Friday, September 13, 2013

Stefan's Theory Hour, part 42

Thursday is Theory Day! Buuuut, since yesterday was a brutal workday, it's Friday!
This is the fourty-second 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 42. Spoilers for "A Song of Ice and Fire", obviously. 

What was Hardhome?
Hardhome was the first and only settlement that the wildlings ever built. From the little that we know we can surmise that Hardhome has unusually mild climate for the region it is in (pretty far north) and that it contained a natural harbor. I would also speculate that the site allowed for some natural defenses to the mainland. This allowed for a very good spot for a settlement in a country in which such spots are really scarce, so the big question is why it was left. The wildlings speak of some catastrophe that befell Hardhome, which makes it likely that either a natural catastrophe happened on the scale of the Doom of Valyria, or that some supernatural shit hit the fan. I think it was the latter, since Hardhome doesn’t seem destroyed, but rather a haunted place. I’d guess that Hardhome has something, either a location or an artifact the wildlings brought there that allows the Others to exert influence, in the fashion of the One Ring. It could be comparable to what befell the Night King. This would have led to a giant catastrophe as all inhabitants turned on each other and produced the biggest bloodbath in wildling history. If subsequent discoverers and adventurers were befallen by the same curse, it’s most likely that they consequently stayed away from Hardhome.

Is the curse of Harrenhal true?
No. Harrenhal’s lords have a tendency to fall, but we have several problems with that. First, Harrenhal is only 300 years old, so it hasn’t seen that many lords – this falls within the statistical error and chance. Second, the castle was raised as the mightiest in the Riverlands, but directly after it was finished, Riverrun and the Tullys became the overlords of the Riverlands. Sitting in the biggest castle but being only number two is a situation that drives many people into stupid decisions, like rebelling and the like, which tend to come with a short life expectancy of the whole family. Third, we don’t know much about many of the families. The Harrens obviously died in Aegon’s dragonfire, and the Whents were essentially finished by Robert’s Rebellion and their remains sweeped up by the Lannisters in the War of the Five Kings. Vargo Hoat couldn’t have held his own chamber pot, so his demise doesn’t come as a surprise, which leaves the Lothstons of whom we don’t know much besides the fact that they were crazy in a Bolton way, without the “quiet people, peaceful land” doctrine to back it up, so one would expect them to be done for at one point or the other. As to Littlefinger, he will fall over something else than Harrenhal. So, yes, nice story, but no, no curse. 

Will Dany go to Volantis?
Hell yeah. Martin didn’t spend the best part of “A Dance with Dragons” to hammer home the fact that there are thousands and thousands of slaves in Volantis, flocking to the Red Priests and praying for Danaerys to come and rescue her without having her do that. Plus, we have at least two POV characters who explicitly think that a slave rebellion would cause apeshit in Volantis, and Martin didn’t exactly come around as a fan of the Lost Cause theory in his books and remarks, so the complete destruction of the slave trade in the East should be the one big achievement of Dany’s rule in the region before she becomes the messiah and rescues the world from the Others. I’d say that she will come to Volantis, and rather quickly, smashing the aristocracy there and creating an army that is just a giant clusterfuck for anyone messing with her.


  1. Isn`t it difficult to handle both your job and your ASOIAF fanwork? Sorry for the personal question. :)

  2. Ask me again in three or four weeks. I only started this week, and I have some articles in storage.

  3. I think you're right on about Harrenhal and I think the curse of Harrenhal is something more attributable to confirmation bias among the people of westeros. Herran and his clan are burned alive to start it all off and then family after family holding the castle fall thereafter for varying reasons.

    I believe this, in many ways, leads to the erosion of the power base of the holding family. The logic would go "Oh, he holds Harrenhal? We can't get into bed with him because he's cursed." So potential alliances are denied and the smallest misstep is magnified by the people and attributed to the so called curse. It becomes self fulfilling in its own right.

    On top of that you have to consider the position and state of Harrenhal itself. A thought that you've pointed to in the past is that the riverlands (aside from the twins) are damn near impossible to defend from invasion and so Harrenhal, as we see in the WO5K, is in the path of destruction. Add to that the fact that Harrenhal would require a massive army to fortify (remember Winterfell is large, but not Harrenhal large, and fell because they had too few manning the walls). Further, the upkeep on that castle must be astronomical compared to smaller strongholds and that's not even considering the prospect of restoring the delpdated sections. All this is a recipe, not for a curse, but for an uphill battle that's claimed every other ruling lord. The manpower, upkeep and weak geographic position mean Harrenhal is a horrible castle to hold title to in anything other than name.

  4. I miss your Flight of Links. You have lead me to sites I normally wouldn't have found and I have enjoyed the trip. More, please.

    1. Thanks for the encouragment. One is in the tube for monday, although I will be slow to keep up with my previous pace on them because gathering the links is time consuming, and with my new job I don't have as much of it as previously.

  5. Some ideas for the next theory hour.

    Is Margaery lesbian, bi or at least has tried with girls?
    Will be ever know about Thysa and/or Brightroar?
    Who is your bet to be Cersei's valonqar: Jaime, Sansa, Sandor?

  6. I think the books were more clear on hardhome than that. It was the first/only wildling city and it was pillaged by slavers.
    After all this time some wildlins go there and are found by slavers, an allegory to the tragedy I think some slavers end up in Bravoos and the wildling slaves are freed. As a final sad twist when the Watch arrives, they're are the ones taken for slavers.