Tag Archives: Stannis

Casual Thoughts: Melisandre’s Best Kept Secret

Another day, another casual video. This too cannibalizes my future essays to try and create a new and meaningful conversation.

This time, I want to talk about Melisandre and one of her lesser known (or at least lesser-discussed) powers: She’s a master of bird law.

One small addendum that I want to add, is that Jon also receives a letter from Ramsay ‘directly’ in Jon’s sixth point-of-view chapter. Its the wedding invitation that he opens after fighting RattleMance in the training yard. Previously I had always assumed that Mance simply overheard the letters contents (the wedding to Arya in Barrowton) and thus that’s when Mance and Melisandre decided to start the ‘wedding rescue plot’.

That still makes a ton of sense to me, because Abel first joined Bolton’s group of followers near Barrowton. Furthermore, there is a brief moment where Theon hear’s music coming from a nearby inn while riding with Roose Bolton (“They rode past a stable and a shuttered inn with a wheat sheaf painted on its sign. Reek heard music coming through its windows.” — REEK III, ADWD).

So it’s entirely plausible that Mance first rode to Barrowton, per the clues from Jon’s original wedding invitation. This could simply be because of, as I said, Mance overhearing the wedding details from Jon in the training yard. This does not necessarily change the fact that Stannis could have been also instructing Melisandre and Mance to start a rescue at Winterfell separately from that wedding invitation.

While I’ve got ideas for my next video, I’d be curious to see if this one creates a few questions that might drive me to record a different video first.

You Want to be …Fooled

I want to write a fun, explorative piece: more idea-fuel and moderate insights than it is ‘epic theory’—an essay full of rhetorical sleight-of-hand that reads like a series of magic tricks and less like rote historiography. So here’s an attempt.

  • ?
  • What would it take for you to distrust any prediction a character makes?

Obviously a mistaken interpretation or two will hurt someone’s belief. But what about an admission that they’re just guessing in the first place, something like this:

“Some may.” Could the skulls in her vision have signified this bridge? Somehow Melisandre did not think so. “If it comes, that attack will be no more than a diversion. I saw towers by the sea, submerged beneath a black and bloody tide. That is where the heaviest blow will fall.”

“Eastwatch?”

Was it? Melisandre had seen Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with King Stannis. That was where His Grace left Queen Selyse and their daughter Shireen when he assembled his knights for the march to Castle Black. The towers in her fire had been different, but that was oft the way with visions. “Yes. Eastwatch, my lord.”
MELISANDRE, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

In our haste to zip through Melisandre’s chapter and find the juicy details, we seem to have overlooked what I now think is perhaps the choicest morsel of all. Why?

It means that Melisandre often interprets her visions as applying to things other than literally what she sees.

This is hardly surprising though—we all know she makes mistakes. Even she admits it. But on the other hand, there’s really only one way to broadly interpret Melisandre’s statement:

Visions often show one thing, but are in truth about another.

If this is the case, then when Melisandre wrongly interprets a specific detail in a vision, she’s not only making mistakes, she is almost certainly misleading readers who trust her words or thoughts.

I know it sounds ridiculous: that her own thoughts would fool us. After all, if she saw Jon… she saw Jon. Why would the text in her own POV mislead us, the readers who are free from the supposed perils of bias that afflict the characters?

The assumption about what Melisandre sees being precisely what she thinks (or more accurately being what is on the page) is ignoring that we are reading words set out by an author who has no strict obligation to give us full, accurate information at all times. There have been several occasions where a character’s thoughts seem to omit details that readers could benefit from and have no real reason not to exist. Tyrion’s chain, Victarion’s ‘surgery’, and more, are all examples of when Martin’s words have deftly avoided the ‘whole truth’ in favor of a more compelling story. And as noted, Melisandre herself admitted that her visions may not apply to the exact objects, places or people she envisions… so even if you disagree and think her thoughts aren’t erroneous and that she actually saw Jon, the vision could still instead apply to someone else—by her own admission!

Anyways, It’s one thing to say this, its another to show you just how misleading a bad prediction can be. Like me, you almost certainly never realized that Melisandre’s first bad vision in A Dance with Dragons happens in Jon’s first chapter.

  • ?
  • Ready for a magic trick?

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The Lost Mission of Mance Rayder

NOTE: This will probably be incorporated into the Mannifesto at some point but for now I’m posting as a mostly self-contained piece.

This essay serves one purpose and one only:

To reveal the secret mission that was Mance Rayder’s true goal in the north during the events of A Dance with Dragons.

Explain the relevance of that mission on other aspects of the plot.

Explore significant implications of its discovery.

Let’s get straight to business then.

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Let’s Have Some Fun: Another Approach to Stannis

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?
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  • 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.

ಠ_ಠ

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

A League of Their Own

THE MANNIFESTO: VOLUME I, CHAPTER VII

To be quite frank, this essay doesn’t need polished presentation, nor well-articulated reason, nor well-timed salvos of ‘mind-shattering new theory’. I simply plan to prove the following:

Stannis’s campaign in the north draws directly on elements of Napoleon Bonaparte’s most famous triumphs: at Ulm, Austerlitz, and Arcola.

Specific elements of Stannis’s northern campaign are derived from Hannibal’s famous victory at the Battle of Cannae.

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Traitors in Black

THE MANNIFESTO: VOLUME I, CHAPTER IV

Throughout the Mannifesto, Stannis is repeatedly granted almost superhuman powers of secrecy and deduction. The first three essays (The Night Lamp, Subverting Betrayal and Operating in the Dark) alone suggest that Stannis was pursuing goals and using strategies that he did not reveal to even his closest confidants unless necessary.

Stannis is executing his northern campaign with an extreme level of secrecy.

But why?

The truth is that Stannis’s conspiratorial nature—particularly in A Dance with Dragons—is necessary, due to factors that we can readily prove:

Stannis was aware of ‘untrustables’ in his midst at Castle Black, most especially concerning letter handling. Subsequently Stannis did not entirely trust the security/privacy of messages at Castle Black, nor did he trust his secrets to anyone that did not need to know.

Thus, the idea that Stannis is operating a “conspiracy” is not the product of reader bias, but of strategic necessity.

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An Alliance of Giants and Kings

THE MANNIFESTO: VOLUME II, CHAPTER II

The end of A Dance with Dragons and especially the sample chapters from The Winds of Winter make it clear that Mance Rayder and Mors Umber collaborated in order to successfully rescue Arya Stark.

There’s just one problem with this: by all accounts Mance Rayder and Mors Umber should be bitter enemies!

Mors wanted Mance’s skull for a drinking cup, and his only daughter was stolen by wildlings some thirty years ago.

So why are they clearly working together in A Dance with Dragons?

Explaining the complex relationship between Mance Rayder and Mors Umber is the chief goal of this essay. Specifically, I am making the following assertions.

Mance Rayder and Mors Crowfood were working together to execute the rescue attempt.

This alliance was made possible by the return of Mors’s lost daughter.

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Suicidal Tendencies

THE MANNIFESTO: VOLUME II, CHAPTER V

While Stannis may be victorious in his battle at the crofter’s village he still faces an impossible task: taking Winterfell from the Boltons.

It seems ludicrous to think that Stannis, himself a veteran of several sieges, would willingly march towards a castle while outnumbered, beset by storms and lacking provisions. To suggest that he did it on faith alone is beyond reason. Continue reading

The Road to Barrowton

THE MANNIFESTO: VOLUME II, CHAPTER I

The previous volume went to great lengths to establish that Stannis, Melisandre and Mance all conspired to enact a rescue of Arya Stark.

The specifics of that rescue have been thus far left vague. Volume II of the Mannifesto aims to precisely detail the entirety of Mance’s journeys throughout A Dance with Dragons and beyond.

We know that Mance first left Jon with the stated goal of rescuing Arya Stark. However, Volume I showed with painstaking detail that the rescue also was necessary to aid Stannis.

After Jon’s last meeting with Mance in MELISANDRE – ADWD, we do not see Mance again until THE PRINCE OF WINTERFELL – ADWD, at Winterfell.

What happened in between those two periods?

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Subverting Betrayal

THE MANNIFESTO: VOLUME I, CHAPTER II

“You need not trust a man to use him.” Else how could I make use of all of you?
JON SNOW — JON XI, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

The implications of the Night Lamp theory make it clear: Stannis expected to be attacked at the crofter’s village.

This requires two things:

  • The Boltons would need a compelling reason to abandon Winterfell and attack Stannis. As I noted in the implications section of the Night Lamp theory, Stannis himself declared that all Bolton had to do was wait for Stannis to starve, Bolton did not need to actually attack Stannis at all. In acknowledging this fact, Stannis implies that he has a method to compel attack (otherwise why would he have been stupid enough to march towards an impregnable castle like Winterfell, or stop indefinitely at a village in the middle of nowhere). Further, I’ve shown how this compelling factor was most certainly the abduction of Arya from Winterfell.
  • Secondly, in order to ‘know’ that an enemy would attack on a terrain of his choosing, the Boltons must know how to find him. This necessitates that the enemy has guidance of some sort. A Dance with Dragons and the Theon sample from The Winds of Winter make it clear that the Boltons have a map to Stannis’s location.

There’s just one problem: Stannis had no apparent plan for disclosing his location to the Boltons.

The disclosure of his location in the books is the result of the Karstarks acting in the secret interests of the Boltons, plotting to betray Stannis at some key moment. Their maester secretly dispatches a letter to Winterfell with the aforementioned map.

It’s curious that Stannis’s entire strategy at the crofter’s village hinges on the Bolton’s ability to find him, yet he had no plans to actually give them directions.

Do I believe in happy accidents like this? Particularly ones that seem so crucial to Stannis’s plans?

No.

I strongly believe that Stannis knew about the Karstark betrayal well in advance, and used it to his advantage. Continue reading