By Charles Matthews

Thursday, July 14, 2011

2. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin, pp. 28-67

Daenerys; Eddard; Jon; Catelyn

Now we meet the last of the Targaryens, thirteen-year-old Daenerys and her creepy brother Viserys. They are in the "free city of Pentos," which is eastward "across the narrow sea" from the land the Targaryens used to rule, and Viserys is marrying her off to a warlord known as Khal Drogo. This involves negotiating through the dealer known as Magister Illyrio, "a dealer in spices, gemstones, dragonbone, and other, less savory things."

Daenerys has never seen their homeland. Her mother was pregnant with her, and Viserys was eight, when they fled from King's Landing to the island Dragonstone. Her mother died nine months later, giving birth to her, "and for that her brother Viserys had never forgiven her." But then they had to flee from Dragonstone, too, until they reached "the safety of the Braavosian coast," under the protection of the Targaryen loyalist Ser Willem Darry. But when Darry died, "the servants had stolen what little money they had left, and soon after they had been put out of the big house." Since then they have wandered from place to place.
Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen
Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen
Roger Allam as Magister Illyrio
Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo
Iain Glen as Ser Jorah Mormont

Viserys is consumed with regaining the throne at any cost, and that involves marrying off his sister to someone with the military strength to accomplish the task. The horselord Khal Drogo of the Dothraki seems to fill the requirements. "I could sweep the Seven Kingdoms with ten thousand Dothraki screamers," Viserys thinks. So Daenerys is bathed and groomed and dressed for the presentation to her new husband.

Daenerys is shocked to find that she is the only woman at the court of Khal Drogo. Illyrio identifies some of the men there, including Ser Jorah Mormont, who has been exiled from the Seven Kingdoms by Robert Baratheon. Mormont is "an older man, past forty and balding, but still strong and fit."

And then she sees the Khal, "a head taller than the tallest man in the room, yet somehow light on his feet, as graceful as the panther in Illyrio's menagerie. He was younger than she'd thought, no more than thirty. His skin was the color of polished copper, his thick mustachios bound with gold and bronze rings." He has a long braid that hangs below his waist, a sign that he has never been defeated in battle. Daenerys is frightened by him, but when she tells her brother that she doesn't want to be Khal Drogo's queen, he replies, "I'd let the whole khalasar fuck you if need be, sweet sister, all forty thousand men, and their horses too if that was what it took to get my army."

So she obeys him, dries her tears, and stands up straight.

Back at Winterfell, the king is arriving, accompanied by his brother-in-law, Ser Jaime Lannister, "with hair as bright as beaten gold." With Ser Jaime is a man with a "terrible burned face," Sandor Legane, the crown prince Joffrey Baratheon, and a "stunted little man" whom Ned knows to be Ser Jaime's brother, Tyrion Lannister, "the Imp."

The king, Robert Baratheon, greets Ned with a bear hug, though Ned continues to address him as "Your Grace." They had last seen each other nine years ago, when they put down a rebellion led by Balon Greyjoy. (Ned took Balon's son Theon Greyjoy as a hostage and then as his ward.) Always a big man, six and a half feet tall, Robert now "had a girth to match his height." The queen, Cersei Lannister, enters, and Ned kneels to kiss her ring.
Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister
Rory McCann as Sandor Clegane
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Baratheon

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

Then Robert asks Ned to take him to the crypt, where Lyanna Stark, the woman he was to have married, is entombed. As they descend, Robert grumbles about how long the journey took -- "In the south, the way they talk about my Seven Kingdoms, a man forgets that your part is as big as the other six combined" -- and about the cold. He urges Ned to come south, and describes its beauty, including its women.

They pass the tombs of the house of Stark, with the effigies of the former lords, each of which has his longsword laid across his lap. The oldest is so old that the sword has completely rusted away, leaving only some red stains. They reach the last of the tombs: Ned's father, Rickard Stark, and his brother, Brandon, who had been murdered on the order of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen, just before he was to marry Catelyn, who instead married Ned. And Lyanna Stark, Ned's sister, who was to have married Robert, but died when she was only sixteen.

They talk about the death of Jon Arryn, whom Robert had seen at a tournament only two weeks before he died, when he seemed strong and healthy. He is concerned about Lysa, Catelyn's sister, who seems to him unhinged by grief, and complains that she has taken their son, Robert, back to the Eyrie. He had planned to make Tywin Lannister the boy's foster father because he didn't want to leave him to be raised by women. "Ned would sooner entrust a child to a pit viper than to Lord Tywin, but he left his doubts unspoken." He offers to take the boy instead, because he is his uncle, but Ned says that since Tywin has already agreed, it would be regarded as "a grievous affront."

Then Robert comes to the point: He wants to name Ned the Hand of the King. It doesn't surprise Ned, but "It was the last thing in the world he wanted." Robert also proposes a betrothal between his son, Joffrey, and Ned's daughter, Sansa. This does surprise Ned, because Sansa is only eleven. But he says he will have to talk it over with Catelyn.

At the banquet to welcome the king, Jon Snow doesn't sit with Ned's legitimate children but with the younger squires. And he drinks a great deal. He is unimpressed with Robert Baratheon, seeing "only a fat man, red-faced under his beard, sweating through his silks." He watches his half-brothers and -sisters enter. Arya, who is nine, is with "plump young Tommen, whose white-blond hair was longer than hers." Sansa is with Joffrey, who is twelve but taller than either Jon or Robb. He 'did not like Joffrey's pouty lips or the bored, disdainful way he looked at Winterfell's Great Hall." But Jaime Lannister was "what a king should look like," he decides. Tyrion, on the other hand, has a head "too large for his body, with a brute's squashed-in face beneath a swollen shelf of brow. One green eye and one black one peered out from under a lank fall of hair so blond it seemed white." The last to enter the hall are his uncle, Benjen Stark, the commander of the Night's Watch, and Theon Greyjoy, his father's ward.
Maisie Williams as Arya Stark
Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark
Joseph Turner as Benjen Stark

Jon feels his wolf pup, Ghost, nuzzling him, and he feeds it half a chicken. Then his uncle, Ben, comes over to talk to him. He "was sharp-featured and gaunt as a mountain crag, but there was always a hint of laughter in his blue-grey eyes." He admires Jon's wolf, and Jon tells him "He's not like the others.... He never makes a sound. That's why I named him Ghost. That, and because he's white. The others are all dark, grey or black." Ben asks why he isn't sitting with the family, and Jon explains that Catelyn "thought it might give insult to the royal family to seat a bastard among them." He also tells Ben that Cersei is angry because Ned took Robert into the crypts.

Benjen comments on how observant Jon is, and says, "We could use a man like you on the Wall." This is exactly what Jon wants to hear, and he urges his uncle to take him with him when he returns.
He had thought on it long and hard, lying abed at night while his brothers slept around him. Robb would some day inherit Winterfell, would command great armies as the Warden of the North. Bran and Rickon would Robb's bannermen and rule holdfasts in his name. His sisters Arya and Sansa would marry the heirs of other great houses and go south as mistress of castles of their own. But what place could a bastard hope to earn? 
Ben urges him to wait a while: "Until you have known a woman, you cannot understand what you would be giving up." But then he makes a blunder, telling Jon to father "a few bastards of your own." This angers Jon, who vows, "I will never father a bastard.... Never!" He realizes that he has attracted attention with his outburst, and he lurches drunkenly out of the room, followed by Ghost.

He dries the tears that had come and walks away from the music coming from the hall. But then Tyrion Lannister, sitting on a ledge like a gargoyle, calls out to him and asks, "Is that animal a wolf?" Jon looks up at him and says it's a direwolf and asks why he isn't at the feast. Tyrion says it was too hot and noisy and he'd drunk too much -- "I learned long ago that it is considered rude to vomit on your brother." He asks for a closer look at the wolf and then vaults gracefully down from his perch, startling Ghost. But when Jon commands, the wolf allows Tyrion to pet him.

Tyrion asks, "You're Ned Stark's bastard, aren't you?" And noticing that he has offended Jon, apologizes: "Sorry. Dwarfs don't have to be tactful. Generations of capering fools in motley have won me the right to dress badly and say any damn thing that comes into my head." And then he gives Jon some advice: "Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used against you."

Jon doesn't want advice, and asks what he knows about being a bastard. Tyrion replies, "All dwarfs are bastards in their father's eyes," and Jon should remember that "All dwarfs may be bastards, yet not all bastards need be dwarfs."

Catelyn and Ned make love, and afterward talk about Robert's offer. She advises him to take it because if he refuses, Robert "will wonder why, and sooner or later he will begin to suspect that you oppose him." He insists that he and Robert are so close that Robert would never harm him. But she persists, "Pride is everything to a king." Moreover, a marriage between Sansa and Joffrey would mean that Sansa's "sons could rule from the Wall to the mountains of Dorne."

Ned continues to hesitate. His brother, Brandon, he says, would have known what to do, but Ned wasn't born for this sort of thing. Catelyn realizes that "the shadow of his dead brother still lay between them, as did the other, the shadow of the woman he would not name, the woman who had borne him his bastard son."
Donald Sumpter as Maester Luwin

Maester Luwin asks to be admitted. (A maester is apparently a master of various professions, including medicine, law, and education.) He tells them that he has received a message: A carved wooden box containing a lens had been left on a table in the observatory while he was napping, and he discovered the box had a false bottom. The message is marked for Catelyn's eyes only. It is from Lysa, and is written in a private language the sisters used when they were girls. Lysa claims that Jon Arryn was murdered by the queen.

Catelyn insists that Ned has no choice now: He must become Hand of the King and uncover the truth. He agrees, but he insists that Catelyn must remain at Winterfell while he's away. Robb is too young to take charge of things himself, and needs her advice. She reluctantly agrees, and they decide that Rickon will remain with her, while the others go with him. The marriage of Sansa and Joffrey seems more important under the circumstances, and Arya needs to learn the ways of the southern court if she is to marry well. As for Bran, he should befriend the young princes, especially since Robb and Joffrey don't get along. Catelyn agrees, but tells Ned to keep Bran from climbing the castle walls.

And then Maester Luwin asks about Jon Snow, which causes Catelyn to show her discomfort with the bastard. Jon had been conceived while Ned was away at war, and she accepted that men had physical needs. But most men didn't bring their bastards home to live with them, as he did. She had been at her father's castle during the war, and when she returned to Winterfell, Jon and his wet nurse were already there. The rumor is that Jon's mother was Lady Ashara Dayne, sister of Ser Arthur Dayne, whom Ned had killed in single combat, and that Jon had been conceived when Ned returned Ser Arthur's sword to her. But when she confronted Ned with the rumor, he told her never to ask about Jon's mother and demanded to know where she had heard that name.

Now she insists that Jon can't stay at Winterfell, and he realizes that there is no place for a boy with a bastard's name at court. Maester Luwin presents the solution: Ben had told him of Jon's desire to "take the black," to join the Night's Watch at the Wall. Ned reluctantly agrees this is for the best.

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