Playin’ With Ice and Fire – A Game of Thoughts | Tyrion Lannister Chapter 13

We back and Elena focuses on info dumping while I give props to days of   ‘yore.  Forgot about us? She’s new, I’m the re-reader.  We are continuing our reread of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting our POV on.  We return covering everyone’s favorite Romeo, Tyrion Lannister!

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A Game of Thrones Chapter by Chapter Read and React

Elena –

I am happy that Tyrion decided to go North to see the Wall, while he was already up yonderways.  (Side note:  being a Texas girl originally, I sort of laughed at the whole “the North went on forever thing”…driving across Texas is like that.  On family road trips to, like, Colorado, once we were through the state line into New Mexico we were practically there even though it was still something like 4 more hours; conversely, coming home, it meant nothing when we were back in our home state because we still had 12 hours to go.)  I’m glad about this for several reasons.

First, I am delighted to keep tabs on Jon more often than his point of view would cycle around in the list of pov characters.  Second, I am happy to see the Wall through the eyes of someone who understands the world a little better than a 14-year-old boy who’s away from home for the first time.  And third, just from a narrative standpoint, I like that there will be a more even splitting of places to have two at the Wall to balance out two at Winterfell and three on the road south.

Speaking of good narrative techniques represented here, I particularly liked the way the history lesson was integrated into the fabric of Tyrion’s thoughts.  Too often in fantasy the narrator explains a social custom or historical event, and while it can be done in such a way that it’s not intrusive (if the narrative voice is meant to be omniscient not limited), when a character in a third-person-limited pov randomly starts thinking through the history of social protocol while we conveniently listen in, it rings false.

So Tyrion having borrowed a book on dragons from Winterfell because he loves dragons, and that spurring him to reflect on his memories of dragons and some of the more sensational parts of his country’s history that involve dragons, felt very natural.

My marginal comment in the section where he’s thinking of the story of the three Targaryen dragons, that reduced an army five times the size of theirs to the Field of Fire, was “technology…always an equalizer.”

Obviously dragons are the medieval equivalent of our AC130 Spectre gunships.  But why did all the dragons die?  Were they inbred to death or something?  3000 years is too fast for a rapid de-evolution like that without some external pressure assisting the degeneration.

A minor stray thought on the past…I wondered if there was a parallel between the Lannisters being the last house to fall to the Targaryens and the last house to sort of throw their weight behind Robert.  Not sure what might be implied even if it matters.  Maybe “hedge your bets” is just their house motto?

An integral part of Tyrion’s character exposition came out of this chapter for me, is how insecure he is about his size.  His basic MO for life seems to be to assume that anyone looking at him sees a freak, and preempt that by bringing it up first.  I’m not trying to say that whoever he’s meeting for the first time isn’t looking at him and seeing only his dwarfism on first glance, I mean let’s be real here, but he’s like the chubby kid who makes fat kid jokes so that you can’t.

There were a couple moments that I really prized for Martin’s ambiguity of expression.  It’s subtle, because he leaves no doubt what someone does, but what he leaves out is an implication of why.  Two examples.  The first is when Ghost knocks Tyrion down, and he asks Jon to help him up, and Jon smiles as he pets Ghost and says “Ask me nicely.”  There’s no adjective there to tell us why Jon is smiling.

Is he feeling triumphant that the man who was kind of verbally bullying him is now belittled?  Is he just amused at the fallen dwarf, as he might have laughed at a dwarf in a circus routine?  Is he just glad that he has Ghost to stand up for him now instead of being left entirely to fend for himself, and the smile has nothing much to do with Tyrion?

It’s just “Jon stroked Ghost’s thick white fur, smiling now.”  The second moment like this for me was the end of the chapter, when Tyrion sees Jon staring into the flames and smiles sadly.  What prompted the sadness—the fact that Tyrion himself no longer dreams of dragons, or that even though Jon is in some ways still a boy he has just been consigned to a life that does not allow for any more dreaming?

Is his sympathy or pity in that moment directed at himself, or at Jon?  To me what makes that kind of characterization both wonderful and frustrating is that it leaves so much to your own projection of the characters.  And if you assume one thing, you may later find out you were wrong and be disappointed in that character…or just realize you have a lot of re-reading to do to catch nuances that were missed when you read with the incorrect assumption about who someone is.

We also got to see the side of Tyrion that is his Lannister pride.  Up front, I sort of loved the summary of the Lannister philosophy:  “The Lannisters never declined, graciously or otherwise.  The Lannisters took what was offered.”  This simplicity appeals to me.  I am exactly the sort of bitch who takes you at your word, so if you tell me “no I don’t mind” when you really do…that’s your problem to deal with, not mine.  You should have given me an honest answer when I asked.  So I am right on board with this lifestyle choice.

I am not sure how out of the box it really is for this society, whether most people allow themselves to be ruled by the façade of politeness, making offers that will be refused and refusing what is offered.  It seems like it must be, for the Lannisters to continually surprise everyone with their actions, since it seems to me they don’t really try to hide what they’re all about.

Also I am suddenly reminded of my old military history professor’s description of two armies in the 18th century line style squaring off, and one politely offered to let the other shoot first, “no no no, after you,” and so the first general fired first and that was pretty much the battle…that’s the Lannisters, by Tyrion’s description—they’ll take you at your word and shoot first.  Didn’t mean it?  Shouldn’t have said it.  I can appreciate that kind of honesty.

The underhandedness of his other two siblings is more disturbing.  Is this simply the sort of perversion of power plays that Cersei, being female, has felt herself forced into using?  Or was there at some point a Lannister tradition of honest belligerence that got subverted to manipulation?  I’m curious to meet Papa Lannister now.

I also noticed that Tyrion used to fantasize about his father burning, and his sister.  That is a specific wording that omits Jaime from those fantasies—if Tyrion had meant them both, he’d have said “siblings.”

The final piece of this chapter that got me thinking was the part about who is in the guard on the Wall, that it’s not a bunch of men like Jon and Uncle Benji (speaking of whom…what made him decide to answer the noble calling?) but rather a bunch of men like the others—twisted and soured in some way or another, and thus essentially cast from society.

Tyrion was perhaps harsh in the way that he pushed the point on Jon, but he wasn’t wrong for forcing him to look at the truth.  And I am glad that Jon is not the sort of person who flinches away from the truth.  He just looked at it, and thought, “fuck.  Okay, how do I deal with this,” and started doing so.  Is that quality in him something Tyrion had guessed at in their first meeting, and perhaps why he’s taking an interest in the boy?

Because Tyrion is also that sort of person—his stature has given him no choice—and people like that are few and far between.  It’s uncomfortable to live without rationalizations.  But that propensity in Jon means he’s likely to survive in a place like the Wall, because I doubt it allows for much comfort.

– Readers, if leaving a comment for Elena please direct (@Elena) them at her – and lead your comments with your messages for her.  Please do not direct spoilers at her. Thanks!

–Do not read on if you have not read the series through A Feast for Crows and want to avoid spoilers–

Jay –

Bit of a delay between these installments because I was in the process of and completed moving halfway across the world (with 3 dogs). With that, I have other online assets that I have responsibilities to as well, so my time to directly contribute here has been scarce (I do edit/post all of the other material though), but we should back to semi-normal now, though the holidays and a first quarter of 2011 facelift at BSC may delay me slightly.

I will mention that we have something extra  prepared for aSoIaF fans that both Elena and I will be participating in coming up as well. So, back to my native country but perhaps much like Jon going to the Wall, I’m experiencing a bit of culture shock. I don’t understand why everyone cares how I’m doing and feels the need to greet me every time I enter within a 15 foot proximity field around them, but hell, at least there is no vow of celibacy.

Elena has had this chapter and the next chapter done for awhile now  so we should be back on track. Problem is, even before this transition I really didn’t have a whole lot to say about this chapter, it being a bit of scenic interlude that is and exudes this feeling of traveling, of movement, almost as if his Georgeness was trying to tell me, ‘Jay go and move, I’m carrying you on this leg”.  How do they begin? Not much unlike my own travels.

They had left Winterfell on the same day as the king, amidst all the commotion of the royal departure, riding out to the sound of men shouting and horses snorting, to the rattle of wagons and the groaning of the queen’s huge wheelhouse.

Love it because in the chapter before this, Robert and Ned joke about burning the damn wagon. Again, these are little things Martin does (or I pretend that he does) to connect chapters. I do want to go back for a moment because the wheelhouse itself just blows my mind, from the first Eddard chapter:

The wheelhouse in which they had ridden, a huge double-decked carriage of oiled oak and gilded metal pulled by forty heavy draft horses, was too wide to pass through the castle gate.

Now, I fully admit my knowledge of horses and wagon combos started at Santa and Rudolph and proudly ends at Back to the Future III, but that seems a like a lot of horses. I also picture the size of Wintefell’s gate, and while I would wager it’s not one of the largest in the 7 kingdoms, I have to think it’s still pretty damn large. The idea the king and queen can’t fit their car into one of the most powerful men on the continent’s garage has always stood out to me, even if not meant to be an intentional evaluation comparing the Stark/North and Royal line, which I think in this case – even with Robert’s characteristic of excess – is pointing more at the queen and indirectly, House Lannister.

We then get into a couple of passages of the landscape, which while a staple of epic fantasy, is something both lifetime detractors and/or the current cool rail against because they heard Tolkien did it. The idea that going back to same basic joys of imagination — perhaps once aided by and given physical form via Lego, Lincoln Logs, and now various software – is a step back…because you know…engineers, city planners, architects, and people who use to make fucking maps and embellish locational icons so people wouldn’t get lost leaving their neighborhood or site of their coast….those people are all immature assholes who are too shallow to find fascination in our own world, right?

So are several other skilled professionals I know who moonlight with dice bags, pens sharpened, and stacks of paper in an increasingly paperless world. I tend to find people who have the time to articulate distaste for something called world-building, or rather, someone’s enjoyment of it, as people who are most shallow and most in need of a world built around them that includes a Hodor hug. Martin, however, would perhaps pass the test of the obscure cynic-authority because while he had a moment when Bran was describing his ascent earlier, this opening establishes land as a character.

You hear that a lot, right?

So much so we aren’t impressed when other say or repeat it, but reading this chapter we are in an environment that man is merely still the visitor,  a character that never leaves but is also one that is allowed to drift back into the background as we, as he, gets acclimated. There are no inns, the names of locales belonged to animals, this is the wild, perhaps only Ghost fits in, and even he  not entirely. Due to the nature of the POV it’s only natural that we’d see a highly observant POV, if it was a Benjen chapter it would be a bit different. To observe, learn and experience is WHY Tyrion went. He quantifies it himself in another discussion in this chapter, he is sharpening his mind.

Tyrion sighed. “You are remarkably polite for a bastard, Snow. What you see is a dwarf. You are what, twelve?”

“Fourteen,” the boy said.

Because of the R+L=J and numerous other theories, the age of Jon as he knows it is an interesting tidbit. He says he’s 14, though it’s semi-interesting to note that Tyrion says twelve first. It’s only semi-interesting because I’m betting most of us can’t tell what age most people are and getting it by 2 years is generally a win. Regardless it’s a nice bit of dialogue to put in just to have it hanging because it – Tyrion’s guess – is otherwise rather useless to have noted for any other reason. This easy discussion is a bit different from a certain perspective when we move to the info dump identified by Elena.

It ultimately succeeds because it’s personal, but as a re-reader it does have this odd quality of being almost too obvious or abrupt in implication and was really bothering me until I considered some more. The use of stereotypes by Martin is often discussed but this is one of the most simple and powerful (which also makes it one of the most easily targeted). Tyrion, who can easily be described as character that pulls on strings that fantasy reader may be able to relate to is in fact a fan of fantasy.

Sure, dragons existed and did so relatively recently but if you use even Jon’s- a child’s- reaction is one reader of fantasy expect to get from “normal” people. Tyrion opens up like one of us would when we feel like we have safely  identify a kindred spirit, and in general, as a reader there is this odd and perhaps even unique satisfaction of running into another fan of fantasy. One would think Tyrion found few friends and as I’ve noted before, he seems to like taking on a “guiding” role (Podrick later, scolds Joff etc), perhaps in some measure to be the father that his wasn’t?

“What good is that? There are no more dragons,”

I really hate the Tyrion Targaryen theory. I like talking about it, love the idea, but would hate it to be reality. I’m also not saying the way Martin would spin it wouldn’t be great or that it doesn’t have some circumstantial (purposely) merit, or that’s it’s not even fun, but everything I love about Tyrion is based on the fact that he is a Lannister.

It’s connected to why I like Jaime and why I find Cersei deplorable (though I like her as a character), and the beauty is that all 3 are the same brood. The kinslaying, however, is this aspect that fandom has taken to be an inevitable, deathblow and the theory provides a way out. It would also make the initial meeting between Jon and Tyrion a bit corny in my mind (re-read it), though I know some would just gobble it up. Of course the obvious mention of dreaming of dragons (not necessarily a dragon dream) is also dropped here.

I, for one, think fascination with dragons is plausible just as it is and I think the vast majority of people who pick up this series can at least in someway recall a person that would share in such musings. Even more, Tyrion never struck me as a character that had to survive the next book, much less the  series, and I’m speaking of perhaps my favorite character in the entire genre. I could easily see Tyrion becoming a footnote in Jaime’s life after reading the latter’s development in A Feast for Crows, a book that, for all the shit it gets, for me firmly elevates Jaime into one of the great characters in fantasy himself. Do you think Tyrion is destined to survive?

“Dragonbone is black because of its high iron content, the book told him. It is strong as steel, yet lighter and far more flexible, and of course utterly impervious to fire. Dragonbone bows are greatly prized by the Dothraki, and small wonder. An archer so armed can outrange any wooden bow.”

My readers are at it again! It is shocking how many rather important elements – ignored or heeded- directly come from books in this series. Think about it, it’s rather startling! It’s not altogether a coincidence that the one noble known for perhaps reading too much died too early to keep the whole damn realm from falling apart.

Yes, big bully/jock  Baratheon had to pick on and kill the future king of nerds, because the jock couldn’t take that the geek took his girl. Yes, Martin even foresaw the bullying epidemic of 2010. His spin on it was that Rhaegar was actually a pimp though, a guy – almost like a movie star – that has prime women decades later still randomly thinking about him.

Fantasy fans may be condition to brush over some historical info dumps. Let’s be honest, rarely do they come into play beyond an author trying to vaguely establish age and tradition of their setting.

Martin is somewhat unique in that you ignore his history lessons at the risk of your reading enjoyment’s peril. Or is it? It’s easy to miss stuff, little stuff that doesn’t matter that could if unchecked completely lead you to avoid somewhat important questions. I talked to Elena yesterday and she had a  perfectly reasonable question which really had to do with her not remembering whose children were butchered during the sack of King’s Landing. She didn’t know how the queen could be killed, while also escaping to Dragonstone—asking if perhaps the King had two wives.

Let’s be honest, it is more than  possible that  a reader could read this book, enjoy it, and not give on extra thought to Rhaegar or his kids. Many had, have, and will, yet to us, this is a tragedy as the backstory has for many of us become as or more interesting than the generation we are currently chronicling.

You can’t not enjoy a mystery if you’re not aware of it, but even as someone who experienced the very same initial reading experience, it’s hard for me to believe, or rather hard for me to suffer someone not getting the whole story. It gnaws at me in ways like keeping a secret you don’t want to keep does. I am, however, resolute. It does speak to this idea that Martin even minus all of the herrings and layers that make this series a great piece of fiction, wrote an initial layer, the gift wrap,  that is simply a top shelf fantasy novel on its own. It’s kind of an opposite of experiment we normally see with fantasy, where if something misses we generally end up with something that’s completely nonsensical and unreadable and loses that core for the sake of an attempt at something greater.

It’s a leap, but Martin took it like a sure-footed step, so adroit, he doesn’t get enough credit for it. He made it look easy.

Elena mentions it above, but having read beyond I do love the early power check of dragons, establishing how a small number could offset a disparity in size of opposing armies. Three healthy dragons has shown to be enough to topple continents, and in relatively recent time, which is a key for me. Why?

I often find it hard to believe situations where others would place it 10,000 years ago yet we’d still live in a world that had not developed anti-dragon, laser guided, smart bullet. No, Aegon’s conquering happened recently enough, but far enough that you may have to pick up a book to read a full half-truth or so about, thus the birth of a generation’s fantasy, or at least historical fiction.

It also serves as this Lord of the Rings removal pill. The Nazgul, while looking kind of badass — especially the Witch King of Agmar – kind of gave the modern beastrider a bad name — silly arrows by puny humans driving them off. I always hate those books that have this awesome element, but WAIT humans can persevere. No, brother, medieval man would have nothing for a Cobra Rattler.

The big question, however, is why they aren’t around now? I’m glad Elena asks it as it’s way too obvious not too, so obviously, many wouldn’t.

Elena said:

I am exactly the sort of bitch who takes you at your word, so if you tell me “no I don’t mind” when you really do…that’s your problem to deal with, not mine.

She’s not just saying that!  I overpaid her last month by an article and to test her (I had read this piece some weeks before) I told her not to sweat it after she informed me of the payment. Most people would have at least given one more chance to offer it back or as credit for the next piece, but nah, she just took it! It’s refreshing and I appreciate it because I told her to keep it because it was the least time consuming reply I could give and she didn’t betray my sentiment with an extracurricular fake volley. I dare say it was like a Tywin and Kevan moment. In this, crown and faith are one.

I’m curious to meet Papa Lannister now

Is this the time to get into Tywin? I want to get this one up so I’m just going to say (and we’ve touched on this in comments of previous installments) is that I’m a big fan. As a ruler of a great house, I’m not so sure it got better than Tywin. He’s got some jacked up kids, but I tend to view Tywin as the alpha in this setting as we enter it, and that has to mean something.

The final piece of this chapter that got me thinking was the part about who is in the guard on the Wall, that it’s not a bunch of men like Jon and Uncle Benji (speaking of whom…what made him decide to answer the noble calling?)

This perplexes me too. It seems likely that Benjen was still in play during Robert’s Rebellion so we are talking only two Starks siblings of that generation alive, not a huge surplus if one considers the size of other families.

Only Ned could have ordered Benjen to the wall (barring the King himself, which is highly doubtful without Ned’s consent) so one assumes he went by choice. But let’s not talk about Benjen of House Stark, and First Ranger of the Night’s Watch. Let’s instead talk about another, one I think we appreciate a bit more later. In the meantime, however, please do share some Benjen thoughts.

Yoren was stooped and sinister, his features hidden behind a beard as black as his clothing, but he seemed as tough as an old root and as hard as stone

Yoren had a twisted shoulder and a sour smell, his hair and beard were matted and greasy and full of lice, his clothing old, patched, and seldom washed.

There will be no songs about Yoren, he will not be remarked on in the annals, and we aren’t painted a pretty picture upon meeting him. He is in many ways the optimal brother in black. In truth, the picture never changes, but our thoughts on its quality has to.

We don’t know a lot about Yoren, but he seems to embody what we’d think of as a perfect knight if he had the name and title to associate with it. Dutiful, observant, and from what we can tell a more than passing man with a blade—his end is pretty epic. I always try to consider Yoren, a man we know who has been collecting for the Night’s Watch for decades and how he must have felt regarding its decline.

I don’t feel him here, but it is when Ned falls that I do. Consider that Ned Stark was supposed to be able to  take the Black and it was Yoren who was to deliver him.  What a coup that is for the Wall – Ned being almost as optimal a choice you could find in the 7 Kingdoms for that station. Do we think he was a shoe-in to rise to Lord Commander? Yoren was about to come back with the former Warden of the North and Hand of the King, potentially a grandfather to the next King. Hell, earlier he even told Catelyn:

The day may come when I will have no choice but to call the banners and ride north to deal with this King-beyond-the-Wall for good and all.”

Sure, he’s completely wrong (no, not Ned!) but this is not a man who was not anywhere near done. Ned would never say those words in bravado to his wife, you could bet that he was going to do it and lead himself (probably when Rob was of the age to govern Winterell). Yoren suffers the loss, save Ned’s whelp, and keeps on truckling for the cause. He saves or attempts to save children of my favorite duo, Robert and Ned.

Let’s give Yoren some love. Also, new drinking game: take a sip at every “Benji”, we’re back!

Next up: Catelyn baffles us!

Published by Elena Nola and Jay Tomio

Elena Nola is the imperial editrix for the Boomtron empire. She likes genre books, weird movies, and obscure references. She lives in New Orleans, where almost every day is good enough for good times. You can follow her reviews and commentaries at Boomtron. Jay is a silent partner in Extensive Enterprises, a bastard child of Amber, an Eleint Soletaken, a probable Targaryen, and was the second-to-last Starfighter.

28 replies on “Playin’ With Ice and Fire – A Game of Thoughts | Tyrion Lannister Chapter 13”

  1. “In the meantime, however, please do share some Benjen thoughts.”

    I believe Benjen was the Stark in Winterfell during Robert’s Rebellion. When Cat came North with infant Robb, he left to take the Black now that there was an heir in place.

    During the Reed’s telling of the tale of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, they place Benjen (“the pup”) at the tourney at Harrenhall where a “A black brother spoke, asking the knights to join the Night’s Watch.” I have always thought that Benjen’s role in the events at the Tourney at Harrenhall and the fall out were what led him to take the Black

  2. @Elena: This chapter is very info-dumpy, but you get to look into the mind of Tyrion Lannister a little more, which is always a treat. This is also were I start to dislike Jon Snow. He is sort of a…well, a bastard to Tyrion here, even though Tyrion is only telling him what he needs to know. I like that Jon Snow is not a perfect person, but he is really a bit of a selfinvolved brat at this point.


    Yoren and Tywin are two of my favourite secondary characters. Tywin is the King that should have been, he could really rule the realm. With Tywin Lannister at the helm and 10 more years of peace, the Targaryens and Others would have their work cut out for them.
    Tywin really comes into his own through his sisters story about their childhood, however, and that is not untill AFFC.
    Yoren is just a great guy, and really a hero that tries to save a lot of what is basicly mostly oprhan children from a bad fate. In the end, he dies to save them, and in an epic fashion. And he has a few great qoutes, which follows up the theme of Varys fable in the same book, about the man with the sword and power structures…

    Benjen in the watch is a hard one to understand, I agree. I guess he might be gay, and seeking a place of honor where he won’t have to marry? Then again, all the single older males in this series do not have to be gay, and unlike with the Blackfish there is no other information of Benjens prior life, so it is complete specualtion on my part.

    1. @sky – hm. interesting. i definitely cringed at jon’s behavior but it didn’t change that i like him. i think tyrion was bullying him in an intellectual sense, and while i don’t agree that the physical retaliation was the right one i understood why there was a retaliation in the first place. and jon is also still very young–i think he would seem less realistic if he didn’t have lapse into self-pity or enjoying a petty revenge on someone he felt was picking on him. that was how i read his behavior in this chapter.

      but yes, i have enjoyed tyrion’s perspective quite a lot in the two chapters he’s had! looking forward to more whenever he comes back around.

      1. the fate of a second son… no home, no throne. Traditionally sent to the military or the church, in our world. here, to the Watch.


      I’m glad that Elena’s already curious about Daddy Lion. I remember somewhere through the series, where I just started chuckling because I realized that contrary to my assumptions that Tywin was our ‘Big Bad’ of the series, and as much as almost every PoV character dislikes him, he was almost certainly the greatest man of his age, or at least could’ve been, and the entire kingdom would’ve been better off with his leadership. He not only inspired fear in his followers, but also genuine respect and loyalty. Unlike Robert, who was putting the entire kingdom in debt, Tywin would’ve been good for everyone, and had the strength to provide safety and peace. Unfortunately like a lot of brilliant work-aholics, he wasn’t very good at the whole family thing.


    I actually disagree that Tywin inspired loyalty. I would, instead, say he PAID for loyalty. Whether the coin was gold or the chance to unleash your vile sadism on the masses was the only point of haggling. But he was not a man to be trifled with, I agree. Someone on Tower of the Hand said it best, to me, when he said that Tywin Lannister sold his very humanity to win back the respect of his House. He was a complex, and rather horrible man, but not someone you took lightly!

    1. You are wrong thinking Tywin didn’t inspire loyalty and have to pay for it instead. Sure, he was ruthless and no to triffle with, but he was fair in the feudal sense of the word. Kevan was devoted to him, so were his sisters. And remember, the people in King’s Landing loved Tywin during his time as Hand of the King.

      1. Too add to that remember that in his own land the cheer for Tywin rivalled and surpassed that of the King (though not as grand as for Rhaegar). I have a hard time believing that Tywin ran a gestapoish reign that sought after people who wouldn’t cheer, so I want to assume that he was viewed as at least steady as a ruler ( I think more). Violence was a tool to him, not a sickness or even a defining trait characteristic IMHO though I think we tend to skew toward that because the instances we do know of effect people we “know”. DOn’t get me wrong, the guy was definitely has issues, but in his world I ‘m not sure if he isn’t the guy you feel very comfortable with as the man in charge of the land my house sits on.

  4. @Elena Hello!

    “Is this simply the sort of perversion of power plays that Cersei, being female, has felt herself forced into using? Or was there at some point a Lannister tradition of honest belligerence that got subverted to manipulation?”

    To answer the first part of your question is a bit tricky for me. Cersei, I would opine, definitely sees herself as trapped by being female, unable to grasp the power she truly wants to bring about what she desires. On the other hand, she’s the bloody queen, and if she’d played her cards right she could have won the loyalty of many by being the long suffering wife to the faithless, drunken sot of a king. I think Jay made that point so well to me, and once he pointed it out I’ve been unable to see things any other way. In any case, yes, I guess is the answer. Cersei feels forced, but in reality she just has no subtlety, as far as I can tell. As to the overall question…To me, the history of manipulation feels more recent. I’m afraid of saying more than that, as we’d drift into Tywin territory, and I don’t want to spill any beans.

    To the rest of the chapter, I just liked the feeling of anticipation as they approached the great Wall, as well as Tyrion’s historical perspective on everything. I enjoyed the tale of the Field of Fire, though it reminded me of why I hate stories of conquerors. Still, it helped flesh out Westros for me, which I love to have done in any story I read.

    Tyrion WAS bullying Jon, as far as I could see, and the things is I can’t tell if he was doing so for Jon’s own good, or because he felt like sharing the misery he had felt from his own family all his life. In hazarding a guess, I would say that Tyrion was enjoying bringing someone down to his level of rejection openly, and wanted no misunderstandings. In setting Jon off, though, he set Ghost off. I really think Ghost’s attack was a response to Jon’s rage, and Tyrion’s moving forward was all the provocation needed to “bite back”, so to speak.

    All in all a lovely, yet restful chapter, filled with details that make these characters more alive for me. 🙂

    @Jay spoilery!!
    I myself don’t subscribe to the “Tyrion is a Targeryion theory. It would make his family troubles just seem magically unimportant, and it would lessen the impact, for me, of his killing Tywin. Besides, I have always thought that Tyrion was Twin, only with some compassion in him, and a wider view than “what’s good for the Lannisters”. Tywin wasn’t a man to be trifled with, and he took his House, which had become a laughingstock under his father, and made it great and respected again. The Reynes of Castamere, indeed! Still, he sacrificed alot, including his own humanity, really, to do it. His wish to be respected was so fierce that he not only rejected the son that he feared would bring back the laughter, but became furious at the slightest defiance from either of his other two children. He jacked up hi own kids! Their lives were not theirs, they were HIS, and all was for the glory of Casterly Rock. Even his dealings as Hand were not for the kingdom, really, but for his own power and influence. I just couldn’t even begin to like him because of that. Don’t get me started on the Red Wedding!

    I love Yoren, he is the single best guy you could meet, more so because you’d not prefer to get to know him. But once you did, you’d find one of the Watch’s finest men. His bravery against Lorch was awesome, and it pissed me off that he died. I should stop there, otherwise I’ll start waxing on my girl crush on Arya, whose badassery is outshone only by her adorable yet silly temper tantrums.

    As to Benjen…I always assumed he joined the Night’s Watch because he didn’t want to be a burden on the House, but with Brandon and Lyanna dead, he probably would have been welcome. Is it possible that he’d already pledged to join the Watch? I can’t remember.

    Ooo, I’ll be back later with more thoughts! 🙂

    1. Hi Raquel, Thanks for the thoughts on Cersei! I am not sure I’ve really seen enough of her yet to know why she is and does what she is and does, but the issue of her feeling trapped as a female and unable to grasp the power she wants seems likely. I suppose since she married a man whose heart was forever lost to a dead girl she didn’t see herself as being able to influence Robert through his love or respect for her–they were never going to have an Augustus/Livia relationship. But while the long-suffering wife role might have won her the loyalty of the people…would any of them have done anything about it unless she ALSO was playing the role that Robert gave to Jon Arryn–basically making decisions when the king would not and thus proving that she would be a capable ruler even without him? Probably not.

      Also, love that description of Robert 🙂

  5. Let me put this out there: I know he kind of fullfills (or goes through the motions as) that typical fantasy character for us, but Jon Snow…not really among my favorite characters or among those I find most compelling to read about. This opinion is relative to the cast of this book, however, which still makes him overall a character I LOVE reading about.

    A few of you have jumped on the Tywin convo, so Spoilers below…

    I’m not so sure that I buy (bad pun) Tywin buying loyalty, at least in terms of him lacking the ability to command it otherwise. For sure he did use the economic power he wielded, but I think he used them strategically in being able to distance himself from certain actions, and was not bound to them by necessity. No, he doesn’t seem to be a Robert who can have a few brews with a lord and win their allegiance, but I think being respected is in itself a form of loyalty. At its basest level, sure, we can call it fear, but I never for once viewed Tywin as someone who was (outside of his family) drastic or cruel for the sake of being cruel, and thus I think people admired his general competence. In a world where titles mean a lot, he ascended to the highest position possible and made it work.

    This always struck me as interesting because in some fashion Cersei did the same (ascend) and DIDN’T make it work, even though she always tries to compare herself to her father. Tywin was blocked from the Throne by the only man who could block him, so he found another way (placing his grandson on the Throne). But let me get back to my point, if Tywin was capable of uplifiting his house through completely benevolent means, he would do so. He’s not married to violence or cruelty in achieving his goal and doesn’t even seem to prefer it (or care at all). Out of all the dumb things we see out of Cersei, the dumbest thing was to presume to order her FATHER. When that occurred, you could kind of feel Tywin coming to that decision that Kevan tells Cersei later–you were meant to go back to the Rock. She did a lot of crazy things, but when Tywin shared that letter with Tyrion I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “she’s lost her damn mind”. BTW, that’s one of my favorite scenes in the book, because of the Tywin/Tyrion dynamic, and an early description of Kevan’s role.

    That said, the Lannisters actually seem alright, don’t they? We meet the other through Jaime and they really bring this sense of”normal” we definitely don’t get from the heads of the house, which I think is important: the Lannisters, most of them are just like anyone else.

    Also, who is the one guy you don’t want on a continent you are going to invade? I’d say a fit/well Robert Baratheon and Tywin Lannister. In a society like this, that’s about as ultimate a compliment you can give somebody.

    As a leader though, he seemed to command respect and was good at everything he did. He was by most accounts an effective Hand of the King – and was pretty young when he did so – and was in a position to be able to walk from that position with title and lands intact. He was outmanuvered by only Aerys, twice, and at the end of the day I’d suggest he has the last laugh on that account.

    The father issue, sure, he was a supreme dick to Tyrion, no getting around that but I think even the most 21st century of minds can somewhat feel him. He goes overboard (though easily within his power), but Tyrion is a dwarf, and one’s whose birth killed his wife. It’s not mindblowing that he resents him (even if we ignore more speculation on why), especially considering Tywin’s ALREADY placed ambitions considering his family and their perception. Also, let’s keep this in mind that Tywin’s power and respect/fear he was afforded allowed for Tyrion to do shit like take vacations, wench, and read books all of the time, in relative comfort. If Tyrion was NOT a Lannister who knows what would have happened to him, I don’t even put it beyond the Starks to have had him offed. Hell, I don’t care what the circumstances were, he named Tyrion the Hand of the King, the very office he once held.

    That said, if I was a citizen of Westeros, I don’t think I’d be bad off living under House Lannister. You know there is money and you also know Tywin would protect his borders. What Tywin does to the Riverlands? Would never happen to a Tywin ruled West and go unanswered for so long.

    I always wondered what Tywin would have done about Joff.


  6. Uncle Benji (speaking of whom…what made him decide to answer the noble calling?)

    My pet theory involves several factors:
    1) Grief over Lyanna and Brandon’s deaths
    2) Anger over being left behind (this is an educated guess on my part, Benjen being left behind I mean, based off of “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell”, and because we hear *nothing* about his involvement in the rebellion) which couples guilt with 1)
    3) If we presume 2), Benjen would not have left until after Ned returned to Winterfell. By that time Robb was born, and thus Ned had an heir. So now, not only was he not able to help fight to prevent/avenge his sibling’s deaths, he’s no longer second in line for Winterfell.
    4) He’s a Stark. This is the North. It is an acceptable, and noble, calling for noble sons with nothing/little to inherent.
    5) He wants to do something to offset/atone for his guilt over 1) and 2), something “meaningful” that helps protect innocent people.

    But, mostly 1) and 2). In a nutshell, “You got this one, Ned? I’m done with this crazy game.”

  7. @Jay SPOILERS!!!!

    Let me say that I wasn’t thinking mainly of Tywin’s treatment of Tyrion, and that I agree, Tyrion had it pretty good. No love or respect from his dad, but even he acknowledged that he depended on his name and his father’s gold to get him through life. I won’t deny that Tywin Lannister was interesting, complex, and many layered. I hate to make that Shrek joke, but he really was that way for me; an onion. Jaime is too, but that’s another story. But I could never warm up to him, or even like him, for all of the reasons he was respected. He was willing to sacrifice a deal too much in the name of power and respect for his house. And to me, his bad treatment didn’t end with Tyrion, The Imp simply got the worst of it. Tywin struck me as being more than ready to be offended when his children defied him, although in Cersei’s case I always hoped he’d teach HER a sharp lesson. But maybe he did, who knows?

    The Lannister Dogs are another point where this comes out. Gregor Clegane, Amory Lorch, and even The Hound (my absolute favorite character) reflect Tywin’s ruthlessness, and I don’t see this as a good thing. Just to clarify, GRRM was once asked if Sandor was part of the Sack of King’s Landing (unnecessary, as far as I could tell) and the answer was yes.… scroll towards the bottom.
    I guess my point is that, despite the relative seeming coolness of his character, I was never able to like him because, to me, his personal demons ruled him to the point of removing any scrap of humanity out of him. What he was willing to do, who he was willing to surround himself with, and the lines he would cross ensured that he was deeply respected and feared, and this affected my opinion of him more even than the treatment of his children. I still say he was the one who jacked them up, lol!

    Also, when do you think would be a good time to introduce Elena to R+L=J? I don’t want to jump the gun, but is even after AGOT acceptable? There’s an excellent essay about the whole thing on Tower of the Hand:
    But it contains more spoilers than book one, I think. I just wanted to ask, as it’s not something that would come up in the normal course of reading, would it? And I’m kinda excited to share it with Elena. Obviously, though, I’m not saying anything about it until it’s ok! Or would you prefer to do it, and we stay out of it?

    And….do you think Benjen might be Coldhands?

  8. The Return! I’ve got a few comments I think I’ll share:
    @Elena – 3000 years to destroy the dragons – possibly a typo? It says it was about 300 years… even less, since the dragons died out before the Targaryens…
    As for the Lannisters – I think that’s why they’re one of the families I like most. They’re very practical, pragmatic, one might even say down-to-earth, in spite (or maybe because) of their status. We already see the Starks as some uber-responsible/tough family because of their status, and the current royal family seems to be the opposite (we’re royal, let’s have fun). We’ll see other families with other quirks such as arrogance/self-righteousness, etc. (I won’t describe more so as not to spoil). But the Lannisters have thier edge on them all by abandoning these pretensions, which may come from family history – their legendary rise came from Lann the Trickster tricking the Casterly’s to gain the Rock.

    @Jay (spoiler warning):
    I dislike the Targaryen Tyrion theory as well. Not only does it make little sense and have no solid evidence, (to me) it ruins a large part of Tyrion’s development. How much emotional effect does Tyrion’s upbringing have if it can be waved off with ‘he wasn’t my father, and he hated my real father even before he slept with Joanna’? It also totally destroys family relationships with his siblings.
    As an archery fan, I really liked the part with dragonbone, and its’ portayal in later books. I also shows the effectsof dragons on the world beyond just themselves – if the victory during the Blackfyre Rebellion was largely because of the Ravens’ Teeth firing on Daemon Blackfyre, what would have happened if their bows were less powerful, or the Blackfyre’s had more powerfull bows? Dragons – winning battles even when dead!
    I don’t think this is the place to discuss LotR, but what did you expect of Pegasi? The Nazgul’s power was in themselves. Flying horses just made it easier for them to get around and do stuff. Now if they had gathered all together and landed on the top level of Minas Tirith and decimated defenders, opening another front, that would have been tactical use of them. But considering they’re formless and can be defeated by fire… they themselves hold mostly the power of fear. Only the Witch-King’s mount was truly a weapon. But I digress.
    “As a ruler of a great house, I’m not so sure it got better than Tywin.” Disagree. While as a power player, he was the best, he wrecked himself in the long term, sacrificing his future for the present. What happens when he dies? It all falls apart. What was he thinking, exactly? He didn’t want Cersei to rule the Rock. Jaime couldn’t and wouldn’t. And he completely alienated Tyrion, while also not wanting him to get the Rock (and willing to kill/exile him). Who would rule the Lannister’s? Tommen was king by the time he completely kicked Tyrion out. Myrcella was in Dorne. As the ‘children’ of Robert, with Stannis attainted, they would have gotten the Baratheon lands as well. So Myrcella would have had both Storm’s End and the Rock? But her husband was Dornish, and the nobles of Baratheon and Lannister would have expected him to have the power, those places not being Dorne.
    So what was his plan for the future? I can only guess. Before Joffrey died, it was probably that Tommen would rule (the lands, not the kingdom), and he would educate Tommen. But he didn’t have a plan B? Tywin must have had a plan B, he’s too good a player not to. Was he that self-assured? Any ideas/suggestions?
    And that’s why I crown Doran as the best player. He didn’t seem to be a threat to anyone (thus having no enemies other than natural ones – Tyrells). He didn’t seem to visibly gain power, even though his son was betrothed to the woman who would control two great families, and he would get to educate Myrcella. His kids liked him well enough (Arianne is more complicated, to be adressed elsewhere) and knew how to rule properly enough. Best of all, whoever won, he would gain. If Tywin won – He gets Myrcella and her lands. If the Targaryens return – he’s got Quentyn betrothed to Dany. If by some weird chance Robb won – it doesn’t affect him (Robb was fighting for the independence of the North and Riverlands), so he gets the same. If Stannis (by a wweirder chance) wins – he didn’t lose anything, still has his hand in the Targaryen pie, and has Myrcella either as the rallying point for Lannister/Baratheon (and who wouldn’t take her compared with Stannis and his judgement?) or as a bargaining point with Stannis (I didn’t know anything, I wasn’t there, I didn’t do anything, I didn’t know she was a bastard – I betrothed my son to her by mistake!’). Oops. Just realized the length of this… kinda went off on a tangent… but even ignoring Doran, it’s a real issue – what was Tywin planning for when he won (or even lost – like I said, he’s not the kind of guy who doesn’t have plan B)?

    1. My point regarding LOTR, the films, was simply one of a comparison of helluva awesome but relatively pretty useless in comparison. As much that was made of the Nine and their look, they were ultimately pretty weak in the films. There is a rather funny Cracked article about the Witch King of Agmar.


      Regarding Tywin, I think it’s a pretty large reach to blame Tywin (or anyone) for everything his family couldn’t or didn’t do, even as he PERFECTLY placed them to succeed, working even around a Taragaryen King to do so. He was undone by other people, the stupidity of some of his own children, but he put his daughter in the highest office a women can gain on the continent, thus putting his grandson(s) on the throne. He did almost nothing wrong excluding being in the field and winning a war, which didn’t allow him to watch his crazy daughter. In many ways, if Cersei wasn’t a complete psycho he would have come out almost perfect. Cersei, made everything in these books necessary by not playing her role with Robert straight to begin with (as I mentioned before, and you noted). Only thing I would have done differently was I would have sent Kevan to KL as Hand/Regent, and displaced Cersei while the war was going on. He may have decided not to, because he might have felt he had the situation in hand and it wouldn’t last much longer and he underestimated just how much damage his daughter was capable of in a short amount of time (even Littlefinger comments on this later). But through all of that, he won anyway. He was murdered, but I’m thinking the next few weeks, Tywin was going to clean house and somebody did not want that at all–a strong Lannister/Tyrell alliance with Tywin in command? Serious trouble. As for a Plan B, we don’t know, he was murdered before we knew what he intended to do once he was the power in KL.

      As a lord, we have to most importantly note the stability of his own lands, which seem pretty undisputed in his favor. “The Game” is relevant because that’s what the book centers on, but as a feudal liege-lord he seems to be in the running as rather successful. I don’t think living in Lannisport is the worst.

      Not wanting Cersei to rule the Rock seems pretty brilliant now, and as Kevan said, Jaime was always his intended heir. The White would not have been an issue for Tywin, and lets be honest, no ruling house would place a Tyrion as their heir (look at the Samwell example for even a less extreme example).

      Doran? It only seems like he’s not a threat to anyone because he’s not–which is what doing nothing does. I like Doran and I’m optimistic, but basically all he’s done is nothing Lord Frey can’t lay claim to (by accident), and that’s outliving people he has issues with. The reality is that everything that has happened in the Seven Kingdoms since the Sack could have occurred without Dorne or Doran even existing. Let’s compare for a moment. One, Tywin’s own familiar holding are certainly no less than Doran’s. By all indication Tywin is the wealthiest and among the most powerful men on the continent. We have to view the Throne separately, but the Lannister’s owns holding seems to be in good order. Remember, Tywin is not the King but he seems to be a damn fine lord, and Warden of the West.

      “(thus having no enemies other than natural ones – Tyrells”

      Who by themselves could probably hold the Martels in check. With the power of the West behind them? Not even worth considering. We have to separate the idea of making your ability to do something and simply NOT being able to do anything. By Doran’s own admission, Dorne didn’t do anything because they couldn’t, not because he wanted to wait decades for vengeance. If Tywin had an issue with Doran, he would be dead already. Does anybody doubt that? If Doran would have butchered Twin’s sister, Doran would not be around, and that is the difference.


        I agree with everything you are saying here, except I have more sympahty with Cersei’s pligth as the husband of Robert Baratheon.
        Still, I’m with you on Tywin. Though Dorne is basicly uncouqurable, even the Targaryens at the heigth of their power could do it.

        1. *spoilers*

          I’ll tell you why I have little sympathy (which isn’t to say I find it unrealistic or her unreasonable at all) for her in that regard. it seems clear to me that Cersei has never been in the game of a dream a husband and has always viewed herself as player with ambitions. Knowing this, she gave up everything she bitches about because a guy said another girl’s name. This happens quite a bit, and a real player would have hated it and rolled with it. Ultimately she finds excuses not to achieve her goal, one’s she herself creates.

          She didn’t marry Robert out of love, but I’m sure she wanted to be queen and/or the mother of kings. If she wasn’t a self-styled “player” I’d completely have sympathy for her as this powerless pawn of her father, but she clearly has plans and ambitions of her own and she lets THE dumbest thing in the world get in the way of the clarity of that goal. If she was Catelyn (the way she handles the Jon situation) she would be in a perfect position as Queen, her son’s kings, with a rather harmless Robert as King who’d eventually drink himself to death (which ironically, he did anyway).

          Look at it this way. She kills Robert. What has she gained that she didn’t have before? Some will say the whole “Renly brings Margaery to court”, but that’s lunacy because clearly we see a Robert when talking to Ned who would NEVER disrespect Tywin, especially to that extent. Oh, he might knock it down, but he’d never marry her and depose Cersei.

          Regarding Dorne, being conquered and being rendered hapless is basically the same thing. Dorne is easily bottled up and from what I can remember (somebody correct me if I’m wrong) provides no vital resource to bargain with (like the Reach does). You don’t have to conquer Dorne to defeat them.

          *END SPOILERS*

          1. mostly @Jay

            Ah. You were talking about the movie Nazgul mounts. Yeah, they made no sense. I was thinking about the book Nazgul.

            I don’t blame Tywin for putting people in positions and then them failing to do what was expected of them – I blame him for not putting the right people in position (or making sure the people he was putting were the right ones) and not checking up on them. Cersei was queen for what? 15 years? At which point did Tywin visit and see how things were going? He knew what a sot Robert was. It seems obvious that Joffrey would be king soon. He never thought to check how Joffrey was growing up? If Cersei was teaching him politics? If Cersei was even doing the right thing in politics? You said it yourself – his lands were fine! He didn’t have any crisis to deal with after the Greyjoy rebellion, which was ten years ago. he never thought to see how his kids were doing after that? If Jaime was amenable to leaving the KG, if Joffrey/Cersei were in a good position and knew what to do?
            Did he know his daughter and son at all? See, Doran surely has the advantage here – he knows Quentyn is like him and will do the right thing – he trusts him enough to send him to Dany practically alone, and he knows what Arianne will do and foils it almost perfectly. How could Tywin who was so perfect miss that much?

            As a lord, he was great, I’ll agree, no argument. Tywin proves his worth during the war, when everywhere but Dorne, the Vale and the Reach are ravaged, while the Westerlands remain intact aside from a few fortresses (and considering how the other three weren’t involved at all in the war, that’s no great accomplishment). But you have to wonder – nobody seems to be in a bad situation (relatively, compared to their land – I don’t expect Dorne to be as rich as the Reach) before the war starts. Tywin’s advantage while not at war is a natural one – The West ahs gold Mines and a more fertile land than some other places.

            I’ll also concede that the evidence for Doran being a great player is silent and not yet confirmed, and a lot of it may be chance. But then again, a large part of the game is taking advantage of chance, and even more, patience. Tywin himself waited until the Targaryens were in dire straits to get his revenge, and another skilled player – Petyr Baelish – plays a very long game which still isn’t over, and seems to be winning. Taking Petyr as an example, until his reveal, who would have guessed him as such a major player? Not many, because it was all practically behind the scenes (though flashes of it were seen). The same can apply for Doran. I’ll elaborate more when we get to that chapter, but how much of what Varys does may be in collusion with Doran?
            You say “We have to view the Throne separately, but the Lannister’s owns holding seems to be in good order”. So both Tywin and Doran are good lords, with apossible advantage to Tywin since in war, his lands are still (besides a few conquered fortresses) in good order (though it’s irrelevant to compare in war, because even if Dorne were in the war, nobody sane would actually attack it). So Tywin is shown as a good player, which may trump Doran as a possible great player. But suggesting it’s a separate view is very hard to accept. Eddard (And maybe Robb, who won every battle but lost the war) was a good lord and a poor player, and where have the Starks ended up? Now that Tywin’s dead, where will the Lannisters end up? Yes, a lot of it was out of his control as you said about people not doing what they were placed to do, but besides my above points, what player doesn’t prepare for his plans not working?

            ” “(thus having no enemies other than natural ones – Tyrells”
            Who by themselves could probably hold the Tyrells in check.”
            – Second ‘Tyrells’ is probably a typo, and you mean the Martells. But the question is: Could the Tyrells/the Realm sustain it? It seems clear that Dorne could sustain a blockade/war – they lived as a separate kingdom for at least 100 years, and managed to survive (and win) a war in their land agaisnt far superior forces for 2 years. A blockade/siege over a whole country, even when so easily blocked as Dorne is expensive, especially since you need large fleets to do it by sea as well. And how feasible is it when other threats abound as well, in this case the Ironmen raiding in the absence of ships or Dany crossing the sea?

            “If Tywin had an issue with Doran, he would be dead already. Does anybody doubt that? If Doran would have butchered Twin’s sister, Doran would not be around, and that is the difference.”
            – Only if he was killed by stealth, not war. And if the end result is the same, does it matter that it wasn’t your hand that pulled the trigger? Neither Tywin or Doran strike me as the overly sentimental types who have to be the ones who do it – though both would regret the missed opportunity, as Doran does.

            To conclude. Tywin is a great lord, perhaps the greatest, especially if you consider his natural advantages (mostly the rich Westerlands). As a player in the GoT? I’m not so sure. A large part of the Game is sudden changes, shifts, high chances that your plans won’t always succeed and always beign aware, ready and prepared. Was Tywin? I don’t see it.


          2. *Spoilers*

            Well, let me first clarify that Tywin is FAR from perfect and the distance between him and his grandson remains as somewhat of a mystery to me,it’s kind of one of those questions that would involves way to many “ifs” to get into. I do find it interesting that Robert, who was kept at a relative distance from his son, seemed to see so clearly that his son was “off”. Being lazy, though, Joff falls into yet another thing you can put a lot of the blame on Cersei–you can see how she treats Tommen.

            Well, this is one of the those issues we face in the real world when we view people of wealth, especially inherited wealth or means to wealth. It’s certainly advantageous and one hell of a thing a fall back on, but we should note that its often states what Tywin DID with that wealth and the gains he made for his family that his father never did, or could. Money has little to do with being the type of man who’d stare down a Targaryen King, indeed, one of means would probably be much more careful because they have something to lose. It’s noted tha Tywin left Aerys direct service with titles and lands intact — he could have always had that taken away from him on a whim by the King. The problem with the Doran, Tywin and Littlefinger comparison is that in some way Tywin holds the cards the other two want. The latter two have made obvious gains, they played the game and have a bit more in their pot than before. With Doran, it’s a degree of difficulty situation where we can talk about what he has or may have done, but at the end of the day, neither he or Dorne have outwardly gained anything they wouldn’t have gained if he was just sitting around, not angry at all. Tywin and Littlefinger play differently but both are active and have gained. Not to mention, if we ask the question of Tywin regarding his hands on knowledge, we have to seriously question Doran’s apparent complete lack of knowledge regarding the nature of Viserys. Here is a man that obviously has affection for children, but was prepared to send his daughter to that lunatic?

            My point about Dorne is who cares if you can’t conquer them? All you have to do is isolate and ignore them. They can’t march on the Reach. Their perspective is that they’ve been playing the smart, long game laying low, but in all honestly that’s all they can do. We are crediting Doran for simply not being a fool and marching against the entire kingdom. That doesn’t take a genius to do! They are the way they are out of necessity, not out of being better at the game. You don’t have to go to war with Dorne, you can let them sit there and be mad.

            Again though, when remarking on the “players”, Tywin has already won and it’s why Dorne just doesn’t hold up. For the most part, the Lannisters held the piece of the the throne since the Sack of King’s Landing, all the way through where we are now. The other people we are talking about are “trying” to get power – Tywin’s grandson is the King of the Realm, his daughter is the queen – he HOLDS power, even if was through Robert, who clearly knew not to disrespect Tywin. You consider that an the debt the crown owes him economically and we are talking about two different beasts. Tywin is playing with crown chips and nobody has really been at that table excluding perhaps the Tyrell recently. I think it’s very easy being Dorne because nobody cares about Dorne.
            Why go to war with Dorne? They have nothing anybody wants and by themselves are next to harmless.I think we are forgetttng, essentially Tywin has HELD the Throne to the extent he desired since Aerys died. He’s not out for revenge or trying to elevate his station any more, his direct descendant is already King. Beyond that, I never viewed Tywin as playing any game beyond maintaining – what else was there for him to do? As soon as a threat did make itself know, he went to war and did so immediately. And Won.

            Regarding Vary and Dorne, something I’ve touched on previously here, at best it seems Varys and Illyrio are holding back from him and he’s a part of their game more than the opposite. That said, that entire corner is a bit vague. It’s not that I don’t think Doran can’t play the game, I just think we are confusing winning with not losing.

  9. @Jay


    I don’t know. I’ll admit to most of your points about Dorne (seemingly) being irrelevant and not having visible gains, but still, knowing GRRM and inferring from his hints, I think we’ve got a lot to see before the game ends. But at the same time, if Dorne makes those gains as is planned, their position is the greatest – folding before the chips are in in every round, only to go all in at the last and win the pot. There is an advantage to seeming irrelevant – nobody attacks you.
    Still, disregarding that, I’ll give you that Dorne is mostly irrelevant, and will say that way (unless thier plans work). But I’ll still say that something went wrong with Tywin and how he never educated his children and grandchildren until it was too late – and that something was (and/or will be) disasterous for the Lannister’s long-term game.
    As an end note, regarding Arianne/Doran/Viserys – Doran knew for sure. Do you really think Doran kept Arianne clueless at home for so long because of her mother? You know, the mother who was gone for at least a two years by the beginning of the war? The one he completely didn’t listen to regarding Quentyn?

  10. hi koby,

    RE whether I meant 3000 or 300 I am not sure, but either way it’s a pretty swift de-evolution, unelss dragons breed at the rates of dogs and were being selectively mated (both doubtful). but you’re probably right that i meant 300, if that was what it said in the book. 🙂

    RE lannisters – I’m certainly very curious to meet the old man at this point. i like tyrion, and i do not like cersei but i’ve got a theory on her that at least makes her understandable to me, jaime…remains to be seen. but i’m curious about their father.

    1. Elena, I always assumed that dragons couldn’t thrive in Westeros because it’s too different from Valyria, where they’re from. Climate, diet, who knows… plausible enough for an imaginary animal.

      (Not really spoilery, but backstory that may not have been explained yet: The continent of Valyria was mostly destroyed in some mysterious disaster 100 years before Aegon invaded Westeros. The Targaryens, and their dragons, only survived because they were hanging out at Dragonstone at the time. The dragons lasted long enough to help them conquer the Seven Kingdoms, but the species had already started declining as soon as they were brought to Dragonstone; maybe removing them from Valyria voided the warranty. Or, maybe the Valyrians used to capture all their dragons in the wild and they don’t do well in captivity.)

  11. Regarding bows again: I just realized GRRM has the best source for what he wrote about dragonbone being good for a bow – in LotR Bilbo sings of Earendil that ‘His Bow was made of Dragonhorn’.

  12. Omg, VERY interesting idea! I DO LOVE your “thoughtful reading/re-reading”. Amazing)))
    Waiting for more! 😉

  13. Since I figured you won’t go back to read the previous comments, I’ll write it all in this one. There’s not that much that I wanted to add to what you already mentioned anyway so here goes…

    First of, I love what you’re doing, I wanted to do something like that for a really long time, but I always figured I wouldn’t be able to find anyone who would read the book in such a way for the first time. Elena, thanks for doing this, I can’t imagine not being „allowed“ to read this book in huge chunks. That said, there’s no spoilers below I just wanted to say a few things that made an impression. I’ve read the books 4 times and this recap made me start over for the fifth time, since I want to catch as many clues as possible. There’s lot’s that I’ve missed even on the 4th re-read.

    Ok, I wanted to emphasize the line from the first Jon chapter, when Tyrion walks back in the hall and to Jon he seems, if only for a moment, as tall as a king. I think this line made a huge impression on me the first time I read it and has stuck with me all this time. It probably made me love Tyrion even more, as if it was his soul that Jon really saw here at that moment. In turn Tyrion immediately saw Jon for what he was and that sort of connected them for at from the start. They were both outsiders who preffered to observe life, explore and experience new things rather than take center stage, unless they have to, and then they are usually capable of dealing with it.

    In the Arya chapter you asked what us guy readers thought of her when we first read the book. On my first read there were three characters that I really loved – Tyrion, Jon and Arya. Later I’ve added some other characters and some of the ones I liked grew distant, though I still can’t wait to read chapters about Arya, Jon or Tyrion. They have that sort of flawed personality that make them very relatable. They also tend to deal with situations as they come along, which I admire. It’s not about making plans and scheming for them, but seeing what is going on and dealing with it, changing their plans and adapting as new things happen. As for the gender thing, the POV’s that I hated the most were Sansa’s and another female character that appears later on. I don’t mean that I didn’t like the chapters. I think Martin has the ability to write about the most boring thing, he could write about the paint drying and still make it wonderful prose. But Sansa is just unrelatable to me, not to mention boring, and worst of all, naive. Though in general, in most other novels or series, as well as in real life, I tend to relate to a woman’s point of view more easily than a man’s.

    This next part isn’t really spoilerish but it does touch things Jay was talking about, so Elena should probably stop reading at this point.

    @Jay: You mentioned twice that you don’t understand why Cersei feels threatened by Ned. I think it’s not that she fears him while Robert is alive. She can control Robert, even with Ned around ,though Ned thinks he could still persuade him on the important things – but we later see with the Targaryen kids that he cannot. But she probably had plans for getting rid of Robert and of having Jaime (even if he was in the Kingsguard) or Tywin as Hand. I think Ned accepting the position and Cersei whining about it, was simply her disappointment. She didn’t start properly dealing with her plans falling apart. I think that’s what makes her different from Tyrion. She makes a plan and when it doesn’t work out, she’s unprepared, because she can’t grasp that she didn’t plan for everything. When Tyrion’s plans don’t work out, he’s always quick on his fit, adapting to the new situation. So what I’m saying is, if Ned had stayed home, she would have less problems with getting rid of Robert. And she needed to get rid of Robert because her ultimate dream at this point is to somehow become king, marry Jaime and make him her Queen. Really hope this makes sense 🙂

    As for Catelyn I liked her most during the time she waits for Robb at the whispering forest and when she talks to Renly. I her first chapter I had no real opinion as far as I can remember and other than that I think I mostly disliked her. She did have a great ending though, and it’s another example of how very genius Martin’s writing is. He can make you feel sorry for characters even when you utterly hate them, when something that they don’t deserve happens to them.

    Next…is Tyrion destined to survive. IMHO Tyrion has the best chances of surviving, though I’m not exactly sure why. Like Arya or Jon, he knows how to get out of a tight spot. I think the same is true of Dany, but in her case, with half the world wanting her dragons and the other half wanting to spread her legs, I wouldn’t put it past Martin to kill her off and simply keep the dragons…no-one ever said that there has to be a Targaryen in the end. And the Starks actually were kings before Targaryens…it’s 6.45 AM at the moment (I was, like Tyrion, reading (the recaps and comments) all night) so I’m not really sure of my minds reliability, but I think there’s nothing anywhere really set in stone about that. Though if I’m making a fool of myself or forgetting something, please let me know 🙂

    end of spoilers

    One other thing, and I’m sorry this post is soooo long….I’m aware that on my first read I missed nearly all of the „big questions“. I’ve noticed some on my second and more on my third read. Even after my fourth read I think I’m probably still missing some things. But when someone points something out for me or I read about a theory, I can easily see how it all fits into the great big picture, so Elena, don’t stress yourself about noticing every single detail, and Jay, keep the secrets to yourself. She will eventually finish the books and when you later fill in the blanks it will all make perfect sense to her (or at least as much sense as it does to you:) ).

    On that note, I hate it when people whine about Martin’s slow writing. The reason why everything fit’s in this story and why there are so many new details to find in countless re-reads is that he took the time to put them there and if he rushed it, it could all collapse very quickly. Only by taking his time will he ever finish this in such a way that will not leave us disappointed.

    Oh, almost forgot…one more question for Elena: after these 13 chapters, are you still confused about who’s whom? I know there are probably still names you forgot and there’s still new names coming in, but are you, at this point, comfortable with the big ones? I know I had a problem with remembering who belongs where, but I can’t remember how long this lasted and it’s probably the biggest problem new readers have…

    Anyway, I’ve subscribed to this blog (is it a blog?), and I’m waiting on the next chapter…thanks again for doing it!

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