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Mark O'Kane

Why do the 'Good guys' not be powerful sword fighters?

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Is it GRRM subverting our expectations?

Ned is defeated by Dayne except for Howland Reed defeating Dayne to save Ned. Ned is also defeated by Lord Royce alongside Ser Rodrik who has jumped on to defend Ned as he owes Ned his allegiance and the Bronze Yohn is an old man at this point. Ned is also unable to defeat the Lannister guards who attack him in KL despite him and his best soldiers being mounted and he is unhorsed. He just appears to be quite pathetic and he also doesn't wield Ice as he feels he is unworthy which tells a lot. 

Robb fights Joffrey who is stated to have swatted him away but Joffrey is exceptionally tall for his age so this may have been a factor. Robb and Catelyn also state that Robb would be no match for Jaime Lannister and if not for Robbs bodyguards Jaime would have killed him. Robb then is wounded by an archer at The Crag which is a weak castle and he is unable to fight anyone effectively at the Red Wedding despite his party being highborn warriors (Although the Smalljon and Dacey Mormont do quite well until they are defeated). 

Jon only defeats the Halfhand when Ghost bites his calf which would be excruciating otherwise he was going down. Jon also almost loses to Halder during the 3 vs 3 in AGOT and he loses to Iron Emmet often and he is also defeated by Mance even after being promoted to LC. 

Terrible showing from all the Stark men... But Arya is shown to be very powerful. 

Generally in fantasy the main guys are very powerful swordsmen like Aragorn, Geralt and Obi Wan but Ned Jon and Robb fall short. 

 

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So, you think it's strange that one 15 year old boy is no match for Jamie Lannister, a 32 year old man who is widely considered one of the best swordsmen in the realm. You also think it is strange that another 15 year old boy couldn't defeat Qhorin Halfhand, one of the most widely feared and respected men in the Nights Watch. I'd say that's more meeting my expectations than subverting them.

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1 hour ago, Mark O'Kane said:

Is it GRRM subverting our expectations?

Ned is defeated by Dayne except for Howland Reed defeating Dayne to save Ned. Ned is also defeated by Lord Royce alongside Ser Rodrik who has jumped on to defend Ned as he owes Ned his allegiance and the Bronze Yohn is an old man at this point. Ned is also unable to defeat the Lannister guards who attack him in KL despite him and his best soldiers being mounted and he is unhorsed. He just appears to be quite pathetic and he also doesn't wield Ice as he feels he is unworthy which tells a lot. 

Robb fights Joffrey who is stated to have swatted him away but Joffrey is exceptionally tall for his age so this may have been a factor. Robb and Catelyn also state that Robb would be no match for Jaime Lannister and if not for Robbs bodyguards Jaime would have killed him. Robb then is wounded by an archer at The Crag which is a weak castle and he is unable to fight anyone effectively at the Red Wedding despite his party being highborn warriors (Although the Smalljon and Dacey Mormont do quite well until they are defeated). 

Jon only defeats the Halfhand when Ghost bites his calf which would be excruciating otherwise he was going down. Jon also almost loses to Halder during the 3 vs 3 in AGOT and he loses to Iron Emmet often and he is also defeated by Mance even after being promoted to LC. 

Terrible showing from all the Stark men... But Arya is shown to be very powerful. 

Generally in fantasy the main guys are very powerful swordsmen like Aragorn, Geralt and Obi Wan but Ned Jon and Robb fall short. 

 

Ice is a ceremonial sword, not generally used in combat situations. Ned has another sword for use in fights. Arthur Dayne was a knight of the Kingsguard whose fighting skills are legendary. Ned even surviving an encounter with him is rather remarkable. He was greatly outnumbered by Jaime and his men in Kings Landing, so that is not a great example.

Robb did not fight Joffrey at all. He was obviously no match for Jaime; few are. Being wounded by an arrow has nothing to do with being beaten at sword play. Robb and his men were caught unawares at the Red Wedding, were mostly drunk, and being bombarded by noise that the Freys called "music." That is not a fair fight, as the Freys well knew. They were also unarmed, so being a good or bad swordsman was completely irrelevant.

Jon also comes up against swordsman who are more skilled than he is. That's why he is always training with Iron Emmet, to get better. He did beat Emmet once, though.

There is more to high fantasy than being good with swords. 

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"Enough!" Ser Rodrik called out. He gave the prince a hand and yanked him back to his feet. "Well fought. Lew, Donnis, help them out of their armor." He looked around. "Prince Joffrey, Robb, will you go another round?"
 
Robb, already sweaty from a previous bout, moved forward eagerly. "Gladly."
 
Joffrey moved into the sunlight in response to Rodrik's summons. His hair shone like spun gold. He looked bored. "This is a game for children, Ser Rodrik."

Theon Greyjoy gave a sudden bark of laughter. "You are children," he said derisively.

"Robb may be a child," Joffrey said. "I am a prince. And I grow tired of swatting at Starks with a play sword."

"You got more swats than you gave, Joff," Robb said. "Are you afraid?"

I think it is pretty clear Robb beat Joffery and Joffery didn't want any more of it.

Quote

Iron Emmett was a long, lanky young ranger whose endurance, strength, and swordsmanship were the pride of Eastwatch. Jon always came away from their sessions stiff and sore, and woke the next day covered with bruises, which was just the way he wanted it. He would never get any better going up against the likes of Satin and Horse, or even Grenn.


Most days he gave as good as he got, Jon liked to think, but not today. He had hardly slept last night, and after an hour of restless tossing he had given up even the attempt, dressed, and walked the top of the Wall till the sun came up, wrestling with Stannis Baratheon's offer. The lack of sleep was catching up with him now, and Emmett was hammering him mercilessly across the yard, driving him back on his heels with one long looping cut after another, and slamming him with his shield from time to time for good measure. Jon's arm had gone numb from the shock of impact, and the edgeless practice sword seemed to be growing heavier with every passing moment.


He was almost ready to lower his blade and call a halt when Emmett feinted low and came in over his shield with a savage forehand slash that caught Jon on the temple. He staggered, his helm and head both ringing from the force of the blow. For half a heartbeat the world beyond his eyeslit was a blur.


And then the years were gone, and he was back at Winterfell once more, wearing a quilted leather coat in place of mail and plate. His sword was made of wood, and it was Robb who stood facing him, not Iron Emmett.

Every morning they had trained together, since they were big enough to walk; Snow and Stark, spinning and slashing about the wards of Winterfell, shouting and laughing, sometimes crying when there was no one else to see. They were not little boys when they fought, but knights and mighty heroes. "I'm Prince Aemon the Dragonknight," Jon would call out, and Robb would shout back, "Well, I'm Florian the Fool." Or Robb would say, "I'm the Young Dragon," and Jon would reply, "I'm Ser Ryam Redwyne."

That morning he called it first. "I'm Lord of Winterfell!" he cried, as he had a hundred times before. Only this time, this time, Robb had answered,

"You can't be Lord of Winterfell, you're bastard-born. My lady mother says you can't ever be the Lord of Winterfell."

I thought I had forgotten that. Jon could taste blood in his mouth, from the blow he'd taken.

In the end Halder and Horse had to pull him away from Iron Emmett, one man on either arm. The ranger sat on the ground dazed, his shield half in splinters, the visor of his helm knocked askew, and his sword six yards away. "Jon, enough," Halder was shouting, "he's down, you disarmed him. Enough!"

No. Not enough. Never enough. Jon let his sword drop. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "Emmett, are you hurt?"

Iron Emmett pulled his battered helm off. "Was there some part of yield you could not comprehend, Lord Snow?" It was said amiably, though. Emmett was an amiable man, and he loved the song of swords. "Warrior defend me," he groaned, "now I know how Qhorin Halfhand must have felt."

That was too much. Jon wrenched free of his friends and retreated to the armory, alone. His ears were still ringing from the blow Emmett had dealt him. He sat on the bench and buried his head in his hands. Why am I so angry? he asked himself, but it was a stupid question. Lord of Winterfell. I could be the Lord of Winterfell. My father's heir.
 

Jon at least has the potential to be much more deadly than Iron Emmett, who in turn is the best at Eastwatch. Normally it sounds pretty even but when Jon got angry and stopped thinking he absolutely destroyed Emmett, to the point where everyone watching believed he killed Qhorin Halfhand in an actual fight.

You also have to look at the other people he fought. Qhorin Halfhand was always going to let Jon win the fight but he needed to make it seem realistic. Jon was also extremely reluctant to be fighting him in the first place. With Mance, he had defeated everyone who didn't yield to him north of the wall. This is a lot of very good fighters and who knows what effect the illusory magic had on the fight. And it was still close, even while losing Jon did manage to get Mance to the ground. All from a 15 year old against the best fighter north of the wall. I think it is very clear that GRRM has made Jon a very good swordsman. 

It is very difficult to judge the merits of the fighters up at the wall and beyond compared with those to the south. At the same time it is true that he didn't make the Starks out to be Gary Stu's. I don't think any of the Starks (since possibly Cregan) compare to Arthur Dayne or Jaime Lannister (with the possible exception of Jon). 

 

 

 

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12 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

This happened in the books?

We don't know what happened exactly. This is the only thing I can think of that would lead to the conclusion that Howland Reed "defeated" Arthur Dayne. But this could have meant a dozen different things.

Quote

"The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed." Father had gotten sad then, and he would say no more. Bran wished he had asked him what he meant.

 

Edited by Makk

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There are some famous and notable knights among our motley crew.  Knights are afraid to fight Brienne.  Sandor Clegane gave his brother a match brute strength swing per swing.  Jorah Mormont was a rare knight of the north and has spent years learning about different fighting styles around the world.   He's an old guy, at least in Dany's eyes.  Ser Barristan Selmy is positively ancient by the standards these people live by.  Still there he is training Merenese boys to serve in knightly or at least very western positions in a live war zone.  Sorry, he's such a badass.  The knightly "sport" never really rooted in the North and it would be good to know how in the world Jorah got the crazy idea to be a knight.  Robb and Jon do pretend to be knights as Bran was in awe of Jamie Lannister, Kingsguard.  Jamie was a legend and I think maybe having a contemporary living legend or rock star in an era that would be very impressive to a young northern boy.   Can't think of a bunch of notables in the same category with Lannister.    I can recall some cool historical Starks and Dustins and even Umbers, but they aren't cool like Jamie Lannister.  

FIghting style would matter a great deal in your measure of swordsmanship.  We have seen Jon have a berzerker moment and Brienne overcome ridiculous odds and Jamie train with his left hand.  I won't bet against any of them when the swords draw and the whip of winter comes down.  Clegane's strength and Selmy's traditional war formation will make huge differences in the battles they face.   What has simple Hodor learned to do with his sword?  Perhaps Bran in Hodor learned?  Meera seems skilled with smaller weapons.   What happens when a world known knight, Jorah the Andal, goes home to the North? Those Frey bastards won't forget the damage inflicted by Lady Dacy and the Great Jon any time soon.   It doesn't seem that fighting for sport is a thing in the North.  But the people and the way they use weapons and tactics is interesting.

The point I meant to make is that people fight in very styles and hold sports in various levels of regard.  You may value form where I value speed and others value obedience.  A lot goes into determining what makes a great fighter, famous or no. 

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3 minutes ago, Curled Finger said:

The point I meant to make is that people fight in very styles and hold sports in various levels of regard.  You may value form where I value speed and others value obedience.  A lot goes into determining what makes a great fighter, famous or no. 

Well, with Jaime getting things really out of hand, I'd say that Barristan is the only exceptional fighter left alive. And not for long given he's probably going to make a one way trip down Drogon's jaws once he goes from Dany to Aegon

Edited by Alyn Oakenfist

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2 hours ago, Alyn Oakenfist said:

Well, with Jaime getting things really out of hand, I'd say that Barristan is the only exceptional fighter left alive. And not for long given he's probably going to make a one way trip down Drogon's jaws once he goes from Dany to Aegon

I can't and won't argue Selmy, but I won't discount Clegane's raw power--that is all arms and back--a leg wound won't affect that.   Jon goes berserker and all he seems to need is anger.  Whatever happens to Brienne, she still fought off a gang and lived.  There are swordsmen from the Blackwater we haven't really seen in action and Loras is still reigning king of the knights with a lot of people.  Is Lyn Corbray a badass worthy of his blade?  I think we will get a chance to see some, particularly those native to the Vale.  Might be a surprising lot of talent there.  And the Golden Company.  The entire company is paid for their swords, surely there are some legendary swordsmen there.    Selmy treats?  Nah, it doesn't sound tasty.  Hizdar treats sounds much better. 

Edited by Curled Finger

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