Thursday, May 21, 2015

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 78

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 78 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judge this week is Jody Lent, a cloud architect in Chicago whose backstory weaves through philosophy ancient and modern, political science, and linguistics. His hobbies include board games and raising his two daughters in good Dornish tradition: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken.

Assuming the Others make it to Essos, how well do the Dothraki fare against them?

Main Opinion: Amin
That’s certainly an odd matchup to consider. I don’t think the Dothraki would do very well, but they would probably be able to run away faster when things go wrong. Fire arrows are useful against wights, but I’m not sure how effectively they can use fire arrows from horseback. If their archers are willing to dismount and use fire arrows, that will help, but recall that every Dothraki that falls in battle will return to fight as a Wight to fight via the Others (assuming those raise the dead abilities would apply over in Essos). The Dothraki don’t have any particular advantage against the Others, and unless they were prepared ahead of time and armed with dragonglass weapons, they would stand littlechance against the Others.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
They would flee really, really fast. The Dothraki are a culture who is incredibly superstitious, which extends to fearing the open sea because their horses can’t drink the water. What do you expect will happen when they’re facing an enemy that their arrows can’t kill? Given how they charge into battle, they will freeze practically on the spot, and given that the khal always is in the thick of the fighting, the survivors will retreat leaderless. Rickon stands more chances against the Others than the Dothraki.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Jody
This is a fabulous question for two reasons. First, it allows us to explore the “Anti-Chekovs” of the story. GRRM, despite all press and hype to the contrary, is telling fantasy here—if not high fantasy, then epic fantasy. He weaves in other genres, but nearly all of the original 8 POV’s are following one variation of the monomyth or another. From a narrative standpoint, I think we can rule this out in TWOW—it neither furthers a character arc, nor puts the human heart in conflict with itself. Second, and now perhaps more interesting—are we talking show Dothraki or book Dothraki? The show Dothraki go down hard. Book Dothraki, on the other hand, are a much different tale. Steven Attewell has rightly pointed out that the Dothraki of the books are both “surprisingly” cosmopolitan, and highly practical people. They follow strength, yes, but they also trade in silver and salt. There are, I think, two factions that emerge when book khalasars encounter the Others, after a few days or weeks of brutal losses. The first faction simply burns large swaths of the Dothraki Sea—we already know that it’s beginning to dry out, and that fire is an excellent weapon against the Others. Assuming the Others pull a reverse Andal invasion, this gives them thousands of miles of defense in depth before the Others come close to the Mother of Mountains. More interestingly, though, "the Dothraki follow strength above all else, khaleesi." Who’s to say that faced with an unstoppable force destroying all in its path, the Dothraki don’t turn Craster and worship them? While I have no idea how it plays out, we’ve seen this “what is dead may never die” attitude in more than one Planetosi culture. Someone write some tinfoil here!—I’d love to read it.

Final Verdict: The Dothraki would go down. Badly.

Is Coldhands the Night King?

Main Opinion: Amin
Coldhands is described as ancient, so he is probably old enough to qualify, and he is a former Sworn Brother, so he fits that requirement as well. But otherwise there is no reason to suspect that he is the Night King, and while it would be amusing to think that the Night King has ended up in essentially indentured servitude to Bloodraven, I doubt that is what has happened. Unless we have more hints or evidence in the future, there is no basis for Coldhands being the Night King.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
I agree, mostly on the basis that it would make Bloodraven a little bit too powerful in the scheme of things. It is however possible that he was in the retinue of the Nightking. On the whole, though, I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on his identity. He seems more like an infinitely colder Areoh Hotah than a new Young Griff.

Concurring Opinion: Jody
No, he’s not. I agree with Justice Amin that Coldhands fits part of the description. Furthermore, going back to my assertion that Martin is (despite all the dead Starks) telling epic fantasy, we know that in Planetos the old stories are TRUE. The dragon queen is real, the Rat King was real, the Night’s King most likely was as well… but that doesn’t mean that he’s part of this tale. The evidence is too scanty, and the narrative threads are contracting now, not expanding. The Night’s King serves no narrative purpose, especially with the story beginning and (it is known) ending in Winterfell. We already have Stannis’ fate, Bran, RL=J, Jon/Ghost, Sansa and Theon in the North—revealing the Night’s King just feels too unimportant with all the other big reveals coming.

Final Verdict: No, he's not. 

Is Euron the new corsair king?
See more here. 

Opinion: Amin
Interesting theory, but I am not convinced. The author concludes after summarizing his evidence that “If we look at it from that perspective, there's only one person who can fit the bill in the given timeline: Euron Greyjoy, and he fits perfectly.” However, that is only true from the perspective of using a limited list of eligible corsairs. Euron may (or not) be the more likely of some of the people he considers for the limited list to be Corsair King, but there is no requirement that the list be that limited or the Corsair King be anyone have heard of under another name. It is entirely possible and more probable that the Corsair King is someone we haven’t seen yet (and may never see), and make more sense than Euron. If Euron had a significant fleet already, he wouldn’t need to go back to the Iron Islands to get a fleet there there, or he could at least combine his forces more effectively than set one fleet on a route where it may and possible has come into conflict with his other supposed forces. There is no narrative need for Euron to be the Corsair King either, as he has enough going for me him right now with his current plans that it doesn’t need to tie into the Corsair King story.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
The mention of the Corsair King seems more like a bit of worldbuilding, showing once again - as so many times over the course of “A Feast for Crows” - that the war has consequences in the breakdown of order as no royal authority really keeps up the King’s Peace anymore. Given that Salladhor Saan’s fleet broke up and that the demise of pracically every warship afloat on the eastern seaboard of Westeros opened a power vacuum, this is hardly surprising.

Concurring opinion: Jody
That is some impressive cartomancy. Justice Amin nails it, though—What does the story gain from having it be him? Euron is the best of the (two?) candidates proposed, but there just isn’t a need for him to be more than the Crazy Sorcerer Pirate One-Eye-Faking Viking Kinslaying King that he already is. TL;DR --don't know, don't care.

Final Verdict: No, he's not.


  1. Good answers as always guys. Keep up the good work! I have a question I hope you can answer, though it's a bit long and requires some explanation.

    Assume Rhaegar didn't crown Lyanna at the tourney of Harrenhal, but had rather used that event to gather support among the great lords to wrest control of the throne from his father Aerys, as suggested by TWOIAF. How do you think the individual members of the kingsguard would have reacted if Rhaegar had approached his father with the intention of arresting him, and Aerys had, presumably, demanded his kingsguard protect him? Would they stand rigidly behind their vows and obey the clearly mad king, or be willing to bend their vows for the good of the realm?

    I know this question makes many assumptions and discounts the true course of events, but I'm mainly interested in the psychology of the kingsguard. My gut tells me Ser Gerold and the older members would feel obligated to obey Aerys, but I do wonder about Ser Arthur and his close friendship with Rhaegar. Besides, protecting the king from himself could be considered honorable, no? Thanks for taking the time to read this.

  2. Thanks for taking my questions. I think the WWs came to Essos on a land bridge that forms in the Shivering Sea during long night(s). Probably by the thousand islands north of the five forts. I still have not worked out how they would attack the summer isles or Sothoryos. Icebergs maybe.