deck the alley

theaceofwands  asked:

Hey PQ! So I've been thinking. Jon definitely has earned the right to his throne, I totally agree. And I know that Aegon is probably Illyrio's son, but that part about him being raised with the common folk always gets me. Like, Jon has earned it, don't get me wrong, but Jon was raised in a castle and he really didn't have it so bad compared to all the poor common people living outside. Aegon is presented as the people's king, and I feel like he's earned it in some way. What do you think?

I appreciate and even admire what Varys is going for with the whole “unlike Tommen, Aegon was raised to know hunger and fear” thing. It immerses the perfect prince in the trials faced by those not lucky enough to be born heir to anything, encouraging him to see his subjects as people he’s sworn to protect rather than exploit. However, I don’t think that necessarily produces an overall worldview and game plan that helps said people. The problem is that Aegon never had this moment:

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?”

“Don’t call me that!” Jon said sharply, but the force had gone out of his anger. Suddenly he felt ashamed and guilty. “I never … I didn’t think …”

Varys brags that Aegon knew fear, but he never knew shame; he never doubted himself and grew on his own terms rather than his handlers’. Jon, by contrast, was directly confronted with exactly the bubble you’re talking about, early on in his story. Donal Noye tells him that however valid his own frustrations were at Winterfell, it’s not remotely badass to take out those frustrations on those who have only fought with sticks. Jon listens, and learns. 

As shown by the white cloak now fluttering from Duck’s shoulders, Aegon has affinity for the particular common folk he grew up with, but he still doesn’t appear to have connected the dots to any larger ideology (because as we see in the epilogue to ADWD, Varys has the ideology waiting for him, all wrapped up in a neat little bow). Jon, by contrast, wasn’t immersed from the start, and so he initially has elitist blind spots. But he’s had the opportunity to undergo genuine self-motivated growth, which is how you get him taking Satin as his squire and letting Tormund’s people through the Wall four books later. Aegon had all the building blocks handed to him, and they’re kinda just sitting there. Jon tripped over them, picked them up, examined them, and is now building with them.

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.

Privilege and Perspective in A Game of Thrones:
Jon Snow

I feel the need to start this analysis post with a huge disclaimer: I have only recently started reading A Game of Thrones. I have not watched the show, but through the wonder that is popular culture, I am aware of many of the bigger spoilers for both the books and show. 

So this bit of observation/analysis is pretty narrowly focused on just a small portion of the novel, specifically the two Jon sections as he is on the road toward and as he adjusts to life at The Wall. 

Jon’s identity as Ned Stark’s “bastard” son is established very quickly and very often. It’s clear that as a young teen, Jon is struggling with that aspect of his identity; the ways the rest of his family treat fall all over the spectrum from Arya’s blind adoration of the older brother who understands her best to Catelyn’s minimal tolerance. 

The arrival of the Lannisters and specifically, Tyrion, reinforce Jon’s awareness of his social station but also alter his perspective on that particular label: bastard. When Tyrion sees Jon struggling, he offers him advice:  

Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you. 

And then later:

Let them see that their words can cut you, and you’ll never be free of the mockery. If they want to give you a name, take it, make it your own. Then they can’t hurt you with it anymore. 

Tyrion encourages Jon not to hide or be ashamed of that label––bastard––because if he does, he is handing power over to others rather than keeping it for himself. In those immediate chapters, it is something Jon takes to heart and he demonstrates a bit more pride. 

When Jon has trouble with the other young men training for a life at The Wall, he is still working on incorporating Tyrion’s philosophy into his own. He takes offense less at being called bastard than at his unknown mother being referred to as a whore. And just as Tyrion offered Jon advice, the armorer offers Jon some insight of his own:

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. […] You’re a bastard and a bully. […] You leave them nothing. You shame them. Does that make you proud? […] 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. […] So how do you like the taste of your victories now[?]

Despite the associations and limited position of being a bastard, Jon still enjoyed many privileges. 

Whether or not Jon as a character successfully incorporates both these perspectives/attitudes into himself to the point where they impact his behavior moving forward, I loved the way they were juxtaposed in these two chapters. It resonated with me, in part, because of the current political climate and discussions of intersectionality in the various minority rights movements. Take pride in what you are and don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed of it, but also don’t try to raise yourself up by knocking others down. You may be disenfranchised or discriminated against in one way but there still might be others in which you enjoy privilege. Recognize and acknowledge both so you can help others as well as yourself. 

cornbreadcrumbs  asked:

I find myself in a Jon Snow mood. A lot has been said (rightly so) about Jon's mistakes and failings. What about Jon Snow appeals to you? What are his best qualities in your opinion, and what has he done to earn his spot as hero and head of the dragon?

What appeals to me about Jon is that GRRM has constructed his arc so that whenever Jon starts to act like The Hero in the most predictable, single-minded sense, he gets diverted and/or slapped down, and is forced to grow and learn in more interesting ways. That’s not to say the related tropes are bad, and indeed, they’re still very much there! But GRRM does not allow Jon to lean on those tropes to get through his story. They will not guide him, they will not mold him, they will not save him. This is the sort of thing that shapes Jon Snow:

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?”

“Don’t call me that!” Jon said sharply, but the force had gone out of his anger. Suddenly he felt ashamed and guilty.

“The old man is Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch,” Sam reminded him. “You’ll be with him day and night. Yes, you’ll pour his wine and see that his bed linen is fresh, but you’ll also take his letters, attend him at meetings, squire for him in battle. You’ll be as close to him as his shadow. You’ll know everything, be a part of everything … and the Lord Steward said Mormont asked for you himself!

“When I was little, my father used to insist that I attend him in the audience chamber whenever he held court. When he rode to Highgarden to bend his knee to Lord Tyrell, he made me come. Later, though, he started to take Dickon and leave me at home, and he no longer cared whether I sat through his audiences, so long as Dickon was there. He wanted his heir at his side, don’t you see? To watch and listen and learn from all he did. I’ll wager that’s why Lord Mormont requested you, Jon. What else could it be? He wants to groom you for command!”

Jon was taken aback. It was true, Lord Eddard had often made Robb part of his councils back at Winterfell. Could Sam be right? Even a bastard could rise high in the Night’s Watch, they said. “I never asked for this,” he said stubbornly.

“None of us are here for asking,” Sam reminded him.

And suddenly Jon Snow was ashamed.

Craven or not, Samwell Tarly had found the courage to accept his fate like a man. On the Wall, a man gets only what he earns, Benjen Stark had said the last night Jon had seen him alive. You’re no ranger, Jon, only a green boy with the smell of summer still on you. He’d heard it said that bastards grow up faster than other children; on the Wall, you grew up or you died.

Now, of course, the Hero Must Learn a Lesson. That’s super tropey. But what makes it different is the message coming through: being a badass in the training yard and elevating the warrior corps of the NW above the others are not what make you a hero, and may indeed reflect your blind spots. Donal telling Jon that he can only wipe the floor with his future brothers because he was raised as an elite is one of GRRM’s most direct political assertions in the series, and is an absolutely vital moment for Jon’s arc going forward. Jon’s failure to understand the ramifications of being the Lord Commander’s squire pays off four books later when he makes Satin his squire; he’s learned in the interim what that position means, and the empathy he experienced for Sam is emotionally and thematically connected to his elevation of Satin.