Thursday is theory day.
This is the twenty-third 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 (email@example.com) 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 23. Spoilers for "A Song of Ice and Fire", obviously.
Are the Boltons a product of the Others?
I don't know how such theories are even created. Why should they be? Because they're evil? Whoeever comes up with such stuff seems not to be paying attention to what they're reading. One of the really prevelant themes of "A Song of Ice and Fire" is that people are evil, or at least capable of evil. You don't need an army of orcs or evil sorcerers who corrupt the good and honorable rulers to create someone you can fear. The human is the human's wolf, as Hobbes said. The Boltons are a product of a really cruel world and drove it just a bit farther. They are accountable to no one as long as they keep a lid on their activies, which is ridiculously easy. Just listen to the casual way in which Bolton describes past deeds to Theon in Reek III, ADWD. These guys never had anyone who taught them a proper morale. They learned that they rule supreme and can do what they want, as long as the Starks don't get wind of it. And that's what they do. You don't need an influence of the Others for that, said to day. Humans can do that on their own. As a narrative side note, it's interesting just how much more frightening and cruel and dangerous the Others need to be in order to pose a greater threat than a Bolton.
What is the craziest theory you believe is true, and which do you wish were true?I think the craziest theory I believe to be true is that Tyrion is really a Targaryen bastard. I'm still not really a fan of this theory, but I fear that it holds much water now that ADWD is out and let Barristan chatter about Joanna and Aerys. I don't like the theory very much because it seems to follow the old fantasy tropes of destiny and power of blood and such (three heads has the dragon, yadda yadda). It is consensus that Jon and Tyrion are the other two heads of the dragons, and if they both happen to be Targaryens by chance, it's too much chance for me. But perhaps Martin'll pull it off, I hated the Aegon-theory as well and he presented it likeable. What I wish were true? That the series ends with the downfall of the feudalist system and is replaced with something that gives more power to the people, setting Westeros on a path that slowly winds away from all the suffering it endured the past millenia. Just look how better people in the Free Cities fare, with their fairly authoritarian systems, and you know what I mean.
Why didn't the Valyrians conquer Westeros?
Good question, isn't it? They ventured as far as Mantarys to create cities and defeated the old Ghiscari empire, and the Stepstones seem to have been fought over as well. But why never land in Westeros? The Targaryens only left Valyria on grounds of some crazy-ass prophecy and built their fires on Dragonstone, but never ventured beyond that until way after the fall of Valyria. And the Westerosi kings did intervene in conflicts on the other side of the Narrow Sea, especially the Storm kings. So, why not? I guess there are two main reasons for it. The first reason is the scarcety of people and wealth. Westeros is huge, but it didn't posess great cities that would yield rich taxes. You can't imagine them building the big imperial roads in Westeros, because where would they lead? You could of course replace the overlords in their system and put your own in place, but what would it yield? Westeros still doesn't produce anything you don't get cheaper anywhere else, and you need really many people to control the area, because it is populated so scarcely. And then there's another point, which is the long seasons. While Essos also experiences them, Westeros gets the full blunt because it lays farther north. Only the Reach and Dorne enjoy a milder climate in winter, the rest is covered in snow for years. And we see in "A Dance with Dragons" just how difficult to maintain control in winter is, and how easy a rebellion can be created. So, the cost of occupying Westeros is prohibitive, and there is almost no gain to make it worth the effort. For the Valyrians, the Westerosi could keep their inhospitable continent.