Thursday is theory day.
This is the thirty-seventh 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 37. Spoilers for "A Song of Ice and Fire", obviously.
Was Rhaegar really as great as Ser Barristan and Jorah claim? Why does Jorah speak so highly of him, he couldn't have known him well?
No way of knowing, at least yet. The thing is, we have almost no information about the man himself. We know that he was melancholic, that he meddled with prophecy, that he was a decent fighter, bookish kid, and planned a "Great Council" which likely was a coup on his daddy. Other than, that, not much. The most important question is whether he was a piece or a player, and I have no clue. I tend to "player", simply because the most important other players are still around and no one ever claimed to have played Rhaegar. But don't give too much on the opinion of Jorah or Barristan, because both need to rationalize their initial support for Robert and their later turn back into the Targaryen fold, and praising a dead man is a certain way to do that. It's typical nostalgia. "If Rhaegar would still be around, we would still have summer, more money in the pocket and universal health insurance", something like that. Repeat it often enough, and you believe it yourself, especially as you start to compare the dead man and his potential to the living one (Robert) and the stuff he really did. Just look at Jack Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. How many people make up myths about what Kennedy would have, could have done, had he lived? But he didn't do that many good stuff in his time. Instead, the great stuff came with Johnson (and the bad, too, as always). But it's easier to rally to the banner of a dead man. So, take everything you hear about Rhaegar with a grain of salt. He was a man of his time, with great visions, but with flaws and limitations. He certainly wasn't the greatest politician, not the greatest fighter, nor the greatest leader of men. I guess he was decent at all of it, and one of the better Targaryen kings, but great? We will never know.
Will Arya die frozen with a Needle in her hand?Well, perhaps, no one can say for sure. But I don't think Arya will die at all, so for me, the question of whether or not she will be frozen and have a needle in her hand is kind of moot. The line originates from Jon Snow, who teased her about it when she ran from the sewing session, and I wouldn't put any prophetic value in it. The line came very early in "A Game of Thrones" (I think it was our first real encounter with Jon, too) and served characterization, not foreshadowing of any kind, especially since Jon clearly talked about real needles. The idea for Needle came only later, as a parting gift, and at that particular moment leaving Winterfell was out of the question, and Arya hasn't touched a real needle ever since, so, no, she won't.
How do you see the plotline with the Faith/Faith Militant in King's Landing playing out? Who will their champion be in trial by combat? Who has enough power in the city to dispose them if more and more of the faithful keep flooiding the city? What outside army (Dany/Aegon/Dorne) would they support, if any? I believe thier existence and future moves is going to be a big contributing factor to the eventual fall of Kings Landing. The rise of the Faith Militant is the single most interesting development of "A Feast for Crows", that's for sure. Let's go through the contenders: there are the Tyrells, the Lannisters, the Baratheons, the Aegon Targaryens and the Danaerys Targaryens. The Faith will not support the Baratheon claim, that's for certain (for obvious reasons), which leaves the Tyrells (ruling through Tommen and Margaery), for which, after a succesful trial for Margaery, there is no obstacle. The Lannisters could also be supported simply by force of habit. Aegon has the giant advantage of being taught very thoroughly in the mysteries of the Faith. If he gets the chance to talk to the High Sparrow, he could win him over, I guess, but the question is whether he will. The most fragile case is Dany. On the one hand, it seems likely that she'll convert to R'hollor, and her rag tag band follows all kinds of gods, and none of them are the Seven (she'll may end up with a sizable force of Ironborn, of all people), and my guess is (from a purely narrative point) that when she arrives in Westeros, she will have neither the time nor the mind for these powerplays anyway, since the Others will have launched their invasion. So, for the time being, I guess the Faith will chip away at the Tyrell/Lannister alliance for their own gain but support it officially, take a hostile stance toward Aegon and outright condemn Stannis.