Much Ado About Theon

THE MANNIFESTO: APPENDIX I, CHAPTER I

At the end of A Dance with Dragons we know that Theon is now in the custody of Stannis Baratheon. Continuing into the sample Theon chapter from The Winds of Winter, Stannis is faced with the weighty obligation that he must execute Theon in order to keep faith with his men.

At the end of the sample chapter, Asha Greyjoy comes to Stannis. She briefly argues for Theon’s life, and Stannis spits it back in her face. She then changes course and tries to goad Stannis into committing to the execution.

What comes of all this?

As this essay will show, several things:

Stannis cannot kill Theon Greyjoy, nor can Theon indefinitely remain in his custody.

Theon will be sent to Torrhen’s Square, and thereafter on to Rodrik Harlaw in the Iron Islands.

Contents

  1. A Godly Dilemma. The lose-lose situation that Stannis currently faces.
  2. The Kraken’s Ploy. How Asha earns Stannis’s attention.
  3. Denouncing the Kingsmoot. How the Greyjoys and Stannis can come to terms.
  4. Give Him to the Tree. How to allow Theon’s departure.
  5. Cryptic Allusions. Text that may help identify which strategy Stannis implements.

*   *   *

A GODLY DILEMMA


SacrificeWith Theon in Stannis’s custody, the king needs to decide the turncloak’s fate, and fast.

A Sacrifice to the Old or the New

By the end of Theon’s sample chapter from The Winds of Winter, there is substantial evidence that both factions of Stannis’s army want to execute Theon:

“Your brother’s hands are soaked with blood. Farring is urging me to give him to R’hllor.”

“Clayton Suggs as well, I do not doubt.”

“Him, Corliss Penny, all the rest. Even Ser Richard here, who only loves the Lord of Light when it suits his purposes.”
— THEON I, TWOW

“And the grandsons. Lord Wull seeks audience as well. He wants — ”

“I know what he wants.” The king indicated Theon. “Him. Wull wants him dead. Flint, Norrey… all of them will want him dead. For the boys he slew. Vengeance for their precious Ned.”
—THEON I, TWOW

The northmen and the southrons each have distinctly different reasons for wanting Theon’s death:

  • The northmen want to kill him as punishment for being a turncloak, sacking Winterfell and killing the Stark boys.
  • The southrons want to burn Theon for his kings blood, to curry favor with the red god, for strength in battle and to dispel the torrential blizzard which has beset them.

If he hands Theon over to either party, the other will be angered or become disenchanted with their king and his god.

This means Stannis is facing a dilemma, finding the best of two bad choices.

This would not be the first time that Stannis has faced a menu containing only bad choices. But this far into the Mannifesto you should already know how I think Stannis reacts to such obstacles:

Stannis defies the dilemma, somehow finding a third option.

*   *   *

Timing is Everything

In Asha’s conversation with Stannis, both of them agree that religious succor is very important to fighting men, particularly before beginning a bloody battle:

“…Men like to know their god is with them when they go to battle.”

“Not all your men worship the same god.”

“I am aware of this. I am not the fool my brother was.”
—THEON I, TWOW

The subtext here is tied to the knowledge that Stannis is expecting a battle in the immediate future, with Bolton allies moving on his position. I described the details of this battle previously in The Night Lamp essay.

What both parties are acknowledging is two points:

  • Stannis must resolve the “Theon” situation prior to the forthcoming battle, and in some fashion that does not lose faith with his men.
  • Consequently he must find some way to inspire fervor in his men who want religious blessings and vengeance.

*   *   *

The ultimate realization here is that:

Stannis cannot kill Theon, because doing so (in any fashion) risks alienating elements of his army.

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*   *   *

THE KRAKEN’S PLOY


assd-a-song-of-ice-and-fire-27972844-800-1453

Let’s start by confronting the obviously confusing element of Asha’s behavior:

What is Asha’s agenda when she speaks to Stannis, first pleading for Theon’s life and then demanding his death?

The Silent King

Stannis is infamous for despising lords who give him bad counsel, or counsel he can arrive at himself.

When Asha first confronts him at the end of the Theon sample from TWOW, he is dismissive of everything she says:

“Your guards may wait without. If I meant harm to you, two men would not dissuade me.”

The ironborn bowed and retreated. Asha took a knee. “Your Grace. Must my brother be chained like that? It seems a poor reward for bringing you the Stark girl.”

The king’s mouth twitched. “You have a bold tongue, my lady. Not unlike your turncloak brother.”

“Thank you, Your Grace.”

“It was not a compliment.”
— THEON I, THE WINDS OF WINTER

This is no different from the dismissive attitude he exhibits in the few dialogues they have had prior to this conversation:

She went to one knee before him. “Sire.” Am I humbled enough for you, Your Grace? Am I beaten, bowed, and broken sufficiently for your liking? “Strike these chains from my wrists, I beg you. Let me ride. I will attempt no escape.”

Stannis looked at her as he might look at a dog who presumed to hump against his leg. “You earned those irons.”

“I did. Now I offer you my men, my ships, my wits.”

“Your ships are mine, or burnt. Your men … how many are left? Ten? Twelve?”

Nine. Six, if you count only those strong enough to fight. “Dagmer Cleftjaw holds Torrhen’s Square. A fierce fighter, and a leal servant of House Greyjoy. I can deliver that castle to you, and its garrison as well.” Perhaps, she might have added, but it would not serve her cause to show doubt before this king.

“Torrhen’s Square is not worth the mud beneath my heels. It is Winterfell that matters.”

“Strike off these irons and let me help you take it, Sire. Your Grace’s royal brother was renowned for turning fallen foes into friends. Make me your man.”

“The gods did not make you a man. How can I?”
— THE KING’S PRIZE, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

Consistent with Stannis’s demeanor, he doesn’t really care for her advice because it’s no different than what he would expect. It’s the exact same thing that Jon Snow complains about:

A lord needed men about him he could rely upon for honest counsel. Marsh and Yarwyck were no lickspittles, and that was to the good … but they were seldom any help either. More and more, he found he knew what they would say before he asked them.
— JON XIII, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

What Asha needs is Stannis’s full attention.

*   *   *

Rocking the Boat

In order to earn Stannis’s full attention, Asha needs to accomplish three things:

  1. Be unafraid to challenge his authority.
  2. Show herself to be no lackey, but a deft thinker and strategist.
  3. Present Stannis with new knowledge that can benefit his campaign.

This is borne out by the very obvious fact that these three things are what allowed Jon to have such a big impact on Stannis’s strategies:

  • Jon was bold enough to tell the king hard truths, to stand his ground.
  • Jon was knowledgeable enough to provide Stannis with a fuller picture of the risks his plans entailed.
  • Finally, Jon showed Stannis how to acquire three thousand more men for his army, as well as provide the theoretical framework for how Stannis will win the forthcoming battle at crofter’s village (recall that Jon pointed out that the mountains and hills between Winterfell and Deepwood are unmapped, and that Stannis is relying on the Karstark map to trick the coming Freys).

So there is definitely precedent that Stannis can be swayed, given the right push. In the Theon sample chapter, Asha brilliantly exemplifies the first and second of the stated requirements.

You need only look at the subtext in the dialogue between Stannis and Asha to see it.

Asha is not actually trying to goad Stannis into killing Theon.

She’s telling Stannis that she knows he cannot kill Theon.

In essence, Asha is saying three things:

  • “I know you can’t kill Theon.”
  • “Since I’m smart enough to have realized this, you should open your ears to what I have to say.”
  • “If you’re willing to listen, I’m implying that I might have another option for you.”

*   *   *

Although the sample chapter ends after her ultimatum, we can certainly deduce what she wants to tell Stannis:

  • She’s pointing out that Stannis is dealing with a false dilemma: it would appear that he has only two options for Theon when she has another. This ties in to what I said about Stannis earlier: he always looks for the third option.
  • Specifically, that option involves ending the ironborn threat in the north and possibly securing peace with the Iron Islands.

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*   *   *

DENOUNCING THE KINGSMOOT


IMG_0488The third option that Asha would present to Stannis invokes the story of Torgon Greyiron.

The Tale of Torgon

In the tale of Torgon “the Latecomer” Greyiron, he was the heir to the Iron Islands. When his father died, Torgon was away from the islands. A kingsmoot was held in his absence and the villainous Urragon Badbrother elected as king.

In his first act as king, Urragon had all of the prior king’s heirs killed. Except for Torgon, still away from the islands.

When Torgon finally returned to the Iron Islands two years later, he denounced the kingsmoot as unlawful: as the prevailing heir it was his right to be present and put forth his claim.

Ultimately this led to Torgon’s election as king, and the death of Urragon at the hands of the many people he had abused while in power: priests, captains, and the people in general.

*   *   *

Asha’s Opportunity

This tale is notable because it was prominently introduced in A Dance with Dragons, as a part of a conversation between Asha and Tristifer Botley.

Why waste all the time on it if it’s not relevant?

While certainly there are tales added to the lore of Westeros purely for aesthetics and ‘world building’, this tale was most definitely not. Asha was especially elated to be reminded of it, as it allowed her an avenue of thwarting Euron’s power:

Asha remembered now. “Torgon came home …”

“… and said the kingsmoot was unlawful since he had not been there to make his claim. Badbrother had proved to be as mean as he was cruel and had few friends left upon the isles. The priests denounced him, the lords rose against him, and his own captains hacked him into pieces. Torgon the Latecomer became the king and ruled for forty years.”

Asha took Tris Botley by the ears and kissed him full upon the lips. He was red and breathless by the time she let him go.

“What was that?” he said. “A kiss, it’s called. Drown me for a fool, Tris, I should have remembered—” She broke off suddenly.
— THE WAYWARD BRIDE

Her reaction clearly shows that she is elated to hear of a way to lawfully usurp Euron’s throne. It’s particularly compelling if you read the entirety of conversation between Asha and Tristifer: it shows that Euron has been abusing the captains, lords, and priests of the Islands; in a manner quite similar to what Urragon Badbrother in the tale.

The discovery of the tale and Asha’s reaction to it suggest a larger goal she has in mind, beyond surviving Stannis’s capture:

She wants to have Euron lawfully dethroned, citing the tale of Torgon.

Unfortunately there is a problem with this:

But how could Asha have been elated upon hearing the story, when everyone thought Theon was dead?

Because she had actually just found out that Theon might still alive, at the beginning of the same chapter:

Asha had believed her little brother dead. Better dead than this. The scrap of skin had fallen into her lap.
— THE WAYWARD BRIDE, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

The only problem with this discovery is that she needs to return with Theon in order to invoke Torgon’s tale and invalidate Euron’s crown.

We never get to hear what sort of plans Asha might have made regarding Theon however, as her conversation with Tristifer is immediately interrupted by the arrival of Stannis. Ignoring Stannis for the moment, it seems unlikely that Asha would have had any real chance of rescuing Theon at all.

If you think about it, Stannis actually made it easier for Asha to take possession of Theon, as we see when he shows up at Stannis’s campsite. Stannis’s large army certainly held a more potent chance of doing so than her small band of ironborn ever did.

Theon’s surprise appearance at the crofter’s village had the side benefit of suddenly advancing her own goals.

*   *   *

Theon As Torgon

Returning to Stannis and Asha, it seems entirely logical that the third option she would propose is to return Theon to the Iron Islands so that Euron’s throne could be invalidated.

Asha would bring up the story of Torgon and explain the lawful precedent it establishes as a means of removing an unlawful king.

Stannis would grind his teeth, probably say something like “Do not prate at me about history” and the like.

But the points made thus far remain:

  • By killing Theon in any fashion, Stannis risks the unity of his army. It’s mostly a lose-lose scenario for him.
  • If Theon is sent back to the Iron Islands, Stannis can perhaps eliminate the ironborn threat. This would help advance his larger conquest to be recognized as the true king of seven kingdoms. However, if he does not kill Theon he also risks the unity of his army. It’s a rather iffy win-lose scenario for him.

Once again Stannis seems like he’s faced with two ugly choices, both of which risk his campaign.

Or is he?

*   *   *

Stannis Breaks the Rules

I refer back to my previous essay about the character of Stannis. I brought forth a similar concept when I discussed Stannis’s choice regarding the fate of Mance Rayder:

  • When faced with a choice of two bad options (‘live or die’ in Mance’s case), Stannis would probably be compelled to choose the one consistent with his public persona. In Mance’s case, there were benefits and drawbacks to either choice.
  • But when Stannis has an ability to usurp these dilemmas –to cheat the system and find a third option– he goes for it. In Mance’s case, when the choice was ‘live, die or fake Mance’s death’, we see that Stannis picked the third option because it gave him the best of both worlds.

So you see..

If Stannis could find a way to both ‘remove’ Theon and use Theon to invalidate the kingsmoot, it would be a huge win for him.

And if you think about it, this is what Asha wants to tell Stannis.

*   *   *

Other Benefits

Releasing Theon to pursue the invalidation of Euron’s throne has several other major benefits to Stannis:

Torrhen’s Square

The safest and best way to transport Theon back to the Islands is via a Greyjoy ship. Stannis is well-aware that Torrhen’s Square is held by ironborn led by Dagmer Cleftjaw.

If Theon is sent to Torrhen’s Square en route to Pyke, it could be used as an opportunity to have Cleftjaw and his men join Theon and release Torrhen’s Square from captivity.

This would eliminate the last ironborn foothold in the north. And it would do so without necessitating another siege.

Hostages

In Asha’s chapters we learn that she has several northern hostages which were taken back to the Iron Islands in order to secure obedience from their captive lords.

Theon could be used in an attempt to secure the release of those hostages as well.

A Peaceful Lord of the Iron Islands

If the kingsmoot was invalidated and a new lord or king of the Iron Islands needed to be determined, there is only one candidate that makes sense and has been sufficiently established as being viable: Rodrik Harlaw.

Asha puts this forward in A Feast for Crows:

“You are Balon’s daughter, not his son. And you have three uncles.”

“Four.”

“Three kraken uncles. I do not count.”
— THE KRAKEN’S DAUGHTER, A FEAST FOR CROWS

Recall that Rodrik is the one who counseled Asha to sue for peace with the Iron Throne, and promise to support the throne with their fleets. Thus we know that Rodrik is a peaceable candidate, one whom Stannis could benefit from. The support of the Greyjoy fleets would let him immediately begin to pressure Lannisport and the reaches.

Rodrik is also the one who tried to originally tell her about Torgon Greyiron, which suggests that he is the person Theon would want to visit first.

So in total, there is very little Stannis gains by keeping Theon around; some loyalty from his men at the risk of other men. But using him for other purposes can net Stannis so much more.

*   *   *

The culmination of this essay so far makes the following points:

Stannis cannot really kill Theon because no matter what he chooses he will anger some of his men.

Yet Stannis must decide Theon’s fate, and soon. There is demand for blessing and vengeance prior to the coming battle.

However, Theon has great utility for dismantling the current ironborn war machine and replacing it with one amicable to Stannis’s rule.

As you can see, it appears that Stannis is back to a dilemma:

  • Theon is executed, pissing off one faction in his army.
  • Theon lives to return to the Islands, but Stannis pisses off everyone in his army.

But remember. Stannis doesn’t see choices like this as live or die but rather as live, die or cheat.

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*   *   *

GIVE HIM TO THE TREE


IMG_0113We know that Stannis is expected to execute Theon. But as I’ve shown there are overwhelming benefits for Stannis should he instead keep Theon alive.

Due to the political fallout associated with whatever means Stannis employs to execute Theon, we can deduce that Stannis will borrow a page from his own book and use trickery to get the best of both worlds.

Engineering an Exit

One of the most important things to realize is that invalidating the kingsmoot requires that Theon eventually ‘go public’, meaning that Stannis can’t just fake his death (at least not without later repercussions).

The other problem is that even if Stannis wanted to fake Theon’s execution, he’s back to the issue of alienating members of his army.

To the best of my imagination, only two options seems viable:

Theon and the ironborn must “escape” to Torrhen’s Square.

The idea here is rather simple, Stannis would engineer some circumstance in which Theon and the ironborn could “escape”.

Thus Stannis would be free to wash his hands of guilt regarding Theon’s escape, but the secret plan would be able to go forward as desired.

I can only guess as to the nature of such an escape plan, but that it would involve leaving an opening through which the ironborn could escape.

or…

Stannis delays the Theon’s execution until he takes Winterfell, ostensibly to execute him before the great weirwood.

Stannis could successfully argue that Theon will be executed per northern traditions, but to better honor the Stark legacy his execution would be delayed until he could it could be carried out in Winterfell.

This makes a lot of sense for a few reasons:

First, Stannis might still need Theon’s knowledge of the Boltons and the situation at Winterfell. Obviously if he executes Theon before taking the castle and later needed his advice it, the execution would have been a foolish blunder.

Second, it buys Stannis time to find a better excuse to keep Theon alive once he somehow takes Winterfell. This mates quite well with the theory that Ramsay will be alive but trapped in the Winterfell crypts: it’s possible that some confession or truth might emerge that Ramsay was in truth the person who sacked Winterfell, slew the miller’s children and not the Starks.

While this doesn’t render Theon ‘innocent’, it might make it more politically acceptable to ship him away to secure ironborn allegiance.

In any case, I believe that Asha would be retained as a hostage however, to compel peace between the ironborn after the kingsmoot is invalidated (predicated on the idea that the acting leader of the ironborn post-Theon would be Rodrik Harlaw, someone who greatly cares for Asha, and is peaceable by nature).

 *   *   *

Quenching the Thirst for Blood

Although Stannis could allow Theon to escape or delay his execution, his armies will still be thirsty for blood and for justice. It has most heavily been implied that there is immediate demand for religious succor in light of a pending battle.

How can these needs still be satiated?

Stannis possesses something else that can placate his forces in this regard: the Karstarks.

We know that Stannis has promised to either behead them Ned-style or give them to the fires, depending on how the Karstarks plead:

“You are dead men, understand that,” the king went on. “Only the manner of your dying remains to be determined. You would be well advised not to waste my time with denials. Confess, and you shall have the same swift end that the Young Wolf gave Lord Rickard. Lie, and you will burn. Choose.”
— THEON I, THE WINDS OF WINTER

Notice how well this reflects Asha’s attempt to present Stannis with a dilemma: burn or decapitate Theon, he cannot do both.

However, with the Karstarks he can.

It seems likely that some of the Karstarks will admit guilt and others may deny it. This would obviously lead to some people being decapitated and others being burnt: thus providing offerings to both gods, hopefully satisfying both factions of his army.

Unlike with Theon, there are few benefits if Stannis keeps them alive, so they are most likely consigned to death no matter what. Indeed, executing several to engender fearful obedience in any that survive has its own value.

Further, there are several interesting connections between Stark and Karstark. This suggests that some people might be inclined to believe they have kings blood as well:

“I wonder. Scratch a Karstark and you’ll find a Stark.”
— REEK III, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

The Karstarks traced their descent to Karlon Stark, a younger son of Winterfell who had put down a rebel lord a thousand years ago, and been granted lands for his valor.
— CATELYN VI, A STORM OF SWORDS

Am I saying that the Karstarks actually have kings blood? No. I’m saying that some people in Westeros might think that.

So while the men in his armies don’t get Theon, they would still get a number of deaths to serve as offerings to their gods. Possibly with the promise of Theon’s later death in a more symbolically meaningful fashion.

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*   *   *

CRYPTIC ALLUSIONS


___by_theonlyoneoneone-d7mv82rIf my opinion was asked, I would say that I believe Stannis will attempt to delay Theon’s execution.

Is there any text to support this idea?

I believe so.

Bold Tongues

Notice the language Stannis uses when he assigns Justin Massey the task of going to Braavos:

“If there is to be a battle, my place is here with you.”

“Your place is where I say it is. I have five hundred swords as good as you, or better, but you have a pleasing manner and a glib tongue, and those will be of more use to me at Braavos then here.”
— THEON I, TWOW

Now compare it to the way Stannis refers to Asha and Theon and their way with words:

The king’s mouth twitched. “You have a bold tongue, my lady. Not unlike your turncloak brother.”
— THEON I, TWOW

Then consider the subtext here:

“It was not a compliment.” Stannis gave Theon a long look. “The village lacks a dungeon, and I have more prisoners than I anticipated when we halted here.” He waved Asha to her feet. “You may rise.”
— THEON I, TWOW

This exchange happens immediately after he comments about their tongues. His tone suggests that he desires to have less prisoners, not that he wishes to see Theon executed. In particular, a close reading of the Theon sample chapter shows that he only cares about Theon’s execution insofar as it affects the loyalty of his men.

Also suggestive is the ‘long look’ that he gives Theon. As Melisandre said in A Dance with Dragons, it is not his threats that should be concerning, but his silences. This leads to the speculation that Stannis is planning to use the ‘bold tongues’ of the Greyjoys to secure the release of Torrhen’s Square.

The subtext here would seem to suggest that even before Asha’s ‘ultimatum’, Stannis was considering the utility of his ironborn hostages. Certainly his complaint about lacking a dungeon carries the implication that he’d like to have less prisoners.

*   *   *

Three Trees

In addition to the more logical and intuitive suggestions, there is a most peculiar moment at the end of Theon I, TWOW:

“Then do the deed yourself, Your Grace.” The chill in Asha’s voice made Theon shiver in his chains. “Take him out across the lake to the islet where the weirwood grows, and strike his head off with that sorcerous sword you bear. That is how Eddard Stark would have done it. Theon slew Lord Eddard’s sons. Give him to Lord Eddard’s gods. The old gods of the north. Give him to the tree.

And suddenly there came a wild thumping, as the maester’s ravens hopped and flapped inside their cages, their black feathers flying as they beat against the bars with loud and raucous caws. “The tree,” one squawked, “the tree, the tree,” whilst the second screamed only, “Theon, Theon, Theon.”
— THEON I, TWOW

Now, the ravens scream ‘tree’ a few other times in the chapter as well:

“Yet,” both ravens screamed in unison. Then one quorked, and the other muttered, “Tree, tree, tree.”

The memory left Theon writhing in his chains. “Let me down,” he pleaded. “Just for a little while, then you can hang me up again.” Stannis Baratheon looked up at him, but did not answer. “Tree,” a raven cried. “Tree, tree, tree.”
— THEON I, THE WINDS OF WINTER

The ravens are shouting tree three times, in each case. Three trees; the sigil of House Tallhart.

Further, Asha by happenstance tells Stannis to give Theon to the tree. Granted she means it in an entirely different context, but if Stannis had already been planning to use Theon elsewhere then it takes an ironic turn.

*   *   *

Lord Eddard’s Gods

Another weighty element of Asha’s ultimatum bears close inspection:

“Then do the deed yourself, Your Grace.” The chill in Asha’s voice made Theon shiver in his chains. “Take him out across the lake to the islet where the weirwood grows, and strike his head off with that sorcerous sword you bear. That is how Eddard Stark would have done it. Theon slew Lord Eddard’s sons. Give him to Lord Eddard’s gods. The old gods of the north. Give him to the tree.
— THEON I, TWOW

Eddard Stark may have endowed all weirwoods with religious potency. But he was only known to pray before one of them: the heart tree in Winterfell.

It’s entirely possible that Asha’s statement here gives Stannis the inspiration to delay the execution, or alternatively is some sort of sly allusion to the same.

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<the mannifesto>

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9 thoughts on “Much Ado About Theon

  1. Kuruharan

    A good essay but I do disagree with part of the premise. Specifically, I don’t think there is as much of a conundrum between the Northerners and the Southerners with regards to Theon as the essay supposes. The Southerners definitely want Theon burned. I don’t think the Northerners have a preferred method of execution in mind, they just want him dead. They might have a preference for beheading in the old style, but I don’t think if Stannis burns Theon they will cause a rupture in Stannis’ army.

    I think the conundrum is more that for whatever reason Stannis is himself reluctant to execute Theon. At best he seems ambivalent about the idea from the beginning and gives every appearance of considering it mostly because it is demanded of him.

    Reply
    1. cantuse Post author

      True, the northerners might be more liberal in terms of the manner of Theon’s death. I do think that they could be offended that the betrayer of the Starks was given to a foreign god however. Do I think it would cause them to immediately abandon Stannis? You’re right, it’s doubtful.

      I do want to point something out though:

      1) Almost all of Stannis’s northerners are ‘mountain clans’.

      2) Per Roose Bolton (REEK III), the mountain clans stick to the ‘old ways’. In context he’s specifically referring to the ‘First Night’ tradition, but the point about the clans and the old ways still stand.

      3) While Davos lingers in Manderly’s jail, he has a conversation with one of the gaolors, Ser Bartimus. The knight relates an ancient tale concerning how the northerners punished offenders and made offerings to the gods:

      “The winds came howling from the north and drove them slavers inside to huddle round their fires, and whilst they warmed themselves the new king come down on them. Brandon Stark this was, Edrick Snowbeard’s great-grandson, him that men called Ice Eyes. He took the Wolf’s Den back, stripped the slavers naked, and gave them to the slaves he’d found chained up in the dungeons. It’s said they hung their entrails in the branches of the heart tree, as an offering to the gods. The old gods, not these new ones from the south.”

      From what we see, hanging entrails from branches may no longer be popular, but the idea of decapitation before a weirwood seems like logical ‘evolution’ of the process.

      Since the clans hold to the old gods so fervently, I believe this helps substantiate the idea that they *would* be offended by giving Theon to the fire. These details were featured in the essay that spawned this one (the original Night Lamp), but I left them out of this one. Perhaps this should be a footnote?

      These observations notwithstanding, I agree that Stannis really only cares insofar as the political implications, and that in most cases its not the ‘end of the world’ if he makes an unpopular choice. But this is why I think, of all unpopular choices, delaying the execution until he has Winterfell seems like the easiest one to ‘sell’.

      Reply
  2. Beto

    First, let me congratulate you for this fantastic work. You have put a lot of effort in the mannifesto. Though i disagree on many issues, in this one i agree (mostly)

    Theon will “escape”, go to the Iron Island and summon a new kingsmot..

    “No godless man may sit the Seastone Chair”

    Theon actually means Godly

    http://nameberry.com/babyname/Theon

    Reply
    1. cantuse Post author

      Wow, that’s a pretty awesome spot. I think it opens up an avenue for speculation that Theon might be a future king, but a speculation that would remain tenuous unless we found more support somewhere. Still, great find.

      As interesting as the etymology of the name is, I don’t think anyone will be naming their child Theon for some time. 😀

      Reply
      1. Beto

        Especially since GRRM has said he devoted a fair amount of thought to names, i believe some of them are actually foreshadowing devices, as in this case. Besides he favors cripples bastards and broken things. Few are as broken as Theon. He even procured an “heir” earlier on in the story. During his trip to the Iron Islands he might have gotten a bastard from the captain´s daughter. That may have some importance given his current difficulties…

  3. Beto

    it also should be noted that if Theon can convince Dagmer to leave Torrhen´s square, Lady Tallhart could summon her men from winterfell, which also serves the purpose of weakening Winterfell
    It also gives cover to the alleged covered operation of burning borrowton.

    Reply
  4. Robert Lindwall

    Love your writings Cantuse.

    What are your thoughts on the symbolism of the last thing Theon sees during the sack of Winterfell is his horse, Smiler, burning? Even with all the violence in the books, that was a tough one to read, so I’m guessing GRRM was quite purposeful in having that event occur and being the last thing Theon sees before turning into Reek.

    Is this just a metaphor for Theon’s smile disappearing or is this foreshadowing Theon being burned in Winterfell?

    Reply
    1. cantuse Post author

      I spent some time last night reading over his various mentions of Smiler and what it could symbolize.
      I cannot readily say what Smiler’s death might signify, but it’s noteworthy how it resonates and Theon thinks on it several times in ADWD.

      I try to avoid using subjective things like a person’s internal thoughts for my essays (unless there is a lot of corroborating details). Unless I can find something interesting that Smiler’s death can be unmistakenly tied to, I am not sure if I can find anything.

      Now if I was allowed to speculate and ramble, I would point out that my essay “Cinders from Barrow Hall” is novel in light of this: It involves setting fire to Barrowton to lure Lady Dustin and the Ryswells from Winterfell. Lady Dustin’s sigil is a black horse’s head. Thus if her town caught fire, it could be a potent ‘echo’ of Smiler’s death.

      Reply
  5. aaaaaaaaaaaa

    After Roose says that Stannis did not attack Dreadfort as was planned by Arnolf why Ramsey speaks : Scratch a Karstark and you’ll find a Stark?

    Reply

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