Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Arya • Sansa

Arya practices parrying in her final session with Syrio. No wonder Arya was so reluctant to go home to Winterfell -- she was learning "true seeing" and was just a handful of lessons away from telekinesis. Eddard should take Syrio home and have him train all his guards. Syrio tells the story of how he became the first swoard of Braavos -- the king there had a cat, and everyone thought it was amazing, even the cat itself. But in reality, it was a normal cat, and Syrio was the only man to speak the truth to the king. He's teaching Arya to not over-think, to trust her senses and her instincts. That's the lesson of his story. That, and people in Braavos can't identify an ordinary cat. Perhaps its also a convoluted metaphor for how Catelyn isn't special at all and is just an ordinary fat woman?

Lannister men burst into the room, interrupting their lesson. Intent on capturing Arya, they haven't taken Syrio's "true seeing" lesson, so they just see an old dancing master, but its actually a dude that can kick their asses. Syrio takes them all on with just a stick, beating down the guards easily. Next up is the heavily armored Kingsguard knight Meryn Trant, and Syrio seems outmatched. However, if Petyr = Peter and Eddard = Edward, I conclude that Meryn = Mary Anne. Thus, even though its left open ended, I have faith that Syrio pulls out the win, because Ser Mary Anne is doomed by his girly name.

Arya doesn't stick around to see the end of the fight, using her special skills to flee the castle. On her way, she evades a stable boy who tried to grab her. And by "evades," I mean "brutally kills." Just like that, Arya adds to her long list of very adult things experienced at a very non-adult age. She watched her friend be cut in half, was forced to ditch her childhood pet, was trained in survival skills and swordfighting, witnessed her household guards be killed, and now actually commits manslaughter. "Loss of innocence" is obviously a big theme in this book, as just about every child POV involves kids dealing with issues beyond their age, but an eight-year-old stabbing and killing another kid exceeds even Martin's extreme standards. Arya killed someone, but at least she escaped, and thats something to cheer about. Stupid stable boys should keep their hands to themselves.

Sansa waits in her room for the fighting to finish, praying for her father, her guards, and her Lannister boyfriend. It was such a Sansa thing to do, to sit passive and clueless, hoping that everything just works out. Cersei tells her that Eddard was a traitor, and we learn that Sansa was the one who informed Cersei of Eddard's plans. Are you freaking kidding me? By leaking this information, Sansa endangered the lives of her family, effectively sentenced her household guards to death, and screwed over everyone who truly loves her. All because she has a crush on dumbass Joffrey who treats her like crap anyway. Sansa: destined to be the abused druggie escort of King's Landing.

The council is threatening to break her engagement, reasoning that traitor blood runs through her veins. If that were true, Joffrey should just marry Myrcella now, because they are inclined to be ultra-incestuous. They can have a threesome with Tommen, and if you throw Tyrion in the mix and record it, you could sell the tape to a dozen different niche fetish groups. Lannister porn: something for everyone, and keeping the house wealthy for the next thousand years.

Cersei should be opposed to a Joffrey-Sansa marriage solely because her grandkids would be dumb as bricks. She might as well marry Myrcella to GREGOR, and then all her grandkids can take the same bus to school (the short one). Of course, Sansa is devastated that she might not marry Joffrey, but the council won't listen until pedo Petyr chimes in, suggesting that Sansa resembles her mother more than her father. I'm not sure which is worse. Would you rather be the inept, humorless guy who can't think his way out of a box, or the bitter woman who falsely arrests the only innocent member of a rival house? Cersei and the council convince Sansa to write letters to convince the rest of her family to surrender. Sansa actually buys it, partly because she wants desperately to believe everything will be fine, but mostly because she is 100% grade-A stupid. The difference between Sansa and her sister could not be more Stark.


  1. Great summary, it made me lol multiple times. :D

  2. Yeah, Sansa is quite irksome and stupid at this point in the book, but really, I dare you to name a 13-year-old girl who isn't dumb. Or a 13-year-old boy who isn't dumb, for that matter.

    Arya doesn't count, she was clearly imbued with supreme intellect and fighting prowess by the Norse god of war.

  3. Arya is kickass, agreed. She is exposed to very disturbing experiences.

    Sansa obviously shouldn't have done what she did, but it would be harsh to judge her actions on their consequences and not on her intentions, which were admittedly disobedient, ill-informed and selfish but not deadly.

    Ned isn't really an inept or stupid character in general. He has a record as a successful ruler of a fairly large realm and is known to be one of the best military commanders in Westeros. He is just outmatched in the kind of dysfunctional situation he was recruited into at court, which required not only intelligence but foremost a willingness to engage in a kind of ruthless and cunning politicking which is alien to Ned's sense of honour and personal experience.

    Cat being bitter about her husband's bastard and Bran nearly being killed doesn't necessarily make her a bitter person in general, I think. An otherwise happy woman might well feel the same way about these things. I feel Cat has had the bad luck to be exposed to all sorts of unhappy situations, which influence the perception of her personality to her detriment.

  4. I agree with Anonymous's points and am impressed with how articulate she expressed them. Certainly better than I could.

    In fact, although I enjoy the blogger's comments, I detect an extreme bias against virtually all of the Starks, which I didn't (and to a certain extent still don't) share when I read Game of Thrones. I find them to be three-dimensional characters, to be sure, but still the "good guys."

    Somewhat unlucky, sometimes naive, but not stupid and not deserving of all the calamities that are heaped upon them by the Lannisters and others.

    Roland of Gilead

  5. I don't think GREGOR's thick, he's just angry all the time and its hard to be clever when your pissed off

    nice pun at the end, keep it up

  6. I love the contrast of these two chapters back to back. I'm glad you got to read them together.

  7. I think part of the reason why Ned's general capabilities seem to be perceived negatively by the blogger -- and not a few other readers when one is honest -- is that in "A Game of Thrones" Ned is often shown in situations where he doesn't excel or even fails. It's not at all unusual to attribute a person's behaviour in a situation to his general personality and abilities and not to the specific situation.

    One may well suspect that if the story would have started with Ned successfully planning and executing military campaigns like he did in Robert's Rebellion and Greyjoy's Rebellion, or with Ned successfully ruling his own realm, where he would probably never have allowed the kind of situation he was recruited into to develop in the first place, then one might still have judged him to be fairly humorless but nobody would have concluded that Ned was any kind of inept.

    I think it's fairly useful to keep in mind that both inherent characteristics of a person and the context in which a person acts influence a person's behaviour. This way one can attribute Ned's failure at court primarily to the situation he found himself in, which was heavily stacked against him from the start, and to some extent to his too rigid sense of honour, his inexperience with court politics and his penchant to think better of people than they truly are, but not his general ineptness, when one bears in mind that Ned had been a good ruler in his own realm for about 15 years and is a formidable military commander.

    The same principles hold true for all characters. The kind of situations we see them dealing with influences our perceptions of their personality and abilities, but we only see them acting in a limited number of different situations, so our perceptions are often incomplete or even wrong.

  8. Lol mary ann.. lol lannister porn!!!!! Too funny. Nice summary again.

  9. Ned would be a great king, but he's a bad hand. I think that sums it up

  10. Or fat for that matter?

  11. i believe he is drawing a parallel between the fat, non-special syrio cat and the cat that is married to eddard. nice post, by the way. i love the part where syrio fights all of those knights with his wooden sword

  12. Oh my god. This is possibly the most amazing entry since "SANDOR TAKE GREGOR TOY GREGOR BURN SANDOR HEAD". XD. Incredible, just incredible. Great work. I really enjoy your summaries.

  13. I do think the blogger is a bit hard on Sansa. She is a product of her upbringing. Like every daughter of a lord, she's been raised and trained to be a wife, mother and lady. She was the "favorite" daughter in Winterfell and never had any reason to believe that the world wasn't all gallant knights and maidens fair, like the stories.

  14. Yeah, but she's _too much_ a product of her upbringing - the Hound is right when he says all she does is repeat what others have told her. At this point in the book she seems to lack any sort of individual reasoning ability or common sense; surely meeting Joffrey is reason enough to realize the songs are a load of crap. I remember my feelings on Sansa in AGOT being similar to the bloggers. Anyway good entry.

  15. "i believe he is drawing a parallel between the fat, non-special syrio cat and the cat that is married to eddard"

    Yes, but the Braavosi cat is assumed to be special by all but Syrio and is fat in actuality, whereas Catelyn is never presented as special and isn't fat. Her sister Lysa is the fat one.

  16. Another Sansa advocacy:
    It was Littlefingers scheming that caused the whole mess. Ned ordered him to organize a ship and to prepare the gold cloaks, and that was all the information Cersei needed. All Sansa gave away was the deadline.
    Sansa did what she was raised for: diplomacy. Not knowing it was a matter of life and death she went to Robert hoping to find a solution, but was stringed along by Cersei instead. If Ned had enough trust in his daughters (or a less strict view on gender roles) to let them in on the whole story, I'm sure neither Sansa nor Arya would have been grouchy about leaving KL.
    But what I can't excuse is Sansa forgetting to ask for Arya.

  17. Yet another awesome couple of chapter summaries. Keep up the good work! I can't wait to read how you react to the rest of these books.

  18. Sansa is certainly a product of her upbringing to some considerable degree, so the people who were responsible for her upbringing (Cat, Ned, Septa Mordane and Maester Luwin) have to be asked critical questions about it. On the other hand, her siblings have turned out differently, so it's probably not all the fault of Sansa's teachers and parents.

    Diplomacy is usually employed to negotiate on behalf of states or groups, not primarily on one's own behalf. Sansa didn't want to advance the interests of her family when she disobeyed her father and went to Cersei, she simply wanted to marry Joffrey. It was pure selfisness. And it was also ill-informed to say the least when one considers Joffrey's conduct which was witnessed by Sansa and Cersei being the one who wanted Lady killed.

    Ned not really explaining the seriousness of the situation to his daughters seemed to be more a result of their youth and not his strict views on gender roles. Note that Ned allowed Arya to keep Needle -- something his own father wouldn't have allowed, apparently -- and even hired a martial instructor for her and had planned to take Syrio to Winterfell. So I don't think that Ned's views on gender roles were stricter than normal for the setting.

  19. My feelings about Sansa went like this.

    Hate -> Pity -> Like

    In AGoT Sansa is not the most likable character, I agree. But, just remember she is a confused little girl. If you can't forgive a confused little girl, you might want to start questioning just who is the true monster here.

    You are comparing her to Arya as a model female child of Westeros. Which is unfortunate given that Arya's plotline and character development are total BS, requiring huge doses of suspension-of-disbelief.

    As for Ned, I agree with some other opinions expressed here, that he is a good man. He just isn't cut out for the cesspool of corruption, that is King's Landing.

    He is a bit like the policeman who refuses to take the bribe, and faces the wrath of the corrupt officers at the precinct.

    A lot of people are amazed that Obama managed to make it out of Illinois politics untarnished. If things had gone a little better for Ned, he might have been regarded in even higher esteem for not stooping so low.

    I think he is aware of the risk, but choses to do it his way. A true hero of Westeros!

  20. I genuinely like Ned. He is certainly a good man, and since a hero is defined by exceptional courage, nobility and (mental) strength then he may well be a hero.

    However, in "A Clash of Kings" an other heroic character offers some advice: "Our honor means no more than our lifes, so long as the realm is safe".

    I'm inclined to agree with this character, whereas Ned doesn't seem to have followed this paradigm in the critical phase of the Lannister coup. He was arguably too rigid about his own honor to the detriment of his family and the realm.

    Not striking against the Lannisters when he could when Robert lay dying, refusing to go along with Littlefinger's plan and not buying the City Watch himself were all examples of this. Even showing mercy towards Cersei and her children was at least partly a result of Ned not wanting anything to do with the unhonorable murder of children.

    Ned's unflexible behaviour in the critical phase of the Lannister coup is all the more regrettable because Ned actually shows some flexibility about his understanding of honor in other instances. He grants Arya that lying can be honorable when she lied to protect Nymeria. He himself lies to his king about Cat having his permission to arrest Tyrion. Not to forget what may be the biggest lie of all, an instance where Ned may have followed the advice given in ACoK.

  21. po6ot, do you really think we should treat characters in a book the same way we'd treat children in real life? it's a fantasy book, of course things are going to be unbelievable, its kind of ridiculous thing to say "don't think like this" because it requires a lot of "suspension of disbelief." there are dragons, undead zombies, and gigantic wolves. reading fantasy is basically all suspension of disbelief.

  22. I'm wondering about the comment about tyrion being the only innocent lannister I thought at this stage of the book he was guilty?

  23. In one of his prior PoVs Tyrion wondered who had sent the assassin after Bran, which he wouldn't have done if he would have done it.

    Of course, Catelyn didn't know this. She believed, with some reason after Littefinger's testimony, that Tyrion was involved in the attempt to kill Bran.

  24. This is probably my favorite post yet.
    The power ranking alone should go on an all time best Power Ranking list somewhere.

    Keep up the good work. Please post again before the weekend, I won't be able to check the internet this weekend, and I can't wait till Monday to see what you write next time.

  25. Love the last line and your power rankings are brilliant. The which is worse? mother or father comparison made me laugh out loud. The Stark kids might just be doomed by DNA!

  26. Do you all know that 90's show everybody loves raymond, well i think here we can make it a everybody hates sansa..... though it will change as the books go by, but at thins time yeah.. everibody hates sansa


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