Catelyn breaks the news of Jon Arryn’s death to Ned. She also informs him that Robert Baratheon is on his way to Winterfell. There is a lot of exposition as Catelyn thinks about the past and reveals some of the relationships between characters. Ned asks if Catelyn wants to visit her sister, Jon Arryn’s widow, to console her, which Catelyn declines. Ned begins making preparations for Robert’s arrival.
As you can probably tell from the summary, there isn’t a whole lot going on here. This is, more or less, the most exposition filled chapter we get in GoT (as far as I remember). I must confess to totally forgetting all about the Isle of Faces and the Green Men. It’s not an important place by any means, (at least not yet) so it’s not strange that there is no mention of the Isle despite it being plum in the middle of Clegane, Hoat and Lorch’s Fantasy Funland of Rape and Torture.
Ned mentions having to eventually deal with Mance Rayder. Stannis’ sorry lot defeats Mance with relative ease, though that’s largely because Mance’s troops were tired from the march, poorly equipped, taken by surprise (it happened during a treaty) and forced into an indefensible position (they were at the base of the Wall). If Ned were to go up against Mance, he would probably need to do it before Winter struck. So that would mean that the timeline for dealing with the wildlings would be very compressed and in fact, Ned may have had to call his banners around the same time Robb eventually does. This is of course assuming Ned even knew that Mance was actively amassing troops and planning an assault on the Wall. Funnily enough, Mance would be on his way to Winterfell not long from now, though I’ve never understood how that could have happened. Let’s look at the timeline – Ned get’s the raven informing him of Robert’s departure. Presumably, Ned writes to Benjen and somehow Mance finds out from contacts on the Wall or something. Somehow, Mance rides out from the depths of the North, climbs over the Wall himself, goes past Winterfell and hooks up with Robert’s entourage. All this within the three or so months it takes Robert to get to Winterfell from King’s Landing. I don’t buy it, but there we go.
Another interesting line, especially after the events of A Dance with Dragons is this:
“She glanced behind her at the heart tree, the pale bark and red eyes, watching, listening, thinking its long slow thoughts”
Is Lord Bloodraven listening in on this? Did he have some role in Mance hearing about Winterfell? Beause as ADWD makes it clear that Mance plays an important role in the Bolton/Theon storyline and he could only have played it if he knew Winterfell from his previous visit. These are questions that I’ll probably never get an answer to, but are interesting anyway.
I was surprised that I never questioned anything to do with Jon Arryn. Like a lot of dead characters from the previous generation, he had that aura of nobility and honour about him (I say ‘noble’ in the sense of being noble, as opposed to being ‘a noble’). Here’s my problem with this – I can’t seem to come up with any reason why Arryn would not hand Ned and Robert over to Aerys. What was in it for him? I’ve never asked myself this question before, and I’m actually quite surprised that I haven’t. In Martin’s world, no one does anything for nothing, the logical extreme of this philosophy being someone like Littlefinger. So I’m faced with two options – either I’m right but can’t find the payoff for Arryn in protecting his wards or that I’m just being too cynical and he really is as noble as we’re told (there’s enough evidence to suggest the latter). Did Jon Arryn really just defend Ned and Robert out of love and affection for his wards or did he predict that they would win and that he could move up and, presumably move out of the Eyrie? By all accounts Jon wasn’t a conniving man – however, it’s important to note that he did (sort of) survive the politics of King’s Landing for almost 20 years before his death. That indicates a certain amount of street-sharpness on the part of Jon Arryn, but then again he’s no Stark, which by itself is sufficient qualification to survive in King’s Landing. However, the question still remains – what incentive did Jon Arryn have to protect those two boys? And why would he continue to fight (opposing and killing some of his own bannermen in the process) just to keep those two safe?
There is also the appointment of Brynden Tully as Knight of the Gate. It’s entirely possible that Brynden earned his position through merit – he is extremely competent in all martial matters, as we learn much later. Even if Jon caved to pressure from Lysa, it’s not really a big deal – except that Lysa rarely if ever did anything that Littlefinger didn’t want her to. It seems unlikely that she would speak up in such an important matter on just a whim. And as soon as Littlefinger is involved, the scale of things could blow up very quickly. Again, this seems like the most likely argument, but I can’t understand why Jon Arryn would appoint a Tully; a position like ‘Knight of the Gate’ is most likely hereditary, since it seems to be an important position. Does this mean that Jon Arryn’s decision was political in nature? Because the books quickly establish that the politicians in this series are seldom honourable men, even though some (like Tyrion) are essentially good-natured. I don’t want to go on at too much length on this issue since it’s probably not a big deal; four books and lots of dead people later, nothing seems to have come from
Let me know what you think in the comments!