Friday, March 14, 2014

The Supreme Court of Westeros, ruling 18

Thursday is court day! We're late again, though.
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.
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.
And now, up to ruling 18 of the Supreme Court of Westeros! Our guest judges this week is Michal. She found A Song of Ice and Fire in 2004, and her life has never been the same. A frequent commenter on the Podcast of Ice and Fire forums, Michal also covers Game of Thrones for You can follow her on Twitter as @inkasrain.

In A Dream For Spring will we get a Rickon Stark/Wylla Manderly marriage alliance to unite the North?

Main Opinion: Stefan
I’m not sure whether any of the elaborate plans that we witnessed in “A Dance with Dragons” and “A Feast for Crows” will ever come to fruition. So many things are currently in the pipe messing this up. Aegon’s arrival, Dany’s arrival, their Targaryen civil war, the battle against the Others - none of this will make such a children betrothal a priority. But for the sake of the argument, let’s consider. It is possible that Bran will come back from his existence as a tree, in which case he’d be the heir. It is also possible that Sansa will claim Winterfell in her own right before, and given the heavy emphasis that the question of female inheritance got in “A Feast for Crows” and “The Princess and the Queen”, it’s entirely imaginable that this will become an issue, perhaps even leading to tragic Stark infighting as Rickon is used as a pawn, not understanding what happens. I personally root for a “Queen of the North”-ish ending of the whole northern plotline, but that’s personal preference, not something descernable from the source material. I guess the answer to this question will become a great deal easier to write once “The Winds of Winter” show us what became of Rickon (if anything), but right now I’d settle for a cautious “no” to the initial question.

Concurring Opinion: Michal
I’m with Stefan on this. Though it’s fair to suspect that a marriage between his house and Rickon is on Wyman Manderly’s mind, I think there are far too many variables in play to support it as a likely outcome. But even putting all of the invasions, plagues, mad queens, and Others aside, we have to consider Rickon’s own experiences when plotting a potential marriage. Rickon is only about five years old, but hardly a tractable child - and if Shaggydog is any indication, Rickon’s personality is not going to be trending toward diplomatic any time soon. Factor in the hard days of travel under Osha’s guidance and whatever wild experiences have shaped him on Skagos, and I think it will be challenge enough to get Rickon onto the boat. A marriage alliance between the little lord of Winterfell and anyone is just going to have to wait.

Concurring in part, dissent in part: Amin
I agree with my fellow justices that a marriage will be unlikely in A Dream of Spring, as well as that there are many contingencies to face that may get in the way of Lord Manderly’s plans. Lord Manderly himself is likely not long for his world. However, I do think that a betrothal in A Dream of Springs is a distinct possibility. The Manderlys have been working hard for the restoration of the Starks; once that is revealed, whoever takes up the reigns of the Stark resurgence will want to (and be smart to) reward them. Even if Sansa does end up claiming Winterfell, Rickon (or Bran) would still be a good match for Wylla Manderly. 

Final Verdict: We won't see a wedding, but maybe a betrothal. 

How is the White Walker invasion going to work from a narrative perspective?

Main Opinion: Stefan
That is one really good question. I have no clue, but struggled with the prospect myself from time to time. Let’s look at the possibilities. The Others could be stopped north of the Wall without breaching it, but that’s unlikely. They wouldn’t be a threat, then, and Checkov’s law dictates that if you build a 700-feet-wall, it has to come down at some point. The second possibility is that the battle will be in the North itself, perhaps even in the ruins of Winterfell, but I doubt that, too. The North is our battlefield in “A Dance with Dragons” and “The Winds of Winter”, which means that reusing it for the battle against the Others would seem kind of dull and let the stuff that came before look superflous. Since this isn’t “The Walking Dead”, we can assume that won’t happen. That leaves a point further south. I don’t think the decisive battle is delayed beyond the Trident, since by then the body count would be ridiculous, and the Trident was also featured prominently in Dany’s vision in the House of the Undying, while being conspicously underused as a theater of war in the War of the Five Kings. On the other hand, Rhaegar, who first believed himself and then his son to be Azor Ahai, perished at the Trident, which makes the place narratively more potent, laden with omen and meaning for the characters involved. That settles the place - the Trident - but not the “how”. There is the possibility that the Walkers will somehow circumvent much of the North, so our favorite savages can survive, but I somehow doubt this. They must be built up into a major threat, surpassing everything that came before, and that is done by inflicting huge casualties and conquering large swaths of land quickly (say, in the course of roughly one novel out of seven). You need desperate refugees, always one step away from the Others, heroic knights and lords sacrificing themselves piecemeal to stop the advance just long enough so their people can cover that extra mile, all the while the juggernaut keeps on rolling. And then, open the stage for the final battle amidst the freezing Riverlands, the victory with losses that pale everything “The Lords of the Rings” came up with, and a return into a desolated wasteland once called “the North” in “A Dream of Spring”, where someone (Rickon? Sansa? Bran?) can plant a new weirwood or something.

Concurring Opinion: Michal
Yeah… tricky, isn’t it? In terms of the setting, I quite like Stefan’s thought that the Final Battle Against Evil (For Now) will go down at the Trident - it’s very poignant to think that the battles which begin and end A Song of Ice and Fire will occur at the same location. Still, I wouldn’t put it past Martin to have the whole thing fought out on the ruins of the Wall, and perhaps the Gift, with the South remaining little the wiser of the life-or-death cataclysm being fought to the north. (Don’t put money on that, though.) As far as taking in the scope of the Others’ destruction, I suspect that the ace in the hole will, as usual, be the dragons. If Martin mounts each dragon with a POV character (Dany, Tyrion, and Jon, presumably) it is a simple enough matter to treat the reader to a bird’s-eye view of the icy carnage sweeping down past the Wall. Sprinkle in one or two eyes on the ground (perhaps Sansa or Sam?) and we’ve got ourselves a storytelling party! With death and scary ice-zombies! It’ll be fun.

Concurring Opinion: Amin
This is a very difficult question to answer. Justice Stefan’s proposed narrative is an ambitious one; there is much that I agree with. The problem that I have with the Others making it to the Trident is that, again as Justice Stefan suggested, that implies the north will become a wasteland as they move through, leaving little for the resurgent Starks to rule over. That is something I don’t want to happen, but it is a possibility. The hints do suggest that there will be some sort of battle at the Trident, in particular, a dream that Dany has in A Storm of Swords that seems to foreshadow it:
“That night she dreamt that she was Rhaegar, riding to the Trident. But she was mounted on a dragon, not a horse. When she saw the Usurper’s rebel host across the river they were armored all in ice, but she bathed them in dragonfire and they melted away like dew and turned the Trident into a torrent. Some small part of her knew that she was dreaming, but another part exulted. This is how it was meant to be. The other was a nightmare, and I have only now awakened.”
On the other hand, this may imply that Dany will do what Rhagaer ‘should have’ done or what he thought he would ultimately do: defeat the Others. Rhaegar’s pivotal battle was at the Trident, where he failed, died, and is no longer around to fight the Others. Dany could defeat the Others as her own pivotal battle, but not necessarily at the Trident. I do like Justice Michal’s idea of moving POVs based on riders on each dragon. It is possible that there may be multiple battles fought against different ‘armies’ of Others, though one climactic one.

Final Verdict: It is likely that the North will be overrun and a climactic battle will be fought at the Trident. These events can be told with the POVs.

What’s up with Jalabhar Xho?

Main Opinion: Stefan
What should be up with him? He’s an exiled prince from the Summer Isles, with no power and just exotic, funny and interesting enough to keep him around at court. He has no special powers, no connections, no intrigues going on. He’s just there, adding to the believability of the world. We don’t see the Summer Isles, but we get the sense that they have their own version of the Game of Thrones, too, which makes the world of Ice and Fire as a whole just more complex and believable. Just look at how he is perceived by everyone: a curiosity, interesting at first until he becomes part of the inventory. Many exiled rulers faced the same anti-climactic fate, but at least they live. I wouldn’t expect anything like plot happening around Xho.

Concurring Opinion: Michal
Poor Jala is wiling away his time in the dungeon’s, cringing away from Qyburn and cursing the day he came to King’s Landing. I don’t envy him.

Concurring Opinion: Amin
Jalabhar Xho is one of those minor supporting characters that add a lot of depth to Martin’s world. As Justice Stefan pointed out, we have never seen the Summer Isles and probably will never do so, but we know a lot about them just through interactions with a few Summer Islanders. You know, I think he might make an interesting one time POV (more non Westeros POVs would be great) and give us a glimpse of Margaery’s trial before his potential death. But I don’t think that is happening. 

Final Verdict: He's an exile prince, nothing more. 


  1. My question is will the Others have some sort of social structure, the possibility of allies amongst the race of men, a suggestion in the first few pages of GoT is there is communication, plan and black humor.

    1. In the "real world" this would be the case, as the Others clearly communicate, can create intelligent plans, and are technologically capable (unless their swords and armor are magical creations). In the limitations of two very crowded remaining books, I don't think we're going to get any alliances or double-dealings with humans, unless in the context of a post-climax peace agreement.

  2. Mr. Xho could make for an interesting prologue.

  3. What happened to Robb Stark's letter? Is it of any importance to the story?

  4. I think the Others will sail around the Wall, and the North. It is the only way the Others will get by the magic of the Wall. This way the final battle can take place in the trident.

  5. 1 for the list:
    What is the maester's agenda? Do they have one?
    Are they truly the neutral advisers they claim to be? What's going on in the Citadel?
    OK that were 4. But they count for one.

  6. I Think the white walker army blitzes down the King's road wrecking (and assimilating) every host sent against it. How far south they go, I am not sure. But, areas away from the center of Westeros will be spared as WWs radiate from arteries do not reach everyone in the north before they are defeated.