Thursday, September 1, 2016

Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 143

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.
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And now, up to ruling 143! Our guest judge this week is Beat_Train, who started reading the books upon a recommendation from a lanky friend with the goal of staying ahead of the show, which he finally convinced his wife to watch. Mostly a lurking member of the community, Beat_Train has taken part of the TOTH re-read series and has been a two-time guest judge before for the Court. His Beat_Train pseudonym comes from his time as a runner at the University of Notre Dame.

What do you think of Harrenhal actually being magically cursed? I've always interpreted the 'curse' simply being that Harrenhal is a vacant 'bargaining chip' that can be given to whoever's loyal to the current regime, but what is given, can be taken away just as easily when there's a regime change. Basically Janos Slynt over and over again.

Main Opinion Amin:
Harrenhal’s curse is due primarily its poor design and its unfortunate geography. It’s far too huge to be a useful castle in the Riverrlands, as it takes a large army just to hold properly, when one of the points of castles is to hold strategic territory with a smaller garrison instead of bogging down too many forces in one area. Furnishing and maintaining the castle is probably very expensive, so either it sucks in a lot of the otherwise discretionary funding or it falls into disrepair. Harrenhall is part of the Riverrlands, which are particularly vulnerable to invasions from surrounding areas. In terms of a magical curse, I would say no, except that dragonfire was used to burn it and dragons have been innately tied to magic. It has a dark history to add to that, so if any place actually has a curse, it would be Harrenhal.

Dissenting opinion: Stefan
The curse of Harrenhal is very much real. The great suffering that the castle has seen - hundreds and thousands died in its construction, many during its initial conquest and then dozens and dozens in the atrocities afterwards - may have made Harrenhal into what Steven Attewell always calls a “thin place”, which means a place where the borders between the real and the metaphysical world are blurry and stuff happens. Valyria certainly is another such place. We get even more confirmation of this, as Roose Bolton is reading a book when Arya works for him, which he then very deliberately burns. After, Roose is strangely disconnected from worldly concerns, as evidenced in his big monologue to Theon in ADWD where he tells him he doesn’t give a fuck about house Bolton’s future and is “going to die soon”, which seems to imply that he’s aware of the curse.

Dissenting opinion: Beat_Train
What Stefan said. Adding a little: Harrenhal likely wasn’t originally cursed, but rather a Lemony Snicket-like series of unfortunate events. But those compounding events eventually hit a tipping point of such accumulated suffering that the “thin place” was created and the curse moved from superstition to fact. Just check the list of the curse’s victims: Bad things are coming for Littlefinger and Ser Bonifer…

Do you think the Liddle who Bran met in the cave has or will in the future, inform people of Bran still being alive?

Main Opinion: Amin
I’m not sure that he would have revealed it around the time he saw them, but now that there is a stronger anti-Bolton movement going and Bran is safely away, it would be appropriate to share that information amongst the clan leaders. It may be irrelevant as Lord Manderly knows both Stark boys are still alive, which is information that will undoubtedly be shared with the rest of the loyal/anti-Bolton forces in the North.

Concurring opinion: Stefan
If he has, it doesn’t matter all that much. The hill tribes declared for Stannis in a quest to prepare for winter and to take revenge on the Boltons, and perhaps to prepare the ground for an eventual Stark restoration, but given that they didn’t make this a condition of their supporting Stannis as Manderly does, I highly doubt Bran’s survival is public knowledge yet.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Beat_Train
I assume the Liddle would have told others, limiting the circle of trust to hardcore Stark loyalists. Going further, I assume that this knowledge among certain clansmen was part of their reasoning for supporting Stannis against the Boltons, which makes the Liddle’s role of telling others relevant to the larger story. My dissent is with Stefan’s assertion that since the clansmen didn’t condition their support on an eventual Stark restoration that the clansmen didn’t know of Bran. I think it’s just as likely that the clansmen know and yet didn’t inform Stannis for concern of Bran’s safety and (practically speaking) for lack of firm proof.

Did House Frey have enough motivation for staging the Red Wedding? They are well-known for being cautious. And getting some minor marriages and Riverrun -- in name alone -- in exchange for the emnity of just about all houses in the North and the Riverlands seems not the greatest deal.

Main Opinion: Amin
The Freys did get a lot out of the deal. Riverrun and the Riverlands is what they’ve always wanted. With a deal with the Lannisters plus Robb’s death, there really wasn’t any other force to be worried about at that point. The main damage was risk to their name, which Walder Frey was willing to deal with given the benefits to what was given, while also trying to share the blame with House Bolton and Lannister. Robb was also losing the war at that point, so they were looking for a way to get on the winning side and survive Robb’s attempted withdrawal to the North.

Concurring in part, dissenting in part: Stefan
I also wouldn’t go about this business in too rational a manner. Frey is extremely prickly and overly proud, so he definitely would take issue with the manner in which Robb broke the contract. However, the realpolitiks of it also cautioned strongly for betrayal, as the war effort is lost for the Riverlands at least and the potential windfall huge.

Concurring opinion: Beat_Train
I’m of the belief that Walder Frey was looking to hedge his bets from the beginning and that he would have betrayed Robb regardless of his breaking of the betrothal. This is doubly true once Theon took Winterfell and Highgarden joined their cause to the Lannisters; all of which took place BEFORE news of Jeyne Westerling made its way to Walder Frey. So the Red Wedding was not so much about Robb spurring his Frey bride (though that was a clear factor), but rather that Walder thought Robb was a lost cause so betraying him and gaining Riverrun and a marriage to Edmure (not a minor marriage) was a great out. TL;DR: the Red Wedding is perfectly in line with Walder’s character and his reaction to the events of the WOT5K.

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