Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion IX


“Tyrion…hurled his empty cup to the floor where it shattered into a thousand pieces. “There’s your peace, Ser Harys…you’ll have an easier time drinking wine from that cup than you will convincing Robb Stark to make peace now.”

Synopsis: Tywin’s army reaches the Inn at the Crossroads after a long forced-march, only to find that Robb Stark has smashed Jaime‘s army and relieved the siege of Riverrun. After a dispirited war council, Tywin decides to march for Harrenhal and burn the southern Riverlands. For his display of political and military sense during the council, Tyrion is made acting Hand of the King and sent to secure the Lannister position at King’s Landing.

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:

Tyrion IX is a somewhat understated chapter, especially in comparison to the political drama of Catelyn XI or the metaphysical drama of Daenerys X. However, it’s actually packed with a lot of information about the military and political side of Five Kings. So strap in, this is going to be a long one.

War of Five Kings – Aftermath of the Battle of the Green Fork

The chapter opens in media res, but does quite a bit of back-tracking (both in terms of Tyrion’s memory, other people describing past events, etc.) The Lannisters have succeeded in force-marching down the Kingsroad and reaching their old position at the crossroads, without being harried by Roose Bolton, “the remnants of his host” being “north of us” in the area of the “Twins and Moat Cailin,” one more consequence of his decision to throw the battle of the Green Fork.

At the same time, even not being harassed by Northmen, the Lannisters took losses: “his father had set a grueling pace, and it had taken its toll. Men wounded in the battle kept up as best they could or were abandoned to fend for themselves. Every morning they left a few more by the roadside, men who went to sleep never to wake. Every afternoon a few more collapsed along the way. And every evening a few more deserted.” However, these casualties don’t seem to show up later in the narrative where Tywin’s army comes up – although I’ll keep an eye out for this in ACOK and ASOS to see if my memory has diverged from the text.

And yet, these casualties are unlikely to be minor; Tywin’s army force-marched over three hundred miles immediately after a battle, and historically force-marches can be killer. For example, during the Mexican-American War, Santa Anna engaged in two epic 240-mile force-marches (the first to attack General Taylor’s force at Buena Vista, and the second retreating from said battle) and lost 25% of his force each time. Given Santa Anna’s poor logistics and the added physical difficulty of marching through the desert, that’s probably a high proportion (Tywin wasn’t dealing with extreme hot or cold, had adequate supplies, etc.), but it’s not unlikely that 1-2,000 men (or 5-10%) were either left behind, went AWOL, or died of their wounds from the battle while on the march (at a rate of about 50-100 a day). Add onto that the fact that, even with Roose Bolton’s best efforts to throw the Battle of the Green Fork, the Lannisters took 500 casualties in the vanguard alone, it seems unlikely that Tywin Lannister’s army remained at 20,000 men. In fact, I think it’s more likely to say that Tywin’s down to about 17,000 men when he holes up in Harrenhal.

The reason for this counting exercise is that I think this might explain why Tyrion wasn’t able to call on the military forces of the Crownlands and had to rely on the Goldcloaks instead. After all, the Crownlands are a relatively small Kingdom that fields around 10,000 men, and the island Houses were backing Stannis – so perhaps 5,000 men were available period, and then you have to account for the fact that the Crownlands Houses fought for the Targaryens in Robert’s Rebellion. If I had to explain both their non-appearance and the fact that Tywin’s army bounced back from these losses, I’d say that what probably happened is that Tywin grabbed about 3,000 men to recoup his losses at the cost of King’s Landing’s defenses.

Interestingly, this cost was paid in order to reach Riverrun itself and the Lannister army there (“it had all been for nothing. The rush south, the endless forced marches, the bodies left beside the road…Robb Stark had reached Riverrun.”) – rather than either to rescue Jaime himself or to get to safety – which makes a kind of cold-blooded sense, given that Tywin’s army isn’t immediately being threatened, and that linking up with the 12,000 Lannistermen at Riverrun could potentially have allowed Tywin to overwhelm Robb Stark’s smaller force and regain the upper hand in the War of Five Kings.

The War of Five Kings – the Battle of the Camps

What made this sacrifice pointless is Robb Stark using his superior mobility to cover the 300 miles between the Twins and Riverrun far faster than Tywin could cover roughly the same distance from the battlefield of the Green Fork to the crossroads (let alone the 250 miles from the crossroads to Riverrun). Clearly, Tywin must have been hoping that Jaime’s army could hold out just long enough for him to arrive and catch Robb between the two forces, as he did more successfully with the Battle of the Blackwater. In any case, he had an overriding need to get to the crossroads quickly, lest Robb Stark steal a march on him and take the southern side of the crossing, trapping Tywin’s army between him and Roose Bolton.

Superior mobility and the use of surprise is clearly a key element of Robb Stark’s style as a commander – but the Battle of the Camps involved more than just that.

A large part of the strategy revolved around the unique geography of Riverrun: “the castle is situated at the end of the point of land where the Tumblestone flows into the Red Fork of the Trident. The rivers form two sides of the triangle, and when danger threatens, the Tullys open their sluice gates upstream to create a wide moat on the third side…to cut off all the approaches, a besieger must needs place one camp north of the Tumblestone, one south of the Red Fork, and a third between the rivers, west of the moat.” As I’ve discussed earlier, this feature of the Tully defenses allowed Robb Stark to achieve local superiority of numbers and more cohesive command-and-control against a larger force;  each camp is only 4,000 men and can’t easily reinforce the others or coordinate between them. Given his upbringing in Riverrun, the Blackfish was likely the originator of this part of the strategy (in addition to his “vanishing” of the Lannister outriders), as his successful screening operation at the Whispering Woods had impressed Robb to the point of giving him an independent command (a promotion from commanding outriders).

Credit to AWOIAF

Other elements of the battle, however, resemble Robb’s strategy from the Whispering Woods: for example, Robb could have kept his entire 11,000-strong force together and attacked each camp separately, using his numbers to overrun each unit in detail. However, as with his overall Riverlands campaign and in the Whispering Woods, Robb Stark has a preference for dividing his army to achieve a strategic effect – in this case, preventing the camps from reinforcing one another and maximizing casualties by ensuring that 2/3 of the Lannister army can’t retreat in good order. In this case, Robb likely split his army into one chunk of 5,000 and another chunk of 6,000, still maintaining numerical superiority on both sides. The result is that the Lannisters suffer 8,000 casualties – for 11,000 between his two battles.

In addition, Robb Stark seems to have a preference for staggered attacks – both here and at the Whispering Woods, Robb Stark frequently has one division of his army attack before the other, in order to direct his enemy’s attention and fix their formations in place, so that his second division can land with greater effect. In a sense, we can think of this as Robb Stark generalizing the “refuse” – a cavalry tactic in which a squadron separates into two lines, the first of which collides with the enemy line and disrupts their formation so that the second line can scatter them definitively – from the squadron level to the battlefield level, a sign of his training as a heavy cavalryman.

This is a riskier strategy – as we see on the western camp, Robb’s larger force of Stark, Mallister, and Umber men didn’t quite have the ability to overwhelm the western camp once it had gotten a shield wall together, which was an easier task for the Lannisters there because unlike on the north bank, they could anchor their flanks against both the Tumblestones and the Red Fork. But, as we’ve seen before and since, part of Robb Stark’s style as a commander is to put himself in the thick of the action and thus build a legend for himself among his men and his enemies. And while BryndenBFish correctly notes the advantage of a battlefield commander staying back to retain command-and-control, what I think he fails to mention is that it is also a truism of medieval warfare that personal charisma matters – just as only Edward IV in person could have guaranteed the critical seizure of a crossing of the River Aire or kept the center of his army solid under pressure on Towton field, Robb Stark’s presence inspires his men to improbable feats and demoralizes his enemies in a unique way, creating victories which otherwise wouldn’t exist. After all, how many other generals have a direwolf at their side?

credit to MatteoBocci.

Taken together with the Whispering Woods and the Green Fork, I have argued that Robb Stark’s actions as a whole represent a nearly flawless strategic campaign: in three battles, Robb Stark has moved from a strategic position of being isolated from his main ally to being united with his ally; from facing two armies, one of which can move against him while the other is free to act, to now having two armies operating against Tywin’s one; from being isolated at the Neck to placing himself in the heart of the Riverlands; and in reducing the Lannisters’ forces from 35,000 under arms to around 18,000 in the field (a 31.4% reduction in effective fighting strength), and 4,000 bottled up in the Golden Tooth, with 10,000 raw recruits in the Westerlands who can be called up in time. The Starks and Tullys together now outnumber Tywin Lannister by about 2:1.

Robb Stark now has Jaime Lannister, a numerical and positional advantage over Tywin Lannister, the forces of the Riverlands by his side – and victory under his original war aims under his grasp. Unfortunately thanks to Joffrey Lannister and some other unforeseeable forces, things won’t work out that easily – but for his debut campaign, I think Robb Stark deserves more credit than he gets.

The War of Five Kings: the Lannisters’ Strategic Situation

To understand Tywin Lannister’s thinking in this moment, I cannot recommend BryndenBFish’s analysis highly enough. Here, I intend merely to add on to his work. As the Lannister council of war gathers at the Inn at the Crossroads, the situation cannot be bleaker. As Ser Kevan helpfully sums up for us:

“Jaime has left us in a bad way. Roose Bolton…[is] north of us. Our enemies hold the Twins and Moat Cailin. Robb Stark sits to the west, so we cannot retreat to Lannisport and the Rock unless we choose to give battle. Jaime is taken, and his army for all purposes has ceased to exist. Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion continue to plague our foraging parties. To our east we have the Arryns, Stannis Baratheons sits on Dragonstone, and in the south Highgarden and Storm’s End are calling their banners…Robb Stark will have Edmure Tully and the lords of the Trident with him now. Their combined power may exceed our own. And with Roose Bolton behind us….Tywin, if we remain here, I fear we might be caught between three armies.”

This situation presents Tywin with a number of problems. Geographically, Tywin is surrounded from north, east, west, and potentially to the south and is in genuine danger of being encircled – even if he breaks out of his current location, he’s still in danger of losing the west, facing a battle while outnumbered, or losing King’s Landing. Moreover, the shock of sudden and overwhelming defeat (on top of a grueling series of maneuvers)  after an unbroken series of victories has divided his bannermen between those like Ser Harys Swyft, who argues that “we must sue for peace,” and Ser Addam Marbrand, who recommends “we should march on them at once.”

Neither man is offering good advice, but both men have a kernel of a point. Swyft points to the genuine long-term problems facing the Lannisters in their present position: “the Starks and the Tully sit squarely across our line of supply. We are cut off from the west! They can march on Casterly Rock if they so choose, and what’s to stop them?” Previously, commenters have pointed out that medieval and early modern armies lacked the logistical capacity to maintain supply lines for any great distance, let alone the 890 miles between Lannisport and the Inn at the Crossroads. Supply lines require quite a bit of organization – on the dispatch side, you need someone to requisition, warehouse, and send out the right amount and composition of supplies, you need to organize convoys with military escorts, food for the teamsters, guards, and animals, spare draft animals and axles and wheels, you need someone really good at organization on the receiving end to make sure goods are properly stored and distributed and that good records are kept so that you know what you need and where and when you need it. Now, part of this is GRRM’s numbers problem kicking in again – Westeros is just too big for a medieval setting.

However, at a certain point you have to let this kind of caviling aside and accept that, in this world that George R.R Martin has created, supply lines as a major concern for the Lannister army. After all, given that they’ve been burning a large swathe of it and intend to accelerate that program, there’s a limit to how long 18,000 men can feed themselves off the southern half of the Riverlands, and there’s not much help they can get from the Crownlands which have to help feed a capitol city of 500,000 people. If the War of Five Kings had more resembled the siege-intensive warfare of the early Middle Ages rather than the battle-intensive late Middle Ages Wars of the Roses, it’s quite possible that Tywin Lannister could have been penned in to Harrenhal until he starved to death.

However, the flip side of this is political (and here I think I have something to add) – Tywin’s army at the Crossroads is not a modern professional military, they are a feudal army that serves a liege lord for a certain space of time, and does so through a bilateral system of exchange of political influence ultimately depending on the ability of the lord to protect his vassals. As Robb Stark will learn to his sorrow in ASOS, “how can I call myself ‘King’ if I can’t hold my own castle?” As I’ve argued elsewhere, the same applies to Tywin. If their holdfasts are threatened and Tywin can’t protect them, then the lesser Houses of the Westerlands have no reason to stick around; if Tywin can’t protect himself, then the political regime he built on the fear generated by the “Rains of Castamere” will collapse, and his army will dissolve.

On the other hand, Addam Marbrand has a point – two battles aren’t a war and the Lannisters have strategic resources they can count on – even if his initial advice to rush headlong at Robb Stark’s larger army with Roose Bolton in a position to cut off the Lannisters from behind is deeply stupid. As even Ser Swyft notes, the Lannisters have reserves: “Surely our friends at court could be prevailed upon to join us with fresh troops…and someone might return to Casterly Rock to raise a new host.” While it’s a bit odd that Ser Forley Prester marched west to the Golden Tooth (which must have involved crossing the Red Fork) as opposed to east to Harrenhal (which wouldn’t), the reality is that the Lannisters can usually hold the mountain passes and can raise another 10,000 men, which balances the numerical odds and puts the Starks in a nasty position with Lannister armies to both their west and eastern flanks.

Credit to FFG

War of Five Kings – the Political Situation

The political situation isn’t much better than the military one – at a fundamental level, the Lannisters in the field and the Lannisters in King’s Landing are not working as a cohesive unit. Joffrey “broke [peace] when he decided to ornament the Red Keep with Lord Eddard’s head,” which means they can’t “forge a peace with Winterfell and Riverrun, a peace that would have given us the time we need to deal with Robert’s brothers.” (It’s interesting to note that Tywin was willing to deal on the terms that Robb Stark hoped to achieve by capturing Jaime, which was far more than even Cersei was contemplating) At the same time, the Lannisters face an existential threat from the south: “Renly Baratheon wed Margaery Tyrell at Highgarden…and now he has claimed the crown.”  What’s interesting is that while Tywin clearly sees this as dangerous, he doesn’t react to it as such – he doesn’t march for King’s Landing, and insists that “we must finish our business with young Lord Stark before Renly Baratheon can march from Highgarden,” suggesting that Tywin isn’t shifting his thinking as much as he ought to.

Interestingly, Stannis plays an ambivalent role in Tywin’s political calculations. On the one hand, Tywin states that “I have felt from the beginning that Stannis was a greater danger than all the others combined.” On the other, he notes that “yet he does nothing. Oh, Varys hears his whispers…what does it mean, is any of it true?” In the end, Stannis is essentially shrugged off. In hindsight, this suggests that Stannis might have missed his window of opportunity – had he declared himself as King two weeks before now and sailed immediately, he’d have had a 2.5 to 1 advantage, hit King’s Landing before siege preparations were completed, and undercut his brother politically. Then again, Tywin’s dismissal turns out to be incorrect later when Stannis picks up 20,000 men at Storm’s End.

 Meanwhile, neither Cersei nor Joffrey are thinking straight down in King’s Landing, and threaten to collapse their northern front in order to shore up their southern. Tywin’s political diagnosis is scathing: “I blame those jackanapes on the small council – our friend Petyr, the venerable Grand Maester, and that cockless wonder Lord Varys. What sort of counsel are they giving Joffrey…whose notion was it to make this Janos Slynt a lord?…dismissing Selmy, where was the sense in that?”

So overall, it’s a mixed picture – Tywin accurately pinpoints their political problems in King’s Landing, but seems to have fallen into a bit of  a sunk cost fallacy when it comes to his Stark-first strategy.

War of Five Kings – Tywin’s New Plan

Tywin reacts to his setback in a decisive fashion – “I have no intention of remaining here…on the morrow we make for Harrenhal…I want Ser Addam’s outriders to screen our movements…unleash Ser Gregor and send him before us with his reavers….each is to have three hundred horse. Tell them I want to see the Riverlands afire from the Gods Eye to the Red Fork.” It’s a defensive move, but it’s quite clever – Tywin can hold Harrenhal until the Westerlands raise a fresh army, and as BryndenBFish notes, chevauchées in the Riverlands and separate Lannister armies worked quite well for him in the past, and make sense now. Burning the southern Riverlands unleashes the same political threat against Robb Stark that a march on the West poses to himself – Houses Darry, Blackwood, Bracken, Smallwood, Lychester, and the other lords of the hills cannot afford to let their holdfasts burn. 10,000 men in the Westerlands can link up with 4,000 men at the Golden Tooth and House Lannister is back to fighting weight.

It doesn’t quite work out, but it’s a decent plan. However, and I want to point this out to some people who’ve fallen for Tywin’s self-serving justifications for the Red Wedding, it’s also a military strategy predicated on premeditated war crimes. Tywin sits in council listening to Ser Gregor Clegane’s talk about motivating outriders by cutting out people’s eyes in an escalating cumulative fashion (someone went to the Duke of Cornwall school of human resources management), and decides he’s going to give this psychopath 300 men and a mandate to murder civilians and destroy everything in his path – and just to add put a fine point on it, he throws in the maimer on  Hoat and professional baby-stabber Ser Amory Lorch and give them 300 men each.

And then he gives Tyrion a mandate to rule in King’s Landing – more on that in A Clash of Kings!

Historical Analysis:

As we’ve seen before, one of the reasons why the Wars of the Roses lasted for more than thirty years is that very rarely did anyone ever get completely defeated. More likely, the nobles would scatter, flee the country, regroup with a new army, and try again – which is probably why people shifted from taking prisoners and asking for ransoms to killing nobles on sight, because allowing that chivalrous tradition to continue meant war without end.

After Edward IV’s crushing victory at Towton, Margaret D’Anjou didn’t give in for a minute. Rather, she packed herself and the royal family and 6,000 Lancastrian soldiers up to Scotland, which meant that Edward IV had to contend with a crowned King in exile complete with a male heir to the throne, and a queen who had built an alliance with James the III, King of Scotland – even if that meant ceding English territory in the North and Prince Edward’s hand in marriage to James’ sister Mary Stewart. In June 1461, the same month that Edward IV’s formal coronation in London, Margaret invaded England and laid siege to Carlisle, but was driven back by the Yorkist lord Montague (Warwick’s brother); having failed there, she pressed on south for Durham, where Warwick, now the Warden of the East and West Marches, stopped them from crossing the River Tyne and held the North for York. In 1464, the North rose again for Lancaster under the Duke of Somerset, who was then defeated by Montague at Hedgeley Moor and Hexham. A year later, Henry VI was recaptured by Warwick and Edward IV reached a treaty with James of Scotland that forced Margaret to flee for France.

However, by 1468, when the last Lancastrian holdout in Wales had finally been defeated, Warwick had broken with Edward IV and the whole damn thing would start over again.

What If?

There really isn’t a hypothetical I can see here – there’s no way Tywin’s army marches faster than Robb can ride, and I really can’t see Tywin blundering west or south.

Check back next chapter!

Book vs. Show:

The show did this scene rather well, although my same complaints about the collapse of any kind of geographic sense in Season 2 holds for the Lannisters as much as it does for the Starks. While Season 1 leaves us with a clear scenario – Tywin’s marching to Harrenhal, the Mountain is burning stuff, there’s no explanation of the army gathering in the Westerlands that would give Robb’s victory in Season 2, Episode 4 some geographic and strategic meaning.

Another big change from the book to the show is how Tyrion reacts when Tywin makes him acting Hand of the King and tells him he was chosen because “you are my son.” In the show, this is a moment of profound importance for Tyrion, where he’s finally been given some respect by his father and he’s notably moved by it. In the book, Tyrion is instantly outraged, believing that Tywin has given up on Jaime and turned to Tyrion only when he had no options left.

I think both versions work.

124 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Tyrion IX

  1. bryndenbfish says:

    Someday, we’re going to have to do a battle-by-battle podcast on the War of the Five Kings. Very impressive all around. Bravo!

    One thing I wanted to put out in my defense of commanding from the rear is that it’s a mixed-historical record. Yes, you have your Alexanders who ride with their Companion Cavalry into the thick of Persian Lines at Issus and personally lead men over the walls at the Siege of Tyre. But you have other historical examples of great Generals who led from the rear – Julius Caesar (though he did command from the front at Munda). And I do see that medieval commanders fought in the front generally but again not completely — the Byzantines for instance were renowned for keeping the Emperor/General in the rear of battles.

    However, I’ve come to a somewhat different conclusion than I originally held about commanders in ASOIAF commanding from the front. While Tywin and Stannis generally commanded from the rear, there were instances where at least Stannis led from the front — especially at the Battle of the Wall.

    “And through the smoke another wedge of armored riders came, on barded horses. Floating above them were the largest banners yet, royal standards as big as sheets; a yellow one with long pointed tongues that showed a flaming heart, and another like a sheet of beaten gold, with a black stag prancing and rippling in the wind.” (ASOS, Jon X)

    An alert commenter on reddit hypothesized that this was Stannis himself riding into battle against the Wildlings, and I’m inclined to agree. No one, but the king himself, could ride under the royal banner (at least I think), and I think that Stannis made the final charge that broke the Wildling line at Castle Black.

    So, basically, I’ve not come a full 180 on my previous position (Good Strategic Commanders command from the rear.) Rather, good strategic commanders will do what is necessary to win, whether it’s commanding from the rear (like Tywin did at the Green Fork and Blackwater) or leading from the front (as Robb Stark did).

    So we’ll call it a 90 degree shift. Good stuff all around.

    • That would be fun.

      And I would agree with your new position – ultimately, flexibility is the most important thing. A commander should be wherever he needs to be to win.

    • I can see the advantages of leading from the front to some extent, as has been mentioned in this space, but that’s something from the blackwater episode that made me frown a bit. If the King is in the front, and he’s highly visible, wouldn’t and shouldn’t the enemy focus heavily on killing him? I’m thinking of Stannis obviously from the blackwater episode; maybe it wouldn’t have been that easy to make out the commander, but it would seem to need to be in order for it to inspire the troops that way. In which case the other side would want to focus fire on him, and killing him would then be a crushing defeat, despite the morale boost the commander in the front had provided.

      I’m sure he’d have some elite guards around him, but enough focus fire would be enough to overcome that you’d think. Just a thought.

      • It happens sometimes – hence Daemon the I, but it’s harder to do than people think, especially if a commander takes precautions like having archers screen the advance and push back opposing archers.

      • Roger says:

        Of course, there are risks. Alexander was almost killed in India. And in the series make many erros. Like having the characters fighting without helm.

    • Roger says:

      Stannis also fought at Blackwater. He states to Davos that “Lightbringer works as any other sword”.

      Marshal Ney liked to fought with his men (he was the brave among the braves), but usualy that deprived him a general vision of the battle.

  2. Sean C. says:

    I don’t think it’s that odd that Prester took his men back west. That’s good strategic sense (Jaime later thinks of him as an able man to be Hand of the King, so I’d say that’s demonstrated here) — with Jaime’s army destroyed, properly garrisoning the Golden Tooth to prevent an invasion of the Westerlands is the best thing he could do with his men, and the Stark-Tullys don’t seem to have been pursuing him, so crossing the river was probably not that hard.

    • Sean C. says:

      Also, when making his decision about where to go, Prester would have no idea whether Tywin is still even in the field, after everything went belly up at Riverrun when their situation seemed invincible — for all he knows he could march halfway to Harrenhal only to find that Roose Bolton and the Arryns have encircled and destroyed Tywin’s host at the crossroads.

    • I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense – it’s just somewhat risky in that it requires Prester to march a long distance, in a direction where the enemy is rather than Tywin is, and to cross a river which puts him in danger.

  3. JT says:

    Hi Steven,

    Could you share some information on the makeup of these armies (or medieval armies in general) vis a vis professionals v. peasants?

    Are these armies full of professional soldiers (i.e. people whose jobs involve more or less non-stop martial training and who basically are paid to fight), or are only the knights and the mercenaries (I assume that ‘Freerider’ is a soldier of some kind who’s not sworn to any lord) professionals, and the infantry is largely conscripted peasants? When somebody “raises” an army, are they more or less calling up the professionals? Or just giving sharp objects to men ages 15-50?

    This always confused me. The book seems to mention both – I think both Theon in ADWD and the Septon in AFFC mention groups of peasants with pointed sticks and scythes, but Ramsay Snow also mentions that he’s commanding his father’s garrison while Roose is south fighting (suggesting professionals). The show seems to point more towards professionals – we always see Lannister men cloaked in red with gold helmets.

    If the armies (at least the infantry) are mostly amateurs, then couldn’t it be possible for the Golden Company – a 10,000 man battle hardened top to bottom trained army of professional soldiers, or the Unsullied to defeat much larger Westerosi forces in battle?

    • Sean C. says:

      Historically it would be a mix of both, though it varies a lot. Tyrion’s description of his father’s army at the Green Fork, for instance, makes it look like it’s composed of only the best of the best. The Lannisters would probably have a higher number of professional soldiers than any other army, because of all their money (Ser Kevan states in AFFC that he has a personal bodyguard of 200 knights paid out of his own pocket, and could easily double it if he wanted), but even then most of their soldiers really should be feudal levies.

    • It’s a bit tricky, you have to piece together evidence here and there. Here’s my best guess:
      – first, you have your core of knights, men-at-arms, and household guard, who have extensive training and equipment. There’s an element of recursion here: House Lannister has its own household knights, men-at-arms, and guards, but so does House Brax, Crakehall, and then the lesser Houses who are one step above landed knighthood. Even the landed knights have a couple armed retainers and/or squires. Incidentally, I think a freerider is a term for a light cavalryman who isn’t a knight. Could be a mercenary, or a regular soldier.
      – next, you have what I would call your “trained bands,” men who’ve received training but who don’t work as soldiers day-to-day; typically in Westeros this seems to involve spearmen and archers. In the south, these would be your better-off farmers who can afford some weapons and drill on the village commons or an urban milita. For example, Lannisport is known for its well-disciplined pikemen – most people don’t own pikes, pike drill requires open space and organization and time, so what you probably have is a subset of the male population who train a month out of the year either because they get picked in a lottery or for seasonal pay or because “girls like a man in uniform,” etc. Up in the north, it’s probably more like the Saxon system of fyrds where one landowning man in five in a farming community would serve for short periods and would be equipped by his community; especially in areas where wildling or Ironborn raids were a historic danger, I think you’d see more widespread ownership of and training in arms among the peasantry. A similar subset would probably be archers – it takes 10-15 years to train a longbowman, and historically it took royal decrees mandating that every male be trained to scrape up a good supply of archers, so these men must have been taking time out on a regular basis to train as archers your whole life.
      – finally, you have your peasant levies who fill up the numbers. They seem to get training if there’s time – Jaime and Edmure both spend time drilling their levies, for example – but otherwise just get thrown into battle willy-nilly.

      As to the proportions, I’m not sure. For example, the Lannisters seem to have 35,000 men who are armed, equipped, and trained, who are either under arms already or ready to be called up. But they also have 10,000 men who don’t have military training who got called up in a second wave who were being trained at Oxcross when Robb attacked. Likewise, Robb’s 18,000 men seem to be those men who have training, arms, and are ready to go in a hurry, but the North clearly has thousands more men available who take longer to call up.

      But yes, while the Golden Company has relatively few men, they are a kind of professional Westeros hasn’t ever seen before. While the knights and guards train and are employed as soldiers, Westeros doesn’t actually fight that many wars. The Golden Company is fighting year-in, year-out, and is much more experienced than Westerosi men of a similar age and status.

      • JT says:

        Maybe I’m wrong here, but then it seems like there was a backwards movement in large scale martial progress between the Roman legions and the Medieval armies that appear in the war of the roses.

        The Roman legions had standardized equipment, size, training and tactics (such as in battle troop rotation), whereas medieval armies seem to be far less organized and tactical (at least on a micro level). Is that the case, or am I way off?

        • Absolutely. The Romans had a national military with professional quartermasters, they had good transportation networks, they had effective taxation systems, etc.

          By contrast, Medieval armies were drawn from a hodge-podge of smaller political units, they really didn’t have fully worked-out systems of supply, the roads were in lousy shape, taxation was really uneven, etc.

      • Andrew says:

        Would you say the Golden Compaany draws some inspiration from the White Company along with a bit of the “Wild Geese,” exiles who supported the Stuart pretenders, the Stuart pretenders are partly the inspiration for the Blackfyres?

      • Ser Arthur Hightower says:

        To add to that: all descriptions of soldiers in westeros that we get highlight that most of them are trained, disciplined, and properly equipped, there are many references to footsoldiers wearing mail, and we see on the Green fork that the hopelessly outmatched northern and Frey infantry hold their own for quite a while.

        The only times we see levied peasants are when they are blatantly new recruits, and some of the Frey infantry marching north (who would not appear to have been part of the 4,000 actual soldiers that they can field). The rest all seem like (semi)professional archers and pikemen.

        I would recomend this thread from the forum

  4. Aaron Boyden says:

    On the availability of supplies, the wacky seasons probably have an effect. They’ve had a very long summer, and it seems that very long winters are possible, so people presumably have been laying in huge amounts of stores for the risk of winter (not sure how they’re preserving them, but never mind). Thus, in the short term, armies should have little difficulty finding food by plundering the various stockpiles of food for the winter. Of course, these are eventually going to disappear, due to the thefts and cases of deliberate destruction to keep them away from enemies (and, as the books mention, this will likely end up being very bad for everyone if the winter does end up being long), but at this point it doesn’t seem like Tywin should even be getting close to the limit of how long he can keep his army fed by stealing local supplies.

    • I don’t think one can presume – people don’t start stockpiling in a serious way until ACOK. Moreover, Gregor et al. aren’t very well-organized, so I think a lot gets burned, left behind because it’s not gold, etc.

      • David Hunt says:

        I got the impression somewhere (I think it was an video interview with GRRM but can’t be certain) that major stockpiling starts when the Citadel sends out the White Ravens signifying Autumn has arrived. At that point they know the Winter Is Coming and put a (larger?) portion of their harvest etc toward the winter stores. It was my impression that the Autumn that was experienced in the books was pretty short, thus leaving the non-packrats majorly screwed.

        As an aside, I realize that the weather is warmer farther South, but does it seem that the changing seasons aren’t really apparent in the Essos storylines? Winter has arrived as of ADWD but it doesn’t seem to mentioned in Dany’s and Tyrion’s chapters. Have I forgotton? Are the dragons having an effect?

        • Certainly, we don’t read about mass harvesting and storing until ACOK, which is about when the White Ravens come out.

          And we don’t know if multi-year seasons are particularly noticeable in Essos – most of the continent is parallel with the Riverlands or below.

      • JT says:

        It seems like the seasons are at least somewhat noticeable in Essos. At the end of her final ADWD chapter, Dany notices that the Dothraki sea is turning yellow and drying up (it’s no longer green and lush like it was when she first was there).

        Then again, Arya is in Braavos, which is the northernmost free city (and looks to be on the same latitude as The Twins – and she never mentions any kind of change in weather.

        Of course Arya aside, most of the POVs in Essos that correspond with a late fall timeframe take place in either Slaver’s Bay or Volantis, both of which appear to be further south than Dorne, so it’s hard to know.

      • David Hunt says:

        Tanks for the responses, folks. I had forgotten the changes in the grasslands, but that could be a sign of Winter. I know that most of the Essos characters are waaay South, but I figured that there would be some sort of variation that was felt when Winter arrived.

        As a sidenote, I’ve often wondered if the end of the books will have the long season be a thing of the past and leave the Ice and Fire world with a regular progression of three month seasons.

      • zonaria says:

        usually, grass goes yellow much quicker in hot, dry conditions than in cold, dry conditions – as evaporation rates are much higher. Of course as this is GRRM-world, there could be any sort of explanation for this.

  5. Magdalena says:

    The braavosi banker in Jon Chapter in ADwD told him about freezing water in his city.

  6. MightyIsobel says:

    “(It’s interesting to note that Tywin was willing to deal on the terms that Robb Stark hoped to achieve by capturing Jaime, which was far more than even Cersei was contemplating)”
    “Meanwhile, neither Cersei nor Joffrey are thinking straight down in King’s Landing, and threaten to collapse their northern front in order to shore up their southern.”

    This disconnect between Tywin’s military aims and Cersei’s political ones is evidence that Tywin doesn’t know about Jaime and Cersei’s sexual relationship. Her reluctance to offer Ned in exchange for peace and her rush to appoint Lannister loyalists like Slynt makes sense considering what she’s hiding. If Tywin knew about it, he wouldn’t be so bewildered by her decisions.

    And it’s interesting, in that light, that Tyrion has already picked up the trail of his siblings’ relationship at this point (see Tyrion I); between that and the Dagger of Dragonbone and Lies, he may already have a better feel for the situation he will find in KL than his father does.

    • Oh, I agree. I don’t think Tywin knows and I think if he ever found out he would deeply repress said knowledge.

      Tyrion, on the other hand, spent more time around Jaime and Cersei than Tywin did, and has had to really rely on being able to read people in a way Tywin never has.

      • Petyr Patter says:

        Kevan had figured the relationship out, and Tyrion said he never had a thought that Tywin had not given him. I suspect Tywin finally realized Stannis was telling the truth in his letter sometime after arriving in King’s Landing. My guess is it finally clicked into place when Jaime refused to leave the King’s Guard to “protect his king.”

      • Winnie says:

        Yeah, Tywin was always in deep denial about the Twins. Even when the truth was right in front of him, he could never admit it to himself. He was als oblivious to the truth about Cersei and Joffrey. He thinks the problem is they’re receiving “bad counsel.” Its not until ASOS that he realizes that the grandson he’s been fighting a war to keep on the throne, is utterly unfit for the position-and incapable of holding it. Had he ever *met* his own grandson before?!? And that Cersei should never be allowed anywhere Court. And he never fully understood that Jaime didn’t *want* to be Lord of Casterly Rock-Jaime has guts but no ambition. I think when Joffrey died his plan was to start over with Tommen, and this time try and do it *right.* After all his legacy can’t survive if his kids screw it all to hell-that’s one thing he forgot to factor into all this.

        And that’s a very, VERY good point about Tywin not reading people as well as Tyrion-or understanding them quite as well either. Tywin seriously underestimated the blowback from the RW, which Tyrion didn’t, because he assumed that it would simply cow everyone. Doesn’t work like that in seven kingdoms where the central command is weak, and it definitely doesn’t work like that when you’re dealing with the North, and talking about violating the deepest taboo in Westeros. With the Reynes and Tarbecks, however, brutal, it was part of a war campaign…the atrocity that was the RW though, was something that seriously overthrew the social order of the Seven Kingdoms and I think he failed to understand that. He also downplayed the significance of the damage done by the Sack-and the slaughter of Elia and her children. As Tyrion, pointed out, it probably would have been better to let Robert bloody his own hands on that one-and be the one on the Martell’s hit list for it.

        • I don’t think Tywin had spent much time with Joffrey. Keep in mind Joffrey is only 11-12; Tywin stayed at Casterly Rock during Robert’s reign so probably only met him at the tourney held at Casterly Rock when Joffrey was 4.

          And yeah, Tywin doesn’t care about what people think. Which is a big weakness, politically.

          • ajay says:

            “And yeah, Tywin doesn’t care about what people think. Which is a big weakness, politically.”

            But, as you said in Tyrion VIII, “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.”

            What I think is that he’s just not very good at predicting what people will think about a planned course of action: he’s lacking in empathy. Which is a different problem.

          • Andrew says:

            I agree with ajay. Tywin does care if people think he is weak. He has always tried to avoid that label. As the sack of KIng’s Landing and the RW demonstrate, he would rather be seen as a monster than weak.

          • Yeah. Ok, revision of previous comment: Tywin doesn’t care if people think he’s a monster, and that’s a political shortcoming.

        • Roger says:

          I think it must be noted that in ADWD most people blame the Freys more than Tywin. Even Lord Wyman seemed to respect Lord Lannister for freeing his son.

          Probably his plan was having the Freys take all the heat for the Red Wedding. And when they would be discredited and sunked, Genna Lannister and/or their sons would take their place as the Riverlands principal house.

      • Winnie says:

        As for the argument that Kevan figured it out, so Tywin should have, I think Kevan was always more canny than people gave him credit for, despite being happy to let Tywin lead the way. Unlike, Tywin, he was in a position to be a lot more objective about the evidence for the Twincest…and remember he had the advantage of hearing Lancel’s confessions about Cersei. Kevan never spoke of the matter to Tywin, out of respect for his brother, but as Steve said in another post, the shock of what happened to his sons, made the scales fall from Kevan’s eye regarding his family, to the detriment of his opinion of Jaime, and to the much greater detriment of his views regarding Cersei. He finally saw her for exactly what she was-which put him ahead of Pycelle, who seemed genuinely shocked by how much Cersei screwed things up in AFFC. Really, old Pycelle has known Cersei for many, many years…what did he expect?!?

      • John says:

        In terms of the effects of the Red Wedding, I think you’re underestimating Tywin. In the first place, Roose Bolton isn’t the long-term plan. The long-term plan is Tyrion and Sansa. Roose Bolton is a useful tool to clear out the Iron Born, after which his unpopularity will mean that the return of the rightful Stark heir will be welcomed, even if she’s married to a Lannister.

        Of course, Tywin doesn’t know about Bran & Rickon’s survival, or that Stannis will go to the North.

        • I think ADWD shows that the reaction to a married rightful Stark heir is to rebel in order to rescue her.

          • Brian says:

            Sure, and I would think the general reaction would be to FedEx Tyrion’s head and possibly other parts to Casterly Rock. Though I think it’s an open question whether they’d accept Sansa’s child as an heir if they don’t know about Bran and Rickon.

            For that matter, if Sansa did give birth, would they execute her since she’s outlived her usefulness? Because the Lannisters do seem to be that stupid, but I could be wrong.

          • David Hunt says:

            Brian, executing Sansa would, indeed, cause massive problems for the Lannisters in the North. If she died from a “fever” after giving birth, that’s another thing.

            However, I don’t think the Lannisters would get rid of her. Afterall, the child might not live to adulthood even if it was a boy. I believe “an heir and a spare” was the desired minimum to insure a proper inheritance. They’d want to keep Sansa as a broodmare.

    • scarlett45 says:

      I agree with this. Tywin isn’t aware of Cersei and Jamie’s relationship -either through willful ignorance or lack of interest in their lives, (I mean I wouldn’t assume two siblings were having a sexual relationship unless I caught them in the act). BUT Tywin has always believed that Cersei isn’t as smart as she thinks she is, her pride and ego would get in the way of good sense as it’s done here.

    • JT says:

      In fairness to Tywin the possibility of an incestious relationship between their children isn’t something any parent would really consider unless it’s really thrust in their faces, and even then I suspect most parents would probably deny it until they are absolutely forced to confront it. So Tywin probably isn’t particularly unique in this regard.

      Also, Cersei isn’t nearly as clever as she thinks herself to be.

      I do think Tywin and Cersei’s relationship is quite interesting. When Tyrion shows up in KL, Cersei mentions that she’s ordered (ordered!) Tywin back to the capital. She also barely agrees to let Tyrion be hand (she does let him, but with the proviso that she’s in charge), despite Tywin’s orders that Tyrion should rule until Tywin arrives.

      Yet when Tywin arrives, she’s completely cowed by him and more or less reverts to being a bratty teenager, despite the fact that she’s the Queen. When Tywin decides he’s going to marry Cersei off, all she can do is stomp her feet and throw a temper tantrum.

      • Winnie says:

        It’s one thing for Cersei to disobey Daddy, from afar, (or to get highhanded in communications, giving him ‘orders.’)

        Its another thing altogether to try to rebel against him *in person.* When daddy’s in town, Daddy’s in charge. Period. If Cersei tried to order the gold cloaks to seize Tywin-or even keep him out of a room he wanted to be in, they’d refuse to do it, and even Cersei knows that. It’s also her internalized misogyny, in play. With the exception of Tyrion, it simply doesn’t occur to her that she *can* override her male relatives directly by way of authority. She tries to get around it by lies, manipulation, and use of her “second purse” by seducing men.

        Cersei, has no affection for her her father, but is in awe of him, thinking him to be the Greatest, Most Powerful Man in the Land, and a political Genius. (Which he arguably is.) But Cersei being Cersei, she deludes herself into thinking she’s her father’s equal-which she’s not. Not even close.

  7. Jim B says:

    “35,000 under arms to around 18,000 in the field (a 31.4% reduction in effective fighting strength),”

    I don’t follow your calculations — I assume I’m missing some term of art regarding “effective fighting strength”?

    Which makes this as good a time as any to ask something I’ve been meaning to: can you recommend a good introductory source to medieval warfare and tactics? You know, for those of us commenters who lack a PhD in medieval history and weren’t “valedictorian in my class at the most prestigious university in my country.”

    • 31.4% refers to the 11,000 Lannisters Robb Stark’s half of the army kills in the two battles. Effective fighting strength is just me distinguishing between the men currently under arms and the reinforcements who are going to be raised later.

      A good introductory source – tricky. My own knowledge is a bit of a hodgepodge from taking courses on ancient Greek and Roman history, medieval history, Civil War history, watching a lot of the History Channel when I was a kid, and reading a LOT of historical fiction.

      Here’s some suggestions for getting started: Routledge does a good “Companion to Medieval Warfare,” Oxford has a multi-volume Encyclopedia of “Medieval Warfare and Military Technology,” and Maurice Keen has a good edited volume “Medieval Warfare: a History”.

  8. Jeff says:

    That Duke of Cornwall bit, could you remind me what you are referencing?

  9. axrendale says:

    Great summary of all the WotFK info in the chapter, Steven.

    I would argue that Tywin’s Stark-first strategy constitutes a sound judgement call on his part, at least insofar as the Lannisters at this point don’t really have any obviously good options militarily, and are left to make the best of a seriously bad situation.

    Tywin simply cannot afford to leave the “business” with Robb Stark unfinished – to do so would be to invite the Starks/Tullys to simply follow him south and fulfill the nightmare of being trapped by mutliple enemies at once, or to concentrate all their might against the Westerlands at leisure.

    Accordingly, he gambles. It’s true that there’s a danger that either of the Baratheon brothers might stage a lightning strike on the capital, but as long as that danger fails to materialize, then he still has a window of opportunity to concentrate the remaining strength of the West and defeat Robb, after which his enemies will have been reduced from three to two, and he can move south to look for some (presumably skullduggerous) method of dealing with the others.

    Which brings us to the current plan. Morally bankrupt or no, it’s worth noting that Tywin has upped his game in the soundness of his military strategy – whereas before he was simply reacting to Robb’s feints (by haring off up the Green Fork) he’s now actively trying to control his opponent’s options; forcing Robb to choose between coming after him at Harrenhal (where tactical conditions will favor the Lannisters in a battle), going west to besiege the Golden Tooth (tying him down for a long time and leaving Tywin free to move on his rear), or staying at Riverrun and letting his strength wither. It doesn’t work because Robb manages to find a fourth option (bypassing the Golden Tooth instead of besieging it).

    Which brings us to a point from ACOK. When Tywin leaves Harrenhal to go back West, my reading is that he’s recieved news of Renly’s death, and thinks that Stannis is besieging Storm’s End. He’s gambling again – hoping that the siege will take long enough for him to pursue Robb and bring him to battle before returning the capital to defend it. It isn’t until he’s reached by the Tyrell messengers that he learns that the siege never took place, and Stannis is already moving on the city.

    On the plus side, the decision to send Tyrion in his stead is almost certainly the best call Tywin made in the course of the series (at least outside of chumming it up with Roose Bolton).

  10. Roger says:

    In the Aragon Crown, the Count-king could call his bannermen for 40 days long. But if the kingdom was in danger, he could use a law (Princeps namque usatge) and call them for as long as needed. Probably in Westeros there is a similar law, so Tywin can have is army for the duration of war.
    It’s true Tywin doesn’t seem to react to Renly menace. But he has few options. He can’t leave the Westerlands undefended, as you pointed. Perhaps he hopes the Baratheon’s brothers will fight among themselves (which they did).
    For Stannis conquering King’s Landing with only 5.000 men is something both tempting and dangerous. He could conquer the city, but without enough men to conquer the Crownlands (I think) , he couldn’t feed it. Having the Iron Throne isn’t enought to win the war, as the Dance of Dragons showed.

    • I have often wondered actually whether Stannis taking KL would have ended the war or not, if he had taken Joffrey, Cersei etc and executed them, what would the Lannister faction be fighting for. Does the throne itself give legitimacy or does it also require an absence of rivals.

      • Roger says:

        Even executing Joffrey, there are still Tommen and Myrcella to fight for. Also some people could call him kinslayer.

      • Winnie says:

        There would still be TOmmen and Myrcella…of course, Tommen not being in KL would hurt him, and it’s doubtful the Dornish would give up Myrcella. It’s one thing to fight for an established crowned King-a boy King claimant away from the throne would be another thing entirely. That’s why Tyrion realizes they can’t just take Joffrey and flee from KL…without the Red Keep no one will recognize their legitimacy. Cersei probably doesn’t understand that though…which could be very, VERY bad news for KL…

      • I don’t think it would end the war, necessarily. But it would probably take out the Lannisters as a contender for the Throne. And while the Iron Throne doesn’t necessarily end a war – see the Dance of the Dragons – occupying it does have a huge political impact, which is important for Davos who starts the War of Five Kings with zero Kingdoms following him.

      • beto2702 says:

        If Stannis goes after King’s Landing I get the feeling that Varys might hide Tommen for his own purposes before Stannis arrives.

    • It’s true that there may be a law – but it’s also true that if their homes are being sacked and Tywin doesn’t do anything, they’re going to desert.

      Feeding King’s Landing wouldn’t be the issue – he’s got the fleet to supply King’s Landing from the sea, after all. The larger issue would be defending it. And with 5,000 soldiers and the ability to recruit at least 2,000 Gold Cloaks, he’d be in just as good a position to hold out as Tyrion was – with the 64,000 golden dragon question being what effect holding the Iron Throne has on his political standing.

      • Roger says:

        Having only 5.000 men, it’s difficult to take King’s Landing by assault. It has strong walls and the Red Fortress. Also Stannis can have a fleet, but not enough supplies to feed the city. Dragonstone is a bald island, and he hasn’t gold enough to buy food. Remember the Tyrells generated a famine by closing the Rose’s Road.
        Of course he could manage a deal with the Iron Bank, or similar.

        • Difficult but not impossible – if Stannis was to attack right now, he’d do so before a boom chain could block him from the harbor, while he still outnumbered the Gold Cloaks by two to one, before wildfire had been produced for him, etc.

          And I think the Iron Bank would be ready to deal.

          • Joseph says:

            I think if Stannis pulled a Robert and just went for it shortly after Selmy’s departure, he wins easily. There are still some competant and presumably battle experienced knights available to command in Kings Landing, but with Circe and Jeoffrey in overall command, you can count on a disorganized defense.

            I think the bigger questions are what happens next. Littlefinger and Varys are both smart enough to get one or more of the heirs out of the city, but do they? And if Stannis captures all three, does he burn/execute them or try to negotiate?

            I think if Stannis takes KL, Robb bends the knee and Balon stays home, so then it’s really a question of whether the Martells are willing to rise in open rebellion, and I doubt it.

    • Petyr Patter says:

      While Tywin ddin’t actively engage Renly’s host, he is passively defending against it. Harrenhall wasn’t just chosen for its size and defensibility, but its central location. Tywin believed he could reinforce King’s Landing from Harrenhall should Renly move to take the city. In the interim, he wanted to goad Robb into attacking him at Harrenhall, or at least buy time for the new host to be formed at Oxcross which would give Tywin the tools to beat Robb outright.

      And indeed, we eventually do see Tywin rapidly move to reinforce King’s Landing from a Baratheon army attacking from the South.

  11. Roger says:

    It must be noted Robb sacks the Westerland during his next campaign. Stealing all cattle and burning the fields. His men are living from the land. We don’t hear any reports of brutality, but winter is coming. His commander Roose Bolton plunders the Riverlands from Harrenhal, deserving the wrath of the Brotherhood without Banners.
    Of course, Hoat and Clegane and both monsters, but both sides do bad things.

  12. somethinglikealawyer says:

    Enjoy this chapter, and your commentary.

    I’m glad you made mention of Robb riding into battle personally. I made mention of this in my Jon Arryn column a week back regarding Robert’s front-line presence in the Battle of Gulltown, that the presence of the king in the trenches galvanizes the levies, and is an important symbol for morale. After all, Westeros is clearly a martial culture: “He fights the way a king should fight.” (ADWD, Davos I) This was said about Robert Baratheon, but the same quote could be said about Robb Stark, Especially since he “puts himself where the fighting is thickest,” to show his troops that he is willing to do what he asks them to do, a powerful symbol and statement that enhances the unit cohesion and overall morale.

    I second (third?) the notion that the commander must do what it takes to win, and be flexible enough to seize victory however he has to do so.

    I have a thought which builds off of your previously-built notion of Northern “personal politics,” which mandates Robb’s presence in the thicket of battle (and presumably Ned’s presence as well). Politics in the North are personal, and part of personal politics is personal presence.

    This might also explain Rickard Stark’s involvement in Southron Ambitions. He is able to conspire with them because he’s fought with them, and knows them personally. The Blackfish (and presumably Hoster as well) fought in the War of the Ninepenny Kings. But that might be going wildly overboard.

    Given that Riverrun was under siege, it was likely that Tytos Blackwood wasn’t in communication with the Northern army, so I’d imagine that he just saw the opportunity from the walls and gave the order to sally forth, It fit so well with, as you mentioned, Robb Stark’s notion of staggering his attacks, the classic “make them look left and strike right” tactic that served historical commanders for centuries.

    One of the things I like when you make mention of Stannis’s missed opportunity, of the very rapid reversals of fortunes, and so on, is that the War of the Five Kings is almost always very close to victory for all sides, and the limited perspective narrative emphasizes that. Stannis declaring and marching on the capital two weeks ago might have thrown a wrench into Tywin’s plans, since losing the Throne is a huge symbolic loss for the Lannisters, especially if the king, his siblings, and all of the Small Council end up decorating the Red Keep much the same as poor old Ned.

    The only thing I might argue is that Tywin needs to continue on the Stark front, because the Starks and the Northmen possess the most credible threat. They have Jaime, they are closer to Casterly Rock. He can’t cut and run south because that continues to leave Casterly Rock open. Unless Tywin pulls all the way back to King’s Landing, I’m not sure where else he could base his army that couldn’t just be overrun by Renly’s massive host when it bestirs itself.

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it.

      Yeah, Tywin is in a very tough spot. I also think he’s a big tunnel-visioned at this point – and really remains so up until the messenger from LF arrives.

      • somethinglikealawyer says:

        True enough. Tywin’s pride probably factors largely into his tunnel vision. How could the cunning Tywin, the Shield of Lannisport, fall to a ploy delivered by a ‘green boy’ almost a quarter his age?

        Someone (I think it was you) said that Tywin’s reputation pretty much requires that he deliver retribution, even above and beyond the normal lordly retaliation to protect possessions and status, and so part of the sunk-cost comes in that Tywin simply can’t leave Robb Stark in the field with Jaime Lannister, an amazing tactical victory, and able to knock on the door of Casterly Rock without delivering retaliation of some sort.

        Again, I might just be going overboard.

  13. JT says:

    What exactly happens to a “defeated” army? Do the Westerland men scatter and regroup? Scatter and head for home (or rejoin another Lannister force)? Or are the armies more or less annihilated so that only a few men are left living?

    If the armies are annihilated, then by the end of ADWD, the Lannisters really are in trouble – most of the men Jaime initially took are gone, Tywin surely sustained heavy losses between all of campaigns against Robb/Stannis and Stafford Lannister’s host is broken. Had Kevan not been killed, would he even have the ability to raise another 15 – 25k host to fight the Golden Company or the Dornish if they needed to?

    • Sean C. says:

      GRRM has said in interviews that, as with history, when an army is defeated, some are killed, some retreat, some desert and go home, some become vagabonds, etc. Some defeats are bloodier than others.

    • Usually they are either captured, become bandits, or run like hell for home. At the Whispering Woods, I don’t think anyone got away – Robb managed a total encirclement and killed or captured everyone, because he needed to maintain the element of surprise. At the Camps, I think the two camps attacked did get killed or captured for the vast most part because they had their backs to rivers, which usually makes either retreat or desertion difficult if not impossible.

      Part of the reason why I’m keeping track of the numbers is precisely that issue. We know 4,000 men survived the Camps and those got joined up to Daven’s survivors from Oxcross. If I had to guess, I’d say the Lannisters have 5,000 men at Riverrun and somewhere between 15-20,000 in King’s Landing. Part of the reason Kevan gave so much to the Tyrells is he desperately needed their 60,000 men in the King’s Landing area.

      • Andrew says:

        How many Tyrell men were in KL by Kevan’s Prologue when factoring in the combined forces brought by Mace and Randyll Tarly?

        On another note, we are told Blackwood was selected to lead the sortie to take the Lannister forces in the rear in front of the gate.

  14. Abbey Battle says:

    I would like to start by one again complimenting you, Maester Steven, for a job well-done!

    I would also like to throw my penny’s worth into that hat sitting in the centre of the ring; quite frankly I think Stannis Baratheon was very wise to hold off on taking King’s Landing until he had;

    (A) dealt with ‘King’ Renly in some fashion, since the fastest way for Lord Stannis to secure a Field Army, his Claim to the Throne and his southern flank is to either secure the obedience of his younger brother or ensure that the Stormlords are released from their vows of fealty to the aforesaid.

    (B) acquired an army capable of HOLDING King’s Landing – remember there are at least two much larger forces within pincer-range of that city, with the additional complication that the executions likely to follow Stannis’ Conquest might very well throw Tywin Lannister into Lord Renly’s camp since we know Lord Tywin is not above the unexpected, after all.

    Remember that HOLDING King’s Landing is more important that taking it, even when you hold it only in the name of another Lord; look at the Princess Rhaenyra who took the city, failed to hold it and lost far more in the course of that failure than she would have had she continued to bide her time on Dragonstone.

    Stannis Baratheon seems to be something of a student of history and I suspect that he’s far from blind to the parallels between The Black Queen and Himself; both Masters of Dragonstone, both having seen the gates of what should be their Capitol locked against them and both facing opposition from The Reach and The Rock.

    I’ll close by saying that I suspect Stannis Baratheon was wiser to break the stalemate by investing Storm’s End – by doing the utterly unexpected he obliges Renly to defend his own, parting him from the bulk of his army (all the while keeping a careful distance from his OTHER nemesis Tywin Lannister); it’s probably the best move he would be willing to make in the circumstances, even if it STILL leaves him in an unenviable position absent some Act of God in his favour.

    Hence The Red Priestess …

    • A – the flip side of that is that Stannis on the Iron Throne has a much better avenue to claim the obedience of his younger brother and gain the loyalty of the Stormlords. If Renly beats him to the Iron Throne, Stannis has nothing; if Stannis can beat him to the Iron Throne, his supporters might prevail on him to take the deal.

      B – true, that’s an issue. But Tyrion held the city with a smaller and less professional force, Stannis is very good at holding out against sieges, and the two armies against him can’t cooperate and would be politically in trouble.

  15. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, point ‘A’ is sound, but I feel your second point is somewhat shaky; while I agree that Stannis Baratheon will hold his ground until The Winds of Winter come should he feel the situation demands it, were he to seize Kings Landing and execute the children whom the world has been led to believe are his own Blood in the aftermath (likely after some proclamation declaring them Bastards Born of Incest to boot) then he has effectively handed Lord Renly a gift-wrapped propaganda opportunity (fit to make Shakespeare quiver at the DRAMA as he reaches for his quill) but he ALSO gives Lord Tywin an EXCELLENT motive to make common cause with Lord Renly (“You can have your revenge, save face and your skin if you cry ‘Long Live King Renly – Death to the Kinslayer Usurper!’ or you can try asking King Stannis for Mercy”).

    Quite frankly seizing Kings Landing two weeks early MIGHT give King Stannis a stronger hand, but it’s equally possible that he might lose his fingers by reaching too early for what he cannot comfortably hold.

    • Yes and no. If Stannis has them executed, it’s a potential propaganda opportunity, but it depends to what extent people believe his story about incest when he’s the man sitting on the Iron Throne. Especially if Stannis can point to all the murdered bastards, people are just as likely to believe in the Evil Queen.

      As for Tywin allying with Renly – tricky considering that Tywin’s King declared Renly a rebel. And it’s kind of hard for Renly to condemn his brother for a kinslayer when deposing Stannis would mean the same for him.

  16. Abbey Battle says:

    Excellent counter-points; I’ll close by saying that while these ARE sticking points I suspect that any politician worth their salt (especially one who has Stannis ‘Mr Personality’ Baratheon as his opponent) could ‘spin’ things very easily – for one thing King Stannis’ claims of his niece and nephew’s bastardy look a lot more opportunistic if he issues them just before murdering them in the process of seizing the capital (I suspect his claims have a lot more credibility as he continues to stick with them even in the face of defeat, also after Joffrey took every opportunity to prove himself a Real Bastard in at least one sense – most of his most obvious displays of inherent instability are in his future at this point in the story after all).

    More to the point if Tywin loses his Royal grandchildren he’s left with a choice between Renly or Stannis and quite possibly between being eaten alive by some Northman or that Dire wolf – given Renly seems pragmatic enough to take his allies where he can get them, even when that means giving up the half of his Kingdom in practice, I find it hard to imagine that a short-term alliance between The King in Highgarden and the Warden of the West is completely off the table (especially if some smooth-tongued rogue conjures up the idea that the misunderstandings between LOYAL Uncle Renly and Nephew Joffrey could only have been bred of youthful terror in the face of EVIL Uncle Stannis – did you know he had an EVIL hump? and the EVIL EYE?!? – therefore resulting in a compete misunderstanding of his GOOD Uncle rallying reinforcements to bring to the aid of King’s Landing – coronation? why there’ll be one in just a few days my dear fellow, assuming you live to see it … ).

    Apologies if I sound argumentative, I’ll finish here!

  17. Petyr Patter says:

    One of the things I really like about this chapter, is it marks the highest moment of Tywin’s esteem for Tyrion. Cersei has made a mess of the political situation in King’s Landing. Jaime was just captured while he led an army. In contrast, Tyrion had just escaped capture (more or less), engaged the services of several hundred fighters (albeit at a high price), and successfully held the line in a designed to fail trap.

    Then in the tent, Tywin quickly and adroitly points out the unreasonableness of the councilors plans. At this point, Tywin is forced kicking and screaming (sort of) to realize his “shameful” son has talent. So, he choses to send him to King’s Landing as his Hand to see if his string of successes can continue.

    Of course, even then, he can’t bring himself to compliment Tyrion, and throws in an admonishment (don’t bring that whore to court).

    The the while Tyrion lies injured, Cersei takes credit for his successes and (truthfully) tells of how Tyrion threatened to rape Tommen should any harm come to Alyaya.

    • Yeah…I’ll get into this a lot more later, but if Tyrion was compos mentis enough at the end of ACOK, he could have positioned himself much better.

    • Andrew says:

      Tywin finds himself short on options, no pun intended. Tyrion is not what one would consider the most physically able for battle, and his abilities would be best served at KL. Tywin needed every soldier and commander at hand where he was to deal with Robb Stark, and reconnect with the Westerlands, and had a dearth of men at hand who were skilled in court affairs.

  18. Abbey Battle says:

    I must admit that one of the most interesting bits of this chapter for me was the off-hand mention of potential ‘King-Fingers’ (apologies, but I couldn’t resist coming up with an alternate name for the Hand of the King’s proxy-hand); some we have already met (Ser Kevan, Ser Addam), others we have yet to actually even SEE in the books (such as the Lord of Silverhill) which produces a wonderful opportunity for speculation – why are these men thought to be so appropriate for the task at hand? (or if your prefer the no-pun version ‘the task set before the Hand’).

  19. Abbey Battle says:

    Indeed, I should have specified that I understood what made THEM such appropriate choices; it is the to-date undeveloped OTHERS mentioned who fired my curiosity! (like all good background characters and those who crop up only in passing).

    If Smilies were an option, I’d use one here – alas, I am hedged in!

  20. Tom Willcox says:

    Maybe this is too much of a ‘what if?’ as it is the means of us hearing about the Battle of the Camps, but what if the messenger never reaches Tywin? What if his horse goes lame or he gets eaten by Nymeria or something?

    • It’s a good what if. If Tywin marches on Riverrun with poor intel, chances are he gets into a nasty battle against a larger and more confident army. If I had to guess, it’s a bigger and nastier version of the Battle of the Fords that probably ends with Tywin pulling back to Harrenhal minus several thousand men, with the question being whether Roose pulls the lead out and can get there first, at which point Tywin has to pull south to King’s Landing in a hurry.

      • Tom Willcox says:

        I suppose a further couple of points which would really cause problems for Tywin would be 1) the continued forced marching to Riverrun would probably bring his force down to 15,500 on its own, 2) if he lost a scaled-up Battle of the Fords then he would be retreating with probably around 10,000 to 11,000 with several thousand angry northmen on horses up his bum making his retreat even more costly. Are those casualty estimates too high?

        • 1. Plausible, but a bit on the high side.

          2. That’s on the low side. Robb Stark would likely follow up a defensive victory with a swift pursuit, and there’s a real danger that if Roose brings down his 10-12,000, Tywin could be cut off and surrounded.

          • Tom Willcox says:

            And if forced to retreat to KL with 9,000 or so men, the north/riverlands can hold a loose siege of the capital which would surely capitulate quickly, and Robb can offer the crown to whoever he wishes.

            Oh Nymeria, why couldn’t you just have munched on that messenger.

          • Absolutely. But that’s why Nymeria couldn’t have munched – GRRM needs his story to go a different day.

  21. […] the end of the first phase of the War of Five Kings saw them surrounded by enemies and with few good options, House Stark is faced with a bewildering array of options of contenders to ally with or locations […]

  22. […] by Tywin as a reason for Tyrion’s removal from office), Tyrion is acting entirely within his orders from Tywin to assay the Small Council for treachery. If anything, given that he was cleared for “heads, […]

  23. […] even from a Lannisterian perspective, the politics of Tywin’s decision to “unleash Ser Gregor and send him before us with his reavers….each is to have three […]

  24. […] to Albert Einstein. And I think this points to both the moral evil and the pointlessness of Tywin’s strategy in sending them in the first place – they’re not actually eliminating resistance in the […]

  25. […] Tyrion IX (the Lannister position after the Battle of the Camps, Tyrion made acting Hand) […]

  26. […] window into Tywin Lannister’s military operation, in a way we haven’t gotten since the last Tyrion chapter of AGOT. Due to presentism, there is a tendency of the ASOIAF fandom to assume that the victory of the […]

  27. […] and indeed Theon’s conduct here is arguably worse or at least more comprehensive than Tywin’s chevauchée in the Riverlands, albeit on a smaller scale – the murder of the whole male population, the rape and sex […]

  28. […] Robb has forestalled Tywin’s strategy completely. Tywin had hoped to use his raids and occupation to force Robb to attack Tywin’s army at Harrenhal, where Tywin would have a defensive […]

  29. […] also gives us a sense of Robb’s style as a commander. As with the Whispering Woods and the Battle of the Camps, you see an emphasis on the maintenance of the element of surprise, a preference for lateral […]

  30. […] crossing-points are going to have the same effect. Indeed, I’m absolutely convinced that the location and structure of Riverrun itself means that ford-based defenses must have been used in the past to defend the Riverlands from […]

  31. […] completely burned-out Riverlands of ASOS and AFFC (which is, ironically, mostly due to Roose Bolton not closing the door after Tywin following his retreat from the Green Fork). But on the other hand, there’s something not […]

  32. […] “bad guys” in the war: after all, they started the war, they have pursued a deliberate strategy of attacking civilian populations, and they have engaged in  torture and slavery, practices that violate Westerosi taboos. And since […]

  33. […] So far, A Storm of Swords has been fairly quiet; we’ve gotten a new POV and a few recap chapters dealing with the aftermath of ACOK, but nothing really out of the ordinary. Tyrion I is something else entirely: in one chapter, we get the complete rewriting of the political order of King’s Landing, the introduction of several significant plotlines (the Tyrells arriving in King’s Landing politics and, if you’re a re-reader, the first sign of the Red Wedding), and arguably one of the best scenes in the entire book, and indeed in all of ASOIAF, when Tyrion meets his father for the first time since the end of AGOT. […]

  34. […] the Starks and Lannisters, GRRM’s writing always points our eye toward the human cost of the war: Tywin’s strategy following the Battles of the Whispering Woods and the Camps (and the Riverlords’ traditional […]

  35. […] The boy with the crossbow is a warning that the breakdown of the social contract that the Lannisters’ conduct of the War of Five Kings has unleashed will have dangerous implications, even for people who think […]

  36. […] Tyrion’s emotionally-inflected read of the situation aside, it is true that threre’s a new political dynamic in Tyrion III because this is the first time that he (and the readers) have seen Tywin and Kevan together in action since the end of AGOT: […]

  37. […] the scene nicely for a chapter that is ultimately about how the Lannisters’ scorched-earth tactics are backfiring on them, Jaime III opens at Maidenpool, which has become a synecdoche for what the […]

  38. […] meaning is that, in this case, the Mad Huntsman’s unrelenting and merciless anger is a direct result of Tywin’s offhand brutality in the […]

  39. […] and because the later members were inspired by the clear injustices that emerged from Tywin’s deliberate policy of war crimes. It clearly helped that both groups shared the Lannisters as a common enemy. At the same time, […]

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