GyantSpyder

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  1. There's also the terrain to consider. It's not just insufficient investment or manpower that has made the land unsettled or unpopulated. It is simply not easy to move people or goods around this part of the world, even without the Dothraki as a factor. Like Greece, the Free Cities are on a (relatively) small peninsula that has a lot of natural barriers (chief among with is a giant river - and big rivers often inhibit the passage of armies - consider the Rhine in the ancient world). Braavos is surrounded by mountainous islands, Norvos is surrounded by hills, Lorath and Qohor are guarded by thick forests. A lot of the major cities are on islands, there's a lot of cultural isolation too. There is a lot of war and diplomacy, domination and conquest, and people fight their way through and around these barriers, but through all of it no real reason for anybody to actually walk a really long distance to do any of it - and in particular no reason to build a campaigning army designed for conquest that can venture out into enemy territory and stay there past the end of a campaigning season. Unifying the area required dragons - which sped travel, the passage of information, and allowed for advanced construction and engineering to build proper roads. Without dragons, all the marching around happens on a smaller scale. And then, even if it's not magical, consider that there's nothing for anybody in the Sorrows, there's nothing in the Red Waste, and consider that Slaver's Bay and the Free Cities are constantly engaged with each other, but because of the Red Waste more even than because of the Dothraki, you can not get an army from one to the other on foot or horseback (we see from Daenerys's perspective what a terrible and costly idea it can be to try). And as for it being circular, I think if you look at the great conquering armies of history, it's not really a cycle - a place develops and becomes worth conquering, and then the army is created to conquer it. A good contrast to take here is Julius Caesar in Gaul vs. Marcus Crassus in Parthia. Caesar takes his legions into Gaul - he meets with the people who live there, he makes alliances, he plays them off each other. He gets involved in the politics. When he conquers new territory, he does it from a position that exists - he has places to fall back to, hostages, friends, places to forage and to get food. He builds his own infrastructure as he goes. He moves around strategically, he doesn't just march his army around constantly in enemy territory with no fallback. That's what Crassus did in Parthia - first, like Caesar, he went into the part of Mesopotamia where he had sympathetic locals, and they started surrendering to him, and he had the opportunity to just take that land, keep it, and consolidate it. Then he had the opportunity to ally with the King of Armenia and go through friendly territory to attack the Parthian heartland. But instead Crassus insisted on crossing a big river and going off into total enemy territory, figuring his big army and his technological advantages would be enough to bring him victory. Maybe once he had victory, he could then backfill the territory he had conquered with settlers or something, right? Like the American west eventually did. But this of course was not how it worked, because the technology developed for his familiar terrain back in Rome was not well-suited to the terrain in Parthia, and because he could walk around forever and not come across any place to rest or fall back to. He was committed and thus vulnerable - whereas Caesar was capable of great boldness, but also knew the value of falling back to safety and not deploying before you knew what you were dealing with. Crassus in Partha was, once he crossed the river into enemy territory alone, always deployed everywhere. When he just sat around out there he was a sitting duck, and he could get infinitely harried and picked off. And eventually his son was killed, his army was lost, he was humiliated and then murdered. And you can even compare it to Napoleon, and how Napoleon in Europe had a bunch of places where his soldiers could live off the land, people he could make deals with and turn into temporary allies, places to rest. But Napoleon in Russia was in no-man's land, without a place to properly rest. And his army turned out to be a very wrong tool for the situation. Most of the time, it's not that you need an army to get economy and you need economy to build an army - like building an economic expansion in an RTS like StarCraft. You really do need the economy first - and here I mean not just your own economy, but the economic and political development, to an extent, of the places you want to conquer - and the army comes after. And here we're talking about an army as a tool for a job. If you don't have the job to do, there's no reason to make that tool. The Free Cities and Slaver's Bay have different jobs to do - not huge overland military campaigns of conquest - so they developed different tools.
  2. The Free Cities have little reason to organize large armies to fight on land, because there is little if nothing worth conquering over land on the continent - most of it isn't developed for agriculture, and a whole lot of it is blasted wasteland - including large parts of the areas between them. So instead they focus on navies and the shoreline, which is how they conduct business as well. And on the rare occasion they need land armies, they hire mercenaries.
  3. To go a bit tinfoily, if Varys actually knows a lot more than he lets on, then it makes sense for him to wear perfume, because his enemies have access to animals with a superior sense of smell. If he does nothing to alter or mask his scent folks like Bloodraven could always know where he is if they wanted. Remember when the catspaw attacked Bran, he had slept in the stables for days for some reason and smelled like horseshit. Summer is also relatively slow to react to his presence - slow enough that if Cat had not been there he likely would have been successful - though killed in the process. So it's possible sleeping in the stables to hide him from the direwolves was part of his plan or the plan of whoever sent him.
  4. As for lesson, I think it starts with looking at your own world and the things that matter to you and questioning what the consequences of your actions are and whether your priorities are in the right place. That if we all keep doing what we've always done, we're gong to keep getting what we've always gotten.
  5. I don't think you should necessarily look at a story where a man or woman does something right because it's the right thing to do with no expected reward and tragically dies as a result of it as an indictment of doing the right thing. It's the one thing Jesus and Movie Cowboys have in common - well, that and walking in the desert.
  6. This is an interesting one. Chiswyck hits Arya in the face, is cruel to her and her friends, terrorizes Hot Pie and threatens to murder him. He is already on Arya's list before he brags about being part of the gang rape. But the Mountain is also on Arya's list already, and the Mountain was in charge of the gang rape, and Arya doesn't name him. This all raises the question of who is actually responsible for bad things, and who gets held accountable for them, and how sometimes they do tend to line up in ways that feel right, but sometimes even when they do that there are other things that don't line up at all - but it's not clear if it's for the right reason. And this of course is all pretty similar to Oberyn's situation with the Mountain, but from a different perspective - where on a surface level the Mountain killed his sister and her children, but he doesn't just want the Mountain, he wants Tywin, the guy who gave the order. Arya and Oberyn seem to approach this sort of choice from opposite directions. Oberyn makes it appear personal, when really he's looking for the deeper causes, and Arya makes it look like she's looking for a deeper cause, but really for her it's personal. It might be because Arya had to listen to Chiswyck brag, and she dealt with Chiswyck more, she hated him more, and that's she named him. It seems like something happens in the moment when Arya hears him tell the story that sets her off. But yeah, it's not simple.
  7. It's the same reason she doesn't use Jaqen H'ghar to kill Tywin Lannister and win the war - That would match up with her using her two "deaths for the Red God" on Chiswyck and Weese, two utterly insignificant assholes who happened to hit Arya, rather than on, say, Tywin Lannister and ending the war. It's about justice vs. vengeance - Arya places a big priority on feeling she wants somebody dead because of a way they wronged her and her pack to her face, rather than determining that killing them is warranted by the scope of what they have done in the past to people who may or may not have deserved it.
  8. It's possible Daemon Targaryen had "blood of the dragon" through his mother Daena, which means his line could have been even more susceptible to both the powers and afflictions that came with it, during a time when the main line of House Targaryen seems to have mostly bred them out. At this point I wonder if the people with "blood of the dragon" have some sort of enhanced attraction for each other - there are just so many instances where when you track down somebody who might have had it, there was some weird thing with other relatives who also might have had it. Like Daemon Blackfyre and the first Princess Daenerys..
  9. I don't think it means they are strictly wrong. It just means they have anthropomorphized the mechanism by which it works in line with their observed and cultural understanding of it. If anything it seems like a pretty insightful take, since the Harmony in question involves the relations of symbiosis and parasitism of various organisms.
  10. Missandei is shady as hell.
  11. Not really. Catholicism is an orthodox, traditional religion, not a revelatory, fundamentalist faith. It was built on the cultures that came before it, not just the Christian subset of Judaism, and it grew organically over time due to a lot of non-magical things. It differs from place to place based on the traditions, holidays and values of the people who live there. Even the Gospels postdate the Resurrection by hundreds of years - it's not like it sprung up fully formed from the recognition of a miracle. It's the things other than the magic that actually built the Church and concern it on a day to day basis - building communities, traveling and talking to people, dealing with oppression and persecution together as a group and trying to figure out a better way to live. The Roman Church in particular draws a ton of its existence from the institutions of Rome that predate it. There was a Curia before there was a Resurrection. The "little act of magic" is a unifying framing device, but it's not at the heart of what is actually happening, and it didn't form the substance of the religion or its practices on its own. It is as much if not more about history, family, being together, moral teachings, dealing with truth and mystery, and ways of life as it is about "magic." Catholic teaching is not to accept the Bible as literal fact (which is of course absurd). As Pope Francis said, "God is not a magician with a magic wand." Of course the magical aspect is one aspect and it shows up in certain places at certain times - there are religions that invest a lot more in the immediacy of things like altered states of consciousness and shamanic sorts of rites than Catholicism does in general (like speaking in tongues and whatnot), but specifically of course there are a lot of anti-empirical rituals. Actual Catholics at church by and large don't sit there thinking about transubstantiation, as much as it might monopolize the attention of outsiders. To focus only on the magical stuff such that you miss everything else it does that has made it important and made it endure for thousands of years is I think to fundamentally misjudge what is happening and what a religion in the world is for the people who experience it.
  12. There's no one unified notion of what "good" is, or what it means to be a "good" person. But there are a bunch of different ideas of good, and they each come with their rewards. Although the biggest rewards for anyone are: Living authentically and connecting with others. Think about Walder Frey, who conceivably doesn't get the kind of personal reward out of his relationship with his wives as people in better, kinder, more generous relationships get. The world is in such rough shape that the very presence of all the death and suffering makes life worse for almost everybody. So if you can make the world better, there's a potential (though not rational, by expected value) benefit to you - or at the very least doing something about it makes the terrible problems of the world more tolerable. Think about Lem Lemoncloak, who may have once been Richard Lonmouth, putting on the Hound's helm and sacking Saltpans. It's hard to imagine any of the things he has done as the Brotherhood went down its dark path has made him happy, and it's all made him lose more and more of himself. But some of the more specific rewards for "doing good" (which is probably a better way of thinking about it than "being good") - Renly is generally friendly and nice to people, and tells the truth more often than a lot of other aristocrats. He is rewarded for this by being popular and trusted and even loved by his knights and fellows. Meanwhile, him turning on Stannis and not seeking out a loving relatoinship with his brother is what leads to his death. (yeah, not necessary a "good person" but the rewards he gets come it are better when he does good things than bad ones) Renly also respects people's privacy and doesn't shame or bully his lesbian wife, and as a reward for that gets to continue his own relationship with her brother. Give along to get along and all that. Any degree of peace Sandor manages to find if he survives his wounds and becomes the Gravedigger is likely because of the aspect of his relationship with Sansa and Arya that was kind and protective. Again, he's not a "good man," but he does some good things, and his reward for them is that Arya doesn't euthanize him, and he possibly gets a second chance at life, and he also gets the chance to discharge this horribly destructive part of his personality.
  13. You gotta differentiate between "grey" and "black and white." Tywin Lannister I can see as grey. We also don't get any POV of him, which probably makes him seem more homogenous and muddled. But Tyrion is not grey. Tyrion has delightful periods where he is sympathetic, generous, and fun, and terrible periods where he is toxic and violent. He is black and white. Theon Greyjoy is not grey. His hair is symbolic - he was dark, and he might be turning light. Cersei is definitely not grey. Cersei is colorful. Red, green, and golden. There's a darkness in her, sure, a shadow on her, but I don't see there being much ambiguity or flattening out of her moral intentions. Victarion is pretty grey, since he seems to not investigate himself much and doesn't really live an authentic life, so he just sort of lets his jumble of history and emotions sit in a heap at the bottom of his soul. Sort of like how he fights naval battles in plate mail kind of asking to be drowned. Grey Worm is kind of grey. All the unsullied who have had so much of their humanity beaten out of them lack a certain apparent immediacy of feeling or agency.
  14. Also, Euron says he is the "last storm" and that his men will "feast before the fall of night." This seems to indicate that he is a bringer of the apocalypse, knows the Long Night is coming, and is on board with the idea of the Long Night. Since traditionally the apocalypse and the Long Night are attributed to the Others, this would put him on their team. But we don't really know what the Others want, so that's a pretty big assumption that his interests are aligned with theirs, and another assumption that they are working together. But yeah, Euron appears to be in league with or connected to somebody unsavory and mysterious. We just don't know who it is yet.
  15. Knights in the story are always "morally grey" in the sense of not being perfect, because they give up their agency when they swear their sword. You can't be a uniformly, universally good person if you don't take a critical responsibility for your own choices, especially if one common choice you make is to kill people. Where we are in the story right now in the books, Brienne appears to have made a critical decision because of a promise she has made to somebody who probably doesn't deserve her loyalty. We haven't yet seen the consequences of it, but there will be consequences. But it is a question of degree. The story isn't really about "morally grey" people - it's about how some actions are good and others are bad, and people do both. People aren't grey like clouds or mist, morally nebulous, they are white and black, like half-rotten onions. They have good parts and bad parts.