About Me

My photo
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, August 30, 2015

A Game of Thrones - Bran II (Chapter 8)

“The things I do for love” - and we come to the fateful moment when Bran discovers the Queen and her brother are a little bit closer than they should be. Jaime Lannister may not get a POV until Book 3, but his actions - fifteen years earlier with Aerys and now - drive the story to a considerable extent. (And because I love Jaime and this is SUCH a pivotal chapter, it got really long! Sorry. No, I’m not! Also, it’s taken me FOREVER to do this (like, literally seven months, I think) because I wanted to do this chapter justice.)
Without further ado … the chapter at hand:

Everyone in Winterfell goes hunting because Robert wants wild boar for supper (oh, Robert, that taste for boar is going to get you killed someday. Well, that and your in-laws!) It’s the day before Bran and Sansa and Arya are due to accompany their father south to Kings Landing; Bran feels a little resentful that he’s too young to go on the hunt and has been left behind with Jon, Rickon (the baby) and the girls. He decides not to look for Jon because Jon “seemed to be angry at everyone these days. Bran did not know why.” (Hmmm, guess that the Night’s Watch plan sounded less exciting to Jon when it became a reality.)
Bran’s been dying to go on this big adventure, and there’s a really heartbreaking passage about how Bran wants to be a knight, and even aspires to becoming a member of the Kingsguard because he’s a big Kingsguard fanboy and knows all the great stories about the KG of olden times (as well as more recent members like Ser Arthur Dayne and Gerold Hightower and Ser Barristan the Bold.) The actual Kingsguard who are in Winterfell are a bit disappointing to Bran, though. Only Ser Jaime looks “like the knights in the stories” but according to Robb he doesn’t count because he killed the mad king (and also will shortly throw Bran off a tower!)
Now that it’s actually time to go, though, Bran realizes he’s going to miss Winterfell horribly, and as he goes to say his goodbyes, “all of a sudden, Bran just wanted to sit down and cry.” So he decides that instead of saying goodbye to everyone he’ll just go for a final climb of the walls and towers of Winterfell.
We learn that Bran hasn’t named his wolf yet, unlike his siblings whose wolves all have names. I have to think this is significant, like Bran can’t think of a name for his animal because he hasn’t found his path yet.
Also significant: “the heart tree had always frightened him; trees ought not to have eyes, Bran thought, or leaves that looked like hands.” Oh, Bran, you are going to end up living in a tree (and maybe turning into one.) This just seems like a crueler and crueler fate!
Bran’s wolf howls as he climbs, in some kind of warning that Bran completely ignores. Again, an interesting comparison of Winterfell and the trees that will loom so important later on: “[Winterfell[ had grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone-tree … and its branches were gnarled and thick and twisted, its roots sunk deep into the earth.” Between this, and the hot springs (which I think have to do with volcanic activity inimical to dragons), and the fact that the same guy (Brandon the Builder) built both Winterfell AND the Wall, I really think Winterfell the place, as well as the Starks themselves, are hugely significant in the fight against the others.
Bran thinks being up high over Winterfell makes him feel like the lord of the castle, he can see everyone and everything without their knowing he’s there. Later he says that climbing was “almost like being invisible.” (Kind of like when he’s looking into the weirwoods, hmmm?) We learn that Bran’s mother (rightly) fears that he’ll hurt himself climbing and that the family have tried various strategies to keep him from continuing to climb, but something deeper drives him to keep doing it. (I think it’s interesting that Old Nan’s scary story is about a “bad little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning, and how afterward the crows came to peck out his eyes.” Maybe I’m reading too much into this but I was struck by this story because hey, look here’s Bran, climbing too high, struck down by Jaime Lannister and afterwards the three-eyed crow takes him to the man who has a “thousand eyes and one.”)
Bran heads for the ruined tower of the the First Keep, the oldest part Winterfell. It’s almost as though something is drawing him towards his doom (maybe I’m reading too much into this but I don’t know!) He hears voices, Cersei and Jaime arguing, though he doesn’t know it. Even if they weren’t doing the naked mambo when Bran sees them, their conversation is treasonous enough.
Cersei tells Jaime that she doesn’t like the appointment of Ned as Hand and wants Jaime instead. “Gods forbid,” Jaime says. He doesn’t want the honor, because there’s too much work involved. (I actually liked the show’s dialogue for this bit much better - “their days are too long, their lives are too short” really sounds like a Jaime-ism!)
Cersei points out that Ned’s appointment as Hand puts them in danger, because Robert loves him like a brother. Jaime reminds her that Robert can’t stand his brother (“Stannis would be enough to give anyone indigestion” Hee! That’s the Jaime I love!)
Jaime says that he prefers “honorable enemies rather than ambitious ones” like Littlefinger or one of Robert’s brothers. Again, interesting that even though there’s no hint that Stannis, Renly or Littlefinger are aware of Cerise’s and Jaime’s treasonous incestuous adultery, Jaime counts them all as enemies. (I guess “everyone who isn’t us” is an enemy indeed!)
Bran realizes that these mysterious voices are talking about his father (and given that he recognizes the purport of their conversation, at the very least it would have made for some awkward times in Winterfell if he’d mentioned that to his dad, even if Jaime and Cersei weren’t naked and and having sex!)
Cersei is already exhibiting a bit of paranoia, insisting that since Ned has never had any interest in the South, the fact that he’s planning to leave Winterfell must mean that he’s going to move against the Lannisters. Jaime’s actually quite sensible here saying that there are a hundred reasons why Ned might take up Robert’s offer to be Hand:  “Duty. Honor. He yearns to write his name large across the book of history, to get away from his wife, or both. Perhaps he just wants to be warm for once in his life.” (Again, from what we learn about Jaime later on in the series, I think this is really interesting and revealing that before he starts being facetious about Ned, he mentions possible reasons for Ned’s actions that we later learn are projections of his own long-dead desires — duty, honor, and the fame of his virtues, rather than the notoriety that Jaime earned by being the Kingslayer.)
Cersei continues to fret about the fact that Lysa Arryn is Catelyn’s sister and Jaime reassures her that if Lysa had known anything pertinent about the incest she would have already told Robert (though unbeknownst to both siblings, Lysa has accused them to her sister and Ned of the murder of Jon Arryn, rather than the incest.) The narrative deliberately obscures whether Jaime and Cersei’s crimes include murder, though we know that the crime they’re talking about is their relationship, and not the murder of Jon Arryn.
Cersei again counters that Lysa wouldn’t have dared accuse the Lannisters of the as-yet-nameless crime because Tywin was going to foster young Robert Arryn at Casterly Rock and Lysa would have feared for his life. Jaime makes a bitter and deprecating remark about mothers, and how “birthing does something to your minds. You are all mad.” (Again, I’m probably reading far more into this than I should but of course Cersei does descend into a kind of madness when Joffrey dies in her arms.)
Meanwhile, Bran is trying to figure out how to get out of his unintended eavesdropping without alerting the two people having this conversation. He doesn’t quite understand what they’re talking about, but he definitely understands that this is quite a dangerous thing to be listening to, and it gets even more dangerous.
Oddly, Jaime praises Ned’s honor, telling Cersei she’s reading way too much into the appointment of Ned, because what Jaime sees is a man who’d rather die than betray his king. (Totally unlike the Kingslayer, of course!)
Cersei believes Ned’s loyalty extends only to Robert and questions what happens when Joffrey is King (Dun dun FORESHADOWING!!!) and in fact says the sooner Joff is King, the better because Robert’s getting restive and is still in love with Lyanna. Now this is definitely edging towards treason and Bran is truly frightened. He wants to find his brothers, but not before he finds out who’s talking so he has some concrete information to give them. Again, I realized reading carefully that even Jaime’s and Cesei’s conversation is pretty bad for them if relayed to a third party, let alone the fact that they’re having sex.
Just as Bran draws closer to the room it’s clear that the sexy times portion of the even has begun, and Bran gets to the window just in time to see the naked “wrestling.” Bran can’t tell who the couple is because Jaime’s back is blocking his view, but it’s clear they’re kissing and though Bran is too young to recognize that Cersei’s moans indicate pleasure rather than pain. Cersei, in the throes of passion, pulls Jaime’s head down to her breast and that’s when Bran realizes that he’s seeing the queen, and inadvertently makes a noise which makes Cersei open her eyes and seals poor Bran’s fate.
“Everything happened at once then.”
Bran tries to pull himself up and in his panic about what he’s seen, he slips and starts to fall. He catches the ledge with one hand and dangles there as Cersei and Jaime come to the window above him, and now Bran recognizes Cerise’s lover as well. Cersei says “he saw us” and Bran’s fingers start to slip again. Jaime actually tells Bran to take his hand before he falls and pull Bran onto the ledge one-handed even as Cersei asks Jaime what he’s doing.
Jaime asks how old Bran is, and Bran says he’s seven, before Jaime looks over at Cersei and shoves Bran out the window. “The things I do for love,” he said with loathing. (Emphasis mine).  I think this ties into what Jaime tells Cersei much later: he’s not ashamed of loving her, only of the things he’s done to hide it. And what he does to Bran is, of course, the absolute worst thing he’s ever done for love. It’s very interesting Jaime’s first instinct was actually to save Bran (Bran notices that his fingernails have dug deep gouges into Jaime’s forearm) when he could have simply let him fall which seems to be why Cersei’s asking what Jaime is doing when he pulls Bran up onto the ledge. If Bran falls, problem solved! Instead we get a first glimpse at the dichotomy of Jaime Lannister - first he saves Bran, then he tries to murder him. (On the show, of course, there was none of the saving, only the shove but I think the first action of pulling Bran up onto the ledge is meant to tell us something about Jaime. It makes the push in a way more callous - he actively tries to kill the boy instead of simply not intervening as Bran falls - but it also makes clearer that he is a man in deep conflict with himself. And it’s much more Jaime-like to take a direct action than to stand by and watch something happen - Littlefinger would have just let Bran fall, but Jaime saves him and then gives him that shove.)
As Bran falls, the crows cry out for corn and his wolf howls in the distance. And things will never be the same again; Bran’s fall is the beginning of the fall of Winterfell itself. (Though like Bran, I think Winterfell is crippled and nearly destroyed but will nonetheless be an important catalyst in the war against the Others. If we ever get to read about that but that’s a rant for another day …)


  1. Just posted a long-ish comment, and the Internet ate it. Trying to find it...

  2. Well, here we go again...
    I love this chapter, and your observations. I haven't read this chapter in quite some time, but isn't it the chapter where Ned tells Bran he's 'not his son but a squirrel'? And later on, in Dance, we learn that the giants call the CotF 'squirrel people'. Another thing you mentioned is Summer's reaction when Bran starts climbing. I've seen so many discussions on the board about how Bloodraven sort of orchestrated Bran's fall, so that he'd be more willing to accept the path BR had planned for him. I never saw it that way, mostly because of Summer's reaction. And the hot pools! I think it's interesting that Wintefell was built in a non-strategical location. I mean, there are no rivers nearby, and it's quite far from the sea. But it's where the hot pools are. ;)
    The other thing in this chapter is that it shows us how well Bran knows Winterfell and its secret passageways, which is something that I think will be significant in TWoW.

    1. Hi Laura!! Thank you so much for persevering despite issues. Yes, you're right, this is indeed where Ned tells Bran he's a squirrel (a flashback when Bran has been "punished" for climbing by having to spend the night in the Godswood and he ends up sleeping in the trees) and great catch about the COTF. (I have, quite honestly, forgotten a lot of Dance, since I only read it once, and mostly remember the Theon (and Jaime!) chapters!)

      I don't think Bloodraven orchestrated Bran's fall simply because that makes him so powerful that the entire story would be a little diminished by it. However, I do think the Starks all have some kind of huge role in the Otherpocalypse that's coming, just like Daenerys does (Ice & Fire!!) and that Bran had to go North, somehow. That doesn't absolve Jaime from pushing him, of course, but I think somehow or other, Bran wouldn't have left Winterfell with Ned, as originally planned.

      I was REEEEALLY struck by the hot pools/volcanic activity stuff this time around, because I'm actively trying to work out clues about the Starks and so on.

      I agree that Bran's knowledge of Winterfell will be critical when/if we get TWoW. (I WANT IT NOW!! *grabby hands*) :D Hopefully with my terribly slow rereading pace, we'll get it before I finish the reread!