Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Catelyn VI, ACOK

“They shall not cross, Cat,” Edmure scrawled, “Lord Tywin is marching to the southeast. A feint perhaps, or full retreat, it matters not. They shall not cross.”

“But if we are winning, why am I so afraid?”

Synopsis: Catelyn and Brienne observe the Battle of the Fords.

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 VI is a sleeper hit of a chapter – on first read, it seems to be just another account of Catelyn observing a battle, and for that matter a much less dramatic battle than those she’s seen before. However, on the second read-through, you realize how consequential this chapter is, that course of the War of the Five Kings, and the destiny of Catelyn, Robb, Jaime, Brienne, and many other characters are decided in a completely unexpected fashion.

A Further Note on Edmure

To follow up from last Catelyn chapter, the very opening of the chapter lends even more evidence to my argument that Edmure’s actions at the Battle of the Fords are being driven by ego rather than by practical considerations:

“Tell Father I have gone to make him proud.” Her brother swung up into his saddle, every inch the lord in his bright mail and flowing mud-and-water cloak. A silver trout ornamented the crest of his greathelm, twin to the one painted on his shield.

“He was always proud of you, Edmure. And he loves you fiercely. Believe that.”

“I meant to give him better reason than mere birth.”

Nothing about this exchange speaks to a man who’s simply following orders out of a selfless desire to protect Robb Stark; rather, everything points to someone who’s trying to exorcise some personal demons through victory on the battlefield. After all, as I think Edmure realizes, he’s been something of a privileged man-child, who up until the War of Five Kings never had to shoulder any real responsibilities, and who now faces the daunting prospect of suddenly having to replace his father as Lord Paramount of the Riverlands.

Family, Duty, Honor

At the same time, in the actions of Edmure and the thoughts of Catelyn, I think we can see the damage that Tully family ideology has done, however more subtle that was compared to say, Tywin’s efforts to mold his children into the Lannister legacy. As we’ve seen, Edmure’s insecurities have led him to play up to what he thinks the Lord of Riverrun should be. Here, we see how Catelyn has experienced a similar phenomenon.

“What shall we do now, my lady?”

“Our duty.” Catelyn’s face was drawn as she started across the yard. I have always done my duty, she thought. Perhaps that was why her lord father had always cherished her best of all his children...I gave Brandon my favor to wear, and never comforted Petyr once after he was wounded, nor bid him farewell when Father sent him off. And when Brandon was murdered and Father told me I must wed his brother, I did so gladly, though I never saw Ned’s face until our wedding day. I gave my maidenhood to this solemn stranger and sent him off to his war and his king and the woman who bore him his bastard, because I always did my duty…Osmynd, my father, uncle Brynden, old Maester Kym, they always seemed to know everything, but now there is only me, and it seems I know nothing, not even my duty. How can I do my duty if I do not know where it lies?”

When it comes to how the female characters of ASOIAF have been shaped by the patriarchical system of Westeros, Catelyn sometimes fades into the background compared to characters like Arya or Brienne or Asha who reject outright the limitations placed upon the by their gender, or even compared to characters like Cersei who so loudly rail against the injustices done to them. And while certainly the damage done to Catelyn is less severe than that done to her sister Lysa, we can see that the influence is no less profound. Repeatedly, Catelyn’s choices have been made for her by that system – she sided with Brandon over Petyr because that was what was expected of her, she married a substitute and stood by the marriage even when her husband supposedly cheated on her, and now once again she has to accept the decisions of another Lord Paramount of the Riverlands that could redefine her entire life.

In re-reading this section, I am struck here by the parallels between Catelyn and Jaime. Just as Jaime feels constrained by the contradictory oaths required of a Kingsguard, Catelyn feels as if her entire life has been structured by her duty, but no longer feels that her duty points in a single direction, as now she is both a daughter and sister of House Tully but also a mother of House Stark, and even then she is both the adviser to the King in the North and mother to Arya and Sansa. A sense of her divisions on this topic can be seen in how she reacts to Tyrion’s proposals for peace:

“…she could not even say that Robb was wrong. Arya and Sansa were children. The Kingslayer, alive and free, was as dangerous as any man in the realm…Sansa but not Arya. That might mean anything…they might have her locked safely out of sight. Or they might have killed her.”

I’ll discuss what this means in regards to Tyrion’s peace offer later, but it is interesting to note that, contrary to how she’s often viewed in the fandom, and in contrast to her comments to Robb back in Catelyn I, here she seems genuinely torn between the two perspectives. Once again, we see the ideology of the Tully House in conflict, as the duty she bears to her House(s) and the larger political cause they’ve now come to embody would seem to require her to sacrifice her family.


Following up on the frequent communiques between Riverrun and Storm’s End (a subplot I haven’t always had time to cover, but which is an interesting way for GRRM to prevent that plot thread from dangling while still having Catelyn present to witness the battle), in this chapter Catelyn begins to get closer to the truth about why Edric Storm became such a point of contention during the siege:

“I do not understand why Stannis wanted him so badly.”

“Perhaps he fears the boy’s claim.”

“A bastard’s claim? No, it’s something else…what does this child look like?”

“He is even or eight, comely, with black hair and bright blue eyes. Visitors oft thought him Lord Renly’s own son.”

“And Renly favored Robert…Stannis means to parade his brother’s bastard before the realm, so men might see Robert in his face andd wonder why there is no such likeness in Joffrey.”

“Would that mean so much?”

“Those who favor Stannis will call it proof. Those who support Joffrey will say it means nothing.” Her own children had more Tully about them than Stark…

On the one hand, it’s good to see Catelyn acknowledge that, even in Westeros, some basic aspects of human genetics still applies that demonstrate that inheritance comes from both the father and the mother. On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure that I agree that the comparison between Edric Storm and the Lannister kids is so inconsequential, any more than I’ve agreed in the past that Stannis’ letter doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, Cersei feared the physical comparison enough to order dozens of babies murdered, and Stannis’ mere accusations were enough to set off a devastating riot that nearly wiped out the royal family.

And as we draw ever so closer to the eventual publication of The Winds of Winter, I fully believe that the truth of Cersei’s incest will come out, so I remain unconvinced that questions of proof and truth ultimately don’t matter.

A Certain Bastard

Oddly, it is at this moment that GRRM sneaks in a sudden mention of Ramsay Snow, which really does seem to come out of nowhere in Catelyn’s stream of consciousness:

Roose Bolton’s bastard had meant less to him than one of his dogs, to judge from the tone of the queer cold letter Edmure had gotten from him not three days past. He had crossed the Trident and was marching on Harrenhal as commanded, he wrote. “A strong castle, and well garrisoned, but His Grace shall have it, if I must kill every living soul within to make it so.” He hoped His Grace would weigh that against the crimes of his bastard son, whom Ser Rodrik Cassel had put to death. “A fate he no doubt earned,” Bolton had written. “Tainted blood is ever treacherous, and Ramsay’s nature was sly, greedy, and cruel. I count myself well rid of him. The trueborn sons my young wife has promised me would never have been safe while he lived.”

There’s really not much of a reason for Catelyn to suddenly recall that, except that (with the fall of Winterfell in the next chapter) Reek is going to take center stage in the unfolding tragedy in the North, and therefore Martin wants us to keep the Bastard of the Dreadfort in our mind.

At the same time, this letter brings up a frequently debated question within the fandom – was Ramsay a loose cannon within the ranks of the Boltons, or was Roose using him as a deniable asset? There’s things that point in both directions. On the one hand, we could say that Ramsay’s actions in the Hornwood Affair are aimed at personally benefiting Ramsay, who as of yet is still an illegitimate child with no rights to lands or titles, as opposed to advancing the interests of House Bolton (indeed, they risk House Bolton being named outlaw). And Roose’s letter brings up a still-salient point – Ramsay is a clear and present danger to Roose’s marriage alliance with the Freys, which he will be relying on to vault to the position of Warden of the North – and indeed, when we see Roose and Ramsay confer in ADWD, the father has a good deal of criticism for his son’s actions.

On the other hand, it’s hard to believe that the Dreadfort’s soldiers would obey an order to attack the castellan of Winterfell, let alone a castellan commanding a much larger army of Northmen, without some sort of orders from Roose himself. And we know that at some point soon, Roose is going to begin the work of orchestrating the Red Wedding, so clearly at some point the decision was made to turn on the Starks – the only question is whether that decision pre- or post-dated the destruction of Winterfell. However, to answer this question, we’re going to have to turn to the next couple Arya chapters.

Tyrion’s Oath, and Tyrion’s Offfer

Before we get to the main event, let’s talk about Catelyn learning the details of Tyrion’s peace offer to the Starks. Given what we know is going to happen in the very next Catelyn chapter, it’s interesting to note how skeptical she’s being in this moment:

Edmure had been right, these were no terms at all, except…”Lannister will exchange Arya and Sansa for her brother?”

“Yes. He sat on the Iron Throne and swore it.”

“Before witnesses?”

“Before all the court, my lady. And the gods as well. I said as much to Ser Edmure, but he told me…that his Grace Robb would never consent.”

…”Ser Cleos…you forfeited the protection of your peace banner when your men played us false. Lie to me, and you’ll hang from the walls beside them…I shall ask you once more – did you see my daughters?”

“…I saw Sansa at the court, the day Tyrion told me his terms…”

Sansa, but not Arya. That might mean anything. Arya had always been harder to tame. Perhaps Cersei was reluctant to parade her in open court for fear of what she might say or do. They might have her locked safely out of sight. Or they might have killed her…

…The dwarf is too clever by half…he had no part in Ned’s murder, at the least. And he came to my defense when the clansmen attacked us. If I could trust his word…”He lied…the Lannisters are liars every one, and the dwarf is the worst of them. The killer was armed with his own knife.”

The action that Catelyn is about to take, which I’ll discuss in much greater detail in Catelyn VII, is one she comes in for an enormous amount of criticism for. However, as with seizing Tyrion in AGOT, I’m struck by how much, contrary to the way she portrayed in the fandom, Catelyn really does think through all of the potential downsides. She’s well aware that the Lannisters might not be able (much less willing) to carry out their part of the bargain, and she’s well aware of the fact that they violated the ancient custom of peace envoys. Indeed, one could say that Catelyn is essentially making the argument against her future actions

At the same time, there’s a great irony in that Catelyn deeply distrusts Tyrion for all the wrong reasons – as readers who get to flit between POVs, we know very well that Tyrion had nothing to do with the attempt on Bran’s life. Once again, Tyrion seems to get the blame for the things he doesn’t do, even more so than for the things he does.


Battle of the Fords

And now for the main event, the Battle of the Fords. Now we’ve already discussed the larger strategic implications of Edmure’s actions, but it is interesting to note how GRRM is experimenting here to keep his battles fresh and interesting. As a long-time fan of fantasy and historical fiction, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that, without variation in description, battle sequences can become deadly dull. Indeed, I have an undying love for the work of writers like Dan Abnett, whatever else you might think of their writing, because they can describe battle after battle and make each one stylistically unique and exciting. Here, GRRM does a bit of mixing and matching from his previous work – as with the Whispering Woods, Catelyn is put up on high, so that she can see a broad swathe of the battlefield; but as with the Battle of the Green Fork, her perspective is limited by geography, so that she can only see one of the fords:

“South of the Red Fork the land stretched away open and flat. From the watchtower Catelyn could see for miles. Even so, only the nearest ford was visible. Edmure had entrusted Lord Jason Mallister with its defense, as well as that of three others farther upriver.”

This perspective over one of a dozen fords gives Catelyn and the reader a representative but not comprehensive view of the situation, so that (like Shakespeare loved to do with battles), GRRM can use messengers to tip the emotions of the situation one way and then another. At the same time, GRRM innovates by having Catelyn be attended by Brienne, who as a trained knight can interpret the battlefield in a way that a civilian simply cannot. Most importantly, GRRM innovates by turning a geographical feature of the battlefield into its star character – while highlighting the importance of rivers as defensive multipliers ahead of the major battle of ACOK, which just so happens to not only involve but be named after a river.

Towton by Richard Caton Woodville

To his significant credit, Edmure Tully doesn’t just place his defenses against a river, but also uses every aspect of the river to his advantage, and enhancing those advantages through careful fortification:

“He could have ten times and it would not matter,” Ser Desmond said. “The west bank of the Red Fork is higher than the east, my lady, and well wooded. Our bowmen have good cover, and a clear field for their shafts . . . and should any breach occur, Edmure will have his best knights in reserve, ready to ride wherever they are most sorely needed. The river will hold them.”

As we’ve seen in Cat V, Edmure has built his fortifications around the river, using “mixed force of archers and pikemen” as his main defenders, as archers are ideal for defense against infantry (especially in conditions where the enemy is concentrated into a limited area and provides a massed target, as was the case at Agincourt where two woods turned the battlefield into a funnel) and pikemen provide excellent protection for archers, especially against cavalry. The river multiplies these advantages in a number of ways – the river crossings concentrate the attacker into a few crossing points, providing the archers with good targets and preventing the pikemen from being outflanked. Similarly, Edmure’s use of siege artillery, which is normally too slow to hit troops in movement, is enabled by the way in which the fords create fixed points that can be sighted in on ahead of time. Edmure then enhances those advantages by using “sharpened stakes…iron spikes…[and] caltrops” to further impede movement even more than the rushing water already does, which maximizes the time that the opponent will spend absorbing arrow fire while unable to retaliate, and by creating a mobile reserve that will allow his cavalry to be used at maximum advantage, where their speed and shock can prevent and reverse any breaches in the line.

As a result, it’s not surprising that the first encounter decisively favors the Tullys:

Edmure had entrusted Lord Jason Mallister with its defense, as well as that of three others farther upriver. The Lannister riders were milling about uncertainly near the water, crimson and silver banners flapping in the wind. “No more than fifty, my lady,” Ser Desmond estimated.

…. Lord Jason’s men waited to receive them behind rocks and grass and hillocks. A trumpet blast sent the horsemen forward at a ponderous walk, splashing down into the current. For a moment they made a brave show, all bright armor and streaming banners, the sun flashing off the points of their lances.

“Now,” she heard Brienne mutter.

It was hard to make out what was happening, but the screams of the horses seemed loud even at this remove, and beneath them Catelyn heard the fainter clash of steel on steel. A banner vanished suddenly as its bearer was swept under, and soon after the first dead man drifted past their walls, borne along by the current. By then the Lannisters had pulled back in confusion.

As anyone familiar with military tactics can tell you, fighting your way across a river is never easy, because the crossing naturally divides your forces and disrupts formation. However, it’s especially difficult in premodern warfare, when most soldiers are wearing metal armor. Indeed, in many of the bloodiest battles of the Wars of the Roses, most casualties took place not during the fighting but when retreating armies hit bodies of water – at Towton, the Cock Beck and the Wharfe rivers proved deadly, with bridges collapsing under the weight of panicking soldiers, archers using the steep banks to rain volleys down on struggling swimmers, and a lucky few survivors scrambling to safety on bridges of dead bodies; at Tewksbury, the Rivers Severn, Swilgate, and Avon played the same role to the luckless Lancastrians, leading the approach to the River Severn to be renamed “Bloody Meadow” for the number of men killed attempting the crossing.

For the purposes of this battle, however, we can see that the fords neutralize Tywin’s advantage in cavalry – forcing the normally fast-moving horse into a “ponderous walk,” where they become easy targets. Moreover, such is the nature of the river that, even as Tywin (or more likely his subordinates) adapt their tactics to the new environment, they end up creating new weaknesses that the defenders can exploit:

Ser Flement Brax had tried to force a crossing at a different ford six leagues to the south. This time the Lannisters shortened their lances and advanced across the river behind on foot, but the Mallister bowmen had rained high arcing shots down over their shields, while the scorpions Edmure had mounted on the riverbank sent heavy stones crashing through to break up the formation…

…that night they came again…the defenders had built watchfires along the bank, and perhaps the Lannisters thought to find them night-blind or unwary. If so, it was folly. Darkness was a chancy ally at best. As they waded in to breast their way across, men stepped in hidden pools and went down splashing, while others stumbled over stones or gashed their feet on the hidden caltrops. The Mallister bowmen sent a storm of fire arrows hissing across the river, strangely beautiful from afar. One man, pierced through a dozen times, his clothes afire, danced and whirled in the knee-deep water until at last he fell and was swept downstream. By the time his body came bobbing past Riverrun, the fires and his life had both been extinguished.

Again to his credit, Edmure prepared for changing tactics, using archers and siege engines to combat dismounted men-at-arms and prevent them from bringing their discipline to bear, and using watchfires and fire arrows to turn an attempted night attack into a bloody disaster.

At the same time, Tywin isn’t about to give up at the first setback – hence, the repeated assaults, the adapted tactics, the night attacks, and the three days of assaults:

…”The Lannisters will come again. Lord Tywin has twice my brother’s numbers.”

…That was the brush of Lord Tywin’s fingertip, my lady,” the girl said. “He is probing, feeling for a weak point, an undefended crossing. If he does not find one, he will curl all his fingers into a fist and try and make one.” Brienne hunched her shoulders. “That’s what I’d do. Were I him.”

However impressive Tywin’s determination – which in turn I think shows how effect Robb Stark’s western campaign was in forcing his enemy to act as the King in the north wished – his repeated assaults neverethless bring about rather high casualties:

“They left a dozen dead in the water, only two reaching the shallows, where we dealt with them briskly,” the rider reported. He also told of fighting farther upstream, where Lord Karyl Vance held the fords. “Those thrusts too were turned aside, at grievous cost to our foes.”

Lord Tywin had tried to force a crossing at a dozen different fords, her brother wrote, but every thrust had been thrown back. Lord Lefford had been drowned, the Crakehall knight called Strongboar taken captive, Ser Addam Marbrand thrice forced to retreat . . . but the fiercest battle had been fought at Stone Mill, where Ser Gregor Clegane had led the assault. So many of his men had fallen that their dead horses threatened to dam the flow. In the end the Mountain and a handful of his best had gained the west bank, but Edmure had thrown his reserve at them, and they had shattered and reeled away bloody and beaten. Ser Gregor himself had lost his horse and staggered back across the Red Fork bleeding from a dozen wounds while a rain of arrows and stones fell all around him. 

It’s battle reports like these that make me frustrated by the frequent assumptions that Tywin’s army remained at the level of 20,000 men up until the Battle of the Blackwater, because that really doesn’t seem to be the case. When casualties are described, the Westermen are taking heavy casualties, often losing most or all of the men who make the crossing, and the fact that they’re making repeated assaults on no less than twelve fords means even small numbers begin to add up. Moreover, the Lannisters lose three lords in this battle (Leo Lefford drowns, Strongboar is taken prisoner, and Ser Robert Brax is slain), which is smaller but still significant compared to six at Oxcross and five at the Whispering Woods, both of which saw the complete destruction of the Westerlands army engaged. So all signs point to heavy losses. I would estimate that the Lannisters took at least 2-3,000 casualties during the Battle of the Fords, and by the time that Tywin’s army is demobilized, I think it was more like 12,000 strong than 20,000.

All of which raises the question of why this wasn’t tried before, at the very outset of the war (link). Granted, some of the Tullys’ advantages – the higher bank, the tree cover, the open field of fire – might have been neutralized in a west-to-east attack, but the same kind of preparation done for this battle (cutting down trees on the west back and using the timber to build protected firing platforms on the west) could have maintained the status quo, and regardless of what direction you’re facing, the limited number of crossing-points are going to have the same effect. Indeed, I’m absolutely convinced that the location and structure of Riverrun itself means that ford-based defenses must have been used in the past to defend the Riverlands from attacks from the Westerlands. This is why I’m not convinced that the Riverlands has no natural defenses – rather, I think it’s more accurate to say that the southern Riverlands from Stony Sept to Harrenhal, the “Hills” part of the former “Kingdom of the Rivers and Hills” lacks solid defenses, which in turn helps to explain the density of castles in this region. By contrast, the Trident itself is both a strong “barrie[r] in times of war,” and a “means to transport forces swiftly between far-flung strongholds and battlefields,” as the Ironborn demonstrated.

Something to keep in mind when we consider the viability of an independent Riverlands…

Historical Analysis:

I have to admit that I found myself somewhat stumped initially in looking for historical parallels here. Unlike the Battle of the Fords, the rivers involved in the great Battles of the Wars of the Roses tended to be involved mostly during the aftermath of the main fighting; the one that comes closest is the Battle of Ferrybridge, which took place shortly before the main event at Towton, where the Yorkists and Lancastrians clashed over the Aire River. Even then, the details didn’t really fit – in that case, there was only one crossing point, and that was a bridge rather than a ford.

Indeed, the one battle that seems to come the closest to the Battle of the Fords comes a good deal later than the Wars of the Roses – namely, the famous/infamous Battle of the Boyne during the Williamite-Jacobite War in Ireland in the 17th century. In this battle, the rival Kings William of the House of Orange and James of the House of Stuart faced off across the River Boyne near the town of Drogheda, on the east coast of Ireland not far from Dublin.

As with the Battle of the Fords, this conflict involved a number of contested river crossings that stretched about six miles (which is a lot more reasonable than GRRM’s 250 mile front). Similarly, in both cases the battle revolved around the attacker trying to force a beachhead on the opposing bank and hold it while the defender tried to push them into the water, leading to something of a see-saw affair where William’s forces would cross, get pushed back by James’ cavalry, then get reinforced, then get pushed back, then get reinforced. However, in this case the attacker eventually prevailed and forced the defender into retreat, whereas the opposite happens at the Fords.

I have to admit that I hesitated to use this historical parallel, because the historical memory of the battle has been a major element of sectarian politics in Ireland for hundreds of years. The Battle of the Boyne is one of a handful of victories during the Williamite-Jacobite Wars (along with the Siege of Derry and the Battle of Aughrim) that became part of the iconography of the Orange Order, the Protestant organization whose marches have been a locus of conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland from the late 18th century to the present day.

Ultimately, however, the similarities in terms of the multiple contested river crossings has somewhat forced my hand. However, the very real present conflict that swirls around the historical memory of this battle should serve as a reminder of the potential pitfalls of treating military history as a mere hobby for enthusiasts – in many places and times, the history of armed conflict is, as William Faulkner once said, “never dead. It’s not even past.”

What If?

In the previous Catelyn chapter, I explored what might have happened had the Battle of the Fords never happened. However, there’s also an interesting hypothetical in the case of what would have happened if Tywin had managed to force his way across during the Battle of the Fords.

In the main, this scenario works out much as if the Battle hadn’t happened – once across the Red Fork, Tywin is too far away from King’s Landing, so Stannis seizes the capitol and the Iron Throne and the Lannister claimants to the crown are mostly dead, and it’s up in the air as to whether the entire city follows them into the funeral pyre if the wildfire spreads too far.

The major difference is that Tywin’s army in this scenario is badly blooded, making it even more likely that Robb and his various armies will be able to wear down, encircle, and defeat the Westerlands army in detail.

Book vs. Show:

I’ve already discussed my feelings about the “botch in the Riverlands,” but re-reading this chapter really brought it back to me. In the show, after having spent most of the second season having his armies be defeated off-screen and doing some lovely character work with Arya at Harrenhal, Tywin abruptly decides to “ride at nightfall,” although with the complete removal of the Battle of the Fords plotline due to the delay of casting the Tullys, things get weird. The supposed head-fake that he’s going after Robb Stark rather than King’s Landing doesn’t really land, so his arrival at Blackwater is far less of a surprise, especially in comparison to the book we see Tywin engaged in protracted conflict 600 miles away from the city as Stannis nears the city and Tyrion despairs of any reinforcements.

Moreover, and this is where the writing really gets my head in a spin, Tywin tells Gregor Clegane to “maintain a garrison here at Harrenhal, track down this brotherhood down and destroy them.” However, this plot thread is almost immediately abandoned in Season 3, where Robb Stark has suddenly teleported from the Crag to Harrenhal, which Clegane has abandoned, seemingly after some unknown battle (glad to see I wasn’t the only one confused by this) where a number of Northern and Riverlander soldiers (including a “Jaremy” Mallister) were massacred. And somehow at the same time, Gregor Clegane’s small garrison force has somehow fought a major battle with Edmure Tully at the Stone Mill (although we never exactly learn where he retreated to) – a weird case where the show tries to skip and have the Battle of the Fords at the same time, but stripped of its larger significance.

As we can see from this image by r/AbouBenAdhem, this setup badly fractures the logic of the war effort. Rather than understanding how Robb’s victory at Oxcross forces Tywin to take a gamble that almost loses him the war, or setting up the reveal in Catelyn II of ASOS that shows how the seeming victory here has turned into defeat, all sense of sequence, geography, and strategy has been lost. Instead, Robb suddenly goes from winning the war in Season 2 to losing the war in Season 3 without any explanation of why or how.


82 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Catelyn VI, ACOK

  1. […] logs, a bunch of you like reading what I write. (Incidentally, I just posted my latest essay on Catelyn VI of A Clash of Kings…) I’d like to spend more of my time writing about it and publishing stuff more […]

  2. winnie says:

    Great analysis as always Steve.

    I agree the showrunner’s clearly aren’t as interested in battle minutia as you are. To be fair I share that philosophy.

    Yeah it seems like Hoster while less toxic than Tywin still crippled his kids. Edmure is the classic man child, Cat never learned to think things through enough, and let’s not start on Lysa.

    Of course the biggest reason Cat should have distrusted Tyrion’s offer was Tywin. To put it bluntly all present Stark-Lannister negotiations at that point were useless because the Starks are talking to the wrong guy. The ultimate Lannister authority is the family patriarch and he could-and did overrule anyone else including the Queen Regent and King. So unless you made the deal with HIM then you don’t got a deal. *That* was Cat’s biggest mistake. I really believe in retrospect that it was temporary insanity brought about by the ‘deaths’ of Bran and Rickon.

  3. Ser Biffy Clegane says:

    It’s interesting that Cat, a reasonably devout believer in the Seven, puts exactly zero weight on the result of Tyrion’s trial by combat when considering whether Tyrion was responsible for the attach on Bran. It seems like even believers don’t take trials by combat seriously.

    • David Hunt says:

      Yeah, and the important point about Tyrion’s oath wasn’t that he swore it to the gods, but that he did it in open court, in front of many witnesses. It isn’t the gods that she’s trusting to enforce the oath, but the court. More specifically, she counts that the Lannisters, even Tywin, can’t afford to be publically known as oathbreakers. Breaking norms like that means nobody trusts you and disrupts the whole social order. Surly even Tywin isn’t arrogant enougth to do something like that…oh, wait.

      • Winnnie says:


        But yeah, Cat was seriously underestimating how far outside social norms the Stark enemies would go. Re-reading ASOS, its clear before hand that Cat’s worried about trusting the Frey’s which is why she specifically warns Robb that once they’re at the Twins to ask for food and drink quickly to secure their safety. Once bread and wine are produced she immediately relaxes because she believed that not even a known louse like Walder would dare violate guest right. It goes to show how seriously destabilizing all the Lannister/Bolton/Frey behavior has been-which is why by AFFC everything’s gone to hell. Which is a BIG part in why the Blackfish won’t surrender-he has no reason to believe the Kingslayer or any of the Frey’s will keep their word.

    • Grant says:

      They’ve probably seen far too many obvious criminals get off to rely on it.

    • medrawt says:

      In the generally high-medieval Europe analogue setting of this world, I feel like the followers of the Seven are time-shifted a few hundred years forward when it comes to how much they expect their gods to directly affect and intervene in their daily lives. That may be a bias because we’re seeing the perspective of a more educated nobility (and so the Sparrows aren’t just a corrective to a more fundamentalist POV, but could also be a corrective more in line with the average non-privileged Westerosi POV). And we’re also biased because the main exposure we have of Rh’llorites is to people who know directly of (or are perpetrating) “supernatural” events. But I feel like the median Rh’llor worshipper would be less surprised to see some instantition of fire magic than a Seven-worshipper would be if, like, the Warrior manifested on a battlefield.

  4. Iñigo says:

    I think that this battle proves that, even with Tyrell aid, the Lannisters didn’t have victory assured after blackwater. Ultimately, the one who brought down the Starks was Roose.

    • And Walder. And Theon. Because it’s quite possible that Robb could have held the Red Fork until Balon and Tywin were dead.

      • Winnnie says:

        Yeah, Theon totally screwed the Starks taking Winterfell…of course he screwed himself even worse. Kinda one of the more obvious points of Martin putting his thumb on the scales.

      • Iñigo says:

        I think that, even with Robb retaking the north from the Ironborn, Brynden could have held the riverlands long enough. Be it with Joffreys murder or without it, conflict between the Tyrells and the Lannisters was bound to happen soon. And the Tyrells would priorize Stannis anyway.

        • Winnnie says:

          Yeah, Tyrell/Lannister tension was pretty much inevitable, and if Robb doesn’t lose WF, marry Jeyne, and die then he might well start to look like a better alternative than dealing with Cersei.

          And as we saw, the Iron Born were pretty much driven out of the North anyway without even much of an organized effort at all. Balon’s efforts were always doomed and if WF had remained a rallying point the whole damn thing would have sputtered out and died on its own-ESPECIALLY if there hadn’t been the distraction of the Hornwood affair.

          In fact, I still wonder what Balon’s reaction was once it became clear that a. He wasn’t getting any support from the Lannisters and b. There was no easy plunder to be had in the North anyway. Had he lived, I really do wonder how much longer he could have continued.

          • If Balon was thinking rationally he wouldn’t have invaded the North to begin with. All the other powers save Mace Tyrell have a united Westeros as their ultimate goal. Balon wants revenge and the return of his broken dreams. I don’t think is turning back for anything.

          • Crystal says:

            Balon – and indeed all his brothers, except Euron – is dumber than a bag of wet hair. I wouldn’t say Theon is *stupid* but he is self-absorbed and has little common sense. (He does level up brains-wise after the Reekening.) Asha got all the brains in that family and I say that’s a gift from the Harlaws.

            Balon, though, is an utter pinhead.

          • Space Oddity says:

            And late Grandpa Quellon. They skipped a generation!

            Though I’d argue that none of the Greyjoys are simply stupid–Balon is living an eternal teenage snit at his old man, who he IS BETTER THAN–Euron is crazyevil–Victarion has more raw intelligence than even he realizes, but has painstakingly trained himself not to use it unless absolutely necessary–and Aeron’s actually pretty sharp, but so horribly traumatized and invested in his “Prophet of the Drowned God” persona that he essentially cannot deal with any situation outside of it anymore, which limits his responses.

            In other words, it’s a true dysfunction junction.

  5. David Hunt says:

    Great read as always. I liked the irony that by trying to live up to his father’s legacy, Edmure is taking a grand action that will eventually destroy that very legacy.

  6. Andrew says:

    1. In this battle, Edmure shows to be a good tactician but a bad strategist. He wins the battle, but loses the war. It makes me wish the Blackfish had stayed at Riverrun insteadd of going to the Eyrie, and taught him about strategy.

    2. “‘I know no grandson of Walder Frey would be an oathbreaker.’ Unless it served his purpose.”

    At least she’s right about that.

    3. I’ll at least give Edmure credit for being one of the few lords to practice noblesse oblige, and shelter his smallfolk during battle. I think that pays off in the long-term, especially if there is a second Red Wedding at Riverrun, the smallfolk would be inclined to help the Brotherhood restore it to Edmure.

    • 1. Agreed.
      2. She is indeed, just didn’t see far enough.
      3. Good point.

    • I think point 3. is an excellent point for both Stark and Tully. I couldn’t see common Brax or Lefford men marching to their death to save Cersei like the clans do for Arya

      • Andrew says:

        Not even the Marbrands came to her aid, and they are tied to the Lannisters by blood and marriage with Tywin’s mother/Cersei’s grandmother having been a Marbrand. They stayed loyal to Tytos during the Reyne-Tarbeck uprising.

        • Crystal says:

          You are right – nobody is lifting a finger for “Tywin’s little girl.” The name of Lannister does not seem to inspire nearly the loyalty that Stark does. Honor and noblesse oblige do pay off, I think.

    • winnie says:

      Agree on #3. They were obviously setting up in AFFC that the Freys are despised by both the River lords and small folk alike and this puts them in a real bind.

      And yeah it looks like loyalty to the Starks from their people will help them return to power and you definitely don’t see that same devotion among the Lannister’s bannermen.

      • Andrew says:

        Well look at the new lord and lady. Compared to Edmure who let them shelter in Riverrun, Emmon Frey made them stand in the rain for three hours waving the decree telling them what he expected from them as their liege lord. He behaves like the stereotypical lord who demands everything from his smallfolk with no thought towards his duties to them compared to Edmure’s noblesse oblige.

        That’s without mentioning that the smallfolk know he got Riverrun as a reward for the RW. Also, even his own wife and nephew know it’s easy to feel contemptuous towards him. His lady, Genna, seems easy to get along with, but she is a Lannister, the same family who brought misfortune upon the smallfolk of Riverrun in the first place. They have

      • Crystal says:

        Nthing point #3. The fact that he let his smallfolk shelter in Riverrun because they were his people, and afraid, makes me like Edmure, even if he comes off as kind of a doofus otherwise. Sheltering and providing for your people is what lords damn tootin’ should be doing.

        I recall the edicts of Gaemon Palehair (from TWOIAF, one of the pretenders during the Dance of Dragons anarchy) who decreed that the poor must be given bread and beer in times of famine, and that if a man was disabled in battle his lord must provide for him. Gaemon was raised by his mother and her wife who was a Dornishwoman, so I assume that this comes from Dornish custom – another instance where Dorne is ahead of the curve thanks to the Rhoynar. In a way, too bad Edmure couldn’t have married Arianne Martell – he’d love Dorne, as long as the maesters could brew a sunblock.

      • Both despised and spread very, very thin.

  7. Keith B says:

    Just a nitpick, but Cersei couldn’t have ordered “dozens” of babies murdered. Robert had 16 bastards, according to Maggy, and at least three were outside of KL: Mya Stone, Edric Storm, and Bella from the Stony Sept. At least one other, Gendry, escaped. That leaves at most twelve, and probably fewer, since Robert seems to have been busy all over Westeros.

    By the way, Robert sired Bella while he was hiding from Jon Connington? The man really knew how to multitask.

    • Bit of an exaggeration, but honestly, when you’re counting dead babies, you’ve kind of all conceded the moral high ground.

      Well, when you’re hiding out in a brothel, there’s not a lot else to do…

      • Andrew says:

        Although that does make me wonder . . . Robert fathered his first child at 15, which was supposedly the same age his parents died. Do you think his fondness for wine and whores originally stems from the trauma of his parents death?

        • Space Oddity says:

          The tendency was probably there already, but yes, that’s likely what turned it from ‘pastime’ to ‘pathology’.

          • David Hunt says:

            I don’t know. I think that’s just the kind of guy that Robert was. I think that the death of Lyanna (or his idea of her) may have shaped his relationships with women more. He wouldn’t have been faithful to her either, but cheating on Cercei was also a FU to the world that took his “great love” from him and Cercei is the personification of that loss…plus he’s the type of guy to cheat on his wife anyway.

          • Space Oddity says:

            Again, he was likely always going to be one of the “party hardy” Baratheons, but it was probably his parents’ deaths that turned it into this desperate and eternal effort to make himself a new family that, among other things, lead to his idolization of his dream version of Lyanna (that bore only a passing resemblance to the actual Lyanna Stark) who would be his perfect wife, and make him happy forever and for always. And when she died, that fantasy became even more untouchable and yet another excuse for the wine and wenching, along with every time Cersei was not nice to him and every other time the world disappointed him.

            In other words, it was a self-destructive cycle that tended to get reinforced. (After all, while I doubt a Lyanna-Robert marriage would be quite as bad as Cersei, the fact is there was no way Lyanna could live up to his dream version of her.)

        • I think it was one of those things where “you either laugh or go mad, and I choose to laugh” became his watchword.

    • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

      Assuming Cersei could be sure which sixteen were Robert’s… “Dozens” is probably too high, but she probably killed anyone who had any rumor of royal parentage.

      • Lann says:

        Remember that Maggy told her exactly how many bastards Robert would have.

        • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

          Sure, Cersei knows there are sixteen of them in the world, but does she know which of the people in the world are those sixteen? (For example, maybe Bella isn’t actually Robert’s, but some other child from that same establishment is). My guess is she’ll err on the side of over inclusion.

      • colin c says:

        Yeah, she probably offed every dark haired brothel-baby

  8. ClaudiusV says:

    If the Battle of the Fords was not fought and Robb succeeded in destroying Tywin’s army then everything seems fine because Stannis sails in and takes over King’s Landing.

    Yet things don’t seem set in stone because Robb’s Northern Bannerman are going to want independence from the Iron Throne something that Stannis will vehemently disagree with and the Tyrells have nothing to gain from Stannis sitting in the Iron Throne and might seek an marriage alliance with the King in the North to remove Stannis from power.

    Stannis wont forget and wont forgive the Tyrells for siding with Renly and will have a major axe to grind with the people that have wronged him or not. Assuming Davos gets shipwrecked like in canon then there wont be anyone that Stannis trusts that will give him good advice and prevent him from going off the deep end. In addition the Nobility of the Reach and Riverlands will be horrified to discover that the new King has apparently embraced a new God that sets people on Fire and burns septs worshipping the Seven. There is no way that these people are going to willingly serve Stannis that easily

    I might be pushing it but This North-South alliance might compel Robb to take the Iron Throne because of Stannis’s possible actions at King’s Landing.

    • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

      The Stannis endgame is probably some Dornish rights for the “Prince in the North,” and some kind of reconstruction promises (at the expense of Casterly Rock) for the Riverlands. I can’t see Stannis giving Rob even nominal sovereignty over the Riverlands, though.

      • David Hunt says:

        The Riverlands is probably too much to ask for, but Robb’s kingdom coming back under the rulership of Stannis with some sort of special privileges and a marriage between Shireen and Rickon, with Shireen having the actual royal authority? I can see that deal being made as long a Selyse isn’t there to sabotage anything and everything that looks vaguely like diplomacy, I can see that happening.

        Bran would have been the obvious choice to marry Shireen geven their respective ages if he hadn’t been crippled…but he was. Too bad, as Bran would have loved to go South, train to be a knight and do whatever a Prince Consort had to do. Hand of the Queen?

      • Well, nominal sovereignty could be a lot of things. If Robb becomes “Warden of the Trident,” that’s recognition of his efforts, but within a royal context.

    • Punning Pundit says:

      I could see King Robb bending the knee to King Stannis If a) a peace is made that leaves Robb alone- and then the Others overwhelm part of the North. Or b) the North and South armies are facing off when Robb gets word that the Wall has fallen to the Wildlings, and the Others are right behind them and Robb swallows his pride because he has to guard the realms of men.

      Alternatively: if the North is overwhelmed and Robb is killed fighting Others and the Armies of the North are destroyed, the 7 Kingdoms might be reunited by Stannis acting to- as above- defend the realms of men.

    • Steven Xue says:

      One scenario I see happening if Tywin dies at the Fords and Stannis takes King’s Landing is Varys and Illyrio revealing Aegon and pushing his claim a lot earlier. If Stannis does become very unpopular very quickly then a number of lords may just consider a Targaryen (even an impostor) a better alternative. The Tyrells may be among the first to join the Targaryen restoration movement if they are given the same deal offered by the Lannisters. After all they hate Stannis and would have nothing to gain from him as their king, and making Margaery Aegon’s queen means they would still have influence over the Iron Throne. I suspect in such a scenario Aegon could gain the Reach, maybe Dorne, some Stormland, Vale and Riverland houses and probably the Golden Company (although they would superfluous at this point) very quickly and be in a very strong position like Renly.

      If that were to happen it would put Stannis in a very dangerous position as not only would he be outnumbered but his claim to the throne would be contested by someone with an even better claim. Also we’d have to wonder what other parties such as Robb and the Lannisters would do in the event of a possible Targaryen restoration. Of course the real X factor would be Dany and what the revelation of her supposedly deceased nephew would influence her decisions while still in Qarth.

    • I don’t think compelling him to take the Iron Throne is the necessary outcome, exactly.

  9. Scott Trotter says:

    I think that Edmure gets a bad rap for his handling of this situation. If it really was Robb’s plan to lure Tywin back into the west, he should have shared that plan with Edmure, and given him explicit orders about what to do. Instead, Robb just assumed that Edmure would understand the strategic situation the same way that he did, and would react in the way that he (Robb) expected.

    When Robb went west, Tywin was firmly ensconced at Harrinhal, and his expected move was to head south to reinforce Kings Landing. Edmure was ordered to defend Riverrun, which he did. Tywin’s move west was unexpected, at least by Edmure and his advisors, and he reacted in a perfectly reasonable manner. The Lannister army had laid waste to the Riverlands, and its only natural for the River Lords to want to extract some revenge. You could even argue that Edmure was guarding Robb’s flank by blocking the Lannister move west.

    In short, if Edmure failed to do what Robb wanted him to do, it’s Robb’s own damned fault for not letting him in on the plan.

    • Grant says:

      Didn’t Robb leave orders? Arya’s chapter with the Brotherhood reminds us that even if you think it’s a bad order, in battle you have to follow it.

      • Scott Trotter says:

        In Catelyn II of ASOS, when Robb and his host return from the west, the following exchange takes place:

        The Blackfish said, “You were commanded to hold Riverrun, Edmure, no more.”

        “I held Riverrun, and I bloodied Lord Tywin’s nose—”

        “So you did,” said Robb. “But a bloody nose won’t win the war, will it? Did you ever think to ask yourself why we remained in the west so long after Oxcross? You knew I did not have enough men to threaten Lannisport or Casterly Rock.”

        Clearly Robb did not inform Edmure of his plan, either before he embarked from Riverrun, or by raven or messenger from the Westlands afterwards. He apparently expected Edmure to read his mind. Edmure is the acting Lord Paramount of the Riverlands, second only to Robb in authority. A new situation arose for which he hadn’t received clear orders from his king, so he acted on his own initiative and did what he thought best to defend his lands. Properly, in my opinion. It’s not what Robb would have wanted him to do, but Robb only has himself to blame for that.

    • As I’ve argued before and here, Edmure’s actions wildly exceed orders to defend Riverrun.

  10. Roger says:

    Interesting analysis!

    MAny possible what ifs born in a battle. Let’s see:
    – What if Tywin had won the battle? In that case the Lannister army crosses the rivers and can besiege Riverrun, to make Robb come. Then Robb can make another interesting move: run to King’s Landing to help Stannis.
    – What if Edmure had died? I don’t know if Lord Tully was in the middle of the fight. But even prudent generals can die in battles. Without Edmure, the Freys can’t get a compensation (and no Red Wedding). Unless Catelyn accepts to marry some Frey (difficult to believe).
    – What if the Mountain died? A scorpion bolt once killed a dragon. So another could kill a black dog. Without Clegane Oberyn Martell has no reason to kill him. So perhaps he turns his hate directly to the Lannisters.

    • Crystal says:

      If Edmure died, I think the Freys might have requested a marriage, or even two, to heirs of Robb’s bannermen – like Patrek Mallister, or Jonos Bracken’s oldest daughter.

      If Tywin had won, besieged Riverrun, and that made Robb go to help Stannis – it might have pushed Stannis’s forces up to All Hail King Stannis.

      • winnie says:

        Also another possibility is that *Tywin* could easily have died during the battle and that overturns the whole playing field as we’ve discussed before. The army might well have not turned to KL in time and even if they had as Steve notes without Tywin, Cersei and they Tyrell’s would have been at each other’s throats from day one and Seven knows what the latter would have done.

        • Rufus Leek says:

          Unlike the Mountain (or Robb for that matter), Tywin leads from the rear so he can survey the battlefield. It would have been nearly impossible for him to get killed in that battle as Edmure’s troops were entirely on the defensive and stayed on their own side of the river.

    • winnie says:

      And if Clegane dies then Oberyn wouldn’t have died later in KL which changes the whole Dornish subplot and Myrcella and Qwentyn might both have lived.

      And of course without the Mountain Cersei would have had a much harder time fixing the trial by combat. So Tyrion might well have found another champion-maybe even Bronn after all.

      • Roger says:

        Myrcella is still alive in the books. I don’t think Tywin risks himself in the battle enough to die.

        • David Hunt says:

          We know from AGOT that Tywin customarily places himself in command of the reserve. This seems sensible to my layman’s eyes as it lets him observe the battlefield as a whole and respond quickly to areas that need to be reinforced or strengthen the forces attacking a weak spot. On a more normal battlefield, I can see how this could go badly and get him killed. If he’s shoring up a weakness, he still might be overrun and killed. If he’s adding forces to a final push, he could end up falling for a trap set up by a feigned retreat or some such.

          At the Fords however, I think you’re right that Tywin isn’t in much personal danger. The field of battle seems too restricted for a reserve to do much good and I don’t think Tywin is going into that water himself until he’s got a well established beachhead,…which never happened IIRC.

    • colin c says:

      If Edmure dies: does Catelyn become the ruler of the Riverlands, in which case she should have more power/say in things if she wanted to. Or does rule skip her and go to Robb “Lord of Riverrun”. He’d have to name a castlellan, a Frey most likely. Does that stay their hand or further wet their appetite? Any chance that once Bran and Rickon are presumed dead, peace could be had with a Sansa/Lannister ruling the Riverlands?

      If Gregor dies: got to be a bit of a loss at least subconsciously to the Westerlanders and I’d imagine a feel good rallying point for the Riverlanders, as he was the initial that to them. Edmure the Mountainslayer? Would the Brotherhood affiliate with the Starks/Tullys now that smallfolk bogeyman is dead (they don’t seem anti-wolf until mid ASOS/AFFC)?

      How would Sandor react? Would he be more likely to take Sansa when he leaves KL? Would he not be lamed by Gregors men and wind up the gravedigger and still chilling with Arya.

      Does anyone from the North/Rivers reach out to Dorne, which they don’t seem to know exists or vice versa? I could see Oberyn travelling through a battlefield to see the body of the mountain.

      But more on point, yeah Tyrion seems a bit more safe. Bronn has proven he can stop anything Cersei throws at him. Though if Tyrion doesn’t run off in the night, Tywin probably just has a run of the mill shit, until Varys or LF try to remove him some other way. Oberyns still alive (yay!) And I’d love to see how he’d act in KL if Tywin still dies and with Cersei in power. In fact I’d say Oberyn might be Hand as another way to spite the Reach and since he didn’t support Tyrion. Would Varys tell him about Aegon or would he have to kill him?

      • Roger says:

        Without Edmure, I suppose Catelyn becomes Lady Paramount of Riverrun.
        The Mountain is feared by everybody, but not respected. So the Westerners wouldn’t be affected by his death. As Tywin said, the woods are full of beasts these days.
        Perhaps with the Mountain death Edmure’s feels so winner he isn’t manipulated into marrying a Frey by Robb and Brynden.
        Sandor lives to kill his brother, so perhaps without Gregor he falls into depression.
        We have seen Bronn fighting just once, so I don’t think we can believe he is so terrific.

    • I don’t think Robb would ride to King’s Landing (as opposed to setting up for a second Battle of the Camps), and it’s not necessarily the case that Tywin could besiege Riverrun – that takes crossing at several points.

      The second and third are interesting what ifs. Wish I’d thought of them.

  11. Bail o' Lies says:

    The reason the ford weren’t used the first time is Edmure was young and inexperience and wanted to prevent the Lannisters’ from even setting foot in the Riverlands. So he put men at the border where they were swiftly defeated. Now he learned a bit probably from watching from Robb’s battles and wanted to use the terrain to his advantage.

    • Roger says:

      Any of Robb’s battle was a defensive one. Edmure used his own ideas.
      I think it’s suspicious Tywin tried a crossing so near Riverrun. It isn’t wise to leave an important enemy force on your retreat lines. Tywin is too veteran to fall for this one. Are we sure he wasn’t planning to attack Riverrun?

    • Precisely, but I feel sure that this was also old Riverlander tactics at work.

  12. Keith B says:

    Book vs Show:

    In the show, the logic of Tywin marching directly for King’s Landing instead of going west is that Littlefinger visits him in Harrenhal. The memorable part is that he recognizes Arya and decides not to say anything, but he must have told Tywin about the Tyrell alliance at that time. If Tywin is still in Harrenhal when Littlefinger finds him, he won’t be marching west at all.

    Without the Battle of the Fords, Edmure has to find another way to “screw up” (scare quotes because I still don’t agree that he did) and get Robb mad at him. Thus the business at the Stone Mill.

    Doesn’t necessarily make sense, but would you rather have logic or a scene where Maisie Williams tries to avoid letting Aidan Gillen recognize her?

    (Note: I haven’t watched the episode recently, so I may have some of this wrong.)

  13. “Indeed, one could say that Catelyn is essentially making the argument against her future actions”

    It’s interesting that this reminds me of the central psychological dilemma at the heart of Euripides’ Medea. Cat/Medea grapple with the cost of going through with their plans. Medea turns into a demi-god, vengeful demon. Cat? Well we know what happens there.

  14. Abbey Battle says:

    Maester Steven, if you’re looking for a period-appropriate model for the Red Fork (one less controversial than The Boyne), might I please suggest the scramble for a crossing over the Somme forced upon the English Host prior to the Battle of Crecy?

    While the Lions of England were more successful than the Lion of the West, I’d argue that the necessity of fighting through first a river and then the enemy on another bank makes the two incidents quite comparable.

    I would also like to say that while I agree entirely that Ser Edmure is acting based more on personal insecurity than individual genius when he fights the Battles of the Red Fork, I am fully prepared to forgive him for the simple reason that he handed Lord Tywin and the Mountain that Rides the most humiliating beating of their career at the Stone Mill.

    I imagine the horror that must have filled the Lannister camp when they realised that they had been beaten by EDMURE TULLY of all people (a man to whom I fully intend to attach THE LUCKLESS LORD as a sobriquet), that The Mountain himself had been thrown back like a rotten fish sold to a discerning customer, that The Black Dog was therefore undoubtedly ANGRY … and I always smile.

    On a more serious note, I have to say that while The Red Fork doesn’t do much for King Robb’s Master Plan, I cannot call it a complete write-off strategically speaking; if nothing else such a victory must have helped Ser Edmure establish the personal authority over his vassals so essential to a Lord of the Lands watered by the River Trident – I would like to repeat that I think this victory essential to strengthening LORD Edmure’s hand when dealing with the often fractious River-Lords, given that House Tully traditionally has to PROVE themselves First Amongst Equals even more so than most Feudal Overlords.

    • I had missed that part of the Crecy story.

    • Roger says:

      I agree that the Mountain fleeing without horse, wounded and chased by arrows is a great moment!
      We don’t have any clue Edmure is especialy mocked. He is not Tytos Lannister. His bannermen respect him and his smallfolk admire him for his compassion.
      I remember being impressed by Riverrun refugees screaming “Tully! Riverrun!”, perhaps it’s the first show of smallfolk loyalty to their lieges. In the North we haven’t seen any of them (we always see the lords only. If we exclude Winterfell servants). And in King’s Landing, until Margaery, people didn’t love their masters.
      One problem is that Robb treats him like a second-class liege, not as his most powerful one. Perhaps if he had felt more well-considered by his family…

  15. MightyIsobel says:

    This was another chapter with sleeper appeal, when read with an eye toward series themes and subtle plot foreshadowing.

    Regarding the flak that Catelyn gets in the fandom, this chapter is as a good place as any to look for details that breathe life into arguments into her defense. Its effect is bolstered by how Catelyn was established from the first chapters of AGOT as a reliable source of information about the Houses of Westeros and the individuals representing them. Her knowledge is detailed, and her analysis of the players and their positions feels apt.

    I’m just really impressed with the care and detail that Martin put into building up a world around Catelyn that is on the brink of collapse, a world where her economic privilege is supposed to shield her from the worst effects of the violent patriarchy of feudal Westeros. That’s one place to look for a source for the growing conflicts between her duties, and for the diminishment of her ability to prepare for the Frey and Bolton betrayals in this new murderous world. I came away from this chapter feeling like Catelyn’s tragedy is rooted in her dawning realization wealth and military power will not protect her family in the only way that matters, because in fact the lives of two girls are every bit as valuable as one man’s.

    It is an uncomfortable realization — she is unable to make it yet, as she watches even more flowers of summer marching out, and the reader of medieval fantasy may not want to go there either.

  16. […] written chapter analyses for Catelyn VI (the Battle of the Fords), Bran VI (Theon’s capture of Winterfell), Arya IX (the fall of […]

  17. […] I’ve had more than my fair share of problems with Catelyn and Robb’s Stark plotline in Season 2 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, but one of […]

  18. […] as a camera trained on the city and its environs, much as her mother does for Riverrun during the Battle of the Fords. Thus, she can see the full sweep of war come to the […]

  19. Steven says:

    One of the interesting reveals I’ve never really thought about before is that for a time Catelyn was raised as the heir to Riverrun. Obviously such a change would upset everything, but the idea of Cat as the Lady of Riverrun and Lord Paramount is certainly an intriguing one.

  20. […] shine in the unique terrain of the Riverlands. They would have been invaluable during the Battle of the Fords, or during the Battle of the Trident in Robert’s Rebellion, or the Battle of the Red Fork or […]

  21. […] the reality is that he’s spent most of the war being out-maneuvered, out-strategized, got beaten by Edmure Tully at the Battle of the Fords, and had to be rescued by the Tyrells. But due to his childhood experiences with his father, who […]

  22. […] the scorched-earth guerilla warfare of the Riverlords, or Edmure’s littoral strategy at the Battle of the Fords, are replays of earlier conflicts – but we’ll have to wait to find […]

  23. […] within the fandom over whether or not Edmure exceeded his orders, which we last addressed back in Catelyn VI of ACOK. This is a subject that I’ve expended a lot of words on over the years, but this scene in […]

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