Thursday, October 23, 2014

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 50

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 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 50 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! As a surprise feature for our 50th anniversary, we have two guest judges this week. John Spinella is a member of the community. Travis A. is a fan of A Podcast of Ice and Fire and contributor to the offshoot Vassals and Bastards of Kingsgrave podcasts.  You can follow him at @travisotraviso for random musings on Game of Thrones, beer, and Destiny.

In light of the revelations the fourth season of Game of Thrones, do you think Others and White Walkers are distinct groups? The Night King’s wife doesn't sound like a walker to me, and horn head didn't look human either (I do know about the deleted credit go nights king).

Main Opinion: Amin
Others and White Walkers are different names describing the same species in the books. The TV show has used the term White Walker, perhaps because the term Others was already popularized by the TV show Lost. The main distinction is between Others/White Walkers and the wights that they control. It is relevant not only in describing them, but in what weapons to use against each. The Night King’s wife is an interesting specimen, given the amount of interaction with humans that she is described to have in the stories. But there is no reason why a White Walker could not interact with humans that way, they are sentient beings, just a different species, like the Children of the Forest.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
There is only a confusion because of the show. The books overwhelmingly refer to the Others as Others, while the show - for reasons that I agree will have most to do with Lost - refer to them as White Walkers, which is by the way the better term anyway. Regarding the Night King’s wife, I guess we simply don’t know enough about the Others, pardon, White Walkers. There is very much a possibility that they are more clever than “let’s cut that dude with an ice sword”.

Concurring Opinion: John Spinella
I'm going to agree with the views of my fellow judges. While there might be some confusion on terms and who exactly they refer to in the show and the books, I can understand how individuals that watch the show may be confused. I myself thought that in the show when they said "white walker," it was "wight walker," to be differentiated from any other wights that may frequent the north. Continuing the discussion, the absence and decision to not use the term "Others" was a very rational choice for the show runners given the negative context it carries from certain poorly written shows and the fledgling position the show was in when it debuted, but in terms of the books the name itself does convey the strange, foreign, and dangerous threat that these sentient beings pose to the realms of men. As for the TV show going forward, it's possible there could be a distinction between the two, heck they could even introduce a whole stratified society for all we know, and there's no one to say that isn't the case given how little we know at the moment. In the case of the Night's Queen, it could be an example of a lord commander trying to assure long lasting peace by bonding man and other, showing that there is a possibility of negotiation with the Others, but I'll leave that for GRRM to elaborate on in the coming books.

Concurring in part, dissenting in Part: Travis A.

HBO show runners have commented that the reason behind the name change was just so viewers wouldn't be confused when characters reference The Others. "There are forty-six characters in this pilot, which 'other' people are we talking about? The Lannisters, or that guy with the beard bow-tie?"
But there are some intriguing differences. The books describe the Others with "flesh as pale as milk" (Prologue, AGoT)  and Mr. Martin himself has said "The Others are not dead. They are strange beautiful… a different sort of life… inhuman, elegant, dangerous."   The White Walkers in the show more closely resemble an "Ice-Skeletor" than something haunting, alluring, and otherworldly. With one notable exception: The (assumed) Night's King, in the "Oathkeeper" episode of Season 4. His white, pale flesh looks different than the White Walkers we have seen up to this point. Are these differences just the product of creative choices on HBO's part, or do they signify something more meaningful? At this point, we can only speculate. For now, I look to Old Nan, the expert on all things dark and scary, who uses both the terms "White Walker" and "Others" in her story of the Last Hero (Chapter 24, AGoT). Show and book differences aside, they are the same groups.

Final Verdict: White Walkers and Others are identical. 

Why do you think that Benjen joined the watch? I have read load of theories about his jealousy of Ned, but they seemed really close when he visited Winterfell.

Main Opinion: Amin
I agree, I doubt that he was jealous of Ned or that such jealous would be the driving cause behind him joining the Night’s Watch. It does seem odd, or at least unwise, for a trueborn Stark of the past generation to join the Night’s Watch, when the Stark line is apparently so thin lately. Given in particular that he joined the Watch after his Father, brother, and sister all died. Some say that it might be for guilt over their deaths, perhaps he was involved as a go-between in helping Lyanna meet Rhaegar. Ned was probably in no shape to deny the wishes of his last sibling after the war, even though it would haven been wiser to keep him formally in the Stark family. Benjen could have married off to shore up ties with a Northern house or even in the South to cement the post-Rebellion diplomatic framework. But Ned had no southron ambitions after the war, quite the opposite.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Stefan
Benjen was most likely somehow involved in the events of Harrenhal. Besides, with a close friend like Robert on the throne and Jon Arryn as Hand, what could possibly go wrong for Eddard? He isn’t exactly the guy to make plans for the case in which his two best friends are murdered before their time. Since he had several sons and really planned for more, Benjen would have been a potential obstacle in the order of succession, as surplus sons always are. Assuming peacetime conditions, him being removed to the Night’s Watch wasn’t that bad a move.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: John Spinella
I have never gotten the perception of jealousy between the remaining Starks of the last generation, or among all the Starks of the last generation. They all had their quirks, Brandon the Womanizer, Ned the Straight-laced, Lyanna the Shewolf, and Benjen the little brother, amiable, trustworthy, and close with his siblings. As I recall from Meera's story about the Knight of the Laughing Tree, a brother from the Watch made a request of all the lords at the tourney, and it is here that I think Benjen decided to take the black. His eldest brother is about to marry a Tully, his sister a Baratheon, and his other brother someone to ensure stability in the North, a Dustin perhaps, where does he fit into this? The Watch had a need and Benjen answered the call. Given the vague timeline of events between the tourney and Robert's rebellion, I find it plausible that he joined the Watch after the tourney, said his vows, and then the war that would claim a majority of his family. In this situation there would be no helping Benjen's commitment to the Watch with the exception made that he hold Winterfel as is a seeming Stark tradition. It was just bad timing, which seems to happen a lot in ASOIAF.

Dissenting Opinion: Travis A.
Few events in the Song of Ice and Fire intrigue me more than the tourney at Harrenahl and Summerhall, mostly because there is so much we don't know about what truly happened. In the case of Benjen, he could have been involved very closely in events that set off a war and ultimately claimed the lives of his brother, sister, and father, and joined the wall as a result of his guilt.  It is possible that Benjen aided Lyanna's elope with Rhaegar, and he joined the Night's Watch to protect himself from Robert Baratheon's wrath if the truth ever came to light (much like how Ned supported Jon's decision to man the Wall). But since we don't know exactly what happened at Harrenhal, we can't say for sure.  Instead, let's look to what we do know about the Stark family.  It doesn't seem logical that a man of the dwindling Stark line would renounce his claims, but when have the Starks been about logic?  This is a house dominated by the embodiment of honor, and it is certainly not out of character for a Stark to man the wall simply because it is his duty. The Starks support the Night Watch more than any other house, and it makes perfect sense that the two remaining Stark brothers would see this as a perfect solution to a division of Stark duty.  One in Winterfell, and one at the wall.

Final Verdict: Likely it had to do with shame over the fate of Lyanna. 

Assuming Aegon is real, Ser Barristan makes it to Westeros and Danny and Aegon oppose each other. Do you think Barristan will have to make a tough decision on who to serve since technically Aegon comes first in the line of succession, or will he stick with Dany no matter what?

Main Opinion: Amin
Barristan will stick with Dany no matter what. He has made the commitment to serve here, switching now would be too much for him to handle. Each time he served a King in the past he served until they died, before moving on the next. He took his time and care selecting Dany and he is not going to switch it up mid-way. I am not sure if he would even trust the claim that Aegon is legitimate, anyway.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
This is Barristan we’re talking about. I’ve written an extensive essay about him in the upcoming “A Hymn for Spring”, but the gist of it is in Justice Amin’s answer. Barristan isn’t the guy to switch allegiances on a whim, and whether Aegon exists or not doesn’t matter, because Barristan isn’t interested. He’s serving the queen he’s sworn to, and let them decide who’s right. He’s no lawyer.

Concurring Opinion: John Spinella
Barristan 'The Bold' Selmy is on the Dany train and he isn't getting off anytime soon. This man has crossed the world, escaped apprehension and potential murder by Joffrey's goons, and is now conducting matters of state on Dany's behalf. Granted that some of the Kingsguard we've gotten to know in the story might be simple minded and fickle enough to flip to the side that won't kill them or reward them handsomely, but not Selmy. He received his knighthood from Ser Duncan, and will live up to his vows to his (or his kings) last breath. Besides given the distrust he holds towards Varys from their history together under two kings, Barristan is the most likely to question the legitimacy of 'Rheagar's' son. That and the undeniable legitimacy that Dany holds as a daughter of Aerys and her dragons. To leave her side in spite of these would make no sense.

Concurring Opinion: Travis A.
Service is a major tenant of Ser Barristan's identity, and he sees his oath to Daenerys as the true fulfillment of his oath as a knight of Kingsguard.  Given his thoughts on Jaime's murder of Aerys and the appointment of the Hound to the Kingsguard, I don't think it would be a stretch to say that Barristan views his service to Dany as redemptive to the ideals of the Kingsguard. Jaime betrays his king, and Barristan answers by finding the king's daughter and serving her. This gives him purpose, and I can't seem him wavering from Dany's service. Barristan has seen and heard all manner of plotting and scheming in court at Kings Landing, so I fully expect that he will view Aegon as a usurper with a false claim.  I am certain that Barristan will not change his allegiance to Dany.

Final Verdict: He will stick with Dany. 


  1. so you Gus are suggesting that horn-head in the show, and the wife of the nights watch are different species than the walkers we see as warriors? Or maybe as different as queen bees and workers?

  2. I've seen (and dismissed) the Euron-is-Daario crackpot theory, which gained a bit of steam when the show mentioned Daario securing a very specific 93 ships . . . the same number of ships Victarion sailed with to Meereen in the books. I don't think this adds any validity to the Eurio Greyharis theory so much as it serves as Chekov's Navy, introducing the means by which Dany will return to Westeros. By extension, does that make Victarion's ships more crucial to the story than Victarion himself?

  3. Why was Bran chosen by Bloodraven? Was it because of his accident? Do the direwolves have something to do with it?