Thursday, November 8, 2012

My stance on various ASOIAF conspiracy theories, Part 6

Thursday is theory day now. 

This is the fourth article of the series. Since there are a lot of theories floating out there and I'm asked often enough what I think of them, I thought I write it down. You can then laugh about me when I am totally proven wrong by "The Winds of Winter" or something like that. Rules are as follows: you put a question about any theory or plot element (really, let's stress "theory" a bit for the sake of interesting questions) either in the comments of any theory post or by mail ( and I will answer them in an upcoming post. And if you now ask "Stefan, isn't this a shameless rip-off of Sean T. Collin's "Ask me anything"?", I would tell you to shut up, because you are right.
Prepare for part 6. Spoilers for "A Song of Ice and Fire", obviously. 

Why do so many houses seem out of heirs? 
It is a striking fact that many major houses seem to be very short of heirs. The Arryns, the Starks, the Baratheons and the Tullys were, at the start of the saga or halfway in, houses with very few heirs. The Arryns obviously are the most endangered species, relying on Robert Arryn. But the Starks now only have Bran and Rickon, which both are rather young, the Tullys only had Edmure to begin with who didn't have an intention to marry before "A Storm of Swords" and the Baratheons also titter on the brink of extinction. The Greyjoys are positioned a bit broader, but that not overly much, and the Tyrells have two possible heirs at least. The new Warden of the North, Bolton, doesn't have a trueborn heir and relies on his unstable bastard son turned true by royal decree. The only family that has a broader base are the Lannisters, with several branches. We don't really know whether other houses cultivate such branches too, however. It would be likely for the Tyrells, for example, who had enjoyed a long period without major casualties prior, and perhaps for the Greyjoys. We know for a fact that Starks and Arryns are running short because it is explicitly stated by Littlefinger and Catelyn, but since no one ever brought these issues up for the other families (except Baratheon, obviously), I think it's safe to assume there are cousins, uncles and more distant relatives to be had that share the name but not quite the "pure" bloodline of the major branches. In the end, it would come down to realpolitik anyway: look at the Darrys and you see where this road leads. The last heir, a young girl, gets wed to someone claiming the title. That's what would happen to survivors of other houses in similar powerless functions, as evidenced by Sansa Stark, too.

What happened to the Horn of Joramun?
The Horn of Joramun supposedly wakes the giants and, more importantly, has the power to bring down the Wall, if the stories can be believed. Now, Mance Rayder stated that what Stannis burned was just a fraud for the Watch to believe in, and most wildlings, too. So, if the Horn of Joramun ever existed, it was not in the hands of the wildlings. It`s likely they would have blown it by now, as desperate as they are. So, a popular theory is that Samwell Tarly has the horn, because the broken thing Jon found with the arrowheads inside was really it. It's a nice idea, and the thought of Sam carrying around the potential doom of the Wall out of nostalgia is funny enough, but somehow I'm not quite convinced. If it is the Horn of Joramun he's carrying, I doubt someone can fix it back into working condition. Of course, if Martin wants to bring down the Wall, the horn would be a good thing to do it since it was mentioned often enough, allright.

Who was to foster Robert Arryn?
This is one of the political subplots that follows mainly through "A Game of Thrones" and "A Clash of Kings". Robert Baratheon tells Ned Stark on his visit in Winterfell that he intended to foster Robert at Casterly Rock, with Tywin Lannister, but that Lysa's flight put an end to these plans. However, we later learn by way of Catelyn's chapters in "A Clash of Kings" that Robert was supposed to be fostered at Dragonstone, with Stannis. Stannis himself confirms this in a dialogue with Davos in "A Storm of Swords". So, which version is true? Who was to foster Robert Arryn? The answer is simple: both. The fostering of Stannis predated that of Tywin, but both were real plans. This is how I think it happened: Jon Arryn, while hand, saw his wife and son clearly for what they were and decided that the only sane thing to do was to wrestle the boy from his mother. He needed someone hard enough (Tywin comes to mind) and reliable enough (Tywin leaves your mind) to do the deed (meet Stannis). Then he made mortal error to tell his wife, who - in terror - ran to Littlefinger, who provided her with the poison, setting in motion the events at the beginning of "A Game of Thrones". Cersei, being the power player she is, grabbed the opportunity for more power and persuaded Robert to give his namesake to Tywin. Likely she was encouraged by Littlefinger`s "advice". Even Lysa could see that poisoning Tywin was no option, so she fled to the Eyrie, instructed by Littlefinger to wait for his return and to deny all suitors. Robert Arryn now was safely in his hands, without anyone knowing it, setting the stage for his one master move in the game of thrones. And that is the story behind fostering Robert Arryn.


  1. I think the Horn of Joramun falls under the Chekhov rule. It makes most sense if it exists and is currently the property of the Others because they've got to have a magical way to beat whatever anti-Other and anti-wight magic is bound up in the Wall. Maybe they've been tooting it occasionally for years and now that magic's come back into the world it's going to work this time. Also, I think hugely powerful magical things buried in the ground Beyond the Wall would have a way of ending up in the hands of the Others.

    Mance doesn't have a reason to lie on that point that I can think of, so I think we can take it as true as the Wildlings didn't find the real horn.

  2. Regarding Jon Arryn, as I've suggested, I think part of his motives in fostering Robert with Stannis (as opposed to say, with Eddard) is that Jon was preparing to move against Cersei and didn't want to leave any hostages for Cersei to use against him or his widow.

    1. * and that he chose Stannis specifically because Stannis knew about his investigations and would be wary of the Lannisters.

  3. A couple minor points:

    1) Catelyn finds out about Stannis fostering Robert Arryn at the Twins in Game of Thrones.

    2) Lysa fled to the Eryie as soon as Jon died. What is there for her in kings landing? She wouldn't have stuck around and waited Cersei to make a move. And Cersei wouldn't have telegraphed her plans beforehand.

    This is interesting to think about though. One of the reasons Cersei out maneuvered Eddard is that she had already had a practice run.

  4. The fostering of little Robert is explained by Grand Maester Pycelle in the chapter where Tyrion crops his beard (ACOK).
    Grand Maester tells that after Jon Arryn discovered the truth about Cersei's children, he was going to tell Robert about it, but not before seeing his son to safety. Enter Stannis (who also knew the secret along Jon) as the one to take the boy away to safety.
    Then happens what we know from Lysa. After finding out she goes mad, poisons the man, and hell breaks loose.
    Grand Maester goes as far as to acknowledge that he shooed Grand Maester Colemon away because he was healing Jon Arryn.. and he knew the queen needed him dead (but could not say so).

    1. In fact, it was Stannis who hinted Jon Arryn with theory of the bastard children (he says so to Renly and Catelyn when they meet in Storm's End)

  5. Just to note, there's tons and tons of Tyrells. Beyond Mace's sons, he has two living uncles, the elder of whom is Garth, the flatulent one, and the younger of whom has numerous legitimate descendants, including Leo, the novice at the Citadel. There's also a number of more distant relations we've been told of.