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 42 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Alex Smith: co-founder of Tower of the Hand, one of the contributing authors to A Flight of Sorrows, and repeating guest host at A Podcast of Ice and Fire.
When will Dany start to use the Targaryen sigil? Why hasn't she used it yet? Will the unsullied soldiers don the three headed dragon on their shields, breastplates, and banners at some point? Will she wait until she arrives in Westeros, where sigils actually mean something? Will she even use the sigil at all, or are three real live dragons enough?
Main Opinion: Amin
I would have thought that she already had donned the Targaryen sigil and it just hasn’t been expressly noted either way in the books. She certainly does with that memorable shot of the banner going up in Meereen in HBO’s Game of Thrones, though the books may be a different situation. It is true that the full weight of the sigil is best understood in Westeros, so it would be a symbolic moment for her to adopt the banners (shields or breastplates would be a waste of her limited resources) of the Targaryen sigil when she goes to Westeros, if she hasn’t already done so. During the course of A Dance with Dragons, Dany was focused on respecting Meereense customs as much as fairly possible, so if she hadn’t adopted her Targaryen sigil yet, that would probably be one of the reasons for the omission.
Concurring Opinion: Stefan
Respecting Meereenese customs certainly plays a large role in the omission of dragon imagery. Plus, it’s not her style. Dany doesn’t remember Westeros, only Essos, where sigils aren’t in wide use. She would have to be told to put the damn things everywhere, and she’s a woman besides, who tend not to wear shields and surcoats (where sigils are put). But so far, there’s no reason for it. The Unsullied are hers, and everybody recognizes them as her force. Besides, the sigil on breastplates and shields and stuff is largely an invention of the show. Medieval soldiers at maximum carried some kind of badge; usually, you can tell by the banners where someone belongs to. And I guess Dany will bring banners.
Concurring Opinion: Alex
You know, it had never occurred to me that Daenerys had not unfurled the three-headed dragon banner of her house, but now that I think on it, I am not surprised. When she first headed east, she was just a bargaining chip for a Dothraki hoard and had no need of banners. Presumably when she arrived in Qarth she could have found a craftsman with the appropriate skills to fashion a banner for her, but the banner and what it represents would be wasted on the people of Essos, who have never known Targaryen rule. The people of the continent know dragons, however, which subjugated lands from Slaver's Bay to Dragonstone. With three live dragons at her command, Daenerys had no dead of a sigil to inspire respect. Surely, however, she will march on Westeros under the banner of the three-headed dragon, as it proclaims her legitimacy to her own people. Three dragons may be enough to make her a conqueror, but it is the Targaryen lineage that makes her a queen.
Final Verdict: Dany will certainly use the Targ banners if she goes to Westeros.
Why didn’t Theon go to King's Landing? Did Ned request Theon for fear of Robert mistreating him? Did Ned think he could potentially forever change the relationship with the Iron Born if he treated Theon well and eventually installed him as Lord of the Iron Born?
Main Opinion: Amin
Robert was known to be able to forgive his enemies, except for the Targaryens, and this was one situation where perhaps he should have taken more punishment and a little less forgiveness. I think it was mainly a case of Ned stepping up to the task or Robert giving it to his trusted friend, than Ned having to step in to protect Theon. The North was more closely affected by Balon’s rebellion that the Crownlands, though I guess Hoster Tully or Tywin Lannister would have been the most interested in holding Balon’s son given that they were most directly hit by the rebellion, though Ned would have probably opposed the later option. For Ned, the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with the Ironborn would have useful, as the North conspicuously lacks any significant naval forces on the Western coast. Ned even mentions the “sore need” for Balon’s fleet if war were to occur with the Lannisters. The problem was, Theon was both a hostage and a traditional ward, and this tainted part of his relationship with the Starks (even if it took a while for him to full realize it). He was also sent back too early and without the proper support to the Iron Islands, as is noted in the final question for this week.
Concurring Opinion: Stefan
Theon is a hostage so you can credibly chop his head off when the rebellion comes again. Most closely affected is the North, which leads to a much quicker reaction time when Then is in the North than when he is in King’s Landing. Any hope of taking something before you then could trade (like Jaime Lannister in the Whispering Wood) is thus smashed in the beginning. Of course, that requires Balon Greyjoy to give a rat’s ass about Theon, which clearly isn’t the case, but with a rational actor, it might work.
Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Alex
As the other judges have noted, taking Theon all the way to King's Landing would not have made much sense seeing as how the threat of the Ironborn was concentrated between Lannisport and the Stony Shore, where sea power was weak after the rebellion (The Reach presumably remained relatively safe due to the formidable Redwyne fleet. If Balon needed to be called to heel, it would be the Warden of the West or the Warden of the North that would have needed to respond quickly to the situation, and Robert trusted Ned far more than Tywin Lannister. Certainly there is no reason to believe Robert would have been a threat to the boy as he pardoned enemies liberally throughout his reign, saving his all-encompassing hatred for the Targaryens alone. I don't really see any evidence that Ned was trying to alter the ironborn, however, by raising Theon to be a more honorable and less bloody-minded ruler. While Theon is already a man by the time we first see him, I do not get the sense that Ned gave him any extra attention or instruction beyond a basic fostering relationship, indeed Theon appears to feel resentment towards Eddard due to his outsider status. Furthermore, its clear that Eddard never fully trusted Theon, as he tells Catelyn to keep close watch on his ward because Balon's fleet may be useful. If there were any kind of father-son dynamic between them, Eddard would not need to give such a command. The reaving ways of the ironborn are ingrained deep in their culture, and surely Ned realized that Theon would most likely be pulled down from his lordship if he attempted to effect a real cultural shift.
Final Verdict: Putting Theon under Ned's watch made more sense than sending him to King's Landing.
Had Balon Greyjoy rebelled again before the events of GOT. Would Ned Stark have actually have beheaded Theon? He was still innocent of any crimes at the time. Ned was honor bound to enforce the punishment. But, could he actually have followed through with it? Balon had little enough concern for his son. How would an earlier Greyjoy uprising have affected The War of the Five Kings, and subsequent events.
Main Opinion: Amin
If Ned was ordered by Robert to kill Theon, he would have been able to do it. That was part of the reason why Ned kept his relationship with Theon from getting too close, because of that enduring possibility. In contrast, Jon Arryn never had to consider the possibility of executing Ned and Robert until it came out of the blue from an utterly Mad King, by that point he was very closely attached to them like his own children. Ned was both an honorable and caring person, so he wouldn’t treat Theon too harshly either during this upbringing, so Theon was left in this awkward intermediate position between true hostage and true ward. Ned would have probably tried to talk Robert out of it and Robert might have been open to the idea, but the possibility of execution was always there, to deter Balon Greyjoy from rebelling and to punish him if he did. In actuality, the root problem of the situation is that Balon Greyjoy was forgiven too easily after rebelling, and that forgiveness might have emboldened him to rebel again more than any potential mercy shown over Theon’s situation. Balon did not surrender at a reasonable time during the rebellion. He waited until a very complex and expensive naval and land operation conquered multiple strongholds in the Iron Islands and basically ultimately defeated him in all ways before he surrendered at the last second. It would have been like Robb actually trying to “surrender” at the Red Wedding, fully in the grasp of his enemies, even worse because Robb still hard considerably large forces available to him at other locations that a negotiated surrender might have neutralized. While Cersei’s “scour the isles” idea would have been too harsh on the common people for Balon’s folly, it would have been wiser to execute or at least take captive Balon and his brothers, and then properly prepare Theon for taking over the rule of the Iron Islands without the threat of his own execution looming over his adolescent years.
Concurring Opinion: Stefan
Absolutetly concurring here. Being guilty or innocent of any crime doesn’t even enter the equation. Theon is a hostage, and a hostage isn’t executed for his crime but for that of his father. I want to add on the question of how an earlier Greyjoy uprising would have affected the War of the Five Kings. First, it wouldn’t make any sense for Balon to attack earlier, because this would allow Robb to avoid situations that make it harder for him later. Balon needs the North to be fully engaged in the South. But, if he had attacked earlier - say, at Ned’s execution - Robb wouldn’t have proclaimed himself king yet, which would mean that after the Whispering Wood and the Battle of the Camps, he’d wheel around and retake the North, sealing it off at Moat Cailin and then thinking hard about his next moves. Second, if Balon attacked after Robb’s proclamation, things get ickier, because Robb’s now in on the Riverlands. He would most likely have, however, sent the bowmen and other soldiers from the Twins up to Moat Cailin, simultaneously with an attack from the North and west, and retaken it. In all these scenarios, Theon is never sent to Pyke and therefore doesn’t take Winterfell, which most likely stalls Bolton’s betrayal. I don’t think Robb would have executed Theon. It’s much more likely that Theon would have been appalled by his father’s ignorance about his fate and renounced the Ironborn, pledging himself fully to Robb Stark’s case.
Concurring Opinion: Alex
Absolutely. Ned Stark is an honorable man and would have done his duty. Hostages need not be guilty of a crime under Westerosi law to be executed, that is why they are generally an effective deterrent against aggressive actions. In this case, however, Balon clearly did not care what happened to Theon, as he is already plotting how to convince his people to let Asha succeed him and was preparing his invasion before he could have known Theon would be released. I don't think an earlier uprising would have changed much. For one thing, he would never have tried to invade the North if it had not already been depleted of men, so there is no conceivable way he would have rebelled much earlier. Even if Winterfell had not fallen due to Theon not returning home, Bolton would have still betrayed Robb because whether Winterfell remained secure or not, the North was lost the moment Moat Cailin was taken, and Robb's situation would have appeared just as hopeless after the Blackwater with the combined might of Lannister and Tyrell set against him. Bolton is an ambitious man, and he would have still seized the opportunity provided by the Lannisters and Freys to become the new Warden of the North in the face of Robb's difficulties.
Final Verdict: Ned would do his duty if it came to that and Balon would get his ass kicked as usual.