I don’t make much of an effort to hide the fact that I’m a book person first and a show watcher (a very, very distant) second. My sense of the characters are almost completely informed by the book series. I’ve started a number of posts this week to lay out my opinions on the premiere but abandoned them all. Frankly, there are people who love the show and do a much better job of analyzing the jonsa/northern scenes better than I can or will. I deliberately avoided adding my thoughts to the mix for a variety of reasons, I don’t think anyone wants to hear them, tbh.
Actually, I will say one thing on Sansa. Wylla Manderly is loved in the fandom for speaking out, even against the orders of her liege lord. Sansa largely received a negative reaction for doing the exact same thing. Hmmmm…maybe it is about Sansa after all?
I have been thinking on the character of Lyanna Mormont quite a bit as I’ve seen a number of posts in my feed talking about her. She bothers me and I think I’ve finally realized why. There is a character who appears in the fifth book for all of a single chapter, Wylla Manderly. She gives a speech that I suspect most readers found to be incredibly moving. It brought tears to my eyes the first time I read it, it’s a fist pumping moment for sure. But, that’s not what makes what she does so great.
To lay the scene, Davos is appealing to Lord Manderly for aid and he is completely alone, surrounded by Freys and Manderly men-at-arms. He’s failing and he knows it. All of this occurs in Davos III, aDwD:
Here is Davos:
Davos felt a stab of despair. His Grace should have sent another man, a lord or knight or maester, someone who could speak for him without tripping on his own tongue. “Death,” he heard himself say, “there will be death, aye. Your lordship lost a son at the Red Wedding. I lost four upon the Blackwater. And why? Because the Lannisters stole the throne. Go to King’s Landing and look on Tommen with your own eyes, if you doubt me. A blind man could see it. What does Stannis offer you? Vengeance. Vengeance for my sons and yours, for your husbands and your fathers and your brothers. Vengeance for your murdered lord, your murdered king, your butchered princes. Vengeance!”
Now, it’s important to note what’s happening here. Davos is alone, he is without support or ally. He’s trying to do the right thing and he’s failing but that does not matter. He is still trying. So, who speaks in his favor:
“Yes,” piped a girl’s voice, thin and high.It belonged to the half-grown child with the blond eyebrows and the long green braid. “They killed Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn and King Robb,” she said. “He was our king! He was brave and good, and the Freys murdered him. If Lord Stannis will avenge him, we should join Lord Stannis.”
She speaks and what support does she get:
Manderly pulled her close. “Wylla, every time you open your mouth you make me want to send you to the silent sisters.”
“I only said—”“We heard what you said,” said the older girl, her sister. “A child’s foolishness. Speak no ill of our friends of Frey. One of them will be your lord and husband soon.”“No,” the girl declared, shaking her head. “I won’t. I won’t ever. They killed the king.”
Lord Wyman flushed. “You will. When the appointed day arrives, you will speak your wedding vows, else you will join the silent sisters and never speak again.“The poor girl looked stricken. "Grandfather, please …”
“Hush, child,” said Lady Leona. “You heard your lord grandfather. Hush! You know nothing.”
Wylla Manderly is told to she is foolish, that she should stop talking. She is told that her choice is to marry a Frey or be sent to the silent sisters. But, Wylla Manderly continues on:
“I know about the promise,” insisted the girl. “Maester Theomore, tell them! A thousand years before the Conquest, a promise was made, and oaths were sworn in the Wolf’s Den before the old gods and the new. When we were sore beset and friendless, hounded from our homes and in peril of our lives, the wolves took us in and nourished us and protected us against our enemies. The city is built upon the land they gave us. In return we swore that we should always be their men. Stark men!”
But, Wylla does not get support from the maester:
The maester fingered the chain about his neck. “Solemn oaths were sworn to the Starks of Winterfell, aye. But Winterfell has fallen and House Stark has been extinguished.”
Yet, she continues:
“That’s because they killed them all!”
After this, Rhaegar Frey speaks up and Wylla challenges him too. They have a short back and forth where she calls him out. Her grandfather, Lord Wyman appears to be agreeing with Frey but she calls him out in open court:
“They weren’t.” Wylla Manderly stamped her foot.
“Be quiet, wretched child,” scolded Lady Leona. “Young girls should be an ornament to the eye, not an ache in the ear.” She seized the girl by her braid and pulled her squealing from the hall. There went my only friend in this hall, thought Davos.
Wylla Manderly does not appear again in the series, this is the one and only time we see her. So why did Martin take the time to put this exchange in here? After all, she doesn’t change the outcome, she doesn’t change any minds. In fact, if she had kept quiet or never appeared at all, the story could have continued on as it does. So why? Well, Brienne tells us:
“Seven, Brienne thought again, despairing. She had no chance against seven, she knew. No chance, and no choice.”
- Brienne VII, aFfC
Five words and Brienne gets at one of the central themes of the entire series. That is what Martin is telling the readers, it’s what he is hammering at us with from Ned’s death all the way to the Ides of Marsh. Do What is Right. Even when it is hard, even when you stand alone, even when you know you are going to fail. Ultimately, that’s what makes Wyllla Manderly and her scene so powerful, it’s why Martin put her in there. Yeah, she’s a total bad-ass who speaks the truth, like Lyanna Mormont. But, she did it when she was alone, she did it when no one agreed, when she had no support. Even though she failed, she still had no choice but to speak. Wylla Manderly mattered because she failed.
So, I compare the two characters, both young girls, both bad ass in their won way. But, only one really gets to the heart of Martin’s message and I’ll take her every time. And that’s my struggle.
I suspect some will come to the conclusion I’m thinking on this way too hard and that’s fine. I’m a book nerd and I pick this series apart, it’s what I do.