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A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Reread

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Spoiler alert: This thread will discuss plot elements and details of the Dunk & Egg stories, the first three of which have been available since 2015 in a volume called A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. If you have not read them, you will want to do so before reading posts on this thread. They are wonderful stories and contain many points that connect with the ASOIAF novels.

Ashford Meadow = Mad Foreshadow*

If this is truly a hint to readers, I would guess that "mad" here is used in the slang sense. Urban dictionary tells us:

Most predominantly used in the greater New York area, "mad" is an appropriate replacement for Northern California's "hella" and Boston's "wicked." In the common vernacular, it translates into "a lot" or "extremely."

Ashford Meadow is everyone's destination in the first Dunk & Egg story, The Hedge Knight. In other words, the Dunk and Egg stories are filled with clues - a lot of foreshadowing - that can tell us what will happen in the ASOIAF series. I began to realize this when I recently examined Renly's Rainbow Guard. I noticed that there was tremendous overlap between the people and symbols in the Rainbow Guard and in the tourney at Ashford Meadow. I reread The Hedge Knight with the intention of further decoding the Rainbow Guard and found that the story is jam-packed with hints about ASOIAF and larger mysteries readers would like to better understand.

The details that have caught my interest go well beyond the colors, birds and fruit that were central to the Rainbow Guard analysis, so I thought I should start a new thread. I may not post things in chronological order here, and I can't promise that there will be a regular rhythm to these observations. In addition to the Tanselle post (below), I can foresee separate posts about pennies, rope, Dunk's "knighting" and his religion, and about helms and elms. (Note: almost all of those topics relate to armor.)

Tentatively, I am also pleased to share that the Bracken / Blackwood conflict may be at the core of all conflicts in the contemporary story - isn't it nice to simplify all of these complicated plots by finding that everything in ASOIAF boils down to a battle of two mighty warlocks (Bloodraven and Bittersteel)? Now we can all get on with our lives and set aside all this timesucking forum chit chat.

This thread may also lead to greater insights about the connection between oranges and feet. I'm sure there will be many more subjects as we reread the stories with an eye for detail.

I welcome thoughtful insights and comments from the good people of this forum. If you don't believe the stories and novels are filled with symbolism, layers of meaning and wordplay, however, I ask you to refrain from commenting, leave now and never darken my door again. You don't have to agree with everything, but straight-up sophomoric rejection of the analysis is a waste of my time and yours. Similarly, if you think it's fresh or clever to criticize comments here by posting something along the lines of, "It's really been too long between books. When is TWoW coming?" then you are neither original nor witty and you probably wore a half-helm in your last tourney and took a blow to the head. Borrowing a threat from Dunk:

"... I'll hunt you down, I swear I will. With dogs."

"You don't have any dogs," Egg pointed out.

""I'll get some," said Dunk. "Just for you."

Except I won't care enough to hunt you down. I will just revile you from afar.

*The next story in the Dunk & Egg series involves diversion of a waterway using a dam, so it's possible that GRRM is telling us that the Ashford Meadow setting of The Hedge Knight simply foreshadows The Sworn Sword - "dam" foreshadow instead of "mad" foreshadow. Based on the symbols and allusions already found in the earlier story, I believe that the foreshadowing applies to the larger world of ASOIAF and/or to Westeros history, not just to the upcoming dam.

Edited by Seams

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Tanselle is Bloodraven. Or, at least, Melissa Blackwood.

The first time Dunk sees the puppeteer, Tanselle Too-Tall:

When he caught the smell of sausages sizzling over a smoky fire, his mouth began to water. He bought one with a copper from his pouch and a horn of ale to wash it down. As he ate he watched a painted wooden knight battle a painted wooden dragon. The puppeteer who worked the dragon was good to watch, too; a tall drink of water, with the olive skin and black hair of Dorne. She was slim as a lance with no breasts to speak of, but Dunk liked her face and the way her fingers made the dragon snap and slither at the end of its strings. He would have tossed the girl a copper if he'd had one to spare, but just now he needed every coin.

[The Hedge Knight]

A parallel scene:

"... Ser Quentyn Ball was the master-at-arms of the Red Keep. He taught my father and my uncles how to fight. The Great Bastards too. King Aegon promised to raise him to the Kingsguard, so Fireball made his wife join the silent sisters, only by the time a place came open King Aegon was dead and King Daeron named Ser William Wylde instead. My father says that it was Fireball as much as Bittersteel who convinced Daemon Blackfyre to claim the crown and rescued him when Daeron sent the Kingsguard to arrest him. ..."

..."Did Ser Quentyn die upon the Redgrass Field?"

"Before, ser," Egg replied. "An archer put an arrow through his throat as he dismounted by a stream to have a drink. Just some common man, no one knows who."

[The Mystery Knight]

I think GRRM is implying that Dunk is struck by "cupid's arrow" (or slim lance) just as he sees the "tall drink of water" we later learn is called Tanselle. Quentyn Ball is similarly struck by an arrow just as he stops for a drink of water. Somewhere, I had gotten the impression that the archer who shot Ball was one of Bloodraven's crew known as The Raven's Teeth, but maybe that was never made explicit.

Tanselle is described as Dornish-looking, but the portrait of Melissa Blackwood in TWOIAF shows her as having dark hair as well. The reference to small breasts also seems to be an allusion to Melissa's chest size relative to the buxom build of her rival, Barbra Bracken. Recall that Barbra was a mistress of Aegon IV and the mother of Aegor Rivers, known as Bittersteel. Melissa Blackwood later became mistress of Aegon IV and was the mother of Brynden Rivers, known as Bloodraven.

Other relevant details from The Hedge Knight:

Dunk's campsite

"The spring grass there was as green as any knight's banner and soft to the touch. It was a pretty spot and no one had yet laid claim to it."

Green grass is significant in relation to the Redgrass Field, the battle that followed the death of Ser Quentyn Ball. The relationship of green and red grass is clarified by a quote from Jorah Mormont, explaining to Dany how grasses change with the season:

"The Dothraki sea," Ser Jorah Mormont said as he reined to a halt beside her on the top of the ridge. Beneath them, the plain stretched out immense and empty, a vast flat expanse that reached to the distant horizon and beyond. It was a sea, Dany thought. Past here, there were no hills, no mountains, no trees nor cities nor roads, only the endless grasses, the tall blades rippling like waves when the winds blew. "It's so green," she said.

"Here and now," Ser Jorah agreed. "You ought to see it when it blooms, all dark red flowers from horizon to horizon, like a sea of blood. ..."

(AGoT, Daenerys III)

A thousand eyes and one

Also at Dunk's campsite:

The stars were everywhere, thousands and thousands of them. One fell as he was watching . . . . A falling star brings luck to him who sees it, Dunk thought.

(The Hedge Knight)

Puppets and Puppeteers

When Dunk eventually has a conversation with Tanselle, his stumbling near-confession of his attraction to her implies that he is a puppet:

"I am called Ser Duncan the Tall"

"I'm Tanselle," she laughed. "Tanselle Too-Tall, the boys used to call me."

"You're not too tall," Dunk blurted out "You're just right for . . . " He realized what he had been about to say, and blushed furiously.

"For?" said Tanselle, cocking her head inquisitively.

"Puppets," he finished lamely.

(The Hedge Knight)

Tanselle's expertise as a puppeteer is one of the things that reinforces the Bloodraven connection, for me. Bloodraven is the behind-the-scenes manipulator who keeps the main branch of the Targaryens in power, defeating the Blackfyre pretenders in various ways. Egg is enthusiastic about Tanselle's skill, saying the puppet movement is smooth in her hands, in contrast to jerky movements he witnessed elsewhere. Is this GRRM's way of showing us that Egg and Bloodraven are on the same team, smoothly advancing Targaryen interests that will lead to Egg's eventual assumption of the monarchy?

So why is Dunk cast in the role of puppet? Throughout this story and future stories, we see Targaryens and Blackfyres trying to seduce, master, scapegoat, defeat and otherwise "possess" Ser Duncan the Tall. He tells (I believe) Prince Valarr Targaryen that he is not a stable boy or a serving man. He is challenged to a trial by seven by Prince Aerion Targaryen, who wants him maimed. Prince Maekar joins the trial because Prince Daeron told him that Dunk was a robber knight and had kidnapped Egg. In The Mystery Knight, Dunk will turn down a proposition to "howl together" and the offer of a horse from John the Fiddler (Daemon II Blackfyre).

Dunk manages to avoid or defeat all of these putdowns and propositions and challenges, but he willingly becomes a "puppet" and also takes on Aegon V / Egg as his squire. The implication is that Dunk embodies a source of power that Targaryens / Blackfyres need in order to successfully rule Westeros. Just what those qualities are, I hope this thread will help to make clear. (I think it has something to do with being a "true knight".) Dunk chooses Bloodraven and Egg when he tells Tanselle that she is just right for puppets but wants to say that she is just right for him. 

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Posted (edited)

Pennytree and Missy's / Barbra's Teats

Dunk's mentor is Ser Arlan of Pennytree. Pennytree is part of the Blackwood / Bracken rivalry because it is located in the middle of the two hills known as The Teats - originally the Mother's Teats but renamed twice by Aegon IV after two rival mistresses, Barbra Bracken and Melissa Blackwood. Ownership of the land is disputed by House Bracken and House Blackwood.

Dunk has never been to Pennytree but he briefly considers telling Egg that he is from there at the moment he is put on the spot about his own name and pedigree. He rejects the Pennytree fib and instead names himself Ser Duncan the Tall, with a little help from Egg.

We learn details about Pennytree fairly late in A Dance with Dragons, when Jaime Lannister goes there as part of his work to resolve the remnants of conflict and the aftermath of war in the Riverlands. Jaime walks in on Lord Jonos Bracken having sex with a woman he describes as a "prize of war." Jaime, who is famously monogamous, finds himself strangely aroused as the woman provocatively and ineffectively tries to cover her breasts and "mound" with her hands. I suspect this woman is the personification of the disputed "Teats," and Bracken is enjoying taking possession of them.

Bracken tells Jaime that Pennytree has been a royal fief for 100 years, so he didn't claim the village as part of the lands to be forfeited by the Blackwoods and awarded to House Bracken. Barbra's Teats are, however, among the many castles, mills and larndmarks Bracken claims. Jaime points out that House Bracken supported Robb Stark and only bent the knee to the Iron Throne after Robb was killed by the Freys. Consequently, he doesn't anticipate that the Brackens will receive everything they want in the terms imposed on House Blackwood. To himself, Jaime finds Tytos Blackwood's loyalty to the Starks and Tullys more honorable than Bracken's capitulation after the Red Wedding. When Jaime finalizes the lands to be taken from the Blackwoods and awarded to the Brackens, the Teats are not included in the redrawn map, meaning they stay under control of the Blackwoods. (Note that Jaime walked in on Bracken before he reached climax in his session with the "prize of war".)

After leaving Raventree Hall, Jaime decides to stay the night at Pennytree with his escort and his Blackwood hostage, Hoster. The people of the town hide in the holdfast and refuse to come out. Jaime contemplates the old oak with hundreds of old copper pennies nailed to its trunk. He expects he could ask the Blackwood boy to explain the story of the oak, but decides "that would spoil the mystery," so he doesn't ask. A paragraph later, Brienne arrives and urges Jaime to ride off alone with her to a place where, she says, the Hound holds "the girl" (presumed to be Sansa Stark) hostage. That is the last we see of Jaime or Brienne.

Is the oak tree the only "armored" tree we have seen in ASOIAF? Or are the coins a sort of sacrifice - an alternative to the blood sacrifices at weirwoods that seem to be part of the northern worship of the old gods? Or are they more like scales, such as a dragon or fish would wear? Coins often bear a likeness of a king's head and they are found in great numbers in the Bank of Braavos. I believe coins are linked to the vault where the Faceless Men store the faces of dead people they use as disguises in their assassin work. Is the Pennytree oak another "vault" for the faces of dead people? What does it mean that a nail is driven through each face?

The trees - what does it mean that Jaime comes from the dead, poisoned weirwood tree at Raventree Hall, said to have been poisoned by the Brackens, and next sees the penny tree? GRRM likes to do things in threes so, naturally, there is a third tree in the chapter: Lord Blackwood offers to give up to his Bracken enemy a village called "Honeytree" where honey is produced. "All that sweet will make him fat and rot his teeth."

I haven't worked out a good or complete explanation, but both armor and pennies are major symbols in The Hedge Knight story. Obviously, we will see them throughout ASOIAF with many descriptions of literal and figurative armor and coins, Masters of Coins and characters such as the dwarf mummer Penny and Ser Ilyfer the Penniless.

Honey is mentioned several times in the Brienne POVs in AFfC, and she spends a night in a hive-like structure on the Quiet Isle. I have not made a systematic study of honey, so I'm not sure whether the association with Brienne is much stronger than with other characters. I thought the hard-working, all-male brothers on the Quiet Isle might be like worker bees, and Brienne would be in the position of Queen Bee during her stay on the island. If the three trees in this Jaime POV are a hint from the author, perhaps ravens, pennies and honey need to be compared to reveal their symbolic meanings. The clue about honey causing teeth to rot could be a helpful indication about honey, as lemon juice has been presented as the Westeros potion for strengthening teeth. Maybe honey is just the opposite of lemon. (And these symbols would then require us to sort out the meaning of teeth, but I believe that important symbol is outside of the scope of this thread.)

Before and after that Jaime POV (Chapter 48 in ADwD), more of the Pennytree and "Teats" story may be revealed indirectly. In what seem to be "Hero's Journey" arcs for Sansa/Sweetrobin, Bran and Jon, there are some references to mountainsides as "mothers" and advice to press one's face against the mother's breast in order to feel safe while climbing or descending the mountain. The Sansa chapter includes some additional Bracken / Blackwood allusions, featuring Sansa and Myranda Royce in the Missy and Barbra roles. (See this link for some details.)

As I mentioned in the OP, the Bracken and Blackwood rivalry looms larger and larger, the deeper I dig into the subtext.

Edited by Seams

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Posted (edited)

On 4/7/2018 at 0:14 PM, Seams said:

Ashford Meadow = Mad Foreshadow*

If this is truly a hint to readers, I would guess that "mad" here is used in the slang sense. Urban dictionary tells us:

Most predominantly used in the greater New York area, "mad" is an appropriate replacement for Northern California's "hella" and Boston's "wicked." In the common vernacular, it translates into "a lot" or "extremely."

:o

On 4/7/2018 at 0:14 PM, Seams said:

*The next story in the Dunk & Egg series involves diversion of a waterway using a dam, so it's possible that GRRM is telling us that the Ashford Meadow setting of The Hedge Knight simply foreshadows The Sworn Sword - "dam" foreshadow instead of "mad" foreshadow. Based on the symbols and allusions already found in the earlier story, I believe that the foreshadowing applies to the larger world of ASOIAF and/or to Westeros history, not just to the upcoming dam.

:o

Edited by Lost Melnibonean

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Posted (edited)

On 4/8/2018 at 3:49 PM, Seams said:

Pennytree and Missy's / Barbra's Teats

. . . Pennytree is part of the Blackwood / Bracken rivalry because it is located in the middle of the two hills known as The Teats - originally the Mother's Teats but renamed twice by Aegon IV after two rival mistresses, Barbra Bracken and Melissa Blackwood. Ownership of the land is disputed by House Bracken and House Blackwood.

. . .

We learn details about Pennytree fairly late in A Dance with Dragons, when Jaime Lannister goes there as part of his work to resolve the remnants of conflict and the aftermath of war in the Riverlands. Jaime walks in on Lord Jonos Bracken having sex with a woman he describes as a "prize of war." Jaime, who is famously monogamous, finds himself strangely aroused as the woman provocatively and ineffectively tries to cover her breasts and "mound" with her hands. I suspect this woman is the personification of the disputed "Teats," and Bracken is enjoying taking possession of them.

After leaving Raventree Hall, Jaime decides to stay the night at Pennytree . . . Brienne arrives and urges Jaime to ride off alone with her to a place where, she says, the Hound holds "the girl" (presumed to be Sansa Stark) hostage. That is the last we see of Jaime or Brienne.

...

The trees - what does it mean that Jaime comes from the dead, poisoned weirwood tree at Raventree Hall, said to have been poisoned by the Brackens, and next sees the penny tree? GRRM likes to do things in threes so, naturally, there is a third tree in the chapter: Lord Blackwood offers to give up to his Bracken enemy a village called "Honeytree" where honey is produced. "All that sweet will make him fat and rot his teeth."

Pennytree as an entrance to the Otherworld

The woman in Bracken's bed (her name is Hildy) personifies both the teats and Pennytree.

Skip this if you hate wordplay, but a little anagram - paired with a remark by Jaime - offers another clue about the purpose or symbolism of Pennytree in the story. Here's the bit with Jaime:

... Jaime smiled at the woman in the bed. She had one hand over her left breast and the other between her legs, which left her right breast exposed. . . . When she felt Jaime's gaze she covered her right nipple, but that revealed her mound. "Are all camp followers so modest?" he wondered. "If a man wants to sell his turnips, he need to set them out."

"You been looking at my turnips since you came in, ser." The woman found the blanket and pulled it up high enough to cover herself to the waist, then raised one hand to push the hair back from her eyes. "And they're not for sale, neither."

Jaime gave a shrug. "My apologies if I mistook you for something you're not. My little brother has known a hundred whores, I'm sure, but I've only ever bedded one."

(ADwD, Jaime I, Chap. 48)

The anagram is this:

Pennytree = neep entry.

"Neep" is the Scottish and northern English word for turnip. That explains why GRRM chose that particular odd metaphor for Jaime's conversation with Hildy.

But what does this mean for the larger ASOIAF story?

We know that root vegetables are important in part because Davos Seaworth chooses to be The Onion Knight when Stannis knights him. Stannis thinks to himself that he smuggled "life" in the form of onions on his first secret mission into Storm's End and death in the form of Melisandre on his next mission there. Root vegetables come up at feasts including when Bran must choose which dishes to send to which honored guests at Winterfell and he sends a plate of turnips to Big and Little Walder. But roots are major symbols throughout the books.

The Hildy / turnip interlude and the matching anagram indicate that Jaime's departure with Brienne will involve entering a magical "mound" like those found in Celtic legends - an entrance to the Underworld. If I understand correctly, the Celts allowed for multiple Underworlds with multiple entrances. Jaime's "guide" to this Pennytree entrance was Hoster Blackwood, so he may be entering the Blackwood underworld. Or maybe Pennytree is the neutral entrance between two other entrances (Raventree and Honeytree). Maybe, like the Black Gate beneath the Night Fort, the entry can be opened only by an authorized party - the Black Gate opens only for a brother of the Night's Watch; maybe Pennytree opens only for ... a member of the King's Guard? Jaime is that and Brienne was a member of the Rainbow Guard. And there is constant, strong King's Guard interaction and build-up in the Dunk & Egg stories.

[Edit: I think the King's Guard requirement may be correct. Part of Jaime's interaction with Hildy involves her asking whether he has a wife (he tells her he has a sister) and he calls attention to his white cape (asking her to note that he is a member of the King's Guard and therefore has no wife). She then leaves without finding one shoe (a sort of Cinderella allusion, I think, inviting Jaime to come after her) and gives his crotch a squeeze as she passes him. She wants him to come after her.]

I'm not saying that Jaime and Brienne are literally going to ride their horses into a hole in the ground and interact with Children of the Forest (although that's always a possibility). I believe that Brienne's entire quest through the Riverlands has an Otherworld quality to it, and the "entry" into another world can be figurative, not a literal part of the plot.

So this Dunk & Egg stuff is taking us deep into ASOIAF, which is what I hoped. But it could get quite complex in terms of symbolism. For instance, what more do we need to know about turnips and the underworld? I remember that Bran was unhappy that Rickon allowed Little and Big Walder to play in the Winterfell crypt - he felt that was a Stark place and the Walders were not the kind of guests who should be allowed in there. But he sent the Walders a plate of turnips at the Harvest Feast and sent Nan and Hodor a plate of sweets, thinking this was an expression of his love for them. This is the opposite of Lord Blackwood agreeing to give up Honeytree to Lord Bracken, a gesture intended to rot Bracken's teeth. Was Bran steering each of these characters toward different entrances to the Underworld?

I would also note that Jaime compares Hildy to Cersei and he earlier compared Ser Ryman Frey's camp follower, the Queen of Whores, to Cersei as well.

Edited by Seams

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For a few days, I thought my next post here would be something along the lines of, "Plummer is Bloodraven," with a giant mea culpa about my too-narrow interpretation of all the plum symbolism and new ideas about links between plums and plumbing. As I wrestled with that big topic, I realized another idea should come first, to help clarify Plummer's role in Dunk's story. So here is the necessary prerequisite post.

Dunk is not a knight - until he is knighted in a one-of-a-kind knighthood ritual

Dunk claims that his mentor, Ser Arlan of Pennytree, knighted him as he lay dying and that only a "robin in a thorn tree" witnessed the moment. When the steward of the tournament, Plummer, asks whether he is a knight, however, Dunk's initial response is only to nod, "wondering if his ears were red." Plummer asks whether there were witnesses to Dunk's "dubbing" and follows up by saying, "No doubt" when Dunk tells him about the robin and the words of the vow. I think there is wordplay here on dubbing and doubt, with Plummer implying that there was "no dubbing," in spite of the details related by Dunk.

After the scene with Plummer, deft turns of phrase provide additional reason to question Dunk's story of being knighted by Ser Arlan. "I have the honor to be a knight," he tells Prince Valarr. One might interpret this to mean that Dunk IS a knight or one might read this as saying that Dunk has a necessary quality to be a knight without actually holding that title. Later, in a conversation with the squire Raymun Fossoway, Dunk reflects on Raymun's qualifications to be a knight and then thinks to himself, "If he is only a squire, what business do I have being a knight? One of us is a fool." Just a few minutes earlier, Dunk was embarrassed to remember kissing a tavern girl and the narration summarizes his thoughts: "What a great fool he was." Of course, there is a strong connection to the Florian the Fool legend in both Dunk and Brienne's stories. It's possible that Dunk is both a knight and a fool, but I think the implication here is that Dunk is a fool, not a knight.

Later in the story, the knighting of Raymun is another moment of truth for Dunk. To round out the group of seven combatants necessary for the Trial of Seven, Raymun must be quickly knighted so he will be allowed to participate.

"Knight me." Raymun put a hand on Dunk's shoulder and turned him. "I will take my cousin's place. Ser Duncan, knight me." He went to one knee.

Frowning, Dunk moved a hand to the hilt of his longsword, then hesitated. "Raymun, I ... I should not."

"The lad has the truth of it," said Ser Lyonel Baratheon. "Do it, Ser Duncan. Any knight can make a knight."

"Do you doubt my courage?" Raymun asked.

"No," said Dunk. "Not that, but ... " Still he hesitated.

"A fanfare of trumpets cut the mist-morning air. Egg came running up to them "Ser, Lord Ashford summons you."

The Laughing Storm gave an impatient shake of the head. "Go to him, Ser Duncan. I'll give squire Raymun his knighthood."

It's pretty clear that Dunk hesitates to knight Raymun Fossoway because he does not actually have the power to confer that title on anyone. As Ser Lyonel points out, "Any knight can make a knight." Dunk's reluctance to conduct the ceremony is persuasive evidence that Dunk is not a knight (as knighthood is understood in Westeros) and doesn't want to undermine another knight's dubbing by pretending to confer a title that is not his to award.

But Dunk does undergo some rituals

There are so many hints in the text that Dunk was not really knighted - maybe all of this debate is old and I'm just late to the party. The idea that is new to me, however, is that Dunk really does undergo a series of ceremonial experiences in The Hedge Knight that echo the knighting process with some unique twists.

First, recall some aspects of the Westeros knighthood ceremony. From the wiki:

There are several variations of ceremonies. It is customary to stand vigil in a sept the night before one receives knighthood. This vigil is carried out before the figure of the Warrior. The sword might be placed before or upon the figure, and the armor in a pile at the statue’s base. ... The six hundred knights who were dubbed after the Battle of the Blackwater, also wore shifts of undyed wool, and marked receiving their knighthood by the putting on a swordbelt after being dubbed. ... However, men can also be dubbed a knight without exercising these customs, for example on the battlefield, possibly as they lay dying (e.g., Tywald Lannister). Witnesses might be present at the moment of receiving knighthood, although this is not a requirement.

Knighthood in Westeros is an institution associated with the Andals so many knights are followers of the Faith of the Seven, explaining the rationale for a vigil in a sept prior to being dubbed. Several times in The Hedge Knight, Dunk reflects that he does not know any prayers, indicating that he does not have a strong religious upbringing or devotion. Instead of a vigil in a sept, we do see Dunk awake alone at night, "gazing up at the night sky. ... The stars were everywhere, thousands and thousands of them. One fell as he was watching, a bright green streak that flashed across the black, then was gone.

"A falling star brings luck to him who sees it, Dunk thought. But the rest of them are all in their pavilions by now, staring up at silk instead of sky. So the luck is mine alone."

In the earlier post, I mentioned the possible connection between Bloodraven's "a thousand eyes and one" in the thousands of stars with one falling as Dunk watches. Now I see this passage as both a Bloodraven symbol and also an indication of Dunk's "religion." His vigil is not inside a sept but out in the open, under the night sky and with a falling star bringing him luck.

Does this also mean that Bloodraven is Dunk's "god"?

After his night under the stars, one of Dunk's steps to gain admission to the tourney is to talk to the steward of House Ashford, as outlined earlier in this post. Perhaps similar to the way that a mainstream knight would place his sword before the figure of the warrior in the sept, Dunk places his sword before this steward, Plummer:

"And where might you be from, Ser Duncan the Tall?"

"Everyplace. I was squire to Ser Arlan of Pennytree since I was five or six. This is his shield." He showed it to the steward. "He was coming to the tourney, but he caught a chill and died, so I came in his stead. He knighted me before he passed, with his own sword." Dunk drew the longsword and laid it on the scarred wooden table between them.

The master of the lists gave the blade no more than a glance. "A sword it is, for a certainty. . . . "

Later, Dunk returns to Egg who had waited at their camp beneath the elm tree.

Dunk took out his new armor to show the boy. "If you're ever to be a knight, you'll need to know good steel from bad. Look here, this is fine work. ..."

So the usual ceremonial presentation of the sword and armor before the Warrior of the seven gods instead takes place before the master of the lists and the squire who will become Aegon V. Based on what we know of Dunk in the first three stories, it does seem as if those three people - Dunk, Egg and Bloodraven (represented by Plummer, if my surmise is correct) - have a special bond and common or complementary missions. Instead of offering his services to the warrior, Dunk is offering his services to Egg and Bloodraven.

The sword belt may be the last piece of evidence that Dunk is a largely do-it-yourself knight, not an official, sponsored knight. In the opening pages of the novella, when he finishes burying Ser Arlan, Dunk thinks about his options including squiring for another knight or joining the City Watch in King's Landing or Lannisport. Then he takes stock of Ser Arlan's possessions - describing them now as things that he, Dunk, owns.

Dunk looked at the shield, scooped up the sword belt, and looked at the shield again. The belt was made for the old man's skinny hips, it would never do for him, no more than the hauberk would. He tied the scabbard to a length of hempen rope, knotted it around his waist, and drew the longsword. ... Plain as it was, the sword felt good in his hand, and Dunk knew how sharp it was, having worked it with whetstone and oilcloth many a night before they went to sleep. It fits my grip as well as it ever fit his, he thought to himself, and there is a tourney at Ashford Meadow.

This is the moment Dunk decides to present himself as a knight instead of seeking work as a squire or watchman. The belt he uses to attach the sword to his body is simple hempen rope; he does not use Ser Arlan's sword belt. The rope belt becomes a topic in his first encounter with Egg:

Dunk frowned . . . "I am a knight, I'll have you know."

"You don't look to be a knight."

"Do all knights look the same?"

"No, but they don't look like you, either. Your sword belt's made of rope."

"So long as it holds my scabbard, it serves. ..."

So these rituals around knighthood - vigil, presentation of sword and armor, and donning of a sword belt - take a new and unique form for Dunk, but they are carried out, in a fashion. But what about the actual dubbing?

Is there such a thing as a rawhide knight?

In Westeros, the moment of conferring knighthood involves the candidate knight kneeling and a sponsoring knight touching the flat of the sword blade to the shoulder of the candidate knight, and then moving to the other shoulder and alternating as he is charged to be brave, just, to protect the innocent, etc. There are several moments in The Hedge Knight when someone touches Dunk on the shoulder, perhaps conveying the idea that many people want Dunk to be a champion and true knight. The scene where Dunk is being measured for his new suit of armor stands out:

The armorer looked him up and down. "You're a big one, but I've armored bigger." He came out from behind the table. "Kneel, I want to measure those shoulders. Aye, and that thick neck o' yours." Dunk knelt. The armorer laid a length of knotted rawhide along his shoulders, grunted, slipped it about his throat, grunted again "Lift your arm. No, the right." He grunted a third time. "Now you can stand." The inside of a leg, the thickness of his calf, and the size of his waist elicited further grunts. "I have some pieces in me wagon that might do for you," the man said when he was done "Nothing prettied up with gold or silver, mind you, just good steel, strong and plain. I make helms that look like helms, not winged pigs and queer foreign fruits, but mine will serve you better if you take a lance in the face."

Instead of a noble charge to defend the innocent, the armorer grunts three times and tells Dunk to lift his arm. The shoulders are touched with the rawhide measuring tape instead of a sword. What does that mean? Is it the same as Dunk's hemp rope belt? Rawhide is a dried and treated cowhide and animal skins in ASOIAF are often symbolic allusions to skinchanging. Has Dunk just been inducted into the service of skinchangers? Or is there another point in being "dubbed" with a measuring tape?

Note that the rawhide also goes around Dunk's throat. We know that Dunk is an ancestor of Brienne of Tarth and that Brienne will be hanged nearly to death by the Brotherhood without Banners. Brienne ends the hanging by agreeing to take up a sword. Is the knotted rawhide here a symbolic hanging for Dunk as well as a knighting?

The armorer, whose name is Steely Pate, reappears when Dunk is facing a crisis. He delivers Dunk's repainted and strengthened shield to him, reassures him that he made a good choice of sigil that shows life and summer and then reminds Dunk of a "shield rhyme" he had learned from Ser Arlan years earlier: Oak and iron, guard me well or else I'm dead and doomed to hell. Dunk cannot remember any prayers, but he remembers this rhyme with the help of Steely Pate. In addition to the sky and stars, Bloodraven and Egg, and hempen rope or rawhide, perhaps oak and iron are elements of Dunk's faith. The battle he will fight to resolve the central conflict of the story - saving his own life and limb - involves using a shield as a weapon.

Throughout ASOIAF there are many references to true knights and there are characters who have many of the qualities one would expect in a knight but they have not been officially recognized as such:

  • The Hound hates knights and thinks they are phoneys, but he is a great swordsman and takes on Arya as something of a squire.
  • Brienne of Tarth is a skilled and powerful fighter but she is a woman.
  • Bran Stark dreams of being a knight but he is from the North, where the tradition of knighthood is not established and he cannot walk after being pushed off a wall. He does team up with the tall and powerful Hodor, however.
  • Jon Snow joins the Night's Watch and becomes Lord Commander but is never knighted along the way.
  • Tyrion performs some amazing and effective acts of combat, but his dwarfism may prevent any thoughts of pursuing a knighthood. He becomes a mummer knight, however, when he joins Penny's fake jousting act and rides the pig in comical staged combat.
  • Ser Dontos was a knight but he is stripped of his knighthood and made a fool for his disgraceful behavior at Joffrey's name day tourney.

So Dunk is in great company in his "not really a knight" situation. Maybe the best knights in Westeros are those who are not really knights at all.

Edited by Seams

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