Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Davos VI, ASOS

“Do you mock me to my face? Must I learn a king’s duty from an onion smuggler?”

Synopsis: Davos engages in a pivotal act of smuggling, and then reads out a letter.

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.

49 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Davos VI, ASOS

  1. They will bend the knee says:

    Yeah ! A Davos chapter ! Can’t wait to get home to read it tonight after work ! Thank you !

  2. Priddy says:

    Thank you for another analysis. Pardon me, but what is the title and provenance of the second picture, the medieval one above “Honest Counsel and Swift Obedience”?

  3. jedimaesteryoda says:

    1. Davos and Jon should get along famously since they could relate over smuggling out a boy with a king for a father to stop Stannis from burning him. (As well as for how much they loathe Axell Florent).

    2. Edric asked to say goodbye to Shireen first before going. I think in a form of irony, later on Davos is going to regret not sending Shireen with him.

    3. As for the Odysseus parallel, Odysseus puts on a disguise to avoid the notice of suitors, deceiving them into thinking he’s a beggar. Davos putting on commoner’s clothes combined with his what Wyman described as “very common face” he can easily escape notice disguised as a commoner.

    4. “The clouds hid most of the Ice Dragon, all but the bright blue eye that marked due north.”

    Hidden dragon. ice. pointing north . . . Nah, I’m sure it’s nothing.

  4. Mormont says:

    There is a more modern example of a smuggled prince. When the Greek revolution forced the royal family to flee the country in the middle of the night, the infant son of Prince Andrew (son of the deposed king) was smuggled out in an orange crate. Practically (though not formally) without his parents from a very early age, he was raised by relatives in Germany and the UK, joined the Royal Navy, met the crown princess who fell in love with
    him as a girl of 13, married her when she turned 21 (against her family’s wishes), became prince consort when she inherited the throne 5 years later, and held the title until his death at age 99. He is of course Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, or as he was called by the royal family, “the foundling”.

  5. Wadege says:

    Both Ned and Davos have a slight parallel of a lack of future planning for themselves personally once their ‘mission’ to their Baratheon King is complete. Ned was also hoping in AGOT that once he has served his King he will be free to go home and be with his family, free from the politics of the realm. And like Davos, this idea is completely unfeasible, because there is no way King Robert would be letting Ned return if Cersei has just been executed for treason. Equally with Davos, without King Stannis its highly unlikely that he gets to hold onto Cape Wrath, and more likely than not that he is named a traitor and has his head taken off by Lannisters.

    • lluewhyn says:

      I’ve liked to think that there’s a certain symmetry between Ned and Tyrion’s mistakes as Hand. Ned is in a long-term position that he treats like it’s short-term, and Tyrion does the opposite.

      • Sampson says:

        It’s interesting that Tyrion doesn’t consider much what his future holds once the handship ends or Joffrey comes of age. Doesn’t seem to take any steps to shore up his position past the end of the war, except considering moving to Winterfell as Sansa’s husband.

      • That’s a good point! Tyrion really does think his job is secure forever, when it’s very clear how temporary it all was.

      • Rake says:

        After the Rebellion Eddard simply returned home without receiving great rewards and expected it to happen again, of course if he managed to expose Cersei there would most likely still be a war against Tywin and Robert would hardly allow him to return to the North in this situation, and even if the war didn’t happen or was won by Robert I think Eddard would still be Hand for longer unless Robert agreed to give the job to Stannis.

    • lluewhyn says:

      “there is no way King Robert would be letting Ned return if Cersei has just been executed for treason.”

      Also left unplanned by Ned and Catelyn: So, you’re going to marry your daughter to someone whose mother you just had executed? Joffrey’s personality aside, that sounds like it’s going to be an unpleasant marriage regardless of who the groom may be.

      • RichC7 says:

        Cersei’s treason makes Joffrey an incest bastard, so he’s off to the wall/exile/executed. The wedding is off in any case.

        • lluewhyn says:

          They don’t know this until the very end of Ned’s tenure as hand. When Ned heads to King’s Landing, he expects to depose Cersei as a traitor but has no idea her children aren’t Robert’s.

    • Yeah, that’s an interesting parallel.

    • JG says:

      Ned did have the power to just tell Robert to f off and go back North though (and also still has legitimate duties to fulfill as Warden of the North) whereas Davos really can’t escape from Stannis.

  6. Captain Splendid says:

    Another fantastic CBC. Thanks!

  7. Jack Elving says:

    Great write-up. You know, “A king protects his people or he’s no true king at all” is also more-or-less Doctor Doom’s belief in Marvel Comics and I always saw Stannis as kind of similar to Victor von Doom (noble, resentful, somewhat driven by justice but too much pride). In the Marvel Universe, Doom’s idea of medieval royal-subject social contract makes him tyrannical but also heroic, since because he wishes to rule the world he accepts he must save it, but if he saves the world (as in SECRET WARS when he fights the Beyonder) best believe he’ll want to rule it as a reward.

    So I wonder if the message of “A King protects his people or he’s no true King at all” does that make the King obliged to the people, or does that make the people obliged to the King. Does that make any sense?

  8. artihcus022 says:

    For many (most!), the Red Wedding is the major chapter of ASOS, but for me this one ranks higher (and to be honest, Tyrion’s last chapter and the Epilogue is nearabouts the same level).

    Davos’ speech is just incredible, it’s earned wisdom. It makes sense for this character to say this in that moment and it doesn’t feel like the forced messaging you see elsewhere (i.e. the Wandavision “What is grief if not…?” which is well-written in a Creative Writing 101 sense but is a bit too overdone for that moment and character).

    Even though you are planning to Feast/Dance things, it’ll be a while before we get more Davos, and it’ll be islands of Davos since he has fewer chapters in ADWD.

  9. Jim B says:

    I take it from your hypothetical that you’re convinced that, had Davos not successfully gotten Edric off Dragonstone, Stannis would have sacrificed him? That Davos could not have persuaded him otherwise with his words about a king protecting his people, and the parchment?

    I think that’s probably right. Stannis seems to have worked himself into the mental space to cross that line.

    On a separate note: interesting that Melisandre does not actually swear as Stannis asks. She says that sacrificing Edric will work (“Give me this boy,” she whispered, “and I will give you your kingdom”), but she doesn’t say that it is the only way, and she doesn’t swear it on her life.

    • lluewhyn says:

      Possibly, but I don’t think Stannis would spare her on the technicality if he sacrificed Edric and it didn’t work.

      • Jim B says:

        No, my point was more that Melisandre was being slippery here. Stannis only wants to do it if it’s the only option, and she declines to explicitly say that it is. Which suggests that (1) she either knows it’s not the only option, or at a minimum is uncertain; and (2) she has some principles — she isn’t willing to just lie to Stannis and promise whatever she needs to get him to do what she wants.

        It’s also another reason why I wonder how that conversation would have continued if Davos hadn’t spoken up about Edric being gone. Would Stannis have noticed the evasion and pressed her for a clear answer? Would she have given a clear answer if pressed, and if so, what would it be?

    • He certainly seemed to be leaning in that direection.

  10. lluewhyn says:

    “Davos seems to be deliberately removing Stannis’ bad excuse for doing the right thing (from a Kantian perspective)”

    One of the things that I have always found interesting is that Davos and Melisandre tend to be arguing classic Deontology vs. Consequentialism, and yet Melisandre is the one that believes in moral absolutes in individuals, which seems a bit backwards to me.

    • Yeah, that is an interesting flip that GRRM does.

    • RichC7 says:

      Melisandre and Davos are talking past each other when they debate. Mel believes that Stannis must be king or all life on earth is doomed. Davos doesn’t really reflect at all on her apocalyptic talk, he wants Stannis to sit the Iron Throne because he views him as the rightful king. So while he believes Stannis being king to be for the better of the Seven Kingdoms, he isn’t viewing things in the same apocalyptic light.

      As a side note, it doesn’t seem at all that Stannis himself puts much into the Azor Ahai talk either. He wields the flaming sword, but his rationale when talking with Davos is based more on him being the rightful king versus him believing that he must be king or all are doomed.

  11. Sam says:

    About Melisandre her argument is basically ”Edric is doomed anyway if we don’t stope the Others so we might as well make his death mean something” I mean Melisandre doesn’t enjoy burning people she regards it as necessary.

    Melisandre’s big flaw is that unlike Stannis she doesn’t question about whether or not she is doing the right thing. She rather arrogantly assumes that she knows exactly what to do to save the world to serve her God well. The idea that she might be making a mistake that this isnt what her God wants never crosses her mind. Its why I actually enjoyed her Game of Thrones story where she is forced to accept that she did make a terrible mistake in burning Shireen that she doesn’t have all the wright answers and I do hope the books do something similar.

    • I think that is where her arc is going, realizing she’s misinterpreted the visions in the flames.

      • Brett says:

        Yeah, her chapter in ADWD wasn’t subtle about setting up her tunnel vision (that funny bit about her asking the fires to show her Azor Ahai, and it keeps showing her Jon Snow).

  12. Murc says:

    Davos VI, ASOS! The moral thesis of this entire enterprise contained therein!

    R’hllorism wouldn’t be the first religion that looks to parallels between the physical body and the wider cosmos, but again it’s an unusual move for a religion that hasn’t exactly put a strong emphasis on the spiritual value of human life.

    I disagree. R’hllorism puts an enormously strong emphasis on the spiritual value of human life. Its entire theology is based around the idea that human life, and the value humans place on each others lives, is so unutterably valuable that it and only it can satisfy the hungers of their terrible god.

    The Lord of Light cherishes the innocent. There is no sacrifice more precious.

    Davos knows, because Melisandre has inexplicably told him

    I don’t know that this is that inexplicable. Melisandre loves the sound of her own voice. She’s smarter and more disciplined about this than other characters who also love to hear themselves talk are (like, say, Littlefinger) but she still very clearly derives a lot of pleasure from her sermons, seductions, and importunings of people. She also loves a good dramatic reveal; see her prestige when she reveals her swappity-do with Rattleshirt and Mancy to Jon.

    So it’s entirely explicable that Melisandre is going to fuck up and reveal more than she intends to or really should from time to time. Especially when she was making that full-court press on Davos, who you’ll recall was at his lowest point, and people at their lowest points are primo candidates for recruitment into a cult. She was busting out her good stuff and didn’t quite notice what went by.

    “Joffrey . . . I remember once, this kitchen cat . . . the cooks were wont to feed her scraps and fish heads. One told the boy that she had kittens in her belly, thinking he might want one. Joffrey opened up the poor thing with a dagger to see if it were true.

    Can we take a moment to appreciate the tiny little throughline of the cats of the Red Keep that continue running through the series? This isn’t the first time the cat that Joffrey mutiliated comes up, of course, and then there’s Balerion, Princess Rhaenys’ kitten, who continues to haunt the Red Keep to this day, where even Tommen knows him as the “bat cat.”

    And of course, this incident of wanton animal cruelty would stick in the mind of Stannis Baratheon, the man who once nursed a wounded hawk back to health and stuck with beyond all sense.

    This seems to be Davos’ vision of the good life post-siege of Storm’s End, a dream of previously unthinkable but otherwise modest upward mobility, especially couched in his ambitions for his sons.

    You know, I don’t think much of Littlefinger, but the entire series is really just chock full of examples of his dictum that men of honor will do things for their children they’d never, ever dream of doing for themselves, isn’t it?

    This lived experience, which first brought him into the service of princes, has taught him a valuable lesson: “I know that a king protects his people, or he is no king at all.” I would argue that, more than anything else in A Storm of Swords, more than weddings red and purple and all the conspiring that happens in-between, this is the heart of GRRM’s political philosophy.

    The test of kingship.

    In the context of Westeros, passing the test of kingship will not necessarily mean you triumph (Robb Stark passed this test most times it was put to him and was literally cut down while marching him to defend his people) but NOT passing it… well, those kings who failed this test were not well-remembered. Even Aegon III, damaged and broken and misanthropic as he was, passed this test.

    In fact, I’m going to lay down a marker here: Blackfyre or no, rightful heir or no, what will be the ultimate undoing of Aegon VI is that he, likely at the urging of the devil on his shoulder in the form of Jon Connington, will fail this test. The opportunity will come for him to lift his sword to defend the realm and its peoples from Euron Crow’s Eye… and instead he will march straightaway to King’s Landing, where treason and intrigue will deliver him his throne.

    I expect it to cut him at some point. I like the boy; Varys’ perfect prince is better than many men, if not so good as some others. But I don’t think what he’s passing through, and what he’s surrounded with, is going to make him an acceptable king to that eldritch pile of steel.

    • 1. I guess, but it’s not couched as necessary to satisfy the god’s hunger.

      2. I stil feel that it feels a bit too writerly, that GRRM wanted to share this with the reader.

      3. Yeah good point.

      4. Fair enough.

      5. I don’t think there will be enough time for Crowseye to be a part of Aegon’s story, but I suppose it’s plausible.

      • Murc says:

        To be clear, I feel like Euron will only be involved in Aegon’s story in that Aegon will have a chance to go fight the demented Iron King who has fucked up Oldtown and the Reach real, real good, and decide (probably at Connington’s urging) “nah, imma go to King’s Landing instead.”

    • Brett says:

      The opportunity will come for him to lift his sword to defend the realm and its peoples from Euron Crow’s Eye… and instead he will march straightaway to King’s Landing, where treason and intrigue will deliver him his throne.

      Good point! I agree with this – that absolutely seems like something Martin will have happen. Although I don’t think it will be “Euron has screwed up Oldtown – help!” as “Euron and his raiders are raiding the coasts and they may make for Oldtown, please help!” I don’t think Euron is going to survive whatever thing he does in Oldtown, possibly involving blowing the Horn from the top of the Hightower.

      I agree that he’ll cut himself as well on the Throne, probably when he’s meeting with Dany and the situation doesn’t go smoothly.

  13. Daniel Dunbring says:

    “His new argument is that it is this battle, the rescue of the Night’s Watch and the defense of the Wall, that Stannis is destined to fight and which he risks missing if he does not turn from his current obsession with winning King’s Landing by dragons. And it’s a winning argument”.

    It is also very clearly Stannis’ best option. Sure, he could hide in the Free cities and his loyalists would dwindle away one by one (The break with the Iron Bank is not something that could be expected nor guessed), Rally the Stormlords and be doomed, just as Tywin said or gamble for Dorne, which would fail as well (Due to their hidden Targ loyalty, Doran would just present him to the Lannisters in order to fool King’s Landing further about his supposed loyalty).

    I tend to see this from a more practical, rather than a philosophical perspective. Davos is presenting a way back into the action. All other routes would lead to Stannis’ end.

  14. Rake says:

    Martin once said that Melisandre is a misunderstood character, I agree but that doesn’t make her a good person, he has an absolute belief in her cause and is willing to do anything for what she believes in, that was (and still is) the cause of much tyranny and atrocities in human history.

    I always saw this chapter as a good parallel with Eddard trying to save Daenerys and Cersei’s children, Eddard told Cersei that he knew her secret and warned her to run away with her children while Davos himself got Edric to safety. Both confront their kings but Eddard simply yells at Robert, confronts him and resigns while Davos calmly confesses what he did, reminds Stannis of his duty and goes with a letter as a secret weapon. In my opinion Davos is the best Hand in the books by far.

    What Joffrey did with the pregnant cat clearly shows that he was always horrible, psychopaths used to torture and kill small animals when they are children, Joffrey was not a simple bully, he was someone irredeemable.

    I agree that a true king must protect his people, and considering that most other characters are members of the nobility (and normally members of that class only care about their reputations, houses, power, glory, and honor) I think it’s fitting that this teaching comes from a character who was born as a smallfolk, and who acts as other nobles should.

    • JG says:

      The difference between Ned and Davos in this case is that Ned is powerless to stop the assassination and lashes out as a result while Davos already pulled off his caper and needs to calm a potentially angry Stannis. Both of them failed to persuade their king to do the right thing but Davos had the power to forestall his king from following through on the choice.

  15. teageegeepea says:

    I think you forgot to categorize this post as Chapter-by-Chapter.

  16. Brett says:

    (This is certainly how it played out with Daenerys’ sacrifice at the end of AGOT, and is almost certainly how it will play out between her and Jon at the end of ADOS.)

    I think our last shot of Jon in ADOS will be him standing in the dark with a fiery sword relit from driving it through Dany’s heart, looking out towards the pale glimpses of the remaining Others across the snow and ice in the Land of Always Winter (he’ll be immune to the cold, because he’s a resurrected wight like Coldhands).

    I’ve said before that I think at some point, Ghost is going to be mortally wounded and Jon will mercy-kill him with his sword – and that will light the blade for the first time.

    As the son of Catholic James II and Catholic Mary of Modena, James’ birth was controversial to say the least.

    It’s weird to think of how different things would have gone if James II had just been willing to pull a reverse- Henry IV of France and convert to the Church of England. Some trends – such as greater parliamentary control – were already locked-in, but with this you’d never get the Glorious Revolution and its direct consolidation of parliamentary control, followed by two Hannoverian Kings who couldn’t be bothered to rule much.

    • Andrew says:

      I’m convinced that there won’t be one “Azor Ahai.” I’m also of the theory that Arya will end up getting a flaming sword out of mercy-killing Lady Stoneheart; there’s been some foreshadowing, mainly in her ASOS chapters.

      • Brett says:

        No Valyrian steel blade, though, for Arya.

        But I do think she will mercy-kill Lady Stoneheart (and also probably kill Littlefinger at some point).

    • Rake says:

      I hope this theory that Jon will sacrifice Daenerys to get Lightbringer isn’t real because it’s Daenerys who appears to be TPTWP, she’s the one who has the main weapons to deal with the Others. Why should she be sacrificed so that Jon has a flaming sword when she already has three dragons? And I doubt that this love story will be so long as to generate a great sacrifice, I think it will be more like a fleeting relationship.

      And it’s also tiring to see that in ASOIAF several women (like Shireen, Cersei and Daenerys) have to be sacrificed so that the men who kill them (Stannis, Jaime and Jon) are always the saviors.

      Maybe Jon should be sacrificed, not Daenerys.

      • Brett says:

        I think the PTWP and Azor Ahai are different people. The latter is Jon (the Melisandre chapter was pretty blatant about that), and Dany will be the former.

        As for the sacrifice, like I said, I think it will be the last scene we have with Jon in the series, after whatever it is in the Heart of Winter is defeated and the seasons are returned to normal. I don’t think either Jon nor Dany is going to return from going north from Winterfell.

  17. Manuel S says:

    Always a nice read for breaks from work, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

  18. A thought — Cersei categorised this as “some mischief with a cat” and threatened Robert with death over it. Stannis rightly sees this as wanton animal cruelty and considers Joffrey monstrous.

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