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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!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

I dreamed of you ... (Some thoughts on Jaime, Brienne, the bearpit, the weirwood dream and other assorted miscellany)

And so I return to this oft-abandoned blog ... I haven't given up on the detailed reread project, but I think I need the fire (and ice) of a publication date for The Winds of Winter to get back to that. In the meantime, I've been thinking so much about Jaime and Brienne (my two favorite characters in the series) so let me leap forward, throw in a bunch of spoilers and talk about them for a bit. (WARNING: There are huge spoilers for A Storm of Swords under the break!)

A while ago, I came across this discussion of Jaime’s fever dream before the BEARPIT. And I disagree in a very long and involved way: I think Brienne, not Cersei, is the most significant person in Jaime’s fever dream.

Looking at Jaime’s dream as solely being about Cersei gives short shrift to the huge part of the dream narrative in which Cersei is no longer present; she actually leaves him very shortly after the beginning of the dream, even though he begs her to stay. Moreover, Cersei is not the only Lannister present in the tomb-like setting under Casterly Rock. Jaime says the darkness is filled with ghosts of Lannisters without counting (and soon-to-be ghosts, like Tywin and Joffrey) and with his family come the crushing weight of his father’s expectations and disappointment in Jaime; Jaime’s guilty love for Cersei and the things he’s done for that love; and Joffrey, the bad seed product of that guilty love. But just as important (if not more so in terms of pages focused on it) is Jaime’s guilt about betraying Rhaegar by not protecting his family and betraying his vows to the Kingsguard by killing Aerys. (Remember it all comes back to Aerys!)

And who does Jaime interact with the most in his dream? Not Cersei, not the Kingsguard and Rhaegar, but Brienne. First, Brienne’s shining sword replaces the light provided by Cersei, the torch that Jaime previously thinks is the “only light in the world.” Brienne not only replaces Cersei as the source of light (the “blue” light of her sword keeps the darkness at bay) but she also protects him against the accusatory phantoms of Jaime’s other “family”, his former Kingsguard brothers.

But she’s more than replacement Cersei or protector: it’s hugely significant that, in a dream that includes Cersei (Jaime’s ideal of beauty) and Ser Arthur Dayne (Jaime’s ideal of knighthood/honor), Jaime sees BRIENNE as “almost a beauty, almost a knight.” In Jaime’s dream, Brienne symbolizes and incorporates both things that Jaime longs for: love/beauty (represented by Cersei) AND honor (represented by Arthur Dayne and Jaime’s Kingsguard brothers who died for Rhaegar.) And she’s also his way out of the dark tomb of his dream: in this world largely populated by the dead, Brienne is alive (Jaime thinks that she’s warm, a characteristic he often associates with her) and her light keeps burning after Jaime’s goes out. 

Somehow, in the logic of dreams, Jaime recognizes that Brienne is key to his own life on a symbolic level. Can he ever be Arthur Dayne again or is he always doomed to be the Smiling Knight?  Going back to rescue Brienne is Jaime being true to the better side of his nature, acting as he failed to act to protect Rhaegar’s wife and children but the same act, in its entirely impulsive nature (jumping into the bearpit without a hand, a sword or a plan) also incorporates the side of Jaime that does “the things I do for love.” Jaime’s dream is the impetus for that action, and in acting, Jaime is finally able to integrate both sides of his character: his capacity for love and loyalty (and for doing awful - and in this one instance, heroic - things for love) and his long-dormant belief in chivalry and honor not being merely empty words to disguise the brutal reality of life in Westeros. So “I dreamed of you” becomes not a throwaway line to replace the cruel quips he might have made, but a simple, though also profound, truth.

(Also I think that the reviewer has completely overlooked the significance of Jaime sleeping on a weirwood stump when he has this dream. We know weirwoods have special powers elsewhere and the same seems to be true here: think about Brienne continuously asking in Jaime’s dream about the “bear.” Jaime doesn’t know she’s bitten off Vargo’s ear and is condemned to die in the bearpit when he had the dream; he thinks he’s going to ransom her and save her from being raped is all. And Tywin gives Jaime a sword, just as he will later give Jaime Ned Stark’s sword in King’s Landing.
So I think there may be a prophetic element to Jaime’s seeing Tywin and Joffrey - soon to be among the Lannister dead - alongside Cersei. Note that Tyrion, Tommen and Myrcella are all absent from the dream, which suggests a) that Jaime doesn’t have conflicted feelings about them; or b) they are not going to die. I wonder whether the replacement of Cersei’s light by Brienne’s means that Cersei will die before Jaime, perhaps because he has “abandoned” her to follow Brienne, just as choosing to go back and save Brienne from the bearpit made Jaime miss the Purple Wedding. He thinks as he rides away from Harrenhal that “If they made haste, he might even arrive in time for Joffrey’s wedding” but then, of course, he loses all that time riding back and arrives after Joffrey’s death.)

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