Thursday, July 28, 2016

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 140

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 stefan_sasse@gmx.de, 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.
Question Call: If you have any interesting questions, please tell us!
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And now, up to ruling 140! Our guest judge this week is Calvin (aka KCenturion), he lives in the UK and is the co-founder of weirwood-net.com, an easy-to-use ASOIAF character database. You can also follow him on Twitter @CassiusGren.


Should we assume by default Mushroom's account of historical events is the correct one? If not, when should we believe him?

Main Opinion: Stefan
Mushroom is more or less universally discounted by the Citadel authors of “The World of Ice and Fire”, and given how incredibly wrong they are about most stuff they discount - dragons, Deep Ones, Septon Barth - I’d be careful about Mushroom. On the other hand, though, Mushroom’s accounts cannot all be right. This seems to be more or less some kind of in-world-trolling on Martin’s part, as some of those accounts will be right and others will be total fabrication, but I can’t see a way to cut through the mist of time here.

Concurring In Part, Dissenting in Part: Amin
None of the records in the Princess and the Queen and the Rogue Prince are completely trustworthy. They are most reliable when two reports indirectly support each other. Mushroom at times talks about things he couldn’t really have been there to see direct hand, so that should be kept in mind. On the other hand, he doesn’t have a real need to flatter or propagandize, so he may be more reliable on things like politics, battle results, and reactions to events.

Concurring Opinion: Calvin
Based on the opinions of Marwyn the Mage and Barbrey Ryswell, we're told that the Citadel is trying to shape the world the way they want, where everything has a logical basis, can be explained with reason and can be controlled by them. Mushroom's account wants to make an impression and is a rebellion against the Citadel's ideals where he uses coarse details and singer's embellishments to warp our understanding of a given event and to make us think about them more than reading a boring tome. As my Dad says, "there is no good ruining a great story with useless facts." As to which parts are true, who really knows but I ensure enjoyed reading them.

Final Verdict: It practically impossible to say which accounts are right. 

Could you explain what "The Heart of Winter is"? How does three dragons riding into the heart of winter improve their odds of victory than say one or two dragons? We've only been introduced or heard of the Land of Always Winter right?

Main Opinion: Stefan
The Land of Always Winter is the ice desert stretching north of the Land Beyond the Wall inhabited by the wildlings. But we did hear of the Heart of Winter, in Bran III AGOT: “Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him. And he looked past the Wall, past endless forests cloaked in snow, past the frozen shore and the great blue-white rivers of ice and the dead plains where nothing grew or lived. North and north and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.” The Heart of Winter, therefore, is the very literal end of the world, where nothing lives. Think of it as space, like when you left the atmosphere or something. Unspeakably cold, devoid of any life, and no one can hear you scream. We actually saw it in the show when the Night’s King transformed Craster’s baby, but we have yet to really SEE it in the books, as Bran’s vision conveniently cuts away. It’s where the Other’s headquarter is. Now, as to the dragons - the dragon has three heads, therefore, for the prophecy to come true, you need three dragons and three dragon riders. My best guess is that you either need a really hot flame, combining all of them, or (more likely) that they need each other to actually reach the Heart of Winter in the first place, as one or two dragons might fail where three win out. Plus, ít’s always threes or sevens in prophecies, so there you go.

Concurring Opinion: Amin
What Bran sees is probably the “royal court” of the Others, where their leaders are hanging out right now (or were at that point) while they send their undead forces south. It may also be the place where they were first originally created, as that might have a special or even sacred meaning to them. However, since they were created rather than evolved creatures, the origin point does not need to be that far North.

Concurring in part, Dissenting in part: Calvin
The Heart of Winter always makes me think of the eye of a storm. There will be chaos warring around the core (in this case the snowstorms and the dead rising) as it gradually rolls across the landscape and while the eye of a storm is a general calm, I think the Heart of Winter is how Stefan describes it as death itself/a void. However, I believe this Heart has been moving south since Bran's vision and it will be part of the hardest blow that Melisandre saw in the flames that will bring down the Wall or still the hearts of men. As to the dragons, if the Heart of Winter is death or a void then I don't see how 3 destructive, death-breathing dragons could counteract it. We need this book soon!

Final Verdict: The Heart of Winter is the Other's HQ, and dragons can destroy it.

Do you think Martin has any notable blindspots when it comes to worldbuilding?

Main Opinion: Stefan
Yeah, he acknowledged some of them himself. He hasn’t a very good eye for really minor details, which is why the eye color can change or why Theon’s horse switches genders. He also acknowledged that he made the Wall “too big”. I’m not sure that counts as blindspots. The previous concentration of Westeros worldbuilding, which is kind of an intentional blindspot, has been alleviated by “A Dance with Dragons” and “The World of Ice and Fire”. But generally, I don’t think there are any blindspots per se, as Martin has a pretty specific goal in creating his world - recreating a specific time and place in European medieval history - and therefore can’t be faulted for stuff that doesn’t fit. Also, he’s writing fantasy, so stuff like the rather overlong genealogies doesn’t really count in my book.

Concurring in Part, Dissenting in Part: Amin
Before World of Ice and Fire, I might have said that the timelines for Westeros were quite unlikely to be that long with families lasting that length of a time. But the book did suggest that the timelines were far shorter than generally recorded, which makes sense. Linguistics may be another weakpoint, with the unlikelihood of all regions of Westeros actually being able to understand each other. The maesters must have helped a lot on that point in preserving a unified language with only accents and dialects rather than new languages, but it’s still George preferring convenience over accuracy. That’s probably the answer to a lot of the potential ‘blindspots’, in that George willing chose convenience over accuracy, probably correctly in most situations.

Concurring Opinion: Calvin
I read this question in two ways and wasn't sure which it referred to; (1) is GRRM deficient at a certain type of worldbuilding or (2) is he blindisded by his extensive worldbuilding at the expense of plot? Reading through Stefan's main opinion, I believe he answers both of these as I would. In addition, GRRM's worldbuilding is what I love about this series and I believe he has got most of it out of his system for the main books. Although I hope we see more World books in the future.

Final Verdict: The devil's in the details, as they say. 

2 comments:

  1. Question for the court: apart from Starks and Mormonts, do we know of any Northern houses with men in the Watch? The Umbers especially would seem to have a vested interest in keeping the Watch strong, but they don't send their second or third sons there?

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  2. Question: what role does Quaithe have to play in TWOW and after? She's done essentially nothing important in the story so far, either the books or the series, but her future role must be important, because she was kept in the HBO series while many other characters were omitted.

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