dj-taktix  asked:

Re: Debunking theories: is it possible GRRM doesn't always tell the truth when confirming or denying theories? He's always warning us about unreliable narrators, and I doubt he'd give away a twist just because someone asked him at a Comicon or something. I'm thinking specifically of Benjen/Coldhands because, come on, Coldhands is soooo Benjen and maybe confirming that now would spoil some TWOW reveal north of the Wall...

No, when GRRM doesn’t want to give away a twist, he just refuses to answer. (So many wasted questions at con panels where someone asks “so what’s going to happen to [character]?” and he replies that they need to keep reading.) Or he answers obscurely, like in the interview after ADWD came out:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So why did you kill Jon Snow?

GEORGE R.R. MARTIN: Oh, you think he’s dead, do you?

EW: Well, I guess. Yes. That’s how I took it. The way it was written, it sounded like he was mortally wounded — and, you know, it’s you!

GRRM: Well. I’m not going to address whether he’s dead or not.

Also, if you can’t trust the word of the author, who can you trust? GRRM doesn’t have a reason to lie, he knows every single word he speaks is recorded and analyzed to high heaven. The only caveat he makes is that sometimes if he’s worldbuilding or infodumping history or doing a reading of unpublished material, it’s not true canon until it appears in an actual published book. For example, revising Bittersteel’s sigil from a dragon head and a horse head with a sword bend sinister between them, to a red stallion with black dragon wings; or the con reading where Jon executed Janos Slynt by having him hanged from the Wall. (Even TWOIAF doesn’t count as much as the novels; he’s said that Bellegere Otherys’s parentage is per Arya’s Mercy chapter, not what Yandel says.)

The situation with Benjen and Coldhands is particularly notable because GRRM wasn’t communicating with a fan – he was writing to his editor. (OK, his editor is a fan, but it’s not the same thing.) Anne Groell got to read ADWD before anyone else, she got the manuscript as it was being written so that she could have it edited and ready to go as soon as possible after it was completed. She knows what’s in all the chapters that were cut from ADWD and put into TWOW, she’s read them already. (Heck, she’s the one who pushed him to cut one sequence.) The bond between an author and editor is one of deep trust and commitment – it’s like a marriage, almost, that produces baby books. ;) 

So GRRM has less than zero reason to lie to his editor in any way whatsoever – so when she asked if Benjen is Coldhands and he replied “NO”, there’s not really any other way to take it. OK, so, I briefly hoped that “NO” might mean “no don’t ask me I’m not telling you right now”, but I really don’t think that anymore. There’s too many problems with Benjen being Coldhands, ranging from the CotF saying he died long ago, to his words in a strange language while praying over the body of his elk, to the fact that Bran doesn’t recognize him at all, not in the slightest. Benjen is doing something else. I’ll be damned if I know what exactly, he’s totally Chekhov’s Stark, and heaven knows he might have even met Coldhands… but they’re not the same person.

The Dead Ladies Club

“Ladies die in childbed. No one sings songs about them.”

The Dead Ladies Club is a term I invented** circa 2012 to describe the pantheon of undeveloped female characters in ASOIAF from the generation or so before the story began

It is a term that carries with it inherent criticisms of ASOIAF, which this post will address, in an essay in nine parts. The first, second, and third parts of this essay define the term in detail. Subsequent sections examine how these women were written and why this aspect of ASOIAF merits criticism, exploring the pervasiveness of the dead mothers trope in fiction, the excessive use of sexual violence in writing these women, and the differences in GRRM’s portrayals of male sacrifice versus female sacrifice in the narrative. 

To conclude, I assert that the manner in which these women were written undermines GRRM’s thesis, and ASOIAF – a series I consider to be one of the greatest works of modern fantasy – is poorer because of it. 

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Arya’s journey is very much a feminine one and I wish it was recognized as such instead of people writing her off as “like a boy”. A major theme in Arya’s story is identity and it plays out in a way unique to her relationship with her femininity. Both Sansa and Arya are threatened with having their identities subsumed by a patriarchal society; Sansa by a society that treats her as a consumable object, and Arya because she can’t fit into that little box of what a woman should be according to patriarchal standards.

While Sansa’s journey involves being boxed in, her identity sold to the men around her who seek to possess her, Arya’s journey involves her being flung far across the continent and eventually landing in a place where, because she cannot be a wife and she cannot be a knight or a lord or a high septon, she literally (nearly) becomes no one at all. Because she won’t give up her name to a man, she must surrender her name entirely. Because she does not conform to the male gaze, she must become faceless. This is how women who don’t fit a certain standard are treated in real life. If you can’t or won’t play the game patriarchy wants you to play, then you are no one, and society and the media does their best to pretend that you don’t exist. Arya must give up her body because she refuses to give it, she must give up her emotions because she’s too emotional. She must contain and control herself because she won’t conform, she must make herself smaller and smaller until she doesn’t exist at all.

“The price is you. The price is all you have and all you ever hope to have. We took your eyes and gave them back. Next we will take your ears, and you will walk in silence. You will give us your legs and crawl. You will be no one’s daughter, no one’s wife, no one’s mother. Your name will be a lie, and the very face you wear will not be your own.”

On a meta level, this is very much a story about being a woman. About how patriarchy asks you to give all of yourself until you either fit into that little box or you get treated like you’re an androgynous, faceless being and not a woman at all.

“Men’s lives have meaning, not their deaths” is the closest we’ve gotten to an overarching thesis statement for ASOIAF. It reaches all the way back to the first book, to Ned (who, like Quent, turns out to not be the protagonist after all) and his shocking demise. So many readers have interpreted that moment, as well as the Red Wedding two books later, as being indicative of nihilism on GRRM’s part. Everything is chaos, honor gets you killed and is therefore worthless, “power is power.” But this is not so.

Ned’s legacy is not his death, it is his life. The children determined to find each other again because Dad taught them to stick together and be brave, the vassals who have set out to rescue and restore those children in his name, the memory both in-universe and IRL of a decent man who treated his servants like human beings worth listening to and who was determined to protect the young and innocent…all of this is the meaning of Ned Stark, not that he ended up as a head on a spike.

By the same token, the meaning of Tywin Lannister isn’t that he died on the can. It’s why he died on the can, and that is because he lived a terrible life. His legacy is his family tearing itself apart, his hoped-for Lannister regime falling to pieces across Westeros, and his oh-so-symbolic reeking corpse. One of these men, for all his mistakes, found and spread a worthy meaning in his brief time on Terros, and the other, for all his triumphs, did not. We are all mortal; all of us, “from the highest lord to the lowest gutter rat,” are ultimately helpless before the abyss that Quent leaps into in his final chapter. No one (not even Euron, try as he might) can change that. What matters, what makes us who are, what means something, is how we live our lives knowing that in the end, the house always wins.

Every death is a lesson.

I want to push back against this perception that GRRM kills off characters in ASOIAF for shock value. Or that he’s killing off characters willy-nilly to fuck with his audience.

That’s…not accurate.

We may find many of these deaths shocking, but we tend to be shocked because we’re accustomed to seeing characters live or die based on a particular moral framework, and GRRM is using a different moral framework. His moral framework isn’t cynical, or nihilistic. It’s pragmatic.

In particular, GRRM has NOT established a pattern of killing off POV characters for no good reason. Of those POV characters who are significant enough to have a presence on the show, the only ones who’ve died in the books are Ned, Cat, and Jon. That’s it. And Jon hasn’t even stayed dead. (Cat, I’m calling a real death. Everything good about Cat died at the Red Wedding and stayed dead.) Robb Stark was never a POV character. Robert Baratheon, Viserys Targaryen, Jeor Mormont, Tywin Lannister, Rodrik Cassel, Oberyn Martell? Not POV characters. 

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Sansa and her “Stark connection”

Since the fandom is always saying how Sansa is not a Real Stark ™    I wanted to  make a post in which I explain why Sansa, born in the Winter (unlike Arya or Bran or Rickon born in the long Summer), in Winterfell (unlike Jon or Robb born in the south) will always be a Stark ( no Lannister or Baelish or whatever…), no matter who she is forced to marry (to survive I might add..). 

 In AGOT Sansa (before her father died, and when she was meant to marry joffrey) is already very proud of her Stark origins. 

Alyn carried the Stark banner. When she saw him rein in beside Lord Beric to exchange words, it made Sansa feel ever so proud.

While prefering The Seven (like her mother) she does admire the poetry of the old gods. 

Besides, even if she could leave the castle, where would she go? It was enough that she could walk in the yard, pick flowers in Myrcella’s garden, and visit the sept to pray for her father. Sometimes she prayed in the godswood as well, since the Starks kept the old gods.

By the time she reached the godswood, the noises had faded to a faint rattle of steel and a distant shouting. Sansa pulled her cloak tighter. The air was rich with the smells of earth and leaf. Lady would have liked this place, she thought. There was something wild about a godswood; even here, in the heart of the castle at the heart of the city, you could feel the old gods watching with a thousand unseen eyes.

While she is called little bird, or little dove (when people want to undermine her), she is called wolf  too.

Tyrion found himself thinking of his wife. Not Sansa; his first wife, Tysha. The whore wife, not the wolf wife.

“Your Grace has forgotten the Lady Sansa,” said Pycelle.

The queen bristled. “I most certainly have not forgotten that little she-wolf.” She refused to say the girl’s name.

And Sansa herself when she is in put  a hard position takes courage in her Stark origins. Its something that gives her  strength:

Do as you’re told, sweetling, it won’t be so bad. Wolves are supposed to be brave, aren’t they?

“Brave. Sansa took a deep breath. I am a Stark, yes, I can be brave.

"Winterfell?” Robert was small for eight, a stick of a boy with splotchy skin and eyes that were always runny. Under one arm he clutched the threadbare cloth doll he carried everywhere.

Winterfell is the seat of House Stark,” Sansa told her husband-to-be. “The great castle of the north.”

“Do you require guarding?” Marillion said lightly. “I am composing a new song, you should know. A song so sweet and sad it will melt even your frozen heart. ‘The Roadside Rose,’ I mean to call it. About a baseborn girl so beautiful she bewitched every man who laid eyes upon her.

I am a Stark of Winterfell, she longed to tell him. Instead she nodded, and let him escort her down the tower steps and along a bridge. 

 Petyr put his arm around her. “What if it is truth he wants, and justice for his murdered lady?” He smiled. “I know Lord Nestor, sweetling. Do you imagine I’d ever let him harm my daughter?

"I am not your daughter, she thought. I am Sansa Stark, Lord Eddard’s daughter and Lady Catelyn’s, the blood of Winterfell.

"As was bringing me here, when you swore to take me home.”She wondered where this courage had come from, to speak to him so frankly. From Winterfell, she thought. I am stronger within the walls of Winterfell.

I will tell my aunt that I don’t want to marry Robert. Not even the High Septon himself could declare a woman married if she refused to say the vows. She wasn’t a beggar, no matter what her aunt said. She was thirteen, a woman flowered and wed, the heir to Winterfell.

.His seamed and solemn face brought back all of Sansa’s memories of his time at Winterfell. She remembered him at table, speaking quietly with her mother. She heard his voice booming off the walls when he rode back from a hunt with a buck behind his saddle. She could see him in the yard, a practice sword in hand, hammering her father to the ground and turning to defeat Ser Rodrik as well. He will know me. How could he not? She considered throwing herself at his feet to beg for his protection. He never fought for Robb, why should he fight for me?

From the high battlements of the gatehouse, the whole world spread out below them. Sansa could see the Great Sept of Baelor on Visenya’s hill, where her father had died. At the other end of the Street of the Sisters stood the fire-blackened ruins of the Dragonpit. To the west, the swollen red sun was half-hidden behind the Gate of the Gods. The salt sea was at her back, and to the south was the fish market and the docks and the swirling torrent of the Blackwater Rush. And to the north …She turned that way, and saw only the city, streets and alleys and hills and bottoms and more streets and more alleys and the stone of distant walls. Yet she knew that beyond them was open country, farms and fields and forests, and beyond that, north and north and north again, stood Winterfell.

but personally my favorite line about Sansa being always a Stark and belonging North in Winterfell  (Never a Lannister! , no matter who she marries) is this quote by Ned: 

When it was over, he said, “Choose four men and have them take the body north. Bury her at Winterfell.”

“All that way?” Jory said, astonished.

“All that way,” Ned affirmed. “The Lannister woman shall never have this skin.

Sansa whole story (to me) is about her journey retaking her Stark origins which were stolen from her in the worst of way, just like they killed her wolf Lady. But just like Lady remains, Sansa place is and always will be in the north, as a Stark of Winterfell. 

Sansa’s first scene in A Game of Thrones, and the readers’ introduction to her from a POV perspective, starts with her feeding Lady under the table, and I’m quite sure this was intentional.

“I’ve never seen an aurochs,” Sansa said, feeding a piece of bacon to Lady under the table. The direwolf took it from her hand, as delicate as a queen.”

Septa Mordane sniffed i disapproval. “A noble lady does not feed dogs at her table,” she said, breaking off another piece of comb and letting the honey drip down onto her bread.

“She’s not a dog, she’s a direwolf,” Sansa pointed out as Lady licked her fingers with a rough tongue. “Anyway, Father said we could keep them with us if we want.”

The septa was not appeased. “You’re a good girl, Sansa, but I do vow, when it comes to that creature you’re as willful as your sister Arya.”

(page 139)

Like Sansa, Lady is courteous and perfectly disciplined. By hiding Lady, Sansa keeps up the appearances of a noble lady, but she refuses to let go of Lady. Lady is her tie to her Northern heritage, and her identity, and in her first scene, Sansa has learned to hide Lady. Sansa is not openly rebellious like Arya, who skips meals with the Queen to go riding with her friend, but she makes sure her rebellions are small, silent, and disciplined. When Lady dies, Sansa loses that concrete tie to her Northern identity, and while in Kings landing she has to sever any open connection or loyalty to her family. When she becomes Alayne she has to submerge her identity even further, but I think the key to her character the constant small assertions of her identity: her trips to the Godswood, telling Joffrey Robb might bring her his head, telling Cersei she will make the people love her, not fear her. These are all small assertions of who Sansa really is, a glimpse of when she keeps “under the table” in her mind.

I’ve been thinking about how Arya is more comfortable around people who are of lower birth than her because gender roles are less strict for the commonfolk of Westeros. The bar for performing gender is set higher the higher up you go in class because women are valued on their ability to obtain an advantageous marriage so the performance of femininity needs to be perfect (see Brienne). In contrast, women who have to work for a living can’t afford the kind of femininity meant to convey delicacy. This is why Arya is more comfortable around women like the prostitutes in Braavos.

Then I was thinking about how Gendry’s perception of Arya changes when he realizes that she is high born. There is Gendry’s obvious disdain for the upper classes, understandable since he’s been a victim of classism. But there’s also the subtle sexism in the way his demeanor changes from learning she’s a girl, to learning that she is a high born girl.

Because high born girls are held to a higher standard of gender performance, their femininity is seen as more delicate and in need of protecting. Witness the way Gendry demands for Arya to prove that she’s a boy when he correctly guesses that she’s a girl, but a lowborn girl, or so he thinks. He knows she’s a girl, and intentionally teases her using coarse language, telling her to “pull out your cock”. Then when he learns she’s high born, the tune changes.

“You were a lord’s daughter and you lived in a castle, didn’t you? And you … gods be good, I never …“ All of a sudden Gendry seemed uncertain, almost afraid. "All that about cocks, I never should have said that. And I been pissing in front of you and everything, I … I beg your pardon, m'lady.”

All of the sudden, Gendry becomes embarrassed. He had no problem talking about cocks in front of Arya when he thought she was a peasant, but ladies are not supposed to be exposed to such things. I think there’s also something to be said about how the highborn performance of gender is supposed to be asexual. Highborn women are sexual objects but are not sexual themselves. This is seen in Sansa’s naivete about the actual act of sex. She’s been told only what she needs to know to be available for a husband.

In contrast, lowborn women are seen as more sexual, more experienced, less in need of protection. When she is living as a peasant girl, Arya experiences sexual harassment and in ACOK she is disillusioned of the idea that knights will protect her because she no longer looks like the innocent high born maid that Westeros puts on a pedestal.

Sansa, Smart

So. Sansa. I hear some people think she’s not very clever. This is a view shared by several characters in the books.

But there’s no reason the readership should share those views. Sansa is a very clever individual who makes increasingly good use of several skills she started the series with, and develops greatly as an observer and an actor over the course of the story.

Putting everything under a cut, for reasons of four books of brainpower.

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knight-bishop  asked:

You said patchface is the true prophet of the drowned god, could you elaborate on that please?

With pleasure. Patchface is among the most accomplished prophets in the story, up there with Maggy, Quaithe, the Ghost of High Heart, etc. He directly foretold the shadow-babies…

“The shadows come to dance my lord, dance my lord, dance my lord. The shadows come to stay my lord, stay my lord, stay my lord…”

…the Battle of Blackwater…

“Under the sea, smoke rises in bubbles, and flames burn green and blue and black.”

…and the Red Wedding… 

“Fool’s blood, king’s blood, blood on the maiden’s thigh, but chains for the guests and chains for the bridegroom, aye aye aye.”

…but no one around him had enough information (or took him seriously enough) to realize it. The grand irony, as many have noted, is that while Mel struggles and repeatedly fails to make sense of the images she sees in the flames, there’s a far more accurate prophet right there under her and Stannis’ noses. 

So where does this power come from? We know that Patchface was once a jester in Essos, brought over the Narrow Sea by Steffon Baratheon, and went down with the Windproud in Shipbreaker Bay. He washed up two days later; as Cressen tells us, no one can explain how Patchface survived, and indeed, the man who found him swore he was deathly cold to the touch. 

There’s one motif that Patchface hammers on like a piano key: his third eye was opened “under the sea.” I think the reason he survived, and the reason he can see the future, is that he encountered the Drowned God underneath the waves. When a mere mortal actually beholds the Lovecraftian thing-in-itself, the result is a divine knowledge too much for the mind to handle. Aeron Greyjoy, I think, is meant as a deliberate contrast to Patchface in this regard. Damphair believes he communicates with the Drowned God, but all his POV chapters make clear that it’s a projection; he’s talking to himself. Patchface, by contrast, is what a mainline to the divine really looks like. This theme runs through a lot of GRRM’s examinations of magic, religion, and the intersection between the two. Take, for example, the Undying of Qarth: their projected image of oh-so-high-fantasy kings and queens and wizards covers up their true form, which is what it really looks like to sell your soul to the voices in the flames, in the trees, in the water. 

victarionsrighthand  asked:

What do you think about Sansa's crush on Loras? Do you think it means something that no matter how much she seems to grow as a character she still holds a crush over some pretty knight that never really seemed to care about her and she still imagines him when she kisses people (even if her thoughts get directed back to sandor)

Well… Loras is a very safe crush.

Loras plays the role for Sansa that teen heartthrobs do for many adolescent girls, a safe exploration of their growing sexuality.

The idolization of teen idols typically begins in early adolescence when girls start to become interested in romance and dating and more aware of social norms which suggest that they should have romantic feelings for someone of the opposite sex (Simon, Eder, & Evans, 1992). Rather than dating in real life, developing a crush on a teen idol is a way for girls to acknowledge their emerging sexual feelings in a safe, non-threatening way (Engle & Kasser, 2005). Because teen boys are viewed by girls as only interested in sex (McRobbie, 1991), teen idols are a preferable option. Further, they often project a feminine form of masculinity that is sexually non-threatening and thus accessible to young girls (Engle &: Kasser, 2005; Karniol, 2001; McRobbie, 1991; Sweeney, 1994).

Bitten by Twilight: Youth Culture, Media, & the Vampire Franchise

One of the most popular ways people like to hate teenage girls is to complain about their “insane” crushes on boy band members. Now, let me fucking tell you something: those big dumb crushes are what helps a teenage girl develop her sexuality in a safe environment that she can control. In her world, she can listen to One Direction and hear all these songs about how great she is, and how much these cute non-threatening boys want to make her feel special. Why is this so important? Because no one is pushing them. There’s no fourteen year old boy shoving his clammy hands down your shirt without your consent. These fantasy boys are not convincing a girl to send naked pictures, only to show all their friends and call her a slut. In the fantasy land of boy bands, the girl has all the power. And we need to stop judging them for wanting to escape into that.

–Meghan Harper, “Why I Fucking Love Teenage Girls”

ASOIAF is a medieval-style world, so it of course doesn’t have pop idols and movie stars, but it does have tournaments and tourney champions, who play that role for the adolescent girls of Westeros. (And the boys, too. Consider Bran’s idolization of knights, especially the Kingsguard.) And Loras Tyrell is not just one of the best upcoming stars of the tourney scene, but he’s so dreamy handsome, young, and from one of the best families of Westeros. (Even Robert Baratheon crushes on him, in a manly way.)

Now, the fact that Loras is actually gay (as are so many teen heartthrobs - George Michael, we miss you) makes him even safer, whether Sansa consciously realizes it or not. This is all the more important, since because of the close circles of Westeros aristocracy, Sansa Stark has far more of a chance of personally interacting with Loras Tyrell than your typical teenage girl has with her most beloved Bieber or Zayn.

So when Sansa actually has the opportunity to meet Loras, is even led to believe she might marry him… the expression of her sexuality, while very real, is also very safe:

The sight of Ser Loras Tyrell standing on her threshold made Sansa’s heart beat a little faster.

Sansa was finding it hard to walk and talk and think all at the same time, with Ser Loras touching her arm.

I am talking to him, and he’s touching me, he’s holding my arm and touching me.

Desperately she tried to think of something clever and charming to say to him, but her wits had deserted her. She almost told him how beautiful he was, until she remembered that she’d already done that.

Ser Loras in white silk, so pure, innocent, beautiful. The dimples at the corner of his mouth when he smiled. The sweetness of his laugh, the warmth of his hand. She could only imagine what it would be like to pull up his tunic and caress the smooth skin underneath, to stand on her toes and kiss him, to run her fingers through those thick brown curls and drown in his deep brown eyes. A flush crept up her neck.

–ASOS, Sansa I

Or, for a visual representation:

Now, the trouble (or not?) is that this safe crush of Sansa’s is no longer something she can rely on. Whether it’s because of her aging into womanhood, or because of her actual experiences with sexuality – the dark masculine danger of Sandor Clegane, her marriage to Tyrion Lannister (including seeing him nude and sleeping next to him in bed for weeks), the explicit rape threats of Joffrey Baratheon and Marillion, the disturbing attentions and unfatherly kisses of Petyr Baelish – when she wishes to escape into her formerly favorite safe fantasy of Loras Tyrell, it twists away from her into something else:

Before she could summon the servants, however, Sweetrobin threw his skinny arms around her and kissed her. It was a little boy’s kiss, and clumsy. Everything Robert Arryn did was clumsy. If I close my eyes I can pretend he is the Knight of Flowers. Ser Loras had given Sansa Stark a red rose once, but he had never kissed her… and no Tyrell would ever kiss Alayne Stone. Pretty as she was, she had been born on the wrong side of the blanket.
As the boy’s lips touched her own she found herself thinking of another kiss. She could still remember how it felt, when his cruel mouth pressed down on her own. He had come to Sansa in the darkness as green fire filled the sky. He took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak.

–AFFC, Alayne II

Note that there are many analyses of “the unkiss” (link 1, link 2), Sansa’s imagined memory of being kissed by Sandor the night of the Blackwater, but what many point out is that it is again an attempt by Sansa of a safe fantasy, a subconscious attempt to control and understand and romanticize a frightening sexually-charged situation. It’s just several octaves away from her non-threatening fantasies of kissing and touching the “beautiful” Loras.

And though you say Sansa still holds this crush, please note that Loras is only mentioned in Sansa’s narrative once in AFFC (that scene above), where she recognizes that Loras’s attentions were nothing real, no kisses, just a rose. Also, when she thinks about the men who helped her in King’s Landing, Loras is not one of them. Furthermore, he’s not mentioned at all in her TWOW preview chapter – which, considering it focuses on an upcoming tourney and the young knights who wish to be its champions, should be a perfect occasion for the pretty knight Loras to stroll through Sansa’s head, and yet he does not.

So I would say that Sansa’s adolescent crush on Loras is something perfectly understandable… and also something she has outgrown. I hope that helps!

anonymous asked:

How can martin be a romantist at heart, given that there are never any happy times in a song of ice and fire, that lasts more than a chapter before getting drowned in misery and death?

Because Romantic and romantic don’t mean the same thing. The Romantic movement of the first half of the 19th century ( think Byron, think Mary Shelly, think Coleridge, think the Bronte sisters) loved it some misery and death as long as said misery and death was appropriately extra, melodramatic, and over-the-top, because the point was achieving emotional instensity and extremes. Thus, as I’ve said before, GRRM plumbs the depths of “misery and death” so that the “happy times” are that more intense. 

Moreover, I want to point out that the idea that “romantic” stories should involve happy endings is pretty damn new in the historical scheme of things. Coming out of the tradition of chivalric romance - where the point was about the purity and intensity of longing *from afar* not its consummation, which threatened the social order and had to be punished with a tragic end - a lot of the classic romances are cases of “star-crossed” love, whether we’re thinking about Guinevere and Lancelot, Tristan and Isolde, or Romeo and Juliet. 

A parallel between Arya and Jon that I really like is how men of the Night’s Watch contribute to their characters’ growth, in roughly the same situations where the siblings struggle in their new environment. It happens to Jon in his third chapter of the first novel, and to Arya in her first chapter of the second novel.

Donal Noye explains to Jon - in very harsh words - that he’s been unfair to his fellow recruits of the Night’s Watch, by beating them violently in the yard.

They’re not my brothers,” Jon snapped. “They hate me because I’m better than they are.

No. They hate you because you act like you’re better than they are. They look at you and see a castle-bred bastard who thinks he’s a lordling.” The armorer leaned close. “You’re no lordling. Remember that. You’re a Snow, not a Stark. You’re a bastard and a bully.

A bully?” Jon almost choked on the word. The accusation was so unjust it took his breath away. “They were the ones who came after me. Four of them.

Four that you’ve humiliated in the yard. Four who are probably afraid of you. I’ve watched you fight. It’s not training with you. Put a good edge on your sword, and they’d be dead meat; you know it, I know it, they know it. You leave them nothing. You shame them. Does that make you proud?

 Jon’s been really inconsiderate towards other young men and smug about his superior skills, and it took Donal Noye to make him realise that he has been privileged in life, as far as sword-training is concerned. Jon has been trained by a master-at-arms since he was a little boy, while the majority of the other new comers to the Wall never had the opportunity to hold a sword in their lifes.

Donal Noye leaned forward, into Jon’s face. “Now think on this, boy. None of these others have ever had a master-at-arms until Ser Alliser. Their fathers were farmers and wagonmen and poachers, smiths and miners and oars on a trading galley. What they know of fighting they learned between decks, in the alleys of Oldtown and Lannisport, in wayside brothels and taverns on the kingsroad. They may have clacked a few sticks together before they came here, but I promise you, not one in twenty was ever rich enough to own a real sword.” His look was grim. “So how do you like the taste of your victories now, Lord Snow?

 Above Jon’s superior fighting skills, his violence was in part driven by his resentment and disillusionment with the Night’s Watch. Donal’s words are what make Jon think about the situation he is in, change his behavior, develop friendships with his brothers of the Night’s Watch, and ultimately, grow as a character.

 In Arya’s case, Yoren is the one who gives her a similar lesson when they are travelling up the King’s Road. Hot Pie and Lommy, the orphan boys, were mocking and verbally bullying Arya, but her reaction was really excessive - she beat Hot Pie so violently that Yoren had to drag her off him.

Hot Pie was on his knees, his fist closing around a big jagged rock. She let him throw it, ducking her head as it sailed past. Then she flew at him. He raised a hand and she hit it, and then his cheek, and then his knee. He grabbed for her, and she danced aside and bounced the wood off the back of his head. He fell down and got up and stumbled after her, his red face all smeared with dirt and blood. Arya slid into a water dancer’s stance and waited. When he came close enough, she lunged, right between his legs, so hard that if her wooden sword had had a point it would have come out between his butt cheeks. 

By the time Yoren pulled her off him, Hot Pie was sprawled out on the ground with his breeches brown and smelly, crying as Arya whapped him over and over and over. “Enough,” the black brother roared, prying the stick sword from her fingers, “you want to kill the fool?

Arya’s and Jon’s responses, when Donal and Yoren mention the new recruits of the Night’s Watch, is exactly the same too.

They’re not my brothers, Arya thought.

They’re not my brothers,” Jon snapped.

 Arya’s brutal reaction was not the result of Hot Pie and Lommy calling her names, but rather of the anger she felt because of her father’s death. She internalized the violence she witnessed - directly or indirecty - in King’s Landing, and unconsciously chose an innocent person on whom to relieve her pain, and Yoren made her realize that.

He spat. “That pie boy’s hurting worse. It wasn’t him as killed your father, girl, nor that thieving Lommy neither. Hitting them won’t bring him back.

I know,“ Arya muttered sullenly.

 Just as with Jon, Yoren’s lesson helps Arya to adapt to her new - albeit one that would be short-lived - world, and her character to grow. Following it, Arya develops friendships with both Hot Pie and Lommie (a friendship that would land Lommie’s killer on her list, and to his death in Winds of Winter).

 Jon and Arya had similar reactions and violently rejected their new environments at first, and both were helped by Donal Noye and Yoren respectively, to better adapt to them.

Catelyn, Smart

Much like her elder daughter, Catelyn Stark is a character whose intelligence is seriously underrated. There’s less of an intellectual arc apparent in her story as compared to Sansa’s, as Catelyn is a grown woman, but that doesn’t mean her thinking is static. It must be said that she is one of the series’ most staggeringly unfortunate characters, as the tragic structure of her arc demands that her decisions and risks to protect her family fail and rebound upon them.

Yet lack of success does not equal lack of intelligence. Even in her mistakes and failures, it is more than possible to see that this is not a woman who didn’t think before she acted.

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kemmlerthekitschmaster  asked:

Can you elaborate more on how the Alys-Sigorn wedding was awesome and its like a baby that conquered the world? I just really like Alys/Sigorn and want to hear more about it.

Whew, where to begin? The Alys-Sigorn wedding is IMO a strong candidate for “best scene in the series,” and it’s probably exhibit A in the case for ADWD as the best book in that series (give or take Dany X and the dragontaming). It’s the surest sign that GRRM still knows what he’s doing and that the sedimentary layers of story are producing more powerful moments as he goes. It’s such a narratively dense event with so many resonances that you could spend days teasing it apart. Here’s just a brief overview.  

At one level, the wedding symbolizes and enacts the alliance between the Stark North and the Free Folk, presided over by the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (himself having been raised in Winterfell, but also having ridden with the wildlings). It’s very ceremonial and ritualistic, GRRM taking his time setting it up and lingering on every detail so you really get what a momentous deal this is: a powerful wildling leader and the daughter of a significant Northern house joining to forge something new. This carries such weight with us because we’ve been living with this bitter divide and the knowledge of how longstanding and entrenched it is for multiple books. Climbing this hill seemed nigh-impossible back in ASOS when Stannis proposed it; now, we see a real ray of hope. And of course, this dovetails so beautifully with what happens at chapter’s end: the horn blast announcing Tormund Giantsbane’s arrival to cement that pact. 

This sense of harmonic resolution wouldn’t mean much, though, if it didn’t also extend to the bride and groom specifically. Alys coming to Jon (specifically as Ned’s son) and securing his help against Cregan and Arnolf marks a symbolic reconciliation between Houses Stark and Karstark. Instead of the latter house as an enemy, as they’ve been since early in ASOS, we now see them as a complex family riven by internal conflict, and there’s a chance to set things right. It helps, of course, that Alys is immediately one of the most lovable characters in the story: “Let him be scared of me.” As for Sigorn, his father died at Castle Black thanks to Jon’s defenses, and earlier in ADWD, Sigorn himself opposed assimilation to the point of threatening Jon’s life. Here, however, he brings the Thenns into the larger realm and makes a very moving peace–and of course he, too, is written to encourage empathy in the wedding scene, coming off nervous, awkward, and ultimately good-hearted. 

But what really makes this scene shine, undergirding and emphasizing all of the above, is the imagery. It…glows. 

And Melisandre said, “Let them come forth, who would be joined.” The flames cast her shadow on the Wall behind her, and her ruby gleamed against the paleness of her throat.

Jon turned to Alys Karstark. “My lady. Are you ready?”

“Yes. Oh, yes.”

“You’re not scared?”

The girl smiled in a way that reminded Jon so much of his little sister that it almost broke his heart. “Let him be scared of me.”The snowflakes were melting on her cheeks, but her hair was wrapped in a swirl of lace that Satin had found somewhere, and the snow had begun to collect there, giving her a frosty crown. Her cheeks were flushed and red, and her eyes sparkled.

“Winter’s lady.” Jon squeezed her hand.

The Magnar of Thenn stood waiting by the fire, clad as if for battle, in fur and leather and bronze scales, a bronze sword at his hip. His receding hair made him look older than his years, but as he turned to watch his bride approach, Jon could see the boy in him. His eyes were big as walnuts, though whether it was the fire, the priestess, or the woman that had put the fear in him Jon could not say. Alys was more right than she knew.

“Who brings this woman to be wed?” asked Melisandre.

“I do,” said Jon. “Now comes Alys of House Karstark, a woman grown and flowered, of noble blood and birth.” He gave her hand one last squeeze and stepped back to join the others.

“Who comes forth to claim this woman?” asked Melisandre.

“Me.” Sigorn slapped his chest. “Magnar of Thenn.”

“Sigorn,” asked Melisandre, “will you share your fire with Alys, and warm her when the night is dark and full of terrors?”

“I swear me.” The Magnar’s promise was a white cloud in the air. Snow dappled his shoulders. His ears were red. “By the red god’s flames, I warm her all her days.”

“Alys, do you swear to share your fire with Sigorn, and warm him when the night is dark and full of terrors?”

“Till his blood is boiling.” Her maiden’s cloak was the black wool of the Night’s Watch. The Karstark sunburst sewn on its back was made of the same white fur that lined it.

Melisandre’s eyes shone as bright as the ruby at her throat. “Then come to me and be as one.” As she beckoned, a wall of flames roared upward, licking at the snowflakes with hot orange tongues. Alys Karstark took her Magnar by the hand.

Side by side they leapt the ditch.

“Two went into the flames.” A gust of wind lifted the red woman’s scarlet skirts till she pressed them down again. “One emerges.” Her coppery hair danced about her head. “What fire joins, none may put asunder.”

This is hope rendered in radiant red and gold; this is what endgame looks like. We saw it, just a flash of it, as their leap (like Theon and Jeyne’s, several chapters later) reached its apex. This leap over the flames and everything that goes with it exists in defiance of the Long Night, in spite of the army of the dead. It’s a fire to circle around, a well from which to draw strength, and a foundation for what comes next. House Thenn’s sigil is appropriate; they represent the Dawn.

meggiry-khaleesi  asked:

About what height do you think Sansa is? She's referred to as tall in the books, right? Thank you!

Alayne Stone is “a maiden tall and fair”, per Littlefinger. Regarding Sansa’s precise height… it’s hard to say exactly (exact measurements are rare in the books, save for Dunk), but we can figure something out from context.

  • At Sansa’s wedding to Tyrion, she noted herself that she was “a foot and a half” taller than him.
  • Book!Tyrion, per GRRM, is shorter than Peter Dinklage (4′5″), so Sansa is not 5′11″, she’s shorter than that. (At that time at least, she had grown 3 inches during the previous year.)
  • Some time earlier, Sansa also noted that Tyrion and Tommen (eight years old) were the same height. (Tommen was taller than him at the wedding, age 9.)
  • The median height for an 8-year-old boy is about 4′2″… which matches up with GRRM’s assessment of Tyrion.
  • That would make Sansa about 5′8″… which is in the 90th percentile for a 13-year-old girl… so yes, tall.

This, btw, neatly matches up with @corseque’s lovely sketch:

(which, uh, I’ve referenced before in a similar question. It’s a darn good sketch, what can I say.)

So… I’d say estimating Sansa at about 5′8″ makes sense. She might be a bit shorter (if Tyrion and Tommen were shorter), but not by much, 5′6″ at the shortest most likely. However, if Sansa’s still growing (menarche is not necessarily a cut-off) she might get taller yet. But considering GRRM is attempting to be “medieval”, probably not that much taller. (I’d say 5′10″ at the very most.) And of course you could fudge this in a modern AU if you needed to. But anyway, hope that helps!

Sansa and Animal Wife Folklore

Numerous times in the books the Starks are associated with skinchanging. The children’s connection to their wolves leads all the Stark children towards warging to various degrees. Robb is rumored to turn into a wolf during battle and the same rumor is spread about Sansa when she flees King’s Landing.

Some say that Sansa loses her Stark connection when Lady dies but I am going to argue that this connection is alive in a very important way.

In various folklore around the world, the animal wife is a shape changer, usually a beautiful woman who will shed her animal skin and gain the attentions of men. These stories often involve a man spying on the beautiful woman as she sheds her skin and stealing the skin so that she cannot turn back into her animal form and must remain with him as his wife.

Sansa is first sent south as Joffrey’s betrothed, and after Lady’s death she loses an essential part of her northern identity, and must hide that part of herself. Cersei tries to claim Lady’s skin but Ned sends it back north specifically so the Lannisters will never get hold of it.

In the animal wife tales and in asoiaf, the taking of skin illustrates ownership, domination, control over an individual. The total obliteration of the self. Sansa may be forced to hide who she really is, to marry against her will, even to change her name, but her wolf skin remains in Winterfell, untouched by those who wish to make her theirs, and Sansa will return to reclaim it one day.

anonymous asked:

Why do you think Robert wanted to marry Lyanna? Was she the most beautiful women he had ever see, did he enjoy her fire or did he wanna marry her so him and Ned would be brothers?

Oh, banish the thought that Robert wanted Lyanna because of her fire. Robert didn’t know Lyanna to appreciate anything about her beyond the superficial. He demonstrates, time and again, how utterly ignorant he is of who Lyanna was as a person, something that Ned calls him out on when he tries to claim that Lyanna wouldn’t have objected to him fighting in the melee or shamed him like Cersei does. Which might be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard from Robert Baratheon, because:

“You never knew Lyanna as I did, Robert,” Ned told him. “You saw her beauty, but not the iron underneath. She would have told you that you have no business in the melee.”

Lyanna totally would have shamed Robert like that and worse, because Robert’s ideal woman is one that looks pretty and keeps her mouth shut while he does whatever the hell he wants, and that’s not Lyanna Stark. Lyanna’s fire would have driven Robert nuts because it does not fit his idea of what a woman should be like, much less his own wife. The man takes Cersei’s (justified and correct) objection to him fighting in the melee as a personal insult and is utterly flabbergasted that Ned not only agrees with her, but is sure that Lyanna would have done the same. Because the Lyanna in Robert’s head would never. He didn’t see her fire any more than he saw her; he only saw what he projected on her, and that made her his ideal woman and his One True Love.

No, anon, it was largely about Ned who is the brother Robert wants, not his disappointing blood brothers. The Starks are also an excellent family for Robert to marry into - very prestigious with a history that is as long as man has been in the North, former kings with the largest domain in all of the Seven Kingdoms, and more importantly (to Robert, at least), a close-knit family that genuinely likes and respects one another. Ned left Winterfell when he was eight but he still managed to have a close relationship with his siblings, while Robert spent years with only sullen disappointing Stannis for company and baby Renly isn’t much of an improvement. Robert grew attached to the idea of being part of the Starks that he still seeks to make it happen years later by betrothing Joffrey to Sansa. We also see evidence of this in his consuming anger when Ned speaks against sending someone to kill Daenerys.

“Unspeakable?” the king roared. “What Aerys did to your brother Brandon was unspeakable. The way your lord father died, that was unspeakable. And Rhaegar… how many times do you think he raped your sister? How many hundreds of times?” His voice had grown so loud that his horse whinnied nervously beneath him. The king jerked the reins hard, quieting the animal, and pointed an angry finger at Ned. “I will kill every Targaryen I can get my hands on, until they are as dead as their dragons, and then I will piss on their graves.”

He does not only speak of Lyanna but of Brandom and Rickard as well. He is screaming the atrocities that were done to the Starks at Ned as if they did not happen to Ned’s own family. The only people who have any “right” to be this spiteful and unforgiving towards the Targaryens are Ned and Benjen (and not even them because neither Daenerys or Viserys are to blame for their kin’s actions, but you get my point), but Robert speaks as if the Starks were his family as well.

Mind you, all this still has a good deal of romanticization on Robert’s part. Lyanna is not the person he made up in his head any more than Ned’s character is different from sullen disappointing Stannis’ any more than the Starks were this perfect ideal family. But Robert projects, and romanticizes, and justifies, and then punishes the “substitutes” in his life (Cersei, Stannis, his family including his kids) for not living up to the made up standard in his head. That’s his nature.

Women in Ice Cells: The Sun's Daughter

In ASOIAF, many historical female characters are measured less on their own value and more by how much their deaths have impacted the men in their lives. Elia Nymeros Martell is no different: we see her family, particularly her brothers, mourn her, lusting for vengeance over the deaths of her and her children, but we hear relatively little of Elia herself. She was a key part of Robert’s Rebellion–not as an active player, but as a pawn, used as a bargaining chip to ensure her family’s loyalty. She watched her infant son die, then was raped and brutally murdered.

Elia’s tale is a tragic one, but unlike other characters who died before the story begins, such as Rhaegar Targaryen, Arthur Dayne, and Brandon Stark, we know very little about her. While we hear tales of Rhaegar’s gallantry, Arthur’s honour, Brandon’s “wolf blood”, Elia largely remains a mystery. Barristan tells us she was “a good and gracious woman” (Daenerys IV, ASOS). We know her health was delicate. Oberyn tells us she thought baby Tyrion was adorable. But aside from that–who was she? GRRM doesn’t tell us, so all we can do is find out for ourselves.

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