[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Theon IV



What is it? Did I hear something? Someone?

Just last chapter, we talked about how the Lord of Winterfell could never be anything but a Stark and this is one piece of evidence for it. Theon doesn’t feel fully at home as the Lord of Winterfell and while his general paranoia and anxiety could explain it easily, we should note that its a recurring trend.

If Asha does not come…

It’s remarkable just how little thought was put into this plan. In Theon’s previous chapter, we had a little talk about how Theon screwed himself over by trying to have his cake and eat it too; he wanted to claim Winterfell as an Ironborn raider, to pay the iron price for his prize, but at the same time, Ned’s influence on him compelled him to want to rule and be a good lord instead of just some thieving raider. Theon dreamt of conquest and glory where the Ironborn way was to snatch and grab. Theon compounded this mistake by assuming that other Ironborn were like him and saw the glory of conquest – but as Asha will soon teach him, no one is particularly impressed by Theon’s little prize and fewer people still want to throw their lives away trying to help him keep it.

Theon told himself he must be as cold and deliberate as Lord Eddard.

It’s lines like these make that Theon’s tale so very tragic. Ned has worked his way so deep into Theon’s psyche that Theon just can’t dislodge him and subconsciously strives to be more like the only father figure he’s ever known. Just a few lines prior to this, we saw Theon gloat inwardly about having sex with a commoner on Ned’s own bed, which is an indication of not just how childish Theon is, but also how deep his daddy issues run.

He’d even had two of his own men whipped bloody for raping that kennel girl, to show them he meant to be just. They still blame me for the rape, though.

I have no words for this level of stupidity. There is just so much sheer idiocy in this one line alone that it’s painful to read. So, the first thing that strikes me is how Theon sees himself as this kind, benevolent Lord who just repeatedly gets forced into making hard choices. Of course, the second he whips his own men, he’s pretty much lost them – he’s indicated to them by doing that, that he is not truly Ironborn and that he values the lives of the smallfolk of Winterfell as much as he values his soldiers. That’s a huge mistake, since prioritizing like that is not going to win him any popularity contests amongst the smallfolk in question. Lastly, the people of Winterfell are perfectly justified in blaming him for the rapes and violence because is literally, the only single reason that those things are happening – if he didn’t take the castle, those brutes wouldn’t be around and thinks would be happier and normal. Of course, Theon, like any other teenager, sees all this and whines ‘It’s not faaaiiirrrr’.

I am served by fools.

You know, Theon has it in him to be a pretty good detective, the way he pretty much retells what happened at the crime scene. Unfortunately, he lacks entirely in common sense and self-awareness as seen here.

She’s as unnatural as Asha. Even their names sound alike.

Huh, I guess HBO was right to change the names, then.

“Strip off their skins,” he urged, his thick lips glistening. “Lord Bolton, he used to say a naked man has few secrets, but a flayed man’s got none.”

Ramsay Bolton, as it turns out, just wants to flay people. I can almost see him getting all hot and bothered not just at the chance to peel some skin off but also by the tense atmosphere of fear and suspicion. It seems that Ramsay loves making people yield their secrets more than he likes just skinning people alive. Theon, for all his flaws (and there are a good many of them), has his heart in the right place and tries to avoid flaying at all but he forgot something crucial: in the North, people like Ned and Robb Stark are the exception, not the rule. The North is a cruel and cold place and that means its people are hard as well – a little bit of intimidation isn’t going to work and neither will his paltry offers of kindness.

No, but I don’t trust you in the castle in my absence.

This is a good instinct on Theon’s part, but I wonder what he thinks Luwin could have accomplished in his absence. Given the numbers that Theon is taking with him, it would seem that around 20 men were holding Winterfell during his absence, which does make you wonder whether how powerfully a force fear is in maintaining order because otherwise, there ought to be no reason why a handful of men should be able to hold an entire castle, filled with at least twice or thrice that number of people.

It is better to be seen as cruel than foolish.

Too much and they call you weak, too little and you’re monstrous.

Yes, Theon that’s how the world works. That is why people have to make choices. It isn’t too much mercy that makes people think that you’re weak – it’s not sticking to your convictions. I do agree with the spirit of what Theon is saying though; Bran’s escape attempt has put him in an uneviable spot – if he shows mercy, it gives the rest of the castle ideas but he doesn’t, well, we know exactly what happens if he doesn’t.

“A man might. If he knew he was being hunted, he might. But a wolf?”

I wonder if Bran’s warging played a role in this. Did Summer or Shaggy purposely take a specific route in order to throw the trail off? In all of this, it’s rather harrowing to think that Osha not only dodged Theon’s hunting party but also doubled back to Winterfell in the process. I’m still not entirely clear how they did that without leaving a separate set of prints but it’s not too much of a stretch to think that Osha knows the woods and how to avoid being tracked better than Theon does. There is also a solid chance that Farlen, the houndmaster, was not putting his absolute 100% into the search. Sure, he went through the motions but it’s unlikely that he suggested any solutions that might have evaded the others.

“Mercy was for this morning,” said Theon. It is better to be feared than laughed at. “Before they made me angry.”

What is absolutely horrifying about what Theon is about to do is the notion that the two children he kills might well have been his own. That would be a touch extreme in its unlikelihood but wouldn’t it also be Martin’s way? No man is as accursed as a kinslayer, it is said in these books, and there’s a strong case to be made that no man is as accursed as Theon Greyjoy. Beyond that though, you have to admire Ramsay’s forward thinking – he brought the Stark’s effects along just in case Theon couldn’t find them, which makes you wonder just why he was so very sure that the Starks made good on their escape. I don’t think Ramsay was necessarily involved in their escape but wouldn’t it be interesting if he was? It would definitely change the way his character read, and give a very morally black character some degree of ambiguity.



2 thoughts on “[Re-Read] A Clash of Kings – Theon IV

  1. I’m commenting on this without reading your post… because I haven’t quite finished “A Game of Thrones” and I don’t any more spoiler alerts (other than what I saw watching the entire series) lol. I look forward to coming back and reading all of your posts, though 😀


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