Playin’ with Ice and Fire – A Game of Thoughts | Jon Snow Chapter 10

Comic Con? Losers. The well-adjusted cool saved their money, stayed home and refreshed until this update. I decided to put this up today so George R.R. himself could attend the gathering tomorrow. Among the people at NYCC this weekend is Elena (shower her with praise if you see her), but before she took the  jet to New York, she dropped of the next edition of our trek through A Game of Thrones. Who is Elena?

game of thrones

She’s new, I’m the re-reader. Together we are rereading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting our POV on. Let’s see what Jon Snow is up to! If you skipped last week, correct yourself and go read our thoughts on Tyrion.

An A Game of Thrones Chapter by Chapter Read and React

Elena –

I want to talk about this chapter, at least for a bit, in terms of the life-changing moments I had wondered about earlier.  By the end of the chapter I felt like we had seen two—one on Jon’s part, and one on Arya’s.

For Jon, this chapter was about growing up.  By that I mean facing down the terror of his childhood years:  Catelyn.  It’s now two weeks after Bran fell, and Jon and Uncle Benji are going to be the first Starks to run off while he’s still broken.  They have no choice; winter is coming, and they have to get back to The Wall before it gets there.

So he wants to say goodbye to his brother, and he has not been invited into the sickroom before now or been willing to intrude because Catelyn has been there the whole time.  The moment where he pauses on the landing to breathe through his fear could be construed as a young man not wanting to face a sickroom, but the line (which I thought was greatness) about Jon going to The Wall, where he would “face things far more frightening than Catelyn Tully Stark” makes clear what he doesn’t want to face is his father’s wife.

The moments with Catelyn didn’t make me like her any more, but despite her attitude toward Jon they didn’t make me like her less.  She’s obviously a mother who loves her son, and probably because she realizes Bran would want to say goodbye to Jon she doesn’t stop him from coming in.

Her introspection about praying that Ned would let her “special boy” remain behind was…well, I don’t really know what it was.  Dramatic irony, I guess.  Yes, it’s a case of a prayer being answered but not in the expected way, be careful what you wish for, etc., but really it wasn’t any god that caused Bran to stay, just the Lannisters.  However powerful they are, I don’t think they quite count as deities.

I don’t know if those moments really changed the way Jon looked at his stepmother (is that an appropriate word for the relationship, even if she has never acknowledged him as a son?), or if the simple act of facing her down was enough to mark a turning point in his life.  Clearly her words still had the power to hurt him, when she flung that it should have been him who had fallen.  Ironically it’s one of Catelyn’s daughters (though less ironically that it’s her least favorite daughter) who makes Jon feel happy again.

We had seen Arya’s perception of their bond before, but this time it was from Jon’s point of view—and, except for the last line, shown mostly through actions and not his actual thoughts.  He isn’t thinking about why he commissioned the sword for her, or how much he’s going to miss her; he just gives it to her, and they joke about it, and the only bit about his emotional involvement is that thinking of those moments and that goodbye “warmed him” on the long ride north.

For Arya, I think it’s fairly obvious, being given a sword by her favorite brother is a turning point in her young life.  It is a direction of her energy, interest, and study toward something she naturally loves (although in a house with that many brothers, is it “natural” inclination or simply that she likes what her brother(s) like?), that her mother and sister would not approve of, and that could at some future point decide her life in a dramatic way.  It doesn’t have to, but it could, and this being a novel it likely will.

Now, will it be that she saves herself or someone else when they should have died, or will it be that she completely rejects the life her mother plans for her, or will it be simply that her love for swordplay is found out and taken from her and that denial becomes a catalyst for some bigger, grander rebellion—or becomes the final straw that breaks her down into being an obedient child?

But whatever it is, I expect her new hobby will come to make a difference in her life.  If nothing else, in an immediate sense it is proof that at least one of her brothers loves her for what she is, and that sense of not just familial connection but unconditional acceptance is beyond value for a child who feels like an outsider.

I’m curious to see how Arya and Jon react to one another when they meet again—I’m guessing it will be a couple years, and very formative years at that.  Will they prove to have the sort of friendship and sibling bond that makes all of that irrelevant, or will it be a disappointment or a disillusionment to meet again?

There was one other person who might be having a life-changing experience here, too, and that’s Robb.  Jon notices that he’s organizing and giving orders, taking up authority where Catelyn has let hers drop—becoming more of the man of the house because it is getting thrust upon him.

One thing that struck me also about the scene with Arya, and I won’t know if it’s important or not till I see more of Sansa, is what she’s doing with her wolf.  Not just keeping her like a pet, but actually giving her commands and tasks.  Somehow I can’t imagine Sansa ever letting Lady near any of her clothes, or getting up to enough mischief that she would need her to stand guard.  Another thing that may come back later as hugely important.

Probably my favorite moment of the chapter was the very end, with the moment of shared ironic humor between Jon and Ayra.  “All the best blades have names…this one’s your favorite thing.”  “Needle!”  Ha, ha.  Nicely played, Mr. Snow.  Now every time your sister has to embroider anything, she’ll think of her sword and her favorite brother.  I wonder if the improved humor will help Arya’s stitching?

–Do not read on if you have not read the series through A Feast for Crows and want to avoid spoilers–

Jay –

Goodbyes are odd in that they can be the worst feeling in the world and at the same time among the most optimistic and exciting moments of our lives. It’s a process I’m going through now as I near a move back to the U.S. after several years in Europe, but even before, as a child-military brat I had the same thoughts as Jon has to start this chapter off, “Jon climbed the steps slowly, trying not to think that this might be the last time ever.”

When I read it, it seemed terribly dramatic and even romantic, but I have to admit to and testify its place in reality – it’s genuine ground. I love how Martin puts us on such footing to begin the chapter, which goes back to harping on his ability to continuously establish new ledges to dangle you from, even as we still cling to the previous cliffhanger.

I’ve mentioned that I’m not the biggest fan of where Catelyn goes in the series, but enjoy and even understand her until her deviation. I have to amend that slightly and prove to be a bit more moved than Elena, as I kind of feel like she’s being a superbitch even if she has every excuse to allow for emotional outburst and loosening of previous (if such existed) restraints concerning Jon.

I think he shows amazing restraint, because let’s face it, he’s going through his own shit and is himself  still just a kid. What he tells Rob, “She was . . . very kind” just seals the deal on this pre-Wall and transitional trial.

I’ve always liked Rob, which is why his own end is such a kick in the balls –reminds me of a less complimentary interpretation of Erikson’s “wide eyed stupid” (which he – Rob – my have inherited from his father and mother).

“Then I haven’t seen you.”

Robb and Jon are boyz. I’ve always loved that, and though Catelyn has her own issues, I always thought it spoke well of the parents that Robb was tight with Jon. It adds extra gravity to how we have to assume Jon feels about Robb’s death and of course adds depth to Aemon’s own admission later. People like Robb, and in that way he resembles the man he was named after in being able to make allies, remember, he got on with Theon as well (who didn’t get along with Jon).

The more and more I think about Catelyn, my thought of her has a neutral wanes. I now have a hard time reconciling her as ever being remotely likeable (please note: not a prerequisite for being a great character). I know I’m being wish-washy with this, but though scenes I spoke of when I talked Kingslayer man love – her parley with Renly, and her all-time classic demise (since stolen from us) are ones I love, do we ever really like Catelyn?

I feel like I should, but in many ways she is as mistake prone as Cersei and I find the comparison between the two to be more and more intriguing. There is no question that Catelyn – when offered – wanted for her kids what Cersei had and there is a cruelty in Catelyn that matches Cersei’s own, though the degrees of action are different.

I also begin to find it quite odd that the grand idea of uncovering the mystery behind the death of Jon Arryn is putting yourself and your own children in danger by putting them into the power of the accused. At some point, somebody thought fuck it, we are marrying into the royal line. I mean  Catelyn really started a war by herself and I got the feeling that she enjoyed ordering and confirming the loyalty of her father’s bannerman.

She was kicking a cripple, and while I know that what’s legal in a setting like this has a lot to do with what you can do when you can do it (and if you can get away with it), I’m not so sure that her arrest of Tyrion was legal. If I were Jaime or Tywin, I’d be PISSED too. I also now think to the condescending nature of her observations when at Renly’s host and it makes me wonder…who the fuck is Catelyn? Starks – even married in – don’t do well when leaving the North and Catelyn didn’t do anything to make bards amend their themes – seems like a rough road for a lot of the Westeros ladies to reach the venerable status of a Queen of Thorns. Hell, maybe it’s not just the Starks, maybe Brynden is “the Blackfish” because he’s the only worldly/competent Tully.

The Arya bit may have been slightly too close to the previous Arya chapter for me. I felt like I just came from here but one cannot deny the future value of the scene. Jon gives her a piece of home to take with her, and the eventual fate of Winterfell and the path of their two stories gives this scene more gravity. Even before life would gettruly crazy, however, I always loved this bit from later in the book:

Arya could not lie to him. She lowered her eyes.

Lord Eddard Stark sighed. “My nine-year-old daughter is being armed from my own forge, and I know nothing of it. The Hand of the King is expected to rule the Seven Kingdoms, yet it seems I cannot even rule my own household. How is it that you come to own a sword, Arya? Where did you get this?”

Arya chewed her lip and said nothing. She would not betray Jon, not even to their father.

After a while, Father said, “I don’t suppose it matters, truly.” He looked down gravely at the sword in his hands.

I wonder if Ned figured it out (I think so, as the number of people Arya would disobey her father for probably narrowed it down) but even if he didn’t I love this rather Starkish moment. In some small way aren’t we made to  feel that Ned, Jon and Arya perhaps share more than the others?  Not only does Ned give Arya the sword back – in some manner honoring a pact/gift of the person who gave it to her – but he also enables her by getting her lessons. These are the instances that makes us love Ned even while we get this feeling he’s hopeless.

I will add, on a not so positive note, that more than any other chapter thus far, this one seemed to really go for stock – even if believable – dialogue that at times felt like it was trying too hard, down to the “It should have been you”. There is necessity, however, and Martin does get it done within a single, short chapter – these emotions we see are looks at the core of each character.

There is no posturing, the Starks feel very natural and honest in their interaction (even when Jon lies to Rob) in ways we don’t feel with the Lannisters at something  simple as a family breakfast in the last chapter (even when they are being honest!). Even Catelyn and Jon’s clash does not feel like jousting, there is a complete lack of pretense. Martin did what he had to, and in the end was successful, (re)establishing a base of relations for the reader before we get to the crossroad. Again, what’s at stake; the eventual cost.

This chapter perhaps laid it on slightly too thick for my taste but it’s heavy handed like anchor, which is apt because this is the base and foundation of the characters we meet. The crossroads aspect I mentioned earlier echoes again for me because I think back to when I first read this and I’m not sure if I had read Fantasy that had – at this point – separate but equal players. Sure, their had been great supporting characters and group quests but his is a much more vague and intriguing fork in the road.

No matter how much we may all say we like Solo more now, in our heart we know that it was Skywalker with the destiny. Jon Snow could get assassinated by Samwell Tarly tomorrow and the only question I’d ask is if there were any bloody roses around.

“And whatever you do . . .”

Arya knew what was coming next. They said it together.

“don’t . . . tell . . . Sansa!”

Jon and Arya had found a mutual negative (not saying that I think there is abnormal dislike in any direction) and turned it into their thing, something fun. Again, it’s kind of goofy, but if being honest, the Starks are all this way. There’s nothing goofy, however, about family and what I love must is the pure unselfishness occurring in all directions and  at the same time between Robb, Arya, and Jon — they all comfort each other.

Looking ahead, Dany is next. It again feels like perfect timing because for now I’ve had my fill of the Starks and their keep. I do wonder – and I’m sure this was probably asked/addressed somewhere already —  if Martin had a set wordcount in mind for his POV chapters and if he had an model that he thought worked and tried to utilize.

Writing the narrative is tough enough, but piecing together these chapters must have involved a lot of trimming, rewrites and additions on the top and bottom of each. Again, the timing is perfect and the effectiveness of the hook is not dictated on a singular emotion: The memory of her laughter warmed him on the long ride north. Martin picks us up as well as he suspends bombs over our heads.

How does Martin do this? Well, we will have to check as we go, but that line – the last of this chapter – is also odd and striking because it’s completely outside of the confines of this chapter and possible perspective. It’s such a feel good line that many of us would probably just scoot right over it, but in that way it’s the best of a drastic change in narrative, one that works and you don’t notice – just appreciate – while it does so. That it also perfectly fits into this semi-nostalgic goodbye chapter while also pointing ahead is frustratingly perfect. But we are not trapped, there is no tunnel vision. Why? The next chapter that deals with Jon is from Tyrion’s POV. We go from Jon’s final thought above to the first thought of Tyrion:

The north went on forever.

Where Jon was warmed and carried the memory of laughter, Tyrion’s outlook was “It had grown colder after that, and far more quiet.”

Fire and Ice, baby. Ice and Fire.

More than anything, I’m now interested to see how the imminent expansion of our setting and players is going to play on Elena. Us re-readers know that really this entire time in Winterfell is a bit of a prologue in itself, a portal before we actually start the game, much less level 2.

Next up: back across the narrow sea to Daenerys!


  1. Elena–

    How do you feel this chapter fit into the others, especially coming after the last few?

    Do you feel that Martin is setting us up to dislike characters intentionally, or is there something more nuanced going on with presentations like Cat?

    Jay [[there may be spoilers, Elena]]–

    I have to confess, I am not in your camp with regards to Cat. While I don’t always think she makes the best decisions, I don’t think ANYONE makes the best decisions all the time in this series, which is what makes it so fascinating for me. I get the comparison to Cersei, and I think Martin probably wants us to ask the questions you pose regarding their similarity or difference, but I also think that moments like her confrontation with Tyrion or the parlay reveal her as significantly more competent than you give her credit for–seriously, are you trolling with the claim that the Blackfish (who is awesome, I admit), is the only competent Tully? Leaving aside the legacy of Hoster, it feels like a statement designed to provoke outrage.

    Especially at the beginning, there is an interesting comparison between Cersei and Cat in their willingness to play ‘the game of thrones,’ if nothing else. And Cat understands the political situations in a different way from her husband–one wonders what would have happened had Robb been old enough to handle Winterfell on his own and Cat could have gone to the Red Keep with him. But suggesting that she is incompetent because she is the victim of a number of circumstances over which she had little control seems odd and potentially dismissive to me. (My turn to be inflammatory? 🙂 )

    In any case, I certainly feel more sympathy than frustration with her character, even when she makes the most bone-headed of choices, but that’s the same for me with Ned. God, if only he had not met with Cersei in the godswood, right? If only Cat had been able to see Petyr for what he was, right?

    None of this detracts from the great work I think the two of you are doing, and I really enjoy getting the chance to read these. Please pat yourselves on the back and have a nice tasty beverage for me, okay?

  2. Elena – did you notice your amazingly apt cooment? You said Jon needs to go to the Wall because ‘Winter Is Coming’. I think that in this sentence, you might have captured the whole essence of the (at least) first half of the book.
    Possible Spoilers

    Jay – gotta agree with you. I once made a list comparing Cersei to Catelyn. It was rather brutal. Jacob has a point when he says that circumstances are different. But he’s also wrong. Because that’s the Wheel of Fortune. Catelyn doesn’t know what Petyr is? Neither does Cersei. You don’t see it for some time, but when we get to AFFC, we get to see that Cersei is just as blind and willful as Catelyn in her own way. Perhaps a bit more selfish, caring more for herself than her kids, but it’s very similar. When Jake says about Catelyn “she is the victim of a number of circumstances over which she had little control”, I think that’s a mistake. Catelyn knew what she was doing when she freed Jaime. She knew what she was doing when she decided to refuse Renly’s offer. She knew what she was doing when she arrested Tyrion. And she still did it. In her own way, she’s much worse than Cersei – because Cersei is delusional and has no grasp on the real happenings after the first book. But Catelyn does – and she still makes these mistakes.

  3. Spoilers

    I think we can all agree that circumstances are different for any and everyone, especially as portrayed in Martin’s work. I think Koby addresses my concerns, but I will take it further: to Cersei her entire life is and has been this game, it’s very much second nature to her now where I think she often reacts almost involuntarily to it. This makes her no less or excuses her stupidity or outright bitchitude (or whatever anyone want call or no call her, mind you). While I’m not unmindful of her grief,,there were plenty of examples where Catelyn independently makes decisions and leaps that make me continually question her. Where Cerseii is delusional and possibly even slightly mad, Catelyn is just plum dumb. Not just for the outcome of her decisions but for making them in the first place. In a very odd way, she’s dumb – yet perfectly suitable – in the way Sansa is on track to be (as we know her now). I’m not at all saying there is an absence of admirable qualities (as I noted before, I think her children reflect that), I’m just my perception of Catelyn in this re-read is exposing me to some odd sense of exhilaration from Catelyn, and perhaps her own initial chapter sent that up even though she has clearly come to terms and maybe even loved her life. I just got this crazy idea that Catelyn was reveling a bit. There is a line later about the knife in the attempt where Catelyn says something like “I can attest to the blade/shapness”, and I just got this sense of somebody who enjoyed being dramatic. The chapter where she captures Tyrion is not the first where she will ask a bunch of grown men to acknowledge loyalty to her, she does it in this very chapter surrounded by men who have already done so. The Tyrion arrest especially is bewildering – what did she think was going to happen? She takes in pride in knowing everybody and the ways of court, has she ever heard of a guy named Tywin Lannister? ,

    There may have been a reason why Ned left her at home in the first place! Rob, Luwin and Ser Rodrick would have been just fine in the North. Its almost as if she nimbly and willingly dodges every instance that would have her not fucking something up. SHE has to go to Ned, SHE has to arrest Tyrion, SHE has to see Jaime. In none of these instances is she the direct victim, she overtly interjects herself ,and her decisions are all either outright dumb (even if justifiable — though I think prison is full of such cases) or she was being manipulated in the first place. Wht separates Ned from her is that Ned knows he wants no part of any of this. Catelyn while content, makes me feel like she think she’s displaced and cold thrive in the game.

    We will get the Tully in a bit, I have lot to say about them later, though on a fundamental level they actually may be be the most laudable of the High Houses I do think viewing Catelyn with this new found sense of excitement I feel oozing out of her is going to be interesting for me. I’m interested in seeing if Elena and I will clash on some instances later, and if she will view Catelyn’s taking initiative as a good reason or a trade off for making what were revealed to be less than optimal decisions.

    I should note that I’m not trying to compare the two in the sense that it would be hard for me to choose which one I’d want to live next to or meet at the pub, I think Catelyn is perfectly functionable outside of the game (where Ceresei is a psycho for thinking nothing exists beyond it), but I think there is a comparison to be made and I don’t think Catelyn and Cerseii (or anyone) are completely different in their desires and motivations. We can talk about degrees all we want, and certainly there is a cruel pettiness to Cersei (and that’s putting it lightly) but Catelyn’s selfish (let’s be honest) BIG decisions have a huge impact on a lot of people and are at times equally as rational as Cersei’s. Her sister is also delusional and in some way resembles a mash of both of them, but without the grace that either have.



    Jay, I don’t think you are wrong to suggest that there are significant parities between the two women, and I think your overall reading is really interesting. I had never felt that Cat was enjoying the chance to make some decisions on her own, reveling in the power she has–I tended to read that as a reasonably direct reflection of her actual status as one of the truly powerful women of the realm. Would it have been suspicious if she had NOT done what she does? Would people have felt slighted if Cat Stark had sent a lower-ranking person in her place?

    Sure, Luwin would have been fine in the north with Robb–especially looking in hindsight at the decisions Robb is forced to make and generally how well he does (even though I might point to several places where Cat provides useful advice to him)–but I feel that it is easier to judge her actions after the fact than suggest that she is making poor decisions in the moment, save perhaps the Jaime decision.

    That said, I find it interesting that in general Ned is lauded for following his heart and warning Cersei despite the fact that this destroys him, but Cat is not appreciated for doing the same with Jaime’s release or Tyrion’s capture. People make bad decisions when their personal history and desires come into contact with their current position, and I feel that this is no different with Cat. Perhaps if Ned had been able to demonstrate his poor decision making more often, as Cat does, we would dislike him more as well.

    Koby, I think bringing up the ‘wheel of fortune’ is interesting, and I am sympathetic to the idea that despite the fact that people face different circumstances that should not be a mitigating factor, since everyone has the will to choose (which is what I assume you are arguing). I suppose I am significantly more on the deterministic side of things here, so I tend to forgive people for their choices because I feel that they have less volition and thus less responsibility (not NO responsibility, but less than total, certainly). In any case, I don’t think I am wrong any more than I think you are.

    As to Cat and Petyr, I am not sure how important it is that Cersei see Petyr for the crazy bastard he is, since he doesn’t provide her with ‘proof’ that someone tried to kill her son. However, since Cat IS faced with that circumstance, it is interesting that she ignores her previous history with him and decides to believe–of course, this is due to other circumstances too, including her willingness to distrust the Lannisters, which is something that Petyr certainly knows about as well.

    I suppose I find her less selfish and self-important than both Jay and Koby, but that’s okay–literature certainly shouldn’t have a single interpretation, right? I am curious about why it is we feel she is so dumb, when I would be hard pressed to not make the same decisions in her situation–hence my belief in the importance of those pesky circumstances.

  5. To a certain extent Jon’s relationship with Cat has always been a mystery to me. She would have been an ideal stepmother for him, but because he is a very real reminder of the one time that Ned was unfaithful to her she cannot bring herself to like or even trust the boy. This is where I feel a lot of readers turn against Cat, because they see Jon as the stereotypical hero of the work.

  6. I think she has instances of being beyond cruel to him, but do not hold any of her thoughts regarding Jon against her (for what he represents about Ned and even as a “threat” to her trueborn children). Sure there are a moments that can’t be viewed as positive, but I’m mostly concerned with her incompetence as soon as she interjects herself into anything beyond Winterfell.

    Her treatment of Jon I have no issue with because ultimately it doesn’t step beyond her personal sphere of influence, she can treat Jon however she wants to, she’s not obligated to be anymore than she is to him and it seems Jon is no lesser for it. It’s not like (that we know of) she has attempted to have him murdered or cause him hardship beyond simply rather not having him around. This is not a crime with large implications, but rather a personal decision. Wrongly arresting a high lord’s son with no evidence and releasing a high value prisoner are both actions with grand and not completely unforeseeable implications.

  7. *Spoilers*

    I’m not one who appreciates Eddard for his shortcomings either. I think he, like Catelyn, have some terrific qualities, most of which are now (now) best utilized sitting at home in Winterfell. Releasing Jaime and arresting Tyrion had very simple and close to obvious repercussions to consider – if anybody else would have done either, she or he instantly would have been put to death and NOBODY would have questioned it. If ANYBODY would have released the Kingslayer they would be put to death for treason. Catelyn uses her position of authority – as one of “truly powerful women of the realm” – not to make command decisions that make any sense at all, but to further her own completely flawed judgment, over and over again. This (beautifully) makes her no different than many characters in this series but in no way do I see anything that makes me think she differs from the very people we may scorn. I think Tyrion once admitted that Cersei had at least some small level of cunning, Catelyn (perhaps to her credit) has NONE of that yet she continually makes major decisions.

    “Would people have felt slighted if Cat Stark had sent a lower-ranking person in her place? ”

    You’re going to have to clarify that for me, do you mean to King’s Landing? I think any known man of the North bearing the Hand of the King a seal from his wife about a murder plot on is on would have been taken very seriously. From the very beginning her being the one to bear the message was more of a (relative) clumsy storytelling necessity IMHO.

    Or do you mean to parlay with Renly? Wasn’t their an implication (by Catelyn herself) that Rob did it to get her out of his way (or am I misremembering)?

    FYI – Don’t get me started on Ned. I thought it was the height of stupidity for Ned to warn Cersei, but from a storytelling perspective it works to slam home the message of “people who do things like those other books you read, get done”. The death of Ned Stark was the the boom that let people know this was like no other series they had read (a thought somewhat mirrored to the verse attributed to Rhaegar on the Trident). That wasn’t even the worst part — NOT accepting Renly’s offer was even worse.


  8. Fair enough, Jay–thanks for clarifying. I really enjoy getting the chance to chat about this stuff with people who have taken the time to think through it.

  9. I’m beating a dead horse, but Jay I cannot get beyond the attitude I’m seeing here that Catelyn — has COMPLETELY flawed judgment? That she has to have better judgment than people we scorn in order for her to be distinct from them as Ned is? I’m a little confused at your point there, is she just as contemptible as people we scorn because her judgment is no better? Or because she is just as mistake-prone but she has nothing to make up for it? But then you say that she does have some terrific qualities?

    And surely, SURELY you understand that a lot of why she couldn’t make better judgments is because she is handcuffed as a woman? If she was a man she would never have to release Jaime secretly, she could have made the call herself and kept the north out of a war, because her authority would be untouched. To not account for Cat’s limited power when you assess her judgment, when you say she is “in some ways” (?) just as mistake prone as Cersei, that seems very unfair.

  10. @Jay (SPOILERS)
    All agreement here. I’m halfway through ASOS, and there’ve been times I wanted to hit Cat. I agree that Cat couldn’t have known just how bad her choices would turn out to be, and feel a certain amount of sympathy for her sometimes, but whenever I think of her capturing Tyrion and running to The Eyrie (sp?) I want to rail loudly and throw something at her. That was the single stupidest move she could have made, and I don’t see the payoff behind it. Even if Lysa had been cooperative, what exactly was she going to accomplish with this? Holding a trial and finding him guilty herself? Ransom him to the Lannisters? She KNEW Tywin Lannister wouldn’t let this scourge on his family honor go unpunished, so what exactly was this little action of hers going to accomplish, other than making her feel better? Maybe I missed something about how these things are handled. It still struck me as completely stupid! It actually reminds me of Sansa at her wedding, when she refused to kneel so Tyrion could put the cloak on her. Silly and hurtful and accomplished nothing. But Sansa, at least, had her age as an excuse. Cat, not so much…

    I also agree that Ned’s honorable-to-a-fault personality bordered on stupid. It was certainly his undoing, and quite frankly he had no business in KL. He couldn’t handle the intrigue, and Robert’s stubborn insistence on him when he had a brother more than willing to take the spot just makes me want to scream! Point being that I agree with you, while still seeing Jacob H’s point about them being human and understandable.

    I like this chapter because it illustrates the family flaws captured in Cat’s attitude towards Jon. I can see a mother reacting that way, wishing it had been the child that wasn’t hers instead of her own. Cat’s refusal to accept Jon did puzzle me, though. Ok, Ned banged somebody (maybe), and produced a bastard. Having fallen in love with Ned over the years, was it so hard for her to understand why Ned had brought the boy home? Was it so terrible that he be brought up with his half siblings? Her refusal to see Jon as anything other than an insult and a threat to her own children spoke to me of Cat’s own pride, and how it out weighs her sense of honor. Once I saw things that way, her mistakes became easier to see as predictable to her nature.

    Does that make any sense? 🙁

    Loving your views of everything! Like you, I didn’t like Cat any better for this chapter, but didn’t dislike her any more than normal. Her words were harsh, showing the depths of her anguish clearly. And as people who are emotionally distraught are wont to do, she lashes out. In this case it’s the child she doesn’t love at all.

    Jon’s courage was touching to me, especially when his fears of her anger pretty much come true. Still, her anger didn’t kill him, and he saw a side of her he’d never seen before, and I like to think that took away some of his fear. Humans are just humans, and though they can hurt you, they can’t take from you what you don’t give them. Jon kept his courage and sense of self, and was rewarded with loving siblings. The chapter’s cheerier end with Arya clearly demonstrates that Jon’s life hasn’t been a miserable wreck, and I found myself hoping that all of this would be a wonderful boost to him as he started a new life at The Wall.

    Loving this read through!

  11. I don’t think there was much dishonorable about asking Ned to have Jon raised elsewhere, though. 99% of bastards are raised outside of their fathers’ homes. Catelyn’s pride is that of a woman who lives in a society that denies her power and personhood and really needs to be understood in that context. Sometimes people *should* have pride, and Cat may not always deal with it productively but she isn’t always given productive channels either, as in this case.

  12. Pride is pride, and whether or not she chooses to have it isn’t nearly as relevant as who she chooses to vent her anger on. Jon is not to blame, but he feels her cold wrath regardless. It’s cruel and rather puzzling in a woman who forgave her husband to begin with.

    And she is NOT denied personhood. She may not be listened to when she truly needs/wants to be, but she’s FAR from irrelevant!


    To be honest, I don’t think Robert cared about the amount of guards he had from Storms End. He had the ability to inspire loyalty in people, and I think he took for granted that the guards, no matter who they were, would fight for him.

    He was probably right.


    She distrusts Theon, but that might have more to do with the obvious-to-everyone-but-Robb aura of sleaze he gives off. It doesn’t seem like the kind of very personal hostility she feels toward Jon. Of course, Theon isn’t a constant reminder of her husband’s love for some other woman. I think part of the problem with Jon is that Ned refuses to talk about Jon’s mother, which means that he and Catelyn can never fully work out the issue. Cat is left to brood over the possibilities, knowing that Ned will get angry if she ever tries to discuss it with him.

    Somehow, I find it easier to forgive Catelyn for her mistakes because she usually recognizes and regrets them afterwards. That doesn’t fix anything, of course, but it does show that she’s not as delusional as Cersei. I wouldn’t call her stupid; aside from the two major disasters with Tyrion and Jaime, I think she comes across as an intelligent person. Her insights are one reason I enjoy reading her chapters. She just has this unfortunate tendency to lose it whenever she perceives a threat to her children.

  15. Spoilers – Then is interesting to me because I- and I think most of us – feel like he was as loyal to Robb to any/all reasonable extent (I.E. he was loyal, but it wasn’t worth getting himself killed over it when he had really no other option). I like to think that the Theon/Robb friendship was real. It’s interesting to this discussion because unlike Catelyn, Theon was very much put on the spot.



    This is getting well away from the subject of Catelyn, but…the odd thing isn’t Theon’s decision to side with his own people against Robb, it’s that he has surprisingly little internal conflict over it. He’s more upset about his unglamorous role in the invasion than he is about the invasion itself. He’s never shown missing Robb or regretting that he had to hurt his friend. You could make a case for subconscious remorse, though. Theon seems to have a mind loaded with defense mechanisms that allow him to suppress whatever feelings might get in the way of his current course of action. I also like to think that Theon sincerely cared about Robb, but it seems like his various issues prevent him from forming truly deep bonds with other people. The whole hostage situation, IMO, screwed him up long before he was put in the position of having to choose a side.

    *Even bigger spoilers*

    I really hope that ADWD will show something of Theon’s reaction to Robb’s death. That might give a better idea of what their relationship meant to him.

  17. I agree with everything you said and would put it plainly by just adding that I think Theon liked/admired/was sincere about Robb to the extent he was able to anyone.

    I really felt or wanted to feel like this bond was tight relative to Theon’s ability to form relationships.


    I guess my big problem is I think “foresight” instills a feeling beyond simple 1+2 (by definition I know it doesn’t). The reality is, I think anybody in Westeros would be able to tell anybody else that kidnapping a child of Tywin Lannister is an act of war, and he’s probably the single lord who will take it (and is able to) to the extreme the quickest. Catelyn of all people should know Ned’s position in KL is precarious, which brings me back to the presence of the Royal House.

    I’m not so sure that Stannis would have a great number, as Dragonstone is often stated being the lesser of the Stormlord holdings. One would think that Renly – who seems to indulge in ceremony and appearance – would have more, That said, it isn’t wartime and there is no reason for build-up, but there does seem an odd dependency on an underwhelming City Watch in the capitol.

  19. I’m going to be a voice of dissent with a lot in the post, but I suppose that’s what makes debate fun 😉

    I don’t think “stepmother” is appropriate for Catelyn’s relationship with Jon. She would be Jon’s stepmother if there existed any obligation for her to be familial to Jon, but there isn’t. Jon isn’t the child from Ned’s previous marriage, and according to the story he’s presented, Jon isn’t even from the previous relationship. He was conceived during this current marriage illicitly, and in this society nobody expects Cat to be Jon’s mother substitute. She’s his father’s wife, but in this class of society that very often did not mean much even amongst the trueborn.

    I also want to point out that we have no reason to believe that Catelyn would disapprove of Arya having a sword. Beyond this point I must mark this comment for SPOILERS:

    In fact, later in the series we see that Catelyn never thinks of Brienne or the Mormont women as unnatural for being warriors. They are new to her, and she remarks on the oddness, but she accepts the idea. I mention this because I think it highlights just how much either readers are naturally inclined to perceive female characters on basis of stereotype (Arya is the tomboy Cinderella, so despite us never having a scene between Arya and Cat we conclude that conventional ladylike Cat must disapprove of every little thing she ever does), or how much Martin himself relies on stereotypes, particularly with his women. Or both.

    Onward to more controversy, while I do think Jon is going through a lot, I don’t think grief over one’s sibling is comparable to grief over one’s child. That doesn’t justify Catelyn’s words, but it gives a sense of proportion.

    And in no “way” is Catelyn is as mistake-prone or as cruel as Cersei. She and Cersei are foils, and well written ones, but these degrees of difference that you mention are not dismissable, they’re the whole point. Everyone has good and bad in them, but the control held over them and the degrees to which we allow XYZ to exhibit itself are also a part of who we are as people, and that speaks to the character of these two women just as much as their incidental similarities.

    “There is no question that Catelyn – when offered – wanted for her kids what Cersei had”: There is no question that Catelyn – when offered – wanted for her kids what Cersei had this statement, for example, obscures a lot. A lot of people in Westeros would have wanted for their kids what Cersei had. The Martells have married their daughters to the crown on multiple occassions, Tywin Lannister did it, Olenna and Mace Tyrell did it, basically every single time the crown prince was married someone did it. Even Rickard Stark made powerful marriages for his children, and no they weren’t to the crown, but that’s also because the crown was already married at the time. The only thing I can think of here is that Ned DOESN’T want to do it, but to elevate him to the default is erroneous because we’re told many times that it’s the Starks who are not like other men. I think that’s just main character bias at play. More to the point, the fact that Catelyn only went for it when offered, that’s not as insignificant as you make it out to be. She never stepped over any dead bodies for her children’s status like Cersei did, she didn’t even ingratiate her daughter on the royal family like the Westerlings or Tyrells. That too is an important part of her character. I don’t think you can just dismiss the larger perspective.

    I don’t think Catelyn started a war by herself, there was Tywin Lannister too, and we can’t just dismiss his actions because he is a Bad Guy and thus expected to behave badly. Tywin may be pissed, but he also make no attempts to secure the knowledge of Tyrion’s innocence. For all he knew, Tyrion did send the knife. He then has the opportunity to go to the king for justice, but Tywin doesn’t do this. He may be able to get away with it, but that doesn’t make him justified. Most damning for Tywin is the fact that when he retaliates, he sends his goons to attack civilians and with no Lannister banner. This actions don’t come across as open warfare, and there’s got to be a reason for that lack of openness.

    “She was kicking a cripple” — Tyrion? But you of course do know that it had nothing to do wit him being a dwarf, but rather being suspected of trying to kill her son? Jon, Arya and Tyrion are designed to tap into geek outcast sympathies, and sometimes it seems like readers read that outcast sympathy into every plot point even if its not relevant, just because geeks identify with it. Tyrion is a dwarf, yes, but that has nothing to do with the arrest, and being a dwarf wouldn’t absolve Tyrion of his crimes were he actually guilty.

    I also am rather concerned with what I read in the post and your comments about Catelyn reveling in her agency, being condescending (what?) to Renly’s men and generally … thinking she’s a Somebody? Well, she is a somebody, she’s Lady of the North, daughter of a great house, under Cersei she is one of the most powerful women in the realm. So what if she did enjoy calling on her father’s bannermen? She was in a dark alley with a knife at her throat and managed to get herself into relative security,a nd while she’s mistaken, she thinks this is a man who tried to kill an innocent seven year old. Sorry if I’m being argumentative, I really enjoy the reread you guys are doing, but I’m alarmed at what seems like the suggestion that Catelyn should be meek or apologetic or humble just because it would make her mistakes permissible, even though everyone else (including Tywin and Petyr, not just Ned) makes mistakes. For example I don’t see at all any instance where Catelyn takes pride in knowing the ways of the court, she’s simply self possessed in her knowledge and not apologetic for it. Why should she have to be?

    I think her assessment of Renly’s men was very astute, and had it come from Ned people would laud her for being down to earth and practical and not taken in by the southern pageantry. But because, what? She’s a housewife and Renly and Stannis are important manly men, she should know she has no expertise to justify having an opinion?

    I mean, who is Tyrion to think he can snark on Mormont’s men and their serious duties at the Wall?

  20. @Duckchick1


    That’s my point, what exactly did she think – in the real world – was going to happen? Taking Tyrion to the Vale was the wort thing to do because it not only makes it look like she feels she’s not in the “legal right” which she seems to be hiding behind, but it also draws attention to her sister (who at this point she/we don’t know is a loon and the cause of all of the BS to begin with). The worst part is that she thinks she’s being clever. Very few things all characters know, but one of them is that not only Tywin very sensitive to slights, but they also have very little trepidation to exacting a price for them.

    I don’t fault her motivations, but each were LONGSHOTS at best and not decisions that had to be made in those moments. If one just took a second to list the most obvious possible fallout, you’d do ant Petyr actually advises later: nothing. Which actually makes Ned look like the smartest guy on the planet because he – from the very beginning – wanted nothing to with any of this and if there is one thing I do have faith in Ned is his passion/ability to protect his home. To some degree the Starks were talked into the exact opposite of their strengths, which is isolationism and some degree of the other houses not really giving a shit about the North to begin with.

    Now, there is the idea that Catelyn was acting as if open war was on. Afterall, she had (no) evidence that a son of House Lannister was involved in the attempted murder of her son. This is what she charges him with in front of all the present men in the Inn. What’s odd is that I think Ned – the Hand of the damn king – and her lord husband tells her flat out, to let him handle it (I think she even asks, “open war?” – but someone can correct me if I’m wrong). So what does she do? First chance she gets she’s Aegon the Conqueror, starting an open war — because war was the only thing that was going to happen when you arrest Tywin’s – the Warden of the West – son.

    I do want to note that I have complete sympathy for Catelyn, even and any one of the tragedies she goes through is enough to garner that in abundance and I’m not at all saying anybody could or should be able to handle it better, but her choices are still baffling.

    BTW – does anyone ever feel like The Stag seems almost invisible? Shouldn’t Ned have been able to feel comforted by the royal house’s men. Shouldn’t they be well represented? I hardly ever remember even hearing of them in KL and even when Renly offers his aid to Ned, the numbers seem rather small. We hear so much about the Lannisters and later the Tyrell, but I always wondered how many truly loyal men could Robert/Ned call upon if war broke out against Tywin. I’m still thinking that not even Tywin/Kevan want to see the Baratheon Brothers in the field with the North in hand.

    END Spoilers

  21. Jay, I’m unsure how her trip to the Vale makes it look like she doesn’t have the legal right of arrest? Catelyn is tracing her authority in the riverlands to her father, that part is taken care of with her speech at the inn where she calls on the men via their loyalty to Hoster Tully.

    I think Catelyn was just trying to get to the Vale to get off the dangerous open road. As a woman traveling next to alone she had to take this seriously. She did not plan a trial under those circumstances, that was all her sister, and she didn’t approve. She just can’t do anything about it because she has no clout at the Vale (and her sister can kick her out the Moon Door). For all we know she wanted to bring Tyrion to the king’s justice as soon as it was possible. What’s actually interesting to think about is what would have happened then; would she have been in trouble for accusing the queen’s brother? Or would it have led to the unearthing of Cersei and Jaime’s treason, next to which her actions rather pale?

    Ned did tell her to go straight to Winterfell and raise the banners, and they both wanted to avoid war. However, there were plenty of things that could have happened after Tyrion’s arrest besides open war. I mean, Tywin wasn’t even flying his banners, how can we say that it was open war when the attacks were more like terrorism? If Hoster Tully can advise his bannermen to seek the king’s justice, then we can expect Tywin to as well. He only gets away with not doing so because Robert is weak and lets his in-laws walk all over him, but I don’t think Catelyn ever had any previous evidence of Tywin actually flaunting the king.

    I think Catelyn feeling she had to act in that moment is pretty reasonable, she is mistaken but she was under duress (her immediate physical safety in presence of a believed attempted murderer, the fact that the Lannisters would know that the Starks Know Something based on her presence).

    Ned does use the word “cruel” but Ned also speaks from a place of privilege. There is no way Catelyn would ever be able to A) have a bastard without stigma or penalty or B) raise that bastard in house. When Ned made that comment, Catelyn was asking him to not make her raise him, she does not know that Robert might be likely to kill Jon because Jon might be the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna. Even in our society we give women the right to refuse to raise their husband’s children. That kind of information is disclosed to people before they get into permanent alliances for the very reason that we feel they have the right to choose. Cat just doesn’t have any power, so she does all she can do: beg Ned. But she isn’t asking that Jon not be taken care of, simply that she not be the one to do it. In our modern perspective we think of the nuclear modern family unit as a universal right, but there were many times throughout history where it was really not the norm.

    I don’t think Ned would be as permissive about Catelyn’s bastard as she was about his. But readers never have to see him in this situation, so he comes off looking really golden.

    I’m beating a dead horse, but Jay I cannot get beyond the attitude I’m seeing here that Catelyn — has COMPLETELY flawed judgment? That she has to have better judgment than people we scorn in order for her to be distinct from them as Ned is? I’m a little confused at your point there, is she just as contemptible as people we scorn because her judgment is no better? Or because she is just as mistake-prone but she has nothing to make up for it? But then you say that she does have some terrific qualities?

    And surely, SURELY you understand that a lot of why she couldn’t make better judgments is because she is handcuffed as a woman? If she was a man she would never have to release Jaime secretly, she could have made the call herself and kept the north out of a war, because her authority would be untouched. To not account for Cat’s limited power when you assess her judgment, when you say she is “in some ways” (?) just as mistake prone as Cersei, that seems very unfair.

    I don’t think there was much dishonorable about asking Ned to have Jon raised elsewhere, though. 99% of bastards are raised outside of their fathers’ homes. Catelyn’s pride is that of a woman who lives in a society that denies her power and personhood and really needs to be understood in that context. Sometimes people *should* have pride, and Cat may not always deal with it productively but she isn’t always given productive channels either, as in this case.


    I just can’t buy Catelyn making that arrest out of fear for her own personal safety.

    Nobody is calling Tywin a saint and he’s certainly an opportunist with motivations of his own, but “terrorism” was an unlawful answer to an unlawful act.

    If Catelyn wanted to King’s Justice, her and Ned should have walked theirs butt to their best pal the King and had the warrant (or whatever) made official. That she was seeking the King’s Justice only after running into him doesn’t seem right. I think it was just simply a bad decision made by somebody who shouldn’t be making arrests of highlord sons on the road.

    We can talk about what could have happened, but we KNOW Catelyn happened and she knew very well who she was doing it to.


    Well, she’s a woman traveling all but alone, we’re made aware often enough in the series of the dangers of that. If Tyrion is guilty of what she thinks, then he’ll only interpret her presence in the Riverlands one way: the Starks know something that the Lannisters are willing to commit murder to protect.

    I think Catelyn already thinks Tyrion is guilty, but she doesn’t think she has enough evidence to arrest him, so she additionally needed the added danger that resulted from being seen to do so. She was trying to stay unseen, as we see in that chapter, and only once she was seen did her presence in the Riverlands become a liability to Ned and to herself. A lot of factors conspired into that decision. No, it didn’t go good places, but I still feel like saying her judgment is “completely flawed” because she responded without perfect foresight in a situation of immediate duress is unfair.

    If Cat and Ned had been able to foresee Tyrion being at that inn and discovering their presence, I bet they would have gone to Robert immediately, though Ned was uncertain just how much Robert could be trusted following the incident with Lady. Surely going to the king for justice after the arrest is not at all orthodox, but in Westeros law is pretty fluid, and she did make her arrest as public and open as possible and we don’t know that she didn’t want the king’s justice. In other words I don’t think the illegality of her act is equal to the illegality of Tywin’s.

    And I agree that Tywin is known to be very prideful, but Tyrion himself talks about the pursuit following Catelyn’s lie up the King’s Road, as if he agrees with her assessment that Tywin’s likely reaction to the arrest is to send a party after Catelyn herself. Reaction from Tywin can be expected, but there’s no saying that that reaction has to be what it was.

  24. Contrary is good!

    I think what you bring up reminds of an earlier discussion we had regarding how prepared the Starks were regarding the marriage offer. From Neds POV we know it to have been a surprise to him, but looking back it seems odd it would be (and even more so if Catelyn had not considered it). While it seems obvious that the Starks have no presence in court, a family of their stature, with their ties, and in this setting, would have to have an eye on the throne (as you say, all of them would to some degree). Afterall her sister was married to the Hand of the King, so it isn’t much of a leap. Looking at it now, such a visit could mean nothing else, but even prior to, I’m not able to say for sure if any angling was being done, we simply do not know. One would have to admit that Sansa would in almost any poll have to be represented as a possible match/option for Joff.

    I do you think the word that seems to pop up the most is “dismiss”, I don’t think anybody is dismissing anyone. In fact, if anything, the interpretation is quite the opposite.

    – SPOILERS –

    Regarding the kicking of the cripple – I don’t think in the same situation she arrests a Jaime Lannister and if she did I don’t think so many people jump to help her. In a lot of ways it has everything to do with Tyrion being a dwarf. I think that it is Tyrion skews the view of what she’s actually doing. For the reader it’s a bit comedic, if i were Jaime we’d simply balk at the very notion.

    Nobody expects Catelyn to be motherly to Jon, but there is something to be said about being a bitch to him or anyone. Even Ned thinks she’s cruel to him and Robb’s word pretty much reveal to us that he expects her to be that way to Jon. Her motivation may be understandable, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she is in fact an ass to him. I don’t think it’s at all damning, but it isn’t remotely pleasant nor speaks well of her. The fact she doesn’t have Jon killed just means she’s not a psychopath (nor doe she have the power to do so, one would think Ned would not look past it the way Robert does–in fact for some reason this idea peaks my interest!).

    “I really enjoy the reread you guys are doing, but I’m alarmed at what seems like the suggestion that Catelyn should be meek or apologetic or humble just because it would make her mistakes permissible”

    I think the fact that she was wrong or outright daft an awful lot makes here self-assuredness a target. If she was right or even had anything remotely close to evidence it wouldn’t be an issue. There is no defense for releasing Jaime. Tywin was not in the field before people starting kidnapping his children (or was he?). She knew enough to try to be tricky and go to the Vale, and didn’t think for a second about the people of the men she called upon to aid her in her WRONGFUL arrest. Let’s take this from Tywin’s perspective for a moment. Men reach your lands and tell you that your son has been arrested/kidnapped by Catelyn Stark. He of course asks, “how the hell did she do that?” “Well, some men from House X and Y”. Now, do we know Tywin is an ass? Sure, but in his eyes the wife of new Hand of the King just took his son with the help of members of other houses.

    I don’t know anything about Geek outcast sympathies, but if I have a tendency to gravitate toward anything, it would be hot rich girls from the riverlands.

    A lot of what we are talking about is coming up soon so we will see if the perceptions holds. up.


  25. Regarding “dismiss”, I didn’t say you were dismissing any person, but it seems like you were dismissing the issue of degree regarding the comparison of Catelyn and Cersei, which I feel is counter to Martin’s intent with the intentional (I think it’s intentional, like Jacob H above) parallel constructed between the two.

    “For the reader it’s a bit comedic, if i were Jaime we’d simply balk at the very notion.” – Hrmm, interestingly I don’t share this opinion at all, but no way to tell how Martin would write it.

    And yes of course Catelyn shoudln’t be a bitch to Jon, or anyone, but when Ned thinks she’s being cruel, I didn’t think that that was the author telling is that his opinion is objective fact, so I suppose I don’t see what “even Ned thinks she’s cruel to him” is supposed to establish other than that it’s Ned’s subjective opinion. My reaction to Ned saying that was certainly not “Oh, this establishes that Catelyn is cruel”, but rather that Ned has the luxury of not knowing what it’s like to deal with his spouse’s infidelity because in this society, men are allowed to have bastards and women aren’t. What seems like cruelty to him is also masked by the fact that he’s never been in her shoes. That said, everyone expects Cat to be unfriendly to Jon especially on occassions like Bran’s near death, yes.

    “I think the fact that she was wrong or outright daft an awful lot makes here self-assuredness a target.” Hrmm, well I don’t think any of her decisions other than releasing Jaime was outright daft, and that’s just one decision. About simply being *wrong* though, we’ll have to agree to disagree, sometimes reasonable people do reasonable things that turn out poorly. I think Martin wrote a confident woman who simply can’t predict the future, and who did a folly for love like a lot of other people in the series.

  26. Or it could be that the reader has learned that Ned is a pretty fair in this given setting especially regarding children, and if a reader believes that we might assume that Catelyn is being cruel – again, Robb’s own question/reaction to Jon in this chapter told me he expects Catelyn to be a bitch to Jon, – I see no evidence or just choose not to believe that such treatment is unique to Bran’s circumstance. I take it exactly as “Oh, this establishes that Catelyn is cruel” as it pertains to Jon, because if somebody said that to me – another person who in the moment wouldn’t give one thought about the pressure put on her by society – I’d take it exactly as that.

    For future reference: By being “wrong”, she made a poor decision(s), which encompasses “Martin wrote a confident woman who simply can’t predict the future, and who did a folly for love like a lot of other people in the series.” Lots of confident people who also can’t predict the future make perfectly reasonable decisions as well. I call those people right.


    You know, just to throw this out there, I actually would have no issue with Catelyn’s action regarding Tyrion if she was in a position of power (not in that moment but overall). As you say, the law is fluid and Catelyn took advantage (not meant as a pejorative) of that moment, and though she is in what is perhaps the most optimal position (husband is the new hand, in some regards on her stomping ground and a lady of some distinction) it’s the longview that bothers me. I know this makes me morally objectionable (perhaps not in the setting) but Tywin does what he does because in some regard I think he thinks he somewhat untouchable and relative to the other houses, he probably is (for many reasons, not the least of which is semi-capitulation of the throne in his favor via inactivity). I think Tywin looks at problems from a position of power and can wield it because people know he can and will. I also think ee need to account for Robert’s feeling on the house he married to – they gave him his throne and the post-war Lannister alliance is probably the most important of all.

    I always wonder what would have happened if Catelyn was able to take Tyrion to Winterfell and set up defenses as Ned requested. What happens? I see a very pissed off Tywin no matter what happens, and a Tywin who has leverage in KL where Ned is defenseless. I just don’t understand her point. if it’s a king’s justice issue. Legally the hand of the King could have issued the orders himself, sure it may have caused a shitstorm, but it would have been on record. Why? Because don’t they know that Tyrion went to the Wall and even be able to map out a possible return route that likely would have to go through Stark or Tully territory?

    I don’t have issues with her objective, I have issues with not being able to fathom what exactly it was. If she is arresting Tyrion for the attempted murder of her son, considering her stature, that has to be a death sentence right? I don’t see the Starks taking a stack of Lannister gold and forgetting.

    What do you think she was attempting and does that route end in a manner that isn’t open war?

  28. Tyrion seeing Cat wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I recall. She wanted to get home quietly and with as little notice as possible, but arresting Tyrion was a spur of the moment madness that she acted on without thinking, and since I cannot fathom what her purpose was (and neither can anyone else) I think it’s perfectly reasonable to call it stupid.

  29. slightly spoilerish

    I just wanted to point out that Catelyn’s distrust of Jon was not completely unfounded or ridiculous. History is filled with examples of bastards that seized control of what they saw as their inheritance, and even killed their half-siblings. The Blackfyre rebellion is the Westrosi version. Even if Jon was totally loyal to Robb or his heirs, Catelyn had no assurance his children would be.
    By raising Jon among his trueborn children, Eddard was publicly acknowledging him as his son, and making it much easier for Jon to seize control of Winterfell if he wanted to.

  30. Lian,

    I completely agree with that and we see a great number of houses/characters in this very book practice the same type of caution (even of non-bastards in Tarly’s position). My issue would be that obviously Ned had made his decision on the matter and in doing so still seemed to respect Catelyn’s wishes when he could (not having him seated with the royal family etc). I don’t knock Catelyn on this, it’s just the extent of the cruelty that bugs me (note, that Ned used the exact words: Cruel). In some way this is another example of Catelyn making a decision and clinging to it.

  31. Exactly! Jon was an outsider, and she made sure that her feelings would NEVER be mistaken.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t she have this same attitude towards Theon? Or was it Ned, as well?

  32. @AF: I find Ned, with his notions of honor and inflexible world view much more grating than Catelyn, and I find Catelyn as a character much more interesting.

    Still, I do not agree that Arya and Catelyn’s relationship is up in the air. It has already (by chapter 10) been established that Catelyn favours some of her children over others, those being Bran and Sansa.

    All her thoughts about Arya are negative (she is a trial, she despairs of ever making a lady of her and so on), and her current strategy seems to be to apply force to make Arya into a poor Sansa immitation. Indeed, at the end of Aryas first chapter, it is clear that she is often punished by her mother for “unladylike” behavior. She would not approve of the sword. They seem to have a distant relationship.


    Later, it becomes even more apparent by Aryas thougths that her mother is a distant figure to her. She seldom thinks of her, and never in a warm or affectionate way. She dreams of her brothers, and of Winterfell. Not her mother.

    Catelyn also spares few thougths of Arya. When it becomes likely that she is dead (she is not mentioned in the letters from Sansa/Cersei or in other communication), Catelyn is much less distressed than for any of her other children later on, or even from Brans non-fatal fall.

    Catelyn is a brave and wise woman, and if Robb had listened more to her and less to his bannermen he would have done well. Remember that Catelyn is rigth quite often, but noone listens to her at those instances. People seem to only listen to her “wrong” advice, and never to her clearer insigths.
    But she is not a very good mother to Arya, whom she neglects compared to her other children.

  33. Spiolers

    Catelyn I think is unintentionally such a disliked character because of how she treats the most popular characters in the book i.e. John, Jamie, and Tyrion. To the readers who develop such an attachment to these characters she appears to make bad decisions or comes off as a “bitch.”

    As far as Ned making her stay in the North its a perfectly reasonable request. While Robb could have handled the North alright, the threat of treachery from the South is strongly suspected and in this case you would want her to advise Robb since she would have the most insight and experience.

    As far as her treatment of John, remember her house is one of the great houses equal to the Lanisters. We know how Cersie treats Robert’s Bastard’s and while Catelyn is cold and Bitchy towards John she never plots his demise and she even allows the strong bonds to form between her children and him. I think while her inability to get over the insult is a flaw the way she treats him does show that she has a sense of honor, pride, and isn’t capricious or vindictive.

    Quite often her observations and advice is spot on. Her assessment of Renly was right and her advice to Robb and her brother was good but seldom followed. The marriage arrangement essentially gave Robb the power necessary to hold the North, but we all know he screwed that up. Even freeing Jamie wasn’t the most horrible of decisions. The Lanisters have great cunning and nearly freed him and it seems perfectly reasonable that Jamie wouldn’t have survived long being captured with all the calls for execution and just the general conditions she found when she freed him. Again her judgment was correct that he keep his word to protect her daughters.

    All in all her decisions by themselves appear to be good ones, the mistakes come more from her lack of knowldge of events out of her control. And these seem to be a result of her time in the North. Would she have trusted Petyr or went to the Vale if she seen how her sister had changed? While her actions and decisions annoy me they seem to be reasonable when she makes them.

  34. *SPOILERS*

    As I recall the scene (will know more soon) it did seem kind of a room/head-spinning decision, I look forward to re-reading the parts immediately before her calling on the loyalties to her father’s house to see how it strikes me. I want to say (and this is completely a stab) that her “wrong” choices seems to written as slightly mad and haphazard with an incredible focus to her train of thought even beyond the inside look Martin POV gives naturally. I’m interested in seeing if all of this is just my own mind wanting to play tricks with me!

  35. @ someone wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy back up there who asked me “Do you feel that Martin is setting us up to dislike characters intentionally, or is there something more nuanced going on with presentations like Cat?”

    My take on it is that some characters are meant to be turned around later, but intentionally given a bad first impression. Others are probably meant to be…oh, I’m not even sure if I can use villain or antagonist, but simply someone that the reader doesn’t like even if they’re not in a literary form sense filling a role of antagonist. For me, because I’m identifying with Jon and Arya from an early point, I feel like Catelyn is the latter. But is she meant to also be an example of simply a woman of her time and place? That is very possible, and something I’m trying to keep in mind as I examine her actions/reasonings/motives.

    @ everyone. thank you for continued spoiler warnings, please do keep them, but i have decided to stop reading any comments that are not addressed to me. I skimmed a few not labeled as spoilers and could see even without EVENT spoilers that they might be emotional/character perception spoilers. It’s cool if you’d rather talk to Jay and let me keep wandering through the fields picking flowers, but, er, if you DO want to ask me something please please please put it at the top of your comment and “@ Elena” and then I’ll look. Thanks!!!

  36. There may be a lot of truth above and now I’m more pumped to more on to (re)see for myself. The truth is that this is the first time (as noted in previous parts of this re-read) that I’ve ever found myself as someone not slanted toward the pro-Catelyn camp (though I wouldn’t describe myself as now anti-Catelyn either). I also wonder how this will effect how I view Sansa (also a character that I historically have found myself defending).

    SPOILERS (kind of)

    Does Renly’s potential host at this time not include Randal Tarly?

    Also, I’m not so sure that at the time Jaime being killed in custody was big picture a bad thing if anyone was worried about the war that involved 1000s of lives.

  37. Tyrion seeing Cat wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I recall. She wanted to get home quietly and with as little notice as possible, but arresting Tyrion was a spur of the moment madness that she acted on without thinking, and since I cannot fathom what her purpose was (and neither can anyone else) I think it’s perfectly reasonable to call it stupid.

    Pride is pride, and whether or not she chooses to have it isn’t nearly as relevant as who she chooses to vent her anger on. Jon is not to blame, but he feels her cold wrath regardless. It’s cruel and rather puzzling in a woman who forgave her husband to begin with.

    And she is NOT denied personhood. She may not be listened to when she truly needs/wants to be, but she’s FAR from irrelevant!

  38. *SPOILERS*

    As I recall the scene (will know more soon) it did seem kind of a room/head-spinning decision, I look forward to re-reading the parts immediately before her calling on the loyalties to her father’s house to see how it strikes me. I want to say (and this is completely a stab) that her “wrong” choices seems to written as slightly mad and haphazard with an incredible focus to her train of thought even beyond the inside look Martin POV gives naturally. I’m interested in seeing if all of this is just my own mind wanting to play tricks with me!

  39. re: Catelyn vs. Jon

    What if there was a poll between the powerful women of Westeros (Cersei, Queen of Thornes, etc.) and the qestions would be as follows:

    A. If a Lord of a large house brings an illegitimate child (bastard) to his court and his wife (the Lady of the house) chooses to raise that child equal to her own. What would you think of her? Would you think of her as stupid or as kind and reasonable?

    B. Same conditions as in A, but the bastard is either the oldest child (direct heir to the house) or the second oldest (direct heir to the house when the oldest one dies from an “unfortunate accident”). Whould that additional condition change your opinion of the Lady compared to A.

    C. How would you behave if your husband brought an illegitimate child to your court?


    How do you think would the powerful women answer these questions?

    SPOLER ahead

    re: Catelyn vs. Tyrion

    For all that she knows Tyrion was responsible for the assassionation attempt. She had the dagger and Littlefinger claimed it was Tyrion’s. Then she meets Tyrion on the road (Is he to be blamed for having recognised Catelyn?). Should she have acted or not (the action beeing the attempt to bring Tyrion to justice)? If Tyrion wasn’t a Lannister, then arresting him for a an accused crime would have been the right thing to do, wouldn’t it? But Tyrion is a Lannister and the power of Tywin Lannister is behind him. So, arresting him is suddenly the wrong thing to do? Kind of a double standard, isn’t it? Or is it just consideration of the reality of the situation? By that definition Rebert should never had started his rebellion against the king, as there was a real chance that he could had lost. If he had, would he be declared stupid too? Since he won he is the hero now. So, what is the lesson to be learned here? Success make the means right and failure makes them wrong?

    After the decision to arrest Tyrion was made the following actions should be considered separately. Catelyn goal was to ensure that the arrest leads to a positive outcome (from her point of view), which is Tyrions conviction. There are only a couple of things she could have done. Staying with Tyrion in one place would be stupid, as she was in no position to defend herself against Tywin. Going west is either very risky or very stupid or both. The Lannisters are in the west, so going there would increase the chance to loose Tyrion. There is Riverrun in middle, but going there would endanger it, as Riverrun is practically in the backyard of the Lannisters. It would provoke a war much more directly, just because there are so many possibilities and time to do more stupid (irreversible) things. Going south is equally stupid, as there are too many Lannister men whould could re-take Tyrion. That leaves going North or east. Going north is the obvious solution, but the way is long and dangerous and there is the real possibility that Lannister men would catch up with her. Going east is dangerous because of the mountain clans, but it is also the shortest way. It would have worked, weren’t it fo Lysa and her stupid trial.

    Should she had arrived in Winterfell successfully, then Tywin would not had attacked. Moving an army all the way to Winterfell through the riverlands and half of the north (Stark land) would take too much time. And even if Tywin tried, by the time he arrived in Winterfell, there would be an official word from the king that should have stopped any rivalries. Then there would be a trial where Tyrion would be found not guilty. Catelyn wouldn’t be happy about it, but there would be no war.


    I want to address the issue of double standards for a moment. They exist and are alive and well in almost any society, indeed the concept of society almost allows for it fundamentally. Ned Stark and Catelyn Stark can do and get away with things that the people beneath them cannot (note the fate of Arya’s friend, and not Arya herself — that had everything to do with station). If Tyrion killed some peasant, there’s not anything that can be done about it (minus some random vigilante action). Generally, double standards exist and often are great tools to keep people out of trouble that’s above their heads, whether morally correct, fair or otherwise.

    We know this is a setting that’s largely based on doing what you are powerful enough to get away with. I don’t have an issue with Catelyn arresting or even outright murdering Tyrion in cold blood. I have a problem with her seeming inability to foresee the immediate repercussions of whatever action she does take, and while she’s not wrong all the time, when she is it’s HUGE.

    The only defensible position is that the Starks thought that war could not be avoided no matter their actions, because in no circumstance was Tyrion going to die (wrongfully, I might add, though it probably wouldn’t make a difference) and Tywin not seek retribution. If that is the case, I still don’t see why you – the Hand of the damn king – don’t take your concerns publicly to the King. Why? Because at the end of the day if the throne is not on your side, you’re losing that war against the Lannisters anyways. So yes, because it’s Tyrion it should be a huge consideration.

    Is it worth me going to war I know I’m going to lose because of the attempted murder of a son that I can’t prove (so much so it ISN”T true – Of course, Jaime DID try to kill Bran, but that’s almost even worse if you’re Tyrion!) Granted, the Starks might think so.

  41. -Spoilers-
    “in no circumstance was Tyrion going to die (wrongfully, I might add, though it probably wouldn’t make a difference) and Tywin not seek retribution.”
    Really? I would have thought, and I am sure that Catelyn thought, that if she could get Tyrion to face the Kings Justice from the *King*, Tywin would have had to take it meekly or face the entire realm, united behind Robert.

    First, she tried to avoid the situation totally – she was trying to hide at the Inn when Tyrion recognised her!
    Having ‘met’ him on the road, she realises that he (because she ‘knows’ he is guilty) will figure out why she is there, and simply won’t go back to KL and will avoid justice entirely – once he reaches Lannister lands he will be safe for sure, even against the *Kings* Kings justice.
    So she has to take him prisoner or he gets away scot free.
    Having taken him prisoner, as others have pointed out, she really has only two choices – north or east. So she picks the obvious one, loudly for the inevitable pursuit, and follows the other, surely intending to get Tyrion to face the Kings Justice from the actual King, in time. Even if she stayed safely in the Vale and merely wrote to the King from there, she will get something from him and Tyrion is still secured awaiting justice. That would be the best result all round for her, and all of Westeros except the Lannisters.
    Mad Lyssa screws things up and is all history from there.

    I see a lot of railing against this decision, but little acknowledgment that her hand was forced against her will and that she also had a reasonable plan with a reasonable chance of success – the best that could be hoped.


    I don’t get that at all. if that’s the case, she could have done nothing and let the king Justice handle it, the one you are saying “Tywin would have had to take it meekly or face the entire realm, united behind Robert.” If we believe that, where Tyrion goes is irrelevant if you believe that to be true. Does one think a decided Robert would frown away from going to Lannisport and taking Tyrion by force if he deemed his family guilty of an attempted murder (and by extension crippling) his best friend’s and Hand’s son? In such a case, would anyone believe that Tyrion acted on his own, AND let’s not forget the Aryn matter would come into play certainly. Robert would go to war without question.

    That decision could have been made without ever leaving King’s Landing in the first place, and they decided against it. Again, I don’t knock what she was trying to accomplish or even the War it would start. I knock the idea of the arrest itself without having the Crown behind you to begin with.

    I won’t argue about Lysa, she definitely screwed Catelyn’s intention (as flawed as it was) – we will get to that when we get there!

  43. -Spoilers-

    Heh, you misunderstood so badly I’ll come back anyway and have one more go… 🙂

    There is no killing Tyrion.
    There is no marching on Tywin.

    You hold Tyrion in secure, but comfortable (as possible) and honourable (relatively) custody – notice he was unbound once he was unable to escape.
    You *don’t* bring him to Kings Landing, where the Queen can go nuts and all hell can break loose.

    You send a message to the King, telling him that Tyrion is accused of murdering Bran and held securely but safely, awaiting the Kings Justice.
    The king *must* respond. His wife’s brother is in custody, and accused of murdering a noble child. Its simply not something he can let slide. He also can’t just say ‘release him’ without looking like the most un-kingly ass in history – Roberts an oaf, but not that stupid and Cersei is more likely to get his back up than anything else if she hassles him.
    The king has little option but to order Tyrion brought to KL to face justice (well, he could go to Tyrion, but that isn’t happening, is it!)
    At that stage the Lannister’s can no longer move on Tyrion or his captors directly without convincing everyone he is guilty. Their best chance is to fight it ‘in court’ so to speak.
    Further, the Starks haven’t done anything unreasonable, and should Tyrion be found innocent and released then they have earned nothing more from the Lannisters that the already evident dislike and enmity. Tywin isn’t going to start a war under Roberts nose if Tyrion is released safely without mistreatment.

    The most likely net result is that Robert becomes a semi-active party, with direct orders given out and the Lannister’s can’t do a lot to prevent Tyrion from at least *facing* the King’s (literally) Justice, without directly crossing an active Robert (which is going to *really* activate and motivate him!), which they aren’t (supposedly) strong enough to do. Obviously we know that Regicide is their preferred option, but it isn’t a reasonable consideration for Catelyn.

    Logically it should work. The two problem points are a) Mad Lyssa screwed things completely and b) the Lannister’s used Regicide as an option, removing Robert from the equation in favour of Joffrey-Cersei.

  44. Spoiler-
    Once more, since I think you’ve missed teh key point (which wasn’t stated), then I’ll drop it regardless.
    “Does one think a decided Robert would frown away from going to Lannisport and taking Tyrion by force if he deemed his family guilty of an attempted murder (and by extension crippling) his best friend’s and Hand’s son?”
    No. But if Robert has to go to Lannisport, or make any effort whatsoever, there won’t be a decision. The only way to force Robert into taking any action is to deliver the evidence *and* have the prisoner already apprehended. At that point he *has* to do something, and if the evidence says guilty then the Lannisters will be out of luck (or that is the best possibility of such a result). Without the accused already in secure captivity there is no chance of Robert ever facing up to the problem. no matter what the evidence.
    The Arryn matter still has no proof, so can’t be used against the Lannisters yet.

    Just as importantly, once (guilty) Tyrion figures out Catelyn has been secretly down to Kings Landing then she has no chance of getting home. She’ll be set upon by ‘brigands’ in Lannister pay before the next day is out.


    I bring up the Aryn situation only as piling on to a hypothetical event of Robert actually marching against Tywin because of the attempted murder of Bran. If Robert is swayed at all, he would be exposed to that information as well (proof or not). For the record, I don’t think Robert would have done anything, but I do think that’s the only avenue they have (excluding doing nothing and doing something smart like just having Tyrion killed — which of course runs up against the Stark weakness). Bringing Tyrion to Robert is just as likely to have Catelyn arrested as anything else (oddly, that would be justice). If the ultimate goal was to present Tyrion to Robert, she’s worse off than I thought.

    You have Tyrion (wrongfully) killed and then you sit and wait on the rest of the Lannisters.

  46. *SPOILERS*

    That sounds entirely plausable, but am I incorrect in saying (need a timeline master) that Tywin moved as soon as he knew Tyrion was in custody or did he actually wait for mistreatment in the Vale? I could be off but I was thinking Tyrion left the Vale and his father was already in the field. Am I missing some other event that occurred in the meantime that caused this? I’m remembering Tywin telling Tyrion that his capture forced his hand. of course, I realize that the chief motivation aare the events of King’s Landing, but do we have evidence of what Tywin was doing after he heard of Tyrion’s arrest:

    “By my lights, it was you who started this,” Lord Tywin replied. “Your brother Jaime would never have meekly submitted to capture at the hands of a woman.”
    “That’s one way we differ, Jaime and I. He’s taller as well, you may have noticed.”
    His father ignored the sally. “The honor of our House was at stake. I had no choice but to ride. No man sheds Lannister blood with impunity…

    Also even forget that, what of Jaime’s reaction? Did Catelyn have Tyrion when Jaime confronted Ned and there we GOT Robert’s reaction, didn’t we? Jaime can start a war just as good as Tywin.

    Also: a note for all, let’s stop with the “since you completely misunderstood” intros. If ones reads their post without them they lose nothing in content and it only adds to be misconstrued by the reader. In other words, nobody takes that well, so cut it out.


    Yes, Tywin reacted “pretty quick”, but the continent is also pretty big and moving armies around is a big deal, so it must have taken some time. As far as I remember the first reaction was Gregor’s ravaging. The actual war started only after Robert’s and Ned’s deaths.

    So, the next question is: Was this reaction to be expected? And who could have anticipated it?

    Catelyn doesn’t know Tywin. She may know him as a man of court, but not as a man of war. Whatever she knows comes from some stories other have told her. One example is that Tywin was quite passive during the last war. He acted only when Aerys’ defeat was unavoidable. Ned could surely have told her that story.

    So, if she doesn’t know Tywin she must apply common sense. Again, it is common practice to have a hostage from the opposite party. The idea is that your enemy won’t attack you out of fear of loosing that hostage. A good example and also right under Catelyn’s nose is Theon. And Tyrion is a good hostage. He is the heir to Casterly Rock, since Jaime and Cersei cannot be. Why would Tywin attack (= start a war) and go against common practice? Doesn’t he care about his son.


    Barring a timeline check of Jaime’s attack on Ned’s men (and Ned himself) in Kingslanding I can actually buy most of that. That timeline seems like it would be tighter than that though as if I recall correctly, when Tyrion talks to Tywin, Jaime had already “covered himself in glory” (or something close to that) in the war. How long was Tyrion captive? What you say is possible about Catelyn’s perception of Tywin, but it seems to be a equally a reasoanble understandable truth that arresting the Heir of Castlery Rock may be a bad idea (Theon is different, that occurred after a war, a war that his family lost).

  49. Sure, Theon is different, but the concept is there. Having a hostage creates an incentive to not directly go to extremes, but to try softer solutions first. One could think there would or should multiple steps of escalation. Negotiations first, and only *after* they fail there is a war. Starting with the most extreme option doesn’t look very reasonable. And Tywin actually is reasonable, writes letters and stuff (he says so to tyrion: “Some wars are won not with swords but with letters”, or something to that effect). Why not this time?

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