Sunday, March 9, 2014

[Re-read] Tyrion V: Darkly Awesome [Part II]

It's been a busy nine days since last I posted something here, but now I finally have an hour or so to at least finish up the re-read of Tyrion V, the chapter in which we get our first look at Prince Oberyn Martell. All about his darkly awesome presence in the first part of this post. I was about to write that George R.R. Martin must have been busy as well, because his Not a Blog hasn't seen an update since February, but obviously he decided to put up no less than three posts yesterday. Let's see if there's anything of interest to a fan of Ice and Fire.
* He's opened a bar at his cinema. Why doesn't he hire someone to build him a Jean Cocteau website where he can put all this stuff? I mean, even if every person in his hometown was interested in his cinema, there would still be like only 60 000 or so people who could visit this place on a regular basis. Oh well, it is his blog and he should be allowed to write about his hobbies (I wish one of my hobbies was operating a cinema and only showing stuff I personally love). Still, I suppose for the general fan of Ice and Fire (or just ice or just fire, who knows), this post does little to keep warm those glowing embers of expectation (we're waiting for The Winds of Winter - sometimes I feel like we're forgetting that).
* Fortunately, the next post is immediately a lot more interesting. It even has a Westerosi place name in its title, "Farewell to the Iron Islands". I have no idea what this is going to be about, because as I write these words I haven't yet read it, but I am kind of hoping this is actually an update on The Winds of Winter and he's going to tell me that he's finished all Ironborn chapters! A man can hope. Let's see....
...oh. It's about the coffee table book with lots of art in it, The World of Ice and Fire. Martin has written for it, and now that he's delivered his work on the Iron Islands, the book is done (somewhat late, he announces with some actual irony). I'm going to quote Martin here that the book will be available in October this year. So I suppose this is a rather interesting tidbit for fans of Ice and/or Fire, and the cover does look suitably impressive, but with all the trouble with and the incredibly silly behavior of Linda Antonsson (seriously, if you haven't seen the stuff she's written about, among many things, HBO's Game of Thrones, you should check it out, it's kind of interesting in a sick way - there was even a petition against her which I discovered the other day) I have decided that I will not pay for this book. I have for a long time found Martin's collaboration with these these two grandmasters of the Interwebs particularly problematic because they have behaved badly towards many fans of the series, and because they, over the years, have taken on this incredibly arrogant holier-than-thou attitude that makes me want to go out and strangle a sausage. So, sorry, I am not interested in neither Garcia nor Antonsson, and their influence on the whole saga is extremely detrimental to me and many other fans. I am not envious that they can feed Martin hamburgers and all that jazz, by all means let them, but...blech. Anyway.
HOLY MACARONI! There it is! A mention! Of The Winds of Winter! Cleverly nick-named SON OF KONG! What can we learn? Oh. Not a word. Just "Gulp". And that he has only a couple of monkeys on his back. I suppose the good news here is that he has more time freed up for writing that elusive sixth novel.
Still, the SON OF KONG! has been mentioned. On with the party hats and onto the streets!!!
* Third and most recent post seems Ice and Fire-related too! Truly, this is a momentous occasion of ceremonial celebration. Winter in Seattle, it's called. But whenever there's talk of winter, there's talk of winter coming. The Winds of Winter coming? Nope - it's an ad for the Winter is Coming art show. It's fairly interesting, I mean, if it showed up nearby I'd probably go check it out. I might even have bought a particularly good piece to join my two only art prints that I've had for a gazillion years, back when Ned Stark didn't look like Sean Bean. There's a lot of good art for Martin's series. A few examples from this exhibition can be seen here. What fan wouldn't like to have the Hand of the King tournament poster on a wall?  Also, I can't decide whether "Monosmith" is a cool name or not.

Well, all right then, back to A Storm of Swords. But SON OF KONG! people. He's coming to SMASH. Coming to smash DADDY KONG a good time. Sometime.

So, Tyrion Lannister is riding toward King's Landing's gates with Prince Oberyn Martell and a whole host of Dornish nobles, and Tyrion is wondering why Oberyn is here (the real reason he's here, that is), why the Prince himself, Doran, didn't come - and wondering if Oberyn has tired of his paramour - Ellaria Sand - on the road. To this, Oberyn replies, "Never," so you could walk into a trap thinking the Red Viper is a very honorable man dedicated to one woman (that kind of dedication we have only seen in a few men in the series so far, most notably Ned Stark and, yes, Jaime Lannister). However, in the very follow-up sentence, Oberyn declares that he has never shared a beautiful blonde woman with Ellaria, and Ellaria is curious, so here we get our first hint that the Martells are relatively liberated sexually. Which is a good thing, I think, because they aren't locking away their impulses, and hence I'd argue there's very little choir boy-fondling in Dorne. Yes, that was a shot at the Catholic church. Sorry, Catholics!
And now we get to know the real reason Oberyn Martell has come. He wonders aloud, whether justice will be served at Joffrey's wedding (and not just seventy-seven dishes). Tyrion admonishes himself for not realizing this at once, and I concur. Bad thinking, Tyrion. He's still recovering from a rather serious blow to the head, though, so he's forgiven.

I remember struggling keeping Ellaria and Elia apart in the beginning; their names are rather similar. Good thing Martin chooses to mention the former with her bastard name included most of the time.
"You were close to your sister?" Tyrion asks, and I can't help but think of Ser Jaime Lannister and how close he's always been with Cersei (and is now drifting away from that particular obsession, slowly but surely). Oh. The Red Viper also is reminded of Jaime and Cersei's closeness when Tyrion asks the question. Again, one can wonder if Martin is building parallels here on purpose. Well, it's not hard to believe that Cersei will end up murdered and that Jaime will sacrifice himself in some duel for the greater good. If that should happen, their fates would indeed parallel Elia and Oberyn's.

Tyrion sums up the three first books for us - "Wars and weddings have kept us well occupied" - before suggesting that the murders were sixteen years ago and so nobody is actually doing any detective work on this, which leads to Oberyn changing his tone - he becomes more threatening, and, like so many other people in Westeros, stoops a bit low when he reminds Tyrion that he is a dwarf, as if that somehow makes him less of a man (not literally speaking). I hate it when people do that to Tyrion. It's so... narrow-minded. And now the cool Red Viper is also a bit narrow-minded. Anyway, Oberyn launches into a tirade which is full of threats - the amiable tone that was built so far just crumbles away like that. And I love it. It came so unexpectedly the first time I read it. I was like, whaatt?! What now?! "I am a bloodthirsty man, you see. And it is me you must contend with now, not my patient, prudent, and gouty brother," Oberyn warns Tyrion, and Martin just builds up the expectations now. Who doesn't want to see how this new trouble ends?

Tyrion doesn't seem too threatened however; he casually glances over his shoulder and says that Oberyn speaks like a "man with a great host at his back" yet all he sees is a column of three hundred men. It is Tyrion's turn to go for a threat. Because, you know, threats work wonders. They help solve problems and make the world a better place for everyone. He speaks of five thousand gold cloaks, his father's twenty thousand sworn swords (that's quite a lot actually!), and then, and here Tyrion should really be thinking again but he doesn't consider the possible implications, up to seventy thousand (!!!) Tyrell soldiers. I really hope he's exaggerating, because that's so many people it becomes borderline unbelievable. And why is no Lannister worried? They are outnumbered like seven to two. Do they really trust the Tyrells so blindly? Or do they underestimate them? I can't remember right now what Lord Tywin himself thinks of the situation, maybe we'll get more on it later. The Tyrells are the "roses" though and that sounds so non-threatening. Anyway, Oberyn isn't particularly impressed; as he says,"all flowers bow before the sun" which could be another subtle foreshadowing from Master Martin - will we see the Tyrells bend their knee to the Martells? Some consolidation of forces in the South must occur soon anyway, if the story is to be over in two books. This suggestion of foreshadowing is given more nourishment as Oberyn explains that he and Willas Tyrell actually share an interest in "fine horseflesh" and that Willas never has borne him any ill will for what happened (Oberyn trampled Willas, hence Willas is a cripple) - in other words, Tyrell and Martell seem to be more friendly toward each other than Tyrion had ever expected!

Tyrion tries one last attempt at a threat - he tells Oberyn to have a whore by his side at all times, because he wants to die with a breast in hand, but I get the impression it doesn't really work. He is basically giving Oberyn a death threat, but Oberyn so far doesn't seem worried or concerned at all (another hint that the Tyrells aren't a worry because he knows they will work together? Maybe we'll see Dorne and the Reach together under a certain young griff's banner in The Winds of Winter? It's fun to speculate but oh so useless. It will be what it will be.

Tyrion leaves Oberyn then, cantering on to the ferry barges which will take them across the Blackwater and to the city proper. I've never really understood the layout of King's Landing in this regard; why would they not have a bridge somewhere farther upland instead of having to cross the bay itself? Maybe it's too wide. But there are lands on the east side of the river (Lady Stokeworth's, for example) so there should be roads on the "right" side, making it unnecessary to cross the Blackwater at all. But the Dornish are obviously coming up from the southwest, so they would need to cross the river at some point. Mmm. Then why not cross the waters from the south, cutting the distance? Am I getting cross-eyed and tired now? Yes. Still, this pondering allows me to put up this awesome map/art of King's Landing, which I've always had a soft spot for.

It's great, isn't it? It's from the Meisha edition of A Clash of Kings. Note how similar the Red Keep is, both structurally and placement-wise, to how we see it in the TV series. I like that.

Hey, and that's how the chapter ends! Tyrion rides down to the ferries, thinking that he has had enough Dornish wit for the day, but that he really wants to be there when Oberyn meets Joffrey because can you imagine the sparks flying? So Tyrion doesn't seem very worried at all; he probably feels quite well protected with all the forces of the Lannisters (and the Tyrells) present in the city, and Oberyn just showing up with three hundred men. Still, when Oberyn told him that he's come for revenge, for justice for the murder of Elia and her children, at least one warning bell should be ringing in his head, in my opinion. He has just been threatened by the brother of the Prince of Dorne, just been told there's vengeance in the works, and he's just like, I should have asked Prince Oberyn if he knows how a Dornishman differs from a cowflop.

Yes, I am being a little bit critical here even though I generally love this chapter for its fateful meeting and associated banter; I feel that Tyrion isn't suspicious enough, not worried enough, and that he is definitely should ponder the fact that the Tyrells are so strong in numbers compared to his own lord father's forces. Where did you leave your wits, my favorite Imp? I am saddened by this sudden loss of cognition. I also understand that Martin must needs (!) steer his story in a certain direction, of course. Anyway, Dorne is now officially an important piece of the puzzle and I can't wait to read more Oberyn Martell, even though he could be more creative with his insults. Did he believe Tyrion has never been called, derisively, a dwarf before?!

Winter is coming and bed is calling!
(I have somehow, stupidly, begun another new book while I am still reading so many - this time it's Anthony Ryan's Blood Song, but it is pretty entertaining so far so maybe I actually finish it. And then I'll finish King of Thorns, The Way of Kings and all those other books I've started. Sigh.) Have a good night/day/morning/afternoon/winter.

And now I have tears in my eyes. I googled "You murdered her children" to find a particular piece of art from the A Game of Thrones Collectible Card Game and had to see actual dead children with blood everywhere and...arf. Not doing that again. Reading about Oberyn talking about Elia and vengeance for her and her children is one thing, accidentally seeing the real thing is something quite different. :-(

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