Friday, June 20, 2014

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 32

Thursday is court day! But I forgot, so we go for Friday.
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 A 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 APOIAF-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 32 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judges this week are Ashaya and Aziz. They have been breaking down the backstories and mysteries in audio format for two years, and they're constantly fascinated by how much there is to know.  Check out their History of Westeros podcast for a thorough examination of GRRM's amazing world.

Did Prince Daemon have an obsidian candle? Sure would explain how he could contact people in KL and order an infanticide. Plus, it's not something a maester writing based on texts by maesters and septons would mention, so its absence from the text wouldn't be out of place.

Main Opinion: Amin
While possible, I would need more evidence to accept this theory. The system of ravens is already enough to explain Daemon’s method of communication, coupled with the fact that he has contacts in both low and high places in KL and elsewhere. A point in favour of the theory is that dragons were still quite common at the onset of Princess and the Queen and magic still present to an extent that obsidian candles probably did work and were used by some people for communication. Still, I am doubtful, but perhaps my fellow judges can convince me.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
Not me, at least. I see no need for Obsidian Candles in order to do what Daemon did. Varys makes do without the candles, too. Daemon definitely has the connections in King’s Landing, as he worked as commander of the City Watch for a long time - hell, he basically created it. They received their gold cloaks from him, he formed them into the quasi-military force that they are today. Of course he has connections, of course he has friends. He created several thousand well-paid jobs in the city and brought order to it (although a very Daemon-kind of order, full of random brutality against perpetrators). No magic needed to explain any of this. 

Concurring Opinion: Ashaya & Aziz
This mysterious "pale stranger" that Prince Daemon reached out to is given credit for making all the murderous arrangements. But "The Princess and the Queen" is a maester giving us his version of events, and it is extremely unlikely he heard the story from Prince Daemon himself, or Blood/Cheese or the pale stranger, so how does he know? Thus, an obsidian candle cannot be ruled out despite what the story tells us.  That said, there is no evidence at all for use of such, and we see no reason to assume it. If the distance were large, we would be suspicious enough to consider unusual means, but Harrenhal to King's Landing is only two weeks ride for a small group.  A fast messenger, switching to fresh horses from time to time, could probably cover the distance in half the time. Or Daemon could fly his dragon (at night, perhaps) to a point that is much closer to the city, dispatching the message from a short distance.  

Final Verdict: Obsidian candle shaved by Occam's razor.

Assuming Dany cannot bear children, do you think it is selfish and shortsighted of her to bring fire and blood to Westeros? As far as she knows there is no chance she will have an heir. Do you have any thoughts on this? The only solution I can see is her joining Aegon and him marrying someone else to continue the line and that leaves Dany without the throne anyway. 

Main Opinion: Amin
I do think Dany needs to put more thought into the legacy that she may leave behind with any conquest or reconquest of Westeros. Like it or not, having the ability to produce an heir is important in order to provide ongoing stability to any regime that she establishes. To her defence, she does wrestle with the issue at times and is already concerned with her legacy in Slaver’s Bay, let alone Westeros. And there is a difference to coming over to provide stability to an already shattered kingdom or to fight the Others, compared to the start of the books, where she would have had to dismantle a relatively peaceful if unstable and corrupt Baratheon reign.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Stefan
Dany’s whole war plan isn’t exactly altruistic, at least in the beginning. Remember that she wanted to invade Westeros with a horde of Dothraki! That wouldn’t have been a blessing, and it wouldn’t have been orderly, to say the least. The war she wants to bring is in itself to condemn, especially since she doesn’t promise anything to Westeros other than “now I rule”. Her wars in the east are much more, a campaign to end slavery and to free people. Hard to imagine that she would smash feudalism in Westeros. I concur with Amin, however, that having no capability for producing heirs and no other relatives on hand isn’t exactly a recipe for stability, neither. 

Concurring Opinion: Ashaya & Aziz 
Like many of Dany's decisions, it is shortsighted. This is common pattern for young teenagers, and Daenerys is far from alone. Robb, Jon & Sansa come to mind, and if we look at adults there are plenty of characters who routinely make similar mistakes. Her youth also is a factor in her ability to come to terms with the possibility that she's barren.  This is a hard truth for anyone to face, and she hasn't exactly had down time.  Were she to fully confront it might break her down for a time, and she has a constant need to project strength. As Amin said, she is dealing with a multitude of other issues; and those can distract her from her fears about her infertility. Subconsciously she probably believes there must be a solution, and she doesn't have the experience to understand how important succession is for stability. Approaching this from another angle it is also possible that heirs of her body are somewhat irrelevant.  If we ignore The Others and all the ways they could shake things up, the Iron Throne will go to someone who rides a dragon. If she has no kids, the realm might easily accept the tamer of the largest dragon as a de facto method of determining the successor.  It's easy if there are only one or two dragons left, but things get interesting if all three are around, or if they breed and there are dragons in even greater number.  Then we're returning to the conditions that led to the Dance of the Dragons... Of course, good chance Dany hasn't thought much of this, either.

Final Verdict: Dany is being shortsighted at best, selfish at worst.

What happened to Bloodraven between his handship and his becoming a tree?

Main Opinion: Amin
Bloodraven has lived one of the most interesting lives of any character we have seen. In between his handship and becoming a tree, he ends up being imprisoned and later sent to the Wall during the year of Aegon’s the Unlikely’s coronation and rise to power. I would think that  Bloodraven carried a lot of baggage and made a lot of enemies given his kinslaying, rumoured (and true) sorcerous background, spy network, and such, that led to his imprisonment and being sent to the Wall. While he was of noble blood on both sides (a great bastard), his bastardry and rise to power may have made many other nobles jealous of him as well. I have heard the notion that Bloodraven himself may have set up his own exile, and that would match abilities of manipulation, but I think it more likely that even Bloodraven could be surprised and knocked down a peg. While at the Wall, he eventually rose to Lord Commander, but I do not know the route he took from there to reaching his current tree-linked existence.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
I guess that for Bloodraven, the fall from grace was an event like Bran’s fall was for him: it opened his eyes to the true dangers. At the Wall, Bloodraven must have developed a far stronger connection to the magics of the world, and at a certain point come to the conclusion that he needed to search out the Children. We don’t know how his tenure as Lord Commander ended. Did he stage his own death? That’s most likely, since if he had deserted I guess we would have heard by now. 

Concurring Opinion: Ashaya & Aziz
We certainly concur that Bloodraven is very mysterious! He's one of those types where every trickle of new information we receive only leads to a host of new questions.  One of the latest snippets is that Brynden was released from the Black Cells after the death of King Maekar I, and that he presided over the Great Council that eventually crowned Egg.  This only makes his decision to join the Night's Watch more interesting, and as we said, raises even more questions.  It's much simpler if he was forced to take the black, but it appears he at least had some say in it.  Could this decision have been influenced by an awakening of his green abilities?  Or did he leave King's Landing so as not to give the impression that he was ruling from behind the Throne, as he was whispered to do before?  Either way, we have nothing beyond theories as to what happened once he got to the Wall, and how got to where he is now. We missed a great chance with Aemon himself, who was at the Wall at the same time as Bloodraven, but he never said a word to Jon or Sam on the topic. So no real evidence is available, but we're optimistic that George will reveal the mystery eventually.

Final Verdict: Bloodraven is one of the most mysterious and interesting characters in the series.


  1. Hi Stefan,

    I wanted to email you a link for a strong literary connection between Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Bloodraven that I really think you will find interesting, and which has gotten some traction on reddit's ASOIAF page. It really ties together a lot of the central themes of ASOIAF. However I can't find a more sensible way to contact you than this!

    Sorry for misusing the comment section of your blog like this - is there a better way to communicate with people who write blogs?

  2. I don't think we can rule out Dany having future children. Prophecy plus the fact that she hasn't become pregnant from Daario doesn't guarantee that. Though she seemingly believes it, so her own motives to bring fire and blood with no hope for an heir does fall in line with your ruling.

    1. Yes, that's what I was thinking.

      Also, if magic is what made her barren then it stands to reason the magic can make her fertile again just as easily... if she meets the right dude (Jon?).

    2. Yes, exactly - we are judging her actions based on what *she* knows, not the extra knowledge that we may have on her potential recent pregnancy, miscarriage, or fertility state. I mentioned that explicitly in an earlier draft, but removed it as I figured everyone would get that distinction.

  3. nevermind the feverish final chapter where she may or may not have had a miscarriage/period...

  4. Speaking of Bloodraven: I am re-listening to Book 1 and have a question about Rickon and Bran's connection to the 3-Eyed Crow. Directly after Ned's death, Rickon and Bran both have the same dream (most likely from Bloodraven/3-Eyed Crow) and feel the need to go down to the crypts to "find/wait for their father." We have some idea what the 3-Eyed Crow wants with Bran, but what is his intention for Rickon? Assuming that the connection persists during/after Rickon's split from Bran.