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Floki of the Ironborn

Why are the Rivermen so weak??

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Nearly every time we hear about the rivermen in battle, they are on the losing side. Jaime fights two big battles with fifteen thousand men and barely loses anyone until Robb Stark shows up. Tywin raids and burns with ease, and only the BWB provide any kind of opposition to him. The only time that the riverlords defeat these unbeatable westermen is when Edmure resists them at the Fords, and apparently that only happens so that Tywin has a reason to be able to stop Stannis just in time.

What really boggles my mind about this is that they are constantly on their home turf during the war. They should have all the advantages of the defending side, but it apparently means nothing when they’re fighting the Lannisters. 

Honestly, it feels like weak writing on George’s part; he has to build up Robb Stark and the Northmen, so he depicts the Lannisters as walking all over the Tully forces until GRRM needs them to be competent enough to hold them at the Trident. Ironically it makes Edmure look like a truly gifted battle commander since he’s the only man to face Tywin in battle and win.

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I hadn't really noticed this before, but you're right.  I assumed it was mostly because the Riverlands were disorganized and not prepared for war at the time that it started (since they were just geographically caught in the middle), and because of Hoster's death and lack of unity amongst the houses based on the history (unlike say the north where they've been loyal to Starks for years).

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I agree that it's basically because they need to be, just like how castles are hyped up so much but fall willy nilly when GRRM needs them too. Reality is that typical medieval warfare can be a bit of a bore. 

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Um, didn't we hear about the utter destruction of 3 villages in AGOT?  Didn't we see even more destruction of the Riverlands in ASOS?  Gregor Clegane, Vargo Hoat and his ilk, Tywin, Robb and Roose all left their mark in the Riverlands.  The Red Wedding even managed to kill off a chunk of fighting force.  Without Walder Frey's full support the Riverlands were all but decimated by war.   I don't think it's fair to call them weak.   I don't think they ever had a chance to even assemble their full forces.   The actual blood and guts war started there.  

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1 hour ago, Floki of the Ironborn said:

Nearly every time we hear about the rivermen in battle, they are on the losing side. Jaime fights two big battles with fifteen thousand men and barely loses anyone until Robb Stark shows up. Tywin raids and burns with ease, and only the BWB provide any kind of opposition to him. The only time that the riverlords defeat these unbeatable westermen is when Edmure resists them at the Fords, and apparently that only happens so that Tywin has a reason to be able to stop Stannis just in time.

What really boggles my mind about this is that they are constantly on their home turf during the war. They should have all the advantages of the defending side, but it apparently means nothing when they’re fighting the Lannisters. 

Honestly, it feels like weak writing on George’s part; he has to build up Robb Stark and the Northmen, so he depicts the Lannisters as walking all over the Tully forces until GRRM needs them to be competent enough to hold them at the Trident. Ironically it makes Edmure look like a truly gifted battle commander since he’s the only man to face Tywin in battle and win.

It's made pretty clear in the books that they did not handle the early war very well. Edmure first gathered his forces to Riverrun and then promptly scatterred them all over the place. He sent forces of men to protect every village along the border. The biggest concentration of forces were Vance and Piper at the Golden Tooth and the force at Riverrun (mainly Tully, Blackwood and Bracken). The house's to the North and the east didn't even get a chance to get their armies to Riverrun. So Jaime only had to deal with a few thousand at the Golden Tooth and another few thousand at Riverrun. Tywin, meanwhile, is dealing with small forces probably numbering in their hundreds. All this while at least 5/6k men from Mallister and Frey never made it to the battle. The Riverlords never stood a chance. It's not weakness. It's poor strategy from Edmure as he tries to defend every inch of his land and every smallfolk life. The Riverlands got rolled over because Edmure was too compasionate.

The Brotherhood were not the only resistance to the Lannister presence in the Riverlands. After Jaime rolls up to Riverrun, Marq Piper and Karyl Vance conduct a series of raids on his supply lines to great effect. After Robb was been declared King, the Riverlords all go back to their castle's and push the Lannister's out until Harrenhal is the only castle in the Riverlands Tywin has.

Yes, they are on their home turf. So were the wildlings when Stannis crushed them. So was Ormund Hightower when Roderick Dustin slaughtered a huge chunk of his army with a tiny force of men. The Riverlords were on their own land when the Ironborn invaded. Everyone was on their home turf when Aegon showed up. Home turf usually means an advantage but not always. But again, if Edmure had been given enough time to rally his full force and hadn't split them up, he could have easily stopped Jaime at the Golden Tooth and then turned his attention to Tywin.

But the Riverlords were not on the losing side of every conflict; they got a bad deal in the Wo5K's, but they fared much better in Aegon's Conqeust, the uprising against Maegor, the Dance, Robert's Rebellion and the Greyjoy Rebellion. Like most Kingdoms, they probably both won and lost during the First Blackfyre rebellion.

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There's also the rivers that run through the kingdom hence the name Riverlands, they serve as a strength and weakness. It's hard for enemies to invade but makes it equally hard to defend.

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28 minutes ago, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

If I recall, the Freys got the better of the Manderlys at Winterfell.  I wouldn't call the Rivermen weak. 

In fairness, the Frey's have 2000 men at Winterfell and Manderly has 300.

 

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River men aren't "weak", but they did lack a good, strategic commander. The westermen had a very specific strategy of war on the Riverlands: destruction and plunder of the smallfolk and the petty lords, or "foraging". The main force of the Riverlands, the strong young men had joined Robb's army and the villages and holdfasts were indefensos but for old men and women and children. Smart move? Not really. But it does not mean they are weak, as in "not good fighters", just that their force was aimed elsewhere (with the Young Wolf, engaged in the larger battles of the war, or being scattered by Edmure in a stupid move...). I believe Jaime's chapters about the siege of Riverrun in AFFC and our interactions with Bracken and Blackwood lords show the true strength of the Riverlands. Disorganized and fighting among themselves? Yeah, pretty much. Weak? I don't think so... with a good commander (as the Blackfish) they could be grand. 

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A World of Ice and Fire tries to address this.

"No other land in the seven kingdoms have seen so many battles, no so many petty kings and royal houses rising and falling. The causes of this are clear: Rich and fertile, the Riverlands border on every other realm in the Seven Kingdoms save Dorne, yet have few natural boundaries to deter invasion."

I can't say much about the battles in the Riverlands in history, but the Lannisters sprung the attack on them after Tyrion was arrested by Catelyn. It's doubtful the Riverlands were even aware that they were in danger of being invaded until it was already happening. It always seemed to me they were just caught off guard. Catelyn is a Stark at this point, but Tywin, probably due to convenience of proximity, decides to attack the Riverlands instead of the North.

At that point, when your lands are already being invaded, you could try and call the banners. However, that's a huge risk because as these smaller units of soldiers gather to Riverrun (or wherever they are supposed to meet) they can be picked off by the already unified invading force. And I seem to recall that Edmure even intentionally spread out his army to begin with... The rivers in the Riverlands serve as barriers for everyone, so the likelihood of running into the enemy at a crossing was a serious risk.

Edmure is kind of a controversial person to discuss. I think it boils down to that he's an admirable, nice guy, but not particularly gifted with a strategic mind. Spurred on by thoughts of battle glory, he took a liberal interpretation of Robb's instructions at the behest of his advisors. Like you said, repelling Tywin seems like a victory on his part but really a tragic mistake. This allowed Tywin to avoid Robb's trap in the Westerlands and instead redirect his army to King's Landing where he crushed Stannis. I didn't pick up on all of this until reading Race for the Iron Throne's chapter-by-chapter political analysis on my last reread. Up until that I really liked Edmure... now I don't hate him but I kinda face palm. But what I like about it is that the mistakes fits with his character. We see from the beginning that he doesn't make the most sound decisions regarding strategy when he gives peasants refuge in Riverrun. So I feel like the mistake at least ties into his characterization.

Edit:

This essay (yet again by the same author), really does a good job at discussing this topic of why the Riverlands seems to underdeveloped compared to everyone else around them. Two of the main reasons presented are lack of internal cohesion (best exemplified by the Bracken-Blackwood feud) and lack of economic growth:

"There has never been a city in the riverlands, strange as that might seem (though large market towns are common), likely because of the fractious history of the region and a tendency for the kings of the past to refuse the charters that might have given some Saltpans or Lord Harroway's Town or Fairmarket leave to expand."

Edited by Traverys

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I agree to a certain extent that it is simply for plot reasons that the west has so much early success...a surprise attack does not explain it....especially since the Tully's expected an attack, someone(I forget who, I'll try to find quote but I'm pretty sure edmure) tells Cat as much when she asks why she was not told about Lord Hosters health. He tells her he could not risk sending a message, or else It may have been intercepted by the Tully's enemies 

Edited by Back door hodor

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2 hours ago, Back door hodor said:

I agree to a certain extent that it is simply for plot reasons that the west has so much early success...a surprise attack does not explain it....especially since the Tully's expected an attack, someone(I forget who, I'll try to find quote but I'm pretty sure edmure) tells Cat as much when she asks why she was not told about Lord Hosters health. He tells her he could not risk sending a message, or else It may have been intercepted by the Tully's enemies 

That was Edmure, after the battle's at the Whispering Wood and the Camps.

But yeah, 'surprise attack' isn't really the right term. It's more accurate to say that Tywin had far longer to prepare than Edmure did and thus Edmure couldn't raise his full army together in the time he was given. By the time Edmure learned started to call his banner's, Tywin's army was almost fully assembled. Then, as if that wasn't bad enough, he sent most of his army to other places in the Riverlands in a noble but foolish attempt to protect every village and farm along the border from Lannister raids, allowing Tywin to Jaime to pick them off one small force at a time.

Edited by Adam Yozza

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IMHO the Riverlands aren't weak; Edmure Tully is weak. 'Lions led by donkeys' springs to mind. If the Blackfish had been there sooner and with more authority, things might have turned out better. I pretty much agree with every word from Lady Dacey and Traverys above.

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8 hours ago, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

If I recall, the Freys got the better of the Manderlys at Winterfell.  I wouldn't call the Rivermen weak. 

If you are referring to the altercation where Wyman gets 3 of his 4 chins slit, or something along those lines, then it is worth noting that Wyman's guards were armed with daggers only, while the Freys were armoured and wielding swords, if I recall. That kind of changes the equation.

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arryns, starks and baratheons couldnt have defeated the targaryens by themselves, but the knights of the Trident rode with them :)

i like the men of the Trident. they're in the middle of everyone, have some cool houses, have a massive badass fortress (riverrun), and have produced some great warriors. really awesome. 

Edited by UFT

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22 minutes ago, UFT said:

arryns, starks and baratheons couldnt have defeated the targaryens by themselves, but the knights of the Trident rode with them :)

i like the men of the Trident. they're in the middle of everyone, have some cool houses, have a massive badass fortress (riverrun), and have produced some great warriors. really awesome. 

Yeah, I don't think  they are weak. In fact, Houses like the Vances, Pipers, Mallisters and Blackwoods are pretty impressive, in my view.

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4 hours ago, Free Northman Reborn said:

If you are referring to the altercation where Wyman gets 3 of his 4 chins slit, or something along those lines, then it is worth noting that Wyman's guards were armed with daggers only, while the Freys were armoured and wielding swords, if I recall. That kind of changes the equation.

It does indeed. I forgot that the Manderly men weren't properly armed at that point. I just remembered them being outnumbered.

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The riverlands are not easily deffendable against outer agressions. When the riverlords unite against an invading army they have to cover quite a lot of ground. I'm sure each lord can deffend quite good if its just his castle or lands we're talking.

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The location and topography of the Rverlands puts them at a great disadvantage militarily.  They share borders with the Westerlands, the Reach, the Crownlands, the Vale, and the North.  The Iron Islands have easy access through Ironman's Bay and the Blue Fork.  Roads and rivers make invading relatively fast and easy.  They have the Kingsroad running north to south, the River Road running east to west, and the Trident with the Green, Blue, and Red Forks.  They lack any natural defensive barriers like the mountains that protect the Vale and the Westerlands.  They do not even have well positioned defenses built south of the neck, like The North's Moat Cailin.  Castles within the Riverlands may be defensible but protecting the Riverlands and smallfolk as a whole will always be a challenge.

Think of Poland being a plain between Germany and Russia.

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Everything   seems to happen in their backyards every. single. time. Also weak leadership by the Tullys.

If they wanted to, they could easily be the dominant force in the 7k due to their location and proximity to king’s landing.

Instead they rely on strategic marriages to hold their heads above water.

I think Aegon rose up the wrong house to rule the river lands.

Edited by Freys Injustice

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