game of thrones

Playin’ With Ice and Fire: A Game of Thoughts | Catelyn Stark Chapter 18

She’s new, I’m the re-reader. She’s the  newbie, I’m the spoilery vet. Together She’s  g-mashin’ George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting here POV on. Today she moves on to Chapter 18, a Catelyn Stark POV chapter.

You can also read my interview with George R. R. Martin if it pleases you

A Game of Thrones Chapter by Chapter Read and React

Elena –

All right, let’s talk about Catelyn. If we have to.

That sounds more resentful than I mean it to be. For as much as I dumped on her after her last chapter, the thing is–I’m over it. For now, at least I’m simply bored by her. I have no interest in her feelings or her short-circuiting logic, but it’s more of a mental eye roll than anything that stirs my emotions. For now. I kind of expect she’s going to end up fucking something up royally enough to reignite my prior feelings about her, but for now she just sort of bores me, and I’m solely interested in the plot points that develop in her chapter.

So let’s talk about those.

First of all, her getting apprehended (essentially) when she got to King’s landing was hilarious. Yup…that figured, was pretty much my thought. She just didn’t try very hard to be evasive, did she? How naïve is this woman? If she recognizes that her message might be dangerous and that her being at King’s Landing when she’s supposed to be at Winterfell is suspicious–which clearly she does when she chooses not to present herself to anyone in the city–then she ought to put up some sort of deflection. I mean, if you’re Catelyn Fucking Stark, and your showing up at King’s Landing is going to be suspicious, there’s really only two ways to go about it: extremely obvious, best defense is a good offense style, or truly incognito. Either she rolls up in there with an entourage and goes straight to the palace and demands a room while she waits for Ned and acts like she belongs there, or she travels under a different name and takes a room at like every hotel she can find and actually obfuscates who she is and what she’s doing. The fact that she doesn’t do either, or something else that even makes a pretense of competence at evading unwanted notice, just sort of proves how inept she is at court politics and intrigue. Is this because she’s been left up at Winterfell so long, out of that mindset and out of practice at subterfuge? Or was she never good at it, and her parents saw that and sought to protect her from herself by marrying her off to a Stark so she’d just be out of the way?

(My money’s on the latter. Poor Petyr never had a chance if her parents thought his cleverness might end him up at court.)

My marginal comment when Petyr’s history with her came up was, “Wait, somebody actually LOVED her?” But that’s no doubt unfair. I mean, Catelyn is beautiful and for the most part dutiful, and from what I’ve seen of men in this society that seems to be the top two attributes for the ideal wife. And he knew her when they were children–he was 15 the last time she saw him–so he probably didn’t know too many others to compare her to. Also, considering Catelyn is pretty much the stereotypical woman in this culture (again based on what I’ve seen thus far), there’s probably not any sense that she’s something she shouldn’t be or isn’t something she should be. I just personally am incredulous at the idea.

I wonder what ole Petyr thinks about her now that she’s all grown up and can’t misdirect anyone to save her life? Does he find her abject, or is he still in love with her?

Speaking of Petyr…I distrusted him on sight. I’m not sure why. Maybe he’ll grow on me. Probably just that anyone who is the spymaster’s go-to guy is probably shady.

I was surprised that she tried to lie to him about why she was there with such a weak excuse. “May a lady not yearn for her family and children?” Er…if that was why she was there, why not be there openly? Her clumsy attempt at secrecy only served to make her reasons for being there even more questionable.  I find it amusing that with that line she was trying to play the “oh, I’m just a silly female” line while thinking herself so much more, when in reality that is exactly what she is in a less vacuous way. The problem with Catelyn is that she’s smart enough to get herself into trouble but not smart enough to to get herself out…she thinks like one layer deep when she needs to be going three. But she doesn’t seem to realize there’s more than one layer till the next one trips her up…and that’s a dangerous self-perception to get wrong. If she didn’t, she might have known that she wouldn’t be able to keep her visit a secret and sent someone else.  There is nothing whatsoever suspicious in a messenger from Winterfell waiting for Ned at King’s Landing, given he’s the Warden of the North and might want news of his holdings, not to mention that he left a possibly dying child behind and would probably like an update.  What made it suspicious was that she went herself, and was so arrogant about her ability to prevent someone at court from finding her that she didn’t bother to think up a plausible cover story for the eventuality of being asked.  Also, why the fuck did she even send Ser Rodrick to the palace at all, instead of just waiting until the king and Ned came back?  Surely that’s the sort of information that a quick question to the innkeeper or someone on the street could answer–has the king returned? If yes, you send Rodrick to Ned, and he’s a plausible messenger for important news from home, if no, you just fucking wait until they get there.  Why is that so hard?

Ugh.  And here I thought I was just bored…instead her obtuseness is pissing me off all over again.

The other character I want to talk about is Varys. Is he the same sort of dreamer that Bran now is? The constant bird references hints at that, but he could also just be a really effective spymaster, too, I guess. But given the number of other dreamers Bran saw dead, there are obviously others of them in the world, and it’s not exactly a stretch to think that someone like that would rise high in the king’s service.

The one big development (besides the fact that Ned will get to King’s Landing to find his wife ransomed by the Queen’s minions) is the reveal at the end of the chapter that the knife used in Bran’s assassination attempt was from Tyrion Lannister. Hm. So many possibilities.

Did Tyrion do it? If so, why? Was he attempting to protect his brother? Was he hoping that the attempt would be foiled and the Starks tipped off that the Lannisters are an active threat to them? Did he feel sorry for a little boy who might wake up crippled if he woke up at all, and wanted to put him out of his (potential) future misery?

Or did Cirsei acquire the knife from her brother? Did she steal it from him, or did she ask him for it? Was it because she could get to it and she was just using the tools at hand? Or did she want to maybe cast some suspicion onto him and away from herself and her twin? If he gave her the knife, did she explain what she wanted it for–and if so, why did he give it to her for that purpose?

I honestly can’t even come up with a good theory on this one. I just can’t. I am inclined to believe that is where the knife actually came from, since there’s that whole “does Martin like to undercut characters” question still hovering in my mind, and Tyrion trying to assassinate Bran is pretty much WTF-ery in action. And it seems like he would be hard to make a patsy of. I mean, I guess if Petyr  is in Cersei’s camp and knows Tyrion’s going up to The Wall so won’t be around to deny anything, he’s figuring it’s a good time to scapegoat Tyrion and knock him down on behalf of the sister who hates him. But, like, plot-wise, it feels legitimate that it was in Tyrion’s possession and that Tyrion probably had a hand in what went down, because it’s a surprise turn in a book that I’ve been told is built on surprise turns. I just don’t know what angle he was after yet.

So there’s that development in place. Now let’s get the eff onward from boring-ass Catelyn and back to someone I actually like spending time with!

– originally published 4/3/2011


  1. oh well. I’m glad that at least we’re moving on (finally) 🙂 the slow pace made me start my own re-read on my site…

  2. @ everyone:

    so it looks like i’m riding solo on these for the time being. commenting rules should still apply – please direct comments at me, and if you want to discuss spoilery stuff with each other then please mark it spoiler so i stay out of it.

    also, i’ve given up finishing the book before the hbo series starts–seriously, i have maybe 30 min’s of reading time a day right now, it’s just not going to happen unless i get laid off tomorrow and obviously that’s not something i’m hoping for :)–so i’m going to keep on with these as i finish chapters, and probably about 3 episodes in it overtakes me. we’ll see if i think there’s enough extra stuff/differently handled incidents in the chapters to keep on (probably will be, if i’m being honest).

    so that’s the what what. hopefully with just me rolling on these they should be a bit more regular, and again even if jay doesn’t jump back in y’all are all welcome to consipiracize amongst yourselves….

  3. @Elena

    I think you’re being a little too hard on Catelyn. Yes, she’s fairly inept at political subterfuge, but the other side of the coin that you might take away from this chapter is that Varys and Littlefinger are very, very good at it. Frankly, Catelyn didn’t stand much chance of avoiding detection, even if she had managed a little more subtlety. And while in hindsight, it probably would have been better for her to just wait for Ned, I think her reasoning was that she wanted to get some investigating done on her own while the Lannisters were out of town. Yeah, she made a botch of it, but she’s had a fairly sheltered life, one which before now has never featured traveling incognito.

    I enjoy seeing her attempts at being secretive, because it serves as a baseline for the “game of thrones” that goes on at King’s Landing. She is an outsider trying to jump into a game at which she is clearly outmatched, and she finds herself effectively defeated before she even manages an opening move. You’ll see a number of other players entering the game in the coming chapters, most of them somewhat more competent than Catelyn. But it’s an interesting comparison to keep in mind.

  4. @Elena

    I’ll have to gather me thoughts, but I, too, become rather irritated at Cat chapters. I make no secret of me dislike of her, though I’ll readily admit I don’t think she’s useless or unloving at all. I just can’t stand her for a variety of reasons, one of which is how she’s always so damn sure she’s right. I know other characters are guilty of this, but there are things to love and hate in each character. I have yet to find anything about Cat that I love, or even like.

    I found her ignorance in asking the captain for an inn, and as you mentioned, traveling as Lady Stark openly, highly irritating. I could already see her getting discovered the first day in, though the first HOUR kind of surprised me. Then we meet her old childhood friend. I disliked his description immediately, as he felt…slimy, somehow. I can’t explain it, but that was the first thing that occurred to me. Someone who’s willing to pay for information on you can’t be that trustworthy!

    The dagger…Oh, how I wish I could speak on the dagger more! Unfortunately, I cannot.


    To anyone, I guess…ok, we have to guess that Littlefinger’s lie here was cleverly improvised on the spot, but why? I’m still so curious to hear peoples’ opinions on what his true motivations are, and seeing that he’ll soon have Ned in his clutches and be able to lead him all over KL and produce evidence that Littlefinger himself deems appropriate, why lie to cat? Perhaps it was insurance to further the Lannister/Stark distrust?


    There’s alot happening here with Varys, too. I need to reread the rest of the chapter and come back. 🙂

  5. Was it Petyr who paid for the information, or Varys? It was Varys who let Petyr know that Catelyn was in the city, so I always thought it was Varys who had it from Moreo.


    I think Littlefinger must have known by this point that Tyrion was visiting the Wall, and assuming that Catelyn would be traveling back to Winterfell before Tyrion returned, figured there was a good chance their paths would cross on the King’s Road. So he was basically just trying to stir up trouble between the Starks and the Lannisters. At which he, of course, succeeded in spades.

  7. @ Elenea:
    Littlefinger! My second favourite character is introduced.
    House Baelish is awesome.

    He does come of as rather oily in this chapter, though. And he and Varys just play of each other so well. They are like two master fencers, and Catelyn is in the middle, armed with a spoon.

    Catelyn is rather obtuse, but as others have pointed out she is on unfamiliar ground and is completely outmatched by the people already in the city. She does not even know what game she is playing in, let alone the rules and goals of her “opponents”

    And the dagger is awesome…

  8. Hmm, I do need to check the facts, there. I’d always assumed that Petyr and Varys found out seperately, but it’s been a while since I read that chapter.

  9. SPOILERS!!!!

    @Taksi, yes. He strikes me as almost superhuman in his ability to improvise and calculate! I HATE him, but I must respect his abilities. What is his true goal, though? That’s something of a mystery, too!

  10. Hee! Sorry, but that mental image of varys and Littlefinger fencing with Cat in the middle, armed with a spoon, is priceless! I’m laughing like a fool!

  11. @Elena,

    boo at Jay to leave you all alone! Soldier on, for if you think Catelyn is obtuse now…

    I agree with you completely. WTF was her plan? I will secretly go totally out in the open, shove my hand in a huge pit of vipers I haven’t even been marginally part of in 25 years and then just… swish my hand around and expect everyone to jump up and apologize and give me what I want.

    She’s soooooooo ridiculous.

    But I do like Petyr. He always came off, to me as a nice boy who would have done well in a richer house – as a husband and father and leader, but since he was poor and couldn’t have what he wanted he resolved to get what he wanted with his brain and that sorta turned him into a jerk. But do his ends justify his means? Shit.. I don’t even know what his ends ARE!

  12. The thing that I think you should take away from A Game of Thrones is that the Starks are NOT crafty politicians. They have never been in this position before and both the Starks and the Tullys are more honorable than any of the other houses (with the exception of Arryn before Jon died) and they just CAN’T understand that there are people out there who don’t follow these rules. It is their biggest asset and their biggest flaw. Without their dedication to honor they would not make very good heroes but WITH it it blinds and binds them from really participating in all of the political games.

    While it seems that Catelyn is being stupid it’s just that she was not raised to play court intrigue. Like I said, this is a flaw of every Stark only some of them learn better than others or it works out better for them than it does for others.


    I must agree, but Cat somehow seems to grate on me worse than the rest. But perhaps it’s because she never has those moments where she does something endearing, as Ned does. Like when he hired Syrio for Arya instead of punishing her for having a sword.


    ARGGHH!! Is there an edit button? 🙁

  15. Elena, please don’t stop reading, even if you won’t be making the deadline, 17th April that is. I assume you will be watching. If we have learned anything from the trailers and previews, then that the show won’t be as deep as the books. Time is limited and a lot of stuff has to packed into the show. Characters will be merged or omitted. Extra descriptions of characters or events will be cut or only shown briefly, which makes it easy to miss. Inner thoughts and monologues have to be worked around with extra scenes or also dropped entirely. And while this might work for the show just fine, it also means that the books offer this extra layer of depth that is worth experiencing. I think reading along with the show or after the show, won’t diminish the points worthy of discussion. The exact opposite is probably the case. Imagine the show as someone’s comment describing his/her own interpretation of the book, only that it is highly elaborate and visual and expensive interpretation.

    Well, I hope, i’m not the only one who would like you to continue.

  16. @Elena, ok I’ve refreshed my memory! Varys certainly comes off as unpleasant, doesn’t he? Sort of effeminate and ridiculous, yet he knew of the dagger. The first time I read his description of Ser Rodrick and the conversation he had with the weapons master, I was in partial agreement with Cat (big shock for me), he must be a wizard! How could he know? Varys is not like Bran, I feel safe telling you that. But he’s obviously not to be underestimated!

    Littlefinger…GAH! His back story of having challenged Brandon Stark for Catelyn’s hand actually made me wonder just how honest he could be with her, so I WAS pleased to see her not trusting him. His first impression wasn’t favorable, and even his physical description put me in mind of someone driven to overcompensate, which makes me immediately suspect anything he says.

    But that’s for later chapters, heh. 🙂

    All in all, what’s really revealed in this chapter is that Cat wouldn’t know Incognito if it slapped her, and Varys and Littlefinger are ready to pounce on why she came. Can you smell trouble?

  17. Now I want a shirt with this illustration! Maybe with Cat getting skewered…

  18. I’m definitely not going to stop reading the book! I was referring more to continuing the chapter-by-chapter readings after the show starts spoilering plot points for me. But after the 15 minute preview I can see that a lot is going to be shifted just enough that I’ll probably want to dive into the book with this same sort of depth. There just may not be the unsullied surprise when something big happens. But if everyone’s okay with that… 🙂

  19. Well, if she is there to serve as a baseline for what incompetence in the game is, then I can at least appreciate what I just saw. But I don’t think I’m being too hard on her, because I dislike her entire view of the world, and I don’t care that it was informed by her life. It is also limited by her lack of imagination. I feel like from conversations with Ned about court she has some awareness that the court is full of intrigue and plotting…and yet she doesn’t think twice about whether she can cope?

  20. hm…interesting to know petyr is one of someone’s favorites. i liked him better after the ned chapter, although i still don’t trust him. but at least he can crack a fucking joke sometimes.

  21. yeah, littlefinger’s backstory was interesting. that hit home for me more in the next ned chapter where he dislikes him so much for that history with the older stark brother (what was his name? brandon?). and i thought if catelyn was mistrusting him it was only in her mind, not in her actions…she did go ahead and tell him everything readily enough.

    varys is certainly an intriguing enigma for now…

  22. She did, which rather made me want to drop kick her in the face. But then, I always want to drop kick her in the face…

    Ah, Varys! More than meets the eye, I’m telling you!

  23. Oh, and yes, his name was Brandon Stark. Bran is actually named for him.

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