Thursday, February 5, 2015

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 64

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.
Casting Call: We're searching for guest judges again! If you like to participate, even if you have been part of previous rulings, send us an email.
And now, up to ruling 64 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Calvin (aka KCenturion), he lives in the UK and is the copy editor for encyclopedia entries on Tower of the Hand. You can also follow him on Twitter @CassiusGren.
Do you have any speculation on the contents of the Dornish Letter?

Main Opinion: Amin
I first discussed my theory with Justice Stefan on Boiled Leather Episode 35. Please forgive the length of my analysis; the key factors are summarized below: 
1) Aegon squeezed the letter so hard that his hand starting bleeding, suggesting that it contained shocking and unexpected information. 
2) Aegon burned the letter right away, suggesting not only that he was angry, the letter it had information in it he wanted no one else knowing about. 
3) Aegon right away flew to Dragonstone on his own and came back the next day, completely changing his mind and accepting the peace deal, against the advice and protests of his lords. 
I think that there are nuggets of truth in the descriptions on what the Dornish Letter was about. I think the idea about hiring Faceless Men to kill Aegon's son and heir isn't it, they were already sending assassins against each other and that sort of idea wasn't new or particularly shocking. I think that the idea that Rhaenys survived and was tortured was true, but it is alone does not explain why he ended the war (it might as well, on its own, only provoked him further) or why Aegon went to Dragonstone. The Dornish weren't torturing her for revenge, there was another purpose: to gain secret information about the dragons, which Rhaenys finally revealed when she was broken. What did they reveal? Something related to Dragonstone. Something that was at Dragonstone and stolen by Dornish spies who went there in advance of the peace envoy that went to King's Landing. Aegon had to go check personally on Dragonstone, he sees it is gone, and he comes back and accepts the peace deal. Whatever was stolen wasn't a 100% win for the Dornish either, it would have a cost that made them send peace feelers, but they were willing to pay the cost if Aegon kept the war going. What was stolen? Initially, I thought it was some sort of artifact like the dragon horn Euron has, but it is also possible the Dornish stole dragon eggs. Whatever they stole gave them either power over the current dragons (i.e. a dragon horn) or the possibility to produce their own dragons (dragon eggs). The knowledge was provided by Rhaenys, either where the horn was and how to use the horn (including the cost of blowing it), or the knowledge of how to hatch eggs and raise their own dragons. For the latter option, it is true that some sort of Valyrian blood is best for raising dragons. But if a dragon is raised from a hatchling, it is possible it might bonded with someone if enough people try, and it is less dangerous than trying to go after a fully grown dragon. There is also the possibility of the Dornish having a child with Rhaenys. There was enough time between when she was taken and when the letter was sent for her to have one or more children, but I think that isn't necessary to have someone to control a dragon and would be quite dark, even for George (though imagine Aegon horrified at the thought of fighting his own niece or nephew). A problem with any version of this theory is why didn't we hear anything about it after that? On the Targaryen side, it possible that Aegon didn't tell his children about the problem and the knowledge was lost (or Aenys and Maegor knew but the information died with them). As far as I remember, dragons were not used against Dorne proper (the homeland) after that, so the issue was never pressed. What about the Dornish side? If it was an artifact, then somehow that information was lost by the present time, or you would think Doran would have given it to Quentin to use (unless he kept it home to be kept safe). If it was dragon eggs, then they probably became useless like the rest of the dragon eggs that failed to hatch.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
Some kind of artifact makes the most sense, and or else a person. Perhaps there was someone that the Dornish abducted and that nobody really knew about other than those in the know, like a particularily loved bastard or something. The problem with the Dornish Letter is that we simply can’t know. The best we can do is what Amin just impressively unravelled, an educated guess. It has to be something fairly out of the ordinary (and sadly, torture of a loved one alone isn’t sufficient in Westeros) to cow the Targaryens into submission, especially given the loss of face involved. However, it can’t have been that lasting or succesful, because else the future Dornish Wars wouldn’t have taken place. So even if the Dornish did abduct Dragon’s Eggs, they didn’t get a dragon out of them. Daeron’s Conquest seems best explained by the fact that he didn’t have dragons, and therefore whatever the Dornish extracted from Dragonstone is now useless. Or, to be precise, was useless and will now gain importance again.

Concurring Opinion: Calvin Green
There are lot of intriguing details about that passage in TWOIAF and I agree with Justice Amin on points he highlighted. My initial thoughts after reading the book was that Dorne stole or destroyed irreplaceable book/s of Valyrian dragonlore on Dragonstone. Without the lore, the Targaryen’s may have just been coasting with the knowledge that they were already taught. By the end of the Dance of the Dragons, most of the adult Targaryen’s and the dragonriders were dead so they may not have had a chance to pass down their own knowledge which is why the dragons eventually had no bonds to humans and then died out. In this instance, Septon Barth’s studies could be seen in a different light if Jaehaerys I asked him to try and reconstruct the dragonlore. And I’m rambling :) I feel Aegon I’s main emotional reaction to the letter is because it mentioned something about Rhaenys’ fate, with the dragonlore bit as an ongoing threat to their dynasty which he had to secure now that vital information was lost.

Final Verdict: Whatever it was, it had to do with Rhaenys and the power of controlling and/or birthing dragons. 

Is “It’s not like the books” ever a valid criticism for adaptions?

Major Opinion: Amin
No, I do not think it is a valid criticism on its own. It might produce a gut reaction from book readers and may be a personal reason why they may dislike the show or avoid watching it, but it is not the basis for valid criticism of any adaption. Show defenders should be also wary of oversimplifying and lumping valid criticism of the show under this solo line as well, because the statement “it is not like the books” is often paired with the accompanying premise “the books were better on this point”. Some changes are always necessary in an adaption, so it becomes a qualitative analysis for whether the particular change was necessary and done well, which can be the realm of proper debate. How much respect you have from the source material will obviously affect what angle you come in on particular changes, but we all have our biases.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
Yes, it is, if what you expect is a page-by-page translation. If that’s what you wish, watch Sin City. In all other cases, it is never ever a valid criticism. A movie is a movie, a series a series, a book a book. Every medium has its unique strengths and weaknesses, and you simply can’t take everything en bloc into the other medium and expect it to work. That’s a recipe for disaster. There is a host of utterly failed literary adaptions that only sell because the works they are based on are on the curriculim and therefore the movies are an easy way out for students who don’t want to read the book.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Calvin Green
I see it more as an overstated observation as opposed to a real criticism. Adaptations are a translation across mediums and there are always details, characters and story elements lost because of it. These changes are inevitable and so saying this new translation is not like the original is just a waste of breath. I agree with the main point that different stances between book (original) and the show (translation) will always be biased and in some cases bitter but both versions have their merits and we’ll all get along fine if we just focus on what works better for each medium.

Final Verdict: No, not at all.

Does Bran ever leave the cave? And is Jojen dead by the end of "A Dance with Dragons"?

Major Opinion: Amin
Jojen may very well be dead by the end of A Dance with Dragons. I have always found the Jojenpaste theory (that he has been sacrificed and is being consumed by Bran) fascinating. I think there are alternate options for his death, and it is quite dark that he may be willing heading toward it if he knows about it. It raises interesting questions, I think troubling questions, about the nature of prophecy if Jojen actually knows about his death. As for Bran, unlike Bloodraven, he hasn’t had the chance to live a full human life before committing to becoming part of the treenet. He would have never even considered it if not for his paralyzing injury. Bran may still yet leave the cave, but the point of no return is approaching soon, I think. Or what do I know, maybe he can be transplanted over to start a new treenet over at a rebuilt Winterfell?

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Stefan
Jojen is likely to be dead, yes. I also find the Jojenpaste theory fascinating, although I’m not sure whether it’s true, of course. I’m a bit in favor of it, though. Regarding Bran ever leaving the cave, I think he will. Someone needs to rebuild Winterfell, after all, and who better than someone broken?

Concurring Opinion: Calvin Green
Bloodraven doesn’t have much time left according to Leaf and he has waited a long time for Bran to come to take his place so I’m pretty sure they are going to try and speed up the process to get Bran planted to ensure the weirwoods have a watcher. From his last chapter in ADWD, I don’t think Bran has had time to comprehend what he is taking over and the responsibilities he now has. He better make up his mind soon though otherwise he may not be able to get out of that seat and I also think the Children may try and stop him from leaving if he wanted to. If they are trying to speed up the process and a blood sacrifice is required, then yeah Jojen may very well be dead already. 

Final Verdict: Jojen is likely dead, and Bran might well never leave the cave. 


  1. This is just a thought I've had from time to time but, what if Rhaenys defected to the Dornish side? The history mainly focuses on Aegon's love for Rhaenys, but not of her affection for him, and that could be from the male oriented view of Westeros, but who is to say that she actually 'loved' Aegon as he loved her. The book does make mention of Rhaenys' penchant to keep charming young artists nearby, and would be alone with them on nights she wasn't with Aegon. Aegon's anger could've also been caused by humiliation and a feeling of betrayal from the women he dearly loved, and only returned to Dragon Stone to reflect on his more affectionate times the Rhaenys. If Rhaenys was effectively working against him, how would that hold for the Monarchy at its current stage, when his expected heirs are of Rhaenys blood? This could've caused turmoil and chaos after his death if this fact was known as Visenya would then tear the young kingdom apart as she attempted to further the claim of her own son, Maegor. Your thoughts?

    1. Yes, that's a possibility that has been discussed as an alternative to torture, when it comes to information that was shared. The letter may have been written by her, whether willing or not.

      Her 'defection' may go toward explaining Aegon's reaction when reading the letter, but I still think that the trip to Dragonstone had some dragon related purpose.

  2. Ever since reading about the Dornish letter, I've had the tinfoil/pet theory that Aegon returned to Dragonstone to look through a glass candle to confirm the contents of the letter. There is no direct evidence to back this up, but there are a few things that lead me to believe that a existence of a glass candle on Dragonstone is at least plausible.

    1. Dragonstone is one of the few locations where dragonglass/obsidian is found in abundance.
    2. Dragons and magic are still very much prevelant in the world and the existence of both seems to be tied to the use of the candles.
    3. Aegon visited the Citadel (a known location of glass candles) in his youth. He could possibly have learned of the potential use of obsidian or even how to actually use it while there. (This is, admittedly, unlikely, but the connection between a known glass candle location is there.)

    Even if the tinfoil is unlikely, is the question court worthy whether there is/was a glass candle on Dragonstone or ever in the possession of the Targaryens?

    1. If they have a candle, why keep it on Dragonstone? Unlike eggs, it seems like something you could (and should) keep handy in King's Landing.

  3. Great as always! I recently thought about Varys, and his riddle. I realized that he already has the rich man and the king. Do you think he might be involved with the Faith / R'hllorians? That the answer might be: "He'll follow one of them", and he has his bases covered to be in charge of the one to whom power finally falls?

  4. Should fans of the books stop watching the show once it goes into uncharted territory? (Whether it has gone there not the issue.)

    1. Think we covered that already, but I don't see why'd you stop watching.

  5. Do you think Mace Tryell will force Cersei to return to Casterly Rock now Kevan is dead? I think it is a ruse that she will sit as Regent again because the people and faith will not allow it. T

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