Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Catelyn V, ACOK

“We have nothing to gain and everything to lose by meeting Lord Tywin in the field.”

“The plan’s a good one…when did Blackwood and Bracken agree about anything?”

Synopsis: Catelyn returns to Riverrun to find out what Robb and Edmure have been up to.

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:

Catelyn V is a bit of an odd chapter – on the one hand, it’s something of a beginning to Catelyn’s passive phase, when rather than being a sleuth or a kidnapper or a diplomat, she sits in Riverrun and acts as a rather depressed camerawoman. On the other, it’s a critically important chapter, where the Battle of the Fords gets mapped out – a subject I’ve been meaning to address since I penned my defense of Robb Stark. In fact, the major theme of this essay will be nailing down my argument that Edmure definitely exceeded orders in his command of the Battle of the Fords, and that in so doing forestalled Robb’s strategy (which was not invented out of whole cloth after the fact).

War of Five Kings Act III: Robb's Western Offensive

War of the Five Kings: The Western Campaign

In the flip-side of Arya VIII, we start out with the Stark/Tully perspective on the Battle of Oxcross and the subsequent Scouring of the Westerlands:

“His Grace won a great victory at Oxcross. Ser Stafford Lannister is dead, his host scattered…”

“He never took [the Tooth]. He slipped around it in the night. It’s said the direwolf showed him the way, that Grey Wolf of his. The beast sniffed out a goat track that wound down a defile and up along beneath a ridge, a crooked and stony way, yet wide enough for men riding single file. The Lannisters in their watchtowers got not so much a glimpse of them.”

…He went on to tell how the remnants of Ser Stafford’s host had fallen back on Lannisport. Without siege engines there was no way to storm Casterly Rock, so the Young Wolf was paying back the Lannisters in kind for the devastation they’d inflicted on the riverlands. Lords Karstark and Glover were raiding all along the coast, Lady Mormont had captured thousands of cattle and was driving them back toward Riverrun, while the Greatjon had seized the gold mines at Castamere, Nunn’s Deep, and the Pendric Hills…”Nothing’s more like to bring a Lannister running than a threat to his gold.”

To conclude our discussion of the Battle of Oxcross, here’s where we get the explanation for how it came about and what it meant for Robb Stark’s campaign. This information is significant for three reasons:

  • Firstly, the role of Grey Wind reinforces the importance of Robb’s direwolf and its mystic connection with the King in the North, which will be central for foreshadowing in ASOS and an important factor in the Red Wedding.
  • Secondly, the goat track is clearly intended to put Robb Stark in the company of military prodigies like Daeron I, Alexander the Great (who found a goat path that helped his 300 “men with wings” ascend the Sogdian Rock), and Manius Acilius Glabrio and Cato the Elder at Thermopylae. Which ought to be a hint to people who consider Robb a mere puppet at the end of the Blackfish’s strings that they’ve got the wrong end of the stick.
  • Thirdly, it also gives us a sense of Robb’s style as a commander. As with the Whispering Woods and the Battle of the Camps, you see an emphasis on the maintenance of the element of surprise, a preference for lateral thinking and creating a third option rather than accepting Hob’s choice (in this case, either besieging the Gold Tooth or Harrenhal), a gift for cavalry assaults that allows for the complete destruction of the enemy force, and an emphasis on the enemy’s army rather than territory. It’s a potent combination.

Moreover, for the first time, we learn how Robb followed up that initial victory. Having completely removed the threat of an attack from two flanks, and destroyed any effective military opposition, and (in a stroke of fortune) also completely disrupted the Lannisters’ chain of command, Robb engages in a classic chevauchée (with the added bonus that the Lannisters’ communications problems mean that they don’t know that he can’t put Casterly Rock under siege).

This campaign serves many purposes: first and foremost, it’s clearly designed to draw Tywin Lannister out of Harrenhal in defense of his lands. This is why the Greatjon is sent after the West’s gold mines, as opposed to attacking Feastfires or Kayce or Tarbeck Hall or Clegane Hall or Crakehall, because Robb knows that “nothing’s more like to bring a Lannister running than a threat to his gold.” Second, it’s designed to provide badly needed supplies for carrying on the war, given the devastation to the Riverlands: depending on how many thousands of cattle Maege’s raid swept up, Robb could easily feed his army for at least six months; likewise, the seized gold from the Greatjon’s raids could be used to keep soldiers fighting after their normal feudal service, pay for additional supplies and equipment, or to hire mercenaries. Third, it’s a political sop for his Riverlords – given that their fealty is implicitly tied to Robb’s ability to protect them, showing that he can punish the hated Lannisters for attacking and occupying the Riverlands is a great way to maintain his support there.

All of this together adds up to a strong case that Robb’s strategy as discussed in Catelyn II of ASOS was genuine, rather than a post-hoc self-justification. It disrupts the Lannisters’ strategy too neatly, there’s too many textual hints (as above, with “bring a Lannister running“), it fits too well with his prior campaign, and it works too well as tragedy. If Robb Stark was a military prodigy brought down by his upbringing, well-meaning subordinates, and rank treason, that’s a tragedy. If Robb Stark was just a glory-seeking teenager who eloped to Vegas, that’s an asshole getting hit by a bus.

War of the Five Kings: the Battle of the Fords

So let’s talk about the Battle of the Fords, the most consequential off-screen battle of the War of Five Kings, with the possible exception of the massacre at Bitterbridge. As is well-known among ASOIAF fans, the Battle of the Fords is a tactical victory and a strategic defeat, imploding Robb’s western campaign and allowing Tywin Lannister to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. I’ll leave it at that for now and discuss it more when I get to Catelyn II of ASOS, and instead focus here on the merits of the battle.

The first question that has to be dealt with is whether Edmure was acting within the scope of his orders – in other words, what does it mean for “Ser Edmure to hold Riverrun and guard [Robb]s] rear“? (Whether those orders were sufficiently clear is a topic I’ll address in Catelyn II) In the first place, it’s clear that Edmure is exceeding the first part of his orders by attempting to hold the entirety of the Red Fork and the Tumblestone:

They forded the Red Fork late the next day, upstream of Riverrun where the river made a wide loop and the waters grew muddy and shallow. The crossing was guarded by a mixed force of archers and pikemen wearing the eagle badge of the Mallisters…they emerged from behind their sharpened stakes…”we’ve planted iron spikes under the water, y’see, and there’s caltrops scattered among them rocks there. It’s the same on all the fords, by your brother’s command.”

“Half a mile from the castle, she passed through a large encampment where the scarlet banner of the Blackwoods waved above the lord’s tent…Catelyn spied a second camp strung out along the bank north of the Tumblestone, familiar standards flapping in the wind – Marq Piper’s dancing maiden, Darry’s plowman, the twining red-and-white snakes of the Paeges. 

This is a battle-front stretching around 250 miles (given that we’re talking about all of the fords on both rivers, that means all the way down the Red Fork to the Mummer’s Ford), as opposed to defending the castle itself. Moreover, the text makes it clear that Edmure “thinks to fight here…he means to offer battle to Lord Tywin.” It is beyond clear that Edmure is exceeding his orders to hold Riverrun, intending a much larger conflict – how much larger I’ll explain in a bit.

What about the second half – “guarding his rear“? It’s questionable whether that was actually a part of Edmure’s orders – in Catelyn II of ASOS, the Blackfish states “you were commanded to hold Riverrun, Edmure, no more,” and Robb’s plan hinged on his rear being left open for Tywin to chase, so if the plan existed, it wouldn’t have been part of his orders. Even if we accept for the sake of argument that Robb’s plan didn’t exist, there’s a couple bits of textual evidence from this chapter that calls it into question. When Robb left for the west, Edmure didn’t have the manpower to fulfill that role – as Catelyn says, “you do not have the strength to meet the Lannisters in the field,” and that’s after Edmure has mustered his troops, “her father’s bannermen, lords of the Trident…if they were here again, it could only mean that Edmure had called them back.” Simply put, when Robb was around to give that order, that order would not have made sense.

The nail in the coffin of the argument that Edmure might have plausibly been interpreting the disputed second half of his orders comes from examining the broader aims of Edmure’s battle. Far from only offering battle at the Fords (which was in excess of his orders to begin with), Edmure assumed command of all forces in the Riverlands theater (which is a huge feudal faux pas – Edmure has no authority to issue orders to Roose Bolton or Helman Tallhart, Northern lords in command of Northern troops):

“…I have a plan…Bolton took the ruby ford and the crossroads. He has ten thousand men. I’ve sent word to Helman Tallhart to join him with the garrison Robb left at the Twins-“

“…I’ve commanded [Bolton] to take retake Harrenhal…once the castle falls, Lord Tywin will have no safe retreat. My own levies will defend the fords of Red Fork against his crossing. If he attacks across the river, he’ll end as Rhaegar did when he tried to cross the Trident. If he holds back, he’ll be caught between Riverrun and Harrenhal, and when Robb returns from the west we can finish him for good and all.”

This is not a plan to guard Robb’s rear or Riverrun, this is a plan to win the war – so I think it’s pretty clear that Edmure was wildly exceeding orders. (We will discuss later how clear those orders were, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered, given how determined Edmure was to carry out his plan.) And to give Edmure credit, it’s not a terrible plan. With the “eight thousand foot and three thousand horse” of the Riverlands anchored behind strong defensive positions on river fords that deny the Lannister the advantage of their superior numbers, Edmure is likely to win at the Fords. Moreover, preventing Tywin from retreating to Harrenhal and instead putting two armies roughly his size on both of Tywin’s flanks would likely have lead to a total Lannister defeat, if it hadn’t been for the Tyrells.


Edmure’s Plan

So to an extent, it’s not Edmure’s fault that, just like his sister, GRRM has chosen him to be the unwitting agent of his own cause’s destruction. At the same time, my empathy is somewhat tempered by the fact that Edmure is acting out of deeply selfish motives here:

“Lord Tywin is coming-“

“He is making for the west, to defend his own lands. If we close our gates and shelter behind the walls, we can watch him past with safety.”

“This is Tully land,” Edmure declared. “If Tywin Lannister thinks to cross it unbloodied, I mean to teach him a hard lesson.”

The same lesson you taught his son?

As we’ve seen before, Edmure is thinking with his heart rather than his head and is acting to service his ego as much any strategic consideration. Indeed, similar to how Jaime in AFFC overcompensates in terms of cautious due to his embarrasment over his mishandling of the Whispering Woods, Edmure is overcompensating for his defeat at the Golden Tooth, where he acted to defend every inch of “Tully land” and forgot to use his rivers as defensive multipliers. It’s not a terrible idea tactically, but it’s self-defeating strategically – for all that Edmure talks about Tully soil, Catelyn is right that Tywin is trying to leave the Riverlands. Following his orders means Tywin no longer occupies the Riverlands; victory means that the southern Riverlands continues to suffer at Tywin’s hands.

Moreover, there’s an element of feudal politics here that doesn’t look good for Edmure. The heir to Riverrun knows that he will soon inherit the Lord Paramountcy of the Riverlands, but with a terrible reputation – he’s the floppy fish who can’t handle his liquor or his manhood; he gave the orders to the Vances and the Pipers that left thousands dead, the Riverlands conquered, and himself imprisoned. Given that even a canny politician like Hoster had to make war against his own vassals to keep them in line during Robert’s Rebellion, Edmure knows that his influence with his vassals is going to suffer by comparison. A military victory against no less a figure than Tywin Lannister would give him an enormous amount of political credit, especially with the Mallisters, Blackwoods, Pipers, Darrys, Paeges, Vances, and Brackens.

It’s not a very pretty picture.

Edmure Tully as a Man of His Class

At the same time, we shouldn’t be too harsh in our judgement of Edmure Tully. After all, the essence of his character is that he means well, and tries his best, despite the fact that he’s not suited to the position he was born into:

“Who are all these folk?”

“My people,” Edmure answered. “They were afraid.”

Only my sweet brother would crowd all these useless mouths into a castle that might soon be under siege. Catelyn knew that Edmure had a soft heart, sometimes she thought his head was even softer. She loved him for it, yet still…

I’ll never utterly dismiss someone who actually shows some sense of social responsibility to the smallfolk; in a world where noblesse oblige seems barely extant as an attitude among the nobility, Edmure Tully is on the side of the angels. And it’s not really his fault – he’s been educated to be well-meaning, good-hearted, and completely useless. In another time and place, Edmure would have been one of those sons of privilege who were educated on the playing fields of Eton and Harrow who went over the top at Passachendaele  or up the cliffs at Gallipoli, not necessarily because he wanted himself and thousands of his men to die, but rather because he couldn’t conceive of failing to do what others expected him to do.


Another key event in this chapter, one that has a strange influence over the larger conflict, is the news of how Tyrion’s plan has fallen out:

Catelyn was shocked. ‘You’ve killed envoys?”

“False envoys,” Edmure declared. “They pledged me their peace and surrendered their weapons, so I allowed them freedom of the castle, and for three nights they ate my meat and drank my mead whilst I talked with Ser Cleos. On the fourth night, they tried to free the Kingslayer.” He pointed up. “That big brute killed two guards with naught but those ham hands of his, caught them by the throats and smashed their skulls together while that skinny lad beside him was opening Lannister’s cell with a bit of wire, gods curse him. The one on the end was some sort of damned mummer. He used my own voice to command that the River Gate be opened. The guardsmen swear to it, Enger and Delp and Long Lew, all three. If you ask me, the man sounded nothing like me, and yet the oafs were raising the portcullis all the same.”

This was the Imp’s work, Catelyn suspected; it stank of the same sort of cunning he had displayed at the Eyrie. Once, she would have named Tyrion the least dangerous of the Lannisters. Now she was not so certain…

“Jaime got hold of a sword, slew Poul Pernford and Ser Desmond’s squire Myles, and wounded Delp so badly that…he’ll soon die as well.”

This attempted prison-break is consequential for several reasons. First, it plays a significant role in encouraging Edmure on his proposed plan for the Battle of the Fords. After all, he just narrowly avoided utter humiliation (look how close Jaime got to getting clean away) – had Jaime successfully escaped, Edmure would add one more item to his list of debacles, losing Robb Stark’s most valuable hostage. With that close a brush with disaster, Edmure would have been even more eager to find something to bolster his reputation.

Second, it establishes quite clearly that the Lannisters are violating taboo and custom routinely – foreshadowing for the Red Wedding. As I’ll discuss in the historical section below, the inviolate nature of envoys was a nigh-universal tradition in the premodern world, but a big part of that custom was founded on the idea that envoys do not act as spies (who get a very different treatment). Note also that the false envoys also break guest-right in addition to their word of honor. And the strange thing about this event is that Catelyn doesn’t seem to remember it later on, when it comes to releasing Jaime. After all, the person who Catelyn is trusting in keeping his word to make the exchange happen, because he swore in open court that he would, was the same man who sent out this peace envoy in open court and then subverted it completely. The basic problem, indeed the great tragedy for the Starks, is not that the war was needlessly being fought, but that in this case the Lannisters were such bad actors that peace may well have been made impossible.

Historical Analysis:

The inviolability of envoys was, historically, one of those major cultural taboos observed throughout the premodern world. In ancient Greece, for example, envoys were considered as guests, and thus under the protection of Zeus Xenios, as any stranger who might come to your door might be Zeus in disguise. (When the Athenians and Spartans molested the envoys of the Persian emperor Xerxes, the destruction of Athens thereafter was considered by some to be the gods’ punishment for this lapse in conduct)  The ancient Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, are some of the earliest examples of diplomatic immunity, dating back to the 4th millennium BCE. By the Middle Ages, European monarchs used heralds for this task, and the white staff of the herald became a symbol of their inviolability (supposedly a representation of Mercury’s caduceus, again a sign of divine protection).

Perhaps the greatest example of the monumental importance of envoys was the case of the Mongol destruction of the Khwarezmid Empire in the 13th century (if you want a good account of this event, Dan Carlin of Hardcore History is quite good). Genghis Khan had sent an envoy to the Shah, proposing a treaty of friendship and trade, and along with his envoy sent a 500-wagon caravan stuffed with gifts for the Shah. The governor of Otrar had the envoy arrested and seized the caravan under some pretext. Genghis Khan, surprisingly mild in his response, sent a second group of envoys with a letter demanding the release of his envoys. The Shah, in a move that has gone down in history as one of the most rash decisions ever, had one of the envoys beheaded and the rest shaved (a great insult in Mongol culture) and sent back to the Khan. Genghis responded by invading Persia, claiming to be the “flail of God” sent against the Muslims for their breach of taboo.

the Mongol siege of Baghdad, 1258

I don’t really have the space to describe this campaign, but to make a long story short, Genghis Khan’s retaliation for the insult done to his envoys leveled Persia. Otrar was sacked for its role in the humiliation of his envoys; the population of Samarkand (the capitol of the Khwarezmid) was massacred and their severed heads were piled in pyramids on a hill near the city; at the city of Urgench, as many as 1.2 million civilians were executed by hand; the city of Gurjang had its dams broken so that most of the population drowned. At the siege of Nishapur, one of the Khan’s sons-in-law died in the fighting, so the Khan had every living thing in the city executed before the eyes of his son-in-law’s widow, down to the animals.

The moral of the story is: don’t touch an envoy.

What If?

There’s a couple interesting hypotheticals in Catelyn V, so let’s jump into them:

  • Jaime had escaped? This one has a lot of uncertainty in it. Jaime’s escaping into an active battle-zone, after all. So it’s possible he might be recaptured by the Riverlanders, picked up by the Westermen (in which case Tywin’s going to be very happy indeed), or might die in the fighting. The first is mostly the same as OTL with added embarrassment for Edmure, but the second and third are quite promising.
  • If Jaime successfully escapes without being maimed, he never undergoes the forced character growth that his mutilation and captivity at the hands of the Bloody Mummers inflicted on him. He remains the arrogant, blood-thirsty swordsman with a weird combination of superiority complex and resentment at the world for not knowing what he refuses to tell them. This Jaime might well be Cersei’s perfect partner in power, once Tywin’s out of the picture. Gods help us all.
  • If Jaime is killed in the fighting, then chances are Tyrion either is sent to the Wall or executed depending on how forgiving Tywin is feeling, or set free by Varys depending on how proactive the Spider is feeling. Needless to say, I don’t think Cersei’s mental state is going to be much improved by this. So imagine Queen Cersei of AFFC, but even worse.
  • Nevertheless, one of the interesting consequences of this is that Brienne would likely be at Catelyn’s side during the Red Wedding. Not enough to prevent regicide – and pity Brienne, who has to be present for the deaths of two different kings – but there’s no way Walder Frey leaves that room alive.
  • The Battle of the Fords Hadn’t Happened? To begin with, Tywin marches west, and is too far away for the messenger from Bitterbridge to join him. With Mace Tyrell unwilling to march without Tywin’s sign-off and participation, Stannis seizes King’s Landing by storm, taking significant losses in the process – however, without an enemy army nearby to force him into siege, it is likely that both Joffrey and Tommen will die, leaving no male Lannister/Baratheon heir. (It’s possible that some may look to Myrcella, but the Tyrells aren’t going to fight for a Martell King Consort, and Stannis’ position on the Iron Throne will sway a lot of neutrals to his side)
  • I expect a battle or two between Robb Stark and Tywin Lannister in the Westerlands, but my guess is that Robb Stark will not only use the terrain to his best advantage, but will also use his all-cavalry force to harry Tywin’s column on the march and wherever possible, attack a portion of Tywin’s army with the whole of his. However, I don’t think that Robb was looking for a final conflict at that point – “a grievous price” isn’t the same thing as capturing or killing Tywin, and Robb was looking to King’s Landing to be the decisive blow – rather, I think his plan was to use the goat path again to come down out of the West, pull his forces together, and then attack an exhausted, ground-down Tywin with an additional 21,000 fresh troops.
  • At which point, I think Robb Stark sues for peace with Stannis, as he says in Catelyn II of ASOS. While Stannis would absolutely insist that Robb Stark bend the knee, Robb would be more than willing to do that (since he needs to get to the North in a hurry). My guess is that, in return for the allegiance of the Riverlands and the North (which would double the size of his kingdom), Stannis would have given Robb the Wardenship of the Trident and sent him on his way.

Book vs. Show:

When I talk about the botch of the war effort, this is the point in the story where this kicks in. While I understand that the tight budgets imposed by the Battle of Blackwater prevented the Battle of the Fords from being shown, there’s no reason why (just as Shakespeare did hundreds of years ago to save on production costs) the information about Tywin’s westward march and Edmure’s defense couldn’t have been conveyed through the use of messengers arriving at Robb’s camp, which would have greatly intensified the tension over in King’s Landing, as the literal cavalry would have been heading in the wrong way, making their surprise appearance at the end of Blackwater all that much more shocking.

This would have greatly improved the Starks’ storyline in Season 3 – Robb’s confrontation with Edmure would have had much greater stakes, and the sense of morale loss in Robb’s army would have made much more sense, if they’d seen a chance to win the war slip between their finger at the same time that they’d just lost the Kingslayer and the Freys.


142 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Catelyn V, ACOK

  1. Winnie says:

    Finally another chapter analysis!

    I agree with you that a little exposition about the Riverlands campaign in Season 2 would have gone a long way towards making Robb’s reversal of fortune more comprehensible in Season 3-while also allowing the Unsullied to understand that no this wasn’t all Robb’s own fault and that the Frey’s aren’t simply ‘avenging their honor.’

    As you point out, a pre-Brienne, pre-behanding Jaime with Cersei in AFFC would have been an absolute nightmare that would have forestalled whatever assistance I think Jaime is someday destined to give Jon/The Starks. One thing’s for sure-in that timeline poor Edmure and the Blackfish die at Lannister hands, and Lady Brienne never gets Oathkeeper.

    And I agree if Brienne’s at the RW, she’s gonna go down but taking Walder Frey with her…which sends all surviving Frey’s into a complete feeding frenzy for succession rights that makes their current civil war look like a picnic compared to that bloodbath.

    As you say, if Edmure had followed orders, Robb could have won his war for him. Still though, a lordly fool I can’t help liking him.

    And yeah, why at that point, Cat would EVER have trusted Tyrion’s word is a complete mystery except that Martin needed her to for the sake of the plot.

    • David Hunt says:

      Catelyn trusts Tyrion’s word for two reasons. First and most important, she’s desperate and thinking with her heart instead of her head. She believes that Bran and Rickon are dead and Sansa and (maybe) Arya are in Lannister hands while her sole remaining child is leading a dangerous military campaign from the front. She believes Tyrion’s offer because that is the only option that allows her to keep hope of getting the girls back alive and she can’t bear the thought of losing two MORE children to captors.

      Second, I suspect that the fact that Tyrion made the vow in open court (invoking the Seven IIRC) helped Cat to justify her decision. Yes, Tyrion had sent false envoys to his enemies, but betraying his word to the commanders of his war enemies might be seen as not as bad as openly foreswearing himself in that fashion. Tyrion would technically be breaking his word to his allies and to the Church. He needs those people to trust in his promises.

      Those are Catelyn’s reasons for trusting Tyrion’s word as I see it. I don’t think she was right, but I think this was the mental path that got her there.

      Finally I’ll mention that I don’t think Tyrion ever expected that he’d be put in the position of having to live up to that promise, because he never thought Robb would actually agree to the trade. It was part of his strategy of drawing out negotiations while Robb’s army shrank and Ser Stafford got the new host in order and on the march.

      • winnie says:

        All good arguments but there’s one other issue Cat failed to consider; Tyrion was never the ultimate authority among the Lannisters. Tywin was. And anyone with even a passing familiarity with Tywin’s record as the guy that sacked KL after he swore he was there to protect….well as Steve pointed out these are not good faith actors you’re working with here.

        Also Cat, (and Robb too for that matter) never realized the full implication that *Sansa* after Bran and Rickon’s ‘deaths’ was now next in line after Robb-and what possibilities that would suggest to the Lannister’s and other unscrupulous parties.

        • David Hunt says:

          Yes, this is why I pointed out that desperation was the prime “reason” that Cat had for trusting in Tyrion’s word. I specifically said that I didn’t think she was right.

          As to the problem of Sansa becoming Robb’s heir, Robb took two steps to remedy that. One was not thought out and the other was cold calculation.

          The first thing that Robb did to prevent Sansa being used as his heir was to get married. It was foolish in many ways, but if he’d gotten a son on Queen Jeyne, then Sansa is no longer his heir. Jeyne mention that they were “trying” almost every night. Marrying Jeyne was politically stupid, but once she’s Queen, Robb is trying to get her pregnant.

          The second and more calculated step Robb takes is to legitimize Jon. This is done with the premeditated intent to place Jon ahead of Sansa in the line of inheritance. I’ll be very interested to eventually read a What If from Steven for that document becoming public knowledge while Jon is Lord Commander.

          • winnie says:

            Regardless of whether Jon is named as Robb’s heir, Tywin would still have argued that any child of Sansa’s by Tyrion was still the rightful Lord of Winterfell.

          • David Hunt says:

            Yes he would have, but that declaration would only have any force if Robb’s forces were wiped out when he died. This is why it’s important that the Boltons and the Freys massacre Robb’s forces at the Red Wedding. The Northern Lords would likely have rallied to a legitimized son of Eddard Stark if Robb had just happened to fall in some battle, say re-taking Moat Cailin from the Ironborn.

            With Robb’s army totally defeated, Tywin can seat a child of Sansa by Tyrion as lord of Winterfell. If he dies in battle but that battle is still won or his forces retreat in good order, then the Northern and River lords are looking for some other figure to rally around

          • Winnie says:

            All true.

            Of course what Tywin, (never having visited the North,) NEVER understood is that even post RW there was no way in seven hells that the Northern survivors would EVER accept Tyrion as their Lord ruling in a child’s name. He’d be sure to die and the only question is whether the kid would die too.

            But it IS interesting to contemplate what happens if Robb’s will becomes public earlier…it might well have swayed Jon to actually accept Stannis’s offer which butterflies away his making peace with the Wildlings, assassination at the Wall-and puts Jon at Winterfell during Stannis’s great battle and only the Gods themselves know how that turns out. Also that might have other reaching consequences as well for LF’s schemes…

        • Wat Barleycorn says:

          I think you’re totally right that desperation was Catelyn’s guiding force and it dangerously clouded her judgment. But I think it’s important to point out that this isn’t just maternal hysteria. Which would be a legitimate enough motivation, but a far less interesting one.

          I think what’s overlooked is that Jon Snow’s legitimacy is the tragedy she’s feared for years, one she’s fought against for years, and now she’s failed. And OMG, her own son doing it? It’s beyond any nightmare she ever imagined.

          Catelyn stark is a damn good politician, and she games out the “what ifs.” She has absolutely imagined a time when Sansa is the heir, and how much more unlikely it is for her to secure power if Jon Snow is in the picture. This is exactly why Catelyn wanted Jon Snow driven from court when he was a child. He was a healthy and strong boy of an age with her eldest. Sure, Robb could probably stand against him if he were the right sort of man (and if he’d been a Samwell Tarly, I think she’d probably have poisoned Jon Snow in his sleep).

          And this situation is one where Sansa is in almost the worst imaginable position. Sure, if Robb legitimizes Jon, it’s obvious that Sansa is far less valuable to the Lannisters, which puts her life at risk from the Lannisters.

          But she’s also a rival to Jon, so her life is at risk from him. If you rescue her, what do you do with her? Marry her into some bannerman’s family and let her breed rivals to the northern throne? Marry her to the Tyrells and risk having her husband claim the North through her? For Robb, Sansa is a valuable asset that can be used to build alliances. For Jon, Sansa is a massive threat that breeds rivals. The best outcome for Jon is for Sansa to die, childless, in Lannister hands. To someone who understands feudal politics as well as Catelyn, this is painfully obvious.

          And Catelyn can’t admit it, but there’s also such betrayal here, from her own child. And it’s rooted in Ned’s betrayal of her–not in fathering a bastard, but in raising a rival to her children. It’s bad enough Sansa should die, but that she should die because her father and brother made the choice to disinherit her? Family, duty, honor, those are the Tully words. In that order.

          For Cat, Bran and Rickon are dead. Arya is dead. Sansa is the last hope for her line to continue if the war fails. And she’s not stupid, she realizes they’re not winning this war. She has just been smacked upside the head with the realization that she is the only person who will save Sansa. But she has no power to do it.

          Hence, this desperate and wild scheme. It’s much more than a mother mourning her children. Catelyn is a very complicated and smart character making a very bad decision for very interesting reasons.

  2. the forced character growth that [Jamie’s] mutilation and captivity at the hands of the Bloody Mummers inflicted on him

    Marvellous pun. 🙂

  3. poorquentyn says:

    Excellent work as always!

    I love how Wendel Manderly keeps leaping to cheerful but superficial conclusions (first at the Bitterbridge melee, then in response to Oxcross and the hanged men in this chapter), allowing Catelyn to comment internally on the deeper issues at hand. Poor Wendel! The Red Wedding will cut that optimism short…and then his dad will reveal the steel beneath his own jovial exterior.

    Obviously, Edmure’s well-intentioned follies gave you plenty to work with, but I’d love to know what you make of Brienne swearing her sword to Catelyn. Such a lovely character moment; as you’ve said many times, Brienne is no knight, yet the truest knight of all.

    • I feel worse for Ser Wylis. He really gets put through a meat grinder.

      Yeah, I’m going to do an addendum. The essay was already getting long and I didn’t want to further delay publication, but I’ll write something up.

  4. jpmarchives says:

    More good stuff. Never stop what you’re doing Steve, we’ve still got a long way to go.

    Even if we accept his role in the downfall of the Stark cause, I can never see Edmure Tully as an idiot of a character. The simply decency of trying to protect the people who look to him for such makes him an admirable failure, not a waste of space. For what it’s worth, we shouldn’t forget that Edmure has a military genius/warrior King for a nephew who can and does belittle him when he feels like it. I’m roughly Edmure’s age; if I had a fifteen year old nephew with Robb’s capabilities, I might be prone to overcompensate as well.

    And the mistreatment of the Mongol envoys is probably one of the worst decisions ever made by a human being. What makes it almost unique is that normally the course of history is decided by a messy host of political and cultural factors which can lead to seismic change. In comparison, the entire Khwarazmian Empire was annihilated because Genghis Khan felt insulted. It speaks volumes about both the scale of the mistake and the indescribably forceful personality of Genghis.

    • I think admirable failure is right. Unlike a lot of characters, Edmure is at least never malicious.

      Yep, it’s a good example of the power of agency and contingency in history.

      • Wat Barleycorn says:

        It’s going to all work out for Edmure. I know it. He’s going to father 7 girls and be the most loved lord in all of Westeros. It’s just…they can’t all end horribly, can they?

  5. Keith B says:

    I can’t see Edmure’s mistake at the Battle of the Fords as anything other than Robb’s fault. Since Robb is in the field and communications are difficult or impossible, he has to expect his subordinates to take some initiative. He never told Edmure his strategy and never specifically told him to allow Tywin to cross the river. Also, all of Edmure’s advisers, including the Brackens AND the Blackwoods, agreed it was a good idea. So what can Robb have expected?

    On the other hand, ordering Tallhart to remove the garrison from the Twins was a major mistake, as Catelyn said at the time. It’s basically the same mistake Robb makes with Theon and later Catelyn with Jaime. They assume people who make promises when they have an incentive to do so will keep those promises when the incentive is removed.

    • winnie says:

      Well said about Robb and Cat’s common failure of judgement there.

    • David Hunt says:

      It’s my understanding of Steven’s argument that Edmure was order to hold Riverrun and mobilizing the entire armed forces of the Riverlands to oppose Tywin was a him majorly exceeding those orders. Robb was in overall command so the ultimate responsibility is his, but a great deal of the fault is Edmure’s.

      • Keith B says:

        “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” — Helmuth von Moltke

        Circumstances change all the time and plans must change with them. Edmure can’t communicate with Robb; he can’t send a raven because Robb is not at a fixed location. (But Robb can send a raven to Riverrun with information about changes in strategy.) So Edmure has to have enough independence to react to events. Talk of Edmure exceeding orders is a red herring.

        If Edmure is aware of Robb’s intentions, he can act within the constraints of the overall strategy. In that case, he might be able to do something clever; possibly make a show of trying to stop the crossing, then allowing Gregor Clegane to break through and attacking Tywin’s rear. Or perhaps better, his scouts and outriders.

        But since Robb didn’t bother to tell Edmure, he can only go by what he knows, which is that Tywin wants to cross the river. And the answer to that is Brynden Tully’s first law of war: never give the enemy what he wants. If Tywin wants to get across the Red Fork, that’s sufficient reason to deny him.

        The blame here is entirely on Robb, and he and the Blackfish were unfair to criticize Edmure when they returned.

        By the way, if Robb knows that Tywin is making a mistake in pursuing him West when he should be making for King’s Landing, why doesn’t Tywin know that and head for King’s Landing to begin with? Tywin should know at least as much about the overall military situation as Robb, since he should have access to Tyrion’s reports about his diplomatic strategy, as well as Varys’ supposedly unsurpassed intelligence service. Even if he didn’t know the Tyrells would come on board, he had as large an army as Stannis and his presence in King’s Landing would have been enough to fight off the assault.

        Also, if Edmure had no authority over the Northern lords, why did they obey him? Shouldn’t Tallhart have sent a reply saying, “sorry, but I have my own orders.”? Either Edmure really did have command of the Riverlands, or the chain of command isn’t well defined. If it’s the latter, that’s Robb’s fault, too.

        • Tywin has to head west because this is a feudal army – same reason Robb was having to go north again and found himself needing the Freys again (after some timely floods), same reason they weren’t able to keep the riverlords in one place. If Tywin can’t defend his own lands, his men’s lands, those men are going to be pretty unhappy. Getting to KL does no good if he has a mutiny on his hands.

          • Keith B says:

            Did it stop being a feudal army when the Lannisters made the alliance with the Tyrells? If Tywin has to make a choice between going West to save the Westerlands or South to save King’s Landing, and going West is the only viable choice, why isn’t it still the only viable choice? Tywin isn’t completely stymied when Edmure stops him at the Red Fork. He can still go South, then cross into the Westerlands using the Gold Road. Before the alliance with the Tyrells, Robb was threatening the Westerlands and Stannis was threatening KL. After the alliance, the exact same threats exist. The alliance doesn’t change the priority of dangers, it only increases Tywin’s ability to deal with them.

            In fact, once he allies with the Tyrells, he has the resources to do both. He can send the bulk of his own army under Kevan to protect the Westerlands, while going to KL himself with a token force of his own plus the Tyrell army. The presence of Tywin himself should satisfy Mace Tyrell’s desire not to act alone, and the Tyrell army by itself is more than large enough to deal with Stannis. So why not do that?

        • Except that, as Catelyn points out, Tywin moving west gives Edmure what he wants as well – namely, the Lannisters out of the Riverlands.

          • Keith B says:

            Not necessarily. After crossing the Red Fork, Tywin could go on to raid the central Riverlands. And “never give the enemy what he wants” isn’t the same as “always let the enemy give you what you want.” If anything, it should lead you to re-evaluate what you want.

          • How exactly could he do that, given that he’d be on the wrong side of the river?

          • Keith B says:

            He may need to go upstream from Riverrun where the crossing is safer, but the Tumblestone is apparently undefended. Once across that, he can raid everything between the Red and Green forks.

            (Frankly the whole geography of the river system confuses me. How can you have a Ruby Ford, or any ford, below the confluence of the three forks when they drain such a huge area? But anyway, an unopposed crossing of the Tumblestone shouldn’t be impossible.)

          • Can’t get to the Tumblestone without crossing the Red Fork tho.

          • Keith B says:

            We’re a bit at cross purposes. As I understand it, Tywin is trying to cross the Red Fork upstream from Riverrun. Presumably he would then get to the River Road and go back to the Westerlands via the Golden Tooth.

            Your point (among others) is that at least allowing Tywin to cross the Red Fork gets him out of Tully lands, which is what Edmure wants.

            Mine is that it doesn’t necessarily get him out of the Riverlands, since once having crossed the Red Fork, he can then proceed to cross the Tumblestone and attack the Riverlands between the Red and Green forks.

            A better argument for me might be that merely getting Tywin out of the Riverlands isn’t exactly what Edmure wants, since he can always return. Defeating Tywin and THEN getting him out of the Riverlands is what Edmure really wants.

          • Why would Tywin cross the Red Fork upstream of Riverrun to get to the Tumblestone when he could simply cross the Red Fork downstream of Riverrun to get to that part of the Riverlands. The geography makes Tywin’s intent quite clear.

          • Keith B says:

            Because that’s where the fords are.

          • But there are also fords south of RIverrun. The geography is still not working.

          • Keith B says:

            Not saying you’re wrong, but — where? An 18-oar galley pursued Brienne and Jaime nearly all the way from Riverrun to the Inn of the Kneeling Man. That doesn’t sound like a fordable river. The farther downriver you go, the more water there is from tributaries, and the less chance of a ford.

          • Had to have been one, otherwise why fortify the Tumblestones?

          • The galley was a riverrine ship, so probably built with a very shallow draft indeed. Also, 18 oars isn’t very many at all – your standard war galley in Westeros is 100 oars, so we’re not talking about a big boat.

          • Keith B says:

            That’s as may be, and I could be missing something in the books, but as far as I know, without boat, barge, or bridge, there’s no crossing of the Red Fork between Riverrun and the Ruby Ford. If I’m wrong, I’d appreciate a reference.

          • Otherwise, there’s literally no reason to reinforce the Tumblestone, because with the Red Fork upstream guarded you can’t get to the Tumblestone from the east.

        • Mr Fixit says:

          As someone who’s been arguing this on countless threads over on, I strongly agree. In a situation like this where Robb is off on a campaign hundreds of miles away and effectively incommunicado, it is first and foremost his fault because he neglected to inform Edmure of the larger strategy and give him more precise orders.

          Accounting for info he possessed at the time, Edmure’s plan was actually a very good one. The river was a great location to give battle and it stopped Tywin in his tracks with heavy casualties. What would Edmure have to gain by letting Tywin’s ca. 16,000 strong army cross the river?
          1) Tywin would have free hand to conduct in the NW Riverlands the kind of raiding, pillaging, and burning he subjected southern Riverlands to.
          2) Robb’s belatedly revealed plan is actually quite far-fetched once you stop and think about it. He intended to use his 5K army to defeat Tywin’s almost 20K on Lannister home turf (once you factor in various stragglers and garrisons that would no doubt join Tywin). That’s borderline suicidal. No wonder Edmure and all his nobles voted for giving battle.

          • 1. No he wouldn’t. Tywin crossing the river would put him further away from the northern Riverlands, not closer to it. And if preventing that was Edmure’s objective, he’d fortify the Tumblestones and the downstream Red Fork, not the upstream.

            2. It’s not almost 20k (and Robb’s at 6k), he was looking to stretch out and tire the enemy, and it’s perfectly possible for Robb to attack part of Tywin’s army with the whole of his own. It’s perfectly normal cavalry tactics.

          • Mr Fixit says:

            It should be noted that of Tywin’s 20,000 at the Green Fork, 10K are cavalry. So even if you compare only those numbers, Tywin is still way ahead of Robb.

          • Where did you get 10k? Tywin had 7,500 horse.

          • Mr Fixit says:

            In Tyrion’s chapter depicting the Battle on the Green Fork, there’s 10,000 cavalry in Tywin’s army. Of course, it’s unclear how many remained by ASoS.

        • Sean C. says:

          Thing is, if Edmure’s plan is such a self-evident strategic blunder, why do none of his bannermen, most more capable and experienced soldiers than he, apprehend this? Likewise, none view keeping Tywin in the Riverlands as objectionable, and if Edmure isn’t meant to be ordering people like Tallhart and Bolton around, why do they follow his orders? And from their perspective, Robb may even be depending on them keeping Tywin where he is to further his own campaign in the Westerlands unmolested.

    • Sean C. says:

      Yeah, I agree. In an age like this, field commanders have enormous latitude, and if Robb never discussed what to do if Tywin decided to march west (which he evidently didn’t), Edmure necessarily has to treat that as a novel scenario. If the whole campaign hinged from the start on Tywin marching west, then it’s inexcusable not to make that clear to the regional commander being left behind.

    • There are limits to initiative – Robb told Edmure to hold a castle, he did not tell him to take command of the entire theater. The “didn’t tell him to let Tywin cross” thing kind of falls down when you realize that Edmure is not only ordering Tallhart to move from the Twins but ordering Roose Bolton’s army to take Harrenhal.

      When someone is willing to go around the chain of command to that extent, I’m not sure what clarity would have done.

      • Mr Fixit says:

        You forget that Edmure was still some kind of “Riverlands overlord”, even though the region had become part of Robb’s kingdom. The fact that he still had power and authority over other nobles attests to that. You can’t reduce the position and initiative of someone like that to guarding his castle as if he’s a mere petty lord. What if, say, Ironborn launched a big offensive on Seagard and surrounding lands? What if Lysa went crazy and invaded eastern Riverlands? What if Walder chose to openly betray his liege lord and rebelled in the middle of the war? Should Edmure just shrug and say: “Welp, I got my orders and those certainly don’t mention anything about Ironborn! Good luck, Mallister! You’re on your own!”

        Nah. I don’t buy it.

      • Sean C. says:

        That depends on the notion that those people were outside his chain of command, in which case the first question would be, why did they follow his orders? If Tallhart was meant to stay where he was and was outside Edmure’s jurisdiction, he would have said that. Same with Roose (granted, with Roose you can question his motives).

        • David Hunt says:

          Walder Frey was technically within Edmure’s chain of command. “I’m sorry Lord Tallhart, Ser Edmure has ordered you out and I must obey. Give my regards to Lord Bolton.” *hides chortle behind his hand*

          • Sean C. says:

            Frey doesn’t have the authority to do that either.

          • David Hunt says:

            Sean. He doesn’t have the authority to order Tallheart to reinforce Bolton. I suspect he does have the technical authority to expel Tallheart and his men from his own castle. Especially if he’s got cover via orders from Edmure, who is ruling in Hoster’s name. Whether he could practically expel Tallheart and his men if they didn’t want to go…IIRC the numbers might make that doubtful in a stand-up fight, but this is Walder Frey we’re talking about.

          • Sean C. says:

            No, he doesn’t have that authority, because those guys were left as part of the detail as a guard against him welching. That was explicit. It would make no sense for him to have the power to order them to leave.

      • Keith B says:

        Edmure told Tallhart to leave the Twins and join with Roose Bolton. He held the Red Fork with his own forces. It’s holding the Red Fork that Robb and Brynden blame him for in ASOS, and Edmure’s response was that he hadn’t been told the plan. You can’t just leave your field commanders on their own for months at a time with fixed orders and expect good results. Too much can change in that time. If you don’t tell them the strategy, they WILL screw up.

        Telling Tallhart to leave the Twins was a mistake, but having Roose Bolton take Harrenhall was a good idea in any case. Even if he can’t hold the castle, he can strip it of supplies and raze it to prevent it from being useful to Tywin when he returns.

        And what Sean C. says about chain of command.

    • Scott Trotter says:

      I agree that it’s Robb’s fault for not including Edmure in his strategic planning. As long as his father is incapacitated, Edmure is the de facto Lord of Riverrun and Lord Paramount of the Riverlands. It’s his responsibility to defend his and his bannermen’s lands.

      Think of what Edmure might have done if he had been clued-in. He might have feinted resistance at the fords, then allowed the van and center of Tywin’s host to cross, closed the fords in the opposite direction, attacked the rearguard and liberated the supply train. Tywin would have been across the Red Fork with no easy way back, with a much reduced army and limited supplies. The food could have been used to ease the suffering of the Riverland’s smallfolk, since it was theirs anyway. And bringing Bolton down to occupy Harrenhal was absolutely the right move, since it commands the Eastern Riverlands and the land route to the North.

      For Robb not to include Edmure–his most senior bannerman in the Riverlands–in his planning was an inexcusable mistake.

  6. MightyIsobel says:

    Thank you for this nuanced examination of the troubled feudal/military relationship between Robb and Edmure.

  7. Winnie says:

    Also for the record, while the show didn’t do enough to set up the military dynamics at play, I must say they did a great job casting both Edmure and Blackfish-they’re both just the way I pictured them-and if recent rumors are correct we might be seeing at least one of them again next season.

    Personally, I think the Blackfish will take on LSH’s role in the books as being the one to wreck bloody vengeance on the Frey’s, (and it’s been confirmed Walder is returning next season,) and that the reason they did that is that what with Frankengregor and Jon’s inevitable resurrection they didn’t want anymore characters rising from the grave.

    Consider the following foreshadowing,

    Roose Bolton-“The Blackfish escaped.”
    Walder-“He’s an old man without allies. I have Tywin Lannister…what’s he have?”
    Roose-“As you say.”

    Practically an anvil.

    Now in the books, I’m wagering the Blackfish might well turn up in the Vale, (possibly meet up with Sansa,) but they’re not doing that on the show. Which doesn’t mean a Blackfish/Sansa meeting might not happen at some point anyway. As Cat’s daughter and Robb’s sister he’s going to be very, VERY interested in her ESPECIALLY if anything unfortunate happens to poor Edmure, which is entirely possible. I wouldn’t be surprised on the show if they just bring him back to kill him, and forego Roslin’s pregnancy altogether, (assuming she and/or the baby are scheduled to die in the books.) Sometimes I wonder if Sansa’s potential claim to *Riverrun*, may prove key rather than her claim to Winterfell which is going to go to Rickon. The feral, half-Wilding Rickon will stay up North and won’t be available (or suitable) for the Riverlands but Sansa having mastered Southern manners and with her classic Tully looks is a perfect potential heir after Edmure’s line.

    Sorry for going so OT. I just want to add, once again how grateful I am Steve for your insights into feudal warfare and politics.

    • It was excellent casting, I agree.

      I don’t think Blackfish is heading to the Vale. If anything, he’ll probably show up w/r/t Brienne, Jaime, the Brotherhood Without Banners, and Red Wedding 2.0.

      • Winnie says:

        Does it make me a bad person that Red Wedding 2.0 is one of the things I’m most looking forward to next season?!? Especially given that Mother’s Mercy was all about the dangers of blind vengeance?

        And I must be even MORE awful for hoping that next year we get Frey Pie…or even Ramsay Bolton pie.

        • Rufus Leek says:

          It’s not blind vengeance, it’s strategery. It’ll improve the anti-Lannister forces’ strategic position, and no one in the Riverlands or anywhere else is going to hold anything against Blackfish and the others for taking out the Freys and Lannisters after the Red Wedding.

          • Punning Pundit says:

            Red wedding 2.0 is being done in a manner outside of a legal structure, and will cement the coffin on the idea that wedding are holy, and therefore sacrosanct. For those reasons, it cannot be justice.

            For those reasons, it’s vengeance.

            It may be vengeance aimed at the proper targets. It may be vengeance with targets whos destruction will further the tactical and strategic aims of people who wish to (and could achieve!) better all of society.

            But vengeance peeptuates the cycle of violence. Vengeance creates the norm of violence even when the people against whom vengeance is sought are obliterated. Indeed, that very obliteration teaches the lesson that obliteration is the aim towards which vengeance must be pursued.

            Don’t get me wrong: seeing the blood flow and watching the bad guys get mauled is and will be satisfying. But- like using leaches to remove ill humors- vengeance won’t fix the underlying problem. Vengeance is an archaic process precisely because it tends to make things worse.

            And that is why the Realm needs a return of the Targaryens. An 8th Great House in the 7 Kingdoms was a useful tool for dispassionate justice.

            I wonder if Dany has learned that lesson, or had it burned our of her?

      • Andrew says:

        Something tells men, he would be a bit disillusioned after the Red Wedding 2.0, if Lady Stoneheart kills the women and children there. He would realize this isn’t the same woman he knew and loved.

    • Mr Fixit says:

      I personally subscribe to the theory that there was a significant retooling of future arcs between Seasons 3 and 4 and that D&D decided to change direction to an extent when they began writing S4. If true, I’m not sure we’ll see the payoff on certain fronts.

    • Crystal says:

      I agree that Sansa’s potential claim to *Riverrun* might be a bigger deal in the end than her claim to the North. If Edmure dies without a surviving child, she is his heiress (since Rickon would get the North). And – right now as Alayne Stone – she’s heiress to the Lord Paramount of the Riverlands. So even if she stays “Alayne” for the foreseeable future, she is heiress to the Riverlands either way. (I’m sure Anya Waynwood reminded Harrold Hardying of this! Bastard or no, she’s the only child of the current and *very rich* Lord Paramount of the Riverlands.)

      I see a possibility that Petyr Baelish will be summoned to Harrenhal at some point (he is the current Lord Paramount after all), and bring “Alayne” with him. Where a bunch of Riverlords who knew the young Catelyn Tully personally get to meet her. Aaaand the BWB is hanging around.

      If Sansa becomes the Lady of the Riverlands I hope one of her first acts is to have Harrenhal torn down and hauled away for scrap – that place is an albatross and a half, and there’s probably enough stone and timber to rebuild ruined castles like Stone Hedge many times over.

      • blacky says:

        In this system, can Rickon only inherit the North? Or can he also inherit the Riverlands given the right circumstances? I mean, if Rickon is heir to the North before Sansa would he not inherit the Riverlands before Sansa as well?

  8. Bail o' Lies says:

    I’m sorry their was a “massacre at Bitterbridge” during the War of Five Kings? I can’t remember their being a massacre happening there?

    • David Hunt says:

      I didn’t remember it either, but Maester Steven has mentioned this before. I’m 99.9% sure he referring to events that occur in ACOT in Tyrion X. From Wiki of Ice and Fire’s entry on Bitterbridge:

      “Following Renly’s death, Petyr Baelish travels from King’s Landing to negotiate an alliance with the Tyrells.[8] Lord Randyll Tarly returns to Bitterbridge, seizes Renly’s stores, and puts many of the foot to death, especially those of House Florent. Lord Lorent Caswell shuts himself within the walls of Bitterbridge.[9]”

    • Sean C. says:

      Lord Tarly put down a mainly Florent-led force of wavering soldiers and seized Renly’s supply stores, resulting in all of that falling into the Tyrell/Lannister cause.

  9. somethinglikealawyer says:

    This is an absolutely great essay. It really cements the fault and gives Edmure the characterization he needs. He so desperately wants to prove himself a worthy member of his generation’s great cause, and for all those good intentions does he help seal the doom of Robb’s cause.

    I think it’s interesting that Edmure seems to actually learn from Robb’s example. Edmure keeps his heaviest hitters mobile during the Fords, seeing the example that Robb set with local force majorities to gain battlefield momentum.

    Now, though, I have to rewrite my sections on emissary right for my upcoming Dance of the Dragons essay. The same examples you used were ones that I had thrown in for the whole Lucerys Velaryon at Storm’s End issue, so now I’ve got some more work to do.


  10. Chinoiserie says:

    I saw the seasons 2 and 3 of the show first and I thought Robb’s storyline made since even if it was more streamlined. If you look show watcher comments in different websites I do not think people were confused. I think the bigger issue was that the Riverlands never felt like a real “kingdom”. The Tully’s should have been introduced in the first episode of Season 2 (since they could not have been sure in season 1 that they would get another season and include them in the finale).

    • I disagree. I remember a lot of people being confused why Robb went from winning the war, adored by his men, to suddenly losing both the war and the trust of his men.

      Add to that the nonsense about the Mountain and Harrenhal, and you’ve got a right muddle.

      • Mr Fixit says:

        While the war wasn’t as well-portrayed as it could have been (with Riverlands never really being a thing on the show), I’d say that it was quite clear why Robb was starting to lose the war and trust of his men:

        * He lost his own castle, the capital of his kingdom, and his royal heirs to a surprise invasion by the Ironborn
        * He betrayed one of his most powerful bannermen by reneging on a marriage deal
        * Tyrells, the richest house after the Lannisters, joined the war against him after defeating Stannis and securing King’s Landing
        * He beheaded another one of his principal bannermen

        I don’t see anything confusing or unclear about any of this.

        • Sean C. says:

          The Freys weren’t “one of his most powerful bannermen” on the show. They didn’t have any troops with him at all. And the show seriously downplayed the Tyrells’ contribution, particularly militarily.

          • Mr Fixit says:

            We don’t know how many troops the Freys provided, but Catelyn repeatedly warned Robb that crossing Walder is a very bad idea. Prior to the Red Wedding, Robb thinks that with the help of Walder Frey he can attack Casterly Rock. That says to me that they are very powerful indeed.

            As for the Tyrells, yes, the show downplayed their role in that regard, but it doesn’t really matter. They established on multiple occasions that the Tyrells are the second richest house in the realm, that they were instrumental in helping defeat Stannis and turn the tide of war, and that they provided significant forces for the Lannister war effort — some 12-14,000 if I remember correctly.

            All my other points also stand. I think there’s nothing unclear about how and why Robb was starting to lose the war

  11. Keith B says:

    Whatever happened to Hallis Mollen, who was sent off at the end of the chapter to escort the Silent Sisters who were taking Ned Stark’s bones back to Winterfell? Perhaps he’ll come in at the very end, like Fortinbras, and take charge after everyone else is dead.

  12. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, please allow me to congratulate you on producing a very fine article – as ever you remain the Dean of Westerosi History AND textual analysis!

    I would, however, like to suggest that while Ser Edmure bears responsibility for departing from the spirit (if not the letter) of Lord Robb’s instructions, the latter (and in all likelihood Ser Brynden, his military tutor) must bear a share of that responsibility.

    Quite frankly I think that in his instructions to Ser Edmure the Young Wolf once again fails to take into account the fact that “War in the continuation of politics by other means” (especially when the war in question is being fought out between the retinues of Great Feudal Lords) and also to apply the same brilliant powers of analysis which he directs so ably against his Enemies to his own allies.

    Bolton, Karstark, Frey and Bolton again, all of them Robb’s allies yet all of whom he fails to understand in the same way he dissects the House of Lannister – with tragic and ultimately fatal consequences – and to this list, I think one might very well add Ser Edmure Tully.

    Leaving aside the military logic of fighting The Battle at the Fords (and in all fairness it was a Victory grounded on some solid planning, enlivened by brave leadership on the part of House Tully’s heir apparent), on a political level Ser Edmure Tully quite simply cannot afford to let Lord Tywin Lannister cross the Red Fork without a fight and Robb Stark completely fails to recognise this.

    Ser Edmure is a knight (not yet a Lord, let us remember) who has been beaten so badly that it took the near-miraculous success of that military prodigy his nephew – a stripling lad fighting his first battle! – to retrieve the military position of House Tully and more to the point Ser Edmure lost his battle in full view of those knights and lords whom he must one day rule under the very walls of his own Home Keep.

    At this point Ser Edmure is a beaten man and the only way for him to assert any centralised control over the fractious, self-willed, self-reliant Lords of the Trident is to prove to them that his response to being beaten to his knees is to stand up, look his Opponent in the eyes and then do his best to lay him out flat on his back, battered and bleeding; even if he fails then he preserves some of the Moral Authority of House Tully through his willingness to fight for his lands and his people, yet if he wins his second battle then he wins the respect of his future Vassals (the one indispensable essential of Feudal Lordship) and other Lords besides.

    If he keeps sitting on his backside, worse yet if he is seen to retreat to his room and bolt the door while his enemy marches past outside (which is, in effect, what Ser Edmure would be doing by sitting in Riverrun, allowing Lord Tywin with all his power to pass him by un-fought) the Ser Edmure proves himself to be not merely a beaten man but a LOSER (and a coward besides), dealing a fatal blow to his Moral Authority to act as Lord Paramount of the Riverlands – and quite possibly inducing in the Lords of the Trident such a spirit of truculence where their future Lord Paramount is concerned as to make the River-Lands near ungovernable.

    Consider, if you will, Lord Tytos Lannister and his failure to ever take the field of Battle.

    Now Robb Stark SHOULD be aware of all this; quite frankly I think that his failure to bolster Ser Edmure (a man who, if things go well will one day be either his fellow Lord Paramount and neighbour or his most powerful Vassal) by taking pains to bestow his trust with a great show of confidence (possibly through bestowing some useful but not-too-powerful title like ‘Lord Commander of Riverrun’), thereby increasing Ser Edmure’s faltering prestige and allowing him to hold station in Riverrun without losing Face to a catastrophic degree to a very great degree explains the eagerness with which Young Tully hared off into battle at the fords along the Red Fork.

    It might also have helped if Lord Robb had indicated to Ser Edmure that his role was intended to be Hammer to the Young Wolf’s Anvil, rather than playing gooseberry while King Robb and Lord Tywin determined the outcome of the War between them.

    I hope that I have articulated my point with clarity; that Ser Edmure is guilty of having sought an unwanted battle and won a victory best described as Phyrric (although only in a strategic sense and only in hindsight), but The Young Wolf himself must bear some part of the blame for failing to giving his uncle any other chance to reclaim Face and his moral authority as the future Lord Paramount of the Trident.

    If this seems to be over-stating things, consider those Durrendon Lords who ruled nothing without the Walls of Storms End, as well as King Aenys who failed to fight a war and could only lose it (also the long history of River Lords ignoring their Lord Paramount if he happens to be leading the losing side).

    • Thanks!

      I think that’s going a bit far on the political logic – what the Riverlords want most is Tywin off their land. Edmure’s strategy keeps Tywin’s army on their lands. So I don’t think holding station would cause a catastrophic loss of face.

      • Abbey Battle says:

        You make a very reasonable point Maester Steven, but I would like to suggest that there’s no guarantee that the River Lords are feeling very reasonable – they have been hit where they live (quite literally in many cases, such as Stone Hedge) and while I agree that they’d like the Host of the West gone I’d be prepared to bet that they’d rather eliminate Lord Tywin with all his Power about him (very much in the manner of the Fishfeed Fight during the Dance of the Dragons) rather than see the Lion Lord remove himself.

        Once again I’d like to bring up the issue of Lord Robb failing to make allowances for the fact that his Allies might be able to follow his train of thought and still arrive at an entirely different conclusion; perhaps the Young Wolf is simply too d— sensible for his own good and therefore fails to understand that some people will see Reason, but STILL disdain to follow it for some other imperative entirely.

        Lord Karstark, for example.

  13. While I agree that Edmure way overstepped here, I think, Maseter Steven, you also make clear why he kind of had to – he’s already botched so much, he has to do something. Granted, he could have done something less full-blown and a bit more in keeping with his orders, but the thing is that Edmure needed a victory and this looked like his last chance to get one. It’s egotistical, yeah, but he’s also in a bit of a bind. As Abbey Battle says, Robb – or Brynden, given Robb’s youth – should have realized this and both been very explicit about why letting Tywin run back to the West is exactly what they need, and given Edmure some way to redeem himself so he’s under less threat from his riverlords. Perhaps allow him to attack Tywin, but from behind, the way Tywin and the Tyrells took Stannis? That way, Tywin is caught between Robb’s forces and Edmure’s, can’t go save KL or retreat to anywhere. What the Tyrells do then, of course, is anyone’s guess, but no one knew about them at this point so no one could plan for them anyway.

    Edmure’s position as left in canon was pretty much a disaster waiting to happen.

    • Attacking Tywin from the rear (for example, waiting for half of his army to cross and then attacking the half left on the eastern bank) would have been excellent, and I think was actually part of Robb’s ultimate end-game.

  14. CoffeeHound14 says:

    I’ve never really been convinced by the arguments that Edmure’s error was actually Robb’s fault. I’ve been thinking about it more since reading this essay, and some of the responses, and while my position hasn’t changed radically, I do see the situation as a bit more of a mixed bag.

    One thing that I think both sides of the argument mishandle is an analysis of the objectives of Robb’s campaign in the West. I think that Steven has generally been correct in his interpretation of these objectives, and to attribute Robb’s strategy to after-the-fact-ass-covering grossly misreads all the textual evidence that we’re given in the novels. That being said, it is clear that Robb did not set out from Riverrun with the aim of drawing Tywin into the West; that part of his plan arose out of the overwhelming success of the Battle of Oxcross. If you eliminate the bias of hindsight, Robb had no reason to expect a victory of that magnitude when he left for the West. His campaign was initially a response to the threat of the new Lannister army gathering at Lannisport. The opportunity to draw Tywin into the West only presented itself after Stafford’s army had been completely routed, an outcome born of equal helpings of good fortune and good planning.

    If Robb didn’t know that he would be drawing Tywin west when he began his campaign, the matter of whether he ought to have specifically told Edmure not to impede Tywin is a moot point. And while it would have been ideal to share the plan with Edmure after it had been concocted, the need for secrecy eliminated this as an option. Robb couldn’t send either a raven or a rider without risking his plan being scotched due to enemy interception of his communique. Robb therefore had to rely on his subordinate commander not doing anything as rash as throwing an army in Tywin’s way. From a larger strategic perspective, there was no reason to expect Edmure to do this. As Steven has pointed out, containing Tywin in the Riverlands serves no greater purpose, and actually contradicts the war aim of ending the chevauche of the Riverlands.

    Unfortunately, Edmure is acting without larger strategic considerations in mind, and Robb either fails to understand the officer he has in Edmure, or he proceeds with his plan hoping that Edmure will be more thoughtful than past actions have proven him to be. Either way, I think that this is the only error we can attribute to Robb in this debacle. We might be tempted to say he shouldn’t have left Edmure in charge, but I think the nature of feudal politics gets in the way here. Edmure is, for all intents and purposes, the lord paramount of the Riverlands at this point, with Hoster comatose in his sick bed. Robb cannot place any other lord in charge of the Riverlands if Edmure is left behind without creating dissension in the ranks of at least the riverlords. He can’t take Edmure with him without giving him a position of importance, and in an operation of such risk and delicacy, I don’t think anyone in their right mind wants Edmure holding the reins of a battlegroup.

    The reasons for this lie in Edmure’s character. Edmure clearly has a good heart, and he generally has intentions to match, but he is not a calculating man. Quite to the contrary, he is prone to dramatic gestures (“I bloodied Tywin’s nose”, “not an inch of Tully land”), and usually has no strategic objective greater than holding his ground, and protecting his people. He is in it to demonstrate his own gumption, and to be a hero. These are not qualities that you want in someone that you’re taking behind enemy lines. They are, unfortunately, not great qualities for a castellan either, and that’s really what Robb needed in Riverrun. Instead, he gets a guy who will seek battle to satisfy his own heroic ideal.

    It probably should have been apparent to Robb that Edmure would offer battle to Tywin, and for this reason, I don’t think his outrage in ASOS is entirely justified. Robb’s plan, in the abstract, is a good one, but the fact that it relies on Edmure, without coaxing, acting out of character and beyond the capacities that he has demonstrated as a strategic thinker makes it a poor plan in practice. This doesn’t absolve Edmure of having made a strategic blunder, but it does make Robb somewhat culpable for trying to execute a plan he might have expected not to work.

    • Disagree about this part: ” If you eliminate the bias of hindsight, Robb had no reason to expect a victory of that magnitude when he left for the West.”

      Yes he did. He’d achieved a victory of that magnitude twice over, and he’d be facing a completely green army having achieved total surprise.

  15. Carolyn says:

    IMO it was a big mistake of Catelyn and Edmure to not use Tyrion’s breach of guest-right (and Jaime’s as well, but I do not know, when he confesses it to Catelyn) as propaganda against the Lannisters. Only people with some knowledge of history can understand how MONSTROUS Tyrion’s actions were to Westerosi of all faiths.
    Having a son, who has breached the sacred tradition of guest-right almost certainly would have come back to haunt Tywin (since he gave Tyrion authority in KL and should have known about his nature) and could have made the Lannisters social and political pariahs, since houses, whose members do not respect guest-right cannot be trusted with anything.
    IMO, Catelyn, Edmure and the other nobles at Riverrun should have done everything to broadcast Tyrion’s actions (like Stannis did with Cersei’s infidelity), since it would have been nearly impossible for the Lannisters to find allies while being known traitors to guest-right.
    Even houses like the Tyrells, who ally with the Lannisters, even though its leading members privately know, that Tommen is not Robert’s son and therefore has no claim to the throne, would not have touched the Lannisters with a ten-foot-pole if they had been publically derided as breakers of guest-right.

    • As a prisoner, guest right doesn’t apply to Jaime so, whatever part of his confession you’re referring to wouldn’t be relevant even had it not happened right before she set him free.

      For the rest of it, it’s not a bad idea. I’m not sure how much it would help the Stark-Tully cause overall, given that their independence objective is just not something that, say, the Reach or Dorne or the Stormlands would have a stake in, and Stannis was determined to not let the ‘Kingdom of North and Rivers’ go. (It was never called that, I know, but it fits.) Where it might get them allies is if the Vale lords who wanted to join up with Robb decide this level of shady is too far, pull a Lords Declarant earlier and depose Lysa. The Vale’s location means that, if willing, they could link into the new kingdom – in fact a good bit of their border is cut off from the ‘Southern Kingdom’ already. Big if though; it took Lysa dying suspiciously and leaving Littlefinger in charge to make them snap in canon.

      I’m skeptical that guest right violation by Tyrion would prevent the Tyrell-Lannister alliance entirely, but it could very well delay matters with the Tyrells wanting extra insurance, and have some of the Tyrell bannermen considering jumping ship. Assuming Randyll Tarly doesn’t kill them first, of course.

      • Carolyn says:

        I was not talking about Jaime breaking guest-right at Rivertun, I was talking about him trying to kill Bran in Winterfell, while he was a guest of the Stark family.

        While one publicized breach of guest-right by a close member of his family would be bad news for Tywin (or not so bad, if he used the incident to send Tyrion to the Wall, where probably even the killers and rapists would feel morally superior to him), people would probably think there is something inherently wrong with his house if both sons of Tywin Lannister are associated with breaches of guest-right.
        From the start the Lannisters as a whole already have a reputation as cheats, liars etc. which stems from the way Tywin sacked King’s Landing. But being publically associated with two breaches of guest-right would take this to a whole new level.

        The aftermath of the Red Wedding is not pretty for the Freys: Their name is now used as a curse-word even by people who did not take part in the War of the Five Kings, Manderly feels justified to bake a few Freys into pies, they are social pariahs and the septons preach openly about them being cursed.

        I do not think, that anyone would have supported a half-Lannister (or rather full-Lannister) king after Tyrion’s and Jaime’s transgressions had been publicized.

        • Ah, now I understand; I couldn’t figure out what you meant since I thought you were referring only to events at Riverrun. But while I don’t think Tyrion’s actions are enough to implode things completely, Jaime’s… Yes, I think you’re onto something there, that might do it with the right timing. See, the Freys also don’t inspire fear; the Lannisters do, so you have to weigh that in as well, and consider what other options their canon allies have.

          Sadly Jaime’s confession still comes too late to be of ideal use per canon – the Tyrells are already in it with the Lannisters then, and backing out is possibly riskier than what I think is their ‘push House Lannister out of the top spot and replace them’ Plan B post-Renly. Especially given their fear of Stannis as king. At that point they don’t have much time for a Plan C, so they probably just speed up Plan B, made easier by the much greater mistrust and hate for the Lannisters. Any stigma clinging to the ‘Baratheon heirs’ is an issue, of course, but the Tyrells don’t have a better option unless they pretend to accept Stannis, have him assassinated super fast, and put either Shireen or Edric Storm, married to a Tyrell, on the throne. Then they only have Florents to worry about, old rivals they know well how to handle. But there they have to move fast – remember they expect Stannis to wreak terrible vengeance on them for Storm’s End, even before they backed Renly. And this assumes Mel doesn’t see their plans coming.

          Of course, if Jaime’s confession is moved up, it’s entirely possible the Tyrells instead contact Robb and attempt to convince him to take the Iron Throne – remember, Mace wants a crown for his daughter, but North-Riverlands independence gains him nothing. He can’t join them, declaring the Reach independent will not save him from Stannis, so trying to talk Robb into the Iron Throne is his only realistic play. At which point events are anyone’s guess.

          The Vale, though. If this goes public at any point, then Lysa is now refusing to help fight a family that theoretically killed her husband and tried to kill her nephew. Lords Declarant time almost certainly – this would look like the actions of a madwoman, and they wouldn’t exactly be wrong. We probably see a Kingdom of North, Vale, and Rivers, which just might hold.

    • Faber says:

      I think you’re exaggerating the importance of Guest Right a bit

  16. zonaria says:

    Historically, have there actually been any teenage military geniuses? I’m struggling to think of any.

    • Well, Alexander first commanded an army when he was 17. The Black Prince was 16 at Crecy. Scipio Africanus got his start at 18. Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Singh and Punjab at age 17. And Joan of Arc was 17.

      • Wasn’t Edward IV a teenager still when he first won his crown? I could be misremembering – my main area of interest is Tudor England and even then not the military side – but I could have sworn he was.

      • Punning Pundit says:

        Having the foolhardy confidence of your is probably an asset when going into the conquest business. The fact that these specific people were actually good enough to (mostly) pull it off is a nice bonus for their followers.

        I wonder how well one of these prodigies would have done against someone like Grant (conquered the South, twice!) or Wellington?

        • Grant says:

          Who knows? If they had lived at the right time, had the right training and the right armies to fight those forces, they might have done very well. Personally though I think it’s not really doable to try to compare generals across such great lengths of time, there are just so many differences to consider.

  17. juan says:

    Edmure Tully is the only known character in ASOIAF to have faced Tywin Lannister in battle and won. That should earn anyone’s respect.

    As for stopping them instead of letting them pass and letting the peasants take refuge at Riverrun… that was what he was supposed to do. Imagine Tywin Lannister passes unmolested, killing everything in his way and burning all the crops. What lands is Edmure going to rule from there on?

    • If Tywin passes unmolested, he leaves the Riverlands. If he doesn’t pass, he remains in the Riverlands, killing and burning, etc. So that logic doesn’t work.

      • What I want to know is, why did all his lords seem to like it? I mean, the obvious wanting to lash out at Tywin aside, your point that keeping him in the Riverlands means more damage is sound. Even if Edmure didn’t consider it – and, honestly, if he didn’t give some kind of response, he would have been branded a coward, though trapping Tywin between his own men and Robb’s would’ve been better – I’m surprised his lords didn’t. You’d think, especially as we know they fight a lot (even discounting Bracken and Blackwood AGREEING on this), there would have been some kind of fight over not letting Tywin go away. If they wanted revenge, they could have gone with the come up from behind as he’s leaving tactic.

        I’m wondering what we may have missed, basically, by seeing it through Cat and not one of the people in the initial planning.

  18. Rereading this, I saw one thing you missed in your What Ifs. Assuming all other timing matches canon, Stannis will indeed kill Joffrey, but he won’t have Tommen to kill.

    Of course, if someone spills the beans about where he is, then he might be able to go get him – certainly before Tywin could, even if Tywin knew where to go. But that’s assuming he’s still there. If I recall right, Jacelyn Bywater was part of taking Tommen to Rosby, Bywater who might well be Varys’ man. Even without that it’s good odds Varys knew, in which case I bet Tommen vanishes.

    After all, he may want a king who is Targaryen in name at least, but an ‘heir’ of Robert could come in handy to leave Stannis’ reign less than fully secure. He could use Tommen later either as a stalking horse, or else as being seen to take Aegon as his king, giving up his own perceived claim to support a ‘true king’. Tyrion might vanish too, him and Varys escaping together like in GoT 4.10.

    • Keith B says:

      Tyrion did his best to make sure that only a few reliable people knew that Tommen was in Rosby. So if KL falls and Tommen’s handlers get him to the Tyrells, and if Mace Tyrell is absolutely determined that Margaery will be Queen, he can continue the war alongside the Lannisters.

      In that case, with Cersei, Joffrey and Tyrion dead, the Lannisters would no longer be equal partners and Tommen would be no more than Mace Tyrell’s puppet.

      What Dorne would do is a puzzle. The Martells have Myrcella, and according to Dornish law she’s the heir before Tommen. They also hate both the Lannisters and the Tyrells. But they wouldn’t want to fight for Stannis. Most likely they just sit it out and wait for the Targaryens.

      • Except, again, Jacelyn Bywater was involved, and even Tyrion thinks he is probably Varys’ man.

        So it’s probably a race to see if Tommen’s handlers get him to the Tyrells, surrender him to Stannis, or Varys gets him.

        Dorne wanted to stay out all along, so if Doran wises up and realizes the problem he’s creating in how he handles his daughter, they probably wait, as you say.

    • David Hunt says:

      Part of Tyriion’s plans was for Bywater to flee with Tommen if King’s Landing fell to Stannis. Tyrion chose his man well as Bywater (per his orders) explicitly refused to tell even Tyrion where he would go with Tommen in that event, to prevent Tyrion from revealing that under torture. I suspect that you’re correct that Bywater’s best bet is to try to link up with the Tyrells and Tyrion could have made some shrewd guesses as to where they were going and by what route, if he were to put his mind to it. However, I’m not sure how creative and incisive Tyrion would be in that matter after he’d been broken.

    • Here’s the thing. In this scenario, there’s no one on the scene to take Tommen away from Rosby. Bywater’s dead, there’s no Tyrells around, and even Varys is going to have a hard time getting to Rosby faster than Stannis.

      • Keith B says:

        Stannis doesn’t know Tommen is in Rosby, or that he’s disguised as a page. With Tyrion, Cersei and Bywater dead, possibly nobody knows except the people holding him, who I guess are a few Gold Cloaks. Bywater had some plan for what to do with him if KL fell, but he kept it from Tyrion. If Tywin is unavailable, then getting Tommen to Mace Tyrell gives him control over the (arguably) legitimate heir to the throne, making Mace potentially both the Kingmaker and the Queenmaker. Not a sure thing, of course, but a definite opportunity.

        • Doesn’t need to know – Rosby has food, Stannis will need food. He’ll hit Rosby up for food quickly.

          • Grant says:

            Besides food, I don’t think he’d just leave the castle alone while he’s consolidating power in King’s Landing. So it comes down to if Rosby would be the sort of person to risk himself and his House by doing something to help Tommen escape.

      • That depends on how long it takes Stannis to find out he’s there, probably. I can’t recall if Lord Rosby was at KL during the siege, but Tyrion probably dies, Cersei isn’t likely to talk even assuming she doesn’t go through with her implied suicide plan, Bywater’s dead.

        If Rosby is at KL then he likely spills it immediately, and Bronn would too given the chance, so then it’s a race. Assuming the men Bywater picked aren’t also Varys’, anyway.

        You’re probably right that Stannis gets there first barring Varys already having someone at Rosby. But I do think trying to have a grip on at least one of Cersei’s ‘royal heirs’ is something Varys would do in case Stannis did win, to keep his reign a little shakier, and he wouldn’t want Joffrey. Perhaps it’s more likely he’d try to grab Myrcella so she could marry Aegon and ‘unite’ the houses, though.

  19. Iñigo says:

    Great work!
    I remember a plan to evacuate Tommen from KL, so I think he probably ends in Tyrell hands.

  20. Roger says:

    Do we have any proof Tywin was going to chase Robb Stark, and not to besiege Riverrun, for example?
    We never have access to Tywin’s plan. But we know he is an able general. It’s evident that you should never leave a strong fortress at your back (8.000 foot and 3.000 forces). Becouse it’s puting yourself between the hammer and the anvil.
    I know his lieges are anxious to save their lands, but anxious doesn’t mean ready to suicide. If Tywin besieges Riverrun, Robb Stark can come to the rescue. Riverrun is hard to assault, yes. But 11.000 men needs lots of food. Especialy with all the refugees inside the walls.
    Robb plans depends too much of the enemy doing what he wants. Following him, fighting where he wants, getting an important victory. But without Tywin dancing at his tune, he can be trapped at the Westerlands between casterly Rock and the Lannisters army. Without no way of retreat. It’s like Napoleon getting himself inside Russia hoping the Zar would fight and lost a decisive battles, and then he can go home freely. If course, without a huge success, you are in deep troubles.
    Surrounded by peasants furious becouse the Northerners invaders stole their crops and cattle and burned their homes. becouse most probably his men are acting like the Westerners did at the Riverlands.

  21. Faber says:

    “Given that even a canny politician like Hoster had to make war against his own vassals to keep them in line during Robert’s Rebellion, Edmure knows that his influence with his vassals is going to suffer by comparison. A military victory against no less a figure than Tywin Lannister would give him an enormous amount of political credit, especially with the Mallisters, Blackwoods, Pipers, Darrys, Paeges, Vances, and Brackens….It’s not a very pretty picture.”

    I’ve got to defend Edmure here. First you illustrate the very dangerous consequences of a lord losing his authority over his bannermen with the example of Hoster, and then you condemn Edmure for trying to solidify his authority in the very same paragraph. If Edmure does nothing to repair his image then House Tully will most likely suffer for it in the long term. He is the acting (and soon-to-be-official) ruler of half of Robb’s new Kingdom. Securing his authority therefore isn’t some frivolous distraction; it’s essential.

    Lords, especially Lord Paramounts, have to worry about their reputation and how they are perceived. It’s why a young Tywin destroyed the Reynes and Tarbecks, and Robb refused to trade Jaime for his sisters.

    Both readers and characters tend to treat Edmure as a non-entity, a joke, or a convenient punching bag. Can we blame him for trying to push back? If the plan was really to lure Tywin west all along then Robb and the Blackfish showed Edmure a lot of disrespect by not filling him in before they left. Which is just one more in a long line of insults from Edmure’s kin. In an earlier chapter Robb bitches him out for not calling him by his proper royal titles…despite the fact that it’s only the two of them and Catelyn in the room. In AGOT Catelyn decides to kidnap Tywin Lannister’s son in the Riverlands and then bails without even sending a message to Riverrun, leaving Edmure to face the Lannisters’s wrath. The list goes on…

    • Roger says:

      Edmure is bad treated by everybody. His father doesn’t remind him in his last days. His sister d’esn’t think too much of him. Robb and Brynden treat him like he was a third-rate vassal, not the most powerful liege.
      I agree that Robb should have told Edmure his plan.

    • David Hunt says:

      I’ll only dispute the bit about Catelyn’s taking of Tyrion. She didn’t send a message because there was no way to send that message that wouldn’t arrive at Riverrun long after the news of the abduction came there naturally. She couldn’t afford to spare anyone to serve as a messenger, nor did she want to take the time to write out a message that would convince Hoster/Edmure that it was really from her. Plus a lone messenger would be in danger of not making it at all and, as I indicated earlier, she needed every man to survive the High Road. If there had been any keeps along the route that she thought she could trust, she could have sent a raven, but the first place she went by where she might have done so is probably the Gates of the Moon and Lysa had orders there for her to make the assent immediately. After that EVERYONE knows she took Tyrion and forces are already mobilizing. It’s a little late for an FYI at that point…

  22. Eric says:

    “… Brienne would likely be at Catelyn’s side during the Red Wedding. Not enough to prevent regicide – and pity Brienne, who has to be present for the deaths of two different kings – but there’s no way Walder Frey leaves that room alive.”

    Show-Brienne would have defeated every Bolton & Lannister in that room, and probably would have beaten up the Greatjon too, just to show she could.


    • Grant says:

      No, that would be Ser Twenty of House Goodmen. Brienne’s fights were usually a bit more realistic for someone of the skill and strength she’s described as having.

  23. Amestria says:

    “At the same time, my empathy is somewhat tempered by the fact that Edmure is acting out of deeply selfish motives here:”

    Given how the Lannister soldiers are a curse wherever they go, burning and pillaging to their heart’s content and then some, maybe Edmure genuinely wanted to protect his lands and his people’s livelihood and anyone who was not within the walls of Riverrun?

    In additional defense of Edmure, there’s a collective element to his mistake. All his vassals think the plan is awesome, even the Blackwoods and the Brackens. Such buy-ins in the Riverlands are rather rare and would give Edmure every confidence that he was making the right decision.

    • If that was the motive, wouldn’t you want to get them out of the Riverlands, rather than keeping them in the Riverlands?

      • Punning Pundit says:

        Did you ever watch Django Unchsined? The only thing DiCaprio’s character had to do was let Jamie and Christopher’s characters just waltz on out the door. Everyone would have been better off.

        But nope. “Honor” got in the way. So a handshake was demanded. And refused.

        It cost a lot of people an awful lot.

        It may be stupid- or you can make a case for why it wasn’t. But it’s incredibly human.

      • Amestria says:

        They’d be marching from the burned out part of the Riverlands through a relatively untouched or less damaged part of the Riverlands. Burning and plundering and rape would have followed them.

        And in Edmure’s further defense, his plan would largely remove the Lannisters from the Riverlands by taking Harrenhall from them while they were failing to get across the river, so he’s trying to get them out on his terms, not Tywin’s.

        So even though he exceeded his instructions, I don’t think it was because of small minded pride, like Cat assumes. I think he genuinely thought it best for his lands and his people that he hold that marauding army at the fords.

        • That’s really not the case.

          1. No, they’re not marching through an untouched part of the Riverlands (that part would be the section inside the Trident between Riverrun and the Twins). The part of the the Riverlands they’re going to was both the site of Clegane’s original raiding, Jaime’s battles, and the siege of Riverrun, and it keeps them on the larger half of the Riverlands.

          2. Edmure’s plan would not remove them from the Riverlands. Rather, it would explicitly trap them in the larger half of the Riverlands. Yes, eventually he might be able to force Tywin out, but he’s extending his country’s suffering.

          3. It’s not Cat’s assumptions – Edmure’s own words damn him. Tully land, teach them a lesson, and it keeps going in the next Catelyn chapter.

          • Amestria says:

            1. Point conceded. The battle was not necessary to defend the untouched lands.

            2. Tywin wasn’t trapped, he was able to remove his army from the Riverlands by heading south. Which given the state of the land around Harrenhall (this country is ash) was probably the only thing he could do if he couldn’t get past the fords? The fact Edmure’s lords are in favor of the plan might indicates that they thought it would force Tywin out (because why would they want to prolong his stay?).

            3. Could you elaborate more on this next chapter?

  24. […] on King’s Landing, he would have arrived 22 days earlier than in OTL, when Tywin was still fighting at the Fords, far too far away to intervene in time. Speaking of which, their arrival is also very precisely […]

  25. […] As we’ve talked about before – aside from the numbers problem, much of this change makes a lot of sense. The “great lords Estermont, [and] Errol”  as well as “Lord Caron and Sur Guyard” are all Stormlords, and now that Stannis is the undisputed lord of the Stormlands, their allegiance naturally flows to him (although Ser Penrose will question that later). Alester Florent’s newfound allegiance to his goodson is a clear bid for power through his daughter, leavened with House Florent’s traditional rivalry with the Tyrells, and it is at this point that House Florent and the Queen’s Men faction become a force that we have to take into account within Stannis’ camp, a force with their own interests and ideologies. […]

  26. […] follow up from last Catelyn chapter, the very opening of the chapter lends even more evidence to my argument that Edmure’s […]

  27. […] the Lord of Winterfell is a steward of humanity against the threat of death or he is nothing. (Maybe Edmure was right after all?) As painful as it is for Bran to yield up his home to the enemy, therefore, the Starks’ […]

  28. […] Catelyn is (probably) not to blame for the Red Wedding. After all, Roose Bolton married Fat Walda two chapters ago, which I consider to be a sign that the Freys and Boltons have come to terms on the Red Wedding. […]

  29. […] make a quick stop at the Accountability Corner and admit that I dropped the ball on this topic in Catelyn V, as I didn’t analyze Brienne’s swearing of fealty to Catelyn and her definition of […]

  30. […] Meanwhile, Catelyn is narrowly focused on the immediate well-being of her family (and hung up on what she saw at Storm’s End) and is unwilling to see the cause and effect between her actions and the increasingly-desperate […]

  31. […] He begins by needling her over her gender, having observed that “the wench does hate being reminded that she’s a wench.” And it doesn’t take long for Jaime to hit a vulnerable spot here, given Brienne’s rather complicated relationship with her gender: […]

  32. wedekitrys says:

    What if: Catelyn had attempted to treat with the Tyrells at Bitterbridge?

    I thought I may see this asked in this analysis since she mentions avoiding that location in this chapter.

  33. […] Westerling was the catalyst and pretext for the Freys withdrawing from Robb’s coalition, the timing of the Red Wedding means that Walder Frey had already been in the process of betraying both his king and his Lord […]

  34. […] brutal suppression of smallfolk activism and the general lack of care for the peasantry during the War of Five Kings. And while one can certainly point to the Red Viper’s poisons, the Wyls’ mutilations and […]

  35. […] consequences of his and his father’s mistakes, he just randomly gets caught by the enemy. And as I’ve said before, there’s a difference between tragedy and “an asshole getting hit by a […]

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