She’s new, she’s the re-re-reader. She’s the newbie, she’s the spoilery vet. Together they’re rereading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting their POV on. Today they react to Chapter 24- Bran.
This chapter starts off with a slap in our face about Bran’s condition—his little brother running in the yard with the three wolves left at Winterfell, and Bran watching from above, never able to do the same again ever.
I’m interested in the fact that the wolves are looking differently now that they’re growing older. Are their appearances meant to be in some way reflective of the Stark with whom they are connected? I am not sure what a black wolf with green fire for eyes says about the man Rickon will become, or the silver and smoke about Bran, but the “yellow gold eyes that saw all there was to see” sounds a lot like Bran with his dreaming affliction, and Grey Wind being the biggest sounds like Robb, so damn if it don’t all sound like foreshadowing to me….(And Summer as the smartest of the litter is just funny. I don’t know the Stark kids well enough to know who’s really the smartest but it might well be Bran. If nothing else because if he wasn’t on the scholar path before, he is now.)
Speaking of Bran with his dreaming, his climbing dream where he sees the gargoyles that might once have been lions—isn’t the lion the Lannister symbol? So that would make the things that have become twisted and grotesque members of the Lannister family…presumably Cersei and Jamie. Bran’s subconscious has suppressed the memory. I wondered if he had this dream now because it’s trying to open it back up, but part of him is still too afraid to face it. Did seeing Tyrion Lannister inadvertently trigger it, since he’s kin to the grotesqueries of Bran’s dream?
The section with Old Nan was both sad and predictable. Little kids often take out their resentments on those around them, and Nan is an easy target because she is always there with him. He’s not going to act out or be cruel to Robb, because he sees so little of his brother now that he’s being “Lord Robb,” and it sounds like she’s then the only person he spends much time with. I hated listening to him snap at her and think how ugly and old she is, but it was not a surprising reaction except that Martin actually included it (since so many depictions of children in adult literature take out the casual cruelty they can use toward others—as a kid one of my favorite books was Ender’s Game half because it felt like “yes, this is what children are really like” in a way many other books I’d read did not).
There is also a function to the Old Nan section, and that is to introduce us to a few more tidbits of history and a few more of the legends of this world. We learn some of the Stark family tree—Brandon Stark and Lord Rickard were Bran’s grandfather’s generation, with Rickard being Ned’s father. Now we know where Rickon got his namesake, leaving only the question of where’d Arya and Sansa come from? We learn about Brandon the builder who raised Winterfell and maybe The Wall. There’s a quiet reference to “Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion.” Uh…what? It clearly happened after Robert became king, and was just as clearly put down, but how’d it end up that Theon GREYJOY is now fostering with Ned Stark? (Well, obviously he had to go to somewhere he could be rehabilitated from his father(?)’s sins and raised up in the right mindset, but this is the first it’s been referenced….)
I loved the horror story that Nan was telling Bran, and I love that Bran wants the scary stories. I wonder if it’s a moment of foreshadowing when Bran bursts out later, in relation to Uncle Benji’s being missing, that the children of the forest will save him, and Yoren doesn’t dismiss it out of hand. Clearly they see some freaky shit up on The Wall and out beyond it, so they don’t dismiss anything anymore, but probably never expect anyone from the south to take that seriously. (Echoing of the old watch commander’s plea to Tyrion, and his reaction—and what he knows the reaction of the king and the court will be.) Anyway, these children of the forest…elves? Wood spirits? Sentient trees? Could be good shit if they show up at some point to balance out the Usrkexis and their zombie army of dead wildlings and Waymar Royce.
Better yet is Nan’s reaction to his request: “Oh, my sweet summer child…what do you know of fear?” Just a clever introduction to the story to set the mood properly, or—as I took it—a genuine statement on life during the summer versus survival during the winter?
And then Nan’s actual storytelling…that didn’t work for me as a characterization, though as a way to tell that story it was great. But I felt it was just way, way, way too eloquent. My marginal comment was “Faulknerian Old Nan, eh?” I think this is something that Martin does a lot, though, and this passage was the first I noticed, and that is to have his characters speak long passages in a very written prose style. People don’t talk that way. Not really. And those few who do are truly few and far between…accepting at face value that these characters all just happen to be those few is like accepting Steinbeck’s account of Travels with Charlie as truth now that someone has researched it and realized there’s no way it happened as he said it and likely didn’t happen at all.
Hodor = Anyang on Arrested Development. That is all I have to say about him. “Hodor!” “Anyang!” “Yes, your name is Anyang.” “Anyang!” “Hodor!”
Okay, now let’s talk about Tyrion’s visit. First of all, Robb might have been ungracious as hell, but at least he didn’t tip his mother’s hand to Tyrion by accusing him of anything, and luckily for Robb the antipathy of Lannisters on Ned’s part is well known enough that Tyrion could assume that was why Robb won’t welcome him into Winterfell as a guest. (Er…this is an “at least” in the sense of Robb’s point of view, his sense of familial duty. From my observer standpoint, I’d rather see Tyrion one-up Catelyn than vice versa.) I don’t actually think that Tyrion had anything to do with the attempt to murder Bran, even if that was his knife involved—and I’m convinced it was, but why in a bit—and I don’t think he has any idea that his knife was involved. So it’s lucky for Robb that he can be rude to him and not raise Tyrion’s suspicions.
Okay, now, the reason I’m sure that was Tyrion’s knife: there was no reason for the wolves to attack him like that unless there was a scent recognition (which Martin even gives us with a “perhaps they caught his scent” line). Summer growls first…Summer would have smelled that knife. If it was Tyrion’s knife and now here is Tyrion…boom. Explains exactly why Summer goes after the dwarf. The other two wolves simply follow his lead—as they do when he responds to Bran and backs off to go protect his boy. (Side note: I love that even Rickon can command his wolf with a simple “Home, Shaggy, home now!” That just speaks again to the connection these kids have with their wolves. Someone in the comments a few posts back talked about what it meant for Sansa that she behaves in such a way that Lady ends up dying for her lies, and if that is meant as a severing of her Stark heritage. Makes good sense to me.)
Now, on to the other parts of Tyrion’s visit. I love that he kept his promise to Jon and gave Bran whatever comfort he could. Including the ability to ride again. Maester Luwin’s reaction of “I should have thought of this” just made me think, Well, YES. But no one in Winterfell is used to dealing with cripples—it just did not occur to anyone that Bran could be accommodated like that. Which actually kind of speaks well for the Lannisters, that they found someone who could and did think of those things for their dwarf son instead of just sticking him a tower with an old nurse and otherwise ignoring him.
Tyrion’s reaction to Bran’s inability to remember his fall, and his insistence that he never fell, had never fallen despite the lack of memory, seemed almost dangerous in its simplicity: “Interesting.” It surely is, to him.
Tyrion’s axiom of the day: “Spare me your false courtesies, boy.”
Words to live by. Tyrion allows himself no illusions and doesn’t like to let others perpetuate them, either. A hard way to live but in a way the easiest, because you never have to put up with the bullshit involved in politesse.
The point I want to leave off on is the same Martin closes with: Robb crying in the dark holding Bran’s hand because he doesn’t know what else to do. When he yells that Uncle Benji isn’t dead, and Bran suddenly feels scared, my thought was immediately, So is Robb. Robb is only fourteen. He was left in charge by his ridiculous mother who was incapable of staying behind to do it herself, and he’s dealing with it as best he can, but the “hope in his voice” that someone will return soon to relieve his burden is a stark reminder that he wasn’t ready for this. And on top of having to deal with the burden of becoming Lord Robb before his time, he’s also left behind to be the one picking up the pieces of his broken little brother. That’s a lot for a young man, even one who was raised for it and is almost grown. It’s an emotional burden that Robb is having to bear alone, because no one is left who isn’t beholden to him. Welcome to your future, Lord Stark.
– Readers, if leaving a comment for Elena please direct (@Elena) them at her – and lead your comments with your messages for her. Please do not direct spoilers at her. Thanks!
–Do not read on if you have not read the series through A Feast for Crows and want to avoid spoilers–
Ya know, I don’t have much to say about this chapter. I really love Bran as a character. He’s a more archetypal fantasy character than some of the others in this series. He’s got magical powers, an animal familiar and a mysterious destiny. I actually had quite a long conversation with my boyfriend recently, about how I really feel like Bran is going to die. I feel like Rickon is going to be the Stark that inherits Winterfell simply because he’s been so forgotten. (I’ve heard that we’re going to get Rickon chapters in ‘Dance’ so I’m def looking forward to that. Is he a warg too? Does Osha take him to the wildings? WHERE DO THEY GO?) Anyways, I feel like Bran is going to go learn from Coldhands and/or/samethingas the 3-eyed crow and then bring all that knowledge down to his brother on the wall. Then probably die because GRRM can’t stand to let him off that easy. Specifically, I believe Bran will lose his body and become permanently “stuck” inside Summer. But don’t worry! He’ll still have Hodor to “skype” with. I mean, why not make Hodor TALK. It’s gonna happen. Can you imagine the scene where Hodor comes running up to Jon giving him all these warnings about the Others and everything and Jon is just,”Hodor? You can talk?”
In that sense the dreams and warnings and his observances about the direwolves at the beginning of this chapter are all just foreshadowing of Bran’s own inborn abilities. Bran is also the example of what exactly the Stark’s taking the direwolf as their sigil MEANS. Obviously this is an inherited trait, the warging. It makes me grieve that much more for Arya that this ability has mostly been taken from her (minus the random ‘dreams’).
What I don’t get is Summer’s aggression towards Tyrion and not Theon. Is it totally scent based like Elena says? Can the direwolves sense intentions? If it’s scent based than I can understand Summer’s mistake in distrusting Tyrion. While not totally trustworthy, he would never harm a child. He even holds a soft spot for Podrick Payne! (note: Joffrey does not count as a child, as he is clearly the spawn of Satan). But if it IS intention than why the hell does no one take out Theon Greyjoy? WHYYYY. He’s a hostage to prevent his father from taking up arms against the North once more. We get that. We also learn that Theon is basically forgotten and unloved. As a hostage I don’t know how much good he’s doing. As an infiltrator, a spy and a giant asshole, he’s doing splendidly! BITE HIM SUMMER. TEAR HIS ARMS OFF.
Where was I? Oh right, Tyrion. I think that Tyrion designing the saddle for Bran is just another way GRRM subtly points to the pen/books being mightier than the sword. Knowledge is power. Look how clever he is?! It’s based on his own saddle to be true (and ps- I know quite a lot about horses. It’s entirely possible to ride if you are paralyzed, provided you are properly supported and the horse is trained to respond to voice and rein cues. So kudos to GRRM for good research!) but it’s also just a really nice thing to do for an injured child. Oh Tyrion you old softy! Let’s call it an extension of the friendship we saw begin to blossom between Tyrion and Jon. It can’t all be based on pity. Tyrion is much to smart to just be charitable and good. Plus it’s a FAVOR. Tyrion doesn’t DO favors.
Elena mentioned that Sansa betraying her sister and then losing Lady represents a severing from her Stark heritage. I’m not one to defend Sansa at all but I don’t know if Sansa is entirely Tully. She DOES have an extraordinary ability to endure and a brain made entirely of Spam but I think there’s got to be SOMETHING Stark about her. What is redeeming about Sansa? She’s got no wolf but neither does Arya. They’re both survivors.. oh wait that’s not a particularly Stark quality now that I think about it. Maybe Sansa IS all Tully. If that’s true.. I can’t wait to read her death scene.
Oh and poor Robb. He does seem to be trying to emulate his father and make good decisions but Elena is right. Kid is 14 years old! He can’t be expected to just take over as Warden of the North without getting a little upset. Tyrion is really good at pushing people’s buttons and a 14 year old has lots of buttons to push. His Father and sisters have left, his mother has abandoned him to go haring off after half-baked theories, his brother is gravely injured and unhappy, and he’s got men twice his age and more looking to him. That’s a lot of pressure. Robb does an admirable job of filling his father’s place and attempting to not be bullied or made fun of. I still think Bran’s instincts are better than Robb’s when it comes to decision-making, but maybe that’s because this is all from Bran’s POV. Robb just wasn’t ready for the responsibility. He needed a few more years yet. Couple that with the fact that he’s actually attempting to emulate the dumbest guy in all of Westeros and he’s bound to end up the way he did. (Ya know.. headless.) Poor Robb. I feel like his parents failed him. Maybe his mother was too involved with Jon-hating, maybe Ned was too involved with being guilty. I don’t know. Robb had the same teachers and practically the same childhood as Jon but where Jon was set apart and made to be much more self sufficient, maybe Robb was loved too much? I don’t know. I’m just speculating at this point. He’s not too soft but he seems needlessly prickly. Inexperienced. He’s unable to take Tyrion’s comments and learn from them the way Jon does. Robb seems resigned to letting Bran rot away up in that tower with Old Nan, but I think Jon would be the first one up there attempting to figure out ways to make Bran’s life as normal as possible. Thought’s? What’s wrong with Robb?
PS – Shaggydog will always be the best name for a Direwolf. Like naming a Chihuahua Killer.
– originally published 5/2/2011
Elena Nola is the imperial editrix for the BSC empire. She likes genre books, weird movies, and obscure references. She lives in New Orleans, where almost every day is good enough for good times. Contrary to dogma, Rachel Parker is the mind-killer. She is a nerd, writer, and art historian living in Brooklyn, NY. You can read more of her posts at scienceofdiscontent.blogspot.com, or follow @DarthRachel on twitter.