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Phylum of Alexandria

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  1. I don't think GRRM really explores the notion of how madness or insanity factors into one's agency of action. I think it's pretty clear that Aerys is a horrible person because of his cruelties. His Targaryen madness reflects one of the costs of their magical power. The dragon ruler dynasty is full of sick, incestuous, self-obsessed elitists who grow paranoid about the prospect of losing their power. Despite their real power and their in-story lore as the wise rulers of the world, their inner weaknesses are as clear as day. Now, I do think GRRM uses Arya, Bran, and Sansa to explore the lines between innocence and culpability. Certainly Arya has done some terrible things, Bran has committed supernatural abominations, and Sansa may soon play some role in Sweetrobin's murder, wittingly or otherwise. It's pretty obvious that they are walking down some dark paths, though where exactly they are on the path of culpability is not exactly clear. I imagine that they will pull back at some point, and that will reveal something about their own inner strengths, despite the tarnish of their transgressions remaining.
  2. Yes, I know. I was just cheekily pointing out that GRRM has already raised this argument from the viewpoint of Stannis, and shot it down with Davis' heartfelt humanism.
  3. I don't think the Tully muppets is simply for comedic effect. GRRM is clearly having fun here, but it seems to be one of many variations on the theme of color triplets: blue, red, and green. The sigil of House Massey, the forks of the Trident, the terrain pieces in cyvasse, etc. And then Grover Tully (blue), Elmo (red), and Kermit (green). I've speculated that it's pointing to different magical bloodlines, but who the heck knows for sure. It's just a clue that he has fun pointing us to, with no clear explanation in sight. As for names, I don't have real complaints; thankfully, there's nothing as goofy as Kingsley Shacklebolt. I guess I don't like when he lists off these numerous houses, and they almost always feature alliterations. Like, I know that he likes how certain sentences bounce off of the tongue, but he often takes it too far, to the detriment of his world-building.
  4. AERYS: "What is the life of a few Starks and Hollards against the raw power to defend the kingdom?" GRRM: "Everything."
  5. Sexism plays an important in-story role in how the different Lannisters act and are treated. Certainly Jaime had opportunities that his twin sister did not, and despite being an entitled prick who kills with no remorse, he comes off as comparatively more balanced a person than Cersei as a result. Given how Cersei uses her lifelong denial of power and opportunity as a central narrative that informs her in-story actions, her descent into villainy and madness perhaps marks her character as a casualty of such a system of sexism. Like Lysa Tully, the system turned some of its victims into monsters. And yet, other female characters manage to cope more effectively and use their power for better things. So Cersei was a victim in some respects, but she's also truly quite monstrous. As for Tywin, yes, I can imagine that sexism can play a role in readers respecting him while hating Cersei. Still, we never got to see inside of Tywin's head. I imagine that most people lost their respect for Cersei once they started reading her POV chapters in AFFC. Before that book, it was possible to imagine a ruthless calculated nature, because (like Tywin) that was what she tried to project. Tywin's entire character is about narcissistic self-delusion and the falseness behind scrupulously stage-managed appearances. His whole life has been one big PR scam, and I bet that his inner monologue would reveal a very different, weaker character than what he projects to the world....but that is a POV that readers will never get.
  6. That was a great read, thanks. I think my speculation was running in similar terrain as yours, though it veered into a slightly different direction once I started soaking up GRRM's non-ASOIAF works and saw some potential parallels. Still, I do think we have a fair amount of overlap in our working theories. Feel free to read some of my topic posts and see what you think. Welcome!
  7. I only got into the books around 2014, but my friend who got into it in the late 90s said that originally the waiting wasn't nearly as hard...even for Feast for Crows...because the internet had not completely overtaken our lives. You just forgot about the books for a while, and moved onto other things, until voila! a new book was available. Obviously that world is dead and gone, and everyday Google is barraged with searches of "Winds of winter when" (not to mention tons of garbage fluff articles that garner clicks from those searches). The waiting is excruciating! And yet, it's also what generated a ton of fan theorizing--some of which has been quite brilliant. Certainly without a TV show to fuel interest, the dedicated fan base won't be all that huge. But it will continue on. I do recommend taking intermittent breaks though, ignoring ASOIAF for a while in favor of other works and projects. I've kind of stopped caring when TWOW will drop. Now I focus on other things, and turn to ponder about ASOIAF topics when it's fun to do so, rather than something to fill time as I wait for GRRM to get his shit together...
  8. I'm on board with half of that take...the later half! This guy is way too kind on the early show. I do agree that GoT got worse with every passing season, but there were some huge red flags even in Season 1 concerning D&D's judgment, and by Season 4 (apparently his favorite), some absolutely asinine decisions. Aside from GRRM's dialogue, the show's main overall strengths were: 1) replicating the spectacle of the books' biggest moments and 2) utilizing on-screen chemistry between its cast members. Maybe that's what this person is responding so enthusiastically to in his praise for the early seasons. But in terms of creating compelling characterizations, plot dynamics, and themes (i.e., actual storytelling), the show was poor from the start.
  9. B). He's human, he's flawed, he's not nearly as rational and stoic as he thinks he is. He's a morally gray character, one of GRRM's most intriguing. He rides the razor thin line between heroism and villainy. And as such, he's a great foil for Dany. I do agree that, with the issue of Edric Storm, things have ramped up in terms of his active reasoning and premeditation. That's how GRRM works, to give a character small challenges that often have easy solutions or convenient loopholes, then to progress with increasingly more difficult situations and demands. Davos made things easy for him by spiriting Edric away without his knowledge, but that won't happen again. Soon we will get not just to human sacrifice, but the sacrifice of his own daughter, ostensibly to save the world.
  10. @frenin thanks for reminding me about that bit about the Blackwater. I had forgotten about that. Certainly Davos agrees with you. He responds to that mention of prophecy with a challenge to the idea of alternative fates: "If she saw two futures, well . . . both cannot be true.” King Stannis pointed a finger. "There you err, Onion Knight. Some lights cast more than one shadow. Stand before the nightfire and you'll see for yourself. The flames shift and dance, never still. The shadows grow tall and short, and every man casts a dozen. Some are fainter than others, that's all. Well, men cast their shadows across the future as well. One shadow or many. Melisandre sees them all." -- Davos II, ACOK Davos is emphasizing the importance of choice and agency, yet Stannis thinks of Mel's powers as reflecting multiple possible paths, with some paths more determined than others. He still thinks in terms of choice to some extent, but it's still a much more fatalistic way of thinking than Davos. He does indeed say that his going to Storm's End to meet Renly would result in him gaining his army. And he does say that if he had met Renly on the Blackwater, Renly would smash him. But since he's convinced that all pretenders including Renly are fated to die lest they stop their folly, he doesn't have to connect meeting with Renly to Renly dying. From his vantage point, he tried to give Renly one last chance to save himself before Renly committed himself to that particular, tragic path of destiny. GRRM surely wants the readers to connect the moral dots that Stannis fails to connect, and so he has Cressen and Davos press Stannis on these issues, but Stannis simply doesn't accept the arguments as his advisors frame them. You don't have to agree with his reasoning as sensible, but it's a very human way of interpreting a supernaturally-colored moral quandary.
  11. That is true about the army; Selyse brings up the prospect of gaining Renly's army were he to die in the ACoK Prologue--and this was likely after Mel had told the king and queen that she saw Renly's death in the flames. That knowledge certainly strengthens his culpability in the eyes of readers. I'm not sure if that does implicate Stannis further, at least from Stannis' standpoint. First, he could believe that Renly would die, somehow, if Renly pursues this false claim to the throne. So, even if Stannis were to hold off on making his own claim, Renly would die, because all of the pretenders are doomed to die (certainly Mel said as much later on, illustrated with leeches). So in meeting with Renly and providing him one last chance to stop his folly, Stannis would be taking the one course that might possibly save his brother from his fate, though the choice would be up to Renly. He certainly would not regard sitting still to be a real option, however. I don't deny that his talk of honor sometimes masks his own personal grievances and ambitions, but the fact remains that he has the only legitimate claim to the throne, and he sincerely (and correctly) believes the others to be pretenders. To let those pretenders usurp the throne would be a grave injustice upon the land. There is no way he doesn't stake a claim, according to his own sincerely held moral code. Obviously, we readers know that Stannis' meeting with Renly was integral to allowing Mel to murder him. And his literal shadow did the killing--and in his dreams he even kind of saw it. So clearly he is not innocent in the way that he thinks he is. But he's also not guilty in the way that we might think he is. Again, the reason provided by Mel to convince him to lend his seed need not be clearly tied to Renly. We don't know what she said, but it could have been vague talk about increasing her power for the coming battle. Or maybe she couched it as a protection spell for her king. Or she may have talked about casting a long shadow as she did with Jon, and Stannis took it more metaphorically, like granting her the power to manifest a great destiny for him. It certainly did not need to be tied to Renly's fate. Also, while Stannis is not the shameless philanderer that Robert was, this could be another example of the "correct and best course" being conveniently tied to the fulfillment of his desires. He was convinced by this powerful woman that sex with her would increase her powers, thus increasing her value as an asset for him. Given the clear contempt he has for his wife, this decision may not have been so hard for him to accept. And maybe he returned for seconds and thirds, just in case.
  12. We can only go on what GRRM decides to feed us, and there's a lot that we don't know about Stannis' time spent with Melisandre. But we do know he believes in her power. He said as much to Davos, to explain why a non-believer like him would embrace her strange red god. Why and whether that's reasonable from our perspectives is irrelevant; what's relevant is that he has faith in her powers and her counsel. We also know that Melisandre has her own ambitions, and can be very strategic in how she uses the trappings of her power to advocate for things she believes to be true. Her suggestion to meet with Renly was GRRM's clever way of showing Mel's guile. She likely did need to see him or know his location before she could unleash the shadow upon him. But that's her business; not something she need share with Stannis. The notion of fixed versus changeable fate is not explored in depth, but it seems to me that Melisandre thinks certain fates can be avoided by "correct" actions (which of course are determined by her, conveniently). So she might have told Stannis that a parley might allow Renly to avoid the fate she saw in her flames, but that otherwise he was doomed to die. Doomed how? With fate, it could be anything. Mutiny in his own party, trapped under his horse in battle, even a stray bolt of lightning (fitting for their locale). There are plenty of ways to justify ones desires as fate without resorting to cold premeditation of murder. I don't think that Stannis was told about Renly being killed by a shadow, and I don't think he knows what came from his coupling with Melisandre. Mel tells Stannis what she thinks he needs to know, and while Stannis is sharp when he wants to be, he certainly has his blind spots, particularly when it relates to his own desires coloring his quest for justice. No matter how vehemently he tells himself otherwise, he is human, full of desires, biases, and contradictions. Readers are free to judge his rationalizations as insufficient, and certainly people who espouse bias toward Renly will judge him even harsher, but I think the evidence shows his understanding of Renly's death to be something markedly different from cold premeditation--though it's certainly not "innocent."
  13. I can admit that it's ambiguous as written, but for me the role of prophecy is important for Stannis' actions. He believes in Melisandre's powers of foresight, and she tells him that Renly's death is fated. We know that Mel takes a lot of liberty in her interpretation of her visions, and we also know that she played an active role in Renly's murder, just as she did with Courtney Penrose. But Stannis does not know it. “Maester Cressen was your faithful servant. She slew him, as she killed Ser Cortnay Penrose and your brother Renly.” “Now you sound a fool,” the king complained. “She saw Renly’s end in the flames, yes, but she had no more part in it than I did. The priestess was with me. Your Devan would tell you so. Ask him, if you doubt me. She would have spared Renly if she could. It was Melisandre who urged me to meet with him, and give him one last chance to amend his treason. And it was Melisandre who told me to send for you when Ser Axell wished to give you to R’hllor.” DAVOS IV, ASOS I fully concede that motivated reasoning would compel Stannis to buy into this explanation, and that some part of him may realize Mel's (and his own) culpability with Renly's death. But this is quite different from simply resolving that he will have to kill his brother. GRRM grants Stannis this special supernatural circumstance, in part to lend his character a moral ambiguity that will later be explored and tested as the narrative progresses. As for the question of metals, I dunno, iron is fine by me. I'm not really interested in attributions, unless they are in-story symbols planted by the author that could serve as clues to where the story may go (and even there, I tend to speculate sparingly).
  14. Yeah, the most generous interpretation of the dynamic is that Sandor wasn't necessarily drawn to Sansa; he was just around her by the happenstance of guarding her betrothed. Maybe he gave similar cynical rants to other idealistic children (like, say, Myrcella) while he was drunk; or maybe Sansa's idealism stood out. We'll probably never know. But it was Sansa's consolation of him in his moment of vulnerability that really made her stand out, and it was that act that started a new dynamic between them.
  15. It's true he could have stronger proof, but I was thinking less about evidence and more about a convincing narrative. Obviously practical political interests will shape how one perceives House Lannister and their golden twins, but if we're assuming a solid military victory for Stannis, it's not hard for me to imagine that people would accept the "Brotherfucker" narrative for the Lannnisters. That story was spreading once Stannis had announced it--for a reason. Such belief has more to do with the public's perceptions of the nobles, which can be unfair and untrue sometimes, as we see with the public latching onto the Shireen-Fool story. But it's not like any story could be pinned to any public figure. Stannis could be a cuckold, but a philanderer would be a much harder sell. Ned could be a traitor against his king (at least when he confesses as much), but Stark incest would be a much harder sell. Whereas, for the Lannister twins, "Brotherfucker" is a more convincing charge. Not just because it was literally true, but how the Lannisters presented themselves, interacted with others, projected their values. Now, I do agree with you that Stannis does have the potential to screw up his own rule by implementing terrible religious decrees. My take is that GRRM wrote both Renly and Stannis as unfit to rule, for opposing reasons. And yet, he planted within Stannis the desire and the possibility of attaining the narrative status of a hero. I think that's GRRM's setup for a grand tragic failure for Stannis--ultimately to serve as a foil for Dany and maybe Jon. But it does set him apart from Renly. While Stannis' role in Renly's murder is ambiguous at best (there might be some willful denial on his part), we know that Renly clearly intended to murder his brother. He said as much to Catelyn. Just as we know that Stannis' claim to the throne happens to be valid, evidence or no evidence, while Renly's was not, and he knew it.
  16. What's most important about the issue of legitimacy isn't that a claim to the throne is true per se, what matters is if the claim is compelling enough to forge a lasting peace among the people of the kingdom, and to enable stable transitions of power in the future. So yes, Robert and Ned rebelled against King Aerys, and people were divided on which side to take. But the reason for the rebellion--the murder of Ned's family--lends weight to their deeds. Even those who had sided with the throne had to admit the cruelty and madness of Aerys. So the two sides fought it out, and the rebels deposed the Mad King. Then, pardons were issued, a Targaryen descendent was crowned, and a peace was forged. Notably, while Robert's peace only lasted 15 or so years, what broke it was not strife between Targaryen loyalists and the supporters of House Baratheon, but strife within the Rebel party. For all of Robert's faults as a ruler, the legitimacy of his rule was not an issue (so long as Dany remained in exile). To be sure, Stannis' claim would be contested, though were he to win by might, he likely would be able to secure a lasting peace, due to the perceived validity of his charge against the Lannister twins. Renly would have the same valid claim against the Lannisters...but not against Stannis. Sure, Stannis worships a strange foreign god, and people don't like that. But unless Stannis held a sustained campaign of terror and destruction against the septs and godswoods of Westeros, Renly's claim against his brother would simply look like naked ambition to many (which in fact it was). As such, it would be little more than the power move of a warlord. Such a move may work for a time in his favor, but it would invite other ambitious lords to try their own hands at grabbing power should the opportunity strike. Without an acceptable claim to legitimacy among the different factions, there would be no lasting peace.
  17. Scorn = dislike/have contempt for Arse = ass. When Ned entered the throne room at the end of Robert's Rebellion, he found Jaime seated on the iron throne, and has distrusted Jaime ever since. Jaime feels that Ned should have thanked him for killing the king, given how brutal Aerys was toward Ned's family. But instead Ned judged him as a king slayer, an oath breaker, and a Lannister with his own ambitions to the throne.
  18. I think Noye's idea of steel makes sense, in that Robert was the true steel in battle. When he wasn't fighting, he sidestepped his true talents, and he went to rust (which isn't a bad metal metaphor for corruption). When we first meet Stannis, he is the epitome of hard iron, yet later on we find that he can make compromises, adapt, forgive, and admit that he was wrong on major issues (most notably with Davos and the responsibilities of a king). He's still likely to be a tragic failed hero rather than someone fully redeemed, but there is a lot more to Stannis than meets the eye. With Renly, it's harder to say for sure. I think the closest we get to seeing the real Renly is with Catelyn, just after they meet with Stannis. And it's not a good look, to be honest. I agree with Steven Attewell on this one. https://racefortheironthrone.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/chapter-by-chapter-analysis-catelyn-iii-acok/ As bad a system as primogeniture might be, it sure beats the lawless warlord model that Renly was knowingly pursuing. There is likely much to Renly that did not meet the eye (much of which may never find its way into the narrative), but we got some details that were quite ugly.
  19. Perhaps. But in two of GRRM's earlier stories involving chess players, moving forward and backwards in time is a prominent aspect of the plot, tying in with the theme of chess move variations. In one of those stories (Under Siege), there is even time travel mixed with mind control/skinchanging, just like Bran.
  20. I think the link between chequy sigils and "the game of thrones" may be some promising territory to explore, but I'm betting that any checked board will have more of a tie to chess than checkers. GRRM is an avid chess player, and chess plays an integral role in many of his other stories. Some of them are obvious, like Unsound Variations, and some a little more subtly embedded, like Sandkings.
  21. If any one character has a deeper thematic connection with Odysseus, it is Davos. We don't know exactly what's in store for our constantly adrift Lord Hand, but returning home to Betha is something that's in his thoughts quite a bit. My guess is that he will eventually abandon Stannis and head there. Yes, Cersei's name always makes me think of Circe. And for one character, she does serve as a seductive distraction from a higher calling: Jaime.
  22. "A kiss. Drown me for a fool, Tris, I should have remembered..." --The Wayward Bride, ADWD "...Haldon said, "What a droll little fellow you are, Yollo. They say that the Shrouded Lord will grant a boon to any man who can make him laugh. Perhaps His Grey Grace will choose you to ornament his stony court." Duck glanced at his companion uneasily. "It's not good to jape of that one, not when we're so near the Rhoyne. He hears. "Wisdom from a duck," said Haldon. "I beg your pardon, Yollo. You need not look so pale, I was only playing with you. The Prince of Sorrows does not bestow his grey kiss lightly." --Tyrion III, ADWD "Aye, I've heard that too," said Duck, "but there's another tale I like better. The one that says he's not like t'other stone men, that he started as a statue till a grey woman came out of the fog and kissed him with lips as cold as ice." --Tyrion V, ADWD Also, the Drowned God's priests may kiss by water. What is dead may never die...
  23. I wrote some thoughts on A Song for Lya and other works compiled in Dreamsongs.
  24. The rhetoric of Revolution is always in vogue, unfortunately. "Radical" on the right means potentially dangerous, while "radical" on the left just means unrealistically idealistic, closed to compromise or disagreement, and ultimately ineffectual. I wish more people followed Richard Rorty (and Mark Lilla after him). Maybe we could actually grab power for meaningful change.
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