Let's Read A Song of Ice and Fire XIV

A Clash of Kings part seven! ~600-~700!

So there's a lot going on in this section. I'm going to return to the chapter-by-chapter format here. I don't really have too much to say about the section as a whole, so I'm just going to get to it.

Davos: So here we have it. This chapter is interesting in its own right, but the final scene overwhelms. I mean, what? Melisandre's magic bears some discussion here. So, her magic here takes the form of this monstrous, shadowy birth. It's extremely disturbing, but now we know more of the process by which Stannis kills his enemies. Davos recognizes the shadow which emerges from Melisandre, which I take for the moment to mean that the shadow belongs to King Stannis.

This makes me wonder, then, just what it is Stannis needs his brother's bastards for. Melisandre speaks as a priestess of the Lord of Light, but her talk of shadows make me wonder if that's a front – perhaps she truly serves the god of darkness. I'm thinking there's a dark sort of sacrificial power at play here. Perhaps Stannis needs the bastards to fuel this method of assassination? Life for life, blood for blood and all that.

I remember the last time birth was involved in the story – Dany's birth, the birth of dragons. Pregnancy is abjected in this story so far – I'm thinking Kristeva and her theory, the abjection of the mother in order to create one's own identity. It applies even more strongly in this case, as Stannis employs Melisandre and her uncanny, unheimlich, disturbing form of motherhood as the tool by which he establishes his identity as king.

On Davos, I note that he makes a distinction between the gods and Stannis's god – he doesn't hold the Lord of Light as his god. That makes for a point of potential division between Stannis and Davos in the future.

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Jon: Not much to say here. He's going to be part of a ranging party, and since he's the viewpoint character the interesting things are going to happen to his party. I'm curious, though. If Benjen is alive, I wonder where he is. Could he have taken up with Mance Rayder?

Tyrion: He's bringing Shae closer to him, and we got a bit out of Varys about magic. Interesting. Not sure what's going to come of this, though. Tyrion bringing Shae closer to him seems like a good way to hasten her imminent death, though.

Catelyn: Brienne loves song. The Tullys are holding, and they even sent Gregor Clegane running. I don't imagine this luck can hold. Great strategy here, though.

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Bran: Theon has Winterfell now. So set the countdown to how this bites him in the ass. I'm imagining Shaggydog or Summer doing the honors – so literal biting in the ass region or thereabouts. Theon can have his fun for now, but he's not going to enjoy it for too long.

Arya: Okay, this and the next chapter are big, big mysteries in some way. Arya's third was inspired, and weasel soup is great. I was expecting poisoning of the garrison, but this was cleverer by half. Now Harrenhal is in the hands of the northmen.

Arya's smart enough not to blow her cover yet. She does not want to be known. She needs to not be known yet. If the men at Harrenhal know who she is, that will only make Harrenhal an even bigger target for Robb's enemies than it is if he simply controls the territory.

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So, that brings us to the business with Jaqen H'ghar. He comes in the godswood, and he says to Arya that "A god has his due." Possibilities – he's some kind of great sorcerer, he's one of the old gods, he's just a weird guy with some tricks. Not sure where I am right now, but we know at some point Arya will meet a man from Braavos and say "Valar morghulis." Do we know a man from Braavos? Dany has a bunch of Dothraki, and she has a defector from Westeros – but does she have anyone from Braavos with her? I don't recall any with her right now. I'll have to check.

Also, I figured out what it is about Jaqen's speech pattern that's been making it simultaneously familiar and interesting to me. "A man sees. A man hears. A man knows." I want to take a moment with the Old English equivalent phrases. "Mon siehþ. Mon hiereþ. Mon wat."

Jaqen H'ghar's speech is dominated by passive voice. And this is no exception. The construction "A man [verb]s" is a direct rendering of how Old English constructed the passive voice. A man sees. A man hears. A man knows. It is seen. It is heard. It is known.

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I've been working on some issues of Old English translation, and rendering the passive voice in a clear yet distinct way has been one of the biggest challenges. Seeing the Old English passive used here, I'm convinced it can work. It feels passive in Jaqen's mouth. More importantly, it will work on the grounds of allowing the translation to showcase some of the difference between English-then and English-now. Thank you, George R.R. Martin, you've just helped my thesis along.

Oh yeah, and Arya calls herself Nymeria when she introduces herself to the men she helps rescue. So in a way, Nymeria came and helped liberate Harrenhal.

Dany: This is a bizarre chapter. I have no idea what to make of it except that between Xaro, Pyat Pree, and Quaithe only Quaithe has any hope of being directly useful to Dany now.

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Of all the visions Dany saw in this chapter, I think the feast of corpses is probably the most important. "In the throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in his hand as a king might hold a scepter."

The leg of lamb is unclear to me, given the fact that I don't know of any major players with sheep for their family symbol, but the wolf is pretty clear.

The vision of Aegon seems like it might be worth remembering later, especially as it ties into the end of the chapter – the dragon has three heads. Mother of dragons … child of storm … what's the third one? Three fires: one for life, one for death, one to love. Three mounts: one to bed, one to dread, one to love. Three treasons: once for blood, once for gold, once for love.

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I don't know quite what to make of this chapter, but these elements seem the most pressingly important. Dany's threes will be the biggest mystery going forward for me, I think.

Things of importance:
* Valar morghulis
* We've now seen just what magic Melisandre uses.
* Dany's visions.
* Theon has Winterfell. This will bite him in the ass.

Predictions pulled out of my ass:
* Theon will literally be bitten in the ass or ass-region for this. By Shaggydog and/or Summer.
* Arya will eventually meet a man from Braavos.
* Davos will be instrumental in the downfall of Stannis.

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Dany's Threes:
Three heads: Three identities. Mother of dragons and child of storms are obvious – the third, though… the one she seeks is Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Too obvious, though. Not the third head.
Three fires: life, death, love. There's the obvious fire of Drogo's funeral – the fire of life. The other two will come. No predictions as yet.
Three mounts: To bed, to dread, to love. Drogo was to bed. She will have another to dread, and if the Jon Snow as secret Targaryen and match to her thing works out he's the one to love.
Three treasons: For blood, for gold, for love. Viserys feels right for gold, if a bit early, and I think Ser Jorah might betray her out of love. For blood, I don't know.