This is a piece I’ve had in the back of my mind for sometime now, like at least a year and a bit, and I’ve finally found the time to get around to actually doing it.
I’ve heard a lot of comments about how the character of Ramsay Snow comes across as being a one dimensional horror movie villain. In this piece I want to counter this position and really dig into the character of Ramsay Bolton. I will argue that Ramsay is more than a one note B villain. Instead, Ramsay is a well developed and multifaceted character in his own right.
As you may or may not know, Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire has its own Tumblr page (as well as its own Twitter and Facebook pages). Even more excitingly, we here at the blog have partnered with ASOIAF University to answer questions about A Song of Ice and Fire. We – that is, SomethingLikeaLawyer and I – take the text-based questions submitted to us, write up thoughtful, text-based answers, and publish these answers on the Tumblr.
Another productive week for us in the Tumblr-verse. The Hand always has the best answers to meta questions because he is all kinds of brilliant, and his answer to favorite aspects of ASOIAF warfare is no exception. Just as well, the Hand tackled the false assertion that the Freys were justified in enacting the Red Wedding, and dreamed up some excellent alternate histories about Aegon IV dying before the follies of his reign and Jaime Lannister protecting Elia Martell. As for me, I wrote another essay – The Windblown Grass, all about terrible strategist Doran Martell – thought up some Blackfyre words, and added a defining character moment for Theon to Tumblr friend Poor Quentyn’s excellent post to the same.
Doran Martell has been often hailed as one of the great strategic plotters of A Song of Ice and Fire. His final lines to his daughter at the end of A Feast for Crows – “Justice. Vengeance. Fire and Blood” have been not merely cited as some of the most stirring in the series, but equated with the political brilliance and rhetorical masterstroke of Wyman Manderly’s “The North remembers” declaration. His words seemingly indicate a deep knowledge of how to play the game of thrones – a dedication to a long, carefully planned scheme in which the errors of Robert’s Rebellion are reversed and House Targaryen – with Martell support – once again rules the Seven Kingdoms.
However, is this a fair assessment of the Prince of Dorne? Or is it more the case that Doran has categorically failed to effect his ultimate goal – the restoration of House Targaryen to the Iron Throne – at every stage? Have Doran Martell’s schemes actually resulted in any gains toward that end, or any real change in House Martell’s fortunes? Indeed not, and nor should the Prince of Dorne be considered a strategic genius. Doran is not merely perceived as weak and ineffective, the grass that hides the viper – he is the grass, blown by passionate winds but unable in its own right to do anything but remain firmly planted in the ground. Continue reading →
Tyrek Lannister may be considered by readers little more than a tertiary character in A Song of Ice and Fire. The consideration is not unreasonable: not even mentioned by name in the first book, seen “on-screen” only twice before his mysterious disappearance in the violent riot in King’s Landing in A Clash of Kings, young Tyrek merits little more than a footnote among his more prominent Lannister relatives, much less the grander cast of characters. If he is noted at all, he might be remembered as simply a victim, on the same plane as his cousin Willem: an unfortunate pawn to Lannister dynastic ambitions, an innocent murdered by the rioting smallfolk of the capital.
Yet Tyrek disappeared so thoroughly – and so mysteriously – that his “simple” disappearance might not be so simple after all. Rather than being one of the many bodies cleared from the streets in the days and weeks after the riot, Tyrek might be alive and well (or at least relatively well). Even more, Tyrek might be waiting to make a dramatic reappearance in Westeros, schooled and prepared by an unlikely “ally.” Who would want the young Lannister cousin, and what might be in store for him in the future?
Welcome to the newest series for Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire, Heirs in the Shadows. In this series, BryndenBFish and I will examine a number of individuals who may press blood claims to different Westerosi seats, raising ancestral (or “ancestral”) House banners into the stormy Westerosi skies. We will analyze the powerful backers to these claimants, and the arguments and tactics these plotters will utilize to install their chosen pawns as great lords and even ruling monarchs. We will attempt to sketch out how the political face of Westeros might change with the rise of these heirs in waiting – and how their schemes might comport with the volatile game of thrones as the main narrative races to its climax.
Following events at the end of A Storm of Swords and the readying of the Golden Company to move on Westeros, the Spider began to aggressively unweave the political and military fabric that kept the Lannisters and Tyrells in power in King’s Landing. Varys’ plan of slow-burn chaos in Westeros seen in the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire now evolved into an active undermining of the political structure of King’s Landing. Taena Merryweather would work to undermine the relationship between Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister, but she would not be Varys’ only pawn in Westeros.
As I’ve re-read key sections from A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons and The Winds of Winter for the Blood of the Conqueror series, I’ve come to the conclusion that Varys’ intelligence strategy in King’s Landing was not limited to Taena Merryweather. Varys needed to undermine the Lannister-Tyrell alliance in King’s Landing, but Varys also needed to disrupt their military power bloc in Eastern Westeros. The Golden Company and Aegon were coming to Westeros, and they would need the waters cleared for their approach.
The Princess and the Queen Book Cover (image by nateblunt)
In “The Rogue Prince”, Archmaester Gyldayn explores the surface peace and hidden turbulence of the reign of Viserys I Targaryen, immediately preceding the Dance of the Dragons. Though the novella is written in a more “non-fiction” style than the main novels, Gyldayn’s work nevertheless features undercurrents of drama and intrigue. Nowhere is this more apparent than in two mysterious (and quickly successive) deaths recorded to have occurred in 120 AC. The first victim, Laenor Velaryon, was the heir to Driftmark and husband of Princess Rhaenyra, her future consort when (or if) she came into her throne. Not long after his death, tragedy would strike House Strong with the loss of both its lord, Lyonel, and his heir, Ser Harwin.
In both cases, Gyldayn notes from his primary sources a number of suggested suspects, without settling on one likely culprit. It becomes the duty of the reader, then, to examine the evidence and determine which, if any, of the suspects offered seem likely to have arranged these murders (if, indeed, both were even premeditated crimes at all). Investigating the charged atmosphere of Viserys’ court, and the factions playing for power, new suspects appear – those who stood to gain much from these men’s deaths, and who helped contribute, if unknowingly, to the bitter and bloody struggle on the death of the king.
Hello again readers. Today I present you with the final entry in the Three Heads of the Dragon series, Aerion ‘Brightflame’ Targaryen. Prince Aerion Targaryen, also known as Aerion the Monstrous or Aerion Brightflame, born the second son to King Maekar Targaryen, may not be a pretender in the most traditional sense, he still had a role to play under the banner of the pretenders of House Targaryen.
Aerion was an unusual character in the Targaryen dynasty and had distinct ties with both the central kings, princes, and contemporaries of the dynasty, and the various pretenders seeking to oust them. He was a precursor to the Mad King Aerys, he was the despised monster of the family, an enemy of Ser Duncan the Tall, the likely murderer of Haegon Blackfyre, and the drinker of wildfire. Aerion Brightflame was the dragon who burned and his actions still affect Westeros to this day.
Hello again, readers. After our previous discussion on Daemon Blackfyre a couple of weeks ago it should come as no surprise that we’ve finally reached the descendants of Daemon Blackfyre; Daemon II, Haegon, Aenys, Daemon III, and Maelys the Monstrous Blackfyre. As there is not a great deal of information on all of the Blackfyre Descendants, this installment of the Three Heads of the Dragon; Kings, Pretenders, and the Ladies of Fire will be incorporating all of the heirs of the Great Black Dragon into this one essay.
Disaster. Aerys and Rhaegar Targaryen were dead, Viserys and Daenerys were fled, a new powerful Baratheon regime was in power in King’s Landing and – most importantly for our purposes – Varys and Illyrio’s first conspiracy against the Targaryens had catastrophically failed. This failure could be partially attributed to Varys overplaying his hand by pushing Aerys too far towards paranoia and rash action, but the greater part of this failure was Varys’ inability to take the human element into account.
As we’ll see in Part 3, however, this was a failure that was not unique to Varys. Varys and Illyrio would engineer new schemes in Essos to elevate Aegon, the Bright-Black Dragon, onto the Iron Throne during the main timeline of A Song of Ice and Fire. Fearsome sellswords, known as the Golden Company, would be the cornerstone of Illyrio’s efforts. Prince Viserys Targaryen would also feature prominently early on, but as Illyrio’s conspiracies evolved, his attention would shift to Daenerys and her three adolescent dragons. But above them all was the boy and the conspiracy to put this dragon onto the Iron Throne.
But as Varys discovered in Westeros, Illyrio would find the human element interfering with his well-laid plans time after time.
In medieval and early Renaissance Europe, allegories or long-form metaphors were used as moral and explanatory story-telling devices. In these allegories, Folly was a character who resembled court jesters in appearance and served as the dramatic device to tempt the protagonist towards foolhardy deeds.
If A Song of Ice and Fire were an allegory, Varys and Illyrio would play the part of Folly in the story. Their soft, powdered hands and tittering laughs guide much of the action in A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet these men aren’t simple mummers performing trickery for laughs. Instead, their tricks and mummery are intended for the highest of dramas.
But their role as Folly is unclear and often misinterpreted. To attempt to expand our knowledge of the Varys-Illyrio plot, I’ve divided their scheming into two parts. In order to understand the plots of Illyrio and Varys, we have to explain the motivations and backgrounds of those pulling the strings. So, in today’s part we’ll be taking a deep dive into the underpinnings of Varys and Illyrio’s conspiracy before the start of events from A Game of Thrones. I plan to do this in three basic ways:
Their overall objective
A deep dive into the background of both players to include discussions of their origins, family dynamic and a bit of prophecy..
Finally, we’ll cover Varys and Illyrio’s opening acts in the folly during the reign of Aerys II.
Through this extended analysis, I hope you’ll come to understand Varys and Illyrio’s role as Folly in the story. But in the end, keep in mind that Varys and Illyrio’s folly will cause the deaths of tens of thousands in Westeros and Essos.