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The Baratheons Reanalyzed- Copper, Iron, and True Steel

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I made this post yesterday on r/asoiaf, thought I should post it here too.

Disclaimer: I am a Stannis fan and have a tendency to make things more dramatic when praising Stannis

INTRODUCTION

Donal Noye was the armorer for the Baratheon family before being sent to the Wall,famous for making the war hammer that Robert used to slay Rhaegar. He's mainly important in the story and fandom for his descriptions of the Baratheon brothers, which is often referenced in discussions revolving around the personality and leadership skills of Stannis and Renly. Here is the quote:

"Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He'll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he's copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth all that much at the end of the day."

From what I've seen on this r/asoiaf and Westeros.org forum so far, most people seem to consider this to be an accurate description of the Stag Brothers. After all, Donal Noye is a farely minor character and It just seems like a clever way for George to tell us about the Baratheons. However, I believe we should take the aforementioned quote with a grain of salt.

Firstly, Donal Noye hadn't seen the Baratheons for quite a long time and It's likely that he hadn't been able to grasp the whole picture and/or the brothers have matured and changed since then. Secondly and more importantly, his descriptions is fairly consistent with how other characters view the Baratheons: Renly being jovial flamboyant and Stannis being humorless and hard as nails. However, this view falls apart quickly once you actually scrutinized the brothers and their behaviors.

I will propose my own analogy: Robert was Copper, Renly was Iron, and Stannis is the True Steel

ROBERT BARATHEON: COPPER

I'll start with Bobby B, The Demon of the Triden. According to most characters and Donal Noye himself, Renly is "bright and shiny" but we're also told that he is the splitting image of young Robert Baratheon. Young Robert was fearsome, tall, muscled with such charisma that he could turn foes into friends in a fortnight and a ferocity in battle that earned him the nickname "The Demon of the Trident". With such impressive traits, why would I or anyone ever suggests him to be anything other than true steel?

Well, you would only need to take a second look at how Donal described Renly and copper: "bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth all that much at the end of the day. ". Note the "not worth all that much at the end of the day."and how not everyone's concept of "worth" is the same. Donal Noye is an armorer and his job is to make weapons and armor of war. Add to this the fact that he's from the Stormlands, one of the most martial region in Westeros, and It's pretty easy to deduce that what he values is battle prowess, which Robert had in spades.

However, Westeros and we, the readers already know what had became of this great legendary warrior. In the end, he was no more than an empty shell of blunders, alcoholism and whoremongering, who couldn't hold his own against his wife, brothers, or even "his kids". Tension rose so high under his rule that his death sparked a civil war that killed millions. Just as Donal Noye said, shiny and bright and good looking at first glance but not worth all that much at the end of the day.

RENLY BARATHEON: IRON

Now, on to Renly, the iron. It is actually quite obvious once you think about it. Let's see Donal Noye's analogy of Stannis and iron: "pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He'll break before he bends." "break before he bends" is exactly what Renly did in A Clash of Kings. In their confrontation, Stannis asks Renly to bend the knee and offered some pretty generous terms, even naming Renly his heir until a son was born to him, which is unlikely at this rate. In this society, the younger brother bows before the elder right? No, Renly is adamant that he should and could be king simply because his force strongest and decides to fight Stannis, the very person who did everything so that young Renly could've live.

In fact, If we was smarter than he was headstrong, he might've been able to team up with Stannis and backstab him later, but no.

Whatever It may be, the result is the same. Renly was hard and strong, aye, with his army of one hundred thousand, but he's headstrong and brittle, the way iron gets, and he broke. A shadow demon slits his throat just as he was putting on his armor to fight his brother and rightful king.

STANNIS BARATHEON: STEEL

Stannis the Mannis. The Stannimal, The Besteros in Westeros, and the king who cared. Why is Stannis true steel? Donal Noye calls him iron but he, just like almost everyone, doesn't know about Stannis's ability to bend, especially after the Battle of Blackwater Bay. He's a pragmatist and adopted the faith of R'hollor even though he doesn't believe in it. He heeds the advices of Davos, a lowborn smuggler, and made him a lord and his hand. This man who supposedly adheres strictly to culture and law seems to value meritocracy more than anyone else in Westeros.

While all the lords and kings squabble like children, he was the one who came to the Night's Watch's aid. While the Lannisters forces other houses back onto their side by force with threats and hostages and trebuchets (I still like you though, Jaime), Stannis bent over backwards and appealed to the Northern clans and houses' sense of honor and loyalty, even going so far as to make sure his zealot followers respect their religion.

What do other nobles know of bending? They're a greedy lot filled with lust, envy, and low cunning. They're only interested in their self interests. Stannis knows that It means to endure , improvise, adapt, and overcome hardship. He knows what It means to be "True Steel". While Robert was covering himself in glory, Stannis was starving with his men in a long siege against a host of several thousands. While Renly was playing at war, Stannis was preparing for one. While Joffrey hid behind his mother's skirt, Stannis was leading his men into battle with his fleet burning behind him . While Cersei was garbed in silk and jewels and gossiping with Taena Merrywether, Stannis was in fur and steel, discussing battle plans with his followers. While Dany sat atop her pyramid dining on olives and other delicacies (I still like you though, Dany), Stannis was eating salt beef with his men.

Aside from that, almost everything else the lords and ladies say about Stannis is wrong anyway. Stannis is humorless, except he has fantastic dry wit. Stannis is unloved but he inspires such loyalty that his men are willing to march through a hellish blizzard with him and even the worst of the worst, like Clayton Suggs are more likely to stand and fight than break and run. Regarding Tywin, aye, Stannis will fight to the bitter end, and then some, but that's what steel does, not iron. Iron will break before the bitter end while steel will flex and bend and does its duty.

It's also possible that Stannis could be considered iron in this analogy before the battle of Blackwater Bay. However, through the heat of the wildfire and the guidance of Davos, the iron was forged into steel.

Conclusion:

All hail His Grace Stannis of the House Baratheon, first of His name, rightful king of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, the King who Cared, The Grinder of Teeth, the True Steel, the Mannis, the One True King, Stan the Man, the Besteros in Westeros.

Edited by Is he a ham?

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I too am a major supporter of Stannis. I love your points about him, and I consider him to be the best of his brothers. I also think it weird how Noye was able to comment on the brothers when he barely knew them. If he left the Stormlands after losing an arm at the siege of Storm’s End, he’d only have known Renly as a child at best! 
You’re absolutely right about Stannis actually being very witty and also being willing to compromise, given the right counsellors (Jon, Davos). Admittedly, he’s more flawed than the rosy picture you paint, but his positives easily tower over Robert or Renly.

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I find Renly a really fascinating character. Something I don't get about him: Is he actually a cold and cunning character who puts on a mask of being cheerful and carefree? He did advocate for killing Daenerys, starved KL, took Catelyn hostage, etc. But I'd also hesitate to label him that way, as there are clear indicators he is spoilt and out of touch with reality: see his battle plan against Stannis and how casually he treats war with his feasting and tournaments. So is his going to war and callous remarks an action borne out of his lack understanding for the gravity of war and the suffering of people? That's also the view that seems to be espoused by several characters like Tywin, Stannis, Catelyn, Olenna, Jaime and as mentioned, Donal Noye - that he's someone out of his element. But then again, this could also be a case of that realistic scenario where someone who's a rising star dies before they could accomplish anything and people go "of course he did, he was always a shmuck etc etc" cause it's easy to say that now they're dead.

As for your assessment: It's interesting, and I agree somewhat. Renly should have bent the knee to Stannis and let him do the dirty work and then assassinated him. But a combination of pride/desire for attention/dislike for Stannis prevented him from doing so.

Edited by Peach King

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Robert is iron, because he broke before bending, Lyanna's death and the Throne broke Robert beyond repair.

 

12 hours ago, Is he a ham? said:

Now, on to Renly, the iron. It is actually quite obvious once you think about it. Let's see Donal Noye's analogy of Stannis and iron: "pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He'll break before he bends." "break before he bends" is exactly what Renly did in A Clash of Kings. In their confrontation, Stannis asks Renly to bend the knee and offered some pretty generous terms, even naming Renly his heir until a son was born to him, which is unlikely at this rate. In this society, the younger brother bows before the elder right? No, Renly is adamant that he should and could be king simply because his force strongest and decides to fight Stannis, the very person who did everything so that young Renly could've live.

 

That is an unfair call, if Renly knew about the shadowbaby he will def bend and i don't think Srannis terms were generous, Stannis was giving him everything he already had (Storm's End) and was (Stannis' heir).

 

Stannis is really the steel, by default. But Stannis prior Blackwater and more specifially Stannis at his peak, after he gets the Stormlands on board is purely iron.

 

12 hours ago, Is he a ham? said:

While all the lords and kings squabble like children, he was the one who came to the Night's Watch's aid. While the Lannisters forces other houses back onto their side by force with threats and hostages and trebuchets (I still like you though, Jaime), Stannis bent over backwards and appealed to the Northern clans and houses' sense of honor and loyalty, even going so far as to make sure his zealot followers respect their religion.

 

Stannis went there because he needed the watch and the North support, not for the kindness of his heart.

 

 

 

 

 

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30 minutes ago, frenin said:

Stannis went there because he needed the watch and the North support, not for the kindness of his heart.

Not quite.

ASoS, Jon XI

Does he want me to say I love him? Jon’s voice was stiff and formal as he said, “I am a man of the Night’s Watch.”
“Words. Words are wind. Why do you think I abandoned Dragonstone and sailed to the Wall, Lord Snow?”
“I am no lord, sire. You came because we sent for you, I hope. Though I could not say why you took so long about it.”
Surprisingly, Stannis smiled at that. “You’re bold enough to be a Stark. Yes, I should have come sooner. If not for my Hand, I might not have come at all. Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty, when all I could think of was my rights. I had the cart before the horse, Davos said. I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.” Stannis pointed north. “There is where I’ll find the foe that I was born to fight.”

 

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15 hours ago, Is he a ham? said:

"Robert was the true steel. Stannis is pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He'll break before he bends. And Renly, that one, he's copper, bright and shiny, pretty to look at but not worth all that much at the end of the day."

You make some good points, but just taking the quote literally also works well, and it's simple. Swapping metals round could be done, but it's an extra layer we don't need (even Stannis fans).

Iron's pretty good, anyway, as it is. The Iron Throne is iron (even though it's actually steel). No-one is tougher than the Ironborn. The crown of winter is bronze and iron, strong against the cold.

And iron is always black, which has its own really powerful associations (Targs, Balerion, Black Watch etc).

Iron is an excellent thing to be.

ETA

I looked up Luwin's metals quote to see if it helped:

Quote

"He told me that a maester's collar is made of chain to remind him that he is sworn to serve," Jon said, remembering. "I asked why each link was a different metal. A silver chain would look much finer with his grey robes, I said. Maester Luwin laughed. A maester forges his chain with study, he told me. The different metals are each a different kind of learning, gold for the study of money and accounts, silver for healing, iron for warcraft. And he said there were other meanings as well. The collar is supposed to remind a maester of the realm he serves, isn't that so? Lords are gold and knights steel, but two links can't make a chain. You also need silver and iron and lead, tin and copper and bronze and all the rest, and those are farmers and smiths and merchants and the like. A chain needs all sorts of metals, and a land needs all sorts of people."  [AGOT - JON V]

Not a lot of help, apart from the bolded.

Edited by Springwatch

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I would love for Stannis to become steel as in your analysis, though I must concede that he is mostly compared to iron in novels, not that is necessarily bad thing, what better king to sit iron throne than one of similar mettle:

  •  "They are quite a pair, Stannis and Renly. The iron gauntlet and the silk glove."
  • Stannis Baratheon was a man of iron will who neither understood nor forgave weakness in others. 
  • It was all lies; there had been no anger in Stannis Baratheon when he cut the ends off his onion knight's fingers, only an iron sense of justice.
  • His eyes were sunk in deep pits, his close-cropped beard no more than a shadow across his hollow cheeks and bony jawbone. Yet there was power in his stare, an iron ferocity that told Asha this man would never, ever turn back from his course.
Edited by Eltharion21

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Love the analysis & the Baratheons, but I still believe Donal had it correct. I do enjoy a good read and reasoning though :).

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The boys have their glaring faults.  I am no fan of Renly but he would have made the better ruler out of three.  He had enough guts to command respect.  He was politically aware and he knew how to get along.  

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I agree with @Is he a ham? that Stannis is the true steel. I've argued this point extensively on Pink Letter threads over the years and it seems to me that a lot of readers buy the image Stannis is trying to portray to Westeros.

The Stannis Donal Noye knew was iron but that was a long time ago. The boy that held Storm's End was iron, he would have finished off the rats and boots and then starved to death before he bent the knee. Stannis still has that stubborn, bloody-minded quality. It's an important and very overt part of his character, but it is tempered by other qualities that are not so overt.

Cressen, who knew Stannis longer and better than Noye, tells us that unlike the impulsive Robert and Renly, Stannis is calculated. He doesn't see the world in black and white, as he often projects, because if he did there would be no need for calculation. Take, for example, the twincest letter, which is often quoted as an example of Stannis' inability to lie. He told Pylos to take out beloved brother Robert. But it was not Stannis first time reading the letter. In fact he probably dictated the original draft, as that is his preferred style. If he couldn't lie he never would have put it in, but he did. Then he thought about it. He wanted his letter to be credible and he was well aware that the whole realm knew there was no love between the brothers. So he recalculated and took it out as not to taint the credibility of the letter's more important information about the Lannisters, which he wanted the realm to take as truth.

If he is calculated then he can compromise. The punishment for smugglers is the noose but war heroes should be rewarded. Stannis wanted to be seen as a rewarding lord but did not want to be seen as a lord who is weak on the law so he found a compromise. We see it again with Mel. Stannis doesn't believe in gods but he knows the red woman has power. Despite his personal belief as well as the political disadvantage posed by "converting" to a foreign religion, he needs her power given the size of his army compared to the armies of his rivals. So he calculated and compromised. Stannis was always willing to bend, a little at least, if it brought an advantage.

Iron Stannis was truly forged into steel in the wildfire furnace on the Blackwater. This defeat should have put him out of the game but it didn't. It did however bring a change. Up until then Stannis had first appealed to the law and then resorted to attacking King's Landing under the pretext of the rightful king removing a usurper. He was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom. In his mind, his being king was simply the rightful means to an honourable end. But the Blackwater forced him to recalculate. Save the kingdom became the means but win the throne became the end. And if he was going to achieve that after such a decisive loss, then he would have to rely on calculation and compromise every bit as much as his stubborn and determined nature. Essentially, due to reduced military resources, he had no choice but become more flexible. And I think we've seen plenty of evidence of flexible steel from Stannis in Dance, Mance Raydar for example, even if it is obscured behind his usual iron façade.

So I believe Stannis was iron but became true steel while Robert was once steel until he went to rust. But true steel still breaks and I suspect Stannis will too at the end of Winds.

 

 

 

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