Westerosi politics has a passing resemblance to the politics of late medieval Europe. Mortaring the politics of Westeros is the concept of marriage, marriage alliance, heirs and family. And though the North considers itself separated out from the flowery politics of the South, the truth is that as George RR Martin has advanced the story of Westeros, the North has become more three dimensional, more political. And who better to help readers flesh out the complexity of northern politics than an immortal, skin-changing vampire: Roose Bolton.
As we talked about in part 1, Bolton rule of the North was designed by Tywin Lannister to be undercut down the road by Tyrion and Sansa. But Roose Bolton had an ally on his side: time. If the Leech Lord could secure the North politically, he could defend himself and his claim to the Wardenship of the North all the while working to achieve his true aim: to become King in the North.
The north is hard and cold, and has no mercy. (ASOS, Catelyn III)
The North was in ruins. The North is in ruins. The king was dead. His armies decimated. Half the country was under foreign occupation. And the Starks, the ancestral rulers of the North, were dead, fled or captives of hostile houses. The Ironborn Invasion, the savagery of the Bastard of Bolton and above all the Red Wedding had despoiled a whole region of its king, its lords, its lands, its armies and its people. Injustice reigns in the North. But despite all the horrors visited on the region, despite it being a broken country, there was hope, a hope that wrongs would be righted and that justice would return.
Hello! And welcome to a brand new monthly series analyzing northern politics and winter warfare in the wake of the Red Wedding. In this series, I’ll be covering the major, middling and minor players, their plots and their conspiracies set in the North. We’ll be taking a deep-dive into all of this, because if anything, the North is an intriguing mess. Shifting alliances, vengeance and claims to Winterfell and the North present readers of A Song of Ice and Fire with a chaotic and enticing plot that starts in A Storm of Swords and takes off in A Dance with Dragons.
To kick things off, I wanted to talk about a theory about a subtle double-crossing that starts in A Clash of Kings, bounds its way into A Storm of Swords and sees some ramifications in the northern plotline from A Dance with Dragons. Tywin Lannister conspired with Roose Bolton and Walder Frey to betray the Starks and end Stark independence, but that may not have been the only betrayal he planned. In fact, Tywin Lannister seemed to be planning another betrayal against those he conspired with.
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, NFriel and I – take the text-based questions submitted to us, write up thoughtful text-based answers, and publish these answers on the Tumblr.
So every Monday we present to you The Ravenry. We collect the questions we’ve answered during the previous week over on the Tumblr in post form, with a brief description of each, and publish it here, and link that post on Twitter and Facebook as well. Lot of at-length questions and responses, with some lengthy meta on Barristan Selmy, Euron Greyjoy, Dragonstone as a holding, three certain pies, a new theory on why Jaehaerys bypassed Rhaenys the Queen-Who-Never-Was, and a 1,500 word piece on why Robert’s Rebellion and Renly’s Rebellion were different beasts.
Without further ado, here’s The Ravenry for the week of December 7:
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, a little while back we here at the blog partnered with ASOIAF University to answer questions about A Song of Ice and Fire. We – that is, myself and SomethingLikeaLawyer – take the text-based questions submitted to us, write up thoughtful text-based answers, and publish these answers on the Tumblr.
So every Monday we present to you The Ravenry. We collect the questions we’ve answered during the previous week over on the Tumblr in post form, with a brief description of each, and publish it here, and link that post on Twitter and Facebook as well. It’s like Best Week Ever, except with fewer bright flashy graphics and probably no Paul F. Tompkins (not that he’s not welcome).
So, without further ado, here’s The Ravenry for the week of 8 June:
As always, we love to hear your text-based questions, so if you have a burning question about ASOIAF, click this link to send us a raven. The more specific the question, the better text-based answer we can write, although we do our best to answer them all.
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
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!
I’ve been planning to write this post for a while but just hadn’t found the time or the inspiration to do so. I have long since considered the death of Domeric Bolton to be a mystery that is often looked over or dismissed by fans as just another one of Ramsay’s many, many crimes. However, I have a different theory about who could have possibly killed Domeric that could cast doubt on the assumed guilt of Ramsay Snow. This is a topic that I have been contemplating and theorising about since last year so I hope you enjoy reading it as much I enjoyed writing it.
I’m in the middle of another re-read of the series, and I finished A Game of Thrones about a week ago. In this re-read, I’m giving special attention to a few plot points. One of those plot-points is Roose Bolton and when he turned against Robb Stark. In popular telling, Roose Bolton turned against Robb Stark when he determined that the Stark cause was lost after the Lannister victory against Stannis Baratheon at King’s Landing. However, after re-reading the first book, I think the evidence of betrayal goes farther back in the timeline than originally thought.
Now, before I jump too far into this post, I want to make a disclaimer. I don’t think that Roose Bolton was a Lannister stooge from the get-go. I think that Roose’s turn to the Lannister side occurred around the end of A Clash of Kings. Prior to that, Roose was as much an enemy to the Lannisters as he was a traitor to the Starks as we’ll see below. That said, I believe that Roose Bolton was never loyal to Robb Stark, and he actively worked to further his and his family’s ambition from the start at the expense of the Starks.
In part 1, we set the scene for the upcoming Siege of Winterfell. Today, I’ll analyze and speculate on strategy and tactics of the battle between Roose Bolton and Stannis Baratheon, and then I’ll predict the outcome of the battle.
Here’s how I’ll break down the post:
Loyalty of the Houses Aligned with Stannis and Roose
Disposition and Dispersion of the Armies in and around Winterfell
Roose’s and Stannis’ battle plan
Opening Acts of the Battle
The Battle of the Crofters’ Village
The Pink Letter
The Battle of Winterfell
Before I jump into this analysis, I want to be very careful in stating that the scenario that I sketch out below may not be fulfilled at all. It’s very possible that none of what I write, some of what I write or most of what I write comes to pass in The Winds of Winter, but if you enjoy speculation on probably the most anticipated book of the decade and one of the most anticipated plots in that book, then I hope you’ll enjoy reading. So let’s dive into it.
Editorial Note: While this is primarily a command analysis of Tywin Lannister, there is a significant section dedicated to Roose Bolton towards the end. While that section in and of itself is worthy of its own post, I thought it important to place it in an analysis of Tywin as it is related to Tywin’s skill as a strategist.
Cementing the Tyrell Alliance
Tywin’s decisive victory over Stannis Baratheon did more than simply lift the siege of King’s Landing; it upended the strategic picture in Westeros. As we discussed in part 3, Tywin’s alliance with Mace Tyrell added the necessary manpower for victory over Stannis at King’s Landing, but there were more ramifications of this alliance than simple victory in the field.
First, the influx of Tyrell soldiers ensured that Tywin had a larger army than all of his enemies combined. If we start with the assumption that Tywin had around 20,000 soldiers at Harrenhal and Mace Tyrell had about 80,000 at Bitterbridge, the combined army now totalled 100,000 soldiers. More than bringing more men under his command, Tywin also inherited good commanders through his alliance. While Mace Tyrell, Lord of Highgarden, was not a good commander, some of his subordinate commanders were. Mace Tyrell’s son, Garlan Tyrell, had led the vanguard of the assault on King’s Landing. In the course of the battle, he personally killed Ser Guyard Morrigen, the commander of Stannis’s vanguard. But however good a knight Garlan was, Tywin’s greatest command inheritance from the Tyrell alliance was Randyll Tarly. Lord Tarly was a skilled warrior with several wars under his belt. During Robert’s Rebellion some 15 years previously, he was the only commander to defeat Robert Baratheon in battle at Ashford. During the Siege of King’s Landing, Randyll Tarly was given command of the center. Having both commanders was a significant windfall for Tywin Lannister.