Playin’ with Ice and Fire – A Game of Thoughts | Eddard Stark Chapter 12

Elena and I agree on something! Oh, How we glitter! She’s new, I’m the re-reader. Together we are rereading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting our POV on. We are back with a Ned Stark chapter and I waive the white flag as Elena gets kind of nice this week (and like Robert, I’d rather be hunting or wenching than blogging).

game of thrones

A Game of Thrones Chapter by Chapter Read and React

Elena –

This is a funny chapter to me, because I know Jay likes it (no, he hasn’t told me why in the grander scheme, just that it’s one he enjoys), and I…had an interesting reaction to Robert based on what he reveals in this chapter.  As I am certain I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t get a particularly good first impression of the king.  He seems brash and blustery and stubborn in perhaps the wrong ways.  That impression was only exacerbated here with his interactions with old friend Ned Stark.

Oh, but before we get to that, one important point about Ned.

This scene gave me new insight into Ned’s reasons for taking Jon back home with him and then keeping him around instead of farming him off on someone near Winterfell but not in it.  I had assumed that he did it either out of sentiment toward Jon’s mother or simply a sense of duty to a child he sired—Starks take care of their own style.

But this discussion with Robert, in the context of Robert emphasizing how Ned “never [was] the boy he [was],” basically how responsible and honorable Ned had always been, and then Ned speaking with what sounded like self-loathing for having slipped up that once, made me think…did he want to keep Jon, at least in part, as a reminder to himself of the one time his honor failed him?  (Or that he failed his honor; not sure which way it goes.)  In that case, it wasn’t meant to hurt Catelyn but Ned, but if it hurt Catelyn and thereby his marriage, or at least added an additional prick of guilt to his conscience, perhaps he was in a perverse way glad about it, because that meant he was being punished for his transgression?

Secondary insight into Ned from this chapter:  does he actually trust Robert, or is it a friendship that has outlived its natural timeline?  Ned is mature, responsible, duty-bound, secure in himself and his position, and Robert is restless, wild, ungovernable, and willful.  The fact that Robert thinks Ned can be as prickly as a hedgehog so often it should be on his banner implies that Ned doesn’t confide in Robert and has put off too-personal questions with that defensiveness for a long time.  Which means that he doesn’t, at the end of the day, trust him with his secrets or his innermost thoughts.

Is it Robert himself that Ned doesn’t trust, though, or Robert the king?  I can’t decide which one is more sad.  Does this go back to Robert accepting Tywin Lannister’s murder (“It’s war!”) of the queen and her children, and the schism that caused between him and Ned?  Even though Lyanna’s death “brought them back together,” some breaches of trust are simply unspannable, and perhaps Robert created one then.  Or is Ned’s reticence with him now more just that they haven’t seen much of one another for 15 years and, since Robert is king, there is now a power imbalance between them?  After all, as Aristotle (er…I think it was Aristotle) pointed out, true friendship can exist only between equals.

Okay.  So on to the whole bit about Papa Lannister killing the old king’s wife and chirrens.  Obviously Machiavelli has not shown up in this society yet (or if he has his name is Lannister, lol), because if he had Robert would have killed those last two Targaryens years ago, Jon Arryn notwithstanding.  Because ole Mack understood that if you’re going to be merciful, you have to make that enemy love you, which option Lannister sort of took away from him.  If Robert wanted to try it anyway, it would have necessitated raising Viserys and Dany in his own household as opposed to them wandering the free cities at the mercy of men who fed Viserys’s self-importance and delusions of grandeur and hatred of “the usurper.”

But since the Lannisters sort of made the decision for him to be ruthless, Robert really ought to have gone full ruthless.  You can’t be half a gangster, as they say on Boardwalk Empire.  If Robert really had the opportunity to kill those kids as he implied, then he should have, children or not.

Jon Arryn or not.  I know that Arryn was like a father to him, but, damn, has Robert spent his entire time as king being ruled by other men’s advice?  Ned thinks that he won’t be able to control him or temper his decisions, the way Jon Arryn could, which implies that neither of them look at Robert and see a good king.

I mean, kings should have advisors, I’m not saying a king should act like he’s an island or something, but it seems more that Robert doesn’t know how to be a king and doesn’t want to learn.  In fact, he came right out and said as much to Ned, that he wants Ned to do the work of being king so he can just enjoy it.  This just implies that Jon Arryn, his previous Hand, had been the one doing the work of ruling before his death.

Which brings up a rather glaring question:  why the hell did Robert become the king in the first place?  If he and Ned started the war together, why was he the one who took the throne?  Was Robert the instigator?  Was he the master tactician?  Did Ned simply not want it?  Would Jon Arryn have led an army if only Robert had been threatened but not if only Ned had been? Seriously.  If this is discussed earlier when I had no proper context for it someone please point that out.  Otherwise, is this question ever answered?  (Please, just yes or no, don’t answer it!)

Another question:  what did Varys the eunuch, the old king’s spy master, do to prove to the new king that he could be trusted?  That seems…like a damn lot of trust to put into someone who used to serve the man you had killed.  Perhaps he helped overthrow the old mad bastard?

Speaking of the overthrowing.  Ned’s story about Jaime Lannister at 17 sitting on the king’s throne when he came into the sacked city.  Uh.  Why was this such a big deal?  I hate to contradict myself and take Robert’s side, but if that was Ned’s big argument for why Robert shouldn’t give Jaime any power, it kind of fails.

Like, I agree with Ned:  Jaime should not be made Warden of the East, because it puts too much power in the hands of one family, period, regardless of whether they have further pretensions to the throne.  But if Ned had really felt like Jaime Lannister was sitting in the throne daydreaming about being king, and that was his point about not making Jaime Warden, then he should really have bitched out that story a little bit more.  Because even I was like “that’s it?  Really?

That’s the deep dark secret reason you hate Jaime Lannister that has kept you up at nights for 14 years?”—and I don’t even like the Lannisters!  And I have the audience’s eyes that saw Jaime get caught fucking his sister and then push an 8-year-old out a window.  8-year-old, dude.  So I despise the guy, but even for me that was a weak story.

However, this talk of Lannisters and Warden of the East brings up a final point:  Is Robert retarded?  Seriously, how does he not see that the Lannisters play these games in terms of decades, not years?  Because right now, Lannisters have the West and the throne (Cersei; or, if she can’t be counted, then her son in a matter of decades, if not sooner), and Robert is planning to give them the East, as well?  So the one family will then have East, and West?  Seriously, he doesn’t see the problem with this?  Or is he just that happy to abdicate responsibility because he never much wanted to be king, anyway, it was just a means to an end, and that end was staying alive and killing his enemies, and his life was just downhill from there?

At first I thought maybe he has a too-trusting nature, and would make him the archetypal tragic hero, because they are otherwise strong and admirable characters who have one fatal flaw.  So with a tragic flaw of trusting the wrong people, there would be instance after instance in this story where if he had just done one thing different, chosen the other path just one time, thought for just one second that maybe his trust was misplaced, the whole tragedy would have been avoided.

That’s what I thought upon first consideration of this.

But after thinking about it all a bit more, I’ve changed my mind.  To me, right now, Robert is just giving off a vibe of the big-titted blonde in the opening scene of the horror movie—too stupid to really be tragic when he gets offed.

Because I have no doubt that that is coming.  Maybe not for a while, maybe not even in this book…but I do not think Robert will be making it to the end of this series alive.  And that’s aside from the simple fact that it’s kind of hard to have a war over the succession if the king’s, you know, not dead.  He’s just too stupid and short-sighted to make it.

Jay and I had a discussion a while back about why Robert trusts the Lannisters, and Jay made the point to me that Robert can’t mistrust everyone, and the Lannisters have given him no reason to distrust them.  But I just can’t fathom his naiveté.  The Lannisters didn’t involve themselves in the war for nearly a year…clearly they were hedging their bets.

Then they decided to support Robert’s insurrection by coming into the king’s stronghold as friends, only to betray that trust.  Um.  That is plenty of reason not to trust them.  They are obviously (and understandably) out for their own best interests, so they wanted to side with the winners.  Fine, but obviously they have no loyalty to Robert, only themselves.

Still, maybe that doesn’t give him a reason to be anything besides trust-neutral toward them (if there is such a thing, where you don’t exactly trust someone but don’t believe they are actively out to get you, either)…except that they are clearly not above betrayal of any vow they ever took in order to save themselves or satisfy their ambitions.  They pretended to be coming to the king’s aid.  Jaime was one of his sworn protectors.

They took the city, and Jaime killed him.  And Robert doesn’t see any reason not to be the tiniest bit suspicious of them, to, perhaps, just perhaps, put someone besides a Lannister in the power vacuum?  I mean, is Cersei just such an ungodly strident nag that he would literally give his throne to shut her up?  Perhaps she was campaigning ceaselessly for Jaime for the Warden of the East, and Robert’s just too beat down from years of listening to her that he caved in?

Is it wrong that I want there to be some sort of blackmail they’re holding over his head?  Like even though I had a bad reaction to him initially that has only gotten worse every time I’ve seen more of him, I don’t want Robert to really be this much of a fool.  Or is he trying to like bring out the Lannisters to tip their hand to their treachery?  That would be kind of awesome, but Robert doesn’t strike me as being subtle enough for that approach…he seems more the type to just toss someone off a tower if they pissed him off.  But perhaps I give him too little credit.

If it’s not a spoiler to answer, riddle me this:  did your opinion of Robert change as the story went on?  Did your esteem of his personal character at some point separate from how you feel he is as a king?  Be as vague as you like, I don’t want spoilers, just a bit of hope, because I hate disliking characters who don’t seem like they’re meant to be villains.  I’d like to have some hope he’s not the complete tool that he seems to me right now.  Yes, no, maybe so?….

– Readers, if leaving a comment for Elena please direct (@Elena) them at her – and lead your comments with your messages for her. Thanks!

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

Jay –

Going to do this one a bit differently because I think Truth E-Nola brought extra thunder this time around. This will be a bit more of the “react” on my part and though I do want to offer some of my own observations, I also want to put some of my views in the comments as spoiler free material that Elena will and can read.  As Elena said, this is a chapter I am personally fond of and it starts with me  just loving the first line of the chapter:

The summons came in the hour before the dawn, when the world was still and grey.

I am unsure if Elena and I are at odds, and if we are, I’m even more unsure that we both agree on what exactly the point of contention is. It does however, afford us an opportunity to look at this series in a manner many epic fantasies –and truthfully fiction in general-do not allow us to: the option to differentiate feelings on character(s) from the story being told. My feelings or opinion of Robert as a man have very little bearing on how much I enjoy this or any other chapter and the reason for this is because on paper while hardly laudable, he’s not so drastic if applied to real life.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the idea that we are not friends with people who we know have done others wrong is, frankly, absurd. I consider my own friends and I’m intimately aware of acts, multiple, even habitual ones that would deem them untrustworthy or even dangerous to someone else, perhaps to most, that I wouldn’t even consider the possibility of being a potential victim of.

This of course is an extreme, but I think there are several levels between total/stupid trust, functional trust, and people you need to be wary of. Is it lack of genius that Robert doesn’t feel threatened by the Lannisters? Sure, but I’m not sure it’s “retarded” beyond having to be -on some level- cautious of everyone when you’re on top.

Elena would have no knowledge of a basic Westeros power scale, but I think we can perhaps agree that two houses currently have the ability to shift balances of power the most: Lannister and Tyrell. It’s a numbers, wealth, and land/food issue in such a society and for myself these two houses always represented.

That both can field inspirational and/or effective leaders/bannerman isn’t anything to scoff at either (Tarly, Garlan, Loras, The Kingslayer, the Cleganes etc). I think Jon Arryn’s insistence to tie the Lannisters to Robert was a good one and one that obviously had to be done (when considering both Lannister power and availability of potential Queens).

While I think most of us can see simple reasons not to promote Jaime, it’s not exactly the worst idea ever either. Say what we want about the Lannisters, but Robert’s simple words make some sense: they are a great house and the kid sealed his ascension to the throne itself.

I stress this more if Robert actually thinks his throne his threatened outwardly, binding his strongest ally (who both hates and have proven themselves against Targaryens as well) and putting a capable commander of men in place. At the end of the day it’s still his wife and (he thinks) kids’ family and they’ve done the MOST to garner royal favor. There’s also this idea that Robert may feel subconsciously indebted to the Lannisters, though I’m not sure how far I’d take Tywin’s (later) words regarding the “relief” on Robert’s face when he realized that he, “a hero”, did not have to kill children.

Personally? I agree with Ned, he should have given it to one of his brothers. In the end the appointment meant nothing, but is used to offer us something to reflect on. Immediately Elena – the new reader – recognizes this as bad appointment, and with what she would know of Jaime it’s not hard to tell why, but even Ned, who was to some extent sugar coating for sure, had to admit: Jaime isn’t a bitch, “An able and courageous man, no doubt”. I should also add that with an  impending Dany invasion, my thought has always been that the fall of Lannister was a necessity because IMHO Tywin kicks Dany’s shit back to the sea, while his son is probably in the midst of the action rushing her person  himself (ala Robb).

In an odd way, Robert’s thought makes sense (minus that whole they want to kill him angle!). It should also be noted that we the reader and Ned are burdened with the idea that the Lannisters killed Jon Arryn. Robert is not.

“Kingslayer,” Ned said. The rumors were true, then. He rode on dangerous ground now, he knew. “An able and courageous man, no doubt,” he said carefully, “but his father is Warden of the West, Robert. In time Ser Jaime will succeed to that honor. No one man should hold both East and West.”

I never understood this because I thought the fact that Jaime was a member of the Kingsguard meant that he couldn’t inherit. True, we know that Tywin always viewed Jaime as his heir, but it doesn’t seem like Ned would take for granted that Tywin would have is way in this (or that he would even want to).

This brings us to a point that Elena and I agree on, one that the commenters and I have discussed previously, namely, Ned’s reaction to Jaime. I know this is common battleground for Ned fans and detractors, and though I consider myself especially either, I really don’t like this from Ned and I feel like this may be the worse of him.

I’ve said this before, but Jaime judged and carried it out himself: Ned’s own credo. Ned himself rebelled against the King for what was done to his family. Could he not consider the pressures put on a teenager in Jaime’s position? It gets even worse when we later learn the why from Jaime’s POV. The whole “sitting on the throne” beef was just pretty stupid and while I don’t doubt that Ned in his natural state is capable of being an ass in a situation like this, I do wonder if his outlook was skewed by what he saw  later. To consider a topic we discussed last time, I wonder if Ned’s current reflection on Jaime is at all skewed by what he saw later at the Tower of Joy from the other members of Aerys 7 that were still alive (minus Barristan who was at the Trident and captured and pardoned) that he apparently so much admires even though it’s quite likely they killed some of his best friends and tried to kill him. He puts and keeps them on a pedestal , yet hates Jaime who did something that had to be done by somebody.

Now, I can get this from our vantage point—that of the reader– but someone who lived it?  By someone who lived the stakes of the rebellion and who faced the blades trying to kill him? Also…don’t we think Ned betrayed his King and friend for family? Wasn’t he doing the same when he tried to save Sansa? Jaime took all the shit and the “taint” of Robert’s rebellion and didn’t hide from it (in an odd way a lot like Tyrion’s whole “own what your are” speech to Jon). I mean…didn’t Aerys kill your dad and brother?

Like Elena, I think there are ample reasons why some may not like Jaime, but this doesn’t seem like one of them. The enormity of the act itself is huge, remember all that Jaime ever wanted to be was Arthur Dayne–the guy Ned talks to his children about–instead he becomes the antithesis, the man Ned scoffs at, not the one he puts on a pedestal for Bran. A 17-year old kid killed the most important figure in the world and had a seat afterwards. Seems harmless to me and I think Robert correctly called him out—hell even when we first meet Jaime we don’t see a figure who doesn’t give a shit one way or another about Robert or his reign and is perhaps as apolitical a figure one can be for being the person who personally ended a dynasty. Ned had to come a lot harder than, “How he glittered!” (frankly, I can’t believe that Ned Stark could utter such a line).

Elena’s point about Ned using Jon’s presence as a reminder and a form of self-punishment (I’d assume subconsciously on top of a real reason) is one I had not read before, but honestly seems to fit the character if true. Even in this chapter, everything is “dishonorable”.

“His” bastard, Jorah Mormont, the hunting of Tagaryens—the setting is grey but Ned seems to want to see things as black and white, even while he most assuredly a former agent of the former. What is odd to me is that while she has previously broached the question of Jon’s parentage and Ashara Dayne, she seems to have completely ignored the name mentioned in this chapter: Wylla. As obvious it is to us and as huge it seems to us, the story of Jon Snow neither seems to be at the forefront of new reader’s mind, or swim underneath other POVS. Ned is evasive with Robert on the subject just as he is with Catelyn, though it can’t be said he lied to Catelyn about Ashara (he neither confirmed or denied it).

It is interesting that Robert thinks it’s Wyalla, or rather Ned names her as such. I wonder if Elena thinks Rhaegar raped Lyanna? She has no reason not to since Ned doesn’t dismiss it. It will be interesting to see if she picks up on the random mentions later about the Prince of Dragonstone that don’t seem to reveal a rapist at all. We take Jon Snow’s parentage at face value because we take Ned at face value, but it would seem that the mentions we’ve had of Lyanna would stir something, but what may into play is the question of the King’s own children which immediately comes to the forefront due to what we KNOW the Lannister twins take part in.

It shouldn’t, and I never really considered how Martin hid Jon by throwing the royal house’s brood under the boss with very drastic concepts: incest and the attempted murder of an innocent child.

Is it Robert himself that Ned doesn’t trust, though, or Robert the king?

This is actually a topic brought up later, so I dig that Elena asks. We should not forget that these two have not seen each other from several years, since Balon’s rebellion, or there may be some natural feeling out process (again consider your own friends you haven’t seen in awhile, then imagine they are your King—kind of annoying for sure.)

What I did enjoy about a previous chapter was how quickly Robert’s ingratiates himself to Ned with his request to pay his respects to Lyanna upon arrival. Robert’s almost legendary ability to make people feel comforted in his presence and win them (excluding apparently his own family) is something I’ve always loved—not to mention helped him win a war– because I do think his fall is a tragedy and I love how Martin has him mounted here expressing/feeling freedom and later when he can’t even fit in his own armor it is that much more tragic, even when offered as comedy.

Robert Baratheon is a thoroughbred who was forced to pasture too soon. Look, I get it, womanizer, smacks his wife—it’s easy to just loathe the guy, and I’m not saying it’s not right to do so …but come on…it’s Cersei Lannister. Cersei would drive anybody crazy and though he doesn’t, we know she’s actively trying to kill him, fucks her brother, has stolen his royal line, and hunts down bastards to kill them. Needless to say, there are worst crimes than smacking the shit out of Cersei and even beyond our own morals and values, he’s the damn King. People may be mad at that, but he’s the King who made a decision and at that point it’s time to STFU—whether you’re Gregor Clegane of Cersei Lannister (speaking of which, one of the great scenes is Robert at the Tourney ordering the fighting to stop).

What bothers me is the double standard the other way. When he does back down from Cersei (with the wolves) people call him lame and a bitch. Sure, there’s something to be said about levels of reaction but what we do know of Robert is that he’s an extremist. He does nothing or wins Kingdoms with his hammer. Even Elena notes that he shouldn’t let others rule for him, but every time he makes what’s obviously a final decision, somebody has to try to knock him. Let’s remember this, it seems like Cersei would have pushed Jaime to be the Hand and obviously Robert overrode that, a move that FRIGHTENED his enemies (well, some of them, others viewed it as a terribly predictable mark).

“Good man!” The king clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ve half a mind to leave them all behind and just keep going.”

A smile touched Ned’s lips. “I do believe you mean it.”

“I do, I do,” the king said. “What do you say, Ned? Just you and me, two vagabond knights on the kingsroad, our swords at our sides and the gods know what in front of us, and maybe a farmer’s daughter or a tavern wench to warm our beds tonight.

What do readers think? Do you think he cared about being the King? Beyond the thought that “it’s good to be king”, Robert more than anyone strikes me as somebody who’d be happy doing exactly what he hints to Ned.

Where this book is full of others who seemingly live to play this game, Robert strikes me as somebody who long realized he didn’t give a damn and was unfortunate or fortunate enough to have landed the spot everyone else wants. YET he’s not so blind that his son seems to be inadequate, even if he’s blind that it isn’t his son. Robert knows what it takes to be a good King and has no delusions that he is a good one–he is self aware.

I firmly believe that if Robert’s son was a Rhaegar Targaryen (again, oddly enough) he’d abdicate and go chill. The reason for this is because everything that makes what Robert is doesn’t really require position, it actually takes from him (he can’t even really melee any longer). While everyone else plots on the throne to fulfill their ambitions, Robert just wants action, ass and feast. Remember that quote from Office Space? “Well, you don’t need a million dollars to do nothing, man…“. Robert is Conan but wants a Peter Gibbons lifestyle. Don’t we all like Peter? Did it ever strike anyone as strange that the guy Ned (and Jon Arryn) always seemed to try to dissuade from killing children is the one guy who may have every right to want to kill his (not) own children?

Let’s talk Ned for a moment. We met the guy beheading somebody with Valyrian awesome, and in a previous chapter we got the whole:

They whispered of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, deadliest of the seven knights of Aerys’ Kingsguard, and of how their young lord had slain him in single combat. And they told how afterward Ned had carried Ser Arthur’s sword back to the beautiful young sister who awaited him in a castle called Starfall on the shores of the Summer Sea.

So, Ned – the only guy we know of at this point rocking a super sword – takes down the MAN (in a battle of super swords) and now here we find out more. It was Ned who pressed on to the capitol for Robert. It was Ned who continued the war down South. While some may prove me wrong with a time line (I want to say it anyway), it was Ned making his way to Aerys on a horse. Ned was there at Balon’s rebellion.

Ned is  pretty hardcore.

I try to think if anything was revealed in my very first read that would make me think that Ned wouldn’t be a great Hand. I guess one could have offered his limited experience at court, but that also could be an advantage if you’re picking a man you believe is honorable to begin with. No ties or strings excluding one, which unfortunate to Ned was tied to both his best friend and the Lannisters.

The truth is that while Ned did have a strong sense of duty, he was just like Robert—he didn’t give a damn about the throne or power for the sake of power. There isn’t any reason for the reader to think that Ned isn’t the perfect hand, it’s his and our lesson that he isn’t.

An obvious one for sure, but not I think–if being honest- we can all admit to knowing at this point. I do wonder what Elena thinks of the appointment (after having an immediate reaction to Jaime’s appointment to Warden of the East). I think, however, it is important to note how hard this generation is as we are introduced to the next who really are handed the series. We often talk about how Robb is too like Ned in terms of his downfall (and for sure some positive attributes), but we should recall how well he performs in the field, which also seems like a chip off the old block.

What to come away with? The Demon of the Trident, Elena, and I all agree on something. Ned, quit hating on Jaime getting his lounge on. Kingslayin’ ain’t easy. I do want to mention what words I used to describe this chapter when I was emailing Elena (which is why she thinks I like it): Two boyz going on a ride. Again, even with the secrets – perhaps the best one – this relationship is genuine and it’s one of the few that really is. If we consider the many deaths and reactions of in this series, Robert and Ned’s –to take a word from Martin himself– was a fierce love and friendship. Pycelle tells us about the King at his former Hand’s deathbed, “His love was fierce to see.”

These two, from boys to men, were tarnished by the game whenever they dabbled in it. We often view them as lesser, shortsighted, and even slow because they are so inadequate at the game Martin presents to us as the main theme and the very title of his novel, but I do think it’s a tragedy and do not view their loss as some glorious victory of Darwin.

I think the weak survived, and with Robert and Ned we saw the passing of “True Steel”. They were lesser players in a game that was beneath them and literally beneath their contempt. I see no shame in that and I think the game ruins better people than it elevates. While the smart ass, generation x, neo-commonsense citizen in me wants to hoist the Littlefinger banner, I think the reality is that Ned and Robert represent that old fantasy we love, giving way to the new on that is merely but gloriously interesting.

I think the entire idea of this chapter — that the two real guys had to break camp and go off alone (they outpaced the guards), separate from all the rest was great because it illustrates how awful these two are at this sham. These are best friends who can’t agree on anything when it comes to crown policy because both of them would rather be talking about anything else.

A man could not always be where he belonged, though. Resigned, Eddard Stark put his boots into his horse and set off after the king.

Kind of an echo from what he says about his brother Brandon earlier. He was talking about himself, but it’s such a true sentiment that it almost applies to everyone and everything going on, the pieces in the game not all moving under their own volition. Many, like Ned, following the King who in this case is perhaps most aptly described by the words.

Up Next: Tyrion at the Wall!

Author: 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.

42 thoughts on “Playin’ with Ice and Fire – A Game of Thoughts | Eddard Stark Chapter 12”

  1. @ Elena: Yes, the questions about the rebellion will be answered later. To the satisfaction of all.

    -SPOILERS—–

    “While the smart ass, generation x, neo-commonsense citizen in me wants to hoist the Littlefinger banner”

    Don’t we all? I was a Baelish man from the moment he uttered the famous words
    “I told you not to trust me” . Littlefinger has the best lines, and he is the best player. He is always at least 3 steps ahead, and 5 to the side.

    I acctually think that the Realm could do a lot worse than having the Lannisters controlling half the realm. Tywin Lannister is an excellent ruler, and Jamie could be very competent if he wanted. The small folk at least, would be better served by that than Sweetrobin Arryn and his crazy mother, or the war that Ned basicly causes.

    Nice power analysis, people tend to forget that the Tyrells and the Lannisters basicly controls most of the Realm’s wealth and population.Remember that only the Tyrells and Martells stayed loyal during the rebellion, and without the Lannisters on the rebel side the forces were evenly matched at the Trident, while a large Tyrell force was also investing Storm’s End. The Tyrells marshalls 5 times the Stark numbers easily in ACoK, and that is only a part of their forces.

    1. *SPOILER*

      I’m a big Littlefinger fan which is another victory for Martin because it’s possible that’ he’s a bit of a sicko. I think he and Varys kind of fullfill this idea of the Westeros information age where a guy with no balls and a guy with no true holdings can insert themselves into the game that usually have participants (even if unwanting) like Robert and Ned.

      I’m in the camp of Tywin as good administrator, I don’t think it can be denied by anyone. The Lannisters prosper and so did the Realm under his Hand-ship. I’m not so sure what responsibilities come with the Warden position outside of the Military element noted here but I think with little doubt Tywin would set him up with a staff and keep a close watch.

  2. @ Elena, Regarding how/why the Robert’s Rebellion happened, this was covered in brief by this point in the book, but it’s easy to miss it or not follow. Basically, Mad Aerys ordered Jon Arryn to hand Robert and Ned over to him after having murdered Ned’s older brother and father. Jon refused and rose up in rebellion against Aerys on his own in order to protect them. The thing that most lit a fire under Robert so that he soon took the lead place in the rebellion was Rhaegar’s prior abduction of Lyanna, but that’s not in fact what touched off the war.

    The reason that Robert was given the throne is because he had the best claim out of the three (the three being himself, Jon and Ned) due to familial relations with the Targaryans. Robert’s great-grandfather was King Aegon V Targaryan.

    Regarding Robert, I always saw him as just a really bad king. Not an evil king, just the kind of leader a nation sometimes gets who leaves it much worse off then how he found it. I sort of see him in the same vein as President James Buchanan or Louis XVI…with not dissimilar results for the nations they “led.”

    1. Hi DP – I remembered (vaguely) the discussion of why the rebellion happened way back in I think chapter 3, but I hadn’t recalled an explanation for why Robert was made king. That makes sense if he had a better inheritance claim than either of the others.

  3. Interesting recap, Elena. I have to admit that some of my favourite moments in the book are when Ned and Robert talk like 2 old friends and very little is hidden. These conversations give you insights into the 2 men that you may not otherwise have. For me my opinion of Robert never really changed. I never liked him much, he didn’t do anything to endear himself to me. He was a good warrior, a good leader of men, but he was never made to be a king and he was a bad one as a result of that.

    1. So far that seems to be my impression of Robert, too. I know I come down hard on him, but it’s not so much that I think he’s a bad guy as that he disappoints me because he SHOULD be better than he is.

  4. @Elena: Regarding why Robert became king, and why he trusts the Lannisters…(technically this is probably a spoiler but there is absolutely no point in you not knowing. There is no plot regarding this, just a pacing of information to avoid early overload – read on at your own discretion): Roberts grandmother (or something like that) was a Targaryen, so he had a claim to the throne through her. The Lannisters’ only claim to the throne comes through marriage to Robert, so they should be very loyal to him, as they will lose all if he is defeated. That’s probably why he trusts them a lot. Also, Tywins killing of the former royal family means that the Lannisters could never go back to the Targaryens.

    1. Hi Anders – thanks for the note on his family tree. I understand why Robert would trust the Lannisters to support him if someone from the main Targaryen line were to make a move against him, but I think there is a different threat if they want more power for themselves…he is only useful to them as long as he facillitates their plans. once he becomes an obstacle, things change. i just can’t believe he would implicitly trust a bunch of vowbreakers (as someone further down the thread brings up) to support him in all circumstances.

      1. @Elena: I think you are both right and wrong at the same time, but my explanation will contain spoilers regarding the rest of the first book, so it’s probably best if you don’t read it. I will write it though, as I think it’s an interesting debate. Maybe someone else will pick it up.

        Spoilers starting now:
        In my view, Tywin Lannister is about as smart and calculating as anyone. His only shortcomings are when it comes to his children, where he sometimes gets irrational. If this political mastermind could only have controlled Cercei, I think he would have wanted her to stay away from Jaime (if he knew about their relationship) and expected her to spread her legs dutifully whenever Robert wanted. She should have given Robert a litter of charming black haired babies and let him drink himself to death in his own time. This would have been the politically rational thing to do, and none except the Targaryens could ever have challenged their alliance. And the only way for the Lannisters to get more power would have been to seize the throne for themselves, and who should sit it then? Jaime? No major house would have supported the Kingslayer’s bid for power, he is univerally despised. So if only Cercei had done as she should, the Lannisters would have been completely tied to Robert. Could Robert have known she was betraying him? Maybe, but I can’t really blame him for trusting that the children are actually his.

        Can anyone see any kind of alliance where the Lannisters could have done better than getting Cercei’s children on the throne?

        1. *Spoilers*

          The failure of his brood (the weakness we point out) that is his downfall, as Cersei – as I noted toward the beginning of this reading – is realisticaly fighting in and playing a game that she’s ALREADY won. You could ask for a more non-King than Robert who was at the same time situated powerfully with your own swords and coin (and nobody was going to raise up against a truly united front, with Robert leading a Lannister heavy Crown.) Robert was the perfect absent puppet to sit on for a generation. We see Cersei speak of Rhaeger and her lost opportunity and what could have been, which is another example of he delusion, because Rhaegar seems exactly the man that could never be set aside the way Robert did rather willingly.

          1. Spoilers*

            Very good points, especially about Rhaegar and the game Cercei has already won. All of this means that Robert’s decision to lean heavily on the Lannisters and his two most loyal friends (Arryn+Stark) is a good decision. Cercei would have schemed to kill Robert even if the Lannisters didn’t have as much power.

  5. @Elena

    What you would know now is actually in this chapter and the one previous. A lot of time the right of rule is either by blood or conquest and you know that Robert personally killed the mack-daddy Crown Prince in the battle that he said”“I won my crown there. How should I forget it?”. Incidently as others have said, he also had the best blood claim of the three (which honestly I think was just a bonus). As you can probably tell, Ned probably didn’t care much about the Throne and it doesn’t seem like he gained a lot from it when you realize (as said in this chapter) how much he did during the war. I could be wrong on this, and maybe someone can offer anything regarding any Stark gains in land or income. One would think that Ned could easily have been placed on the Small Council if he desired it. It should also be noted that one must consider the Robert of years past. Sure, he had to have some of the same flaws, but by all accounts he looked, sounded, and inspired like an ideal King. I’m figuring Robert was an easy sell.to campaign. Also, consider the three in their marital availability in being able to form an alliance that could hold the Throne.

    Regarding Varys, many conquests or new regimes are built on the brick/bones of the last. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it –you don’t destroy tedious and working infrastructure. You will find that there are others who were established in the previous reign who were pardoned (and even promoted). Others, good old Tywin (the Prince himself!) put to the sword.

    Regarding Robert, I’ve always liked him. I mentioned in my post (and previous ones) that in a book that focuses on individual POV, relationships and how character interact and react to each other, I feel like any negative between these two stem from a love, not hate, disrespect or ambition. You can see the struggle in this chapter when anything is between them. I agree with DP above, he certainly isn’t remotely ideal as a King, but – relative to the setting – he’s an alright dude. While I think we can all name others who’d make a more functional and prosperous King, when I consider them, I’m not sure I hate Robert for being him.

    What do you think of Jorah now? Does he make past or future Dany chapter more interesting? Also, I was wondering what you think of a new name introduced in Wylla where we previously (in the Catelyn chapter) got the Ashara Dayne name.

    1. Hi Jay 🙂 I guess I didn’t see the “I won my crown there” as being that was where he claimed the throne for himself/made his case for being the new king so much as eliminated the last obstacle to naming a new king, which it was decided afterward would be him. I think the marital availability may have been a big factor, if they were trying to stabilize by making an alliance with a fourth powerful family. although I would expect that betrothals between very small children/infants could have shored up that if Jon Arryn or Ned Stark had been named king instead. I would be curious to know if Ned actually gained anything other than getting to stay alive from the war.

      I guess the thing with Varys is, don’t kill the bureaucrats because they had nothing to do with the decisions?

      Damn, you bring up the two OTHER points I forgot to mention, huh? Jorah was an interesting twist. Not sure how strong his loyalties are to Robert, though, so if he sees a benefit in helping Dany instead I expect he will change sides and double-cross them. I wasn’t sure whether to believe the Ashara Dayne rumor anyway, so I guess I wasn’t surprised to see another name thrown in. Not sure I have a theory on which I think it really was–I mean, did Robert SEE this wylla pregnant with jon or was she just a cover story even to his best friend?

  6. @Elena

    I can’t decide whether you’re at a disadvantage or not; the fact that you are basically forced to take in each chapter slowly rather than racing from one to the other like a normal shmo. On one hand, you get to sit back and reflect (perhaps even re-read) each part, which is handy for processing most of the details George R. R. Martin throws our way.

    On the other hand—fuck that! Martin had me at “Bran kept his pony well in hand, and did not look away.” I barreled from chapter to chapter like a chimpanzee with his ass on fire. And my immediate impression of Robert Baratheon was that he was one realistically portrayed dude. He’s the professional stud athlete who married the hot blonde at the apex of his heyday and is now paying for it in his later years. The Lannisters are seen as bad by us because we’re still sort of seeing the world through Stark eyes. One might argue that the Lannisters are instead necessary (dirty-work experts that they are–who else will take out the trash?), and perhaps Robert is a lit-tle more crafty than we give him credit for keeping them close to his side.

    (Or not.)

    Of course you could also put it on Robert’s incredible ego. But in the end he’s just plain getting worn down—by responsibility, by Cersei, by his ever-expanding gut—and he just wants to escape. He wants things to be like the used to be: him, powerful and charismatic astride a warhorse, with his faithful brother Ned by his side. There’s still debate about this, but I truly believe if Ned had said, “Let’s go,” Robert would have put spur to horse.

    (No, it wouldn’t have lasted too long. One hopes. A month-long joyride, maybe.)

    Either way, I’m really enjoying this. Here’s to hoping you finish the book before the HBO series airs.

    1. Yea Axe, first, thank you for the giggle with your simile. That was much needed on a Monday morning. 🙂

      I think the way I’m reading this is what English lit classes are supposed to be but really aren’t unless it’s one book per semester. I’m actually enjoying it just as an experiement in how to read deeply, although I would not want to read every book this way. I tend to do what you did, and tear through a story till it’s finished and I know what happens. But in a really weird way I’m loving this kind of reading. Jay has just encouraged me to read ahead of him and let him react/post at his leisure instead of my kind of tying my reading schedule to when something posted here. I don’t know if I will get finished before the series airs but I hope I get far enough that I can watch at least a few of the episodes before I have to stop. 🙂

      I think that’s an apt description of Robert’s modern equivalent, and I do think he’s realistic. Someone can be a good leader in some situations and not others. I do think some of it is on Robert’s shoulders for not being more interested in morphing his leadership on a battlefield into leadership in law/diplomacy/etc. but I know plenty of people who can’t stand to be indoors and in meetings so I understand why he didn’t or maybe couldn’t. but i still judge him for it.

  7. @Elena –
    “did your opinion of Robert change as the story went on? Did your esteem of his personal character at some point separate from how you feel he is as a king?”

    Yes, my opinion of Robert did change. Drastically. I began to realize that there was a very specific reason I had liked him in the first place, and that reason wasn’t strong enough. I don’t want to give spoilers, so I’ll just say that I began to dislike him after just a short time. Really, a SHORT TIME!! But perhaps this was because my reactions were immediate and visceral…still, no matter the reasons or justifications, my opinion changed radically.

    SPOILERS @Jay

    “They were lesser players in a game that was beneath them and literally beneath their contempt.”

    My reactions to Robert in particular have always been harsh, so I truly love that you gave me perspective with that statement! Robert was a doer, not a thinker, and fighting, drinking, and whoring was the simple life he craved. Lord of Storms End would have been enough for him, I think, and I’ve heard it suggested by others on other websites that maybe Ned SHOULD have grabbed the crown. I remain convinced he would never touch it, though.

    As to Ned….so much to think on and respond to! For now I’ll agree that Ned’s reaction to Jaime was just silly. He was sitting there but NOT claiming the throne. Get over it!

    1. interesting…would “short time” mean by this point in the story or was it a bit further up? also what was the immediate reason you liked him so much? (you don’t have to expand on what made you realize it wasn’t enough if that’s still to come in the story)
      Flag

      1. Hi! 😀

        Actually, by short time, I mean just a few hapters up. I can’t remember how many, but suffie it to say that you’ll know it when you read it. really, you will. 🙁

        Now as to why I initially liked him….well, because of Ned. I was introduced to Ned first, and even through his children I found much to like. Ned’s reaction to the news of Robert’s coming was immediate joy, and so I thought “Oh cool, a best friend!”. Robert greeted Ned warmly, he wanted to pay respects to Ned’s sister. He’d been in love with Ned’s sister! He wanted Ned to help him run the kingdom. So many reasons to see Robert in a positive light! But the more I learned of Robert, the more I began to see him as…gah! How much can I tell you? I’m not really sure, so I’ll stop right here.

        But those are my reasons. I understand Ned, and admire and like him. I found I didn’t really understand Robert. Or rather, I did, but didn’t admire him as I initially had.

        Oh, just to say, I love Ned, but I also wanted to punch him sometimes!

  8. SPOILERS AHOY (I think)

    Couple of points:

    1) Money: Robert loves his parties, and the Lannisters are quite wealthy. Aside from the reasons why he would get into bed with them at the beginning, much of his willingness to slide more power their way is that they are funding the hell out of his enjoyment. I know it’s not the only thing to consider, but I feel we would be remiss in our understanding of the situation if we did not consider this.

    2) Family: Jaime’s killing of the king and sitting on the throne is not truly the thing that makes Ned distrust him, its the disgust at the Jaime’s cowardice regarding it. I don’t mean to suggest that he hates Jaime for being a coward and killing an unarmed king–if it came down to it and the king was unarmed in a room with Ned, I suspect the situation would quickly turn into an execution. Instead, I would like to suggest that there is disgust at Jaime’s decision to do this so long after it really means much of anything. The city was taken. The war was over. Now is the time to demonstrate your loyalty? Now is the time to make it a game, to smile at the men who had done the hard work? Now is the time to jest with the man whose family had been killed by the man you had sworn to protect, long after your actions mean anything other than a cynical demonstration that yes, you were on the rebels’ side all along? When if you had really believed you might have killed him long ago and spared these people the pain they suffered?

    I am with you in terms of liking Jaime, I confess–but I think I am completely against you in terms of Ned’s ‘letting go’ of his dislike of Jaime. If I were in his position I would never be able to look at Jaime without thinking, “This man watched my family die. This man did not act when they burned and strangled. This man jested over the war, made the question of who should be in power a joke when the decision means so much.”

    Ned doesn’t have all the information, surely, but I don’t know if I could let things go, and I am not sure it is reasonable to ask him to do so.

  9. SPOILERS

    When writing this I considered noting the bankrolling of Robert’s lifestyle (it’s noted later how much debt he put the crown in) but I think in this case Robert is rather scaleable. What I mean by that is I don’t think Robert EVER had a problem having a good time and I could easily see him in Storm’s End having a merry old time. I just don’t see Robert as somebody who would suffer drastically by not having the crown’s wealth behind him. For sure, he’d always lived a life of privilege but I just don’t see him being put off by being someone like an Oberyn. While I don’t have the paperwork, I’m sure the Lord of Storm’s End doesn’t have to pinch pennies on drink and food, and I don’t think the position lends itself to being difficult to pull company in bed. I don’t however doubt that the Lannisters themselves kept the flow going for their own ends (looking loyal).

    Regarding Jaime, if that is the case then Ned should DESPISE the likes of Arthur Dayne and The White Bull, grown men who knew damn well of Aery’s odd behavior. he should hate Rhaegar for not deposing his father (he may in fact, but we see no indication of it). It is not like Aerys suddenly flipped at that moment with only Jaime there. While I know that in Westeros people have to grow up faster, we are still talking about a teenager, a “boy” as Robert put it. This is not to excuse Jaime, who had certainly proven himself up to the task of making decisions in the heat of battle, but it seems enough where Ned would give him a break and have other shit to worry about. Certainly, I get the “in the moment” knee jerk reaction from Ned, but I mean the guy is bringing it up more than a decade later and it’s a little silly from somebody of Ned’s experiences and responsibilities. We are talking about somebody who is qualified for the position and Ned is bringing up what he did when he was 17. I do get the idea that maybe Jaime didn’t deserve the deathstroke, that maybe Ned felt like it should have been someone who “judged” him, where he felt Jaime killed him out of convenience. Is that possible? If so, he couldn’t have been more wrong, the through not fault of his own. I think I would have been like “damn dude, you alright–let’s get a drink?” The reason why I say this is because what had Jaime done prior to this that was not laudable (that was public knowledge?) that he doesn’t deserve some compassion or benefit of doubt? Wasn’t he knighted by the Sword of the Morning himself?

    That said, I have no issue with Ned not liking Jaime, certainly Jaime’s demeanor (and nature) allows for it, but he kind of goes overboard with it. I mean he calls him “Kingslayer” in a manner that I took as negative, but what you’re saying is Ned is fine with it, he should have just done it earlier? It seems like Jaime can’t win because Ned seems to be in love with the rest of Kingsguard who did nothing for years. What about the great Barristan the Bold? He defended Rhaegar – who in some manner started ALL of this – almost to his death and certainly watched Aerys commit heinous acts. In some way, and this is somewhat an excuse, Ned is extending/bridging his last interaction with Jaime with the letter they got from Lysa condemning House Lannister. You can kind of see it in Ned’s head, “I knew it, 15 years ago I saw him sitting on the throne and now they are making their move!”.

    1. SPOILERS

      I might be biased, since I really can’t stand Ned and holds him responsible for a lot of the problems of the Realm, but I find Jamie to be the wronged party here.
      Ned is a classical black and white guy, a deontologist in the worst sense of the word. He dislikes Jamies actions because they go against the RULES, which he holds to be inviolate. Ned would condemn thousands to death because of his rules, and indeed he does so on many occations.
      Jamie, on the other hand, saves huge amounts of lives by sacrificing his “honor”. He is a consequetialist. His honor is not worth the life of thousands. Could Ned have made that sacrifice, if he was in Jaimies place. Or could the ever lauded “Sword of the Morning”? I think they would have let the city burn, because of their oath.

      1. SPOILERS

        I think we are basically in agreement and I think Martin in a way exhibits the characteristic in Ned that you imply in this very chapter, not even or just with just Jaime, but with Jorah Mormont. While each reader may perceive the level of reaction different, it is the extremity of the reaction to Mormont that feel that really gets me, not the thought itself.

        1. SPOILERS

          I agree with you to a point, Skyweir, but I think Ned is less rigid than you paint him here. If he believed as strongly in the rules he would never have rebelled, yes? He would never have given Cersei the chance to leave the city with her children, he would have acted very differently throughout the books, I would argue.

          For my money, the character that represents the limits of acting with regard to the rules is Stannis, and perhaps we might see Robert as the other side of the coin in this regard, acting as he sees fit without concern for consequences. Ned is somewhere in between the two, I would argue; far more rule bound than Robert, far less rigid than Stannis. In truth I think he would make a better king than either of them.

  10. @Anders

    SPOILERS

    Which is why I think she loses all the time, because she’s not playing to win anything, she’s just crazy and invents shit. For a female in this setting she is the top of the pole. The Queen, the mother of the King, and later regent. Now before everybody goes crazy on me about that being pretty sorry compared to men who are not her social status THAT is exactly her failure. She was in a position to make change by not being crazy, it became even more evident when she preferred Joff over Tommen who would have allowed her to take a stance and be an example of everything she thought she (woman) were lacking. She had the best family/father to make it happen if she wasn’t a complete psychopath

    1. Spoilers

      And in AFFC her relationship with the Tyrells is a classic case of projection. Essentially they are tied to the hip with Tommen, and could easily be her greatest supporters. But she believes they want to bring her and Tommen down, because that is her own modus operandi. Coincidentally they did poison Joffrey because he was to crazy, but she doesn’t even know that. In the end she forces them to move against her by systematically alienating them (ie. refusing Garth, appointing idiots as councillors, not taking the Greyjoy invasion seriously). I really love the character as a twisted, scheming version of Don Quixote, fighting political windwills.

      1. *Spoilers*

        Which kind of leads us back to the beginning when we said one would really have to have The Lannisters or Tyrells to be in a position of authority and be relatively assured in your position if war were to break out. Here, she fucks up the the literal powerball and does so at every chance. Why knock the Tyrell siblings when their assets are YOUR allies. I try to find some point in Cersei where she wasn’t or wouldn’t be miserable and I just don’t see no matter what path she went on.In many ways she makes the Ned mistake (refusing Renly) numerous times and then going the opposite and making them make you their enemy. Man, I still can’t get over that Ned/Renly move….dumbest thing ever. I want to see Elena’s reaction to that and see if she can defend it and believe it.

  11. I like this reading a lot, because I think it says a lot about Ned’s character–and I do think that had Jaime joined their rebellion he would have been significantly more accepted than his more apparently cynical decision to switch sides at the last moment. While I agree with Skyweir’s comment about Ned’s deontologist perspective, he is clearly operating within two separate codes of ethical conduct here–if he believed in ALL the vows he took, he could never have rebelled.

    That said, I think he understands the decision to continue with taken vows and the value of keeping one’s word, such that Arthur Dayne can remain a great knight despite his defense of the mad king Aerys. The problem is not that Jaime turned, as Robert and Ned themselves turned. The problem is that Jaime turned when it was most advantageous for himself–such that even if he had been in disagreement with the king before, Jaime does not consider how he might help others by acting, he only considers himself.

    I fully confess that I am not in disagreement with your reading of Ned’s actions as somewhat problematic, I only want to suggest that Martin’s characterization leaves room to see how Ned could come to this point. It’s damn good writing.

    1. I agree that Ned is less rigid, and much like a lot of other people, it is so when it benefits – or rather may cause less harm – him or his family when he even is able to surmise that he even is in danger.

  12. @ Elena & Jay (No Spoilers)
    Regarding: Really? That’s the deep dark secret reason you hate Jaime Lannister that has kept you up at nights for 14 years?”

    My 2 Cents:
    Hate is way too strong a word. Deep contempt and complete distrust is much closer to the truth.

    My Dad is very much like Ned. A man of Black & White. Like Martin Luther said: “Here I stand, I can do no other.”

    For a man like Ned, people are defined by the sides they pick and their steadfastness to that decision. You pick a side and live with the consequences.

    Jaime’s sin was not killing the mad king. Jaime’s sin was swearing an OATH to protect the King and THEN killing him. In Ned’s mind, a man is measured by the worth of his word.

    Jaime swore an oath and broke his word. How do you measure a man if his word means nothing?
    You need to know what is in his heart. And Ned believes that he saw a glimpse of Jaime’s heart when he found him sitting on the throne.

    Here’s a man that will lie to your face, who’s word means nothing, and who wonders what it would be like to be a king. Ned cannot believe that Robert would give command of half his armies to such a man. It is not about deeds (good or bad), but about mettle (and in Ned’s eyes, Jaime has none).

    Ned slew Ser Arthur Dayne (the Sword of the Morning) in combat, but he would’ve had no qualms in naming Arthur Dayne Warden of the East. Ser Arthur Dayne, was a man of his word.

    The test of one’s vows is a recurring theme on these books. And figuring out what is the right decision is never easy when the line between Black and White is not clearly marked.

    You can (of course) claim that Ned broke his wedding vows. Who is he to judge? But I believe that in his mind “Love (for others – Not oneself)” makes a difference. Jon Arryn broke with the king out of love for his wards. Robert out of love for Lyanna.

    I for one, love these moral quandaries. Much like the scene in the movie “Doubt” between Meryl Streep and the abused? little boy’s mother (Mrs. Miller). Meryl Streep is out to protect the boy by getting him out of the school and “exposing” a child molesting priest ( a clear line it would seem), but then Mrs. Miller’s reply suddenly turns the world upside down for us all.
    Or that final decision in “Gone Baby Gone”, where Casey Affleck has to decide whether to return a little girl to her mother or leave her with her abductors (again, a clear line… NOT!).

    ======= SPOILERS BELOW =========
    @Jay

    Sadly, I think Ned would’ve still decided to kill Ser Jorah even after learning the reasons why Jorah sold the poachers to the slavers. Perhaps seeing it as love to himself more than to his wife.

    Jon Snow breaks his Night Watch vows twice and Robb his vow to wed a Frey as well (but all for the love of another).

    And of course, Lyanna knew Ned. And she knew what a PROMISE from Ned entailed. But that as they say, is another story.

    1. Hi gecc, thank you to tweak my language there. hate probably is too strong a word, although for me the only people I’ve ever felt I hated had it rooted in the fact that i both despised and mistrusted them… I think i mentioned later that robert should NOT trust the lannisters because they are oathbreakers–so yes the fact that jaime the king’s guard had killed the king was absolutely a reason for ned to never trust him. or robert, in my opinion. but to me if the only reason besides that fact, which robert already knew, that ned had to distrust him further was him sitting on the throne…i just don’t see that as being enough. although I had not really considered that it’s chilling for a 17 year old boy who’s just killed how many men to be that blase about it–very good point from kate below. this is one of the places where i wish martin didn’t paint with such broad strokes…if ned saw something sociopathic in that (vs a young man who’s basking in what he sees as glory) then perhaps it should have been said? lol. but that’s why we have forums like this, isn’t it, to point all these things out to one another? 🙂

  13. MASSIVE SPOILERS:

    Indeed. People do all the time.

    This was the Kingsguard, the old Kingsguard, with the White Bull, Barristan the Bold and the Sword of the Morning. And yet, only a 17 year old boy had the courage to do what was needed to save the city and the Kingdom. Not Rhaegar, or Ser Arthur Dayne. All he got for it was a infamous name.
    Frankly, I lost all respect for the Kingsguard when they let the King torture his wife without any action, and let Rikard Stark burn. Men who call themselves paragons of virtue do not do these things, nor would they serve a monster like Aerys. And yet, Ned admire these men and hate Jamie…

  14. SPOILERS, but not really*

    While his age constitutes “man” in this setting, I just have a hard time describing that scene as a “man” pondering to be King. I think a boy made a man’s decision and has been reaping the awards and stigma from it since–he was clearly conflicted/confused (if i remember correctly). While the passages revealing his exact line of thinking at the time (or his perhaps skewed reflection on them) I want to say love of family had a lot to do with Jaime’s decision, or at least fear for him. In some ways I view the dillema much like Stannis’s own later revealed question about supporting his brother over the Throne. II do wonder is it the act of killing itself or the betrayal that is the issues because for me clearly he had a good – almost inarguable – reason to betray Aerys, but perhaps he didn’t have to kill him (though there is no way Aerys would be allowed to survive regardless).

    1. Don’t forget the whole ‘saving an entire city (over 10,000 people at the least) from burning to the ground in unquenchable flames’ bit.

  15. Kate [Moderator] 3 months ago
    @Elena

    I don’t think my opinion of Robert changed much, but I wasn’t really focusing on him to begin with. I do feel a little sorry for him as a guy who’s been made into something he was never meant to be. Robert would probably have been perfectly happy as a wandering adventurer. Issues of reader sympathy and who’s supposed to be villainous are especially interesting in this series because of the multiple POVs. From Dany’s perspective, Robert the Usurper *is* the villain. But there’s been much more sympathetic focus on Eddard and his family…and so it’s kind of unsettling to find yourself disliking someone Eddard loves.

    I agree that Jaime’s choice of seat is a pretty silly thing to judge him over. Maybe it bothers Eddard so much partly because it represents Jaime’s whole blasé attitude toward the killing. The first time we meet Ned, he’s executing an oathbreaker—and that was only a man who ran away from the Wall out of terror. He would probably have expected someone in Jaime’s position to appear somber and remorseful, no matter how justified his act may have been. Instead, here’s this kid lounging about on the dead king’s throne in his fancy armor, making snarky comments and *glittering*, if you can believe it. Eddard must have found that deeply chilling.

    By the way, did you know where your profile icon comes from? I assumed it was from a manga at first, but it’s actually one of the Japanese AGOT covers.

    1. Kate, I mentioned this in my reply to the comment above, but i think perhaps jaime’s sort of imperviousness to the killing itself might have been part of why ned distrust him. I know ned would have an issue with breakign an oath to protect the king even if jaime felt a strong moral imperative to remove him because he was mad, but i could understand if someone believed that an oath made to a whole man was invalidated when he became someone else. however, i think if that had been the case that jaime would have been somber, maybe even mournful over the necessity of killing a broken man. not, yeah, smirking and dreaming.

      i have to confess, i did not pick out my posting avatar, just my commenting one. So i had no idea that’s what it was from, but i expect jay knew that and chose it for that reason.

      @ jay – yes no maybe so?

  16. I don’t know if anyone is still reading this, but I just caught up and thought I’d post a few thoughts. Thanks to Elena and Jay for doing this, and to everyone else for posting their comments.

    @Elena

    You asked several weeks ago if GRRM uses unreliable narrators. I thought this statement of yours was interesting within that context: “So just because Sansa laughed at her sister in front of the princess and got her in trouble doesn’t mean anything about their relationship, except that it’s not artificially nice.” Here’s the excerpt in question (pages 69-70, GoT, American paperback):

    “Jon thinks he looks like a girl,” Arya said.

    Sansa sighed as she stitched. “Poor Jon,” she said. “He gets jealous because he’s a bastard.”

    “He’s our brother,” Arya said, much too loudly. Her voice cut through the afternoon quiet of the tower room.

    Septa Mordane raised her eyes. She had a bony face, sharp eyes, and a thin lipless mouth made for frowning. It was frowning now. “What are you talking about, children?”

    “Our half brother,” Sansa corrected, soft and precise. She smiled for the septa. “Arya and I were remarking on how pleased we were to have the princess with us today,” she said.

    Septa Mordane nodded. “Indeed. A great honor for us all.” Princess Myrcella smiled uncertainly at the compliment. “Arya, why aren’t you at work?” the septa asked. She rose to her feet, starched skirts rustling as she started across the room. “Let me see your stitches.”

    Arya wanted to scream. It was just like Sansa to go and attract the septa’s attention. “Here,” she said, surrendering up her work.

    The septa examined the fabric. “Arya, Arya, Arya,” she said. “This will not do. This will not do at all.”

    Everyone was looking at her. It was too much. Sansa was too well bred to smile at her sister’s disgrace, but Jeyne was smirking on her behalf.

    I’d wager that if you asked ten readers to summarize that chapter, the majority of them would have said something similar: Sansa got Arya in trouble and laughed at her. Neither is actually the case, but GRRM frames the events from Arya’s perspective, and that influences how readers remember events.

    *Spoilers*

    I like Jaime a great deal, but does anybody else find this a tiny bit hypocritical?

    SoS, p.508
    “Do you think the noble Lord of Winterfell wanted to hear my feeble explanations? Such an honorable man. He only had to look at me to judge me guilty.”

    SoS, p.611
    He remembered Eddard Stark, riding the length of Aerys’s throne room wrapped in silence. Only his eyes had spoken, cold and grey and full of judgment.

    We never actually find out if Ned would have been willing to listen to his “feeble explanations.” Jaime never tried. He only had to look at Ned to judge him guilty of being irrationally judgmental. Ned never even had to say a word. Jaime “knew” just by looking at him.

  17. ah, you’re pointing out that in fact it was arya’s overloud defense of jon that brought the septa’s attention? yes, it is subtle. i stand by the perception that sansa was inwardly laughing at her. in my experience siblings usually are. 🙂

    and the comment widget floats new ones to the top of the list on the front page, so yes people see them 🙂

  18. “Ned had to come a lot harder than, “How he glittered!” (frankly, I can’t believe that Ned Stark could utter such a line).”
    Was I the only one who, re-reading this line after Twilight came out, realized how ironic that seemed (a glittering Vamp named Edward)?

  19. Elena, when reading this chapter, I felt that the tragedy is Ned remembers Robert at his best and wonders how things got to this point…it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

  20. Actually, I kind of understand Ned’s singling out of Jaime on the throne.

    It occurs to me that Jaime has become a stand-in for Ned’s outrage with himself. Ned sees himself, especially after cutting down his own heroes and losing his friends doing so, as a slayer not only of the king but almost of monarchy itself, of order and of the noblesse oblige which allows him to be a feudal lord with a clear conscience. If anyone else had killed Aerys, Ned might still have had doubts about the man’s character, but ultimately would have accepted it was a service to the country and let that be an end to it. He would, in the main, have had to face his recriminations alone. The fact it was a member of the Kingsguard is itself an ugly mark on the rebellion — it makes a mockery of the ToJ, and of the men who died there. It makes Ned a murderer, too, instead of a warrior for a complicated cause, which is the case he’s sold to himself.

    All of that is bad enough. But while on the subject of mockery, Jaime then plays about on the throne, as if it were a token of a game instead of the center of responsibility. But instead of dismissing it as the move of a stupid boy in over his head, Ned is able to displace all his discomfort with the cause, and in so doing he inadvertently explodes the event, nailing it down as the final seal on the coffin of the man’s character.

    Of course, the fact all that guilt is out-of-step with the supposed nobility of their cause also means that memories of his outrage at Jaime are also counter-intuitively subjects of shame — in addition to which I think he is aware on some level of how silly it sounds. Either way, he cannot bring himself to mention it. But as described above, Ned has been exploding its significance while the interplay of his guilt/outrage maelstrom, left unresolved, grows unabated. So, when the security of the whole realm is at stake, to say nothing of the hereditary title of his own nephew, he faces the risk of confronting (in a very nascent way) his own internal conflict or else letting his king make what he has convinced himself is an awful decision.

    He chooses loyalty to crown, unsealing his wound of guilt, only to have his king and once-best friend laugh in his face. On some level, Ned knew he would which, though it should have been mortifying, instead allows him to save face. He doesn’t actually have to probe any deeper and think about his conflict regarding his role in bloody insurrection, he can just brood on how blind his friend is.

    As for the line, “how he glittered,” I think the non-Ned-ness just underscores this explanation. Knowing the “offense” is a silly matter, he has to buttress it with some detail of accepted wisdom. Well, it’s known that Jaime is vain and arrogant, and all the “real men” of Westeros loathe him for it. Normally, Ned would not be in the company of the bitchy back-biters who’d try to impugn Jaime’s character simply because he dresses fancy, but he needs so desperately to legitimize his outrage, that he borrows from that tradition, attempts to trade on it with Robert, who is more of that kind.

    It’s out of character, which makes it IN character.

  21. Jay —
    say what? It’s one thing to be a traitor, but at the same time protecting your family. Jamie had NOTHING other than his oath as Kingsguard. Which he Broke.

    Yeah, somebody had to kill the king. But, it may be idealistic to say, not a Kingsguard.

    I’m falling on Ned’s side, even if he does have a little irrationality here.

  22. @Rachel:

    I gotta disagree with you assessment of Jamie. He did not join the Kingsguard to be like Arthur Dayne. He did it, so he could keep screwing his sister. Which goes against his oath. Everybody keeps the Kingslaying against him and that’s wrong and all as far as Jaime was concerned… Because he never cared about that oath to begin with. Keeping that in mind killing Aerys is indeed probably the best thing he had done in his life, but either way. Ned saw a man that didn’t give a crap about his oath, even if he didn’t know why he had made the oath at all, as opposed to Ned who is all about honour and stuff. He should dislike him on sight, even if he can’t rightly put it into a words.

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