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Tyrion1991

An issue with the Nights Watch

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So the Nights Watch Guard the border of the North and are responsible for policing it against Wildling incursions. This involves patrols, raids and all the attendant violence that creates. We see Qhorin executing prisoners and all the typical blood letting you expect.

This is all intended so that Jon has his Dances With Wolves moment and tries to (in the way that causes the greatest amount of death) reconcile the Wildlings and the NW against the real threat.

My problem with this is that it means the NW takes all the flak and blame for atrocities and racism towards the wildlings. It’s never the North that’s committing these crimes even though they directly benefit from them. This is why Jon gets hate for being a crow but not for being a Stark.

I think this is problematic because it means Jon doesn’t have to face the atrocities committed by his own people; just this clearly corrupt organisation he joined like a year ago. It’s not like Avatar where our hero realises the humans are the baddies, it’s just this select institution and the Northmen have no blood on their hands. Indeed, you have wildlings attack Bran to make the North seem like the innocent party. Indeed you even have historical instances like Bael the Bard and the Night King which are there to imply that the NW is the problem keeping the First Men from making common cause. That they have a shared history.

I think this makes it too easy for Jon. He doesn’t have to accept that his people have done wrong to the Wildlings and doesn’t have to accept any shame for how they’ve been treated. It also makes a North Wildling alliance much easier because there isn’t actually a history of intense conflict because the NW contains the Wildlings and no King Beyond the Wall pierced the wall in centuries. 

I think George should have had the North be more directly and recently involved in suppressing the Wildlings. Plus he should have went further in terms of the violence employed against the Wildlings. IMO he was too ambivalent on this point so as to not sully the image of the North as this perfect peaceful Kingdom under the Starks by having the NW fight their war for them.

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1 hour ago, Tyrion1991 said:

My problem with this is that it means the NW takes all the flak and blame for atrocities and racism towards the wildlings. It’s never the North that’s committing these crimes even though they directly benefit from them. This is why Jon gets hate for being a crow but not for being a Stark.

Exactly where do see the racism in this story? Both wildlings and northmen are the descendants of the first men, so they are the same race of people. Also, I think you are seeing this conflict all wrong. You see the wildlings as victims, when they clearly aren't. The North & Night's Watch vs. free folk conflict is very much an ordinary border/territory conflict that has been going on for a very long time and every new generation inherits it because it is never resolved. Both sides claim to be in the right, when in reality, both are guilty of creating the conflict. Or the conflict has been going on for so long that nobody just doesn't remember anymore who started. 

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1 minute ago, miyuki said:

Exactly where do see the racism in this story? Both wildlings and northmen are the descendants of the first men, so they are the same race of people. Also, I think you are seeing this conflict all wrong. You see the wildlings as victims, when they clearly aren't. The North & Night's Watch vs. free folk conflict is very much an ordinary border/territory conflict that has been going on for a very long time and every new generation inherits it because it is never resolved. Both sides claim to be in the right, when in reality, both are guilty of creating the conflict. Or the conflict has been going on for so long that nobody just doesn't remember anymore who started. 

Reminds me of the Berlin Wall separating families and people who were once a nation.

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2 minutes ago, LynnS said:

Reminds me of the Berlin Wall separating families and people who were once a nation.

Or Celtic Britain separated by Hadrian's Wall.

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46 minutes ago, miyuki said:

Exactly where do see the racism in this story? Both wildlings and northmen are the descendants of the first men, so they are the same race of people. Also, I think you are seeing this conflict all wrong. You see the wildlings as victims, when they clearly aren't. The North & Night's Watch vs. free folk conflict is very much an ordinary border/territory conflict that has been going on for a very long time and every new generation inherits it because it is never resolved. Both sides claim to be in the right, when in reality, both are guilty of creating the conflict. Or the conflict has been going on for so long that nobody just doesn't remember anymore who started. 

 

They regard the wildlings as barbarians. Racism can refer to hatred against a separate culture or nation even if ethnically they are the same people. 

So the Mountain raiding the Riverlands is an “ordinary border conflict” as well? If we are meant to see the NW as having not committed any real crimes then it just makes Jons moral dilemma easier; he doesn’t have blood on his hands and isn’t tainted by association.

The Wildlings are the victims. A Starks built a wall which allowed the elites of that Kingdom to seize the richest lands for themselves. They then commited genocide against the giants just as they did the Children of the Forest. This left the Wildlings in a frozen wasteland where they are condemned to a life of hardship. Not content with this they then send out the sweepings of Kings Landing and Oldtown to cut the throat of any Wildling they come across. I get that it’s not considered empire building because a Stark does it but I think that’s part of why the NW was written into the story.

My point is that the NW in the story is doing the North’s dirty work and it’s done to avoid impinging against the North’s image as the good guys. Which allows Jon to keep his Northern identity as a Stark and bring the Wildlings into he fold. You would almost be tempted to think that the Southerners built the wall and NW the way this situation is depicted.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Tyrion1991 said:

it’s just this select institution and the Northmen have no blood on their hands. Indeed, you have wildlings attack Bran to make the North seem like the innocent party. Indeed you even have historical instances like Bael the Bard and the Night King which are there to imply that the NW is the problem keeping the First Men from making common cause. That they have a shared history.

I must say I have never interpreted the narrative that way... I believe there are several displays of animosity between northman towards 'wildlings' (from Umbers and Karstarks and the stories Old Nan tells the kids, for example) and making common cause won't be easy at all. The Night's Watch is basically mantained by the northern houses (like Lord Stark sending 20 horses to the Watch in the beginning of AGOT). While Jeor Mormont does say the Night's Watch has forgotte its true purpose, I think it's a stretch to say it's a currupted institution. The people north of the Wall do raid and plunder the lands south of the Wall after all...

2 hours ago, Tyrion1991 said:

 the humans are the baddies

That is a very simplistic statement I'm not sure I agree with, but I guess I understand your meaning. There are a few things I'd like to put forward about this specific topic: 

- I do believe Jon understands that "good" vs "bad" or "good" vs "evil" is not a simple dichotomy and that people have both in them. He does not seem to vilify any particular group, be it his Night's Watch brothers, the free folk, the northmen or the king's men... I tend to disagree with your assement of Jon's characters, I think.

- I don't think it's neessary for the characters to reach such conclusions in universe. If that happened all the time, it would be cheap... This is fiction, it's literature. There shouldn't be and aesop or a lesson in the end. As critical readers, we are able to reach our own conclusions about the story told, and they need not to be the same. Though some interpretations may be closer to what was originally intended than others, the way we read says more about ourselves than any shortcomings the author might have had getting a point across. If an author wants to get a point across, he should write an essay, not fiction. When we talk about ASOIAF specifically we need to take into account to POV structure and what it implies to the narrative. It is expected that our interpretation as readers will be different than the interpretations characters reach in universe. Why should Jon need to reach some morally-right conclusion (like "humans are the baddies") if he is a flawed human character? Is it less interesting to read about him if he doesn't see things the way you do?

Edited by Lady Dacey

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2 hours ago, Lady Dacey said:

I must say I have never interpreted the narrative that way... I believe there are several displays of animosity between northman towards 'wildlings' (from Umbers and Karstarks and the stories Old Nan tells the kids, for example) and making common cause won't be easy at all. The Night's Watch is basically mantained by the northern houses (like Lord Stark sending 20 horses to the Watch in the beginning of AGOT). While Jeor Mormont does say the Night's Watch has forgotte its true purpose, I think it's a stretch to say it's a currupted institution. The people north of the Wall do raid and plunder the lands south of the Wall after all...

That is a very simplistic statement I'm not sure I agree with, but I guess I understand your meaning. There are a few things I'd like to put forward about this specific topic: 

- I do believe Jon understands that "good" vs "bad" or "good" vs "evil" is not a simple dichotomy and that people have both in them. He does not seem to vilify any particular group, be it his Night's Watch brothers, the free folk, the northmen or the king's men... I tend to disagree with your assement of Jon's characters, I think.

- I don't think it's neessary for the characters to reach such conclusions in universe. If that happened all the time, it would be cheap... This is fiction, it's literature. There shouldn't be and aesop or a lesson in the end. As critical readers, we are able to reach our own conclusions about the story told, and they need not to be the same. Though some interpretations may be closer to what was originally intended than others, the way we read says more about ourselves than any shortcomings the author might have had getting a point across. If an author wants to get a point across, he should write an essay, not fiction. When we talk about ASOIAF specifically we need to take into account to POV structure and what it implies to the narrative. It is expected that our interpretation as readers will be different than the interpretations characters reach in universe. Why should Jon need to reach some morally-right conclusion (like "humans are the baddies") if he is a flawed human character? Is it less interesting to read about him if he doesn't see things the way you do?

 

A key plot point is that the NW isn’t being properly supported. Certainly not to the point where you can say that the North is culpable for the crimes of the NW.

Because the relationship could be far more fraught. Consider the difference between, for example, sending weapons to South Vietnam versus a military intervention; very different circumstances. So if the North was directly involved in raiding the Far North and culling the Wildling population that would make any alliance much harder. As it stands, there hasn’t been an invasion in centuries and the North has only stories and the occasional raid. So we are talking a very minor animosity. No wildling can seriously say that “The Southerners scalped my father and drove the village into the woods”. So George has downplayed how violent this conflict should be. Which odd. The Lannister’s don’t consider the Starks and Tully’s to be subhuman barbarians but that conflict is more bitter and bloody?

How is the NW sending it’s rangers north of the wall to attack the wildlings not raiding? That is a double standard. Just because the NW is a status quo force shouldn’t automatically give it the moral high ground. 

It definitely is a corrupt institution with maggots writhing in its belly. It’s a penal colony filled with the scum of the earth and is the only confirmed human organisation to have allied with the Others. It has one job and it’s not even that difficult once they know they’re out there. Plus it’s mostly southern Lords who are the problem characters in the NW. Even our first chapter has a Royce take the fall rather than an Umbar or a Karstark. 

It’s not a morally grey situation at all. The wonder boy from the North sees the right of it and is trying  to make common cause with these silly wildlings who have been attacking  the defenceless North. Because the North is the injured party in all of this and have no responsibility to anyone else or anything to make amends for. That, to me, isn’t a very grey story. It means that Jon can stand aloof from the traditionalists of the NW without having to disavow his Northern allegiance. This is where the Avatar comparison I made cake in. It’s important that the hero overcomes his prejudice for the greater good; even if it means acting against “his own kind”. Jon fundamentally does not need to do this and it lessens the conflict he faces. 

 

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3 hours ago, Tyrion1991 said:

They regard the wildlings as barbarians. Racism can refer to hatred against a separate culture or nation even if ethnically they are the same people. 

Nope, racism is all about race. Don't change the meaning of words.

3 hours ago, Tyrion1991 said:

So the Mountain raiding the Riverlands is an “ordinary border conflict” as well? If we are meant to see the NW as having not committed any real crimes then it just makes Jons moral dilemma easier; he doesn’t have blood on his hands and isn’t tainted by association.

Nope. The Mountain pillaging the Riverlands was Tywin's war strategy. When the wildlings pillage then it's because they consider all land free and themselves the free folk. They follow strength and raping and pillaging for them is just a right of the strongest. Same rules apply on how they take their women.

3 hours ago, Tyrion1991 said:

The Wildlings are the victims. A Starks built a wall which allowed the elites of that Kingdom to seize the richest lands for themselves. They then commited genocide against the giants just as they did the Children of the Forest. This left the Wildlings in a frozen wasteland where they are condemned to a life of hardship. Not content with this they then send out the sweepings of Kings Landing and Oldtown to cut the throat of any Wildling they come across. I get that it’s not considered empire building because a Stark does it but I think that’s part of why the NW was written into the story.

The Wall was not built so the Starks could seize rich lands, but to defend the realms of men from whatever lies beyond it. Some people stayed on the wrong side of that wall and that is the cause of the conflict. The wildlings are not the victims of the Starks but the victims of circumstance. I think you are inserting a 21st century liberal view into a medieval fantasy story and that's not the best way to read into these things because then everyone is a sexist, racist etc etc. 

4 hours ago, Tyrion1991 said:

My point is that the NW in the story is doing the North’s dirty work and it’s done to avoid impinging against the North’s image as the good guys. Which allows Jon to keep his Northern identity as a Stark and bring the Wildlings into he fold. You would almost be tempted to think that the Southerners built the wall and NW the way this situation is depicted.

Really hard to agree with this, since the NW is very well regarded within all the northern noble houses, especially with the Starks. The northerners understand that the North must be protected from the north and whatever is beyond the wall. Wildlings are not the protagonists of their concern, again, they are the victims of circumstance.

 

The wildling-Night's Watch relations are complicated and they have been killing each other for a very long time. Saying that there is a clear side whose faulty is not tangible. Mance said in ASOS, free folk and NW associate with each other more than most people know in things like trade. This more adds to the grey area to their relations.

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1 hour ago, miyuki said:

Nope, racism is all about race. Don't change the meaning of words.

Nope. The Mountain pillaging the Riverlands was Tywin's war strategy. When the wildlings pillage then it's because they consider all land free and themselves the free folk. They follow strength and raping and pillaging for them is just a right of the strongest. Same rules apply on how they take their women.

The Wall was not built so the Starks could seize rich lands, but to defend the realms of men from whatever lies beyond it. Some people stayed on the wrong side of that wall and that is the cause of the conflict. The wildlings are not the victims of the Starks but the victims of circumstance. I think you are inserting a 21st century liberal view into a medieval fantasy story and that's not the best way to read into these things because then everyone is a sexist, racist etc etc. 

Really hard to agree with this, since the NW is very well regarded within all the northern noble houses, especially with the Starks. The northerners understand that the North must be protected from the north and whatever is beyond the wall. Wildlings are not the protagonists of their concern, again, they are the victims of circumstance.

 

The wildling-Night's Watch relations are complicated and they have been killing each other for a very long time. Saying that there is a clear side whose faulty is not tangible. Mance said in ASOS, free folk and NW associate with each other more than most people know in things like trade. This more adds to the grey area to their relations.

 

A deep cultural and societal difference that finds its expression in extreme violence and hatred then. 

The NW commits raiding as well. It simply isn’t depicted this way in the text. You’re telling me none of the Rangers have ever developed a taste for murdering these barbarians and taking their women? In an organisation comprising the dregs of the dungeons? That seems extremely unlikely. Unlike the South there isn’t any Kings Law or code of chivalry; it should be A LOT more violent than what’s depicted. The NW should be basically scalping every wildling they find under those conditions. This doesn’t happen because George wants the reader to have some sympathy for the NW and not have Jon made to look bad by association. 

It’s what they’ve been using the wall to do for the past few millennia. They’ve made a border here and that frontier is an act of state power. The magical wall could not be there and the result would be the same as this is where the North has drawn its frontier. It’s not some innocent chance piece of fate. That doesn’t mean the North can’t trade with the Wildlings for furs and allow some movement of peaceful people. Rome and China managed their frontiers via trade in this manner. Instead the starks operate a kill on sight policy with the Wildlings and shun any contact with them.

Far from it. I just do not like an implicit double standard in the text where the Greyjoys are depicted as this backwards warrior society but the North is this idealised image of Anglo Saxon England. Rob Stark could not “reign his men in” or they would have starved. 20 thousand men should have resulted in them living off the land and pillaging the countryside like a plague of locusts; at best. At worst his army should have been no different than that of Edward the Third in France; actively slaughtering the peasantry. So George does apply modern liberal values he’s just better at concealing it than other writers. He’s all but screaming “oh but if a Stark was King then everything would be alright because the Wolf’s blood is pure and untainted.”.

It’s very lukewarm support. This is why  none of the Northern Houses want to help against the Wildlings (again preventing bad blood) and why Rob didn’t heed the Watches call to aid. It’s low on the priority list. But my point is that the blood of the wildlings isn’t on their hands.

Its not complicated at all. So far you’ve said that George has made this all a big misunderstanding between two groups that are basically the same and haven’t committed any major atrocities against one another. Little tit for tat and it’s really those rotten southern eggs in the Watch causing the bother. That’s hardly a deep blood feud that’s a great obstacle for Jon to overcome. He should have had a personal reason to hate the Wildlings to make the thought of making peace difficult. Plus show don’t tell. If George wanted to show that the North and Wildlings have this truly violent and vicious history of conflict then he has to do a little more than some scruffy fellows trying to rob Bran. Simply telling me that some Stark a thousand years ago killed a King beyond the wall in a third party book doesn’t really do it. The same goes for all the evil and stupid Starks only being ancient figures vaguely mentioned in the World of Ice and Fire. Because he wants to stress that the Wolfs Blood is pure.

 

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25 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

A deep cultural and societal difference that finds its expression in extreme violence and hatred then. The NW commits raiding as well. It simply isn’t depicted this way in the text. You’re telling me none of the Rangers have ever developed a taste for murdering these barbarians and taking their women? In an organisation comprising the dregs of the dungeons? That seems extremely unlikely. Unlike the South there isn’t any Kings Law or code of chivalry; it should be A LOT more violent than what’s depicted. The NW should be basically scalping every wildling they find under those conditions. This doesn’t happen because George wants the reader to have some sympathy for the NW and not have Jon made to look bad by association. 

The Night's Watch infantry are made up of common men, some of which are from the dungeons.  Their leadership is almost entirely knightly or nobly, and the organization is run as a tight ship military, much more so than any other organization we've seen in Westeros.  There's no way the Lord Commander would be able to effectively run the Night Watch if his rangers were out reaving amongst the wildlings.  You'd get mutinies and desertions quickly.  Discipline has to be maintained or the whole thing falls apart. The majority of Night Watch don't even go on rangings, mostly they just sit around and guard their ice wall.   They do counter raids against known hostile forces of wildlings, but their relationship is not entirely violent, as can be seen by their behavior with Craster.   They're also aware of various wildling villages (and not as targets), because they visit them on their 300 man ranging.
 

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20 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

This doesn’t happen because George wants the reader to have some sympathy for the NW and not have Jon made to look bad by association. 

Doesn't it really not happen? Men of NW are not shy about their love for killing wildlings. Just like wildlings aren't shy about their love for killing crows. 

21 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

The NW commits raiding as well.

Well, yes, of course. They both kill each other. It's what they do and it's why they hate each other.

 

22 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

The magical wall could not be there and the result would be the same as this is where the North has drawn its frontier. It’s not some innocent chance piece of fate. That doesn’t mean the North can’t trade with the Wildlings for furs and allow some movement of peaceful people. Rome and China managed their frontiers via trade in this manner. Instead the starks operate a kill on sight policy with the Wildlings and shun any contact with them.

Except everything would be vastly different if there'd be no wall. There would likely be no free folk and the North would stretch in to the north pole. Or maybe there would be another constituent kingdom, "The Real North" or whatever :) Again, the Wall is not there to hold back wildlings, but the Others. The fact that over the millenia the fight against the supernatural turned into the fight against the wildlings is not a plan of the North or the Starks. It's a consequence of prior events, like building the Wall against magical stuff.

27 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

Far from it. I just do not like an implicit double standard in the text where the Greyjoys are depicted as this backwards warrior society but the North is this idealised image of Anglo Saxon England. Rob Stark could not “reign his men in” or they would have starved. 20 thousand men should have resulted in them living off the land and pillaging the countryside like a plague of locusts; at best. At worst his army should have been no different than that of Edward the Third in France; actively slaughtering the peasantry. So George does apply modern liberal values he’s just better at concealing it than other writers. He’s all but screaming “oh but if a Stark was King then everything would be alright because the Wolf’s blood is pure and untainted.”.

We do get Greyjoy POV-s later on and for me personally, reading Victarion chapters paints me the opposite of a backwards warrior society. But I could respect your opinion on this and I could see why you'd feel like this since most POV-s are anti-Greyjoy. As for your point about Robb, he DOES pillage for supplies. In ACOK it is explicitly described in one of Catelyn's POV after Robb attacked Stafford Lannister how all the land was pillaged and burned, all the cows stolen etc. So Robb does not get +250% supply bonus from the old gods just because he is a Stark.

32 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

Its not complicated at all. So far you’ve said that George has made this all a big misunderstanding between two groups that are basically the same and haven’t committed any major atrocities against one another. Little tit for tat and it’s really those rotten southern eggs in the Watch causing the bother. That’s hardly a deep blood feud that’s a great obstacle for Jon to overcome. He should have had a personal reason to hate the Wildlings to make the thought of making peace difficult. Plus show don’t tell. If George wanted to show that the North and Wildlings have this truly violent and vicious history of conflict then he has to do a little more than some scruffy fellows trying to rob Bran. Simply telling me that some Stark a thousand years ago killed a King beyond the wall in a third party book doesn’t really do it. The same goes for all the evil and stupid Starks only being ancient figures vaguely mentioned in the World of Ice and Fire. Because he wants to stress that the Wolfs Blood is pure.

 

I don't really read the story this way.  Jon does have his misconceptions about the wildlings at the start of the series but after spending time with them those are changed. But Jon still recognizes the deficiencies of the free folk like the lack of order.  As a reader, I followed the same path. In the first two books, I saw wildlings as just wild people, barbarians. But after spending time with them in ASOS, I began to appreciate that they are another group of people, just like the rest. The moment when they sang about the last giant was a really epic moment, I thought. I just don't see why you think this isn't enough, why Jon needs more reasons or why the Starks need blame for this story to work better. Jon got over his misconceptions and he uses his newfound enlightenment to pursue the greater good, that is uniting two people against the common enemy. His plan fails and he gets stabbed, because the rest of the NW still believes what they have believed for almost forever - the the wildlings are dangerous. It IS complicated, because you can't really blame anyone in this situation, except for The Others who were the reason the Wall, NW all these things began in the first place.

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28 minutes ago, miyuki said:

Doesn't it really not happen? Men of NW are not shy about their love for killing wildlings. Just like wildlings aren't shy about their love for killing crows. 

Well, yes, of course. They both kill each other. It's what they do and it's why they hate each other.

 

Except everything would be vastly different if there'd be no wall. There would likely be no free folk and the North would stretch in to the north pole. Or maybe there would be another constituent kingdom, "The Real North" or whatever :) Again, the Wall is not there to hold back wildlings, but the Others. The fact that over the millenia the fight against the supernatural turned into the fight against the wildlings is not a plan of the North or the Starks. It's a consequence of prior events, like building the Wall against magical stuff.

We do get Greyjoy POV-s later on and for me personally, reading Victarion chapters paints me the opposite of a backwards warrior society. But I could respect your opinion on this and I could see why you'd feel like this since most POV-s are anti-Greyjoy. As for your point about Robb, he DOES pillage for supplies. In ACOK it is explicitly described in one of Catelyn's POV after Robb attacked Stafford Lannister how all the land was pillaged and burned, all the cows stolen etc. So Robb does not get +250% supply bonus from the old gods just because he is a Stark.

I don't really read the story this way.  Jon does have his misconceptions about the wildlings at the start of the series but after spending time with them those are changed. But Jon still recognizes the deficiencies of the free folk like the lack of order.  As a reader, I followed the same path. In the first two books, I saw wildlings as just wild people, barbarians. But after spending time with them in ASOS, I began to appreciate that they are another group of people, just like the rest. The moment when they sang about the last giant was a really epic moment, I thought. I just don't see why you think this isn't enough, why Jon needs more reasons or why the Starks need blame for this story to work better. Jon got over his misconceptions and he uses his newfound enlightenment to pursue the greater good, that is uniting two people against the common enemy. His plan fails and he gets stabbed, because the rest of the NW still believes what they have believed for almost forever - the the wildlings are dangerous. It IS complicated, because you can't really blame anyone in this situation, except for The Others who were the reason the Wall, NW all these things began in the first place.

 

Nowhere near as often. The closest you get to this is Qhorin asking Jon to kill Ygritte. If he had been a border reaver going into Scotland his initiation would likely have been a lot more bloody than this. So George is very much watering down how violent frontier raiding like this would be.

But the text doesn’t lead you into that criticism. It’s set up that the NW is a disciplined military force, a grittier version of the Dunidine or Ithilian rangers and they keep the “scum of the earth” under the lash. Which is extremely unlikely given the impoverished state of the NW, the standard of its officers and the fact it’s a penal unit. Whereas we have lots of mentions of Wildlings raiding the North etc etc

Just because there is a big wall doesn’t mean they can’t cross it. I am amazed no Stark King ever did try to conquer the Far North. Really the Nights Watch should be closer to the Russians conquest of Siberia. So, yes, it really is a national boundary that just happens to have a magic wall there. 

I am surprised you read Vics POV like that. His POV does more to discredit the Ironborn than Theons chapters. You see first hand how their culture of endless war is destroying them and how blind they are to this. I honestly never felt as if I was asked by the writer to criticise Jon Snow or Bran in a similar manner or interrogate his family. You are also asked to do this with Dany, almost from Mirri onwards. But with the Ironborn, to me, every point you could make about this violent warrior aristocracy that disdains trade and learning could easily be applied to the North; but it isn’t. You’re led to believe that the North is this rugged land of the wolf and honest folk. 

Its like a few brief lines when his men take some cattle. This creates distance between the Starks and we don’t have a full tally of the consequences. I don’t see Robs Mirri Max Duur showing up. Considering we have an ungodly number of Arya, Jamie and Brienne chapters we had ample time to explore Stark and Northern war crimes. Instead this is heavily marginalised and we get the hand wave of “well Stark reigned his men in”. So yeah he really does have 100 percent immunity to attrition. As an aside, the Northern host should have suffered more deaths to disease than enemy action. But I think George have saved that little chestnut for Dany. The Wolfsblood protects Northerners from ailments that would kill lesser men. We can’t have umbars dying of dysentery.

Id read too many fantasy series to not pick up, almost from the very first scene of the show that “ah the humans need to unite against this big threat. A house divided cannot stand.”. So I was basically tapping my foot waiting for Jon to meet the wildlings and become King Beyond the Wall. 

I never felt Jon had a real disdain for the Wildlings. I forget the number, but in one of the Star Trek films Kirk has a deep hatred for the Klingons because they murdered his son. At one point he says “then let them die” when he’s told the Federation needs to aid their Empire. Then the whole film builds to him coming to terms and overcoming his prejudice. Jon never had that level of prejudice so I never felt he’d achieved anything when he did (belatedly) decide to help the Wildlings. Personally I felt he had burnt that bridge when Ygritte died and George was copping out by letting him have it both ways. He chose the NW over Ygritte and the wildlings; he shouldn’t get a second chance at that. I don’t like the boy.

The Starks do need to be darker for the story to work. If you have this perfect noble family that has been ruling a vast realm peacefully for thousands of years and can do so without sullying themselves in the filth; that has a massive impact on the context in which you view everyone else. Historically, Tywin does nothing worse than what Edward the Third did to France. He’s maybe not stupid enough to lose money on good hostages; but still. But with a Stark, these suddenly become heinous acts because if you can be good then they aren’t shackled by the age they live in. Similarly, if you have to ask the question of “should Dany be Queen”? Well you could say that she has all these magic abilities and good intentions but has cursed blood in her veins. But, Starks have magic, are good people but don’t have any tainted blood. No Stark ever burnt or tried to conquer anyone. Starks never make people kneel. At that point, why take a risk with Dany? A Stark King would be great for Westeros or an independent North would naturally thrive under a Stark. I could go on, but it throws a wrench in any discussion on the series because you can reduce it to “Starks awesome. Rest Broken.”

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2 hours ago, Tyrion1991 said:

He’s all but screaming “oh but if a Stark was King then everything would be alright because the Wolf’s blood is pure and untainted.”.

I believe we have read different books.

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17 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

Nowhere near as often. The closest you get to this is Qhorin asking Jon to kill Ygritte. If he had been a border reaver going into Scotland his initiation would likely have been a lot more bloody than this. So George is very much watering down how violent frontier raiding like this would be.

I can't argue here since it's a matter of choice - you'd prefer it more violently and that the NW would be shown in darker colours. I actually like it the way it is in the books, especially the case of Benjen Stark's mission beyond the wall. We read about him leaving but never returning. He is most likely dead, or worse. We see what has happened to his companions, like Othell (maybe mistyping the name here, I mean the undead Jon fights later on). So it's a case of less is more, we get a sinister sense of the horror of what might have happened to him, since we read the prologue and we as a reader know that the Others are real. Storytelling wise, it is very good, because it also leaves a very small chance that maybe he is still alive... Same with the wildlings like Osha escaping to south. We don't have a POV on the scene, only assumptions based on previous readings.  So for me, like I said, the current version is very plausible. It makes it pretty clear to me that when rangers fight and kill wildlings, or when wildlings kill rangers (Lord of Bones, anyone?) it can be full of brutality and gore. 

26 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

But the text doesn’t lead you into that criticism. It’s set up that the NW is a disciplined military force, a grittier version of the Dunidine or Ithilian rangers and they keep the “scum of the earth” under the lash. Which is extremely unlikely given the impoverished state of the NW, the standard of its officers and the fact it’s a penal unit. Whereas we have lots of mentions of Wildlings raiding the North etc etc

Reminder that wildlings are in an even "worse" situation as in they have absolutely no organisation at all (before another king beyond the wall shows up). Also I think George wants NW to be the good guys with a twist (they are former criminals) and wildlings as a false enemy (Other are the real enemy) so the story isn't about exactly the morals of the fightings between NW and free folk, although it is interesting to discuss this and look at this story from another perspective.

29 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

Just because there is a big wall doesn’t mean they can’t cross it. I am amazed no Stark King ever did try to conquer the Far North. Really the Nights Watch should be closer to the Russians conquest of Siberia. So, yes, it really is a national boundary that just happens to have a magic wall there. 

Russian conquest of Siberia wasn't really a medieval thing, throughout medieval times, Sibera was left wild and no slav was really interested in colonizing it. As for why kings of the North didn't try to conquer lands beyond the Wall, well, you could also ask why aren't the Lannisters and Greyjoys sailing further west and discovering the new worlds west of Westeros? The Wall, Night's Watch, old gods - northerners have well developed traditions and beliefs about them so I think it would be blasphemous or unthinkable for them to do that.

34 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

I am surprised you read Vics POV like that. His POV does more to discredit the Ironborn than Theons chapters. You see first hand how their culture of endless war is destroying them and how blind they are to this. I honestly never felt as if I was asked by the writer to criticise Jon Snow or Bran in a similar manner or interrogate his family. You are also asked to do this with Dany, almost from Mirri onwards. But with the Ironborn, to me, every point you could make about this violent warrior aristocracy that disdains trade and learning could easily be applied to the North; but it isn’t. You’re led to believe that the North is this rugged land of the wolf and honest folk. 

:) Make no mistake, I don't think Victarion is a wise guy or that the ironborn are a high-cultured folk. Just reading their POV-s makes me understand that their way of life is real and true to them. When Victarion drowns men for his drowned god, I roll my eyes, but I still like him because he is true to his culture and himself and his no-brain action focused chapters are a great variety for more complex Dany and Jon chapters. Also, I don't really see how you can perceive all northeners as angelic mary sues, when Boltons and Manderlys exist. I get people who don't like the Starks because they are meant to be the good guys and liking the bad guys is always more fun, but the North has plenty of interesting players who are not so good.

40 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

Its like a few brief lines when his men take some cattle. This creates distance between the Starks and we don’t have a full tally of the consequences. I don’t see Robs Mirri Max Duur showing up. Considering we have an ungodly number of Arya, Jamie and Brienne chapters we had ample time to explore Stark and Northern war crimes. Instead this is heavily marginalised and we get the hand wave of “well Stark reigned his men in”. So yeah he really does have 100 percent immunity to attrition. As an aside, the Northern host should have suffered more deaths to disease than enemy action. But I think George have saved that little chestnut for Dany. The Wolfsblood protects Northerners from ailments that would kill lesser men. We can’t have umbars dying of dysentery.

Robb got the red wedding - he got killed because of the choices he made. Doesn't seem like a mary sue to me. And we do get to explore the northerners war atrocities - in one of those ungodly number of Arya chapters in ACOC and ASOS. I don't see how the northreners are somehow saved from tough decisions or consequences...

45 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

I never felt Jon had a real disdain for the Wildlings. I forget the number, but in one of the Star Trek films Kirk has a deep hatred for the Klingons because they murdered his son. At one point he says “then let them die” when he’s told the Federation needs to aid their Empire. Then the whole film builds to him coming to terms and overcoming his prejudice. Jon never had that level of prejudice so I never felt he’d achieved anything when he did (belatedly) decide to help the Wildlings. Personally I felt he had burnt that bridge when Ygritte died and George was copping out by letting him have it both ways. He chose the NW over Ygritte and the wildlings; he shouldn’t get a second chance at that. I don’t like the boy.

True, he never despised them. But his second chance did end with him getting stabbed...

46 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

The Starks do need to be darker for the story to work. If you have this perfect noble family that has been ruling a vast realm peacefully for thousands of years and can do so without sullying themselves in the filth; that has a massive impact on the context in which you view everyone else. Historically, Tywin does nothing worse than what Edward the Third did to France. He’s maybe not stupid enough to lose money on good hostages; but still. But with a Stark, these suddenly become heinous acts because if you can be good then they aren’t shackled by the age they live in. Similarly, if you have to ask the question of “should Dany be Queen”? Well you could say that she has all these magic abilities and good intentions but has cursed blood in her veins. But, Starks have magic, are good people but don’t have any tainted blood. No Stark ever burnt or tried to conquer anyone. Starks never make people kneel. At that point, why take a risk with Dany? A Stark King would be great for Westeros or an independent North would naturally thrive under a Stark. I could go on, but it throws a wrench in any discussion on the series because you can reduce it to “Starks awesome. Rest Broken.”

Here I disagree. Since it seems like what George is doing is that he made Starks the good guys in the beginning so he could go in the darkside with them later. I mean Arya is pretty dark, her POV in the Winds sample makes her quite the satan. Sansa is also going down the dark path with her weirdly sexual journey with Littlefinger. Poor Eddard who was too pure for this world, well, WAS too pure for this world and died quite horribly. Catelyn the Corpse is also quite dark. Bran's going darkside as well (Jojen paste?). So yeah, here I disagree. 

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Posted (edited)

I dislike the Starks and the north as much as the next guy but there were good reasons for keeping the wildlings out.  The wildlings represent a threat to government.  Wildlings on the good side of the wall would have retarded any progress.  It may be seductive to live without having to answer to another man but that is no way to make progress.  Feudalism and governments can't tolerate the presence of people who refuse to follow the rules.  It's that simple.

Atrocities are mostly committed by the wildlings because they refuse to recognize the wall as a boundary.  They refuse to bend their knees but want to enjoy the fruits of civilization like quality steel and tools.  There would be no trouble if the wildlings had kept to their side.  The people of the kingdom of westeros are right to punish every wildling they caught trespassing.  Give him a chance to convert and bend the knee, swear to respect and obey the ruler's laws, or get executed.  It's fair.  

The N-W has its share of problems but inhumane treatment of wildings is not one of them.  Do you believe the wildlings would treat a black crow any better if they had captured him?  What would Harma Dogshead do to that man?  It won't be pleasant.  The black crows are free to make any wildling talk by whatever means they deemed necessary.  

Edited by Al Czervik

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15 minutes ago, Lady Dacey said:

I believe we have read different books.

 

Where is the criticism of House Stark and the North? What makes them unfit to rule? What crimes have they committed? What’s wrong with their society and needs to change?

The answer is nothing. George introduces the Starks as a highly idealised image of Anglo Saxon England. Nobles rubbing shoulders alongside their peasants, taking their council and disdaining the pomp and circumstance of the nobility. But with that harsh frontier ruggedness. He even does away with any kind of clergy. The Starks have deliberately made to be likeable.

Whereas with every single other house there’s this endless implicit criticism. The Lannister’s, Stormlords and Reach are too elitist and corrupted by luxury. The Greyjoy’s are too violent and cruel. The Vale and Riverlands too insipid and lacking in courage. The Martells too violent and vengeful. George wrote several novels dedicated to why the targayrens are bad news and not worth the trouble. I don’t see any books about the Red Wolf who ate his own children or the Mad Wolf who led a 100,000 men into the frozen wastes to conquer Winter itself.   Two or three kind of bad Starks get mentioned vaguely in World of Ice and Fire from thousands of years ago and that’s it.

They’re perfect. George made the NW because he didn’t want the North to take flak for the few indiscretions of the NW.

George has several POV that centre on how a warrior culture has ruined the Ironborn and doomed them to ignominy. Yet it’s okay to have the North all be characters out of Beowulf and not have negative repercussions? 

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10 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

Where is the criticism of House Stark and the North? What makes them unfit to rule? What crimes have they committed? What’s wrong with their society and needs to change?

The criticism of the North is in the books, but not where you look for it (Wildlings and NW). You could say honour makes the Starks unfit to rule since both Robb (his own way) and Ned died because of it. Now you may see it as an issue that even though they died they were still morally in the high ground and therefore GRRM is a hack and Starks are mary sues, but I see it differently. Robb and Ned dying because of their honour is a good slap on the face for the reader and a reminder that the world (of Ice and Fire) when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die, there is no middle ground.

 

16 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

They’re perfect. George made the NW because he didn’t want the North to take flak for the few indiscretions of the NW.

I don't think this is the case. NW/Others was likely written before wildlings since the magical icy threat seems to be the big bad of the series.

17 minutes ago, Tyrion1991 said:

George has several POV that centre on how a warrior culture has ruined the Ironborn and doomed them to ignominy. Yet it’s okay to have the North all be characters out of Beowulf and not have negative repercussions? 

I'd say again that dying is a pretty negative reprecussion. Seriously, did you skip the red wedding?

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Posted (edited)

Loving this thread btw and would like to hear more opinions on this topic

Edited by miyuki

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21 minutes ago, miyuki said:

I can't argue here since it's a matter of choice - you'd prefer it more violently and that the NW would be shown in darker colours. I actually like it the way it is in the books, especially the case of Benjen Stark's mission beyond the wall. We read about him leaving but never returning. He is most likely dead, or worse. We see what has happened to his companions, like Othell (maybe mistyping the name here, I mean the undead Jon fights later on). So it's a case of less is more, we get a sinister sense of the horror of what might have happened to him, since we read the prologue and we as a reader know that the Others are real. Storytelling wise, it is very good, because it also leaves a very small chance that maybe he is still alive... Same with the wildlings like Osha escaping to south. We don't have a POV on the scene, only assumptions based on previous readings.  So for me, like I said, the current version is very plausible. It makes it pretty clear to me that when rangers fight and kill wildlings, or when wildlings kill rangers (Lord of Bones, anyone?) it can be full of brutality and gore. 

Reminder that wildlings are in an even "worse" situation as in they have absolutely no organisation at all (before another king beyond the wall shows up). Also I think George wants NW to be the good guys with a twist (they are former criminals) and wildlings as a false enemy (Other are the real enemy) so the story isn't about exactly the morals of the fightings between NW and free folk, although it is interesting to discuss this and look at this story from another perspective.

Russian conquest of Siberia wasn't really a medieval thing, throughout medieval times, Sibera was left wild and no slav was really interested in colonizing it. As for why kings of the North didn't try to conquer lands beyond the Wall, well, you could also ask why aren't the Lannisters and Greyjoys sailing further west and discovering the new worlds west of Westeros? The Wall, Night's Watch, old gods - northerners have well developed traditions and beliefs about them so I think it would be blasphemous or unthinkable for them to do that.

:) Make no mistake, I don't think Victarion is a wise guy or that the ironborn are a high-cultured folk. Just reading their POV-s makes me understand that their way of life is real and true to them. When Victarion drowns men for his drowned god, I roll my eyes, but I still like him because he is true to his culture and himself and his no-brain action focused chapters are a great variety for more complex Dany and Jon chapters. Also, I don't really see how you can perceive all northeners as angelic mary sues, when Boltons and Manderlys exist. I get people who don't like the Starks because they are meant to be the good guys and liking the bad guys is always more fun, but the North has plenty of interesting players who are not so good.

Robb got the red wedding - he got killed because of the choices he made. Doesn't seem like a mary sue to me. And we do get to explore the northerners war atrocities - in one of those ungodly number of Arya chapters in ACOC and ASOS. I don't see how the northreners are somehow saved from tough decisions or consequences...

True, he never despised them. But his second chance did end with him getting stabbed...

Here I disagree. Since it seems like what George is doing is that he made Starks the good guys in the beginning so he could go in the darkside with them later. I mean Arya is pretty dark, her POV in the Winds sample makes her quite the satan. Sansa is also going down the dark path with her weirdly sexual journey with Littlefinger. Poor Eddard who was too pure for this world, well, WAS too pure for this world and died quite horribly. Catelyn the Corpse is also quite dark. Bran's going darkside as well (Jojen paste?). So yeah, here I disagree. 

 

The Bolton’s are depicted as aberrant and having hidden away their unnatural and more importantly non-Northern behaviour. So they aren’t really Northerners like the Glovers, Umbers and Karstarks. It’s not like Asha vs Vic vs Euron where you have the same core society just stretched to the point of increasing levels of evil. You can’t say, “aha, a House like the Bolton’s is a natural consequence of Northern society and the rot inside it; just like Euron is the spawn of Ironborn society”.

The Manderlys are Reachmen. So, they’re obviously losing their way without strong Northern leadership at the helm. But even then, they’re trying to help Rickon, they’re angry at the Freys, plotting to switch over to Stan and that business with the pies is creative but George has so thoroughly dehumanised the Frey’s at this point it’s not that great a talking point.

Its not that it’s more fun. It’s that George invites the reader to make these moral judgements and make this critiques of what’s going on. That becomes moot if he has a clear bias towards a family and the North in general.

In an Arya chapter some Karstark men go on a rampage. This is contrary to Robs wishes and they’ve went rogue. That’s not the same as Rob explicitly commanding his men to reave and pillage the Riverlands; with its attendant violence.

Rob doesn’t die because of the war he started and the common people who died as a result. It’s depicted entirely as a tragedy and a consequence of him mismanaging his allies and his cock. (Theon, Cat, Westerling).

Jon being stabbed gives him the excuse to kill the people against him in the Watch. That leaves his friends in the Watch and the Wildlings. So he gets exactly what he wants.

Arya is passing under the shadow as she has forgotten her Stark identity. Once she remembers who she is and realised that “OMG, this death cult is dangerous!”; she’ll snap out of it.

Assuming Sansa doesn’t decide to dispense with Littlefinger by blagging to the Lords of the Vale. I can’t see Sansa killing her little cousin, especially not when she’s getting a hold over the Lord Arryn.

Cat isn’t a person anymore so doesn’t count. Plus, the Freys have been too heavily dehumanised by George.

Bran. I don’t know. All of George’s magic has this messed up Cthulhu vibe to it. I mean I would have took one look at Bloodraven and been like “hell no”. But again, like with Arya this is passing under the shadow and likely a way for him to cut his own path. The light of the wolfsblood burns too bright.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)
50 minutes ago, miyuki said:

The criticism of the North is in the books, but not where you look for it (Wildlings and NW). You could say honour makes the Starks unfit to rule since both Robb (his own way) and Ned died because of it. Now you may see it as an issue that even though they died they were still morally in the high ground and therefore GRRM is a hack and Starks are mary sues, but I see it differently. Robb and Ned dying because of their honour is a good slap on the face for the reader and a reminder that the world (of Ice and Fire) when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die, there is no middle ground.

 

I don't think this is the case. NW/Others was likely written before wildlings since the magical icy threat seems to be the big bad of the series.

I'd say again that dying is a pretty negative reprecussion. Seriously, did you skip the red wedding?

 

Yes but you can chalk those down to circumstances beyond their control. As the series progresses you realise that the Machiavellian Lannister’s aren’t immune from this and do start to drop like flies. Their house of cards crumbles very quickly. So really the criticism is a lack of smarts, not too much heart.

Also they must be doing something right if they can rule half the realm without incident for a thousand years.

The story isn’t over yet. The core Northern army never lost a battle and only suffered due to treachery. So declaring that “they lost” is premature. This is simply a low point in the story for the North and one setting up their rise.

Edited by Tyrion1991

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