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 email@example.com, 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 38 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is James Broxton, who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He became a huge fan of the series right after the HBO show was announced, at which point he burned through the books and almost got through an entire re-read before the show started. He listens to APOIAF regularly and is a member of many of the popular forums, but hasn’t had much of a chance to be active yet. He is currently waiting patiently for his girlfriend to finish the series so they can talk about it (She’s only on ACOK!). Fun fact: He just started playing the Sims and most of his characters are from ASOIAF. Davos and Arya are dating and both work at the courthouse. Stannis and Margaery are also together and are firefighters.
Have the Others some sort of social structure and the possibility of alliances amongst the race of men? There’s a suggestion in the first few pages of GoT that there are communication, plan and black humor.
Main Opinion: Stefan
The Others surely aren’t a mindless mob of Ice Zombies, rampaging away down to the Wall. I guess we can take it as a given that they possess some sort of culture or civilization; after all, their swords and armor have to originate somewhere. I doubt that we’ll learn much about it, though. As to the question of alliances, I highly doubt that anyone will make a formal alliance with the Others. Not because it would be out of the question for some stupid fucks to allign themselves with them - and it’s pretty stupid to ally with someone who hates lives and wants to end it in a winter that never ends. No, the thing is that the Others don’t seem like the alliance making type to me. While they may possess some sort of civilization, there doesn’t seem to be a rationale to me that gives them any need for alliances amongst men. Their armies can’t really hurt them, so why bother? Besides, it would weaken the narrative, which from page 1 seems to point to the tragic of human infighting in the face of a supernatural threat. If there are traitors to the human race, this criminal negligence of the duty of a ruler would be pushed in the background, which isn’t something that Martin, as a good writer, can afford - other than Tolkien.
Concurring opinion: James Broxton
I definitely think that the Others have social structure; if not, I’m sure it wouldn’t have taken them this long to invade. They seem to be waiting for just the right time to come and cause destruction. I’ve often wondered if any of them are wargs or have greensight, whether they inherited the abilities from someone who died or some just have it. That way, they can monitor things and plan their attack. They certainly seem to be very patient! As far as alliances go, I don’t necessarily think it would be out of the question (Craster got along fine for a while), but at this point, it’s probably not likely. Stefan’s “stupid fuck” idea crossed my mind when I first read this question; I’m sure Littlefinger would walk right up to the Others with his hands together and a smirk on his face if he was in the area, but at this point, they really don’t need help from anyone, or at least they probably don’t think they do.
Concurring in part, Dissenting in Part: Amin
I agree that the Others, similar to the Children of the Forest, must have some sort of social structure; some of which will be likely be revealed in future books. I agree with Justice Stefan than a regular diplomatic alliance is probably out of the question, but they may make use of humans like Craster without killing them. The question is whether they would respect a Craster type situation for the long run, or whether it was just a temporary agreement. Just because they might need to make use of some humans doesn’t mean they couldn’t keep a few humans alive as prisoners, rather than independent partners.
Final Verdict: There is a social structure, but there won't be an alliance.
What happened to Robb Stark’s testament, and will it be of any importance to the story?
Main Opinion: Stefan
There is this big theory, the “Great Northern Conspiracy Theory” (check it out here). It basically states that most houses of the North secretly work together to instate Jon as the King in the North, because Robb’s merry band finally passed the Neck and they take “A Song of Ice and Fire” for some fucking fairytale for no good reason. I think the testament is basically a red herring. For starters, Jon won’t become a Stark. That narrative has been finished at the end of “A Storm of Swords”, when he finally realizes he doesn’t belong to Winterfell. This is the main narrative reason for why I think the testament won’t have any importance to the story. It would simply throw up the same question again. There’s no value in that. Second, the northern houses fighting for Jon as King in the North would just be a denial version of the outcome of the War of the Five Kings and bring us right back to “A Clash of Kings”. But remember, that was book 2. We’re reaching book 6 now. So, please, let’s not retread the same path again. Third, the Others are coming, and there is many other important stuff to solve, too, including R+L=J. There’s simply no time to throw in a proxy war “The North against the world” just to show how badass the North is. It is all just based on the wrong assumption that this wishful thinking of heroic antics and epic battles and plots constituting good literature. It doesn’t.
Dissenting opinion: James Broxton
Call me a believer of fairy tales, but I could possibly see Robb’s testament having some importance to the story, though probably not in the vein of “The Great Northern Conspiracy.” We have seen so many times in this series events and major outcomes that could only turn out the way they did if the exact right circumstances at the exact right second happen. If Jon is alive and leaves The Wall for Winterfell or maybe somewhere else and joins up with anyone who shares his ideas, I could see him gaining their support (either for his “claim” or just because they want to follow him; we know he is a leader and can be convincing). I don’t necessarily think Jon will end up ruling Winterfell, King in the North, or anything like that, but why not use the testament to his advantage should he come to learn about it to accomplish his goals in the meantime? The people fighting for the North right now are all pretty much scattered around all over the place and are too different to be working together coherently for some amazing conspiracy. There are only a few factions that could pose any real threat to the Others right now, but any group lead by Jon would be one of them. Should he eliminate any threat from them, I’m sure people would want to see him crowned, and he hasn’t refused any of his titles yet. So in some roundabout way, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Robb’s testament. Stranger things have and probably will happened/happen.
Concurring in Part, Dissenting in Part: Amin
I agree with my fellow judges that Jon is not likely to end up with Winterfell: he is either meant for a bittersweet death or for greater heights than ruling Winterfell; another heir of Ned’s will take up that mantle. I do not agree with the full Northern Conspiracy theory, but I do give it some more credence than Justice Stefan. Just because Jon will not end up taking the seat in the end, doesn’t mean that others might not try (and may be trying already) to place him there. Robb’s will still has a role to play, even if the political ramifications may be overshadowed by the coming of the Others.
Final Verdict: The testament will play a further role, but not like Robb intended.
Did King Robert/Jon Arryn take any wards after their rebellion? If not, why didn't they? They could have insisted on valuable wards from the Tyrells/Martells and their bannerman to ensure their (no doubt questionable) loyalty to the new regime.
Main Opinion: Stefan
Simple: politics. Taking wards from Tyrell and Martell would have been incredibly dumb. The peace that Jon Arryn forged after the rebellion ended was very fragile. Demanding hostages and thereby openly stating your distrust is just asking for a new rebellion. The wartime coalition would have had to fight a rebellion, just after winning their own, and it’s highly unlikely that this would have been particularily succesful. After all, they can’t cound on the Lannisters, either, and their own forces are pretty depleted. Tyrell and Martell, thus forced into an unlikely coalition by stupid Baratheon and Stark, would have simply invited Viserys and Daenerys back and rallied around them, offering pardons. Why risk all that? The status quo peace that Jon Arryn built proved pretty solid for fifteen years.
Dissenting in part, concurring in part: James Broxton
I don’t think taking wards would have been much less dumb than keeping Jamie Lannister on the Kingsguard, but yeah, it would probably have not turned out well for King Robert or Jon Arryn. Not that either of them trusted the right people anyway, but they would have had to constantly look over their shoulders. They had already done enough at the time to ensure a period of peace, and getting greedy and/or swinging their dicks around would have only ensured another war. They both seemed pretty paranoid and even if they got some bad counsel from Varys or someone like that (anyone eventually looking to bring them down), I doubt they would have gone for it. House Martell would have been a particularly bad idea; even Robert would have seen that.
Concuring Opinion: Amin
I agree with my fellow judges that taking wards from House Tyrell and House Martell in particular would have been very foolish. Such a move would have been diplomatically dangerous; these two powerful houses were part of a tenuous negotiated peace rather than being crushed like the Greyjoys after the Greyjoy rebellion. While taking a ward was not a good idea, perhaps more could have been done diplomatically to build some sort of closer tie than what happened for Robert’s reign. Taking a page from Tyrion’s book, offering seats on the Council or other roles in King’s Landing to the Martells and Tyrells, or at the least some powerful houses from the Reach and Dorne as a counterbalance, would have been a better move to build stronger connections to both regions without the potential offence of requesting wards.
Final Verdict: It would have been very bad politics to take forced wards after the war.
Comment from Stefan: Keeping Jaime in the kingsguard was anything but dumb. It also was politics. Couldn’t well make an alliance with Tywin Lannister and exile or execute his firstborn while you’re at it.