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A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Reread


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6 hours ago, Jova Snow said:

a child will only ruin Daena's chances of support for ruling, she has no allies for being locked in Maidenvault and has a bastard she chose to keep

But that's the thing - that bastard is her trump card, and because of him, it's likely, that Aegon became Daena's ally. It was because of Daemon's birth that King Baelor fasted for 40 days and died as result of it. So Daena had cleared for Aegon his path to Iron Throne, or at least thanks to this, he became one step closer to it. All that was left for him to become the King, is to get rid of King Viserys. And Viserys' sudden illnes does look suspicious.

When Aegon became King, he tried to war against Dorne, even though his son and heir was married with a Martell Princess. Daemon was born in 170, and Daeron's heir, Baelor Breakspear, was also born in 170, a bit earlier than Daemon, and he had typical Martell looks - dark hair and dark eyes. When Aegon was younger, he fought in a war against Dorne. So it's likely, that he wasn't Ok with his son and heir getting married with a Martell. Also it's likely, that he detested a mere idea, that a Martell-looking Baelor eventually will sit on Iron Throne, and will be wearing Targaryen crown. If Baelor did became the King of 7K, then he would have been the very first non-Valyrian looking King in nearly 200 years of Targaryen reign.

Daena had managed to escape from Maidenvault not once but three times. That time, when she got pregnant, was the last one. And the timing of it doesn't look like a coincidence, it corresponds with Princess Mariah's pregnancy. It was known, that Aegon disliked his wife and Daeron, his views about Dorne were also common knowledge. So it's likely, that Daena decided to take action, because she made a plan to offer to Aegon solution to his problem - she offered to give him a purely Valyrian heir. Daemon was same age as Baelor Breakspear. It's obvious, that Aegon would have preferred Daemon to become the King of 7K, not his Martell-looking grandson.

Maybe, that's the reason why Daena decided to hook up with Aegon. It's likely, that she was pondering over several different ways to get herself out of Maidenvaul permanently. And her first two plans didn't worked, so offering to Aegon to become the mother of his pure-blooded heir, was her last resort. At that time Aegon was 39 or 40 years old, he was already past his prime, and getting fat and ugly. So it's unlikely, that she hooked up with him because of love or lust.

6 hours ago, Jova Snow said:

I think for whatever reason Daena loved this man. 

If that was so, if the father of Daena's child was a man, that she loved, and that man wasn't Aegon, then why didn't she just stayed with that man? Her marriage with King Baelor was annuled. She could have just married with that guy, but she returned back to Maidenvault, which is an evidence, that where she wanted to be is at Targaryen court, not elsewhere. And the reason, why she returned, is because she was pregnant, and the father of her child was Aegon, and they possibly made a deal concerning that child.

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On 7/29/2019 at 3:55 PM, Megorova said:

But that's the thing - that bastard is her trump card, and because of him, it's likely, that Aegon became Daena's ally. It was because of Daemon's birth that King Baelor fasted for 40 days and died as result of it. So Daena had cleared for Aegon his path to Iron Throne, or at least thanks to this, he became one step closer to it. All that was left for him to become the King, is to get rid of King Viserys. And Viserys' sudden illnes does look suspicious.

When Aegon became King, he tried to war against Dorne, even though his son and heir was married with a Martell Princess. Daemon was born in 170, and Daeron's heir, Baelor Breakspear, was also born in 170, a bit earlier than Daemon, and he had typical Martell looks - dark hair and dark eyes. When Aegon was younger, he fought in a war against Dorne. So it's likely, that he wasn't Ok with his son and heir getting married with a Martell. Also it's likely, that he detested a mere idea, that a Martell-looking Baelor eventually will sit on Iron Throne, and will be wearing Targaryen crown. If Baelor did became the King of 7K, then he would have been the very first non-Valyrian looking King in nearly 200 years of Targaryen reign.

Daena had managed to escape from Maidenvault not once but three times. That time, when she got pregnant, was the last one. And the timing of it doesn't look like a coincidence, it corresponds with Princess Mariah's pregnancy. It was known, that Aegon disliked his wife and Daeron, his views about Dorne were also common knowledge. So it's likely, that Daena decided to take action, because she made a plan to offer to Aegon solution to his problem - she offered to give him a purely Valyrian heir. Daemon was same age as Baelor Breakspear. It's obvious, that Aegon would have preferred Daemon to become the King of 7K, not his Martell-looking grandson.

Maybe, that's the reason why Daena decided to hook up with Aegon. It's likely, that she was pondering over several different ways to get herself out of Maidenvaul permanently. And her first two plans didn't worked, so offering to Aegon to become the mother of his pure-blooded heir, was her last resort. At that time Aegon was 39 or 40 years old, he was already past his prime, and getting fat and ugly. So it's unlikely, that she hooked up with him because of love or lust.

If that was so, if the father of Daena's child was a man, that she loved, and that man wasn't Aegon, then why didn't she just stayed with that man? Her marriage with King Baelor was annuled. She could have just married with that guy, but she returned back to Maidenvault, which is an evidence, that where she wanted to be is at Targaryen court, not elsewhere. And the reason, why she returned, is because she was pregnant, and the father of her child was Aegon, and they possibly made a deal concerning that child.

We actually don't know anything about Daena beside the fact she was in Maidenvault, we don't know how close Daemon and Baelor was born and who was born first, so most things are speculation, but I will say I agree Daemon and Baelor was raised as rivals. But I don't think Aegon ever supported or cared for Daena. If the father of child was married or let's say a KG ;) then there is no way Daena could be with that man. Or maybe GRRM decided Daena could die during birth and be done with a it. 

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On 11/28/2018 at 12:25 PM, Seams said:

My thoughts are starting to come together on The Sworn Sword, although I haven't figured out everything I would like to understand. (Maybe I never will reach a complete analysis and that would suit GRRM just fine, I daresay.)

Almost a year later . . . I still have not sorted out everything I would like to understand in this story. I have read and re-read, written pages of notes and drawn inspiration from other discussions in this forum.

Here, at least, are a few additional observations that might give us a toehold in understanding what GRRM is dangling in front of us.

Lady Rohanne may be a parallel of the Night's King's corpse queen. She receives the seed of her several husbands and, Egg tells Dunk, "Whenever she gives birth, a demon comes by night to carry off the issue. Sam Stoops's wife says she sold her babes unborn to the Lord of the Seven Hells, so he'd teach her his black arts."

We know very little about the corpse queen but this "rumor" is interesting: "Some suggest that perhaps the corpse queen was a woman of the Barrowlands, a daughter of the Barrow King who was then a power in his own right, and oft associated with graves" (The World of Ice and Fire - The Wall and Beyond: The Night's Watch). I do see parallels between Lady Rohanne and Lady Dustin, who visits the Winterfell crypt with Theon. When the spell is broken toward the end of The Sworn Sword, and Lady Rohanne is able to cross the Chequy Water, she immediately visits the grave of her lost love, Addam Osgrey, in the berry patch at Standfast, similar to Lady Barbry's visit to Brandon Stark's crypt at Winterfell. Lady Rohanne also gives horses as gifts, similar to Barbry Dustin's gift horses in ASOIAF. It would be wonderful to understand more about Lady Dustin by sorting out some of the clues surrounding Rohanne Webber.

If Lady Rohanne is the corpse queen, this implies that there is a parallel for the Night's King somewhere in the Sworn Sword story. Ser Eustace ends up partnering with her, so he might be the match. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ser Lucas Longinch is described in terms of a Night's Watch member - the Night's Watch connection might make him the parallel character for the Night's King. There might also be clues among her four previous husbands, helping to understand her role as a spouse collector (see also Walder Frey) and the parallel to the corpse queen.

(Gotta go but I will try to add more later.)

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At a relatively late stage in the story, we learn that a good bit of the conflict between Ser Eustace Osgrey and Lady Rohanne Webber is that he supported Daemon I Blackfyre during the First Blackfyre Rebellion, while House Webber raised its banners for Daeron II Targaryen, the victorious side in the conflict. House Osgrey forfeited lands and the stream known as the Chequy Water as penalties for choosing the wrong side in the rebellion, while House Webber gained control of the water supply and other prizes of war.

Earlier, Ser Eustace had explained to Dunk that Coldmoat, the ancestral seat of House Osgrey, was taken from the family by King Maegor I (Maegor the Cruel, son of Aegon the Conqueror) when an Osgrey ancestor spoke out on behalf of the Poor Fellows and the Warrior's Sons, militant groups loyal to the High Septon who were viewed as a threat by King Maegor. (This would have been about 150 years before the events of The Sworn Sword.)

But there is a third conflict that particularly interests me as a possible source of clues about content in ASOIAF. Ser Eustace tells Dunk and Ser Bennis the story of Ser Wilbert Osgrey, the Little Lion:

Ser Wilbert was a tall and powerful man, and a great knight. The name was given him in childhood, as the youngest of five brothers. In his day there were still seven kings in the Seven Kingdoms, and Highgarden and the Rock were oft at war. The green kings ruled us then, the Gardeners. They were of the blood of old Garth Greenhand, and a green hand upon a white field was their kingly banner. Gyles the Third took his banners east, to war against the Storm King, and Wilbert's brothers all went with him, for in those days the chequy lion always flew beside the green hand when the King of the Reach went forth to battle.

Yet it happened that while King Gyles was away, the King of the Rock saw his chance to tear a bite out of the Reach, so he gathered up a host of westermen and came down upon us. The Osgreys were the Marshals of the Northmarch, so it fell to the Little Lion to meet them. It was the fourth King Lancel who led the Lannister, it seems to me, or mayhaps the fifth. Ser Wilbert blocked King Lancel's path, and bid him halt. 'Come no farther,' he said 'You are not wanted here. I forbid you to set foot upon the Reach.' But the Lannister ordered all his banners forward.

They fought for half a day, the gold lion and the chequy. The Lannister was armed with a Valyrian sword that no common steel can match, so the Little Lion was hard-pressed, his shield in ruins. In the end, bleeding from a dozen grievous wounds, with his own blade broken in his hand, he threw himself headlong at his foe. King Lancel cut him near in half, the singers say, but as he died the Little Lion found the gap in the king's armor beneath his arm and plunged his dagger home. When their king died, the westermen turned back, and the Reach was saved." The old man stroked the broken shield as tenderly as if it had been a child.

This is the war story that seems to mean the most to Ser Eustace. After finally recognizing the significance of this anecdote, I have tried to interpret The Sworn Sword as a conflict between Garth Greenhand, the legendary, god-like figure who promoted fertile crops, abundant game and a robust harvest, and the forces that undermine vibrance of the land: fire, drought, avarice, preoccupation with other interests and general bad stewardship. I think this interpretation is a good fit - in the fields of Ser Eustace, we see melon vines shriveling in his fields as a result of the drought; at the suggestion of Egg, the smallfolk / bannermen who attempt to serve House Osgrey are named for their crops: Barleycorn, Melons and Beans.

Even Ser Bennis of the Brown Shield, the hedge knight sell sword who served Ser Eustace before the arrival of Dunk and Egg, might be part of the "fertile earth" theme, representing dirt. Ser Bennis is always described as stinky and filthy, with dirty clothes and stained teeth. We don't usually think of the earth in those terms, but the description becomes more apt if the earth refuses to come into contact with water in any way - instead of being a medium for growing crops, dry earth is just dust and filth. Ser Bennis does not even drink water: the one time he tried it, it made him "sick as a dog." Bennis prefers to drink wine which might present us with a new pair of opposites (wine vs. water to add to fire vs. ice, bitter vs. sweet, shaggy vs. sharp, smiler vs. slayer, etc.).

Another possibility is that Ser Bennis is the personification of the drought that has held Westeros in its grip. The detail that discourages this interpretation is that Dunk remembers Ser Bennis as being a relatively normal person who joined a party of knights hired to escort a Dornish merchant. Dunk has forgotten some of the irritating details of his earlier encounter with Ser Bennis, but it is apparently only subsequent to that contact that Dunk sees Ser Bennis as having "grown mean and false and craven."

Also, the eyes of Ser Bennis are "pale green" and "shiny bright with malice." It's as if GRRM wants us to know there is a tiny spark of green - a sign of life? - buried within the rust and dirt, even if that green shows a malicious attitude. If you accept the egg / Ei / eye wordplay as a hint from the author, Ser Bennis's happiness with the free eggs provided by House Osgrey could be a sign that Ser Eustace is keeping that spark of green alive by providing eggs for the eyes of Ser Bennis.

When Dunk states his intent to discover the cause of the dried-up stream, Bennis tries to discourage him, urging him to passively enjoy the supply of eggs and straw pallets of their employer but to ignore the mystery of the dry stream bed.

But House Webber has crops, too, right? As well as livestock? One of the workers digging an irrigation ditch for Lady Rohanne says the diverted stream is, "... for the crops, ser. ... The wheat was dying, the maester said. The pear trees too." But Dunk later describes the ditch as a spear with channels snaking off. When they reach Coldmoat, Egg notices that the main ditch ends at the moat surrounding the castle. The primary purpose of the water diversion seems to be defense, not food production, in spite of what the Maester may have told the smallfolk.

In that extended passage about the Little Lion, I also highlighted a phrase about tearing a bite out of the Reach. Very early in AGoT, in their conversation in the Winterfell crypt, King Robert tells Ned that the peaches from the Reach are amazingly delightful, and that he has brought some along as a gift for Ned. Later, Renly urges Stannis to accept a ripe peach from Highgarden that he has brought along to their parly. When Stannis declines, Renly eats the peach. In AFfC, Biter takes a bite out of the cheek of Renly-fangirl Brienne.

If the attempted "bite out of the Reach" by the Lannister king is part of this theme of biting peaches from the Reach, we have an interesting new piece of evidence about the Lannister relationship to the blood of Garth Greenhand. Perhaps the Tyrell alliance in ASOIAF is the long-awaited fulfillment of this ancient dream for House Lannister. We know that Rohanne Webber will eventually marry a scion of House Lannister and will produce a number of heirs for that family before she mysteriously disappears. Is it possible that, through her marriage into House Osgrey, she acquires the "green blood" identity associated with the chequy lion? If so, does she pass it along to House Lannister during her subsequent marriage?

My previous post compared Rohanne Webber to the Night's King's corpse queen and this post proposes that Eustace Osgrey is some kind of caretaker for (if not the embodiment of) the legacy of Garth Greenhand. I don't remember anything in Old Nan's stories that tells us those two legendary characters crossed paths, but they certainly both rise to the level of gods or demi-gods in the ancient stories of Westeros. If The Sworn Sword presents us with allegories about them, sorting out some of these parallels will help us to identify similar parallels in ASOIAF.

Edited by Seams
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I wish I had something more meaningful to contribute than what I'm about to say...IMO Renly's peach is symbolic of a maidenhead. Peaches look very much like a woman's pubis mound - camel toe and all!

Renly and Stannis were parley-ing, and under normal circumstances when two opponents are negotiating, a marriage alliance with a maiden is part of the transaction. Think back to Catelyn's transaction with Walder Frey. Marriage alliances were made, not just for Robb, but for Arya too. Two maidens were needed to seal the deal: a Frey maiden and a Stark maiden.

When Brienne encounters some former Brave Companions that included Rorge and Biter, Biter took a bite out of Brienne's cheek. Symbolically he was taking a bite out of a "peach" - Brienne is still a maiden and her maidenhead intact. I'm actually glad that GRRM didn't have Biter bite Brienne in the "peach" :blink: which is very near a pair of "cheeks". 

The Reach is known for growing peaches, but the true meaning behind "the bite" might be an indication that the Lannisters were stealing maidens rather than securing marriage alliances? Like you say, in the near future the Lannisters do make a marriage alliance with Rohanne Weber - what was Gerold Lannister? Her sixth husband???

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As for whether Dunk is a true knight, I believe that he becomes one throughout the novels. During the Ashford Meadow arc there are subtle hints that Dunk unknowingly partakes in the necessary ceremonies and that he has the blessing of Seven:
- before the ceremony the knight is to humble himself by wearing shift of undyed wool. It is probable that a string of hemp is used to tie the cloth. Dunk uses one to tie the scabbard as mentioned by OP
- the ceremony involves vigil, accurately described by the OP. The tree and the falling star become Dunk's coat of arms. Falling star is also present in the coat of Arms of Dayne family. This might imply that Dunk is descended from Daynes. But more importantly it reminds us of Sword of the Morning tradition: it is not enough to be anointed, you need to prove yourself. Dunk soon proves himself by defending the common people against Targaryen prince.
- Dunk kneels before prince Baelor as he vouches for him thus confirming his knighthood. Balor does so to honor ser Arlan, his former tournament rival. Balor can be seen as Warrior and Arlan as Father. We see both of them die, Arlan in the beginning of the novel, before he knighted Dunk and Balor, at the end, after he completed the task (sort of). Stranger is the personification of death.
- the tourney is in honor of lord Ashfords maiden daughter. Dunk defends Tanselle, a young maiden, she paints a shield for him. Dunk receives a kiss from a young maiden before the Trial. These are the blessings of a Maiden.
- among puppeteers that Dunk stands for is the big Dornish woman, who might be Tanselle's mother (Mother).
- when Steely Pate (the Smith) brings Dunks war-gear he is carrying a lamp (the Crone artifact) and he brings the words of wisdom.
- Dunk is cheered by the old man (Father or Stranger) and a brother of faith blesses his sword (anointment).
- OP mentions how Dunk is being patted at the shoulder which BTW is not an easy task with someone that tall, which adds to the feel of the supernatural
- as mentioned by OP Egg - a mysterious boy (Stranger) - dubbs Duncan "the Tall", which prevents him from giving a false name "of Pennytree".

Edited by TwiceBorn
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If anyone is still checking this thread, thank you for your patience. It's been a heck of a year for all of us but I come back to The Sworn Sword from time to time and I have some possible insights to add to earlier attempts at literary analysis.

What I think I will try to do is take a cue from the fourth King Lancel (or was it the fifth?) and try to take the story in bite-sized pieces. The first piece covers only the few pages where Dunk and Egg contemplate the two dead men in the crow cage at the crossroads (pages 121-124 in my book). The next piece will cover their meet-up with Ser Bennis, the observation that the water is gone and Dunk's decision to find out what happened to the water (pages 125-129). But I'm sure I will jump ahead to make connections outside of each small bite. Maybe we can take bigger bites as the story progresses.

Super long comments are tedious and require a massive chunk of time to write, so I may break these posts into smaller nibbles as well - several separate nibbles of analysis to cover the substance of each bite of the story.

Fair warning: if you are not interested in a close reading of literary content and underlying meanings, this thread is not for you and you can leave now without sharing any inane, off-topic comments. If you are interested in sorting out subtle clues and symbols, I welcome your participation in the thread. There are many symbols that I have not fully understood and the forum could be of great help in getting to the bottom of GRRM's intent.

Green and Brown

In comment #64 (11/18/19), above, I began to put together the Garth Greenhands symbolism that seems to be attached to House Osgrey and that helps us to understand the conflict between the water-hoarding by House Webber and the dying crops of House Osgrey. If Ser Bennis of the Brown Shield represents dirt, I couldn't quite figure out why he is so water-averse and why he discourages Dunk from seeking restoration of the water supply.

Here are some new observations on green and brown.

Dunk is green.

Dark circles stained his old green tunic under both arms. (p. 121)

Egg is brown.

His dagger was sheathed on one hip, his boots slung over his backpack, his ragged brown tunic rolled up and knotted round his waist. (p. 123)

If these tunics are important for establishing the colors represented by these two characters, their embodiment of these colors may differ:

Maybe when they reached the stream he'd have a soak. He smiled, thinking how good that would feel, to jump right in and come up sopping wet and grinning, with water cascading down his cheeks and through his tangled hair and his tunic clinging sodden to his skin. Egg ... never sweated much. He liked the heat. In Dorne he went about bare-chested, and turned brown as a Dornishmen. It is his dragon blood, Dunk told himself. Whoever heard of a sweaty dragon? He would gladly have pulled his own tunic off, but it would not be fitting. A hedge knight could ride bare naked if he chose, he had no one to shame but himself. It was different when our sword was sworn. When you accept a lord's meat and mead, all you do reflects on him, Ser Arlan used to say. ...

Dunk kept his tunic on and sweltered. (p. 124)

Egg is free to remove his tunic; for reasons of honor, Dunk cannot. The result, however, is that Egg's skin turns brown from sun exposure - perhaps he is even MORE STRONGLY brown under his tunic as his own body turns brown. Dunk WANTS his green tunic to cling to his skin in a good, sodden way but the soak he imagines will not occur because, he soon discovers, the stream has gone dry. And he has to keep his tunic on, in spite of the heat. (As Kermit the Frog would say, it's not easy being green.)

Recall also that Dunk's tunic is stained with dark circles. I think these are ominous and they may tie into other circles in the series, perhaps representing "time loops" or "history doomed to repeat itself," if other analyses in this forum are on track. If Dunk could soak in the stream, perhaps these dark circles would wash out. (The sweaty green tunic will be discussed again as Egg helps Dunk take a bath and plan his visit to Coldmoat, p. 161. But the additional elements of a chequy Osgrey doublet and cloak will be introduced into the wardrobes of the characters, p. 162.)

What does it mean that Dunk refers to Egg's dragon blood immediately after noting that Egg turned brown? And what does it mean that both Egg and Ser Bennis are brown characters? We're going to discuss Ser Bennis at greater length when he comes on stage in our next bite of the story, but I think I've had another, "Well, duh," moment of insight: Ser Bennis may represent the declining Targaryen regime. I would have to do a lot of re-reading to see if all brown characters symbolize Targaryens, but there seems to be some correlation in this story, at least.

Before we move on from this initial examination of green and brown, I should mention another reference in these opening pages:

"Whoever they were, they look half-starved," Dunk said. Skeletons in skin, and the skin is green and rotting. (p. 122)

The two dead men were presumably forced into the crow cage as punishment for breaking a law. They have green skin, somewhat like Dunk in his sweaty green tunic. Their green skin might also put them on the larger Garth Greenhands team which is (in this story) led by House Osgrey, if the Little Lion excerpt can be taken as evidence of a House Gardener connection.

A Targaryen connection to the color brown also makes sense in relation to the third character in these opening pages. "Third character?!" I hear you protest, "There are only two characters at the crossroads!" Hercule Poirot would say, "Ah, no, mon ami." The mule called Maester is a very important presence in this opening scene. The mule was a gift to Egg from his brother, who we will encounter as Maester Aemon in ASOIAF. This is what the mule does:

... crop the dry brown devil grass along the verges, heedless of the two huge wine casks on his back. (p. 121)

The mule left off cropping at the devil grass ... (p. 123)

I think GRRM is using the word "crop" in the vague and ironic way that he likes to drop clues for us. Clearly, in the real world, we would picture the mule biting off and ingesting the brown devil grass. References to "crops" will come up often in the story, however, and will refer to plants raised for food. I think the author is giving us an ambiguous image here where the mule is both planting crops and harvesting them at the same time. If the mule is a symbolic Aemon Targaryen, his role in planting/harvesting brown grass would strengthen the notion that our brown characters have a Targaryen association. How ominous, then, that the grass is not only brown, but is also devil grass.

Earlier comments on this thread theorized that Dunk could be a son of Daemon Blackfyre. We have not had major clues, so far as I can recall, that green is associated with the Blackfyre side of the family - unless the green wild fire used as a weapon at the Blackwater is a hint for us. But that seems more like a reference to the Greens and Blacks of an earlier civil war, The Dance of the Dragons.

My thinking is that the brown/green duality dates back further than the Targaryen monarchy. In fact, GRRM has hidden this much, much older conflict beneath several layers of "recent" conflicts. We readers think we are clever if we can find the hidden Blackfyres and Targaryens vying for the Iron Throne but the true conflict at the core of Westeros predates the arrival of Andals and Targs; perhaps it is older than the First Men, as well.

The resolution of this ur-conflict may hinge on finding a way to balance green and brown. I suspect his early line from AGoT explains it:

Catelyn found her husband beneath the weirwood, seated on a moss-covered stone. The greatsword Ice was across his lap, and he was cleaning the blade in those waters black as night. A thousand years of humus lay thick upon the godswood floor, swallowing the sound of her feet, but the red eyes of the weirwood seemed to follow her as she came. (AGoT, Catelyn I)

Humus is the topsoil that is formed when leaves fall to the ground and decay. There is a cycle of soil nourishing trees, trees putting out leaves, and leaves falling to the earth to create and nourish the soil. Sunlight and rain are also necessary to this cycle and we know that these elements are out of balance throughout most of The Sworn Sword. What will our heroes have to do to restore the balance?

Edited by Seams
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Oedipus at the Crossroads

A couple of years ago, a couple of passages from The Sworn Sword had finally struck me and I could see that GRRM had set up Ser Lucas Longinch as a symbolic father figure for Dunk. This is both poignant - Dunk yearns to know more about his origins and his parents - and important to the plot and symbolism, as Dunk will fight and kill Ser Lucas at the climax of the story. Of course, the son killing the father is a staple of legends in Westeros (Bael the Bard is killed at the Frozen Ford by his own son, Lord Stark), ASOIAF (Tywin killed by Tyrion) and in the stories of our own world: Zeus killing Cronus; Lugh killing grandfather Balor in Irish legend; Luke Skywalker killing Darth Vader, Han Solo killed by Kylo Ren, etc. Perhaps GRRM's choice of the name Lucas for his Longinch character is even a further clue, hinting at a tie to George Lucas or Luke Skywalker. 

A little bit of wordplay gave a hint that the Rohanne Webber character might be a mother character, even though she has not succeeded in keeping a child alive for long. There are references in The Sworn Sword to "her moat," and that is easily anagrammed to spell "a mother." Furthermore, consider the surmises that Dunk is a Blackfyre descendant (possibly a dragon seed son of Daemon I Blackfyre and a King's Landing sex worker or, in Megorova's well-reasoned theory, a son of Daemon I Blackfyre and his Targaryen sister, Daenerys Targaryen). The wife of Daemon I Blackfyre was Rohanne of Tyrosh. Even if Dunk was not a descendant of that Rohanne, the given name creates a connection to the Blackfyre line, from which he may be descended. So Lady Rohanne Webber becomes a symbolic mother figure, not a literal one, through the tie to Dunk's likely Blackfyre paternity.

Another son-kills-father story from our world is, of course, the famous Oedipus the King story from ancient Greece. In a nutshell, a son is born to Jocasta and Laius, queen and king of Thebes. A prophecy indicates that the baby will grow up to kill his father and marry his mother. To avoid the prophecy, the royal couple pinned the child's ankles together and had a shepherd put him in the wilderness where he would presumably die. The shepherd secretly saves the baby, however.

King Laius is eventually killed by a stranger at a crossroads, Oedipus (whose name means "swollen foot") saves Thebes from the riddling sphinx and is rewarded with marriage to queen Jocasta. After Thebes is gripped by a plague, the oracle at Delphi indicates that the murderer of Laius must be found and punished to end the pandemic. Oedipus consults the blind seer Tiresias who reluctantly reveals that Oedipus was the man who killed Laius. Oedipus now recalls that he killed a man (in self defense) while he traveled from Corinth to Thebes many years earlier and he realizes it must have been Laius, his birth father - the prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother came true years ago and he has just realized it.

Jocasta hears that the prophecy has come true and she kills herself. Oedipus does not want to see the horror that his life has become so he blinds himself. The chorus tells Oedipus that he should also kill himself but he is instead allowed to give up the throne and live in exile in the mountains.

I am writing out all of these details here because GRRM uses a number of parallels to link The Sworn Sword and the Oedipus myth.

Start with some details:

In an iron cage at the crossroads, two dead men were rotting in the summer sun (p. 121). This is the opening line of the story, and it refers to the crossroads. In the Oedipus myth, Oedipus kills his father at a crossroads. I'm sure there are clues here for us about the inn at the crossroads where Catelyn takes Tyrion prisoner and where Arya and The Hound go on a killing rampage.

[Dunk] had twisted his own ankle the day they left Dosk, walking in the black of night when it was cooler. A knight had to learn to live with aches and pains, the old man used to say (p. 123). Oedipus means "swollen foot" and is derived from his ankles being pinned together when he was rejected by his parents. Aside from Dunk's twisted ankle in this story, there are numerous references to feet in the Dunk and Egg stories and in ASOIAF as a whole. For instance, Aerion threatens to cut off one of Dunk's feet for his intervention against the Prince's attack on Tanselle. Dunk sells the horse Sweetfoot in order to buy armor. I would love to work with others to sort out the foot symbolism in the series, if anyone wants to start a thread.

When Dunk and Egg had come around the hill, the birds had risen like a black cloud, so thick that Maester spooked (p. 122). As I mentioned in the previous post, the mule named Maester is an important character in this part of the story. He was a gift to Egg from his brother and we assume that brother is Aemon, who is studying to be a maester at this point in history. When we encounter Aemon in ASOIAF, he is blind. A key character in the Oedipus story is Tiresias, the blind "seer" or prophet who eventually informs Oedipus that he killed his own father. There are many blind or half-blind characters in ASOIAF and many of them seem to have special insights that are useful to princes and kings: Maester Aemon oversees both the library and the message-carrying ravens at Castle Black and he worked with Prince Rhaegar to try to understand a prophecy about dragons. The mule does not seem to be blind but he does react to the flight of birds. I think this is GRRM's way of linking the mule to the Greek Tiresias, who had the power to understand the language of birds and could predict the future with smoke and fire.

The drought reached the Arbor too. We heard the grapes were turning into raisins on the vines ... (p. 126). This line is from the next bite of the story but it may be relevant to the Oedipus analysis. When my high school class read Oedipus the King, our teacher told us about a famous actor who dropped peeled grapes on the stage at the moment when Oedipus blinds himself. (I have not found reference to that performance by googling, but maybe someone else in the forum can confirm the story?) The grapes/eyes parallel fits with a set of GRRM motifs I think is consistent where the author links a number of fruits to body parts (discussed in this thread in comment #25, 7/5/18). The wordplay on Ice/eyes is a central symbol of ASOIAF and the author uses it in specific ways. If grapes are part of the "Eye" symbolism, they will be used carefully to tell us about particular characters. We will revisit grapes again when we discuss the wine in this story.

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I do want to start analyzing wine in The Sworn Sword, but I thought I should first give some examples of brown and green characters in ASOIAF to be considered alongside the Dunk = green and Egg = brown theory advanced in post #70, above. I have been trying to puzzle out the brown / green symbolic pair for some time, however. Instead of rewriting the bits about brown and green characters, I will provide links to earlier posts where I was working out ways that GRRM is using these colors to add layers of meaning to the stories.

Brown and Green "champions" - Part I - Bronn (brown) defeats Ser Vardis Egen (green). Sandor (brown and green sigil) defeats Gregor (green), saving Ser Loras Tyrell (a different green). Tyrion declines to serve as Joffrey's champion against the winner of the Penny / Groat joust. Sandor defeats Ser Beric.

Brown and Green "champions" - Part II - The characters Bronn, Oberyn, Gregor Clegane, Groat, Penny and Tyrion are champions (or would-be champions) who represent others (or personify symbols) in trials by combat, jousting and mummer jousting. Beheading, "wearing" wine, bowls of brown and rebirth are closely linked to these brown and green characters.

The Mountain Rides / The Stallion Mounts the World - We think that Ser Gregor and Dany's baby, Rhaego, are the embodiments of these two allegorical phrases or names. As with many archetypes from his personal system of symbols and metaphors, a closer look at ASOIAF reveals that other characters also personify these phrases. In this link, the focus is on Jon Snow as the stallion and Tyrion as the mountain. There is important accompanying imagery relating to "the boy who lives" after an intended extinction of a noble House or family. (Hint: think about the death of plants at harvest time but the survival of seeds to be planted in the next growing season.)

I realize these posts are long and complicated. Re-reading them just now, I rediscovered a lot of details that had flown out of my head since I wrote them earlier this year.

If anyone loves this brown / green stuff and wants more, feel free to use the "Search" function in the forum, type in "green brown" and check the box next to  "All of my search term words." Look for posts with the needle and thread sigil for more thoughts about green / brown, Garth Greenhands and GRRM's fertility motif.

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A closer look at grapes is helping me to reach a better understanding of wine in ASOIAF and in the Dunk & Egg stories. It's not the first mention of grapes in the books, but the meeting of Davos Seaworth and Salladhor Saan at the inn on the stone pier is an important moment for unlocking grape symbolism. 

Across the noisy common room, Salladhor Saan sat eating grapes from a wooden bowl. When he spied Davos, he beckoned him closer. "Ser knight, come sit with me. Eat a grape. Eat two. They are marvelously sweet." The Lyseni was a sleek, smiling man whose flamboyance was a byword on both sides of the narrow sea. Today he wore flashing cloth-of-silver, with dagged sleeves so long the ends of them pooled on the floor. His buttons were carved jade monkeys, and atop his wispy white curls perched a jaunty green cap decorated with a fan of peacock feathers.

...The dwarf has chased off the lout who ruled the gold cloaks and put in his place a knight with an iron hand." He plucked a grape, and squeezed it between thumb and forefinger until the skin burst. Juice ran down between his fingers.

... Do you know the tale of the forging of Lightbringer? I shall tell it to you. It was a time when darkness lay heavy on the world. To oppose it, the hero must have a hero's blade, oh, like none that had ever been. And so for thirty days and thirty nights Azor Ahai labored sleepless in the temple, forging a blade in the sacred fires. Heat and hammer and fold, heat and hammer and fold, oh, yes, until the sword was done. Yet when he plunged it into water to temper the steel it burst asunder.
"Being a hero, it was not for him to shrug and go in search of excellent grapes such as these, so again he began. The second time it took him fifty days and fifty nights, and this sword seemed even finer than the first. Azor Ahai captured a lion, to temper the blade by plunging it through the beast's red heart, but once more the steel shattered and split. Great was his woe and great was his sorrow then, for he knew what he must do.
"A hundred days and a hundred nights he labored on the third blade, and as it glowed white-hot in the sacred fires, he summoned his wife. 'Nissa Nissa,' he said to her, for that was her name, 'bare your breast, and know that I love you best of all that is in this world.' She did this thing, why I cannot say, and Azor Ahai thrust the smoking sword through her living heart. It is said that her cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon, but her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel. Such is the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes.
"Now do you see my meaning? Be glad that it is just a burnt sword that His Grace pulled from that fire. Too much light can hurt the eyes, my friend, and fire burns." Salladhor Saan finished the last grape and smacked his lips.

(Clash, Davos I)

That passage blew my mind, when I finally put it together. Salladhor Saan tells Davos that it would have been easier to for Azor Ahai to get some grapes instead of forging Lightbringer, but he was a hero so he had to take the more difficult route and forge a magical sword again from scratch. Really, Salladhor? Getting some grapes is the equivalent of forging Lightbringer? 

Of course, I love any hint that the pun on "Ice" and "eyes" is a valid way of decoding symbolism in the books. If grapes symbolize eyes and swords lead back to the Stark great sword Ice then, in ASOIAF, grapes make some sense as the equivalent of swords. 

Compare Saan's Azor Ahai remark to this moment in The Hedge Knight:

A visor is a weak point, he remembered Steely Pate saying. The prince had all but ceased to struggle.
His eyes were purple and full of terror. Dunk had a sudden urge to grab one and pop it like a grape between two steel fingers, but that would not be knightly. "YIELD!" he shouted.
"I yield," the dragon whispered, pale lips barely moving. Dunk blinked down at him. For a moment he could not credit what his ears had heard. Is it done, then? He turned his head slowly from side to side, trying to see. His vision slit was partly closed by the blow that had smashed in the left side of his face. He glimpsed Prince Maekar, mace in hand, trying to fight his way to his son's side. Baelor Breakspear was holding him off.
(The Hedge Knight) 
Dunk wants to be knightly, so he refrains from popping the eye of Prince Aerion "Brightflame" Targaryen. Why do knights and (in Saan's tale) heroes eschew grapes or the popping of grapes? We know Salladhor Saan is a pirate and a smuggler and that he eats grapes. Is a pirate the opposite of a hero? Or of a knight? Is a winemaker the opposite of a hero?  Or the opposite of a smith, who makes swords?
But this is actually one of those lovely vague interludes that GRRM likes to give us, where it is not clear whether Dunk is talking about Aerion's eyes being purple and full of terror, or his own eyes. We think we know he is talking about Aerion's eyes when he next tells us that he wants to pop one. Certainly he could not be talking about himself because only a lunatic would have the urge to pop his own eyeball. Oh but what about Timett son of Timett, a mountain man of the Burned Men clan, who burned out his own eye with a hot knife? Timett is a warrior, although he's not a knight, and he earned the respect of his clan for undertaking the most horrifying kind of self-maiming when he put out his own eye as a coming-of-age ritual. So we may need to remain open to the possibility that Dunk was (in a literary sense) talking about popping his own eye. (Remember the earlier comparison between Dunk and Oedipus, who also blinds himself.)
And then we learn that Dunk's vision is impaired as a result of his combat with Aerion: the slit in his helmet is partially occluded by a dent in his helmet. So his eye may not have popped, but he has suffered a loss of vision (as well as having the side of his face smashed, perhaps similar to Sandor's face being burned and Brienne's face being eaten by Biter). 
Not to overwhelm everyone with literary analysis, but I also see Salladhor Saan as a parallel for, or a manifestation of, Bloodraven. (Or maybe a parallel of Shiera Seastar. Or both.) We know that Bloodraven lost an eye in single combat with Bittersteel. Here we have Dunk losing his vision in battle with Prince Aerion. Bloodraven also seems to be a guide for Bran in using the "third eye" that he opened at the urging of the Three-Eyed Crow. And Salladhor Saan tries to get Davos to eat a grape and then tells Davos that grapes are an easier alternative than forging Lightbringer to end the long night.
Could the grape remark be Saan's way of telling Davos to simply open his eyes? If we have another Long Night in the books, will the darkness come to an end when the right person opens his or her eyes? 
A reminder of another couple of puns may also be in order here. Davos does not eat grapes with Salladhor Saan during their conversation at the inn. He does drink ale, however. In one of my old reflections on wordplay, I wondered whether "ale" and "lea," the Spanish word for "read," could be a deliberate pun. In the books, Davos goes on to conquer his illiteracy and learn how to read words. Another wordplay pair is "words" and "sword." So Davos reading words may be the equivalent of Azor Ahai making a sword. Harder than eating a grape but perhaps more fruitful, so to speak.
This is enough for one post but the grape symbolism obviously also involves House Redwyne (their sigil is a bunch of grapes and the first mention of grapes in the series) and other grape growers and eaters in the books. And then there's this:

Prince Oberyn moved closer. "Say the name!" He put a foot on the Mountain's chest and raised the greatsword with both hands. Whether he intended to hack off Gregor's head or shove the point through his eyeslit was something Tyrion would never know.

Clegane's hand shot up and grabbed the Dornishman behind the knee. The Red Viper brought down the greatsword in a wild slash, but he was off-balance, and the edge did no more than put another dent in the Mountain's vambrace. Then the sword was forgotten as Gregor's hand tightened and twisted, yanking the Dornishman down on top of him. They wrestled in the dust and blood, the broken spear wobbling back and forth. Tyrion saw with horror that the Mountain had wrapped one huge arm around the prince, drawing him tight against his chest, like a lover.

"Elia of Dorne," they all heard Ser Gregor say, when they were close enough to kiss. His deep voice boomed within the helm. "I killed her screaming whelp." He thrust his free hand into Oberyn's unprotected face, pushing steel fingers into his eyes. "Then I raped her." Clegane slammed his fist into the Dornishman's mouth, making splinters of his teeth. "Then I smashed her fucking head in. Like this." As he drew back his huge fist, the blood on his gauntlet seemed to smoke in the cold dawn air. There was a sickening crunch.

(Storm, Tyrion X)

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  • 4 weeks later...

Summary and background:

So grapes are like eyes. Grapes and eyes are popped, squeezed and burst.

The juice of a popped grape gets on the fingers of Salladhor Saan.

Bloodraven's eye is maimed in combat with Bittersteel. The wine stain on Bloodraven's face was apparently a birthmark, however, not a literal result of his destroyed eye. 

Presumably, the popping of an eyeball would cause blindness. In ASOIAF. we have several characters who seem to have enhanced "vision" as a result of blindness. Bloodraven has a thousand eyes and one. Arya as Blind Beth seems to hear and sense things she would not have noticed if she relied on her eyes. She also skinchanges into a cat and uses the cat's eyes to see things not visible to the eyes of Blind Beth. 

We also have a motif in this story and in ASOIAF of the blind seer, linked to characters in the Oedipus myth. Tiresias is the blind prophet and Oedipus is the king who blinds himself when he learns that he has unknowingly violated major taboos (killing his father and marrying his mother). I explained earlier in this thread how Dunk may represent Oedipus in this story, killing Ser Lucas and flirting with Rohanne Webber.

Another blind-related character in The Sworn Sword is a donkey named Maester who may be a symbolic stand-in for Maester Aemon, the Targaryen prince who takes the black and serves as maester for the Night's Watch. When Maester Aemon appears in ASOIAF, he is very old and blind. 

Turning, finally, to the subject of wine.

Back to popped grapes: we know that juice from grapes is used to make wine. 

The Sworn Sword opens with Dunk and Egg's return to Standfast with two casks of wine. Ser Eustace wanted four barrels but the drought has created a wine shortage because, as Dunk says, "Even grapes need water." 

The wine casks are carried by the mule, Maester. What does Dunk think about Maester carrying the wine? 



His mule Maester, grateful for the respite, began to crop the dry brown devilgrass along the verges, heedless of the two huge wine casks on his back.


The mule left off cropping at the devilgrass and came along without an argument for once. He's hot as well, Dunk thought, and those wine casks must be heavy.


Egg gave a tug on Maester's lead. The mule twitched his ears, but started off again at once.

He wants to get those wine casks off his back. Dunk could not blame him.


Initially, the mule is heedless of the wine casks. Subsequently, Dunk perceives that Maester wants to be rid of the wine casks. 

Wanting to be rid of wine casks. Is this more of GRRM's coded literary language, telling us that Maester wants to be blind? Even if we accept that some ASOIAF characters gain a gift of "vision" when losing normal eyesight, is blindness really something to be desired? Why would sight be a burden?

Interpreting wine in GRRM's system

Some conjecture follows, using the information about grapes and eyes as well as the cycle of life and death, growth and decay, from the green / brown analysis (above). 

What if wine is consumed to enhance vision and knowledge? Grape juice = eye juice?

No wonder Tyrion is such a smart guy - he drinks wine all the time. (When I started to think about this, I had to double-check the famous line, "I drink and I know things," but that appears to be show-only, not in the books.) 

But wine isn't literally from eyes; it comes from fruit and fruit grows on trees or vines.

What if we think of wine as tree blood? Similar to the way that leaves fall from trees, decay, and turn to humus, grapes are crushed to make wine which is then consumed.

Except in The Sworn Sword, we also see wine poured on the ground, perhaps similar to leaves falling from trees:


The boys were Eustace Osgrey's sons: Edwyn, Harrold, Addam. Edwyn and Harrold had been knights, Addam a young squire. They had died on the Redgrass Field fifteen years ago, at the end of the Blackfyre Rebellion. "They died good deaths, fighting bravely for the king," Ser Eustace told Dunk, "and I brought them home and buried them among the blackberries." His wife was buried there as well.

Whenever the old man breached a new cask of wine, he went down the hill to pour each of his boys a libation. "To the king!" he would call out loudly, just before he drank.

The Redgrass Field got its name from the bloodshed that soaked the ground during the battle. If wine is tree blood, it is perhaps fitting that Ser Eustace continues the Redgrass notion by pouring wine on the ground where his sons lie. He continues this ritual even when wine is hard to obtain.

While he is ostensibly sharing the wine with his sons, I suspect the toast "To the king!" might be telling us about the attitude of Ser Eustace toward the earth. He is associated with the growth of crops and his gesture of pouring wine on the graves may be his symbolic way of trying to grow his crops in spite of the drought and the damming of the Chequy Water. Or maybe the toast is just a way of showing that Eustace is wasting his time and energy on a lost cause - his "king" was Daemon Blackfyre who is dead and gone. 

(I can't help pointing out the other famous moment when we see a GRRM character pour wine on the ground: Tyrion at Joffrey's wedding feast. When Joff dies, Tyrion conspicuously pours the last wine out of Joffrey's cup and onto the ground. Is this also a "To the king!" moment of tribute to a dead king? The widespread suspicion is that Joffrey's wine was poisoned. Later in The Sworn Sword, Dunk and Egg will visit Coldmoat, where Septon Sefton will joke that he is serving poisoned wine.) 

By contrast to Ser Eustace pouring wine on the ground, we will later find that Lady Rohanne has diverted water to her moat: her smallfolk have been told that the water is needed for crops but she is using it instead for defense. So Eustace pours wine on the ground (not a good way to water crops) and Rohanne pours water into a hole (also a bad way to nurture crops). 

If wine is tree blood, and if it is consumed for the purpose of enhancing vision or knowledge, I think this requires a fresh examination of a lot of wine-related behavior and activity in ASOIAF. If wine consumption is part of the death / rebirth cycle, I suspect we are going to have to look at wordplay around "sip" and "piss." Tyrion sips a lot of wine but he is also associated with lots of "making water."

I feel confident that we can count on The Sworn Sword to provide more clues for interpreting the meaning and role of wine in the larger series. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I had hoped the post about grapes and wine would allow me to move ahead to an analysis of wine and water in The Sworn Sword. We know that the dispute over the Chequy Water is the central conflict of the plot and that the conflict is resolved after one-on-one combat in the water leads to death and an ensuing miraculous end of a drought with the arrival of a soaking rain storm.

This wine vs. water approach was already a break with my initial intention to take the story in orderly small bites, like Sansa eating a pear. But now I have to pursue another tangent that is dominating my thinking. Or maybe it's not a tangent but a first down that moves us closer to the wine vs. water end zone.

Claret on the cheek

Some background:

  • Claret is a type of red wine.
  • In GRRM's system of symbols linking fruit and body parts, cheeks and peaches are a match. 
  • We know peaches are important in ASOIAF because Robert brings Ned peaches from the Reach and Renly offers Stannis a peach but Stannis rejects it.
  • We know cheeks are important in ASOIAF because key characters such as The Hound and Brienne suffer unique wounds on their cheeks. Bloodraven derives his nickname from a wine stain birth mark on his cheek. (Where does the fool Patchface fit in this set of symbols? Or Shireen with her stone cheek?)
  • In GRRM's widespread practice of hiding clues in puns, "cheeks" and "the Chequy water" is a likely pair. The Chequy Water derives its name from the green and gold checkered colors of House Osgrey, traditional owners of the land through which the stream runs. The House sigil is the Chequy Lion. 
  • Ser Eustace tells a story of a Lannister ancestor who wants to take "a bite out of the Reach." He is prevented from doing so by an Osgrey ancestor who has been left to defend the region while the Gardener lord is fighting elsewhere. Because Robert told us early on that amazing peaches are grown in the Reach, and because peach-eater Renly marries a bride and takes a lover from the Reach, we can almost certainly equate "peach" and "Reach" as a wordplay pair. House Osgrey is preventing House Lannister from getting a bite of a peach.
  • Another important pun in The Sworn Sword revolves around "berries" and "buried." Ser Eustace buried his sons in a berry patch. His wife is buried there, too. After pondering his feelings of being attracted to Lady Rohanne, Dunk has a dream in which he envisions a naked Lady Rohanne with nipples like berries. Another of Dunk's dreams involves attempting to bury a horse while Dornishmen look on with amusement to see him wasting water (tears) over the dead horse. 
  • Both The Hound and Brienne, with their significant cheek wounds, are involved in significant burying incidents. The Elder Brother claims to have buried Sandor Clegane and we believe that Brienne sees Sandor who has become the Gravedigger on the Quiet Isle. Brienne also forces the fool, Shagwell, to dig a grave for Nimble Dick Crabb. 
  • Is Brienne the only character we see drinking watered wine? This is what she orders at the Stinking Goose, where she meets Nimble Dick. Her glass is served with a hair in it.

Make sure you are sitting down for this series:

  • When pears, berries or peaches are cooked with wine in a dessert recipe, the process is called poaching.
  • Eggs can also be poached but that recipe does not involve wine, it involves hot water. 
  • There is a significant background incident in The Sworn Sword involving a poacher employed by Ser Eustace who steals sheep from Lady Rohanne. (Ser Eustace refers to the man as a forager, not a poacher. He also calls him Lem instead of Dake.) Lady Rohanne's knights cross onto Osgrey land to seize the poacher. She punishes his alleged theft by sewing him into a sack with rocks and drowning him in her moat. 
  • "Peaches" and "poachers" may be another of GRRM's wordplay pairs. In which case we should probably examine the poachers that Ser Jorah sold into slavery and perhaps compare the poachers to the peach-eating Baratheons.
  • I suspect we need to examine also watery grave symbolism in ASOIAF and to compare and contrast these graves with graves in the earth, pyres, crypts, lich yards, crow cages, hanging trees, gallows, feeding to shadow cats, making a rattle shirt, covering with gold leaf and impaling the skull on a pike, and other ways to display or dispose of bodies and body parts.

Claret on the cheek for real this time.

We see cheek wounds on both sides of the Osgrey vs. Webber dispute. 


"Your talk don't frighten us," said the old man.

"No?" Bennis made his longsword whistle, opening the old man's cheek from ear to jaw. "I said, them pear trees die, or you do." The digger's blood ran red down one side of his face.

He should not have done that. Dunk had to swallow his rage. Bennis was on his side in this.


Dunk cleared his throat. "M'lord, as to that, when we came upon the diggers, well . . ."

"Dunk, don't trouble m'lord with trifles," said Bennis. "I taught one fool a lesson, that was all."

Ser Eustace looked up sharply. "What sort of lesson?"

"With my sword, as it were. A little claret on his cheek, that's all it were, m'lord."

The old knight looked long at him. "That . . . that was ill considered, ser. The woman has a spider's heart. She murdered three of her husbands. And all her brothers died in swaddling clothes. Five, there were. Or six, mayhaps, I don't recall. They stood between her and the castle. She would whip the skin off any peasant who displeased her, I do not doubt, but for you to cut one . . . no, she will not suffer such an insult. Make no mistake. She will come for you, as she came for Lem."

Dunk's cheeks are red several times in The Sworn Sword:


A gallantry, you lunk, give her a gallantry. "I want to say . . . your gown . . ."

"Gown?" She glanced down at her boots and breeches, loose linen tunic, and leather jerkin. "I wear no gown."

"Your hair, I meant . . . it's soft and . . ."

"And how would you know that, ser? If you had ever touched my hair, I should think that I might remember."

"Not soft," Dunk said miserably. "Red, I meant to say. Your hair is very red."

"Very red, ser? Oh, not as red as your face, I hope." She laughed, and the onlookers laughed with her.


Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall. He felt his cheeks reddening again. Gingerly he took the parchment from the maester and scowled at the writing. Not a word of it was intelligible to him. . . .


The slap she gave him had all her strength behind it, and she was stronger than she looked. His cheek burned, and he could taste blood in his mouth from a broken lip, but she hadn't truly hurt him. 


"You wanted blood for blood." He laid the dagger against his cheek. "They told you wrong. It wasn't Bennis cut that digger, it was me." He pressed the edge of the steel into his face, slashed downward.

When he shook the blood off the blade, some spattered on her face. More freckles, he thought. "There, the Red Widow has her due. A cheek for a cheek."

"You are quite mad." The smoke had filled her eyes with tears. "If you were better born, I'd marry you."

Of course it is significant that Dunk lets the reader know that Lady Rohanne's freckles are like spatters of blood: this seems like something she shares with Bloodraven and his wine stain birth mark. 

In addition to freckles, we also read references in this story to a tickle on the cheek, hairs growing on Egg's cheek, Lady Webber stroking her cheek with her braid, and Dunk ruing that Tanselle never kissed his cheek. 

But this early reference may be particularly useful if our goal is to compare and contrast wine (blood) and water in ASOIAF:


Maybe when they reached the stream he'd have a soak. He smiled, thinking how good that would feel, to jump right in and come up sopping wet and grinning, with water cascading down his cheeks and through his tangled hair and his tunic clinging sodden to his skin. 

Dunk longs to feel water on his cheeks. He has a hot bath (actually three of them, according to a remark by Egg) but doesn't feel the cool Chequy Water on his cheeks until after he has drawn blood (claret) on his own cheek and then soon wades in to the stream to fight Ser Lucas. 

I think Dunk is using his own body to make watered wine like the drink that Brienne ordered at The Stinking Goose. My guess is that a balance - or perhaps a cycle - of wine and water is somehow necessary for a healthy atmosphere or ecosystem in Westeros and only certain characters can create or experience that balance. 

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  • 11 months later...

This space reserved. 

Sorry, I've been distracted by some real world stuff. 

I still hope to write about peaches, patches, sheep, sheep-stealers, foragers and cheeks. 

Edit, four months later: 

I think this post finally hits on the meaning of the peach / sheep symbolism. It's about being the kingmaker. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

This might fit in the Puns & Wordplay thread but it's probably better in this discussion as it relates to the eyes and blindness discussion as well as Egg leading the mule called Maester, that was a gift from his brother (presumably Aemon who will later become the blind Maester Aemon we meet at Castle Black). 


"You have large feet," she observed. "Large hands as well. I think you must be large all over. Too large for most palfreys. They'd look like ponies with you perched upon their backs. Still, a swifter mount would serve you well. A big courser, with some Dornish sand steed for endurance." She pointed to the stall across from Thunder's. "A horse like her."

She was a blood bay with a bright eye and a long fiery mane. Lady Rohanne took a carrot from her sleeves and stroked her head as she took it. "The carrot, not the fingers," she told the horse, before she turned again to Dunk. "I call her Flame, but you may name her as you please. Call her Amends, if you like."

For a moment he was speechless. He leaned on the crutch and looked at the blood bay with new eyes.

So Dunk gets "new eyes" at this point in the story. This is a good thing, as he has had some blindness problems (see the Dec. 6, 2020, Feb. 28, 2021 and March 26, 2021 posts on this thread). 

But the wordplay bit comes from the name "Amends" that Rohanne suggests for the horse she is offering Dunk as a gift. I see a couple of possibilities here, and they could provide insight into a popular Targaryen name, Maester Aemon's role and/or into the recurring problem of demons taking babies in Westeros.

It's not an exact match, which might mean this theory is baloney from square one. But I've seen so many "almost" anagrams that I think GRRM sometimes uses them even if they are off by a letter.




Long ago, I shared some thoughts about grumkins, the characters in Old Nan's stories that can make a sword magical, grant wishes and swap out babies for changelings. At the time I tossed off that thread, it did not occur to me to link the baby-swapping of grumkins with the babies carried off by demons - the fate Egg describes as the outcome for Rohanne Webber's babies: "Whenever she gives birth, a demon comes by night to carry off the issue."

I mentioned earlier in this thread that Rohanne seems to have a symbolic role as Dunk's mother (and Ser Lucas is a symbolic father for Dunk). If the wordplay is correct, and Rohanne is hoping that Dunk will ride off on a horse called Amends, that sounds to my wordplay-savvy ears as if she wants her "son" to be carried off by demons. Luckily (I think), Dunk rejects her gift of a horse and sticks with the horse he inherited from Ser Arlan. 

If there is wordplay on "amends" and "demons," however, this is a clue for us about Craster's sons and the babies of the Night's King. I suspect that young men sent to the Night's Watch are also part of the "sacrificed babes" motif. So these babies and young men are not simple blood sacrifices but are apparently offerings to try to make amends with demons. Rohanne's horse is also named flame, so the offering to demons might also be an offering to R'hllor. Dunk describes the horse as a blood bay. 

The other wordplay in "amends" may be on the name "Aemon" (although it could as easily or instead allude to Daemon and other Targ names). Aemon is of particular interest as a possible match because Egg enters The Sworn Sword with a mule named Maester and Dunk has the opportunity to leave the story on a horse that may symbolize Aemon. 

As I mentioned, however, Dunk rejects the gift horse. Egg, however, does accept a horse provided by Rohanne: 


Egg was waiting for him at the gatehouse, mounted on a handsome new sorrel palfrey and holding Maester's lead. When Dunk trotted up to them on Thunder, the boy looked surprised. "She said she wanted to give you a new horse, ser."

"Even highborn ladies don't get all they want," Dunk said, as they rode out across the drawbridge. "It wasn't a horse I wanted." The moat was so high it was threatening to overflow its banks. "I took something else to remember her by instead. A lock of that red hair." He reached under his cloak, brought out the braid, and smiled.


"Which way is south?" he asked Egg. It was hard to know, when the world was all rain and mud and the sky was gray as a granite wall.

"That's south, ser." Egg pointed. "That's north."

"Summerhall is south. Your father."

"The Wall is north."

Dunk looked at him. "That's a long way to ride."

"I have a new horse, ser."

"So you do." Dunk had to smile. 

The forum is probably overdue for a close examination of horses - colors, sizes, types, who rides, who is in a wagon, who is in a covered (egg-like) enclosure pulled by horses, who jousts, who gives horse gifts and - most relevant to this post - who accepts them. Theon's horse catches on fire. Bran rides a horse into the harvest feast but is carried out on Hodor's back. Dany, Jon and Bran (through his direwolf) ingest horse organs, meat and/or blood. Tyrion designs a saddle for use by Bran. Lady Dustin's sigil was the Ryswell horse. Tyrion stabs a horse in the belly when he wears a spiked helmet into battle. 

What does it mean that Egg accepts Rohanne's gift of a horse but Dunk does not? What is the Amends/Aemon connection, if any? And what is the difference between the mule named Maester and the blood bay Amends / Aemon? What is the symbolism of the sorrel palfrey accepted by Egg?

Before posting this, I also want to ponder the demon / Aemon link, if there is one. It is Aemon who points out to Sam that the baby Gilly is carrying is not her own baby. Like the demons that supposedly carry off Rohanne's babies, Aemon is aware that a baby swap or theft has taken place. In his last scene before dying, we also see Maester Aemon holding the baby and cooing over it and kissing it. Gilly suggests naming the baby Maester and Sam has to tell her that is not a name, so she then suggests Aemon Steelsong or Battleborn. The ancient Celts apparently believed that a person could be reborn in a baby from their own family line, particularly if that baby had the same name as the ancestor or relative. So there may be more than one way for a demon to carry off a baby in ASOIAF.

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  • 2 months later...

@Evolett raised some really interesting symbolism and metaphor points in response to some wordplay ideas in the Puns and Wordplay thread. My responses depart even further from wordplay, so I am moving my response here. Many of the ideas in Evolett's comment and in my response are directly relevant to analysis of The Sworn Sword, luckily. 

So here is a link to Evolett's post and my response:

1 hour ago, Evolett said:

A number of other not so obvious dams popped up in my mind after reading this. Walder Frey's bridge for instance.

Good thinking. In The Sworn Sword, it's significant that the dam is made of trees taken from Osgrey land - Wat's Wood, to be specific. Ser Eustace later accuses Lady Rohanne of burning down the woods (but she doesn't admit guilt). The fire is a "sun rises in the west" event, signalling a way of starting fresh. 

I think the many Walders of the Frey family represent a forest or woods - "Wald" means "woods" in German. 

But GRRM may be telling us that both dams and doors (as well as bridges, ships, pyre wood and shields) can be made of wood.  The Stark children were taught how to fight using wooden swords. Tyrion steps over a burning log in the fireplace at the Tower of the Hand. He also helps the Shy Maid to steer around logs that have fallen in the Royne River. 

Hodor's real name is Walder. Lord Walder Frey can either block people or give them passage. 

Early in the story, Dunk had compared the dry pine trees in Wat's Wood to Ser Bennis of the Brown Shield. When we meet Ser Bennis, he is standing (or sitting on his shaggy horse) on an old wooden bridge. He rides with Dunk to Webber lands and I suspect his presence is necessary at that point to allow Dunk to cross the stream - Ser Bennis is the rickety old bridge. Later, he hauls up a wooden stairs that is designed to be retracted when the Standfast tower is under siege - ending a bridge. Dunk remembers Ser Bennis as a decent guy, back when he was a squire for Ser Arlan. In the contemporary story, he finds that Ser Bennis is an unpleasant jerk. 

Ser Bennis tries to teach the small folk how to make a shield wall, but Dunk is able to scatter the men just by galloping toward them on his war horse, Thunder. 

So the message may be that wood or trees can be good when they are fresh, but it wears out and dries out and becomes weak or a fire hazard. Leaves fall to the ground and create humus  (top soil), which is a good thing - only death can pay for life. Stannis and Melisandre burn the old Targaryen masts that had been carved into images of the new gods. Dany burns a pyre but also plants new olive trees. Jon Snow makes a wooden handle for the obsidian dagger. Cersei builds new ships. 

The dual nature of The Twins (Doh! Dual nature of twins!) is similar to The Wall:


He had once heard his uncle Benjen say that the Wall was a sword east of Castle Black, but a snake to the west. 

(ASoS, Jon IV)

With people scaling the Wall to climb over it, taking the well-like Black Gate at the Night Fort, or the tunnel, iron cage and switchback stairs at Castle Black, there are a number of ways to reach the top, to descend or to go under the Wall. Conveniently, there is also a Bridge of Skulls that allows people to cross at one edge of the Wall. At the eastern end, people (or mammoths) can go the long way around the wall at Eastwatch. Like the Frey crossing, it seems The Wall can be a sort of dam but it also offers options to get to the other side. 

2 hours ago, Evolett said:

Tristifer on the other hand is a "dam" (is Mudd / dum a variation on "dam"?) stemming a "tide." Mud is not an ideal material for a dam.

Ser Bennis of the Brown Shield seems to represent the dried out woods and dying pine trees but he is also filthy. I think he represents soil that has not had enough rain (he hates to drink water and drinks only wine). 

I've tried to work out the brown and green characters - Bronn, possibly Ser Hyle Hunt and Dick Crabb as brown characters; Grenn, the Tyrells, the Green Grace and Gregor Clegane as green characters. House Mudd seems like a set of brown characters that starts out as fertile soil but perhaps becomes exhausted after too many seasons growing crops. So House Mudd falls to a new royal House which begins anew the cycle of growing plants. 

Actually, I think mud is often used as one material for building a dam. I don't know much about civil engineering, but I've heard of earthen dams. I'm also thinking of the Dawn / wand / Wall wordplay - the German word "Wand" means wall, and comes from (iirc) ancient wall-building techniques using branches woven together and then covered with mud (wattle and daub construction). So the English word "wand" refers to a slender stick used by a wizard and the same root word evolved to mean "wall" in German because slender sticks were part of making a wall. 

But mud as a construction material requires a lot of maintenance and it can wash away. 

2 hours ago, Evolett said:

Are we to compare "Eustace," whose trees provided material for a solid dam with the ineffectual mud hammer of Justice? Sounds similar and "eustace" as a boy's given name means "steadfast," also "fruitful, productive."

I don't think Eustace is the dam - I think his deceased son (desired husband of Rohanne Webber) is the dam. I'm thinking that the resolution of that story comes when Ser Lucas Longinch and Ser Duncan the Tall both die in the river, like the two trees used to make a dam. This time, the men don't create a dam; they create a bridge: the rival houses are united in marriage and everyone's problem is solved. Rohanne doesn't have to marry Ser Lucas, Ser Eustace gets to return to his family seat, rain falls to save the crops, the dried out woods has burned, Ser Bennis has absconded.

I didn't know the meaning of the name Eustace, but the meanings you cite are perfect for him - he wants to grow crops and he has a stone tower called Standfast. 

3 hours ago, Evolett said:

Is "just" (as in "only") ice not effective as a dam?

This is a very good question. I don't think we've explored the wordplay on "just" (only or mere) and "just" (fair or appropriate). I bet the ice without the "just" is an ineffective weapon or dam or wall. Will Jon Snow strengthen the Wall by meting out Justice to Jonos Slynt and others who commit crimes? Maybe the many criminals sent to the Wall help to strengthen it because the ice of the wall needs "justice" to maintain its strength. We are told that magic holds the Wall together, but maybe "Justice" is part of the magic. Ice alone - mere ice or just ice - will eventually fall apart. Maybe the Wall has been weeping because Justice has been reduced in Westeros. 

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  • 2 months later...

You know how readers have worked out that Bloodraven is probably disguised as Maynard Plumm and Plummer in the Dunk & Egg stories? I suspect he may be hidden behind other key characters as well. 

For kicks, I enrolled in an online class in creative writing. One of the assignments was this:


Choose a book or film that you have recently enjoyed, or select a story from mythology. Identify the core desire, need, or ambition in at least TWO main characters in the book/film/myth. (Cinderella: Need to be loved for who she really is. Prince: Need to be loved for who he really is.) Write one paragraph to familiarize your reader with your chosen characters. Then, create a new, original character and fit that person into your story (A second, compelling woman joins the Prince and Cinderella at the ball.) Let us see all of your characters in a social situation and craft a short scene.

I thought about Bloodraven's surreptitious appearances in the Dunk & Egg stories and imagined Bittersteel making a similar incognito appearance in the saga. As I've mentioned in the forum, I believe Dunk is a secret Blackfyre so I wrote a scene where Bittersteel (disguised as an innkeeper in my scene) would show favor and support for Dunk while showing hostility toward Egg.

My story was my first and only attempt at fan fiction, I guess, but it got me thinking. 

What if GRRM has already inserted a disguised Bittersteel in the Dunk & Egg stories, just as he has given us two or more disguised versions of Bloodraven? It makes perfect sense to me that the author would set up a conflict between the rival Great Bastards, each moving a "pawn" across the game board - Bloodraven trying to advance the Targaryen Prince Aegon toward the throne and Bittersteel trying to win with (Prince) Duncan? 

I already worked out in this thread that the armorer, Pate, seems to be stringing Dunk as a puppet when he measures him for armor (grunts / strung wordplay and the use of a rawhide on all of Dunk's limbs). 

It also makes sense to me now that Pate just happened to have a suit of armor that would fit a seven-foot-tall warrior if Pate is Bittersteel and that tall warrior was the son of Daemon Blackfyre. We are told that Bittersteel took the sword Blackfyre that had belonged to Daemon, so maybe he had the armor, too. 

(This might also explain why Pate displays two lobstered gauntlets at his traveling armor shop. I suspect that the crab and lobster references are allusions to "pincers," which becomes a "princes" symbol through the magic of wordplay. Throwing down a gauntlet is an idiom that means someone is making a challenge. By showing us Pate's gauntlets, GRRM may be saying that there are two princes and that Bittersteel is either accepting Bloodraven's challenge or extending a challenge toward his half-brother. Let the games begin.) 

Now I want to try to figure out if there are additional potential Bittersteel characters in the other stories. Ser Eustace? Sam Stoops' wife? I have this sneaking suspicion that Septon Sefton might be a Bloodraven incarnation, because of the wine stain on his clothing. But I haven't figured out all of the details relating to Sefton, so I'm not sure. 

Any other characters strike you as possibilities?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Make no mistake. She will come for you, as she came for Lem.” “Dake, m’lord,” Ser Bennis said. “Begging your lordly pardon, you knew him and I never did, but his name were Dake.”


I never returned to Coldmoat after that, save once, when that woman presumed to carry off one of mine own. When they told me to seek for poor Lem at the bottom of the moat—” “Dake,” said Dunk. “Bennis says his name was Dake.” “Dake?” The fly was creeping down his sleeve, pausing to rub its legs together the way flies do. Ser Eustace shooed it away and rubbed his lip beneath his mustache. “Dake. That was what I said. A staunch fellow, I recall him well. He foraged for us, during the war. We never marched on empty bellies. When Ser Lucas informed me of what had been done to my poor Dake, I swore a holy vow that I would never again set foot inside that castle, unless to take possession. So you see, I cannot go there, Ser Duncan. Not to pay the blood price, nor for any other reason. I cannot.”

The Sworn Sword

Insignificant sheep stealer in hard times. Dake close to Dick, short for Richard....Lonmouth. Lem Lemoncloak.

I consider him and JonCon significant since the two are the last alive with the truth of Rhaegar and Lyanna maybe even ToJ in their hearts. Howland Reed too but he was on the other side.

And Lem/Dake's watery end maybe foreshadowing for the end of Lem/Lonmouth who escaped the same at the Ruby Ford 

And the Dunk era Lem whom Ser Useless mixed up does exist.


The next day a dozen would-be warriors found their way to Standfast to
assemble among the chickens. One was too old, two were too young, and
one skinny boy turned out to be a skinny girl. Those Dunk sent back to their

Lem was fifty if he was a day, and Pate had weepy eyes; they were the only two who had ever soldiered before. Both had been gone with Ser Eustace and his sons to fight in the Blackfyre Rebellion. The other six were as green as Dunk had feared

And the girl boy reminds one of Arya and this brotherhood of the BwB.


Ser Bennis egged them on by telling them of the joys of the soldier’s life—loot and women, chiefly. The two old hands agreed with him. Lem had brought back a knife and a pair of fine boots from the Blackfyre Rebellion, to hear him tell it; the boots were too small for him to wear, but he had them hanging on his wall. And Pate could not say enough about some of the camp followers he’d known following the dragon


And there was Wet Wat too, his head cut near in half, with old Lem and red-eyed Pate and all the rest. They had all been chewing sourleaf with Bennis, Dunk thought at first, but then he realized that it was blood trickling from their mouths. Dead, he thought, all dead, and the brown knight brayed. “Aye, so best get busy. You’ve more graves to dig, lunk. Eight for them and one for me and one for old Ser Useless, and one last one for your baldhead boy.”


“And when the battle came, m’lord?” Dunk asked. “How did they fare then? How many of them came home with you?” The old knight looked long at him. “Lem,” he said at last, “and Pate, and Dake. Dake foraged for us. He was as fine a forager as I ever knew. We never marched on empty bellies. Three came back, ser. Three and me.” His mustache quivered. “It may take longer than a fortnight.”


It was a restless night. Lem and red-eyed Pate both snored, the one loudly and the other constantly.

Edited by TheLastWolf
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