Monday, December 16, 2013

[Re-read] Samwell, II: Everybody listens to Slayer, Part II of II

Now THIS is a potential meme-pic.
Well, what do you know, here is the second part of my re-read of Sam II, the 34th chapter of A Storm of Swords, the book that, along with A Clash of Kings, remains high on my list of favorite novels (as in, number one and two, alternating by mood). There they seem to remain in the good company of A Game of Thrones, Best Served Cold, The Lord of the Rings, Deadhouse Gates and a few others. Without further ado, let's jump back into the narrative. Gilly was giving birth and it turned out to be a son; Sam had trouble dealing with it (as well as dealing with a dying man) and went outside. We were reminded of his prowess when facing an Other, but Samwell himself didn't wish to be respected for defeating the Other, because he thinks it was all about the dragonglass blade he used. And he's right, but Sam, you still need to be pretty brave to drive said blade into said being! A faceslap is imminent if you do not realizeth this!
Have a little faith in yourself, build your selfesteem, man. What else is there to do beyond the Wall (aside from starving, freezing and marching?)

Sam re-enters Craster's "keep" (his doors are made of deer hides, that should give a hint as to just how much of a keep it really is). Mormont follows him inside, asking him what kind of fool he is for suggesting they take Gilly's newborn son with them. The question reveals that Sam had thought of taking Gilly along as well, hopeless romantic that he is. Mormont doesn't want to hear it and raises a hand. 'Cause the head ain't listening. It is a quality character trait to have, though. Compassion, that is. Compassionate characters have a tendency to resonate with readers in a way, makes them easier to like - which again makes it all the more exciting when they get in trouble and you want them to survive. Not that I ever think of Sam as one of my favorite characters. Don't know why, really. I like him better than Jon Snow, that's for sure. Perhaps it's a tad too easy to feel pity for him, instead of respect. Not just because of his denial of bravery, but because of his unusually unkind father (not unusually unkind in the Westeros-sense of course). Still, the braver Sam gets, and I suppose that is one part of his story arc - finding courage - we might end up liking him more and more. And maybe you like him a lotsalot for all I know.

When Sam returns to see to Bannen, the man's dead. Dirk is mighty upset with Craster, because he thinks that if Craster had only given them enough food, Bannen would have lived. It's a simple setup, really. Martin keeps adding malcontent, building up the crows' dissatisfaction. Giant, however, thinks Craster's done all he can, so we also realize not everyone within the Night's Watch group agree. Nice and realistic, that. They burn Bannen's corpse, divide up his possessions. Got to love Mormont's little funeral speech, which says so much without saying much: "He was a brave man, a good ranger. He came to us from...where did he come from?" 

The smoke in the hall makes Sam sick. When he looks at the fire, he thinks he sees Bannen sitting up, but it was just...well, what was it? Since we know that some characters actually do see things in the fire (Melisandre specifically of course), did Sam actually see in the flames that Bannen rises as a wight? The argument against this is that they burn Bannen's corpse and bones don't come back to life. For some reason. No Harryhausen-style skeleton warriors for HBO, then. Disgusting and lovely at the same time kind of when Sam's mouth waters at the smell of Bannen's burning corpse. Not lovely as in sweet and romantic, of course. Lovely detail, I mean. I think. Anyway, Sam doesn't think it's very lovely so he runs off to throw up. 

While on his knees throwing up outside, Dolorous Edd shows up, dryly asking him if he's digging for worms. Edd has had the same thoughts. "Never knew Bannen could smell so good." Good thing they didn't bring applesauce, because that would have pushed our Dolorous Edd over the edge. What's with all these notions of cannibalism cropping up more and more? Are we building toward scenes set on the island of Skagos, where cannibals supposedly exist? I kind of like to think so, from a Rickon/Osha-perspective, that is. Not that I need or feel like reading about cannibalism. Strangely enough I wrote a short story about a woman eating body parts earlier today. I'm using this new and great tool (it's not new, it's new for me), Scrivener, to write my fiction for SFFWorld's competitions. It was really helpful in getting me to finish and edit a longer short story which I began right after last month's NaNoWriMo.  Because I finished NaNoWriMo succesfully I got Scrivener for half the price. It's like a little writer's studio, all its missing is coffee. 

There's some unnecessarily detailed info about Edd taking a leak, but while he performs the deed, he comes up with all kinds of strange dialogue that is both enjoyable and makes you think, especially his comment that Dywen thinks they should learn to ride dead horses, because in one way he's right about it. It could also be read as rather ominous and it could foreshadow Dolorous Edd's death at the hands of the dark forces of the North. 

Craster's mood improves when he learns the Night's Watch has decided to leave, and promises them a feast. Tables are dragged forth by wives and daughters. The only chair in the hall is reserved for Craster, while the guests sit on the floor, knee to knee. Mormont goes to sit next to Craster. Sam finds a place between Grenn and a character I don't think we've had named before, Orphan Oss. Horses are roasted (the horses that died bringing the Watch to (ahem) safety here). Sam seizes an onion eagerly (one half of it is black with rot, just like the Onion Knight has a dark past..?) And then, trouble starts. Go trouble!

The men of the Watch begin to complain, respect for the master of the house be damned. Ulmer asks for more bread; Clubfoot Karl complains and calls the women serving them stupid; Lord Commander Mormont tries to calm them down, but Clubfoot Karl says that Craster is hiding (better) food from them. You just know this will lead to violence when Craster narrows his eyes. When Karl calls Craster niggardly and a liar, you can be certain. I don't remember what I thought when reading this sequence for the first time; did I anticipate trouble, when Craster was just one man with a host of women for defense? Did I think of the importance of guest rights? Mormont agains tells them to shut up, but now the men of the Watch are egging each other on, until Clubfoot Karl pushes back his chair from the table and begins insulting Mormont as well. Now that's a great twist, isn't it? I never really saw it coming and it floors me every time. I never expected mutiny. I probably expected an assault on Craster, but not mutiny. 

An uncomfortable silence follows, and then Craster rises, axe in hand. He's had enough. He tells the guys"Bloody bastard!" at Craster, and Craster roars in anger, vaults across the table, knives are drawn, Karl stumbles and trips over a knight (Ser Byam, we hardly knew ye) and then, again rather surprising, because here I thought Craster would show just what a bad guy he really is, Dirk opens Craster's throat from ear to ear. And that was Craster. 

who have been insulting him to leave the hall (actually giving them a chance). But it is not enough. One of the Garths shouts

Mormont, shaken, cries that the gods will curse them. Perhaps bluntly we are reminded through him that "there is no crime so foul as for a guest to bring murder into a man's hall" (again building up a certain wedding at the same time), but Mormont's time seems to be over as well. The men are sick and tired, angry and desperate. Ollo stabs the Lord Commander in the belly. And then the world went mad. Not easy, being Sam Tarly. Not all the time, at any rate. It's easy to sit in a cellar reading books. But this? Poor boy. He finds himself, much later, sitting cross-legged with Mormont's head in his lap. The first time I read this I thought Mormont's head was physically separated from his body (and who can blame me?). There's some raping going on, and some looting. "Tarly," the head says, "Go."
Where? Sam wonders. To the Wall, of course. Where else, poopoo? Mormont tells Tarly to tell them everything of what has happened. Sam is given a quest! He is surrounded by rapists and thieves and murderers (lest we forget what the Night's Watch is really made of) so Sam better get the hell out of there before they get tired of looting the larder in the cellar and raping Craster's wives/daughters/what-have-you. Gilly reminds Sam that he promised her his help, and he says that Jon can help her, not him. "Look how fat I am," he says, though I can't help but think he must have lost a pound or sixteen since his introduction. When the light in Mormont's eyes goes out, Sam knows he has no other choice. I love how everything is interconnected in a way that makes it the only plausible thing for Sam to do (escape, that is) - a final warning is added to get Sam up off his ass. "They'll be here soon, the sons." That is, the Others and wights, I suppose. 
As I said, lovely how Martin ties it all up to a point where Sam just has to go (and take Gilly with him). Maybe I'd like the chapter more if we got more direct action (most of the actual mutiny takes place as a flashback) and less Dolorous Edd pissing, if you know what I mean. The structure, then, of the chapter, could be better, nitpicker that I am.

Next: Arya (well, not really next because I  finished another Dangerous Women short, but you know what I mean). 

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