Sunday, July 13, 2014

[Re-read] Jaime VII: Porridge for Morning, Consensual Rape for Noon

Winter definitely doesn't seem to be coming at the moment, what with the bright blue sky and the heat. We did have a few days of heavy rain though, so much that a nearby river flooded and came all the way up to the lawn, but fortunately for us it didn't reach the house. The neighbors were less lucky - the river did come into their basement, pretty much ruining their summer vacation plans. What does this have to do with A Song of Ice and Fire you might ask. Well, swollen rivers are an important part of A Storm of Swords and so I was reminded of the Hound and Arya crossing one of the Forks when I came home from a small trip to see half the hill next to our home ... simply gone. A big crater has been left by the angry river, but we weren't there to witness the destruction unfortunately. Looking at the gaping wound outside, I am reminded of the powers of nature, and wonder how much of a role nature itself has in Westeros - or how many "divine" happenings (catastrophes like, say, the Doom of Valyria) are natural rather than god-made (or man-made). Thinking further, I began to wonder whether the Children of the Forest are meant to be a metaphor for nature in some manner. I'll keep a metaphorical eye open when I get to A Dance with Dragons.

The 63rd chapter of A Storm of Swords, however, is all about Ser Jaime Lannister and his development from child defenestrator to...something more. So it's about nature, all right, but human nature. Jaime's nature. Naturally.

Perhaps my favorite character, I was so surprised when he got his own POV in this book. I still remember how fun it was to open the book for the first time and find his name headlining a chapter. We had seen him for a good while through the eyes of other characters, but now we were getting inside his head, and it's an entertaining place to be (take that, Quentyn Martell). Little did I know that Martin had a most peculiar plan for this character's development. I thought we were getting inside a bad guy's head, but hey, there's more to him than being a kickass Kingslayer. And Martin does this transition, which changes a reader's perception, rather excellently. I know there are probably some people who hate Jaime's guts just as much now as they did when he pushed Bran out of the window, but for most readers I believe it has become much harder to see him as a black-only character. Martin has a lesson or two to teach us about morals, but without telling us what he thinks is right or wrong; we have to judge for ourselves, based on his actions, how much we can like Ser Jaime without feeling guilty about it. So it is kind of weird to be a fan of a character who tries to murder children. Am I a fan of Jaime? Well, yes, he is a fictional character. I wouldn't be a big fan of a real-life Jaime, obviously, and that's the trick isn't it? I mean, with Star Wars I always loved the bad guys and everything Empire the most, and on the good side I liked Han Solo the best: the one least morally white on that side (to begin with, at least); both Han and Jaime undergo an internal transformation, only Jaime's character is much more extreme. Other than that, the characters have many interesting similarities in the way they develop. I only hope Jaime won't become as boring as Han became in Return of the Jedi. I'm not worried (yet). Anyway, the chapter. Man I do ramble sometimes.

The chapter opens with Jaime learning that "the king is dead" - Joffrey, his very own son - but Jaime does not delve into despair. In fact, his thoughts rather swirl about who he is and how those who are sharing the news with him would react if they knew they were telling the renowned Ser Jaime Lannister of the Kingsguard and House Lannister. In this regard, Jaime is not very likable is he? He has never been a father to Joffrey (and Myrcella and Tommen), always kept his distance, and let King Robert believe he was the father of the three golden-haired children. So for him, Joffrey is distant, but still - it's his flesh and blood, and by not giving his son's untimely demise much thought, Martin shows us both how Jaime is a self-centered character (except for when he thinks of Cersei, although one can argue that she's really just an inverted mirror image of him) and, more plot-related than character-related, that he never had to deal with those three children and in that sense never was their father. In other words, you can explain Jaime's lack of grief both as an egocentric act and the fact that Jaime never knew Joffrey and thus doesn't have the need to grieve. Or whatever. You know.

At any rate, Martin uses the opportunity to once again showcase how an event changes through word of mouth across the realm - among the "options" as to how Joffrey died are: Tyrion slitting his throat and drinking the boy king's blood; poison; Sansa Stark was an accomplice; "and a ghostly direwolf was seen prowling the Red Keep." I'm italicizing this latest bit because, after reading those Moments of Foreshadowing threads at Westeros, I've learned that Martin - apparently - has hidden a number of clues in the text that point to - could point to - Jon Snow becoming the King of Westeros. And here I found such a clue all by myself. A ghostly direwolf prowling the Red Keep, indeed! Maybe I'll find more of those now that I know to look for them. Whether Jon actually ends up on the Iron Throne isn't that important to me (I still believe the books will end with the Iron Throne gone; much like the One Ring ended up gone from the world), but it seems then that we will indeed see Jon Snow go south to King's Landing. Though I can't imagine how Martin can fulfill this plot line within two more books (considering all the other plot threads that also need resolution). Ghostly direwolf...taste it. Not only does this fit Jon Snow, it sounds like maybe Jon will go south while being warged - which is what I, and most readers, assume is what he did at the end of A Dance with Dragons - warging into Ghost.

Jaime lets the words wash over him. He tries to conjure up an image of Joffrey, but thinks of Cersei. He thinks of how she will look in mourning; a valuable piece of character information on Cersei is that she only cries in Jaime's presence, showing us that she is more vulnerable than what we've been led to believe (it really is a shame she got her own POV chapters in Feast, I feel that Cersei is much more interesting and intriguing when we only see her through other eyes). Believing she will be needing him in her grief, he insists that they ride harder the next day. But is he really concerned about her welfare, or is he longing for the love of his life?

It's refreshing that in the next paragraph, he arrives in King's Landing. No need to spend another chapter detailing the travel, just get on with the story. Good good. Nage carries the peace banner, riding next to Steelshanks Walton. Jaime rides up, and Walton wonders what is stinking. Jaime explains that this is how King's Landing is supposed to stink and we learn that Walton has only smelled White Harbor before. Also, Jaime mentions that the city smells of treachery - I assume he's thinking about the gates opening for Tywin Lannister, followed by a certain sack. And, of course, a certain blade through the Mad King.

Riding into the city, Jaime wonders why he feels so little about Joffrey, and we do indeed learn that he never felt attached to the boy. He was there when Joffrey was born, but didn't even hold him. He has never considered Joffrey his son. He wonders very briefly whether Tyrion truly could have killed Joffrey, but it's more like he toys with the thought - it never feels as if he believes it. "Robert was rotting in his grave, and Jaime was sick of lies." Such a macabre yet uplifting line at once. It is an important little line. It showcases Jaime's gradual change of heart.

Jaime rides back to Brienne, and tells her she's kept her vow and delivered him to King's Landing, "but a few fingers and a hand". She reminds him that is only half her vow, though: She also told Catelyn Stark that she would bring her back her daughters. We also learn that Jaime and Brienne have received the news of the Red Wedding. At this news, Brienne seems to have gone into a shock-like state of mind, "broken and done" as Jaime reflects. He tells her he can try to arrange her return to Tarth, or stay and serve the city - she will not serve "oathbreakers and murderers" (the Lannisters, basically). To this, Jaime thinks Then why did you ever bother putting on a sword? which is a very apt and poignant thought that says so much about the setting; I only wish he had actually said it aloud. I'm actually curious how Martin would then write Brienne's response. A nice little detail is that Brienne talks of "oathbreakers" and then later she'll be carrying a sword named "Oathkeeper". Jaime kept her comment here in mind, then.

They pass the Gate of Gods, where they are preparing for Halloween as he spots wagons loaded with barrels of cider and apples and some of the biggest pumpkins ever (of course, said goods also reflect the season). Some more exposition is provided - like the fact people have to pay a toll to come inside the city to sell their goods, which is another nice detail that keeps the setting alive. Jaime learns that Tyrion was the master of coin until he was arrested for the murder of King Joffrey Baratheon.

To effectively show how little Joffrey was loved, Martin simply gives us this: If King's Landing mourned its dead boy king, Jaime would never have known it. Cunningly, Martin also inserts a "throng of Tyrell soldiers" (and small children) to show us how the Tyrell presence has grown in the political climate without needing to tell us. Lovely. Jaime realizes that no one recognizes him; and barely anyone seems surprised to see his strange company (Brienne, Qyburn) - Jaime, who has lived life like a rock star, now has to come to terms with another effect of the loss of his hand - his infamy might be lost as well.

Ser Meryn Trant and a dozen gold cloaks bar the gates to the Red Keep when they finally arrive, but Jaime recognizes the Kingsguard knight. Ser Meryn does recognize Jaime, however. The knight immediately opens the gate and Jaime realizes he had forgotten how much he likes to be obeyed. Instantly. In the courtyard he meets two new Kingsguard, Ser Loras Tyrell and Ser Balon Swann. Jaime immediately takes it as a slight that they have been appointed without his consent (he's the new Lord Commander, after all), not knowing how this was done. Jaime seems to lack a certain knowledge of schemes and intrigues and politics, since he doesn't even consider that maybe she was forced to give them the white cloak for political reasons. When Jaime asks where his lord father is, they tell him Tywin's breaking bread with Mace Tyrell and Oberyn Martell, which Jaime finds even stranger.

All of a sudden, the scene changes completely - Ser Loras and Brienne come face to face. Loras claims Emmon Cuy swore, with his dying breath, that Brienne murdered Renly; Brienne defends herself, telling the truth about the shadow (because telling the truth is always helpful in King's Landing). Swords are drawn, and you half expect a fight to erupt, but Ser Jaime steps between them, and being the Lord Commander, he fortunately has the authority to have Ser Loras sheathe his sword and give it up. I like how this scene is a direct result from a scene way back in A Clash of Kings, showing us that Martin remembers to tie up loose threads when possible. Unfortunately, as the story has expanded, those threads have in most cases only become further apart. But will we see a third encounter between Brienne and Ser Loras, when there is no one to stop the Knight of Flowers from trying to kill the Maid of Tarth?

When Loras calls for her arrest, Jaime complies but it feels as if he does this to stop the situation from escalating rather than him believing Brienne is guilty. As he says, his horse could come up with better lies than Brienne. Jaime is annoyed that Brienne doesn't understand he orders her imprisoned for her own good; and thinks it all goes back to Aerys, the Mad King. I think it's a big leap, to jump from Brienne looking hurt by the decision to blaming it on his murder of the Mad King. But, it's Jaime and Jaime's world mostly revolves around himself, and so he mentally finds a way to make Brienne's hurt feelings be his fault (when, one can assume, she's hurt because he treats her like crap). The TV series made it very clear that Brienne loves Jaime, but in the books you have to read a little bit between the lines to see any developing infatuation, and this "hurt look" of hers might be one such example.

Jaime then wanders off to the sept, where Swann told him Cersei will be. He is stopped by another Kingsguard he doesn't recognize; some arguing later he learns the name of Ser Osmund Kettleblack, a name that will linger in his mind a few gazillion times come Feast. Have to love Osmund's big mouth before he realizes who he is talking to, though: "You'd best learn some respect, cripple, or I'll have that other hand and leave you to suck up your porridge of a morning." It's not a well-written line, but the insolence is brilliantly ironic for us who know Jaime. "Porridge of a morning"? Wouldn't it read better/sound better if he said something like "leave you to eat scraps from the floor" or some such? And when Jaime says he's the queen's brother, Osmund is, like, "Oh, you have grown" and Jaime must remind him Cersei has another brother. I chuckle every time. A dolt, indeed.
Jaime tells him to let no one else inside, because he wants to speak to Cersei alone. Oh, what have we here - a scene that certainly encouraged online debate in the wake of the TV version.

Inside, Cersei is praying at the altar of the Mother, and Joffrey is chilling beneath the Stranger - the aspect that leads the newly dead to "the other world" (we hear little of this other world) - a connection between the Stranger and the Faceless Men, then? Cersei looks over her shoulder, eyes brimming with tears. She doesn't rush into his arms (reading a little between the lines, the text seems to suggest that Jaime would love it if she rushed into his embrace). He has probably also envisioned a number of nice reunions, and none of them began with Cersei saying, "Why couldn't you come sooner?" But that's what she asks; and then she comments on how harrowed he looks, and then he shows her the stump and her eyes go wide. Cersei turns away from him and tells him that Tyrion is the murderer. He still can't believe it, but he begins to wonder. She asks if Jaime can kill Tyrion for her. It is a question that certainly belongs in the category "moral dilemmas". No?

He tells her he needs to learn more of all that has transpired in his absence before deciding on such a rash action. He feels it's wrong ("the thought turned his stomach"), and she explains that he will, because there's going to be a trial. She gives him a little kiss, which awakens his lust, a lust he has contained for a very long time. I love the irony that Ser Jaime is seen as a most unchivalrous knight, yet he's one of the few men in the series who sticks to one woman (even if that woman is his sister). "No," she whispers as he sticks her tongue in her mouth, he kisses her more until she moans; then he lifts her upon the altar of the Mother - and she pounds on his chest, murmuring about the risk, the danger, their father, the septons, the wrath of the gods: in other words, if you ask me, the TV version wasn't much wrong in showcasing it as rape. Cersei is resisting, if weakly, but she is resisting. And he's pounding, not hearing her (but he does hear her, how else would we know she is murmuring?) - and then Cersei has given up, tells him to hurry, be quick about it, but I have the feeling she just wants to get it over with at this point, egging him on (as evidenced when she tells him he's home) - and indeed, the moment he has spilled his seed, she tells him to let her up before they are discovered. Reading it now, I do indeed feel I have read about a rape, and not consensual sex. Next to the corpse of said lovers' son. In a temple. On an altar. What a scene to dream up! All right, and Cersei is having her period, as well, in case you didn't think the scene was perverse enough.

Aside from the rape, there are two other things I'm taking away from this particular scene: They couple on the altar of the Mother, which suggests that Cersei will become pregnant after this (and, if I recall correctly, there are further hints in Feast - maybe the fourth child of Cersei will be the only living Lannister left at the end of the book, like an inverted Jon Snow? That would be cool); and, the blood smeared across the altar of the Mother suggests that Cersei Lannister will die (obvious now after Feast, but not so obvious a decade or so ago). Jaime muses that he wouldn't have noticed that the sept was on fire, further indicating that he was, to use a term from criminal prosecution (!), "temporary insane". What a scene, people. Romeo and Juliet can go home (as raised wights).

Cersei tells him they must be careful, what with their father nearby. Jaime is not only sick of lies, he is also sick of being careful - another hint at internal change. The Targaryens wed brother to sister, he suggests, so why shouldn't they? Weirdly he tells her they can make another son, while in the presence of his first born's corpse. Temporary insanity = still on. Cersei tells him he has changed, and not just lacking one hand. Seems she realizes it before he does. "Don't tell me to leave," Jaime begs her. "Leave me," she responds. Ouch!

Oh well, he laces up his breeches and trots off to the Tower of the Hand to visit his lord father. Their lord father. Love Tywin's ever-present casualness: "Jaime," Lord Tywin said, as if they'd last seen each other at breakfast. Knowing all Jaime's been through, it becomes even funnier. Tywin knew he would arrive, but he didn't know about Jaime's missing hand. He looks away, disgusted; Jaime learns that Vargo Hoat is being slowly disassembled by Ser Gregor Clegane - we also learn that his band of misfits have spread (setting us up for later encounters with these least savory of characters). Tywin also reveals that Joffrey couldn't have choked on pie - and that the wine was poisoned, indicating Tyrion's guilt. Jaime asks if Tywin would execute his own son, and he will if the evidence mounts up. Jaime goes on to tell him he will continue to serve the Kingsguard, that he'll find some precedent for continuing even though he has lost his sword hand. Turns out there are even more things Jaime is sick of; basically, everything. And when Tywin tells him he wants him to leave the Kingsguard and ride for Casterly Rock, he's had enough.

Jaime has decided to stay with the Kingsguard, to uphold at least one oath - which leads to Tywin going from "You are my son--" to "You are not my son" in the span of a short, strained silence. And thus Jaime Lannister has shattered the first of the chains that have kept him to the ground for so long - his father.

A very interesting chapter when it comes to character growth, then, and I was surprised to see how closely the show followed this chapter after all. I'd love to have more dialogue/conversation between Jaime and Tywin, but in the end the few lines they exchange are enough to drive Jaime's arc forward. He is now free of his father, so to speak; he has made a vital decision, to take back control of his life. But he should be really ashamed of himself for the way he treats his sister in this particular chapter; I find it easier to dislike him for this, actually, than for him pushing Bran out the window because that action was not selfish, while the rape in this chapter is an egoistical crime. At least Martin makes us think about black, grey, and white and all that's in between. I could probably write another hour just trying to get a grip on the complexity that is Ser Jaime Lannister, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow and see where Martin takes us.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder whether Jaime would change if he didn't lose his hand. Also it'd be good to see funny encounters Jaime had when entering the city and the Keep in TV series.