Thursday, September 24, 2015

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 96

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: If you want to be a judge, please email us!
And now, up to ruling 96! Our guest judge this week is Craig, a long-time geek and ASOIAF reader, starting when ACOK came out and currently on the fourth re-read. When not drinking coffee from his Targaryen stein, or searching the web in hopes of a secret TWOW release date, he listens to Excel podcasts (and BLAH, obviously) and occasionally comments on ToTH as "Tyrion".

Could Daeron I have won the war had he not been assassinated?

Main Opinion: Amin
In Daeron’s favour, he appeared to succeed initially where Aegon the Conqueror failed. However, Aegon faced a tougher resistance and had actual dragons on his side. The key in either situation was that while the lords of an area might submit, the smallfolk were willing to keep fighting and the lords would rejoin them at the next opportunity. Daeron’s best chance at success would have been to negotiate a peace that made fighting on not worth it anymore, maybe marry a Martell if one was available, or an Yronwood to play that angle at try to split Dornish support. Consider Alexander the Great who may be one of the historical inspirations for Daeron’s character: Alexander was aware of the political benefits of “marrying in”. Instead, Daeron left Lord Tyrell in charge, which was a big mistake given the traditional enmity between Dorne and the Reach. I’m not sure either how eager the other lords of the realm might be for a protracted guerilla war in Dorne. In addition, the longer it goes pn, the Greyjoys or other troublesome families might try to take advantage of that situation. Daeron may have been a military prodigy, but he lacked the political expertise and dragons that Aegon had, so ultimately Daeron probably would have still died in Dorne, with a greater toll on all sides.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Stefan
The question seems to go along the routes of whether or not the US could have won in Vietnam or Iraq. As noted, it comes down to the definition of winning. Daeron succeeded in destroying the enemy’s armies, a feat that was also achieved in the other wars I mentioned. However, the victors faced an insurgent movement not content with the result of the battlefield. When Daeron put lord Tyrell in charge, he more or less succesfully suppressed Dornish resistance by riding from castle to castle with a large host and discouraging the resistance, which flared up again only when he was assassinated. So I guess the lesson is the same as it always is: Daeron could have “won” by investing lots and lots of money and manpower in violently holding down the Dornish, but the unavoidable deathtoll through guerrilla attacks and (failed) insurgencies and the high cost in an increasing desolate and unproductive country would have birthed a peace movement in King’s Landing at some time almost inevitably. When lords and the sons of lords die all the time in the desert, not to mention countless smallfolk, all at incredible expense, someone will start asking what for eventually. And ususally, the answer isn’t exactly favorable to the war party.

Concurring Opinion: Craig
That depends largely on how we define "win". Let's not forget, Dorne did plead fealty to the Young Dragon at the Submission of Sunspear. The war in it's tightest sense was "won". Where Daeron I failed was his inability to manage the fragile peace. As Justice Amin notes, the barrier to acheiving peace was the willingness of the smallfolk to mount and maintain a guerrilla insurgency, effectively continuing the conflict. Had he not been assassinated, Daeron I would still have needed to pacify the rebels permanently - something he failed to do in the first phase of the war. While in that phase, he appeared to have quelled the uprising, it reoccurred as soon as he left for King's Landing, and I would anticipate that same cycle repeating itself had Daeron lived to continue the war. Daeron I was a spectacularly talented military commander, whose passage along the Boneway and effective split of Dorne at the Greenblood ensured his battlefield success. However, the cost was huge, and Daeron's inability to recognise the need to secure peace through marriage or a lasting constitutional settlement meant he was unlikely to ever truly "win" in the sense that his namesake Daeron II (The Good) did.

Final Verdict: The war was already "won", but even Daeron couldn't have kept the peace.

My question is whats your thoughts on Ned's mother? 2nd part, with the fandom as crazy as we are and obsessed with dissecting every little nugget in this series, why is there so little talk about Ned's mama? Everyone guesses at Jon's and we have long discussions on things mentioned just once or twice like the rats cook or even smaller topics. I know there's very little evidence to work with for theory formation but that has not stopped us before with many other topics. Even when the supplement books came out and shed light on her identity no one wrote any articles about it that I've seen and I check out most asoiaf fan sites very often.

Main Opinion: Amin
Before we knew who she was, George had just answered: Lady Stark. Some people thought he was hiding the real answer for something more exciting (i.e. I was hoping she was from Skaagos), while others thought George was being uncharacteristically dismissive of the importance of Ned’s mother. Turns out Ned’s mother was a Stark, by birth as well as marriage, as Rickard married his cousin Lyarra. If she had been from Skaagos, then we could have tied in all the information from there together and tried to build connections like an infusion of blood for the recent warging or the political ramifications with Rickon in Skaagos. Given that she’s not, and there’s very little other information available about her, there’s really not much more to say at this point in the story. In fact, being from any other family than the Starks would probably have generated more excitement discussion wise. As it is, there are other more exciting connections in the revealed Stark family tree to expore like Melantha Blackwood.

Concurring Opinion: Stefan
I agree with Amin that Lady Stark just wasn’t of narrative importance. Martin’s oevre is already sprawling; fleshing out every ancestor would make it into the Silmarillion and detract seriously from the readability. I’d simply take it that Ned wasn’t much influenced by his mother, which makes sense given that he was raised by lord Arryn for a considerable amount of time.

Concurring Opinion: Craig
I agree that there's relatively little thought about Ned's mother. Ironically, this is also the case from Ned himself - even in his internal monolgue she receives scarecly a mention. For my part, I've always felt this was testament to her lack of narrative importance, rather than George saying too little, to effectively hide clues away. Brandon and Lord Rockard, by contrast, loom large in the story, despite their deaths before the Rebellion, due to their impact on the characters we go on the journey with. It's also fair to say that Westeros is so patriarchal in nature that outside of the Targaryen lineage, most aristocratic and highborn ladies are effectively forgotten over the next generation or two. While the males can win glory that lasts through their deeds, most wives of lords are destined to be forgotten, and Lyarra Stark is no exception. As for the fandom, that's an even more interesting question - why aren't there more theories? Well arguably the Skaagosi theory was pretty well known, if not particularly fleshed out. When we look at theories such as the Rat King example, while there might only be 2 mentions, we get a lot of detail in both - showcasing both the narrative importance of the story, and also allowing for more theory building. In Lyarra Stark's case, the lack of significant mentions seems to mean that the fandom had nothing to build a theory around - no supporting evidence at all, and let's face it, some theories out there don't exactly have a lot of supporting evidence anyway! We have of course overlooked the most obvious answer, which I'm calling out, and think I might even be the first person to do so: Lyarra Stark is Howland Reed! The only other person to know Jon's parentage is his maternal grandmother! 

Final Verdict: The identity of Ned's mother simply is not important to the story. 

Would it have been a good idea to keep Rhaenys alive and marry her to someone in the winning coalition’s family?

Main Opinion: Amin
Yes, that would have made some sense. Robert wasn’t really in the mood for sparing Targaryens or doing the logical thing, but he still probably wouldn’t have openly ordered her death if she had survived the sacking of King’s Landing. . Though while there is a debate whether Tywin wanted Elia dead or not (despite what he says to Tyrion), Tywin did want to have both kids killed. I’m not sure if Tywin was thinking this far ahead, but perhaps he wanted no absolutely no threat to Cersei’s children and their future claims from Rhaenys in the future, even though Rhaenys could have been married to Robert’s future son.

Dissenting Opinion: Stefan
As much as it makes one a monster to talk about the fate of babes, it wouldn’t have been a good idea in a strictly Machiavellian sense to let Rhaenys live. On the one hand, Robert needed to establish his coalition firmly in power, without taking away places for little girls that might or might not marry ten years from now, and on the other hand, Rhaenys would have grown up in strong captivity, permanently reminded of the fate of her family and how dangerous and alien she was to everyone else. It wouldn’t have been a happy or stable marriage no matter whom she would have married, but highly laden with symbolism. What symbolism exactly would have been up to everyone’s guess, and given that other Targaryens were running around claiming the throne and the uncertainty of the Lannister allegiance, leaving any doubt as to where your priorities lay would have been a mistake by Robert.

Concurring Opinion: Craig
Yes, keeping Rhaenys alive would have been of benefit - age wise she would have made a good match for Renly which could also have assisted prevention of later claims; Robert's existing claim through the Targaryen line would effectively have been consolidated a little, and Doran Martell may have been a little less likely to fester a rebellion so long if his niece was still alive and well treated. Thsi does pose a question as to what happens with Elia in this example. Aegon is a moot point - he has to die from Robert's perspective, in order to remove any later restoration of the Targaryen line. However, Elia need not have dies, and could also have been married off to a coalition partner or other lord in the new realm, which would also have improved things on the Dornish side. All in all, Rhaenys, and even Elia's survival are a better solution for most in the realm, but not for Tywin, which is why it didnt happen. Having come late to the cause, the death of Aegon and Rhaenys meant that "no man could doubt that we had forsaken House Targaryen forever." Tywin ordering Rhaenys kept alive may have left some doubt.

Final Verdict: Yes, it would most likely have been a boon for the new regime. 


  1. Daeron should have raised up a Dornish house to rule instead of leaving it to the Tyrells. Armies destroyed and then bounce back to KL. See if the Yronwoods would accept the gig to spite the Martells or if not back the 3rd or 4th biggest Dornish house tangentily, see if they can handle things and then maybe in 3-5 years become a bit more hands on.