Friday, March 15, 2013

My stance on various ASOIAF conspiracy theories, Part 20

Making good for last week.
This is the twentieth article of the series. Happy Birthday, or something. 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 20. Spoilers for "A Song of Ice and Fire", obviously.  

Isn't there something a little Darwinian to the War of the Five King? Ned had fostered an environment where loyalty and honor were selected for in the North, Robb (unwittingly) and the war selected against it. It strenghtened the most cynical and least loyal in the North (Bolton, Dustin) who held their forces, but almost annihilated them in the Reach (the Florents). And I think this would be true even if Robb had lived.
This is a somewhat difficult question. The war wasn't exactly decided on Robb being the honest, loyal and honorable guy, while the others weren't. While he may have been honorable in his own way, he certainly wasn't loyal. Loyalty would have bound him to the marriage pact with the Freys, and honor would've, too. In the moment where push came to shove, he chose the "honor" he deemed more convenient at the moment; interestingly, the show was more honest with the character in making the decision to marry "Jeyne" out of frustration and genuine love rather than that gibberish about "honor". So, technically, it was Robb who wasn't loyal, and he was punished for it, which makes the Darwinian argument a littlebit more strongly. But I don't really see anything like this in the works. The honorable and loyal Eddard Stark won the War of the Usurper and Balon Greyjoy's rebellion, so it seems like there's no problem like this. The War of the Five Kings certainly contains a Darwinian element, but it has nothing to with loyalty, honor or honesty. The winner is the last man standing, and we don't know yet who this will  be. It's all but certain that it won't be house Lannister, and I wouldn't bet a bucket of water on house Bolton, either. But in the end, it comes down to effectiveness as a ruler. Robb lost the war not because he wasn't honorable, but because his whole strategy was flawed, and he made some severe mistakes in character judgement and communication. These elements were selected by the Darwinian element, and not lofty values. 

Are there any atheist characters?
Oh, several. Tyrion, for one. Bronn, for sure, Sandor as well, just from the top of my head. I don't imagine the Boltons as being ones for the sermon, or Walder Frey. Cersei surely is an atheist. We get many sentiments from people that they don't believe in all the stuff about the Seven. What's most interesting, I think, is that atheism is far more widespread in the circles of nobels and maesters, them being the guys with access to a different set of explanation of how the world works. The nobles know the game of thrones, and those who play it can attribute its mechanisms to the ways of the world. The maesters, on the other hand, offer reason, and there isn't any indication that there is a similar attempt to reconcile faith and reason like the thinkers of the Enlightenment underwent. Bronn and Sandor Clegane, on the other hand, are cynics that have resorted to atheism out of despair about all the violence they have seen: for them, the idea that the world holds no meaning at all besides the strong feeding on the weak is the only way to make sense of what is happening around them. Now, let's turn to the one most interesting character for the question: Stannis. Is Stannis really believing in R'hollor? Or has he accepted him only as means to an end? My belief is that at the point of the beginning of "A Clash of Kings", he didn't really buy into all the rituals, but he saw the use of Melisandre's magic, which he will have seperated from her actual beliefs (which he might deem feigned). But at least since the Battle of the Blackwater, Stannis beliefs in R'hollor, and what we see of him in "A Dance with Dragons" clearly indicates this in my eyes, although his faith isn't a warm one. 

Was the Mad King immune to fire?
This one can be answered pretty easily: no. If he was, he would have tried some stupid shit to illuminate himself, and Martin clearly said himself that Dany being immune was a one-time-event, so this theory can be dismissed easily. So easily that I will tackle a fourth one today. 

Knowing how much thought George R.R. Martin puts into names, what is he trying to tell us by having Eddard Stark known as "Ned"? Have you ever noticed any patterns in terms of who calls him Ned and who doesn't? Like, I'd imagine Littlefinger calls him Ned, but Eddard doesn't like it.
"I'm Eddard. My friends call me Ned." That seems to sum it up quite easily in my opinion. If Littlefinger calls him that, I wouldn't consider Eddard liking it one bit, but he's not the guy to lecture anyone. He makes clear enough that he doesn't consider Littlefinger as a friend. I think it's interesting that Edric Dayne is also called Ned, which seems to be like a common nick name. Catelyn has her own, Cat, that is only used by people intimate with her. It's not chance, I guess, since Littlefinger always remembers her fondly as "Cat", and I always imagine his voice going soft when he says the name.


  1. Yay double theories!

    Well the fact that more atheist characters are among the nobles and maesters is of course caused by the better education they have access to, even the ladies.
    Many of the nobles I wouldn't call "atheist", as in "believing there are no gods", though. Rather, they do not believe the gods are benevolent, or even interested in humans. Most of the characters, even the nobles, aren't quite educated enough to grasp the concept of a purely scientific worldview - unlike the maesters of the citadel. Tyrion maybe. But for the others it's more of a theodicy that real atheism.

    BTW have you seen the thread on THOTH about who is gonna be the next LC of the NW?

    1. Of course it is. :)

      And no, hopping over there now.

  2. I thought Ned was a contraction of "mine Eddard"

  3. Hound as atheist =/= Sandor as penitent brother on the Quiet you think he'll accept the Seven, or find his own form of peace...or do you not think that's him?

    1. Wrote about it in one of the earlier entries.