Thursday is court day! Sorry for the delay.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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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What if Baleor Breakspear survived?
Main Opinion: Stefan
In the short-term, Westeros would have been well-off. Baelor has a great sense for justice, and he’s an idealist and a pragmatist at the same time. He’s able to be wise and to project the image of a warrior king, which is quite important given what he’s up against, and somehow I doubt that he would have let Bloodraven build up his police state. This leads almost certainly to no more Blackfyre rebellions, because all the malcontents will not be quite so gruntled. So, many Westerosi don’t die, and the Targaryen dynasty becomes safer. For Dunk, this means that he enters the service of Baelor, is trained to be a good knight and will most likely serve in some capacity for Egg, who, in turn, will be given some small job to do, but nothing out of the ordinary. Surely there’s no wandering Westeros, and there’s no chance he ever becomes king. Hell, even Maekar never becomes king. The best Egg could hope for is “Prince of Summerhall”, but that’s unlikely since it seems more like something that Matarys would snatch up once Maekar dies. The most important long-term consequence, however, is that the butterfly effects of all of this most likely prevent Aerys from being born, which in turn ensures no Rhaegar and Dany, which ensures no Jon. And that means no Azor Ahai and no dragons when the Others attack. So, in the long run, Westeros is pretty fucked if Baelor survives. Which, by the way, also answers the question from the Hedge Knight about how in the world a hedge knight’s foot could be worth the life of a prince.
Concurring in Part, Dissenting in part: Amin
Justice Stefan outlines the butterfly effect quite well, which provides a positive answer to the question from the end of the Hedge Knight. If one believes that Azor Ahai was fated to appear, then there may have been other routes to Azor Ahai even if Baelor survived at this point. For example, if Baelor dies in the plague that killed off Targaryens after the Hedge Knight, the situation might almost be the same, since he wouldn’t have had a chance to rule, and Aegon and Dunk go on the same travelling path that is key for Egg’s development and future rule, just a little bit later. The key is Baelor dying without getting a chance to really affect post Hedge Knight events, a negative for that time period but a net positive in the long run. Another relevant factor is whether Baelor’s death after the combat and Maegor’s guilt from being associated with his death was a factor in making him decide to let Egg go with Dunk, because if it was a necessary factor, then things might not work out after all.
Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Kay
I agree in that Baelor Breakspear would have been a brilliant king, he was intelligent, fair, wise, projected the image of a strong warrior, believed in fairness and, as the Main Opinion points out, had a stable balance of idealism and pragmatism. The realm might have seen the greatest king since Jaehaerys I and possibly might have surpassed him. I also agree that Dunk and Egg's lives probably would have taken less prominent paths; it would have been more unlikely for Egg to become a king and Dunk might have found his way into the Kingsguard but it would have been a much longer road to get there. Where I diverge from Justice Stefan is regarding the butterfly effect of Baelor's death resulting in Aerys never being born. It depends on the nature of prophesy in this world, and the nature of THIS particular prophesy. Is it absolute and will happen no matter what? Can there be some wiggle-room where it still comes true but in a different way through different people? Can it be completely ignored which will make it not come to pass at all so no Azor Ahai reborn? The prophecy states that Azor Ahai reborn will come from the line of Aerys II and Rhaella. To the best of my knowledge it doesn't state that Aerys and Rhaella need to be king and queen, just that they need to exist and have at least one surviving child. They can be tertiary royals under the rule of Baelor and still accomplish that. In another scenerio, if Aerys II will never be born, but Azor Ahai must exist, then it's likely the prophecy would say AAR will come from the line of a different set of parents: some other Targaryen man + Rhaella, or another Targaryen man + another Targaryen woman. As they say in Jurassic Park: nature finds a way. Perhaps important prophecies do too.In short, I think there are too many variables and not enough yet known about the nature of prophecy (and of this prophecy in particular) to conclude that Baelor's death was necessary for Azor Ahai to be reborn.
Final Verdict: Baelor would have been a great king.
Do you think Robert raped Cersei?
Main Opinion: Stefan
Is this even a question? Yes, he did, and multiple times. From Cersei’s recollection, she only once let him in her bed willingly, in the night of her wedding, and then he was drunk and mumbled the name of Lyanna. All the other times he got drunk and then forced himself on her, hurting her pretty bady in the process: he mauls at her nipples and tears at her vagina with her fingers, plus all the unpleasantness of a drunk guy not exactly presenting his tender spot. Also, consider her own pretty fucked up reaction. At first, she aborts his child, and then, she makes use of his drunkeness, finishes him off with a hand-job and licks away all the sperm with the specific image of “eating his children” in mind. This is not exactly the reaction of a woman to consensual sex.
Concurring Opinion: Amin
Yes. I’ve heard the argument that “according to Westerosi standards, it was not rape since it was within his rights". That is the mistake of mixing a legal term with a morally evil action. Sure, he could not be punished via the law, similar to our world where even in recent history a man could not found under law to have raped his wife. That action was still rape, even if the legal system was woefully inadequate to protect women. Robert even knew he was doing something particularly wrong, which is why he was ashamed when sober and tried to make excuses about being drunk. If he was a lord in a legal jurisdiction where he could be punished for his actions (perhaps Dorne? we don’t know about the law of consent there but it is more advanced in other ways so they might be the first to get there), he would have been accountable under the law for his actions.
Conurring Opinion: Kay
Absolutely and I agree with all of the Justice Stefan's points, Cersei was clearly violated. Some might say no because in the world these books exist in, a man has the right to have sex with his wife whenever he wants, therefore it is not rape by their definition. However, when Tywin forces Tyrion to have sex with Tysha, Tyrion calls it rape. Tyrion refuses to force himself on Sansa on the grounds that that would also be rape. So, on some level, the concept exists in this world that forcing oneself on a woman against her will, even if the man is the woman's husband, is creepy and wrong.
Final Verdict: Yes, absolutely.
What happens when Robert doesn’t pardon Balon?
Main Opinion: Stefan
He basically has two options: kill Baelon, and install young Theon as lord, or extinguish the whole damn Greyjoy line (which, at this point, isn’t hard because they are all in your hand). I think if Robert doesn’t pardon Baelor, they extinguish the Greyjoys and give the rule to someone else. Harlaw would be a natural choice. They might spare the kids, giving Theon to the Wall and Asha to the Silent Sisters, but that’s it. In the long run, it really depends on what conclusions the Ironborn draw from their failed rebellion. Will they follow Balon’s way nonetheless, or will they remember his father and how they once had a pretty good life as traders? I really hope it would be the latter.
Concurring Opinion: Amin
Robert messed up big by pardoning Baelon, he should have been removed. Appoint Harlaw for his adminstration abilities, but leave Stannis behind with a strong garrison for a few years to fully stabilize things on the Iron Islands (think MacArthur in post-war Japan). Stannis having defeated the Iron fleet in battle might win atually win some grudging respect there. Even the reason for pardoing Balon was stupid: sure he never swore a direct oath to Robert, but he was raiding and pilliaging and mudering loyal servants of the Crown. At the very mininum, he should have been sent to the Wall, which would have been kinda interesting to be honest to see his interactions up there, but more likely, execution was the better option as Baelon might have escaped from the Wall. Robert completley mismanaged the post-war handling of the islands, given that the Ironborn literally must have begun rebuilding their ships the day after Robert left to get the fleet back to the size it was in A Game of Thrones.
Conurring Opinion: Kay
It's possible that they might try to follow a more enlightened way and become traders, but I think that possibility is slim. Raiding is hardwired in their culture, their trading days seem to be aberrations. It's more likely that had the Greyjoys been anhililated, they would probably have reverted to their reaving ways and started attacking the west coast of Westeros all over again. One raiding family gets wiped out, another one takes its place, and the Iron Throne has to deal with a new crop of annoying pirates. If a boy king (Theon) was placed upon the Seastone Chair with a regent that does the actual ruling, that new regent might have been another pro-reaver and influence Theon to approve of some raids. If not, Theon and his advisers might have been overthrown in a kingsmoot for someone who was itching for a fight.
Final Verdict: There is no attack in the North, which is quite a big one.