Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sam, Skagos and the Feastdance

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Rereading "A Feast for Crows", I came upon an interesting tidbid: when the ship with Sam, Gilly and Aemon passes Skagos, there's a lof of world-building going on:  
The thought made his belly  heave again. Sam bent over the gunwale and retched, but not into the  wind. He had gone to the right rail this time. He was getting good at  retching.
Or so he thought, until Blackbird left the land behind and struck east across the bay for the shores of Skagos.  
The  island sat at the mouth of the Bay of Seals, massive and mountainous, a  stark and forbidding land peopled by savages. They lived in caves and  grim mountain fastnesses, Sam had read, and rode great shaggy unicorns  to war. Skagos meant "stone" in the Old Tongue. The Skagosi named  themselves the stoneborn, but their fellow northmen called them Skaggs  and liked them little. Only a hundred years ago Skagos had risen in  rebellion. Their revolt had taken years to quell and claimed the life of  the Lord of Winterfell and hundreds of his sworn swords. Some songs  said the Skaggs were cannibals; supposedly their warriors ate the hearts  and livers of the men they slew. In ancient days, the Skagosi had  sailed to the nearby isle of Skane, seized its women, slaughtered its  men, and ate them on a pebbled beach in a feast that lasted for a  fortnight. Skane remained unpeopled to this day.
Dareon knew the songs as well. When the bleak grey peaks of Skagos  rose up from the sea, he joined Sam at Blackbird's prow, and said, "If  the gods are good, we may catch a glimpse of a unicorn."   
The sails went up, the sails came down, and one ripped free of the mast  and flew away like a great grey bird. As Blackbird rounded the south  coast of Skagos, they spotted the wreckage of a galley on the  rocks. Some of her crew had washed up on the shore, and the rooks and  crabs had gathered to pay them homage. "Too bloody close," grumbled Old  Tattersalt when he saw. "One good blow, and we'll be breaking up aside  them." Exhausted as they were, his rowers bent to their oars again, and  the ship clawed south toward the narrow sea, till Skagos dwindled  to no more than a few dark shapes in the sky that might have been  thunderheads, or the tops of tall black mountains, or both. After that,  they had eight days and seven nights of clear, smooth sailing.   
To be be honest, nothing in the chapter (Sam II) gives any indication to Skagos' importance or suggests that they really might run afoul of cannibals or treacherous waters. But of course, this isn't part of Sam's story. In these paragraphs, he's basically a camera mounted on Blackbird's prow. 
I think this is a remnant of the days when Martin still planned for AFFC and ADWD to be the same book, and that it's essentially build-up for Davos' plot further on (which has since been shoved in TWOW). It prepares us to know about Skagos from someone who can actually give us that information well beforehand, and stay clear of exposition dumps when Davos makes landfall to keep up the pacing. 
So, be prepared for a dangerous approach, unicorns, cannibals and wild people in Davos I, TWOW.

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