Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 6

Thursday is court day! 
Welcome to the Supreme Court of Westeros! Every week, three pressing questions from the community will be answered by the esteemed judges Stefan (from your very own Nerdstream Era) and Amin (from the Podcast of Ice and Fire). The rules are simple: we take three questions, and one of us writes a measured analysis. The other one writes a shorter opinion, either concurring or dissenting. The catch is that every week a third judge from the fandom will join us and also write a dissenting or concurring opinion. So if you think you're up to the task - write us an email to, leave a comment in the post, ask in the POIAF-forum or contact Amin at his tumblr. Discussion is by no means limited to the court itself, though - feel free to discuss our rulings in the commentary section and ask your own questions through the channels above. 
One word on spoilers: we assume that you read all the books, including the Hedge Knight short stories, and watched the current TV episodes. We don't include the spoiler chapters from various sources in the discussion, with the notable exception of Theon I, which was supposed to be in "A Dance with Dragons" anyway.
And now, up to ruling 5 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Bobby Westfall who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. He is a 25 year old master’s student in library and information sciences and is another TV show to books convert. He recently started a blog called Where Old Gods Rule where he will be writing about ASOIAF and other topics. Otherwise he hasn’t been very vocal in the community, but he posts sometimes on as robert_was_the_true_steel.

How does Targaryen inheritance law work?

Main opinion: Amin
Eldest son seems to be the current rule, with male heirs strongly preferred in general. We may have more information on the original system of inheritance and the effect of the Dance with Dragons (possibly the impact of Andal custom on Targaryen succession) with the release of the anthology Dangerous Women in early December. It seems that prior to that civil war, the system may have been more flexible. In terms of Aegon vs Dany, Aegon would have the more direct claim if he were the real deal, as Rhaegar’s heir (being male is irrelevant as his sister, if she were still alive, would also have a more direct claim than Dany). On the other hand, this is only one aspect that potentially makes up a successful claim for the throne. The quantity and quality of banner men and women supporting them and the troops they can command is obviously important, though best paired with some sort of blood claim (and a corresponding attack on the blood claim of the rival, such as the Blackfyre questioning of Daeron II’s parentage). Justice Stefan mentions the ancestral sword Blackfyre, which has significant symbolic value. Dany also has the Dragons, who have both military and symbolic value.

Concurring Opinion Stefan:
Like a holy clusterfuck. Generally, it seems like the eldest son is the heir, but it changed over time. In the beginning, it wasn’t regulated at all (hence the Dance of the Dragons), but later the “eldest son” thing emerged. It wasn’ really established, though, because the passing of the ancestral blade Blackfyre seemed to be as significant (hence the Blackfyre rebellion). Basically, he who has the most support becomes the heir, but usually the eldest son.

Concurring: Bobby Westfall
The eldest son inherits, or the eldest brother if the previous king had no sons. If Rhaenyra had won the Dance of the Dragons, we’d probably see inheritance by daughters and queens ruling in their own right, but as it is that’s never actually happened. Ultimately, in Westeros strength trumps law in these kinds of disputes anyway. Aegon and Dany will both have to take the Iron Throne by force, and their claims may only be important in as much as they can use them to persuade the lords of the Seven Kingdoms to support them militarily.

Final Verdict: The eldest son, until not.

Who do you Think is The Valonquar in Maggie the Frog's prophecy?

Main opinion: Amin
Jaime is the Valongquar, since it fits the prophecy while still being a shock to Cersei. I’m not sure he will literally strangle her (hard to do in his current state), but there will be some sort of psychological or symbolic equivalent that solidifies Cersei’s downfall. It is actually kind of disheartening how accurate Maggy the Frog’s prophecy has been so far, so I hope for exceptions in that not all of Cersei’s children will actually die, but will be dead to her or something like that. Otherwise, seems like everyone should have gone to Maggy the Frog if they wanted to find their future fate; or on second thought, maybe not, since knowing seems to do the person no good at all.

Concurring Opinion Stefan:
Jaime. Everything else would just be cheap and a narrative disappointment of epic proportions. It must be Jaime who kills Cersei, because that’s so unexpected (for her, and that’s the important point, not the expectation of the readers, people. If you want it the other way around, watch “Lost”). The more interesting question is what happens to Jaime after. My guess is that he will die protecting Tommen from Dany’s dragons, true to vow and principle and with nothing to live for.

Concurring Opinion: Bobby Westfall
It has to be Jaime. It carries so much more narrative weight for the brother Cersei loved to be her undoing rather than the one she’s always hated anyway, and with Jaime and Cersei growing apart in A Fest for Crows, I think George has laid the groundwork for Jaime to fill that role in the prophecy. I don’t buy any of the other characters I’ve seen put forward, like Arya or the Hound. For one thing, it needs to be one of Cersei’s actual brothers. Leaving a prophecy open to interpretation makes it interesting, but it’s totally pointless if valonquar can mean literally anyone with an older sibling. Plus, I think the gender ambiguity of High Valyrian nouns relates only to whatever word was used in the Prince Who Was Promised prophecy, not all High Valyrian words.

Final Verdict: Jaime Lannister, without any doubt.

What do you think of the Ice and Fire motifs?

Main opinion: Amin
“It burns, it does. Nothing burns like the cold.”
– A Game of Thrones Prologue
"I swear it by earth and water. I swear it by bronze and iron. We swear it by ice and fire."
- Jojen and Meera Reed (A Clash of Kings).
Ice and Fire can refer to several things. First, as well established in the fandom, it can relate to Jon’s parentage of Ice (Lyanna) and Fire (Rhaegar), his life arc being that Song of Ice and Fire. However, it is also a recurring pairing of tied opposites, such as Meera and Jojen’s swearing of an oath to Bran in A Clash of Kings. This pairing actually reflects a potential enduring conflict between forces in an Ice faction (Others) and forces in a Fire faction (lets call them Team R’hllor). What we do know is that this is not Lord of the Rings, so while the Others have been menacing so far, Team R’hllor might not be much better. That being said, at the moment Team R’hllor seems like the only option that keeps humanity on a winning side.
Fire and Ice (By Robert Frost)
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Concurring Opinion Stefan:
A McGuffin if there ever was one. No, to be serious, they are the driving antagonism in the series, and they will become much more pronounced and important in the last two or three novels that still have to come out, because the battle against the Others will define it more clearly than the muddied waters of realpolitik.

Concurring Opinion: Bobby Westfall
First and foremost I think it refers to two essential natural forces, with magical elements, that are permanently locked in opposition to each other. Although we hear a lot about this dichotomy in religious and magical terms from Melisandre, I actually think Maester Aemon’s statement that “fire consumes” but “cold preserves” (AFFC) is a very insightful description of this duality. I think that the sustaining quality of ice is reflected in the characterization of House Stark as steadfast and persevering. As Ned says, “the winters are hard, but the Starks will endure. We always have” (AGOT). And we see a similar reflection of fire in House Targaryen, given the purely destructive nature of dragons, which are “fire made flesh” (ACOK) and Dany’s turn towards a more vengeful, less nurturing personality at the end of ADWD, when her hallucination of Jorah reminds her that “dragons plant no trees.” So R+L=J would make Jon, who must have some big things in his future, symbolic of a union of these two forces which are set up to collide in the next two books.

Final Verdict: Ice and Fire are the driving antagonisms that drive the story forward, being partially inhabited by many events, locations and characters.


  1. who do you think will be Cersei's " another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear." woman in Frog's prophecy ?

    1. I totally don't think it's a gimme. Margaery or even Sansa (assuming pet theory of Aegon + Sansa happens) are solid candidates, and in both cases (but especially Sansa's), quite satisfying ones.

  2. Yeah, I could actually see it being the case that Cersei's belief that Margaery is the younger queen turns this prophecy into a self-fulfilling one. The backfiring of her attempt to undermine Margaery has brought Cersei as close to losing everything as she's ever been.

  3. I’m not sure if there is enough information to discuss this question to the degree that you do with the rulings but; considering the many similarities between the series and the era of the wars of the roses, how likely is it that neither a Targaryen, nor a Baratheon and by extension a Lannister will be sitting on the iron throne in the end?

  4. What is Bloodraven's plan to stop the Others? (If he is actually on humanity's side)
    Don't know if you already answered this Stefan, if you did I would like to know which edition of your former Theory Hour, if you don't mind...or if anyone else would like to discuss it.
    We can all probably agree that BR has most likely had a hand in the Northern Theatre of the story for a while now, but how is he actually contributing to the war effort against the Others? Bran as his successor/ally seems to be his main objective, but some people think he has been trying to influence other characters through his ravens and warging into other animals (Ghost and/or his mother); that Euron is some sort of student of his and is responsible for getting Dany involved with the Ironmen to bring her home; that he brought Coldhands's will back (and maybe other wights) to use as weapons since he can't move from the cave. Any thoughts on his long term war strategy?

  5. Hi,

    Can you see the end of the great houses of Westeros? Last night it struck me of the peril that nearly all heirs to the 7 great houses are in. We all believe Jaime will kill Cersei, and she will out live her children. The Arryn's have practically gone. Tully's hire is in prison at Casterly Rock, Baratheon's is left to the Grey Scale. Arianne Martell looks set to marry the fake Targ which will leave Dorne facing Dany's wrath. This leaves the Tyrell's and Stark's with the safest heris. Jon on the throne come the end of A Dream of Spring.

  6. Regarding Targaryen inheritance - I know we're at a totally speculative point - but why wouldn't Viserys have had a better claim than Aegon/Jon (assuming Rhaegar is Jon's father)? Since Rhaegar was never actually crowned it seems like the son of the King works better than the grandson right? Even if the grandson is the eldest son of the eldest son.

    1. Not traditionally. If the king outlives his eldest son, but that son has a son the claim passes to him. The real Wars of the Roses in medieval England were partly a result of Richard II becoming king at age 10 when his granddad Edward III died, Richard's father Edward the Black Prince having him. He had a bunch of powerful uncles and squabbled with them, eventually leading to him being deposed and murdered by his cousin who crowned himself Henry IV.

  7. I'd say going to Maggie did way more damage to Cersei than not going would have. Even if we ignore the paradox of the prophecy leading Cersei to take actions that will lead to said prophecy being fulfilled, knowing the prophecy really screwed Cersei up (moreso than she already was). It turned her into a complete paranoid nutjob and destroyed any possible relationship she could have had with Tyrion, then Sansa, then Margaery due to her beliefs that they would fulfill the prophecy against her.

    1. Totally. I like imagining how Jamie would have reacted if he'd gone to Maggie instead and received the same prophecy though -- he'd have probably laughed it off and never thought of it again.

  8. "Jaime is the Valongquar, since it fits the prophecy while still being a shock to Cersei. I’m not sure he will literally strangle her (hard to do in his current state)"

    A rear naked choke could be done by Jaime despite missing his right hand. It wouldn't be as good as doing it with two hands but on a smaller and weaker opponent it would definitely be possible. Whether Westerosi knights (Ser Duncan the Tall a probable exception) are familiar with submission holds is another matter of course.