Wednesday, 4 January 2012

New Thoughts On the Snow Job

So, George R R Martin has updated the "sample chapter" page of his website, offering us the first taste of The Winds of Winter.  It's a short one, and unsurprisingly one which will appear early in the book (indeed, chronologically speaking, it takes place before the final events of A Dance With Dragons).  Nevertheless, it does offer some tantalising scraps of additional data to those formulating theories as to one of the questions the latest book left us with: how much of that letter was actually true?

Because such attempts to piece together theories always interest me, even when the events in question are entirely fictional, and because I've been discussing this over at the SFX Forum in any case, here are my thoughts on what this fascinating new evidence suggests.  Obviously, spoilers follow.

The letter I'm referring to, of course, was the one that arrived for Jon Snow at the wall, which claims that Stannis' army has been slaughtered in the field, but that Ramsay Bolton is still looking for "Reek" and "Arya".  At the time, this seemingly confirmed that they had indeed escaped (I don't see how lying about that would profit Ramsey in any way), but beyond that, we had no idea as to their fate.

We now know though that "Arya", at least, is liable to be elsewhere when Stannis' forces clash with the Bolton host.  That's one point in favour in believing the letter.  On the other hand, Theon is still with Stannis, and if he remains chained, it's pretty hard to see how the letter could possibly be true - how could the Bolton's smash the King's army and not find Theon?

Similarly, if Stannis does execute Theon, it's hard to believe that word of that wouldn't reach Ramsey following the battle (whatever the outcome).  At first glance, then, this chapter seems to make Ramsay's claims harder to credit.

Except, and here's where it gets interesting, what if Theon manages to escape again?  Stannis would keep that quiet if at all possible ("I've lost that kid who massacred the heir to Winterfell and his toddler brother.  How's about you Northerners finish eating your horses and throw your lives down for me, hmm?"), and if the Bolton forces did crush the Lord of Dragonstone, they'd be none the wiser as to where Ramsay's favourite pet had got to.

In sum, then, the letter seems less plausible if Theon remains a captive/becomes a corpse, and more plausible if he escapes (obviously, neither of these possibilities proves anything either way).  The question you have to ask yourself, then is this: how likely is Theon to escape? 

From an island? 

Specifically suggested by his sister? 

Who until recently commanded a host of men in longships that can be carried across the ground when necessary, some of whom remain with her? 

And who specialise in assaults upon coastlines?

Answers on a postcard, addressed to the ruins of Winterfell.


Anonymous said...

Hi Ric (kahless from SFX)

I'm drawn to the ravens calling Theon's name and thinking of Bran up beyond the Wall strapped in Brydens chair.

Asha tells Stannis to take Theon and execute him in front of the Old Gods (the trees) like Eddard would have. Again I'm thinking of Bran.

What if Bran saves Theon somehow and that's why Ramsey is still looking for his Reek?

SpaceSquid said...

Welcome, Kahless. Or Phil. Or Philless, if that isn't too Swallows & Amazons.

Jamie made a similar point about Bran; I have to admit I'd forgotten him briefly talking to Theon.

It's certainly a good theory, but it raises two further questions. First: why would Bran want to rescue the man who invaded his home, murdered Chayle, Mikken and Alebelly, and ultimately caused the burning of Winterfell?

Second: if Asha is planning an Ironborn resuce op, then why has she suggested the Isle of Faces as an execution ground? Unless she's actually being on the level, here.

Jamie said...

I think it's possible that we might have been looking at this from the wrong angle. This might not be about Bran trying to get Theon to the island in order to rescue him (not the Isle of Faces, btw, that's in God's Eye in the Riverlands), but about him bringing Stannis there so that he can communicate with him. That's a more interesting possibility, I feel.

I enjoyed this chapter, although I really don't think Martin has thought through his raven transport logistics. Surely the very least you would expect from an efficient message-carrying bird would be for it to be able to return from whence it came, to save lugging vast hordes of them around the countryside constantly; and if ravens generally cannot do that in his books, why the hell aren't people using pigeons?

SpaceSquid said...

That's a pretty good point, Jamie, though would that make Theon's "meeting" with Bran just a coincidence? And why would the ravens be quorking his name?

It also doesn't get us anywhere with the Asha question.

I had the same reaction to the raven revelations (ravelations?): namely, that it made chuff-all sense. Having said that, apparently for a long time pigeons could only travel one way as well (thank you Wikipedia).

Besides, one could easily imagine, say, each of the Stark bannermen having to pay a yearly tithe of a dozen ravens in case Winterfell chose to call its banners. And since the rest of the taxes being paid would need to be lugged across country, there'd be no real problem with carrying a few ravens around as well. They could then take some Winterfell ravens back with them.

Do the same with taxes to the Iron Throne and have the great houses exchange a small unkindness of ravens every few years, and you can get a message to any keep in the Seven Kingdoms in at most two jumps (though of course one would have to be careful about what the messages said).

Once you start thinking about this, a whole new area of intrigue and war strategy opens up. For example, the Red Wedding might never have been possible had Roose Bolton and Tywin Lannister not both been able to capture castles currently roosting "enemy" birds.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't thought about maybe the plan was to get Stannis to the Island so Bran could communicate with him. But then why would Asha be in on that, unless there is another chapter where she has contact with Bran.

Bran may have some animosity towards Theon but he's never struck me as your dyed in the wool Northerner who has revenge as a primary nature. Plus whatever is happening to him beyond the Wall may have changed his outlook on life, and Humans as he seems to be moving beyond them.

And I agree with Jamie, I don't think it's the Isle of Faces, thats further south. I thought maybe it was the island Bran & Co stopped at on the way North at first but then that wasn't far from Castle Black was it?

Anonymous said...

And the whole Ravens thing is a mystery. Its never been made clear exactly how many Ravens each Maester looks after, but it would have to be a lot in order to keep in touch with associated Bannermen and Kings Landing.

Plus how do they tell them apart, I've always had the impression they're all kept together?

SpaceSquid said...

Yeah, I don't know where I got the Isle of Faces from. Silly squid.

I think ravens are often kept in separate cages, but maybe it's just that maesters are really good at telling them apart? Like how parents can recognise which of their identical twins are which.