“So Spake Martin” Archive Binge – Complete!


Over on Westeros.org, there’s a feature called “So Spake Martin” that collects George R.R Martin’s email responses, interviews, comments from his book signings and other events, and answers from Q&A sessions. Unfortunately, it’s organized horribly – pages are organized only by month (across a period of more than 15 years), there’s no way to search by topic, there’s no keywords, etc. So for the longest time, I’d basically ignored it, save for the few times in which someone quoted it, or it got used as a source on the wiki.

However, I recently got the chance to read the entire thing as one document, all 386 pages of it. It wasn’t easy, there was a lot of repetition both in the questions asked and answered, multiple reports from the same event, etc. but there’s a wealth of new information here.

So check it out:

54 thoughts on ““So Spake Martin” Archive Binge – Complete!

  1. Grant says:

    Thanks for that. Lots of common sense stuff when you think about it. If Eddard exists outside the knight system then there’s not much reason why he could make knights of his own.

    I always thought the idea of Rhaegar faking his death and disappearing to the north or east didn’t make much sense. Even setting aside his own personality, Melisandre makes it very clear to Mance that these illusions are not foolproof and Rhaegar would have needed them to be working perfectly 24/7 for literally decades.

    If Varys and Illyrio didn’t know, then who did? Viserys makes sense, who would trust him with vital information about a great house committing what could be called treason?

    And the wording doesn’t confirm that Margaery lives. It could just be a sense that this is the person she would grow into. I don’t see what real purpose her death could serve in the story, but it’s possible that there will be some Other attack on Kingslanding and she’ll be among the fallen to drive home the danger.

  2. Brett says:

    Nice. I remember looking up stuff in that ages ago.

  3. Sean C. says:

    Re: Part V, Orys Baratheon died of wounds on his way back home to Storm’s End after defeating the Vulture King’s armies, looking contentedly at the chopped-off limbs of Walter Wyl.

    The Westerosi “regional accent” issue raises an obvious issue concerning Sansa, who is a Northern pretending to be the illegitimate daughter of a Valeman and a Braavosi gentlewoman, raised in a convent (I don’t think it was ever specified where this convent was supposed to be).

    • Ah. I’d forgotten that. Right. Vulture King.

      Re: the accent. On the other hand, Sansa was raised by her mother, a southern woman, and a septa who’d also be from the south.

      I think Sansa would have been trained to “speak proper,” i.e the Received Pronunciation of the South, which is probably somewhere between a Crownlands and Reach accent.

    • Grant says:

      Besides Catelyn and the Septa’s efforts, Sansa has also spent years in Kingslanding. By now whatever accent she has is probably a pretty odd one that would fit with someone raised a good distance away.

    • OTL says:

      Pyp identifies Sam as being: a) upper class b) southern and c) from near Old town So technically this is just confirming what we already knew.

  4. Amestria says:

    If Rorge and Biter had killed some highborn wouldn’t they have simply been hanged or worse?

    More likely they went into the black cells because they annoyed Slynt or Slynt needed to make it look like he was actually doing his job.

    • S. Duff says:

      Maybe some well-meaning lord (Stannis?) just got wind of it and shut them down?

    • I dunno. Like I said, the Black Cells are usually reserved for the worst of the worst.

      • Amestria says:

        I know Rorge and Biter seem like totally upstanding subjects, but the Goldcloaks might have gotten the notion that they should be locked away in the deepest, darkest, securest place they had. Weird, I know 😛

        • Totally upstanding I doubt. The question isn’t why are they in jail, but why these cells rather than the ordinary ones?

          • Amestria says:

            I think a combination of “they’re f****** scary” and low status lowborn is good enough. The question should be, why not toss them in the black cells?

          • But I think lowborn don’t generally rate the black cells. The black cells are specifically mentioned to be reserved for “the most vile and dangerous” prisoners.

            So I think they must have done something pretty damn egregious.

          • Amestria says:

            Maybe Biter ate someone?

          • Sure. Bit them at the very least. Someone had to have died rather impressively.

          • Amestria says:

            Given there both dead their list of crimes will probably be left to the imagination. I don’t think they did anything against a highborn though, if only because they’d probably have been killed straight away if they had. They did something just bad enough to be worth locking away forever.

      • Arthur Brown says:

        I always wondered what Jaqen H’ghar did to get tossed there and why were Biter & Rorge so afraid of him. In ACOK, it is noted they tried to keep clear of him – why?

        • John says:

          Not sure what got Jaqen put in the cells, but I’ve always thought that Biter’s & Rorge’s deference was due to some sort of instinctive understanding of him as a very dangerous man, rather than any specific knowledge.

        • Grant says:

          There are two possibilities with Jaqen. Either he deliberately did something to get himself sent to the Black Cells, or he got caught. Either one is entirely possible, so far as we know Faceless Men are still men with their limitations. Illusions don’t help if you’ve got a sword at your throat and two men tying you up.

          If he did get himself caught, the question is obviously why. Perhaps he had a target up north, or maybe there was someone in the cells or around them he was sent after and he hadn’t planned for Yoren to show up. However I’m pretty sure that Arya wasn’t the reason, setting aside that being a girl who fences does not in any way mean she’s assassin material, he really could not have predicted all of the things that would have to happen for Arya to end up in Yoren’s party.

          As for Rorge and Biter, quite possible that while he was down there they or someone else tried to mess with him and learned that it was a very, very bad idea.

          • David Hunt says:

            I think Rorge and Biter wouldn’t have learned squat about Jaqen in the Black Cells. We know that they’re kept in utter darkness and I fully expect that the prisoners are kept in separate cells to further isolate them and enhance the sensory deprivation. If prisoners can talk to each other they keep each other’s spirits up and keep their buddies from breaking/going insane.

          • Arthur Brown says:

            I tend to agree with you – he wanted to get caught…but why? Did Biter & Rorge witness him changing his face hence their fear? I hope this is explained but I doubt it will.

          • David Hunt says:

            @Arthur Brown,

            It’s nice to be agreed with, but I wasn’t saying that Jaqen wanted to get caught. I only said that I didn’t think that Rorge and Biter would have found out anything about him in the Black Cells as it’s my impression that isolation is part of what gives them their power. Ergo, they didn’t meet there. A much simpler explanation would be that Jaqen was somehow mixed up with the same pit fighting/bear baiting scheme that landed Rorge and Biter in the Black Cells. They could have given him a healthy respect, because he was a, for example, one of fighters who had distinguished himself.

            I don’t know why everyone seems to think that Jaqen could only have been placed in the Black Cells because he wanted to be there. I know I can’t say “he isn’t magic” given that he is, so I’ll settle for: he isn’t infallible. He could have been caught in the act of some heinous crime (like murder) due to bad luck or poor planning resulting from some factor unknown to him or simply discounted by him. Speculations on what his ultimate plans are/were have much lower minimum complexity if you don’t have to assume that he wanted to be in Black Cells, because he can’t reliably control how/when/if he gets out. I assume that whatever he was up to was delayed by his imprisonment, first in the Cells, then in the locked cage of the wagon, and finally by his debt to Arya. After he was free of Arya, he stuck around to give her a recruitment pitch, so I presume that he had a little leeway in his schedule. BTW, Others have speculated why he’d make that pitch to Arya and my guess is that it was a combination of two factors. 1. She outsmarted him into giving her more than he said he would by naming Jaqen Hagar. 2. She showed that she’s a capable prospect by murdering their way out of Harrenhall without his help.

          • Lann says:

            This just speculation but maybe his target was Syrio Forell. He would certainly have made enemies if he was first sword of Braavos. Syrio might have been expecting an attempt and was on his guard. He sounds awesome enough to catch a faceless man.

        • Perhaps he had the misfortune of picking up the face of someone with an outstanding warrant?

  5. Amestria says:

    Anyway, this is very handy, thanks for going to all that effort ^^

  6. Andrew says:

    What instances were there of men being released from the NW? I’m curious to know.

    As for Varys missing the Dornish pact, it wouldn’t be the first time he missed some crucial info in Dorne, ie at the Tower of Joy.

    I think Aegon IV didn’t call for an annulment, because he was a selfish bastard who didn’t like the idea of letting his wife go, even if he loathed her.

    • You’re probably right.

    • Mr Fixit says:

      A bit unrelated, but I’m still curious as to why Robert decided to keep Varys on the small council. Yeah, I know, his information network could be very important to the new dynasty, etc. But still… Keeping the rather infamous Master of Whisperers that the Mad King himself brought aboard and that was said to… well, whisper in his ear of plots both real and imagined. I can’t see Robert and Jon Arryn doing that.

      • Grant says:

        Quite a few historical precedents in real life. For this specific case, he gave Aerys information but so far as we, and Connington, know that was all he did. If his worst was to do his job well for a man that should have never been allowed power, well plenty of precedent for that in ASOIAF.

        Now events do tell us that Stannis was right and that Robert should have gotten rid of Varys and others from the old regime, but really I’d say that Stannis just got lucky there.

      • OTL says:

        We haven’t been given any examples of Varys earning his keep during Robert’s reign. I don’t think Robert was a very suspicious guy and was willing to let him prove himself.

      • John says:

        I’m kind of generally interested in the make-up of Robert’s initial Small Council. We know Pycelle, Varys, and Jon Arryn are there from the start, and presumably Stannis is as well. But Renly was just a boy at the time, and we know Littlefinger rose through the ranks. So who were Robert’s original Masters of Law and Coin? Did he keep them from Aerys’s time, too?

  7. Brett says:

    Interesting stuff. I think GRRM is wrong about the “linear tech development” thing as well – if anything, technological advancement seems to be one of the few things that overall consistently kept going despite the rise and collapse of societies in Eurasian history*. Some technologies were lost temporarily, but the Middle Ages was more technologically advanced than Rome, and so on and so forth.

    * Should call that Afro-Eurasian I guess.

    • Brett says:

      Just realized something else. If it’s mostly barter transactions in Moles town, then what are the black brothers paying the prostitutes in Moles Town with?

      • Perhaps the brothers of the Nights Watch have a certain amount of coin that they circulate amongst themselves? Like the highborn arrivals just payoff people to do their chores and then trading them amongst themselves like cigarettes in prison, or perhaps the coin comes from the trade at East Watch, which outside of straight currency can include certain goods from beyond the wall, like amber, furs, fish, and provisions.

      • GRRM explains this. The Black Brothers pay out of their rations/”perks.” I.E, if I’m a steward, and I’ve just been hewing some wood, 2/3 might go to the Watch, but I keep a third to trade.

    • I don’t know if I’d go that far. Technological advancement keeps going, but at an extremely low pace – there’s only one real example of “hockey stick” change in world history, and that’s the IR.

      • OTL says:

        In real history the pace of change gets quicker and quicker. So the stone age lasts for hundreds of thousands of years, the bronze age less so, the iron age less and so on.

        In Westeros (less so Essos) it takes thousands of years to get from the Dark Ages to about 1450. Compare that with about 1000 years from the fall of the Roman Empire to Columbus.

        It’s certainly Martin’s weak spot but the alternative is to abandon all the stories about Westerosi history which must stretch back into the “mists of time…” etc.

  8. Son of Fire says:

    Good stuff

  9. KrimzonStriker says:

    Minor logical answers to some of you questions.

    1. I don’t imagine the Ironborn navy is ALL longships, just the majority. The Iron Fleet itself seems to have the heavier version, otherwise this attack of Victorian’s on Slaver Bay really won’t end well for him…

    2. Gulltown might be strategically closer through the Narrow Sea, but the frequent storms likely makes it less desirable as a trade port compared to simply sailing south and around to Oldtown and Lannisport, who have strong export markets like gold in the case of the latter,

    3. It was pretty clear in WOIAF that Aegon the IV didn’t annul his marriage to his sister out of spite, It reads she repeatedly requested he do so so she could become a septa which he denied, and even though it says he took no pleasure sleeping with her I think it safe to say he probably wanted to stick one in her and Aemon Dragonknights eye probably due to their close relationship.

    4. I personally always thought if Rhaegar was going to have a ‘third head’ to his prophecy he’d try to make sure it was legitimate so if any Targaryen could be guilty of polygamy after Maegor….. here’s looking at you R+L=J/Iron Throne contender.

    5. Huh? Orys description in the House Baratheon entry and him dying right after crushing the Vulture King rebellion, so his death at that point under Aenys matches with the timeline.

    • 1. The Iron Fleet is the larger ships. It’s the rest that are longships. Which helps to explain the navies on the west coast – Seagard’s two or three big ships could fend off a lot larger number of longships, but couldn’t deal with the Iron Fleet; the Lannisport Fleet is a genuine deterrant and thus has to be burnt in harbor; the Redwyne fleet is big enough to protect the Reach from the Ironborn.

      2. The storms are concentrated in the Stormlands area, not up at Gulltown, and regardless, the main merchantile powers have way too much Narrow Sea traffic to actually make it prohibitive. In other words, if the Narrow Sea makes Gulltown improbable, it makes the Free Cities impossible.

      3. True.

      4. I think he probably did marry Lyanna.

      5. Yeah, I had just misread.

  10. […] the Westerlands have lost 10,000 men. What I learned in my read-through of the SoSpakeMartin archives that I hadn’t known before is that most of the 4,000 men that Ser Forley Prester rescued […]

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