Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Jaime II, ASOS

“…wolves’ work, or maybe lions, what’s the difference?” 

Synopsis: Jaime, Brienne, and Ser Cleos arrive at the Inn of the Kneeling Man, where everybody knows your name.

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:

Jaime II of ASOS is a great little bottle episode, dripping with a nasty atmosphere of suspicion, undertones of danger, and poisonous mistrust. The Inn of the Kneeling Man, which we’ll see again before this book is done, resembles nothing so much as Minnie’s Haberdashery from Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, a false shelter that offers neither safety nor security. In all of this, it is the perfect location to further the relationship between Jaime and Brienne, equally characterized by mistrust, resentment, and a barely-supressed desire for bloodshed.

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The Inn of the Kneeling Man

So let’s talk about the location that this entire chapter revolves around, because GRRM does a wonderful job here of building up a mood of subtle wrongness:

Jaime was the first to spy the inn. The main building hugged the south shore where the river bent, its long low wings outstretched along the water as if to embrace travelers sailing downstream. The lower story was grey stone, the upper whitewashed wood, the roof slate. He could see stables as well, and an arbor heavy with vines. “No smoke from the chimneys,” he pointed out as they approached. “Nor lights in the windows.”

“The inn was still open when last I passed this way,” said Ser Cleos Frey. “They brewed a fine ale. Perhaps there is still some to be had in the cellars.”

“There may be people…hiding. Or dead.”

An inn is supposed to be a place of refuge and safety; its basic business model, it’s central function is to provide hospitality and thus the safety of guest-right to travelers in a dangerous world. But as we’ll see shortly, the functions and symbolism of the inn have been turned inside-out. While the outward signs of prosperity are still there (the stonework and slate roof, the vinyard rich with grapes) the ordinary signs of life are gone. Light and smoke – the promise of the hearth fire as defense against the darkness and source of nourishment – have become dangerous liabilities in a war-zone and so must be hideen away.

More pointedly, this inn is the Inn of the Kneeling Man, and so more than any other symbolizes peace and the end of war:

At the end of the dock, a flaking shingle swung from an iron post, painted with the likeness of a king upon his knees, his hands pressed together in the gesture of fealty. Jaime took one look and laughed aloud. “We could not have found a better inn.”

…Ser Cleos answered. “This is the Inn of the Kneeling Man, my lady. It stands upon the very spot where the last King in the North knelt before Aegon the Conqueror to offer his submission. That’s him on the sign, I suppose.”

In the War of the Five Kings, the Inn finds itself not only in the middle of a war zone, but a war specifically between the King in the North and the King on the Iron Throne; it’s as if Torrhen’s submission never happened and the last three hundred years have just disappeared. This feeling of the familiar becoming unfamiliar extends to Jaime himself – given where it lies on the direct route from Casterly Rock to King’s Landing, Jaime must have stayed at the Inn of the Kneeling Man many times; indeed, while it’s not stated in the text, odds are that this one of the places a young Jaime stayed when he traveled from Casterly Rock to Harrenhal to be made a member of the Kingsguard. And now he returns as the Kingslayer.

A Child-Soldier and an Innkeep Who Isn’t

However, because Jaime hasn’t really begun his journey of internal reflection, he doesn’t accept that any of these changes to this familiar place are significant, any more that he can accept that that there might be some significant changes in his own life. And as a result, not for the last time in this character arc, he almost gets himself killed:

Without waiting for an answer, Jaime went clinking down the dock, put a shoulder to the door, shoved it open…and found himself eye to eye with a loaded crossbow. Standing behind it was a chunky boy of fifteen. “Lion, fish, or wolf?” the lad demanded.

“We were hoping for capon.” Jaime heard his companions entering behind him. “The crossbow is a coward’s weapon.”

“It’ll put a bolt through your heart all the same.”

“…We mean no harm,” the wench said. “And we have coin to pay for food and drink.” She dug a silver piece from her pouch.

…The boy lowered the crossbow an inch. “Undo your swordbelts and let them fall, and might be we’ll feed you.”

This moment is deliberately jarring in how it reverses the normal order of things. Jaime, Brienne, and Ser Cleos are met with violent hostility rather than hospitality; even that violent hostility comes in an unexpected form, that of a child-soldier. The boy with the crossbow is a warning that the breakdown of the social contract that the Lannisters’ conduct of the War of Five Kings has unleashed will have dangerous implications, even for people who think their privilege and power will protect them. As Thomas Hobbes pointed out in the wake of his own civil war, “for as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength enough to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself.”  (Leviathan, Part I, Chapter XIII) For all that Jaime blusters and threatens and sneers in defense of his romantic illusions of glorious swordsmanship, a child with a crossbow can kill him by pulling the trigger just as easily as Tyrion will kill Tywin at the end of Jaime’s arc in ASOS.

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We see further proof of the breakdown of the social order when the “innkeep” arrives and explains what the boy is doing there. He’s not the innkeep’s child, “just a boy the wife and me took in. We had two sons, but the lions killed one and the other died of the flux. The boy lost his mother to the Bloody Mummers. These days, a man needs someone to keep watch while he sleeps.” As with so many wars before and since, families are ripped apart by disease and the equally random violence of armed men; new, makeshift families are formed out of the sheer necessity of survival (we never get any sense of an emotional connection between the “boy” and “the wife and me“) and so an orphan becomes a guard and a family can sleep at night.

These paired themes of disorder and mistrust only accelerate when we get to know the “innkeep” in question, because every detail that emerges only serves to throw up more red flags:

A sallow man with a pocked doughy face stepped through the cellar door, holding a butcher’s heavy cleaver….“I’m no innkeep. I buried him out back, with his women.”

“Did you kill them?”

“Would I tell you if I did?” The man spat. “Likely it were wolves’ work, or maybe lions, what’s the difference? The wife and I found them dead. The way we see it, the place is ours now.”

“Where is this wife of yours?” Ser Cleos asked.

The man gave him a suspicious squint. “And why would you be wanting to know that? She’s not here…no more’n you three will be, unless I like the taste of your silver.”

Each response, each bit of information wrong-foots the reader because it doesn’t track with normal human interactions – look at how quickly he volunteers the potentially incriminating information that he’s not really the innkeep and that the real innkeep is “buried…out back,” and how unconcerned he is about allegations that he murdered the rightful owner, compared to how closed-mouth he is about a seemingly simple question about the whereabouts of his wife, who you’d normally expect to see helping him run the tavern. All of these miss-steps suggest a display of suspicion and mistrust that the reader begins to pick up on and reflect back.  At the same time, just as the boy with the crossbow was a sign that family structure has broken down in the face of the War of Five Kings, here we see the civilized laws of inheritance and succession breaking down. Property owners die just as randomly (I love the “wolves’ work, or maybe lions, what’s the difference?” as a brilliant summation of how war against civilian population obliterates the differences between the sides) as the penniless. Their vacant property goes not to their next of kin, who might well be dead or refugeed, but to whoever is on the spot to grab it: “the wife and I found them dead. The way we see it, the place is ours now.” It’s an interesting twist on the old saw about “possession being nine-tenths of the law” – now proximity to the corpse grants ownership.

And these are the smallfolk who the Brotherhood Without Banners are protecting; it’s a harsh, unromantic portrait of a people who are without illusions or scruples (by virtue of necessity far more than any defect of character) trying to survive by any means necessary. As I’ve said before one of the best moves that GRRM makes is that he doesn’t romanticize the smallfolk as capital-P “the People”  – not only is it far more respectful of real, flawed, individual humanity, but it also makes the important point that (contrary to fairytale ethics, you don’t need to be Disney-level virtuous to be worthy of protection from the Brave Companions and their ilk – that ought to be a basic human right in any civilization. (It also makes for good foreshadowing for the morally complicated Brotherhood Without Banners when we finally get to meet them…)

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What Is the Worth of a Gold Coin?

But perhaps the best example of the way that the Inn of the Kneeling Man shows the civilized social order breaking down is what happens when Brienne and Co. attempt to purchase horses – potentially a necessity for the next step in the journey (more on that in a bit), but also what ought to be a normal transaction. Instead, the transaction turns out to be anything but normal:

“There are horses here,” Jaime pointed out. “I heard one in the stable.”

“Aye, there are,” said the innkeep, who wasn’t an innkeep. “Three of them, as it happens, but they’re not for sale.”

…only the three horses to be seen. They made an unlikely trio; a lumbering brown plow horse, an ancient white gelding blind in one eye, and a knight’s palfrey, dapple grey and spirited. “They’re not for sale at any price,” their alleged owner announced…”

“…How did you come by these horses?” Brienne wanted to know.

“The dray was stabled here when the wife and me come on the inn,” the man said, “along with the one you just ate. The gelding come wandering up one night, and the boy caught the palfrey running free, still saddled and bridled. Here, I’ll show you.”

The weirdness starts with the fact that the “innkeep” is unwilling, despite his family’s dire economic straits, to sell what is in the end superfluous luxury items that require both expensive and time-consuming upkeep…but is willing to sell “horsemeat enough for three,” despite the fact that these horses are worth far more as transportation or beasts of burden than they are as food (especially in a  knightly society which prices horses at a third of an average year’s income). It continues with the fact that, just as the Inn of the Crossroads is proof of the breakdown of property rights, the dray is abandoned property “stabled here when the wife and me come on the inn,” and the gelding and palfrey clearly ran away from a battlefield and have been claimed on the same principle that the inn itself was.

But the biggest sign that the social order is breaking down is when the “innkeep” explains why he’s unwilling to make this commercial exchange:

“”Well, her owner won’t be coming to claim her anytime soon.”

“I will pay you a dragon for each.”

He blinked and reached for the gold, then hesitated and drew his hand back. “I don’t know. I can’t ride no golden dragon if I need to get away. Nor eat one if I’m hungry.”

As the folks from Extra History have explained in excellent form, the idea of currency is a social construct. Whether you’re talking about paper money or metal coins, at the end of the day, neither are that useful in and of themselves; as the “innkeep” notes, you can’t eat gold and you can’t use it for most functions of survival since it’s an almost entirely ornamental metal. The value of money, both in fiat and metallic currencies, are social: it faciliates commerce between people, by giving them a common unit of exchange that both know in advance the other will accept.

So when there is no society, when there is only the war of all-against-all, money loses its value. (And lest the goldbugs or bitcoin enthusiasts get the wrong idea, this is true for any currency – as Terry Pratchett points out, “gold is only valuable because we agree it is, right? It’s just a dream. But a potato is always worth a potato, anywhere.”) And especially in Westeros, this value is ultimately based more on the status of the king than the metals involved – the coin is a symbol of the right of the sovereign to mint money that it will exchange for goods and accept as taxes. Thus, the fact that this “innkeep” won’t take coins suggests that royal taxation, and thus royal authority, has completely broken down in the Riverlands. (One of many subtle little hints that the “innkeep’s” loyalty to the Iron Throne is compromised by his collaboration with the Brortherhood.)


Two Roads Diverged in a Warzone

Once Brienne has managed to acquire some mounts from a not-particularly-trustworthy source (for reasons we’ll get into a second), she has to confrnt the difficult question of which route to take to cross the Riverlands and get to King’s Landing, which amounts to trying to answer the impossible question of where do you find safety in a war zone? Every option seemingly poses existential risks:

“I’d stay well clear of that kingsroad, if I were you,” the man went on. “It’s worse than bad, I hear. Wolves and lions both, and bands of broken men preying on anyone they can catch.”

“…I mean to follow the Trident to the sea,” the wench told their host. “We’ll find mounts at Maidenpool and ride by way of Duskendale and Rosby. That should keep us well away from the worst of the fighting.”

Their host shook his head. “You’ll never reach Maidenpool by river. Not thirty miles from here a couple boats burned and sank, and the channel’s been silting up around them. There’s a nest of outlaws there preying on anyone tries to come by, and more of the same downriver around the Skipping Stones and Red Deer Island. And the lightning lord’s been seen in these parts as well. He crosses the river wherever he likes, riding this way and that way, never still.”

The roads are unsafe because of armies and bandits, so Brienne hopes to use the rivers as a wave to “keep us well away from the worst of the fighting,” but she really should know better from the previous chapter that the rivers are also unsafe because of armies…and bandits too, as we learn here. (And as if to put a sharper point on the talk of bandits and “broken men,” we see Beric Dondarrion nipping into the dialogue just like in Harrenhal, his legend as a Will-o’-the-Wisp outlaw growing with leaps and bounds every time his name is spoken.) This points us to a hidden barb that runs throughout this chapter: every choice that Brienne faces here is a Hobson’s choice, which is rather appropriate for a chapter that revolves so much around a stable and the choice of transportation, in which every option is equally bad.

The same dilemma applies to the choice of when to go: do you go in the morning or do you go now? The “innkeep” isn’t entirely wrong that there are downsides to leaving right now:

“You’ll be wanting to stay the night.”

“No,” Brienne said at once.

The man frowned at her. “Woman, you don’t want to go riding at night through strange country on horses you don’t know. You’re like to blunder into some bog or break your horse’s leg.”

“The moon will be bright tonight,” Brienne said. “We’ll have no trouble finding our way.”

“No, coz, the wench is right. We have promises to keep, and long leagues before us. We ought ride on.”

“But,” said Cleos, “you said yourself—”

“Then.” When I thought the inn deserted. “Now I have a full belly, and a moonlight ride will be just the thing.”

Riding through unknown and (as previously established) dangerous territory in the middle of the night is not a great idea, especially when your only means of transportation (which you’ve just purchased at an extremely high price) is totally disabled by a broken ankle. In any normal circumstance, staying overnight in an inn would be a no-brainer – after all, as we’ve discussed above, staying overnight is what inns are for – but as we’re beginning to understand, there are dark, unspoken reasons why staying at the Inn of the Kneeling Man would be a terrible, terrible idea.  Jaime doesn’t say why just yet, GRRM still has tension to build, but it’s enough to plant the unsettling idea that “they’re not alone here” especially when we’ve already stablished that this is not a place where you can close your eyes at night safely without someone with a crossbow watching your back.

Finally, the same predicament applies to which direction to travel. As indicated by the map above, finding a safe route through the Riverlands isn’t easy given the number of armies present and their penumbras of scouts, outriders, reavers, and broken men. But it gets even more difficult when your local guide is trying to direct you into the arms of the Brotherhood Without Banners:

“If m’lady cares to wager her skin on that I won’t stop her…but if I was you, I’d leave this here river, cut overland. If you stay off the main roads and shelter under the trees of a night, hidden as it were…well, I still wouldn’t want to go with you, but you might stand a mummer’s chance.”

“Six miles downriver you’ll see a burned village,” their host said as he was helping them saddle the horses and load their packs. This time he directed his counsel at Brienne. “The road splits there. If you turn south, you’ll come on Ser Warren’s stone towerhouse. Ser Warren went off and died, so I couldn’t say who holds it now, but it’s a place best shunned. You’d do better to follow the track through the woods, south by east.”

So what evidence do we have that the “innkeep” was in league with the Brotherhood Without Banners and trying to send them into an ambush? Well, as Brienne will point out, “the man took too great an interest in our choice of route, and those woods…such places are notorious haunts of outlaws. He may have been urging us into a trap.” Likewise, the whole mystery with the stables where Jaime found “far too much horse shit about here for my taste” is GRRM’s punny way of suggesting that the Inn of the Crossroads has been stabling the horses of the Brotherhood Without Banners and then directing travellers their way in exchange for a share of their takings.

But here’s where Hobson’s choice once again undercuts the simpler narrative. While it’s absolutely true that “our host has friends down that road, I would venture,” that doesn’t make the other routes any safer. As Brienne points out, “he may have been lying about the river as well, to put us on these horses…but I could not take the risk. There will be soldiers at the ruby ford and the crossroads.” Indeed, when Brienne and co. get to the turning point, I would argue GRRM is deliberately evoking the Robert Frost poem:

“When they reached the burned village, a choice of equally unpromising roads confronted them; narrow tracks, deeply rutted by the carts of farmers hauling their grain to the river. One wandered off toward the southeast and soon vanished amidst the trees they could see in the distance, while the other, straighter and stonier, arrowed due south. Brienne considered them briefly, and then swung her horse onto the southern road. Jaime was pleasantly surprised; it was the same choice he would have made.”

Contrary to what you may remember from high school English classes, isn’t about the importance of taking the road less travelled by – rather, Frost is poking fun at people who self-importantly hold themselves up as the kind of iconoclasts for making such a choice between two roads that he earlier points out are identical.  Thus, in a rare moment of actually showing respect for Brienne (more on which in a bit) Jaime approves of Brienne’s choice to avoid the “innkeep’s” suggested route and thus the suspected ambush. However on a re-read, we know that there is actually no difference between the two routes. The Brotherhood Without Banners lies at the end of the south-eastern fork, that’s true…but the Bloody Mummers lie at the end of the southern fork, which means an ambush and kidnapping was inevitable no matter which direction Brienne chose. Indeed, as I’ll discuss more in the “What If?” section, it might even have been preferable to be captured by the former rather than the latter.

Jaime and Brienne

So now that we’ve got the main plot out of the way, let’s check in on the development of the Jaime/Brienne relationship, which remains just as antagonistic as it was the previous chapter. Throughout Jaime II, our POV character is constantly thinking about either trying to kill Brienne – “The clink of his chains accompanied his every movement. An irritating sound. Before this is done, I’ll wrap these chains around the wench’s throat, see how she likes them then.” – or to escape her custody – “Horses in the stable. One at least.” And one is all I need to put the wench behind me.” – which (given his oath to Catelyn Stark) rather undercuts his pretense that he’s actually an honorable guy and it’s the world that’s unfair and hypocrticial.

What is new in this chapter is that we get a somewhat better understanding of why Jaime is so violently angry towards someone who is, after all, doing her level best to get him back to King’s Landing and Cersei. Repeatedly, Jaime associates Brienne with his chains, blaming her for his captivity:

Before this is done, I’ll wrap these chains around the wench’s throat, see how she likes them then.

The links were cold and hard against his flesh, the iron implacable. The manacles had chafed his wrists raw…

He hoped she might strike the irons off his wrists as well, but Brienne was still suspicious. She split the ankle chain in the center with a half-dozen sharp blows from the smith’s hammer delivered to the blunt end of a steel chisel. When he suggested that she break the wrist chain as well, she ignored him.

But beyond that, Jaime is simply pissed off that Brienne, who was standing in the room when Jaime confessed to being an attempted child-murderer, is judging him for being a bad person: “He was tired of being disregarded by this huge ugly cow of a woman…I’ve had enough of feeble pieties and maidens’ judgments.” Indeed, there’s a marked similarity between Jaime’s reaction here and how he reacted to Catelyn questioning the morality of his actions – in a very real sense, Jaime holds himself above judgement and reacts in a childishly spiteful fashion any time he encounters it. And so in a spiteful and borderline suicide-by-cop fashion, Jaime begins deliberately provoking Brienne into violence:

“My name is-“

“-Brienne, yes. Has anyone ever told you that you’re tedious as you are ugly?”

“You will not provoke me to anger, Kingslayer.”

“Oh, I might, if I cared enough to try.”

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:

Jaime sat against the bole of an oak and wondered what Cersei and Tyrion were doing just now. “Do you have any siblings, my lady?” he asked.

Brienne squinted at him suspiciously. “No. I was my father’s only s—child.”

Jaime chuckled. “Son, you meant to say. Does he think of you as a son? You make a queer sort of daughter, to be sure.”

Wordless, she turned away from him, her knuckles tight on her sword hilt. What a wretched creature this one is. She reminded him of Tyrion in some queer way, though at first blush two people could scarcely be any more dissimilar. Perhaps it was that thought of his brother that made him say, “I did not intend to give offense, Brienne. Forgive me.”

It is fascinating to see how Jaime only acts as a decent person when he can make some sort of comparison between the person he’s talking to and a member of his immediate family, which in Jaime’s weird genetic-exception-to-sociopathy mentality suddenly makes them a real person. And it’s interesting that Jaime should make the comparison between her and Tyrion, because it’s a rare moment of introspection about intersectionality – despite the fact that Brienne’s physical abilities are prodigious and one of her strongest assets and Tyrion’s physical disability is used to exclude and dehumanize him, and the fact that Tyrion often tries to over-act his gender to compensate for his disability whereas Brienne doesn’t try to do the opposite, both of them are marginalized figures.

Now, Jaime’s hesitancy and chivalrous apology isn’t going to last more than a few seconds, so let’s talk about Brienne’s relationship with her gender, which is a topic that I have to admit to short-shrifting during my coverage of ACOK (there was a lot going on in Catelyn V and I ran out of time/space), and which many writers much better versed in gender theory than myself have examined this in some detail. It’s a very complicated issue: when Brienne slips up and calls herself an only son, is that because her self-identity is male, or because she wants to have access to the rights and status of a man (which is what Jaime thinks, which ironically would make Brienne a close parallel to Cersei), or because Brienne has difficulty performing femininity, or because of her complicated relationship with her father (more on this when we get to AFFC)?

Despite Jaime’s constant needling, however, it turns out that gender doesn’t actually work as Brienne’s beserk button (probably because she’s been used to men mocking her on those grounds for most of her life):

“…Spare me your envy. It was the gods who neglected to give you a cock, not me.”

“…Had Renly spurned you, was that the way of it? Or perhaps your moon’s blood was on you. Never give a wench a sword when she’s bleeding.”

For a moment Jaime thought Brienne might strike him. A step closer, and I’ll snatch that dagger from her sheath and bury it up her womb. He gathered a leg under him, ready to spring, but the wench did not move.

Instead, what Jaime finds that really works is bringing up Renly’s murder, which is a far more fertile topic for discussion because of the way that it links Brienne’s desire to be a knight and her adherence to the ideals of knighthood to Jaime’s ruined idealism and his past and present status as the Kingslayer. Following his form from previous discussions, Jaime’s first move is to try to establish moral equivalency and his second move is to throw as much mud around in as many directions as possible (hence his gendered insults above) to deflect attention from his own culpability:

“We’re both kingslayers here, if what I’ve heard is true.”

“I never harmed Renly. I’ll kill the man who says I did…Lady Catelyn was there when His Grace was murdered, she saw. There was a shadow…”

“Your wits are quicker than mine, I confess it. When they found me standing over my dead king, I never thought to say, ‘No, no, it wasn’t me, it was a shadow, a terrible cold shadow.'” He laughed again. “Tell me true, one kingslayer to another—did the Starks pay you to slit his throat, or was it Stannis?”

“It is a rare and precious gift to be a knight,” she said, “and even more so a knight of the Kingsguard. It is a gift given to few, a gift you scorned and soiled.”

A gift you want desperately wench, and can never have.

…The look Brienne gave him then was full of loathing. She would gladly hack me to pieces, but for her precious vow, he reflected. Good.

But what’s fascinating is that, rather than Brienne getting riled up, Jaime gets angered enough to actually think and talk about his own backstory.

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Credit to Jason Engle

Behind the Kingslayer: VH1 Explores the Rise and Fall of Jaime Lannister, Teen Heartthrob


So finally Jaime begins to talk about his past, to try to explain himself and his actions…except that in a profoundly frustrating fashion, he does this almost entirely inside his own head, and he won’t actually verbalize any of this until he gets to Harrenhal. This is the sum total of his actual dialogue with Brienne:

“Your crimes are past forgiving, Kingslayer.”

“That name again.” Jaime twisted idly at his chains. “Why do I enrage you so? I’ve never done you harm that I know of.”

“You’ve harmed others. Those you were sworn to protect. The weak, the innocent…”

“…the king?” It always came back to Aerys. “Don’t presume to judge what you do not understand, wench.”

“…You are not old enough to have known Aerys Targaryen…”

“Aerys was mad and cruel, no one has ever denied that. He was still king, crowned and anointed. And you had sworn to protect him.”


“…Why did you take the oath?” she demanded. “Why don the white cloak if you meant to betray all it stood for?”

Why? What could he say that she might possibly understand?

“…I earned my knighthood. Nothing was given to me. I won a tourney mêlée at thirteen, when I was yet a squire. At fifteen, I rode with Ser Arthur Dayne against the Kingswood Brotherhood, and he knighted me on the battlefield. It was that white cloak that soiled me, not the other way around.”

Look at how elliptical and obscure Jaime is being in this moment; constantly evading the real question (look at how Brienne constantly brings it back to the issue of oaths) and trying to turn it back on his interrogator, darkly alluding to hidden truths (“Don’t presume to judge what you do not understand…You are not old enough to have known Aerys Targaryen….It was that white cloak that soiled me“) without actually providing information or insight. What we have here is someone on the verge of honesty, someone who desperately wants to unburden and/or justify himself, but who can’t bring himself to cross the vocal threshold.

And part of what makes this hesitation so annoying is that we the reader are inside his head and know what he has to say – and it’s so important that you really want him to share this information rather than being a sullen emo teen. So let’s start with the first anecdote:

…he had joined the Kingsguard for love, of course.

Their father had summoned Cersei to court when she was twelve, hoping to make her a royal marriage. He refused every offer for her hand, preferring to keep her with him in the Tower of the Hand while she grew older and more womanly and ever more beautiful. No doubt he was waiting for Prince Viserys to mature, or perhaps for Rhaegar’s wife to die in childbed. Elia of Dorne was never the healthiest of women.

Jaime, meantime, had spent four years as squire to Ser Sumner Crakehall and earned his spurs against the Kingswood Brotherhood. But when he made a brief call at King’s Landing on his way back to Casterly Rock, chiefly to see his sister, Cersei took him aside and whispered that Lord Tywin meant to marry him to Lysa Tully, had gone so far as to invite Lord Hoster to the city to discuss dower. But if Jaime took the white, he could be near her always. Old Ser Harlan Grandison had died in his sleep, as was only appropriate for one whose sigil was a sleeping lion. Aerys would want a young man to take his place, so why not a roaring lion in place of a sleepy one?

“Father will never consent,” Jaime objected.

“The king won’t ask him. And once it’s done, Father can’t object, not openly. Aerys had Ser Ilyn Payne’s tongue torn out just for boasting that it was the Hand who truly ruled the Seven Kingdoms. The captain of the Hand’s guard, and yet Father dared not try and stop it! He won’t stop this, either.”

“But,” Jaime said, “there’s Casterly Rock…”

“Is it a rock you want? Or me?”

He remembered that night as if it were yesterday. They spent it in an old inn on Eel Alley, well away from watchful eyes. Cersei had come to him dressed as a simple serving wench, which somehow excited him all the more. Jaime had never seen her more passionate. Every time he went to sleep, she woke him again. By morning Casterly Rock seemed a small price to pay to be near her always. He gave his consent, and Cersei promised to do the rest.

A moon’s turn later, a royal raven arrived at Casterly Rock to inform him that he had been chosen for the Kingsguard. He was commanded to present himself to the king during the great tourney at Harrenhal to say his vows and don his cloak.

Jaime’s investiture freed him from Lysa Tully. Elsewise, nothing went as planned. His father had never been more furious. He could not object openly—Cersei had judged that correctly—but he resigned the Handship on some thin pretext and returned to Casterly Rock, taking his daughter with him. Instead of being together, Cersei and Jaime just changed places, and he found himself alone at court, guarding a mad king while four lesser men took their turns dancing on knives in his father’s ill-fitting shoes. So swiftly did the Hands rise and fall that Jaime remembered their heraldry better than their faces. The horn-of-plenty Hand and the dancing griffins Hand had both been exiled, the mace-and-dagger Hand dipped in wildfire and burned alive. Lord Rossart had been the last. His sigil had been a burning torch; an unfortunate choice, given the fate of his predecessor, but the alchemist had been elevated largely because he shared the king’s passion for fire. I ought to have drowned Rossart instead of gutting him.

Needless to say, this passage is one bombshell after another. The first is that Jaime joined the Kingsguard because of Cersei, with both of them working against their father’s plans for their selfish ends (which happens so often throughout the series, from Cersei’s affairs to Jaime attacking Ned to Cersei screwing up the coup). Indeed, I think a big part of the reason why Jaime is so insistent, in the manner of every child of privilege, that he earned his white cloak is that he actually knows that he didn’t do anything to deserve it and only got it because an old man died and Cersei fed Aerys a line (hence the later scene with the White Book).

The second bombshell, and this is the thing I had not noticed or remembered, is that Jaime didn’t really want to do it and got chivvied into it by Cersei. I remembered the bit about Cersei coming to Jaime in disguise, but I had forgotten that Jaime’s initial reaction to her proposal was a number of demurrals which culminated with “But…there’s Casterly Rock.” This suggests that, contrary to his later discussions with Tywin in ASOS, there was a period in his life where Jaime really did want to follow his father’s plans for his life and be the heir to Casterly Rock. Indeed, I would argue that there is some subconscious resentment of Cersei for persuading him to follow her scheme, where “nothing went as planned” and the two of them ended up separated – such that he lost Casterly Rock and his sister both.

Which left Jaime “alone at court, guarding a mad king” as that king began to destroy his own regime out of paranoia and spite. And this is what speaks to the ideals of knighthood discussed above and Jaime’s statement that the white cloak soiled him, because Jaime’s objection to Aerys (at least in the moment) seems to be aesthetic more than anything else:

But when he closed his eyes, it was Aerys Targaryen he saw, pacing alone in his throne room, picking at his scabbed and bleeding hands. The fool was always cutting himself on the blades and barbs of the Iron Throne. Jaime had slipped in through the king’s door, clad in his golden armor, sword in hand. The golden armor, not the white, but no one ever remembers that. Would that I had taken off that damned cloak as well.

When Aerys saw the blood on his blade, he demanded to know if it was Lord Tywin’s. “I want him dead, the traitor. I want his head, you’ll bring me his head, or you’ll burn with all the rest. All the traitors. Rossart says they are inside the walls! He’s gone to make them a warm welcome. Whose blood? Whose?”

“Rossart’s,” answered Jaime.

Those purple eyes grew huge then, and the royal mouth drooped open in shock. He lost control of his bowels, turned, and ran for the Iron Throne. Beneath the empty eyes of the skulls on the walls, Jaime hauled the last dragonking bodily off the steps, squealing like a pig and smelling like a privy. A single slash across his throat was all it took to end it. So easy, he remembered thinking. A king should die harder than this. Rossart at least had tried to make a fight of it, though if truth be told he fought like an alchemist. Queer that they never ask who killed Rossart…but of course, he was no one, lowborn, Hand for a fortnight, just another mad fancy of the Mad King.

Ser Elys Westerling and Lord Crakehall and others of his father’s knights burst into the hall in time to see the last of it, so there was no way for Jaime to vanish and let some braggart steal the praise or blame. It would be blame, he knew at once when he saw the way they looked at him…

“The castle is ours, ser, and the city,” Roland Crakehall told him, which was half true. Targaryen loyalists were still dying on the serpentine steps and in the armory, Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch were scaling the walls of Maegor’s Holdfast, and Ned Stark was leading his northmen through the King’s Gate even then, but Crakehall could not have known that. He had not seemed surprised to find Aerys slain; Jaime had been Lord Tywin’s son long before he had been named to the Kingsguard.

“Tell them the Mad King is dead,” he commanded. “Spare all those who yield and hold them captive.”

“Shall I proclaim a new king as well?” Crakehall asked, and Jaime read the question plain: Shall it be your father, or Robert Baratheon, or do you mean to try to make a new dragonking? He thought for a moment of the boy Viserys, fled to Dragonstone, and of Rhaegar’s infant son Aegon, still in Maegor’s with his mother. A new Targaryen king, and my father as Hand. How the wolves will howl, and the storm lord choke with rage. For a moment he was tempted, until he glanced down again at the body on the floor, in its spreading pool of blood. His blood is in both of them, he thought. “Proclaim who you bloody well like,” he told Crakehall. Then he climbed the Iron Throne and seated himself with his sword across his knees, to see who would come to claim the kingdom. As it happened, it had been Eddard Stark.

You had no right to judge me either, Stark.

Given that he’s yet to actually unburden himself about what he witnessed as Aerys’ Kingsguard (even to himself) we don’t have a sense that Jaime had any other reason to kill Aerys than because he deeply disliked having to serve someone he thought was personally unworthy to be king (“The fool was always cutting himself on the blades and barbs of the Iron Throne…A king should die harder than this”) and because Aerys then made the damn fool mistake of ordering Jaime to kill his father or die. As revelatory as this moment ought to be (after all, Jaime is reliving the biggest moment in his life) there’s still a lot we don’t understand about what’s going on: we don’t know why he decided to kill Rossart first and why he has such a personal hatred for the man; we don’t know whether the golden armor reference suggests Jaime resigning his office or whether it has a deeper significance; and so on.

On a re-read, I find myself fascinated by Jaime’s reaction to having killed the king. In sharp contradiction to his defensive reaction to Ned Stark, Jaime is immediately aware of the moral and social implications of his actions: his first instinct is to “vanish and let some braggart steal the praise or blame,” which suggests an unexplored level of guilt and shame; and he can see how he’s going to be treated based on the first people he encounters afterwards – “it would be blame, he knew at once when he saw the way they looked at him.” And this moment is especially pointed, because these are his father’s loyal men, men who were complicit in the Rains of Castamere and the Sack of King’s Landing, and they can’t quite conceal their revulsion at his actions. And this despite the fact that they expected Jaime to commit this deed – “He had not seemed surprised to find Aerys slain; Jaime had been Lord Tywin’s son long before he had been named to the Kingsguard” – because this is the kind of things Lannisters do. (What a testament to their own moral hypocrisy and the depths of Jaime’s transgression…) If there is an origin for Jaime’s later rejection of Casterly Rock in Jaime VII of ASOS, I think it was this moment.

Finally, I really like the moment where Jaime is asked “shall I proclaim a new king as well,” because it neatly answers a lot of asks I’ve gotten on Tumblr about potential alternative ends to Robert’s Rebellion. Simply put, it was never an option for Jaime to “try to make a new dragonking.” While the teenage Jaime is tempted at the idea of making “the wolves…howl, and the storm lord choke with rage,” the reality is that Eddard Stark had gotten his army inside the gates of King’s Landing and had another four-nation army behind him. (The same logic holds even more strongly against naming Tywin king – not only would he have the rebel alliance against him, but also the remaining Targaryen loyalists in the Reach and Dorne.) But beyond the immediate military question, the long-term politics of a “…a new Targaryen king, and my father as Hand” were never going to work; as Jaime recognizes when he says “his blood is in both of them,” even before the murders of Rhaenys, Elia, and Aegon, the Lannisters had Targaryen blood on their hands and the future King would have been bound by those older laws of blood that Stannis speaks of to seek revenge.

Historical Analysis:

As I’ve talked about elsewhere, premodern cultures took guest-right and hospitality very very seriously as necessary cultural protections for travellers in a world before law and order. The inn was another such cultural adaptation. To quote myself:

“Historically speaking, because there was much less travel in the (especially in the early) Middle Ages than in later periods, there were far fewer establishments that catered to travelers, unless you were on a major trade route or pilgrimage or the like. So what you had was a lot of taverns that just sold alcohol and nothing else, because people were expected to eat at home, and people were expected to sleep at home, and pilgrims were expected to find lodging in monasteries.”

“As we get to the High and Late Middle Ages, more and more people were traveling for business and other secular purposes, and the number of pilgrims had outstripped the supply of beds in monasteries. There was more demand for more services, so you started to see inns (as opposed to taverns) popping up that provided rooms to let, and those places tended to serve food to travelers.”

Despite (or even because of) the usefulness of these establishments, there has always been a good deal of cultural anxiety about inns. After all, where you have travellers, you get bandits looking to relieve them of their worldly possessions, because (in a world without police where local communities enforced the law against their own) strangers with movable property are an easy mark. Inns offered an excellent source of information about potential marks and, more importantly, were also one of the few sources of capital who could fence stolen merchandise. Thus, there has been an association between innkeeps and bandits (and smugglers and pirates and highwaymen) that goes all the way back to the Babylonian Talmud and has influenced the common law and legal statutes from the time of Queen Elizabeth to the mid-19th century.

Who wouldn’t trust this man?

Likewise, in the popular culture and in history, there have been many examples of innkeeps who decided to disrupt the innkeep-bandit economy by cutting out the middlemen and rob or kill their clientele directly. This imagery crops up in Hollywood movies, the Grimms Brothers’ fairytales, in tales of murder from the English-Scottish border, and any number of historical incidents. But perhaps the most famous murdering innkeep of all time was one William Hare (of “Burke and Hare” fame), who ran a lodging house in Edinburgh in the 1820s.

According to testimony from the trial, it all started one of Hare’s lodgers died of natural causes. In order to recoup unpaid back-rent, Hare and his friend William Burke sold his body to a prominent Edinburgh doctor for anatomy lessons. After a few months, the two entrepeneurial gentlemen realized that rather than waiting for guests to die of natural causes, they could disrupt the lodging-house-anatomy industry by just killing Hare’s guests and selling the bodies. (Hare’s lodging house catered almost entirely to migrant laborers, who were unlikely to have relatives come looking for them.) In order to keep the bodies in good nick and thus worth more to the anatomists, Burke and Hare invented a brand-new way of killing people (which was promptly named “burking” after the trial; presumably Hare wasn’t interested in his share of the copywrite revenue): one of them would hold a pillow or hand across the knee or mouth to prevent the victim from taking in a breath, while the other knelt on the victim’s chest to prevent their lungs from inflating.

In this fashion, Burke and Hare murdered some 16 people over ten months and earned about  £160 in the process (worth roughly  £16,000 in today’s money). Just goes to show, there are worse fates than being ambushed by reavers…

What If?

I’m not going to go back to Jaime’s backstory in these What Ifs?, in part because these events aren’t actually happening in these chapters, but also because the chain of causality would get quite long and unwieldy and I don’t want this section to get ridiculously long. Instead, I think there’s one major hypothetical for this chapter:

  • Brienne and Co. rode south-east instead of south? As I’ve said above, Brienne and Jaime are going to get captured no matter which route they try to take. But if they’d gone south-east instead of due south (which is a bit confusing, because Harrenhal is actually south-east of the Inn of the Kneeling Man, whereas the Brotherhood’s area of operations is closer to due south. It’s possible that they were speaking in relative terms, facing from the Inn to King’s Landing, which would explain matters, but it’s awkward phrasing), they would have gotten kidnapped by the Brotherhood Without Banners instead.
  • And this is where things are going to get interesting indeed. For one thing, Jaime’s not going to get his hand chopped off by a sadist like Vargo Hoat; even in present time, the Brotherhood doesn’t stoop to mutilation and torture. He might have to fight the undying, fire-wielding Beric Dondarrion – after all, Jaime actually is responsible for bringing war against the smallfolk of the Riverlands – and that would be one hell of a duel! But in the mean-time, there would be some very interesting cross-pollination: Brienne might encounter Arya before the Red Wedding, which would complicate her oath to Catelyn and Jaime’s prisoner exchange considerably (since it shows that the Lannisters were negotiating in bad faith the whole time); Brienne might encounter Sandor before the Quiet Isle, which would complicate her post-Purple Wedding search in interesting ways. And Jaime encountering either Arya or Sandor would be really interesting, given his earlier intent to kill the first and the way that the second might complicate his thinking about loyalty, service, and knighthood.
  • But beyond character interactions, this changes the plot interestingly – with both Arya and Jaime in hand, the BWB might make more of a bee-line to Riverrun, which could change both the Red Wedding plot and the second siege of Riverrun plot.

Book vs. Show:

Given that this scene was basically excised from the show, I don’t have much to say in terms of Book to Show here. Check back next time where I’ll discuss the duel, Vargo Hoat becoming Locke, and musical cues regarding the loss of hands!


127 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Jaime II, ASOS

  1. Sean C. says:

    Cersei convincing Aerys to put Jaime on the Kingsguard is a relatively sophisticated move on her part, considering how stupid she is later, though even in this case it backfired in a way she probably should have predicted.

    • Winnief says:

      Not to mention, that one rather obvious point, Cersei never considered was that even if *Jamie* remained unmarried, Daddy was almost certain to go looking for a husband for *her* at some point which was also going to separate the Twins.

      • Murc says:

        I think Cersei absolutely considered this, 100%.

        It’s just that her plan was “I’ll be Rhaegar’s wife and Queen, but Jaime will be my secret piece on the side who I’ll always have access to because he’s one of Rhaegar’s bodyguards.”

        That’s not necessarily a bad plan per se if your plan is “have twincest on the regular” which would be very hard if Jaime is off in Casterly Rock whelping kids on Lysa Tully and she’s stuck in King’s Landing doing the same with Rhaegar. Especially since Cersei is incredibly insecure and wants Jaime to be under her control, which means he doesn’t get to marry someone else who he might decide he likes better if she gives him a bunch of kids.

        • Well, keep in mind from the quote that Rhaegar’s already married at this point.

          • Murc says:

            Goddamn timeline.

            You ever get tired of being right all the time, Steven? It seems like you’d get tired of that.

          • David Hunt says:

            Murc & Steven: Cersei may have been thinking that Elia was bound to die given birth and that she’d swoop in at that point. I’m not say this plan would have worked even if Elia had actually died.

          • Sean C. says:

            Jaime speculates that Cersei was being kept in KL because Tywin either wanted to marry her to Viserys eventually or else expected Elia to die, so perhaps Cersei had the same idea.

        • Keith B says:

          Wasn’t Rhaegar already married to Elia by the time Jaime joined the Kingsguard?

    • Warwick the Wild of Leicester says:

      I don’t think Cersei is stupid so much as short-sighted and self-centered. She’s successful (sometimes implausibly so) in getting short-term goals achieved, but bad at charting out what the consequences of those would be.

      • thatrabidpotato says:

        Jaime says basically this in Feast- “She does not lack for wits, but she has no patience and no judgement.”

      • Ioseff says:

        Well, she learned from the best short-sightd, self-centered, short-term goals-achiever, Great Lord Mighty Tywin “As cheaply as I could” Lannister. As I said, one needs not to be a genius to know that the Red Wedding is good as long as you can hold hegemony in a very big gap of power between you and your enemies… and having into account that he has alienated: Nobles houses of the Riverlands, North, Crownlands, Dorne as well as the smallfolk of the first three (it doesn’t matter on whose hands is the blood, he IS TYWIN, if you are not punished by him, he’s complicit in your crimes, so Bolton and Frey share their guilt with him and everyone knows it) he certainly did not have it, but that’s Lannister fascism guys! The one of Tywin “a man born in a thousand years” Lannister

        Given that Littlefinger-er was essential in the coup and he will remain in control of the Vale until Jeyne and Sandor find Sansa, and that she’s out with the Tyrells and won’t give a post to a Tyrell vassal because of her strict hierarchy thinking (and that Tywin shares… remember that Kevan seemed to complement him in politics like when he interrupts or holds him bringing another matter the same way Tywin did control him or hold him when Kevan was so nervous with the Mountain tribes) she has effectively alienated the two remaining kingdoms, since the strict hierarchy means that Tarly and ambitious people can only scale through another ladder (but remember, this started with Tywin giving Brightwater keep to Garlan and not to Randyll)

        What I mean, is… Cersei is Tywin’s true heir in character, now in the other thing? Intelligence detached of empathy, with his cold eyes? Now that may be Tyrion’s thing, but he has to get through it somehow

    • Yeah, she’s got a pretty good read of royal politics, she just ignores something rather important.

  2. Winnief says:

    FINALLY! Another chapter analysis.

    And what a chapter too! Why did I KNOW you’d have seen “The Hateful Eight”? ( BTW, I reviewed that for Woman Around Town too.) Also, I’ve had a long fascination with Burke and Hare myself, and *love* Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Tale of the Body Snatcher.”

    You’re spot on with your dissection of how these chapters show the complete disintegration of law and order in the Seven Kingdoms-and of Jamie’s character.

    Two things-it seems like the Lannister men almost *expected* Jamie to try to make his father King or at least Hand. I wonder if Tywin and/or Cersei ever resented Jamie for NOT doing so-or wondered why he didn’t.

    Sounds like Jamie also had some major PTSD post-Kingslaying-and has remained almost emotionally stunted since then. As you note he acts a lot like an emo teen throwing a tantrum.

    I KNOW it’s too complicated getting into the what-ifs of Jamie’s backstory…but I can’t help it. Not only is this a precursor to Cersei having schemes that Jamie goes along with-but that Cersei’s schemes rarely go as planned mostly because she never thinks through the likely consequences. I doubt she ever once considered that if Jamie renounced the Rock that would put *Tyrion* next in line for instance or Tywin’s reaction to that. Though as I type this, I wonder if Cersei thought *she* could get the Rock, because Daddy would never name Tyrion his heir. Hmmmm…

    And of course if Jamie *had* married Lysa Tully and Tywin had remained as Aerys’s Hand, god only knows how many tens of thousands of deaths could have been averted. So long before the War of Five King’s the Twincest was screwing things up for the entire Realm.

    • Grant says:

      Tywin always knew there was no way he really could be king, not with the dynastic politics and alliances. Cersei might have thought about it, though she doesn’t seem to really think of Jaime and Aerys (another sign the two really don’t have a strong emotionally intimate relationship if Jaime never told her).

      As for Tywin remaining Aerys’ Hand, the seeds were already being sown at that time. Aerys took Jaime as a Kingsguard precisely because of his resentment and hate for Tywin. Sooner or later, Tywin would have tried something like Duskendale and if Aerys survived he would have completely snapped (though he probably wasn’t that far off beforehand).

    • Glad you liked it!

      Yeah, I found that bit with the lords Westerling and Crakehall absolutely fascinating in that respect.

      Well, if Jaime married Lysa, there’s still going to be Robert’s Rebellion, but you probably wouldn’t have had the twincest.

      • Tywin of the Hill says:

        “Well, if Jaime married Lysa, there’s still going to be Robert’s Rebellion, but you probably wouldn’t have had the twincest.”
        Which unfortunately means there’s no Kingslayer to slay the king. 😦

        • David Hunt says:

          We don’t know who would have gotten the spot instead of Jaime. It’s possible that whoever was left in Kings Landing to guard him have stopped the wildfire plot even if they had died trying to keep the Targs on the throne anyway. I don’t know who would have been there, but Aerys was too paranoid to not have at least one of White Cloaks with him while the others are out fighting in the war.

          Jeez, imagine the horrific sanfu if the Blackfish had been put in the Kings Guard.

          • fjallstrom says:

            And the Kingsguard in question does not have to do more than kill Rossart and not tell Aerys. Actually, this means that Jaime’s defense for killing the king – saving the city – is utterly hollow.

            Perhaps that’s why he doesn’t tell anyone, they might point out the big gaping hole and then what will he use in his thoughts to defend it to himself?

  3. Andrew says:

    Another job well done.

    1. “For all that Jaime blusters and threatens and sneers in defense of his romantic illusions of glorious swordsmanship, a child with a crossbow can kill him by pulling the trigger just as easily as Tyrion will kill Tywin at the end of Jaime’s arc in ASOS.”

    Kind of like in Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark where the swordsman showed off his abilities with a sword only for Indiana to simply pull out his gun and shoot him.

    2. “He remembered that night as if it were yesterday. They spent it in an old inn on Eel Alley, well away from watchful eyes. Cersei had come to him dressed as a simple serving wench, which somehow excited him all the more. Jaime had never seen her more passionate. Every time he went to sleep, she woke him again. By morning Casterly Rock seemed a small price to pay to be near her always. He gave his consent, and Cersei promised to do the rest.”

    It isn’t until the next book that he realizes that Cersei had been using sexual manipulation on him throughout their relationship. That was just the first time.

    3. Jaime’s true reasons for killing Aerys are hinted at with Aerys’s words: “I want his head, you’ll bring me his head, or you’ll burn with all the rest. All the traitors. Rossart says they are inside the walls! He’s gone to make them a warm welcome.”

    • Winnief says:

      1. LOL! Great reference. But yeah, good point that they were getting the efficacy of crossbows into the text early.

      3. Again-fabulous foreshadowing.

      2. That’s a pivotal moment. And while *Jaime* doesn’t realize the truth until the next book, this is when readers start to get an accurate idea of the Twins relationship, and just how toxic it’s been to Jamie all these years. Which is pivotal to setting up the Valonqar storyline…

      • Andrew says:

        2. There is some possible foreshadowing as well for him as the valonqar in this chapter: “Before this is done, I’ll wrap these chains around the wench’s throat, see how she likes them then.” Add to that Jaime’s thoughts about Sybell Spicer: “Jaime would happily have strangled the woman with her seashell necklace,” and we have a good idea for how he fulfills that role.

    • 1. Quite, although that scene very much represents a modern American perspective vs. a knightly one.

      2. Yeah, although it’s an atypical encounter. One thing I forgot to mention is the “he gave his consent” line, which is interesting given the dynamics of their relationship.

      3. True. This chapter does give us a direct reason, just not the main one.

      • Knightly perspective on what, guns? Well, knights would have had a reason not to fear guns (as opposed to arrows) – guns weren’t good enough at the time to properly work and were just as likely to explode and kill whoever was using them. Once firearms became really efficient, knights as warrior elite disappeared.

  4. S. Duff says:

    The mention of burned riverboats may point to some offscreen conflict over the Trident’s waterways. You’ve mentioned that the Riverlands should have a tradition of river conflict, perhaps this suggests that the Lannisters are aware of this and have been countering it.

    The war in the Riverlands may be a little more complicated than the story lets on.

  5. medrawt says:

    This is why I’ve never understood the widespread affection for Poor Wounded (even before he’s wounded) Jaime.

    He has a compelling backstory for someone who outwardly looks to have all the advantages in the world; Tywin is his father, which is strike one, Cersei is his sister, strike two, and his service on the Kingsguard was obviously and understandably traumatic for an idealistic boy, strike three, Jaime’s a ruined adult.

    Here and in AFFC we get the idea that Cersei has made a lifelong habit of manipulating Jaime with sex, but as much as I loathe Cersei I’m not 100% comfortable with the idea that everything toxic in their relationship is her fault. And the thing is that he’s taken that wounded backstory, which gives him the outline of the handsome sensitive boy who lashes out because he’s suffered so much pain, and makes every wrong choice he possibly could. Everyone outside his immediate family is disposable and despised; he bitterly resents people who judge him for actions he refuses to explain or contextualize; even post the loss of his hand he begins to understand himself better but I think it’s hard to say he actually becomes a better person. At the end of AFFC he might be developing the first traces of a spine. I think Jaime, while compelling, is one of the most purely pathetic major characters in the books.

    • Keith B says:

      It takes two to have a relationship, but nonetheless Jaime would have been all right if not for Cersei. He still would have been a first rate jerk, of course, and an indifferent Lord of Casterly Rock. He also wasn’t remotely close to being his father’s equal in force of intellect or strength of will. But he wouldn’t have done anything really horrible if Cersei hadn’t manipulated him into it. So yes, it is Cersei’s fault.

      • poorquentyn says:

        I don’t think there’s grounds to strip him entirely of agency in that fashion, and I don’t see how that makes him a remotely satisfying character. Jaime genuinely does have some very dark desires, impulses, and worldviews of his own, and it can’t all be laid at Cersei’s feet, because some of it’s directed at her and anyone he imagines she’s slept with.

        • Keith B says:

          I don’t deny him agency; as I said, “it takes two.” And I don’t find him very sympathetic; as I said, without Cersei, “he still would have been a first rate jerk.” By himself he was self-centered, arrogant, irresponsible, and a bully. He was basically a jock who thought the world revolved around him. On the other hand, there was some good in him. He did risk his life to rescue Brienne when he had no compulsion to do so. He didn’t have much sympathy for people who weren’t members of his immediate family, but he didn’t have any malice either. In this he was unlike Cersei, who was truly a malignant character. It’s also clear that Cersei was the dominant partner in the relationship, so it’s fair to put the blame on her.

        • David Hunt says:

          Yeah, and in addition to whatever natural character flaws Jaime possesses, he’d have started the series having spent fifteen years directly under his father’s thumb. Tywin might have drilled some caution into his son, but I suspect that he’d have also drilled more of his utter disregard for the rules of war into his son as well. Jaime as a sub-general in the War of Five Kings after that education…*shudder*

      • I disagree. Jaime would have been a different person – less bitter, perhaps.

        But being groomed to be Tywin’s heir, yeah he’s going to do some vile shit right there just to please papa. (Tysha didn’t have anything to do with Cersei, for example…)

        • Keith B says:

          That would make him no worse than Hoster Tully, who sacked Lord Goodbrook’s village, not to mention the matter of Lysa and Petyr. If you want to make the point that more or less all of the nobles are horrible, I’m with you. Jaime did some things that are beyond the pale even by their standards, and he wouldn’t have done them if not for Cersei.

    • claudiusv says:

      Very well said, I would also add that Jaime is going through a mid life crisis in AFFC who is starting to realize that he could have done a lot of things differently but refuses to acknowledge these mistakes. Its worth noting that a lot of people tend excuse Jaime of a lot of atrocities he has help commit, not to mention siring bastard children and placing them on the Iron throne is what has led to the brutal civil war that has devastated the riverlands in the first place. But because Jaime is going through a “redemption quest” all is immediately forgiven.

      • medrawt says:

        As PoorQuentyn has amply demonstrated on his tumblr, people seem to conflate Jaime’s increasing self reflection with repentance or reform; in fact he’s done very little of either. So far as we know he continues to excuse his attempted murder of Bran Stark; he spends AFFC riding around the Riverlands trying to sow up a fraudulent piece, and he does so by continuing to credibly threaten horrible violence. The evidence of Jaime’s “redemption”, to me, is basically “he’s started to understand that Cersei is a horrible person and his obsession with her has destroyed his life,” and “he likes Brienne.”

    • He threw a child out of the window, that’s sort of a red flag….

    • Tywin being your father is an advantage?

      • medrawt says:

        No, sorry if I didn’t make it clear: from the outside Jaime (tall, handsome, able-bodied, schooled by the finest swordmasters, son of the richest lord in the realm depending on how you count riches) looks like he has all the advantages, but he has three strikes against him that make him the mopey sack of shit we meet in the books: Tywin is his dad, Cersei is his sister, and his Kingsguard service probably gave him PTSD when he was a teenager.

  6. Tywin of the Hill says:

    I’ve missed this.
    1. I always thought that what Jaime meant by “his blood is in both of them,” is “Once they grow up, they’ll be as bad as him.”
    2. Why doesn’t Brienne get the best horse for herself?

    • 1. Could be either.

      2. Partially because she’s a retiring personality, but probably because the palfrey is a lighter-weight horse whereas the plow-horse would be better at supporting her while wearing armor. She doesn’t need to be fast, after all, just faster than Jaime.

  7. Murc says:

    “We were hoping for capon.” Jaime heard his companions entering behind him. “The crossbow is a coward’s weapon.”

    There’s a lot of social baggage wrapped up in that one sentence.

    Jaime is a powerful, skilled warrior, to be sure… but that power isn’t available to just anyone. A well-made sword is expensive. Learning to use it properly and well takes many, many years of training, either from other experts in the field or under what must be truly terrifying and dangerous “on-the-job” training. (Bronn isn’t just skilled; Bronn is lucky.) Armor is also expensive, and learning the best way to fight while in armor, to best utilize its strengths and minimize its weaknesses, the way Victarion Greyjoy does, is an even more specialized skill.

    And all that expensive, time-consuming training and expensive equipment and years of practice can be ended very, very rapidly by an ill-trained peasant with a crossbow who manages to punch a quarrel through your breastplate. A peasant you may not have even actually seen. At least falling in battle against another armored knight means you were defeated by another member of your warrior/noble caste, who had the training and equipment you did and exists in a milieu where the “honorable” way to kill a person is face-to-face.

    The crossbow is a very leveling kind of weapon, the kind of weapon that says “sure, you can ride me down on your expensive warhorse. And if you get within three feet of me with your sword I’m dead. But any idiot can pick up one of these and become a decent if not spectacular shot with maybe a weeks worth of practice, and that idiot can kill you just as dead as another knight.” You don’t even need the kind of muscle and skill that someone using a traditional bow does; the crossbow is explicitly designed to obviate that. You point, and then you shoot.

    So of course Jaime, and many other knights and armored lances, think it is a cowards weapon. That weapon is a threat to them and the social order they embody.

    • Warwick the Wild of Leicester says:

      This is tangential to your point, but something that occasionally annoys me is the perception of the crossbow as a ‘peasant’s weapon.’ You note that swords were expensive, which is approximately true (a knight’s sword was expensive, but there were a variety of swordesque weapons like messers and falchions that were more affordable).

      However, crossbows were also rather expensive, and if they are easier to use than a longsword, they’re still not quite the idiot-proof killing machine they are sometimes portrayed as (especially in the context of a battle). Crossbows are probably better viewed as a weapon of the burghers/guildsmen – people who could afford them – and common-born professional soldiers.

      • Murc says:

        You’re absolutely correct, yes. I was using “peasant” in the pejorative sense, i.e “lowborn scum.”

        And of course you are correct about crossbows. Ease-of-use doesn’t necessarily mean “murder machine,” and you’re right to push back against the perception.

      • They’re as close to idiot-proof as you get, and the important thing is that they take way less time to train with than a longbow.

        You can hand a complete amateur a crossbow and have them trained to a reasonable standard in a month or two; a longbow takes 10 years to train up to standard.

    • Absolutely. Hence why the papacy banned the crossbow at one point.

    • Eh, not really. I don’t think that it was any easy for archers to kill armored knights in battle, and those weren’t “any peasants” but trained, professional archers. Longbows and crossbows got more efficient and deadly with time, but that’s exactly why the armor got more and more protective. The whole point was that an arrow could NOT pierce the breastplate. You had to be a really good aim and find one of the places that are more vulnerable and not covered by metal, like underarm, or if you’re lucky, neck or eye. Which is probably not easy on a moving target. Which is probably why you don’t hear of knights being killed by archers on masse and becoming useless as an elite group of warriors (they only became useless and disappeared with an advancement of firearms).

      There’s a reason why knights were the elite warriors of the day, and it wasn’t because they looked cool or because ‘chivalry’.

    • Doremus says:

      Or as Kipling put it:

      A scrimmage in a Border Station-
      A canter down some dark defile
      Two thousand pounds of education
      Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.
      The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
      Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

  8. rando, says:

    “Given that he’s yet to actually unburden himself about what he witnessed as Aerys’ Kingsguard (even to himself) ”
    Then what was Cat’s last chapter in clash?

  9. poorquentyn says:

    Good thing for symbolism that lions and wolves track as threatening; “fish’s work” just wouldn’t have quite the same ring to it. Great work as always. It’s interesting to tease apart what GRRM revealed here and what he withheld for the bath in Jaime V, as it’s easy in memory to blur it all together.

  10. Keith B says:

    “Inns offered an excellent source of information about potential marks and, more importantly, were also one of the few sources of capital who could fence stolen merchandise.”

    A reference to Alfred Noyes’ poem The Highwayman might be appropriate here. How did Bess the inn-keep’s daughter meet this dashing scoundrel to begin with?

  11. Grant says:

    I wonder what Brienne’s story is. We know that she was trained at her father’s castle, but after that? She shows a keen sense of how to move in a dangerous environment that you don’t get just by being taught how to wield a sword.

    I think on the blood there’s two ways to interpret his thoughts. The first is that after a rebellion where the leader of the Targaryen forces and the Targaryen king have both been killed, the latter in a betrayal by his bodyguard, you can’t put another Targaryen on the throne. The second is that this is how Aerys turned out, and his family has been known for their insanity in the past. Jaime would have no guarantee Viserys or Aegon wouldn’t turn out as bad as their father/grandfather did and he just killed that man for his planned atrocities.

    There’s something I’ve always found interesting about this chapter too. It doesn’t seem likely given that Cersei never thinks about it, but it sure was convenient that the Kingsguard died at the time he did and opened a spot up.

    • Murc says:

      I wonder what Brienne’s story is. We know that she was trained at her father’s castle, but after that? She shows a keen sense of how to move in a dangerous environment that you don’t get just by being taught how to wield a sword.

      Brienne had fought in at least one single combat (granted, against someone very much older and weaker than her) and been in at least one tourney melee, the one we see her in in her first appearance.

      She trains hard and is naturally gifted. Her master-at-arms didn’t fuck around, from what we see in flashbacks. I forget his name, if he even had one, but I rather liked the guy.

      • David Hunt says:

        I don’t believe that Grant was referring to Brienne’s ability to handle herself once the actual fighting starts, but more to her abilities to, for example, dissect the “innkeeper’s” lies to pierce the Fog of War and correctly deduce that there’s likely an ambush along that route. That’s a more strategic level of thinking than just being good once the weapons start swinging.

        Of course, the sons of the noble Houses should also be getting that type of training as well, so I presume some of this comes from her master at arms giving her useful officer training as well as being trained in hand to hand combat. Also, she’s been well trained by almost every man that she didn’t grow up with to never believe a word that come through their lying lips.

  12. ajay says:

    How there came to be a vacancy on the Kingsguard exposes something of a weakness in the whole idea. In time of peace it’s going to be pretty rare for a Kingsguard to die in the line of duty. And they serve for life. So most of them are fit, healthy men, well fed and living in relative comfort… they are going to live a LONG time. Mean age of death must be at least seventy, I would have thought.And the mean age at joining, 25-30 given that they need time to prove their skills (Jaime Lannister joined exceptionally young). So the average Kingsguard is going to be pretty middle-aged… Not exactly a top notch fighter.

    Visenya should have incorporated a retirement age.

    • Captain Splendid says:

      Eh, you’re not buying competence with a white cloak, you’re buying loyalty.

    • Well, if they live to middle age, they’re likely to be pretty experienced. I mean, look at how long Barristan Selmy has managed to be effective.

    • David Hunt says:

      That does appear to be an issue, although Steven correctly points out that Selmy is still ridiculously badass even at 60. I think a more clever move for Cersei would have been to modify the membership rules of the Kingsguard so that there were always seven knights under some set age (say 50) and that a new member would be selected each time one of the younger members either died or passed that age. She could still have used Robert’s death as an excuse to promote Jaime to the Lord Commander’s Post. If she’d done that, she wouldn’t have had to dismiss Selmy to elevate Sandor Clegane.

      Selmy wouldn’t have liked that either, but I suspect that he wouldn’t have been able to bring himself to quit instead of being dismissed. I briefly wondered if he’d have stayed given Joffrey’s tyranny and the brutalizing of Sansa, but then I remembered he went to war for a King that burned me alive without trial.

      • David Hunt says:

        That last sentence should read “burned men alive without trail.” I didn’t mean to write that Aerys had had me personally killed with wildfyre.

    • Sean C. says:

      I’ve always wondered how that worked in the time of the Old King. You’d expect Ryam Redwyne and his crew would have been pretty long in tooth by the time Jaehaerys died.

      • Each new king doesn’t appoint a whole new kingsguard. Robert was different because the war killed so many White Cloaks all at once. You are naturally going to have a mixed age group at any one time.

        • Sean C. says:

          I’d tend to think Maegor’s Kingsguard probably didn’t all make the transition to the new regime, but regardless, when you’re king for 55 years and it’s a peaceable realm, you should end up with a lot of very old knights standing around.

          • Abbey Battle says:

            There’s some truth to that, but I would like to note that even at their most Peaceful the Seven Kingdoms are seldom free from the risk of a violent death – Dishonourable Discharge (Sir Lucamore the Lusty), Pirates (I doubt Prince Aemon went to Tarth without a bodyguard and it seems likely they would have died with him) or even just Tournament Accidents & Disease would help keep up a reasonable rate of turnover.

            I would also like to note that in many ways a fit middle-aged man makes a better bodyguard than some young swashbuckler for Age brings experience, maturity and Good Sense – all important traits when your King and the Political Order of the Kingdom depends on your Judgement & Discretion.

          • stephendanay says:

            Unless some of them were executed by Jaehaerys (and that seems unlikely, given his reputation as the Conciliator), they probably all stayed in. Especially given that a) Jaehaerys wanted to maintain tradition/legitimacy and b) we know that Barristan was the first Kingsguard member to be dismissed from service.

            Maegor’s Kingsguard was probably a horror show by the end of his reign. Between his Trial of the Seven (which could have killed up to six Kingsguard) and his constant warring, it’s likely that the Kingsguard by the end of his reign were all his appointees and Maegor seems like the type of guy to have a Kingsguard full of Meryn Trant/Mandon Moore types. I’d be interested to see how Jaehaerys dealt with a crew like that if it were the case.

            As for Jaehaerys Kingsguard over 55 implausible years of peace, as I mentioned elsewhere, I don’t think it was as much of a problem as people make it out to be. If the ages of the members are staggered to begin with, which is all but inevitable, you’re going to get older members dying of illness/age/injuries and be able to replace them with young men.

          • Sean C. says:

            Unless some of them were executed by Jaehaerys (and that seems unlikely, given his reputation as the Conciliator), they probably all stayed in.

            They could also have been sent to the Wall, as was later done with Lucamore Strong. Given the probable character of any knights Maegor appointed, it probably wouldn’t have been too hard to find a justification for that.

          • stephendanay says:

            So fun fact. I was talking to Elio Garcia on Reddit a few weeks ago about Kingsguard specifics and he’s of the opinion that Lucamore Strong still counted as a member of the Kingsguard during his time in the Night’s Watch and would not have been replaced until he died. That seems odd/unlikely to me, but I guess if the serve for life thing is taken literally, then that would be the case. Just one of the many insanely nitpicky Kingsguard related questions I would as GRRM if I ever had him cornered.

          • @stephendaney: I don’t think Maegor managed to fill the KG with people truly loyal/subservient enough to him, since I strongly suspect that he was murdered by his own Kingsguard (and it would have probably taken a few of them to do it, since he was a pretty strong guy and good fighter himself).

          • Sean C. says:

            Eh, even if they did kill him, that doesn’t necessarily indicate moral character; they could as easily have sensed which way the wind was blowing and acted out of self-preservation.

          • I wasn’t passing any judgments about their morality. I just said that, if he was hoping he’d gotten himself a bunch of loyal and/or subservient KGs, he was wrong.

            Whatever their motive, as was a good result, in any case, so kudos.

          • Gonzalo says:

            Don’t forget that, according to TWOIAF, two of Maegor’s Kingsguard defected when Jaehaerys put forth his claim to the Iron Throne. And there are unconfirmed rumors that Maegor didn’t kill himself with the Iron Throne’s barbs but was killed by a Kingsguard who could no longer abide his tyranny.

    • stephendanay says:

      A retirement age defeats the entire point of the Kingsguard. Or at least, a major point of it. The institution is just as much about optics as it is about actually protecting the king. The king will never lack for protection. The Red Keep has guards, he can have as many sworn swords as he likes, and technically, every knight in the realm is obligated to come to the kings defense if need be. The Kingsguard, while certainly providing an important service as actual bodyguards, are also very much a symbolic show of the kings strength and legitimacy. Having a great Kingsguard basically says, “Look how great I am that these seven men gave up everything else they could have had for the rest of their lives in order to live and die by my side.”

      As for too many Kingsguard getting old, people seem to think that this will be a constant problem, but I think it would be pretty rare. Being a Kingsguard is dangerous. They’re probably getting killed at a reasonable clip. Even during peace time, you’ve got tourney mishaps, training accidents, illness, etc. And it’s not like all the Kingsguard are always the same age. If you’ve got two old members, two middle aged members and three young members, well, that’s still five out of seven and you’ll probably replace the two old members with young members when they die, which will likely be sooner rather than later. It seems like it would pretty easy to keep the ages staggered as you’re making appointments so that there’s always a majority of young/capable men. The only time I think it may have been a problem was under Jaehaerys since the realm was apparently at peace for 55 years (which is totally implausible, but that’s a different topic). And even then, you’ve still got old age, injuries, illness, etc.

      And finally, you can’t really discount old people. Skill erodes, but experience always accrues. Obviously, you’ll get some extreme cases. Long Tom Costayne served in the Kingsguard for sixty years, meaning he was in his late seventies at the earliest when he died. He probably wasn’t a very effective fighter by that point. But Barristan is still considered one of the deadliest knights alive and he’s 63. Blackfish is less than a decade younger and also has a fearsome reputation. Dunk is remembered as one of the greats and he served until his late sixties. Gerold Hightower was similarly well-regarded and seems likely to have been in his fifties at the youngest. And, don’t forget that the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard has a seat at the Small Council. Even if the LC is older and not as fierce in a fight as he used to be, he can still provide valuable council and advice, while delegating the more martial aspects of the job to younger members.

      The symbolism and continuity of the group is what’s most important. If knights are constantly being rotated in and out, then it starts to feel like any guy who can hold a sword straight can join and the prestige of the order takes a major hit, even more so than having a bunch of bad members as the Baratheon kings did/do. Like in the monarchy itself, continuity and tradition make all the difference.

      • Sean C. says:

        The only time I think it may have been a problem was under Jaehaerys since the realm was apparently at peace for 55 years (which is totally implausible, but that’s a different topic).

        I don’t think it’s implausible. The Crown has dragon power backing it up, and under Jaehaerys wasn’t going out of its way to start wars or piss people off. With the Faith Militant resolved and Jaehaerys not looking to invade Dorne, why would there have been any major wars?

        • stephendanay says:

          I’m not saying major wars, certainly nothing on the scale of the Dance or the Blackfyre Rebellions. But something. Maybe some small rebellions or local uprisings that were nipped in the bud? We know that the North was looking to make trouble. Dornish aggression? We know Prince Aemon died fighting pirates in Tarth. Stuff like that.

          I was pretty disappointed in the World Book chapter on Jaehaerys in general. His reign makes up over a sixth of the entire Targaryen dynasty and the World Book basically glosses over the first forty years of his reign with an “It was great!” and solely focuses on the succession crisis in the last decade of his reign.

          Actually, in the post Martin made last night officially announcing Sons of the Dragon, he says he mostly skipped writing the Jaehaerys section when working on the World Book, so its nice to know he plans on going back and filling it in for Fire and Blood.

  13. Keith B says:

    Arya and friends arrive at the inn either one or two days after Brienne and Jaime. They just missed each other.

    Arya was following the river, probably keeping off the road itself but staying close. Meanwhile Tom, Lem and Anguy were waiting along the southeast fork preparing to ambush the travelers. Brienne took the fork due south and so avoided them. When Tom and crew realized they had missed their quarry, they took the road back to the burned village, then proceeded along the River Road in the direction of the inn. They met Arya’s group at the farm along the way. (I’m assuming the road that Brienne took from the inn to the burned village was the River Road.)

    A few things are puzzling.

    First, how did the BWB know that travelers were coming their way? From what Tom and Lem say to Husband in Arya’s next chapter, they had planned the ambush in advance. But how did the people at the inn get word to them?

    Second, did they know it was Jaime? If they didn’t, they were simply acting as outlaws willing to rob any traveler who came along. And if they were outlaws, why bother to pretend to pay Arya for the horses?

    Third, in the next Jaime chapter, they’re at Maidenpool. But once Brienne has abandoned the river and headed south by land, why would she go there? It’s far out of her way. She should continue south until she’s below the God’s Eye, then either continue to the Blackwater or cut east to the King’s Road. She may run into the Brotherhood that way, but she would be headed away from any pursuit from Harrenhal or Riverrun. In order to get to Maidenpool from the inn, she has to head east, stay north of the God’s Eye, and skirt Harrenhal. But if she goes that way, she’ll reach the King’s Road before she gets to Maidenpool, and she can just take that to King’s Landing. She can’t get to Maidenpool without passing close to Harrenhal, and that puts her at a terrible risk of running into Roose’s army and the Bloody Mummers, which she must have known. If anyone can provide a rational explanation for the route she took, I’d be interested in seeing it.

    • 1. My guess is the BWB regularly patrol that area and expect people to be sent their way. In terms of getitng word, you could send a kid on ahead, or leave a signal, or a note at a dead-drop, etc.

      2. I think they guessed – Jaime’s escape is known, Brienne isn’t exactly hard to recognize, etc.

      3. That is really strange. More GRRM screwing up with the map?

      • Ghost Wrytre says:

        Since the subject of maps and routes that don’t make much sense has been raised, Steven, I’m afraid I have to disagree with your assertion that Jaime has frequented the Inn of the Kneeling Man in trips between the Rock and the capitol. Clearly, the Gold Road is the best route between Lannisport and King’s Landing; taking the River Road would have been going hundreds of miles out of the way.

        As to why Jaime is familiar with the history of the place… One, narrative convenience: GRRM wanted *us* to know that information. Two, say what you want about the Lannisters, they’re well-educated. True, Jaime is less so than the other three, but he’s hardly a complete lout.

        • David Hunt says:

          I’mnot so sure that I’d say that Jaime is less educated than Cercei. I’m a bit hesitant to say definitively as their educations were very different. Jaime doesn’t present as a scholar, but he was being trained to be the Lord of the Rock and Warden of the West. I’m sure he was instructed in a good deal of military history and I’ll note that he seems to know the White Book really well. I highly doubt that he would have made the blunder of allowing the Faith Militant to reform. However, it’s my impression that most of Cercei’s education took the form of social graces and charm, at least after her mother died. Despite Tywin’s apparent respect for Johanna, he seems to disregard other women, including his own daughter. I suspect that he had her education concentrated on whatever he thought would attract Raegar to the exclusion of everything else.

    • Landon Brown says:

      As shown on the Lands of Ice and Fire ‘Journeys’ map, Brienne and Jaime strike south-east from the Inn, keeping north of Harrenhal and God’s Eye until reaching Maidenpool. Clearly they get lucky with the Mummers (for the time being). As to why they don’t take the Kingsroad:

      “Two days’ ride to either side of the kingsroad, they passed through a wide swath of destruction, miles of blackened fields and orchards where the trunks of dead trees jutted into the air like archers’ stakes.”

      “She’s taking the Duskendale road,” Ser Cleos muttered. “It would be safer to follow the coast”

      “Safer but slower. I’m for Duskendale, coz.”

      • Keith B says:

        I don’t have this set, but presumably it shows where the characters must have gone based on GRRM’s story. It doesn’t explain why. Passing through territory known to be occupied by people who want Jaime captured at best doesn’t seem like a prudent plan. But skipping over that, once they get to the kingsroad, they have no idea how far south or east it’s been burned out, so they might as well just head south, since it’s much faster.

        The Duskendale road from Maidenpool probably is the shortest route to KL, so that part makes sense. It’s the parts before it that are the problem. But maybe GRRM just wanted a POV in Maidenpool (to contrast with Brienne’s later POV in AFFC, perhaps?), so he sent them there.

  14. David Hunt says:

    Great work as always, Steven. The CBC’s are still my favorite thing that you do on this website.

    Someone above hinted at Cercei murdering the Sleeping Lion KG to get Jaime a spot. I’m not going to say that’s too proactive for her, but the guy would have been in his cell in the White Tower. That strikes me as a very difficult and chancy murder. I think it more likely that she simply saw the opportunity and acted on it. Jaime was recently knighted as well as so it wasn’t possible until then.

    What I’m curious about is the “leave the rest to me” portion of getting Jaime the nod. How did she get Aerys to do it? At risk of sounding misogynist, is this where Cercei got in the habit of using sex to manipulate men who weren’t her brother? I shied away from even mentioning it, but she’s got a history of using her body to get men to agree to horrible things. And Aerys was always obsessed with Cercei’s mother…

    Or maybe she just used the king’s nostalgia about Johanna gain access ans sweet talk him. That was always my first assumption and no I’m afraid that I’m letting my dislike for her color my thinking.

    • Grant says:

      I don’t really think she did it, but I also wouldn’t have been at all surprised to learn that she did manage it somehow.

      As for how she managed the appointment, it’d be natural for her to brag about her brother’s prowess with sword and lance a lot where others could hear and maybe slip in how her father is so delighted that Jaime will one day be Lord Lannister of Casterly Rock.

    • Murc says:

      What I’m curious about is the “leave the rest to me” portion of getting Jaime the nod. How did she get Aerys to do it?

      Well, remember, by this point Aerys is in full-blown “Man, fuck Tywin” mode, to the point where one of the best ways to get yourself royal favor is to be seen as messing with or undercutting Tywin.

      All Cersei has to do is have a conversation with Aerys in which she points out, quite by accident I’m sure, that inducting Jaime into the Kingsguard not only robs Tywin of his preferred heir, but makes the Heir Presumptive to Casterly Rock Tyrion, the son that Tywin obviously hates a whole hell of a lot. And Tywin can’t even publicly bitch, because having a family member in the Kingsguard is a huge honor. Aerys takes one of the few things Tywin can’t just buy a replacement for using money and makes it his.

      That would absolutely have appealed to Aerys. It did appeal to Aerys, we know that’s why he did it. He probably wondered why such a delicious revenge didn’t occur to him earlier.

    • Glad you liked it!

      I think that’s too farfetched; people die of natural causes, and other people react.

      I would think Cersei would mention something like that. No, I think Cersei just dropped some hints about how TYWIN WOULD HATE IT IF JAIME WAS MADE A KINGSGUARD and waited for Aerys to think it was his idea.

      • David Hunt says:

        I must have written that comment poorly, because I was also trying to convey that I thought the idea of Cercei actually murdering a KG too farfetched.

        I’m actually glad to read you think Cercei could get Jaime in the KG just by whispering the right hint. I didn’t like my idea either…

    • I always thought this is what Cersei was referring to as the time she thought Varys was her best friend in the world. If Varys was pushing her for information by being chummy it wouldn’t be much of a leap for Cersei to think she could use her friendship with the king’s spy master to suggest that taking Tywin’s son for the white would be a good idea.

  15. AzureOwl says:

    I went to the WOIAF app to check where Eel Alley was and I was struck by something.

    Do you have any theories about why King’s Landing’s slums are located where they are? They’re right in the middle of the city. Fleabottom is really close to the Red Keep and the whole eastern slope of Visenya’s Hill seems to be just as bad, judging by the coloring in the app.

    • Great question! I think it’s wasteland being turned into housing where none is intended. Flea Bottom, for example, would have horrible drainage.

      • Murc says:

        Also too, social commentary? Having the seat of power for all the Seven Kingdoms, where decisions that will decide the fates of thousands if not millions of people are made on a daily basis, filled with the noble, the holy, and the wealthy be literally a stones throw from the most wretched slums in the Kingdom is a pretty easy metaphor.

        I mean, they even lean on it in The Hedge Knight. “We’re both from King’s Landing.” “Aye, you from the top of Aegon’s High Hill, and me from the bottom.”

      • David Hunt says:

        Did I read in the books that the Red Keep’s sewers empty into Flea Bottom or was that a show invention? The sewage and the resulting smell would have had a real effect on who lived there. Sort of similar to how I’ve read that the worst parts of towns tended to be downwind of the tanneries.

        • It’s in the show, but it makes hydrological sense.

        • Steven Xue says:

          I’m not sure if the rivers of shit flowing past people’s front doors as described by Davos is true or not. But judging by The Lands of Ice and Fire map of King’s Landing, Flea Bottom has some serious sanitation problems. It makes me wonder why the city planners or at least the men who built the Red Keep didn’t just route all the sewage into the sea since its built right next to the Blackwater Rush.

  16. Satriani says:

    When did Jaime think about killing Arya? That sounds completely new to me! (Which is why I’m reading your blog, btw)

    • It’s somewhere in AFFC, he mentions Cersei asked him to after the whole Mycah incident.

      • poorquentyn says:

        Specifically, it’s when Jaime’s visiting Lancel in Darry, where that whole affair took place:

        “As I was fucking her, Cersei cried, ‘I want.’ I thought that she meant me, but it was the Stark girl that she wanted, maimed or dead.” The things I do for love. “It was only by chance that Stark’s own men found the girl before me. If I had come on her first…”

        • Steven Xue says:

          I really doubt Jaime would have remembered any of that. It was a while ago and very inconsequential. There’s no indication that he wants Arya dead anymore.

          • Keith B says:

            I doubt he wanted her dead even then. Joffrey didn’t have much more than a scratch, and Jaime never cared about Joffrey anyway. But he did want to do what Cersei wanted. As for remembering, why wouldn’t he? He spent days looking for a small child with the intention of killing or injuring her. That’s likely to stick in anyone’s mind.

          • poorquentyn says:

            …well, he clearly REMEMBERS it, or he wouldn’t be able to tell Ilyn Payne about it in AFFC.

  17. Brett says:

    I can’t see anything but good things* happening if they get picked up by the BWB, at least if the BWB succeeds in delivering them to Riverrun. Jaime then becomes a hostage to the Starks again, meaning that Tywin sends a raven to Walter Frey telling him he’ll be without support if he goes through with the plan (especially since the Starks would almost certainly let King’s Landing know they have Jaime back).

    If the Red Wedding doesn’t happen, Robb takes his forces north and easily overwhelms the pathetic garrison left behind at Moat Cailin, retakes the North and executes Ramsay Bolton eventually, and he’s there when the wildlings show up at the Wall. Mostly it just sucks for Stannis and his men, unless they work out a deal with Robb.

    * Well, unless it’s magically necessary that Jon dies and gets reborn as Azor Ahai for the world to be saved from the Others. But of course he could die some other way at the Wall!

    • Tywin of the Hill says:

      The Red Wedding has been in preparation since Arya X ACOK, long before Tywin knew that Jaime was released, and Tyrion notes in Tyrion IX AGOT that, as far as Tywin’s concerned, “Jaime’s good as dead, so I’m all you have left.”
      At best, Jaime being recaptured means that Robb is taken prisioner rather than killed, and ramsomed for Jaime in Riverrun.

  18. Lucy says:

    Yay, another chapter analysis! Good job as always, Steve. Theres nothing to ask that hasn’t been addressed in the comments except for one thing… I always took Brienne’s blunder about being the only as as only -surviving- child rather than son. That would surely strike another nerve knowing her later chapters, though jaime couldn’t have picked up on it.

    • Liz says:

      I just found this awesome series of reviews (thank you!) and this struck me as well. Knowing what I know now I also think she was going to say surviving but didn’t because she knew Jaime would pick up on that as something else to needle her about. When I read that part I didn’t think much of it, but upon your re-read it jumped out at me.

  19. Trevor says:

    By primogeniture it’s assumed that Jaime will become Lord of Casterly Rock one day, but I think I’m missing where the idea that Jaime is being cultivated to be Tywin’s heir in anything more than a biological sense comes from. At this point Jaime appears pretty dumb – good with a sword but not much else. You’d think that someone as obsessed with his family’s legacy as Tywin is would do more with Jaime to mold him into someone who can dominate the political scene in the name of Lannister. Tywin ignores Cersei because she’s female and Tyrion for a host of reasons, but I don’t get the sense that Tywin’s doing anything special to make Jaime an intelligent political actor. At 12 Jaime gets sent off to be a squire (are the Crakehalls particularly political? Why, besides being Lannister bannermen, them?), he completes his course of study by 16 at which point he’s made a kingsguard.

    I know Bran’s a special case because he’s unable to be a knight, but he’s made to sit in on council meetings from a young age and even though they bore him, Luwin is trying to teach him something. I don’t get the sense that Jaime, even before the age of 16, gets anything more than training as in arms, and so he comes off as this privileged jock. Was Tywin waiting on Jaime’s political education until later and his plans got pre-empted by Aerys’ choice?

    • Satriani says:

      Tywin has often shown how blind he is in any matter regarding his golden heir. More probably, Tywin just thinks Jaime more clever than he actually is, more politically savvy, and so on.

    • Sean C. says:

      In Bran’s case it’s more than a matter of his disability, he’s also been left in notional charge of Winterfell on an indefinite basis by his older brother.

      I agree that it doesn’t seem like Tywin was putting much effort into cultivating Jaime’s skills as a ruler, but perhaps he thought the first step was to make him a great knight who would win renown for the family and the other stuff would come later.

    • Grant says:

      Robb didn’t start getting training to be lord of the North until the start of AGOT, when Ned was going south, that was around the age of sixteen. Jaime was appointed to the Kingsguard at fifteen.

      Of course that presumes that Tywin and Ned would have similar methods of educating heirs, but it’s entirely possible that Tywin had just started training Jaime and then the appointment threw it all away. We know that when Cersei suggested her plan to Jaime he brought up Casterly Rock, which might suggest he’d started thinking about it as something he’d have.

      Or maybe it didn’t occur to Martin.

    • Ibbison says:

      As Jaime’s foster-father, Sumner Crakehall would have been responsible for Jaime’s political education. As Crakehall’s squire, Jaime would have attended council meetings and such. Crakehall would have passed on wisdom in the time he spent with Jaime, in the same way Jon Arryn educated Ned and Robert. The Crakehalls are among the leading bannermen of the Lannisters, and Tywin no doubt knew Sumner well. Tywin would have been very picky about who would foster Jaime, so we can be pretty sure Sumner was on the same page as Tywin concerning Jaime’s education. (The set up was probably planned long before Jaime and Cersei got caught together by Joanna, which Tywin never knew about.)

      Don’t forget that Tywin was Hand at this time. He would not have been spending much time at Casterly Rock anyway. Not to mention the fact that fostering out your eldest son helps bind your bannermen to you.

  20. wat barleycorn says:

    I really enjoyed your dissection here. This chapter stuck with me and I never really understood why. The atmospherics–all the “wrong” answers–drew me in as I read it, and I really found I was putting myself in Brienne’s place.

    I realize now I was subconsciously wondering what I was missing, what the author wanted me to realize about the “bad” choice Brienne made and what it revealed about her character and perceptivity. I kept feeling super dumb because I couldn’t figure out what she should have done right (hence, could glean no insight from what she’d done wrong). I had no idea what I would have done differently even knowing everything (I’m a reader! I can cheat!). My mistake was assuming it was a school puzzle, a problem with a right answer.

    TY so much for the insight on how it was a no-win situation. (Of course, now I feel dumb for not realizing it!) But it’s giving me more appreciation of Brienne’s journey. Which…it’s not gonna end well, is it?

  21. Teucer says:

    While this is a perhaps banal and generic comparison, your analysis of GRRM’s treatment of the smallfolk reminded me of Charles Dickens’ in “A Tale of Two Cities”—critical on the one hand of social structures that are unduly harsh towards those on the bottom while still recognizing that the victims can easily become just as cruel as a result.

    (And, needless to say, fantastic post as always.)

  22. Autumn says:

    I love reading Jaime’s chapters, largely because I think they are some of the best writing Martin’s ever done (within the parameters of ASOIAF, that is – I have yet to read any of his other work). A lot of hardcore ASOIAF fans don’t think Jaime’s on the path to redemption, but I personally think this period of self-reflection is the first step down that path. Jaime tries to justify most of his ill deeds in the first three books, but by AFFC, that facade is beginning to slip away. Unlike a lot of other readers, I actually do think he feels guilty for what happened to Tysha – I don’t think he would have confessed the truth to Tyrion, at the most inopportune of times, if he didn’t (this also makes me think that when we do find out “where whores go,” as Martin said we would in an older interview, Jaime might be the one to come face-to-face with Tysha, not Tyrion. It would really solidify him having to confront his past). I personally think that he’s getting to that place with what he did to Bran, as well. And while this is probably another unpopular opinion, I don’t really think he and Cersei will die together, my reason for this being that AFFC and ADWD show us over and over again how so much of their relationship is built on lies. “We will leave this world together” strikes me as perhaps the biggest lie of them all.

    There seems to be a common motif in ASOIAF where the characters find themselves wishing for a simpler life – we see this with Dany and her dreams of the house with the red door, and with Sansa and Arya and their dreams of Winterfell, and I think that’s the case with Jaime, as well. At one point in the series, he thinks (to paraphrase), “I will never be a husband or father.” Consider the fact that he’s the one to have a vision of Joanna, and not Tyrion or Cersei. In some respects, I think Brienne has started to fulfill that need for family in Jaime, and is one of the reasons why he grows so protective of her.

    While on the subject of Cersei, there has been much discussion about whether Martin’s depiction of her is sexist, but I disagree with that assessment. I think Cersei’s an engaging, three-dimensional, complex character – she just also happens to be a villain. With as many male villains as their are in this series – Joffrey, Ramsay, Gregor, Roose, Twyin, Euron – I don’t think having one female villain, especially one as well-developed as Cersei, is that much of a burden.

    • Autumn says:

      On a side note, I think the reason why Jaime killed Rossart first is because he enabled Aerys’ obsession with wildfire, and therefore with burning people alive. We’re given a pretty vivid account of Jaime watching the Stark men being burned alive and the toll it took on him, so I imagine that from that point forward, he probably didn’t think highly of the pyromancer.

  23. aci1970 says:

    So sick of people bashing Jaime even for his qualities, as if he hadn’t enough shortcomings…He deserved to be picked for Kingsguard (the fact that he was picked because of a machination is beside the point) because he was checking the requirements, being a brave and brilliant swordsman not because someone died (Kingsguard was for life, someone HAD to die to pick a new one) and “he came from privilege” Do you think Aerys would have picked someone like Sam Tarly?

    • Autumn says:

      I agree with you. Jaime already has a lot of flaws, so I find it a little strange how a lot of readers are always looking for ways to take his positive qualities and turn them into negative ones. Brienne more or less says he was the best fighter she ever encountered, and this is coming from a woman who’s been in a lot of sword fights. Even though I admit I’m not a fan of hers, it’s similar to what a lot of readers do with Daenaerys.

  24. aci1970 says:

    And I never understood that Jaime dropped the idea of a Targ King because fearing retribution. I understood that “His blood was in both of them” as in “they might be as crazy” It’s true that I didn’t read the books in English, though…

  25. Doremus says:

    Indeed, when Brienne and co. get to the turning point, I would argue GRRM is deliberately evoking the Robert Frost poem:

    Seems plausible – especially when there’s an even clearer Frost shout-out just previously, when Jaime argues in favour of riding through the night by pointing out that they “have promises to keep, and long leagues before us“.

  26. […] last pre-visual exchange serves two purposes: first, it continues the theme (already introduced in Jaime II) that for the smallfolk of the Riverlands, there is no distinction between the armies of Robb Stark […]

  27. […] contrast, Jaime Lannister in his first two appearances in ASOS is pretty much the same arrogant child-murdering sisterfucker that we saw in […]

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