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Lummel

Samwell Tarly Reread

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Hello and welcome to rereading Samwell Tarly. This is spin off reread from the Jon Snow reread project as part of which we looked at Sam's chapters from ASOS to Sam I AFFC. After a titanic debate and the destruction of several mountain ranges Butterbumps! Ragnorak and myself agreed to continue with the remaining Sam chapters in a separate thread. The posting schedule will be slow since we intend to post the Sam chapter introductions in the order they are found in the combined AFFC & ADWD reading schedule published on the All Leather Must be Boiled Website, that is with the exception of the AFFC prologue which we will post before Sam V to give us a focus on Oldtown.

  • Jon III: ADWD 11
  • Samwell II: AFFC 16
  • Jon IV: ADWD 18
  • Jon V: ADWD 22
  • Samwell III: AFFC 27
  • Jon VI: ADWD 29
  • Melisandre I: ADWD 32
  • Samwell IV: AFFC 36
  • Jon VII: ADWD 36
  • Jon VIII: ADWD 40
  • Jon IX: ADWD 45
  • Samwell V: AFFC 46
  • Jon X: ADWD 50

We intend to post the Sam chapter introductions midweek, while we aim to post the Jon chapter introductions on the weekend.

Out of excessive kindness and generosity we are reposting the earlier Sam chapters here in this thread so all his narrative arc, so far, will be together in one thread. Hopefully this will help in concentrating on his development, character and themes in his chapters.

We are entering in on this protect with our familiar rules and intentions: to reread, analyze and be critical. This isn’t an appreciation thread, nor about winning over sides, but impartial analytical discussion.

Please feel free to read along and post your reactions to the chapter or just anything that strikes you as interesting or odd. GRRM's choice of words, a parallel in another chapter or even another POV, references, allusions or foreshadowings - it all adds to the conversation.

For the best possible discussion, we ask the following:

Please DON’T: Analyze future chapters. References to future events are fine but otherwise stick with the current or past chapters.
Please DON’T: Snipe with someone you disagree with – it's boring for everyone else and spoils the thread. State your opinion, give your evidence and agree to differ.

Please DO: Compare and contrast with other POVs. GRRM is fond of creating parallel scenes and role reversals.
Please DO: Show the support in the text for your views.


Chapter links:

Prologue ASOS Chett plots to massacre the Night's Watch officers and to escape

Sam I ASOS Sam the Slayer

Sam II ASOS Sam cuts an onion, Mormont murdered, "some place warm"

Sam III ASOS Sam slays again, rescue by Coldhands

Sam IV ASOS Return to Castle Black, musings on the election

Sam V ASOS Meeting with Stannis & the election candidates, Aemon sees Lightbringer. Sam swings the election.

Sam I AFFC Meeting with Jon, the Paper Shield, discussing the Others and ancient history, marching orders

Sam II AFFC On board the Blackbird, seasick and sailing towards Braavos

Sam III AFFC Sam in Braavos, his personal long night

Sam IV AFFC

Prologue AFFC

Sam V AFFC

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Prologue ASOS

Summary

Chett is our figurative walking corpse of a POV character (as they all seem to die) in the hours before he will become a literal walking corpse. We open with Chett, Lark the Sisterman, and Small Paul at the base of the Fist of the First Men trying to get the dogs to track a bear without much success as they discuss their plot to kill the key officers and desert the Nights Watch. They give up on tracking the bear and return to the camp and we're consistently treated to Chett's inner monologue that fills us in on the details of his plot. Shortly after their return, Mormont summons all the brothers and informs them of the plan to attack the Wildlings and harry them on their way to the Wall. Chett goes to sleep to wait for the third watch when his plan is to go into effect but is awoken early by falling snow. He realizes the snow will ruin his entire scheme as they won't be able to find their food caches and they'll be easily trackable. He decides that he can at least take his revenge on Sam and begins to make his way to where Sam is sleeping when the horns sound ... once ... twice .... three times signaling White Walkers.

Analysis

There are a number ways to view this prologue. It recalls the first prologue in a Game of Thrones. Even part of their mission here is to discover the fate of the men from that prologue which underscores the connection. There members of the Watch were debating between returning to Castle Black or pursuing Wildlings as well. They too chose to pursue the Wildlings only to encounter the Others. Back in GoT it was a relatively simple scenario where youth was contrasted with age and experience to shape the dramatic conflict. It mirrored the relatively simple opening of the book where the Starks are presented as the classic "good guys" vs. the seemingly evil Lannisters. This prologue is more politically complex which mirrors the evolution the story's plot in general. By now we've seen Varys and Littlefinger scheme and the Realm bicker while the Ice Zombie Apocalypse looms and Chett's scheming to steal Craster's seat offers a microcosm of the greater picture of Westeros.

This also offers us a rare glimpse of the smallfolk perspective. Chett is a bystander, albeit a Seinfeldian guilty bystander, and has no stake in the greater political conflict beyond bearing some obtuse grudge at Walder Frey for sending a bastard to sentence him. He offers a more specific version of Jorah's line to Dany

Quote

“The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends,” Ser Jorah told her. “It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace.” He gave a shrug. “They never are.”


While Chett is rather unsympathetic himself, his coconspirators are more sympathetic and represent this desire to be left in peace most explicitly stated by Small Paul with "He shouldn't hunt us." when he agrees to kill Mormont. Jon is in many ways the classic heroic arc and these conspirators offer a glimpse at the bystanders around the hero. Sometimes the guy in the red shirt on Star Trek isn't all that happy to go around the left side of the rock when Kirk tells him to. Like Qhorin did with Jon, Mormont recites the oath with all these men but our POV has a very different reaction than Jon.

This chapter does an excellent job of setting mood as well. It serves to remind of the Others even as SoS (probably the most fast paced and involved book plot-wise) kicks off. Jon's mission at the end of last book was to get word to Mormont and this conspiracy serves to heighten the tension of what we believe will be a Watch/Wildling conflict even as Martin begins to drop clues and ominous hints about the supernatural threat-- first just a dark day needing torches and hints at an extreme cold then halfway through we get Dywen's explicit musings on the dead silence in the woods. Chett is probably the only conspiracy POV we really get. LF, Varys, Doran, Manderly, Roose, Tywin, Illyrio, etc all have their inner workings obscured to us. Chett represents a root conspiracy figure and he explicitly lays out his planning and reasoning in a detail we don't even get from Theon's brief conniving Winterfell adventure.

There is also a symbolic and foreshadowing aspect to this chapter. There have been threads looking at various scenes, like the Iron Born kingsmoot, and pointing out how they seem to foreshadow the outcome of final conflict or my personal favorite Sansa's Snow Winterfell chapter. This chapter is rich in both symbolism and foreshadowing (sorry Lummel /ohwell.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':ohwell:' /> )

Foreshadowing

Courtesy of Tze we have Chett, the son of a Leechman who also has a pack of dogs and is filled with a hate for bastards who thinks

Quote

There’d be no lord’s life for the leechman’s son, no keep to call his own, no wives nor crowns. Only a wildling’s sword in his belly, and then an unmarked grave. The snow’s taken it all from me… the bloody snow…


Even his desire to steal Craster's Keep involves taking the "lordship" of an ally through treachery and his thoughts of getting away with his plot if all the witnesses are dead from a Wildling attack is reminiscent of Ramsay at Winterfell.

There's also the black bitch that recalls the scene in Jon from the Winterfell feast

Quote

The big black bitch had taken one sniff at the bear tracks, backed off, and skulked back to the pack with her tail between her legs.

Dogs moved between the tables, trailing after the serving girls. One of them, a black mongrel bitch with long yellow eyes, caught a scent of the chicken. She stopped and edged under the bench to get a share. Jon watched the confrontation. The bitch growled low in her throat and moved closer. Ghost looked up, silent, and fixed the dog with those hot red eyes. The bitch snapped an angry challenge. She was three times the size of the direwolf pup. Ghost did not move. He stood over his prize and opened his mouth, baring his fangs. The bitch tensed, barked again, then thought better of this fight. She turned and slunk away, with one last defiant snap to save her pride. Ghost went back to his meal.


That's as much as I'll delve into it here but there seems to be a great deal of broad foreshadowing potential here.

Symbolism

Lark the Sisterman is a rather interesting name. A lark is a songbird and a curious name for a Nights Watch member who is already a bird by being a crow. Lark's are associated with daybreak so they are the opposite of the Nights Watch, but also their purpose relative to the Long Night and dawn. There's also the seeming connection between the Song of Ice and Fire and dawn/Long Night which makes a songbird tied to dawn a noteworthy symbol. He is also the Sisterman who wants to go home which recalls the Jon/Arya tie and the fact that Lark is with his cousins might be meaningful in terms of Jon's parentage.

Snow is also an important symbol and worth a closer look. Clash ends with the Bran witnessing the destruction of Winterfell and Storm will end with its rebuilding in snow by Sansa. Sansa's very positive association with snow at the end of this book is contrasted with the rather negative feel here that seems to be tied to the Others.

Observations

Chett is always wrong.

Quote

Well, they were no closer to Stark and Royce than when they’d left the Wall, but they’d learned where all the wildlings had gone—up into the icy heights of the godsforsaken Frostfangs.


We had the Mormont and Jon exchange that dealt with the being a beacon of sorts for Benjen or Royce to find rather than searching endless forest with too few men. Similarly Jon will evaluate the very plan Mormont proposes as he travels with the Wildlings and notes how well it would have succeeded.

There's also the ironically wrong like who pisses their breeches

Quote

so he wouldn’t have no trouble there, no more than he would with Tarly. One touch of the knife and that craven would piss his pants and start blubbering for his life.
“You hit a tree,” Chett said. “Let’s see how you shoot when it’s Mance Rayder’s lads. ... I bet you’ll piss those breeches

Chett made a sound that was half a laugh and half a sob, and suddenly his smallclothes were wet, and he could feel the piss running down his leg, see steam rising off the front of his breeches.


or

Quote

To pay for his one sweet moment, they took his whole life.


Even though his one sweet moment was taking Bessa's whole life-- literally unlike the figurative life taking he suffered. There seems to be a deliberate undercurrent of Chett being both wrong and deluding himself.

Apparently the Milkwater does look white

Quote

But no. They were coming down. Down the Milkwater.
Chett raised his eyes and there it was. The river’s stony banks were bearded by ice, its pale milky waters flowing endlessly down out of the Frostfangs.


Mormont's Raven

Quote

The raven on his shoulder bobbed its head and echoed, “Meat. Meat. Meat.”
Mormont cleared his throat and spat. The spittle was frozen before it hit the ground. “Brothers,” he said, “men of the Night’s Watch.”
“Men!” his raven screamed. “Men! Men!”
We’ll die.” That was Maslyn’s voice, green with fear.
“Die,” screamed Mormont’s raven, flapping its black wings. “Die, die, die.”
The flames swirled and shivered, as if they too were cold, and in the sudden quiet the Old Bear’s raven cawed loudly and once again said, “Die.”


In the GoT prologue it was a half moon when the Others appeared and here there is no moon

Quote

The moon would be black tonight,

Twilight deepened. The cloudless sky turned a deep purple, the color of an old bruise, then faded to black. The stars began to come out. A half-moon rose. Will was grateful for the light.


For those who subscribe to the Others not being evil philosophy...

Quote

He found himself listening to the night. The wind did sound like a wailing child, and from time to time he could hear men’s voices, a horse’s whinny, a log spitting in the fire. But nothing else. So quiet.
He could see Bessa’s face floating before him. It wasn’t the knife I wanted to put in you, he wanted to tell her. I picked you flowers, wild roses and tansy and goldencups, it took me all morning. His heart was thumping like a drum, so loud he feared it might wake the camp. Ice caked his beard all around his mouth. Where did that come from, with Bessa?

Where did that come from with Bessa? It does seem to coincide with the coming of the Others and is the closest thing to humanity we see in this bitter and self absorbed man filled with petty hatreds and delusions of a most pathetic grandeur.

Originally posted here by Ragnorak, 25th August 2013

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Sam I (ASOS)

Bran thought about it. “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”
“That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him.


Summary

We open with Sam desperately plodding through the snow as what remains of the Watch continues to flee the Fist days after the wight attack. His inner monologue is a real time experience of all the dire portents we've continually heard of real cold, real snow, real Winter. Sam pieces together what he can remember of the battle at the Fist before he finally collapses. Small Paul carries Sam after Grenn can't get him up but they eventually fall behind and are left outside Mormont's ring of torches and Small Paul has to put Sam down. One of the pursuing Others finds them and kills Small Paul but Sam finds it in himself to stab the Other with the obsidian dagger killing it. Dawn is breaking and Sam and Grenn set off to catch up with Mormont.

Observations

Tears

Sam starts off sobbing with the first word of the chapter and we're told he's sobbing eight more times.

Quote

yet Jon saw no tears, heard no wailing mothers. These are winter’s people, he reminded himself. Tears freeze upon your cheeks where they come from.

The only thing he could do was cry, and when he cried the tears froze on his cheeks.

Sam would have cried for him, but those tears would only freeze as well, and he could scarcely keep his eyes open now.

He had seen the face before, but it took him a moment to remember. Paul. Small Paul. Melting ice ran down into his eyes from the heat of the torch. “Can you carry him?” he heard Grenn ask.

He wondered whether Dickon would shed a tear for his brother who died in the snow, somewhere off beyond the edge of the world. Why should he? A coward’s not worth weeping over. He had heard his father tell his mother as much, half a hundred times.


We seem to be witnessing Sam's transformation into one of Winter's people-- or at least the death of a Summer's Child.

Mother have Mercy

Quote

I can’t go on. Mother have mercy, I can’t.

“Mother have mercy,” he muttered in a hushed husky voice beneath the frozen mask. “Mother have mercy, Mother have mercy, Mother have mercy.” With each prayer he took another step, dragging his legs through the snow. “Mother have mercy, Mother have mercy, Mother have mercy.”

She can’t hear me, no more than the Mother Above. The Mother was merciful, all the septons agreed, but the Seven had no power beyond the Wall. This was where the old gods ruled, the nameless gods of the trees and the wolves and the snows. “Mercy,” he whispered then, to whatever might be listening, old gods or new, or demons too, “oh, mercy, mercy me, mercy me.”

“If you take the torch, I can take the fat boy.”
“Can you carry him?” he heard Grenn ask.
“I carried a calf once was heavier than him. I carried him down to his mother so he could get a drink of milk.”
“Could I have one of your ravens? Just the one. I’d never let Lark eat it.”

“No one’s like to wait for you, Paul. Leave the pig for the dead men.”
“He promised I could have a bird,” Small Paul said, even though Sam hadn’t, not truly. They aren’t mine to give. “I want me a bird that talks, and eats corn from my hand.”


Sam's prayer for mercy is answered with both a mother connection with Small Paul's calf recollection and a tie to the Old Gods with the raven connection.

This struck me as a contrast to Arya's trip to the Inn where they sand the Bear and the Maiden Fair. What are we to make of the undead bear attacking the Old Bear? Thoren Smallwood's bravery reminded me of Lummel's thoughts about Qhorin's task for Jon-- dying is the easy way out.

Quote

“Yes you do,” said Grenn. “How about ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’ everybody knows that one. A bear there was, a bear, a bear! All black and brown and covered with hair!”
“No, not that one,” Sam pleaded. The bear that had come up the Fist had no hair left on its rotted flesh. He didn’t want to think about bears. “No songs. Please, Grenn.”


This stood out because of someone's observation that Roose Bolton's soft spoken voice will come back to haunt him given Jon's recollection of Ned telling him how important a loud voice was in battle.

Quote

“NO!” Mormont had to bellow at the top of his lungs to be heard over the horns. “Call them back, we have to cut our way out.”


Is the screech from the sword hitting the wood of the torch or the fire?

Quote

When the ice blue blade brushed the flames, a screech stabbed Sam’s ears sharp as a needle. The head of the torch tumbled sideways to vanish beneath a deep drift of snow, the fire snuffed out at once.


Anything stand out in the description of the dying Other? I confess every time I read that I think of "I'm melting" and the Wicked Witch of the West.

Quote

When he opened his eyes the Other’s armor was running down its legs in rivulets as pale blue blood hissed and steamed around the black dragonglass dagger in its throat. It reached down with two bone-white hands to pull out the knife, but where its fingers touched the obsidian they smoked. Sam rolled onto his side, eyes wide as the Other shrank and puddled, dissolving away. In twenty heartbeats its flesh was gone, swirling away in a fine white mist. Beneath were bones like milkglass, pale and shiny, and they were melting too. Finally only the dragonglass dagger remained, wreathed in steam as if it were alive and sweating. Grenn bent to scoop it up and flung it down again at once. “Mother, that’s cold.”

Analysis

One of the things that struck me was that Sam has a bit of an overlap with the Prologue in his opening POV. Next book Sam's opening chapter has probably the most significant overlap of any two POVs in the series so far since we get the whole scene repeated later from Jon's POV. He also has the meeting with Bran and then the meeting with Arya. Is there a theme here? Is Sam being set up as a unifying or reuniting figure? Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Tyrion and Dany have a bit of an overlap with the mummer's joust in the fighting pit so it may be less unique that my intuition believes. Just throwing it out there at the beginning to see if anything emerges.

Sam's observations of the battle more or less confirm the military assessments made by Jon, Mance and the Old Bear of the Watch and Wildling conflicts that never happen. It is the discipline that allows them to escape and break through which means these attacks must be far worse when they hit the Wildlings. If the defenses at the Fist helped hold back the undead hordes well enough for Sam to think they had a chance if only briefly they would surely have been devastating to Wildlings who actually die when shot by arrows. Mance noted to Jon last chapter that he had wondered why they had not suffered any attacks. Since the Watch being this far North took him by surprise he must have been referring to attacks by the Others. So there's a bit of an invitation to speculate on what a wight attack would have looked like on the Wildling march. The whole suspenseful build up to the Watch/Wildling conflict has the effect of emphasizing this common foe in the aftermath.

Sam's recollections are also filled with the moments of death of many of these minor characters in the Watch we've come to know. How one faces death is said to be a defining moment and we see this through Sam's memory but not in real time. At least for me, the overall way this tale of lost men is brought to us by Sam after they're gone conveyed a sense of Samwell the Maester who will one day write the definitive history of this time period that some Tyrion-like character will passionately read some day. It is hard to place exactly what triggered that and it might be related to already knowing that Jon will eventually tell him that he should be the one to write it down, but Sam is carrying a tale of answers to the reader after the fact on the heels of Jon witnessing the aftermath and posing the questions. So Sam is playing the role of storyteller for the incentive moment that ends Jon's last chapter. In a sense, Mormont's assignment to find the courage to send out the ravens may be what Sam's story is all about.

Originally posted here by Ragnorak, 22nd September 2013

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The things we love destroy us every time, lad. Remember that.

...Somplace warm... Ser Crow

Sam II (SoS)

Summary

The chapter opens with the juxtaposition of birth and death both of which instill fear in Sam. The few survivors that escaped the Fist have made it to Craster's and Gilly is giving birth in the loft while Sam tries to feed a thin onion broth to a dying brother. Craster is a reluctant and resentful host and there is growing tension accentuated by a lack of food. Sam leaves Craster's hall where he can no longer endure the birth, death, and Craster's attention. He is invited to archery practice which he perceives as taunting and then has a somewhat philosophical discussion with Grenn about nicknames.

Mormont's return from a patrol is heralded by his raven cawing "Snow" and he discusses dragonglass with Sam and how the Watch has lost sight of its true purpose. They are interrupted by Craster announcing the birth of his son. Picking up on Craster's complaint about another mouth to feed Sam offers to take the boy with the Watch when they leave. This angers Mormont and he orders Sam back inside Craster's hall where he discovers the wounded brother he was attending has died. They hold a funeral and burn the body but it smells so much like pork that Sam feels ill and leaves to retch and we're treated to another Dolorous Edd monologue.

After the funeral Mormont tells Craster they'll be leaving in the morning and he offers to have a "feed" rather than a feast to send them off. He only provides two loaves of bread which inspires an outburst by some of the brothers that Mormont barely keeps under control. Craster tries to kick the outspoken brothers out of his hall which ends in Craster's death, then Mormont's and a violent ensuing chaos. Sam comes to cradling a dying Mormont's head content to die in his hopelessness until two women convince him to try and get Gilly and her son away to safety.

Observations

Quote

“Down White Harbor way,” someone called out.
Mormont nodded. “He came to us from White Harbor, and never failed in his duty. He kept his vows as best he could, rode far, fought fiercely. We shall never see his like again.”
And now his watch is ended,” the black brothers said, in solemn chant.
“And now his watch is ended,” Mormont echoed.

An interesting turn of phrase.

Quote

“The boy’s brothers,” said the old woman on the left. “Craster’s sons. The white cold’s rising out there, crow. I can feel it in my bones. These poor old bones don’t lie. They’ll be here soon, the sons.”

What to make of this... Did these women never have sons? They call them Craster's sons but not their own. Infant wights or White Walkers? (An infant wight just doesn't seem very frightening.) Crackpot-- Is Craster mating with Others like the Nights King? Are infants needed to breed new White Walkers? Just superstition or a frightened association? Coldhands will later mention the temptation of a newborn that seems to point toward hunger and not "brothers." Taken at face value there's a lot to speculate on.

The Grenn nickname conversation seems worth exploring.

I think this is the last we see of the Raven until he pops out of the choosing kettle. He's very talkative this chapter.

Analysis

This was one of the heavy plot drama chapters. There's a certain relief that at least Sam and some familiar Watch figures survived to make it to Craster's but the situation is shadowed with ominous threats of food shortages, too few mounts, wounded men and the long dangerous trek back to the Wall. While these obstacles weigh in the back of a reader's mind amplified by Sam's own despairing inner monologue there is a tendency to anticipate the obstacles ahead only to have the rug yanked out by murder and mutiny. There is a wake of despair left that plays on the already arduous false dramatic narrative of the 40 man trek to the Wall that was being anticipated. The narrative tempo tends to play with the reader's expectations in a way that somewhat mimics Sam's despair and breakdown. It really is quite brilliantly done.

Onions

Sam has his noteworthy Mel contradiction moment here:

Quote

“If half of an onion is black with rot, it is a rotten onion. A man is good, or he is evil.”

When Craster’s wives brought onions, he seized one eagerly. One side was black with rot, but he cut that part off with his dagger and ate the good half raw.

What are we to make of the onion symbolism? There's some speculation in the food code thread

Are onions morality or "goodness"? A complex and layered thing that can be salvaged or redeemed if one removes the bad parts? I'm not entirely happy with that but I have nothing better to suggest at the moment.

This chapter there's the thin and barely nourishing onion broth that won't go into the dead man's mouth. It is the poor fare being served as we hear complaints that Craster is killing the wounded with his failure to offer more food while Craster himself gnaws on a sausage.

Onions show up in Jon:

Ygritte's breath smells of onion (he sensed no evil in her is the reason he gives to the Halfhand for sparing her)

There's the Onion or the Apple "you have to choose" moment (could be construed as the onion vs. Eve's apple)

In the Davos chapter with Mel he says

Quote

“Someone once told me the night is dark and full of terrors. And tonight I am no knight. Tonight I am Davos the smuggler again. Would that you were an onion.”

and Davos wishes he were smuggling a more moral cargo like his original onions of salvation and says so plainly to Mel.

Any other ideas or better takes on this one?

Food for thought (and a pun to entertain Lummel.)

Speaking of Lummel there are three Garths in this chapter, damn him!

Jon and Mormont

There's some interesting parallels to be seen here.

Both men are stabbed by fellow Watch members likely over the issues of being peaceful toward wildlings and the issue of food. Jon is concerned with family immediately before being stabbed and Mormont's thoughts run to family right afterward.

Mormont comes to the same conclusion as Jon regarding the Wildlings

Quote

You don’t build a wall seven hundred feet high to keep savages in skins from stealing women. The Wall was made to guard the realms of men… and not against other men, which is all the wildlings are when you come right down to it.

Both order Sam not to be afraid and both will order Sam to "abandon" Gilly's baby. Both also task Sam with being the storyteller. Jon suggests he be the one to chronicle the Watch and Mormont asks him to bring the tale of their ranging back to the Wall.

Knighthood

Sam raises the moral issues surrounding the Watch's dealings with Craster-- more so in his thoughts than in his words to Mormont.

Quote

Knights are supposed to defend women and children. Only a few of the black brothers were knights, but even so… We all say the words, Sam thought. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. A woman was a woman, even a wildling woman. We should help her. We should.

This is juxtaposed with Gilly's words

Quote

Gilly was crying. “Me and the babe. Please. I’ll be your wife, like I was Craster’s. Please, ser crow. He’s a boy, just like Nella said he’d be. If you don’t take him, they will.”

Originally posted here by Ragnorak, 23rd October 2013

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Samwell III ASOS

Overview

We move from rain to bitter cold in this part of ASOS. Sam is preceded by Catelyn and Robb en route to the Red Wedding and followed by Arya likewise going to her uncle's bloody wedding. All three chapters share the sense of “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry”. Here it's clear that Sam and Gilly are lost, moving slowly and low on food and as it turns out threatened by hostile wights. This is a fantastic chapter to parallel with Jon V, but sadly the posting format doesn't support columns.

Sam and Gilly arrive in an abandoned Wildling village. During the night they wake up in time to experience a Wight attack but then we see an “Answered prayer”.

Observations

  • We have another settlement centred around a weirwood. I think this and the tradition of castles having godswoods share a common origin back in first men days – ie a settlement based around a weirnet hub.
  • Sam's blisters. For me this is a nice way of talking about Sam's softness, that physically he is not hardy, but gentle born. His blisters are still making an appearance in Sam I AFFC and help to undermine the idea of him as a competent tough figure this contrasts nicely with the fact that:
  • Sam really deserves his nickname of slayer, here he gets rid of Unsmall Paul as far as I can tell with slightly more ease and a lot less warg assistance than the more typical hero figure Jon needed to kill the wight in AGOT. (Can we talk about killing wights I they are already dead?). This means that as of the end of ADWD Sam has the highest kill ratio against the creatures of Winter of any person so far.
  • The sense of cold is brought across well here with Sam's unwillingness to take off his gloves – which stands in contrast to Coldhands' black cold hands at the end of the chapter.
  • “Jon had searched the huts at Whitetree”. I like this little touch. Sam imitating Jon, remembering him in doing something that is almost ritualistic, or the memory brought back by the similar circumstances. The contrast implied in our imaginations of the ranging on its way north and now this couple coming south.

Analysis

Cultural Exchange

This chapter to my mind continues the theme of cultural exchange from Jon V. Again we have the wildling woman and the man from the south. The choice of Gilly creates a contrast with Ygritte's views on marriage. Craster has wives and knives. It shows that the Wilding freedom can result in the triumph of the strong and the abuse of the weak. However at the same time this chapter is rich in Sam's upbringing, also a story of the abuse of the weak (though the mother seems to have had a certain degree of power and influence in shaping family life – or possibly Tarly senior just couldn't be bothered until Sam appeared to be clearly incapable in his opinion.

We also have Sam introducing the southern gods to Gilly. These are, in theory at least, gods that are kind to children, watch for them and assist them. Thinking about it, both Sam and Gilly are themselves hardly more than children. But the suggestion is of a world where the weak are protected rather than abused.

Again there is a discussion about building and construction. The complexity of the Wall or for that matter towerhouses suggest the complexity of social organisation as well as the more complex skills that a realm of kneelers can produce through co-operation – each link in the chain having its own distinct and necessary role to play as compared with the monotonous world north of the Wall in which freedom requires everybody to master the same basic skill set.

Sam tells Gilly about “some place warm”. But note, he doesn't talk about a place that is naturally warm – like Dorne, instead he talks about the warmth of human conviviality, about enjoying human company in the hall of Castle Black. Its a slightly odd fantasy given that the Watch is meant to be celibate and as such leads on to Sam's dream.

Fathers and Sons and Noble Seats

If Jon's memories of The Ned and of Winterfell in Jon V provided a counterpoint to Ygritte's philosophy of freedom, Sam's memories of Horn Hill (another one for Butterbumps' collection of Erotic subtext?) and of Randyll Tarly can't be so clear cut. Randyll is a cross between ineffectual and a bully as a father. Sam does fall back on what he has learnt from his father at times (AGOT when they discover the wight is one moment, there's another in Sam I AFFC) but the memories are not positive. Sam is instead looking for an alternative way of being and perhaps he finds it in fraternity (Is the rallying call of the French Revolution the philosophical core of ASOIAF? Discuss.), perhaps then it makes sense that in his dream he feasts his brothers at Horn Hill before sleeping with Gilly – not supplanting his parents and repeating a pattern of top down authority in Freudian revolt but instead coming to grips with Gilly on a more equal footing. I'm struggling here – it all seems slightly incestuous. The milk suggests both a Freudian desire for maternal love but also Sam's deep need for nourishment and personal growth. On the other hand Gilly and her milk is what he can see, its perhaps unsurprising that they fill his erotic imagination.

There's a contrast in Jon's desire to make love before the gods and Sam putting love and brotherhood under the same roof. There is Jon's desire for open public lovemaking under the sky versus Sam dreaming of an enclosed private sphere. A place where he is free perhaps to be himself rather than defined by the names that others give him?

Answered Prayer

Quote


The leaves of the weirwood rustling softly, waving like a thousand blood red hands. Whether Jon's gods had heard him or not he could not say.

First off a couple of little observations. Sam is happy to refer to Jon's gods, while Jon himself refers to his Father's gods rather than his own. Next – a thousand blood red hands – which takes on a strange resonance in the light of our discussion of the bloody hands theme set out in Maester Aemon's conversation with Jon in AGOT Jon VIII. Also I recalled somebody (can't remember who) suggesting that the Weirwood represented both Fire (red leaves) and Ice (white bark) which I thought was an interesting take, an embodied synthesis of the opposition suggested in the idea of the song of two irreconcilable elements. But anyway...

Well this is a passage in dialogue with an earlier part of the book, Osha's conversation with Bran, Bran III AGOT

Quote


“Tell me what you meant, about hearing the gods.”

Osha studied him. “You asked them and they're answering. Open your ears, listen, you'll hear.”

Bran listened. “It's only the wind,” he said after a moment, uncertain. “The leaves are rustling.”

“Who do you think sends the winds, if not the gods?...They see you boy. They hear you talking. That rustling, that's them talking back...The old gods have no power in the south”

She then goes on to explain that this is because the Weirwoods are gone from the south. Finally towards the end of this Sam chapter “He heard the dark red leaves of the weirwood rustling, whispering to one another in a tongue he did not know.”

(The language Coldhands speaks in when he kills his Elk is also a tongue that Bran does not recognise in ADWD).

It's interesting that this comes after Sam's onion experience which is in dialogue with Melisandre and Davos' onion scene in ACOK. Sam is a kind of religious hub, or philosophical interchange, interesting that he is sent off to the Citadel via experiences of oath breaking and oath keeping in Braavos and at sea.

Well we are left with two, possibly interconnected, possibilities. That Coldhands and the ravens ad been tracking Sam and finally caught up with him in this village, or that Sam's prayer to the gods for help was, unusually for ASOIAF, answered.

Originally posted here on the 9th of November 2013

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Samwell IV ASOS


Overview


We can divide Jon and Sam's arcs in ASOS into three parts: beyond the Wall with its clash of cultures discussions, the defence of the Wall and now with this chapter we move into the last section which features the election for a New Lord Commander.



In contrast to the previous chapters we've been looking at this is a light hearted chapter with plenty of jokes, which contrasts with Sam's observations of Jon who is more sombre throughout. The chapter is preceded by Arya finding safe passage to Braavos while here Sam returns to safety amongst his brothers and we have the first of a few chapters with Jon and Sam as POVs in the same place; followed by Jon shifted into a new position by being offered Winterfell while here Sam is shifted into becoming an active plotter by the end of the chapter, the ringleader for the campaign to prevent the election of Janos Slynt. So we have a double theme of safety and change emerging from this group of chapters.



The whole chapter is a day in the life of Samwell with some flashbacks. We're with him on a visit to see Gilly and Val as well as to watch Gilly breast feeding Mance's son. Then he assists Maester Aemon (despite his earlier dislike of seeing blood) in the infirmary before counting votes, before some late night plotting with Pyp and Grenn.




Observations


  • The situation that Sam and Gilly find is not quite the "someplace warm" that they were told to find in Sam II or that Sam described in Sam III
  • “Sam had heard all the stories about what wildings did with captured crows. He shuddered” of course ironically they would probably have taken him on as a hero with open arms since he does know how to fight the dead!
  • “I don't even dream of Ghost anymore. All my dreams are of the crypts, of the stone kings on their thrones. Sometimes I hear Robb's voice, and my father's, as if they were at a feast. But there's a wall between us, and I know no place has been set for me.” Compare with the dream a the beginning of Jon VIII.
  • Sam swore to keep secret Bran's departure (three times for emphasis) for the life he owes Coldhands – the idea of a life for a life again.
  • “Sam, you're a sweet fool. Open your eyes” shades of “You know nothing, Jon Snow”? Wisdom talking to naivety? Repeated three times for emphasis.
  • “I never win anything,” Dolorous Edd complained. “The gods always smiled on Watt, though. When the Wildlings knocked him off the Bridge of Skulls, somehow he landed in a nice deep pool of water. How lucky was that, missing all those rocks?” “Was it a long fall?” Grenn wanted to know” Did landing in the pool of water save his life?” “No,” said Dolorous Edd. “He was dead already from that axe in his head...” Heh, one of my favourite Dolorous Eddisms.
  • “Who are these five who keep voting for Three-Finger Hobb?”He wondered. “Brothers who want him out of the kitchens?” said Clydas. Heh
  • Curious that Maester Aemon knows that Jon did not vote.



Analysis


The Situation at the Wall


We see the Wall through Sam's eyes. He's shocked at the destruction and upset by the losses – even of Rast (though presumably he doesn't know the degree of persuasion applied to prevent him from hitting Sam in AGOT). Stannis' men are serving as guards all over the place. Is this Stannis trying to keep his men busy? Or is this about showing who is in charge?



The Wall is a hotbed of gossip and different stories are circulating. About Melisandre sacrificing a man to win a fair wind to the north, about Stannis' magic sword (which many have seen), the gelding of rapists and Ser Alliser has been spreading stories about Jon putting a negative gloss on his activities.



Politics: the election of a Lord Commander


We learn that the Brothers have already been voting for ten days, the winner needs at least a two-thirds majority and that there is a secret ballot with universal suffrage. To get round the fact that most of the Watch are illiterate, tokens are used for voting. You might not want to call the elections democratic since the commanders of the other two castles cast votes on behalf of their own garrisons – presumably because of the distance these won't reflect the wishes of those men.



Initially there were thirty candidates, but at this stage in the election Cotter Pyke, Ser Denys Mallister, Janos Slynt, Othell Yarwyck, Three-Finger Hobb and Dolorous Edd are all still in the running with Bowen Marsh and Alliser Thorne among nameless others having withdrawn.



Jon is convinced that Janos will win and analysis of the voting trends show that he is the only candidate gaining votes. This seems a bit curious since many of the recruits to the watch seem to be convicts and Janos was for years King's Landing's most senior policeman. Clearly the Night's Watchmen are a forgetting and forgiving lot. Clearly “halfway between the flames and the drafts” he's a compromise candidate, perhaps is chief advantage is that unlike Marsh, Yarwyck, Pyke and Mallister people don't know him.



If anyone wants to produce some election night graphics you are more than welcome!




The True King


“What good is a king who will not defend his realm?” thinks Sam...continuing the true king theme. Note “will not” rather than 'does not'. Sam sees a conscious choice not to do their duty, but he describes Stannis as having “cared” which strikes me as stronger than just being dutiful, implying a personal emotional bond. Since later Sam is going to the Citadel, down in the Reach which is supporting the boy on the Iron Throne I wonder if this attitude will put him at odds with the other students and faculty?



This thought comes just after thinking about Jon assuming the duty of training the recruits. Jon clearly has been relived of his duties, but has taken on this task. The last master of arms died in the fighting and Thorne isn't interested after his return from King's Landing. What good is a lord commander who will not train his men? This continues the trend from Jon VII and VIII of Jon assuming a leadership role. Although boredom and frustration clearly have a role to play here too.




Bastard, Traitor, Warg


The accusations made by Janos Slynt in the previous Jon chapter are repeated here in the stories coming from Thorne. The interesting point is that they are all central components of Jon's identity. Each a fact. They are not an issue in themselves – the question is the relationship that Jon and everybody else has to those concepts, a point already made famously by Tyrion in Jon I AGOT.



Traitor I think is the most interesting point, and I'll use it in discussing Jon's identity because of what it says about his divided allegiances. Three times, iirc, to the end of ADWD he has to decide between the Watch or Winterfell. There hasn't been so far a compromise position, he has to be a traitor to one (at least :laugh:). Likewise with Ygritte, staying in the cave was a dream (very Platonic). In the real world there has to be a choice, her world or his world. Neither could reach a compromise condition in the North as it was.




Sam's relationship to Jon


First we see Sam observing Jon: “he watched Jon watch. Jon is smiling. A sad smile” “Jon gave her a weary look” “Jon's smile was gone”.



Sam looks to Jon for advice and for confirmation that a lie might be “not without honour” which already the way we saw him behaving in Jon III ACOK, Sam's thoughts about the election are driven by concern for Jon.



At the risk of anticipating too much the upcoming few chapters I'll limit myself to observing that Sam is aware of Jon's wounds, physical and emotional. Although Sam does look to Jon as a leader (perhaps even his personal Saviour), knowing how deep his wounds are I have to wonder how wise his eventual action will be.



Yet thinking back to Jon III ACOK there is something interesting here, as Jon says Sam brought Gilly out which was the task that Sam had hoped that Jon could accomplish. They have both had very different experiences beyond the Wall. Sam, oddly, ought to be the more conventional hero of the two of them - he's got the girl and killed the bad guy!






Originally posted here on the 20th of January 2014


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Sam V

overview

Ten days of voting have passed. Stannis and Mel meet with the 6 remaining LC contenders, Bowen and Aemon, accompanied by Sam. Feeling stymied by the indecision, Stannis tries to put pressure on the contenders to come to a decision quickly. Stannis appeals to the fact that they are fighting the same war, and explains that he needs resources from the Watch (castles, the Gift) in order to move forward with his plan. He warns them that he’d prefer to take these resources with the LC’s approval, but if they fail to choose an LC efficiently, he will seize what he needs. After dismissing the contenders, Stannis asks Sam about the slain Other, and Aemon inquires about Lightbringer, resulting in a demonstration.

Deeply concerned for the future of the Watch, Sam pleads with Aemon to intervene in some way. Aemon says that it’s not his place, leading Sam to play politics. He goes to Cotter Pyke first, asking him to withdraw in favor of Denys Mallister; Pyke refuses. He then goes to Mallister, lies that Stannis threatened to choose the LC himself, and suggests Jon as an alternate to Pyke. Mallister is moderately amenable, so Sam returns to Pyke, armed with the same lie, to suggest Jon as an alternate.

observations

  • Bowen has withdrawn but is in attendance anyway; the remaining contenders are Slynt, Mallister, Pyke, Othell Yarwyck, Hobb and Edd.
  • Sam notes that it’s Mel who’s interested in Bowen’s/ Sam's presence, and it’s Mel who’s been reporting to Stannis about the state of indecision in the election
  • Stannis’ unintentional humor abounds:

“Who better to command the black cloaks than a man who once commanded the gold, sire?”

“Any of you, I would think. Even the cook.”

analysis

I. meeting with Stannis

The purpose of this meeting is to incentivize the Watchmen to come to a decision on LC more swiftly. It’s essentially a chastening: Stannis is “angry,” he purposely keeps the Watchmen on their knees for an egregious length of time, and Mel is noted as being “amused” by the whole thing. The atmosphere is strained and silent. During this unpleasantness, Sam is made uncomfortable by Mel’s gaze, but his train of thought moves to confusion over why she’s interested in Bowen, given that he’s withdrawn. I’m curious about this as well; one guess is that Mel (incorrectly) sees Bowen as a man of influence in the Watch. The truth of this is debatable, and might explain Sam’s surprise, since he doesn’t see Bowen as a particularly influential figure. Another guess is that Mel might have made Bowen a sort of patsy; Mel’s the one who’s been reporting on the Watch to Stannis, so she’s getting this info from somewhere, and Bowen might be her inside man. It seems noteworthy that a subtle Mel-Bowen connection has been planted.

(ETA: as per some comments about the interest in Bowen, I want to add that I originally read Sam's surprise as referring to Sam's presence; when doing the chapter and seeing Mel's the one who's been reporting, it occurred to me the "him" might refer to Bowen, so that's what I commented on. I'm not wed to that interpretation-- I'd always read the referent as Sam)

Slynt breaks the silence first with some poorly calculated brown-nosing. Stannis wants none of it, and reveals displeasure over the election stalemate. He explains that a decision must be made, as there’s work he needs to do that will impact the Watch, and it’s best done with an LC at his side:

“Nine days too long. I have captives to dispose of, a realm to order, a war to fight. Choices must be made, decisions that involve the Wall and the Night’s Watch. By rights your Lord Commander should have a voice in those decisions.”

Slynt responds by basically imploring Stannis to choose for them, with a not-so-subtle suggestion to back him. The brothers voice their outrage over the suggestion, Pyke with crassness, Mallister genteel, and Aemon as the peacemaker, all saying the same thing: the LC is the choice of the Watch alone. With gritted teeth, Stannis assures them he won’t tamper with their tradition, and launches into a character assassination of Slynt.

Stannis’ Slynt tirade goes on for a while, and it might be worthwhile to think about its purpose. I tend to think that this passage tells a lot about Stannis, not necessarily Slynt (we’ve known he’s as corrupt as they come from the beginning of Clash). Basically, Stannis had proof of Slynt’s simony practice in KL, and calls him out for corruption and tampering with evidence (the mysterious deaths of the two witnesses). This whole passage is a large tangent from the issues at hand, and strikes me as a massive chip on Stannis’ shoulder that he never had a chance to properly punish Slynt for his crimes. Robert basically endorsed Slynt’s crimes:

‘They all steal,’ I recall him saying. ‘Better a thief we know than one we don’t, the next man might be worse.’ Lord Petyr’s words in my brother’s mouth, I’ll warrant. Littlefinger had a nose for gold, and I’m certain he arranged matters so the crown profited as much from your corruption as you did yourself.”

Interesting. Stannis admits that the crown made a tidy profit off the corruption (there was some material benefit to the realm as a by-product), and even acknowledges the practical issue of “the evil you know is better than the evil you don’t,” but the fact Slynt was not chastened for breaking the law seems like a personal defeat to Stannis.

Aemon senses this is a personal issue for Stannis, and segues back to the Watch with a reminder that Stannis cannot punish a man who’s taken the black. Furstrated, Stannis says he’d even “choke down” Slynt if need be, but that they really need to just come to a decision, as “We have a war to fight.” Mallister speaks up to ensure they’re all on the same page, and that Stannis is not speaking about political wars. He gives his word:

“I give you my word, I shall not ask you to lift your swords against any of the rebels and usurpers who plague me. I do expect that you will continue to defend the Wall as you always have.”

They easily agree to this, but balk when Stannis tells them he intends to take the abandoned castles and the Gift. Bowen, Mallister and Pyke all resist this vocally; when they tire, Stannis gives the following threat:

“I have three times the men you do. I can take the lands if I wish, but I would prefer to do this legally, with your consent.”

“The Gift was given to the Night’s Watch in perpetuity, Your Grace,” Bowen Marsh insisted.

“Which means it cannot be lawfully seized, attained, or taken from you. But what was given once can be given again.”

Stannis wants this to be relatively painless, but lets the men know he’s going to get what he needs come hell or highwater, and will use force if need be. When asked why he needs the Gift, Stannis withholds his answer. From the previous Jon chapter, we know he plans to settle the wildlings on there; given the tension of this meeting, it was probably shrewd on Stannis’ part not to reveal this quite yet. He elaborates on the need for castles, and announces that nightfires will be lit at each.

Bowen balks at the nightfire suggestion, looking “uncertainly” at Mel. She speaks for the first time, elaborating:

The woman rose in a swirl of scarlet silk, her long copper-bright hair tumbling about her shoulders. “Swords alone cannot hold this darkness back. Only the light of the Lord can do that. Make no mistake, good sers and valiant brothers, the war we’ve come to fight is no petty squabble over lands and honors. Ours is a war for life itself, and should we fail the world dies with us.”

This is the first time that the issue of the Others has emerged in the meeting. It was hinted at when Stannis tells the men that “they know” it’s not a political battle he means to fight, but the apocalypse has been the elephant in the room. Politics had taken front row in this; and it’s Mel who makes the appeal to the common enemy, not Stannis. The men fall into silence at Mel’s words, and don’t seem to know how to respond. Finally, Aemon starts asking salient questions:

But all of them seemed surprised to hear Maester Aemon murmur, “It is the war for the dawn you speak of, my lady. But where is the prince that was promised?”

“He stands before you,” Melisandre declared, “though you do not have the eyes to see. Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai come again, the warrior of fire. In him the prophecies are fulfilled. The red comet blazed across the sky to herald his coming, and he bears Lightbringer, the red sword of heroes.”

Sam notes that Stannis looks “desperately uncomfortable” by this assertion, and dismisses them all save Aemon and Sam.

II. Aemon, Sam and Azor Ahai

Stannis wants to speak with Sam for two reasons: info on Other-slaying, and info about the Black Gate at the Nightfort, where Stannis plans to make his seat. His reason for keeping Aemon is less obvious to me, though I suspect he wants Aemon to pass along Stannis’ parting threat to influence the Watchmen to choose at this evening’s election.

Sam identifies the dagger he used as dragonglass, which Mel translates as “frozen fire” in Ancient Valyrian. Stannis reveals that he’s sent word to his castellan to mine at Dragonstone for it, a strong sign that Stannis is indeed taking the battle for the Dawn seriously. Sam elaborates that obsidian only shatters when it makes contact with wights, a fact that doesn’t surprise Mel:

Melisandre smiled. “Necromancy animates these wights, yet they are still only dead flesh. Steel and fire will serve for them. The ones you call the Others are something more.”

Demons made of snow and ice and cold,” said Stannis Baratheon. “The ancient enemy. The only enemy that matters.”

Intrigued, Aemon asks to see Stannis’ Lightbringer. Sam serves as eyes:

“It glows,” said Sam, in a hushed voice. “As if it were on fire. There are no flames, but the steel is yellow and red and orange, all flashing and glimmering, like sunshine on water, but prettier. I wish you could see it, Maester.”

After the display, Stannis dismisses them with a final warning:

“Very well, you’ve seen it. You may return to your duties now. And remember what I said. Your brothers will chose a Lord Commander tonight, or I shall make them wish they had.”

Aemon seems hugely preoccupied with the AA myth; he begins to rue his blindness, wishing he could consult his books. Given what we know in DwD, I suspect Aemon wants to consult The Jade Compendium, which we know he’ll later consult on the AA prophesy. It would seem that Mel, Stannis (through Mel) and Aemon are the only 3 people who have any idea with the AA business means.

There’s a few words of caution I’d like to throw out there, since there’s a lot about myths in this chapter. We know that Aemon had been preoccupied with prophesy, and took the PtwP one, said by a Woods Witch to Aemon’s brother, quite seriously. The R’hllorists call Azor Ahai Reborn “PtwP,” and Aemon, clearly familiar with AA myth, has connected the Wood’s Witch’s “PtwP” to R’hllor. I just want to point out that PtwP doesn’t necessarily mean AAR, only that those familiar with R’hllor believe they do. (I should note that I’m parsing this out less to debate about the prophesies, but rather because the Jade Compendium will end up in Jon’s hand in a few chapters)

Further, I’m curious about the extent to which Mel actually knows about the Others. She correctly identifies that Others use sorcery to reanimate corpses, and that it makes sense they’d be killed in different ways. She calls them “children of the Other,” and Stannis calls them “ice demons.” Is there actually anything in R’hllorist lore that details out these particular creatures they call “the ancient enemy,” or has Mel applied the AA myth onto the descriptions of the wights/ Others she’s culled from Mance and other wildlings?

III. Sam the negotiator

Sam leaves the meeting feeling much duress over the implications. He seems particularly concerned about the prospect of Stannis stepping in, as well as the ramifications of choosing an unsuitable party. He asks Aemon to step in, but Aemon refuses, given that he’s sworn to serve. Desperate, Sam realizes he’s in a unique position to do something, prodded by Aemon’s veiled encouragement.

Sam identifies Pyke and Mallister as the two most likely and best suited candidates. Mallister has been ahead, but since 2/3 of the vote is needed, Sam realizes that they’ll never come to a decision unless one folds and supports the other. As a curiosity, I wonder if Slynt’s withdrawal would have resulted in a victory for one of these two, but I suspect Sam thought the other two might be more amenable to any suggestion than him (and he probably had suspicion that Mallister and Pyke might actually have the Watch’s real interests in mind), so he decided not to work that angle. The differences between Pyke and Mallister have already appeared during the meeting; these differences become much more pronounced in Sam’s negotiations, and I can’t help but admire how quickly Sam learns to play to that in his appeal.

He goes to Pyke first, who’s dicing in the Shieldhall. Pyke’s rudeness throws Sam off at first, but the power dynamic is shifted when Pyke assumes that Sam’s there at Aemon’s request. Sam applies a lesson from the “Varys Book of Technical Truths,” and thinks:

“The maester?” Sam swallowed. “I . . . I just left him, my lord.” That wasn’t truly a lie, but if Pyke chose to read it wrong, it might make him more inclined to listen.

Sam appeals to Pyke to withdraw in favor of Mallister. Pyke vehemently refuses, citing Mallister’s age, and the fact he’s not a fighter. Between the wights and the need to stand up to Stannis, Pyke thinks the scope of what’s needed is more than Mallister is capable of.

Pyke goes on to say that he doesn’t even want the job for its own sake; the issue is that he takes the circumstances they’re facing seriously, and believes he’s the best qualified for that. He wants what’s best for the Watch, and according to his viewpoint, the man must be spry and a “fighter.” When Sam suggests “someone else,” Pyke reveals his disgust for the other candidates: Bowen’s just a counter, Othell’s a follower, Slynt has “too much of KL in him.”

The meeting with Mallister is much smoother. He too assumes that Aemon sent Sam, and reveals that he has a suspicion Stannis might end up choosing for them. Mallister is suspicious of Stannis’ involvement in general, especially because he doesn’t believe Stannis will “keep his crown long,” suggesting that by being too bound with this man, the Watch’s fate might become tied to his.

Sam makes the same appeal, but Mallister is just as firm in his refusal. He finds Pyke too unrefined and too much of a warhawk to represent the Watch: Pyke lacks diplomacy, blood, birth, early training, and is illiterate. Like Pyke, Mallister says he doesn’t want the position for its own sake, but that according to his view, he’d be best of the other contenders for what needs to be done. Interestingly, his concerns about Pyke don’t involve a perceived inability to deal with the Others, but rather he believes Pyke would be unsuitable to deal with the king making a home here. He has similar complaints about the other contenders: Bowen and Othell are not up to the task, Slynt is “upjumped and venal” (though, this was a point in his favor to Pyke, just as a “fuck you” to Stannis).

Sam makes a new pitch:

“There’s another man,” Sam blurted out. “Lord Commander Mormont trusted him. So did Donal Noye and Qhorin Halfhand. Though he’s not as highly born as you, he comes from old blood. He was castle-born and castle-raised, and he learned sword and lance from a knight and letters from a maester of the Citadel. His father was a lord, and his brother a king.”

Ser Denys stroked his long white beard. “Mayhaps,” he said, after a long moment. “He is very young, but . . . mayhaps. He might serve, I grant you, though I would be more suitable. I have no doubt of that. I would be the wiser choice.”

To Mallister, he emphasizes Jon’s old blood, being castle bred and trained, is literate, knightly, and had been trusted by prestigious Watchmen like Donal, Qhorin and Mormont. To seal the deal, Sam comes up with a little white lie, ironically, told such a lie could have honor by no other than Jon:

Jon said there could be honor in a lie, if it were told for the right reason. Sam said, “If we do not choose a Lord Commander tonight, King Stannis means to name Cotter Pyke. He said as much to Maester Aemon this morning, after all of you had left.”

Emboldened, he returns to Pyke, armed with the new “honorable” lie, and pitches Jon, only now in terms that would appeal to Pyke:

“No. A fighter. Donal Noye gave him the Wall when the wildlings came, and he was the Old Bear’s squire. The only thing is, he’s bastard-born.”

He emphasizes Jon’s ability to fight and hold command, and speaks to his bastardy as a point likely to get Pyke, himself a bastard, on board. Sam closes the deal with a repetition of the lie that Stannis will choose Mallister if they don’t come to consensus that night.

Originally posted here, by Butterbumps! on the 4th of February 2014

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Sam I (AFFC)

Summary

Sam is reading in the vaults below Castle Black as he realizes he has been up all night. He realizes Jon must be wondering where he is and reflects on his concerns at leaving Aemon alone so gathers the books he's found and makes his way upstairs. He encounters Edd who tells him Jon is looking for him and, after a brief delay from Pyp and Grenn expressing their disappointment in feeling abandoned by Jon the new LC as a friend, he makes his way to Jon's solar in the armory.

Sam literally bumps into Gilly leaving her meeting with Jon and senses something is wrong. He reviews his research findings with Jon, gives Jon his recommendation on his "paper shield" to King Tommen, and is told that Jon is sending him to Oldtown to become a maester along with Aemon, Gilly, and "Gilly's baby." Sam's pleas at his trauma at Randyl's hands for having once requested to become a maester fall on deaf ears with Jon. Later he gets a more sympathetically deaf ear from Aemon too. The next morning he meets Jon in the lichyard as instructed and sets off with Aemon and Gilly.

Observations

Thicker Gloves?

From Jon I (DwD)

Quote

Two queen’s men stood shivering on the steps, their hands tucked up into their armpits and their spears leaning against the door. “Those cloth gloves will never serve,” Jon told them. “See Bowen Marsh on the morrow, and he’ll give you each a pair of leather gloves lined with fur.”
“We will, m’lord, and thank you,” said the older guard.
“That’s if our bloody hands aren’t froze off,” the younger added, his breath a pale mist. “I used to think that it got cold up in the Dornish Marches. What did I know?”
Nothing, thought Jon Snow, the same as me.

This takes place just before Jon's exchange with Sam that we see in both overlapping chapters Sam I (AFFC) and Jon II (DwD)

Quote

“Close the door, Sam.” Faint scars still marked Jon’s cheek, where an eagle had once tried to rip his eye out. “Did that wretch break the skin?”
Sam eased the books down and peeled off his glove. “He did.” He felt faint. “I’m bleeding.”
“We all shed our blood for the Watch. Wear thicker gloves.”

Jon is clearly getting "thicker skin" with his kill the boy lesson but there also seems to be a bit of a pattern of him "thickening the skin" of those around him.

We'll see it more clearly in his own thoughts in Jon II (DwD)

Quote

Kill the boy, Jon thought. The boy in you, and the one in him. Kill the both of them, you bloody bastard.

Bran Vras saw the gift of gloves as potential evidence or fuel for a disparity of treatment sentiment in the Watch. I was torn between connecting it to Sam's raven bite or Benjen's bear cloak gift to Tyrion. Any other thoughts or ways to tie in the gloves? We also have Jon's initial hand wound and the wearing of gloves tied to that. None of these are mutually exclusive interpretations.

Archery Lessons-- Jon and Blood Raven parallels?

Among many other things Bloodraven was noted for his skill in archery. He commanded a unit of bowmen called the Raven's Teeth. Sam notes that Jon has instituted mandatory archery training for the whole of the Watch and Sam also feels to bite of a raven's tooth that matches the blister wound he's gotten from archery practice. Both Jon and Bloodraven are bastards, both arguably legitimized, both of half Targ and half First Men descent, both have ties to old gods magic, Jon's connection to Ghost with his coloring mirrors Bloodraven's connection to the weirwoods, both Lords Commander of the Watch, both act to protect the claims of family while not seeking office themselves, and if Aegon is a Blackfyre those parallels may well expand or get inverted.

What do we make of this especially in light of Bran being the one who is being obviously connected to Bloodraven? TPatQ opens up speculation about dragon slaying. Arrows are one idea that comes up (one Tyrion mentions in Dance as well iirc.) Bloodraven and his Raven's Teeth ended the first Blackfyre rebellion by slaying a "dragon" with an arrow leading to charges of kinslaying. We also have Sam bringing this up in light of Ulmer's stories and the idea of Sam the Chronicler is first overtly introduced with Ulmer's stories that Jon suggests Sam write down.

Ulmer was the premier archer of our first Robin Hood band that has been reborn in the Brotherhood without Banners. Following that line of speculation takes us pretty far afield of Jon but Ulmer seems to have a prominent place and I can't help but wonder.

Three Finger Hobb-- A Sam and Ghost fan?

Hobb seems to like Sam

Quote

Her saddlebags bulged with cheese and sausages and hard-cooked eggs, and half a salted ham that Three-Finger Hobb had given him on his name day. “You’re a man who appreciates cooking, Slayer,” the cook had said. “We need more o’ your sort.”

Is he a fan of Ghost too? It seems they had roast ox for dinner.

Quote

Ghost was stretched out beneath the anvil, gnawing on the bone of an ox. The big white direwolf looked up at his approach. “Past time that you were back.” He returned to his chair, to read over Maester Aemon’s letter once again.

Ghost was stretched out beneath the anvil, gnawing on the bone of an ox to get at the marrow. The big white direwolf looked up when Sam went by, but made no sound.

“Most goats do,” called Pyp, as he and Grenn emerged from around the corner, with longbows in hand and quivers of arrows on their backs. “Where have you been, Slayer? We missed you last night at supper. A whole roast ox went uneaten.”

The "warg" accusation doesn't seem to matter to the cook.

Nicknames

Sam and Grenn had an enlightening conversation about nicknames back at Craster's Keep in Sam II (SoS) and we had a bit of discussion on that topic. That seems to be revisited a bit here.

Quote

“Where have you been, Slayer? We missed you last night at supper. A whole roast ox went uneaten.”
“Don’t call me Slayer.” Sam ignored the gibe about the ox.

“Where’s your longbow, Sam?” asked Grenn. Ser Alliser used to call him Aurochs, and every day he seemed to grow into the name a little more. He had come to the Wall big but slow, thick of neck, thick of waist, red of face, and clumsy. Though his neck still reddened when Pyp twisted him around into some folly, hours of work with sword and shield had flattened his belly, hardened his arms, broadened his chest. He was strong, and shaggy as an aurochs too.

Grenn calls him "Sam" and not "Slayer" which fits with Sam's expressing a desire to be called his name rather than nickname despite Grenn's admiration of the way Sam came by his Slayer nickname. Sam also uses their names rather than nicknames but he still thinks of Grenn as Aurochs in his head. Grenn expressed to Sam that he'd be proud to be called an aurochs by Sam since it is a noble beast and Sam's intentions would be complimentary. Against this backdrop we have Jon's Lord Snow nickname becoming a reality as well. Lord Snow has lost its bite for the likes of Thorne and Slynt since it I his legitimate title now. For others "Lord Snow" has been a respectful nickname for some time. It has long since lost its Thorne-y bitterness for Jon but has resumed a bit of that bitterness for those who endured its forging with Jon.

Martin's nicknames are so good and plentiful we've had a couple of "favorite" threads dedicated to them. Interesting to see him openly explore their significance with Sam and Grenn. Side note: Grenn is a candidate for possible Dunk descendants. Dunk often compared himself to an aurochs and has similar thoughts to Grenn about being "thick." I mention it (aside from a point of interest) because Dunk gave himself the name Ser Duncan the Tall rather than "earning" it and would eventually inspire his namesake's nickname Duncan the Small. Dunk is the nickname Ser Arlan gave him and seems to be a more private thing-- actually Egg's musing that Dunk is short for Duncan is when Dunk adopts that name. There may be some fertile ground for exploring nickname connections buried in there.

How is Sam Seen?

Quote

At the lichyard, a pair of two-wheeled wayns awaited him, along with Black Jack Bulwer and a dozen seasoned rangers, tough as the garrons they rode. Kedge Whiteye cursed loudly when his one good eye spied Sam. “Don’t mind him, Slayer,” said Black Jack. “He lost a wager, said we’d need to drag you out squealing from beneath some bed.”

Sam seems to have earned a good deal of respect. Jack Bulwer is who Jon names as First Ranger and he bets on Sam. The other eleven of the dozen rangers other than Kedge seem to have bet with Jack on Sam.

Quote

Kedge Whiteye had the Wall when Jon made his ascent. Kedge had seen forty-odd namedays, thirty of them on the Wall. His left eye was blind, his right eye mean. In the wild, alone with axe and garron, he was as good a ranger as any in the Watch, but he had never gotten on well with the other men.

His bad disposition and inability to get along with almost anybody further reinforces an overall picture of Sam having earned respect and his place among his brothers despite not appreciating that fact himself.

Books

Annals of the Black Centaur
Septon Jorquen’s exhaustively detailed account of the nine years that Orbert Caswell had served as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. There was a page for each day of his term, every one of which seemed to begin, “Lord Orbert rose at dawn and moved his bowels,” except for the last, which said, “Lord Orbert was found to have died during the night.”

Jade Compendium
Colloquo Votar’s Jade Compendium a thick volume of tales and legends from the east that Maester Aemon had commanded him to find.
It was written by the Volantene adventurer Colloquo Votar, who traveled to the east and visited all the lands of the Jade Sea. There is a passage you may find of interest.

Maester Thomax’s Dragonkin, Being a History of House Targaryen from Exile to Apotheosis, with a Consideration of the Life and Death of Dragons had not been so fortunate. It had come open as it fell, and a few pages had gotten muddy, including one with a rather nice picture of Balerion the Black Dread done in colored inks.

Sam also drops some really good speculation bombs here. Dragon eggs at the Wall? He's musing on Mel's plan to use King's Blood to wake a dragon and assumes there must be an egg somewhere, but it is a huge reader tease especially since that info doesn't clearly come until Jon I a book later. His questioning the multiple thousand year timeline is another as well as the great mystery of what is dragon steel? Most of the information he relays about the Others we've seen in some POV so it seems to be at least a mostly accurate knowledge dump at least on that topic.

Analysis

I think I noted back in Sam's first chapter that I was struck by the sense of Sam the Chronicler of this tale. Here we have Jon telling Sam that he should be the one to write the stories down. I suspect part of this is a bit of a Lord of the Rings nod to Samwise.

Knowledge

It would seem The North Remembers is a bit overgeneralized as Sam is sitting amidst a treasure of forgotten knowledge. North of the Wall remembers much more of what Sam is reading. Old Nan remembers a great deal too. If Roose Bolton is to be believed they probably chat about this forgotten knowledge in taverns on Skaagos, but the North, Winterfell, and the Watch have forgotten a great deal.

Sam's underground setting for this forgotten knowledge alludes to the knowledge stored in weirwoods that we'll learn about through Bran. His comment about the First Men having only runes and the histories being written by septons (and not maesters.. hmm) will also make the astute reader reflect back on this when we learn of the way weirwoods store knowledge. The occupants of Winterfell may have forgotten things amidst Rickard's southron ambitions, but the heart tree of Winterfell remembers which adds a destroying knowledge aspect to the Stannis offer or maybe a command for the North to forget.

The mouse offers potential as a symbol. Feast and Dance were originally going to be a single book and in Dance we learn Varys little birds were originally little mice crawling amongst the written word gnawing on secrets like Sam's little friend. I can't help thinking about Illyrio the cheesemonger. Running with the mouse as the predecessor to the little birds opens up a world of possibilities. There is the written word and that which can be overheard by "mice" compared with the other man's "little bird" that sits on Jon's shoulder seemingly reading his letter to Tommen. The underground imperfect knowledge that decays compared to the living knowledge stored in the roots of the trees.

Sam also considers trying to crush the "little mouse" with a book-- knowledge itself. What does this say about knowledge and power? The focus on Orbert Caswell moving his bowels made me think of Tywin and the role Varys played in his death. It would seem intimate knowledge of someone's daily activities is insufficient to kill the mouse. Perhaps it is that a Septon's knowledge is insufficient? The knowledge theme born in these vaults is echoed again at the end of the chapter.

Quote

A line of pale snot ran from Maester Aemon’s nose. He wiped it away with the back of his glove. “Knowledge is a weapon, Jon. Arm yourself well before you ride forth to battle.”

Knowledge as a weapon is somewhat different from knowledge as power unless of course one is attacking the ignorant. So much of our initial drama is set in motion by Varys and Littlefinger through the application of knowledge.

Jon was originally dismissive of Sam's early notion of books as treasures. Has he changed his values or does he now think of books as an armory of sorts?

Mouse vs. the Raven gives us a little Varys vs. Bloodraven metaphor. Books vs. weirwoods. Septons vs. old gods. A backdrop of First Men heroes being redefined as Andal knights amidst a store of forgotten knowledge vs. the North Remembers theme. Lots of angles to view Sam's trip to the library.

Secrets and the Lies we tell for Love and Honor

Jon and Sam both lie to each other and keep secrets from each other here. Jon lies about Gilly though I don't doubt he expects Sam to learn the truth from her or Aemon on their journey. He essentially confesses when he tells Sam

Quote

“The first time I saw Gilly,” he said, “she was pressed back against the wall of Craster’s Keep, this skinny dark-haired girl with her big belly, cringing away from Ghost. He had gotten in among her rabbits, and I think she was frightened that he would tear her open and devour the babe... but it was not the wolf she should have been afraid of, was it?”

Gilly kneels before Jon just as she did when she was first sent to him by Sam. Her plea was based on Stannis' reason for showing up at the Wall-- a king protects the people. Jon is protecting "people" specifically Dalla's son but there is a harsh price as Gilly is called upon to help in that protection. Here we see Jon protecting people from the King Stannis and later we will see Alys Karstark come and kneel before Jon as well seeking protection but unwilling to go to Stannis. Again we have the "true king" theme emerge.

Sam lies to Jon through omission about Bran living (and the whole undead giant elk riding guy killing an army of wights with a murder of ravens thing probably qualifies as "something useful about the enemy.") He lies through omission again, or at least tries, about his father and the trauma from the chains.

Both Sam and Jon hope these lies will be discovered. Jon has his little confession to Sam about Gilly and we can assume Sam hopes Jon will one day discover Bran lived. Jon the friend would likely be one Sam would openly tell the chain story to. It is very much like the tale of his arrival at the Wall back in GoT. We see how Jon as LC has changed and even Sam notes his "Lord's face."

Quote

Jon, he’d said, but Jon was gone. It was Lord Snow who faced him now, grey eyes as hard as ice.

Originally posted here, by Ragnorak on the 8th of March 2014

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Thinking about the whole of Samwell's story so far he bears comparison with Davos. He is set in the shadow of a more important and seemingly more traditionally heroic character - or at the least the kind of characer one might expect to be a hero in a different book - yet is himself quietly and distinctly more heroic. Prompting somebody else to be bigger than they are or truer to a more noble conception of what they are while in both cases saving a child due to be sacrificed. Both are conscious of what they are and how they fall short in society, both are aware of their short comings and fears yet face them, even if with fear and trembling. Both are cut loose from the character they have been strongly associated with and look to be used in a looser way by GRRM - which leads me to ask what is Sam's purpose in ASOAIF?



A notion of Ragnorak's is that Sam will be the character to survive and write down the story and record it - like his namesake in LOTR. In which case it might be worth thinking about what he is used by GRRM to witness.

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Sam II AFFC




Overview


All at sea. Travelling on the Blackbird towards Braavos Sam learns that Gilly has Dalla's baby with her and had to leave her own son behind. The chapter comes between a Brienne and a Jaime chapter and shares some of their searching for purpose and meaning in life. During the voyage we have flashbacks from both Sam and Aemon. This fleshes out Sam's reluctance to travel back towards Horn Hill, while Aemon's recollections introduce us to Bloodraven.




Observations


  • “Sam tried to keep a brave face on him , for Gilly's sake if little else” telling her “This a good ship” with the intention of reassuring her as they sail out of sight of Eastwatch.
  • His father's fishpool was “friendly” but Sam's recollection of it is not, if not cruel the recollection is certainly one of failure
  • “Even Daeron would be happier. He had always claimed to be innocent...”
  • “Egg emptied out the dungeons too, so I would not need to say my vows alone. My honour guard he called them.” seems a slightly cruel joke...
  • Aemon's voyage north contrasted with Sam's to the Arbor. One to take up his post the other to fail to find a place.
  • Horn Hill – a priapic place?
  • A little info dump on Skagos to prepare us for Davos' unease in Davos IV ADWD
  • “Surely a little water does not frighten the Slayer.” ”No,” Sam lied “Not me” at least Sam remembers his orders: “And here's another order. From this day forth, you will not call yourself a craven...I can't command you to be brave, but I can command you to hide your fears” p.102 Jon II ADWD
  • Sam insisting on Daeron, Gilly, the Baby and Aemon all laying together with Sam in bed to keep Aemon warm. Curiously cosy.
  • “We'll all drown unless we get rid of her, and that abomination she whelped” echoes of Jonah, also of Stannis' victim blaming and Hagon – abomination – was his word of choice for forbidden acts too. Note Sam's reaction: “he made certain that his knife was sharp, and whenever Gilly left the cabin to make water, he went with her”. Bravery or love?
  • “She's going to a safe place. A warm place” picking up on the instruction Sam was given in Sam II ASOS to take Gilly some place warm.



Analysis


Deception and disillusionment


In this chapter the characters are all at sea travelling between lives. Sam wants to see a Mummer's show little realising that he is taking part in one. Daeron is due to become a recruiter for the Watch – assuming he intended to obey his orders and to abscond as soon as he was able.



“Sam did not know what he was looking for, or what he was doing on this boat. Going to the Citadel to forge a chain and be a Maester, to be of better service t the watch, he told himself...The voyage would be long and rough, no one could deny that, but for the others at least there would be a happy end. That was Sam's solace. I am going for them, he told himself, for the Night's watch, and for the happy ending



Sam takes solace that he is sacrificing himself for others, while Dalla's baby and Aemon are on board precisely to avoid being sacrificed for others. Aemon's revelation that the babies were swapped, implicitly because Jon killed the boy and let the man be born, leads Sam to think that there are “no happy choices and no happy endings”. But this is not what Aemon said, instead he suggested that “sometimes there is no happy choice...only one less grievous than the others”, which does not go so far as to rule happy endings as a possibility all together. For Sam of course this is about the baby he, with Gilly, rescued from the Others and brought south of the Wall. Aemon is rarely called a kind man, Sam has to deal with his disillusionment alone.

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As an overarching theme, I do believe Sam is becoming one of Winter's people.



yet Jon saw no tears, heard no wailing mothers. These are winter’s people, he reminded himself. Tears freeze upon your cheeks where they come from.


Sam would have cried for him, but those tears would only freeze as well, and he could scarcely keep his eyes open now.


It hasn't magically turned Sam into a sword wielding hero, but it has changed him. He's been through the grinder. Like his probable name sake Sam Gamgee, he is no big hero on his own, but when it really matters, Sam will be there for those he cares about and loves. Despite the fear of his father, he goes ahead and travels through the Citadel when Jon demands it and apparently most people bet that he would show. When Gilly needs him to protect her, he can do that, both for her and for himself. On the ship, he tries to be positive when Gilly is frightened, and tells himself he'll do it for the other people, the people in his care, so to speak.



What Sam cannot do for himself, he seems to be able to do for others.


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What strikes me most is the parallels and inversions between Aemon and Sam. Both joined the Watch over a matter of succession involving a younger sibling though Aemon's was voluntary and Sam's was not. Both are taking the maester's oath (or Sam seems on that course) and the NW oath but do so in reverse order. Aemon/Egg is a relationship that is quite similar to Jon/Sam though many facets are inverted like Jon being the ruler and the more worldly/wiser of the two despite being the Aemon of the correlation. Aemon is recalling his prior sea voyage while Sam recalls one of his own. On the whole I think the contrasts stand out more than the parallels but they still serve to emphasize Aemon as a measuring stick (perhaps relative map?) for Sam's present course. Sam is even going to the Citadel to become Aemon's actual replacement.



I like Lyanna's notion of Sam becoming one of Winter's people. I remember Tze had an interesting observation in Learning to Lead about tears being used to differentiate Northern and Southron culture with Winter;s people not crying and Lysa's Tears being a curse. Gilly's tears flow freely here, Aemon needs the rain to help him cry, and Sam's tears are starting to freeze from within despite their trip to "someplace warm."




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Sam III (AFFC)

Summary

The sea voyage is over and Sam, Gilly and Aemon are in an inn in Braavos futilely waiting for Daeron to return. Sam reflects on how Aemon's illness has made their original plans go awry as he brings us up to date on the events since they've landed in Braavos. In one of Daeron's drunken forays he brought back a tale of dragons blurred by an alcoholic haze that has captured Aemon's attention and Aemon beseeches Sam to go to the docks and find out more. Sam agrees but wants to find Daeron first and begins looking for him at all the inns around Ragman's Harbor. He gets accosted by a pair of Braavosi who think he's fair game to be challenged since he's wearing his sword and gets rescued by Arya in the form of Cat of the Canals who also informs him where Daeron can be found. Daeron's brotherly affections for Sam extend far enough to offer him wine and a whore but not returning to help care for Aemon and Gilly. Daeron throws his cloak in Sam's face and tells him he's done with the Watch and intends to forge a new life as a singer in Braavos. Sam punches him in a fit of anger and we get our first non-zero sum game bar fight of the series. (Apparently Essos is more civilized :lol: .) The bouncer tosses Sam out and into the canal where he begins to drown until he's saved by one Xhondo who offers to return with him to relay tales of these dragons.

Observations

on had hoped that perhaps his songs might persuade a few young men to take the black. Instead he sang of golden kisses, silvery hair, and red, red lips. No one ever took the black for red, red lips.

Daeron did take the Black for red, red lips just as a consequence instead of a goal. Daeron is compared to Sam with his draping of the Sailor's Wife with his cloak and also compared to Mance as the Bard who leaves the Watch. Mance kept his cloak though and has a very different take on the value of kisses.

But the singer only smiled. “Some kisses are worth more than yellow gold, Slayer.”

Mance's choice of songs values kisses quite differently. Tasting the Dornishman's Wife was never about gold.

Sam starting a bar fight in a brothel would probably be the single proudest moment of his life as far as Randyll is concerned. Apparently a man can be brave when he's too blinded by anger to know fear too.

“I shall not see Oldtown again. I know that now.” The old man tightened his grip on Sam’s arm. “I will be with my brothers soon. Some were bound to me by vows and some by blood, but they were all my brothers. And my father... he never thought the throne would pass to him, and yet it did. He used to say that was his punishment for the blow that slew his brother. I pray he found the peace in death that he never knew in life. The septons sing of sweet surcease, of laying down our burdens and voyaging to a far sweet land where we may laugh and love and feast until the end of days... but what if there is no land of light and honey, only cold and dark and pain beyond the wall called death?”

In the Seven Kingdoms nobles draped themselves in velvets, silks, and samites of a hundred hues whilst peasants and smallfolk wore raw wool and dull brown roughspun. In Braavos it was otherwise. The bravos swaggered about like peacocks, fingering their swords, whilst the mighty dressed in charcoal grey and purple, blues that were almost black and blacks as dark as a moonless night.

Lord Snow could not have known, but I should have seen it. Fire consumes, but cold preserves. The Wall... but it is too late to go running back.

Xhondo has Targaryen colored feathers on his cloak.

Love is "our great glory, and our great tragedy" and dragons are the glory and grief of House Targaryen.

Dreams, literal and figurative.

As a boy Sam had read a history of Braavos and dreamed of one day coming here. He wanted to behold the Titan rising stern and fearsome from the sea, glide down the canals in a serpent boat past all the palaces and temples, and watch the bravos do their water dance, blades flashing in the starlight. But now that he was here, all he wanted was to leave and go to Oldtown.

On one level this is Sam's shattered naiveté but Sam and Aemon have been compared for several chapters now. How does Sam's dream compare to Aemon's dreams?

Lots more little nuggets, the Arya encounter, a red star and shadows on the snow...

Analysis

Sam's Personal Long Night

Sam stood before the window, rocking nervously as he watched the last light of the sun vanish behind a row of sharp-peaked rooftops. ... The mists of evening had begun to rise, sending grey fingers up the walls of the buildings that lined the old canal.

Sam has always been a follower or sheltered by others from his own naïve choices and fears. The literal Others sheltered him from Chett's murderous scheme. Small Paul saved him from collapsing on the march. Craster's wives saved him from dying at Craster's Keep, Coldhands saved him and Gilly in the village. Up until now he has always had an outside force enable him to avoid the confrontation between his idealism and realism or shelter him from the consequences of choosing idealism and giving in to his fears.

Here in Braavos Sam finds him self in charge of his small band and wrestling with his own inner idealism and the responsibilities of leadership. His circumstances are a microcosm of Jon's at the Wall. Sam has the oldest of greybeards and the youngest of green boys in his charge. The one man he can rely on isn't generally the most capable but happens to be ideally suited for the current task and won't support him because of ideological differences in the end state of their mission. We see it in his struggle to reconcile Jon's choice with Gilly. Last chapter he already recognized that Jon must have been trying to save the baby but he still doesn't want to face the hard truth. He's too afraid to simply come out and ask Gilly., to open up his inner idealistic beliefs to be shattered by a truth wielding helpless girl. Again when he sets off after Daeron he wants to bury the more obvious truth of Daeron's choices behind the hypothetical dangers he may have encountered.

the bane of honor, the death of duty

Love, duty and honor are the undercurrent that runs through the chapter. Sam's duty is to go to Oldtown but love of Aemon keeps him in Braavos. It isn't so simple a divide as Sam has a duty to Aemon as well. Ironically had Sam boarded the ship Daeron would have come with him and stayed in the Watch-- at least for a time. Sam's frustrations with Daeron are also expressed in thoughts of duty, oaths and honor-- you said the words, you promised.

In the last moments of Aemon's life he chooses love and family over duty.

in the black of night a man asks all the questions he dare not ask by daylight. For me, these past years, only one question has remained. Why would the gods take my eyes and my strength, yet condemn me to linger on so long, frozen and forgotten? What use could they have for an old done man like me?” Aemon’s fingers trembled, twigs sheathed in spotted skin. “I remember, Sam. I still remember.”
“Dragons,” Aemon whispered. “The grief and glory of my House, they were.”

The pull of long dead brothers is greater than the need or mission of the brother next to him. Family and House are never truly left behind. The appeal to Sam that works is one phrased in terms of duty to the Watch despite this being a very personal and non-Watch related request.

Steward, you have served me faithfully. Do this one last brave thing for me. Go down to the ships, Sam. Learn all you can about these dragons.”

Sam's dilemmas are all very personal without the immediate impending consequences of Ice Zombie invasions or political fallout of one candidate or another ascending a throne, which offers a very different feel to presentation of conflicts involving love, honor, and duty.

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...Love, duty and honor are the undercurrent that runs through the chapter. Sam's duty is to go to Oldtown but love of Aemon keeps him in Braavos. It isn't so simple a divide as Sam has a duty to Aemon as well...

Nice observation!

I thought that for a couple of stewards they were awfully bad at stewarding their money. Splashing out their cash on the biggest bed, the finest cabin and a room with a hearth.

And what is with them all sleeping together again as they did in the last chapter? Is this a nod back to Sam's dream of entertaining back at Horn Hill when he shares a bed with Gilly, is there an idea that they are a fictive family and so all sleep together as siblings, that they are by choice (or not!) asexual? The idea doesn't occur to Sam that Daeron might roll too close to Gilly in the night.

SAm's emotional state was interesting - He begins the chapter bitter and angry, is this the first time that he has ever been described as angry? And then in anger gets into his brothel fight.

Swimming again, picking up on his memory of not learning how to swim at Horn Hill, his drowning symbolising what all of them are doing in Braavos anyway - going under - no money, no prospect, no hope!

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Been following this re-read still on ASOS great work by you all so far :bowdown:

Thank you for the kind words.

Nice observation!

I thought that for a couple of stewards they were awfully bad at stewarding their money. Splashing out their cash on the biggest bed, the finest cabin and a room with a hearth.

And what is with them all sleeping together again as they did in the last chapter? Is this a nod back to Sam's dream of entertaining back at Horn Hill when he shares a bed with Gilly, is there an idea that they are a fictive family and so all sleep together as siblings, that they are by choice (or not!) asexual? The idea doesn't occur to Sam that Daeron might roll too close to Gilly in the night.

SAm's emotional state was interesting - He begins the chapter bitter and angry, is this the first time that he has ever been described as angry? And then in anger gets into his brothel fight.

Swimming again, picking up on his memory of not learning how to swim at Horn Hill, his drowning symbolising what all of them are doing in Braavos anyway - going under - no money, no prospect, no hope!

The stewarding of money seems to be an issue with the delay. They bought passage and had enough silver for the expensive room and the healer. They'd have been fine if they had left on time. Still it seems a pointless extravagance. Ok, a room with a hearth is great but not if it doesn't include the wood. There weren't any practical amenities to make it actually luxurious. I read it as either Sam making a concession to Daeron or simply cowing to his desires which is ironic since Daeron seems to be the one not actually sleeping in the room. It is the crack in Daeron's oath. He wants a little taste of the good life and Gilly's crying, Aemon's illness, and Sam's nagging about duty are spoiling his vacation. He can't even enjoy a brief shore leave in Braavos. His time in the inns and brothels is probably exactly what he was doing with his life before a nobleman's daughter choose perceptions of chastity over his freedom. Sam's tone seems to indicate to me that he favored a more frugal approach so it may be a sign of progression from his earlier passive acquiescence to brothel brawler. The detail flavors both Sam and Daeron.

Not sure about sleeping customs. I'm fairly certain Gilly as a non-attached woman would not be sleeping with men as a norm, but I suspect that Sam, Daeron and Aemon might share a bed under these circumstances. Even in today's military in the field in colder climates there is a variation of the rule to a game of thrones-- you spoon or you die. So I do think Sam, Aemon, Gilly and the babe has a very familial feel to the arrangement even if we assume bed sharing is normal.

The swimming recalls Sam's old family to contrast with this new one but also recalls how his father tried to throw him out into danger to survive on his own. Jon hardly threw him out of Castle Black alone and unprepared but the comparison is there. Sam still can't find it in himself to "swim" for his own survival but can when it comes to Aemon and Gilly. I don't think anything Daeron could have done to Sam personally would have caused him to strike out like that, but Aemon's life is another matter to Sam.

Forgot to mention in the "Sam's Long Night" part that all of the battles at the Wall take place at night and end with the dawn. I thought it was odd that when Sam leaves the danger of the Wall that he would get nightfall with mists climbing Walls where actual attacks upon the Watch at the Wall are fairly consistently shown to last until the dawn.

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Oh yes, Daeron is certainly in his element while Sam and Gilly are out of theirs.



Daeron is plainly intending to stay in Braavos indefinitely by the end of the chapter (or was that just the drink talking since he hadn't attempted to make a break earlier?) which is understandable from his perspective.



I'm with you on the night's watchmen sleeping together, and I can see the family unit idea too, I just find it curious that they all, apparently, are fine with overlapping the two ideas. Gilly has become an honorary watchman or perhaps it is the strength of Sam's conception of the watch as having become his family :dunno:



With regard to the battles at the Wall then this is what we are getting here too the battle to hold to your vow fought out at night against the temptation of wearing a crown (admittedly the poet's laurel wreath in this case, but worldly fame in any case).



Is Sam's kindness towards Aemon a weakness in this chapter or is the problem his obedience?


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I've been re-reading these chapters as well.

A few big observations I made:

Aemon:

Egg seems to keep popping up in Aemon's mind.

"When last I passed this way, I saw every rock and tree and whitecap, and watched the grey gulls flying in our wake. I was five-and-thirty and had been a maester of the chain for sixteen years. Egg wanted me to help him rule, but I knew my place was here. He sent me north aboard the Golden Dragon, and insisted that his friend Ser Duncan see me safe to Eastwatch. No recruit had arrived at the Wall with so much pomp since Nymeria sent the Watch six kings in golden fetters. Egg emptied out the dungeons too, so I would not need to say my vows alone. My honor guard, he called them. One was no less a man than Brynden Rivers. Later he was chosen lord commander."
"Bloodraven?" said Dareon. "I know a song about him. 'A Thousand Eyes, and One,' it's called. But I thought he lived a hundred years ago." (Samwell II, AFfC)

Now, of course, Bloodraven and his thousand eyes remind us some people have he ability to watch the world and enter dreams.

Aemon's blind white eyes came open. "Egg?" he said, as the rain streamed down his cheeks. "Egg, I dreamed that I was old." (Samwell II, AFfC)

Egg isn't just on Aemon's mind, but in his dreams. Now, we could dismiss this as Aemon being an old man, but I wonder if someone isn't invading his dreams posing as Egg to extract information from Aemon.

"Egg? It's dark. Why is it so dark?" (Samwell III, AFfC)

"Oldtown," Maester Aemon wheezed. "Yes. I dreamt of Oldtown, Sam. I was young again and my brother Egg was with me, with that big knight he served. We were drinking in the old inn where they make the fearsomely strong cider." He tried to rise again, but the effort proved too much for him. After a moment he settled back. "The ships," he said again. "We will find our answer there. About the dragons. I need to know." (Samwell III, AFfC)

This is the most curious dream. Aemon is talking to Egg and getting drunk in this dream. So, Aemon is with his most trusted friend drunk. What a time for loose lips! And I bet they were talking about dragons.

Samwell

Why does Samwell need Dareon all the time?

When he shoved into the cabin with Aemon in his arms, he found that Gilly had let all the candles gutter out. The babe was asleep and she was curled up in a corner, sobbing softly in the folds of the big black cloak that Sam had given her. "Help me," he said urgently. "Help me dry him off and get him warm."

She rose at once, and together they got the old maester out of his wet clothes and buried him beneath a pile of furs. His skin was damp and cold, though, clammy to the touch. "You get in with him," Sam told Gilly. "Hold him. Warm him with your body. We have to warm him up." She did that too, never saying a word, all the while still sniffling. "Where's Dareon?" asked Sam. "We'd all be warmer if we were together. He needs to be here too." He was headed back up top to find the singer when the deck rose up beneath him, then fell away beneath his feet. Gilly wailed, Sam slammed down hard and lost his legs, and the babe woke screaming. (Samwell II, AFfC)

Sam is huge and Gilly if there too. What good would one more person bring to pile? Sam is so intent on find Dareon that he gets himself hurt.

The mists of evening had begun to rise, sending grey fingers up the walls of the buildings that lined the old canal. "He promised he'd be back," Sam said. "You heard him too."

Gilly looked at him with eyes red-rimmed and puffy. Her hair hung about her face, unwashed and tangled. She looked like some wary animal peering through a bush. It had been days since they'd last had a fire, yet the wildling girl liked to huddle near the hearth, as if the cold ashes still held some lingering warmth. "He doesn't like it here with us," she said, whispering so as not to wake the babe. "It's sad here. He likes it where the wine is, and the smiles." (Samwell, AFfC)

Sam can go out and get food on his own. He wants Dareon's company for some reason.

Is it for the same reason as the one-big bed? Is Sam trying to avoid being alone with Gilly?

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...Egg seems to keep popping up in Aemon's mind...

Well I think there is a simple practical reason for that. AFFC was published in 2005 while the Sworn Sword was published in 2003, and an explicit connection is being made for our benefit. Its mentioned at the beginning of The Sworn Sword that Dunk and Egg had recently visited Aemon at the Citadel and shortly after had heard a man preach against Bloodraven which then sparks Dunk's memory of having made eye contact with Bloodraven once before.

And if you've been reading your Dunk and Egg and paying attention then the Blackfyre references in ADWD will be leaping off the page at you.

With regard to Bloodraven intervening in Aemon's dreams. Ok, but Bloodraven was Lord Commander of the Watch for a time - he'd have had opportunity to talk with Aemon before his disappearance/apparent death/ escape, did they not talk about the family obsession before then?

I'd go along with Sam not wanting to spend time alone with Gilly at this stage.

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Well I think there is a simple practical reason for that. AFFC was published in 2005 while the Sworn Sword was published in 2003, and an explicit connection is being made for our benefit. Its mentioned at the beginning of The Sworn Sword that Dunk and Egg had recently visited Aemon at the Citadel and shortly after had heard a man preach against Bloodraven which then sparks Dunk's memory of having made eye contact with Bloodraven once before.

And if you've been reading your Dunk and Egg and paying attention then the Blackfyre references in ADWD will be leaping off the page at you.

With regard to Bloodraven intervening in Aemon's dreams. Ok, but Bloodraven was Lord Commander of the Watch for a time - he'd have had opportunity to talk with Aemon before his disappearance/apparent death/ escape, did they not talk about the family obsession before then?

I'd go along with Sam not wanting to spend time alone with Gilly at this stage.

Oh, I wasn't thinking of Broodraven invading his dreams, I was thinking of Marwyn and Sarella (but, as a rule of the re-read, we shouldn't get ourselves :) )

That is interesting about the publishing dates. I just finished The Sworn Sword yesterday in fact.

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