All Sorts of Weird Stuff: Books

All Sorts of Weird Stuff offers news and information about George R.R. Martin, in particular about his A Song of Ice and Fire series.

"When I was young, I read all sorts of stuff. One week it would be Lovecraft, the next Vance. It was all imaginative literature, or as my dad called it 'Weird Stuff.' It was all 'Weird Stuff.'"

George R.R. Martin

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Legends: "The Hedge Knight"

Legends: "The Hedge Knight"

When it was announced that GRRM would be releasing an original novella set approximately 90 years before A Song of Ice and Fire, there was quite a lot of excitement in the fan community. I recall buying the book on the date of release from my university’s bookstore and reading it even as I made the 45-minute walk home in 90 degree weather (the dustjacket—and the actual cover itself—did not particularly appreciate that).  Among all the fine stories in Silverberg’s collection of original tales from various masters of the fantasy genre, this was the best (something which was acknowledged by its being a nominee for the 1999 World Fantasy Awards, along with fellow Legends alumni Ursula K. Le Guin and her Earthsea story, "Dragonfly"). Seven years on and having spawned a gorgeous and successful graphic novel adaption, the story itself seems to be withstanding the test of time quite well.

"The Hedge Knight" tells the tale of Ser Duncan the Tall (more often known as "Dunk"). The story opens as the spring rains fall and Dunk buries his master, the old hedge knight Ser Arlan of Pennytree, who plucked him out of the stews of Flea Bottom to become his squire. Faced with the choice of what to do now that he no longer has Ser Arlan to help him make his way through the world, Dunk chooses to risk all in a tournament at Ashford, where a young man might make a name for himself and, more importantly, find himself a place as some lord’s sworn man if he acquits himself well. Before he gets to Ashford, however, he runs into a boy—apparently an orphan, as himself was—who’s as bald as an egg, which might explain the name he gives for himself: Egg.  The interaction between the two is touching, as Egg asks the young knight to take him on as a squire, and Dunk refuses him. As one can guess, however, this will not prove to be the last time Dunk hears from Egg.

While the story does not in any way tie directly to the events of the series, it’s a wonderful glimpse of a peaceful Westeros in the times of the Targaryens. And indeed, quite a few Targaryens appear in the story, ranging from the mad princeling Aerion Brightflame to the beloved Prince of Dragonstone, Baelor Breakspear. There’s a marvelous tourney, written with Martin’s keen eye for color and pagentary, which reveals something about a number of the leading players not only in the story, but in Westeros at large at this time, such as Lord Damon Lannister, the Grey Lion. But this is almost an interlude, because the chief crisis of the story develops here, and it’s not what a reader might have thought when they first read the story. It turns out that "Hedge Knight" isn’t just an adventure story full of gallant knights, but something a bit more complex: a coming of age story, to some degree, as Dunk learns the price of true knighthood.

To say more would be to give away too much, but suffice it to say that there’s real power in what transpires afterwards, as Martin pulls certain threads together and unleashes a revelation or two. The ending itself? There’s tragedy, yes, but there’s also hope, and what more can one ask? From GRRM’s stated plans to write more stories in this period, it’s clear that this particular era of Westeros is a fascinating one, full of events and great men, and as fans we can only wait with bated breath for more.

For those with a sharp eye, you may recall a reference to the titular hero of the story in A Storm of Swords.