[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Bran V


Summary:

a-clash-of-kingsAlebelly comes to get Bran because there has been a message from Robb. He takes him to Maester Luwin’s turret, where Rickon, Big Walder, and Little Walder have already gathered. Maester Luwin tells them of the victory at Oxcross and also that Robb has taken several castles, including Ashemark, the seat of House Marbrand. Ser Stevron took a wound in the fighting at Oxcross and died three days later. The Walders are not particularly upset, and Bran realizes that this is the fulfillment of Jojen’s dream. The Walders proceed to debate who is next in line, with Little Walder asking if it is Ser Emmon and Big Walder pointing out that Stevron’s eldest son Ryman is next, followed by his sons Edwyn, Black Walder, and Petyr, then Aegon and all his sons. Bran asks to be excused and Osha comes and takes him back to his room. Jojen and Meera arrive soon after. Jojen tells him that he dreamt of the sea rising to drown Winterfell and many men drowned, including Alebelly, Septon Chayle, and Mikken. Bran tells them of his dreams, and Jojen once again tells him he must open his third eye. Bran tries to warn Alebelly, Septon Chayle, and Mikken, but he is not believed, except by Alebelly who does not bathe for a week for fear of drowning. Ser Rodrik returns several days later with a prisoner, Reek. Ramsay is dead, but so is Lady Donella. After the marriage, Ramsay locked her in a tower and starved her to death. Before she died, she signed a will naming Ramsay her heir. Now Bolton and Manderly men are fighting in the Hornwood lands. Maester Luwin says that men have been raiding the Stony Shore. Leobald has sent Benfred to deal with them. Bran tells Ser Rodrik about Jojen’s dream, but he is no more believing than anyone else. That night, Bran talks to Jojen again, who tells him that he saw Reek murdering Bran and Rickon and skinning off their faces. Jojen says they are going to die and there is nothing that can be done.

Source

Commentary:

The plot line in Winterfell gets more intense as the various structural tears in Robb’s kingdom begin to widen. In the west, the Ironborn continue their raids and the North just doesn’t have the man power to keep a guerrilla force like the Ironborn off their backs for good. Meanwhile, internally there is a good deal of tension over the Hornwood lands as Ramsay Snow makes his first (offscreen) appearance in Winterfell, though no one knows who he is just yet. Theon’s invasion is coming too and I expect that it will arrive by the next time we’re in Bran’s head.

Maester Luwin cut in sharply. “You ought to be ashamed of such talk, my lords. Where is your grief? Your uncle is dead.”

Well, I don’t know what Luwin’s about; it’s only natural to celebrate the death of a Frey, isn’t it? In any case, when you have so many uncles, the value of any one single uncle falls rather sharply. It’s really nothing more than basic economics. What I’m trying to make better sense of is why exactly Bran is so particularly upset by this news – Robb has won a victory and while yes, that means he won’t be returning home any time soon, it’s hardly that depressing. Then again, maybe I haven’t been crippled recently and lost my father to an unjust execution and the rest of my family to a war, so maybe I should just can it and listen to Bran when he tells us it’s depressing. In all seriousness though, I can understand why Bran would be less than thrilled to learn that his family is going to continue to be on the front lines and in danger.

“It is the sea that comes.”

I think we need to have a long, possibly confusing (though I’ll try my very best to speak as plainly as possible) conversation on the nature of prophecy in ASOIAF. It’s really tricky for me to articulate just what about the way these green dreams work is bothering me so instead, I’ll walk you fortunate people through my thought process on this. The first step and perhaps the most problematic for me, is that the connection between the sea and the Ironborn requires a level of abstraction that just doesn’t make sense for a natural phenomenon. What I’m trying to say is that it would make perfect sense if Jojen dreamt of something that he would later experience himself but him dreaming of the sea (which isn’t even really a sea but rather the Ironborn that represent the sea) raises a few questions that I wish I had never thought of. The mechanism that creates Jojen’s dreams in his head, whether controlled by a sentient entity like Bloodraven or whether by a purely natural phenomenon, needs to be capable of understanding that this one, specific set of humans, can be represented by the equally unnatural concept of the ‘sea’. I guess I’m trying to say is that it’s just weird (when you think about it enough) that the green dreams are able to make that connection in the first place. Similarly, when Jojen sees the sea drowning men in Winterfell, whose perspective is he seeing these events from? Now, I’m not actually all that troubled by this – I’m perfectly fine with the way that prophecies work in ASOIAF and in my own head when I encounter this issue of the ‘intelligent’ green dreams, I just tell myself that it is Jojen’s sleeping subconscious that makes the equivalence though I know that that raises some problems as well. If anyone reading this is has any thoughts on whether I’m even making sense here, please let me know.

“It will not save them,” replied the boy in green.

The above lengthy paragraph was part one of our discussion on prophecy. This second issue right here is actually much more common in fiction and is something that authors and creators in general take some measures to address. I’m talking, of course, of the immutability of future outcomes despite prophecies. We see it all the time in fiction and the prophecies are usually worded ambiguously enough that there’s enough leeway for the characters to believe that they have successfully avoided the consequences of the prophecy only to find that due to their broad nature, the prophecies were fulfilled anyway. In ASOIAF, both Mel’s fire vision and Bran’s green dreams give us glimpses of the future but without the context and knowledge to fully understand them. We’ll come back to this topic at the chapter’s end, when we discuss the green dream regarding Bran and Rickson’s ‘deaths’.

You are the winged wolf, but you will never fly.

This little line caught my eye not because there’s anything special about it but because I wondered when exactly Bran became known as the winged wolf and why I find the nickname so appropriate for him. Thinking about it now, though, the only time Bran has ever flown was during his coma when he was constantly falling and being urged to fly by the three eyed crow. I suspect this is a little bit of foreshadowing and by book 6, which I’ll never get to read, we’ll see Bran become a fully-fledged warg and flying through dreams.

“The past. The future. The truth.”

I would have been perfectly fine with Bran being able to see the past. In fact, it would have been very interesting to me to see how Bran would have been able to utilize the lessons of history to aide in the current conflicts. I can also see why seeing the truth is useful, especially given the multiple layers of deception in play throughout the various subplots. However, the whole seeing the future thing opens up a can of worms that isn’t particularly easy to deal with. Jojen sees the absolute truth in his green dreams – what he sees will happen no matter what and based off of that, Bran’s vision of the future, which I assume he will get as a greenseer, will all be useless if they’re sure to happen. Doesn’t that really undermine Bran’s part in this story? If he’s just there to know what’s going to happen without actually being able to do anything about it, then what is the point, really?

It was a few days after Alebelly’s bath that Ser Rodrik returned to Winterfell with his prisoner, a fleshy young man with fat moist lips and long hair who smelled like a privy, even worse than Alebelly had.

Enter Ramsay of House Bolton, most beloved supreme leader of glorious Dreadfort. Right from his introduction we get a sense that he is bad news – Jojen’s foretelling of Reek telling Bran and Rickon as well as Rodrik’s disgust of the man. What interests me the most though is how Ramsay was able to create the Reek odour; I had assumed that the real, original Reek had smelled the way he did due to a medical condition or something but if Ramsay is able to about the same smell, then I wonder if the smell was something Ramsay concocted, a result of his torture and fun? I do seem to recall that Theon smells the same when he becomes Reek.

Bran had heard men saying that when Ser Rodrik had smashed down the door he found her with her mouth all bloody and her fingers chewed off.

Poor Lady Hornwood. She seemed like a genuinely nice woman and it surprises me that the rule of law in the North is so poor that something like this can even happen. I’m assuming it would not have been a problem had Robb been in Winterfell but the more I think of it, the less sure I get. Robb’s rule was fairly tenuous at the beginning and the only easy way to solve this clusterfuck pre-emptively would have been to get Lady Hornwood married off to someone in Robb’s circle of influence. The image of a kindly old lady being forced to eat her own fingers is one of those ‘gifts’  that never stops giving – the more you think about it, the more fucked up it becomes.

Perhaps when Lord Bolton hears his tale, he will abandon his claim, but meantime we have Manderly knights and Dreadfort men killing one another in Hornwood forests, and I lack the strength to stop them.

It’s funny the way things repeat themselves; it seems like the current (as of ADWD) conflict between the Boltons and the Manderlys had a very recent historical precedent. I guess I can see the Bolton angle on this – whoever the castellan of the Dreadfort is, must not have wanted good, ‘Bolton’ lands to be lost to the Manderlys. Meanwhile, I’m guessing that old Manderly wasn’t particularly happy about having lands that he wanted for himself being snatched from right under his nose and so decided to take the moral high ground and fight for the lands for the sake of ‘justice’. Now, maybe I’m being a little too uncharitable to both parties but one of them is a Bolton, so whatever, and the other, Wyman Manderly, isn’t quite as noble and chivalrous as I think he would have us believe. I have a theory but I’ll save it for when Manderly comes to the fore of the story.

 “Why would the gods send a warning if we can’t heed it and change what’s to come?”

I guess this pretty much summarizes everything I had to say about this chapter. It feels rather pointless to have a prophecy with a known, unchangeable outcome. Normally, the point of these predictions is to give the characters a future to avoid or strive towards but if the outcome is already set in stone then is there even a point in knowing it? It also brings up the question of who exactly is ‘sending’ these visions. It’s odd the Jojen’s dreams are so specifically targeted to impactful events in the world instead of just random glimpses of him walking or mundane everyday stuff happening. If the old gods are sending the dreams, they are sending them for a purpose and with an agenda.

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