Robb has called the banners. The Karstarks are the last to arrive with 300 horse and 2,000 foot from Karhold. Bran watches them arrive on Hodor’s shoulders with Maester Luwin. Hodor is carrying him around in a basket that the maester devised. Bran has been confined to the castle for his safety since the incident in the woods. Lord Rickard Karstark rides at the head of his men accompanied by his sons, Harrion, Torrhen, and Eddard. Other houses that have arrived in recent days include Glover, Mormont, Bolton, Hornwood, Cerwyn, Tallhart, and Umber. Robb hosts them each in turn. Maester Luwin tells Bran that the Karstarks bring the total to 12,000 men, of which 3,000 are horse. The houses Manderly and Flint will join Robb on the way south to the Riverlands. The castle and town are full to bursting, and Robb must march soon.
Bran decides to go to the godswood. Hodor carries him in the wicker basket on his shoulders. Some Karstark men stare at him, so he calls Summer to unnerve them. As he passes the forge, Bran sees Mikken hard at work. When he arrives, he gives a prayer for Robb, Catelyn, Arya, Sansa, Eddard, and Rickon and thinks back over the events of the last few days. Rickon has been wild since learning that Robb is leaving. He ran to the crypts with Shaggydog and slashed at the people who came after him with a sword. Shaggydog has been wild too, and they were forced to chain him up. Robb has grown greatly recently. His bannermen tried to test him. Roose Bolton, Robett Glover, and Maege Mormont all disputed his authority, while Medger Cerwyn and Halys Hornwood both tried to flatter him with gifts. Greatjon Umber was the worst, threatening to leave and then insulting Robb and unsheathing his sword until Grey Wind tackled him and bit off two fingers. After this incident, the Greatjon became Robb’s staunchest supporter. Sansa’s note arrived, and Robb was incredulous and wonders what is wrong with her. Bran says she lost her wolf, thinking back to when Lady’s bones arrived at Winterfell.
As Bran finishes his prayers, the leaves rustle in the wind, and Osha comes in and says this means the old gods are listening, but are sad because they cannot watch over those in the south due to a lack of weirwoods. She has been working as a kitchen servant and comes to the godswood to pray from time to time. She also says that the gods have no power in the south because the weirwoods are gone. She has been trying to warn Robb that the Others are coming, but is being ignored. That is the reason she fled south, unlike Mance Rayder, who was resolved to stand and fight, which she considers a stubborn and stupid move by a Night’s Watch deserter from the Shadow Tower. That evening, Bran hosts the Karstarks, and Rickard’s sons mock his handicap. Two days later, Robb marches south with Hallis Mollen, Theon Greyjoy and his lords bannermen.
This was the first Bran chapter we’ve had in a while isn’t it? It was certainly long enough. Despite its length though I think the most interesting takeaways from the chapter actually all come down to the foreshadowing here. This is still a somewhat slice-of-life kind of chapter in a sense simply because the situation for both brothers does not change at all throughout the course of the chapter.
He should have been able to protect himself.
The world of ASOIAF is a brutal one in many ways – there’s very little in the way of mercy in any sense of the word. The weather is harsh and the people are harsher and as a result of that, you have an eight year old feeling ashamed and guilty at not being able to fight off a bunch of adults. Beyond that though, we also see that Bran’s disability has left him in a terrible social position as well – unable to even move by himself, he is a point of hidden ridicule to those around him, like Karstark’s sons. Given their fates, perhaps I should also point out that karma is a vicious bitch in this universe.
Some of the lords bannermen gave him queer hard stares as he sat there, as if they wondered by what right a green boy should be placed above them, and him a cripple too.
Um, what? How about because he’s Ned’s son and the rest of you are a bunch of disobedient, arrogant upstarts? Seriously, it’s one thing if Jon were given Bran’s seat, but realistically speaking who exactly should that right-hand seat even have gone to? Roose Bolton? Karstark? Luckily, Bran also has Summer to remind people not to fuck with him.
We also see a good deal of Bran’s innocence in this chapter – his youth shows itself clearly when he values knights more than ‘normal’ lances, showing a surprising similarity to his eldest sister in that regard. Beyond that though, we see a real sense of helplessness as events in the South begin to loom ever larger in Bran’s life. He notices, as we have as well, that the Starks have a dismal survival rate once they head South and I don’t like to think about what that means for Sansa and Arya though I’m hoping one or both come through this mess alright.
…and torn a chunk of flesh from Mikken’s thigh.
Damn, Rickon get it together. In fairness, I think it would be a huge emotional toll on any child to lose both parental figures in the space of half a year (Catelyn might as well be dead to Bran and Rickon by this point). If you stop and think about it, Rickon loses his entire family except Bran in the time period of roughly six months – Jon, Ned, Sansa and Arya leave first, then Catelyn and then Robb, Theon and many other familiar faces soon after that. It’s going to takes its toll and I can’t really blame him for not wanting to say goodbye. Having said all of that, Shaggydog sounds scary as hell and I would not want either Rickon or the wolf anywhere near me.
His brother might have given the command to Hal Mollen or Theon Greyjoy
This is strange because would the bannermen, prominent-ish Lords in their own rights, have actually listened to Hal Mollen or Theon? I mean, one is basically a servant and the other is a hostage that most of them don’t take too seriously. I can’t think of a good candidate to lead this particular apart from Robb himself. I supposed there’s a case to be made for putting someone like Roose in charge – it might make him less likely to flip, but given the fact that this entire mission is to rescue Ned, I don’t know how motivated Roose would be to see it through. There are definitely other choices, but none really seem to have any real martial skills and seem like very unsatisfactory options in comparison to Robb. All that aside, Robb’s own reason for fighting on the front lines seems childish and it feels like exactly the kind of thing, Tywin would never do. I think Robb should go South, but I don’t think appearing brave should be one of the reasons, though now that I think about it, given the way the Northerners think about honour and courage, I wonder if Robb also considered that he might lose their respect if he didn’t go with them? Certainly at this point none of them are giving him his due respect even as the Lord of Winterfell, much less as the future King in the North. A quick aside here to note just how laughably obvious Northern politics are compared to the shenanigans that go on in the South.
They’re sad. Your lord brother will get no help from them, not where he’s going
This struck me as a little sentiment. I don’t know if I would say that the Old Gods exist in any sense beyond that there is a magic associated with them. What I mean by that is that I don’t see the Old Gods as following the Judeo-Christian model of benevolent, omnipotent beings – they don’t even seem to interfere in matters all that much and even when they do (or rather when Bloodraven decides to?) the effect they have on things is very subtly and slight.
On a final note, there’s a mention here about Robb marching the wrong way but I’m with Luwin on this one – why on Earth should Robb march North anyway? The Night’s Watch has no idea where the Wildlings are and even if they did, it’s a bit much to haul an entire army a long, long way into the bitter cold to address a threat that hasn’t fully formed yet, all while things are slowly going to hell in the South. This is why no one should Osha for advice that’s not related to surviving in the wild.