Ned Stark’s Villainy: The Round Up

A few weeks ago I wrote a surprisingly controversial article that asked if Ned Stark was the worst thing that ever happened to Westeros: Ned’s Honor: Was Ned Stark the Villain? Some people were not amused. Somebody posted my Ned article to Reddit, and people there had quite a few things to say. Between the comments on this website  and the comments on Reddit, people had quite a few interesting things to say. The purpose of this article is to share some of the best comments I read, including the ones that slammed the article.

Like many bloggers, I love traffic, but I didn’t write a deliberately provocative article for traffic.  I wrote the article because I find the philosophical strains in Game of Thrones (and ASOIAF) fascinating and I like to spur critical thought if I can. I believe George RR Martin deliberately inserts competing philosophies or perspectives into his work to make us reflect on the nature of war and ponder related moral issues. In many ways, the article picks up on themes I’ve explored in other articles: Is Chivalry Death? and George RR Martin and the Futility of War: Famine, War, and The Little Ice Age.

Many people objected to the underlying utilitarian philosophy in the article. Others denounced the idea of blaming Ned for everything (not the intention of the article). One point I overlooked is that, at the end, Ned gave up his honor for his girls.

Many Reddit commentators noted that Ned’s desire to protect children motivated him. A few commentators questioned if Renly, not Ned, was the villain.

Here are a few highlights from the comments on the article. Don’t get me wrong – just because I’m quoting comments that are highly critical of my article it doesn’t mean my original opinion has changed. But, even though I disagree with some comments, I thought many were brilliant. (I’ve edited some  comments that I included below for brevity, which was a little tricky. I realize that this may decontextualize some of them so my apologies in advance.)

Ultimately, if George RR Martin knew this thread existed, I believe he’d be thrilled to see people debating these issues surrounding war and honor. And, that makes me really happy. So, thanks to everyone who commented below the article and on Reddit — your comments were a great read.

A few favorites…

“this is one of the themes Martin tries to explore throughout the novels — What does it mean to have power? How does one best use it?” — Jun

“Stannis looked disgusted. “Your father was a stubborn man as well. Honor, he called it. Well, honor has its costs, as Lord Eddard learned to his sorrow.”” — Mojohito

“Ned’s fall could partially be attributed to some pretty underhanded actions. He never tells Robert about Cersei, secretly changes Robert’s will, and then tries to bribe the city guard to stage a coup. None of those actions could be considered honorable. Ned tried to get the person on the throne who rightfully belonged there, but he went about it dishonorably.” — Robert_L0blaw

“You know, I never thought about this in the context of Game of Thrones before, but there is a really interesting clash of ethics displayed in this series.
On the one hand, you have the consequentialists like Robert who (when sober, anyway) measures right from wrong in the context of how much wellbeing is preserved/created/destroyed.
On the other hand, you have the deontologists like Ned who believes doing right is right, and the consequences should be considered… but never over the righteousness of the act itself.”— XAce90

“Is Ned honorable or living in a dream?”
“The article takes these as mutually exclusive, I don’t know that they are. Ned Stark was honourable. Ned Stark was valiant. And Ned Stark died.” – rookie mistake

“While some of these consequences are perhaps exaggerated, I stand by my age-old opinion that Ned made some very stupid decisions all because of his honour.” — Drshriv

Game of Thrones is Grey

“Is anyone really a good person in ASOIAF?” — Calderweiss

“GRRM humanizes his villains and gives his heroes flaws. He shows that sometimes the monsters win, at least in the short run. In ASOIAF there is no “happily ever after,” the struggle against evil must be constantly fought and repeated, as mirrored by the changing of the seasons.”

“I find Ned a much lighter shade of grey than, say, Cersei…” – Watcher on the Couch. Watcher, I wholeheartedly agree.

Cersei_grey

© HBO.

“One of the main themes of ASOIAF is moral ambiguity. No one character or side is completely a moral/ethical or immoral/unethical character.

When Varys asks Ned “Why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones?”, he’s hitting a major theme right on the head; Even if the Targaryen dynasty under Arys was one of problems, the Baratheon-Arryn-Stark alliance in the Rebellion was not one without major flaws, and there were assuredly many people who were far worse off after the rebellion than before.

Even in the timeline of the books, Robert’s rule has not been kind to Westeros, causing a debt crisis and a famine that hadn’t been seen since Targaryen rule, and Ned Stark was a major player in making that happen, even if he had no direct influence in King’s Landing for the 15 years in between.

A common thread pointed out by many repeat readers is GRRM’s use of unreliable narration. Ned Stark may be all that is good and holy to Northern lords, but he’s had a very different legacy to a lot of people. In the same way, the Lannisters may be seen as all that is wrong with power in Westeros, but those in the Westerlands see them as a family which created an almost-unrivaled prosperity for their province.

As the books progress and more information is revealed concerning Robert’s Rebellion, you’re going to realize that neither side was completely right or wrong, and that’s going to reflect on all factions when things reach a head in the next two books.” — CptPatches

Divine Justice/“Westerosi karma” vs. Blaming Characters

Can you have it both ways? In some novels, the novels subtly pronounce judgment on the characters through  the events that ensue following their actions. I don’t know as ASOIAF is among these novels but it is worth thinking about.

“Characters can’t be blamed for everything that their actions trigger.” — KruegersNightmare

““Ned’s honor isn’t just a personal principle, it’s how he governs, and how he affirms his legitimacy and wins the support of his people… This is because because it is rooted in very deeply held traditions and beliefs of his people (in the North)… As you may have seen from public backlashes against actual public figures: the social contract isn’t that fragile — the thing that breaks isn’t the social contract, it’s you.

… what is happening in the books is that violating the sacred rules and traditions of society causes society to come after you — framed as a form of divine justice.

Violating the Will of the Gods (which in A Song of Ice and Fire often means the will of tradition and social order) brings down indirect wrath on you (from the various social dynamics that are balanced around that social order).

Ned can’t go around breaking the laws of Gods and Men. They are too important to how he maintains power. And there would be grave consequences.” — GyantSpyder

Social contract

Definitely check out Chas D’s brilliant comment about the social contract and Greek tragedies. To find them, search below this article for “Chas D.”

“What we see as the books progress, as actors care less about their ‘honor’ than results, taboos start to disappear and distrust becomes the norm, even in otherwise-reliable relationships (vassal-lord, guest-host, peasant-gentry). By the time the latest book rolls around, nobody trusts anybody anymore, and whatever kind of social contract existed in Westeros is completely ruined.” — FLUFFYWARTHOG

“With Cersei, let’s say he agreed to back her. Would he have lived long? Given what we know of Cersei I don’t think so.” — Grant

Ned_Stark-desserters

Ned (Sean Bean) executes a deserter from the Night’s Watch. © HBO

“The point about Ned’s honour is it is not just Ned’s honour, it is part of the social contract that governs the whole society, from the highest lord to the lowest peasant. That’s why Ned beheads oath breakers and Stannis gelds rapers. Killing one person may save a thousand, but it if it destroys your honour, if it breaks the social contract, society descends into might is right, into dog eat dog, and many more than a thousand people die, as events in Westeros attest.” – Craig Hughes

War

“I understand that Robert’s point of view would probably have been better for the kingdom, but I don’t think that the whole of Ned’s argument was coming from a place of honor. Ned was a man deeply scarred by Robert’s Rebellion. It defined who he was and it set the tone for the rest of his life… the war haunted Ned…” – Brooke Taylor

Renly as a villain

“Why not blame [the Red Wedding on] Renly for not siding with Stannis? Stannis is the actual heir, and the throne would almost certainly have been Renly’s in the end anyway.” — nihil_novi_sub_sole

 

Renly_Stannis_Parley

Renly and Stannis’ failed parley (discussion of terms of peace). © HBO.

“… in many respects [Renly] acted more selfishly than anyone else…Renly must have known how Stannis would react, yet was willing to pit himself against his own brother simply for vain ambition… at least Littlefinger had bitterness…  wanting to right perceived injustices (the other nobles looking down on you simply because you aren’t truly one of them) is more honourable than Renly’s behaviour.” — AlbrechtVonRoon

Critical — General

“This article goes WAY out of its way to blame the consequences of other people’s actions on Ned’s refusal to budge on principle. If Viserys had come across the sea with 40,000 Dothraki, it wouldn’t be because Ned decided not to have a little girl assassinated. It would be because Viserys decided to take an army and invade. Sorry, but I don’t buy the preemptive strike as a particularly moral action.” – Doctor_Loggins

This is a very good point, and the article isn’t meant to let Viserys, Cersei, Tywin, Walder Frey, or any of the other “real” villains off the hook. Since Ned really isn’t moved exclusively by self-interest, we expect more of him.  My point is really that Ned’s behavior may be less than ideal, especially when examined in light of modern (albeit anachronistic values).  Is a preemptive strike a moral action? I don’t know, but that has been the cornerstone of much debate among political scientists for decades.

Critique of Utilitarianism

“To Ned, the ends do not justify the means. That’s not a moral failing.” — Doctor_Loggins

“The ironic thing is that the book/show actually demonstrate the flaw (well, one of) in this utilitarian moral attitude. Up until the assassination Dany was getting nowhere with Drogo regarding bringing the army across. The assassination initiated the motivation to invade Westeros for Drogo (although other circumstances put an end to it).

Humans are really bad at judging the utilitarian outcome of individual moral actions, because of limited information as well as cognitive biases. We just plain suck at it, especially outside of the short term consequences, and so in general a moral philosophy like Ned’s actually results in higher utility outcomes.” — Demotruk

“I see justifications of their [the Lannisters] behavior, especially Tywin and Jamie, all over this forum (though it’s worse over in/r/gameofthrones.) People heap praise on Tywin’s maneuvering to protect his “legacy” forgetting he has never done anything for the kingdoms except unleash the likes of Amory Lorch and Gregor Clegane upon them.” — POTATO_SMUGGLER

This response below to my point (quoted in italics) is an excellent point:

“The Red Wedding treachery was a relatively quick tactical stroke that resulted in less death than a continuing series of pitched battles.”

“Tywin Lannister said something to this effect in the series, however customs/traditions such as guest rights exist for a reason. If Westrosy nobility lose faith in such customs by repeated treacheries I would imagine relations among nobility in Westeros growing increasingly hostile and chaotic.” —Menoku

And, even better:

“People completely miss [chaotic Westerosi customs] this in the discussion of “honor.” You could probably “save lives” by murdering your enemy’s leaders at a parley. However, if this becomes the norm no one parleys any more and wars rage on forever.” — BSRussell

This is a brilliant point. Awesome. Coincidentally, this is the treachery Ralph Neville (a possible Walder Frey progenitor) committed at a parley between Thomas Mowbray and Archbishop Scrope (as described in this article: Historical Basis of Lord Frey). 

“…the Red Wedding did not really save any lives. In the show Tywin has a point that the entire notion of “honor” is set up in a way that protects lords (from assassination) and sacrifices the lives of peasants, however at least as many people as would have died on a battlefield. Tywin had the Frey forces literally slaughter the vast majority of the Robb’s army. He did not only kill the commanders/those in the bridal hall, which he could have easily done.” — sleepercar 

I’m not sure if Robb’s army equals the total death toll if the war continued. For example, as soldiers died, Robb would continue to recruit new men, unaligned lower lords (baron types) might join his ranks, as the war waged on, more bystanders/peasants would die, etc. I’ve never tried to forecast the death toll from the Red Wedding and if it never happened. This estimate also doesn’t include the death toll of Lannister men who would have died had the fighting continued. (Admittedly, half the Lannister men + half the Stark men might equal most of the Norther army. E.g., Net/net.)

“One of the primary dilemmas in this series is to weigh economic gain against moral cost. The argument between the Hand and the King calls to mind another exchange:

“What’s the life of one bastard boy, against a kingdom?”
“Everything.”” — HoffTheDrunkard

In the show, this conversation is between Davos and Stannis after Davos frees the about-to-be-slaughtered Gendry from Melisandre’s clutches. As you read this exchange, you naturally root for Gendry and Davos. I don’t think this feeling is wrong.(Not that a feeling could be wrong anyway.) Maybe it is a subtle difference – and perhaps not even meaningful – but killing one man to let somebody cheat or jump ahead in a war and grab the throne feels different than killing a woman to save thousands of lives. This is a minor point though and, broad strokes, the person who made this comment has a valid argument: the principle is quite similar.

Honor

“She seems to be under the impression that people act honorably because they think it is pragmatic. That is not the case. Honor is more about legacy and how your name will live on not immediate strategic goals.” — EonHunter

BTW, I don’t think people act honorably expecting a quid pro quo exchange. But I do think of honor can function as a code of conduct or like a credit system (as some people have pointed out). I think EonHunter’s point about honor being tied to legacy is compelling.

“Ned isn’t just caught between personal honor and the greater good — he’s caught between regional politics and national/international politics — he’s treating the royal court as if it’s the North, and he’s acting the way he has to act to maintain his regional legitimacy. But that knife cuts both ways.” — GyantSpyder

In a way, this is the struggle Richard III went through when he became king: balancing his ties in the North against national interest and his duty as king.

Final Words

“Of course he wasn’t a good guy. He put his own principles above the welfare and security of the realm. He only had to do two things to prevent all the crap that happened later.

  1. Say yes to killing Daenerys. Take our a potential threat to the realm. This is a no brainer.
  2. Don’t tell Cersei he knew about the incest. He wanted to be all noble and junk, but if he just told Robert, it would have all been OK. Failing that, take Cersei up on her offer to continue being the regent. He could have been the father figure Joffrey needed.

But no, he wanted to remain pure and noble. Once you put your own principles above the need the many, you cease being a good guy.” – Decabowl

Although this may be an oversimplification of Ned’s motives, it isn’t far from my original take. Emotionally, I don’t feel that Ned was a bad person, but intellectually I question the morality of supposedly noble actions that lead to so much war and destruction. In many ways, Ned’s adherence to his principals echoes the medieval attitude before the concept of “the good of society” emerged.

 

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

10 Comments

  • Reply October 6, 2014

    Watcher on the Couch

    Crumbs, you did stir up something of a hornets’ test, did you not, Jaime, though I don’t think that was your intention. I know in season 1 when I had not read any of the books I rooted for Ned and the Starks generally. It is interesting to look at the contents of the books from an alternative perspective to the more obvious one (which of course GRRM encourages with his POV manner of telling the story). I think Ned was a person with much human decency but definite feet of clay. I felt sorry (and I still do) that he was prepared to confess to non-existent treachery to try and ensure the safety of his daughters and was killed on Joffrey’s orders anyway. I’d still like the surviving younger Starks to have something of a resurgence. But then when one gets to the third book one learns that Jaime Lannister (while having done something awful by pushing Bran out of the window) had saved people in Kings Landing by killing the mad king and stopping his plan to burn the city. Anyway, the above is an interesting read.

  • Reply October 6, 2014

    Jamie Adair

    Lol. No it wasn’t intentional to make people upset. But, I don’t mind the controversy – especially I loved reading the comments so much. Some of them were really intelligent! Jaime is a funny character in that you grow to like and admire him, but he has done some terrible things — e.g., Bran — albeit for family. In a way, he is a dramatic foil for Ned. I love how GRRM plays with our assumptions like that. E.g., the world looks very different through Jaime’s eyes.

  • Reply October 7, 2014

    Jun

    Hmm, after reading the summary of comments, I feel like I still have more to say. May I?

    The argument that Ned is a “villain” is based primarily on two things: 1) Ned Stark does not want to assassinate Daenerys, 2) many civilians may die if she is not assassinated. Obviously, Ned intends for 1), but not 2). I wonder: Is a person responsible for a consequence without the intention? The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as well as bad intentions. Mao and Stalin and Hitler murdered millions of innocents, and that was (more or less) their intention. That’s easy. What’s not so easy is, for example, the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where one could argue the intention was to kill as many civilians as possible and scare the enemy into surrender and thus end the war quickly and minimize casualty. In the face of one or many deaths, does intention/motive matter when we judge people involved? Intent does matter in most judicial systems (eg, first-degree murder vs. manslaughter). It seems to be something most humans care about.

    (Regarding bad consequences of good intentions, GRRM gives a better example. Aegon V was a nice man and good king. He married for love and let his children marry for love too … “to the sorrow of the kingdom”! Ned’s error is merely theoretical but Aegon V’s error was documented. Was he a villain?)

    Another point was touched on but I want to go further. Stalin said something like, the death of one man is a tragedy; the death of a million is mere statistics. Let’s flip the thought. If one can decide to murder a girl, or a bastard for a future, theoretical, and statistical gain of millions, what kind of a person is he? If he believes that one man (ie, he) can and should control the life and death of one person and of a million people, is he moral or is he dangerous? If one death is no longer a tragedy to him, why does he care about a statistics?

    I don’t have an answer to any of these questions, but they are everywhere in history, aren’t they?

  • Reply October 8, 2014

    Watcher on the Couch

    Jun’s post is profound. Although I find the world of ASOIAF and the show has “sucked me in” there are times I feel I need to come up for air for a break from the grim atmosphere therein. In all the shades of grey among the characters, where, say, Ramsay and Joffrey are very murky shades of grey I couldn’t help rooting for Davos when he freed show Gendry (book Edric). I note that particular incident – or at least Davos’ stance to Stannis against the Stannis’ statement about “one bastard boy” was mentioned in the comments on the Reddit thread. Paradoxically, in modern parlance Davos could be said to have a criminal record being an ex-smuggler, yet he seems to have more common decency than some of the characters born higher up the pecking order than he was. Brienne is decent too; she is accused of being naive sometimes, but then (more so in the books) she is young.

    I read somewhere but don’t have the reference now (that’s the problem when one reads for interest and not to write an essay or pass an exam) that the crusade by people in the north of what is now France against the Cathari in what is now part of the south of France was never wholly approved by all Christians because it was against other Europeans (though crusades against people of other ethnic origins in the “Holy Land” do not seem to have caused so many qualms).

  • Reply October 8, 2014

    Anonymous

    I may be relying too much on present-ism here, but so much of the violence and conflict which begins in AGOT is well beyond Ned’s control. Even if he assassinates Dany and doesn’t tell Cersei what he knows, there’s no guarantee that Cersei wouldn’t still beat him to the punch, kill Robert and him anyway. At some point, the Lannisters wouldn’t need Robert anymore – most likely when Joffrey fully came of age – so Robert is doomed no matter what whilst surrounded by these snakes. When Ned tries to extricate his friend from danger, that becomes the catalyst for the King’s death, so he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

    More importantly, Renly, LF, Varys and Stannis’ actions are completely unrelated to what Ned does. Renly and Stannis both want the throne and will fight each other and the Lannisters for it, and Littlefinger is committed to perpetuating war in the 7 Kingdoms towards his own ends. Ned cannot avoid really avoid this, and war is coming no matter what.

    As for the central issue of a pre-emptive strike, GRRM makes it very clear that the assassination attempt on Dany is the catalyst for the invasion (which never comes). I simply cannot subscribe to the idea, either in the fictional world or the real one, that the murder of a child can be justified for the greater good. The actual events of the story alone are enough to prove that the plan is fundamentally flawed, simply because of the unpredictable way things play out, but the moral principle is difficult as well. This is not, after all, drone strikes in Syria or Iraq intended to kill insurgents planning attacks themselves; there is a degree of separation between Dany and the actual danger to the Kingdom. Ned is willing to face the threat – but only when it becomes a threat. I think it’s deliberately provocative and wholly inaccurate to call him a villain.

    One final note – I’m always surprised to see the forums talk about the moral greyness of the series. Whilst it’s true that many of the characters have elements of good and bad in them (cheifly characters like Tyrion, Jaime, Arya and possibly Catelyn) there are many characters which don’t fit the morally compromised mold; what moral justificatio can be provided for the actions of Littlefinger, Tywin, Joffrey, Armory Lorch, Gregor Clegane or Ramsay Snow? On the opposite side of the spectrum consider Brienne’s selfless act at the crossroads in AFFC, or Davos’ unwavering devotion to what is right. I would put Ned among these characters – he ineffectually tries to prevent war and the death of innocents and ultimately dies in defense of his family – these actions are demonstrably heroic, not villainous.

    • Reply October 8, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      Let me be clear that I don’t condone the killing of children, but here are a few things that I’ve often thought about in the case of Richard III and the Princes (which incidentally is a repeated motif in ASOIAF)…

      Why is the life of a child worth more than the life of an adult? We find killing children particularly heinous – and I’m not denying that it isn’t — but there are many innocent adults over history who have died under wrongful circumstances. When does one life become worth more than another? Surely all murder is bad or wrong.

      Let’s suppose that Richard III killed the princes in the tower.
      1. You could argue that the string of “murders” or deaths he may have instigated — Hastings, Anthony Woodville, the princes — effectively created a (relatively) bloodless coup that put him on the throne without the death toll of a major civil war — e.g., the battles that put Edward IV on the throne the first time (like Towton).
      2. In Towton, to use Wikipedia’s numbers (and these are contentious), 28,000 people died. Do the lives of two innocent children outweigh the lives of 28,000 men?

      I don’t know the answer to this, but I think about these things sometimes. The children are innocent. And, the men who died (typically) *chose* to go to war. The children never chose to be born princes. But, what about the 28,000 families?

      As for the preemptive strike, I generally abhor the notion. But, there is a case to be made for it. I’d also argue that it isn’t black or white – e.g., all preemptive strikes are bad – but I think it varies according to the severity and likelihood of the threat.

      In the Middle Ages, the likelihood of an invasion (or war) by a rival claimant was quite high. Henry Bolingbroke, Edward IV (who didn’t invade the first time but used military force to get his throne), and Henry VII were three examples from the fifteenth century alone.

      Robert didn’t know that the threat was bogus – e.g., that Viserys didn’t have Khal Drogo’s backing. I’d argue Robert had a duty to prevent *the risk* of major loss of life. With that said, I’d never want to be the one who “pulled the trigger” (so to speak) on the life of a young girl.

      I think all of these things are tough questions, and subtly GRRM raises them for a reason.

  • Reply October 8, 2014

    PHB

    Drogo had no intention of crossing the sea to invade Westeros until the attempted assassination of Danaeris. Viserys has a point when he complains that the bargain is not being kept.

    So I don’t think we can blame Ned for the outcome there.

    And remember that Stannis knows that Cersei’s children are bastards born of incest before the books even begin. He is the one who asks Jon Arryn to investigate and he finds out “The seed is strong”. That is why Baelish persuades Lysa to murder him. If Robert had found out he would have killed Cersei and her children making Stannis almost certain to succeed Robert as either King or Regent.

    Ned does make mistakes but his mistake is trusting Baelish who is the prime mover in all the events. Baelish deliberately sets House Stark against House Lannister in the hope of destroying both and Ned does not see he is being played.

    Ned’s weakness is protecting children, as Jon Snow will demonstrate. But his failure is assuming others are as honest as he is.

  • Reply November 29, 2014

    Chas D.

    I recently made a purchase of Philippe Contamine’s War in the Middle Ages, which I have heard is one of the best books to be written on the evolution of Medieval warfare. Towards the end of the book I ran into a forty or so page section which talks about the part of warfare which I believe you skirted around the edges of on with the original article, but I think would be worthy of an examination for future reference.

    The section is called: “Juridical, Ethical and Religious Aspects of War”

    It begins by talking about the rise of the Germanic “Barbarian” kings in the immediate post-Roman period and how “judicium belli” was formed, or:

    “War was considered a sort of judicial process (judicium belli) in which the two parties agreed to confront one another on the battlefield to establish who should win. The following remark put into the mouth of Gundovald the Pretender by Gregory of Tours reflects this conception: ‘When we meet on the battlefield, God will make it clear whether or not I am King Lothar’s son.’ Sometimes, instead of the two armies, it was the two leaders concerned or their champions who entered the lists alone.” (Contamine 260)

    He goes on from there to describe all the “rules” associated with this process which I hadn’t known before (like the victor having to remain on the battlefield a whole day or even for three days if it was an assigned battle). And from there he continues on laying on top of that base more and more distinctions and evolutions of how Medieval attitudes towards war in those three subjects (legal, ethical, and religious) evolved.

    The book is fairly interesting and there’s a few moments where I read something and it makes me wonder if Martin read the book as well. One instance:

    “Reflections of this type led to the contrasting of two kinds of war, according to the outward bearing of the combatants. In opposition to ‘mortal’ war, waged with fire and blood (de feu et de sang), where all sorts of ‘cruelties, killings and inhumanities’ were tolerated, or even systematically prescribed there was that form of war described as guerroyable: regular war, loyal war, honorable, bonne guerre, fought by ‘good fighters’ in conformity with the law of arms (droituriere justice d’armes), or accordign to the ‘discipline of chivalry’.” (Contamine 288-289)

    de feu et de sang indeed.

    I thought you might find the book intriguing if nothing else.

    • Reply December 3, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      Hey Chas,
      Thank you so much for the reference! I’m sorry your comment took so long to appear. It got buried in my Pending comments. (I have about 20 pingbacks I’ve been saving in there from a website that keeps plagiarizing the content on this site.) I actually own that book, but I haven’t read it yet. So thank you for pointing this out! I’ll definitely look at that section. I was watching 60 Minutes coverage of the war on Syria, and I couldn’t help but think about medieval warfare. It made me reflect that medieval military history is still relevant today and it is one of the central themes in GRRM’s work, so I’m thinking of doing a series of articles on war. Anyway, thank you very much!

    • Reply December 5, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      I just reread your comment again. De feu and de sang sounds awfully similar to “fire and ice” – and perhaps that is a bit of foreshadowing. That quotation also reminds me of the contrast between Ramsay and Ned Stark, or even Ned and Walder Frey.

      It wouldn’t be surprising at all if Martin read that book. I often find his “finger prints” all certain books (or rather the finger prints of certain books are all over his work). One notable examples: a passage about Warwick retreating to his eyrie in Paul Murray Kendall’s Warwick the Kingmaker. (Jon Arryn, of course, being arguably Robert Baratheon’s “king” maker in a more metaphorical sense as his surrogate father.)

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