On the surface, Wyman Manderly killing Rhaegar, Symond and Jared Frey the moment he is free of host obligations and baking them into pies to serve at Ramsay’s wedding is only a commentary on the violation of guest right that took place at the Red Wedding. At best, any additional connection comes from the tongue-in-cheek nod to all the comments about Lord Manderly’s weight via the connection to the Rat Cook who is an
enormous white rat that serves as inspiration for Lord Too-Fat-to-Sit-a-Horse of White Harbor.
But there’s more to the pies than just being a creative way
of extracting revenge while mocking the Freys and the Boltons. We have
to wonder why Lord Manderly chose such an unorthodox method that shows a
sinister side not typically known of the Manderlys. Why didn’t he just kill the Freys and dump their body somewhere obscure, never to be found? Yes, it’s a direct link to the popular song about the gods’ punishment for those who break sacred guest right. But is that it?
Throughout the whole mummer’s farce, Lord Manderly is basing his revenge plans on things the Freys or the Boltons have done in a series of moves that speak of poetic justice, from skirting around guest right to promising betrothals as a way to lure the Freys to planning to bleed the Bolton supporters in the same way Roose Bolton bled the Northern forces. Now the Freys did make a mockery of Robb’s Young Wolf title by sewing Grey Wind’s head on his body, and made a mockery of the Tullys’ funeral rituals by throwing Catelyn’s body into the river, but while serving the pies and Manderly’s attitude afterwards is a sly mocking of the Freys and the Boltons, the connection stops at that.
Or so it seems. Our first meeting with Wyman Manderly in ADWD is helpfully rife with references to people whose stories pertain to cannibalism one way or another, people who Lord Manderly holds dear that were either made to eat human flesh or falsely accused of doing it by the Freys, Boltons and Lannisters. True to his form of inspired retribution, Manderly prepares a revengeful dish, served steaming.
1. Wylis Manderly:
Lord Manderly’s son and heir, the one whose safety is made possible by Davos’ arrival in White Harbor with how it gave Manderly the chance to prove his good faith to the Lannister, ensuring Wylis’s safe return by the time Davos learns of Manderly’s true loyalties.
In ASOS, Ser Wylis is taken captive by the Lannisters as a direct result of Roose Bolton’s betrayal. In a ploy to bleed the Northern houses loyal to the Starks, Roose Bolton puts Wylis and the knights of White Harbor in the rearguard of his forces when they are crossing the Trident by small boats, making it that Wylis and a host of Northerners are stranded when Gregor Clegane attacks, leading to Wylis’ capture.
Held at Harrenhal under the command of Clegane and his men, Wylis and the other hostages are served parts of Vargo Hoat’s body with Wylis eating the lion’s share of the “roast goat”
“One of the captives was always begging food,” Rafford admitted, “so Ser [Gregor] said to give him roast goat. The Qohorik didn’t have much meat on him, though. Ser took his hands and feet first, then his arms and legs.”
“The fat bugger got most, m'lord,” Shitmouth offered, “but Ser, he said to see that all the captives had a taste. And Hoat too, his own self.” (Jaime III, AFFC)
It’s unknown if Wylis finds out that he has been served human flesh, Jaime wonders the same thing when he sees him. But as crazy and sadistic Gregor Clegane is, chances are Wylis is made aware of it at one point, if he was ever fooled in the first place.
2. Donella Hornwood:
Both Wylla and Wyman Manderly conveniently reminds us of the Lady Hornwood plot from ACoK, and of why Ramsay is widely despised and reviled across the North, even before his part in the sack of Winterfell is found out.
[Wylla Manderlly]: ”[Ramsay] won’t ever be my lord! He made Lady Hornwood marry him, then shut her in a dungeon and made her eat her fingers.“
A murmur of assent swept the Merman’s Court. "The maid tells it true,” declared a stocky man in white and purple, whose cloak was fastened with a pair of crossed bronze keys. “Roose Bolton’s cold and cunning, aye, but a man can deal with Roose. We’ve all known worse. But this bastard son of his … they say he’s mad and cruel, a monster.” (Davos III, ADWD)
Wyman brings it up again in his conversation with Davos, the same one in which he betrays his intentions to kill the three Freys currently residing under his roof.
“The evil is in [Ramsay’s] blood,” said Robett Glover. “He is a bastard born of rape. A Snow, no matter what the boy king says.”
“Was ever snow so black?” asked Lord Wyman.“Ramsay took Lord Hornwood’s lands by forcibly wedding his widow, then locked her in a tower and forgot her. It is said she ate her own fingers in her extremity” (Davos IV, ADWD)
It’s a reminder of the dispute over Lord Hornwood’s lands that ended with Ramsay marrying and raping Lady Hornwood before starving her to the point of eating her fingers. Wyman points out that Roose Bolton has decreed that he gives up control of the Hornwood land and castles to Ramsay, lands that Manderly came in control of - after the North cracked down on Ramsay and he was thought to be dead in ACoK - because Donella Hornwood was Donella Manderly before marriage. She is Wyman Manderly’s cousin.
3. Robb Stark:
The first person on this list who didn’t actually eat human flesh but was slandered by his enemies as a vicious cannibal going back to ACoK.
Sansa had always thought Lancel Lannister comely and well spoken, but there was neither pity nor kindness in the look he gave her.
“Using some vile sorcery, your brother fell upon Ser Stafford Lannister with an army of wargs, not three days ride from Lannisport. Thousands of good men were butchered as they slept, without the chance to lift sword. After the slaughter, the northmen feasted on the flesh of the slain. (Sansa III, ACoK)
The same lie is perpetuated by the Freys in the Merman’s court and used to put the blame of the Red Wedding on Robb himself. Not only that but they try to sell the lie that Robb could turn into a wolf. They try to paint him as a savage violent animal who attacked and killed his own men.
One of the Freys stepped forward [..] “The Red Wedding was the Young Wolf’s work. He changed into a beast before our eyes and tore out the throat of my cousin Jinglebell, a harmless simpleton. He would have slain my lord father too, if Ser Wendel had not put himself in the way.” […]
The enormity of the lie made Davos gasp. “Is it your claim that Robb Stark killed Wendel Manderly?” he asked the Frey.
“And many more. Mine own son Tytos was amongst them, and my daughter’s husband. When Stark changed into a wolf, his northmen did the same. The mark of the beast was on them all. Wargs birth other wargs with a bite, it is well-known. It was all my brothers and I could do to put them down before they slew us all.” (Davos III, ADWD)
The Freys obviously use their desecration of Robb’s body by sewing Grey Wind’s head onto his body as a tongue-in-cheek echo to their lie about Robb’s warging which they promptly use to pin the crime of breaking guest right on him and his men and slander him as a beast who feasted on human flesh and not only tried to kill his host (who, in a broader definition of kinship, was made to be Robb’s kin by Edmure’s marriage to Roslin) but also killed his own loyal vassal, Wendel Manderly.
4. Rickon Stark:
The precious cargo Davos is sent to secure in exchange for Wyman’s fealty. Rickon and Osha are currently on Skagos, a place that Davos reflects on when Wyman states the terms for his allegiance.
For half a heartbeat Davos considered asking Wyman Manderly to send him back to the Wolf’s Den, to Ser Bartimus with his tales and Garth with his lethal ladies. In the Den even prisoners ate porridge in the morning. But there were other places in this world where men were known to break their fast on human flesh. (Davos IV, ADWD)
Although Bran and Rickon originally flee from Theon, their hiding in the crypts speaks of them waiting for help, for a Northern force to come to liberate Winterfell from the Ironborn. It’s Ramsay’s sacking Winterfell that forces them out to seek safety in another place, ultimately leading Osha to conceal Rickon on Skagos, an island with a sinister reputation for the widely believed notion that it has a cannibal population.
So, to review: Roose Bolton causes the capture of Mandely’s son who os fed human flesh in captivity. Ramsay forcibly marries Manderly’s cousin and starves her to the point of eating her own fingers, then sacks Winterfell causing Rickon to end up on cannibal island. And the Freys slander Robb’s name by putting forward a fable about how he ate both his enemies and his men.
In return, Wyman Manderly makes them all eat human flesh, feeds the Freys their own brothers, and eats from the pies himself, making Lancel’s words about the Northerners feasting on the flesh of the slain a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The North sure remembers.