Thursday is court day! Sorry we're late.
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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And now, up to ruling 121! Our guest judge this week is Ser Drew of the Bluewater, a member of the community.
What is Hodor’s endgame? Will Bran warg into him to fight the Others or two reunite with the siblings?
Main Opinion: Stefan
I don't think that Bran will use Hodor as his "steed" to really go into battle. He has zero training anyway, so Hodor would die in seconds, but Bran should have outgrown that phase by now anyway. He is not going to be a knight, at least not in the traditional sense. He's going to become a god. So, what's in it for Hodor? Not that much, I'm afraid. Perhaps he will leave with Meera when, inevitably, Meera will leave him for the roots of the weirwoods. I don't think that Hodor will play a large role going forward.
Concurring Opinion: Amin
I agree with Justice Stefan and refer to our earlier decision on this matter: Hodor helps Bran get around while being a nice character himself. Not much left to do, hopefully he can live out his life in peace.
Dissenting Opinion: Ser Drew of the Bluewater
Hodor’s arc stands unfulfilled on both poles- he’s neither given origin, nor clear end game. It is suggested that his origin may be revealed in a subsequent Dunk & Egg story, which would reveal his father to be none other than a certain lunk, thick as a castle wall. His role going forward appears to be that of errand boy subject to the possession of Bran who seems destined for a rapidly diminished body. The best we can hope for is a chance for Hodor to psychically “speak” to Bran while Bran psychically inhabits him. Worst case scenario (for Hodor, anyway), while questing for Bran, Hodor will be killed while in the far north, and we readers get a first person view (albeit that of a simpleton) of what it is like to be killed and then rise as a wight. Although tragic, it would give the readers needed insight into the Others/Wights, and give Hodor’s arc an ultimate thematic purpose.
Final Verdict: Not much, he's basically a tool.
Who’s the better writer: Tolkien or Martin?
Main Opinion: Stefan
Martin, hands down. And yes, I know this is going to be a controversial statement. But I really don’t like the Lord of the Rings books all that much, and I find the Silmarillon to be a bore. Tolkien created the more interesting world in my opinion - Westeros/Planetos isn’t just that interesting when you take the grandiose characters out, in my opinion. But on the other hand, there aren’t that many really interesting or deep characters in Middle Earth, at least nothing comparable to Martin’s prose. Tolkien of course beats 98% of fantasy fare without breaking a sweat. But Martin is right to point out, for example, Gandalf’s resurrection, and there’s a host of other scenes from the Lord of the Rings that really don’t work dramatically - Aragorn’s family showing up, the ubiquitous landscape descriptions, et cetera.
Concurring Opinion: Amin
This may not be a surprise given our dedication to the books, but I agree that Martin is the better writer. Tolkien still has had a greater impact overall, but his works have been out far longer. Martin has taken things to the next level with his work and will (and has) inspired future works based on what he has done. In addition, Martin is truly a master of all genres. He has done some incredible work in science fiction and horror, along with fantasy. I also agree that Tolkien is probably the better worldbuilder, but Martin is still the better writer.
Concurring Opinion: Ser Drew of the Bluewater
GRRM’s world building, storytelling, and sheer breadth of detail takes the day. I concur with Justice Sasse’s analysis asserting that Tolkein’s “shortcuts” of convenience weaken his writing, and that the people, not the places, make Planetos work. GRRM’s food descriptions are just as cumbersome as Tolkein’s landscape descriptions. GRRM does, however, earn great bonus points for his restrained his use of magic- George’s magic is not the means of escape or problem solving that otherwise betrays the plot or themes, but rather an aptly described “sword without a hilt” that produces unintended consequences. GRRM’s storytelling and thread-following ultimately make his books work.
Final Verdict: GRRM.
How do you think Aegon will/would do as a king?
Main Opinion: Stefan
I think he’d do ok. He definitely has a good education, but he some character flaws - not even the poleboat could prevent the sense of entitlement you get raised as the Once and Future King - that are only to be expected in what’s essentially a teenager with way too large shoes to fill. Dany, who is basically of a the same age with him, had to grow up incredibly fast and underwent some really world-shattering events that forced her to come to grips with reality much faster and more thoroughly than anything Aegon went through in his largely academic lessons. Now, it’s difficult to assess this, because of course, you can’t really wish Dany’s experiences on anyone, and Aegon had probably the best education for a future king you can have without witnessing or causing disaster and trauma. This makes him dependent on councillors, and if he is as clever as Varys and Illyrio think, he’ll choose them wisely and listen to them (which at this point, he seems to do). He also has many admirable qualities and is a quick learner. Under normal circumstances, I’d say he starts ok and has the potential to become a pretty good king. At least there’s a high probability he’d earn himself a “decent king” assessment. However, given that the icy apocalpyse is threatening, the country is war torn and Dany will soon bring bloody revenge with “Fire and Blood”, Aegon needs to be at the top of his game from day one, and I just can’t see how he - or any human - could do that. So I’d conclude this by saying I’d expect to see some good conceptions, but his reign will be tragically cut short by the total destruction of King’s Landing in dragonfire and the resulting explosion of Chekov’s wildfire caches.
Concurring Opinion: Amin
I agree that Aegon would make a decent king given his training and his counsellors. He came about in the wrong time perhaps, as Justice Stefan pointed out. I am not certain if he even has the chance to properly rule before he goes down, so it is what Justice Stefan says or an even worse fate for him.
Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Ser Drew of the Buewater
Aegon’s presumptive tenure allows GRRM to weigh in on the enlightened monarch debate. Although Aegon was programmed to be a “good king,” rarely are political leaders programmed to the extent that Illiyrio has attempted, and rarely have enlightened despots taken their thrones by anything but inheritance (Napoleon being a noted exception). Thus, GRRM’s writing of the interplay of a populist movement (unless the Golden Company take KL by force) with the enlightened ideas of monarchy may echo Napoleon’s rise- and maybe fall as well. I agree with Justice Sasse that Aegon shows entitled tendencies symptomatic of his age and upbringing, but those are not always fatal, provided Aegon’s training and sense of duty allow him to overcome his relative immaturity and lack of experience. We have not seen whether women or wine will be Aegon’s downfall- those have derailed prior kings and should be noted as “known unknowns,” capable of taking down the most capable leaders. Perhaps Arianne Martell and her meddling influence his policies, or Lady Nym, newly appointed to the small counsel, catches his eye, and his ear? As a teenage boy, we cannot discount the potential effect of women (look at how Dany, with all of her seasoning, still wrestles with her lust for Daario versus her duty). How Aegon takes the throne is key. If it is a military victory, Aegon will have an initial PR problem which will require public appearances and consensus building, which may play up his learned political skills. If it is a populist movement, he may need to make a deal with the newly radicalized faith, which would place him in a precarious position with the nobility- his ability to walk that line and attract both groups would be impressive. Irrespective of how he takes the throne, Aegon will inherit a mess destined to grow worse. Containing religious fanaticism (unless he actually embraces it!), famine (no more Tyrell food, and winter), and possibly a growing greyscale plague will need to be immediately addressed, prior to handling the presumptive invasions from the north and east. The odds of Aegon keeping a peaceful kingdom for a long period of time, or surviving an assault on KL as Justice Sasse notes, appear grim.
Final Verdict: He has good fundamentals.