Manderly's Rat Cook

Where are the nerdy girls?

66 posts in this topic

Thank you @Walda this was what I was getting at basically. Highborn women seem to have the same access to books as men, and don't have to ask permission or hide their interest in books to anyone, and yet we are introduced in a very straightforward way to bookish male characters, and for the female characters we have to make assumptions in order to conclude whether they're bookish or not.

Like Sarella, who presumably likes reading/learning, but it's not clearly stated. She may well be in the Citadel on Oberyn's orders in order to find certain specific information. We don't know if she's truly there out of interest in literature. We can only assume she is.

Likewise we can also assume Doran is a bookish man, because he locks Arianne up with boring books that he has presumably read himself. Yet he's not introduced to us as a bookish person so it would still be an assumption. He could for instance only read as a means to am end, rather than out of genuine interest. 

A very minor make character like Hoster Blackwood on the other hand is directly and unquestionably introduced as bookish. Without major changes to the story Hoster could've been a bookish girl, and yet he isn't. 

It makes me wonder if there's a reason for this, and what that reason would be, that's why I made this thread. 

 

The writing angle you bring up is interesting, I hadn't thought about that. I suppose if a non-maester would write a book he'd probably have the maesters copy it and spread the copies,  and this could be hard for women, I suppose. Pseudonyms are likely used quite a bit in those cases (could Septon Barth and Lomas Longstrider be pseudonyms? What do we really know of these people?), but it's still guessing.

 

@The Sleeper Missandei has an extraordinary talent for languages, and although in the real world I would argue that talent can't exsist without a natural, genuine interest, we don't know if that works the same in the ASOIAF world. The problem with Missandei is that she didn't voluntarily learn all those languages, she literally had no choice in the matter, and we don't know if she had been interested in learning languages if she had been a free woman. 

I also try to keep the focus on reading, since we have quite a lot of very obvious bookish males, and as far (as I can tell at this point) no very obvious bookish females. I don't think we ever see Missandei read,  so I can't tell if that's an interest of her. We can say with confidence though that Dany is also interested in learning languages, and that Missandei probably likes languages as well, although she hasn't been free in her choice to study them. 

 

I myself was a very bookish girl. When I was 11 I grabbed Umberto Eco's "The name of the Rose" from my parents, and struggled through it, simply because I had read all my own books plenty of times. The name of the rose is a pretty tough book to read, even for adults. At the same age I was allowed to rent adult books from my local library, because I had read all the children's books they had. I was an obsessive reader. Tyrion, Sam, the Reader and Hoster Blackwood strike me as being similar to young me, but I haven't found any female character that seems to have that same reading drive.

I do think most of the female characters are intelligent, which is why I find it so odd that none of them seems to have this particular interest (without having to make assumptions). 

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8 hours ago, Lady Blizzardborn said:

Current females? Can't think of any truly nerdy but we don't really know what Malora Hightower does all day, do we?

Historically, Sheira Seastar was a major book nerd.

Was she? I can't really remember much about her, except mismatched eyes and doing magics. I'll look into it. Thanks 

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16 minutes ago, Manderly's Rat Cook said:

Like Sarella, who presumably likes reading/learning, but it's not clearly stated. She may well be in the Citadel on Oberyn's orders in order to find certain specific information. We don't know if she's truly there out of interest in literature. We can only assume she is.

Given that we never openly meet her, I don't see how it could be more explicit. Pretty much everything we know about her indicates that she is bookish.

 

21 minutes ago, Manderly's Rat Cook said:

I don't think we ever see Missandei read,  so I can't tell if that's an interest of her.

"Ser Barristan found Missandei amongst piles of scrolls and books, reading." ADWD, The Kingbreaker. Looks like she's doing some pretty serious reading, to me.

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@Manderly's Rat Cook Missandei became a sribe because of her talent, not the other way around. She is also often portrayed among scrolls and books.

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15 minutes ago, Horse of Kent said:

Given that we never openly meet her, I don't see how it could be more explicit. Pretty much everything we know about her indicates that she is bookish.

In my opinion we don't know enough about her to draw that conclusion. The only things we know is that she's in the Citadel (for which we don't know the reason, it could VERY WELL be because she likes to study, but we don't know this as a certainty), she has shown some interest in history in the past (was this interest in history in general, or was she looking for specific information?), she's clearly very intelligent, with already 3 links of her chain, but intelligence and a deep interest in reading are not the same thing, although not mutually exclusive, and she likes to shoot apples. 

I do think it's very likely that she loves to read, but we still have to make an assumption there, it's not literally stated as far as I can tell. 

15 minutes ago, Horse of Kent said:

"Ser Barristan found Missandei amongst piles of scrolls and books, reading." ADWD, The Kingbreaker. Looks like she's doing some pretty serious reading, to me.

Ah yes, I didn't find that quote last night in my search. I guess Missandei does love to read indeed, and does it voluntarily as well (unless she's a spy and is carrying out orders, but let's not go into crackpot territory).

So I guess we have Missandei and Shiera Seastar who are known to love reading. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find anything on Shiera being a reader in the worldbook. It's only on the wiki apparently. However since it's on the wiki, I suppose it's true anyway. Still awfully little. 

12 minutes ago, The Sleeper said:

@Manderly's Rat Cook Missandei became a sribe because of her talent, not the other way around. She is also often portrayed among scrolls and books.

That's why I stated that we don't know if talent is linked to interest the way it is in the real world. It's possible that in-world people can have talents without enjoying them. Like Jojen's greendreams.

You are right about her voluntarily reading though, so it's safe to say that in Missandei's case her talent is also one of her interests. 

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I'm mostly trying to find answers as to why girls /women are rarely described as bookish. I highly doubt there are very few bookish girls, yet they're not mentioned most of the time. 

Perhaps the maesters actively exclude this information from the histories. The fact that Shiera Seastar is not described as an avid reader (only as possibly using sorcery) in the world book points in this direction.

Perhaps girls are discouraged off page to read in their spare time, although Doran giving Arianne history books, and Jorah giving books to Dany contradicts this. They may be exceptions rather than the rule though.

Perhaps there are other reasons that I haven't thought of yet, all suggestions are welcome. 

Perhaps it's much more common for girls to read a lot than it is for boys, hence the lack of mention. However the lack of female POVs who love to read all the time seems to contradict this as well.

I do think we can safely conclude that females aren't as clearly described as bookish as males, and I think there are reasons for that. Sarella actually is a great example:

Quote

"Unless she returns to Dorne, there's naught I can do about Sarella save pray that she shows more sense than her sisters. Leave her to her . . . game. Gather up the others. I shall not sleep until I know that they are safe and under guard."

Doran (who encourages Arianne to read boring books) describes Sarella's Maester mission as a game. So he either doesn't take her wish to gain knowledge seriously, or Sarella is actually playing a game, and not very serious about it.

Quote

"My uncle brought me here, with Tyene and Sarella." The memory made Arianne smile. "He caught some vipers and showed Tyene the safest way to milk them for their venom. Sarella turned over rocks, brushed sand off the mosaics, and wanted to know everything there was to know about the people who had lived here."

This does seem to indicate a genuine interest in history though, so it is quite likely that Sarella does really like to read a lot. However we still have to draw our conclusion from two seemingly contradictory statements.

Quote

No, it had always been her and Tyene, with Garin and Drey and Spotted Sylva. Nym would sometimes join them in their sport, and Sarella was forever pushing in where she didn't belong, but for the most part they had been a company of five. 

We also have this description of Sarella as a nosy girl who appears to be the one Arianne likes least. So does Sarella just want to intrude in the Citadel, or is she honestly interested in gaining as much knowledge as possible. We simply don't know. 

In Pate's and Sam's chapters, Alleras comes off as an intelligent, and thoughtful person, who has quite a bit of knowledge on dragons and Targ history, but the information (s)he shared is still pretty superficial, and a mixture of common knowledge and information picked up on the docks/shared by Marwyn. It's by no means enough information to conclude without a doubt that Alleras spends most of his free time reading.

By no means am I trying to say that Sarella is not an avid reader, the information we get on the matter is simply not as clear cut as the info we have about bookish boys. 

If you compare Sarella's (and even Missandei's) description to Tyrion's, Sam's, Rodrik Harlaw's, and even Hoster Blackwood's love for books, there's a huge difference worth exploring.

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Arianne seems to be a lazy intellect more than anything - she hasn't made the connection between knowledge and power, so she's not motivated to learn. Has Doran tried to educate her before, and failed? Locking her in a tower with the important (though boring) textbooks is a method that would tempt any parent of easily distracted children.

To her credit, she is 'trying' to read these books all day, every day - which sounds like she saw a lot of the information within - so the big question is, how much has gone into long term memory? We absolutely don't know. Her memory isn't trained, but it might be good. And when the moment comes that she needs this knowledge, it may come as a revelation to her - book-nerd Arianne is reborn.

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1 hour ago, Manderly's Rat Cook said:

Unfortunately I haven't been able to find anything on Shiera being a reader in the worldbook. It's only on the wiki apparently. However since it's on the wiki, I suppose it's true anyway.

It's from So Spake Martin:

Quote

Even at an early age, she was a great reader. She spoke a dozen tongues and surrounded herself with ancient scrolls. Like her mother, she was reputed to practice the dark arts. 

 

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31 minutes ago, Springwatch said:

Arianne seems to be a lazy intellect more than anything - she hasn't made the connection between knowledge and power, so she's not motivated to learn. Has Doran tried to educate her before, and failed? Locking her in a tower with the important (though boring) textbooks is a method that would tempt any parent of easily distracted children.

To her credit, she is 'trying' to read these books all day, every day - which sounds like she saw a lot of the information within - so the big question is, how much has gone into long term memory? We absolutely don't know. Her memory isn't trained, but it might be good. And when the moment comes that she needs this knowledge, it may come as a revelation to her - book-nerd Arianne is reborn.

Yeah I agree that Arianne is intelligent. She doesn't try to read the books everyday though. During her captivity she first tries to read the books, but she keeps crying, and finds them too boring.  After that she goes on to make escape plans, and the books aren't mentioned again, except that she used a page from the seven pointed star for a letter,  and after that fails she spends most of her time sleeping.

She may have tried reading them again are those first few days, but if she did, she did it off page...

8 minutes ago, Nittanian said:

It's from So Spake Martin:

 

Ah I thought so, now that I saw it, I realised I've read this SSM before. It's still peculiar it's not mentioned in the world book. 

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Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, Walda said:

Arianne finds nerdy books awaiting her in the tower, and she is not interested in them, or the cyvasse table. She takes care to dress in the most sexually alluring clothes she can find, and takes close note of the food, refuses then eats it, before she turns to these nerdy things for entertainment.

Yes. I did  not realize just how literal the OP was intending the question to be. I take it all back! :P

More seriously, there are very few "nerdy" people in the entire series. Tyrion and Sam are about the only nerds, and that is because the author has said they are most like himself. 

Any story about Nymeria is a combination of sexuality and conquest. This part of history is so important that George made sure he ended up writing about it in the World book, as opposed to Elio and Linda. Stories about Nymeria are a bit of the best of both worlds. I think any "nerdy" girl, and guy, could appreciate that. There are no pulp paperbacks in Westeros. Books are too expensive for harlequin romance. I think what this does is it tells more about Arianne's personality and what part she gets out of the book, what leaves an impression on her, not so much that the book is silly. 

Edited by The Fattest Leech

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If you didn't notice all the girls who excelled at studies or liked to read, I'd suggest re-reading and looking for it. There are more than a few

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14 hours ago, Manderly's Rat Cook said:

Did I miss something, or are Westerosi women just not that interested in literature? 

They are kept in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant.

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Posted (edited)

39 minutes ago, Manderly's Rat Cook said:

Ah I thought so, now that I saw it, I realised I've read this SSM before. It's still peculiar it's not mentioned in the world book. 

Not much is mentioned of Shiera in the world book, but I expect Fire and Blood (GRRM's planned Targaryen history) or future Dunk and Egg stories will feature her. 

Edited by Nittanian

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3 minutes ago, The Fattest Leech said:

Yes. I did  not realize just how literal the OP was. I take it all back! :P

More seriously, there are very few "nerdy" people in the entire series. Tyrion and Sam are about the only nerds, and that is because the author has said they are most like himself. 

Any story about Nymeria is a combination of sexuality and conquest. This part of history is so important that George made sure he ended up writing about it in the World book, as opposed to Elio and Linda. Stories about Nymeria are a bit of the best of both worlds. I think any "nerdy" girl, and guy, could appreciate that. There are no pulp paperbacks in Westeros. Books are too expensive for harlequin romance. I think what this does is it tells more about Arianne's personality and what part she gets out of the book, what leaves an impression on her, not so much that the book is silly. 

We also have Rodrik the Reader, and Hoster Blackwood. Rhaegar is specifically described as being bookish until he found out he had to learn how to fight, because a book told him so. Maester Aemon is also described as having been a bookish boy, and he expresses that he misses reading a lot.

Here's a search of people specifically described as bookish:

Quote

"As you wish," said Whitebeard. "As a young boy, the Prince of Dragonstone was bookish to a fault. He was reading so early that men said Queen Rhaella must have swallowed some books and a candle whilst he was in her womb. Rhaegar took no interest in the play of other children. The maesters were awed by his wits, but his father's knights would jest sourly that Baelor the Blessed had been born again. Until one day Prince Rhaegar found something in his scrolls that changed him. No one knows what it might have been, only that the boy suddenly appeared early one morning in the yard as the knights were donning their steel. He walked up to Ser Willem Darry, the master-at-arms, and said, 'I will require sword and armor. It seems I must be a warrior.'"

ASOS - Daenaerys I

Quote

"My second. Brynden is my eldest, and my heir. Next comes Hoster. A bookish boy, I fear."

...

"Aegon the Unworthy took Barba Bracken as his mistress," the bookish boy replied. "She was a very buxom wench, they say, and one day when the king was visiting at the Stone Hedge he went out hunting and saw the Teats and …"

ADWD - Jaime I

Quote

He is blood of the dragon as well, damn me for a fool. He could only be Prince Maekar, the youngest of King Daeron's four sons. Prince Aerys was bookish and Prince Rhaegel mad, meek, and sickly. Neither was like to cross half the realm to attend a tourney, but Maekar was said to be a redoubtable warrior in his own right, though ever in the shadow of his eldest brother.

The hedge knight

Quote

"Lord Butterwell wanted a new young wife to warm his bed, and Lord Frey had a somewhat soiled daughter. Their nuptials provided a plausible pretext for some like-minded lords to gather. Most of those invited here fought for the Black Dragon once. The rest have reason to resent Bloodraven's rule, or nurse grievances and ambitions of their own. Many of us had sons and daughters taken to King's Landing to vouchsafe our future loyalty, but most of the hostages perished in the Great Spring Sickness. Our hands are no longer tied. Our time is come. Aerys is weak. A bookish man, and no warrior. The commons hardly know him, and what they know they do not like. His lords love him even less. His father was weak as well, that is true, but when his throne was threatened he had sons to take the field for him. Baelor and Maekar, the hammer and the anvil… but Baelor Breakspear is no more, and Prince Maekar sulks at Summerhall, at odds with king and Hand."

The mystery knight

Quote

Baelor had sons—the young princes Valarr and Matarys—and so too did Maekar, and the king had two other sons besides (though the realm was less certain about Aerys, bookish and obsessed with arcane matters, and Rhaegel, a sweet boy touched by madness).

TWOIAF - Daeron II

Quote

Maekar's third son, Aemon, was a bookish boy who had been sent to the Citadel in his youth and emerged as a sworn and chained maester. Youngest of the king's sons was Prince Aegon, who had served as squire to a hedge knight—the same hedge knight in whose defense Baelor Breakspear died—whilst a boy, and earned the name "Egg." "Daeron is a jape and Aerion is a fright, but Aegon is more than half a peasant" one court wit was heard to remark.

TWOIAF - Maekar I

Quote

The Tyrells were never kings, though royal blood flows in their veins (as in half a hundred of the other great houses in the Reach). Ser Alester Tyrell, the founder of the line, was an Andal adventurer who became the champion and sworn shield to King Gwayne V Gardener, one of the Three Sage Kings. His eldest son became a notable knight as well, only to die in a tourney. His second son, Gareth, was of a more bookish bent and never achieved knighthood, choosing to serve as a royal steward instead. It is from him that today's Tyrells descend.

TWOIAF -House Tyrell

As you can see NONE of these are women, and these are quite a few. Not to mention all the men who may be described with words other than bookish (like Rodrik Harlaw), and at least a large part of the maesters and writers. I don't think it can be disputed that being bookish is (almost) exclusively used to describe males rather than females. 

I like to speculate (with other posters) about the reasons for this, as I mentioned before. 

Obviously part of the reason is that more historical males are included in the histories than females, but other reasons can play a part as well.

1. It's possible that Martin simply didn't think about including more, or more obvious female booklovers.

2. The Maesters purposefully exclude information about women being avid readers from the histories.

3. Reading is not as acceptable a pastime as it is for men, so families would discourage avid reading by women, and hide this to the outside world (nothing in the books seems to indicate this though). 

4. Reading is such a common pastime among women, that it's not worth remarking upon, while it's more uncommon for men to spend their free time reading (the lack of female bookloving POVs seems to contradict this a little though).

5. Other reasons I can't think of. 

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31 minutes ago, Universal Sword Donor said:

If you didn't notice all the girls who excelled at studies or liked to read, I'd suggest re-reading and looking for it. There are more than a few

Perhaps you should read all my comments on this thread before replying. I'm talking about clear straightforward mentions of girls/women being bookish. I think I've put in quite a bit of effort into showing how there is a huge difference in this regard between male and female characters, and I like to find out why. There is absolutely no need for you to be rude about my knowledge of the books. 

20 minutes ago, TMIFairy said:

They are kept in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant.

We're talking about (mostly) highborn women, who are all taught how to read, and have free access to libraries. Lowborn men generally can't read either. 

2 minutes ago, Nittanian said:

Not much is mentioned of Shiera in the world book, but I expect Fire and Blood (GRRM's planned Targaryen history) or future Dunk and Egg stories will feature her. 

I'm really looking forward to that! She seems so fascinating! 

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Manderly's Rat Cook said:

Doran (who encourages Arianne to read boring books) describes Sarella's Maester mission as a game. So he either doesn't take her wish to gain knowledge seriously, or Sarella is actually playing a game, and not very serious about it.

The game is trying to become a Maester under false pretences. I interpret the comment to mean that Doran is dismissive of her studying towards a position she cannot hold openly with a charade she would be unable to maintain indefinitely, even if the underlying desire to acquire more knowledge is something he understands and respects.

Sarella is said to love Oldtown, which suggests that her interest in the Westerosi centre of learning is genuine:

"Obara would have me go to war."

Nym laughed. "Yes, she wants to set the torch to Oldtown. She hates that city as much as our little sister loves it." (AFFC - The Captain Of Guards)

 

13 minutes ago, Manderly's Rat Cook said:

1. It's possible that Martin simply didn't think about including more, or more obvious female booklovers.

2. The Maesters purposefully exclude information about women being avid readers from the histories.

3. Reading is not as acceptable a pastime as it is for men, so families would discourage avid reading by women, and hide this to the outside world (nothing in the books seems to indicate this though). 

4. Reading is such a common pastime among women, that it's not worth remarking upon, while it's more uncommon for men to spend their free time reading (the lack of female bookloving POVs seems to contradict this a little though).

5. Other reasons I can't think of. 

I'd guess at 2. In a misogynistic society, the interests of women probably aren't deemed to be of much interest unless they affect the world of men. Also showing women to be the intellectual equals of men, especially when achieved without any possibility of being to access the resources of the maester order, undermines the Citadel's men-only policy.

Edited by Horse of Kent

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14 hours ago, Lew Theobald said:

Sansa isn't particularly "bookish" but she's definitely nerdy.  She's idealistic, and loves old stories.  She also knows her heraldry.

Sansa is definitely not nerdy, or idealistic. She's a Queen Bee type of character. She's not good at things like math, as Arya is, but she is good at sewing. She knows heraldry because she wants to know who all the important people are worthy of hanging out with. She's rather a superficial character at the start. That's how she ends up with Joffery. She's a very girly girly type of character who ends up in an impossible situation by DwD. Sansa can be insufferable at times, but she does have an inner strength like her mother did. Not the same strength or courage like Arya, but still it's admirable in a way. 

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15 hours ago, The Fattest Leech said:

Oh, and Asha has some reading time by herself and with her nuncle. That is when we learn about Torgon the Latecomer... which is probably hints at future plotlines in the upcoming book.  

Theon right?

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@Manderly's Rat Cook

I didn't realize this until you brought it up. Indeed, there doesn't seem to be any important bookish girl characters. The others mentioned here, like Arianne and Shiera, are barely mentioned in the show. I suppose some of these male readers, like Sam, GRRM has fashioned after himself, sort of. But it's interesting that there are no female equivalents. It would really have been nice to see. But one might still pop up in the final two books. 

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1 minute ago, Ghost+Nymeria4Eva said:

Sansa is definitely not nerdy, or idealistic.

I'm not going to argue with your definition of "nerdy", but Sansa is definitely idealistic.  She believes in, or wants to believe in, the ideal of the True Knight.  She loves the old idealistic stories of the Knights and Heroes (an interest she shares with Sweetrobin).

And GRRM may be somewhat on her side, given the very positive things he has said in interviews about the medieval knightly ideals.

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