Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stefan's Theory Hour, part 45

Thursday is Theory Day! Finally, I did it in time.
This is the fourty-fifth 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 (stefan_sasse@gmx.de) 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 45. Spoilers for "A Song of Ice and Fire", obviously. 

Is Melisandre stupid assuming Stannis is Azor Ahai when Benerro favors Dany?
No, she's making a genuine (although grave) mistake. Not the first, and not the last, by the way. The problem with all these visions is that they are very hard to read. If you don't already know what they mean, you have a very hard time to interpret them. Think about Melisandre's visions of towers that she reads as Eastwatch: we still have no clue which ones she saw. Although, without the knowledge we readers gained from the prologue of "A Dance with Dragons", one can't possibly interpret the "man, wolf, man again" vision. We don't know what her vision regarding Stannis was, but I guess it seemed pretty legit to her. You shouldn't forget that Melisandre is by far the best reader of visions out there. She has no equal in the whole world. So, no, she's not stupid. She has to make incredibly hard decisions on a daily basis, using the crappy intelligence she has to decipher really hard riddles. Also, take into account that Benerro isn't really in on the Azor-Ahai-bandwagon. He favors Dany because she frees slaves, and Benerro obviously wants her to come to Volantis to do exactly that. Melisandre is highly capable, and her readings are correct more often than not (Stannis gained an army at Storm's End, Davos wanted to murder her, Jon Snow was threatened by his brothers, the rangers were killed and their eyes removed, and so on). She is also hindered by the fact that she misreads some visions into possible futures when they are not, strikingly in the case of "Renly" destroying Stannis below the walls of King's Landing. I would guess that she misread Stannis' role in a similar way, seeing him crush the wildlings on the Wall or something and later fighting some dark force, something among these lines. She could only start understanding Jon's appearance in the visions once she met him. Really, when dealing with Melisandre, always remember that she has insufficient intelligence.
What makes Beric special? 
Good question. My take on it: nothing. Nothing at all. He's just a random guy that R'hollor decided should become his vessel. Perhaps it's some kind of inversion of the New Testament: Jesus, the other guy we know capable of returning from the dead and doing crazy stuff, is literally the son of god. Can't get more special than that, really. Beric, on the other hand, is a mostly insignificant noble that would have persished in a pretty insignificant way. He rose to the occasion, displaying some bravery and prowess in battle, but so did countless others. He became who he was by being resurrected, not the other way around ("Are you my mother, Thoros?"). I'd guess his feats are more or less R'hollor showing off. Thoros, the worst priest, and Beric, some random noble, being the miracle guys in Westeros. This is what made Thoros' encounter with Melisandre in the series such a potent scene, methinks, and I hope that it will give her some doubts along the way. 
Why did Benjen join the Night's Watch after Robert's Rebellion?
I'm not sure not that you ask whether we are certain that it was after the rebellion, but I have the feeling you're right on that count. He has to be in the Watch for quite some time in any case, or else he couldn't have been First Ranger (a position requiring at least some merit) nor acquired such a reputation among the wildlings. He must also have been over twenty, since he talks to Jon about forsaking sex in clear terms that suggest that he knew what he was giving up, other than Jon. Anyway, there are basically two theories. One, he's the third son, and there's not much to gain, plus the Starks are friends to the Watch. If you will, it's the boring version. The other theory is a bit more complex, but I like it. It says that Benjen is the "quiet wolf" from the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, making him pretty observant. As the theory goes, he would have discovered that Lyanna was the knight and that Rhaegar and she fell in love. Benjen could have helped Lyanna along to flee with Rhaegar (the "abduction"). When all the blood and carnage started, young Benjen must have been consumed by guilt, leading to his joining the Night's Watch. It's a story of great personal tragedy, and also reinforcing the trope that everyone who tells Jon that they "talk when I return" knows his secret and won't return.

18 comments:

  1. About the timing for Benjen, there is a So Spake Martin on westeros.org about it, that does say that he joined the Night's Watch not long after the Rebellion. (And pointedly, the same item says that Martin refused to say why Benjen did that)

    Although I believe that Eddard was "The quiet wolf" in Meera's tale, while Benjen was "the pup", it changes nothing to the result.

    Anyway, thank you. :)

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    1. Why not a mix of the two versions?
      Benjen probably knew what he was giving up, even if he wasn't twenty yet - Jon, Robb, Asha and plenty other characters had their first time around sixteen. Benjen might have been that age - maybe a year or so younger than Lyanna - when he joined.
      He might have joined the NW on one hand because he was sure he was no longer a potential heir to Winterfell, seeing that Ned had now a healthy trueborn son and an equally healthy, fertile wife, but on the other hand out of grief, and maybe guilt, for what happened to Lyanna, Brandon and their father. That last one depends on the role he actually played in the whole thing, of course.

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  2. heartsbane of hornhillOctober 3, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    Another mysterious exile? I really wish that Benjen simply joined the watch after the rebellion, because he fulfilled his duty as the Stark in WF. Then joined the Watch because Ned had an heir. I don't know how many more twists and turns I can handle

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    1. It`s not really a twist, is it? It`s just a detail about the personal emotions of a character.

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    2. I must completely agree: Benjen was one to fit the role of 'there must be a Stark in Winterfell' during the rebellion, but when Eddard, the lord, returned, already with an heir, Benjen had to find some purpose for himself. He did the customary thing for a Stark, joined the Night's watch. Sorry, don't see any mystery in this one.

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    3. If things were that simple GRRM would have no problem revealing the reason of Benjen joining the NW, yet he didn`t.

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  3. You still think Melisandre is "misinterpreting" the burning towers as Eastwatch?
    I think it's pretty clear from her inner monologue that she doesn't give a flying fuck what towers are burning there as long as she can manipulate people by telling them they're something they care about. Also, she states clearly that when she doesn't have a clue what a vision means she always just pulls something out of her pretty ass to seem clever.
    I can see how seeming clever in any and all situations regardless of truth is essential for a wannabe cult leader, but sill... "misinterpretation" is a much too nice word for that, imho.

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    1. Nah, that's not true. While she sometimes just talks, she also gets many things right, and others she just misunderstands (Renly).

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    2. But if Melissandre realy thinks that Stannis is AAR, why give him a fake "Lightbringer" to make the prophecy happen?

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    3. Because she believes that Stannis is AA. We had it from her herself, in her own chapter. Why she gave him the sword - hell, he's AA, so he needs a sword to convince anyone else. She could simply write off the sword as metaphor. Hell, it is most likely - consensus seems to be that the dragons are Lightbringer, so why not?

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  4. Asking about Southron ambitions. The links to it don't work, only go to comments section. How can I read this great article I have been hearing about.

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    1. The links work. I guess you forgot to adjust the "scope", which you can find in the upper bar of the page. Put it to "A Dance with Dragons", and you will see the article. Why does everyone find this essay so great, btw?

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    2. Cause is kind of da sh*t, hahaha, we all love it.

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  5. Who do you think will win the battles or Meeren and Winterfell? Any why?

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    1. I take it on my list. Short version: Dany and Stannis.

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  6. Thanks for Stannis , I have now some hope .

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