Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Darry Man

Lord Snow Becoming Reek: A Brief Comparative Analysis of Symbols in ADWD Reek II and Jon V

3 posts in this topic

One of my most enjoyable pleasures in reading (by which I mean "re-re-re-re-reading") ASOIAF is seeing how GRRM drops little symbolic clues in subsequent chapters. How significant these clues are to the over-arching narrative can certainly be debated, but this happens far too often to be a coincidence in many cases. It is likely that the intention is to link certain characters across the chapters in some fashion to show a similar character arc or symbolic resonance between events.

Case in point come from the Reek II chapter and then subsequent Jon V chapter in ADWD. Read together, the symbolic parallels lunge out at the reader, just begging to be noticed and taken in.

 

In both chapters, Theon and Jon are about to fetch some men. In Reek's case, he needs to get the Ironborn out of Moat Cailin to open up the land route to the North for his father's bannermen and the Freys, while Jon needs to recruit wildlings who have taken refuge in Mole's Town as a means to gain more spears manning the Wall.

 

Theon travels alone with a peace banner and a parchment from Ramsey Bolton guaranteeing safe passage for the ironborn. He is a changed man:

Quote

I have come this way before. It was a dangerous thought, and he regretted it at once. "No," he said, "no, that was some other man, that was before you knew your name."

Quote

The garrison will never know me. Some might recall the boy he'd been before he learned his name, but Reek would be a stranger to them. It had been a long while since he last looked into a glass, but he knew how old he must appear. His hair had turned white; much of it had fallen out, and what was left was stiff and dry as straw. The dungeons had left him weak as an old woman and so thin a strong wind could knock him down.

 

Jon is not alone. He has his fellow Nights Watchmen, including Bowen Marsh and Dolorous Edd, taking with him wagons of foodstuffs to entice the wildlings. Before he leaves, he notes the stew left to him by Dolorous Edd the night before:

Quote

Last night's supper had congealed beside his elbow, scarce touched ... A film of cold grease glistened atop the remains of the stew."

Jon Snow is also a changed man. He's no longer a green boy or a young steward. He is now Lord Commander Snow, and it is he who gives the orders.

Quote

The Lord Steward was trotting down from the column, pointing and fussing, his cheeks red from the cold. When he spied Jon, they reddened even more. "Lord Commander. Are you still intent on this ..."

"... folly?" finished Jon. "Please tell me you were not about to say folly, my lord. Yes, I am. We have been over this."

 

Theon approaches Moat Cailin and notes the ruins:

Quote

Where once a mighty curtain wall had stood, only scattered stones remained, blocks of black basalt so large it must once have taken a hundred men to hoist them into place. Some had sunk so deep into the bog that only a corner showed; others lay strewn about like some god's abandoned toys, cracked and crumbling, spotted with lichen. Last night's rain had left the huge stones wet and glistening, and the morning sunlight made them look as if they were coated in some fine black oil.

Beyond stood the towers.

The Drunkard's Tower leaned as if it were about the collapse, just as it had for half a thousand years. The Children's Tower thrust into the sky as straight as a spear, but its shattered top was open to the wind and rain. The Gatehouse Tower, squat and wide, was the largest of the three, slimy with moss, a gnarled tree growing sideways from the stones of its north side, fragments of broken wall sill standing to the east and west. The Karstarks took the Drunkard's Tower and the Umbers the Children's Tower, he recalled. Robb claimed the Gatehouse Tower for his own.

 

Jon approaches Mole's Town likewise and notes another set of three:

Quote

Half a mile south of Castle Black, Edd urged his garron close to Jon's and said, "M'lord? Look up there. The big drunkard on the hill."

The drunkard was an ash tree, twisted sideways by centuries of wind. And now it had a face. A solemn mouth, a broken branch for a nose, two eyes carved deep into the truck, gazing north up the kingsroad, toward the castle and the Wall.

The wildlings brought their gods with them after all.

Quote

A mile further on, they came upon a second face, carved into a chestnut tree that grew beside an icy stream, where its eyes could watch the old plank bridge that spanned its flow. "Twice as much trouble," announced Dolorous Edd.

Quote

Just north of Mole's Town they came upon the third watcher, carved into the huge oak that marked the village perimeter, its deep eyes fixed upon the kingsroad. That is not a friendly face, Jon Snow reflected. The faces that the First Men and the children of the forest had carved into the weirwoods in eons past had stern or savage visages more oft than not, but the great oak looked especially angry, as if it were about to tear its roots from the earth and come roaring after them.

Jon then enters the ruins of Mole's Town:

Quote

The Magnar of Thenn had put the empty village to the torch when he passed through on his way to attack Castle Black, and only heaps of blackened beams and old scorched stones remained above-ground ... but down beneath the frozen earth, the vaults and tunnels and deep cellars still endured, and that was where the free folk had taken refuge, huddled together in the dark like the moles from which the village took is name.

 

Moat Cailin's towers dominate its landscape, but once Theon is inside, they are as if in a subterranean cave. A dank, smelly, stinky, soiled cave:

Quote

The guard led him through a door and up a spiral stair, the torchlight glimmering off black stone walls as they climbed.

The chamber at the top of the steps was dark, smoky, and oppressively hot. A ragged skin had been hung across the narrow window to keep the damp out, and a slab of peat smoldered in a brazier. The smell in the room was foul, a miasma of mold and piss and nightsoil, of smoke and sickness. Soiled rushes covered the floor, whilst a heap of straw in the corner passed for a bed.

 

Jon senses the wildlings rising from their subterranean dwelling:

Quote

The wagons drew up in a crescent in front of what had once been the village smithy. Nearby a swarm of red-faced children were building a snow fort, but they scattered at the sight of the black-cloaked brothers, vanishing down one whole or another. A few moments later the adults began to emerge from the earth. A stench came with them, the smell of unwashed bodies and soiled clothing, of nightsoil and urine ... This stink was just the smell of a thousand people jammed into cellars and tunnels that had been dug to shelter no more than a hundred.

 

Out of mercy, Theon kills the ironborn leader, Ralf Kenning, who was discovered dying by some awful poison. The rest of the men aren't doing so well either in the hall:

Quote

The hall was dark stone, high ceilinged and drafty, full of drifting smoke, its stone walls spotted by huge patches of pale lichen ... Two dozen ironborn sat drinking at the table. A few looked at him with dull flat eyes when he entered. The rest ignored him.

 

Jon notes that the wildlings are also in bad shape, and leaderless:

Quote

There were three women for every man, many with children--pale skinny things clutching at their skirts. Jon saw very few babes in arms. The babes in arms died during the march, he realized, and those who survived the battle died in the king's stockade.

The fighters had fared better. Three hundred men of fighting age, Justin Massey had claimed in council ... There will be spearwives too. Fifty, sixty, maybe as many as a hundred. Fell's count had included men who had suffered wounds, Jon knew. He saw a score of those--men with empty sleeves and missing hands, men with one eye or half a face, a legless man carried between two friends. And every one grey-faced and gaunt. Broken men, he thought. The wights are not the only sort of living dead.

 

Theon offers a choice:

Quote

"I am here at the command of Ramsey Bolton, Lord of the Hornwood and heir to the Dreadfort, who captured me at Winterfell. His host is north of you, his father's to the south, but Lord Ramsey is prepared to be merciful if you yield Moat Cailin to him before the sun goes down." He drew out the letter that they'd given him and tossed it on the table before the drinkers.

 

Jon offers a choice:

Quote

"You want more food?" asked Jon. "The food's for fighters. Help us hold the Wall, and you'll eat as well as any crow." Or as poorly, when the food runs short.

...

"You have to pick," Jon Snow repeated. "All of you."

...

"The choice is yours," Jon Snow told them. "Those who want to help us hold the Wall, return to Castle Black with me and I'll see you armed and fed. The rest of you, get your turnips and your onions and crawl back inside your holes."

 

Theon encounters resistance:

Quote

One of the Codds pushed to his feet. A big man, but pop-eyed and wide of mouth, with dead white flesh. He looked as if his father had sired him on a fish, but he still wore a longsword. "Dagon Codd yields to no man."

 

Jon encounters resistance:

Quote

"Fight for you?" This voice was thickly accented. Sigorn, the young Magnar of Thenn, spoke the Common Tongue haltingly at best. "Not fight for you. Kill you better. Kill all you."

 

Theon gains a champion:

Quote

"Enough," snarled Dagon Codd. "You think you can frighten ironborn with words? Begone. Run back to your master before I open your belly, pull your entrails out, and make you eat them."

He might have said more, but suddenly his eyes gaped wide. A throwing axe sprouted from the center of his forehead with a solid thunk. Codd's sword fell from his fingers. He jerked like a fish on a hook, then crashed face-first onto the table.

It was the one-armed man who'd flung the axe. As her rose to his feet he had another in his hand. "Who else wants to die?" he asked the other drinkers. "Speak up, I'll see you do." Thin red streams were spreading out across the stone from the pool of blood where Dagon Codd's head had come to rest. "Me, I mean to live, and that don't mean staying here to rot."

Jon gains a champion:

Quote

The girl was the first to come forward. "I can fight. My mother was a spearwife." Jon nodded. She may not even be twelve, he thought as she squirmed between a pair of old men, but he was not about to turn away his only recruit.

 

The rest follow Theon's champion:

Quote

One man took a swallow of ale. Another turned his cup over to wash away a finger of blood before it reached the place where he was seated. No one spoke. When the one-armed man slid the throwing axe back through his belt, Reek knew he had won. He almost felt a man again. Lord Ramsey will be pleased with me.

 

The rest follow Jon's champion:

Quote

A pair of striplings followed her, boys no older than fourteen. Next a scarred man with a missing eye. "I seen them too, the dead ones. Even crows are better'n that." A tall spearwife, an old man on crutches, a moonfaced boy with a withered arm, a young man whose red hair reminded Jon of Ygritte.

And then Halleck. "I don't like you, crow," he growled, "but I never liked the Mance neither, no more'n my sister did. Still, we fought for him. Why not fight for you?"

The dam was broke then.

 

Theon leads the ironborn north from Moat Cailin, though their fate was inevitable.

Quote

The next morning Lord Ramsey dispatched three riders down the causeway to take word to his lord father that the way was clear. The flayed man of House Bolton was hoisted above the Gatehouse Tower, where Reek had hauled down the golden kraken of Pyke. Along the rotting-plank road, wooden stakes were driven deep into the boggy ground; there the corpses festered, red and dripping. Sixty-three, he knew, there are sixty-three of them. One was short half an arm. Another had a parchment shoved between his teeth, its wax seal still unbroken.

 

Want to guess how many fighters Jon led north from Mole's Town?

Quote

By the time the last withered apple had been handed out, the wagons were crowded with wildlings, and they were sixty-three stronger than when the column had set out from Castle Black that morning.

And like the ill-fated ironborn, the Night's Watch new recruits will be hung like scarecrows to face the winds of winter to come.

 

Yes, these are excerpts from two consecutive chapters in the same book.

Beautiful.

 

Edited by Darry Man

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cool, I did not notice, reading fast for plot.

(Do you see a connection to the 163 crucified slave children and masters in Meereen? I think it were 163. That's not the same number, but still. Similar fate to the Ironborn as well.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.