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Jon Snow ReRead Project! Part 5! (DwD)

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Welcome to the Jon Snow reread project! Co-conspirating this mission are Lummel and Ragnorak; we aim to present summaries for each of the 47 Jon chapters at a rate of about 1 per week (more or less) in order to reread, analyze and be critical. The last chapter we discussed in the previous thread was Jon III, DwD, “Mance Burns.”

This isn’t an appreciation thread, but rather, a space to look beyond the broad strokes of Jon’s arc to bring the subtleties of his character into greater relief for discussion. (Similarly, unsubstantiated criticism is strongly discouraged). This isn’t 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!

aGoT

aGoT Jon I (King's banquet at Winterfell)
aGoT Jon II (Jon says goodbyes to his family)
aGoT Jon III (At the Wall, Donal lectures Jon; Jon receives news of Bran)
aGoT Jon IV (Sam arrives; Jon reveals his dream of the crypts)
aGoT Jon V (Jon is told he's promoted; appeals to Aemon on behalf of Sam)
aGoT Jon VI (Sam is promoted; Jon and Sam take their vows; Ghost finds a hand)
aGoT Jon VII (ranging party studies bodies of Othor and Jafer; crypt dream; Jon gets news of Ned's treason; Jon fights Othor the wight)
aGoT Jon VIII (Jon gets Longclaw; news of Robb's march; Aemon's "love is the bane of honor" conversation)
AGOT Jon IX (Jon attempts to skedaddle but is prevented by his friends, Mormont reveals that he is going to lead a mini-army north of the Wall)
AGOT Roundup


aCoK
ACOK Jon I (Preparations for the expedition at the Wall, Mormont has an infodump of Targaryen history for Jon)
ACOK Jon II (Mormont's expedition reaches Whitetree)
ACOK Jon III (The expedition reaches Craster's)
ACOK Jon IV (Expedition reaches the fist of the first men)
ACOK Jon V (Qhorin arrives and leaves with Jon to range further north)
ACOK Jon VI (Jon's first date with Ygritte)
ACOK Jon VII (Jon in the Skirling Pass, his wolf dream, connection to Bran)
ACOK Jon VIII (Qhorin's sacrifice and Jon goes Wildling)
ACOK Roundup


aSoS
ASOS Prologue
ASOS Jon I (Jon meets The Mance)

ASOS Jon II (Jon shaken and stirred, delivered to the Mance at the Fist of First Men
ASOS Sam I (Sam the Slayer)
ASOS Jon III (Jon, wandering in and around Ygritte's cave, invents the Lord's Kiss)
ASOS Jon IV (Jon goes over the Wall, Jarl has a great fall, there no king's men or king's horses to put him together again)
ASOS Sam II (death of Mormont, Sam and Gilly, cutting the onion)
ASOS Jon II (arrival at Queenscrown; Jon escapes the wildlings and heads to Castle Black to warn of the attack)
ASOS Sam III (Sam and Gilly survive a wight attack; Coldhands is introduced)
ASOS Jon VI (Injured, Jon arrives at the Wall; informs of the Magnar's attack; learns Winterfell was sacked)
ASOS Jon VII (Styr's wildlings attack; Ygritte is killed)
ASOS Jon VIII (wildlings attack from the North; Donal dies; another crypt dream (RW clue)
ASOS Jon IX (the Watch repels a wildling advance; Jon is arrested by Slynt for desertion)
ASOS Jon X (Jon is sent to kill Mance; Stannis arrives at the Wall, defeating the wildlings)
ASOS Sam IV (Sam has returned; Stannis plans to burn Mance; Sam is concerned about the LC elections and seeks a solution).
ASOS Jon XI (Stannis offers Jon Winterfell with conditions; Stannis announces his wildling plans)
ASOS Sam V (Stannis meets with the LC contenders; Sam rigs the election)
ASOS Jon XII (Ghost returns; Jon decides to reject Stannis' offer; Jon is made LC)
ASOS Roundup

FFC/ DwD
DwD Jon I (First look at Jon's command; Jon meets with Stannis to discuss the North and reject Stannis' request for Watch castles)
FFC Sam I (overlap with DwD Jon II; Jon and Sam speak of the Others; Jon sends Sam to Oldtown)
DwD Jon II (Jon meets with Gilly, then Sam, then his castle commanders; Edd fetches a block)

DwD Jon III (Mance is burned; news of Tywin's death)

DwD Jon IV (Jon conducts food inventory; Jon creates a Northern strategy for Stannis)

DwD Jon V (Stannis has left, Jon feeds Mole's Town, 63 men are recruited)

DWD Jon VI (Sends out rangers; practice fight with "Rattleshirt;" letter from Ramsay; Mel gives him an offer)

DWD Mel I (Mel's visions; Mance is revealed; Arya mission brainstormed)

DWD Jon VII (Jon leads recruits to take vows in the grove; meets a bunch of wildlings there; Stannis' letter)

DWD Jon VIII (Jon sends out Val; meeting with his council about the wildling situation)

DWD Jon IX (Selyse arrives, Jon gets a loan from the Iron Bank, Alys Karstark shows up).

DWD Jon X (Alys and Sigorn's wedding; horn signals Val's return)

DWD Jon XI (Jon meets with Tormund; Jon and Val meet with Selyse; Jon meets with clans, Watchmen and wildling reps on the Wall)

DWD Jon XII

DWD Jon XIII

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intermediary chapters



Since we’re doing a book splice, it occurs to me that it might make things easier to keep track of the chapters between the Jon ones we’re covering. I did a summation of the chapters prior to Jon I, so here’s the chapters that occur between Jon I and Jon IV. Most of this isn’t relevant to Jon directly, but I think it might be useful to see how the pieces are falling together. I’ll do a quick summary like this before each chapter in the future.



  • Bran I: ADWD
    • Bran comes across Varamyr in his second life and a group of dead Watchmen that Coldhands wrangles.

  • Tyrion II: ADWD
    • Talking in Illyrio’s litter about Dany and the Golden Company across Andalos

  • Samwell I: AFFC
    • Paper shield discussion, then departure to Oldtown.

  • Jon II: ADWD
    • Paper shield discussion; Edd fetches the block.

  • Arya I: AFFC
    • Arya arrives at the HoBaW

  • Cersei II: AFFC
    • Tywin’s funeral; Kevan refuses Hand position

  • Jaime I: AFFC
    • Overnight Tywin vigil

  • Brienne II: AFFC
    • Arrives at Duskendale and teams up with Pod

  • Sansa I: AFFC
    • LF bribes Nestor Royce with the Gates of the Moon

  • Asha I (The Kraken’s Daughter): AFFC
    • Meets with Rodrik at Harlaw, brings Lady Glover and her children as hostages, learns of the Kingsmoot

I think this chapter has a lot of thematic parallels to Jon, in the sense that Asha and Rodrik are having a frank discussion about unsustainable systems, methods of choosing leaders, and changing the status quo.



A kingsmoot. This is something new . . . or rather, something very old. …….. Better a kingsmoot than a war.



Asha sees this as an opportunity to prevail without spilling blood, but Rodrik is less hopeful. He reminds her that the previous moot involved a slaughter, and fears that Euron is Urron 2.0. Further, he’s convinced that a woman won’t be accepted as an Ironborn ruler. I think there’s a comment here about the limits of consensus, and perhaps even something positive to see in a succession system, as it’s (in theory) stable and inert.



Rodrik also opposes the moot from the perspective that an Ironborn king is an unsustainable concept to begin with:



This dream of kingship is a madness in our blood. I told your father so the first time he rose, and it is more true now than it was then. It’s land we need, not crowns. With Stannis Baratheon and Tywin Lannister contending for the Iron Throne, we have a rare chance to improve our lot. Let us take one side or the other, help them to victory with our fleets, and claim the lands we need from a grateful king.


……………….


The Old Way served the isles well when we were one small kingdom amongst many, but Aegon’s Conquest put an end to that. Balon refused to see what was plain before him. The Old Way died with Black Harren and his sons.”



He recognizes that Aegon’s Conquest was a massive interruption to the status quo, and that pre-Conquest formats of ruling are obsolete. In particular, the desire by some of the Greyjoys to return to “the Old Way” would be anachronistic and a regression.



I find this important to Jon’s arc in that Jon is also at the helm of an organization whose customs predate the major interruption to the status quo of Aegon’s Conquest, and could also be considered an anachronism in its current form. Jon himself hasn’t recognized as such yet, but I think this chapter serves as a precedent in locating the significance of adapting organizations and systems of power when massive change to a larger system has occurred.



Rodrik sees two paths—return to the Old Way, or make peace with the world that’s been in place since the conquest. That is, return to an old system, or continue forward with the current status quo, pledging fealty to the IT and falling in line. Asha rejects both of these options, seeking a third path, which strikes me as similar to Jon’s decision-making tendencies:



“Does that mean we must live and die as thralls to the Iron Throne? If there are rocks to starboard and a storm to port, a wise captain steers a third course.”



(skipping ahead to the kingsmoot, she offers the peace and land Rodrik advocates for, but as a separate entity. She wants the Iron Isles to have a separate but cooperative relationship with the North. Sounds a lot like what Jon’s looking for too)



A (useless) tangent— apparently, Rodrik Harlaw = Rust Cohle: “Archmaester Rigney once wrote that history is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging. What has happened before will perforce happen again, he said. I think of that whenever I contemplate the Crow’s Eye.”


  • Tyrion III: ADWD
    • Boards the Shy Maid and meets Young Grif’s party

  • Davos I: ADWD
    • He’s held at Sweetsister; we learn that Saan’s abandoned Stannis for failure to pay; background on Robert’s Rebellion; a rumor that Jon’s mother was a fisherman’s daughter

  • Jon III: ADWD
    • Mance is executed; news of Tywin’s death is discussed

  • Daenerys II: ADWD
    • More Harpy murders, a Quaithe vision, condemnation of Ned

  • Reek I: ADWD
    • At the Dreadfort, Reek’s taken from the dungeon and brought out to Arnolf Karstark and Whoresbane Umber to help Ramsay escort “Arya” North (which means that Roose is on his way)

  • Cersei III: AFFC
    • Tommen and Marg wed; Ceresi burns the Tower of the Hand

  • Arys I (The Soiled Knight): AFFC
    • Arianne convinces Arys to crown Myrcella

  • Bran II: ADWD
    • They make it to the cave and see Bloodraven

  • Tyrion IV: ADWD
    • Dragonlore infodump; Tyrion figures out Grif’s identity

  • Davos II: ADWD
    • Reaches White Harbor and covertly tries to overhear gossip

  • Brienne III: AFFC
    • Runs into Tarly at Maidenpool; teams up with Dick Crabbe

  • Samwell II: AFFC
    • At sea, Sam learns of the baby swap

  • Daenerys III: ADWD
    • Hosts Xaro and refuses his offer to leave; refuses to defend Astapor against Yunkai; Qarth declares war on her

  • Jon IV: ADWD

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Jon IV, DwD

overview

Jon and Edd meet with Wick Whittlestick and Bowen to go over the food count in the cellars. Without Stannis and the wildlings, Bowen estimates they’d have enough stores for 3 years of winter; at the current rate, Bowen estimates they’ll run out before the end of the year. Wick and Bowen offer a few temporary solutions, but the prospect of feeding this many people through winter looks bleak, and the matter goes unresolved.

Jon is then summoned to attend Stannis’ council to discuss a plan to take the North. Stannis has decided it’s time to leave the Wall, and proposes that he take the wildlings to capture the Dreadfort, as Ramsay will be away at Moat Cailin. Jon rejects this plan, as he believes it will lead to Stannis’ defeat, and his objections are met by derision by Stannis’ men. Stannis send everyone but Jon and Mel from the meeting, and Jon comes up with a strategy for Stannis to take the North. According to Jon’s plan, Stannis would get 3,000 soldiers, while Jon would inherit the wildlings to augment the Watch’s forces (and no way to feed them).

observations

  • The opening of this chapter is kind of a comic foil to the opening of the previous Reek chapter; both curiously open with squealing rats:
    • “Careful of the rats, my lord.” Dolorous Edd led Jon down the steps, a lantern in one hand. “They make an awful squeal if you step on them.”
    • The rat squealed as he bit into it, squirming wildly in his hands, frantic to escape. The belly was the softest part. He tore at the sweet meat, the warm blood running over his lips.
  • In the long wormway storage unit carven into the ice, Jon reflects that it feels “colder than it should.”
  • “You haggle like a crone with a codfish, Lord Snow. Did Ned Stark father you on some fishwife?” This comes a few chapters after Borrel tells Davos that Ned fathered Jon off some fisherman’s daughter.
  • Our best hope may be the Eyrie. The Vale of Arryn was famously fertile and had gone untouched during the fighting. Jon wondered how Lady Catelyn’s sister would feel about feeding Ned Stark’s bastard. As a boy, he often felt as if the lady grudged him every bite.
    Well, Sansa’s in the Eyrie now, and I’d hazard the guess she’d be amenable. Queen Bread?
  • We begin seeing significant factions arise: the rangers tend to support Jon’s views of keeping the gates open, while the builders and stewards tend toward Bowen’s views on the subject.

analysis

“a council” and “a council reprised”

This chapter is comprised of two councils that serve as foils. We open with Jon attended by 3 representatives of his organization to assess a major conundrum, including an impromptu strategy session. Then we cut to Stannis’ council, where Jon now functions as one of the representatives offering strategies for a different major conundrum.

Act 1: First Council

The current problem on Jon’s docket is the food supply. After taking inventory, Bowen concludes that the food crisis is egregious, and that at the current rate, there will be no more before the end of the year. Bowen recommends implementing winter rations as mitigation, and offers food importation as an ideal option, though, the fact that the Watch has no money makes this implausible. Wick suggests they can still hunt, but Bowen advises against this, as he prefers to seal the gates. Jon remarks that they will have to keep feeding Stannis’ men, as he could easily take whatever he needs at swordpoint, appealing to the fact that pragmatically, he can’t just cut them off. The meeting concludes with Bowen’s asking Jon how all these men will be fed, and Jon’s response that “[they’ll] find a way.”

Let’s look at something closely for a moment. Seemingly out of nowhere, Jon brings up Stannis and the wildlings as extra mouths to feed:

We cannot leave King Stannis and his men to starve, even if we wished to,” Jon said. “If need be, he could simply take all this at swordpoint. We do not have the men to stop them. The wildlings must be fed as well.”

Neither Bowen nor Wick were focusing on this as something negotiable, so it seems that this is the point where Jon begins developing a strategy, at least, he seems to be focusing attention on the number of mouths they’ll be responsible for. At this point, the Watch is feeding the Watch, Stannis and the wildlings. In the next council, Jon negotiates a way to cut Stannis out of the provision equation, leaving the Watch and the wildlings as the remaining factions needing to be fed. So between the time of this meeting and his meeting with Stannis, he does indeed “find a way,” though, this is also admittedly another band-aid solution.

Act 2: Council Reprised

The current problem on Stannis’ docket is to “deal with [his] other foes,” i.e. the Boltons. With his men, Stannis has come up with what they believe to be a brilliant strategy to taking the North, and has called in Jon to iron out some specifics regarding the Umbers.

Jon has a momentary conflict about offering political advice, but proceeds to answer Stannis’ questions. Stannis is vexed that Whoresbane has declared for Roose; worse, Mors will only declare for him if Stannis meets his terms: Mance's skull, and a pardon for his brother. Jon asks which other lords have declared for the Boltons, and Mel recounts a vision implicating Hornwood, Cerwyn, Tallhart, Ryswell, and Dustin, currently gathering at Barrowton. Punctuating Jon’s explanations is Godry’s jackanapery, as he’s playing the role of an idiot posing strawman objections that Jon easily swats. Irritating as this is, it allows Jon to present counterpoints such that opposition to Jon’s position looks weak.

Finally, Stannis reveals his brilliant plan: march against the Dreadfort. Karstark has informed him that Ramsay’s gone south with Whoresbane, leaving the castle lightly guarded, and Stannis correctly deduces that he must heading to Moat Cailin. Jon plainly states that the idea is a monstrously poor one, for the following reasons: without Mors on his side, Stannis will end up defeated by Umbers while crossing the land; Cailin will fall before Stannis even reaches the Dreadfort, and Ramsay, now combined with Roose’s forces, will surround Stannis, outnumbering him 5 to 1; the Dreadfort is a solid structure that has outlasted years-long sieges. Despite these objections, Stannis and his men seem intent on following through with this plan, and asks Jon to arm the wildling men so that they can augment his forces to this end.

At this point, it seems that everything clicks for Jon, and he begins to formulate a new plan on the spot. He agrees to arm the wildlings, but he’s about to posit the “turn,” putting Stannis’ plan into context:

“Drinking from Mance Rayder’s skull may give Mors Umber pleasure, but seeing wildlings cross his lands will not. The free folk have been raiding the Umbers since the Dawn of Days, crossing the Bay of Seals for gold and sheep and women. One of those carried off was Crowfood’s daughter. Your Grace, leave the wildlings here. Taking them will only serve to turn my lord father’s bannermen against you.”

He’s been advocating for the need to win over the actual Northmen, pointing out that wildlings as part of Stannis’ fighting force will alienate him from ever winning Northern loyalty. Stannis seems to sense that Jon’s going somewhere with this, and sends everyone out in order to have a private meeting with him. The idea of winning the North is clearly something Stannis knows he needs to do (he brings up the offer of Winterfell to Jon again, reminding him that the idea of “winning” men was a goal at the outset), but has been at a loss as to how to go about doing it, especially in light of all the rejections he’s received. Stannis views the mechanics of “winning” men as a function of allying with a prominent lord and building momentum thusly, but the problem is that none of these lords will ally with him just off the bat.

Realizing that Stannis will be doomed unless presented with a full plan, Jon decides to take the plunge:

Jon realized that his words were wasted. Stannis would take the Dreadfort or die in the attempt. The Night’s Watch takes no part, a voice said, but another replied, Stannis fights for the realm, the ironmen for thralls and plunder. “Your Grace, I know where you might find more men. Give me the wildlings, and I will gladly tell you where and how.”

The most important facet of Jon’s plan is to revise the target of Stannis’ attack. Instead of fighting against the Boltons at the outset, which will be both physically and politically problematic, Jon points to the Ironborn as a common enemy that the Northmen will rally against. By taking on the Ironborn, who are a pestilence to the North, the North will have a reason to stand behind Stannis, who’d see him as addressing relevant issues (which is especially crucial if his Bolton competitors will also be performing this service). Jon suggests Deepwood Motte as the first target of his assault, so now, Stannis has a platform he can easily sell to Northmen to join his cause.

The second critical facet is Jon’s recommendation for winning enough loyalty to begin building this momentum. Jon suggests that Stannis court the clansmen, winning them over according to their traditions. He advises Mel to refrain from proselytizing about R’hllor on this leg of the plan, basically advocating for cultural diplomacy in order to build a power base.

The plan suits all the parties in question: Jon is relieved from having to provide for Stannis’ men, while inheriting the 1,000 wildlings for his own use to reinforce the Watch; the Northmen will be empowered to remove the Ironborn pestilence; Stannis has a strategy that’s framed around building momentum to increase military support for his cause in order to eventually defeat the Boltons.

It’s not a total win for Jon, however. The food crisis still doesn’t have a cure.

The Councils Foiled

In the first council, Jon had estimated the food stores as plentiful and seemed to believe he was merely overseeing a routine inventory with a positive conclusion; it’s then that the “experts” correct him, he's reminded that “he knows nothing,” and must rethink his entire outlook on the food situation, as it is indeed a crisis. In the second council, Jon now plays the role of Bowen, telling Stannis that all of the assumptions he’d based his plan on were incorrect, and must rethink his entire outlook on the North situation.

As is the case with Jon to Stannis, I believe Bowen and Wick are trying to be helpful. The stewards both suggest mitigations (winter rations, hunting, food importation), but, like Jon, are at a loss to locate a cure for the issue. Bowen points out some objections to the ideas tossed out (he believes they should seal the gates and not hunt), but overall, neither steward is being useless or needlessly negative about the situation. The situation seems dire, but they’re all amenable to finding solutions.

Unlike Jon’s role in the second council, however, they aren’t suggesting plausible strategies to the food crisis the way Jon is able to revise Stannis’ entire campaign. Winter rations, hunting and Jon’s later negotiation that severs Stannis’ men from the equation are all mitigation steps but not solutions. The one that could be a true solution is the option Bowen suggests-- sufficient coin to purchase resources from elsewhere in the realm-- but what's lacking is the strategy to get there.

Jon begins contemplating this one, even musing on the Vale as the most promising region, but puts it aside due to insufficient funding and anticipation that Lysa might refuse. I would posit that this is when Jon’s “silences become worrying.” Bowen might have tossed this out as a knowingly futile option, but what if, instead of going silent and thinking to himself, he stated that this is what needs to happen, and went on to discuss the “how” with the two stewards? Why not see if they have any recommendations for raising money, and what they think about appealing to the Eyrie? Would Bowen or Wick have risen to the occasion and at least brainstormed a plan to solve the crisis along these lines?

This is one chapter where I believe Jon comes across as an excellent political strategist, while Stannis excels as a leader (I’m not suggesting that this is always the case, but in this chapter specifically). Stannis’ plan was awful, but he was open to criticism, and further, actually engaged in brainstorming, allowed his hypothetical to be questioned by someone he respects as an expert, and recognized a superior plan when one was given. Jon also listened to his “expert’s” advice, and took their evaluation seriously, but two major differences can be noted: Jon did not engage them by talking through options, instead keeping his silence. Secondly, he seems to view them as less competent at analysis than Stannis does Jon. It seems that he preemptively concluded that he wouldn’t find anything productive in brainstorming with them, and so he removed that possibility. Either finding better advisors or molding the ones he has to become better advisors is something I'd suggest an excellent leader should do. I don’t think Jon was a poor leader here or anything, but compared to Stannis’ procurement and handling of advice, I don’t think he excelled (though, I’m not sure that Bowen and Wick would have been as competent at solution-finding as Jon had been to Stannis anyway; I wonder what would have transpired had Sam or Aemon been around for counsel).

I wonder what the implications of this are. Jon certainly sees the Northern picture quite clearly, and can immediately formulate a good strategy on the spot as a counselor to Stannis. Yet, he doesn’t see a clear solution to his own dilemmas in the Watch, nor does he steer his counselors to be more useful. Does this speak to the idea that Jon’s better able to see the answers to other people’s problems, and as such, he’s better in the role of Hand than a leader? Or does this perhaps imply that he’s in the wrong leadership position at the moment, one preventing him from excelling?

As a final comparative thought, we see that Jon and Stannis value two different approaches to leadership, illustrated by the appeal to Daeron’s Dorne campaign. Jon appears to favor a kind of soft-power—cultural diplomacy—as a means of building consensus and gaining a power base. He favors the “goat track” approach to winning over the locals and literally taking a less travelled, subtle path. Stannis, however, says the goat tracks were overrated, and that the Dorne war came down to brute force in the form of naval battles. Stannis agrees to adopt Jon’s approach in this circumstance, though he remains wary about its ultimate efficacy.

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Great analysis. The only thing I want to point out is that the Stannis and goat track v. boats winning the war probably has a lot to do with his role and lack of recognition int he Greyjoy rebellion. You need both. Stannis seems like the Tyrion of all of Roberts victories, rarely gets any credit.


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Thanks, Butterbumps! Great post ..and the rundown of interim chapters is very helpful.


Council 1


I really can't be sure Bowen is being entirely straightforward with Jon. Jon's observation..


There’s a mountain of ice above your head, more tons than even Bowen Marsh could count. Even so, the room felt colder than it should.


... has always stuck out like a sore thumb , for me.... Why, colder than it should ? Does the tunnel actually go deeper than it appears to ? Could there be another reason ? .. Jon may indeed "know nothing" about many things , but his powers of observation and his instincts have always been good and it seems to me, have been validated more often than not.


Then too , it's puzzled me that Bowen gives Jon the figures from 3 turns ago to compare to their current count. ???... Bowen says ..“It was a long summer. The harvests were bountiful, the lords generous. "..Then why compare the figures from 3 yrs. ago ? ...Was nothing added to their long term stores in the past two years ? Do the figures show a drop from the 3 yr. old count ? Would they show a much greater drop if compared to the last year or two ?... Can we believe Bowen would only count their stores every three years? I can't , frankly... Maybe the storerooms only have a capacity to hold 3 yrs. supply at a time ?.. But that would seem odd , when the duration of winters can be so flexible ( and the longer the last summer stretched on , the more people have been worried that the coming winter would be a long one ).



I mean , I'm sure Bowen is genuinely concerned ( if not outright afraid ), but I wouldn't put some amount of secret hoarding in an excess of caution beyond him (and whether they actually have 3 yrs. supply ,or 4 or 5 , at normal rates for the NW , they still do have a food problem ).


We're told at the opening of the chapter ,in regard to the wormways ...


The stewards were making use of them already. ... could some shuffling about have been going on ? ( just speculating ...)..;)


I also think Bowen might exaggerate the case , somewhat, in the hope it might encourage Jon to be less welcoming of Stannis. We know his political standpoint.. and we saw in the last chapter that Bowen is quite unrealistic in how far he thinks Jon can go to oppose Stannis.


I don't think Jon is necessarily against brainstorming with anyone yet, but he does know the ideas Bowen has proposed so far ( sealing the gates , no hunting , be openly less friendly to Stannis , back the Lannisters , etc. ) are not very helpful ...And all Jon has at the moment are bandaid solutions , while he searches for something more permanent.


“If we had sufficient coin, we could buy food from the south and bring it in by ship,” the Lord

Steward said.


We could, thought Jon, if we had the gold, and someone willing to sell us food.


This is noteworthy now , because later , I think we see Bowen either change his mind about it , or just want to gloss over it when Jon proposes the same thing..


I think there are some very interesting wrinkles coming up about that down the road a way.


More , later...


ETA: Meant to say I adore Rodrik Harlaw = Rust Cohle.. :)

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Bemused, I think the "three turns" refers to moon turns or months rather than years.

Very nice work, Butterbumps. I really like the Asha comparison to Jon.

Clouds streaked the sky like tattered banners, grey and white and torn.

Hmm... the Stark colors as tattered banners.

“Unless they die. Dead children come last everywhere.”

Unless they're named Aegon. Intentional irony?

I don't think Stannis had a bad plan aside from the part where he was going to be betrayed by Karstark. That part of the plan is a wee bit awful but not really Stannis' fault or a flaw in his plan. The problem is really exactly what Jon says-- it is very risky. If Stannis had taken the Dreadfort that would have been a rather significant blow to Bolton. I'm not sure how aware Stannis is of the Northern sentiments, but a Roose without a Dreadfort would have a much harder time getting lords in line to back him (unless it was with daggers.) Those with Red Wedding hostages may still have little choice in not backing Stannis overtly, which is one of many reasons Jon's plan to attack the Ironborn is so much better.

The other part is that it isn't that as if Stannis didn't hear and digest all that Jon said. He heard and understood it but Jon didn't offer any alternative but inaction which was unacceptable (which echoes Jon's own counsel from his advisors.) In this Stannis is correct. If he wants to win the North he won't do it by sitting at the Wall and the longer he does the poorer his chances will get. He needs to act. Stannis is also using Jon to judge the merits of his plan. He sees that it takes Jon off guard and therefore reasonably assumes that it may take the Boltons off guard too. He's getting the measure of Karstark and Umber too. He takes Jon quite seriously with regard to Umber but seems less swayed by his Karstark evaluation. Jon's mention of his Robb betrayal probably plays into that as does Stannis' own experience living in the shadow of an older brother. Even his little quip about swearing before a heart tree shows that he's listening and digesting what Jon says here.

“That is his pretext, not his reason,” declared Ser Godry. “If the nephew dies in chains, these uncles can claim his lands and lordship for themselves.”

The irony here is that it is Karstark's support of Stannis that is the pretext and this very thinking is his reason.

This is also important because the talk of such nefarious betrayals comes in the midst of another Southron Fools cultural divide and helps subtly demonstrate that such betrayal is not limited to one side of the Neck. It is also interesting in that these Queen's Men who have such fervent belief in their new Red God's power choose dogs pissing on trees to denigrate the old gods. The direwolves are much like dogs and the trees are the power of Bloodraven. They are mocking two things that likely far overshadow any power Mel could ever bring to bear and may well both be involved in her downfall (if Patchface doesn't get her first.) It seems evident that the power of the old gods ended the first Long Night without any help for the Red Rulore.

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:dunno: Ragnorak.....Three turns...aha! :D :D ..that makes a difference.. !



I think this stuck in my head, for some bizarre reason..



“What word from old Volantis?” Yandry called. “War,” the word came back. “Where?” Griff shouted. “When?”



When the year turns,” came the answer,


When this is much more common... "when the moon turns"..and...“Is he the Seneschal?” said Sam, confused. “Maester Aemon said his name was Norren.”

Not for the past two turns. There is a new one every year.




And this seems definitive..."Ten years, two turns, and sixteen days it lasted, the longest summer in living memory.”


Still, I'm not letting the old pomegranate off the hook completely , just yet. ;)

How long has Stannis been at the wall ? How long since Bowen returned from the Shadow Tower ? How long since he chased off after The Weeper ? How long since Jon returned to Castle Black ?


I'm not the best with timelines , but it seems it might be too short a timespan to have been tallied before The Weeper and maybe too long a timespan to date from Bowen's return ( hard to tell with everything else that's been going on ).... :dunno:



In any case , it is a real problem , but knowing Bowen's political stance , I wouldn't put it past him to at least put it in terms most favourable to his opinion ( and expert bean counters have a good chance of fudging the books for the inexpert "know nothings" ).


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Good job, bumps!



Jon peeled the glove off his left hand and touched the nearest haunch of venison. He could feel his fingers sticking, and when he pulled them back he lost a bit of skin.



Venison is deer meat, and losing some skin could refer to Jon having some skin in the game in supporting Stannis. Losing some skin could refer to him taking a hit.



Most rangers echoed Dywen, whilst the stewars and builders inclined toward Bowen Marsh.



We see this split in the NW along the lines of specialization. Tthe rangers, the military backbone of the NW, get out more and have more regular contact with the wildlings, giving them a better picture of the wildlings compared to stewards and builders, who spend all their time at CB, who heard of wildlings from the tales they heard as children, usually casting them in a negative light and from reports from rangers. If the men had been made to switch back and forth between duties, then Marsh might have had a better view of the wildlings.



A finger of warm wax was puddling out across the Bay of Seals, slow as a glacier.



Davos is Hand of the King, and he carries the king's seal, which is wax. The wax puddling out across the Bay of Seals could foreshadow Davos moving from Skagos with his support across the Bay of Seals to the mainland.



Arnolf Karstark is an old man with a crooked back



Richard III, anyone? A man with a crooked back trying to kill off his (great) nephews, and secure a marry his niece (to his son). The Greystarks, a cadet branch of House Stark, was extinguished when they joined with the Boltons against the Starks of WF. I think that is the fate Arnolf's Karstark clan, fighting against both the Starks of WF and the main branch of House Karstark.



In the next , casks of salt beef, salt pork, salt mutton and salt cod were stacked ten feet high. Three hundred hams and three thousand long black sausages hung from ceiling beams below the smokehouse.



Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt



AA shall be reborn amidst smoke and salt. I think they will place Jon's boy here in the storerooms after the Ides of Marsh.


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...Rodrik sees two paths—return to the Old Way, or make peace with the world that’s been in place since the conquest. That is, return to an old system, or continue forward with the current status quo, pledging fealty to the IT and falling in line. Asha rejects both of these options, seeking a third path, which strikes me as similar to Jon’s decision-making tendencies...

I found this very interesting. We had the idea of institutions (Kingsguard, Night's Watch, Citadel) not being fit for purpose but that comparison opens out the discussion to stasis versus change. Do they adapt or doing they keep repeating the same actions and expect a different result of a sudden? Elsewhere Butterbumps! has a theory of how the White Walkers and the mostly but not entirely dead servants of R'hllor represent stasis, an unchanged, fixed world and how this is a threat to human life. It looks as though this is a theme that runs through the story from the mystical to the political.

I'm not sure that Asha's third way (accursed phrase!) was ever all that viable, while Rodrik's idea looks at least as though it could work. Anyhow the Ironborn and the Wildlings seem to share a similar story. They have a traditional way of life that glorifies raiding causing a long tradition of bad relations with their neighbours and a population in excess of what the available land can support. There before both shines the North with its forests and untended fields.

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Dywen is completely right about sealing the gates being a great folly.



Ghost



By the time they returned to the surface, the shadows of the afternoon were growing long. Clouds streaked the sky like tattered banners, grey and white and torn. The yard outside the armory was empty, but inside Jon found the king’s squire awaiting him. Devan was a skinny lad of some twelve years, brown of hair and eye. They found him frozen by the forge, hardly daring to move as Ghost sniffed him up and down. “He won’t hurt you,” Jon said, but the boy flinched at the sound of his voice, and that sudden motion made the direwolf bare his teeth.No!” Jon said. “Ghost, leave him be. Away.” The wolf slunk back to his ox bone, silence on four feet.


(…)


He followed the young squire back across the yard. Ghost padded after them until Jon said, “No. Stay!” Instead the direwolf ran off.



I think this is one of those weird moments of Ghost. Why was Ghost so suspicious of this kid? Why did Ghost want to come with Jon and where did he go after Jon told him to stay?



Stannis knows the Mance glamor



“Is there any honor in them, do you think?”


“Yes,” Jon said, “but their own sort of honor, sire.”


“In the Lord of Bones?”


Jon hesitated. “Rattleshirt, we called him. Treacherous and blood-thirsty. If there’s honor in him, he hides it down beneath his suit of bones.”



Stannis knows what Jon thinks about Rattleshirt. I think he spent enough time at the Wall to learn what a vile creature that man was. And now he gives him as a gift to Jon.



“As you wish. I have a gift for you, Lord Snow.” The king waved a hand at Rattleshirt. “Him.”


Lady Melisandre smiled. “You did say you wanted men, Lord Snow. I believe our Lord of Bones still qualifies.”


Jon was aghast. “Your Grace, this man cannot be trusted. If I keep him here, someone will slit his throat for him. If I send him ranging, he’ll just go back over to the wildlings.”



“The wildling men will form my van. The Magnar will command them, with their own chiefs as serjeants.”



If Stannis placed the free folk in the van, most would perish quickly.



“To you they (the wildlings) are only arrow fodder.”



Stannis needs wildling warriors in his van and he is experienced enough to predict that most of them will perish quickly. He knows that the wildlings follow their chiefs and Rattleshirt can lead them at the battle – Mance gave him the leadership of hunting parties. How can he consider losing a known raider like Rattleshirt and give him to Jon, who never hid his disgust from the man? One may suggest that Stannis did not care and heed Mel’s advice. I don’t think so because Stannis does not take Mel’s advice in his battle plans. For him, a leader like Rattleshirt in his van is necessary.



I think Stannis knows the Mance glamor.



Wormways



The mention of wormways is interesting. I don’t remember whether we ever heard this before. So, GRRM will make use of them later, or he already used them and wants us to figure it out.



Crowfood’s daughter



The mention of Crowfood’s kidnapped daughter is definitely interesting. Mance is still in the room and I think that girl will be one of the spearwives he will take with him. I think that one is Rowan, who is described as tall, long-legged, with rough hands etc. And this:



Rowan gave him a hard look. “You have no right to mouth Lord Eddard’s words. Not you. Not ever. After what you did—”



Umbers are known as fierce Stark loyalists. These words look very odd for a wildling spearwife.



Another trap evaded



Stannis is saved from another trap by Jon. As tze pointed out, he is frequently lured into traps and one wonders how long will this continue?



Lords of Winterfell



“Horpe and Massey aspire to your father’s seat. Massey wants the wildling princess too. He once served my brother Robert as squire and acquired his appetite for female flesh. Horpe will take Val to wife if I command it, but it is battle he lusts for. As a squire he dreamed of a white cloak, but Cersei Lannister spoke against him and Robert passed him over. Perhaps rightly. Ser Richard is too fond of killing. Which would you have as Lord of Winterfell, Snow? The smiler or the slayer?”



The smiler may refer to Theon and the slayer may refer to Ramsay as well. Both of them claimed to be the lord of Winterfell. Interestingly, Theon the smiler claimed Winterfell by the right of conquest and Ramsay the slayer claimed Winterfell by the right of marriage. And the slayer did not like the smile of the smiler, so he crushed half of his teeth.



Stannis vs. Ned.



“My father always said you were a just man.” Just but harsh had been Lord Eddard’s exact words, but Jon did not think it would be wise to share that.



Stannis looked disgusted. “Your father was a stubborn man as well. Honor, he called it. Well, honor has its costs, as Lord Eddard learned to his sorrow.”


:lmao:



Half a wildling



“Your Grace, I know where you might find more men. Give me the wildlings, and I will gladly tell you where and how.”


“I gave you Rattleshirt. Be content with him.”


“I want them all.”


“Some of your own Sworn Brothers would have me believe that you are half a wildling yourself. Is it true?”



Which Sworn Brothers are they? Jon did not do much after Slynt’s execution to press on the nerves of his opposition but still, some men of the NW feels uncomfortable with Jon’s relationship with the wildlings. Surely Thorne is among them but I think some of the builders or stewards can hold this fear genuinely.



Mountain clans vs. Giants



As explained here, the tales of Old Nan about the giants seem to have some elements from the mountain clans. It is highly possible that the mountain clans and the giants had some dealings in the past, just like Umbers and Thenns.


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...This is one chapter where I believe Jon comes across as an excellent political strategist, while Stannis excels as a leader (I’m not suggesting that this is always the case, but in this chapter specifically). Stannis’ plan was awful, but he was open to criticism, and further, actually engaged in brainstorming, allowed his hypothetical to be questioned by someone he respects as an expert, and recognized a superior plan when one was given. Jon also listened to his “expert’s” advice, and took their evaluation seriously, but two major differences can be noted: Jon did not engage them by talking through options, instead keeping his silence. Secondly, he seems to view them as less competent at analysis than Stannis does Jon. It seems that he preemptively concluded that he wouldn’t find anything productive in brainstorming with them, and so he removed that possibility. Either finding better advisors or molding the ones he has to become better advisors is something I'd suggest an excellent leader should do. I don’t think Jon was a poor leader here or anything, but compared to Stannis’ procurement and handling of advice, I don’t think he excelled (though, I’m not sure that Bowen and Wick would have been as competent at solution-finding as Jon had been to Stannis anyway; I wonder what would have transpired had Sam or Aemon been around for counsel).

I wonder what the implications of this are. Jon certainly sees the Northern picture quite clearly, and can immediately formulate a good strategy on the spot as a counselor to Stannis. Yet, he doesn’t see a clear solution to his own dilemmas in the Watch, nor does he steer his counselors to be more useful. Does this speak to the idea that Jon’s better able to see the answers to other people’s problems, and as such, he’s better in the role of Hand than a leader? Or does this perhaps imply that he’s in the wrong leadership position at the moment, one preventing him from excelling?...

The business about Stannis just taking what he wants or needs at swordpoint harkens back to Jon III. Jon made the same point to Bowen then when Bowen suggested that they should be backing a winner rather than being seen to be getting too close to Stannis.

Jon as a better strategist than as a leader is a good point. He already seems unimpressed by Bowen Marsh. Perhaps there are problems for him in brainstorming a solution to the food question because that would mean admitting that he doesn't know the answers and that he would have to trust in the capabilities of his advisers - which he doesn't. Plainly Bowen's approach to seal the gates would make the food situation worse by removing the opportunity of hunting. With Stannis Jon can see a solution to Stannis' strategy problem, nobody around Jon though is on hand to give him an answer to the food question - although they can at least tell him that the current situation can't continue.

If we are making comparisons with the Ironborn then there is a similarity to Euron's plan for world domination and Rodrik's objection that the massed fleet of the Ironborn wouldn't make it to Slaver's Bay, perhaps there is also a similarity with the Mance's plan to get south of the Wall. ie the solutions to these problems are beyond the resources or capacities of the people who need the solutions. The solutions require co-operation between kingdoms and organisations - they can't be solved through internal means alone.

Jon's answer to Stannis is rather than going it alone on a suicide mission with inferior numbers against an enemy on their home territory to co-operate with others against a common enemy which will at least even out the odds. But who is there for the Watch to work with to solve its food problem?

...

Hmm... the Stark colors as tattered banners.

...

I don't think Stannis had a bad plan aside from the part where he was going to be betrayed by Karstark. That part of the plan is a wee bit awful but not really Stannis' fault or a flaw in his plan. The problem is really exactly what Jon says-- it is very risky. If Stannis had taken the Dreadfort that would have been a rather significant blow to Bolton. I'm not sure how aware Stannis is of the Northern sentiments, but a Roose without a Dreadfort would have a much harder time getting lords in line to back him (unless it was with daggers.) Those with Red Wedding hostages may still have little choice in not backing Stannis overtly, which is one of many reasons Jon's plan to attack the Ironborn is so much better...

Yes I noticed the stark coloured clouds too, on the one hand a sad image, on the other it aligns the Starks with the power of nature (specifically a wintery sky).

Good plan, bad plan...The original attack the Dreadfort! plan is pure risk, rather than good or bad I'd say it is just a desperate plan and as you say it may not have got Stannis anything even if he won through to the Dreadfort and seized it while the Lannisters and Freys hold northern hostages. Roose also has an ace in his false Arya, he can claim to represent both order, peace and continuity of the old family.

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Great analysis. The only thing I want to point out is that the Stannis and goat track v. boats winning the war probably has a lot to do with his role and lack of recognition int he Greyjoy rebellion. You need both. Stannis seems like the Tyrion of all of Roberts victories, rarely gets any credit.

I absolutely agree. Looking at 2 of our 3 major players, Varys and LF frequently employ forms of "soft power" (though, they are sometimes downright coercive), but it's significant that both include brute force as part of their plans (Aegon is with the GC after all, and LF is arranging for an army).

In terms of the particular conundrum of winning the North to Stannis' cause, I think the "soft power" approach Jon advocates is more like the first step than the full solution. It's the idea of making yourself an attractive candidate in order to shore up a base, which serves to augment his brute force capacity, which allows him to defeat a common enemy, which in turn will give him more swords, which allows him to take on greater foes. It's the tactic that breaks the inertia, but purpose is to get a bigger army.

I get the sense Stannis dislikes soft power approaches because he believes that men should just follow the king as a self-evident principle. The idea that men should't have to be "won" over seems unnecessary-- they should just follow the king because he's the king. But one byproduct of the war has been that people are starting to look for reasons to follow their various leaders-- because there is no self-evidently "true king" during this timeline, the reasons for following a contender are open to discussion. People are choosing to follow contenders who either directly reflect their interests (Renly, Robb, Mance, Euron, Dany), or those who seem as though they are on the winning side in order to avoid harm (Lannister and Bolton backers). Either way, the idea of a "true king" is becoming quickly outdated, so a failure to employ tactics that reflect this change will lead to defeat. I think it reflects well on Stannis character that the need for "making them love me" is something he finally recognizes and promises to adopt, at least for now. It's a big paradigm shift for him to even consider that this is something he could do (he's normally just resigned that this is how Robert could operate, but not him).

I mean , I'm sure Bowen is genuinely concerned ( if not outright afraid ), but I wouldn't put some amount of secret hoarding in an excess of caution beyond him (and whether they actually have 3 yrs. supply ,or 4 or 5 , at normal rates for the NW , they still do have a food problem ).

We're told at the opening of the chapter ,in regard to the wormways ...

The stewards were making use of them already. ... could some shuffling about have been going on ? ( just speculating ...).. ;)

I also think Bowen might exaggerate the case , somewhat, in the hope it might encourage Jon to be less welcoming of Stannis. We know his political standpoint.. and we saw in the last chapter that Bowen is quite unrealistic in how far he thinks Jon can go to oppose Stannis.

I don't think Jon is necessarily against brainstorming with anyone yet, but he does know the ideas Bowen has proposed so far ( sealing the gates , no hunting , be openly less friendly to Stannis , back the Lannisters , etc. ) are not very helpful ...And all Jon has at the moment are bandaid solutions , while he searches for something more permanent.

ETA: Meant to say I adore Rodrik Harlaw = Rust Cohle.. :)

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what I think of Bowen at this point in the story. I know how I've felt about the quality of his later "advices," but I tried to read this divorced from that, and in so doing, it occurs to me that he might actually be trying somewhat here.

It's entirely possible he might be presenting the crisis as more dire than it truly is according to the rate of consumption. But I'm not sure that if, in the event he's not just being a negative nancy about this, it was in service to a protest against Stannis. He certainly brings up Stannis and the wildlings at the beginning of his evaluation, but then doesn't mention them again while they talk through options. It's Jon who brings up the fact that they can't stop feeding him, seemingly without prompting. I suppose it could be argued that Jon spoke to this point because he sensed that Bowen's desire to sever ties was looming over the conversation, so he was nipping that in the bud, but it's not obvious that Bowen was trying to push for that here.

Further, he kind of seems to accept that the wildlings have come over at this point-- he says it's well and good the wildlings are in the Gift, but the problem is that there isn't time for another harvest (though, it's probably worth noting we're only talking about around 1,000 wildlings at this point). I could see a subtle player pretend to be at peace with the wildlings like this, and offer seemingly helpful, though futile suggestions as a way of leading Jon to the conclusion of getting rid of Stannis, but I've never seen Bowen as particularly subtle or a graceful negotiator like that. In general, I've gotten the impression that Bowen doesn't have a particularly flexible mind.

As a side note, what's funny about this is that both Bowen and Jon want Stannis out of their hair, the major difference being that Jon think Stannis can win, and further, he wants him to. So they're almost on the same page. I think part of tragedy of this is that Jon can't have a frank discussion about this with someone like Bowen, because despite Bowen's admission that he doesn't want to be on the losing side, I get the sense he's rationalized that as staying true to the Watch, and would see Jon's views as oathbreaking.

tangent-- I especially love "I think of that whenever I contemplate the Crow’s Eye ["my crucifixion" lol]." Seriously, if anyone's "seen Carcosa," I daresay it's Euron. btw, in the WoIaF app update, Martin filled in all these random cities in Essos, and wouldn't you know, there is a "Carcosa" over in the East.

I don't think Stannis had a bad plan aside from the part where he was going to be betrayed by Karstark. That part of the plan is a wee bit awful but not really Stannis' fault or a flaw in his plan. The problem is really exactly what Jon says-- it is very risky. If Stannis had taken the Dreadfort that would have been a rather significant blow to Bolton. I'm not sure how aware Stannis is of the Northern sentiments, but a Roose without a Dreadfort would have a much harder time getting lords in line to back him (unless it was with daggers.) Those with Red Wedding hostages may still have little choice in not backing Stannis overtly, which is one of many reasons Jon's plan to attack the Ironborn is so much better.

I think it's a terrible plan because even without including the Karstark betrayal, all of the premises are unsound. It's not just risky but a suicide mission. Even Jon remarks that "there are risks and there are risks;" when it's clear Stannis intends to go through with it no matter what, Jon thinks it will lead to Stannis' defeat and finally "takes part" in offering a new strategy.

The idea of taking the Dreadfort isn't bad in and of itself, but it's another case of cart-before-horse, I think. It's a tactic, not a strategy, given that Stannis' endgame isn't to hold the Dreadfort, but rather, to win the North. What happens once the Dreadfort is taken? He puts a Southron fool inside to hold it and the North suddenly bends the knee to Stannis?

I found this very interesting. We had the idea of institutions (Kingsguard, Night's Watch, Citadel) not being fit for purpose but that comparison opens out the discussion to stasis versus change. Do they adapt or doing they keep repeating the same actions and expect a different result of a sudden? Elsewhere Butterbumps! has a theory of how the White Walkers and the mostly but not entirely dead servants of R'hllor represent stasis, an unchanged, fixed world and how this is a threat to human life. It looks as though this is a theme that runs through the story from the mystical to the political.

I'm not sure that Asha's third way (accursed phrase!) was ever all that viable, while Rodrik's idea looks at least as though it could work. Anyhow the Ironborn and the Wildlings seem to share a similar story. They have a traditional way of life that glorifies raiding causing a long tradition of bad relations with their neighbours and a population in excess of what the available land can support. There before both shines the North with its forests and untended fields.

First, I agree that Asha's "third way" isn't tremendously promising. Her full platform will come up in the next group of chapters so maybe we can look at it a bit closer. It's more the idea of carving a "third way" I find interesting, as it shows a little innovation and reflection. I just also found the idea of an independent, yet cooperative exchange was apropos to the Watch's position. Though the Watch doesn't have the same tense relationship to the Kingdom, the fact that Asha's way seems untenable could have implications for the "independent yet cooperative" relationship the Watch is supposed to have as well. The nature of the 2 institutions are different, so perhaps that doesn't serve as a comment-- not sure what I think about it.

Just a slight correction though. Among the many meaning of "song of ice and fire," I posited that it's the song of stasis and change, where the Others would be stasis (ice preserves) and R'hllor and the fire side is about radical change. But that's perhaps a bit more symbolic than how I initially applied it-- I was mostly talking about various players-- Stannis and Ned being representatives of the status quo, Dany as an agent of change, and others, like Jon (and perhaps Asha) as somewhere in the middle.

Wormways

The mention of wormways is interesting. I don’t remember whether we ever heard this before. So, GRRM will make use of them later, or he already used them and wants us to figure it out.

The wormways kind of remind me of the underground network below Meereen, where dissenters meet up. It would be the sort of out of sight location that enables unfettered criticism.

I wouldn't get too carried away with it yet, though. Later, we'll see Bowen complaining in the main hall pretty plainly (Mance will overhear it), so if these wormways are used for conspiring at all, they probably took it there after Mance calls them out (I'd imagine).

Sam and Jon used the wormways in aSoS to get around a couple of times-- Sam from the library, and Jon to get to the bathhouses.

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.

Crowfood’s daughter

The mention of Crowfood’s kidnapped daughter is definitely interesting. Mance is still in the room and I think that girl will be one of the spearwives he will take with him. I think that one is Rowan, who is described as tall, long-legged, with rough hands etc. And this:

Rowan gave him a hard look. “You have no right to mouth Lord Eddard’s words. Not you. Not ever. After what you did—”

Umbers are known as fierce Stark loyalists. These words look very odd for a wildling spearwife.

.

That's an excellent suggestion. Although there is some evidence that some of the wildlings do have some respect for the Starks. Jon's status as Ned's illegitimate son makes things easier for him among the wildlings.

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The wormways kind of remind me of the underground network below Meereen, where dissenters meet up. It would be the sort of out of sight location that enables unfettered criticism.

I wouldn't get too carried away with it yet, though. Later, we'll see Bowen complaining in the main hall pretty plainly (Mance will overhear it), so if these wormways are used for conspiring at all, they probably took it there after Mance calls them out (I'd imagine).

Sam and Jon used the wormways in aSoS to get around a couple of times-- Sam from the library, and Jon to get to the bathhouses.

I think wormway is a dangerous name because worms are always associated with corpses and death. In this case, treachery may be assoicated with the wormways.

"Ser Raymun, if you please." He cantered up, a grim smile lighting his face beneath his plumed helm. "My pardons, ser. I needed to make a small change to my sigil, lest I be mistaken for my dishonorable cousin." He showed them all his shield. The polished golden field remained the same, and the Fossoway apple, but this apple was green instead of red. "I fear I am still not ripe . . . but better green than wormy, eh?"

Raymun's treacherous cousin Steffon Fossoway promised to fight for Ser Duncan the Tall during the Trial of Seven, but Prince Aerion Targaryen promised to make him a lord, so he switched sides. This led his cousin, Raymun Fossoway, to paint the apple on his shield green to mark the difference between the two of them after he joined the side of Ser Duncan in his cousin's place.

Here wormy apple represents the betrayal. And the Wall having wormholes beneath it suggests a possible betrayal.

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Regarding the original Stannis plan...



It is a "bad" plan by Westeros standards because it is a zero sum plan. It is all or nothing but that's been Stannis all along. He'd have listened to Cressen or the Hand he burned if he was the type to act otherwise. He's looking to do to Roose what Robb did to Tywin by invading the Westerlands or what Theon did to Robb by taking Winterfell. If successful he would essentially have disrupted whatever Bolton's plan is and forced him to react to the agenda Stannis had set. Stannis is a bit like Littlefinger on the battlefield. He seems to believe that he is the better commander who will more readily adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.



There are flaws in the plan and probably the most significant one is the time it would take Moat Cailin to fall which is born out of a flawed premise and ignorance of the environment. If we accept the premise Stannis has, which is "King or bust" some of those flaws in the plan cease to matter. He is correct in that the Bolton star is waxing and his is waning and something must be done to change that. Jon flat out tells him if he loses that they'll all be dead and that is a perfectly acceptable alternative to Stannis. All Robb's reasons for not going straight at Tywin don't weigh on Stannis. Quite the opposite.



We also learn a great deal about Stannis here. The Giantslayer's suggestion for dealing with the Umbers is essentially the offer Stannis made to the Wildlings. Stannis is willing to deal with Umber if the reward is right. He's willing to suffer pipes and porridge, he's willing to ask rather than command the mountain clans. Back in the opening of Clash we see a very different Stannis who has no options and is sulky, dour and willing to turn to the red bird to risk all rather than accept having no options. This is the most animated we've seen Stannis. I would go so far as to say he's actually happy here.






The idea of taking the Dreadfort isn't bad in and of itself, but it's another case of cart-before-horse, I think. It's a tactic, not a strategy, given that Stannis' endgame isn't to hold the Dreadfort, but rather, to win the North. What happens once the Dreadfort is taken? He puts a Southron fool inside to hold it and the North suddenly bends the knee to Stannis?






It is designed to change the status quo and give reticent lords a reason to side with him. They clearly won't now but also clearly aren't fans of Bolton. Manderly hasn't declared and might well declare for a Stannis sitting in the Dreadfort while not siding with a Stannis sitting idle at the Wall. His plan A was for Jon to win over the Northern lords. Stannis still thinks it is a better option because he makes the offer to Jon yet again. It is also interesting that Stannis is "negotiating" with Jon on this and not trying to force him. He floats the two Southron Fools as lord of Winterfell to tweak Jon but also consoles him with his Northman intentions when that fails to sway Jon-- which is likely a sign that he's heeding Jon's warning of Northern seats for Southron lord to at least some degree. I think he came across as significantly more coercive in his earlier Winterfell offers. I think that's equal parts respect for Jon and a more "reasonable" side of Stannis that begins to emerge when he has options. The Dreadfort is potential suicide but he's willing to choose that over blackmailing Jon into accepting Winterfell. Lots to infer about Stannis in this chapter.


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In this chapter, we see Bowen Marsh doing what he does best - counting things. I found it interesting that Jon actually let Marsh show him around. This inventory is the kind of thing that could be written down and submitted as a report, with the consumption calculations attached. Instead Jon lets Marsh play tour guide. I took this as Jon showing Marsh some respect in Marsh's area of expertise. Marsh had a point to make, and Jon let him take up quite a bit of the LC's precious time to make it.



Marsh has determined that We have a problem. Jon accepts the conclusion, although it surprises him. (Jon is not the bookish sort, as we find out when he meets Sam in the archives. I wonder if Maester Luwin had trouble getting him to pay attention during math studies.) Marsh doesn't seem capable, though, of coming up with a solution. Marsh is a problem spotter, not a problem solver. Marsh's reputation in the Watch is as somebody who can count, but isn't much use for anything else (there's an Edd quote somewhere that I can't find about putting Marsh in the front of the battle line so he can count the foes) and he lives up to his billing here. All of the measures that Marsh suggests are things that they have done in past winters - slaughter the livestock before the fodder runs out, bring food up the Kingsroad. It is as though he's just repeating from a Standard NW Pre-Winter Checklist. He doesn't look at the present situation clearly. Jon has seen Marsh's lack of problem solving ability himself; both in the way Mance was able to decoy Marsh away from Castle Black, and in Marsh's unrealistic tactical suggestions regarding the wildings. When faced with an unprecedented situation, Marsh can't break away from tradition to find a workable solution.



I think this situation causes Jon to lose even more confidence in Marsh. He knows Marsh, though courageous, is a tactical liability, but now Marsh can't even come up with valid suggestions about how to keep the Watch fed, which is the Stewards' responsibility. If this problem is going to be solved, Jon thinks he is going to have to solve it himself. He begins to see his staff as useless, even in their specialty areas. Is this a mistake? A leader needs to get the best out of his advisers, but he also needs to understand their limitations. Jon doesn't have time to suffer fools gladly. Then again, he can't do everything himself; he needs to get Marsh up to speed, or replace him. The situation is starting to fester.


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...Just a slight correction though. Among the many meaning of "song of ice and fire," I posited that it's the song of stasis and change, where the Others would be stasis (ice preserves) and R'hllor and the fire side is about radical change. But that's perhaps a bit more symbolic than how I initially applied it-- I was mostly talking about various players-- Stannis and Ned being representatives of the status quo, Dany as an agent of change, and others, like Jon (and perhaps Asha) as somewhere in the middle...

ok, I'll try to remember that

I think wormway is a dangerous name because worms are always associated with corpses and death. ...

Interesting, and now that you mention it GRRM could have chosen a neutral name - walkway, passageway, winterway but opted for wormway instead suggesting crawling, blind, dark, decay :dunno:

Regarding the original Stannis plan...

It is a "bad" plan by Westeros standards because it is a zero sum plan. It is all or nothing but that's been Stannis all along. He'd have listened to Cressen or the Hand he burned if he was the type to act otherwise. He's looking to do to Roose what Robb did to Tywin by invading the Westerlands or what Theon did to Robb by taking Winterfell. If successful he would essentially have disrupted whatever Bolton's plan is and forced him to react to the agenda Stannis had set. Stannis is a bit like Littlefinger on the battlefield. He seems to believe that he is the better commander who will more readily adapt to rapidly changing circumstances...

I don't think that Stannis could set an agenda in this case - he has far fewer men than Roose. Roose could besiege Stannis in the Dreadfort, send men to Eastwatch to capture his Queen and have men to spare to capture Deepwood Motte. For me, and perhaps we agree here, Stannis isn't a strategist, he is a gambler, shaking his dice trusting that he can pull something off on the battlefield. And so long as his Lady Luck is beside him in the form of Melisandre perhaps he can. And that is precisely the same with his whole campaign to become king, he starts off knowing that the odds are against him. None of it makes rational sense, but he throws the dice anyway. There's an impatience perhaps an eagerness to test his luck, if he is lucky - that proves he was right, R'hllor has spoken. He's not going to sit, plot and plan. Nor wait while he trains up the Wildlings he had brought through the wall, or wait for news from Davos.

...Marsh has determined that We have a problem. Jon accepts the conclusion, although it surprises him. (Jon is not the bookish sort, as we find out when he meets Sam in the archives. I wonder if Maester Luwin had trouble getting him to pay attention during math studies.) Marsh doesn't seem capable, though, of coming up with a solution. Marsh is a problem spotter, not a problem solver. Marsh's reputation in the Watch is as somebody who can count, but isn't much use for anything else (there's an Edd quote somewhere that I can't find about putting Marsh in the front of the battle line so he can count the foes) and he lives up to his billing here. All of the measures that Marsh suggests are things that they have done in past winters - slaughter the livestock before the fodder runs out, bring food up the Kingsroad. It is as though he's just repeating from a Standard NW Pre-Winter Checklist. He doesn't look at the present situation clearly. Jon has seen Marsh's lack of problem solving ability himself; both in the way Mance was able to decoy Marsh away from Castle Black, and in Marsh's unrealistic tactical suggestions regarding the wildings. When faced with an unprecedented situation, Marsh can't break away from tradition to find a workable solution...

Yes, I suppose so. There is nothing wrong with the checklist, except for that they are in an unprecedented situation. There is nowhere down the road that they can bring up supplies from. No friendly Stark in Winterfell who has grain and pickled cabbage to spare. That is the challenge that most of teh characters face - they are put in situations which are unprecedented and have to cope.

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Crowfood’s daughter

The mention of Crowfood’s kidnapped daughter is definitely interesting. Mance is still in the room and I think that girl will be one of the spearwives he will take with him. I think that one is Rowan, who is described as tall, long-legged, with rough hands etc. And this:

Rowan gave him a hard look. “You have no right to mouth Lord Eddard’s words. Not you. Not ever. After what you did—”

Umbers are known as fierce Stark loyalists. These words look very odd for a wildling spearwife.

His daughter alive might have been a substitute for Mances skull. Mance did have to go through Umber lands to get there. Crowfood was also able to get to Theon and Jeyne before anyone in the castle could, almost like he had people watching and was expecting this to happen. I thought his daughter could have as easily been Frenya but it is odd that she would refer to Eddard by his proper title. Still, there's really nothing definitive here, there could be other explanations, the spearwives posing as Northern women would probably be aware that they should speak like one, as an example, but I agree that there is enough here that it is another piece of evidence that helps nudge me towards the Stannis knows camp.

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Compassion and humanity (or lack thereof):



Regarding Jon as a leader vs Stannis as a leader, there's one side of the leadership that really stood out to me and that's Jon's compassion and humanity. Even if he does not have the means to feed the wildlings, he tries his best to avoid for them to be used as some sort of pointless vanguard. He points out to Bowen the wildlings have to be fed as well, even if they cannot threaten him at swordpoint like Stannis can. Jon still includes them. The only other leader in the series (post Ned's death) who ever seems to do this kind of thinking is Dany.



For all her flaws, Dany too wants to feed lots of people even if she does not know how. She doesn't wish to sacrifice their lives in vain (even if it turns out she doesn't know how to). Her thought processes in ADWD are quite similar to Jon in this regard. She cares because at some basic level, she recognises that they are humans and should not be used as cannon fodder. This is very unlike, say, Tywin, or Roose, who are totally ok with sending loads of people to their deaths if it serves their purposes, which are almost 100% "more power for me". Tyrion shows at least some willingness to "do justice" when he is Hand in Kings Landing, but he gets too bogged down in managing Joffrey and the war to really spend much time on people and King Bread.



Stannis may be a good deal better than Tywin and Roose, but he still ends up in Cart-before-the-horse land quite often, it seems to me. The people are a means to an end for him to become King and they should follow because he is the True King and that's that. He means to fight the Long Night, but the emphasis on that seems to lie on that Stannis should fight the Long Night (and be king), not that the Long Night should be defeated in general.



Are laws made of iron or pudding?


For all Stannis goes on about how laws are supposed to be made of iron, not pudding, he again shows an amazing flexibilty in making metal desserts in this chapter as he bends the rules for Karstark and Umber inheritance as well as tells Jon once and for all he's heard all he eve wishes to hear about Lady Lannister's claim to Winterfell. Even if the (iron) laws are pretty clear on who gets to inherit, Stannis seems to lean more towards pudding here because it suits him.



You can tell Stannis is in cheerful mode though since he doesn't even threaten to behead Jon once. That's nearly a declaration of friendship.



Other bits:



The boy was clad in Baratheon gold and black, with the flaming heart of a queen's man sewn above his own.




This is about Devan Seaworth, Davos' son. Suggs and Massery are referred directly to as "Queen's Men" but the way Devan is described here is as if he's dressed up as a Queen's man, but he's really just been put in the uniform [by Mel] and isn't really one, or that his heart isn't really in it, since there's been another heart embroidered almost on top of his own.



The Night's Watch takes no part, Jon thought, but another voice within him said, Words are not swords.




I wonder if Tywin Lannister (apropos Walder Frey, among others) and Littlefinger would agree? Perhaps sometimes, words *are* swords? Previously Jon has tried to use words as a shield, albeit a paper shield, so if words can be a shield, can they then not be a sword?


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Regarding the original Stannis plan...

It is a "bad" plan by Westeros standards because it is a zero sum plan. It is all or nothing but that's been Stannis all along. He'd have listened to Cressen or the Hand he burned if he was the type to act otherwise. He's looking to do to Roose what Robb did to Tywin by invading the Westerlands or what Theon did to Robb by taking Winterfell. If successful he would essentially have disrupted whatever Bolton's plan is and forced him to react to the agenda Stannis had set. Stannis is a bit like Littlefinger on the battlefield. He seems to believe that he is the better commander who will more readily adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

There are flaws in the plan and probably the most significant one is the time it would take Moat Cailin to fall which is born out of a flawed premise and ignorance of the environment. If we accept the premise Stannis has, which is "King or bust" some of those flaws in the plan cease to matter. He is correct in that the Bolton star is waxing and his is waning and something must be done to change that. Jon flat out tells him if he loses that they'll all be dead and that is a perfectly acceptable alternative to Stannis. All Robb's reasons for not going straight at Tywin don't weigh on Stannis. Quite the opposite.

What is interesting about this plan is that he was going meet the same end he suffered at the Battle of Blackwater. It was a direct ride from Harrenhal to KL. Although Stannis sent scouts, they were all taken out by Tyrion's clansmen in the Kingswood. So Stannis could not be informed of Tywin's charge and he was crushed against the Walls of the KL. He fell to two traps there. One was in the bay and the second one was beneath the walls.

Had Jon not intervened, even if the Karstarks remained loyal, he would not anticipate the incoming Bolton army and be terminated beneath the walls of Dreadfort.

This king was nothing if not methodical.

Is this why Stannis’ moves are easily predictable so that he falls into traps often?

“Lord Vargo doubtless hoped that Lord Stannis would triumph at King’s Landing, and thence confirm him in his possession of this castle in gratitude for his small part in the downfall of House Lannister.” He [Roose] gave a dry chuckle. “He knows little of Stannis Baratheon either, I fear. That one might have given him Harrenhal for his service... but he would have given him a noose for his crimes as well.”

ETA:

“I never asked for Dragonstone. I never wanted it. I took it because Robert’s enemies were here and he commanded me to root them out. I built his fleet and did his work, dutiful as a younger brother should be to an elder, as Renly should be to me.”

“A good lord comforts and protects the weak and helpless,” he told the Freys. “I will not have you making Hodor the butt of cruel jests, do you hear me? He’s a goodhearted lad, dutiful and obedient, which is more than I can say for either of you.”

“The plan was Euron’s, though. Victarion is like some great grey bullock, strong and tireless and dutiful, but not like to win any races.”

“I have no quarrel with Renly, should he prove dutiful. I am his elder, and his king. I want only what is mine by rights. Renly owes me loyalty and obedience. I mean to have it. From him, and from these other lords.”

“My brother’s regard for me was never more than dutiful,” said Stannis. “From me, such accusations would have seemed peevish and self-serving, a means of placing myself first in the line of succession. I believed Robert would be more disposed to listen if the charges came from Lord Arryn, whom he loved.”

“Leobald will not know that. When he sees you raising siege towers, his old woman’s blood will run cold, and he will bleat for help. Stay your archers, Uncle, and let the raven fly. The castellan at Winterfell is a brave man, but age has stiffened his wits as well as his limbs. When he learns that one of his king’s bannermen is under attack by the fearsome Dagmer Cleftjaw, he will summon his strength and ride to Tallhart’s aid. It is his duty. Ser Rodrik is nothing if not dutiful.”

GRRM uses dutiful to mean different things. I mean to make an analysis of all the different groups, but for the time being, these are the relevant ones all from ACoK.

Stannis likes to be dutiful yet he complains how Robert’s attitude towards him was dutiful too. Ser Rodrik is another dutiful person who fell to two traps, first by taking the bait of Theon and then being fooled by Ramsay and crushed against the walls of Winterfell.

“We would be fools to march on Stannis. Let Stannis march on us. He is too cautious to come to Barrowton … but he must come to Winterfell. His clansmen will not abandon the daughter of their precious Ned to such as you. Stannis must march or lose them … and being the careful commander that he is, he will summon all his friends and allies when he marches. He will summon Arnolf Karstark.”

Roose outplays Stannis at every turn and forces him into traps.

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