Sunday, March 30, 2014

[Re-read] Catelyn V: Rain & Ruins

[Here be spoilers for all books

As I mentioned during my re-reads of A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, I've always been fond of Catelyn Stark as a character. She is just so well-realized, her thoughts and fears and flaws so human. It just hit me that when we realize what has become of Catelyn Stark at the end of this book, Martin took his arguably most human character to turn into something more...inhuman. An interesting choice, which may or may not have been a deliberate choice - or it just ended up that way because Martin writes, as he has admitted from time to time, by the seat of his pants fisherman's cap.

In other news, the cinema show Martin organized seems to have come and gone without any heart-lifting announcements. "I've learned that waiting is the most difficult bit, and I want to get used to the feeling, knowing that you're not with me, even when you're not by my side," Paulo Coelho apparently wrote about The Winds of Winter. I know how he feels. I know, oh oh.

Catelyn's fifth chapter opens with a rather sweet description of how her son - and king - Robb says goodbye to his recently acquired wife, Jeyne Westerling, not once, not twice but thrice. This is enough to show us how infatuated he is with her, a quick and efficient description (though I wonder if Martin now regrets not showing us more of Robb and Jeyne's relationship - it would make the tragedy to come perhaps even more brutal); sweet, or endearing if you will, because it's such a typical young love thingy. Hard to say goodbye and all that. It feels almost out of place in this setting. It's probably going to rain soon. Young Jeyne even comes galloping up after him after he's finally said goodbye (or so he thought). And here we go: "A drizzle had begun to fall (...)". Apparently Robb is a little angry at this, but hides it beneath gentlemen's manners. Of course, he's got a whole host at his back watching this (did she ride past all the soldiers if we're assuming Robb's somewhere in the front?) See, not three lines after the drizzle begins to fall and Grey Wind is shaking rain from his coat. One final kiss then, and Robb sends her off.  It is kind of strange that we only see Robb and Jeyne from a "distance" so to speak; we don't hear them talk or anything, the character of Jeyne Westerling is almost invisible for some reason (a literary reason, I presume - maybe George just didn't want to write romance when he can write about fat pink masts and Myrish swamps instead muhahaho).

The implication of this public affection, of course, is that other people see it, and in particular Freys see it; and they have reasons to take this as an insult, since Robb broke his vow to marry a Frey girl waaay back in A Game of Thrones. Gotta love how things in book one affect (severely!) things in book three, so many pages later. Cause and effect, and it flows so naturally and realistically most of the time in these books. Of course, you can argue that Jeyne Westerling is nothing but a plot device, but as a literary construction it works because it is believable - people do fall helplessly in love; people do break promises. I believe it was a good decision from the writers of Game of Thrones to give Robb and TV-Jeyne (Talissa) more screen time, though. They could have kept her as Jeyne Westerling, but to show them in love would I am just repeating myself. Sorry about that.

Lame Lothar Frey comments that "Queen Jeyne has a loving heart, I see," - I'm sure I didn't give the line a second thought on my first read, I never really picked up on the many hints that foreshadow the wedding to come, but having read A Storm of Swords this line becomes much more interesting, as we can read into it a certain...irony, I suppose. Which quickly becomes pure sarcasm when he adds, "Why, I would wager a guess that even now Roslin is dancing around the Twins chanting, 'Lady Tully, Lady Tully, Lady Roslin Tully." Lame Lothar turns to Edmure, then, wondering why he's so quiet (and I have a feeling Lothar doesn't really wonder about it, but that's he rather poking him).

Catelyn leaves her brother and Lame Lothar behind, riding off into the sunset. I mean, to join her son Robb. We learn that it was Catelyn who had insisted that Jeyne remain behind at Riverrun and that Robb rather would have kept her by his side - then why was he so angry with Jeyne coming up for one final kiss? I thought he was afraid of what the other lords would say, or that he thought they would see him as weak if they did. Apparently not. Catelyn simply thinks that bringing Jeyne along would be more insulting to Lord Walder Frey than not bringing her. She believes that Robb already misses his beloved, another clue that he does indeed love her well and true (one has to fish for it, since we're not seeing them together all that much, their entire affair is practically off-screen). The only Westerling to join them on their journey to the Twins is Jeyne's brother, Ser Raynald, who bears the banner. It is mentioned that Jeyne's uncle, Rolph Spicer, was sent off to bring Martyn Lannister back to the Lannisters in exchange for Robett Glover, but more importantly, that with Spicer gone, Grey Wind has returned to Robb's side. I wonder why the direwolf picked out Spicer as the one to dislike in particular. Is Rolph the man with a plan, knowing of the coming betrayal and perhaps in cahoots with Roose Bolton? I can't remember if the book further expands on Rolph Spicer's character, or if he's to return in a later volume, but for now I simply wonder. Clearly, the direwolves should be trusted and if Grey Wind doesn't trust Spicer, then I don't.

Jeyne's mother, Jeyne, Eleyna (her sister) and Rollam, Robb's squire, stay in Riverrun. Rollam has been left behind as another way to mitigate the damage, because Rollam replaced Olyvar Frey as Robb's squire. So many minor characters to keep track of. Ser Raynald then, is the only Westerling present, and he's a cheerful fellow who ain't afraid of no Frey.
We are reminded not to trust Walder Frey (through Hoster Tully, in fact, as Catelyn remembers him talking about the Lord of the Crossing); we learn that the Blackfish, Brynden Tully, Cat's uncle, remains behind to protect Jeyne - and that Galbart Glover (that would be recently freed Robett's brother) commands the scouts and outriders instead of the Blackfish.
More information about the composition of Robb's host follows, with Greatjon leading the van, Ser Wendel Manderly commanding the baggage train,  and Robin Flint commanding the rearguard. I like Martin's description of the army; in many fantasy novels you only get the shining armor and splendid swords and banners, here we get the sheep trailing them, camp supplies, plodding horses and footsore camp followers. Robin Flint. Who's he again? Better check with the Tower of the Hand. Great resource, that. Ouch! Now I know his fate. Just one of many characters you kind of forget in the grand scheme of things.

They are 3500 leaving Riverrun, and we're reminded of all the battles these people have been engaged in (Whispering Wood, Oxcross, Battle of the Camps, Ashemark, the Crag, the Lannister lands) - and I wish we could have seen those! More and more, then, I come to miss a Robb POV in these books. It was never meant to be. Now I sad. Cheerlessly thinking of Bran and Rickon and Ned, she hopes that Brienne can bring her girls back. That way she would at least have someone. Oh, cruel fate!
Now this is weird; now it begins to rain again, even though it already rained. Or I am just being mischievously pedantic. Martin speeds up travel, quickly jumping to the next day "beneath leaden skies", heavy rain, people not talking much because of the constant patter. This fact is immediately followed by someone talking. Which I find a little funny.
Lady Maege Mormont, then! "We are stronger than we seem, my lady," she tells Catelyn, as if believing that Catelyn is worried they are too few, or whatever. Catelyn has taken to liking this Maege and her daughter Dacey, because they seem to understand where Catelyn's motivation to release Ser Jaime came from. Dacey is cheerful, believing Robb to be invincible (she's idolizing him, it seems). If this were a jolly old Star Wars movie, you'd expect Catelyn to break out the "I have a bad feeling about this" any minute. She is sorrowful, and struggles with it; she is pessimistic, downtrodden and weary; yet she knows she must be strong for her son, the King in the North. Reading her thoughts make a me a little sad inside, especially when you know that Martin is setting up this plot line as a tragedy. Still, she occasionally dares to imagine a positive outcome, as when she wonders what if Edmure and Roslin end up happy with the arrangement - but she's quick to go back to the basement: "Even then, what chance will we have, caught between Lannister and Greyjoy?" That's a good question. Robb apparently ponders this very same question all the time.

Martin skips ahead to an undefined day on the journey, inside Edmure's pavilion. Edmure is worried that Roslin Frey will look like her father (he's so shallow, eh), Ser Marq Piper says that there's bound to be a few good-looking Frey women considering how many wives Lord Walder's had. When Catelyn's anger flares at this shallow manly talk, Edmure becomes irritated and avoids her the next day. Instead he rides with Ser Marq, some fellow named Lymond Goodbrook (raise your hand if you remembered that guy), Patrek Mallister (Oh! the Mallisters! I'd like more on them, I like the Mallisters for some reason) and the Vances (a nod to Jack Vance, one of Martin's favorite authors, I believe). So why does Martin feel he needs to point out who Edmure is hanging out with that day? Is it just color? Could someone argue that it's bad writing because we don't know these characters and so they are just names and nothing substantial? Someone probably could. I don't. I like how Martin throws names around to make the world feel so inhabited as it does. Catelyn begins to regret having been harsh on her little brother (personally I think she was in the right); it gives off a sense that Catelyn is feeling insecure, really. And that's what she is - she doesn't feel safe, she fears for everyone and everything, and could be seen as the beginning of a paranoia or madness that will eventually blossom...for a few minutes, at the wedding. And there's more rain! The tears of the gods.

On to some Stark family background information - Catelyn was disappointed when she first met Ned, because he was somber whereas her original betrothed, his brother Brandon, was full of mirth and full of rage. So Brandon had a short temper? That's a minor point I had forgotten. Catelyn did eventually come to love Ned, though.

Their route takes the army through the Whispering Wood, where they won their first great victory and captured Ser Jaime Lannister. We're given a nice, sodden description of the woods now being in autumn (rather than summer, during the battle in A Game of Thrones). I never really noticed that A Storm of Swords was the book in which autumn made its full appearance the first time (or times) I read it, but now I'm reading it all the time. It gives the book a certain ambiance and of course prepared us for the fact that winter's up next.
They pass through the battleground, Catelyn wishing that Theon Greyjoy had died at Ser Jaime's hands during the battle; if Lord Karstark's sons could have lived instead, things would have been different. But what is done is done; there's some nice evocative imagery lying around on the battleground: "An overturned helm filling with rain, a splintered lance, the bones of a horse." Strange, really, that no one has been here to loot stuff. There's even corpses lying about! Eew. She wonders if Ned's bones have reached Winterfell, escorted by Hallis Mollen. Who?! Oh, captain of the guard after Jory Cassel went south with Ned, and the guy who was with Catelyn when she visited Renly Baratheon's camp. Another brave northerner almost forgotten. So where are those bones? I believe it's a semi-important plot point. Can't put my finger on exactly why it is so, but I have a feeling this will be brought up again (I vaguely recall some mention of Ned's bones in A Dance with Dragons if I'm not mistaken - I'm beginning to look forward to re-reading the two next books). ANYWAY, in the TV show Littlefinger presents Ned's bones to Catelyn while she's at Renly's camp, so it's probably nothing crucial. Maybe it's just to symbolize that while Ned's dad and brother never got home, Ned did. In bone format, but still.

Sigh, lots of internal stuff going on in this chapter. Catelyn is emoting so hard. Now she feels lonely even though she's surrounded by thousands of others. She wonders if she'll ever see Riverrun again. Of course, you will, Cat. Of course you will. Just hang in there.

Five days later scouts come riding, telling Robb that the wooden bridge at Fairmarket's gone and there are no other intact bridges in the vicinity. Catelyn fears that this delay will further insult Walder Frey. Gotta love Robb's sardonic, "A sorry king I'll be, apologizing with every second breath." Also, so deliciously ironic for the re-reader, Robb hopes that Roose Bolton got across the Trident in time - he should reach the Twins before them, which is of course pretty useful for Bolton in getting some time to scheme with Walder. After that, Robb wishes to go north and reclaim, well, the North; Catelyn wonders if he's mad enough to attack Moat Cailin, but he smiles enigmatically - as in, he's got another idea. Greywater Watch?

Eight more days of rain and they come to Oldstones, making a camp overlooking the Blue fork, within the ruined stronghold of the "ancient river kings" - very compelling imagery, the rain and the ruins. In the center of the yard they find a sepulcher (weird place to have one, perhaps), reminding me of the sepulcher of Aragorn when Arwen has that dreamy future vision thingy in The Two Towers, the movie. Robb stands at the sepulcher, all gloomy and now that I'm reading it again I can't help but notice the obvious "He's doomed!" plastered all over the scene. Here you have Robb, standing next to a sepulcher! No rain, though. Rain stopped.

Catelyn tells him the castle ruins are named Oldstones; she has been here once, with her father, and Petyr Baelish; Robb recalls a song, Jenny of Oldstones, and another hint of doom when Catelyn says, "We're all just songs in the end." Back in the day, Catelyn had played Jenny with the flowers in her hair, and Petyr had been her Prince of Dragonflies (doesn't sound quite as threatening as, say, Dragon King). Robb wonders who's entombed, and Catelyn recounts the tale in a most expository fashion. "Here lies Tristifer, the Fourth of His Name, King of the Rivers and the Hills." As if ripped straight from the annals of Middle-earth. More foreshadowing of doom as Catelyn puts her hand on Robb's shoulder right when she tells him that Tristifer died in his hundredth battle. It's so frustratingly obvious on a re-read. I love the scene I must add; though Catelyn's tale feels a bit intrusive ("here the author wants to comment on this historical thingymagog" if you know what I mean); House Mudd died with Tristifer the Fifth, the Fourth's heir had failed him. Martin is laying it on pretty thick, here. In hindsight. I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that Robb says Winterfell will pass to Sansa if he should die without an heir. I thought it would pass to Bran, as the next male, and that only the Dornish didn't care what gender the next in line has. Worse, Sansa is married to Tyrion Lannister. And Robb doesn't want him to have Winterfell, for well-founded reasons. Catelyn tells him to name another heir in the meantime. A discussion ensues as to who that heir should be; Catelyn suggests a few Vale lordlings who have Stark blood, but Robb has already decided: Jon Snow. Catelyn reminds him that bastards cannot be trusted, throwing out a casual example about how the Blackfyre pretenders troubled the Targaryens for five generations until Ser Barristan Selmy slew the last of them (or did he, dum dum duuum dum!).

Catelyn just can't support Robb on this one - but Robb doesn't have to have her support, as he says, "I'm the king." So when will this plot point return to entertain us? A man can wonder. Did I mention that it begins to rain again? More days follow, and like Edmure, Robb begins to avoid Catelyn. Perhaps you're nagging too much, Cat. More somber thoughts follow, as Maege Mormont asks her if something is amiss. It is a stupid question, though, all things considered. Because everything is amiss for poor Lady Stark. Basically. And now the rain is even evil. According to Maege, anyway. Exposition is given on the she-bears of Bear Island, we are reminded that Ser Jorah across the Narrow Sea is a Mormont, and how unhappy his wife, Lynesse Hightower, had been in the North. And again with the dark thoughts and hurt. It's almost too much, even for a fan of the character. More days, more rain, more riding.

Aw, night gathers and now my sleep must begin. Bit of a slow chapter, this, beautifully written and dark and moody and somber, with slow exterior action but it is doubtless a worthwhile experience to really be inside Catelyn's head now for later impact. Will read the rest of the chapter tomorrow (hopefully). For now, have a good night/day, with little or no rain.


  1. Bran and Rockin are dead as far as Robb and Cat know. When you talk about cause and effect, it is truly amazing how many repercussions throughout the story can be traced back to Theon's lie about killing Bran and Rickon.

  2. Robb broke his vow in Book 2. We het first hint of it in Arya' (pen-?)ultimate chalter there, but not clearly said until Book 3 first Cat chalter.

  3. Also it's strange Grey Wind didn't like queen's relatives but said nothing about Freys. In case direwolves sense danger.