[Re-Read] A Storm of Swords – Davos I


ASoS

This post has spoilers for George RR Martin’s fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, including fan theories and speculation. If you do not wish for certain information regarding future plot points from this series or other related series to be revealed to you, you might want to consider not reading any further.

This first Davos chapter is kind of a bummer, through and through. Poor old Davos, the series’ resident nice guy, is stuck on a rock after almost being roasted alive by Tyrion’s wildfire and losing four healthy sons. He is reduced to the lowest level of survival but uses his abundance of free time to ponder the answers to some fairly deep theological and philosophical questions. This is a fairly short chapter though and a lot of it is spent in description Davos’ pain, both physical, emotional and existential. In the process however, we get one of our first looks at Davos as a character independent of Stannis. In Davos’ past chapters – and there haven’t been all that many of them – Stannis has been the centre of Davos’ attention to an almost unsettling degree. In this chapter however, either because he’s over Stannis or because he’s too dehydrated and starved to think of him, Davos’ thoughts drift more towards his gods and his family. As a result, we see more of Davos the man, and less of Davos the loyal knight, than we have before.

 

When he opened his mouth to scream, the water came rushing in, tasting of salt, and Davos Seaworth knew that he was drowning.

I’ve skipped over most of the first half of this chapter because it’s largely a description of Davos’ plight and ain’t nobody want to read about any of that. Suffice to say, Davos’ little vacation to the rock in the middle of Blackwater Bay has left much to be desired. The quote above reveals to us that Davos’ own survival was kind of a fluke really. I don’t mean that as an insult to the well salted smuggler – wildfire renders all skill and experience null and void. It does go to show though, how badly Stannis was hurt by Tyrion’s chain and the wildfire within the blazing bay. Without the chain, Stannis’ ships could have still fled the scene relatively intact but the chain really did ruin Stannis’ day.

The Father protects his children, the septons taught, but Davos had led his boys into the fire.

Ouch. When you put it that way, Davos is a pretty shitty father. I wouldn’t blame him too much though. Clearly, there are very few good parenting decisions to be made as a Westerosi parent when there is a civil war going on. On one hand, if Davos doesn’t send his sons into war, then he will essentially be branding them as cowards for the rest of their lives and in Westeros, it’s probably better to be dead than be labelled a craven for the rest of your life. Yet, I don’t think any decent dad would be a 100% comfortable sending his children into a real battle but you get the feeling from Davos’ chapters in this book and the last that he felt that since he was going to be there alongside them, he might be able to look out for them. On top of that, the attack on King’s Landing wasn’t really meant to be as dangerous an assignment as it ended up being. It was meant to be the first battle of a war that would ultimately see Stannis crowned King. After all, King’s Landing was widely known to have only token defences and even after Tyrion’s heroics stalled Stannis, the latter was in a perfectly good position to still take the city. Whether he could have held it after that will remain a matter of some debate, but the point was that King’s Landing was supposed to be an easy win that would lend Stannis’ bid for the throne an early boost and offset the damage done by his new god.

The fire took my luck as well as my sons.

Speaking of gods, at this point the chapter takes a turn for the theocratic. There’re two things we really need to talk about here. Firstly, Davos has seven sons. There is literally no way that Martin wrote in Davos having seven sons without it in some way being an allusion to the Seven. Davos’ character is the only character in the entire series to really feel the conflict between the religions first hand. The Seven and the Old Gods seem to exist, current at least, in a state of peaceful co-existence but there is definitely friction between the Red Priests and the followers of the Westerosi religions. Yet, all the other characters who encounter the Red Priests, with the possible exception of Victarion, do not really feel any sort of religious conflict between the two religions. Tyrion, for example, knows Moqorro well enough but he doesn’t feel any religious pressure from the scary old priest. Davos, on the other hand, is a torn man. On one hand, he has lived his life in service to the Seven, who in turn taught him to be loyal to his family and King but now that very King is worshipping a new god who in turn requires Davos to turn his back on his faith. It seems like the death of Davos’ sons is punishment from the Seven – assuming here that they actually have some kind of power – for turning his back, even temporarily, on them. That’s his interpretation anyway but I will explain in a moment why I think it has some truth to it.

The second aspect that I wanted to talk about was the idea that Davos’ luck was stored in his finger bones. The loss of his finger bones is clearly an indication from Martin that Davos fortunes are going to change but, given how things have gone for him since, I can’t tell whether those fortunes are improving or not. On one hand, he got imprisoned, got sent to White Harbour, got imprisoned again and then had to go to Skagos to forcibly retrieve Rickon, who’s probably gone totally wild by now, from some cannibals. On the other hand, he’s not at risk of starving outside the walls of Winterfell but really, there isn’t a lot to choose from. It’s like George was trying to make a point about the finger bones but then forgot after a while. The takeaway from both these points is that it is setting up Davos’ intense hatred for Melisandre and her god. You get the sense that the fire has transformed him. It isn’t a dramatic, supernatural kind of transformation, like we see with Beric and Catelyn; after all, Davos wasn’t resurrected or anything. Instead, it’s a more mundane, but nevertheless potent kind of transformation caused by a life changing event. The wildfire, with its connections to magic  and fire, have taken away the two foundations of Davos’ life – his luck (which represent either his old view of the world or his blind devotion to Stannis) and his family. Davos’ emerges from the fire with a much clearer idea of what he values and what he does not – as he will demonstrate in his next chapter, he still values serving Stannis – though he no longer idolizes him – but he no longer places much value on his own life.

“You called the fire,” she whispered, her voice as faint as the sound of waves in a seashell, sad and soft. “You burned us… burned us… burrrmed usssssss.”

Leaving aside the fact that the Mother seems disturbingly Gollum like, I would like to note that this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen the Seven talk to one of their followers. The power of the Old Gods of the North has been established – indirectly, through Bloodraven – and the power of R’hllor is evident too, but the power of the Seven, now that’s debatable. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Seven, sort of, exert their influence though. Previously, in this Catelyn chapter, we saw Catelyn figure out the secret of Joffrey’s parentage in the presence of the Seven. The link there was weak but that scene and this have some interesting similarities. First off, think of both Catelyn’s and Davos’ state of mind and body at the point of their enlightenment. Both characters are severely mentally and physically weakened; Davos has been literally starving and Catelyn hasn’t been eating much; Davos’ dehydration and starvation has left his mind feeble but not totally irrational while Catelyn’s grief and worry have left her in a similar state. If we think of other characters who have religious experiences with the Seven – like Baelor the Blessed and the High Sparrow – we notice that both men tend to starve themselves and are both considered a little off their rockers. I don’t know if this is coincidence or causation but it definitely doesn’t feel like coincidence.

The Mother sent her here, the Mother in her mercy.

The chapter ends with Davos’ rescue and I recall that alone being something of a relief because I did not relish having to read through another chapter of Davos eating crabs. The idea that the Mother sends the ship seems laughable but again, there are two things I’d like to point out here. The Mother might not have literally sent the ship, but it was by thinking of the Seven (of which the Mother is but one aspect) that Davos found the willpower to actually hail the ship. In a sense, then, the Seven (and the Mother) did actually have mercy on Davos and gave him a chance to right his wrongs. The second thing is that it is interesting that only one side is looking for survivors. Davos has been on the rock for a while but he doesn’t mention any Lannister or Tyrell ships even coming to him. If nothing else, this establishes that Stannis cares about his men far more than Joffrey or the rest of their family do. He might be doing it because he’s desperate for additional support but it still says something about his leadership and resolve.

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