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Lies and Arbor Gold: Well Look What We Found

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Arbor Gold = Sign of Duplicity/Lies (h/t to co-conspirators and fellow Harpies butterbumps!, Dr. Pepper and Lady M)

Littlefinger uses the "lies and Arbor Gold" line and uses the wine to convince the Lords Declarant of the Vale to side with him, when in fact he's playing them against each other and being duplicious. (Sansa serves it to Nestor Royce.)

Tyrion is allowed to drink a bunch of the quality vintage stuff in Illyrio's house, in which he is most certainly being fed a load of BS.

Sansa pours Arbor Gold for Tyrion on their wedding night; most people assume they're consumating the marriage and they're not.

Manderly tells the people present for the Ramsay/"Arya" wedding feast to "wash it down" with Arbor Gold — right when he's serving Frey Pies disguised as pork pies.

Taena gives some Arbor Gold to Cersei — Taena who is obviously playing both sides and spying on her.

The Redwyne Olenna Tyrell seems to be lying or manipulating over a whole pantload of stuff.

Hizdahr develops a taste for it in Meereen — he's almost certainly not being truthful to Dany, or it could point to the misleading conclusion that he's the Harpy when he isn't.

If you expand this a little more broadly, Dany's would-be assassin offers her Arbor red wine, just not Arbor Gold.

It's used to toast Joffrey's health at a council meeting. *snickers*

Aegon — Aegon who is almost certainly not real — claims that Varys paid the switchling's father with a jug of wine ... Arbor Gold.

ETA: Full list is below under the spoiler tag for space.

1. During the council meeting: "When that was granted, he pronounced himself well satisfied and suggested that they send for a cask of Arbor gold, to toast good King Joffrey and his wise and benevolent Hand."

2. Tyrion asks Sansa to pour him the Arbor Gold at the night of the bedding. She's been deceitful in her meetings with Dontos, and the entire marriage is farce. He's also looking to be lied to to ease his conscience about the marriage in general: “There is a flagon of good Arbor gold on the sideboard, Sansa. Will you be so kind as to pour me a cup?”

3 + 4. Leo Tyrell in Oldtown brings up Arbor Gold twice: “Buy me a cup of Arbor gold, Hopfrog, and perhaps I won’t inform my father of your toast." and “Far be it from me to keep you from the piss tasting,” said Leo. “Myself, I prefer the taste of Arbor gold.” Leo stands out as a figure Pate and Alleras do not trust at all.

5. Cersei, outwitted by Tyrion and Varys, reflects that the two are probably out at sea drinking the stuff: "If so, the two of them were well out to sea by now, sharing a flagon of Arbor gold in the cabin of a galley."

6. LF's instructions to Sansa: “We shall serve him lies and Arbor gold, and he’ll drink them down and ask for more, I promise you.”

7. Sansa, in disguise, pours the wine (italics in the text): A low fire burned in the solar, where a flagon of wine awaited them. Arbor gold. Sansa filled Lord Nestor’s cup whilst Petyr prodded at the logs with an iron poker.

8. After the LD meeting, LF reinforces the power of Arbor Gold as a method of seduction: “You see the wonders that can be worked with lies and Arbor gold?”

9. Sansa immediately thinks of Arbor Gold in association with her Alayne lie (italics in the text): “I . . .” I do not know, my lord, she almost said, but that was not what he wanted to hear. Lies and Arbor gold, she thought. “I am Alayne, Father. Who else would I be?”

10. Cersei requests the Arbor Gold, which Taena pours for her: “The gold, I think. I find Dornish wines as sour as the Dornish.”

11. Qyburn discusses Septon candidates, bringing up a man Luceon who is a hypocrite and easily bribed: “Last night he feted thirty of the Most Devout on suckling pig and Arbor gold, and by day he hands out hardbread to the poor to prove his piety.”

12. Cersei and Taena have a slumber party, getting drunk on Arbor Gold: "Outside a cold wind was rising. They stayed up late into the morning, drinking Arbor gold and telling one another tales."

13. Cersei is awoken to deal with the issue of Greyjoy attacks in the Reach. She's annoyed, and is seeking her councillors to give her "yes man" answers (she is extremely pleased by Taena's pandering). She thinks how she wants Arbor Gold specifically: The little queen is making excuses for her brother. Cersei’s mouth was dry. I need a cup of Arbor gold.

14. Illyrio has 3 score casks of Arbor wine in his basement, among other vintages

15. It's noted that a certain black beer could fetch as much money as a cask of Arbor Gold

16 + 17. Payment for the Aegon swap: "His father sold him to Lord Varys for a jug of Arbor gold. He had other sons but had never tasted Arbor gold. Varys gave the Pisswater boy to my lady mother and carried me away.”

18. Tyrion mentions how the swill he's offering Penny is no Arbor Gold (and he's being surprisingly truthful with her): “Have some wine, then.” He filled a cup and slid it toward her. “Compliments of our captain. Closer to piss than Arbor gold, if truth be told, but even piss tastes better than the black tar rum the sailors drink. It might help you sleep.”

19. Manderley and the Frey Pies: “The best pie you have ever tasted, my lords,” the fat lord declared. “Wash it down with Arbor gold and savor every bite. I know I shall.”

20. Jizrag the Lorax has taken a liking to it and asks for it after the poisoned locusts: “Take Draqaz with you. One flagon of Arbor gold, and one of that sweet red.

Key: Red is blatant, bold is heavily implied, normal text is ambiguous or a non-factor.

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So, a couple of things that I found in my research:

  • Arbor gold is mentioned about 20 times in the text of the five published ASOIAF novels, most of them occurring in or after Feast.
  • "Lies and Arbor gold" is uttered only twice by Littlefinger and this is during a single meeting in Feast. Sansa repeats the phrase once in her thoughts in that same chapter. This is it for the use of the phrase.

Arbor gold is one of the highest-quality and most sought-after vintages in the Seven Kingdoms. It is famed even outside of the Kingdoms, so it makes sense that it would be in the wine cellars and decanters of the nobility of Westeros. That one can afford to drink Arbor gold and serve it to guests is a mark of status and power, so its appearance in these scenes is expected, not out of place.

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One idea here: what if LF's "lies and Arbor gold" is, in fact, a reference to an older event when the Redwynes were involved in some deceit?

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So, a couple of things that I found in my research:

  • Arbor gold is mentioned about 20 times in the text of the five published ASOIAF novels, most of them occurring in or after Feast.
  • "Lies and Arbor gold" is uttered only twice by Littlefinger and this is during a single meeting in Feast. Sansa repeats the phrase once in her thoughts in that same chapter. This is it for the use of the phrase.

Arbor gold is one of the highest-quality and most sought-after vintages in the Seven Kingdoms. It is famed even outside of the Kingdoms, so it makes sense that it would be in the wine cellars and decanters of the nobility of Westeros. That one can afford to drink Arbor gold and serve it to guests is a mark of status and power, so its appearance in these scenes is expected, not out of place.

I'd be inclined to agree, if not for that weird instance with Aegon.

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One idea here: what if LF's "lies and Arbor gold" is, in fact, a reference to an older event when the Redwynes were involved in some deceit?

Could very well be. It was the Olenna thread that got us on this topic, and when we found stuff like Manderly, Taena and Aegon, it became pretty hard to overlook. Regardless of the origin of Baelish's line, I think there's a strong case to be made that GRRM's using it as a literary device.

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One idea here: what if LF's "lies and Arbor gold" is, in fact, a reference to an older event when the Redwynes were involved in some deceit?

This makes a whole lot of sense, considering LF conspired with Olenna to have Joffrey killed.

This is my favorite Arbor Gold mention

A low fire burned in the solar, where a flagon of wine awaited them. Arbor gold. Sansa filled Lord Nestor’s cup whilst Petyr prodded at the logs with an iron poker.

This was after LF brought up the "lies and Arbor Gold" and Sansa thought of how he was filling her with lies as well. She got it before any of us did! Not so stupid, is she? ;)

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Could very well be. It was the Olenna thread that got us on this topic, and when we found stuff like Manderly, Taena and Aegon, it became pretty hard to overlook. Regardless of the origin of Baelish's line, I think there's a strong case to be made that GRRM's using it as a literary device.

I'd be more inclined to give this some weight if the phrase was used more often, better distributed throughout the books, and used by people other than Littlefinger. At best, it seems to be a Littlefinger catchphrase that only seemed to occur to Martin during the writing of Feast. There's nothing establishing it as significant or used outside of this single chapter in the book.

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I'd be inclined to agree, if not for that weird instance with Aegon.

Yeah, if you're a big enough lush to sell your baby for Arbor Gold, you'd sell him for wine, period. And actually, given Aegon's parentage, it would've made more ... ironic? lyrical? ... sense for the switchling to be bought with Dornish red, no?

I'd be more inclined to give this some weight if the phrase was used more often, better distributed throughout the books, and used by people other than Littlefinger. At best, it seems to be a Littlefinger catchphrase that only seemed to occur to Martin during the writing of Feast. There's nothing establishing it as significant or used outside of this single chapter in the book.

Could it maybe possibly be used just enough to get the idea in our heads, but used sparingly enough so that it doesn't become stupidly obvious? You seem to be stuck on the phrase; I'm saying there are plenty of instances when Arbor Gold sneaks in with deception independent of the phrase. Same way people have linked rubies to deception, peaches with death, boars to regime change, etc. It's a literary device whose seed is planted by the line but by no means dependent on it.

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Of 20 citations involving "Arbor Gold," 14 are in direct connection to treachery/ deceit (Jizrag the Lorax, Manderley, Aegon, LF + Sansa in the Eyrie, Taena + Cersei being the most over duplicitous connections).

Of the other 6 citations, there is perhaps more subtle duplicity. For instance, Cersei wonders if Tyrion and Varys are in a galley drinking Arbor Gold after Tywin's murder; later, Cersei wants to be "yes-manned" and thinks how she wants Arbor Gold. Leo Tyrell in Oldtown references it directly twice, and at least Pate and Alleras seem not to trust him at all.

"Wine" on it's own is referenced quite frequently, yet "Arbor Gold" comes up overwhelmingly in a duplicitous context. It is a prized wine, which the nobility would desire anyway. But that's precisely why it's such an effective seduction tool.

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Could it maybe possibly be used just enough to get the idea in our heads, but used sparingly enough so that it doesn't become stupidly obvious? You seem to be stuck on the phrase; I'm saying there are plenty of instances when Arbor Gold sneaks in with deception independent of the phrase. Same way people have linked rubies to deception, peaches with death, boars to regime change, etc. It's a literary device whose seed is planted by the line but by no means dependent on it.

It's possible, but I would have expected to see the phrase earlier in the series if the association with duplicity is what is meant to clue us into the symbolic significance of Arbor gold. Because Arbor gold is so valuable and so sought-after as a luxury on its own, it's likely to make quite a number of appearances as the drink of choice for Westerosi elites. As something labeled "the best," it's automatically a status symbol in addition to being quite well-liked, so it's not unusual for it to be around.

I think the difficulty here is showing that its role in these scenes can be explained beyond the fact that it's one of the expected trappings of southern nobility,

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It's possible, but I would have expected to see the phrase earlier in the series if the association with duplicity is what is meant to clue us into the symbolic significance of Arbor gold. Because Arbor gold is so valuable and so sought-after as a luxury on its own, it's likely to make quite a number of appearances as the drink of choice for Westerosi elites. As something labeled "the best," it's automatically a status symbol in addition to being quite well-liked, so it's not unusual for it to be around.

The stuff isn't even mentioned until ASOS and most of its references are later. It's not like there are dozens of non-thematic mentions of it early in the books. I must have missed the memo where a device must start in the first book to be legitimate.

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"Wine" on it's own is referenced quite frequently, yet "Arbor Gold" comes up overwhelmingly in a duplicitous context.

This is the salient point. While wine drinking/inebriation is a common occurrence in the story, it's really interesting to see the instances when wine is used as a device to seduce and deceive, to make a person more pliant, and that particular wine is 'Arbor Gold'.

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The stuff isn't even mentioned until ASOS and most of its references are later. It's not like there are dozens of non-thematic mentions of it early in the books. I must have missed the memo where a device must start in the first book to be legitimate.

oranges in Coppola films can be explained by the fact that Italians just really like citrus

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The stuff isn't even mentioned until ASOS and most of its references are later. It's not like there are dozens of non-thematic mentions of it early in the books. I must have missed the memo where a device must start in the first book to be legitimate.

I didn't say it had to start in the first book to be legitimate, just that a presence throughout the entire series lends a bit more weight to something. Something the author intended to serve as a sign of duplicity throughout the series might be expected to appear from pretty early on.

This appears to be one of those expressions that caught the author's fancy at a particular era in the writing of the series, since most of the hot spots are in Feast. There are several other terms that fit this kind of pattern, such as "hour of the <animal>" peaking in Feast and Dance, "groat" or "half a groat" follow the same pattern in Feast and Dance, and "words are wind" appearing a couple of times in Storm, increasing in Feast, and appearing over a dozen times in Dance.

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I´m sure that Martin uses Arbor Gold as a symbol for sweetening the bait, but I would be carefull to draw any general conclusions regarding the Redwynes from this.

Edmure laughed. "A few barbed words and some unseemly gloating. From him that's courtesy. I expected the old weasel to piss in our wine and make us praise the vintage."
Storm, Catelyn.

In Dance Tyrion constantly compares the wine he´s served to piss and states that it´s not Arbor Gold. I wonder wether there is a similar symbolism to the Hippocras, Cersei makes a habit of drinking in Feast? Arbor Gold lacks the tannic acids compared to red wine, while Hippocras is sweetened and spiced red wine.

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Arbor Gold is precious and prestigious and apparently the drop of choice when flattering, seducing, bribing or negotiating with someone. Not so mysterious.

I agree a drunk would probably be just as happy with a huge jug of beer or cheap wine it makes the story of buying a baby with Arbor gold a bit unrealistic.

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I didn't say it had to start in the first book to be legitimate, just that a presence throughout the entire series lends a bit more weight to something. Something the author intended to serve as a sign of duplicity throughout the series might be expected to appear from pretty early on.

So you're saying it didn't have to start in the first book to be legitimate, but then you turn around and say that it'd be more legitimate if it started "pretty early on." Can you explain how this isn't a complete contradiction of yourself?

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I like where this is going. It's been too long since I read a pondering genuinely interesting on the forum. The question is, does it have any predictive value?

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So you're saying it didn't have to start in the first book to be legitimate, but then you turn around and say that it'd be more legitimate if it started "pretty early on." Can you explain how this isn't a complete contradiction of yourself?

I'm saying that appearing throughout the series is a tick in the column of credibility. It's not necessary, but it lends weight. When looking for something used as a symbol throughout the series, it's one of the factors I consider in my analysis.

I've provided several examples of other phrases that follow similar usage patterns in Martin's writing as an example of how a phrase can experience a spike in usage by an author without necessarily being imbued with tremendous significance. Martin is a writer who passes through phases of word usage, which is expected for someone writing a series over a long period of time. You can see where some concepts enter his usage, are developed, peak, and then appear to fall off as he moves on to others.

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