… And he wasn’t even trying it real hard. In the open field, cavalry could smash them. That’s why they live in caves and hide when they hear a knight coming. That’s the reason why the Brotherhood without Banners didn’t form a real army. They lack training, supplies and cohesion.
        “In the battlefield, discipline is more important than courage” (Tywin Lannister, according to the Imp).
        5- The Arryn army isn’t concentrated in the Eyre… the Lords themselves are. Trying to decide who would marry the mad widow. But Jon Royce was lusting for joining the wolves. Finding clansmen armed with Lannister swords is a good casus belli.

        Resuming my position: you’re right about Edmure and the rivers, but with some “buts”. About the clansmen, I think Tyrion acted mostly due to personal resentment (completly understable) than for real politics. You want to use the clansmen? Send them to hunt Dondarrion. Of course, they have their own ideas.

        • 2. An assault on the rivers absolutely is necessary – Jaime was able to put Riverrun under siege because he had attacked and scattered Edmure’s army which had assembled outside the castle on the western bank, and because Vance and Piper’s 4,000 had been scattered. He would not have been able to get his forces onto the northern and eastern flanks of the castle to cut it off if that had not happened.

          Essentially, it’s like the later Battle of the Fords but from the other direction.

          3. It’s the reverse of over-extending your forces: by defending only the fords where your enemy can cross, a smaller group of men can hold off a larger group of men by taking advantage of bottlenecks and the usual defensive multiplier. And the rivers absolutely act as a massive barrier – the Green Fork can only be crossed at the Twins or down at the Ruby Ford, for example; Tywin’s army is stopped completely flat at the Battle of the Fords.
          4. Right, but if you look at what Tyrion’s plans are, they’re to arm and train the clans and to replace their system of democracy with an unquestioned leader. But given their strengths at guerilla warfare, they don’t have to fight open battles, just sack holdfasts over and over and disappear into the night.
          5. No, it’s explicitly said that Lysa has called all her swords to the Eyrie and is refusing to let them leave, even to patrol for the mountain men.

  25. […] in this chapter, we get a major update on the War of Five Kings. Now, we’ve already seen from the Lannister perspective what the Battle of Riverrun did for them, in that it basically […]

  26. […] begin with, I am only further convinced of my theory that Roose Bolton deliberately botched this battle. Re-reading the chapter’s description of […]

  27. […] Tyrion VII (meeting Tywin, the Lannister Campaign of the War of Five Kings, the mountain clans as a comment on democracy and modernity, why Bolton marched) […]

  28. Scott Trotter says:

    There are a couple of points of note in this chapter related to geography and the time-line. First, Tyrion, Catelyn and company make the inbound–and uphill–journey from the Crossroads Inn to the Bloody Gate in 10 days (Oct. 10-20). Tyrion and Bronn take *46* days to make the reverse trip (Nov. 8-Dec. 24). Assuming that the trip itself really takes about 10 days, that means that Tyrion spent well over a month as a guest of the Clans.

    Second, while briefing Tyrion on the situation in The Riverlands, Kevan Lannister notes that Robb has “…called the banners and sits at Moat Cailin with a strong host around him.” And again, at the end of the chapter, when the messenger delivers the news that “…the Stark host is moving down the causeway.” I don’t see any way possible for the Lannisters to know these facts using conventional scouts and messengers.

    It is approximately 600 miles from The Crossroads to Moat Cailin. It would take a mounted scout force the better part of 3 weeks riding 30-40 miles per day through enemy-held territory, and a message coming back down the opposite direction would take nearly a week, assuming 100 miles per day via relay-riding while also assuming that the Freys hadn’t killed any of the riders. That is nearly a month in total, and the time-line doesn’t allow for that.

    Plus, it assumes that Ser Addam and company could even get through The Neck to begin with. Passing through The Neck would be challenging under normal circumstances. As Sansa tells us in her very first POV chapter:

    “They had been twelve days crossing the Neck, rumbling down a crooked causeway through an endless black bog, and she had hated every moment of it. The air had been damp and clammy, the causeway so narrow they could not even make proper camp at night, they had to stop right on the kingsroad.”

    She continues on to describe the quicksand, poisonous plants and dangerous wildlife inhabiting the marshes on either side of the causeway. Food and water for both man and horse would be problematic. Then add to that the fact that once Robb calls the banners, the Reeds would be guarding the causeway, making passage in either direction a deadly gauntlet of poison arrows.

    It’s more plausible for Addam Marbrand’s outriders to scout up the Green Fork valley as far as The Twins and the borders of marshes, and to send back a messenger once the Stark army emerges from The Neck.

    • I think the confusion you’re having is that Martin uses the phrase “the causeway” to describe both the area immediately around Moat Cailin and the whole of the “Green Fork valley.”

      Remember, Robb hears at the Twins that Tywin is advancing up the causeway, even though Tywin is way south of the Moat.

      • Scott Trotter says:

        I just finished re-reading Catelyn IX, which is the chapter where Robb and the Northerners come to The Twins and discuss the tactical situation in the immediate vicinity. The only reference to “the causeway” that I could find is in the very first sentence, which reads, “As the host trooped down the causeway through the black bogs of the Neck and spilled out into the riverlands beyond, Catelyn’s apprehensions grew.” All of the other references to the Lannister army and scouts simply speak of them coming up from or retreating to the south.

        No matter. I’m inclined to think this is one of those cases where GRRM simply didn’t keep close track of times and distances, and so things don’t add up the way they should. It’s also possible that at the time he wrote it, he had a different conception of the lay of the land that didn’t match the map that was ultimately published. It wouldn’t be the first time something like that has happened. There is a famous story about how Tolkien would chide his son Christopher over various errors in the published LotR map which Christopher drew.

        As for us, all we can do is say “Oh well,” and add this to the list of things that might be tweaking in a future Second Edition.

  29. Scott Trotter says:

    This is a good place to mention one more geographical feature which I find difficult to swallow, and that is the very existence of The Causeway itself. I have to wonder why they bothered. This thing is about 250 miles long (12 days at wagon speed, says Sansa), with no Inns, no places to camp or hunt which makes food difficult to come by, surrounded by dangerous and exotic plants and animals. It must have been a nightmare to construct, with material like gravel and stone having to be hauled in from far away, culverts and bridges built, and so on. And to top it off, its a very sparely populated area both within The Neck itself as well as to the north and south so it would be little used.

    It seems to me that what sensible people would really do would be to build the road along the eastern coast. Or through the forest that’s shown on some maps to the west. Or build a harbor town on The Bite analogous to Seagard and transport goods and people by coastal ferry up to White Harbor. ANYTHING but build a causeway across a massive swamp!

    • I think the Starks would have been unhappy with the road bypassing their fortress.

      • Scott Trotter says:

        Without the road, there’s no need for the fortress.

        • The need for the fortress is to stop an army marching North, with or without a road.

          • Scott Trotter says:

            No army in its right mind would attempt to cross The Neck without a road. This is evidenced by the fact that Ramsey needs to take Moat Cailin from the Ironmen in order to allow Roose’s army to pass. If The Neck itself wasn’t an effective barrier, then an army would just strike out across the marsh and bypass Moat Cailin.

          • The Andals tried, repeatedly.

            Keep in mind – Moat Cailin is a ruin of a structure that predates Winterfell, and the swamps weren’t there when it was first built.

          • Scott Trotter says:

            Just so. The Children of the Forest used the Hammer of the Waters to raise the swamp which is what finally stopped the Andal invasion. Or something like that. I don’t recall where that story is told; some Bran chapter further down the line.

  30. Scott Trotter says:

    Since you’ve closed comments on Catelyn IX, there are a couple of minor points I’ll bring up here. Nothing contentious 🙂

    First, the text states that the Freys have grown wealthy from collecting tolls for crossing their bridge, but I have a hard time seeing who would want to cross their bridge, other than their own smallfolk who would hardly be the source of significant wealth. The Twins control access from the north into a relatively small triangle of land bounded by the Green Fork to the east, the Red Fork to the south, and Ironman’s Bay to the west. Whatever interregional commerce traffic there might be–and personally, I don’t think there would be much–is travelling up and down the Kingsroad to the east. Other than locals, or someone wanting a shortcut to Riverrun like Robb, I don’t see much need for crossing the river, especially if you had to pay a significant toll. I like the concept of The Twins, but I think it should have been placed astride a major east/west highway much further south.

    Second, why is the Kingsroad constructed like a modern bypass freeway? Shouldn’t the realm’s major north/south road be built to actually connect it’s major cities and castles? Instead it bypasses them. Rush hour on the Kingsroad must be a bitch. It runs from Kings Landing to Darry, bypassing Harrenhal by 50 miles, the largest castle in the Seven Kingdoms. It runs from Darry to The Neck, bypassing The Twins by about 75 miles, seemingly the only conceivable destination anywhere in the vicinity. It crosses The Neck, bypassing the only thing *in* The Neck, Greywater Watch. (Yes, I know, it moves.) Once it emerges from The Neck, it bypasses the largest city in The North, White Harbor, by 100 miles. Other than in our modern era, roads were made to connect cites and towns, not skirt around them.

    • I disagree about the Twins. The Trident isn’t an infertile area, Seagard’s the only port on the Riverlands side, so if you want to move goods from say, Casterly Rock to Gulltown or vice-versa, it’s probably fastest to take them across the Twins to White Harbor (or vice-versa) and then ship from there rather than go all the way around the continent.

      I think the purpose of the roads is to connect political centers – the Kingroad goes to Winterfell, not White Harbor, because the North is ruled from Winterfell, and down to Storm’s End rather than any major town or port in the Stormlands, because that’s where the Lord Paramount of the Stormlands has his seat. The Riverroad goes to Riverrun rather than Harrenhal, because Riverrun is the seat of the Lord Paramount of the Riverlands.

      • Scott Trotter says:

        I’m not clear. Are you suggesting by sea to Seagard, then by land across The Neck to White Harbor, then by sea again to Gulltown? In that case, it seems to me that once you’ve loaded your goods onto a ship, you might as well take the southern route around Dorne and up the east coast. If you meant up and over the pass at The Golden Tooth, then to Riverrun, up to The Twins, The Neck and to White Harbor, etc., seems just as easy to continue on the River Road to Salt Pans and on to Gulltown by land.

        On the other hand, what if there were a road that ran SW to NE from Seagard, over The Twins, and on to some non-canon sea port town at the tip of The Bite on the east coast of the isthmus. THAT would be a very useful transshipment highway, and would very much enrich the Freys. Too bad it doesn’t exist.

        Didn’t they used to do something like that at Suez, before the canal was dug?

  31. […] turn parallels Dany’s story exploring the meaning of freedom for the slaves of Essos). As I’ve already discussed, GRRM likes to play with our modern expectations of freedom – here, GRRM turns a skeptical eye on […]

  32. Gustav says:

    I know this is probably not the case, cause I don’t think GRRM was inspired by the Anglo-Saxon era of English history, but I see some great parallels between Godwin, Earl of Wessex, and Tywin. Worth looking into.

  33. […] rise in the world. Given that their relationship was founded on Tyrion’s ability to outbid any competitor, it’s a bad sign that Bronn’s knighthood came from Tywin’s hand rather than his […]

  34. […] message into a profoundly medieval story. As I previously commented on with regards to Tyrion and the mountain clansmen, one of the areas where I feel that GRRM really stands head and above most genre writers is the way […]

  35. […] that have changed the least in the last few thousand years – the Free Folk beyond the Wall, the Mountain Clans of the Vale, the hill clans of the North – we don’t see strong caste lines between nobles and serfs. This […]

  36. […] it fell on the same lines. By comparison, Tywin’s tactics are built around the judicious use of superior numbers as was the case in the Battle of the Green Fork, the Battle of the Fords, Duskendale and the Ruby […]

  37. […] potential of the Mander as a major riverine thoroughfare that could be used to establish superior interior lines, which we’ve seen used by the Tyrells at Tumbler’s Falls immediately preceding the Battle of […]

  38. […] dreams of Franz Boas and Margaret Mead, the reality is that Jon is hardly more enlightened than Tyrion Lannister, given his upbringing in the […]

  39. Jake Berger says:

    I love your perspectives on ASOIAF, Steve 😀

    What does your abbreviation ‘OTL’ stand for?

  40. […] Secondly, I find Tywin’s analysis really interesting, despite the fact that he’s never been very good at reading Robb Stark. He’s clearly wrong about Jeyne, who couldn’t be more unlike her mother if she tried, […]

  41. […] difference (she’s 15, he’s 45), their difference in social status (there’s the premodern sensibility to throw you for a loop), but most importantly because Jorah touched her without her consent and […]

  42. […] characters’ thinking. An excellent example of this is the way that sympathetic characters like Tyrion or Jon view democracy as backwards and barbaric and see their own feudal order as modern and […]

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