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Avalatis

Red Wedding - Robb's failure justified?

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For years I have read that Robb failed just like Ned and paid a price. It's accepted that his decisions clearly set him up for the failure of the Red Wedding. This has always bugged me on some level as being wrong, but I never really questioned it until now.

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Ned's death, while shocking, had quite a bit framing it to make the situation make sense.

His Failure:

- Told Cersie and underestimated her.

- Trusted Little Finger, though he was a fairly trust worthy guy (or seemed to be).

- Refused allies. He isolated himself and only relied upon Little Finger. Remly for instance could have made all the difference. He told himself he would not make such a movie while Robert was still alive; which means he severely under estimated the extent of the situation. He needed to move and move fast in order to salvage the situation, especially when he revealed his hand to Cersie. Though part of that was he thought Stannis was the rightful heir to the throne. Regardless he was putting the cart in front of the horse, he needed to first secure the throne before squablling over who was the rightful heir. The correct response to Remly was: "I will work with you to defeat our common enemy, but we will need to convene all the great lords about who is next in line." There is nothing dishonorable about this, as he could still push Stannis' claim."

- Soft hearted. He didn't want to see children murdered, thus risked himself and the entire realm in order to see that they were not harmed (ironically killed by one of those same children).

 

Cersie's Failure:

- Raised a shitty spoiled child

- Failed to read her son's intentions

- Setup a situation that was out of her control (which is something she continues to do throughout the series)

 

Luck:

- Irrational character with power to see to Ned's death. Believable based on the situation Cersie created.

- Cersie's plan to have her husband die in a boar accident at the perfect time... Highly unlikely for this plan to work. What was her fall back?

 

You can for the most part accept the chain of events as unfortunate, but a likely outcome (except the Boar).

 

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Why does the Red Wedding sit poorly with me? Robb was an honorable fool just like his father right?

 

Robb's Failure:

- Lost support of some his lords when he executed one of his lords. Seemed a bit harsh for such a loyal follow, even if that follower's actions were in the wrong. Though it is arguable of how much support this would lose, some might think less of him, others might actually think more of him. In a world of honor, some men would see this action as necessary. 

- Married a girl he got pregnant breaking his vow to Walder Frey (which he made under duress, though it was still a vow) to marry one of his children. The lynch pin of the betrayal.

- Trusted Bolton too much, even though his family had a long bad history with the Boltons that he should have been well versed in.

- Sending Theon away. Not a direct failure that led to the Red Wedding, but caused other problems which made him depressed which led to some of the above failures.

 

Luck:

- No one spilled the beans on the Red Wedding. 

- Not a single ambitious person within the Bolton and Frey's forces decided to use this knowledge to advanced themselves? All of them were 100% loyal? It's not like Walder and Roose treated their men and subjects all that well. If you were a Frey and 30th in line for the seat of Lord, you knew you would never have any power. Knowledge that your Lord is going to betray your King, could in fact make you Lord.

- Not a single man at arms or knight who had been fighting with the Young Wolf for months, bleeding by him and the other soldiers, took issue with murdering their brothers in arms at a wedding? None of them? They were all cold hearted 2 dimensional storm troopers? That's quite convienient for our conspirators. 

- Not a single person in all of this grand conspiracy was inspired by Robb Stark? The King in the North? The Young Wolf who had outmanuevered the legendary Jaime and Tywin Lannister? Out matched and was far from home and has put the Lannisters on defensive? We are told in the books by characters in the story that he was legendary even in King's Landing and among the Lannister forces. Yet even the people who served under such a King all decided the ambitions of Roose and Walder were more inspiring? It's one thing for lords to conspire for their own gain, it is quite another for minor nobles, men at arms, and common people to be willing to accept betraying a figure as popular and inspiring as the King in the North.

- Somewhat minor and less important than the above points. Robb getting a girl pregnant the first time they have sex. It can happen, but this luck is required to start the down fall of his character.

What we see is there takes some major leaps of luck, to almost a ridciulous level, in order for the Red Wedding to occur. At the very least we should have had Robb getting word of a betrayal about the Freys or Boltons, but he ignores it. It almost seems as if this was written to shock the readers, as any hint (it makes sense that there would be hints) would ruin the suprise of the event. GRRM sacrificed the realism of his characters and world in order to generate a shock that surpassed the death of Ned.

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Populism in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Robb's namesake was one such populist figure. Robert Baratheon. He was no political player. He didn't need to be a political player to win the throne. He was a legendary figure who clashed with the Rhaegar, who escaped to keep on fighting, who fought for his love who was stolen from him, etc, etc, etc. His story inspired and spead like wild fire through the Kingdom. He became King with large support among the people. Even in his later years when the nobility had a low opinion of him, among commoners he was still an inspirational figure.

Dany is another populist figure we see in the story. Why does this matter? In order for us to accept Red Wedding we have to accept that political manuevering is the only thing that matters in the Game of Thrones. Yet we are shown with other characters that this isn't actually true. That very popular figures gain loyalty and support from the legends that surround them. Sir Barristan went to Danny due to hearing of her great exploits and how she could potentially be a just and good queen. Slaves who were free, chose to follow and fight for her. 

Robb was the King in the North. The Young wolf. The man who had gone up against odds stacked against him with some of the greater generals of the realm as his enemy, and had victory after victory. His success was known far and wide, but especailly so among those in the North and Riverlands. Robb was not a political player and didn't really have any advisers in that role besides Caitlyn (and she seemed pretty bad at it considering her failures). So we are to accept that Tywin just "out manuevered" him on the political front thus he lost the Game of Thrones?

Yes Robb kindled some disgruntled factions within his own ranks, which gave Tywin an opening. Those factions were limited to lords, as in his populous legend and perception were mostly unmarked. These lords attempting to betray the King they swore an oath to would likely suffer mutiny, betrayal, and desertion from their people. And they would know it. Now you may say that Robb betrayed his King, so maybe these lesser nobles and commoners don't see a problem with this. He never swore an oath to Joffery. Bolton and Frey did swear oaths to Robb. So not only were they conspiring to kill a very popular figure within their own lands, they were also direclty violating their oaths. On top of which the moral betrayal of killing at a wedding and assasinating a king, which is not on a battle field.

This would have resulted in a much more untenable situation than just the Band without Banners. It would have been open revolt. And this revolt likely would have occured before the Red Wedding when they attempted to convince all their men to slaughter the other Riverlands and North men. Yes commoners seemed more loyal to their local lords than to their King or higher lords that their lords owed alligiance to. But that can only be stretched so far.

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Conclusion

Red Wedding was a fantastic and shocking scene for the series. I greatly enjoyed it when I first read it roughly 15 years ago. It even seemed plausible on its surface. I think under critical evaluation the scene feels forced and unearned. Robb's failures did not equal a betrayal of that magnitude. A more fitting result would be Bolton and Frey withdrawing forces at a bad time leaving Robb in a bad position against the Lannisters. It would still have some fallout for them, but would make more sense within the realm of possible. I think it is unfair for the people to claim that Robb's honor killed him, as it clearly took many more factors and quite a bit of unlikely things to occur for that situation to happen. 

Being dishonorable seems to carry no consequences in the story. Where in their society it should show that they are not to be trusted. By both allies and those who serve under them. Dishonorable characters like Little Finger and Vary's do it in the shadows, not in the open. Yet Frey and Bolton seem to just get away with it. Lord's in a medieval society were trusted with ensuring justice was met. How exactly does Frey and Bolton manage that trust after such an action? We as readers can understand their motivations and why they do what they do. But their men and their people are reduced to 2 dimenional unthinking minions that do whatever they are told. We are to accept this for the "bad guys" of the series, yet such actions by the "good guys" wouldn't work out so well.

Robb's death was necessary for the story (supposedly) and gives us the lowest moral point in which our heroes (Starks) can climb out of. And while it seemed poetic that Robb's honor and political misteps cost him his life like his father, I think the story forces it more so than it actually being earned.

 

I expect I will get a lot of back lash over this, as many people love this scene (as I did). Feel free to go to town :).

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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, Avalatis said:

Not a single ambitious person within the Bolton and Frey's forces decided to use this knowledge to advanced themselves? All of them were 100% loyal? It's not like Walder and Roose treated their men and subjects all that well. If you were a Frey and 30th in line for the seat of Lord, you knew you would never have any power. Knowledge that your Lord is going to betray your King, could in fact make you Lord.

Most of the ambitions players at this point would know that supporting Robb, would be supporting a lost cause. The war was lost and Robb was too stuborn to give up.

 

31 minutes ago, Avalatis said:

- Not a single man at arms or knight who had been fighting with the Young Wolf for months, bleeding by him and the other soldiers, took issue with murdering their brothers in arms at a wedding? None of them? They were all cold hearted 2 dimensional storm troopers? That's quite convienient for our conspirators. 

 

You could also say that they would be angry at Robb for breaking his vows and pissing on the sacrifice made by the Freys. Stevron as far as we know died fighting for his cause and Robb went on to break his vows to marry a nobody.

 

31 minutes ago, Avalatis said:

 - Not a single person in all of this grand conspiracy was inspired by Robb Stark? The King in the North? The Young Wolf who had outmanuevered the legendary Jaime and Tywin Lannister? Out matched and was far from home and has put the Lannisters on defensive? We are told in the books by characters in the story that he was legendary even in King's Landing and among the Lannister forces. Yet even the people who served under such a King all decided the ambitions of Roose and Walder were more inspiring? It's one thing for lords to conspire for their own gain, it is quite another for minor nobles, men at arms, and common people to be willing to accept betraying a figure as popular and inspiring as the King in the North.

 

We have Olyvar Frey refusing to leave Robb's side even after the Jeyne fiasco, but he was left out of the conspiracy.

Robb as much incredible and inspiring as he was, was also the man that beheaded his bannerman for killing his enemies, broke his word, let his mother walk free after comminting high treason and was "the king who lost the north". He would be a very divisive figure.

31 minutes ago, Avalatis said:

Being dishonorable seems to carry no consequences in the story. Where in their society it should show that they are not to be trusted. By both allies and those who serve under them. Dishonorable characters like Little Finger and Vary's do it in the shadows, not in the open. Yet Frey and Bolton seem to just get away with it. Lord's in a medieval society were trusted with ensuring justice was met. How exactly does Frey and Bolton manage that trust after such an action? We as readers can understand their motivations and why they do what they do. But their men and their people are reduced to 2 dimenional unthinking minions that do whatever they are told. We are to accept this for the "bad guys" of the series, yet such actions by the "good guys" wouldn't work out so well.

 

I agree with this point to a certain degree, but the Freys and the Boltons are paying to a certain level for they actions. We have Manderly murdering freys left and right, the Freys are hated by the realm after the RW being insulted at every turn, Roose is about to be betrayed by lords that he summoned, while we still have men fighting under Eddard's name in Dance.

Edited by Arthur Peres
.

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He couldn't find reliable and strong allies in King's Landing for his plan to put Stannis on the throne so he should have fled in the night and write to Stannis that he is Robert's heir and has Ned's support. He thought he could take control of the capital himself and without bloodshed, that was his mistake and reason of his failure.

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Posted (edited)

Robb became a legendary warrior figure, which might sway impressionable young individuals, like Jeyne Westerling, but it's not enough for extended Frey family members or Bolton/Frey soldiers to be risking their lives or forsaking their oaths and loyalties to defect for him. Their relationship is far from the deeply personal and messianic one Dany has with the slaves.

Robb can't offer much to them, either, if ambition is the motivator. He can't exactly offer the Frey or Bolton seats to just anyone. And even if he could - it was looking increasingly unlikely he would win the war. It wouldn't be worth the risk.

Also, the conspiracy wouldn't have been openly talked about. Only Walder Frey, Roose Bolton and their advisors and relevant family members would have known about it up until the final stages in planning. That would have limited the chances of the plans reaching Robb.

ETA: Robb didn't marry Jeyne because she was definitely pregnant. But it would have ruined her reputation if she was, or if it gotten out that she'd been deflowered. Robb was too honorable to let that happen.

Edited by Hodor the Articulate

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1 hour ago, White26 said:

He couldn't find reliable and strong allies in King's Landing for his plan to put Stannis on the throne so he should have fled in the night and write to Stannis that he is Robert's heir and has Ned's support. He thought he could take control of the capital himself and without bloodshed, that was his mistake and reason of his failure.

Exactly. Rob's loyalty rightly belonged to King Stannis. But Big Jon Umber called for Northern Secession and everyone just followed his lead. Robb exchanged the title Warden of the North for King in the North and called it an upgrade. But, why? Why treason? If Robb had joined Stannis they probably could have liberated Kings Landing even with the Tyrell's betrayal. Ended the war, and given justice to the realm. 

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15 hours ago, Avalatis said:

snip

Couple of things:

I don't see any indication that Jeyne was ever pregnant. Lady Sybell saw to that.

And while Robb's decisions regarding the Frey's, Karstarks, Boltons and to get married are all his, I think we should recognize the fact that his falling in love with Jeyne was no accident. He was drugged with one of grandma Maggy's love potions.

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3 hours ago, Lord Stannis-The True King said:

Exactly. Rob's loyalty rightly belonged to King Stannis. But Big Jon Umber called for Northern Secession and everyone just followed his lead. Robb exchanged the title Warden of the North for King in the North and called it an upgrade. But, why? Why treason? If Robb had joined Stannis they probably could have liberated Kings Landing even with the Tyrell's betrayal. Ended the war, and given justice to the realm. 

I don't know about that.

House Tyrell commands more soldiers than Stannis and Robb do combined. The Stormlands aren't a heavily populated area, the islands of Blackwater Bay are good for naval warfare not for a protracted campaign on land and the North (while being strong militarily) is so far away. And that's assuming that the Stormlands do, in fact, show up for Stannis.

If you throw in Lysa Arryn with Edmure, Stannis and Robb maybe the scales tip in the balance.

But even then, Lysa has the mountains clans to worry about, Roose and Ramsay were actively undermining Robb as early as the middle of Clash and Walder Frey has always been sketch. All Walder Frey needed to jump ship was to receive a letter from Tywin.

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So I've been rereading A Storm of Swords and one thing that I picked up on is that at the feast, the Freys purposefully sent away the members of their family that would be sympathetic to Robb and his cause. 

If we remember Olyvar, who was Robb's squire and wanted to stay with him, Catelyn asks where he is at the feast and the Frey sitting next to her says he isn't there. He also says that Ser Perwyn Frey, who went with Catelyn to treat with Renly back in Clash, wasn't at the wedding either...

So I think the Frey's made sure that the family members who would NOT be cool with murdering their liege lord and breaking guest right weren't there.

 

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On 5/17/2019 at 4:07 PM, Lord Stannis-The True King said:

Exactly. Rob's loyalty rightly belonged to King Stannis. But Big Jon Umber called for Northern Secession and everyone just followed his lead. Robb exchanged the title Warden of the North for King in the North and called it an upgrade. But, why? Why treason? If Robb had joined Stannis they probably could have liberated Kings Landing even with the Tyrell's betrayal. Ended the war, and given justice to the realm. 

I was talking about Ned there but this also fits Robb's situation. By crownig himself he automatically isolated himself from any firm alliance, same as Balon Greyjoy. He was a traitor to everyone.

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