Welcome to House Words Wednesdays! Each week, I take a House without known canon or semi-canon words and present what I think could make sense as that House’s motto. You’re free to suggest more as well, if your favored House has not yet been suggested; take a look at this link to see what has already been suggested, and shoot me a tweet or ask through Tumblr if you have another House you’d like to see done.
House Lothston is an extinct noble House, the penultimate family to rule Harrenhal under the Targaryens. The Lothstons also hold the possibly dubious distinction of ruling Harrenhal longer than any other family - roughly eight decades, an eon in Harrenhal time. The Lothstons came into their mighty seat somewhat surprisingly, as a cover for scandal. Lady Falena Stokeworth, having served as the future Aegon IV’s first mistress, was quietly married off to Lucas Lothston, master-at-arms for the future Viserys II - a step down, perhaps, for what a Stokeworth of Stokeworth might have ordinarily married, but vastly improved when the new couple was given the seat of Harrenhal. Perhaps Viserys hoped a faraway seat would make Aegon forget about his scandalous dalliance, or perhaps he wished to bribe Lucas into keeping his son’s scandal quiet. Whatever the cause, the Lothstons rose rapidly through the Westerosi table of ranks, becoming in a pen stroke one of the grandest vassal families of the realm.
Unfortunately, the Lothstons also hold probably the worst reputation of any of the families that ruled Harrenhal (besides Harren the Black himself). Lucas Lothston was probably “the Pander” whom Ser Illifer mentions in AFFC - so named, perhaps, for the way he shoved his teenage daughter Jeyne (and perhaps his wife as well) into the bed of the aged and obese Aegon IV in exchange for the Handship. His son, Manfryd of the Black Hood, is no better remembered; @racefortheironthroneonce speculated that he claimed that epithet for his penchant of masking himself in a black hood to do terrible deeds. This is probably the same Manfryd (or Manfred) who initially sided with Daemon Blackfyre in the First Blackfyre Rebellion … and then turned cloak for the loyalists (as the always rad @warsofasoiaf suggested, perhaps Manfryd refused to be left to defend against the Arryn approach from the east alone, and instead allowed Lord Donnel’s host to pass south toward the Redgrass Field). “Mad” Danelle - I assume the daughter or granddaughter of that Manfred/Manfryd - has all sorts of horrific stories about her, from bathing in blood to feasting on human flesh to sending giant bats to capture children for her cook pots. Although she proved more loyal than Manfryd - assisting the Hand Brynden Rivers in quashing the abortive Second Blackfyre Rebellion - she was the last of the Lothston line; overthrown for speculative and probably wholly unsavory reasons, House Lothston surrendered Harrenhal sometime during the reign of Maekar I.
Like their bannermen and eventual successors the Whents, the Lothstons featured a bat on their sigil - just a single bat, the appearance of which is still considered ominous in the Riverlands. I wanted words for the Lothstons that were sort of related to the Whent words I came up with all the way back in June of last year - “Our Hour Will Come” - to reinforce the ties between the two Houses. So I settled on Rising in Our Time for House Lothston. The hour of the bat is one of the chronological markers of Westeros, so - as with the Whents - there’s a nice connection to the bat of the Lothstons rising when its hour comes (although with a more sinister bent for the Lothstons, given the scary children’s stories Jaime recalls hearing about the bats of Lady Danelle). These words call back to the Lothston’s brief rise (and very quick fall) from royal favor during the reign of Aegon IV: from Lucas as Hand of the King and Jeyne as royal maîtresse-en-titre back to Harrenhal when the king tired of his plaything. Just as well, Manfryd Lothston rose in his time to support Daemon - but only for a time, until Manfryd decided that being on the rebel side was not so beneficial to his House as supporting King Daeron. When called upon by the Hand to present a show of force to Lord Butterwell, Danelle rose to stand with the crown … but, in her time, she and her House fell as well. Every family that has held Harrenhal has had its season, its time to rise before it falls into extinction; the Lothstons might have held the seat the longest (though only a little longer than the Whents did), but even their power could only rise for a certain time before they, too, fell to the castle’s curse.
Let me know what you think of these words for the Lothston bats. We continue both with the extinct Houses and Harrenhal Houses next week - the very first Lords of Harrenhal.
What do you think happened to Simon Strong and his grandsons? Executed by Aemond and Cole? Died as prisoners of Daemon or the Lads?
Something of a mystery, isn’t it? Something must have happened to them, because none of them inherited Harrenhal, and instead it reverted back to the crown and then was given to the Lothstons only twenty years later.
One thing that’s noticeable is that while Simon Strong is described as among the “dozen valuable hostages, amongst them Ser Simon and his grandsons” when Daemon captures Harrenhal, he doesn’t show up again when Aemond retakes the castle later. To me, that suggests that Simon et al. died in that period, so that probably puts Aemon and Cole out of the picture.
As to how, I’m going to guess disease as opposed to execution, since I think the latter would be more likely to come up in the text.
Thoughts on S6's History and Lore, "The Great Tourney of Harrenhal"
One of the most popular features, I believe, of the Game of Thrones’ DVD/Blu-Rays is the annual set of History and Lore videos. Unsurprisingly, Season 6 has continued in the same vein, and the first tease of that season’s collection was just released - a video on the Great Tourney of Harrenhal, narrated by Meera Reed. I’m always curious to see how the show tackles events outside the show’s scope, in the histories of ASOIAF, and so I was very interested in what the show might say about the greatest tourney Westeros had seen in ages, perhaps ever. It was - odd.
I will say, as a positive note to start, that the quality of these videos has improved tremendously since their humble beginnings in Season 1. The artwork has gotten much better, and particularly here, the watercolor style approach to this story is expertly suited to the dreamy, almost fantastical storytelling atmosphere of this tale. Ellie Kendrick as Meera relates the tale with charm and surety, very fit for the not-inconsequential task of retelling a very popular moment from not simply ASOS, but the series in general.
But it was an odd adaptation overall, for me. First, Meera begins by saying that Howland only told this story to his children once, and would never speak of Harrenhal again - an assertion she repeats at the video’s end. If this is true, why would book-Jojen be so shocked Bran had never heard this story from his father, and book-Meera so sure that Bran had heard this story before? Their book reactions seem to suggest that Howland told this story multiple times, and that it was a familiar one to the Reed children (which might make sense, since Meera is able to recall the many specific details of the story with clarity and sureness, even smiling at Bran with the confidence of a rehearsed storyteller). I can’t think of a reason why the show would want Howland to be reticent about revealing the details of Harrenhal to his children, unless the showrunners want some reveal from Harrenhal - about Rhaegar and Lyanna, I presume - to be that much more dramatic (though even this reasoning fails, as I’ll get to later).
The story continues as you expect: in the year of the false spring, Howland travels to Harrenhal to see the great tourney a “southron lord” was throwing (no mention of the Whent name, although you can see Whent banners at this point - an interesting choice that will be repeated later). Howland is then attacked by three squires, until Lyanna Stark intervenes with her book lines, chases them off, and brings Howland to her tent. The show’s adaptation of the story largely drops the somewhat fanciful nicknames book-Meera employed, though I have no quarrel with that decision. While book readers might easily recognize the “wolf maid” and the “crannogman”, among others, because of their experience with the text, such subtleties might escape and unnecessarily confuse show watchers. This adaptation also adds at points some minor details, but again, nothing that isn’t or couldn’t be implied in the text, or that I find particularly odd or wrong, so I won’t point those out.
Just as in the book version of the story, Meera says here that Lyanna then takes Howland to her tent, introduces him to the three other Starks, and insists that he join the feast with them, since he too is of noble birth. This adaptation also includes some of the details seasoned book readers will recall from that feast: a black brother still calls for recruits, Robert still drinks down the “knight of skulls and kisses” (in a strange clinging to the nicknames of the book - was the show afraid people wouldn’t recognize “Lonmouth”?), and Rhaegar still sings a song so sad it makes Lyanna cry (and she still pours wine over Benjen’s head for teasing her).
Here again, however, the show makes an odd decision: when talking about Ashara Dayne, Meera says that she danced with “Barristan Selmy and others”, before accepting Brandon Stark’s request for a “last dance” with Ned. The singling out of Barristan I don’t particularly mind: although I don’t think the text supports that interpretation (Barristan, who spends a good chunk of his internal monologue pining for Ashara, never thinks about the dance her shared with her?), I don’t mind if the show wants to make this change to connect Ashara with Barristan, the most well-known Kingsguard member to show watchers (besides Jaime Lannister, of course). I also don’t mind leaving out Jon Connington: like ignoring Richard Lonmouth’s name, I get why the show might think mentioning JonCon would only confuse watchers. What I am confused about is why the show neglected to bring up a mention of Oberyn - one of its most popular secondary characters - who is almost certainly the “red snake” who danced with Ashara at Harrenhal. Surely show watchers wouldn’t mind a quick mention of fan favorite Oberyn dancing with Ashara; I can’t fathom why the show neglected to mention him here.
In another odd moment, Meera then notes that at that moment, Aerys entered with his Kingsguard. Why Aerys didn’t come with the crown prince, I’m not sure, but at least the adaptation emphasizes Aerys’ monstrous appearance and erratic behavior. Oddly, though, Meera then says that Aerys pointed to Jaime Lannister and commanded him to kneel and swear the oath of the Kingsguard. It struck me as a strange choice, as though the show were trying to imply that Aerys just suddenly chose Jaime for the Kingsguard at that moment, which certainly is not accurate to the books. I don’t know if that was intentional or not, and I can’t recall if the show ever told the story of Jaime joining the Kingsguard, but it struck me as needlessly confusing.
The story then proceeds as you might expect, and here I’ll note one of the biggest concerns I could see for the show trying to adapt this story. In the books, the author can imply that Lyanna was the Knight of the Laughing Tree subtly (and let’s be real, she absolutely was). This adaptation correctly translates the book’s details of the Knight - small, in makeshift armor, who beats the three knights whose squires bullied Howland (as with the Whents, the knights are not named, but their sigils are seen when the Knight challenges them - a nice touch) and commands them to “teach [their] squires honor” before disappearing the following day - but fails to share in that greater context. Obviously, in a visual medium, the show would have to be careful being too obvious about the Knight’s identity, but I felt that this video went too far in the other direction and made it more of a mystery than GRRM intended. The show doesn’t have that quote from Jaime that jousting is nine-tenths horsemanship; doesn’t have the quotes from Barbrey Dustin and Roose Bolton and Harwin about Lyanna being a supremely talented rider; doesn’t have the example of Elia Sand “the girl jouster”, a girl of Lyanna’s age at the time of the tourney. Most glaringly, the show pointedly rejected a big piece of evidence right in the story itself - Jojen and Meera’s amazement that Lord Eddard had never told Bran this story, all the more bizarre if the story was really about Ned’s beloved sister and Bran’s late aunt. Again, I simply can’t fathom the show’s reasoning here; I sympathize with the difficulty of making the Knight of the Laughing Tree an engaging but solvable mystery in a visual medium for non-book readers, but that last point really makes the decision to create this video at all strange.
And then we get to what is, for my money, the most bizarre decision of all with this adaptation. The Knight disappears, as book and story agree, and later Aerys commands Robert Baratheon to challenge the Knight the following day (book-Meera notes that Aerys urged men to challenge him, and that both Robert and Richard Lonmouth separately swore to do so, but I don’t know why the show conflated the two details). And - that’s it. There is no mention of the “dragon prince” being tasked by his father to find the Knight, nor of Rhaegar coming back with Lyanna’s shield; Meera simply vaguely mentions that “they” only ever found the shield with the laughing weirwood face. Meera also briefly notes that Rhaegar won the tourney (without adding that he crowned Lyanna), and recalls the rumors of Rhaegar setting up the tourney to depose his father, but mentions that her father would not comment on these or the prince’s intentions.
I don’t get it. I don’t understand this decision in the least. I would argue that the main Doylist reason this story exists in the books is to add more evidence to R+L=J; the combination of Lyanna weeping for Rhaegar’s song, Lyanna’s probability as the Knight of the Laughing Tree, and Rhaegar’s probable implied meeting with her after she disappeared as the Knight all set up a connection between the doomed pair that aid in suggesting Jon’s true parentage. I don’t doubt that the show will have the same parentage for Jon as the books (not exactly subtle it was, when focusing on Jon as Aemon lamented about Targaryens alone in the world and immediately cutting to Jon after the tease of the tower of joy). Why, then, would the show voluntarily choose to tamp down a further connection between Lyanna and Rhaegar? Again, considering the medium (and the, well, lack of subtlety the show has engaged in before), I would have expected the opposite to be true - that the show would be almost explicit in naming Lyanna the Knight of the Laughing Tree and setting up her and Rhaegar’s meeting in the godswood of Harrenhal. This adaptation only leaves me wondering why it exists at all: sure, it’s a popular chapter from the books, and a fan favorite story, but how does the way it was adapted serve the needs of the show, or appeal to show watchers? Odd, that’s the only word that can describe it.
Do you have any theories about the curse of Harrenhall? You mentioned in an earlier ask that you think there's definitely something lurking there, any speculation about that and its relation to the curse?
In the fantasy and horror genres, there is this idea that there are some places where the weight of human suffering compounded over time weakens the boundaries between this world and the next. Whether you call it “soft places,” or “the deadlands,” the battlefield of Mengedda in R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing, the Blight of Dragon Age, etc. clearly Harrenhal is one of those places. And it has a kind of narrative gravity to it that characters must struggle to escape, lest they be trapped in Harrenhal forever.
When Harren built his masterpiece out of “bricks and blood,” the result was a “thin place,” a metaphysical crack, and something came through from the other side. That something (demon, unclean spirit, what have you) has since occupied itself by bringing down anyone who takes possession of the castle and inspiring, encouraging, or at the very least playing host to a pattern of atrocious and/or deceitful behavior. Even Arya doesn’t fully escape the curse; Harrenhal is where she first kills for reasons other than self-defense.
Same deal with the Nightfort, btw; the reign of Night’s King and his pale bride turned that castle permanently eldritch, and Mad Axe, the hellhounds, and The Thing That Came In The Night are all just manifestations of that phenomenon.
Lyanna had shed her winter furs. She was no longer at Winterfell, but at the tourney in Harrenhal.
She walked so gracefully for a she-wolf, almost like a whisp of smoke. She could feel Robert’s eyes on her, and hated him for it.
Every child of the Trident knew the tales told of Harrenhal, the vast fortress that King Harren the Black had raised beside the waters of Gods Eye three hundred years past, when the Seven Kingdoms had been seven kingdoms, and the riverlands were ruled by the ironmen from the islands. In his pride, Harren had desired the highest hall and tallest towers in all Westeros. Forty years it had taken, rising like a great shadow on the shore of the lake while Harren’s armies plundered his neighbors for stone, lumber, gold, and workers. Thousands of captives died in his quarries, chained to his sledges, or laboring on his five colossal towers. Men froze by winter and sweltered in summer. Weirwoods that had stood three thousand years were cut down for beams and rafters. Harren had beggared the riverlands and the Iron Islands alike to ornament his dream. And when at last Harrenhal stood complete, on the very day King Harren took up residence, Aegon the Conqueror had come ashore at King’s Landing.
Your least favourite ship. The one that makes your stomach turn when you think about it.
there are a lot of ships i don’t like for ~problematic reasons, but the one that i hate the most and have hated ever since i was a young'in, is harry/hermione
like jesus christ. the amount of ignorant ron and ginny hate was just the worst. ron weasley and hermione granger, are, separately, 2 of my fav 3 hp characters. i really really love ron, and hermione, and ron/hermione. and i guess it’s because i really identify with both of them: ron is catastrophically insecure and that’s really the root of his character. people who hate ron must just not understand what it’s like to feel worthless and redundant and have a crush on (and slowly fall in love with) someone who you feel is your superior in every way?
and like the thing is… hermione loves ron. like, she does. it’s not debatable. people who think hermione “settled” for ron and people who think ron was ~abusive~ just do not understand hermione’s character at all. do you really think hermione granger would marry and have children with someone who didn’t respect her and love her? sure, ron bullied and teased hermione for four chapters before they became friends, but after that, they just bantered and argued and debated shit like any friends do. ron and harry got into fights, harry and hermione got into fights, hermione and ron got into fights. i don’t understand the hp fandom’s need to make it seem like ron was the only member in the golden trio to ever argue with another member (hermione), and that he did it in an “abusive” and/or cruel way. and for the majority of their arguments, hermione gave as good as she got?? none of their spats were ever one-sided or Big Bad Ron beating up Poor Ickle Hermione. i feel like this kind of thinking diminishes hermione as a character. in many ways hermione was just as thick headed and stubborn as ron was.
the fact is hermione is an integral part of ron and ron’s character and development, and ron is an integral part of hermione and hermione’s character and development. i guess there’s nothing really wrong with harry/hermione as a romantic ship (except for the fact that they do not have romantic feelings for each other and never did and had no romantic chemistry), but more the fact that ron/hermione makes so much more sense for both their characters. as lexalarke said earlier, harry was fucking bored when he only had hermione around to be friends with, in gof and again in dh. we got equal parts “harry feeling sad over ron and missing ron” and “harry bemoaning how awkward and less fun being alone with hermione was”. and no, not awkward in a ~sexual tension way, awkward in the The Golden Trio Does Not Work Without Ron way.