spoilers: adwd

8

Top Jon Snow moments as voted by our followers | 08 — Kill the boy

“You are half the age that [Aegon] was, and your own burden is a crueler one, I fear. You will have little joy of your command, but I think you have the strength in you to do the things that must be done. Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy and let the man be born.” — Jon XIII, A Dance with Dragons.

The carcass was too heavy for him to bear back to his lair, so Drogon consumed his kill there, tearing at the charred flesh as the grasses burned around them, the air thick with drifting smoke and the smell of burnt horsehair. Dany, starved, slid off his back and ate with him, ripping chunks of smoking meat from the dead horse with bare, burned hands. In Meereen I was a queen in silk, nibbling on stuffed dates and honeyed lamb, she remembered. What would my noble husband think if he could see me now?

Hizdahr would be horrified, no doubt. But Daario …

Daario would laugh, carve off a hunk of horsemeat with his arakh, and squat down to eat beside her.

Artist: unknown 

"Your father's lands are beautiful"

This, to me, is one of the saddest, and at the same time most pathetic, lines in the two delves we’ve had into Jon Connington’s head. It summarizes so much of what makes him such a fascinating character, because it gets to the heart of Connington’s painfully unrealistic expectations of Rhaegar. For all that Jon nurses his adoration of the dead crown prince, he sets as one of the foundations of this love this isolated line, so clearly not about him or Rhaegar’s relationship to him. Connington has firmly locked this line in his memory as one of the precious relics in his internal shrine to Rhaegar, seizing on it as evidence of the love he so wishes Rhaegar felt for him.

To be sure, Jon’s memory of Rhaegar was shown to be colored by his desire before this line (only two sentences separate JonCon’s first mention of Rhaegar’s name in “The Lost Lord” and his designation of Rhaegar as “my silver prince”). However, “The Griffin Reborn”, the chapter in which this line is seen, delves even deeper into Connington’s emotional memory, presenting a scene as vivid to the restored griffin lord as it was to the young Jon some twenty years ago. That Jon Connington treasures his remembrance of Prince Rhaegar's stay at Griffin’s Roost is obvious from the way he describes it: even so many years later, Jon Connington remembers key details of the welcoming feast, from his father Lord Armond’s argument with Lord Morrigen to the “song of love and doom” sung by the crown prince to the reaction of the crowd to Rhaegar’s performance. Even more cherished, though, is Connington’s memory of the journey he and Rhaegar took to the top of the highest tower of the castle; so dear is it to Jon’s heart that he emphasizes how he took “one (only one!)” such ascent with the Prince of Dragonstone, compared to the many with his lord father.

This opportunity must have seemed the culmination of Jon Connington’s hopes and desires. For once, the crown prince would not be surrounded by fellow squires, courtiers, the “gaggle of lordlings” who attended him constantly, competing for his favor. For once, it would be just the two of them, Rhaegar and Jon, in the comfort of the latter’s own family home. Jon might well have expected that, in such a private moment, the two of them could have a truly personal conversation, befitting not simply their courtly companionship but Jon’s own deep love for the Prince of Dragonstone. Again, his internal descriptions emphasize how important this moment was to him, so deeply carved into his mind: not even the small detail of how difficult the door to the roof of the tower was to open has been forgotten, nor the way the countryside and sea around Griffin’s Roost appeared.

So what does Rhaegar say when the two of them are alone at last?

“Your father’s lands are beautiful.”

His statement isn’t about Jon as his friend, or even as a person - indeed, it’s not even about any individual at all. It’s about land, and a lord’s relationship to the land, that fundamental consideration in a feudal political world. Rhaegar has looked from atop the eastern tower of Griffin’s Roost, and as far as he can see the land belongs to House Connington. His words to Jon Connington are the basic compliment of a liege to his vassal (or, in this case, a liege’s heir to a somewhat lower vassal’s heir), an acknowledgment of the power of House Connington, to rule such lovely country extending to the horizon. There is nothing in Rhaegar’s words that speaks to Jon, or indeed the Conningtons, on any level other than a simply feudal one: the prince might have offered a similar compliment gazing out from one of Highgarden’s tall, slender towers, or exploring the Sapphire Isle with his cousins of Tarth. Indeed, Rhaegar’s words seem more geared toward Lord Armond, “whose only love was land”, than they do to the young man who had been Rhaegar’s companion for probably at least the past decade. It is fitting for the prince often lost in his own dreams, unconcerned with the realities of the present hour, that his words in this close moment to a man “dear to him”, whom he had known since his squire days, are a bland, impersonal comment on the natural setting around him.

What makes this line even more heartbreaking, however, is how unique it is in Jon's POV; this is the only direct quote Connington thinks Rhaegar said to him. That Jon has seized upon this line in his mind may well mean that Rhaegar never said anything more personal to him in their time together. How sad is it for Jon Connington, so deep in his love for Rhaegar, that the best compliment he can remember Rhaegar telling him is not even about him, but about Lord Armond’s lands. Connington clings to this small scrap of acknowledgement - acknowledgement of him as the son of the man whose lands are beautiful - because it came from his “silver prince” and was directed at him in the privacy of their sole moment together. So much of Jon Connington’s relationship to Rhaegar is an invention on the part of the former, a desperate attempt to mold a handsome but emotionally distant man into the lover Connington wanted out of him, and his memory around this line reflects that effort well. Any words from Rhaegar are worthy of an altar in Connington’s mind, because they mean that Rhaegar noticed his existence and considered him worthy to address - and Connington craves worthiness in the eyes of his dead prince. He cannot see - or will not allow himself to see - how little Rhaegar truly cared for him, or how utterly dispassionate this line was; caught in painful cycle of grieving self-blame and delusional hope, Connington clutches this single sentence not for what it is but for what it represents to him - the most intimate moment he ever shared with Rhaegar.

Here and there a torch burned hungrily, casting its ruddy glow over the faces of the wedding guests.
The way the mists threw back the shifting light made their features seem bestial, half-human, twisted. Lord Stout became a mastiff, old Lord Locke a vulture, Whoresbane Umber a gargoyle, Big Walder Frey a fox, Little Walder a red bull, lacking only a ring for his nose. Roose Bolton’s own face was a pale grey mask, with two chips of dirty ice where his eyes should be.
Above their heads the trees were full of ravens, their feathers fluffed as they hunched on bare brown branches, staring down at the pageantry below. Maester Luwin’s birds. Luwin was dead, and his maester’s tower had been put to the torch, yet the ravens lingered. This is their home. Theon wondered what that would be like, to have a home.
—  The Prince of Winterfell, A Dance with Dragons.

anonymous asked:

Any thoughts on the fact that "men's lives have meaning, not their deaths" despite summarizing one of, if not the central theme of the series, is said by a bit player, not one of the main characters and rather than being a great epiphany for a major character, it's promptly dismissed and ignored by the chapter's POV?

And Septon Meribald’s speech about broken men is given by a minor character present for all of three chapters in a single book, but it’s no less true and powerful and meaningful. It’s Quentyn who’s trapped by the narrative he never wanted to be a part of, Quentyn who thinks he has to live up to this grand destiny and is groping in the dark for the right next step to fulfill his fairy-tale promise. Quentyn can’t come to that realization on his own, or maybe more accurately can’t let himself believe it, because to admit he believes it would be to admit that his cause is hopeless, to face the disappointment of his father, the taunting of his sister and cousins, the mourning of Lord Yronwood. Drink is perfectly placed to be the good friend in that moment, to give the ideological slap across the face that friends occasionally have to do for other friends, and that’s what he is doing - telling him that turning away from folly is no folly, that death in a foolish cause will not sanctify the deaths of lost beloved friends. Quent’s tragedy is that he feels so bound, despite the his increasing discomfort and anguish, to continue, pointing himself straight toward disaster because he “has” to do it.

Just as well, in that moment, as @poorquentyn has rightly said, it’s GRRM speaking through Drink, speaking to us as readers, a meta-commentary on both Quentyn as a character and the series as a whole. ADWD is a book of characters telegraphed as the “not-hero”, so to speak - those who will never make it to the end. Quentyn is determined, against all his own desires, to fulfill the destiny his father imposed on him; Young Aegon has been taught since babyhood that his life is the secret training ground of the perfect prince, the hero of a land he’s never known; Jon Connington will not rest until he seats “Rhaegar’s” son on the throne his “silver prince” would have occupied. We can see they’re all doomed - Quentyn for his Faustian deals and draconic schemes, Aegon for ignoring the lesson he himself once quoted, JonCon for his greyscale and his own personal blinders - but we also know that none of them would admit to his own doom - for fear of the consequences, or supreme confidence in success, or self-gratification dependent on a particular outcome. So GRRM needed a character like Drink to tell us, as readers, “Just because they’re sure to die doesn’t mean they’re not important”. He’s a character in one of those stories yet with enough foresight to see how the story will end, and willingness to say what the would-be hero cannot.

2

“My lady, you do not have to do this. The risk—”

“—is mine, Lord Snow. And I am no southron lady but a woman of the free folk. I know the forest better than all your black-cloaked rangers. It holds no ghosts for me.” ― Jon VIII, A Dance with Dragons.


They are all convinced she is a princess. Val looked the part and rode as if she had been born on horseback. A warrior princess, he decided, not some willowy creature who sits up in a tower, brushing her hair and waiting for some knight to rescue her. ― Jon XI, A Dance with Dragons.

“By right Winterfell should go to my sister Sansa.” (ADWD 3, Jon I)

Bless you, Book!Jon. 

Now if only certain people could remember that…