Davos, Brienne and the War in the Stormlands

Introduction

“Sellswords landing on Cape Wrath, castles under siege or being taken, crops seized or burned. Where these men come from and who they are, no one is certain.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

I recently listened to the Boiled Leather Audio Hour’s recap and analysis of the sample chapter that George RR Martin released on his website: TWOW, Arianne I, and the two podcast authors hit on something that I think could hint at the character arcs of 2 major POVs. First, two quotes from the sample chapter:

“Now it’s said to be Jon Connington, the Mad King’s Hand, come back from the grave to reclaim his birthright. Whoever it is, Griffin’s Roost has fallen to them. Rain House, Crow’s Nest, Mistwood, even Greenstone on its island. All taken.”

“Tarth has fallen too, some fisherfolk will tell you,” said Valena. “These sellswords now hold most of Cape Wrath and half the Stepstones. We hear talk of elephants in the rainwood.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

At first glance, these quotes seem a list of castles that Connington, Aegon and the Golden Company have taken, but if you look at the castles themselves, there’s more significance than the first glance. If it is true that Aegon & Co have taken all of the above castles and regions in the Stormlands, it directly affects 2 POV characters: Davos Seaworth and Brienne of Tarth. Both have family members in the Storm Lands, and the castles where their family members live have reportedly been taken by Aegon.

Will Davos and Brienne adhere to their oaths or will they choose their blood and kin? I have a strong feeling that this will drive the inner conflict and turmoil for Davos and Brienne in The Winds of Winter and beyond.


A Better King’s Hand Than a Husband

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I was a better smuggler than a knight, he had written to his wife, a better knight than a King’ s Hand, a better King’ s Hand than a husband. I am so sorry. Marya, I have loved you. Please forgive the wrongs I did you. (ADWD, Davos IV)

If you’ll recall, Davos Seaworth is currently serving as Stannis Baratheon’s Hand. When we last left him, he was about to embark on a journey to Skagos to retrieve Rickon Stark. To back the story up a bit further, Davos was awarded a lordship by Stannis Baratheon when he returned from the dead after the Battle of Blackwater.

“Then rise again, Davos Seaworth, and rise as Lord of the Rainwood, Admiral of the Narrow Sea, and Hand of the King.” (ASOS, Davos IV)

Prior to Stannis’ departure, he left his wife and his young sons in Cape Wrath, presumably at the castle of Rainwood, hoping that they would remain safe from the war in the North. Unfortunately for Davos, the unexpected and unpleasant arrival of an invading army of Aegon and JonCon placed Davos’ family in great peril.

Davos, for his part, recognized that Stannis’ quest for the Iron Throne could end in defeat, and in his jailhouse letter to his wife and family, he addressed how they should proceed.

Should Stannis lose his war, our lands will be lost as well. Take the boys across the narrow sea to Braavos and teach them to think kindly of me, if you would. Should Stannis gain the Iron Throne, House Seaworth will survive and Devan will remain at court. He will help you place the other boys with noble lords, where they can serve as pages and squires and win their knighthoods.* (ADWD, Davos IV)

But what Davos wasn’t counting on was Aegon’s invasion. I wonder how it will affect him. He loves his family dearly, and he wants nothing more than to be re-united with them. If the Rainwoods is taken, the Seaworths could be used as hostages to tempt Davos away from his oaths of loyalty and fealty to Stannis. And I think there’s a clue in what Davos will do from ASOS.

The sea. He loved that smell. It made him want to walk a deck again, to raise his canvas and sail off south to Marya and his two small ones. He thought of them most every day now, and even more at night. Part of him wanted nothing so much as to take Devan and go home. I cannot. Not yet. (ASOS, Davos V)

Were his family to be taken hostage, would Davos abandon his liege to save them? I think he would, and I think that there’s a fascinating parallel with his beloved King: Stannis Baratheon. If you’ll recall, Stannis was faced with a similar predicament at the outset of Robert’s Rebellion. By law, Stannis was bound to his oath of fealty to the king. But when Robert Baratheon rose in rebellion, Stannis was faced with a choice: his king or his brother.

“Aerys? If you only knew . . . that was a hard choosing. My blood or my liege. My brother or my king.” (ASOS, Davos IV)

Stannis chose his brother, his blood over his king, his oath. If the Seaworth family is used as a hostage, I think it very likely that Davos will make the same choice: his blood over his liege.


A Good Man and an Oathkeeper

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“It is said that your father is a good man. If so, I pity him. Some men are blessed with sons, some with daughters. No man deserves to be cursed with such as you.” – Randyll Tarly to Brienne (AFFC, Brienne V)

Brienne faces a similar predicament. While much has been made of her oaths to Catelyn against her oaths to Jaime Lannister, I wonder how Brienne will react if and when she hears the news of the fall of Tarth. Brienne’s arc in ASOIAF has been a study in inner conflict between her oaths.

Her father was reputed to be a good man. If Tarth’s fall reaches Brienne, will she abandon her conflicting oaths to Catelyn and Jaime and seek out her father? Will she serve Aegon if he agrees to release her father? Admittedly, this is the weakest section of this analysis, because I’m not as recently read-up on Brienne’s arc. Please let me know in the comments below whether this point is far-fetched or whether there’s evidence for or against this idea.


Conclusion

George RR Martin once said, “I’ve always agreed with William Faulkner—he said that the human heart in conflict with itself is the only thing worth writing about. I’ve always taken that as my guiding principle, and the rest is just set dressing.” Much has been made of the dream that Teora Tolland had from the sample chapter.

“They were dancing. In my dream. And everywhere the dragons danced the people died.” (TWOW, Arianne I)

And while I find this a fascinating hint of the future war between Dany and Aegon, I find the inner human conflicts that the characters face much more compelling. My king or my wife and sons, my oaths or my father — these are parts of the story that I’ve gravitated towards on re-reads. They speak to the conflicts and paradoxes that we as humans face. If George RR Martin’s track record continues, I believe that the inner conflict for the characters within the universe such as Brienne and Davos is both unavoidable and compelling to us as readers.

Cross-posted from Reddit where you’ll find it here

15 Comments

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15 responses to “Davos, Brienne and the War in the Stormlands

  1. Kuruharan

    I have sometimes wondered whether or not Davos’ family has not already suffered molestation from Stannis’ enemies. They have effectively been in enemy territory since the Battle of Blackwater.

    Admittedly, Storm’s End would have been a higher priority than Davos’ lands, but Davos was an open and notorious follower of Stannis from the beginning.

    I cannot recall Davos ever hearing from his family (I might be wrong on that). Something may already have happened to them before Aegon’s invasion and we just don’t know it yet.

    • Possibly. Davos hasn’t heard from his family, because he sailed all the way from Dragonstone to Eastwatch. Mail service in Westeros is not standardized, so he’s essentially abandoning them for the moment and hoping for that his family would be forgotten, ignored and left alone. I doubt that they will.

      • WPA

        At the same time – doesn’t this also all depend on the outcome of the battle at Winterfell and Randall Tarly’s going south against Aegon/JonCon? With all the Mummer’s Dragon talk, it seems the most likely foreshadowing is Aegon ending up like Quentyn in another Dance of Dragons should Dany come West.

        Though at the same time, it would also be a fun twist (or perhaps that’s just my preference) for Aegon to lead from the front and get killed storming some unknown castle ala Richard I of England and leave JonCon in an awkward position with a sellsword army.

  2. si91

    I think you are forgetting that since Manderly “executed” Davos, he is dead as far as the realm is concerned. Ironically, this would shield his family from Aegon’s attention, since you can’t use hostages to blackmail a dead man.

    That said, even if Aegon or someone else does end up holding Davos’ family hostage, I don’t think that Davos would betray Stannis. The Faulkner quote would certainly apply here, but I think that though Davos would be very conflicted over the issue, he would ultimately have to stay with Stannis. It’s not as though Davos has not been through this before. He lost four of his seven sons at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Yet, instead of trying to save what family he had left, he went straight back to Dragonstone intent on saving Stannis from Melisandre even though it would mean risking his own life. This also meant potentially leaving his family at the mercy of the Lannisters who now control the Stormlands. As Davos himself put it, “Four of my sons died for you on the Blackwater. I might have died myself. You have my loyalty, always.” Since then he has again risked his life several times in Stannis’ service. Indeed, in the very quote you cite, Davos clearly wants to take Devan and go home, but cannot bring himself to leave Stannis because “I am a lord now, and the King’s Hand. I must not fail him.”

    Davos’ primary defining characteristics are Honesty, Loyalty, and Service, the qualities that made Stannis name him Hand in the first place, qualities he has consistently exhibited since his introduction. Even in ACOK Davos was literally deifying Stannis, saying “King Stannis is my god. He made me and blessed me with his trust.” Therefore, I don’t see how Davos’ betraying that trust at such a crucial juncture adds to his character. If anything, having him go through the inner turmoil of having to sacrifice his family for Stannis’ sake is consistent with Davos’ repeated willingness to put everything on the line for Stannis. Even when he reaches White Harbor and is faced with the impossible task of convincing Manderly to join Stannis, he tells himself that he won’t leave Stannis until Stannis no longer has need of him.

    Indeed, I think it’s important to realize exactly how important being Stannis’ Hand is to Davos. Unlike Tywin Lannister, who viewed the Handship as a means to advance the status of his family, or Mace Tyrell, who sees the Handship as a means to stoke his own bloated ego, or even Ned Stark who took the Handship as a personal favor to Robert and thus viewed the post as that of a glorified friend, Davos sees the Handship as an office imbued with certain ideals, responsibilities and expectations that he must strive to fulfill.

    To me, some of the most compelling Davos scenes are those where he lacks confidence in himself but reminds himself that he is the King’s Hand and has a job to do. When he has trouble reading, he grits his teeth and continues the struggle because “He was the King’s Hand now, and a King’s Hand should read…Davos enjoyed a good story as well as any man, but Stannis had not named him Hand for his enjoyment, he felt. His first duty was to help his king rule, and for that he must needs understand the words the ravens brought. The best way to learn a thing was to do it, he had found; sails or scrolls, it made no matter.”

    When he finds that the Freys have arrived in White Harbor with more to offer Manderly than he ever could, Davos refuses to turn back because “I have come through rain and wrack and storm. I will not go back without doing what I came for, no matter how hopeless it may seem. He might have lost his fingers and his luck, but he was no ape in velvet. He was a King’s Hand.” In summation, Davos has become a more educated man, a more confident man, and ultimately grown as a character and a person because of his loyalty to Stannis. I don’t see how having him give that up works in terms of narrative or character development.

  3. Paul

    House Wylde owns Rain House, not House Seaworth.

    • Stargaryen

      Not under Stannis’s reign. Stannis is currently Lord of Dragonstone and the Stormlands. He can give out Lordships for those lands all he wants even if someone lives there that Renly put there.

  4. KrimzonStriker

    Stannis was stated to only have hold of Dragonstone and Storm’s End after the Battle of Blackwater, as all the Stomrlords basically surrendered after that. Davos was also only granted the title to Rainwood in ASOS, I always thought is was an empty one by Stannis, one that under his perogative he could give away since they abandoned his cause most likely, so I can’t imagine Davos or his family ever got an opportunity to even visit or hold Rainwood, and always figured he sent them off to Essos like he did Edric Storm.

  5. Sato

    Brianne has become like Cat Stark and Dondarrian
    before her @ the end of the last book…

    • Stargaryen

      You think Cat killed Brienne and then brought Brienne back to life? That is extremely interesting, never thought of that possibility before.

  6. Stargaryen

    How is davos to save his family at the Rainwood. How would him showing up save him, he commands no army and has zero power to take back the castle. best course of action is to stay with the plan from Stannis and try and handle The Rainwoods after everything has settled. His family is either still alive or fled to Braavos. I doubt JonCon and Aegon killed them. I think you are very wrong about Davos going back to the Stormlands. It serves zero purpose, he can’t get anything accomplished and ruins his storyline. It would be a bad story arc change for davos.

  7. Stargaryen

    I agree that Martin will write of their conflict but no sense on either Brienne or Davos part to try and win back their homeland when they command zero men and have no power to do so. They have to be smart or they will die.

    • calicovirus

      Brienne, however, has the ear of Jaime Lannister – who is (nominally) leading a Lannister force in the Riverlands. Talking very theoretically, it’s possible that Brienne and Jaime could escape/survive/kill Lady Stoneheart and upon hearing news of Tarth’s seizure, be convinced to march that Lannister force down to the Stormlands. It doesn’t matter what the Iron Throne commands – Jaime is essentially a free agent with Cersei imprisoned (and having burned her letter it’s debatable whether she’d listen to him anyway). He may obey Mace Tyrell as Hand, but as the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard he does have significant military leadership in his own right. So while part of me would prefer to read about The Further Stark-Daughter Questing Adventures of Brienne and Jaime as they traipse about the Vale and Riverlands looking for Sansa and Arya, it’s equally plausible to me that they would separate again and Jaime decide to take action to save Tarth, perceiving it as his duty, or repayment to Brienne, or simply The Right Thing To Do (Which Would Also Help Out Brienne). it seems like a Jaime thing to do, to be horrified at Brienne’s maiming and what has happened to her while on his quest, and then try and make up for that by fighting Aegon VI in the Stormlands on her behalf.

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