The Murdered and Missing Part 1: The Murdered

A Faceless Man” by Fantasy Flight Games

A Song of Ice and Fire starts with 2 major mysteries. In the Prologue, we discover that the Others have mysteriously returned and in the King’s Landing chapters of A Game of Thrones, Eddard Stark investigates the death of Jon Arryn. Through it all, George writes mysteries but especially murder mysteries and strange disappearances with some relish. In this 2-part podcast series, the Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire podcast team investigates some of the famous and not-so-famous murders and disappearances in A Song of Ice and Fire. Today’s episode covers the murder side of the series. Today we cover the motivations, suspects and all the intriguing clues and possibilities of some of these infamous cases:

  • The Death of Ser Hugh of the Vale
  • Balon Greyjoy
  • Domeric Bolton
  • Little Walder Frey
  • The Meereenese Weavers
  • The Murder of Elia Martell

We also get to argue about Tywin Lannister at the end. Finally, we’re looking to have part 2 out in fairly short order as it’s already written!

Listen to us at the following places:


Filed under ASOIAF Character Analysis, ASOIAF Mystery, ASOIAF Podcast, ASOIAF Speculation

25 responses to “The Murdered and Missing Part 1: The Murdered

  1. Rosy Posy

    Great job guys, this has moved up to my second favourite asoiaf podcast (behind Radio Westeros) but it’s markedly improving with every new episode. I love the accents! I would love to hear you make Vargo Hoat say ‘thapphirth’, especially since we were denied it in the show!

    I like the Theon Durden theory but with one tiny, nitpicky, amendment. MPD (multiple personality disorder) is an extremely rare condition, so to say that trauma victims often develop dissociative personalities is a fallacy. However it is a major horror/thriller trope, and we all know that Martin loves to play around with those. I’d look at the theory from that angle, but it makes no difference to how it plays out.
    Can’t wait for the next instalment. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Rosy! That’s high praise that we’re 2nd after Radio Westeros — Yolkboy and Lady Gwyn are some of our favorites as well! I’m sure we could convince SomethingLikeaLawyer to do a Vargo Hoat. After all, we have this idea for an episode after this series about…

      That’s true on the MPD side of things. To me, your theory provides a better backdrop to Theon’s disassociation from himself — the narrative confusion that Nfriel was talking about.

      Cheers for the listen, and thanks so much!

    • somethinglikealawyer

      You are correct on the dissociative disorder front. I should have said “in fiction” as a caveat. Thank you for the catch.

    • Paul

      Sir Hugh was proven to not be the one who poisoned him. Cersei was never shown to have any connection with him in any way. It was a legitimate accident, not every death is a conspiracy. Even if it was planned, it would of been near impossible to predict that the wood would splinter like that and catch him so. Would of been many better ways to kill him with more of a chance for success. It was his own fault for not wearing a proper gorget, it was new armor and he didn’t yet have a feel for it. If anything, killing him in such a public display would only bring on suspicion, as it did.

  2. shan

    Guys i really enjoy reading the essays and analysis. Do you have a transcript for the hearing impaired?

    • somethinglikealawyer

      I’ll see if I can’t crank one out sometime this week. Thank you for the suggestion. I didn’t even think about adding a transcript for listeners.

  3. direliz

    Really enjoyed your episode and the subject matter. Would really like to point out that the sound levels was different for all 4 of you. So as I was driving in the car nfiel was really really loud and the scotsman was so soft I could barely hear him. Other than that enjoyed myself and I do think Tywin sent Gregor to defacto murder Elia because of the slight to his house. He knows exactly what he unleased.

  4. J Mann

    Loved the podcast, thanks! A couple thoughts/suggestions.

    1) If I can make a suggestion, please be vigilant against too much friendly banter, which is the bane of all podcasts with 3 or more hosts. You have the best signal/noise ratio of any group podcast I’ve heard, but it’s an easy trap to slip into. I’ve tried listening to another SOIAF podcast, but after ten minutes of the hosts laughing at each others’ jokes and not talking about the books, I’ve noped out of each.

    2) I like all the theories, except for the perfume xonnection, which seems like a stretch. Wouldn’t you expect your victim to notice if you had dosed his food or drink with *perfume*? I like Reek as a suspect, but I suspect he would have chosen a different poison.

  5. The Smiling Owl

    Hi guys, thanks for another great insight in the hidden layers of a song of ice and fire. I have one addition about Tywin Lannister, and the reason he lies to Tyrion (or i believe it to be a lie) about the order of rape/murder of Elia. I think the subject was broached already in one of the essays.

    For Tywin, image is everything. The image he displays of himself and of House Lannister is what i think is his main drive in life. But the image tywin displays to the world is like a glamour, seen best in the chapter where Tyrion kills him. It turns out that Tywin is just like Tyrion when it comes to whores, even after all Tywin did to get Tyrion to stop frequenting them. He lied to Tyrion all those times (or did not tell him the truth) because it was a total contradiction to his own image. I think he is even ashamed of it. I believe for this same reason he lied to Tyrion about order to Clegane. I dont think he was able to tell Tyrion because it would mean admitting that he was a man like any man, driven by lust and anger.

    • Rosy Posy

      This is such a good point, and in reading it I’m reminded of Roose Bolton cautioning Ramsey on discretion. Both men rule by fear and cultivate the image of being super human. Tywin has his true nature exposed in the manner of his death- slain on the privy by his own son, and with a whore in his bed. I believe that Roose is being set up to be similarly brought low. The cracks in his persona beginning to show with the uncharacteristic raising of voice and fear in his eyes.

  6. Mhex_ASC

    Regarding the discussion of Balon Greyjoy’s death, I’d like to clarify a point regarding the timing between his death and Euron’s return to the Iron Islands the next day. From my perspective it seems that everyone was working from the assumption that Euron was reckless with the timing of his return, that he had to be guessing that Balon would be dead when he arrived, and that the alleged assassin accomplished his murderous task within a day or two. I don’t believe this was the case.

    As we know from Jaqen’s testimony, and from the account of Arya’s first assassination in ADWD, it takes time and careful observation and planning for the Faceless Men to properly bestow the “gift” of death to their targets without leaving a single trace that could be linked back to them. By all accounts of Balon’s death, which most in the books believe to have been a tragic accident, the faceless man succeeded brilliantly with his objectives.

    With this in mind I believe that we can conclude that Euron contracted the Faceless Men to assassinate Balon some time ago (I personally say a minimum of two-three weeks prior), giving the assassin the time needed to infiltrate the islands, blend in with the population, observe his target, and discern Balon’s habits and patterns to find an exploitable weakness. In this case he determined that Balon would be in a certain tower, that he cross the bridge at a certain time, that a storm was likely to hit at that time, (Speculative I admit, but not outside the realm of possibility. The Ironborn believe in the Drowned God and STORM GOD after all, so we can infer from from this that violent storms are a not only common but occur frequently and violently, so it’s not unlikely that the natives have learned to discern the signs of an approaching storm. The faceless man sent to assassinate Balon could easily have acquired this information, or may have already known what signs to watch for, and plan accordingly.) and thus sabotage the bridge so that it would collapse under Balon’s weight and the force of the approaching storm.

    From here there are two logical possibilities: that the faceless man dispatched a message (via carrier raven or a contact on the island most likely) to Euron either BEFORE the assassination took place informing him of the date, place, and manner of execution so his client could properly time his arrival; or that the message was dispatched immediately AFTER the contract was fulfilled. In either case, we can assume that Euron was indeed close enough to the Iron Islands to receive and act upon such a message since it took him only a day to arrive and claim the seastone chair for himself.

    • somethinglikealawyer

      The only issue with that is that we don’t see any evidence when Arya interacts with the Faceless Men on them informing their client as to when the killing is to take place. Jaqen never bothers telling Arya when her names die, and Arya never informs on the death of the merchant she was tasked with to the client who purchased the assassination contract.

      • Mhex_ASC

        True, we don’t see evidence in the books for interactions between the assassins dispatched and the client. In Arya’s case I can only speculate that since she’s still only an initiate that it’s neither appropriate for her to intereact with the client directly (If I spent such a fortune hiring the legendary Faveless Men to kill someone I wanted dead, I would have been furious at having been cheated out of my !oney knowing a neophyte initiate was doing the killing) nor is it necessary since she’s reporting directly to the Kindly Man at the House of Black & White. And yes, Jaqen never informs her directly, but as we see from Arya’s POV, it doesn’t take much for Arya to realize what happened and who was responsible.

        It is possible however, given Euron’s probable circumstances (lying in wait either some distance from the Iron Island’s shores or else at a secret anchorage in the nearby Sunset Sea) and his need to move quickly after Balon’s death to secure his claim to the seastone chair, that he would need to know when exactly to move. It’s therefore possible (though admittedly speculative of course) that Euron could have laid out the requirement that the assassin notify him when the deed was done or set to be done.

        Another possibility, more likely given Jaqen’s attitude towards Arya at Harrenhal when she tried to dictate his timetable, is Euron simply had spies at Pyke watching and waiting for a sign that Balon was dead. If positioned at the right place and time, they would have been able to send a message quickly enough for Euron to act.

      • somethinglikealawyer

        One thing for sure is that we don’t know when Euron showed up. Balon’s body wasn’t found for two days after his death. Did Euron show the day after Balon disappeared, or the day after his body was found.

        If he showed up the day after he disappeared, he most certainly would have known about the murder beforehand to time it right, as it would be next to impossible to send a message or signal in the middle of that raging storm. Showing up the day ater it was found gives a spy two days to send a message.

  7. Yes! Enjoyed this episode so much! Especially the Bolton investigation. Thorough, man.

  8. contractualistweightloss

    I very much enjoyed the podcast, and as with other people, I liked the Bolton and Theon discussions. I will say, since you’re asking for feedback, I didn’t enjoy the impressions at all. It was distracting, even if fun at times. So I share the worry about focus with one of the commenters above, but in my case it was the impressions that I found the most distracting.

    I love what you’re doing and I love your essays. But a bit more focus would be better. History of Westeros moved this direction from Steve to Ashaya and it got much tighter and more thought provoking.

  9. AbuJaFar

    Hey, really enjoyed the podcast.

    In regards to the Domeric-murder and why Ramsay didn’t torture him or in general use a more sadistic way. While I like the idea of some affection towards Domeric for accepting him as his brother, I think it boils down to practical matters. How would Ramsay torture the heir of the Dreadfort at the Dreadfort? He would have had to overwhelm and capture him and find a place to do it all in silence. I just don’t think that would have been doable especially since he probably didn’t have all his crownies at that time.
    Also, if he wants to eliminate Domeric so he becomes the only possible heir, he shouldn’t draw to much attention to himself or risk getting caught, which is why poison would be the best option.

  10. athelas6

    Thanks for your hard work. This was my first listen of your podcasts. I had heard good things about a Bryndenbfish from Radio Westeros and History of Westeros so I had to check it out. I was not disappointed. I enjoyed hearing all of you and I loved the readings and “voices”. I’d like to hear Nimble Dick and
    “Squish, squish” some time.

    I agreed with a lot and disagreed with some but I value your ideas and appreciate your sharing them. I tend to agree with Littlefinger orchestrating Ser Hugh’s demise. Whether that is true or not only the weirwood trees know for sure and GRRM. I know you mentioned that you were sticking to the five main books for this topic. However, I have just been reading The Mystery Knight and the fact that the tourney was controlled to a certain degree by who would joust against who. That had to apply to the Hand’s Tourney when Ser Hugh got the Mountain, I think. This would most likely have required Littlefinger’s machinations and use of coin. Ser Hugh may have known little or even nothing but his death which could happen so easily in a tournament yet look so suspicious to Ned was a perfect play. He may have lead Cersei to believe she needed Gregor to kill him but he would have arranged it and Cersei would just be playing to his tune without ever realizing it. If not, he still knew Gregor wouldn’t pass up on a chance of killing.

    I also agree with Ramsay probably killing Domeric. As someone else has posted, Ramsay would need the freedom/license to make a more torturous end to him. He has a grisly appetite for watching his victims suffer truly, yet this requires a certain amount of opportunity to do it unopposed and uninterrupted. Ramsay is very clever in his diabolical way and knowing this poison was a smart choice. His brutality makes him craven to me and poison is also a craven’s weapon especially if honed by a wronged and vengeful mother. Roost is the great opportunist and since Fomeric is dead he coolly and practically accepts it and moves on with another piece to play the game. GRRM has said Roose was being an opportunist when he turned cloak for Tywin. So he probably didn’t have a grand plan before but that’s what opened up for him so he took it.

  11. athelas6

    Oops, sorry for the misspells. Thanks again. I’m your newest fan. Cheers.

  12. delinear

    Another great discussion, here are my own thoughts for what they’re worth.

    Ser Hugh

    I’m dubious about there being anything in Ser Hugh’s death other than the Mountain being a nasty piece of work. As a planned assassination, it’s far too inexact. If the gorget had been correctly fastened, he would have simply been unhorsed, and even if someone who wanted him dead had a hand in the badly fastened gorget (someone must have armoured him since he had no squire), it’s still not a guaranteed thing. Despite the Hound telling us that the Mountain’s lance tip goes where he wants, it’s just not that easy to hit such a small, moving target while ahorse, at speed, wearing full armour. If the assassination attempt failed but was sufficient to put Ser Hugh on his guard then whatever information he was being killed to protect might instead be made public.

    I don’t think Cersei was behind this – she must have been behind knighting him in the first place, it doesn’t make sense to knight a man you don’t trust, nor to kill a man you do trust (plus we later learn she wasn’t behind the death of Jon Arryn, so she even lacks the motive, when Ned confronts her about her crimes she openly admits to it, if she had nothing to fear from Ned, she certainly wouldn’t be scared of Hugh). If it were Littlefinger or Varys then I don’t think they’d have him killed in this way for the reasons stated above – far too inexact, you don’t want to scare him into hiding (or even worse, into going public). Littlefinger has the gold cloaks, he could have much more simply had some of his corrupt city watch kill the young knight then made up any story they wanted to justify it. I daresay Varys has even more inventive ways to hide the killing. I see this more as Gregor seeing a chance to kill some green knight and further his reputation for brutality with no other agency behind it.

    Balon Greyjoy

    Balon seems like a man constantly brought low by his own hubris, so I have to admit I like the idea that he simply refused to not cross his bridge during a storm and it cost him his life.

    There are a lot of flaws in the theory that a Faceless Man was hired to kill Balon as far as I’m concerned. Firstly, Faceless Men cost so much to hire that even Robert balks at the cost of hiring one to kill Dany. Robert is happy to spend hundreds of thousands of dragons on a single tourney just in prizes alone, so he’s not miserly, yet he can’t afford to pay a Faceless Man the money required to kill an exiled girl who is a threat to his rule?

    That suggests the cost for Dany is astronimical, and at that point she really isn’t much of a threat while Balon is a self styled king with his own lands, people and army, that’s got to be a more expensive job. For all his stolen riches, it doesn’t seem likely Euron had access to the kind of money that someone with the entire seven kingdoms at their fingertips could command. Some people suggest he used the egg as payment, but again that’s a neat story device which doesn’t bear much logical examination. Why give away such a valuable asset when he could have sold the egg, kept the better part of the fortune and paid someone in Balon’s service a few gold dragons to push him off a bridge? Balon’s hardly in his prime, and he doesn’t seem particularly well loved, using a Faceless Man for the job seems a bit like using dragonflame to toast marshmallows.

    Finally there’s the issue of kinslaying. Now, throughout the series different people have much different standards for kinslaying (Theon is called kinslayer for “killing” Bran and Rickon, despite him not being blood kin, while Ramsay is seemingly given a free pass despite everyone thinking he killed his half brother), however it seems the Iron Born hold to this quite strongly as Balon exiles Euron to prevent it, so for Euron to casually have Balon killed ignores this (I’m pretty sure just getting someone else to swing the blade doesn’t negate the deed, or that’s a huge loophole). Now it’s possible Euron is such a bastard he just doesn’t care about kinslaying (I mean, there’s some evidence he’s expecting Victarion to blow dragonbinder and die as a result, although I’d argue letting someone die by their own stupidity is different to hiring someone to kill them), but Aeron is similarly going to be a thorn in Euron’s side, and he’s not had him killed, so until we specifically hear his views on kinslaying, I’d assume them to be negative, broadly similar to Balon’s.

    Whenever I raise the idea that a Faceless Man wasn’t hired to kill Balon, people use the Ghost of High Heart’s prophecy to refute it, saying it’s clearly a Faceless Man. Her quote is:

    “I dreamt of a man without a face, waiting on a bridge that swayed and swung. On his shoulder perched a drowned crow with seaweed hanging from his wings.”

    Now, firstly “a man without a face” could be a Faceless Man, but isn’t that a bit on the nose? GRRM rarely makes his prophecies so obvious, so it baffles me that everyone points to the obviousness of this as evidence that it must be true. On the contrary, often when George makes something that happened off-screen appear obvious, it almost always transpires there is a different explanation. Who else could it be? Well, at one point Cat stops to pray in a little Sept that’s so poor it can’t afford statues of the Seven, instead it has charcoal drawings. The Stranger is most often depicted as some kind of beastly aspect, but he’s depicted there as a man with no face. I’d therefore suggest she might literally be dreaming his death awaited him on a swaying bridge.

    There’s also the crow, which people say clearly means Euron because he’s called the Crow’s Eye and there can be no other interpretation, but I’d say why a *drowned* crow in that case? Drowned suggests it’s somehow relevant to the drowned god, and we know Euron doesn’t follow the drowned god (Damphair points this out when he says no godless man may sit the seastone chair). Given there’s an entire book called “A Feast For Crows” which is a euphamism for the Lords fighting for the spoils of the ravaged Riverlands, I would suggest the crow represents those who will fight over Balon’s throne after his death, and it’s a drowned crow because the crows here are the iron born, not Euron exclusively, but all the claimants to his crown. Alternatively the seaweed may be a reference to Damphair, and that the drowned god is awaiting him in death.

    George likes to have these little mysteries within mysteries, like the way we’re initially told Jon Arryn is murdered by the Lannisters and we think the mystery is why, and eventually we have Ned “solve” the mystery, only to find out later that wasn’t the real mystery at all, since it was actually Littlefinger and Lyssa that killed Jon. Well, I see this the same way, GRRM is setting it up as a “mystery” death which people “solve”, but in fact they’re solving the wrong mystery.

    Domeric Bolton

    I like Reek v1 for this one. Roose is still able to bear children, and by killing Domeric, Ramsay risks drawing Roose’s wrath, and Ramsay seems genuinely terrified of Roose for all he seems to be this quiet, mild mannered man. For all Ramsay knows, Roose might have had him flayed and then just gone on to father more children. Hell, for all Ramsay knows, Roose might (and most likely does) have other bastards out there who could replace him. Reek almost poisoned himself, so he knows how to poison Domeric.

    On top of that, all Reek’s status comes from his relationship with Ramsay (before Ramsay, he was treated incredibly badly), which is put in danger by the arrival of this new brother, so he has a clear motive. The mother is a possibility (I read and enjoyed the essay), but again, Ramsay’s mother knows first-hand how ruthless Roose can be, and she must know Ramsay would be suspect number one, being next in line. At the very least if she were to plan to have Domeric poisoned, it would make sense to set up a rock solid alibi for Ramsay first.

    I like the Roose idea, and actually he was my immediate suspect when he first pointed the finger at Ramsay, because the series made me super suspicious that way, but he does seem genuinely concerned with keeping the Bolton line alive (he must have spent a LOT of his goodwill with the Lannisters after the Red Wedding by having Ramsay legitimised), so I’d need some more textual evidence before I believed Roose would casually kill his true born son.

    Little Walder/The Meereneese Weavers

    I’ve grouped these together because I think they’re one of GRRM’s examples of parallel stories. In both cases I think it’s an example of an opportunist killer using the cover of mass killings to hide their crimes in plain sight. I definitely think Big Walder did for Little Walder. The evidence is there in terms of the blood, and their previous discussions centred around the line of succession at the Twins. Big Walder saying he would hold the Twins suggests ambition, and since the only way to hold the Twins is to wait out everyone else or to take a hand in their early demise, and only one of these is really feasible for Big Walder, my money’s on him. For the same reason, I think Grazdan uses the Sons of the Harpy attacks as cover to exact his own petty revenge (whether he’s part of their movement or not).

    Elia Martell

    I think Tywin was almost certainly behind what happened to Elia. For him, this wouldn’t be about revenge, but rather about sending a message. He doesn’t particularly seem to enjoy killing for the sake of it as others in the series do, but he does believe in driving home his messages.

    – Snub his House’s power? Your House gets extinguished by his House as a fatal demonstration of said House’s power.
    – Bring shame on the House by marrying a commoner? Have the marriage anulled and be forced to partake in the horrific gang-rape of your wife.
    – Assume too much by wearing Tywin’s dead mother’s clothes and jewellery and being perceived as a gold-digger? Have literally everything stripped from you and be put back in your place very publically.
    – And of course, be seen to usurp an arranged marriage? Expect to be horrifically raped and murdered after seeing any fruits of your marriage killed before your eyes.

    It all fits his modus operandi of sending a message in a very specific way that relates to the perceived dishonour. In the case of the Castameres he even uses their demise to literally send a message (albeit in song form). Whether he gave an explicit order in the case of Elia or not I can’t say, but in my mind I’m sure he knew exactly what would happen when he unleashed this pair. They’re his J. Walter Weatherman.

    As to why he’d lie to Tyrion? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. He had no real reason to lie to Tyrion about Tysha being a prostitute, the fact that she was low-born was reason enough to have the marriage anulled, and absolutely nothing excuses the rape, yet he maintained the lie to the very end. Maybe it shows lack of respect for Tyrion; more likely Tywin is lying to himself – as I said, he doesn’t seem like he inherently enjoys seeing evil deeds done, maybe it’s how he lives with himself.

  13. Pingback: Episode 12: Year in Review | Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

  14. June

    Love your work guys…but not all of your links are working…so many of them just lead to the dreaded 404…..

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