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The Vanishing Uncles of Westeros

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In a different thread, @Corvo the Crow had some interesting speculation about Brynden "Blackfish" Tully. He is obviously very important to the Tully family. I suggested that it might be worth expanding the topic to look at uncles in general and Corvo suggested starting a new thread, so here it is.

GRRM gives us a number of significant uncles, many of whom are in conflict with fathers. Many uncles also seem to mysteriously disappear. Benjen Stark, Gerion Lannister, Aeron Greyjoy, Prince Lewyn Martell, Blackfish and other uncle figures throughout the series seem to share some of the same patterns. (I suspect Brown Ben Plumm is an "uncle" figure for Dany, and his "return" to supporting her, claiming he never left, could help us to sort out the other uncles who are still missing.) I don't know how much we can rely on it, but GRRM also sets up an important father / uncle conflict in his little story called The Ice Dragon, also set in Westeros.

As he stood there and looked at all that darkness with no fires burning anywhere, with the wind blowing and the cold like a spear in his guts, Tyrion Lannister felt as though he could almost believe the talk of the Others, the enemy in the night. His jokes of grumkins and snarks no longer seemed quite so droll.

"My uncle is out there," Jon Snow said softly, leaning on his spear as he stared off into the darkness.

(AGoT, Chap. 21, Tyrion III)

The line from Jon's conversation with Tyrion is especially poignant if you believe that R+L=J and A+J=T, as Tyrion would be Jon's uncle if both things are true. Jon is talking about BenJen but, if Ned is not really Jon's father and Lyanna is Jon's mother, then Ned is also a "missing uncle" at that point. (Although far south of the Wall, not beyond it.) 

Another random father / uncle observation: I think the first name of Kevan Lannister might be wordplay on the word "knave." Is knave another word for "fool"? It's more often the "jack" in a deck of cards but it can also describe a dishonest man. That doesn't seem to describe Kevan who is loyal and, apparently, competent. But GRRM seems to define "fool" differently than the archetypical definition, with his fool / knight hybrids. Maybe a knave is also unique in his universe. What does it mean that Tyrion killed Tywin with a crossbow quarrel and Varys shoots Kevan with a crossbow quarrel?

Any other significant uncles in the series?

Edited by Seams

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I wouldn't say Lewyn or Aeron are missing, one is dead and the other a captive, and I imagine the Blackfish will ambush Jaime Lannister's men to free Edmure, either with Riverlanders still loyal to House Tully, or with the Brotherhood without Banners. Benjen and Gerion are definitely missing, though I don't think Gerion will turn up again. 

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@Seams

 

Tyrion is a "missing uncle" as well, though on the maternal side. We, as the reader know exactly where he is (or at least knew), but for anyone in Westeros, he is missing. Cersei could also be counted as a father I believe as she was the father figüre for Joff to some degree and we see time and again that he would rather prefer being a man; two examples that immediately comes to mind are the Myrish swamps,and when she says she should have been the son of her father, not Jaime. And we all know the relationship between the two. 

 

We are also told about the "disagreements" between Jeor and Maege, though not in detail, and Maege is as manly as most can be in Westeros. Not sure if it counts but Jeor is also gone, though we know he is dead. Maege, Jorah's aunt who may very well pass for an uncle figure has also vanished into thin air, or maybe thick water.

 

Also another father/uncle conflict that immediately comes to mind is Doran/Oberyn, though Oberyn is dead and not missing.

 

One uncle who is dead for all we know but is speculated to be alive is Arthur Dayne, so he'd be another missing uncle, though no known conflicts here.

 

I had another one but forgot it. 

With the one I forgot, I was going to suggest perhaps we should also look for a dead father, missing "uncle" pattern; Jeor's "uncle" is missing and his father is dead, Gerion is missing while Tywin is dead. Benjen is missing while Ned is dead. Previous Lord Dayne is dead while Arthur is missing if we could believe some of the theories about him. I really wish I could remember that last one as it was a father-uncle conflict with dead father missing uncle as well.

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, Seams said:

GRRM also sets up an important father / uncle conflict in his little story called The Ice Dragon, also set in Westeros.

Any other significant uncles in the series?

The Ice Dragon is not set in Westeros, GRRM has refuted that in Not A Blog (Although of course I understand that it still could be important and the worlds of the stories are very similar).

https://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/The_Ice_Dragon#cite_note-5

...

Euron was "missing" when he was in exile (obvious but yeah) and there might be others as well

Edited by Adam Targaryen

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2 hours ago, Adam Targaryen said:

Euron was "missing" when he was in exile (obvious but yeah) and there might be others as well

This would add to dead father/missing uncle I proposed above.

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I think there are far too many uncles. Just think of those blasted Greyjoys.

The Blackfish apparently stepped in for an absent father, but the idea that a man like Lewyn Martell is defined by his 'uncleness' is a pretty big stretch. Uncles and aunts only play a role in the lives of their nephews and nieces if they live with them - which they only do if they are unmarried or are part of such a rich family that the various branches of the family are allowed to live with the lord.

Uncles and aunts who don't live with their kin should be basically be strangers.
 

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As far as uncles go Ser. Brynden Tully is a great one to have if your lucky enough to be his niece or nephew. He's there for Catelyn whenever Hoster is out looking for prestigious marriages and whatever else he did to spread his power and influence. He follows Lysa to Vale, as a protector and Knight of the Gate. After Cat naps Tyrion and the Riverlands are under attack he leaves Lysa, who is secured in her castle, to help Edmure. He then goes on to be one of the most loyal supporters of his grandnephew. Now it's likely he's hiding until he's in a position to try and rescue Edmure. Hoster can nag the Blackfish all he wants about not marrying to increase Hoster's power base but Ser. Brynden has been there for his family protecting them, even when they made poor decisions that but them, himself and others at risk.

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22 hours ago, Corvo the Crow said:

Tyrion is a "missing uncle" as well, though on the maternal side.

...

I was going to suggest perhaps we should also look for a dead father, missing "uncle" pattern; 

Since Cersei's brother, Jaime, is also the father of her children, Tyrion is an uncle on "both" sides of Joffrey, Myrcella and Tommen's family, maternal and paternal. And the father / uncle conflict occurs because Jaime admits to Tyrion that Tysha was true all along, Jaime had just played along with Tywin's story of having paid her to pretend to be a damsel in distress. 

You're right about the many dead fathers. Could be part of the pattern. Maybe the uncles are "reborn" as fathers when the nominal father dies.

19 hours ago, Adam Targaryen said:

The Ice Dragon is not set in Westeros, GRRM has refuted that in Not A Blog (Although of course I understand that it still could be important and the worlds of the stories are very similar).

https://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/The_Ice_Dragon#cite_note-5

...

Euron was "missing" when he was in exile (obvious but yeah) and there might be others as well

Good to know about the Ice Dragon. I could never quite figure out why the brother of an innkeeper would be a dragon rider, when the family appears to have no connection to the Targaryen family. 

Euron is a great example. He has returned to his family, like Brown Ben Plumm returns to Dany. 

13 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

I think there are far too many uncles. Just think of those blasted Greyjoys.

The Blackfish apparently stepped in for an absent father, but the idea that a man like Lewyn Martell is defined by his 'uncleness' is a pretty big stretch. Uncles and aunts only play a role in the lives of their nephews and nieces if they live with them - which they only do if they are unmarried or are part of such a rich family that the various branches of the family are allowed to live with the lord.

Uncles and aunts who don't live with their kin should be basically be strangers.

One of the interesting things about the Greyjoy uncles is that Asha does not use the word "uncle." She calls them "nuncles," if I recall correctly. So GRRM may be trying to tell us something about her unique relationship to all these relatives - perhaps they don't have the same connection to her that they have to Theon? 

Some people think that the Elder Brother is Prince Lewyn in disguise. I actually wonder whether he is Maester Luwin, hanging out at Winterfell to protect Jon Snow (who might really be Elia Martell's son, Aegon, making Luwin / Lewyn a great uncle - but that is probably tin foil for another thread). 

12 hours ago, Ralphis Baratheon said:

As far as uncles go Ser. Brynden Tully is a great one to have if your lucky enough to be his niece or nephew. He's there for Catelyn whenever Hoster is out looking for prestigious marriages and whatever else he did to spread his power and influence. He follows Lysa to Vale, as a protector and Knight of the Gate. After Cat naps Tyrion and the Riverlands are under attack he leaves Lysa, who is secured in her castle, to help Edmure. He then goes on to be one of the most loyal supporters of his grandnephew. Now it's likely he's hiding until he's in a position to try and rescue Edmure. Hoster can nag the Blackfish all he wants about not marrying to increase Hoster's power base but Ser. Brynden has been there for his family protecting them, even when they made poor decisions that but them, himself and others at risk.

Brynden Tully does seem like an exceptional uncle, living up to the Tully words, "Family, Duty, Honor." I really get the feeling that the Brynden name he shares with Bloodraven is a hint to us about a guy who makes upholding the family his life's work, even to the point of putting his own life on the line. 

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Well timed, @Seams.    I'm doing a little relistening to ASOS and happened upon Arya's meeting with Edric Dayne just this morning.    Again I was dismayed at Edric being the Lord of Starfall.   This is a Dornish castle.  Why would the son of the Lord of Starfall's brother become the Lord of Starfall when Allyria, Edric's AUNT and presumably heir to Starfall does not?   So there's an uncle who needs some explaining...  

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On 10/19/2018 at 4:01 PM, Seams said:

One of the interesting things about the Greyjoy uncles is that Asha does not use the word "uncle." She calls them "nuncles," if I recall correctly. So GRRM may be trying to tell us something about her unique relationship to all these relatives - perhaps they don't have the same connection to her that they have to Theon? 

I wondered about that too, but Edwyn Frey also uses the term re Emmon (albeit only once:)

Quote

A Feast for Crows - Jaime VI

"They are my walls," protested Lord Emmon, "and that is my gate you would break." He drew his parchment out of his sleeve again. "King Tommen himself has granted me—"
"We've all seen your paper, nuncle," snapped Edwyn Frey. "Why don't you go wave it at the Blackfish for a change?"

... and also Tyrion thought of Ben Plumm as a 'nuncley' type:

Quote

A Dance with Dragons - Tyrion X

........ Plumm had an amiable look to him, especially when he smiled. The faithful retainer, Tyrion decided. Every man's favorite nuncle, full of chuckles and old sayings and roughspun wisdom. It was all sham. Those smiles never touched Plumm's eyes, where greed hid behind a veil of caution. Hungry, but wary, this one.

So it appears to be a general term of endearment, or a 'childlike' usage, although Edwyn seemed to use it to - soften or sharpen? - his rebuke of Emmon, and Tyrion uses it to mark a false note. As far as a quick scan reveals, Asha seems to use the term about all of her uncles, and she clearly has a distinct relationship with each one so the term doesn't discriminate between them. Overall, I think in Asha's case she can 'get away' with using such a term as she is female - such 'softness' or 'affection' would be frowned upon from Theon amongst the ironborn.

As to your main thrust, I'm more inclined to the view that GRRM's actual motif is one of conflict (mostly) between brothers, and their 'uncleness' is only incidental to one or more of the brothers having children. So I can't help wondering if the more revealing search might be for the 'vanishing brothers' of Westeros?

 

On 10/19/2018 at 11:46 PM, Curled Finger said:

Well timed, @Seams.    I'm doing a little relistening to ASOS and happened upon Arya's meeting with Edric Dayne just this morning.    Again I was dismayed at Edric being the Lord of Starfall.   This is a Dornish castle.  Why would the son of the Lord of Starfall's brother become the Lord of Starfall when Allyria, Edric's AUNT and presumably heir to Starfall does not?   So there's an uncle who needs some explaining...  

According to the Wiki (which is to say I haven't double-checked for myself...) Edric is the SON of the previous Lord, who was Arthur's older brother. (Remember, Arthur being Sword of the Morning didn't make him Lord of Starfall). Allyria was the previous Lord's youngest sibling, but even in Dorne children of the body precede siblings :thumbsup:

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2 hours ago, Rufus Snow said:

I wondered about that too, but Edwyn Frey also uses the term re Emmon (albeit only once:)

... and also Tyrion thought of Ben Plumm as a 'nuncley' type:

So it appears to be a general term of endearment, or a 'childlike' usage, although Edwyn seemed to use it to - soften or sharpen? - his rebuke of Emmon, and Tyrion uses it to mark a false note. As far as a quick scan reveals, Asha seems to use the term about all of her uncles, and she clearly has a distinct relationship with each one so the term doesn't discriminate between them. Overall, I think in Asha's case she can 'get away' with using such a term as she is female - such 'softness' or 'affection' would be frowned upon from Theon amongst the ironborn.

As to your main thrust, I'm more inclined to the view that GRRM's actual motif is one of conflict (mostly) between brothers, and their 'uncleness' is only incidental to one or more of the brothers having children. So I can't help wondering if the more revealing search might be for the 'vanishing brothers' of Westeros?

 

According to the Wiki (which is to say I haven't double-checked for myself...) Edric is the SON of the previous Lord, who was Arthur's older brother. (Remember, Arthur being Sword of the Morning didn't make him Lord of Starfall). Allyria was the previous Lord's youngest sibling, but even in Dorne children of the body precede siblings :thumbsup:

Thanks Rufus, in re experiencing this conversation I am confronted with more than 1 thing I previously thought.   Got to wondering why I always took for granted why Ashara and Allyria would be at a castle not their own.   Gerold Dayne's family is cadet branch, cousins to Ashara and Arthur.  I get it how a 3rd Dayne bunch who would be the main branch is lost in the shuffle.  Little Ned mentions Allyria and Ashara are his aunts and he seems fond of Allyria.   How the heck does Wylla fit in if she isn't Ashara?   That's a pretty convenient wet nurse and who is her child?  Blasted missing lineages.     

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