Playin’ with Ice and Fire – A Game of Thoughts | Eddard Stark Chapter 4

Bloody Roses! Time to get to know the Warden of North — Eddard Stark! She’s new, I’m the re-reader. She’s the fresh newbie, I’m the spoilery vet. Together we are playin’ with ice and fire, reading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, getting our POV on. If you missed it, check out our thoughts on the third chapter (where we go to the free cities and meet Targaryens) from last week or check out our archives and read them from jump.

game of thrones

Let’s get to Ned, and bring flowers and your respects for the crypt!

A Game of Thrones Chapter by Chapter Read and React

Elena –

This first segment from Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark’s point of view makes me sure Jay will be calling me traitor for a while longer.   (So we’re all clear, I did NOT read his section on Dany, but my eye caught my own name on that last graf when I was scrolling down to the comments, hence I may have accidentally read that one wee bit of the section.)  Why must he keep out the T-card?  Because I kind of love Stark’s outlook and attitude on life and his place in the world, which naturally makes me ally myself with that character as opposed to, say, the Targaryens or the king.

What did I like about him?  Mostly that he seems so very pragmatic and down to earth.  He rules by the old way so that he doesn’t become disconnected from the consequences of his rulings as the lord of the northern principality (state? Area? territory?).  He’s not prone to the same lurid excesses as the king, and all he wants to do is stay in the north and take care of the territory that has belonged to his family since before the Targaryens showed up in the first place.  Obviously he has deep roots there, and honors them, with the old godwood and the tomb that goes on and on beneath his house, and so forth.  My kind of guy.

I will say this, given all the expectations I’m getting from various corners regarding this reading project:  the fact that I like Stark right now honestly makes me a bit leery of how much of my psyche I’m going to be exposing as we read further.  I’ve got a, shall we say, unconventional set of moral imperatives, and I have this feeling one of two things is going to happen when we get to the WTF Stark moments—either I shrug it off and look like, I dunno, some sort of heartless sociopathic bitch because I don’t blink at murdered babies or something, or I get pissed off at the whole MO of the novel that sets up characters to be one thing and then turns them into something else.

Not in a something happens to them to make them change sense, but in an intentional misrepresentation from the beginning sense.  That sort of setting up a character to be read in one manner through implication if not explicit depiction and then have them turn out to be completely different works (for me, at least), only in short form, not novels.  In a short story, the entire point is often a turn at the end; every scene of that story is building toward that moment.  In a novel it is, in my opinion, a cheap move to misrepresent characters for the sake of being able to shock an audience later…if the action would be insufficiently shocking were the character represented correctly from the beginning, then it’s a failure on the part of the story if the author has to artificially create that surprise by cloak-and-daggering a character’s true character.  (With the caveat that in limited point-of-view stories when we know only what that character does, and they are fooled, then we can be fooled, and it works).  So should I stop reading now?  Lol.

So if I liked Stark so much, what did I think about the king?  In general, I was not terribly impressed with him.  He seems…complacent.  Yes.  That is the word for what he seems.  He makes the comment that “Winning a throne is easier than keeping it,” but there is no real sense of threat in his words; he is not referring to having to defend his throne but rather to what is easier on him, i.e., what interests him.  He wanted to dethrone the Targaryens for reasons as yet to be revealed, so doing so was interesting and satisfying to him.  He wants the power and prestige of being the king, but he does not want to do the work of a king—hence his “need” for Ned to come do his job for him.

The more I think about this, actually, the more “not being impressed” trends toward thinking he’s a dissolute ineffectual lazy asshat.  I do wonder, is his “Cavalier” (in the sense of Cavaliers vs. Puritans, the proper noun turned into an adjective not the generic derivation adjective) philosophy really what he thinks or just what he prefers to show the world?  I mean, is he really that dissipated and ready to abrogate (or would the better word be arrogate? Or even derogate?  Jesus.  No wonder Peter Boller suggest pipe cogitations for figuring these words out!) his own responsibilities and to some extent power, or is that him making fun of himself but not a true reflection of his kingship?

I also think the prologue lends heavy dramatic irony to the situation.  The king is about to open up the north to a world of pain that might have been avoided if Stark were there to heed the warnings and look after his own.  But instead the king “needs” him in the south, and he clearly has no choice but to go, and so the north is going to be leaderless when the urSkexis-looking motherfuckers start overrunning The Wall.

This chapter also gave a clearer window into the Politics of Offense the king lives with and the games he must play to keep his power.  Case in point:  Ned can’t take his actual biological nephew as a ward because the queen’s father already offered—how retarded is that?!  It underscores that family is only more important to the king when it concerns him directly; he’s not letting Stark do his duty to his family.  I might say it shows that the female family ties are disregarded—but it’s the queen’s father the king won’t offend, so clearly that’s not the case.

Speaking of the queen—she remains a nonentity so far.  There was little enough of her actually shown, just a bit more of Stark’s dislike for her.  She seems to come from a family no one likes but no one wants to offend, but where in that is her actual personality or how she deals with her status?  Not quite there yet, at least for me.

So there it is.  At least for now I’m a Stark girl.  Does that make me doubly a traitor, that I have little sympathy for either of the sides currently claiming pretensions to a kingship?  You tell me…. 🙂

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

Jay –

Take me down to your crypt, Eddard. I would pay my respects.”

Man, I like Robert Baratheon. This series offers us numerous encounters, relationships, and interpersonal history and interaction. It emphasizes family, loyalties, bonds new, old, and broken. We know of loves and loves lost, sons and daughters, both honored and cast away. The POV chapter format gives readers incredible exposure to visceral and honest reaction –the characters are not lying to us – though sometimes they do so to themselves. Amidst all of this “living” we are exposed to, I view Ned and Robert’s relationship as one I can most believe in and relate to. These two were boys.

They grew up, learned, and essentially conquered their own worlds together. They grew apart, had their own families, jobs and responsibilities to deal with, and even had a major beef, but through it all, the Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon Ned and Robert friendship rang the most true and genuine to me. I know people don’t like Robert, and he certainly offers great reasons not to, but my looking at many of my owns friends (men and women), I know that in real life some of what he’s guilty of doesn’t get me enraged in the way some get worked up about characters they read about or watch on television or in film. I’ve hung out with Roberts, trusted them, and may have even been him in some regards (minus the sweet warhammer — maybe my next phase!).

“And if I hear ‘Your Grace’ once more, I’ll have your head on a spike. We are more to each other than that.”

I’m not trying to defend him.

I just find the bond between the two to be powerful due to it being recognizable. Martin makes it even stronger offering a Cersei that is fully aware of the bond and to some extent fears it. She was proven right even though she gained the upper-hand on him in the larger game, she “lost” her direct encounter (another powerful scene in this book that Ned was directly involved in) with Ned — She couldn’t have him like she had so many others. So much of this series is cloak and dagger, every corner asking yet again who can you trust?, and I know that is supposed to (and probably aptly does) reflect many relationships and politics, but the existence of even a dishonest true friendship always appealed to me.

While I knew the crypt scene was coming, I wasn’t prepared for Ned’s Lyanna flashback, which reflects poorly on me because we’re talking about perhaps one of the most analyzed/scrutinized passages in the entire series:

Promise me, she had cried, in a room that smelled of blood and roses. Promise me, Ned. The fever had taken her strength and her voice had been faint as a whisper, but when he gave her his word, the fear had gone out of his sister’s eyes. Ned remembered the way she had smiled then, how tightly her fingers had clutched his as she gave up her hold on life, the rose petals spilling from her palm, dead and black.

Popular discussion likes to attribute these roses as the same crown of roses given to Lyanna by Rhaegar, when he crowned her (and not his wife) Queen of Love and Beauty at the tourney in Harrenhal. Ned will later (in this very book) describe it as a crown of winter roses, as blue as frost. There is also blood, and clearly the passage above indicates a meeting between Ned and Lyanna that occurred indoors, where his later revealed meeting with Ser Arthur Dayne and other the members of the Kingsguard occurred outside of the Tower of Joy.

I hope everyone can understand that I want to pass on the whole R + L = J debate in detail for now, mostly because it’s a discussion that I want to have with Laney later (at this point though please do comment below if its germane to this chapter). It is my hope that Elena and I can do some kind of spin-off post on the subject of Ned’s flashback(s) at a later date, thinking it may be better to tag team that subject exclusively when we get a few more Lyanna episodes under her belt. What I do find it interesting that she doesn’t mention Lyanna, nor Ned’s memories at all (not to mention, I should warn her about the danger of insulting the pride of Tywin Lannister!).

What is powerful for the re-reader (or just me) and what is not even worthy of mention to the new reader intrigues me here. For myself, the crypt scene was everything in this chapter, but I wonder if it meant anything to me at all when I first read the book. If being honest, I’d say probably not, due to the fact that I acknowledge this series as being the one that taught me that you can’t get away with skimming and that truly great writers don’t allow you to. Brilliant writers, however, offer that layer that if unrevealed doesn’t implode the whole read. Do we doubt there are readers who love A Song of Ice and Fire who never gave Jon’s parentage two thoughts?

I do want to touch on one aspect regarding Lyanna, namely Robert’s absolute hatred for Rhaegar that’s not only unmatched, but seemingly not shared in any degree by anybody.

“In my dreams, I kill him every night,” Robert admitted. “A thousand deaths will still be less than he deserves.”

“I vowed to kill Rhaegar for what he did to her.”
“You did,” Ned reminded him.
“Only once,” Robert said bitterly.

Martin offers us a (non)response for the first one, “There was nothing Ned could say to that”, yet in the second, Ned could be wanting to keep Robert on his own track/train of thought (anybody ever hiding something from somebody while in front of them knows what I mean).

Look, I know we won’t be offering anything new to the speculation surrounding Rhaegar, Lyanna, Robert, Ned and whatever spawn may have come from the first two, but I’ve always focused on Ned’s actions around Robert because we know that that at the end of the day he hates (or would have) lying to Robert. This guy is his ACE. I was wondering if the length time since last seeing his friend (9 years) was related at all to guilt. The king literally had to come to him, and again it is a death that brings them back together (oddly enough, I have similar circumstances with friends of mine, see them only at funerals).

Since Martin plays with smoke and mirrors so much, I try to grasp on what I know is real, and everytime I think of the future scenes with Ned at Robert’s deathbed it makes me feel like one lies danger dies even while Ned makes another one for the sake of his friend. That scene shows us that Ned certainly can make choices for the sake of or to spare those he loves, and I wonder if there was some relief (haven’t re-read it) in the new lie, finally being able to possibly never divulge his old one to his old and true friend. While the idea that both Robert and Ned see only what they want to see, one out of complacency, the other out of a stubborn sense of honor (and guilt), it’s going to be interesting even beyond getting answers to the big questions because I just want to know the little stuff, like how can Robert can have this seemingly unique view of Rhaegar that nobody we’ve seen seems to mention.

I know everybody is on the Jon parentage kick, but that little fact bothers me the most. Like I said though, I want to tackle this with Elena in a special feature later — I think it will be much more awesome that way, but I want her to get to the point where she’s asking first! I will say this, I have to admit that the mystery that hinges on a half dozen other mysteries and has connections to several houses, prophecy, the Kingsguard and more, is perhaps the funnest and most passion inspiring one I’ve come across in entertainment. LOST (which I love) has shit on this. I would ask this (and please use spoiler tags if you care to answer), when and how did you start recognizing piecing together your own theories regarding Jon (and if it’s applicable, Rhaegar and Lyanna)?

We learn the details of Theon’s presence in Winterfell while Ned recounts Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion, the last time -– 9 years ago -– that Ned had seen Robert. For some reason on this re-read, the fact that Theon was the one who held Ice in the first Bran chapter really jumped out to me. A reader pointed out Ned’s really rigid way of looking at things, and though I didn’t with that particular circumstance, I do of course agree that the trait is there, and here we see again a Ned that arms the man that would cut his family’s throat.

Let me say this though, and it is here where Elena and I agree regarding Ned: We can read the books and call actions daft or shortsighted, but at the end of the day I think we all can agree that Ned is an admirable man (even with significant story arc points not revealed to us yet). His way got his ass killed, but there’s something to be said about living your life the way Ned did. Even with so many introductions of major players in this chapter with Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion, and Sandor, the name drop that most grabs the re-reader the most is one Howland Reed, “the little crannogman”. I’ve talked “friends” above, but it would seem with little doubt that Reed and Ned have a friendship that includes shared knowledge we’d all like to know.

One of the most interesting choices Martin will make is if he ever allows us to see Reed in a position to divulge anything, as at this point it seems all confirmed (living) roads lead to Reed. Related, at this point I’m more interested in how and if Martin will even choose to verify some of the popular fans’ speculation more than if they are even true or not.

Damn it, everything is really touched on in this chapter, Ned was even able to throw in problems about the Wall, which got the typical dismissal it always gets (except from Tyrion –the one man who wants to SEE). Even the machinations of the removal of Jon Arryn is put into more focus here, Tywin’s unprecedented offer to foster the young Arryn heir a nice red herring down the road to add as possible faux-evidence against House Lannister.

Before I finish this, I want to go back for a moment and add to my growing file chronicling my complete stupidity (soon to be a hit spin-off blog!). I just realized Ned’s talk with Bran in the first chapter is probably directly related to his beef with Robert (the King) being unaffected when presented the bodies of the Targaryens during the sack of King’s Landing. Coming into this re-read, one of my personal points of interest was paying attention to Ned’s reaction to the slaying of children, not because I’m morbid, but in order to see if there is more (than the obvious) to get my head wrapped around the possible occurrences at the Tower of Joy and elsewhere. T

he very thought also comes back to bite him in the ass when he refuses Renly entirely sensible offer in King’s Landing that probably would have saved his life, “I will not dishonor his last hours on earth by shedding blood in his halls and dragging frightened children from their beds.”

Ned. Closet. Skeletons. Jon Snow is next up!


  1. Elena’s notes are truly a joy for me to read… it reminds me of my own pet-theory-which-never-came-to-be (though it would have been painful and hilarious all at the same time) The crypt is where Robert makes the betrothal offer to Ned, right (and how creepy/ominous is THAT?) so I suppose I can mention it now. My theory was that something would happen to Sansa, and Arya would have to marry Joff in her place, since they made such a big deal about Ned marrying Catelyn in Brandon’s place. Can you imagine?! 😀


    (well, not really, but you wanted any R+L=J talk marked as such)

    I had no idea until I read about it on the internet (on Ran’s/the Westeros board). And now I have a tattoo inspired by it. Make of that what you will!

    ***END SPOILERS***

  2. That is pretty damn creep, never thought about it!

    Brandon is somebody that I can’t put my finger on. On one hand he’s a guy (and this may be simple big brother relationship) that Ned says always knew what to do, but on the other he did something that seemed at best rash and at worst incredibly stupid (not to mention fatal).

    Yes, always good stuff at Ran’s board and has been for years.


    (well, sort of: discussion of Howland Reed)

    I don’t think we’ll ever see what Reed thinks. Somewhere on one of the websites ( there’s a note that we’ll never get a PoV chapter from Reed because he’s one of the few characters who Knows Too Much. I assume we’ll find out the stuff that he knows, but I don’t think we’ll get it from Reed.

    I assume he’s gonna show up at some point, though. Surely?

  4. Thanks for the info. Man, I hope so. My post-Lost self needs some answers, even if (and I suspected) indirect.

    I do think I will get more out of the Bran (along with Dany) chapters this time around because I’d be lying if i said I was really tuned into the later Bran chapters. I guess I’m just stuck on the old generation!

  5. I guess I’m not sure why Elena says about Robert that “He wanted to dethrone the Targaryens for reasons as yet to be revealed,”

    Seems to me even this early in the book the reasons are fairly well laid out, In the first Cat chapter we learned that Aerys demanded that Jon Arryn hand over the head of both Robert and Ned. Seems if the King wants your head, you are going to want to overthrow him if you want to keep living.

    Also this Eddard chapter makes it fairly clear that Lyanna, Ned’s sister and Robert’s betrothed, died and somehow Rhaegar Targaryen is at least implicated in her death if not directly responsible for it.

    So if the King’s son causes the death of your fiancee and then the King tries to kill you. You are probably going to want to overthrow his rule.

  6. I kind of like and admire Ned, but at times I wanted him to bend his iron hard morality for his own good and that of his family. Robert was a good leader of men in battle, but a poor king. He should never have had that happen to him and it was thrust upon him as a way for the Lannisters to continue their manipulation of the throne through family ties. I don’t want to say anymore in case I spoil it for you, Elena.

  7. Just wanted to say, I’m loving this stuff. You guys are doing a great job so far. I check your site every day for updates. Hopefully the next chapter is getting posted in 10 min. or so? 🙂


    Elena definitely pegged Robert, but I tend to Jay’s side and have somewhat of a soft spot for the drunken ass-hole. He’s just so out of his element as king. Would anybody else read an alternate-universe book, where Robert wins the throne, gives it to Tywin Lannister (who would probably be a pretty good king) and then follows his actual dream and becomes a sell-sword in the free cities?

    I also found it interesting that Elena didn’t talk much about the crypts. As re-readers we know that that stuff is much more important to the major questions of the series. It’s somewhat commendable that Robert still holds Lyanna in his heart, but him thinking his life would be better if she were still alive and married to him are probably pretty far off. I think and Robert/Lyanna marriage would have been awfully explosive (Lyanna seemed to be pretty aware of this).

    Can’t wait for the next chapter and the first REAL appearance of Tyrion. I’ll be interested to see what Elena has to say about GRRM’s favorite imp.

    And Jon. He was one of my favorite characters when I first read the books, but as I read Ran’s boards, and re-read the books I can see how people find him whiny and emo. I still like Jon a lot, but I wonder if Elena will be sympathetic to or annoyed by Jon.


  8. @ Magn – your comment about the reference from Catelyn 1 reveals the problem with my reading pace: i’m not retaining that sort of detail. so thanks for that reminder. Although I still don’t see overthrowing the king as the only or necessarily logical recourse to that situation…seems to me something more would have had to be going on. perhaps like the king poisoning the fiancee. Regarding her, though–i did not see anything in the description of her death to imply it was unnatural. nothing to preclude that, either, but if she died “feverish” that could be a plague or the flu, which given this is a medieval society would not have been uncommon…i didn’t (obviously) cue it as a poisoning from what was said in this chapter.

    @ elfy – thanks for not spoilering! 🙂 glad you’re continuing to enjoy the project.

  9. @Elena
    I was a Stark girl all the way through my first read of the first 3 novels. In fact, I remember being kind of annoyed that GRRM would spend so much time away from my beloved Starks. It doesn’t make you a traitor at all. I think Jay is just pulling your leg because he’s such a Targ fan. But believe me, not all of us are. On my reread, I grasp a little more of the wider plots and find myself more interested than before about the other parts of the world. But I’m still the most excited when I get to read an Arya chapter or another one I wont name because you don’t even know he’s a POV yet (let’s just say it’s another Stark).
    I find it deplorable the way others are influencing your take on this. You seem very cautious in your comments and even in your reading experience because too many people warned you you’ll be deceived at some point or that they can’t wait for you to get to a certain WTF moment or a certain POV and see your reaction. It seems to make you over think and to be ruining your experience. It must be disturbing to feel so many of us looking over your shoulder as you read…
    I think your fears about intentional misrepresentation of character for the sake of being able to shock audiences later are unfounded. I also think your first impressions on the king and the Starks and even the Targs are completely reasonable, so don’t be so shy about it, thinking you’ll probably be proved wrong later on and everyone in the know is having a laugh at you right now. We’re not. And no interpretation is right or wrong, especially at the point you are in the story. GRRM leaves much space for ambiguity, theories and different favourites.
    So my advice would be: forget the surprises you are anticipating that make you hesitate before forming your opinion. Just go with your heart and enjoy the read thoroughly. And if you do end up being fooled, I bet you you’ll be amazed by it, not repulsed by the cheapness or the artificiality of it. But you gotta let your defences down.

  10. REALLY think anyone is) it’s a good-humored sort of laughing at themselves for having similar reactions at first as much as it would be at me. Certainly everyone is very encouraging. 🙂

    But I think it’s hard not to have some awareness as I read of that expectation for “shocking” moments…I think I’d have that even just reading it without the thought-sharing, due to what I’ve been told about these books over the years from fans. And that’s okay. Hell, I was just guilty of doing the same thing to a friend with another series over the weekend-“-ooh, wait till you get to book two, it is DRAMA”….I think it’s natural to want to dangle teasers and warnings in front of friends who are only just discovering the joy of a favorite book/series. So I don’t entirely mind it. But you’re right that it’s probably making me more hesitant to get attached to characters until I feel like I have a good understanding of them.

  11. POTENTIAL SPOILERS: Robert’s Rebellion

    @Magn–The kidnapping of Lyanna alone was probably all it took for Robert, although the death of some of Eddard’s family was likely a factor. Lyanna didn’t die until *after* the sack of King’s Landing.

  12. Yes, I would agree that first time readers should not try to over think the story, I think the story works best if you just let your emotions guide how you react to everything. Because that is what GRRM is great at, getting you to feel what the POV are feeling, if you overthink and over analyze everything, it distances you from the characters you’re reading about and I think lessens the immersion in to the story.

  13. First, thanks for any/all of the kind words.

    I don’t think anything I’m saying below is too spoilery, though they are elements that occur in the future. No plot points though.

    @Mike While I was reading the last chapter I was actually thinking ahead to that scene you’re talking about where Robert mentions the whole sellsword thing to Ned.– one of my favorite scenes, and I have to admit that Robert scenes tend to be memorable to me (even something simple like him shoving an in famous member of the Kingsguard in jest later). I hesitate to call him a scene stealer, but I always listen when the Demon of the Trident talks. The guy likes to party, feast, and wench, on a basic guy level I just can’t totally dismiss him, AND he has heart.

    I also agree that Tywin would probably make a damn good King, or at least an effective/stable one, especially considering he’d definitely bring a delegator like Kevan on board. If being honest, Tywin probably THE most qualified guy in Westeros to assume the role.

    @Nymeria yup, all in jest. I’m not so sure I’m a Targ fan as much as I’m generally a pro-Empire fan. It’s hard not to like the Starks, and I like them good and well.

  14. @Elena
    Relax. Read. Enjoy. It might just be coming out stronger in the writing than when you’re reading, but it seems to me that about half of your post was about a) what you hope the story isn’t like and b) being worried about what your readers might think of your impressions.

    I love getting impressions from a first time reader, but I fear for your enjoyment if you never let yourself into the story. These books are immersive, and that’s a huge part of why they’re so good. I’m hoping you’re able to jump in, not just wet your toes.

    I love your insights, especially regarding Ned/Robert/Children. Definitely brought up some things I’ve not considered. Great stuff!




    Somehow I’d never picked up on the disproportionate hatred Robert has for the Targaryens, and Rhaegar especially. I mean, I knew he hated them, and I knew he hated them more, but I hadn’t really thought much of it.

    When I think about it the is a fairly broad, but nowhere near universal, general dislike for the Targaryens because so many of them were batshit terrible rulers, but when it comes to Rhaegar? Well, he was the Last Dragon, and almost universally loved.

    Having read this chapter recently I have to agree that it is all about the Crypt for me as well. I remember on my first read being somewhat confused by that scene though. Blue roses? Promises? Blood? I could tell it meant something, but I just couldn’t pay it any mind. I’d figure it out later, but there’s no way it could tell me anything then.

  15. @Elena

    I’ll just repeat the opinion that you’re paying way too much attention to what you’re hearing from other people (and maybe misunderstanding), leading you to some unusual ideas about the book that I don’t think you’d get from just reading it. Tell everyone to STFU and let you enjoy it.

  16. @ManBearSquid RE: the Kids I think it relates to other instances we’ve already seen as well, like his comments in the Catelyn chapter about Rickon needing to start “Man-ing” up (even at the age of 3)!

    – SPOILERS Below, Elena step off! –

    Regarding Rhaegar, I want to first note that the absence of other negative opinion mention about Rhagear certainly doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or isn’t even rampant/relevant, I get that, but Martin specifically shows us instances of others like Ned and even Cersei who spare him no negative though upon reflecting on him. I don’t know if we know enough to call Rhaegar universally loved, because his reputation wasn’t so solid to stop Brandon Stark from thinking twice before getting himself killed in a fool’s errand. Ned especially, could blame Rhaegar indirectly for the death of his brother and sister, but still only remarks that he doubts Rhaegar would visit a whorehouse. This is why Robert’s opinion baffles me, especially when it seems such a big changing point in his life. If he didn’t have the facts, you’d think he’s have them by now, or did those events happen so fast that nobody cared to talk about it during the backdrop of a war and regime change? I have to admit that the transition itself and how “facts” held eludes me.

    It just seems to me that Rhaegar’s position would make it unlikely for his activities to remain so secret to one person (because realistically, why would anyone care to keep such a secret beyond isolated individuals). Though both Selmy and Jorah have reasons not to knock Rhaegar, they both say nothing that would make you believe he is a heinous individual and if one looks at the company he kept, seems like a pretty solid bunch from what little we know of them (Dayne, Connington etc). From Cersei’s words we know that even at Casterly Rock, the cheers (I’m assuming a mix of nobles and smallfolk) for the Rhaegar surpassed even their lord’s.

    I don’t claim to have a good handle on this, but Robert’s CONTINUED unique hatred is something I can’t wrap my head around.

    —- END SPOILERS – Elenas Allowed below! —-

    @pualo Good advice!

  17. Spoilers***

    I think Robert’s hatred for Rhaegar is explained by the fact that Robert was deeply in love with Lyanna, and despite all his protestations, deep down there is a great fear in him that Lyanna was not “abducted”, but chose to love Rhaegar instead of him. He covers up this fear by fiercely clinging to the idea that she was abducted and raped, so that he can tell himself that he hates Rhaegar for a noble reason rather than personal jealousy.

    He needs the abduction rape story to be true because the alternative would completely devastate him.

  18. Jay, it’s not funny to tell me I can read “below” and then just say “good advice.” NOT. Funny. lol

    @ everyone above – I will try to keep that in mind but this whole process is fairly self-conscious and that’s inevitably going to come through. to quote the inimitable andy levy, “i apologize for nothing.” 🙂

  19. I read these 4 novels a few years back and absolutely loved them. Now that the HBO series is really crackin, I began my first re-read a few months ago (I’m now mostly through with aSoS). I consider myself a fairly perceptive reader but, man, I am getting so so so much more detail out of this re-read. Subtle (and not so subtle) clues as to the motivations of various characters – both past events and preludes to future events I now know about. My first read through was at such a surface level and I now realize there were so many things I didn’t pick up on, I guess I was just awestruck by the high level plot, and let’s be honest, GRRM does through alot of detail at a first time reader.

    So, a couple of things I think i understand and some new questions I didn’t have during the first read:


    R+L = J:
    – It now seems obvious to me that Rhaegar and Lyanna’s liason was not a kidnapping and that there was mutual consent. Both knew the scandalous implications (Rhaegar was married and I believe Lyanna was betrothed to Robert) but it just didn’t matter to them in the moment. I believe that Lyanna died shortly after giving birth to Rhaegar’s son (John Snow). There are other references to a bloody bed related to childbirth in the Dany chapters. I think Ned’s big secret is twofold – 1. Lyanna’s tryst with Rhaegar was mutual and 2. John is actually a Targ (perhaps the Song of Ice and Fire specifically refers to John). This secret becomes even more important for Ned to keep after Robert’s murderous rage against all remaining Targs.

    Robert’s hatred for Rhaegar:
    – I think Robert really suspects or knows that Lyanna ran off with Rhaegar willingly – so a major slight against Robert to begin with. Furthermore, Rhaegar is everything that Robert is not. Although good with a sword, Rhaegar’s real passion was music, poetry, etc – and chicks dig that 😉 Robert was basically a man’s man and couldn’t compete with Rhaegar’s sensitive side.

    Robert’s Rebellion:
    – Mad King Aerys really primed the rebellion. He continually slighted Tywin Lannister, including stripping him of the heir to Casterly Rock by bringing Jamie into the Kingsguard. Aerys certainly alienated House Stark by killing Ned’s father and older brother. And I’m sure there were other slight’s against house Barrathon that I can’t think of now.

    Some Questions I still have —
    Who really tried to kill B?
    – We’re sure it wasn’t Tyrion, and I don’t see the motive for Littlefinger. Although Cersie and Jamie had motive, they seem too sophisticated to try and kill Bran in that fashion. Eventually, Tyrion deduces that it must have been Joffrey. Joff had access to the weapon and the common “catspaw”, but I’m still not sure of his motive – unless Joff was aware of his true parentage all along and this was his attempt to protect mom and dad/uncle … hmmm interesting. Perhaps Joff’s disdain of Robert and constant outbursts were his way of trying to gain the attention of his true father, Jamie.

    Who killed J?
    – I kind of glossed over this question in my first read and assumed Joffrey’s wine was poisoned. But now I believe otherwise. I think the intended target was actually Tyrion and it was his slice of pigeon pie which was poisoned. Joffrey takes a huge bite of Tyrion’s pie as an insult to his uncle, plus Margerey Tyrell didn’t get sick from drinking the same wine as Joff.


    I’m sure most/all of these hypothesis have been explored on the Westeros blog, I haven’t read through it in any depth. But anyways – a much more intriguing read the second time around!

    I love experiencing Elena’s viewpoint – keep up the good work Elena and Jay!

  20. Spoilers.

    Elena Step off!

    1. Who tried to kill Bran? It was Joff, although it was unlikely to be all his idea. I suspect littlefinger had something to do with it, littlfinger is very good at getting people to do things and think it was their own idea. As for his motivation, he wanted to sow chaos and conflict so he can profit.

    2. Who killed J? The Queen of Thorns did, the poison was from Sansa’s hairnet, the gems of which looks very much like the description of the tears of Lys from the Maester Cressen chapter in ACOK. There is Ser Dontos telling Sansa that the hairnet is her freedom. Then there is the Queen of Thorns adjusting Sansa’s hairnet before the feast (presumably removed one of the gems), Margaery was probably in on it too, as she was the one who was close enough to slip it into the cup.


  21. I just wanted to comment on something Elena said and on what I feel is one of the strongest aspects of Martin’s writing.

    A professor asked my classics class once to determine if the story we were reading was plot driven or character driven. That is, did the characters exist and have the attributes that they did to primarily satisfy the needs of the plot or did the plot primarily develop as a consequence of with who the characters were. In my opinion, the best stories are more character driven than plot driven as is the case with Ice and Fire. It lends the story consistency and rationality. A character’s actions and reactions, while not necessarily foreseeable in hindsight are plausible. It makes the story seem less artificial and more alive.

    Further, in a story where much cannot be taken at face value, some anchor to “reality” is required lest the reader be set adrift for any sense of causality. If one cannot draw some for one event leading to another the significance of plot developments is lost. Consistent characters who act true to their motives, personalities, and situations provide such stability.

  22. SPOILERS – Above ELENA Clearance needed! Step up girl!

    1. Who tried to kill Bran? It was Joff, although it was unlikely to be all his idea. I suspect littlefinger had something to do with it, littlfinger is very good at getting people to do things and think it was their own idea. As for his motivation, he wanted to sow chaos and conflict so he can profit

    That’s possible, but I could also buy Jaime’s and Tyrion’s opinion of typical Joff idiocracy, though this time motivated by an oddly tender idea motivation. That family dynamic kind of works for me, the boy wanting his father’s approval or simply enacting something he thought he though his father would do. The two “uncles” probably know the boy well.

    I am a Littlefinger for Emperor guy, but even I think it’s a reach that he had the means of knowing that such a accident would occur to even push Joff into doing the deed. I think he merely grabbed on to a useful story to further cultivate his ends After all, we do know that Joff is prone to violent spontaneity.

  23. Hi Sleigh! (1) glad you’ve found us. welcome, and enjoy. (2) thank you! that helps my anxieties. 🙂 having just had 2 of my favorite characters upended on True Blood I’m starting to realize how much I despise that rhetorical device. 🙂

  24. Hi, I’m new here and, obviously, are a little bit behind. I haven’t even finished reading this post yet but I wanted to say to Elena, don’t worry. I have read all four of the books and the Starks remain my favorite characters, especially Jon and Arya.. I like Dany but I just don’t identify with her as much as I do the Starks. At their core, the Starks are good, honest people and I admire them for that.

    So, having gotten that off of my chest, I am loving the re-read and am looking forward to the rest of it. Thanks for doing this.

  25. @Jay


    i only found the series Dec 2010 (Maureen Ryan kept talking about the pilot and the series and i remembered one day in Borders)

    loved the first one so much read all 4 books in about 5 weeks – lucky it was university holidays (am australian)

    took the ‘fact’ of Ned being Jons dad at face value, didn’t form any theories at all in AGoT i just kept filing stuff away – Lyanna dying in blood fever and roses, promise me Ned – Cat and Robert having differing opinions on who the mother was/is -Ned being the epitome of honour accept for Jons birth

    got filed under mmmmm interesting

    then in ASoS when Edric Dayne is talking to Arya about him and John being milk brothers and Willa my brain stopped – hang on why am i assuming Ned is Jons dad? all we really know about Jon is that he has Stark colouring! and i also reembered we never once hear Ned say or think that Jon is his son just that he calls him Jon or the boy or his blood

    then i remembered the Lyanna stuff blood could be child birth but i went with she was kidnapped and raped (i did not know by who)and became pregnant and after developing a fever she wanted Ned to raise the child as a Stark and not to tell anyone about the circumstances of his parentage/birth

    i had to know if i was on to something so i typed who are Jon Snows parents? into google and found Westeros, Winter is Coming and Tower of the Hand and was introduced to the theory of R + L = J and i think it makes total sense but knowing GRRM now i wouldn’t put the house on it

    Love your work, can’t wait for the next installment

  26. Rob and Ly would have been a good couple. fights aplenty, but there was actual love there, at least on Rob’s side. And lord does that help!

  27. @Jay

    I gotta jump to Robert’s defense here. BIG SPOILERS

    Three things we know about Rhaegar:
    1. He named Lyanna his Queen of Love and Beauty in the presence of her fiance and his own wife. His own, probably pregnant with Aegon, wife.

    So, smart, kind and talented, quite ballsy but not to high on honor. Like, Robert is more diplomatic then Rhaegar, I would say.

    2. By Sandor’s testimony, it was Rhaegar Targaryan that knighted Gregor. He knighted Gregor. I’m sure he’d regret it if he lived to see him rape and kill his wife and kids shortly afterward but still. He knighted Gregor. Seriously.

    3. Let’s say Lyanna did die in Ned’s arms short after delivering Jon. Hence the blood on her bed. Many people believe this.

    The seige on Storm’s End alone, lasted roughly a year. This is stated several times. This started sometime after Brandon and Richard got burned alive, Aerys demanded Robert and Ned’s head, Jon raised the banner of rebellion against him, Ned and Robert went to gather their troops, Robert waged some war in the Stormlands then left to join with Ned’s troops. It ended when Ned started south after the Sacking of King’s Landing. That alone lasted a year. We can say safely that if Jon is their son, he’d have to be conceived after Brandon and Richard Stark got burned alive along with a dozen others for trying to save her. Either Rhaegar decided to leave out what exactly was happening, raped her after all or I dunno. There is probably something we dunno but until we do, Robert by all appearances seems to be in the right about Rhaegar. We was kind of a douche.

  28. “I will not dishonor his last hours on earth by shedding blood in his halls and dragging frightened children from their beds.”

    Ned. Closet. Skeletons. Jon’s next up!

    Jay — you mention Jon — like Elena I am reading these books for the first time — I took it he did not want to have a repeat of the Targaryen family as they were smuggled out of the palace.

  29. SPOILER:

    It was only when I re-read that excerpt about Lyanna’s death that it dawned on me that maybe Jon Snow isn’t Ned’s bastard, but the offspring of Rhaegar and Lyanna.

    Blew my mind.  Haven’t re-read the series, but when I get to it eventually this’ll put a whole new twist on it

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