Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Arya V, ACOK


“What if the wolves come?”


Synopsis: Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie, Lommy, and the other survivors from the Night’s Watch attempt to infiltrate a village and get captured.

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:

For all of my past criticism of some meandering in Arya’s storyline, Arya V actually has some really interesting thematic and plot elements going on, despite being something of a detour on the road to Harrenhal. To begin with, Arya V gives us one of the best examples of the impact of the War of Five Kings on the Riverlands:

“All the other places they’d come upon had been empty and desolate. Farms, villages, castles, septs, barns, it made no matter. If it could burn, the Lannisters had burned it; if it could die, they’d killed it. They had even set the woods ablaze where they could, though the leaves were still green and wet from recent rains, and the fires had not spread.

“They would have burned the lake if they could have.”

Pace to my colleague and friend Stefan Sasse, but it’s easy to see form this quote why someone like the Blackfish would resist the Lannisters to the bitter end – in a sense, they enacted a Red Wedding against the whole of the Riverlands below the Red Fork. It also helps to explain the persistence of the Brotherhood Without Banners, so long after the real fighting is over. Destruction on this scale is hard to forget or forgive. However, as I’ve said there’s something a bit anachronistic about all this. It’s true that the chevauchée could be very nasty, but they were usually a fairly limited tactic and castle sieges and later set-piece battles were a lot more common. Think about it logically – a medieval war is fought so that you can seize land and give it to your cronies as rewards for fighting for you, and so that the next time you fight a war, you can now summon a larger army. Destroying every farm, village, and castle is ultimately self-defeating. You want to destroy just enough that your enemy comes out and fights or bends the knee, and no more.

Thus, 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 hundred horse. Tell them I want to see the Riverlands afire from the Gods Eye to the Red Fork,” are oddly short-sighted. After all, if Tywin wins the War of Five Kings, then he inherits the mess of having to rebuild the Riverlands in the middle of winter, as per his philosophy of helping people up after they’ve bent the knee. The more damage he does in the mean time, the more of a mess he has to clean up. Likewise, while he certainly divvied up quite a bit of land after the Red Wedding,the actual value of that land was greatly diminished by the impact of the war – Castle Darry has been sacked four times, the lands around Riverrun are stripped bare, Maidenpool is half-destroyed, and so on and so forth.

If nothing else, I think it speaks to Tywin’s desperation, his real fear that he’s on the verge of losing the War of Five Kings, and his grim intent to leave his enemies little reward for his defeat.

Yoren’s Death and the Abdication of Adult Responsibility

However, Tywin’s devastation of the Riverlands is mostly background detail, framing the decisions that the characters have to make. The major theme is Arya’s progressive abandonment of Arya by every adult around her, a kind of slow-motion breakdown of the most primal responsibility for the survival of the next generation. It begins with the harsh realization that the Mentor (link) is not going to save Arya:

“Arya would not leave until they had found Yoren. They couldn’t have killed him, she told herself, he was too hard and tough, and a brother of the Night’s Watch besides. She said as much to Gendry as they searched among the corpses. The axe blow that had killed him had split his skull apart, but the great tangled beard could be no one else’s, nor the garb, patched and unwashed and so faded it was more grey than black. Ser Amory Lorch had given no more thought to burying his own dead than to those he had murdered, and the corpses of four Lannister men-at-arms were heaped near Yoren’s. Arya wondered how many it had taken to bring him down.

“He was going to take me home, she thought as they dug the old man’s hole. There were too many dead to bury them all, but Yoren at least must have a grave, Arya had insisted. He was going to bring me safe to Winterfell, he promised. Part of her wanted to cry. The other part wanted to kick him.”

Once again, we see the deconstruction of the Hero’s Journey at work. The loss of the Mentor is supposed to lead to personal growth, as the child matures into an independent adult, no longer living in the shadow of a father-figure. Here, it leads to Harrenhal, and Arya’s most intense experience of helplessness. Indeed, the lesson that Arya is learning here is that everyone she loves will abandon her and that protectors don’t exist (note the parallel here to Arya kicking Desmond’s body after the massacre at the Tower of the Hand) – which in turn I think explains her somewhat arms-length relationship with protector figures like Jaqen H’ghar, Beric Dondarrion, and the Hound. There’s also an interesting parallel here to the lessons that Sansa will be taught about the falseness of all friends and rescuers – potentially pointing to the need to unlearn lessons in order to undo trauma.

This disappointment that someone like Yoren could die – offscreen no less – is confirmed by the way in which the survivors of the attack on the holdfast gradually leave her, either willing or not:

“She wished the poacher hadn’t died. He’d known more about the woods than all the rest of them together…and for a day or two Kurz swore the wound was nothing, even though the flesh of his throat was turning dark..then one morning he couldn’t find the strength to get up, and by the next he was dead. 

“They buried him under a mound of stones, and Cutjack had claimed his sword and hunting horn, while Tarber helped himself to bow and boots and knife. They’d taken it all when they left. At first they thought the two had just gone hunting, that they’d soon return with game and feed them all…maybe Tarber and Cutjack figured they would stand a better chance without a gaggle of orphan boys to herd along.”

Readers of ASOIAF have been witness to a lot of vile human behavior, both large and small, but there’s something particularly wretched about Cutjack and Tarber leaving these children to die. One thing is that both men are clearly capable of goodness – Cutjack took up arms at the inn to protect the Night’s Watch, and helped to save the injured woman and her child later; Tarber was the first to pick up a weapon to defend Yoren at the inn and provided food for the group in the past – but here are choosing to do evil. Another is that they’re not just leaving these children, but taking from them any possible tools they could use to survive, not just passively but actively contributing to their potential deaths.

And it only confirms what Arya is coming to believe – that no one can be trusted.

What Use is a Lommy, and the Question of Yielding

A second, and related major theme of Arya V is a meditation of the value of human life and the concept of a just war, in so far as much as both apply to the lowest of the low. Soon, Arya and Gendry are brought to the same decision that Tarber and Cutjack faced, with their backs truly up against the wall when it comes to raw survival, and their companions are largely useless:

“He’s going to die, and the sooner he does it, the better for the rest of us…Lommy’s no use to anyone. That crying girl’s no use either…her and Hot Pie and Lommy, they’re slowing us down and they’re going to get us killed. You’re the only one of the bunch who’s good for anything. Even if you are a girl.”

Arya froze in her steps. “I’m not a girl!”

“Yes you are. Do you think I’m as stupid as they are?”

On the other hand, Hot Pie, Lommy, and Weasel are still human beings who cannot be abandoned like this, not without Arya and Gendry surrendering some of their own humanity, and joining the Tarbers and Cutjacks of the world. To paraphrase the Babylonian Talmud and John Dunne, he who abandons Hot Pie abandons the whole world, and the death of a single Lommy (the proverbial clod of earth) diminishes everyone. Moreover, while it’s true that Hot Pie, Lommy, and Weasel lack survival skills, it’s also true that Arya and Gendry’s skills don’t put them in any better stead. At the end of the day, Arya and Gendry are still both children and need other people, not self-sufficient badasses (as much as they might like to think so). And while Arya is learning some rather nasty lessons, she’s also making decisions that cut the other way. When Gendry is captured in the village, Arya chooses not to leave him to the mercy of the Lannisters and charges in to try to save him.

At the same time, this is a chapter that reminds us that Westeros is not a society founded on the ideals of John Dunne or the Talmud, but rather on a profoundly medieval, and quite alien, concept of human inequality, with the murder of Lommy Greenhands. Something about this murder is almost worse than the grand guignol of the Red Wedding or the Rains of Castamere, the exaggerated contrast between the power of the soldier and the pure helpless of a child, the pettiness of the reason that a human life is extinguished:

“Might be they’d kill us too,” Gendry said.

“Not if we yielded,” Hot Pie said hopefully.”

Lommy Greenhands…a spear had taken him through his left calf during the fight at the holdfast. By the end of the next day, he had to limp along one-legged with an arm around Gendry, and now he couldn’t even do that…

“We have to yield…that’s what Yoren should have done. He should have opened the gates like they said.”

“They told Yoren to open the gates, they told him in the king’s name. You have to do what they tell you in the king’s name. It was that stinky old man’s fault. If he’d of yielded, they would have left us be.”

“Knights and lordlings, they take each other captive and pay ransoms, but they don’t care if the likes of you yield or not.”

…”They found Lommy where they’d left him, under the oak. “I yield,” he called out at once when he saw them…

“Something wrong with your leg, boy?”

“It got hurt.”

“Can you walk?” He sounded concerned.

“No,” said Lommy. “You got to carry me.”

“Think so?” The man lifted his spear casually and drove the point through the boy’s soft throat. Lommy never even had time to yield again…”Carry him, he says,” he muttered, chuckling.”

Here we see Gendry proved horribly right – yielding is a privilege of birth, not a human right, and in the world of Westeros, Lommy doesn’t rate. The sad reality is that neither the rules of war nor political allegiance would have saved either Yoren or Lommy, because in the eyes of Ser Amory Lorch, Ser Gregor Clegane, and their flunkies, Yoren and Lommy are non-persons. Yielding is reserved for those whose lives can be measured in gold; allegiance only matters for that class of people whose allegiance can bring swords with it.

At the same time, however, it’s not the case that we’re meant to adopt this worldview, and I think this is where fans of Tywin Lannister’s brutal Machiavellianism miss the point. In George R.R Martin’s world horror is built into the very social structure, but the heroes of the story are those who choose to fight against it, whether we’re talking about Brienne of Tarth or Ser Beric Dondarrion. To accept injustice as not merely present, but inevitable or natural, is to side with the Cleganes and Lorches.

Historical Analysis:

So I’ve touched briefly in the past on the concept of a just war, which is pretty closely tied in with the idea of defeated soldiers being allowed to “yield” rather than be executed en masse at the end of the battle. Which absolutely happened all the time – in the 1990s, workers digging in Towton, where the battle where Edward IV shattered Lancastrian power and established himself as the King of England in fact as well as in name, also known as the battle that saw the deaths of 1% of the population of England, found a mass grave of more than 40 soldiers. The bodies of the fallen had suffered repeated injuries, with one suffering as many as eight wounds to the head, any three of which would have been fatal.

The point here is that yielding in battle was very much a privilege of the nobleman, just as chivalry was a privilege of the noblewoman. The symbolism of surrender – handing over one’s sword, pulling off one’s right gauntlet (symbolically rendering one’s sword-hand vulnerable) – is all based around the emblems of knighthood. Indeed, the Peace of God and Truce of God promulgated in the 10th and 11th centuries did not mention the treatment of prisoners –  rather, the idea was to limit the violence done to non-combatants, especially members of the Church and their property.

What If?

There’s not a huge scope for hypotheticals in this chapter. Really, the only room for speculation I can see is the alternate timeline in which Arya and Co. are not captured and taken to Harrenhal. From SerMountainGoat’s hypothetical locating of the nameless holdfast and village, which is as good as guess as any other, it seems as if the group was heading east toward Harrenhal in the same direction Yoren was heading – more of GRRM clicking the wheels of inevitability into gear.

However, since the children walking into Harrenhal by themselves isn’t really a change from OTL, let’s say they somehow get around Harrenhal without running into Tywin’s men. Eventually, they’d hit the Kingsroad near Darry, which at this point has been captured, recaptured, and then sacked by Gregor Clegane. Assuming for the moment that Arya decides to follow the same course that she does after leaving Harrenhal, Arya should reach the Inn of the Kneeling Man about two weeks after her 10th birthday, and Riverrun about another week after that – roughly at the same time that Catelyn arrives at Bitterbridge.

Again assuming that Arya is able to persuade the people at Riverrun that she is who she says she is, some interesting butterflies emerge. To begin with, it’s much less likely that Catelyn releases Jaime if Arya’s rediscovery is on-hand to balance out the “loss” of Bran and Rickon. This in turn might butterfly away the Red Wedding – Tywin might not be willing to pull the trigger if he knows it’ll cause Jaime’s death, and Walder Frey might be slightly more hesitant if it means throwing away Arya Stark’s hand in marriage (Arya’s definitely not going to the wedding in this scenario).

Book vs. Show:

To give Benioff and Weiss credit, in trying to streamline from the book, they sometimes to have a way of finding the core of the material to be saved. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter where Lommy Greenhands is foully murdered with Arya’s own sword, only that he does and Arya is there to witness it. And while the thematic elements of deciding whether to keep struggling on-wards with Lommy or to rush in and try to save Gendry are an important loss, it’s clearly a decision that’s been made for the over-arching purpose of narrative economy, rather than a seemingly random change happening for no reason (I’m looking at you, Jaime in Dorne) or a massive misreading of character and plot arcs (looking at you, Jaime and Cersei plots in Season 4).


123 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Arya V, ACOK

  1. Arthur Brown says:

    More terrific work here, Steve. Damn, these are fun to read and think about.

  2. bryndenbfish says:

    Tywin’s theory of chevauchee calls to mind Calgacus’ adage that “The Romans make a desert and call it a peace.” The scale of destruction wrought on the Riverlands is such that I think it’s supporting evidence for the idea that Tywin isn’t acting out of some consequentialist framework of making morally evil decisions that result in long-term good for the Riverlands or the realm. Rather, I think it’s Tywin seeking revenge for the slights that Robb Stark gave him on account of Lannister defeats at the Whispering Wood & Riverrun.

    It’s also somewhat surprising too considering that Jaime is held captive in Riverrun. The amount of carnage almost certainly would endanger Jaime Lannister. I guess Tywin is trusting that his enemies are far more morally upright than he is. I mean, hell, Tywin’s advice to Tytos when Stafford & other Lannisters were captured by Ellyn Tarbeck was to send Ellyn’s husband back in 3 pieces.

    Of course, the main reason why Jaime is never harmed by the Starks is due to the Lannisters holding Sansa & “Arya.” It brings me to a weird conclusion: the burning of the Riverlands and the scouring of the Westerlands were made possible by the high-born hostages. Both sides couldn’t deter the other from acting with broad impunity, because each side was equalized and could expect no repercussions to that which they held dear.

    • Andrew says:

      Agreed, Tywin thinking that an older, experienced commander such as himself being outfoxed by a boy not even of age would no doubt leave his pride wounded. I don’t think he ever intended to make peace with Robb after the BoBW, but kill him as payback for those slights. It’s clear where Cersei gets her vindictiveness from.

    • Carolyn says:

      I agree with this assessment. Tywin REGULARLY goes way beyond, what his opponents would do if
      -his pride has been hurt or
      -he wants to give other people an example what happens, if they cross him

      A good example of this is his treatment of King’s Landing, which he sacked, even though the city had surrendered (he actually was quite lucky, that no wildfire cache was lit during the fighting).

      Another good example is his treatment of Elia and her children, because a different ruler may have well let Elia and her children live as hostages of the court. Even Bloodraven did not execute Daemon Blackfyre when he had the chance to, because he had younger brothers that Bittersteel could have crowned and by keeping Daemon alive as a hostage he prevented another attack by a different Blackfyre pretender .

      Aegon and Rhaenys could never have married, but sending Rhaenys to the Faith and Aegon to the Faith/Citadel/Wall would have removed the threat they posed. Additionally, since Viserys still was at large at that time and the position of a few kingsguards was not accounted for, he should have kept Aegon alive, in case Viserys successfully fled.

    • Quite possible. It’s very easy to forget how emotional Tywin can be under the surface, given his position of logic.

      And yeah, the equalization thing was important.

      • Crystal says:

        I think this is a very good point – and something that I see people not noticing about Tywin. His reaction to Joanna’s death and Tyrion’s existence, the Rains of Castamere, the reaction to his sister Genna’s mesalliance, the sack of King’s Landing, the murder of Elia and her children, and his devastation of the Riverlands – all point to someone who is very emotional, VERY touchy about slights, dare I say it a bit insecure?, and ruthlessly vengeful.

        I agree that Tywin’s devastation of the Riverlands was at least partly a reaction to his being shown up by that punk kid Robb. Having Jaime defeated and captured by a 15-year-old must have smarted hard.

        • Mitch says:

          I believe setting Clegane loose in the Riverlands was Tywin’s reaction to Tyrion’s imprisonment.

          I think your overall point of Tywin reacting with disproportionate force to any slight is very true, but I think unleashing The Mountain is basically an all-in move; you’re fully committed to inflicting maximum damage to your enemies at that point or you don’t sent him at all.

  3. po8crg says:

    The other obvious what if in this period is that Arya dies. It changes very little until she turns back up, which she still hasn’t done as A Dance with Dragons, but will clearly be really important once the faceless Arya starts killing people.

  4. Again, no problem with fighting the Lannisters. But the Blackfish in AFFC doesn’t protect the land, he just condems everyone to die. The war is over, and the Lannisters are settling down. I surely understand his motivations, but the time for fighting is over.

    • Abbey Battle says:

      Mr Sasse, The Lannisters may be seeking to settle things down but there were no Lannisters outside Riverrun until Ser Jaime showed up; until then the governing intelligence in that siege camp was almost pure Frey, representatives of the very House that had demonstrated themselves to be utterly, utterly untrustworthy with the Red Wedding.

      Why would any man (never mind a knight more proud than humble) be so foolish as to put themselves utterly in the power of such an enemy?

      Quite frankly I have to wonder if The Blackfish swum away as much to make it that much more difficult for House Frey to extinguish House Tully in one fell swoop, rather than place the last known heirs of House Tully, one and all, in the power of their most treacherous former vassals.

      • Winnie says:

        Well said! I for one seriously fear for Edmure’s safety at this point-or that of any hostage at the Twins.

        Of course what was most striking about the scene where Blackfish and Jaime exchange barbs is that Jaime was clearly off his game because deep down he agreed with his opponent and despised the Frey’s as well-not to mention being disgusted and almost…well ashamed to have them as his allies.

        • Mitch says:

          I disagree that Jamie was off his game. His bloodless resolution to the siege of Riverrun was a masterstroke, on par with anything Tyrion did as interim Hand of the King.

          But yeah, Jamie is basically completely disillusioned with the Lanister cause by that point, and particularly despises the Freys—I’d argue as much for their rash decision making as anything to do with the Red Wedding.

          • Eh. That’s if it stays resolved. Remember, Jaime’s about to disappear, the BWB are all around him and abducting major Freys, etc.

          • Mitch says:

            He won the castle back quickly (he didn’t have time or resources to starve Blackfish out), without losing men who he’d need to fight elsewhere, and without damaging the actual structure. It was a very intelligent use of the leverage he had available to him for what otherwise would be a pretty good outcome.

            The fact that it’s probably all about to be swept away by an unforeseen reanimated corpse doesn’t diminish the accomplishment, IMO.

      • Amestria says:

        “until then the governing intelligence in that siege camp was almost pure Frey,”

        Another reason perhaps the Blackfish thought he could hold out 😛

        • Winnie says:

          LOL! As Jaime noted on his arrival, the whole siege had been mismanaged and Ryman Frey was a completely incompetent drunkard.

          It was also notable how greedy the Frey’s were about holding valuable hostages they hoped to extort prices for-thus their reluctance to give them up.

          And of course their reaction to learning that Baelish was technically Lord Paramount of the Riverlands was just priceless. “But he’s a nothing-a nobody!” Oh, like you have any better claim to be Lord of the Riverlands.

          One point to be made-they *did* establish on the show that the Frey’s are NOT respected as Lords of Riverrun and the Riverlands and that the smallfolk at least miss the Tully’s. I do think that’s an important piece of set-up.

          • Andrew says:

            Well, of course, the smallfolk of Riverrun served the Tullys their whole lives, and they likely love Edmure after he opened his gates to them and sheltered them during the Battle of the Fords where other lords would bar their gates. They know he cares about them.

            As for Emmon Frey, the smallfolk know the Freys got Riverrun as a reward for the RW. His wife is a Lannister, from the same family who attacked them in the first place. Emmon also doesn’t inspire confidence as Jaime noted it was hard not to feel contemptuous of him, and his pompous attitude towards being Lord of Riverrun (as demonstrated in his 3 hour long speech waving the king’s decree telling the smallfolk what he expected of them as their lord) doesn’t help either. The smallfolk of Riverrun have every reason to hate them.

            If Lady Stoneheart ever decides to have a RW 2.0 at Riverrun, especially if Lord Walder is there, I think the smallfolk inside and outside the castle would help her.

          • Crystal says:

            I wonder if Sansa is eventually going to turn up in the Riverlands, given that her “father” is now the Lord Paramount. Lady Stoneheart DOES have Robb’s crown, Sansa IS a Tully on her mother’s side and in line to inherit Riverrun if Edmure and his child do not survive – and even if they live, she’s still 1/2 Tully, and looks it. (I’m assuming that the Frey/Lannister branch of Riverrun’s rulers are not long for this world.)

            She may or may not be there for the RW Mark II (if and when it happens), but I don’t think that Baelish was made Lord Paramount and given Harrenhal his seat *just* so he could marry Lysa and inherit the Harrenhal curse.

            In any event, nobody loves the Freys, and I doubt very many except for other Freys are mourning the ones slowly being picked off by the BwB. That adds a complication to the Edmure/Roslin marriage: will Roslin and her child be wanted as lady and heir to Riverrun? Roslin herself is not to blame for the RW as far as we know, but the fact that she’s a Frey is not going to endear her to the Riverlords and smallfolk.

      • Well, there was Daven. But you raise a good point, the Blackfish didn’t really have a credible person to surrender to.

    • Andrew says:

      To what Abbey Battle said, even Genna Lannister admits “Terms require trust. The Freys murdered guests beneath their roof.” She knows the Blackfish has little reason to trust their terms.

      Even if he did surrender, how would he know they wouldn’t kill Edmure anyway? Who would stop them when they have the backing of the IT? He states as much saying “My nephew is marked for death no matter what I do.” They have every reason to kill Edmure: he fought against them, was kin to victims of the RW and it secures the Frey-Lannister hold over Riverrun with only the Blackfish as the only other male relative.

      • David Hunt says:

        Plus, I believe the Brynden states that he was charged with protecting Robb’s wife. If he’s unaware of her mother’s treachery, I can see the viewpoint that the Lannisters/Freys would murder he on the off chance she were pregnant and lying about it. Jaime told the Westerlings that he’d not allow Jeyne to remarry for, I think, two years, to insure that no one could claim that any child she had was Robb’s.

        Yes, his men will die in droves when the Freys finally get up the gumption to attack, but you can look at that a couple of ways.

        1. As noted before, the Freys word isn’t worth the air it takes to speak it. Brynden can reasonably expect that all he men will be put to the sword if they surrender. Waiting out the siege lets the men live longer and they can sell their lives dearly when the Freys decide that they can’t maintain the siege any longer.

        2. Less charitably, Brynden is a product of Westeros and the common people are simply not as valuable as the highborn. I highly doubt that Brynden feels nothing for his men, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not going to work to preserve the Tully line as well as his queen, no matter the cost to his men.

        • That’s another good point. Jeyne was potentially in danger…as we saw from the show.

          • WPA says:

            Also, as you’ve pointed out – Medieval sieges weren’t exactly a sure thing- entirely possible the coming of Winter would have made sustaining an army in the field more difficult than maintaining a besieged garrison with (dwindling) stores. If Brynden thinks the Freys are in no way to be trusted (true), the Lannisters dealing with other difficulties, and the Freys not particularly adept at this siege (true)…all while relying on Riverlords who despise BOTH the Freys and the Lannisters to aid in a siege…he may well be playing the best cards in a bad hand. Under those circumstances, holding out and hoping for a better outcome with time might not be a bad bet.

    • Well, there’s the land, there’s the people, and then there’s the issue of vengeance.

      And I think Lannister/Frey dominance is going to be very, very short-lived.

  5. Winnie says:

    Well done again Steve! I agree once more with
    Your assessment of Town’s scorched earth tactics-and that he may be counting on others to behave more ethically than him by say not overturning guest right which the Lions may soon need for their own protection.

    Again what he and Little finger aren’t factoring into all this is whether there will be anything left to rule after they’ve burned it all down.

    • Jim B. says:

      I liked Amanda Marcotte’s analysis of Tywin Lannister as a sort of free-rider: he exploits the existing social rules (e.g. guest right) to his own short-term advantage, but in doing so he seriously jeopardizes the chances for peace in the long-term:

      • Winnie says:

        I LOVED that post and thought it was a perfect take on the whole situation.

      • Carolyn says:

        I liked the article you linked, I just wanted to add two points:

        -I find the notion, that the Red Wedding saved a lot of lives, even more absurd, when one thinks about who started the heavy fighting in the first place:TYWIN

        Sure, his son was kidnapped, but Tywin did not have attack the Riverlands in order to get him back, he could have just gone to KL and told Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon, that he wanted his son back, since Robert was the king and Ned was the one who according to himself gave the order to seize Tyrion.

        If the Riverlords can send people to KL, when their smallfolk is slaughtered, then Tywin can send Kevan or someone else to KL demanding the release of Tyrion from Lysa and Catelyn.

        Sending Gregor Clegane to the Riverlands achieved NOTHING, since Tyrion was not in the Riverlands and Gregor Clegane et al. did not present themselves as Westerlanders but as outlaws.

        -A deeply disturbing thing about Tywin’s methods is that all his children whole-heartedly approve of them. If one carefully reads the books, then one sees, that ALL OF HIS CHILDREN BREAK GUEST-RIGHT AT SOME TIME OR ANOTHER, thereby continuing his “legacy”.

        It starts with Jaime, who pushes Bran from a tower, while he is a guest of Bran’s father.

        In ACOK Tyrion mixes some cutthroats under the Lannister-envoys, who kill Tully soldiers under a peace-banner and after they have been guests of Edmure Tully for a few days.

        In AFFC Cersei Lannister gives Falyse Stokeworth to Master Qyburn, after she had dinner with her, in the Red Keep. Since Falyse at that time was living at Stokeworth and flees to the Red Keep from Bronn, she also is a guest at that time.

        • Carolyn says:

          So, all of Tywin’s children are free-riders, too.

        • The Tyrion one is a bit of a stretch, but I hadn’t thought of the Jaime thing.

          • Carolyn says:

            Tyrion is a bit of a stretch, but I stand by it, since in Westeros, the members of the guards do not seem to be seen as independant persons, but rather extensions of the lord they have sworn obedience to. If these people really had some agency, they would not be referred to as “swords”.
            Walder Frey has agency and could have for instance decided not to do the Red Wedding, but the men-at-arms always (or nearly always) obey their lord, since their livelihood (and probably that of their family-members as well) depends on it.
            Even if Tyrion had not forseen, that Edmure would give them food thereby binding them by guest-right (which I frankly do not think), he still broke another important war-custom of Westeros by abusing the envoy-system.

        • Winnie says:

          Very VERY good points. For Tywin of all people to be proclaiming peace at any costs is beyond hypocritical…and of course Robb’s rebellion was started for similar reasons.

          And yeah all three Lion cubs may have absorbed some very bad lessons from the patriarch.

        • Amestria says:

          This totally escaped me! Thank you ^^

        • Grant says:

          There may be another view on using Gregor and Amory on the Riverlands in retaliation. It could be a very strong reminder that the Lannisters are a very powerful force independently of the throne, that they can act even with a Stark as Hand and that Robert had better do something about Tyrion fast or it will get worse fast.

          With Tywin I think that the best description is that he strongly combines personal reaction with strategic reason, so answers looking at one part will only get one thing about him.

          For example, with the question of the Targaryen children and Elia Martell, he might have been able to find alternatives but he’s also a man who believes in strong action and not tolerating potential problems. So were the Targaryen deaths personal? At least somewhat I’d say. Was Elia Martell on his orders? Possibly. It seems strange that he would do something that would probably push Dorne into constant opposition to the throne and the Lannisters, and we have seen that Gregor Clegane can be something of a complete idiot with no concern for the consequences of his actions, but Tywin also might have ordered her death.

        • Crystal says:

          That’s a good point – I hadn’t thought of all the Lannisters breaking guest right, but I can see it now – especially with Cersei and Falyse, good catch! And we’ve seen how very, VERY seriously the North in particular takes guest right – violating that is a one-way ticket to the ninth circle of hell, no exceptions. I have a feeling that all the Lannisters are going to be done for at the end of the series.

        • Abbey Battle says:

          I heartily concur – this article would seem to explain the peculiar mindset of Lord Tywin perfectly, a man who somehow manages to simultaneously enhance the prestige of House Lannister and drag the reputation of that House into the gutter.

      • Hedrigal says:

        Tywin is the type of person who values tradition and tact because of the look of horror on peoples faces when he pisses all over them.

    • Thanks, glad you liked it!

    • “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.”

  6. Karl says:

    These books are not for the feint of heart, but I have to say, I think I will be truly pissed if Hot Pie’s happy ending is cut short. I just need one safe, (relatively) innocent commoner getting to the end in a not-horrible state.

  7. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, please allow me to congratulate you on producing another splendid analysis – I thoroughly agree with you that Lord Tywins actions in the Riverlands are those of a prideful and vindictive man seeking to wreck his enemy even in defeat rather than a commander in complete control of his strategic situation looking at the bigger picture.

    I must also agree with you that while Master Stefan’s analyses of Ser Brynden Tully and Lord Tywin Lannister are much-needed wake-up calls concerning the misplaced popularity of certain characters (I remain unconvinced by arguments against the merit of Ser Edmure Tully’s victory at the Stone Mill, not least because I believe he deserves a prize for being the best and least fortunate lord in all Westeros), his analyses are occasionally blind to the motivations of certain characters.

    For example I agree with his characterisation of Lord Tywin as a fundamentally EVIL man – I keep seeing too many vices of his daughter and eldest grandson mirrored in him, mitigated only by his frightening effectiveness as a leader – but I do think that his treatment of the Reynes and the Tarbecks is grounded in the very real potential for a coup d’etat in the Westerlands that would have removed House Lannister from power, presumably with violence.

    One might in fact argue that his treatment of House Tarbeck at least is not out of keeping with Feudal norms when dealing with outlaws – having risen in rebellion against the authority of their ruling House both the Red Lion and their collaterals at Tarbeck Hall were beyond the Pale, even if Ser Tywin was not their liege lord – but even I would not care to argue that his drowning of Castamere was anything but an atrocity.

    While I suspect he acted as much to spare his loyal men the casualties they would have taken had he been so criminally irresponsible as to launch them into that meat-grinder, I can only say that Tywin Lannister himself bears more than a fair share of the ultimate blame for allowing things to reach this terrible extreme – along with his Father and the Red Lion himself; the former too willing to negotiate and too weak to make Peace, the latter too unwilling to negotiate and too strong to willingly seek Peace … much like Ser Tywin.

    Ahem. On the other hand I do think his characterisation of Ser Brynden Blackfish, while fundamentally sound, descends into flawed caricature when he describes the Blackfish as wilfully prolonging the suffering of his people by refusing to treat with the Freys or Ser Jaime Lannister – given the savage breach of trust committed by the former and the unsavoury reputation of the latter (who has many regrets but who has yet to truly make amends) I would call Ser Brynden UTTERLY INSANE to take any Frey at his word and none too wise to let the son of a man who countenanced such a gross betrayal of Westerosi taboos convince him otherwise.

    • Winnie says:

      There is something to be said for your analysis of the Blackfish. I don’t necessarily agree with all his choices in the siege but only a fool would trust the Frey’s or Jaime at that point. Something even Jaime would admit.

      I also think Tywin tries to justify a lot of his decisions under the reasoning that the Northerners were rebels and traitors and that this was their fault. Yet another reason to blind himself to the incest and for him to be so disturbed when he finally started to learn the truth about the character and abilities of his daughter and grandson. Because knowing what sort of King Joffrey was made his actions all the more damming. No way to justify putting THAT on the Iron Throne.

      And yeah it was almost a progression…Cersei was more vicious and unstable than her father and thanks to inbreeding Joffrey got all the worst qualities of his lineage times ten.

      • David Hunt says:

        “No way to justify putting THAT on the Iron Throne.”

        On the contrary. There is an obvious and overpowering reason for putting Joffrey on the throne that sets aside all arguments against it: He’s a Lannister.

        Granted, he’s not he Lannister that Tywin would like to be there. That guy’s stuck being Joffrey’s Hand and finishing Robb Stark. And his second choice refuses to leave the Kingsguard. So Tywin works on keeping the kingdom together, ruling from the Tower of the Hand, and hopes that he can live long enough to shape Joffrey’s son. Later he gets the bonus of being able to shape Tommen before Cercei’s ruined him.

        • Winnie says:

          True. Tywin was clearly worried though about King Joffrey and Tommen must have been an *immense* relief.

          One thing the show did get right was showing Tywin already working not only to establish himself as Tommen’s natural chief advisor but clearly planning on molding the boy to be a proper King. It was a terrific scene-right before the Scene We Will Not Name.

    • Well, regarding Tywin…I was just thinking about the Starks and their treatment of say the Warg King and other enemies. I think the main difference between the Rains and accepted practice is that Tywin kills women and children who could have been taken as hostages and/or married off safely. After all, Tywin could have simply absorbed the remnants of the Reynes and Tarbecks into House Lannister, he certainly had the relatives to do so.

      • juan manuel says:

        Actually, I think according to TWOIAF, Tywin sent the women of the first castle he took when fighting the Tarbecks and Reynes to the Silent Sisters. It’s the second one where everybody dies and that’s because he simply floods the place to avoid a battle

      • Winnie says:

        Maybe we should be grateful then he had Sansa marry Tyrion instead of killing her. He really must have been desperate then to get a Lannister heir for the North.

        • Grant says:

          Killing her would just empower the Boltons and the Boltons have already shown that they are absolutely willing to murder their liege for political gain and the WOIAF makes it clear that northerners are supposed to take the guest safety rules far more seriously than southerners do. So the Boltons cannot be trusted to not raise the banner of rebellion themselves in twenty years time, and the best way to undercut that without continuing the war is to have a Lannister-Stark child.

          Also unlike the Targaryens, Sansa is heir to a vast region that was able to raise a serious rebellion against the throne. This way the Lannister family benefits immensely whereas her death would not only look bad, but not actually provide them with anything.

          • Crystal says:

            That’s a good point about Sansa – the Targs did not actually have a great *landed* power base; the WOIAF gave me a sense that, when they didn’t actually have dragons anymore, that cut into the actual power they had as absolute monarchs. I wonder how much actual land they owned as feudal lords outside Dragonstone and the Crownlands?

            But Sansa has the North, where the Starks had ruled as landed monarchs and later lords since time immemorial. They had the land and the vassals and, most important, the loyalty. Killing Sansa wouldn’t get them the North for very long, especially as you pointed out – the North takes guest right Very Seriously Indeed. Yes, there was “Arya,” but 1) that charade was probably going to crumble at some point – maybe years later, but crumble it would; and 2) Ramsay being who he was, he probably would have killed poor “Arya” before long, and then the Boltons and Lannisters would be right back where they started. Sansa is much more important alive than dead for just about everyone.

  8. Sean C. says:

    “At the same time, however, it’s not the case that we’re meant to adopt this worldview, and I think this is where fans of Tywin Lannister’s brutal Machiavellianism miss the point.”

    You would have to include the showrunners among that group, then (though that creates some weird dissonance in the show, since, by virtue of the plot, many of the things GRRM designates as the consequences of Tywin’s brutality are still present, but the show puts no emphasis on this, outside of the Tyrion/Tywin dynamic).

    Though, as an aside, the show’s apparent Jaime in Dorne plot is not something I would call a “seemingly random change happening for no reason”. That’s fairly obviously motivated by a desire to consolidate plots, and perhaps because the showrunners think Jaime’s AFFC Riverlands storyline is unnecessary in the show (particularly if they’ve cut Stoneheart, which looks more and more likely).

    Structurally there’s some rather interesting bunching of chapters in ACOK, compared to AGOT, where I think it tended to be more even. For example, five of Arya’s ten chapters come within the first twenty chapters, with the remaining five scattered over the subsequent fifty. Whereas five of Sansa’s eight chapters come in the last twenty.

    • Winnie says:

      Yeah I plan to reserve judgement on Jaime in Dorne until I see how it plays out on the series. I miss Stoneheart but it could be she was cut because she isn’t entirely necessary to future events-remember D&D already know the major plot points and it may well be that Dorne is simply more important.

      • JT says:

        Yeah, agreed. Some of the added material may be end up being quite good (and Jaime and Bronn have good chemistry in the show).

        The biggest problem (IMO) with cutting out Stoneheart and the entire Ironborn plot is that it signals to me as a reader that the time we invested with Stoneheart and Victarion won’t amount to much, as both are more or less deux ex machinas designed to get certain “main” characters into the right places (Jaime back with Brienne; the horn and ships into Dany’s hand).

        • Sean C. says:

          Victarion may well be a Quentyn-type shaggy dog story, but I rather doubt Stoneheart is. There’s no way GRRM revived Catelyn just to get Jaime and Brienne back together. If Stoneheart is cut, it’s because the writers are excising huge pieces of GRRM’s original “second act” (also possibly also because the writers don’t have much interest in Catelyn).

        • Winnie says:

          Well, I always suspected Victarion was a Shaggy Dog story and I’m not sad to see him go-I do think we might get Euron Greyjoy though, if not Season Five then in Season 6 to be the next Big Bad.

          • Crystal says:

            I agree wrt Vic – I think he was meant to get ships to Dany and then become a grilled calamari snack for Drogon. (Which makes all the chapters expended on him rather exasperating – they could have been cut and consolidated, IMO). It will be interesting to see if we get Euron, and if so, what this means for the Tyrells and the Reach (since Loras takes Willas’ place in the show).

          • @Crystal: I’ve considered the possibility that Moqorro is the one who’s the really important one in Vic’s storyline, and that it may be more about getting him to Meereen than the ships.

            The recent casting of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in a role of an original character called “Malko” (or “Molko”, I can’t remember) has made many speculate if his character is a Moqorro-substitute.

      • Grant says:

        We’ve heard of how they know about future book events, but with so much cut and so things that seemed to be hinted in the books completely unhinted to date in the show I have to wonder if they’re just cutting away a good deal. It’s a problem that makes me worry for the future seasons.

        Also they’re going to have to come up with one hell of a reason for why Jaime is in Dorne since I really can’t find a way for it to make sense.

    • Jim B. says:

      The show’s introduction of the idea of the Westerlands running out of gold also paints Tywin in a slightly different light. Also, I think we’ve been given much less detail on the show about the various slights to Lannister pride that Tywin observed during his father’s reign.

      So Show Tywin comes across a little more as a desperate man trying any tactic available to hold everything together, as compared to the more gratuitously vindictive figure of the books.

      • Winnie says:

        I’ve noticed a lot of show only viewers who see Twyin as almost a tragic figure, in that he’s trying to build this great dynasty-but for various reasons it’s all destined to fall apart.

        Don’t get me wrong-they still think he’s a total SOB, they just find him to an *interesting* bastard as opposed to say Joffrey and Ramsay who are just loathsome psychos we need to see die ASAP. Which I think is what was consciously or unconsciously influencing the showrunners-it’s not that they *really* agree with Tywin deep down, it’s just that they couldn’t help but enjoy him as a character, (especially with the performance Charles Dance was giving in that role,) in a way they couldn’t so many of the show’s other baddies like Walder, Slynt, Lorch, etc. Hell even Littlefinger while fun in his scenes with Varys isn’t all that *interesting* when you think about it. Cersei can be great fun but she’s just not clever enough to fascinate or be a super-villain. Alfie Allen as Theon has arguably been one of the show’s greatest revelations but Theon has always been more pathetic than frightening. The only other figure on the show who can match Dance’s Tywin in magnificent bastardry is probably Michael’s Roose Bolton-and I do have a feeling they’ll be using him quite a lot next season.

        • Crystal says:

          I think the actors have made a huge difference – Charles Dance’s portrayal of Tywin makes him a more interesting character in the show than the books; ditto Michael McElhatton, whose Roose is so much more well-rounded than the one-dimensional sociopath we see in the books. And Alfie Allen knocks it out of the park as Theon.

          Having appealing actors in the show really does mean a lot to how the characters they play are perceived. I don’t know that people would be as fascinated with Tywin without Charles Dance, for instance.

    • I’m not sure about the showrunners – I think some of the diagnoses of nihilism go a bit too far there.

      That being said – if Jaime’s Riverlands story is truly unnecessary, what’s going to happen to Brienne?

      Yeah, I noticed the same thing, but I think it’s ultimately a bit random and not particularly helpful as analysis.

  9. Amestria says:

    Turning the Riverlands to ash does send a message of what happens when you cross Tywin Lannister. It’s a message Tywin has been sending his whole life, just on a much smaller scale (this makes Tywin’s counsel that Arys show mercy to the Darklings kinda hypocritical in hindsight…and Tywin kind of like Arys, in a way).

    • Winnie says:

      Yeah maybe one reason Tywin wanted so badly to be a Targaryen was he envied the way they got to behave as well as their obvious power.

      Of course, the funny thing is, that while Tywin’s a big believer in sending the message “Don’t cross the Lannister’s” he never seems to consider the possibility that others might have a similarly tough attitude as evidenced by his belief that he could use a child by Tyrion/Sansa to steal the North. It never occurred to him that in all likelihood the Northerners will be seeking revenge or that people in the Riverlands might too-which remember is why Kevan wanted Darry for his heirs rather than Riverrun because he knew damn well how dangerous it was to try and hold that seat. I’m kind of sad we never got to see Tywin’s reaction to learning “The North Remember’s especially what he might have thought of “Frey Pie.”

      Of course I’m even sadder we didn’t get to see Tywin react to Dragons, White Walker’s, the truth about Jon’s parentage, and the very likely possibility that the Stark bloodline has some mystical significance. What do you do if you find out that a bloodline you very nearly extinguished turns out to be crucial to surviving a potentially apocalyptic threat?!?

      • Jim B says:

        I assumed that Tywin didn’t really think the North would just fall into Lannister hands through Sansa’s marriage. I think it was more a matter of:
        1) Sansa — and her heirs — will have SOME value, even if only to ward off any other Stark claimants.
        2) Marrying Sansa to Tyrion denies that value to the Martells.
        3) Doing so only “costs” Tyrion’s hand, which didn’t have much value anyway.

        I think that realistically, Tywin would have been happy to keep Sansa/Tyrion as an insurance policy for Roose Bolton’s good behavior. In fact, it’s probably better for Tywin to keep Sansa and her firstborn son in Kings’ Landing or Casterly Rock long enough to ensure that the son is raised as a Lannister and knows where his true loyalties lie.

        • Sean C. says:

          I think Tywin did expect to take the North, but it wouldn’t be just because of Sansa’s marriage. He’s expecting the Boltons, the remaining Stark loyalists, the Ironborn, and potentially the Wildlings to battle it out in the North through a long and bitter winter, and by the end the greatly reduced population will be so beaten down and so desperate for peace and food that the Lannisters will be able to militarily impose themselves on the North without too much trouble. Sansa’s presence is a fig leaf.

  10. Amestria says:

    ” Which absolutely happened all the time – in the 1990s, workers digging in Towton, where the battle where Edward IV shattered Lancastrian power and established himself as the King of England in fact as well as in name, also known as the battle that saw the deaths of 1% of the population of England,”

    This makes me curious if you’ve given any thought to how many people the War of Five Kings has killed by the end of the fifth book?

    • It’s kind of impossible to give any estimates, since we don’t know the extent of smallfolk lives lost, but we can do military losses:

      – the North: north of 14,000 casualties, maybe 15-16,000?
      – the Westerlands: north of 22,000 casualties. Probably more like 25,000.
      – the Riverlands: around 11,000? GRRM is particularly inaccurate here.
      – the Stormlands: somewhere around 8,000.
      – The Reach: 2-6,000, mostly Fossaways, Florents, Shield Islands, and the Arbor.
      – Dorne: zero.
      – The Vale: zero.
      – Iron Islands: a couple hundred.

      So…around 66,000, say 70,000 for safety. That’s around 17% of the total fighting men of Westeros, or .17% of the population of Westeros.

      • Sean C. says:

        Crownlands: Most of Stannis’ initial host of around 5000 men (including the naval force) were lost at the Blackwater, I think.

      • Amestria says:

        Dorne: One, the Red Viper (Doran considers him a war casualty)

        The small folk losses would be HUGE though…way more then the purely military losses and way more important.

      • Grant says:

        Roughly 1% casualties of the entire population does seem to match similarly intense European civil wars.

      • Mr Fixit says:

        8,000 Stormlanders? Could be, I suppose. Is there anything concrete you’re basing that on? How many died on the Blackwater? Do we know those numbers (except for, what was it, 619 knights)?

        • It’s a very rough estimate from the Blackwater plus Bitterbridge. We don’t know how many of the 21,000 Stannis had at Blackwater died. We know about 8,000 switched sides, and a few thousand bent the knee, and Stannis retreated with around 1,500, so that leaves potential casualties of around 8,000. Stannis’ army was ~75% Stormlander, so probably around 6,000 dead, and there were Stormlander foot who got massacred at Bitterbridge in addition.

  11. Alex says:

    Just out of curiousity, what misreadings of character arcs are you referring to in Jaime and Cersei in Season 4?

    • Well, the infamous scene in the Sept of Baelor, Jaime allowing Cersei to seduce him in the White Tower, the way that Cersei starts off cold to Jaime and then warms to him (which makes no sense, given what the audience saw in 4×3), etc.

  12. Son of Fire says:

    Great stuff as always
    Is it bittebridge or bitterbridge that cat makes it to? what if section.

  13. illrede says:

    Well, at the moment of Towton, the Wars of the Roses were getting really, thoroughly bad; the customs and habits of keeping feudal England more or less together had been burned and eroded away, had been going on for generations. I think things were better during the Anarchy, certainly worse by Tewkesbury (doing the unthinkable for cause of I Don’t Like You and I Don’t Like Your Face and Why The Hell Not It’s Simpler This Way). True to the source material here- not that a skirmish against peasants needed it, yes.

  14. Will Rogers says:

    Between the pointless ravaging of the Riverlands, the constant underestimation of Robb, the ending of basic diplomacy in Westeros, and the refusal to shut his mouth when Tyrion’s pointing a crossbow at him, I think Tywin shares something in common with Cersei: they’re not as smart as they think they are.

  15. Great post as usual.

    Would it be out of line to compare this to the Germans in WWII? I mean that seems a bit cliched, since they are sort of the epitome of evil in most people’s minds, in that period I think. I’m reading about the Siege of Leningrad right now, and in that i’m shown that the Germans made some very cold calculations about what to do with the Russian refugees and the citizens of Leningrad. And it reminded me of this a bit, with how Tywin treats Riverlanders as you guys discussed. It doesn’t seem to be in the German’s interests to completely level Leningrad and Moscow as they planned to do, if they were going to occupy and extend the Reich into Russia. But that was the plan.

    • Cliched aside, it’s a bit too common a behavior, especially in the early modern period, to make WWII Germany the go-to case.

      • Meereenese Liberation Front says:

        Yup – especially as WWII was, on Germany’s part, a war of extermination against the homestead of “Jewish bolshevism”, something that has nothing to do with any of Tywin’s motivations.

    • Crystal says:

      I’ve thought sometimes that the devastation of the Riverlands has something in common with the Albigensian Crusade in France. There was quite a lot of damage done to the Languedoc area in the name of uprooting heresy. (The area around Toulouse was burned, vineyards uprooted, livestock killed, etc.) The devastation of the Riverlands has nothing to do with religion – in fact, it’s interesting to see how little religion factors into most of the Westerosi war, except for Melisande and R’hllor. It’s not about the Seven vs. the Old Gods at all.)

      Another similarity might be to the war between Matilda and Stephen in 12th century England. The devastation was so bad that it was said Christ and his saints slept. In fact, that’s the title of an excellent historical novel by Sharon Kay Penman; it gives a vivid picture of how bad things were.

  16. Roger says:

    A chavauchee was a cataclysmic effect for local peasants. Remember in the middle ages the lands weren’t as densily populated as now. Also you couldn’t import food from other regions so easily. In France it was said the woods follows the English. Becouse after their incursions, fields were abandoned and woods grew again.

    Some experts say Central Asia and Iraq never healed the damage done by Gengis Khan. Same happened with Carthago.

    Only noble people deserved being held prisioner, aye. But many foot soldiers changed sides without problems.

  17. Scott Trotter says:

    One point of geography here, if anyone is interested: Most maps that I’ve seen show Arya, Gendry and company travelling up the east side of Gods Eye, from the holdfast where they were attacked in the south, northwards towards Harrenhal. Several references in the text indicate clearly that they actually travelled up the west bank of the great lake.

    At the beginning of the chapter, when Arya is up a tree trying to see what’s in the village ahead of them, she sees that “To the east, Gods Eye was a sheet of sun-hammered blue that filled half the world.” Later, when Gendry and Arya are deciding how best to scout out the village, he says that “I’ll go around west, see if there’s some road. There must be if you saw a wagon. You take the shore.” After Gendry is captured and Arya is returning south to report to Lommie and Hot Pie, she notes that “On her left Gods Eye lapped calmly against its shores. on her right a wind sighed through the branches, and leaves rustled and stirred.”

  18. Hi, Steven. My first post here, and I’m sorry for making it a necropost, but I wanted to comment on your What If:

    There is a MAJOR consequence you leave out of Arya making it to Riverrun at any point:
    Once Bran and Rickon are “killed”, and Sansa married to Tyrion, Robb isn’t going to bother naming Jon Snow heir (an extremely questionable decision at best). He’s already got a live, trueborn sibling to hand, a ferocious one that looks and acts every inch a Stark.
    He’s going to disinherit Sansa, as he does OTL (surprised that doesn’t get brought up more often), but he’s going to name Arya Crown Princess instead.

    So she most likely gets packed off to Greywater Watch along with copies of the will when it comes time for the RW, is crowned Queen in the North, and after that…? Who knows.

    • It’s possible. But does Robb want a Frey as Lord of Winterfell?

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        I’ve always understood that in cases such as this, where the woman holds legal authority and the man is a glorified sperm donor, he takes her name, as do the children of the union. Otherwise Houses all over Westeros would be constantly ceasing to exist- in the timeframe of the books, there’s the Waynwoods in the Vale and the Oakhearts in the Stormlands, both of whom have ruling Ladies whose children bear their name.

        If you mean that Robb would be worried about Arya’s Frey husband exerting influence through her, he doesn’t know his sister. If Arya had married Elmar, I promise you that that marriage would have looked eerily similar to Emmon and Genna Lannister.

        • That’s much more likely to be the case of a widow with children below the age of majority.

          It’s not at all clear that is the law in Westeros, and the Hornwood dispute would suggest otherwise.

          • thatrabidpotato says:

            I’m almost positive Arys Oakheart is a younger son of Lady Oakheart (If he’d been a brother he’d never have been allowed to join the Kingsguard). Which would mean in turn that he has an elder brother who is of the age of majority, and yet his mother’s still ruling. The title is hers by right.

            It simply makes no sense whatsoever for Houses to be absorbed whenever a girl or woman inherits, because like I said above, if that were the case we’d see Houses vanishing constantly. Women inherit all the time. Lord Manderly’s heir is Wylis, but Wylis has two daughters and no sons. Wynafryd IS going to rule White Harbor eventually, yet there’s no concern about House Manderly disappearing.

            And although I hesitate to use Dorne as an example, because everyone knows about how they’re different in matters of gender, I would point out that marriages are conducted by the Faith there just as in the rest of Westeros, and children of a Martell princess are still legally Martells

            My belief is that it’s set out in the marriage contract/agreement between the two families- it has to be specifically agreed upon that children take the woman’s name, otherwise it defaults to the fathers.

          • That doesn’t fit anything else we know of Westerosi law.

  19. thatrabidpotato says:

    We know practically nothing of Westerosi law- and that includes a lot of the nuts-and-bolts negotiations that go on with most marriages.

    It’s as good an explanation as any for the situations when the daughter of a powerful house inherits.

  20. thatrabidpotato says:

    So, Kevan didn’t attempt to usurp her, and meekly accepted that CR was hers. That would seem to point in my favor, wouldn’t it?

    “the maester’s mouth flapped open once again. ‘By rights the Seastone Chair belongs to Theon, or Asha if the prince is dead. That is the law’.
    ‘Green land law’, said Aeron with contempt”.

    “‘Pray all you wish’, said the maester. ‘It does not change the law. Theon is heir, then Asha next'”

    Also, I’ve seen that Martin has put up large chunks of the History of the West that got cut out of WOIAF on his website, particularly dealing with Tytos Lannister and the Rains of Castamere. Might be worth a look?

    • Counter examples: the Hornwoods, the Stokeworths, Jon’s dialogue with Ser Godry Farring in ADWD Jon IV. See Martin here:

      As for Westerlands, see here:

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        The Stokeworths are the easiest to address. Lollys is an imbecile and would not be suited to rule on her own even if she were a man, hence she requires a Lord Protector. However, Falyse was not such an idiot, and moreover had been heir for a long time. Which is why she’s still Falyse Stokeworth despite her marriage to a Byrch, a point in favor of my earlier theory about matrilineal marriages.

        The Hornwood dispute: The problem here is that Lady Hornwood is the last living person with the name Hornwood, and that this is VERY MUCH a special case. Since there aren’t any kids to pass the lands on to, she has the power until a more permanent solution can be devised- similarly to Lady Dustin. Unlike the Dustins, however, Hornwood land is surrounded by some of the greatest powers in the North- Bolton, Umber, Manderly- making somewhat the equivalent of Luxembourg. All of these are naturally going to seize the smallest opportunity to devour their weaker neighbor, and the near simulataneous deaths of the Lord and his only child certainly qualify. Note also that Rodrik and Luwin when debating who gets it finally, they seem to be leaning most strongly towards either legitimizing Larence Snow or passing the lands to Beren Tallhart and making him take the name Hornwood after his mother- both of these relying on claims of blood and direct descent through Hornwoods rather than marriage.
        Also, that’s a Northern example, and it’s crystal clear how Northern succession works- sons, daughters, uncles, aunts. Another example of which: Eddara Tallhart. This particular 12 year old is now the Lady of Torrhen’s Square, despite having male cousins through her father’s younger brother.

        Jon & Farring: “In the North, the children of a man’s body still come before his brothers, ser.” I assume this is the line you meant? With the assumption that “In the North”, means it doesn’t work that way in the South? The problem with this as I see it is that Jon is almost certainly being somewhat sarcastic here. He is arguing with multiple people at the same time, near all of whom are calling him a craven and insisting on doing some extremely stupid things. “Yes, Ser Horpe, it is very dumb to march on a strong castle when its defenders have you 5 to 1. I don’t know how you do things in the South, but HERE, in the North, we don’t do that.”

        And finally, the SSM. I was a little worried seeing you pull that out, bc I can’t argue with Word of God, but: “Most would say the lands and titles would go to the eldest daughter.” Most means a significant majority. Of course the brothers can dispute it if they are assholes, but they can do that for a son as well. Martin’s entire point with this is that this inheritance system and broader legal system is very vague and ill defined, and easily manipulated by people of sufficient will.

        • thatrabidpotato says:

          IDK if you still look at these things months later, but I wanted to point out a couple more things that support my side of this:

          Reaching all the way back into ancient times, when things were presumably much more misogynistic, we have the case of the first Andal Lannister: “After the death of Gerold III Lannister without male issue, a council crowned his only daughter’s husband, Ser Joffrey Lydden, who took the Lannister name.” I’d argue that several thousand years later, they’d probably just have crowned the girl herself. Either way, the guy had to take his wife’s name to be accepted.

          Also, Alayne showed us that Lady Waynewood has adult sons, well capable of ruling in their own right, yet she still has the power.

          I don’t think Robb would have been remotely afraid of leaving the North or Trident to Arya, other than concerns about her youth. She’d have grown, though, and the Blackfish surely could have helped teach her the rudiments of good command and governance.

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