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Alyn Oakenfist

Are the Maesters responsible for the incredibly small Great Houses?

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So think about it, by the time the story is happening, the Starks, the Tullys, the Arryns, the Baratheons, and the Martells are reduced to single threads. The Starks are all descendent from Rickard with only Ned's kids carrying the line, the Tully's are all descendent from Hoster's parents with only Edmure carrying the line, the Baratheons are all descendants from Steffon presuming Hurbard, the guy Stannis mentioned once, didn't carry on his line and so on. Only the Lannisters and the Tyrells seem to be in any way sprawling. There has to be something more to this. Could it be the Maesters?

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19 minutes ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

So think about it, by the time the story is happening, the Starks, the Tullys, the Arryns, the Baratheons, and the Martells are reduced to single threads.

No, we don't know that.

There are many branches of House Arryn around the Vale

The eldest married Ser Denys Arryn, a distant cousin to the Lords of the Eyrie. There are several branches of House Arryn scattered across the Vale, all as proud as they are penurious, save for the Gulltown Arryns, who had the rare good sense to marry merchants. They're rich, but less than couth, so no one talks about them. Ser Denys hailed from one of the poor, proud branches . . .

We know that there are other branches of House Greyjoy

"We should go to Torrhen's Square and join the fight," urged Quenton Greyjoy, a distant cousin and captain of the Salty Wench.
"Aye," said Dagon Greyjoy, a cousin still more distant. Dagon the Drunkard, men called him, but drunk or sober he loved to fight. "Why should the Cleftjaw have all the glory for himself?"
 
We know there are other branches of House Martell
 
Princess Arianne was waiting in the outer ward to greet her father, with half the court about her: the old blind seneschal Ricasso, Ser Manfrey Martell the castellan, young Maester Myles...
 
We know from the author that there likely exists other branches of House Stark
 
There are probably some descendants of offshoot branches from the family tree floating around the north, most likely in White Harbor and Barrowton.
 
Looking at the family tree from the World of Ice and Fire it is possible that the sons of Artos are still alive, Brandon and Benjen are still alive, both of whom had issue.
 
I'd be truly surprised if there were no other branches of House Bartheon in the Stormlands given how many Baratheons we have seen in the past. Tully is likely the same. Just because their cousins have not been mentioned does not mean they do not exist.
 

 

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1 hour ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

So think about it, by the time the story is happening, the Starks, the Tullys, the Arryns, the Baratheons, and the Martells are reduced to single threads. The Starks are all descendent from Rickard with only Ned's kids carrying the line, the Tully's are all descendent from Hoster's parents with only Edmure carrying the line, the Baratheons are all descendants from Steffon presuming Hurbard, the guy Stannis mentioned once, didn't carry on his line and so on. Only the Lannisters and the Tyrells seem to be in any way sprawling. There has to be something more to this. Could it be the Maesters?

I doubt it. Brandon was killed by Aerys, and Lyanna died in childbed, it's unclear if there was a Maester present, but I assume there wasn't. And women and babies dying in childbed wasn't uncommon anyway, as it wasn't in the real world in medieval times. Under different circumstances both Brandon and Lyanna would've had children, and let's not forget that Lyanna did have a child. Most families in the North are related to the Starks anyway.

The Blackfish refused to marry, which really pissed Hoster off. I seriously doubt that the reason why Brynden refused to marry had anything to do with the Maesters. Had Brynden accepted one of Hoster's proposals he would likely have had children. Edmure doesn't have children for similar reasons. He's also been rather unwilling to get married for reasons most likely unrelated to any Maester. Lysa's fertility was either reduced by her abortion, or Jon Arryn was not very fertile (possibly due to his age), or both. So I suppose the moon tea provided by a Maester could've caused this, so yes it's possible this was done intentionally, but it could easily have been an unfortunate side effect. In the real world male fertility decreases with age as well, and the chance of birth defects increases. The effects are less drastic than in older women, but definitely real, so there's a huge chance that this entirely natural occurrence was part of it. Not to mention that Jon Arryn may have been practically infertile to begin with. Could be the fault of a Maester, but there is little reason to presume that that's the case.

The Targaryens DID have an unusual amount of miscarriages and fertility problems (although they used to be sprawling despite that). And there certainly may have been more to that. There has been more speculation of the Maesters being involved in the. That seemed to have been dragon related mostly. Still their inbreeding didn't help either, and having dragons may have decreased the chance of healthy children as well. There are a lot of questions surrounding Targ fertility in any case.

Stannis does stand out as well. He only has one child, and she has greyscale. How did she even get that in the first place? Cressen seemed like a decent fellow though. I think their bad luck in the bedchamber might be related to Dragonstone, or Stannis's drop of Targ blood, or his Targ blood being on Dragonstone.

What I DO believe however, is that the Maesters aren't the biggest fans of all the warging stuff. And they may well have something to do with those abilities becoming less prevalent over time. Whether that means they have been trying to let the descendents if the First Men go extinct is a different matter. Too much of the decline of certain Great Houses seems to be caused by chance for that.

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do you suggest they spill some contraceptives to the ladies' cups? XD

not sure, the more branches of wealthy houses the more jobs for the maesters

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1 hour ago, broken one said:

do you suggest they spill some contraceptives to the ladies' cups? XD

Abortives would work just as well, not to mention the countless ways one could botch the delivery

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Nope. George RR Martin is responsible for the incredibly small houses. I sometimes we overthink too many things on this board. 

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4 minutes ago, El Guapo said:

Nope. George RR Martin is responsible for the incredibly small houses. I sometimes we overthink too many things on this board. 

Almost certainly the truth. But where's the fun in admitting that?

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6 hours ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

So think about it, by the time the story is happening, the Starks, the Tullys, the Arryns, the Baratheons, and the Martells are reduced to single threads. The Starks are all descendent from Rickard with only Ned's kids carrying the line, the Tully's are all descendent from Hoster's parents with only Edmure carrying the line, the Baratheons are all descendants from Steffon presuming Hurbard, the guy Stannis mentioned once, didn't carry on his line and so on. Only the Lannisters and the Tyrells seem to be in any way sprawling. There has to be something more to this. Could it be the Maesters?

Keeping the thread to one eliminates a lot of the competition.  Less young ones to challenge the eventual heir.  The maesters would be biased towards the Andal houses which worshiped the seven.  I can see why they  would want to keep the number of Greyjoys, Targaryens, Starks, low.  They want the followers of the seven to continue to remain the majority.  While the Targaryens did accept the seven, they varied in their devotion to the faith.  Lack of fertility through centuries of close kin breeding may be part of the problem.  If it is indeed a problem.  Would you rather have the opposite, the Freys?  A bunch of children and grandchildren all scheming for the prize?  That too causes its own set of problems.  It is better to keep the heirs small in numbers.

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10 minutes ago, Here's Looking At You, Kid said:

 Would you rather have the opposite, the Freys?  A bunch of children and grandchildren all scheming for the prize?  That too causes its own set of problems.  It is better to keep the heirs small in numbers.

We never hear about the Tyrells or Lannisters having trouble with extended families. There's been an entire city of Lannister descendants and we never hear about any major succession crises in the Westerlands. 

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9 minutes ago, Canon Claude said:

We never hear about the Tyrells or Lannisters having trouble with extended families. There's been an entire city of Lannister descendants and we never hear about any major succession crises in the Westerlands. 

Not in the time frame of the story.  Admittedly, we know little about the history of those two families. 

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1 hour ago, Here's Looking At You, Kid said:

Not in the time frame of the story.  Admittedly, we know little about the history of those two families. 

Right, but we DO know about some of their lowest points as Great Houses. We know about the disastrous rule of Tytos Lannister. And if you don't, George published the complete account of the Westerlands on his page: https://georgerrmartin.com/world-of-ice-and-fire-sample/  

We hear about just how awful it was during Tytos' lifetime. The Crown had to intervene militarily no fewer than three different times, and they failed to make a lasting difference each time. But no matter how bad it got for the Westerlands, no matter how many lords rebelled or defied House Lannister, not once did Tytos face a challenge to his seat from any other Lannister from Lannisport or from within Casterly Rock. The problems never came from within the Lannister ranks, even though it would have been the perfect opportunity to do so. We know about Starks and Arryns who were overthrown by their relatives in acts of treachery, yet the clever, scheming Lannisters never did that???

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4 hours ago, El Guapo said:

Nope. George RR Martin is responsible for the incredibly small houses. I sometimes we overthink too many things on this board. 

This is my guess. Similar to the lack of degrees of nobility and how holdings are geographically concentrated rather than spread out as a result of complex marriage ties (as in the real world). It's just simpler for him that way, and if he needs to invest some more distant relations he can do so.

2 hours ago, Here's Looking At You, Kid said:

The maesters would be biased towards the Andal houses which worshiped the seven.  I can see why they  would want to keep the number of Greyjoys, Targaryens, Starks, low.  They want the followers of the seven to continue to remain the majority.  While the Targaryens did accept the seven, they varied in their devotion to the faith.

The maesters predate the Andal invasion and arrival of the Faith, and the Targaryens don't seem to "vary" any more than the typical house. The maesters aren't the Faith, and don't seem to have much invested in it.

Quote

Would you rather have the opposite, the Freys?  A bunch of children and grandchildren all scheming for the prize?  That too causes its own set of problems.  It is better to keep the heirs small in numbers.

I think the unusual thing about the Freys is that they all live together in the Twins rather than forming cadet branches.

7 hours ago, Manderly's Rat Cook said:

And women and babies dying in childbed wasn't uncommon anyway, as it wasn't in the real world in medieval times.

My understanding is that it only got really dangerous once doctors started pushing midwives aside and spreading puerpral fever. Maternal mortality appears to be FAR higher in ASoIaF than our own medieval eraIsn't that also related to infrequency?

Quote

I think their bad luck in the bedchamber might be related to Dragonstone, or Stannis's drop of Targ blood, or his Targ blood being on Dragonstone.

Stannis isn't outright refusing to have children, but he's not really enthusiastic about his duties as a husband either. One child may be enough for him to conclude that he's done his part.

 

Edited by FictionIsntReal
Forgot the bit about Stannis

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1 hour ago, FictionIsntReal said:

 

My understanding is that it only got really dangerous once doctors started pushing midwives aside and spreading puerpral fever. Maternal mortality appears to be FAR higher in ASoIaF than our own medieval eraIsn't that also related to infrequency?

Maternal mortality doesn't stand out as particularly high to me to be honest. The only examples in recent history that I can think of are Lyanna and Joanna Lannister; the latter giving birth to a child with dwarfism, who probably should've been delivered through a C-section due to his large head. Can't think of any recent others, perhaps one of Walder Frey's wives? Perhaps I've forgotten others. Elia Martell had difficulties giving birth, and long recovery times, but that was linked to her already frail health.

Miscarriages seem very common though, but specifically amongst Targaryens and certain specific people, who seem to have fertility problems.

Quote

Stannis isn't outright refusing to have children, but he's not really enthusiastic about his duties as a husband either. One child may be enough for him to conclude that he's done his part.

Didn't Selyse also have many miscarriages? Or was that just the show? I thought she became weird because of those, like Lysa. And yes Stannis didn't seem too big a fan of sexy times, but if I remember correctly he did his duty in the bedchamber, which suggests he at least tried to produce a male heir, and at some point just gave up.

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5 hours ago, Canon Claude said:

We never hear about the Tyrells or Lannisters having trouble with extended families. There's been an entire city of Lannister descendants and we never hear about any major succession crises in the Westerlands. 

But we know it played on their minds, thus we get the betrothal of Tytos' heir to a daughter of Jason's, thus uniting two prospective branches.

GRRM; It could be love, but there is another clear motive, which is to reinforce the family's bloodline. The Targayren are the extreme example of that policy: they only marry within the family to keep the purity of the blood, and that way you avoid the problem of having several candidates for the throne or the rule of the family. If you have a generation of five brothers and each of them has several children (sons?), after two or three generations you could find yourself with thirty potential heirs: there could be thirty people named Lannister or Frey, and that produces confict, because all of them are going to get involved in hereditary fights for the throne. That's what originated the War of the Roses; An excess of candidates for the throne, all of them descendants of Edward III. Laking a heir (like Henry VIII) is just as bad as having too many of them. If you have five sons and you want to avoid that kind of problem, maybe it's not such a bad idea to marry the firstborn girl of the oldest son with the third son (or with the firstborn of the third son?), and that way you avoid fights and the bloodline remains united, so maybe that was the purpose of Tywin's marriage. Maybe it was Lord Tytos' idea, or maybe even Tywin's grandfather's idea, it depends on which was the exact time in which the marriage alliance was brokered, but I would have to check my notes because I can't remember.

 

So Tytos was protected. His aunt was not so lucky cousin, Lady Cerwelle not so lucky given that it is believed that Gerold bumped off both her and his own brother to claim the Westerlands for himself.

 

Gerold Lannister soon proved himself to be an exceptionally shrewd, able, and fair-minded lord, greatly increasing the wealth of House Lannister, the power of Casterly Rock, and the trade at Lannisport.  He ruled the westerlands for thirty-one years, earning the sobriquet Gerold the Golden, yet for all his accomplishments, certain of his lords and many of his smallfolk had no love for him, believing him responsible for the murder of his niece (and, some said, his brother Tybolt as well).

 

 

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3 hours ago, Manderly's Rat Cook said:

Maternal mortality doesn't stand out as particularly high to me to be honest. The only examples in recent history that I can think of are Lyanna and Joanna Lannister; the latter giving birth to a child with dwarfism, who probably should've been delivered through a C-section due to his large head. Can't think of any recent others, perhaps one of Walder Frey's wives? Perhaps I've forgotten others. Elia Martell had difficulties giving birth, and long recovery times, but that was linked to her already frail health.

"Death by childbirth" is the single most overused trope in asoiaf

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8 hours ago, Lady Dacey said:

"Death by childbirth" is the single most overused trope in asoiaf

It's the medieval ages. They don't have Apollo hospitals. 

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8 hours ago, Lady Dacey said:

"Death by childbirth" is the single most overused trope in asoiaf

Sansa was supposed to get married to Joffrey as soon as she flowered, and got married to Tyrion at 12 yo. Nobody thought anything of it, so it must have been a very normal thing. She was also expected to start producing babies at that age. Pregnancies at such a young age are incredibly dangerous both to mother and cut, since the body isn't fully grown, and prepared to give birth/carry a baby to term yet. An increased amount of maternal deaths is not surprising under those circumstances.

Putting aside the whole bloodmagic debacle; Dany's pregnancy at 13-14 yo was incredibly dangerous as well and could've easily cost her her life. Even without the bloodmagic it's not in the least surprising that she miscarried at that age. Even Lyanna's death could be related to her age, since she was at the age where it just starts getting safe.

I still can't think of many examples in recent asoiaf history, although that might just be me. If you look at the entire timeline, it may stand out as more than it actually is.

I know if several pregnancies and births in my own family and among friends that in different times could have well resulted in death, including my own mother's. My aunt very nearly bled to death after a miscarriage, and all her deliveries were very difficult and potentially dangerous, and they were fully grown women. In asoiaf we're (often) talking about children having babies..

Giving birth is dangerous in itself, going through many pregnancies is a repetition of that danger. And thus an increased chance of a fatal one. Getting pregnant at a very young age, not enough time to recover from a previous pregnancy it all contributes to increased maternal mortality. Genetic defects and inbreeding among noble families (all of them) doesn't help either. Giving birth under the extremely stressful circumstances of living in an active warzone has probably contributed to some deaths as well. Even the use of wet nurses isn't beneficial, since breastfeeding prevents a woman from getting pregnant again (to a degree). Which gives her more time to recover after giving birth. This works quite well for 3-6 months after giving birth, after that the chance of getting pregnant again increases, but is still lower than without breastfeeding.

I'm not saying that "death in childbed" wasn't more common than it is in our world, it just doesn't stand out as unrealistically high to me, given the circumstances.

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7 hours ago, Manderly's Rat Cook said:

it just doesn't stand out as unrealistically high to me

 

9 hours ago, TheLastWolf said:

It's the medieval ages. They don't have Apollo hospitals

"She died in childbed" is GRRM's go to phrase when it comes to killing women off page. He abuses the trope, plain and simple. It's a gendered way to get rid of characters that could be dead for a myriad of reasons or not even be dead at all. That you don't remember the characters that faced such fate speaks to how lightly the issue is treated, the banality of death in childbed in this fictional world. It was never so in history, though obviously it was more prevalent than it is today. In the main series, besides Johanna Lannister and Lyanna Stark (about whom we cannot make any statement, actually) there are several others: Rhaella Targaryen, Minisa Tully, Mance Rayder's wife Dalla, Jon Arryn's first wife Jeyne Royce, his sister Alys Arryn, ser Jorah Mormont's first wife (an unnamed Glover), Victarion's unnamed first wife, Mors Crowfood Umber's unnamed wife, three Frey ladies (Ser Stevron's daughter Magelle, his third wife Marsella Waynwood, and Ser Aenys' wife Tyana Wylde). These are just women in the current story's time frame, no historical characters included. If I would add those, the list would feel never ending.

There are many misconceptions about labour and delivery in the realm of "common knowledge" about such events. I know a thing or two about it, since from the moment I became pregnant I contacted activists in my country and became myself an activist for good practices in childbirth. I live in the country with highest c-section rate in the entire world, and a much higher maternal death rate than it ought to be with the (high) level of health assistance we have here, and that's due to iatrogenic reasons.

Childbirth is different for each woman that goes through it and each time the same woman goes through it. Yet, I feel entitled to speak about such an experience, having gone through 10 hours of labour and natural delivery without any medical intervention whatsoever (though inside a hospital). Think no IV infusion, no analgesia or anesthesia, no episiotomy, no lithotomy. GRRM's work reads like that of someone who didn't bother to do the research, so it falls to us to criticize it where it's due. Maternal and infant death were on all accounts much lower in the middle ages than later in the renaissance and early modern era.

This is from the World Health Organization: the maternal mortality ratio in developing countries in 2013 is 230 per 100 000 live births versus 16 per 100 000 live births in developed countries. There are large disparities between countries, with few countries having extremely high maternal mortality ratios around 1000 per 100 000 live births

These very poor-performing countries have limited-if-any access to modern medicine, and yet they're still having a extremely high rate of 1% maternal mortality. That feels much lower than Westeros!! The only feasible explanation is 'GRRM doesn't know what he's talking about'. People (usually men) attempting to justify such scenario probably don't know either.
 

Edited by Lady Dacey

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