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Chapter-by-chapter analysis of A Song of Ice and Fire. Essays about my favorites, Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth, and others as the mood strikes me!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Game of Thrones - Catelyn II (Chapter 6)

Sorry, this has taken me FOREVER because I have so much to say about this chapter, including a brand new Crack!Theory about stuff. (At this rate, though, I should be finishing up A Game of Thrones just about when The Winds of Winter comes out. Yay?)

Without further ado, my crack!theory. So at the beginning of this chapter, Catelyn spends quite a lot of time describing Winterfell. And while I initially (and on subsequent rereads) always sped up to the whole “Lannister conspiracy to murder Jon Arryn” section of this chapter, something struck me this time around:

“The castle had been built over natural hot springs, and scading waters rushed through its walls and chambers like blood through a man’s body, driving the chill from the stone halls, filling the glass gardens with a moist warmth, keeping the earth from freezing.”

Ned doesn’t like the heat. “The Starks were made for the cold, he would tell her, and she would laugh and tell him in that case they had certainly built their castle in the wrong place.”
BUT ... they have totally NOT built their castle in the wrong place and here is why:

  • Most obviously, that natural source of warmth is probably why Winterfell has survived all those winters and may secure its survival for the coming one. 
  • Hot springs are often associated with volcanic activity, as are dragons (Valyria from which dragons came seems to have some kind of analogy to the regions of intense volcanic activity in our own world) and dragonglass (obsidian, which is cooled lava.) In other words, volcanoes and their byproducts seem to be inimical to the Others and the various creepy things associated with the reign of winter. 
So what if the “Stone Dragon” that Melisandre hopes to wake is in fact not at Dragonstone (despite its name) but at Winterfell and the “king’s blood” needed to wake it isn’t that of Stannis Baratheon or Robert Baratheon’s bastards but instead the blood of the Starks, who were once Kings in the North AND have the blood of the First Men in their veins, etc. 

I can’t help but shake the feeling that Winterfell is critically important to the storyline in more ways than simply being our jumping off point/home of the Starks, that somehow the place itself will play a role in the final confrontations between “ice” and “fire” because Winterfell itself unites those two elements in its buildings. Winterfell was supposedly built by Bran the Builder, who is also credited with constructing the Wall to keep the Others out - while the Wall has obvious magical properties, thus far, Winterfell hasn’t demonstrated any, but ... wouldn’t it be strange if Brandon Stark didn’t put ANY of the safeguards he put on the Wall onto the home of his own family? Hmmmm!

OK, moving on from my crack theory to an actual discussion of the chapter. Mercifully (given the other sex scenes Martin’s written in this series) we come in on the aftermath of Ned’s “urgent” lovemaking to Catelyn. Catelyn thinks that she could still give Ned another son (so ... just to emphasize, these people are all in the mid- to late-30s at this point and were VERY young during Robert’s Rebellion - Ned was Brienne’s age; Jaime, Cersei, Catelyn were a little younger. They were all just a little bit older than the kids of the main story, and I think we always have to remember that when we think about what they did/didn't do during the Rebellion.) 

Ned wants to refuse Robert’s offer to be Hand but Cat reminds him that the King came all this way to give Ned this signal honor and that he might well take it very much amiss if Ned refuses him. “Robert would never harm me or any of mine,” Ned insists (a direwolf pup that answers to the name of “Lady” would beg to differ), but Catelyn wisely points out that “You knew the man ... the king is a stranger to you.”

Cat is somewhat more politically savvy than Ned, perhaps because she was Hoster Tully’s heir for a while and perhaps because - as we will have cause to learn later - the Riverlands were more of a sinkhole of competing interests and jockeying for position than more sheltered Winterfell where there weren’t threats to Stark supremacy for many, many years. (Plus, Ned wasn’t raised to be Rickard Stark’s heir, so it’s possible he just avoided the whole tricky issue of politics.)

Poor Ned thinks this too, raising the spectre of his dead brother. “It was all meant for Brandon. You, Winterfell, everything. He was born to be a King’s Hand and a father to queens. I never asked for this cup to pass to me.” (I see yourJesus reference there, Mr. Martin!)

Catelyn is practical and has no time for this mournful dwelling in the past, telling Ned that like it or not, the responsibility for Winterfell and his family’s welfare is Ned’s and he needs to own it. But she also thinks that Brandon’s shadow lies between herself and Ned, as well as “the shadow of the woman he would not name, the woman who had borne him his bastard son.” I actually wonder if some of Ned’s almost fanatical insistence on keeping Jon’s mother’s name such a secret is because - if she is Lyanna, as I very much think is the case - he feels tremendous guilt that he could save neither his older brother nor his sister and thus will do anything including paint himself as the father of a bastard to save his sister's child. And even if Jon's mother was simply a Random Lady Upon Whom Ned Totally Uncharacteristically Fathered a Bastard Child after all, then perhaps he feels that she was someone whose love was for Ned, a relationship that he had for himself, not something/someone he only got because Brandon was murdered. Anyway, all of this stuff makes Ned and Catelyn so much more complicated than the bluff, good-hearted Northern matriarch/patriarch we got on the TV show version of events.

Maester Luwin interrupts this trip down memory lane with an urgent message from Lysa Arryn, in which Lysa, at Petyr Baelish’s instigation, blames the Lannisters for the death of Jon Arryn. (As an aside, I love that Catelyn just walks around naked without a second thought because it’s her husband and her OB/GYN :D She’s just so practical!) Catelyn thinks that Lysa’s message means that Ned must accede to Robert’s request to become his Hand, so he can go south and find out the truth about Jon Arryn’s death (and not arouse the Lannisters’ suspicions about Ned’s motives), while Ned thinks that this is all the more reason to avoid King’s Landing. Maester Luwin joins his voice to Cat’s, suggesting that Ned will have power as the Hand of the King, so he can bring Jon Arryn’s killers to justice and protect Lysa and her son. (Alas, Ned was actually right in thinking that it was a bad idea to go south, but of course, Maester Luwin and Cat had no way of knowing that Lysa was totally lying to them, and anyway, Jaime trying to murder Bran kind of changed the situation anyway.) 

Ned gives in, though he reminds Cat and Maester Luwin that his father and brother rode  south and never came home again. “A different time,” Maester Luwin said. “A different king.” (Same end result though :()

Ned tells Cat she will stay in Winterfell to govern the North because Robb is too young, and there must always be a Stark in Winterfell. Obviously, Ned trusts Catelyn’s judgment since he also tells her that “He [Robb] must learn to rule, and I will not be here for him. Make him part of your councils. He must be ready when his time comes.” (So you know, nuts to the idea that Catelyn is just a hysterical momma bear/evil stepmother - obviously Ned not only thinks she is perfectly capable of running Winterfell/the North in his absence, but also that she is the best guide for his son and heir to learn how to rule!)
As an additional blow, Ned tells Cat that he will take Sansa, Arya and Bran south with him - Sansa will have to marry Joffrey (who, again, thus far has not shown any inclination of being anything other than kind of a spoiled brat), and Arya needs to learn how to be a lady in the south before it’s time for her to marry. As for Bran, Ned thinks that he’s so sweet-natured that he will make sure there’s no bad blood between the Baratheon princes and Robb. All this will supposedly ensure the safety of the Stark family.
And then there’s the thorny issue of Jon Snow. Catelyn remembers that she wasn’t that angry or upset that Ned had fathered a child “he had a man’s needs, after all, and they had spent that year apart... he was welcome to whatever solace he might find between battles. And if his seed quickened, she expected he would see to the child’s needs.”

No, what angers Catelyn still is that Ned has insisted on raising Jon at Winterfell and acknowledging him publicly as his son AND that Jon and his wetnurse were actually at Winterfell before Cat ever got there with Robb. So it’s the singularity of Ned’s treatment of his bastard that is the issue here, not that Ned fathered one in the first place. And indeed, it’s clear from all the other bastard children that we meet in the series, that, until their fathers have NO other heirs (I’m looking at you, Ramsay Snow!), it’s unprecedented for them to be raised alongside the lord’s trueborn heirs. Even Robert’s nobly-born bastard Edric Storm isn’t raised at court (Cersei would kill him, for one thing :P) but off at Storm’s End. The only place where things are different is Dorne, of course, but it will be a long three books before we learn about that.

Catelyn only had rumors to guide her and most of them focused on Ser Arthur Dayne and his sister Ashara, but when Cat asked Ned about her, she got “the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her.” Ned refused to say anything, and in fact dismissively told Cat that Jon “is my blood and that is all you need to know.” 

Is it any wonder that, believing that Ned loved Jon’s mother so much he couldn’t bear to speak her name (which is kind of true if Lyanna was his mother, but just not in the way Cat thinks), Catelyn can’t find it in her heart to *LOVE* Jon? There’s no sense that she’s consistently horrible to him, just that she doesn’t want to have the constant reminder rubbed in her face that her husband loved some other woman so much that he won’t be parted from that other woman’s child EVER. 

Poor Cat gets so much grief from fandom for not being a good mom to Jon and ... man, that’s like expecting her to be a SAINT, from my perspective. Not only is she expected to swallow the fact that Ned wants to raise his bastard in his home alongside Catelyn’s children (which, again, is totally contrary to the custom of most of Westeros) but she’s also warned not to ever ask anything about his mother AND there’s no divorce option for her, no way for her to walk out without losing her own children. So she does what she does, which is to put up with Jon because that’s what Ned wants, and while, sure, it would be awesome and incredibly noble of Catelyn to also love Jon, it’s totally human and understandable that she just doesn’t

Now, if Jon is actually Rhaegar and Lyanna’s child, then this situation becomes all the more tragic. Maybe Ned could have told Cat the truth but her hostility to Jon (such as it is, and we don’t actually know how deep that runs) provided a much-needed protective coloration for the child. If Cat had known that Ned wasn’t unfaithful, that he was tending to his sister’s child, then her attitude toward Jon would surely have been different, and while that difference might have made Jon’s childhood happier and Catelyn happier about him, it would also, I think, have made it that much more likely that people would wonder about this whole deal and start asking questions about Jon’s mom that could be dangerous for Jon. After all, as unprecedented as it is for Ned to raise his bastard in Winterfell, it would probably be even MORE unprecedented for his wife to be all lovey-dovey with the kid.) This is all a long-winded way of saying that this is a horrible, painful awful situation for all three parties, and yet another repercussion of events that none of them had any hand in creating. Awww!

So ... Catelyn finally gets to say that with Ned absent, along with three of their children, she won’t have Jon stay in Winterfell. Ned cannot risk taking Jon south to Robert’s court - especially if Jon is Rhaegar and Lyanna’s son - and accuses Catelyn of being cruel. (Though of course she doesn’t know the situation and considering that Ned has consistently refused to be parted from Jon in the past, I fail to see why Catelyn would foresee Ned’s utter opposition to the idea of taking Jon with him. I also fail to see why Ned wouldn’t think of, I don’t know, dropping Jon off with Howland Reed or something like that!) Anyway, Maester Luwin comes up with the “perfect” solution of sending Jon to join the Night’s Watch per Jon’s own request to Benjen. 

Catelyn tells herself that Jon can be like a son to Benjen and moreover, this way, he’ll never father children who can contest with Robb’s (or Bran’s or Rickon’s) children for Winterfell. This might seem far-fetched from what we know at this point when initially reading the books, but the Blackfyre rebellions are legendary in Westeros, and it’s not far-fetched at all to think that there are rumors about the death of Roose Bolton’s son Domeric, and that Cat knows all about them. 

Ned decides that it’s for the best after all. (And perhaps it is, because who would think to look for Rhaegar’s child at the Wall? Though quite honestly, I would think that Maester Luwin at least would be aware that the Wall is full of violent criminals and Ned surely knows that too, given that his brother Benjen has surely talked about who exactly the Night's Watch gets to recruit. I'm not sure whether Catelyn would know such a thing necessarily, but I do wonder why Ned doesn't say something about the fact that he doesn't want Jon mixed in with the rapists and dregs of the King's Landing dungeons. Or maybe that's just something that only the actual folks at the Wall know about? I don't know, it just seems strange to me that no one brings this up as an argument for Jon's NOT joining the Night's Watch, and only focuses on his age and lack of sexual experience as Benjen did in the previous chapter!)
Anyway, Ned agrees that Jon will go to the Wall and that he will go to King's Landing, and it's extra poignant and sad because even though Ned and Cat don't know this, we're looking at the beginning of the end for the happy Stark family at Winterfell.

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