Thursday, January 1, 2015

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 59

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 stefan_sasse@gmx.de, 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.
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And now, up to ruling 59 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Lady Gwynhyfvar, a writer and fan of ASoIaF and GoT who features ASoIaF analysis on her blog and co-hosts the RadioWesteros podcast. Connect via her blog or Radiowesteros, or follow her on Twitter.

Did Kevan Lannister have a moral duty to the realm to try to prevent Tywin pillaging of the Riverlands? If he had spoken up, would Tywin have listened? Does he really have the agency to question Tywin? Was Tywin exceptionally brutal or brilliantly tactical in his actions? If he was overtly cruel, should Kevan, as second in command, be judged as the same as Tywin would be for these events?

Main Opinion: Stefan
Pillaging enemy territory is a common practice of medieval warfare, although historically it seldom reached the levels that are shown in “A Clash of Kings”. However, judged by modern standards, it would be a war crime, and therefore Kevan would have the moral duty to speak up against it. Of course, this is Westeros, and pillaging isn’t a crime, if for the simple fact that the smallfolk really don’t count as people with rights. Would Tywin have listened? Certainly not. He would have been bewildered, and if it happened again closed Kevan out from his inner circle. I’m not sure what you mean by “agency” in this case. He’s clearly able to question him, but we never see him do it because it wouldn’t happen in public. I guess that most of the time, he supports Tywin, though. And no, Kevan is not judged equally, because he’s not the one in charge. He’s still guilty, and should he be tried for warcrimes he’d be on the deathrow or at least in for a long time.

Concurring Opinion: Amin
By modern standards, Kevan certainly failed in questioning Tywin’s war crimes and could be held responsible in part, being that high in the chain of command. By Westerosi standards, he wasn’t that bad. Justice Stefan may very well be right that the thought never came to Kevin Or he have questioned it, but he knew to do so privately with Tywin, rather than when the other men and Tyrion were around, so we did not see it. Tywin did trust his council and I would think they would speak openly with each other in private. Tywin wouldn’t be prickly enough to throw Kevin out of his inner circle for that, as long as he wasn’t saying something like what Genna said to him about Tyrion. I do wonder how much he knew about the planning for the Red Wedding, because even by Westerosi standards, he could be held accountable for that if he knew or was associated with, and probably would have been even if he wasn’t, if he had survived.

Concurring Opinion: Lady Gwynhyfvar
I agree with Justices Stefan and Amin that judged by modern standards, the pillaging of the Riverlands would be viewed as war crime, and as a high level commander Kevan Lannister would certainly be held to some level of responsibility. But in Westeros “the common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are.” (AGoT, 23) Rather than being viewed as a class of people with rights of their own, smallfolk are more of a commodity. They “belong” to the lord they owe their fealty to, and it is his duty to protect his people. If he is unable to fulfill that duty, they become fair game as spoils of war. Not unlike our own medieval past, warring lords could mean enforced military service, ruined crops, pillaged homes, rape and even death for the common people who had the misfortune to dwell in the warzone. In Westeros, as Septon Meribald told Ser Hyle Hunt: “it is being common-born that is dangerous, when the great lords play their game of thrones.” (AFfC, 25) As both Justice Stefan and Amin pointed out, Kevan may well have brought any potential concerns to his brother privately. Without a PoV insight into such a meeting we will never know. What seems clear to me is that Tywin, while he may have valued his brother as a loyal supporter, would not have changed his course of action over this type of concern. Kevan’s role was basically that of fidus Achates to Tywin. It doesn’t appear he has any power in his own right that would allow him the agency to affect Tywin’s decisions. Certainly he couldn’t threaten to withhold his military or financial support, for instance. As to whether Tywin was particularly brutal, while some of his commanders definitely were, I’d use his own words to Tyrion following the Red Wedding to question that: “Explain to me why it is more noble to kill ten thousand men in battle than a dozen at dinner.” While Tywin may have been being disingenuous there (obviously more than a dozen men were killed at the RW) we are left to ponder the question of his intent versus Lord Frey’s execution. Tywin was no fool, he knew that “when your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their feet. Elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you.” Much can and has been said of Tywin’s military abilities. Suffice it to say that while he may have been both cruel and tactically savvy, in this theater, his sub-commanders should not be judged on a par with him. Kevan must ultimately be judged based upon the sparse information we have, within the framework of a medieval society.

Final Verdict: After modern standards, Kevan is guilty of warcrimes. 

How much does Bloodraven know about Dany at this point and what will his influence be on her story?

Main Opinion: Stefan
It doesn’t seem to me that there are weirwoods in Essos, so I’d say he’s pretty oblivious to it. But we simply don’t have the material to decide either way. It could very well be that in the next Bran chapter, we see him pointing Bran’s third eye East, showing him the ally they need to win over or something. Somehow, though, I’d say Bloodraven is not in the know, if only because it makes for a more compelling narrative if he isn’t the all-knowing guy.

Concurring Opinion: Amin
I do not think Bloodraven knows about Dany, unless he hears about it indirectly, such as having heard people chat about Dany in Westeros while nearby a weirwood. It seems that despite his impressive abilities, he couldn’t be listening everywhere or truly going through all the material that is ‘recorded’. He’s just one man/tree after all, even the NSA can’t go through all the information they record and that is an entire organization. It may be that Bloodraven and Bran end up being dangerous opponents for Dany once she arrives.

Dissenting in Part/Concurring in Part: Lady Gwynhyfvar
I think it’s very possible that Bloodraven is aware of Dany, weirwoods or no. While I don’t think there have been any explicit clues of this in the text so far, we should keep the possibility open since what we do know of Bloodraven is that he has “A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees.” He tells Bran “The singers carved eyes into their heart trees to awaken them, and those are the first eyes a new greenseer learns to use ... but in time you will see well beyond the trees themselves.” That could be a hint that his own abilities exceed the trees. What we know about greenseers indicates that they can see the future. If you believe that Dany will come to Westeros and have a role to play in the upcoming wars there, he would almost certainly have seen her and her three dragons. He also assures Bran that he will fly, which many readers take to be a hint at dragon warging. That would definitely indicate some knowledge of Dany and her dragons. Also, in addition to his greenseeing abilities, Bloodraven may well have the dragon dreams of his Targaryen family. And he seems to have the ability to skinchange animals at great distances (as Arya does when she joins with Nymeria from across the Narrow Sea.) I believe that Bloodraven has been keeping an eye on the Stark children using that talent (via cats, in particular “Balerion”) and it’s possible he has done something similar with Dany, or has overheard information about her (I’m thinking specifically of Arya and Balerion in the depths of the Red Keep, listening to Varys and Illyrio) However, since he does seem to hold to a specific interest in the Stark children and the north, and I’m not sure he will have any influence over Dany’s arc, per se. At the end of the day, I agree with Justice Stefan that we simply don’t have the information yet to confirm anything either way.

Final Verdict: Bloodraven is likely oblivious to the events in Essos.

What is Moqorro up to?

Main Opinion: Stefan
Pretty straightforward: He wants to convert Dany to R’hollor and then bring her, the dragons and her army back to Volantis, free the slaves and kill the masters. In that order.

Concurring Opinion: Amin
Agreed. I am not sure he has much long term loyalty to Victarion. He may just be using him for the time being, to abandon him later. I do think that he is worried about what he sees in regards to Euron Crow’s Eye, and will use or support Victarion as a weapon against Euron if he can do that. He appears to be much more adept that Melisandre at reading the flames, which makes him particularly powerful and dangerous.

Concurring Opinion (with caveat): Lady Gwynhyfvar
Moqorro works for Benerro and, as Justice Stefan indicated, has been chosen to bring the faith of R’hllor to Dany. The combination of Benerro’s preaching and his support for Dany, with her reputation as a “breaker of chains”, seems to be encouraging the Volantenes, eighty percent of whom are slaves, to rise up against the masters. But he is a slave to R’hllor and believes Dany is Azor Ahai Reborn. It’s unclear whether Benerro is relying on Dany for some kind of emancipation in Volantis, or if he plans to lead the uprising himself and then take his red army to join Dany in her supposed role as AAR. The caveat is that, in either case, I think it’s likely that the actual end game of Benerro, and thus Moqorro, exceeds the political situation in Volantis. As Justice Amin noted, the flame reading skills of the Volantene priests seem to exceed those of Melisandre, who is definitely more concerned with the upcoming war with the Great Other than with domestic politics. As for Moqorro’s immediate role, it will definitely be to bring the faith of R’hllor to Dany and educate her on the situation in Volantis. 

Final Verdict: Moqorro wants to spread his faith and use Dany to free the slave. 

15 comments:

  1. Do not forget the Tyrion knows Moqorro and there a good chance that when Moqorro shows up, Marwyn will be in his wake.

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  2. I agree with Lady Gwynhyfvar that Bloodraven has seen the Battle at the Wall with the Others and has seen Dany & her Dragons in that vision so Bloodraven , I believe knows and is working towards that battle.

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  3. What's the deal with Patchface? Also, has he been playing possum since coming to Storm's end or is he actually a sometimes prophetic fool?

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  4. Regarding the famous RW quote of a dozen dying at dinner - let's not forget the army of 3500 that were burned in the tents, nor the army purposefully sent to their slaughter at Duskendale, nor the non-Boltons that didn't cross the river on the way to the RW before Ser Gregor fell on them. Those last two were made to look like unfortunate events, but they were clearly planned by Tywin, Walder and Roose.

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    Replies
    1. That Tywin quote is like the rest of Tywin's self-serving justifications: a load of hogwash. The guy is one of the biggest assholes of Westeros, as I argued in an essay two or three years ago already :)

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    2. Does that mean that Tywin was afraid to meet Robb Stark in the field?

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    3. Afraid? No. But he doesn't like unpredictable situations if he can help it.

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  5. Great post as always. I have a question for the court. We know that GRRM can write an excellent climax. It seems like a large majority of people consider ASOS the best novel of the series and it really was the climax of the first part of the series. Will GRRM be able to match it with either TWOW or ADOS, or hopefully both, or will ASOS go down as the highpoint of the series?

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  6. Hello! Thoroughly enjoying your rulings!

    Having only finished A Dance with Dragons fairly recently, I’m quite new to the world of speculation as to where things might go next. I’ve struggled to find much theorizing about the following two topics however, so would like to put them forward for future Supreme Court consideration (If they have been addressed elsewhere, I’d appreciate links).

    Firstly, there is lots of forewarning that warging into humans is a big taboo. Yet Bran seems to be increasing his Hodorian adventures now that he’s in the cave (“No one ever knew when he was wearing Hodor’s skin… He often tagged along, whether he was wanted or not…”)

    Given the forewarning, I find it hard to see how this will turn out well. There surely must at least be some sort of consequence. Any thoughts as to what the downside of Bran’s continued warging of Hodor will be?

    Secondly, it seems clear that Arya very much remains Arya (rather than ‘nobody’). This seems a fairly fundamental flaw in any plan for her to become a ‘full’ faceless man – and there seems to be general consensus that she will end up back in Westeros wreaking vengeance all round as a highly-trained assassin.

    Yet I can’t imagine that the faceless men would be happy to have a partly-trained ‘somebody’ wandering around causing mischief – so I find it hard to see how Arya can just sneak away. So how does she extricate herself from the faceless men? I assume she leaves on good terms (as I find it hard to imagine that any recruit can survive if they leave the faceless men on ‘bad’ terms). But how? Do the faceless men have a plan that involves unleashing a semi-faceless Stark on Westeros? And was recruiting Arya one of Jaqen H'ghar’s objectives in the first place?

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  7. My girlfriend, who is new to te series, asked if Tommen died would that mean that Stannis would be heir? Is she right? I cannot find a way that she is wrong but surely the Red Women would kill Tommen to secure this situation.

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    1. Doesn't matter at all. Stannis is a traitor to the realm and can only claim the throne by force. All this legalistic stuff doesn't really matter; what you need is legitimacy. But I take the question on the court for a more detailled answer.

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