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How did Rhaegar get his reputation as a warrior?

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People are being rather absurd about tourneys. I can't think of a great jouster in the series who was not also a great warrior -- The Hound, the Mountain, Jaime, Loras, Barristan, Arthur Dayne, every single one of these has been cited by George (and characters in the novels) as being among the great warriors of the realm. It's true that not being a great jouster does not mean one is not a great warrior (as we see with the likes of Robert), but  the knights who excel at jousting are knights who excel at combat in general. 

In a setting where warfare happens perhaps once a generation, there's going to be a lot of talented fighters who simply never see a battle.

Others have already cited Rhaegar's performance in tourneys and the fact that his training in earnest would have led many at court to seem him at his practice and sparring with other men, and they were obviously able to size him up. He was very good, as he was good at everything he turned his hand to, apparently.

And yeah, Rhaegar was not involved in rigged tournaments. What we saw in the Dunk & Egg tourneys were people dealing with a mediocre prince or someone being propped up as a claimant to the throne. Suffice it to say, knights knew they could really try their best against the likes of Baelor Breakspear or Aemon the Dragonknight because they _were_ good, and didn't need propping up. Same with Rhaegar.

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If it's easier to consider, look at tourneys as sports events. 

Repetition and training creates a basis for automatic reaction. Facing others in combat allows for more variety in movement and technique. Winning in a tourney, even if it is in the joust and not, say, the melee, will translate into true ability in the field. Will it be a faithful translation? Only true battle can tell, but it's a better bet than if the Prince had cut a poor figure. 

Rhaegar being renowned as a tourney winner would make his reputation more a fact than a mere suposition. After all, wouldn't it be also disrespectful towards the Prince, if not the whole Royal House, if the tourneys and participants were suspected of favouring him?

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3 hours ago, RYShh said:

I doubt Barristan would fake it and let Rhaegar win. Even if he did, Robert took wounds from Rhaegar in return during the battle, I doubt anyone without a skill could do that to the ''legendary warrior'' Robert Baratheon.

Theoretically, Barristan might have been ordered to lose, he would have obeyed. However, there is zero possibility of Brandon fucking the wild wolf Stark voluntarily losing to anyone, that's a round Rhaegar won solely on his own.

Plus, what @Ran said: you don't need to rig a tourney if you are really good. 

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So I know there is a discrepancy between what Barristan told Dany about Rhaegar jousting against mystery knight Simon Toyne at Storm's End vs the White Book, because of a date issue, but should we disregard Rhaegar taking the field against Toyne completely? Or it just happened at another tourney because I find it hard to believe that Barristan would imagine Simon Toyne jousting against Rhaegar.

I think that's a prime example of someone who would do Rhaegar zero favors. Simon Toyne was an outlaw and his family was brought down by the Targaryens and he is entering the tourney as a mystery knight, perhaps challenging Rhaegar so that he could maim him or kill him. This is a case where the guy would be an actual enemy. But Rhaegar unhorsed him. 

 

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5 hours ago, It_spelt_Magalhaes said:

After all, wouldn't it be also disrespectful towards the Prince, if not the whole Royal House, if the tourneys and participants were suspected of favouring him?

No. See the Second Blackfyre "Rebellion".

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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, The Hoare said:

No. See the Second Blackfyre "Rebellion".

Not sure what you mean? 

That people close to him would rig several tourneys to make the Prince look good? And manage to bully, coerce or buy every single opponent to favour him?

The 'whimper' Rebellion, as per Ser Duncan the Tall, was a mess. That Daemon Blackfyre didn't realize he was being favoured doesn't really take away from my opinion that, should multiple tourneys be 'obviously' rigged for Rhaegar (and how does one push  Wolfboy and the likes of Toyne to do that?), the realm would talk, and our dear Mad King might just take exception.

So, while it might be feasible to artificially bolster his tourney portfolio, I don't think it was. 

Edited by It_spelt_Magalhaes
Autocorrect issues

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5 hours ago, Ygrain said:

Theoretically, Barristan might have been ordered to lose, he would have obeyed. However, there is zero possibility of Brandon fucking the wild wolf Stark voluntarily losing to anyone, that's a round Rhaegar won solely on his own.

Plus, what @Ran said: you don't need to rig a tourney if you are really good. 

Indeed.

But RDS is a thing. 
Imagine genuinely believing its possible to rig having your opponent (the prince) break 12 lances on you before you go down on the 13th tilt. :dunce:

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23 hours ago, FictionIsntReal said:

He also seized Deepwood Motte from the Ironborn prior to heading to Winterfell.

Sure, but Stannis got this reputation of being a seasoned veteran of battles even before he lost on the Blackwater. Tywin fears him much more than Renly back in AGoT.

And my approach here is simply a very general approach, asking the question:

Does it make sense to assume that 1-2 (minor) campaigns make a man a great warrior or general? And what is an 'informed assessment' of a man's qualities as a general or warrior worth when it is based on his successes in just 1-2 campaigns?

I mean, if we take the Tarly example again - we hear much fuzz about Mace (the actual general of the Reach army) claiming this victory, but how on earth can a single victory of Tarly's make him in this 'finest soldier of the Realm' guy? And how is it that men look down on Mace because he has never won any victories when most veterans in Westeros can only claim to have fought in a couple of battles at the most?

How is it that Cat can dismiss Renly's men all as the unbloodied 'summer knights'?

Surely such talk is supposed to imply that actually fighting in war changes you on a fundamental level - you are no longer playing at war, you are actually fighting in war, you actually kill people in direct or indirect combat, etc.

But there is no great gap between bloodied and unbloodied warriors since even the veterans fought only in 1-2 wars.

This is why I think the professionalism of a sellsword company like the Golden Company is completely different from the kind of thing the average Westerosi lord and his knightly retinue do. Because the sellswords of the Golden Company actually fight and kill for a living. They don't spend the majority of their lives on their country estates or playing knight at tourneys.

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9 hours ago, Ran said:

People are being rather absurd about tourneys. I can't think of a great jouster in the series who was not also a great warrior -- The Hound, the Mountain, Jaime, Loras, Barristan, Arthur Dayne, every single one of these has been cited by George (and characters in the novels) as being among the great warriors of the realm. It's true that not being a great jouster does not mean one is not a great warrior (as we see with the likes of Robert), but  the knights who excel at jousting are knights who excel at combat in general. 

There is a number of great knights who also happen to be great jousters, but just as not all great warriors (and we can add the Ironborn, especially Victarion, to the great knights who don't give a damn about jousting nonsense) are great jousters not all great jousters have to be great warriors. One can imagine that a man who really wants to excel at jousting as a tourney knight would actually focus mostly on the handling of lances and the mastery of his riding skills - and ignore the other chivalric arts which could help him in war or single combat with a blade, etc.

Was Leo Longthorn a great warrior or merely a great jouster? We don't know yet. But it is interesting that jousting is a sport knights and lords practice to pretty old age whereas one should assume that a man's worth in personal hand to hand combat should start to decline when he enters into his forties. Barristan Selmy is essentially a miracle.

9 hours ago, Ran said:

In a setting where warfare happens perhaps once a generation, there's going to be a lot of talented fighters who simply never see a battle.

Which is a factor that greatly figures into being a great warrior. You need the killer instinct that comes with actually killing people. See the posting above.

And think of Brienne, Cat's comment on the 'summer knights', etc.

A man who has never killed before can be as well trained as he want - if he isn't ready to kill, doesn't yet know if/how to do it, he will be at a tremendous disadvantage. And it is quite clear that the practice yard and tourneys don't prepare you for that the way an actual war does - it is playing at war, not fighting a war.

And Rhaegar never fought a war or in a battle before the Trident. He never commanded an army, he never killed a man before (as far as we know). And from his character he was never the kind of man who relished at the thought of finally doing that. Robert did. Robert liked beating men to pulp with his hammer his entire life. And he really had time to hone his skills in the field during the Rebellion.

I'm not saying that Rhaegar was a bad jouster, I just say he wasn't bloodied and he wasn't 'a natural warrior' the way many other Targaryens were.

And, frankly, I recall you being rather dismissive of the skills at arms of Jaehaerys I when we really have a pretty good source - within the historical framework, of course - indicating he was as good (or better) than Maegor the Cruel. Something like that we never heard about Rhaegar.

It is also quite clear that tourneys and melées prepare you for war as a knight. But they are not substitutes for actual battles. And when all we have to judge a man's abilities are tourneys then we don't have all that much. Which is the case for Rhaegar.

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12 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Sure, but Stannis got this reputation of being a seasoned veteran of battles even before he lost on the Blackwater. Tywin fears him much more than Renly back in AGoT.

And my approach here is simply a very general approach, asking the question:

Does it make sense to assume that 1-2 (minor) campaigns make a man a great warrior or general? And what is an 'informed assessment' of a man's qualities as a general or warrior worth when it is based on his successes in just 1-2 campaigns?

I agree, in that I think its more than that. There's more detail that we are not privy to that most (if not all) characters who make such assessments are, at least second hand if not first.

Little things like how the troops respond personally to a leader, how a leader listens to others (or not), makes decisions (or not), whether they have their logistics sorted out, whether they keep good order/discipline, whether they have scouts out when marching, whether they make good camps, how fast they move, etc etc etc.

12 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

I mean, if we take the Tarly example again - we hear much fuzz about Mace (the actual general of the Reach army) claiming this victory, but how on earth can a single victory of Tarly's make him in this 'finest soldier of the Realm' guy? And how is it that men look down on Mace because he has never won any victories when most veterans in Westeros can only claim to have fought in a couple of battles at the most?

I don't think its just the single victory that creates that assessment. I think its the other things, as above. We see enough from the few glimpses we have of both Mace Tyrell, to see that he's mostly an ineffectual ass unlikely to have truly 'won' a battle as much as had a battle won around him, and Randall Tarly, to see that asshole, or not he's likely an effective leader of troops. 

I think the general judgements of Westerosi fighting leaders reflect these as much as their actual 'official' battlefield results.

12 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

How is it that Cat can dismiss Renly's men all as the unbloodied 'summer knights'?

Because they are literally playing at war instead of moving quickly and decisively one way or another. The way their leaders are placed and housed the way their forces are spread makes it clear that they are not in any way ready for actual warfare, when Cat visits them.

12 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Surely such talk is supposed to imply that actually fighting in war changes you on a fundamental level - you are no longer playing at war, you are actually fighting in war, you actually kill people in direct or indirect combat, etc.

While this is partially true, I think its as much about the attitude toward being at war as the physical reality of killing. Consider Jaime before the Whispering Wood - while he's killed plenty of men and fought in battles already, its still always been a relatively easy game. Lannister forces have had overwhelming strength and initiative the whole time, and Jaime, while a relative veteran, is lazy as a commander. He's playing at war. 
Then consider one-handed Jaime marching back to Riverrun.  Even close to KL, with the war all but won, he's got outriders out properly. He's not the fighter he used to be, but he no longer plays at war. He's serious about the little things and he knows their true value, even when it appears their current value is nil.

12 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

But there is no great gap between bloodied and unbloodied warriors since even the veterans fought only in 1-2 wars.

There's a gap, still. Though having the right attitude and competencies can make the gap quite small.

12 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

This is why I think the professionalism of a sellsword company like the Golden Company is completely different from the kind of thing the average Westerosi lord and his knightly retinue do. Because the sellswords of the Golden Company actually fight and kill for a living. They don't spend the majority of their lives on their country estates or playing knight at tourneys.

I agree completely. 

3 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

It is also quite clear that tourneys and melées prepare you for war as a knight. But they are not substitutes for actual battles. And when all we have to judge a man's abilities are tourneys then we don't have all that much. Which is the case for Rhaegar.

I think there is much more to it than that. 

I think the westerosi people who can judge these things judge on more than we see. I think while we have to examine their judgement in each individual case, and not trust it unthinkingly, it is unwise of us to dismiss their judgements without good reason. They are considerably more expert than we are and likely have access to considerable amount of secondary data that we do not.

 

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10 minutes ago, corbon said:

I agree, in that I think its more than that. There's more detail that we are not privy to that most (if not all) characters who make such assessments are, at least second hand if not first.

Little things like how the troops respond personally to a leader, how a leader listens to others (or not), makes decisions (or not), whether they have their logistics sorted out, whether they keep good order/discipline, whether they have scouts out when marching, whether they make good camps, how fast they move, etc etc etc.

I'd agree with that as well - but then: Is one campaign enough to judge that? And wasn't the marching order, camp making, outrider stuff, etc. of the Tyrell army beating Robert at Ashford's Mace's responsibility as the actual general of the army? Tarly merely commanded the vanguard. Whatever tactics he used were great since they defeated Robert, but it is not wrong to say that Tarly basically only did what Mace expected him to.

Assessments like 'the finest soldier in the Realm' can only make sense if the man in question actually fought in more than just one war/battle. In peace time Tarly would not make camps all that often, nor would he command hosts and outriders and the like.

10 minutes ago, corbon said:

I don't think its just the single victory that creates that assessment. I think its the other things, as above. We see enough from the few glimpses we have of both Mace Tyrell, to see that he's mostly an ineffectual ass unlikely to have truly 'won' a battle as much as had a battle won around him, and Randall Tarly, to see that asshole, or not he's likely an effective leader of troops. 

Well, actually we only have a lot of people dismiss Mace a lot because he never won a victory while being on the battlefield, not completing sieges, etc. But nobody ever said anything about Mace being a bad commander. People are more pissed at Mace's ambition and sense of greatness showing itself in him insisting he defeated Robert, etc.

10 minutes ago, corbon said:

Because they are literally playing at war instead of moving quickly and decisively one way or another. The way their leaders are placed and housed the way their forces are spread makes it clear that they are not in any way ready for actual warfare, when Cat visits them.

Could be this plays a role there. But I also think the symbolism of the men there playing at war because they don't really know war and what it means also figures into that. That is, after all, also Brienne's story. She only gets bloodied in AFfC, and it is no nice experience.

Also, it is rather obvious (from the questions Renly's men ask Cat) that Renly's 'royal progress' is actually a deliberate stratagem. He has no intention of facing the Lannisters in battle if the Starks and Riverlords can do that for him. That's why they ask when exactly Robb intends to march against Lord Tywin.

10 minutes ago, corbon said:

While this is partially true, I think its as much about the attitude toward being at war as the physical reality of killing. Consider Jaime before the Whispering Wood - while he's killed plenty of men and fought in battles already, its still always been a relatively easy game. Lannister forces have had overwhelming strength and initiative the whole time, and Jaime, while a relative veteran, is lazy as a commander. He's playing at war. 
Then consider one-handed Jaime marching back to Riverrun.  Even close to KL, with the war all but won, he's got outriders out properly. He's not the fighter he used to be, but he no longer plays at war. He's serious about the little things and he knows their true value, even when it appears their current value is nil.

Yeah, but nobody ever numbered Jaime among the great generals of Westeros. He is a great knight and warrior, but he never was a great commander. And his narcissism really made him remain the same kind of brash and careless boy Loras is at nearly half his age when he storms Dragonstone. His capture and the loss of his hand sobered him up, but his approach in AFfC might turn out to bite him more in the ass than anything he did before. Edmure sees him as a literal monster and made that clear. He and his forces cannot expect any sort of mercy from the rebels in the Riverlands now.

10 minutes ago, corbon said:

There's a gap, still. Though having the right attitude and competencies can make the gap quite small.

Yeah, but if the gap is so small then those judgments are not worth all that much, are they? And one certainly can have all the secondary and technical qualities - outriders, camp-building, marching order, etc. - while one has not yet been bloodied. That's all just theory and craft to be learned. Yet apparently it is of tremendous importance to actually have fought and killed men in battle for your reputation and quality as a warrior or general.

And here the point simply is that since there are basically only civil wars, (minor) rebellions, and outlaw hunts fought in Westeros since the Conquest the overall framework of the world doesn't really seem to produce (m)any professional soldiers of the type the Golden Company should be.

I think I laid out where, at least for a decent junk of the Targaryen era, true warrior culture survived - the Dornish Marches (at least until the union), the Red Mountains of Dorne (same reason) the Vale (due to the constant trouble with the clansmen), some of the regions were there was continuous trouble with the Ironborn (Shield Islands, coastal regions on the western shores), northernmost parts of the North (due to the wildling incursions and the Skagosi rebellion).

That is not exactly a large portion of Westeros, is it?

10 minutes ago, corbon said:

I think the westerosi people who can judge these things judge on more than we see. I think while we have to examine their judgement in each individual case, and not trust it unthinkingly, it is unwise of us to dismiss their judgements without good reason. They are considerably more expert than we are and likely have access to considerable amount of secondary data that we do not.

Might be, but when we talk royal princes and the like we also have to keep in mind that such men are praised often beyond good sense - see above my comment to Ran about Jaehaerys I (the master-at-arms at Dragonstone basically tells him at the end of his training that he is a better fighter now than Maegor the Cruel - and the guy knew Maegor!). Ran thinks the guy sort of sucked up to his king there.

Many a knight or lord should and would do the same to any prince of House Targaryen who showed so much as an ounce of talent - this doesn't mean Rhaegar sucked, of course, but it does mean that we have no reason to believe he was even remotely in the same territory as Robert in the fighting department. Robert in his prime numbered among the greatest and strongest warriors of all of Westeros. Ned can scarcely lift his war hammer.

What Rhaegar definitely seems to be lacking in the fighting department would be the killer instinct - he didn't become a warrior because he wanted to fight and kill, he did it because he felt he had to. Combine that with the fact that Rhaegar was suffering from melancholy and depression and you get a man who would likely never be the equal of a man who, like Robert, is basically a war god incarnate, a man who laughs while he is beating men into pulp with his hammer.

Even if Rhaegar were as skilled with a sword as Robert was with his hammer, even if he were as powerfully built and as strong as Robert (which I don't think he was), his own character and inclinations would hold him back, would pretty much be like a millstone around his neck.

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7 hours ago, corbon said:

Because they are literally playing at war instead of moving quickly and decisively one way or another. The way their leaders are placed and housed the way their forces are spread makes it clear that they are not in any way ready for actual warfare, when Cat visits them.

Re-reading the chapter, I think you're taking the wrong thing out of it. Catelyn doesn't think at any time that the encampment looks chaotic or badly managed. It's the vast size of it that is her focus. It's a moving city. There's no reference to disorder -- siege engines are lined up along the verge, horse lines organized (but enormous, because there's so many horses), the stormlords are on the opposite bank and the reachlords the near one, etc. 

You reference Jaime and having proper outriders, but remember that Catelyn and her company was spotted half a day -- or perhaps 20 miles (which would be more like a full day for an entire army) -- from the encampment because of Renly's forces having placed far-eyes and outriders well in advance of his force. It sounds about as well-managed, organized, and defended as an army on the move 80,000 strong could be.

What we're seeing is two things: first, that Catelyn has suffered significant loss and grief and this colors her viewpoint; second, that Catelyn believes that they all have one over-riding priority -- defeating the Lannisters -- but it turns out that Renly and Catelyn don't actually share the same concerns regarding why and how that should be done. Catelyn wants them defeated for fear of her family, for fear of Robb dying on campaign or something happening to her daughters in King's Landing, and the sooner the better. But Renly doesn't share those concerns.  His slow, deliberate march, with tournaments and feasts to keep up moral and increase the devotion of his followers (while also providing them a chance to let off steam and practice at arms), is there because it's convenient for him to have the North and Riverlands fighting against the Westerlands. Robb's claimed a crown, Tywin's the sole significant supporter of Joffrey -- their tearing each other to shreds will make Renly's job that much easier when he rolls into King's Landing, sits the Iron Throne, and tells everyone (Robb included, if he survives Tywin) to bend the knee.

But this is something Catelyn doesn't even consider, because it's antithetical to her own priorities, and so to her it just looks foolish. Her view is understandable, but she's failing to see it from Renly's more ruthless, pragmatic perspective.

Finally, regarding the "knights of summer", it's not as if Catelyn's perspective was unopposed. Mathis Rowan, who seems well-regarded by men like Jaime and Kevan, an older man who's likely seen military action, doesn't take the same thing out of it that Catelyn does regarding their youth and enthusiasm. 

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4 hours ago, Ran said:

But this is something Catelyn doesn't even consider, because it's antithetical to her own priorities, and so to her it just looks foolish. Her view is understandable, but she's failing to see it from Renly's more ruthless, pragmatic perspective.

Finally, regarding the "knights of summer", it's not as if Catelyn's perspective was unopposed. Mathis Rowan, who seems well-regarded by men like Jaime and Kevan, an older man who's likely seen military action, doesn't take the same thing out of it that Catelyn does regarding their youth and enthusiasm. 

Yeah, sure, that was my point about Renly above, too. But the reason why I brought this thing into the thread is the general principle behind that - men who are yet unbloodied green boys are seen different than war veterans. And it is not that Cat was wrong in her assessment - Brienne and Loras both are the incarnations of this 'summer knight' concept. They don't yet know what it means to kill people, and they think war is little more than a fun adventure, basically.

On another level, George also deals with youth vs. older age - the young men (bloodied or not) trick themselves into believing they are immortal and invincible - Jaime has such delusions until he loses his hand and Loras until Dragonstone. Vice versa, we also have the concept of men growing older and more cautious in the process of that losing the spontaneity and brashness of youth - Tywin essentially was Robb back when he dealt with the Tarbecks and Reynes but has essentially forgotten the risks young men might take in war when he marches against Robb in AGoT. Jon Connington, on the other hand, was reluctant and cautious and noble in his youth and is now willing to take more risks as a more seasoned man (in no small part because he is a dead man walking, but still...).

The reason why this is important for the question at hand is that it doesn't seem convincing to me that men who never fought in an actual war - like Rhaegar - are compared to men who did. Rhaegar has neither experience in warfare nor in killing people until he rides to the Trident.

And the other part is that I find it not very convincing that men who fought at best in 1-2 wars are greatly praised for their abilities. If we could say, that Tarly, for instance, fought in a dozen battles and in six wars, say, or that he at least had joined a free company to fought in twenty of so campaigns in his youth we would have a case. But it isn't even clear whether the guy is old enough to have fought in the War of the Ninepenny Kings (which Mathis Rowan may have actually done, considering that the Redwyne girl Brynden Tully was supposed to marry ended up marrying him).

If we have men praising men as great general just because they won one battle, if we have men not exactly take into account the differences between veterans of war and green boys insofar as fighting abilities and leadership abilities are concerned, and if we ignore that men of the highest birth are regularly praised even beyond their actual skills then we have more than enough reason to doubt a lot of the praise people get.

We also have to take into account that those men who are born to the great houses usually get the best training and are thus very likely to become as good as at fighting and jousting as they possibly can, so it definitely makes sense that many scions of the great houses are numbered among the greatest jousters and warriors of the Seven Kingdoms.

But the problem we have here with Rhaegar is not just a Rhaegar problem - of the legendary Kingsguard or Aerys II only Selmy and Hightower are confirmed war veterans - they both fought in crucial capacities on the Stepstones. How many men did the great Arthur Dayne actually kill? In how many duels and actual combat situations did the man actually prove his worth as a warrior? What we know up to this point indicates only that Dayne successfully defeated a brotherhood of outlaws. Since there was basically no war during the reign of Aerys II Arthur Dayne clearly had no chance to show is mettle in actual wars, nor in any trials-by-combat where he defended the honor of his king, or even to prevent assassination attempts on him.

Thus goes: If Arthur Dayne's great reputation rests almost exclusively on his prowess in the training yard (he certainly could have fought in some campaigns back in Dorne for some reason before he joined the KG) then the judgment of him being this great guy might rest on a rather narrow empirical basis.

Am I alone in having issues with this, or is this something you guys do see to?

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, Ran said:

Re-reading the chapter, I think you're taking the wrong thing out of it. Catelyn doesn't think at any time that the encampment looks chaotic or badly managed. It's the vast size of it that is her focus. It's a moving city. There's no reference to disorder -- siege engines are lined up along the verge, horse lines organized (but enormous, because there's so many horses), the stormlords are on the opposite bank and the reachlords the near one, etc. 

I admit to not have read it for a while, though I listened to it within the last few months.

What I was talking about was not disorganisation or chaos or the like, but the way the army is split up (due to its size) on both sides of the river (thats a no-no!), and IIRC with the bulk of the foot at another location quite a considerable distance away (maybe a days march or more is the impression I had) but I'm not sure of that - maybe I'm misremembering.

I got the clear impression that although it was superficially doing many of the right things (like, as you say, outriders and such), indicating general competence by most of the leadership (heck, Tarly and many other veterans are part of it aren't they?), the army was really not configured to be ready for battle. Based on my thoughts, more than Cat's I think.
And fair enough (on their part) too, in a way. As you note, Renly isn't actually looking for battle, he's still posturing while waiting for his enemies to destroy each other.
So part of it is intentional, and part is no doubt the simple logistics of such a large host.

But that doesn't change the clear difference between a veteran at war and a politician playing at war. And thats the feel I got. Maybe it was coloured by Cat.  :dunno:

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You reference Jaime and having proper outriders, but remember that Catelyn and her company was spotted half a day -- or perhaps 20 miles (which would be more like a full day for an entire army) -- from the encampment because of Renly's forces having placed far-eyes and outriders well in advance of his force. It sounds about as well-managed, organized, and defended as an army on the move 80,000 strong could be.

Mostly agreed, as above.

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What we're seeing is two things: first, that Catelyn has suffered significant loss and grief and this colors her viewpoint; second, that Catelyn believes that they all have one over-riding priority -- defeating the Lannisters -- but it turns out that Renly and Catelyn don't actually share the same concerns regarding why and how that should be done. Catelyn wants them defeated for fear of her family, for fear of Robb dying on campaign or something happening to her daughters in King's Landing, and the sooner the better. But Renly doesn't share those concerns.  His slow, deliberate march, with tournaments and feasts to keep up moral and increase the devotion of his followers (while also providing them a chance to let off steam and practice at arms), is there because it's convenient for him to have the North and Riverlands fighting against the Westerlands. Robb's claimed a crown, Tywin's the sole significant supporter of Joffrey -- their tearing each other to shreds will make Renly's job that much easier when he rolls into King's Landing, sits the Iron Throne, and tells everyone (Robb included, if he survives Tywin) to bend the knee.

Agreed. 
Again, thats a difference between someone who is fighting for survival, and someone for whom war is still a game.

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But this is something Catelyn doesn't even consider, because it's antithetical to her own priorities, and so to her it just looks foolish. Her view is understandable, but she's failing to see it from Renly's more ruthless, pragmatic perspective.

Indeed.

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Finally, regarding the "knights of summer", it's not as if Catelyn's perspective was unopposed. Mathis Rowan, who seems well-regarded by men like Jaime and Kevan, an older man who's likely seen military action, doesn't take the same thing out of it that Catelyn does regarding their youth and enthusiasm. 

Agreed.

We are largely in agreement I think, I just  have a slightly extra feel, based (I think) on the wider picture, rather than Cat's observations. And I agree that Renly's doing a good job in general give the circumstances and his aims. I just still think its an illustration of the difference between warring and playing at war.

7 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

The reason why this is important for the question at hand is that it doesn't seem convincing to me that men who never fought in an actual war - like Rhaegar - are compared to men who did. Rhaegar has neither experience in warfare nor in killing people until he rides to the Trident.

And the other part is that I find it not very convincing that men who fought at best in 1-2 wars are greatly praised for their abilities.

Well, I for one, find the thoughts of the best people of the culture, with relevant experience, who understand these things a heck of a lot more than we do, more convincing than the rationale-ed-out thinking of an internet warrior from a modern culture. Especially when there is general agreement among them.
But thats me. B)

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Thus goes: If Arthur Dayne's great reputation rests almost exclusively on his prowess in the training yard (he certainly could have fought in some campaigns back in Dorne for some reason before he joined the KG) then the judgment of him being this great guy might rest on a rather narrow empirical basis.

Am I alone in having issues with this, or is this something you guys do see to?

From my perspective, you are not just alone, you are out in crazy land. :P
However, even without RDS factoring in, I doubt you are alone. Crazy land is a popular place these days. :D 

Edited by corbon

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Posted (edited)

@Lord Varys

Honestly, I feel part of the problem is that:

1) There are too few wars/rebellions/uprisings in general (No peasant rebellions, no religious schisms/holy wars (unless you count the FMU), no foreign wars in Essos (either for conquest or in support of one faction) or invasions from there, no sellsword mutinies, etc.)

2) The wars are almost all ridiculously short (Aegon's Conquest-2 years, the Dance-3, (inital) Conquest of Dorne-1 year, First and Third Blackfyre Rebellions-1 year, Ninepenny Kings-1.5 years, RR-1 year) despite the fact gathering and marching men takes time, not to mention it takes time for men to grow up and reproduce (Looking at you Vulture King (I))

3) Despite Westeros's oversized castle culture there is a dearth of sieges in practically all the wars shown thus far, which makes no sense

 

Edited by The Grey Wolf

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Posted (edited)

Re: Renly's split camp, my guess was that that was for practical reasons due to the sheer size of the host (they doubtless used barges on the Mander to ship in supplies, and the distribution would have been easier if they could land them on both sides of the river). Certainly not ideal, but then again they had plenty of opportunity to adjust things if an enemy approached, if they were going to have a full day's warning.

 

17 minutes ago, corbon said:

Well, I for one, find the thoughts of the best people of the culture, with relevant experience, who understand these things a heck of a lot more than we do, more convincing than the rationale-ed-out thinking of an internet warrior from a modern culture. Especially when there is general agreement among them.
But thats me. B)

100% agreement on this. There's no chance that people in Westeros generally delude themselves about who the capable warriors or captains are. It's too much a part of the culture. 

To put it another way, we've yet to come across someone touted as a great warrior or captain who turns out to be a complete fraud whose reputation is entirely unearned.  

Edited by Ran

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28 minutes ago, corbon said:

Well, I for one, find the thoughts of the best people of the culture, with relevant experience, who understand these things a heck of a lot more than we do, more convincing than the rationale-ed-out thinking of an internet warrior from a modern culture. Especially when there is general agreement among them.
But thats me. B)

That's just you begging the question. You just insert expert knowledge on the one side, insisting that expert knowledge must come out on the other side.

The other point is that argument is just an ad hoc explanation for things to go down your way. We don't know whether the various people are experts on the things they comment, nor do we know that many other factors or criteria figure into their claims and statements. It is certainly not impossible that they make informed, expert decisions, but the proper way to deal with such things is to not presuppose 'expert informed knowledge' because that's what we want certain knowledge to be - it is to actually look for evidence that the characters have such knowledge. If that's impossible then we should, in my opinion, not pretend we know a character has such expert informed knowledge.

But in the case we are talking about here it is not clear that even have expert knowledge in your sense. Nobody ever said Rhaegar was a great warrior, did they? Just that he was a great tourney knight - which only fools would doubt. I never talked about rigged tourneys or such nonsense. But it certainly is notable that Rhaegar rode against his Kingsguard buddies in tourneys - Daeron II apparently did not permit his KG to ride against his sons and grandsons. Do we really believe that the likes of Dayne and Whent really tried with all their hearts to throw the Prince of Dragonstone in the dirt?

I'd not be completely sure of that. And as Kyle the Cat shows tourneys don't have to be rigged for lesser men to throw themselves in the dirt if they think they can gain something from that.

28 minutes ago, corbon said:

From my perspective, you are not just alone, you are out in crazy land. :P
However, even without RDS factoring in, I doubt you are alone. Crazy land is a popular place these days. :D 

Seriously? We talk about men actually killing people. Gregor knows how that's done. Sandor, too. But Arthur Dayne? Does he truly? If so, we don't have any textual evidence for that (aside from the Kingswood campaign).

I mean, George has Stannis dismiss Ramsay as a general and warrior because he never won any proper victory. You do realize that his 'expert assessment' of Ramsay would just be nonsense if 'expert knowledge' can also declare men who have very little combat experience in the field among the greatest warriors of all time.

It should be consensus that there is a difference between fighting a war/battle - or even duels to the death, etc. - and just looking nice on a horse in a string of tourneys. And for Dayne we simply only have the Kingsguard Brotherhood campaign. We don't know anything about Dayne fighting in a battle, commanding men in a proper pitched battle and winning a victory. And we can reasonably sure that the man couldn't have fought in a proper war in Westeros since there simply were no wars in Westeros between 260 AC and 282 AC. That's just a fact. We don't even need to presuppose 'informed expert knowledge' to know that.

45 minutes ago, The Grey Wolf said:

@Lord Varys

Honestly, I feel part of the problem is that:

1) There are too few wars/rebellions/uprisings in general (No peasant rebellions, no religious schisms/holy wars (unless you count the FMU), no foreign wars in Essos (either for conquest or in support of one faction) or invasions from there, no sellsword mutinies, etc.)

2) The wars are almost all ridiculously short (Aegon's Conquest-2 years, the Dance-3, (inital) Conquest of Dorne-1 year, First and Third Blackfyre Rebellions-1 year, Ninepenny Kings-1.5 years, RR-1 year) despite the fact gathering and marching men takes time, not to mention it takes time for men to grow up and reproduce (Looking at you Vulture King (I))

3) Despite Westeros's oversized castle culture there is a dearth of sieges in practically all the wars shown thus far, which makes no sense

Well, perhaps one can assume there are so many outlaws and bandits loose in the Seven Kingdoms that this kind of thing helps to continuously hone the skills of the warrior class. But this is neither very convincing nor particularly satisfying. A culture where most, if not all, wars are basically police expeditions - hunting down outlaws and rebels is not proper warfare - would not really be prepared for fighting off invaders. 

Take Maegor as an example - we know he tracked down and slew this Giant of the Trident fellow. And if the guy was very ferocious and skilled and he personally slew him then this was a great feat at arms. But it didn't prepare him for fighting a pitched battle against the Faith Militant, did it?

I mean, the change from continuous warfare in the pre-Conquest era to continuous peace thereafter must have had a tremendous effect on the people. The people who were born, lived, and died during the reign of Jaehaerys I and Viserys I never knew war on their own soil. Daemon's war happened on the Stepstones, the Dornish wars were minor affairs which only involved the Stormlands and the Marches. Sure, there were wildling incursions in the North, and riots in winter, etc. but most of the Seven Kingsdoms knew peace and tranquility.

Theoretically knowing how to fight a pitched battle and practicing it in peace times, etc. is simply a completely different thing than actually going to war. And showing great skills at arms in the practice yard isn't the same as killing men in battle.

Garlan Tyrell certainly is a great fighter in the practice yard. But he first bloodied himself in a proper battle on the Blackwater. We have to wait and see whether this is enough for him to play with the real veterans. Loras learned that lesson the hard way.

And that is the core of the question:

Are our 'experts' simply celebrating themselves and their class when they praise men who (most likely) didn't see any or a lot of combat? Or do we truly have to take the words of such people as gospel, like corbon apparently wants to do?

55 minutes ago, Ran said:

Re: Renly's split camp, my guess was that that was for practical reasons due to the sheer size of the host (they doubtless used barges on the Mander to ship in supplies, and the distribution would have been easier if they could land them on both sides of the river). Certainly not ideal, but then again they had plenty of opportunity to adjust things if an enemy approached, if they were going to have a full day's warning.

One can also speculate when exactly the Stormlanders joined him. Renly's coronation was at Highgarden, so one imagines that the Reach men gathered under his banner first and the Stormlanders may have just recently met him at Bitterbridge.

55 minutes ago, Ran said:

100% agreement on this. There's no chance that people in Westeros generally delude themselves about who the capable warriors or captains are. It's too much a part of the culture.

To put it another way, we've yet to come across someone touted as a great warrior or captain who turns out to be a complete fraud whose reputation is entirely unearned.  

We have to precisely define what we are talking about - dueling qualities and physical strength, jousting, etc. are skills one can judge properly in the practice yard and in the lists. People judging such skills should be right.

But that's not the same as killing people in proper combat, no? I mean, we all know that Brienne can be as strong and well-trained as she wants, it still didn't properly prepare her for her first killings in AFfC, did it? If you lack the killer instinct you get problems in real combat no matter how strong or well-trained you are. In fact, if you know how to kill and have killed a lot of people already, this can help you in a duel even against an opponent who is stronger and better trained than you are. Just take Bronn and Vardis as an example. Or Gregor and Oberyn.

The other aspect is the way quality of leadership is assessed and judged. I admit, that this is another matter, I just raised that here to make an analogy.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

That's just you begging the question. You just insert expert knowledge on the one side, insisting that expert knowledge must come out on the other side.

No.
Its not just 'expert knowledge' on one side, its that there are a host of other factors in the assessment that we, with our limited textual data, don't have available. And much of the time 'they' do.

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The other point is that argument is just an ad hoc explanation for things to go down your way. We don't know whether the various people are experts on the things they comment, nor do we know that many other factors or criteria figure into their claims and statements. It is certainly not impossible that they make informed, expert decisions, but the proper way to deal with such things is to not presuppose 'expert informed knowledge' because that's what we want certain knowledge to be - it is to actually look for evidence that the characters have such knowledge.

We have too limited a dataset to do that accurately. So instead what we do is assess the assessors and judge for ourselves whether they are likely to have reasonable grounds to make such an assessment.

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If that's impossible then we should, in my opinion, not pretend we know a character has such expert informed knowledge.

But in the case we are talking about here it is not clear that even have expert knowledge in your sense. Nobody ever said Rhaegar was a great warrior, did they?

Barristan said outright that Rhaegar was "a most puissant warrior" (and indicated that was not the whole story). Barristan knew his character, saw him lead men, saw him train, saw him joust in tourneys (probably both trained against him and definitely jousted against him) and saw him campaign in the field leading an army.

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Just that he was a great tourney knight

They didn't actually say that (at least that I can find).
Cersei tells us not that Rhaegar was a great tourney knight, but that two of her uncles and a dozen of her fathers finest knights fell before him. The same with others. Mostly the speak of his results or skills, not greatness as a tourney knight (I don't have time to source all the quotes)

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- which only fools would doubt.

Plenty of those around here. :)

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I never talked about rigged tourneys or such nonsense. But it certainly is notable that Rhaegar rode against his Kingsguard buddies in tourneys - Daeron II apparently did not permit his KG to ride against his sons and grandsons. Do we really believe that the likes of Dayne and Whent really tried with all their hearts to throw the Prince of Dragonstone in the dirt?

Given that they both actually did throw him to the dirt, what have you got except your own feelings to doubt them?
I'll accept that you might not have been able to try in their position. But not that they couldn't have. In fact, I take Barristan's regret that he wasn't a finer knight as evidence that he did try with his whole heart, but Rhaegar was better on the day (I do understand that others read that a different way and would use it as evidence that Barristan didn't try, I just don't agree with their reading - it doesn't fit with Barristan's character, or any other thoughts or words).

Oberyn Martell?
Brandon Stark?
Steffon Baratheon?
Simon Toyne (perhaps)?

Franky, your a claiming to not talk of rigged tourneys, while talking of rigged tourneys, just in a more subtle way.

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I'd not be completely sure of that. And as Kyle the Cat shows tourneys don't have to be rigged for lesser men to throw themselves in the dirt if they think they can gain something from that.

Really? And what to Selmy or Dayne truly have to gain from throwing their matches (12 lances!) against Rhaegar. And why sometimes but not always. 

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Seriously? We talk about men actually killing people. Gregor knows how that's done. Sandor, too. But Arthur Dayne? Does he truly? If so, we don't have any textual evidence for that (aside from the Kingswood campaign).

Yep. Thats the level of your argument. Despite the campaign against the Kingswood Brotherhood (and we know that wasn't going well for a start, until Dayne changed tacks), you argue Arthur Dayne, of Aerys' Kingsguard, doesn't truly know about killing people. 
That speaks for itself.

Not to mention that its Barristan Selmy who tells us most about Rhaegar. Like he's not fit to judge...

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I mean, George has Stannis dismiss Ramsay as a general and warrior because he never won any proper victory. You do realize that his 'expert assessment' of Ramsay would just be nonsense if 'expert knowledge' can also declare men who have very little combat experience in the field among the greatest warriors of all time.

Ramsay has no record for anything other than brutality. None in play-war (tourneys), none in personal combat, none in leading men. I think Stannis is putting together all the things he's heard about Ramsey and the Boltons and the north, and made a judgement. He might be wrong. But I think its a more expert and more likely to be correct judgement than your or I can make at this stage - though only GRRM will actually decide. Ramsay might be the new Robb Stark for all we, or Stannis, knows.
Tywin, a better judge than most I think, did after all get his assessment of Robb Stark completely wrong for a start. 
I think Stannis would have (did?) make a similar judgement about Robb as he does about Ramsay, but been less sure of it, due to the respect he has for Ned.

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Theoretically knowing how to fight a pitched battle and practicing it in peace times, etc. is simply a completely different thing than actually going to war. And showing great skills at arms in the practice yard isn't the same as killing men in battle.

But it is highly relevant. Its not the only thing, but it is a very big thing and its the main thing that can be assessed.

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And that is the core of the question:

Are our 'experts' simply celebrating themselves and their class when they praise men who (most likely) didn't see any or a lot of combat? Or do we truly have to take the words of such people as gospel, like corbon apparently wants to do?

and that sort of gross misrepresentation doesn't help you either :rolleyes:

On 6/24/2019 at 12:43 PM, corbon said:

I think while we have to examine their judgement in each individual case, and not trust it unthinkingly, it is unwise of us to dismiss their judgements without good reason. They are considerably more expert than we are and likely have access to considerable amount of secondary data that we do not.

But, to some extent they are just celebrating their class. They have their own blinkers, which few can past, which is why Tywin underestimated Robb so badly early on.

That doesn't mean we should dismiss their judgement. 
And whether we accept or dismiss it, chances are they will be right sometimes and wrong sometimes. 

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We have to precisely define what we are talking about - dueling qualities and physical strength, jousting, etc. are skills one can judge properly in the practice yard and in the lists. People judging such skills should be right.

We are talking about the judgment of a character as a warrior. In the OP case, Rhaegar, but I think we are talking more generally than that now - I think your Ramsey case is a valid example, for example. What that means is different in different circumstances, but in a generalised case like this I personally see it as the sum of personal combat skills, leadership of men and leadership or armies, probably leaning on personal combat skills but with the other aspects having the ability to 'cancel' status.

Spoiler

To take the show Mace for an example, I'd suggest that its entirely possible to make an assessment based entirely on his effectual character outside of combat that he's a terrible 'warrior' personally and as a leader/general. That assessment might be wrong, but I'd call it reasonably informed.

 

Edited by corbon

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I must admit it's been a while since I read Cat's chapters about Renly, so I'm basing this solely on my impressions rather than facts, but I think that the "summer children" notion is based on the attitude, rather than an actual display of strategic skills or lack thereoff. All those colours and wealth and fun and leisure... War is a dirty, gritty business, in which all those young, colourful knights die ugly deaths, but they behave as if they could live forever. It's like a play to them, just like when Renly dresses up as XY and comes showing off, 'look, I'm XY'. They're kids playing at war, with no idea what it entails. IIRC, there is a little callback to this when Sansa is talking to Loras and she brings up the names of all his cool young friends, and he quickly gets in a foul mood since they are dead, dead, dead, some by his own hand.

Re: strategic skills versus lack of battles: didn't GRRM say that while there are only a couple of named major battles, there were lots of smaller skirmishes in between? IMHO, enough opportunity for people to show their merit on a day-to-day basis. Also, from what we see of Randyll Tarly in Brienne's PoV (aside from him being a douche towards her) is that he is a no-nonsense commander exercising strict control, that is also telling.

 

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