“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
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
“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.
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