Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Bran III, ACOK

Men crowded shoulder to shoulder on the benches. “Stark!” they called as Bran trotted past, rising to their feet. “Winterfell! Winterfell!”

Synopsis: Bran presides over the harvest feast in Winterfell, and receives his newest guests, Meera and Jojen Reed

SPOILER WARNING: This chapter analysis, and all following, will contain spoilers for all Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones episodes. Caveat lector.

Political Analysis:

In Bran III, George R.R Martin has finally gotten through the tiresome politics and supernatural horror to finally get to what A Song of Ice and Fire is really about: food. Long, rapturous, semi-pornographic descriptions of food. And so, it’s appropriate that shortly after Thanksgiving, I sit down and write a detailed, 10,000 word essay about the historical accuracy of Westerosi cuisine.

The Meaning of the Harvest Feast

Just kidding. For all that Bran III is a pretty short chapter, in which not many actions or events of great moment happen, there’s some really interesting world-building and thematic work going on. Begin with the fact that, for everyone at this feast (which means virtually the entire political community of the North), this is the last good time any of them will remember. Next comes Jojen Reed’s dark premonitions. Then Lady Hornwood will be abducted – returning home from this very feast – and the North will fall into open civil war. Then the Ironborn will come, the destruction of this place and this family and this community, the rise of the Boltons, the winter snows, and everything to come. But first, there will be one last moment where the North is free, victorious, prosperous, and safe:

“He was old enough to know that it was not truly him they shouted for – it was the harvest they cheered, it was Robb and his victories, it was his lord father and his grandfather and all the Starks going back eight thousand years. Still, it made him swell with pride…he bid them welcome in the name of his brother, the King in the North, and asked them to thank the gods old and new for Robb’s victories and the bounty of the harvest. “May there be a hundred more.”

“If the dish smelled especially choice, he would send it to one of the lords on the dais, a gesture of friendship and favor that Maester Luwin told him he must make. He sent some salmon down to poor sad Lady Hornwood, the boar to the boisterous Umbers, a dish of goose-in-berries to Cley Cerwyn…he sent sweets to Hodor and Old Nan as well for no other reason but he loved them…on the benches below, Winterfell men mixed with smallfolk from the winter town, friends from the nearest holdfasts, and the escorts of their lordly guests. Some faces Bran had never seen before, others he knew as well as his own, yet they all seemed equally foreign to him. He watched them as from a distance, as if he still sat in the window of his bedchamber looking down on the yard below, seeing everything yet a part of nothing.”

Throughout Bran III, food and victory are connected as symbols of good fortune, of continued life and security; indeed, this theme will be darkly inverted in Bran IV when meat and battle are one in Jojen’s green eyes. And both are connected also as what a good lord gives to his vassals that tie the community together – as Bran shares his food with highborn and smallfolk alike, as those who farm and those who fight break bread on the same benches, and echoed again later when the Reeds take their vows. If there is one thing that makes the North as different from the south as Dorne is from the rest of Westeros, besides their ethnic identity as First Men and their religious identity as followers of the Old Gods, it is a sense of collective responsibility for food and shelter. The North may not have the same sense of tribal unity that the Dornish have (although I’d bet you anything the Dornish traditions around water are just as strong – hence the water gardens) – in the North, you are a Bolton man or a Stark man or an Umber or a Glover, and those rivalries are bloody. But it is in the North where guest right is taken more seriously than anywhere else, where Ned Stark sits his servants and his smallfolk next to him at table to learn their lives (one thing he never learned at the Eyrie), where the Lord tells his vassals not just what taxes to pay but how much of each harvest they must save for themselves to prevent the tragedy of the commons becoming a lethal one, where the center of government is located in the one place where all Northerners may shelter against the cold when winter falls.

Thus, Northern political society comes together not in a court as in Highgarden or Casterly Rock or King’s Landing, but in a feasting hall, where all guests are sacrosanct, all guests are fed and fed well, and all guests may share in the warmth that runs through the walls of the castle like living veins.

 The Reeds of Greywater Watch

This subtext is made text when the Reeds of Greywater Watch arrive. The Reeds are both literally and symbolically, the last and least to arrive. Two children of a “poor folk, fishers and frog-hunters who lived in houses of thatch and woven reeds on floating islands hidden in the deeps of the swamp,” who are scorned as “a cowardly people who fought with poisoned weapons and preferred to hide from foes rather than face them in open battle,” arrive unexpectedly:

Alebelly led two new guests into the feast. “The Lady Meera of House Reed,” the rotund guardsman bellowed over the clamor. “With her brother, Jojen, of Greywater Watch.” 

Men looked up from their cups and trenches to eye the newcomers. Bran heard Little Walder mutter, “Frogeaters,” to Big Walder beside him. Ser Rodrik climbed to his feet. “Be welcome, friends, and share this harvest with us.” Serving men hurried to lengthen the table on the dais, fetching trestles and chairs.

“Who are they?” Rickon asked.

“Mudmen,” answered Little Walder disdainfully. “They’re thieves and cravens, and they have green teeth from eating frogs.”

Maester Luwin crouched beside Bran’s seat to whisper counsel in his ear. “You must greet these ones warmly. I had not thought to see them here, but…you know who they are.”

Bran nodded. “Crannogmen. From the Neck.”

“Howland Reed was a great friend to your father.”

Note the contrast between the welcome from the Northmen and the hatred of the Freys – given the proximity between Greywater Watch and the Freys, the Freys’ bloodthirsty insistence on extracting tolls from their neighbors, and the fen folk’s more lax attitude to customs duties, it’s not unsurprising that the two peoples have a historical enmity. However, as much as Bran’s been told stories of the Reeds’ otherness, it’s clear that the North still considers them a part of the political community, worthy of a seat above the salt, bound to House Stark by bonds of friendship and loyalty that go back much longer than House Frey’s entire existence. And for all that the relationship between House Stark and House Reed began with King Rickard Stark, the Laughing Wolf, conquering the Marsh King and carrying away his daughter, it’s clearly a relationship of mutual respect:

“My lords of Stark…the years have passed in their hundred and their thousands since my folk first swore their fealty to the King in the North. My lord father has sent us here to say the words again, for all our people…to Winterfell we pledge the faith of Greywater…hearth and heart and harvest we yield up to you, my lord. Our swords and spears and arrows are yours to command. Grant mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you.”

“I swear by earth and water,” said the boy in green.

“I swear it by bronze and iron,” his sister said.

“We swear it by ice and fire.”

While the Reeds’ oath is not the usual format (as Bran notes, “their oath was not one he had been taught”), it is as good as any a description of the feudal relationship as the North understands it. Once again, we see the centrality of shelter and food with “hearth and heart and harvest” coming before the more traditional military obligations of “swords and spears and arrows.” But we also have an interesting view of the lord’s obligations as well – “mercy…help…and justice.” I’ve talked about in the past Ned Stark’s firmly held belief in noblesse oblige, but I think we see the roots of it here. It’s not the same thing as Dornish nationalism – a Stark doesn’t consider himself the same as one of his smallfolk, but unlike among the Lannisters or even among the Baratheons, there’s a sense of responsibility to them that’s extremely rare in the south (with exceptions for Edmure Tully or arguably Beric Dondarrion).  If Ned’s sense of honor was an Arryn transplant, this remains his Northern heritage.

The Wolfdreams

However, the Reeds straddle the world of the political and the world of the metaphysical, and here function to bring the latter to the foreground – right at the moment when the metaphysical is beginning to break through. Whereas Bran’s wolfdreams have been confined to the night, the time when the unconscious and the irrational take over. Now, they’re breaking through into his waking life:

suddenly he wished he were anywhere but here. It is cool in the godswood now. Steam is rising off the hot pools, and the red leaves of the weirwood are rustling. The smells are richer than here, and before long the moon will rise and my brother will sing to it.”

Bran’s clearly on the verge of advancing from mere wolfdreams to active warging, and it’s quite impressive the way he’s actively perceiving both locations at the same time – something he’s yet to accomplish consciously. At the same time, however, it’s clear that Jojen Reed has more of an agenda than just presenting his fealty to Winterfell, as he immediately asks to see the wolves, has seen them in the future (hence knowing how big they’re going to get), and can both feel Bran inside his wolf, and quite possibly is capable of knocking Bran out of the wolfdream by touching him.

The Tower of Joy, Part 2

The final area in which the Reeds are significant is that they act as a window into Eddard Stark’s past – in this case the Tower of Joy, and in the future the Tourney at Harrenhal. While the Reeds themselves are not frequent visitors to Winterfell, the family is already known to Bran Stark, who knows that “Howland Reed had been one of Father’s staunchest companions during the war for King Robert’s crown, before Bran was born.” (it’s interesting that Howland Reed must have served at the Bells, the Trident, etc. without getting more name recognition) More importantly, their arrival triggers a memory that we the readers know pertains to the Tower of Joy:

Something his father had told him once he was little came back to him suddenly. He had asked Lord Eddard if the Kingsguard were truly the finest knights in the Seven Kingdoms. “No longer,” he answered, “but once they were a marvel, a shining lesson to the world.”

“Was there one who was best of all?”

“The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. The called him the Sword of the Morning and he would have killed me save for Howland Reed.”

This provides us with more information about what happened at the Tower of Joy – Ned Stark went sword-to-sword (possibly Ice to Dawn, although it’s not clear from the text) with Ser Arthur Dayne, and Howland Reed saved his life during the fighting. Left unclear is what happened to Willam Dustin, Ethan Glover, Martyn Cassel, Theo Wull, and Mark Ryswell, or Ser Gerold Hightower and Ser Oswell Whent.

Now, some have taken this quote in very strange directions – that Howland Reed somehow warged into Arthur Dayne’s body and continues to inhabit it to this day. I find this a bit hard to believe. For one thing, if Ned was that familiar with warging, you’d think he’d be more cognizant of what the direwolves mean – instead, he doesn’t think about what they could mean, and remains somewhat unsure about their larger mystical purpose, until Catelyn arrives and tells him about how Summer saved Bran, after he’s executed Lady. For another, there are some logistical problems involved – where did Arthur and Howland’s bodies hang out while Ned was in Starfall? How did Ned transport not just a baby and his sister’s coffin, but also a comatose Reed and  the most famous knight in Westeros, all the way from Dorne to the North with no one noticing?

However, the bigger thing is that it’s not clear at all that the Reeds are wargs. Jojen himself has the greensight, although he claims that he’s not a greenseer because he’s not a warg as well. He may indeed have inherited the greensight from his father, but it seems unlikely that he would have gotten the former and not the latter if his father was both. Indeed, it’s notable that Jojen later states that his father sent them to Winterfell when Jojen had a vision – not Howland.

I think the more likely scenario is that Howland Reed saved Ned’s life using the crannogman’s tactics of net and spear to hinder Ser Arthur Dayne right before he would have struck down Ned Stark – a greatsword can be a rather cumbersome weapon, especially if it gets fouled in a net. It may well be that Howland was able to accomplish this because he had seen the danger to Ned’s life ahead of time, through the greensight. But that’s all we can say.

Historical Analysis:

The crannogmen actually have a fascinating historical comparison – the “fenfolk” who inhabited extremely low-lying regions of East Anglia around the Wash, which for thousands of years were a nigh-impenetrable mass of peat bogs, subject to periodic floods that left islands standing in the middle of lakes, basically a nightmare for any king or lord to conquer and govern. The Fens became a refuge to basically everyone on the losing side of conflicts for hundreds and hundreds of years: the Icini, the rascally Britons who gave us Boadicea, supposedly fled into the fens when the Angles and Saxons invaded in the 5th century. Various orders of Christian monks loved the isolation, so they established five monestaries in the area, despite the fact that random Britons kept trying to attack Saint Guthlac.

Then when the Normans invaded, Hereward the Wake (Outlaw), led a Saxon-Danish resistance to Norman rule using the Isle of Ely as his base. Hereward, who murdered some fifteen Normans who’d murdered his brother, was knighted by his uncle, a local abbot, and began attacking the Norman invaders from his island hideout, notably sacking Petersborough Abbey. William the Conqueror then sent an army after Hereward, forcing him to retreat to the the Isle of Ely, from which he held off the Norman army as they build a wooden causeway that sank under the weight of men and horses, and then a wooden siege tower, which Hereward set on fire. Eventually the Normans bribed some local monks into showing them a safe path to the Isle, where they defeated Hereward’s Anglo-Danish army, but not before Hereward escaped into the fens to continue his resistance. But the story doesn’t end there: in 1381, the fenfolk rioted against the Bishop of Ely, who held them to the forced labor of villeins, and occupied the town in the name of the Great Society, burning the legal documents that were the basis of their bondage, and killing more than a few judges and lawyers in the name of the people, before the Peasant’s Revolt was brutally supressed.

For centuries after this, the “fen folk” made their living fishing, grazing animals, hunting wildfowl, and a good bit of smuggling, protected by customary rights to the use of the fens and the general difficulty in governing this wild country from London. To outsiders, the fen folk were considered “a kind of people according to the Nature of the Place where they shall  dwell, rude, uncivil, and envious to all they call Upland men…barbarous, sort of lazy, beggarly people.”[1] In short, to early modern Englishmen, there was something not right about these not-quite English people who didn’t farm, didn’t have much in the way of nobility or gentry around the place, didn’t have much private property but were very very insistent about communal property, and who were notoriously violent to outsiders who wanted to improve the place by draining the Fens and destroying their livelihood. In the 17th century, King Charles I got it into his head that there was a lot of money to be made in draining the Fens to create new farmland, only to run into the “Fen Tigers” who liked to riot and destroy his dykes and drainage canals. The “Fen Tigers” weren’t just a bunch of mindless rioters however – they were politically well-organized and produced a flood of pamphlets and ballads to support their cause, trying their defense of their ancient rights to the commons with the larger struggle between the King’s despotism and the supposedly ancient liberties of all Englishmen defended by the House of Commons. And they managed to elect one Oliver Cromwell to the Parliament, and we all know how that ended up.

[1] Juliette Roding, Lex Heerma van Voss, ed. The North Sea and Culture, p. 74.

So yeah, don’t mess with the fenfolk.

What If?

There really isn’t any scope for hypotheticals here. Next chapter, though, boy howdy…

Book vs. Show:

Narrative economy, especially as it applies to a TV show’s budget, often means that characters aren’t introduced until absolutely necessary – hence the Tullys don’t show up until Season 3, and the same for the Reeds. Now, I actually like what they did with the Reeds’ introduction; it’s a very economical display that Jojen is magical and Meera’s a little badass. And the Season 2 changes worked out for the most part.

The main difference, therefore, is tonal. Here, the Reeds’ introduction is warm, and inviting, there’s the familiar tie to Ned Stark, the ancient pact of fealty, etc. In the show, they’re much more sudden and frightening, and it’s less immediately clear why Bran should trust these people who suddenly show up in the forest and tell him he needs to go to the Wall.

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167 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Bran III, ACOK

  1. Winnie says:

    Wonderful as always Steve. I especially enjoy your take on Northern culture and the Starks tradition of collective responsibility. Exactly why I love the Starks and the North! As opposed to say the Lannister’s. Also I think the Bolton’s notable lack of no blesse oblige (remember how R oose killed those poor people who tried to find shelter at Winterfell) is one thing fueling the revolt against them.

    Also yet another reason to dislike the Frey’s-that they have the nerve to look down their noses at the Reeds and other cranking men.

    It was totally different on the show but I am pleased they specifically mentioned Howl and Reed and that he fought with Ned. It practically confirms to me that he’ll be key to proving the truth about Jon’s parentage.

  2. Sean C. says:

    If you follow reactions to the Reeds among the Unsullied viewers of the show, they were deeply distrustful of the Reeds well into the fourth season.

    I think Bran’s story is easily the story that suffered the most from the expansion of GRRM’s original “book one” of a trilogy into 3 to 5 novels. If you look at his arc from the perspective of one book, it involves him being crippled, discovering he has magic powers, being driven from his home and going on an adventure to find a wizard. That basic plot got majorly stretched out, but GRRM evidently couldn’t think of nearly as much incident to flesh it out as he could in other stories. All three of the Stark kid POVs virtually vanish from books 4-5 as a result of the dropping of the five-year gap*, but Bran has already started to fade out of the narrative in book 3, because GRRM really doesn’t have much left for him to do until you reach the content of the original “book two” (what will now be book 6).

    After this chapter’s little slice-of-Northern-life harvest festival, next chapter gives us our first real look at the culture of the Reach, in a decidedly bigger party.

    • Next chapter is going to be a doozy.

    • Winnie says:

      Yeah one reason I don’t really fault D&D for not including Bran next season.

      And actually knowing the show runners they probably wanted Unsullied viewers to be in suspense about the Reeds if only to make those scenes less dull.

      • David Hunt says:

        It’s my understanding that he will in the show for Season 5 and that it’s just Hodor who’s going to be absent. I read that rumor about him being gone and it came from the actor playing Hodor. It seems he assumed him not being there means that Bran won’t be either…

        • Bran’s absence later got confirmed by Benioff, who says they’ll be skipping the training sequence to get the timelines to match up.

          • Sean C. says:

            They’ve already basically skipped Sansa’s training, and they seem to be jumping over at least some of Bran’s (we don’t really know what sort of story he’s going to have going forward); it seems like Arya’s is the only one that will be dramatized.

          • Arya’s training is a lot more cinematic.

          • Winnie says:

            Well I’m not sure we’ll be skipping *all* of Sansa’s ‘training’ so to speak…we still don’t know what’s going to happen in the Vale next season, and while they’re probably drooling over Arya’s time with the Faceless Men, they can’t resist good political intrigue either. We shall see..

          • We did move a lot faster than we did in the books.

          • Sean C. says:

            I’d say “all”. “Darth Sansa” is not presented as somebody Littlefinger is going to be training, and he’s going to be spending at least some of next year in King’s Landing anyway.

            Though Bran’s training will at least be occurring offscreen in an identifiable timespan without contradicting scenes. Sansa’s “training” was retconned into seasons 2 and 3, and we just have to assume she was somehow learning things offscreen while the writers were busy portraying her as a moron.

          • Yeah, I have no idea what’s up with LF in KL.

          • Arthur Brown says:

            I have a feeling if the actor playing Bran continues to grow, we will see a new actor in season 6 more akin to Bran’s age & size. At least I hope..otherwise Hodor will be lugging around a man full grown.

          • Nah, they finessed that with the cart. Also, I don’t think Bran’s doing much lugging around in his future.

  3. Abbey Battle says:

    Excellent work Maester Steven!

    I must admit that it amuses me to imagine you reading the next chapter and trying to decide if Lord Renly Baratheon and Lord Boros really are the only two Baratheons in history to have inherited the slowpoke gene … I’d say that there is at least as much evidence for this theory as the idea that Lord Howland Reed beat Ser Arthur by turning him into a personal meat-puppet!

    • Winnie says:

      LOL! Not to mention that Renly appears to have been the only Baratheon brother with no natural warrior instincts despite having the best army.

      Also while the net theory works there’s always the possibility of say a crossbow being used or even the Crannogmen’s signature poison darts. Or just SOMETHING that distracted Dayne’s attention for even one single critical moment.

    • Sean C. says:

      Well, you could argue Stannis has the slowpoke gene, given that he started with more information about what was happening than anyone else, and yet three other kings declare themselves before he does.

  4. Crystal says:

    I had no idea about the real-life Fenfolk – it was interesting to read about them and see the parallels with the Crannogmen.

    Meera Reed interests me because she seems like an example of a woman who was not brought up in the main patriarchal culture of Westeros. She arrives with no guards and no patriarchal protectors, knows how to hunt and provide for herself (and later, for Bran and his party going North) and is clearly in charge of her brother. Meera reminds me quite a bit of the Mormont women, though she does have a father who is not a bear. *g* It’s hard to tell if the Crannogmen are really more egalitarian or if Meera is an exception; I surmise the former. Too bad Arya didn’t get to meet her! I think they’d be instant BFF’s.

    The Neck is so poor that I don’t think that the Crannogmen can afford for even noblewomen to be ladies, and there is no property in the Neck worth staking a claim for, so Meera is a lot safer than poor Lady Hornwood or, later, Sansa.

    • I think that last paragraph hits on it. Wherever the environment is harsh enough to require all hands on deck from both genders, stricter gender regulations fall away. Iron Islands, Bear Island, the Neck, the Mountains of the Moon, etc.

      • Winnie says:

        Might even explain Dorne too when you think about it-the inherent difficulties of carving out a living in the desert or the Marches.

        • Crystal says:

          Dorne had the Rhoynish influence via Nymeria and her people, and the Rhoynar were an egalitarian culture. But I think Dorne being a desert helped it to stick. I wonder if the Rhoynar had settled in the Reach, where the livin’ is easy, would they have kept their egalitarian traditions to such an extent?

          There was a passage in AWOIAF regarding wife-beating, and it mentioned Dorne as a place where that was not allowed. I got the impression that if a Dornish husband hit his wife, she was entitled to hit him back, hard.

          But the Neck, the Mountains of the Moon, Bear Island, and I would add north of the Wall, are none of them places where women can be pushed aside and relegated to child-bearing and decorative roles, so that seems to have accorded them much more respect. And Meera, the Mormont women, and the Wildling spearwives are all armed and dangerous. Howland Reed probably sent his daughter off to Winterfell knowing that any man who tried to attack her or Jojen would meet the business end of her spear. The crannogmen spears seem to have a rather fearsome reputation in-universe, “if one of them scratches you you’ll die shitting yourself to death” or something like that; I wouldn’t be surprised if Meera got a nice wide berth if a would-be attacker saw that yes, she had one of those allegedly-poisoned spears, and yes, she knew how to use it.

  5. David Hunt says:

    “the idea that Lord Howland Reed beat Ser Arthur by turning him into a personal meat-puppet!”

    Yeah. I’m with Steven and (I think) you on this. There’s no reason that to believe that Reed saved Ned’s life in any way other than any other experienced soldier would save Ned’s life in that type of fight. Although Steven, your writing did evoke a vivid mental image of Dayne standing over a prone Ned, Dawn held high and realizing with horror that he can’t bring the down the finishing stroke because that frog-eating nobody has snagged Dawn with his net, followed Ned driving Ice into Dayne’s armpit through the gap created by Dayne’s raised arms.

    Great job as usual1

  6. Amestria says:

    Your introduction actually tricked me 😛

  7. Amestria says:

    The red line of the Boltons seems to have a rather different notion of its obligations then the other Houses though (which share a mindset more or less similar to that of the Starks, save perhaps Lady Dustin, whose totally out for blood). How long till we hear your thoughts on those?

    • When it comes to a chapter that features the Bolton traditions more. So possibly in a while.

      • Winnie says:

        Like ADWD…though, I’m hoping you’ll maybe pick it up when we see more of Roose?!? Because otherwise we may never get it.

        Though, yeah, again I think that the Bolton’s notable lack of obligatory compassion sets them apart from other Northern houses. They never understood that no one else in the North *wanted* the Bolton’s in charge, while Stark noblesse oblige goes a long way towards explaining the loyalty they command in the area even when they’ve been all but extinguished.

        As you say, the Southern lords have a much lesser belief in the noblesse oblige tradition to keep their people fed, (in fact a number of them don’t seem to have it at all) which may also account for Tywin’s underestimating the backlash to exterminating the Stark line; there’s just no counterpart in the Westernlands to the loyalty the Northerners feel to the Starks.

        • Crystal says:

          And nobody seems to be inclined to stick their necks out for any of Tywin’s children when they are in trouble. But look at the men willing to march through a snowstorm and *die* for “Ned’s little girl.”

          Ned, and the Starks in general, seem to have realized that you can be a hard man dispensing hard justice and still treat people with decency and respect. Sansa seems to have absorbed this message in spite of herself (having never been trained or expected to be anything other than a decorative consort) when she says she’d rather be loved than feared when she is Queen, and that she will “make them love me.” And earlier when she spoke up in defense of Dontos, she realized that he was harmless and didn’t deserve to be executed.

          Interestingly, Margaery Tyrell seems to have, if not absorbed noblesse oblige, at least knows how to use its appearance to her benefit. She patronizes local craftspeople, she gives to charity, etc. Whether that is sincere who knows, but she does realize that being hated is dangerous. Cersei, OTOH, has made herself hated to drastic consequences, and Tywin’s regime of tyranny seems to have laid the foundations of his dynasty’s destruction. As for the Boltons and Freys – nobody is mourning the latter as the BWB picks them off, and the Boltons don’t seem to be headed for longevity either.

          • Winnie says:

            Yeah, while many people seem to think the series is advocating the worst, most cruel, most treacherous behavior, I would argue the lesson is more complicated than that; Tywin Lannister style tactics (what Amanda Marcotte so brilliantly labeled as cheating and part of the free rider problem,) can certainly work in the short term, (especially if your opponents are caught off guard by the sheer lengths you’ll go to,) but they’re not so good in the long run.

            Tywin and Cersei between them both burned their bridges with every good family in Westeros AND the smallfolk too-while the Stark’s despite nearly being driven into the ground do seem posed to make a comeback which at least *partially* validates Ned in retrospect-certainly knew how to be a Warden of the North, he just didn’t get King’s Landing. These are all developments and themes I really REALLY want to see on the show next season.

            And House Frey and House Bolton pretty much doomed themselves with the Red Wedding. I find it especially grimly amusing in retrospect that members of House Frey voluntarily took a trip up North and then lied to Manderly’s face because they honestly believed they were protected…it was also fun seeing how surprised they were to learn that even their Lannister allies despised them. It’s like they thought people would be impressed by their initiative or something. Roose at least knew there’d be trouble even if he misjudged his ability to handle it.

          • Agreed, Tywin’s usual solutions seem great at the moment, but they aren’t good long-term. Cersei has burned bridges by wanting power she was never entitled to.

            And Roose at least has to suspect that people are seriously side eying him (if not planning his murder), he comes back unscathed by the RW and is declared Warden of the North, yeah people are going to call foul on that one. And Ramsay isn’t helping matters for him if, if anything, it has people more fired up due to ‘Arya’s cries.

          • Carolyn says:

            I think, that this is the message of the later books (AFFC and ADWD), that your actions will catch up with you and that it is very difficult to negotiate successfully with people, if you have already broken your word:

            -I also find the Freys HILARIOUS for expecting other people to respect guest-right when dealing with them, even though the Freys care nothing for it.
            Regarding Manderly I also find it quite dumb actually, that they were expecting him to respect that custom (which he still kind of did) when his son was killed while under guest-right-protection of the Freys and when the Freys in White Harbour were using this visit to actively spy on him and to threaten him into giving them his granddaughters’ hands in marriage, which to me also is kind of a violation of guest-right.

            -Another person, who has real trouble with her reputation catching up with her is Dany, who after breaking her word, breaking truces and attacking envoys has trouble negotiating with the Yunkaii, who demand hostages from her before even setting foot in the city and whose behaviour (setting up a slave-market directly outside of Meereen, not telling Dany of the Volantene fleet) shows, that they were dealing in bad faith with her anyway.

            -The Lannisters and Freys also reap what they have sown, when they lay siege to Riverrun and the Blackfish basically tells Jaime, that his word is useless, since he and his family members have broken it too much in the past. A few people I talked with said, that they thought it was cruel of the Blackfish to talk to Jaime this way, but Brynden Tully did not say anything to Jaime, that was not true during the parley at Riverrun.

          • The Freys have nerve, but let’s see how long it lasts.

            Personally, I loved the verbal smackdown the Blackfish gave Jaime.

          • Winnie says:

            The Jaime/Blackfish verbal smack down was one of the highlights of AFFC for me; though Jaime seemed off his usual game a bit probably because even he deep down agreed with Brynden.

            The level of chutzpah showed by the Frey’s in AFFC and ADWD, their staggering *smugness* in the face of those they’ve directly wronged is I think written that way to make their inevitable downfall all the more satisfying.

            Or maybe the weasels really ARE that stupid and arrogant enough to believe that any promises made by the now deceased Tywin Lannister can actually protect them. There’s a lot of greed at work there as well; the group who went up North clearly did so looking for advantageous marriages and new territory to occupy. The Riverlands crowd, (including Emmon Frey the new Lord of Riverrun-yuck,) were reluctant to turn over hostages to Jaime because said hostages had value and they were hoping to squeeze out as good ransoms as they could get-until Jaime reminded them who was boss.

          • Crystal says:

            Winnie: not only can the Freys not squeeze out any more money from their hostages once they turn them over to the Crown – without the hostages actually at the Twins, the families of those hostages are going to be out for Frey blood. We saw how Clement Piper was about to punch Edwyn Frey out at the parley table – if his son Marq is no longer hostage at the Twins for the Pipers’ good behavior, what is to stop Clement or any of the other lords from retaliation? I don’t think the Lannisters (save maybe Genna) give any fucks whatsoever about the loss of a few Freys – they have far bigger fish to fry, and in any event, no-one is in a position to back up their erstwhile allies: Tywin is dead, Tyrion in exile, Cersei publicly humiliated and powerless for now, Jaime heading Stoneheart-wards, Kevan dead. The Freys are bare-assed to the wind with a hurricane coming up behind them. I wonder if there is a Red Wedding 2.0 afoot in TWOW?

          • Winnie says:

            That too Carolyn. But as I said, judging from their behavior, I don’t think they’d yet caught on to how much danger they were really in. It was only seeing Jaime’s attitude towards them, that I think it began to sink in that the Lannister’s didn’t give a damn. I think they may have believed that the magnitude of their service to Tywin would give them some kind of special partnership with Casterly Rock afterward…and it didn’t. And as you say even in the Lannister’s wanted to protect House Frey at this point they really couldn’t, and yeah, Red Wedding 2.0 seems a very likely possibility especially with the BWB having a plant in Riverrun.

          • Allenips says:

            Reflecting on it now, it probably was best that Wyman guaranteed his son’s freedom before granting the marriages of his granddaughters to the Freys. I could only imagin that the Freys would ‘falsely’ report treason after marrying the heirs to Whiteharbor to Freys and providing another lordly post for the Freys to have; the Freys of the Crossing, the Freys of Riverrun, and the Freys of Whiteharbor, not an idea that appeals to me.

          • Winnie says:

            Dear lord A llenips I never ever considered that angle before but you’re absolutely right-its exactly the kind of weasel move they might do-and it would fit their goals of trying to control ever more important water routes.

            I also remember how worried Jaime was by how sullen Gatehouse Ami’s Frey kin were at Darry once they learned the marriage to Lancelot was off. They’re clearly trying to expand as far as possible.

        • Hey, can’t stop, won’t stop.

          • Winnie says:

            Yeah but it’s gonna take years and who’s to say I’ll still even be interested by then?!?

            Or that I’ll even be *alive*…

      • Amestria says:

        Roose’s charming interactions with Arya might be a good jumping off point.

        • Maybe. The best place to really focus in is “a peaceful land, a quiet people,” but I’ll see if there’s somewhere earlier that might work.

        • Winnie says:

          “Hunting wolves,” might be a good segue…or for that matter Roose’s partnering up with Vargo Hoat.

          OT but getting rid of Vargo and the bloody mummers, in favor of Locke, was IMHO a change for the better. The former wouldn’t be very convincing on screen while the latter was not only more believable but also foreshadowed the Bolton betrayal and Ramsay reveal by showing that House Flayed Man seemed to attract some pretty nasty customers.

          And of course with all due deference to the great Michael McElhattan Arya/Tywin was much MUCH better than Arya/Roose could ever have been. It was a great way to give us backstory and insight into Tywin WITHOUT resorting to Sexposition.

          • Ok, maybe “hunting wolves.”

          • I couldn’t disagree more on the Arya/Tywin (pointlesss, highly out of character for Tywin, and misrepresentative of the Westerosi class system) and the fact that Arya’s great Harrenhal arc and character development was basically sacrificed so she could have “cool” conversations with Charles Dance.

            Backstory and insight into Tywin could have easily been done without sexposition and also WITHOUT throwing Arya’s Harrenhal arc out of the window. Say, by having Tywin talk to someone out of his family, like his brother who was introduced in season 1 – which would have made a lot more sense in the first place?

  8. Grant says:

    There is a difference here, the Crannogmen and their lands are considered an important part of northern defense rather than a bastion of defiance to central authority. One has to wonder what lengths Rickard Stark went to in order to conquer them and how diplomatic his successors had to be, even with his marriage, for generations to make sure that the Crannogmen stayed under northern control.

    And on the magical side, you have to wonder what role magic plays in Crannogmen society. They’re clearly aware of its existence and consider it something to be used, but how many of them have any power and whether they have any institutionalized role is never explained.

    • True…but I think it’s a situation where they’re a bastion of defiance to authorities they consider illegitimate. Note how the Freys and the Ironborn get treated in comparison to the Starks.

      It seems to be fairly uncommon but not unheard of – Jojen is considered an unusual child, but one who fits within an understood framework. If I had to guess, I’d say they probably fit into some sort of wise woman/cunning man role.

  9. A fantastic essay Steve.
    I honestly loved when the Reed made their pledge, hearth and home, because it may be akin to say that the Starks are welcome and can always count on them when necessary, say, if any Stark should end up in Greywater, they would be protected and made to feel at home.
    Second, the spears part, which is something that most likely will come into play in Winds. We might get to see Howland leading an army North.
    Then the bronze, a material used in the North (Robb’s crown comes to mind, bronze and iron, winter materials).
    And lastly but not least, “Fire and Ice”, I agree that the Reeds seem to be aware of magic and are more accepting of it than many others, but here they are swearing by both. Almost as if to say, ‘You need a balance’, as both ice and fire can be dangerous in their own right.

    How adorable was Bran when sending sweets to Hodor and Old Nan? That’s something I enjoyed and it made me smile when I first read it.

    On the Noblesse, few Lords posses it without thinking on how it might benefit them. Ned, I believe was one of them, Edmure (my poor baby Trout) is another, so is Beric (at least before his death). Margaery’s was pure political PR and it’s working for her benefit. Robert Arryn could have the potential to become a good Lord if we take him away from Little Finger (Lisa’s style of parenting didn’t help either).

    I think those Freys there, with their comments, were there to illustrate how proud that House is; how they look down on someone who has more fealthy to their lords than Walder does to his. So, this might be a clue on how low they could fall in order to ‘avenge/protect’ the honor of their house and everything else be damned.

    • An army might be a bit much – I don’t think the fens have that many people, but definitely some soldiers.

      Bronze and iron – bronze being the traditional metal of the First Men, Iron being what they learned to use from the Andals.

      Fire and ice – see below.

      • Perhaps my wording wasn’t the best (I shouldn’t post at unholy hours in the morning), but I agree that they could send some soldiers; they’re basically showing the Iron Born the meaning of “Frog You”.

        Bronze & Iron, agree and also metals very associated with winter as they hold up well, like Cat comments on Robb’s crown.

        Fire and Ice: I had forgotten Rhaenrya’s pact. We know that it never came to be after the Dance nor in the generations that followed. Maybe that is also something Rhaegar came across? A copy of the pact that made him pick Lyanna, besides other reasons. Obviously Howland knows the truth about Jon, he’s one of the two who is there with Ned and helped him; so he definitely knows about the child of ice and fire.

        • Winnie says:

          LOL to “Frog You.” I see a new catch phrase.

          And I for one am hoping that when they do go looking in the Winterfell crypts they’ll find the Bronze crown of the Stark Kings of old…I just like the idea of that crown far more than that cold, glittery, gold thing in King’s Landing. And I won’t miss the IT if/when it gets melted down either. Maybe try a design for a throne that’s not so uncomfortable and ugly yet still ostentatious all at once?!?

          • Feel free to use that whenever you need it 🙂

            I don’t have the World book yet, so I really have no idea what Aegon did with Torrhen’s Crown; it would be nice if it did eventually made its way back to Winterfell (be it by Rhaegar to Lyanna or other means). Btw, the crown almost reminds me of Maekar’s own, only that Maekar was made to depict the 7 kingdoms.
            I agree on your sentiment on the IT. If/when bites the dust, you won’t see me crying over (like I did for Ice); I get the concept, I just can’t get behind the idea. Terrible idea Aegon.

        • It’s possible Rhaegar came across it – but if that was the case, why not go straight to Rickard and say the Pact takes precedence, I want to marry your daughter?

          • I think it would depend on when he came across it – if he did. If he did before his marriage, Aerys could have betoed the idea, since he was looking for a bride with Valyrian blood.

            If he did before his marriage and had gone stright to Rickard, the marriage could probably have gone through (depends on Aerys). But if he did after marriage, Rhaenys birth and Robert’s request it gets stickier. Since he risks angering Aerys, the Martells, Robert, the Faith and possibly Rickard*.
            *If you subscribe to the Southron Ambitions theory, then Rickard might be more agreeable.
            And of course that would be an “if” he found the pact to begin with.

  10. A job well done Steve, as usual.

    I like the Reeds, it’s not unsurprising that the Freys have disdain towards them, after all, Lord Frey is very disdainful towards a lot. But as you noted, the Reeds loyalty can’t be questioned, when Lord Frey certainly earned his “Late Lord” nickname.

    Interesting that the Northern Lords also wish for hundred more victories instead of wishing for a total victory and triumph. Just one more on the Freys, again they are being dismissive towards people they see as lesser than them; but are offended when someone is/demands a higher rank.

    Also, dear Lord… Lady Hornwood, that poor woman.

    Ned cared for his men and vassals, so to me it’s unsurprising that it’s in a feasting hall where most are reunited. After all, A feast is meant to set someone at ease, or at least make a person more open to conversations, thus unity.

    Good catch on Arthur Dayne, I personally incline myself towards a poisoned dart or arrow; but trapping in one way or another Arthur in a net would definitely limit his movements and thus giving Ned the edge over him.

    • Winnie says:

      Also noteworthy how the Frey’s have always been complaining that other families look down on them and sneer but they sneer at the Crannogmen (who the Northerners at least hold in higher regard than the Frey’s.) It shows up Frey hypocrisy while also demonstrating that contrary to what the Frey’s may tell themselves a great deal of the disdain towards them has more to do with their behavior and their patriarch’s example than anything else.

      • Definitely a case of mudsill theory at work.

      • Indeed. It’s the very attitude they have that causes others to look down on the Freys; yet they have the gall to talk down of the children of the previous Lord’s friend, while sitting beside said Lord’s son. Late Lord Frey and most his ilk have earned the scorn they get all by themselves and their attitude.

        Any other than Bran would probably comment and shut them down, because it’s an insult to the man who has been loyal to his father and saved his life.

      • Carolyn says:

        I agree Winnie. Throughout the books, the Freys whine all the time, that all houses look down upon them, because they are (relatively) new money. But in most instances, where the Freys whine about their treatment by other houses,

        -it is either directly linked to specific behaviour of WALDER FREY (like the term “the Late Lord Frey”, that Walder got for deciding to wait until a decisive battle was over before choosing his side) in contrast to for instance the Blackwood-Bracken-feud, that the members of this house kind of “inherited”

        -or it is something, that is regarded completely out of proportion by the Freys as a proof of them being regarded as second-class nobles, when greater houses would just shrug it off and go on (like the denied fostering of some Freys by Lord Arryn)

        -or it is something, that the Freys could not realistically expect (like a marriage to the Tullys before the War of the Five Kings, when
        -Walder was the most untrustworthy bannerman of Hoster Tully and due to his
        familial bonds could keep out of a conflict between the Tullys and most other
        houses or choose the other side
        -the Twins were of no great strategic value to the Tullys due to them being
        on the border of the region the Riverlands had the best relationship with
        -the Freys under Lord Frey made their in-laws pay for the upkeep of some of
        their excess offspring (like they planned with Elmar after being married to
        Arya)

        • Winnie says:

          And which they’d also done with Genna’s husband as well. I remember that particular match, (Lannister daughter to Walder’s *second* son) was considered a major embarrassment in the Westernlands and a sign of Tytos’s weakness. They’re ‘offering’ Arya their very youngest boy with NO chance of inheritance and trying to palm off a Frey bride on Robb as well. And look at all the kin Gatehouse Ami brought with her to Darry.

          Moreover it’s not like House Frey is especially loyal even to families they HAVE married into. Poor Edmure spent his wedding night in a dungeon and is in danger of being killed. Blackwoods died at the RW despite Walder’s fourth wife being a Blackwood, etc. etc.

          • Carolin says:

            Elmar not only has NO inheritance, the Freys also expect the Starks to pay for the upkeep of Elmar and his children by Arya and looking how many Freys came to Darry and to the North with Gatehouse Ami and Fat Walda probably also some of his siblings.
            When Elmar hears, that his marriage to Arya is off, he tells Arya, that now that this marriage will not happen, he will have to become a septon.
            Since husband is no actual job in Westeros (as opposed to wife) this to me looks like Elmar (and the rest of the Freys) expected to live at Winterfell and become a second Emmon Frey by living off his in-laws.

          • Crystal says:

            I really think that *most* of the bad reputation that the Freys have is down to Lord Walder. I recall that Forrest Frey, while regarded as a doofus for asking Princess Rhaenyra to marry him, still stood by her loyally and lost his life fighting on her side in the Dance of the Dragons. The Freys were new nobility by the standards of Westeros, but I don’t recall that they were especially looked down on before Walder’s time. However, Walder’s sister – who married Lord Butterwell in the D&E saga – was caught boinking some servant or another – shades of Gatehouse Ami! – so maybe the rot started with Walder’s father.

            But, by and large, it was Walder who sullied the Frey name. And I’m sure that his policy of a) having such a large family without regard of how he would provide for them and b ) therefore shuffling them off onto other families to provide for, really did not help matters at all. I think he also took advantage of other lords in doing this – he got a Lannister bride for Emmon due to Tytos Lannister’s weakness, and that PO’d the Westerlands lords no end. Likewise, he got a Stark bride for one of his younger sons (possibly not even HIS; Elmar’s mother allegedly slept with Black Walder) because Catelyn and the Starks were in a one-down negotiating position. Then there were the grandsons engaged to the Manderlys – Wynafryd will eventually inherit White Harbor, so that was another sweet deal extracted from a family in no position to object. (In ADWD we learn that Wynafryd knew all of her grandfather’s plans, so I get a laugh out of imagining her looking at her ‘fiance’ and thinking “you are dead meat, and I mean that literally.”)

            It’s grimly amusing to see Roose Bolton taking advantage of Walder by screwing him financially – if Walder was going to give him his bride’s weight in silver as a dowry, Roose was going to grab the fattest bride he could find!

            Poor Arya; her intended marriage was a definite mesalliance, and I don’t think it would have actually gone through if Robb had won. Since Arya is the daughter of a Lord Paramount, an actual marriage would have been a disgrace on par with Genna’s marriage.

            But yes, I totally blame Walder for his family’s name being mud. And what’s funny is that Walder thinks he’s being oh so clever and actually BUILDING UP his family’s fortunes! Walder waaaay overestimates his cleverness.

          • Carolyn says:

            I think this marriage would have ended like the marriage of Emmon Frey to Genna Lannister, or maybe even worse. After all, the expectation, that Elmar would be provided for by the Starks, means that the couple will live in the North, where Elmar has no allies (even the allegiance of the possible Frey-bride of Robb for Elmar is doubtful, since his full-siblings are too young to marry Robb and half-siblings do not care for each other at the Twins) while Arya has fighting-skills and probably Nymeria and the status as “Ned’s little girl” giving her the allegiance of most of the Northerners.
            Genna Frey has no trouble dressing down her husband in public and I do not see Arya being especially nice to Elmar, since she feels she is forced in to this marriage.
            Later, Arya might have given birth to children, but I doubt that they would have been Elmar’s, which I honestly do not even find bad of Arya, since the possibility of these children inheriting something from Elmar are close to nonexistent.

  11. Meereenese Liberation Front says:

    Hi Steven, nice read as always. IIRC, this chapter is the first (and last) time we hear the phrase “ice and fire” in the whole ASOIAF-series, and I was always kind of puzzled why it would appear in the crannogmen’s oath. Earth and water seem pretty much apt for the Neck, bronze and iron are, as we know, the metals of the Kings of Winter – but how do ice and fire fit in here? In what way are the Reeds connected to the series title?

    • Winnie says:

      Well the Reed patriarch can probably prove the truth about Jon-who is after all a child of ice and fire…

    • Not the last time, but definitely the first. Dany hears “his is the song of ice and fire” in the House of the Undying – so it’s a part of the Prince Who Was Promised prophecy.

      The odd thing about it being in the words is that the PWWP prophecy was historically a Targaryen obsession, not a Stark one.

      My only guess is that, given that Howland Reed is connected with the Isle of Faces as well as Rhaegar and Lyanna, that he knows something about the prophecy.

      • Winnie says:

        Sounds likely. I’ve thought before that it might be that Rhaegar *had* to choose Lyanna for his second bride because he knew that either AA, the PWWP, or even just one of the riders had to have Stark blood according to the prophecy. This would vindicate Rhaegar’s choice of bride if not his failure to simply inform his would be in-laws what he was doing.

        • And it would explain why a Targaryen made a marriage offer to the Starks as the “Pact of Ice and Fire.” Although the interesting thing is…if the Targs are that obsessed about the prophecy, why didn’t Aegon V or Jaehaerys II make good on the Pact?

          • Winnie says:

            Yeah, that is a good question. My only guess is it didn’t happen because Martin needed it not to happen until Rhaegar/Lyanna.

            After all while Starks typically marry other Northerners or First Men, they certainly would have made an exception for a member of the royal family…

          • Andrew says:

            Jaehaerys II was told that tPtwP would be born of his kids’ line, and probably thought marrying them was the only thing he needed to do for his part. Besides, I don’t think he knew the Long Night 2.0 was coming in a few decades.

            I don’t think they even considered that marrying into the Starks was the requirement. They probably thought, like Melisandre and the Red Faith, that the “song of ice and fire” was “ice vs fire” with the Targaryens being connected with fire vs. the Others who are connected with ice, not a balance between the two elements, but the triumph of one over the other.

          • Grant says:

            I can think of a couple of different reasons of varying levels of plausibility/intelligence.

            The first is that traditionally, and certainly in A Song of Ice and Fire, prophecy is something that’s very uncertain and prone to interpretation. So the Targaryens may not have even had any idea of what they were supposed to do for generations and had serious disagreements over interpretations.

            The second is timing. Depending on when they learned of it, they may not have had an opportunity to arrange a Stark/Targaryen match and their efforts to have one set up later could have been frustrated by the framework they worked under. Even if it’s a chance to marry a Targaryen, how many Starks are going to agree to have their daughter marry a man thirty five years older than her?

            The third is obscurity. Between all of the troubles the Targaryens had for years plus differing beliefs of kings and the growing belief that there was no magic, it’s entirely possible that they had no idea that the prophecy even existed, and if Aegon V did find out (possibly with Brynden and leading to Summerhall) he might have died before he could do anything, along with most of his advisers.
            Added to that we really don’t know much about how Rhaegar came across the prophecy, he might have been going over ‘Commentary on Septon Woland’s Rebuttal of Barth’s Mistranslations’ and found a few pages of the prophecy accidentally stuck into it by some half-literate custodian. It’s true that he decided to focus heavily on being a warrior after reading it and that he believed in the need for a Stark/Targaryen heir, but exactly what told him that we don’t know. It might have even been Brynden’s intervention, trying to force his tools to be created when they didn’t already exist.

          • Sean C. says:

            I don’t think the Pact of Ice and Fire had anything to do with the prophecy. It was just a poetic name given to a political arrangement.

            As to why it was fulfilled, that in turn I thought was Cregan’s own choice to marry Black Aly instead of asking for one of Daemon’s daughters to marry at the end of the war.

          • I don’t think GRRM would have used that phrase randomly.

            Cregan had a LOT of sons tho. Why not then?

          • Sean C. says:

            Well, like I said, Cregan might have been assumed to have waived the pact by not taking one of the available brides.

            Though in any event, the earliest available brides after that point would be Aegon III’s daughters, only one of whom reached marriageable age before being sent to the Maidenvault for a decade, and she married Baelor. After exiting the vault one became a septa and the other two had either already or shortly after had illegitimate children.

          • I don’t think that was the case – and it might have explained why the Starks didn’t act during any of the Blackfyre Rebellions, despite having done so in the Dance. Maybe they felt cheated?

          • Sean C. says:

            Rickon went south and fought in the Dornish War, and he was married, so if Cregan was still expecting a royal marriage, he would have planned it for his heir, by all logic.

          • But Rickon was married, wasn’t he?

          • Sean C. says:

            Yeah, that was my point — he could have planned for Rickon’s betrothal. As he was the heir, that would have been the expected thing.

          • Crystal says:

            I wonder if one of the reasons Cregan chose Black Aly was that her family kept the Old Gods? Religion might have been a barrier. Ned built a sept for Catelyn, but it’s possible that either Cregan didn’t want to build a sept, or the suitable Targaryen princesses raised objections on religious grounds.

            Religion certainly wasn’t a barrier for the Stark/Southern marriages later on, but we see that Ned built a sept for Cat, and I think Robert was prepared to let Lyanna keep her own gods (I never got the sense that religion mattered to him). With Sansa, she was raised by a septa and a mother who worshipped the Seven, and I think it was assumed that she’d keep the Seven after her marriage.

            The Seven vs. the Old Gods don’t seem to have been a religious conflict – there were no holy wars against the North, and while the Andals chopped down heart trees, they don’t seem to have zealously rooted out “heretics” or “unbelievers” – no Inquisition there. But maybe the Old Gods mattered a lot to Cregan.

          • Sean C. says:

            Lord Cregan married his first heir, Rickon, to Jeyne Manderly, who was presumably at least raised in the Faith of the Seven.

            Looking at the family tree there were two previous Ladies of Winterfell who one presumes worshipped the Seven: Myriame Manderly, the wife of the briefly-serving Lord Rodwell Stark, and Lorra Royce, the wife of Rodwell’s brother Lord Beron. Unless they converted or else were just told to keep it to themselves, it seems like some accommodation should have been made for them, but apparently not.

          • Andrew says:

            And through the Manderly brides the Starks actually descend from the Gardener kings from what we know in WoIAF.

        • Andrew says:

          I think GRRM used that phrase as a hint as to what the “song of ice and fire” refers to: a Targaryen-Stark pairing or rather the result of it.

      • Petyr Patter says:

        I don’t think Martin intends “Ice and Fire” to be a one off thing in his massive story of fictional history. It is a repeating motif throughout. Yes, Jon is (possibly) the son of “ice and fire.” On the other hand, “ice and fire” describe the entire houses of Stark and Targaryen, who account for most of the main protagonists. Bran travels in the frozen lands beyond the wall. Danaerys wanders through the desert. On one side we have dragons. On the other we have the Others. Stannis marches through the snow while bearing the banner of the R’hollor.

        • Agreed, but we still have to ask ourselves – where would the Reeds have come across this phrase?

          • Grant says:

            Maybe it was passed down semi-regularly among them from one of their own who had the power of prophecy, like the dwarf witch we meet in a chapter.

            Alternatively Martin made some odd choices when writing and some things might have been intended to be done differently. We saw a few examples in the first book, maybe there were later ones too. After all these books are huge, with tons of details and he is mortal.

    • Besides the song of ice and fire, “ice and fire” is referred to again in a Bran chapter in ASOS:

      “Up and down,” Meera would sigh sometimes as they walked, “then down and up. Then up and down again. I hate these stupid mountains
      of yours, Prince Bran.”
      “Yesterday you said you loved them.”
      “Oh, I do. My lord father told me about mountains, but I never saw one till now. I love them more than I can say.”
      Bran made a face at her. “But you just said you hated them.”
      “Why can’t it be both?” Meera reached up to pinch his nose.
      “Because they’re different,” he insisted. “Like night and day, or ice and fire.”
      “If ice can burn,” said Jojen in his solemn voice, “then love and hate can mate. Mountain or marsh, it makes no matter. The land is one.”

      The Reeds are definitely connected.

      • Melisandre also talks about ice and fire in the very next chapter in ASOS – and her world view is the exact opposite of Meera’s and Jojen’s:

        “The way the world is made. The truth is all around you, plain to behold. The night is dark and full of terrors, the day bright and beautiful and full of hope. One is black, the other white. There is ice and there is fire. Hate and love. Bitter and sweet. Male and female. Pain and pleasure. Winter and summer. Evil and good.” She took a step toward him. “Death and life. Everywhere, opposites. Everywhere, the war.”
        “The war?” asked Davos.
        “The war,” she affirmed. “There are two, Onion Knight. Not seven, not one, not a hundred or a thousand. Two! Do you think I crossed half the world to put yet another vain king on yet another empty throne? The war has been waged since time began, and before it is done, all men must choose where they will stand. On one side is R’hllor, the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow. Against him stands the Great Other whose name may not be spoken, the Lord of Darkness, the Soul of Ice, the God of Night and Terror. Ours is not a choice between Baratheon and Lannister, between Greyjoy and Stark. It is death we choose, or life. Darkness, or light.” She clasped the bars of his cell with her slender white hands. The great ruby at her throat seemed to pulse with its own radiance. “So tell me, Ser Davos Seaworth, and tell me truly – does your heart burn with the shining light of R’hllor? Or is it black and cold and full of worms?”

        (Davos III, ASOS)

        • Grant says:

          Which just raises the question of which is correct, if either. The flip side of the same coin, or opposites? Despite the big stakes of the books, we really haven’t seen a lot the gods or other major forces at work, so really it could be either one of the views.

          • In a series like ASOAIF, I think it’s easy to see which one feels more true: a world view where everything is black and white and people can only be good or evil (held, ironically, by a very grey or grey to dark character, depending on one’s view) or one that says that the world does not consist of binaries and that it’s possible to love and hate something/someone at the same time

          • Grant says:

            Perhaps, but it can’t be denied that this is a world where ice zombies exist, and Melisandre and her group appear to be seriously committed to stopping it*. I imagine that Martin will have the greyer answer be correct, but it would be a sort of fitting tribute to the dark deconstructive nature of his work to have there definitely be a divine being, and its uncompromising, violent methods are all there is for a divine opinion on good and evil.

            *Which made me think of an odd idea when considering about her religion. I wonder if the dragons are supposed to be the Others of fire? Or maybe that’s their extremely long-lived, fire-creating priests.

  12. Keelah Rose says:

    I like the way you wrote this. I’d like to send you an email about something though. Do you accept private emails?

  13. OTL says:

    The Boltons’ have only one redeeming quality which is that if your a normal soldier (and you have to fight for them), you are much less likely to get killed, as Roose won’t send you on any dangerous missions and he’ll organise it so that other lords’ soldiers take your place. From the battle of the Greenfork to the battle of Ice, Bolton soldiers tend to avoid the fighting. Compare that to having to fight for Robb, Tywin, Jamie or Stannis

    The War of Five Kings is primarily a dynastic war not an ideological one (I say primarily, because it is possible that a Stannis monarchy or an independent North/Iron Islands would be somewhat different for the majority of the population). Nevertheless the average soldier probably doesn’t care whether the Lannisters or the Tyrells are dominent in the 7 Kingdoms, it doesn’t make much difference to their lives. Therefore they probably just want to keep their heads down as much as possible, have a quiet war and get home. Roose is the ideal lord for that, maybe.

    • Winnie says:

      Maybe. Of course *Ramsay* poses a different question altogether. No hope of *peace* when he’s around…

      • Crystal says:

        Robett Glover actually says something like this – that Roose was cold and calculating, but one could deal with him. But Ramsay was a “beast in human skin” and a menace to everyone around him.

        • Andrew says:

          It was Ondrew Locke who said that. “Roose’s cold and cunning, aye, but a man can deal with Roose. We’ve all known worse. But this bastard son of his . . . they say he’s made and cruel, a monster.”

          Ramsay started an intra-regional conflict when he seized the Hornwood lands and Lady Hornwood. He is greedy, and can be violent and impulsive.

          • WPA says:

            Even Roose clearly acknowledges that (to Reek even). Ramsay isn’t just “can be impulsive”, he’s basically a walking time-bomb whose total lack of scruples and certain degree of improvisational skill makes up for his complete lack of judgment…for now. I doubt his encounter with Stannis ends well for him.

    • Well, if you’re not a Bolton man, he’s a murderous commander.

      • WPA says:

        How many arms-bearing men do you think are directly loyal to the Dreadfort?

        I also suspect the Bolton lands don’t have much in the way of non-Ramsay-caused brigandry or disputes. “Peaceful land, quiet people.” probably entails some degree of order. I’d also imagine them making use of early-modern Europe-style- like noted in van Dulmen’s work on Early Modern Germany- public execution of criminals.

  14. Amestria says:

    How do you think Stannis’ idea of kingship compares to the northern one? That’s going to be pretty important soon…

    • Well, most of my thinking about Stannis’ idea of Kingship is in my Hollow Crowns essay. I would say he starts very very distant from it, and then comes closer to it over time, what with the whole “become the king to save the realm –> save the realm to become the king” thing.

  15. Roger says:

    I think the historical enemity between Freys and Reeds come from old wars between the North and the Trident. Also probably the Freys tried to conquer the Neck at some point.
    Also, there is a common trap in heroic fantasy: believing becouse a character is nice (like the Reed brothers) all their kind is nice. The crannogmen are probably poor, so perhaps they steal cattle and food from their neighbours. But I digress.

    • That’s probably a big part of it. As I said, fen folk historically believed in communal rather than private property.

    • Carolyn says:

      Stealing cattle should be quite difficult, since the crannogmen mainly use their boats as a means of transport in the Neck, since there are few safe routes on foot and since their houses are on swimming islands.
      Since cows are quite heavy and big I do not see, how they can transport them back to their huts.

      • Carolyn says:

        I have not read ACOK in a while, but IIRC we never hear the Reeds say disparaging things about the Freys as a whole or historically, so to me it seems, that the emnity is a lot stronger on the side of the Freys rather than something mutual like the Blackwood-Bracken-feud.

        I actually think, that the Freys probably instigated it because
        -feeling extremely insecure they need someone to look down upon and the crannogmen are a good target, since they are outsiders in Westeros
        -the crannogmen mainly use small boats as a means of transport (going to Harrenhal was the first time Howland Reed rode on a horse) and therefore do not have to pay the bridge-toll when going into the Riverlands which irked the Freys
        -the Freys probably tried to conquer the Neck at some time or other and experienced heavy losses there. I actually do not see the crannogmen invading the Riverlands because their mode of transport and fighting is not good against normal knights in normal terrain.

        • Roger says:

          Meera and Jojen weren’t as foul mouthed as the Walders. We don’t what they think about house Frey.
          The bog devils can easily steal pigs and chicken. Or simply steal meat.
          We don’t have enough data about the reasons of the enemity, but the crannogmen probably disliked seeing castles and bridges near their lands. They can easily launch a guerrilla war.

        • zonaria says:

          Disparaging? No, the Reeds are decent people.

          The Knight of the Laughing Tree tale does show that the Reeds consider the Freys to be traditionally and fundamentally hostile, though.

        • Crystal says:

          Another thing to note – if Meera is a typical Crannogwoman, I can see the Freys thinking that women of the Neck don’t know their place. Considering what the Freys, especially Walder, think of women (somebody says that Walder thinks women are just bed warmers and brood mares) they would hate seeing women who are more free and independent – especially if these women knew how to use weapons (which Meera certainly does).

  16. Roger says:

    I’ve always thought Reed killed Arthur Dayne with a poisoned arrow. Small surprise he isn’t mentioned in any battle becouse the crannogmen fighting style isn’t fit for heavy cavalry affairs.

    • Poisoned arrow, net, something like that.

      • Grant says:

        You have to wonder how a dart or arrow (unless specifically designed for piercing armor) would do anything to a knight presumably in full armor. Well it is possible that he had his helmet off by that point.

        • Carolyn says:

          I am no expert for medieval armour, but as far as I know, there are small holes when two parts of steel are connected (like near the armpit).
          Isn’t this the way Oberyn Martell managed to pierce the Mountain, even though his armour is freakishly thick?

        • Roger says:

          According to Eddard flashback, Arthur Dayne wasn’t wearing helm.

      • Petyr Patter says:

        My bet is he used a fishing spear like Meera, and moved with such speed and accuracy so as to hit the Sword of the Morning in an armor gap. What is the saying? Always someone better? Greatest knight in the series by wide acclaim, and the littleman from the swamp beat him.

        Well, I can have a fanboy’s hopes, anyways.

        • Fishing spear I’m a little skeptical about. My bet’s on net.

          • Andrew says:

            That and possibly a dagger to get underneath the arm. He could have also had a sword given I doubt he would go to possibly fight a bunch of KG with just a net.

          • I have a feeling that Ned actually delivered the killing blow to Dayne.

            And my guess is Howland went with a war-spear – closer to what he’s familiar with.

          • WPA says:

            That or just an experienced combat vet (by then) happened to be still alive and standing when it came down to Dane v. Ned and just skewered him regardless of weapon. Perhaps he was just “on” that day. Even a legendary swordsman can meet his end in unremarkable circumstances against a couple capable lords. Or as show Bronn put it in other circumstances- one slip or mistake…

    • Dean says:

      Maybe Howland Reed was used as a scout/spy for Ned during Robert’s Rebellion which might explain his exclusion from any battles?

  17. GR says:

    This discussion makes me think about what the historical role of the Freys in the RIverlands vis-a-vis the North. I guess this has never been alluded to, but in some sense they may have been the the equivalent of a Warden of the North in the Riverlands. Their (the Freys’) prestige and even eventual ability to exact a toll for the Crossing may have been threatened by the Stark-Tully alliance. If for some reason Riverrun and Winterfell had wanted to encourage trade between the two regions, they might have decided to build more methods of travel between the two regions or combined their forces to force the Freys to reduce their toll. Additionally, the historic reason for charging the toll may have been justified, in part, by the Freys’ responsibility for protecting against a theoretical Northern invasion, or at least an incursion by these strange frogeaters. This could help explain the Freys hesitance about supporting their liege lord during Robert’s Rebellion. One could say that this hesitance is fully explained by not wanting to support the wrong side, but a united 7 kingdoms united under the Targaryens was potentially less profitable than than seven separate kingdoms. But, undermining the Targaryens would not be economically useful if the result was a strong alliance between the North and the Riverlands.

    Additionally, it could explain Walder Frey’s extreme anger at the breaking of Robb Stark’s marriage vow. Perhaps he viewed this as some insurance against any future threat to Frey prestige and power to exact a toll at the Crossing. Finally, the role as a bulwark against the North would help explain why the Freys have such a relatively big military force. Afterall,such a strongly fortified castle shouldn’t need such a large standing army.

    • Just noticed something in ASOS: “Andals and ironmen, Freys and other fools, all those proud warriors who set out to conquer Greywater. Not one of them could find it. They ride into the Neck. But not back out.” So the Freys tried to conquer the Neck.

  18. Andrew says:

    HR also gives off a kind of Bilbo Baggins vibe to me. A man from an isolated land populated by people of short stature with little contact with the outside world who goes on an adventure outside his home to rescue a treasure (Lyanna) from a red dragon (Rhaegar). After he suffers some personal losses, he goes back to his home.

  19. KrimzonStriker says:

    We talking about the same Dornish who took the longest of the Seven Kingdoms to be united and had to do so through a sudden foreign invasion when speaking of a sense of community here Steven?

    • Look, you may have objections to it, but the WOAIF is pretty damn clear on the point. And the whole stony/sandy/salty thing doesn’t really lead to political clashes as one might expect either.

      • KrimzonStriker says:

        I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you that Dornish nationalism exists, just noting the irony of how the previously most disunited of the Seven Kingdoms has it and that the WOAIF is what I’m referring too when making that note.The resource allocation isn’t exactly the same as food in the north is to water in Dorne. Bad as winter is in the North it actually prompts communal gatherings as both the Winter town and Barrotown attest too, while Dorne’s deserts cut their communities off from one another as WOIAF attests too. My money on where Dornish nationalism comes from, fighting Dragons.

        • It’s a fair point. The inconsistency annoys me.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            I did find one passage in WOIAF beyond the Yronwoods rebelling where the Red Princes of the Planky Town got uppity trying to preserve pure Rhoynish culture apparently.

            But I’m telling you, dragons be the answer to all questions as it relates to GRRM’s work. :p

          • There is that. And it’s not unknown for nationalism to be intensified through shared suffering.

          • KrimzonStriker says:

            And Danery’s incited the creation of the water gardens after the unification with Westeros. So in an ironic twist Dorne has the Targaryens to thank for shaping their national identity 😉

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