NOTE: I had wanted to finish work on my other non-Stannis essays, but just when I thought I was out, you guys pull me back in.
Today somebody remarked that they didn’t believe that Stannis could ever do something like the Night Lamp. As a rigorous man of science and obviously smart person, my reaction was predictable.
Specifically, I was told:
That is not how Martin writes or thinks. There is no character driven reason why this should happen, or any relevance to his story arc. Stannis solves his problems with intelligence and steadiness. But he is not someone who uses deception, thinks outside the box or “plays the player”. That is rather something I expect from someone like Tyrion.
I don’t take it personal. First of all, I can forgive people not knowing the greatness that is Stannis. I too resisted …until the evidence was insurmountable. Like, to the point where you have to go out of your way to be obstinate if you want to believe that Stannis isn’t a motherflippin’ genius. Seriously folks. Stannis is so smart he probably has two pairs of underwear on at all times.
But I’ve already written the Mannifesto, which worked for some people but obviously not for everyone. I need a new format that will connect with this younger harder-to-reach crowd of avocado-toast eating Millenials. I’d make a Youtube video but that only means I’d be tempted to start scraping other people’s ideas off of Reddit and hoping to become some sort of devil-worshipping ‘influencer’. Plus I’m not ready to have my face on video, I don’t need that kind of fan mail.
The obvious truth is that I can’t beat some of you over the head with Stannis’s brilliance: some readers want foreplay—a little tickling behind the knee, Wallflowers playing the background and a bottle of the cheap wine with the fancy label. Some people don’t care for the plain old-fashioned truth—they want to be seduced. Nobody wants Atticus Finch when Michael Clayton is available. Poor old man never had the courage to tell Scout that’s why he was a single father.
* * *
Sometimes greatness lives in dark, overlooked places—like an alleyway in Chinatown or the back seat of a Volkswagen. Or the mind of a king. Its a fungus that grows between your toes and one day takes over your brain, striking out of nowhere like the tequila in a line of Jell-O shots: a hazy dream of peaks and valleys that leaves you wondering what really happened when it departs. That means sometimes you have to approach greatness the way you approach a spider on the toilet seat: sneakily, in a bomb suit.
In light of this noble truth, let us try something different. I will toss out a couple of potent questions to direct today’s flirtation with the one true king, and then we’ll walk through a few chapters in the so-called life of Stannis Baratheon and see what shakes out. In particular, I want to focus on the first four Jon chapters from A Dance with Dragons:
- What is the earliest point in time that Stannis could have known about a plot to marry Arya Stark?
- What is the earliest point in time that Stannis could have known about the plot for the Karstarks to betray him?
You would think that Stannis only learned about the wedding from the letter he read while at Deepwood Motte, and that he only learned about the Karstark betrayal from Jon’s letter that arrived with Tycho Nestoris. After all that’s how it looks in the book.
But the book is straight-up lying to you. But in order to convince the more ambivalent reader, I feel the need to tackle this in a sort of chronological format—building naturally on smaller, earlier elements until they can be woven into the real answers to these questions. Continue reading