This is just a series I’m working on in /r/asoiaf. You can find the original post and discussion here!
Littlefinger . . . the gods only know what game Littlefinger is playing. (AGOT, Arya III)
Petyr Baelish: master player in the game of thrones or reckless opportunist motivated by personal reasons? The question is one that divides the fan-community, but I’d say that a majority favors the view that Littlefinger is a master strategist and player in the Game of Thrones. But is that sentiment true? Or is Littlefinger a reckless opportunist?
To spoil my main point, Littlefinger is both. Both sides of Littlefinger come through in A Song of Ice and Fire, often working in tangent with one another. But to come down squarely on one side of the debate does a disservice to the complexity of Petry “Littlefinger” Baelish. He is both a master player in the Game of Thrones and a reckless gambler motivated by personal grievance.
Every crow in the Seven Kingdoms should pay homage to you, Father. From Castamere to the Blackwater, you fed them well. (AFFC, Jaime I)
Administrative Note: I’ve recently purchased some audio recording equipment and have been experimenting with podcasting. If you all are interested, I’d be happy to record the entirety of this Tywin series and post it on my blog. I know many people would prefer not to read a giant block of text. Would anyone prefer to listen to me and my definitely-not-made-for-radio voice read the Tywin series? If so, let me know in the comments below or on Reddit. Thanks for reading!
The Family Dynamic
Before we go on with the story and analysis, I’m going to need to take a step back to look at Tywin’s relationship to his children so that we can better understand what happens next in the story. I also realize that this is not a command analysis, but the family dynamic is important to understand Tywin Lannister and what he was fighting for.
“Was there ever a war where only one side bled?” (ACOK, Catelyn I)
Tywin Lannister in Retreat
At the end of A Game of Thrones, Tywin Lannister was in a weak position. With Jaime’s army destroyed outside of Riverrun and two armies now positioned to his west and north, Tywin Lannister retreated south towards Harrenhal. But Tywin Lannister knew that his position was weaker than it appeared. While his army was outnumbered by something like 2 to 1 in the Riverlands, the Lannisters faced two new threats to the south and east. Renly Baratheon had married Margaery Tyrell and had been crowned king. The might of the Reach and the Stormlands now rode with him. To the east, Stannis Baratheon was marshaling a smaller army but larger fleet at Dragonstone. In short, Tywin was not simply threatened to his north and west, he was threatened by hostile armies in every direction. A new strategy had to be devised.
“Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don’t ever believe any different.” (ACOK, Sansa IV)
Editorial Note: The first two sections (“Tywin and the Lannisters On the Eve of Civil War” and “The Outbreak of War”) are primarily summaries of the events leading up to the War of the Five Kings. If you don’t want to re-read that which you are already familiar with, I encourage you to skip on ahead to the section entitled “Tywin Goes to War.” There, I’ll pick up on the command and battle analysis.
Lord Tywin had said, “No man is free. Only children and fools think elsewise.” (ADWD, Tyrion II)
The Lion of Lannister, the Pragmatist, the Unyielding, the subject of songs, the destroyer of houses, the War Criminal, the Commander: Tywin Lannister was all of these and more. But the traits were not the man, the man was complex with different motives and motivations that influenced his actions. The commander that Tywin was is only a small part of his character, but it’s the part that I’ll be focusing on in these essays.
I’ve chosen the title “Wins and Losses” intentionally. Tywin Lannister proved a brilliant tactician and strategist in his youth and young adulthood. In his later adult life, he proved to be a poorer tactician but still a brilliant strategist. I also want to show that, on balance, Tywin’s victories directly correlated and corresponded to Westeros’s decline.
Administrative Note: This first section is not so much a command analysis as background and character analysis of Tywin Lannister which will be useful in evaluating Tywin’s tactical and strategic prowess later on. That said, at the end we’ll talk about Tywin’s sack of King’s Landing and the tactical and strategic planning that probably went into the action. This will help set the stage for a look at Tywin’s military/diplomatic campaigns in the War of the Five Kings.
“I am only a young girl and know little of the ways of war.”
ADWD 8: DAENERYS I
Earlier posts dealt with popular characters such as Robb Stark, Stannis Baratheon and Jaime Lannister. Today, we’re going to start our study of one of the more controversial characters in ASOIAF: Daenerys Targaryen.
Specifically, we’re going to look at the Slaver’s Bay Campaign in Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen. I have one main point and a side point which I’ll touch on repeatedly.
- Main Point – Daenerys Targaryen is a good attacker through utilization of her primary force multiplier (dragons) and through exploiting enemy weaknesses especially under siege conditions. That said Daenerys is poor counterinsurgent and most of her actions to combat groups such as the Sons of the Harpy do not win her the support of the people she’s conquered or really better her position to launch an invasion of Westeros.
- Side Point – The Slaver’s Bay Campaign presents the readership with interesting modern military parallels. From superweapons to wars of liberation to counterinsurgency, the issues that Daenerys faces in her Slaver’s Bay Campaign are ones that modern readers are well aware of. Throughout these posts, I’ll reference recent history to make unclear plot points clearer.
So with that said, I have to make a confession: Daenerys Targaryen’s story-arc is not one of my favorites, but I think that her campaign in Slaver’s Bay is fascinating and gives us a unique perspective of how non-Westerosi warfare is conducted as well as provides us a window into how Daenerys’s war in Westeros might unfold in future books.
Have you ever wondered what the hell was going on while reading ASOIAF? I did. I could connect the basic plot while reading it, but even re-reading the books, I was unable to really grasp many of the characters, storylines, prophecies, locations, etc. Fortunately, my brother told me about /r/asoiaf – which quickly became one of my favorite places on the internet. I think the best thing about this subreddit is its analysis. While I love the theories that are bounced around the sub, I have to say my favorite part of this subreddit is the analysis. After yesterday’s very positive response (thank you all!) to the theories compilation, I started working on an analysis compilation. It’s intended to serve for those looking for greater depth in their re-reads. I’ve divided the sections up a little better this time around, so I hope it’s easier and more fun to read. Anyways, enough of an intro. Click on “More” for the best analyses all written of /r/asoiaf all written by its users!
Artwork by Pojypojy
Hi folks, back again with a 2-part series on Jaime Lannister as a commander. These won’t be so much complete command analysis posts as much as a battlefield analysis of two sieges of Riverrun and the ways that Jaimie Lannister evolved from a brash, short-term victory seeker to a mature, good strategic commander and thinker. We’ll also compare Jaime’s actions as a commander to historical medieval siege warfare in an attempt to better see Jaime’s maturation as a commander.
If you’re following along in the books, we’ll be looking at the following chapters from AGOT: Tyrion VIII, Tyrion IX, Catelyn IX, Catelyn X for part 1 and if you want to read ahead for the next installment, we’ll take a look at the following chapters from AFFC: Jaime III-VII.
Bold text for the post: Despite Jaime’s initial victories, he suffers a near-total defeat in the field outside of Riverrun on account of his own ambition and poor strategic thinking.
“Whatever doubts his lords might nurse, the common men seemed to have faith in their king. Stannis had smashed Mance Rayder’s wildlings at the Wall and cleaned Asha and her ironborn out of Deepwood Motte; he was Robert’s brother, victor in a famous sea battle off Fair Isle, the man who had held Storm’s End all through Robert’s Rebellion. And he bore a hero’s sword, the enchanted blade Lightbringer, whose glow lit up the night.” – ADWD, Chapter 42, The King’s Prize
About a month ago, I did a series of posts on Robb Stark as a military commander, and I figured that the next character from the series that I wanted to analyze militarily was Stannis Baratheon. I’m going to try to accomplish it in 3 parts. Part 1 will be looking at Stannis’s military accomplishments in the events leading up the books, part 2 will deal with the War of the Five Kings and part 3 will be an analysis/speculation post on how all this combined information may play out in the upcoming Battle in the Ice.
Stannis Baratheon is a favorite among fans of the series (though much less popular among the in-story characters from ASOIAF). Fans seem to love his dust-dry wit , redemption arc and generally honorable persona, but an aspect of his character that doesn’t get as much mention is his role as a military commander. Stannis is one of the most experienced military commanders in the series. More than experienced, Stannis is a good battlefield commander.
In fact, I believe that through a good grasp on strategy and an even better understanding of tactics, Stannis Baratheon is the most well-rounded military commander in Westeros.
“Battles,” muttered Robb as he led her out beneath the trees. “I have won every battle, yet somehow I’m losing the war.” – Robb Stark, ASOS, Chapter 14, Catelyn II
First, two bald statements to kick this post off:
- Robb Stark was the greatest tactician during the War of the Five Kings.
- Robb Stark was the worst strategist of the War of the Five Kings. (Though Balon Greyjoy gives Robb a run for his money for worst strategist.)
On the face of it, these two statements contradict each other, but in these posts, I will attempt to defend both of these statements with textual evidence and some non-technical references to military strategy.