Thursday, February 11, 2016

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 116

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, 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.
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And now, up to ruling 115! Our guest judge this week is Spandana, a 23 year old Hardware Engineer working in Bangalore, India. She started reading the books after watching the first two seasons of the HBO show AND finding out who Jon's parents actually are. Her favorite theory is the Grand Northern Conspiracy who she believes is around 60% true and 40% wishful thinking, but immensely enjoys it nonetheless.

How would you rate Renly as Master of Law?

Main Opinion: Stefan
From the little what we know of his tenure in the Small Council, it seems to me that Renly mostly enjoyed the seat next to power and the harmless intellectual sparring with Littlefinger. I never heard of any laws that he sponsored, or any great trials he led. However, in a more general sense, Renly had a catastrophic stint as Master of Law, because he utterly destroyed the law when he declared himself king. Of course, he didn’t hold the post then, but his move to set aside all order in the Westerosi laws of succession, by attacking the very foundation of the feudal order without even so much as a thought of what might replace it, I think Renly can be counted as the worst Master of Law ever, easily.

Concurring in Part, Dissenting in Part: Amin
I agree in that there isn’t much to say on his tenure as Master of Laws. The positon does not seem to be a very powerful one, at least in recent times. Randyll Tarly has made a lot of it since he took over the equivalent, but he woudl be powerful in any position on the council. I disagree about Justice Stefan’s point in regards to the succession and the undermining of law, but then I’m not a huge fan of the way Westerosi succesion law is structured. In any case, the conflict that resulted in the War of Five Kings was coming in one way or another.

Concurring opinion: Spandana
I don’t think Renly cared too much about his responsibilities as the Master of Law, except for the privileges being on the Small Council brought him. I am surprised he got that job in the first place, the details of which I’d like to know more about. At what age was he appointed to the post? Who was the Master of law in Robert’s small council before him? Under what circumstances was he replaced? Did Renly lobby for the position? Or was it just that, Robert thought the two people he could trust the most other than Jon and Ned were his brothers? Either way, it’s a shame such an important position was wasted on Renly. We don’t even see him taking advantage of his position to build a power base in the capital and in Stormlands. He did nothing to avert the succession crisis in spite of knowing for a fact that Robert was cuckolded. He cooked up half-baked plots to replace Cersei with Margaery and take Cersei’s children into custody instead of directly enforcing law as THE Master of Law. I’d like to point out to the scene where Renly was promptly kicked out of the trial for the Joffrey-Arya-Nymeria incident at the Trident, which I particularly find hilarious. That pretty much sums up his actual role in law making for me.

Final Verdict: Renly was a bad Master of Law. 

The R'hllor prophesy talked of waking dragons from stone. I always assumed it meant Dany hatching old dragon eggs that everyone else thought were petrified. Now the idea of Stone Men have me wondering whether greyscale could be involved. Could R'hllor cure greyscale in order to fulfill the prophesy?

Main Opinion: Stefan
Curing Greyscale doesn’t wake any dragons, so I don’t think so. In fact, my guess is pretty simple: that dragons will be awoken from petrified dragon’s eggs, but not in the way anyone imagined. Remember that stash of dragon eggs that supposedly were layed in Winterfell back when Good Queen Alysanne visited the place? The same Winterfell Stannis is posed to conquer and in which he is posed to sacrifice Shireen, thereby gathering all the ingredients necessary to, in fact, wake dragons from stone? Thought as much.

Concurring in Part, Dissenting in Part: Amin
Dany’s waking of the dragons fits the role far better than a greyscale curing, as outlined by Justice Stefan. While there is an argument for dragons waking at Winterfell, I do not think that is happening. They may attempt it, but it will fail and end in tragedy if they do.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Spandana
I don't think any kind of cure for Greyscale exists in Planetos, let alone dragons waking of the survivors. The function of Greyscale in the narrative, with all of its magical origins is pretty straight forward. Raise the stakes by weakening the already war hit population of Westeros, not quite unlike what pale mare is accomplishing in Meereen. As incredulous as it sounds, R'hllor might even bring back dead people to life, but cannot cure Greyscale. Disagreeing with Justice Stefan here, I don't think we'll see any more dragons than the ones than already exist. So, no ice dragons at the wall or at Winterfell. The prophecy simply refers to what we have already seen, Dany birthing three dragons from Drogo's pyre.

Final Verdict: It will be more than Greyscale. 

Was it necessary for Tywin to be so cruel to the Reynes and Tarbecks?

Main Opinion: Stefan
I guess the question is posed in a Machiavellian sort of way, like whether or not it was necessary to stave off future rebellions. The answer is no. It was necessary to at least destroy the upper echelons of their families, yes, but it would have sufficed to execute the respective lords, sentence the other guys culpable to the Wall and to either start anew with the rest or simply set in a new family. But I do think the question is wrongly phrased in the first place, because the cruelty to the Reynes and Tarbecks isn’t the point. Cruel examples are a staple of Westerosi political life. However, Tywin wasn’t only cruel to the Reynes and Tarbecks, he deliberately was cruel to their (blameless) retainers as well. There were hundreds of people trapped with them in Castamere who were drowned as well. Tywin could have pulled the northern justice equivalent easily enough: flood the damn mine, and let them come out one by one. Retainers are allowed to go. The rest is then sentenced accordingly. Instead, Tywin chose to give his sadistic streak full reign, as he always does when he gets the chance, and to exact brutal revenge. He does it withTytos’ wife, with Tysha, with Elia Martell, with her kids. It’s fully in character that he does it here as well.

Concurring Opinion: Amin
Justice Stefan aptly demonstrates the difference between an accepted response to rebellion (by Westerosi standards) and Tywin’s particular sadistic streak. Though I am not entirely convinced in the case of the retainers that it was intentional, in comparison to whether he simply did not think or care about that factor, in comparison to the revenge against the Martells. In any case, that level of cruelty was not necessary.

Concurring opinion: Spandana
Completely agree with Justice Stefan. While punishing the perpetuators of the rebellion was undoubtedly necessary to avoid Balon Greyjoy-like complications in future, Tywin went too far in eliminating every single retainer of the castle. Tywin is not only a war criminal, but an abominable human being with too much wealth and power and some horribly misguided ideas on public opinion and respect. On a side note, borrowing from , “it says a lot about Westeros that Tywin’s reputation afterwards was dangerous but effective leader and not murderous supervillain.”

Final Verdict: No. 


  1. I'm curious about this idea that Renly was completely upending the feudal order. Could he not (in theory) have just put down any rebellion that cropped up under his rule, and use force of arms to make sure the feudal order stays in place despite his own violation of it?

    I'm thinking of Balon's first rebellion, so soon after Robert's. Robert had just cause, of course, but I'm sure Balon thought he did too. So he rebelled, just as Robert had a few years earlier, and Robert put him down to make sure everyone knew the rules. I'm also thinking (in the real world) of the Whiskey Rebellion, so soon after the US colonists rebelled. The US colonists had just cause (I think? not really up on what historians think these days), and the whiskey rebels thought they did too. George Washington came out of retirement to put them down and make sure everyone knew who was making the rules now.

    So would the aberration of Renly taking the throne really have been a big deal if he just put down any future rebellions and made sure to continue enforcing things as they stood before?

    1. I think the issue is that, once someone's done it, it becomes a risk each and every time the issue of the royal succession crops up. Worse, even if Renly acted out of the best of motives, any future second son with a big army can point to his example as precedent. And Renly really did not act out of the best of motives - far better writers have elaborated on this so check out Race for the Iron Throne's take on it for example.

      As an example, while it isn't a case of the royal succession, after Lucius Cornelius Sulla marched on and occupied Rome in 88 BC, the idea of military force (as opposed to simple violence) being used to resolve political disputes was no longer taboo. The result was the acceleration of the downfall of the Roman Republic and it is pretty simple to draw a line straight from Sulla to Caesar choosing civil war over being put on trial. After all, if it worked for Sulla, it could work for him.

      And that is why Renly declaring himself king ahead of Stannis on the grounds of having a bigger army is so potentially devastating. If he had managed it, anyone could try it.

    2. Renly founds his claim solely on "the bigger army" - this is even worse than the Blackfyres, who could claim that Aegon IV in reality wanted him as his successor (hence the importance of "the sword"), because now, everyone with "a large army" can claim the throne. This guarantees civil unrest, likely even civil war, every time the succession comes up - or even during the rule, because if someone with "a bigger army" was to rise, perhaps even "better", what to keep you from seizing the damn thing? Renly isn't just playing the fire, he's playihng with nukes.

  2. Were Tywin's atrocities against the Reynes and Tarbacks necessary to re-establish the strength of House Lannister and renewed allegiance to Casterly Rock? Probably not.

    Were Tywin's atrocities against the Reynes and Tarbacks necessary to establish Tywin's goal of becoming the most powerful man in Westeros? Most likely yes.

    The majority opinion answers this question with a narrow scope. But was Tywin Lannister's scope ever so narrow? True, he wanted to restore the order and honor of his House and seat, but Tywin's history demonstrates greater ambitions.

    A show of such brutal strength indicates a willingness to seek for power that couldn't help but be noticed all over Westeros. It's reasonable to think Tywin hoped his actions would be the talk of the Westerlands AND King's Landing.

    Moreover, at the time he extinguished the Reynes and Tarbacks, approximately 261 AC, Westeros had endured an number of rebellions and unrest. At the time, the War of the Ninepenny Kings was unfolding/had just concluded. What better way to make a name for yourself than absolutely putting down a rebellion of two would-be usurpers in your own lands? Sure, it was brutal, but was there any doubt the threat that existed previously was no more? Such a show of force cannot be discounted at this time.

    When we expand the scope of "Why Twyin?", we can't help but consider what this show of strength did for Tywin's stock.

    1. Yeah, well, if you phrase it like "was committing a war crime a good way to get his name out there", sure, it was. But that wasn't the question.