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Rose of Red Lake

Confusing writing on the wildlings/free folk

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I get the immigration metaphor here -

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“These wildlings … do you think they will keep faith, my lord?”
“Some will. Not all. We have our cowards and our knaves, our weaklings and our fools, as do they.”
“Our vows … we are sworn to protect the realm …”
“Once the free folk are settled in the Gift, they will become part of the realm,” Jon pointed out. “These are desperate days, and like to grow more desperate. We have seen the face of our real foe, a dead white face with bright blue eyes. The free folk have seen that face as well. Stannis is not wrong in this. We must make common cause with the wildlings.”

So far, so good. But then Jon starts to worry about climbers:

Quote

“Or climb.”
“Unlikely,” said Bowen Marsh. “These are not raiders, out to steal a wife and some plunder. Tormund will have old women with him, children, herds of sheep and goats, even mammoths. He needs a gate, and only three of those remain. And if he should send climbers up, well, defending against climbers is as simple as spearing fish in a kettle.”
Fish never climb out of the kettle and shove a spear through your belly. Jon had climbed the Wall himself.”

So Jon jumps to wildlings killing people, "shoving a spear through your belly," when Marsh is saying that the climbers are actually less dangerous than they are. Why does he do that? 

He also reflects on the story of Redbeard, which just reiterates again that "wildlings=dangerous" and that the NW has to stop them. Yeah, gotta stop them refugees!!

So the message seems to be "not all immigrants are bad, but people like Jon are just here to stop the bad ones." ?? Mkay...that's not actually helping our immigration debates in the U.S. right now.

To add to that, why isn't Jon horrified by Marsh's proposition that people will be left to die if they seal up the gate? Instead he's worried that they won't be able to send out rangers. So he's a selective humanitarian? 

If GRRM is trying to make a comparison to the plight of immigrants, I think he could have done it in a better way. 

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10 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

If GRRM is trying to make a comparison to the plight of immigrants, I think he could have done it in a better way. 

What would be a better way?

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1 minute ago, Springwatch said:

What would be a better way?

Don't have Jon acting like ICE border patrol, for one. He's basically saying, we have to stop people from climbing the Wall illegally and committing crimes once they're here.

Explain that if they're climbing over, they should be treated as refugees. Because they are, right? But Jon wants to shoot them on site.

Avoid repeated associations of wildling to criminals. Why put that association in the readers head at all?

Instead of saying "they've got some bad eggs, just like us!" focus on how the vast majority want a better life and are willing to work for it for their children. 

Have Jon at least think that closing off the gates sentences people to die. He doesn't have to verbalize it, but at least think of the human consequences...

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50 minutes ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

Explain that if they're climbing over, they should be treated as refugees. Because they are, right?

Indeed they are. But they are also an army.

You prefer a clear-cut morality tale. GRRM prefers the moral dilemma. Is that a fair summary?

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6 hours ago, Springwatch said:

Indeed they are. But they are also an army.

You prefer a clear-cut morality tale. GRRM prefers the moral dilemma. Is that a fair summary?

Immigration isn't a moral dilemma, it's only politicians who frame it like that. And two, Jon isn't caught in one in these passages,  the conversation is about how wildlings need to be stopped from climbing the Wall or invading Westeros. Both Jon and Marsh are in agreement about that here, the reader isn't asked to question "should Jon really be stopping the climbers?" But I can see your point, maybe an army setting isn't the best place to value human life.

 

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Jon is not your president. He's likely never even going to be "the hero", just a character we were hoping would be.

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"One day, Bran, you will be Robb's bannerman, holding a keep of your own for your brother and your king, and justice will fall to you. When that day comes, you must take no pleasure in the task, but neither must you look away. A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is."

That was when Jon reappeared on the crest of the hill before them.

 

Edited by Egged

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9 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

He also reflects on the story of Redbeard, which just reiterates again that "wildlings=dangerous" and that the NW has to stop them. Yeah, gotta stop them refugees!!

So the message seems to be "not all immigrants are bad, but people like Jon are just here to stop the bad ones." ?? Mkay...that's not actually helping our immigration debates in the U.S. right now.

So the boss is knocked, maybe burnt alive by now but either way some prized pigs are sitting in jail now. Like El Chapo. 

Should the dea and ice just let chapos lieutenants climb the wall? Probably not, the war on drugs is still in full swing. 

Do I feel bad for like practiclly everyone involved? Yea. Do I think the wars stupid, obviously. But its still war, until the politics change the soldiers need to act soldier like or the enemy will. 

9 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

To add to that, why isn't Jon horrified by Marsh's proposition that people will be left to die if they seal up the gate? Instead he's worried that they won't be able to send out rangers. So he's a selective humanitarian? 

Yea I guess, Jons war is a war on the survival of humanity, like Gillys baby he chooses which morals to abandon in the face of armageddon. 

9 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

If GRRM is trying to make a comparison to the plight of immigrants, I think he could have done it in a better way

Its not bad. Leaders care about the status quo, not the individual lives. Seems realistic, as terrible as it is

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12 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

Explain that if they're climbing over, they should be treated as refugees. Because they are, right?

No. They're a army.

It's more akin to the barbarian invasions than whatever immigration issue your country is facing now.

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Why would Jon Snow share the world outlook of a liberal activist in the modern Democratic Party?

He confiscates the free folk’s valuables, and takes hostages from among their children.

He is far more enlightened than most of his contemporaries, but his world outlook is that of a medieval warlord, as one should expect.

The general view in the North and on the Wall, is that the only good wildling is a dead wildling.  For someone to put forward the view that actually they’re human beings, and potential allies against the Others, but we should treat them with great caution is radical for its time and place.

Edited by SeanF

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11 hours ago, SeanF said:

Why would Jon Snow share the world outlook of a liberal activist in the modern Democratic Party?

That's not really the outlook. The outlook is GRRM's own, when he angrily defended Syrian refugees on his blog. I think having Jon kill the wildlings who want to come over the Wall is undercutting this message, and it's a simple fix for him to realize that. Taking hostages and valuables is like taking out insurance on good behavior, not shooting people on site who try to come over. 

Edited by Rose of Red Lake

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On 9/4/2021 at 1:39 PM, Lord Lannister said:

I think the OP is trying way too hard to find comparable parallels to their own political biases in a work of fiction. It's a fantasy story, just enjoy it on it's own merits. 

I think political biases of the author are pretty clear in the text. He fights for refugees and wants to open up America's borders - this "bias" is added into the story with the free folk. 

Since no one really wants to engage with this, I'm going to conclude that Jon is just being his usual dense self. I'm expecting Sam to clarify to Jon that these are refugees who are afraid of his harsh methods, and are taking a huge risk climbing over on their own. Sam has a better grasp on situations like that (see: Jon dismissing Gilly asking for help).

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3 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

That's not really the outlook. The outlook is GRRM's own, when he angrily defended Syrian refugees on his blog. I think having Jon kill the wildlings who want to come over the Wall is undercutting this message, and it's a simple fix for him to realize that. Taking hostages and valuables is like taking out insurance on good behavior, not shooting people on site who try to come over. 

The book was written between 2005-11, well before the Syrian refugee crisis.  I don't think the Northern storyline is intended to be read  as a commentary on US immigration policy.

But the question remains, why would Jon share Martin's political outlook?  No character does, given that it's a story set in a quasi-medieval world.  Jon is willing to use capital punishment and torture.  He supports monarchy and aristocracy. I doubt if Martin does so, but those are all normal beliefs for a medieval leader.  Martin isn't writing 21st century characters in medieval costume.

It would not be true to the setting of this world, for Jon or any other character to share Martin's views on refugees.  Nor would it be plausible for a man of the North, brought up with all the North's prejudices, which Jon is, to completely change his outlook towards the free folk overnight.

2 hours ago, Rose of Red Lake said:

I think political biases of the author are pretty clear in the text. He fights for refugees and wants to open up America's borders - this "bias" is added into the story with the free folk. 

Since no one really wants to engage with this, I'm going to conclude that Jon is just being his usual dense self. I'm expecting Sam to clarify to Jon that these are refugees who are afraid of his harsh methods, and are taking a huge risk climbing over on their own. Sam has a better grasp on situations like that (see: Jon dismissing Gilly asking for help).

Sam is now long gone from the Wall, and Jon is (apparently) dead.

Edited by SeanF

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Lady Rose, I think your view of Jon Snow is overly harsh, fueled by a few small excerpts from his story.  Looking at his entire arc, we see that he has done more to make peace with the Free Folk, and to protect them, than anyone else in the Night's watch -- more, in fact, than anyone else in the history of the Known World.  He broke with tradition, and angered many of his black brothers, by negotiating with the FF's leaders and allowing tbem South of the Wall. He's feeding and protecting them, and he even sent men and ships to rescue the ones at Hardhome.

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Jon Snow isn't a wildling lover as such, nor does he view himself as the savior of some refugees.

He sympathizes with the plight of the wildlings to a point - and much more than most of the black brothers or the Northmen because he lived among them while the latter (quite correctly, from their point of view) only view the wildlings as savages who invade their lands, murder their peasants and abduct and rape their sisters and daughters - but this sympathy isn't what shapes his policies.

It is pragmatism. Jon, like Stannis, realizes that the wildlings are an asset both in the fight against the Boltons as well as potential recruits to help defend the Wall against the Others. More importantly, he realizes that the fewer wildlings remain north of the Wall the lesser wights they will have to face when the Others finally attack the Wall.

But Jon doesn't allow the wildlings through the Wall out of the goodness of his heart. He takes all their valuables, he collects hostages, and he forces them to settle on his land and to help him defend the Wall against the Others rather than allowing them to go wherever they want.

Those are not the actions of a nice guy who believes in helping those in need ... but rather the calculating actions of a man who sees an asset and intends to use it to his own advantage. All in service of an even greater good, of course - the defense of the Seven Kingdoms against the Others - but it is still supposed to profit him as well as the people he allows to cross the Wall.

Also, the parallel between the wildlings and any real world refugees who flee from war, terror, climate change, etc. is completely uncalled for - the point when such parallels would be in order is when we get reports about refugees who proudly walk around calling themselves 'Alfyn Yankeekiller' or when people who routinely used to raid your lands and murder, abduct, and rape your close kin come knocking asking for asylum.

But that's not the case for folks who flee (civil) war at the far end of the world.

Edited by Lord Varys

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Discussion on Mother Mole or the Astapori might come nearer the point, but I think GRRM is allergic to creating a situation / hero that is completely virtuous and successful. He wants shades of grey, and that's what he's writing. And I think for most readers that makes for a better story, even if less of a moral lesson.

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This is definitely an interesting topic.  I don’t think GRRM was necessarily referencing US immigration policy with the wildlings and the Wall.

I do think, however, that he is exploring broader universal themes of creating boundaries between two people which in turn leads to an element of dehumanizing and a lack of empathy between the groups on either side of said boundary.

Now does GRRM think the boundary should come down?  Probably.  But probably like his characters he has some internal conflict about the issue.

While in the long term creating boundaries between groups of people can lead to an Us vs Them mentality, in the short term creating boundaries between two different groups or tribes of people probably does lessen the possibility of violent conflict.  

So probably, like Jon, GRRM may have his own internal conflict.  

While Jon thinks letting the Wildlings through the Wall is the “right” thing to do, both from a moral standpoint and a practical one, Jon is very much concerned that he may be making a colossal, historical mistake.  After all, he’s seen firsthand how ruthless the wildlings can be.  Even Ygritte who he very much came to care for, was able to murder an innocent bystander.  It would be understandable that Jon would be concerned with the repercussions of these Wildlings assimilating into the countryside.

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On 9/4/2021 at 4:57 AM, Rose of Red Lake said:

If GRRM is trying to make a comparison to the plight of immigrants . . . 

I agree with those who say that was not GRRM's purpose in setting up the storyline of the Wall dividing the Free Folk from the Kneelers. His themes are about universal truths, not about a specific political situation in the 21st Century.

Sometimes it is difficult to separate an artist or writer's message from a narrow set of circumstances. In this case, it is not difficult to draw a distinction between life and art. Except to acknowledge that there are "haves" and "have nots" throughout history, and some solutions are more humanitarian than others. 

I would also point out that there is a very persuasive theory known as the Miasma Theory. In this interpretation, The Others are an infectious disease trying to invade the organism below the Wall. Maybe the wildlings are antibodies that the kneelers need to fight the undead enemy. Or maybe they are a vaccine. (Actually, I think obsidian is the vaccine.) 

On 9/4/2021 at 4:57 AM, Rose of Red Lake said:

“Or climb.”
“Unlikely,” said Bowen Marsh. “These are not raiders, out to steal a wife and some plunder. Tormund will have old women with him, children, herds of sheep and goats, even mammoths. He needs a gate, and only three of those remain. And if he should send climbers up, well, defending against climbers is as simple as spearing fish in a kettle.”
Fish never climb out of the kettle and shove a spear through your belly. Jon had climbed the Wall himself.”

A close reading of this excerpt tells you that the author wants us to think of Tyrion's murder of Tywin. Which is an interesting discovery: the author wants us to compare Tyrion to wildlings. Or, perhaps, to Styr, the wildling who climbs the Wall with Jon and Ygritte. Tyrion climbs a ladder in the Tower of the Hand. He kills Tywin with a crossbow bolt in his belly. Recall that he found that crossbow on the wall. (I remember that Tyrion noticed a broken trebuchet at the top of the Wall in the scene he shared there with Jon Snow.) 

I suspect this parallel also supports the notion of Tywin as a version of the Night's King. It always struck me as intriguing that Tywin + Cersei could anagram to make winter + ice (or maybe "wintery ices," to use all the letters). Maybe the wildling / kneeler conflict is about ending the long night, similar to the Night's King story. And the Tyrion / Tywin kinslaying is a variation on the same tale.

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2 hours ago, Frey family reunion said:

 While Jon thinks letting the Wildlings through the Wall is the “right” thing to do, both from a moral standpoint and a practical one, Jon is very much concerned that he may be making a colossal, historical mistake.  After all, he’s seen firsthand how ruthless the wildlings can be.  Even Ygritte who he very much came to care for, was able to murder an innocent bystander.  It would be understandable that Jon would be concerned with the repercussions of these Wildlings assimilating into the countryside.

In a sense George is taking this whole a little bit far with the entire wildlings conflict. I mean, Mance Rayder is a former man of the Night's Watch and quite familiar with the order and also the Northmen. On the one hand he realizes that he and his people cannot stand against the Others ... but then he doesn't reach out to Maester Aemon, Mallister, or Mormont - men he knew very well back in the day - to warn them about the common enemy and ask them to form an alliance. He also doesn't try to negotiate with the Watch before he marshals an army to force his way through the Wall - which is very weird move if he actually intends to 'hide beyond the Wall' as he says he wants. If Mance's campaign had been a success then the Wall itself could have been damaged - at least chances are pretty great that the gates in the three tunnes may have been destroyed. And then Mance also was at Winterfell where he could have approached King Robert himself and his designated Hand. Mance had a lot of opportunities and the means to try to prevent a war between his people and the Seven Kingdoms. But he never even tried, apparently.

Even if we give the entire scenario the benefit of the doubt and say that Mance only raised his gigantic host to put pressure on the Watch in a show of force - and because he planned to take his people down south in any scenario anyway - then it is still not making sense that Mance attacked both Castle Black and the Shadow Tower before making any attempt whatsoever to reach a peaceful solution.

This entire plot seems to be an unrealistic and artificial conflict. It is not very likely that Mance would act the way he did if he was a real person. This plot may have worked much better if it had been a mirror image of the southern political conflict where schemes and plots and accidents fuel the animosities and eventually everything explodes. It may have worked far better if there had been attempts by Mance and the Watch and even some Northmen to treat with the wildlings but the hate on both sides - and the bad will and the schemes of some - had prevented them from reaching an understanding.

On the surface level the plot about 'finding out what the wildlings are up to' works ... but if you think about it for some time then this entire scenario breaks down.

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