The Citadel: SSM

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Many Questions

I wrote to you once last summer to congratulate you on ASOIAF, but after reading ASOS, I just had to do it again (not to mention that I came up with more questions :-)

That's life... there are always more questions...

ASOS kept up your tradition of attention to details, amazing and realistic characters, and no dumbing down of violence or sex or ugly details to please younger audiences. Jaime's POV was a fantastic addition - I had been wondering if we was a hopelessly corrupted man or just one who'd lost his way. "That boy had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but somewhere along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead." I think that was incredibly poignant and revealing about Jaime, and it was those words that convinced me that Jaime had been had started out as a good man who grew corrupted along the way.

The Jaime sections were very challenging, but I enjoying writing them. Complex characters are always the most interesting.

Another thing I very much like about ASOIAF is the amazing size of the cast of characters. Sometimes, a character seen in one book will pop up in another without warning. For me, the best example was Anguy, the archer in Beric Dondarrion's band, who, from his skill with a bow, I believe to be the Anguy who won the archery contest at the Hand's tourney (am I right?)

Yes. Good catch.

And now (surprise, surprise), the questions. 1- With time and effort (say, the five years between ASOS and ADWD), can Jaime learn to fight left-handed, like Quorin Halfhand did?

He's going to have to find out, I suspect.

2- Now that Tywin Lannister is dead, will it be Kevan or Cersei who will assume control of House Lannister (and the throne)? I'm assuming that Jaime cannot because he's in the Kingsguard and seems to want to remain there. Whether it's Kevan or Cersei, there's bound to be trouble. Cersei is shortsighted, quick to take offense, and very protective of her children (I think that's why she had a knight of the Kingsguard try to kill Tyrion), whereas Kevan was used to taking orders from his older brother.

Sorry, that's another you'll need to wait for the next book to resolve.

3- After five years, will Daenerys's dragons have grown large enough to be ridden?

Yes.

4- Did the Targaryens own a family sword made of Valyrian steel, like Ice or Brightroar or Longclaw?

Several.

And if yes, what was it named and what happened to it - Rhaegar had it on the Trident, maybe?

The most famous of them was named Blackfyre. It was long lost by Rhaegar's day, however.

Or, if you can't tell right now, will we find out about it in a later book?

Yes.

5- Will we know in time, with certainty, the identity of Jon Snow's parents (I don't believe Edric Dayne's tale)? Personally, I really hope he's Lyanna and Rhaegar's son, despite looking so much like Eddard.

Jon's parentage will be revealed eventually, yes.

6- Since Tyrion is going to the Free Cities (and one of Varys's contacts there likely being Magister Illyrio), is it a possibility that he might hear of and hook up with Dany and her dragons (he's fascinated by dragons, if I remember well)?

It's possible.

7- Rhaegar is described by Ser Barristan and Ser Jorah Mormont as being melancholy and noble and honorable. That hardly strikes me as the kind of man who'd cheat on his wife, especially at such a public event as the tourney at Harrenhal. So why did he did he choose Lyanna as queen of love an beauty?

Good question.

8- When Arya says she "dreamed" of finding her mother's corpse, did she actually take over the body of her lost wolf Nymeria, the way Jon and Bran sometimes do?

Yes.

9- It's not really a question, but I've noticed a great similarity between ASOS and Lord of the Rings - the two Sams, Samwell Tarly and Samwise Gamgee. In particular, in each series, a Sam made a desperate attack on a hopelessly superior force (an Other and the huge spider Shelob) to protect a defenseless companion (Gilly and her baby and the bound Frodo). Would you care to comment?

There are a number of homages to LOTR in my book. I am a huge Tolkien fan.

By the way, I hope Jon Snow isn't ASOIAF's Frodo. Jon's my favorite character, and I wouldn't want him to end up like Frodo, sick and scarred inside from his burden.

He's taller than Frodo.

10- Have you begun writing A Dance with Dragons? And if yes, when will it be coming out?

The next book will be out in fall, 2002.

11- Is ASOS selling well? Better than ACOK and AGOT?

Yes, as a matter of fact, it is.

12- Do you have plans for more stories set in Westeros aside from ASOIAF and The Hedge Knight? I'd really like a story about Robert Baratheon's war to unseat Aerys or one centering on the great tourney at Harrenhal - with Rhaegar's POV, if possible, to learn what made him choose Lyanna instead of his own wife as queen of love and beauty.

I want to do more Dunk and Egg stories. Beyond that, I don't know.

Thank you for taking the time of reading this, and, I hope, answering it :-)

Keep reading.

The Kingsguard in the Dance of the Dragons

[P.fitz notes: Hi Ran I asked GRR about the civil war "The Dance of the Dragons" why the Kingsguard had split, if whole Kingsguard had split between the two factions or just one of the Twins who took a opposing side to the rest of his brothers ("Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk who died on one another's swords..." p 65 AGOT Voyager paperback Bran's second chapter).]

The Kingsguard split. At the times, the laws of succession were less well established, and there was dissent as to which claimant had the best claim, the elder daughter or the younger son.

Targaryen Polygamy

First off all I want to thank you for the one of the best fantasy novels I ever read. Then I would like to ask one question: In the SOS Jora Mormont told to Dany that Aegon The Dragon had two wives and she could take two husbands. The question is if there were any other precedents of polygamy among Targaryens besides Aegon the First.

Yes, there were.

Maegor the Cruel had eight or nine wives, I seem to recall, though not all of them were simultaneous. He beheaded a few of them who failed to give him heirs, a test that all of them ultimately failed.

There might have been a few later instances as well. I'd need to look that up... (or make that up, as the case might be).

Kinslaying in Westeros

A ton of us Boarders have been debating the taboo against kinslaying in Westeros, and have been trying to define exactly what "kinslaying" is. Is it limited only to the situation where you kill a kinsman by your own hand, or would it include anything that leads to the death of a kinsman? In other words, had Renly's army defeated Stannis', and Stannis died in the battle at the hands of Loras Tyrell, would Renly still be considered a "kinslayer"?

Maybe by some, but that's a stretch.

There are degrees in kinslaying, as in anything else. Fighting a battle in which a brother dies might be frowned upon, but killing him with your own hand would be considered far worse.

In the scenario you propose, another factor might be whether Renly gave any orders in respect to Stannis. Did he command Loras to kill him, or offer a reward to whosoever slew his brother? Did he tell his men to see that his brother was taken alive? Did he not address the issue either way? There are obvious degrees of guilt, depending...

The other factor, which you haven't raised, is degree of kinship. Killing a parent is probably worse than killing a sibling, but either one is a lot worse than killing a distant cousin. Lord Karstark was stretching that aspect of it when he tried to accuse Robb of kinslaying... but of course he was hoping to save his head.

A Number of Questions

[Note: This mail is in part a continuation of the discussion in the previous entry.]

I mainly asked because many feel that it was Cat freeing Jaime which caused Robb's death. What's your opinion about it? For that matter, do you think that Cat's actions were foolish and entirely motivated by emotion?

Well, I showed you her actions and let you see the thoughts processes that led up to them. Beyond that, I will leave the interpertations to my readers.

"The castle is so large it requires an army to hold it" according to Ser Aenys Frey in ACOK. Was he mistaken?

Well, not mistaken, but perhaps overstating the case. Still, the castle walls were extensive enough to require a much larger garrison than most actual medieval castles did in the real world sieges.

And how on earth could Tywin expect a sellsword company to be loyal enough to sit out a prolongued siege? Not to mention that Lorch and Hoat were known enemies...

Lorch's men were not sellswords, and Hoat's were assigned to plunder, foraging, and terror, three of their favorite things. Lord Tywin did perhaps underestimate the extent of their emnity (he had other things on his mind), and he did not anticipate Roose Bolton making such a generous offer to the goat... or the trickery that not the northmen "captives" inside the castle.

Would you by any chance consider writing a "Rains of Castamere" story from Tywin's POV ;)?

Anything is possible, but I wouldn't hold my breath. My plate is pretty full.

BTW, I think that your idea of replacing POVs for ADWD (and the subsequent books?) was a very interesting one. I presume that you meant the older POVs which started in AGOT, not the newer additions.

It was just a notion. I never refined it sufficiently to decide exactly which I meant.

What color do you have in mind when you write that someone has "pale" eyes?

Very light grey or blue. In the most extreme cases, like Roose Bolton's, the eyes would look almost colorless.

A Number of Questions

1. Many feel that Tywin wouldn't have supported Lord Frey in his plans for the "Red Wedding" if Jaime was still captive in Riverrun. Is that an accurate assessment?

"What if" is always a hard question to answer. Jaime's imprisonment might have made Lord Tywin more cautious, but there are no certainties.

2. Was "file Tyrek" closed in ASOS with the hint that he ended in a bowl of stew?

Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't.

3. That one is from me personally (it is a bit of burning issue for me because it debunked my favourite theory ;)), but - was Tywin really obligingly marching into Robb's trap when Edmure stopped him at the Red Fork? Did he really count on Lorch and Hoat with their IIRC 300 men holding Harrenhal and the northern prisoners in his absence?

Harrenhal is an immensely strong castle, and a garrison of three hundred is quite sizeable in medieval terms. Ser Amory =should= have been able to hold it. Lord Tywin likely thought that Roose Bolton might descend on the castle and besiege it, in which case Lorch could likely have held out for half a year or longer. The wild card here was Vargo Hoat changing sides.

4. Were circumstances and timing of Tywin's death something you planned for a long time or another case of characters "taking intiative", like with Cat?

That scene was largely written even before A CLASH OF KINGS was published. Hell, I'd been setting up that "Lord Tywin shits gold" line since his very first appearance in A GAME OF THRONES.

The Stone Giant and Oxcross

[Summary: KAH asks GRRM about Bran's vision in A Game of Thrones, where he sees his sisters before a snarling hound, a golden figure, and a giant knight in stone armor looming over them. Specifically, he wants to know which of various theories is correct in regards to the knight.]

Well, it's an interesting question, but not one I care to answer. Puzzling out the meanings of dreams and visions is an excercise best left to the characters, I think... and of course to the readers. So argue on...

Another question I've wanted to ask for some time, is concerning the Lannisters. Given Tywin's death and Tyrion's exile, the Lannisters appears to have suffered a _grievous_ brain drain. Will there be other Lannisters to come forth and take their place ('intellectually' speaking, that is)? Daven Lannister, perhaps?

There will be other Lannisters who will =try= to come forth and take their places, undoubtedly. Ser Daven, as you mention, though Ser Kevan is considerably more senior and more experienced. And do not neglect the women. Only Kevan remains of Tywin's three brothers, but there was a sister as well. A younger generation is coming up as well, and there are more distant cousins and the like too. The Lannisters are a large family.

Oh, and while I remember it - how big was Ser Stafford Lannister's host in ACoK, anyway? (I and Ran debated whether it was 10 or 20 thousand, respectively, just to find out that the number isn't really mentioned in the books at all. ;o) )

Even in real life, estimating the size of medieval armies was always tricky. Try researching how many people fought at Agincourt or Crecy, and you will get a dozen different numbers. Why should Oxcross be any clearer?

The Lannister Family

[Note: This mail is a continuation of the discussion in this message.]

I do understand your point, but even among the Lannisters, Tyrion who was by far the best of them (well Jaime is getting close now) was still working for the family good even if it was not a good goal for the rest of the Seven Kingdoms or the Starks. I always thought that Tyrion was sort of the good guy who works for a bad cause.

Remember, there are many Lannisters you haven't met yet -- Lady Genna, Ser Daven, all sorts of cousins... it's a large family.

Several Questions

[Note: This mail has been edited for conciseness by removing opening and closing paragraphs]

At time I started I was getting so pissed with the fantasy genre after having lately read some terrible books I' sure you know the sort full of youngsters who's destiny it is to save the world overcoming insurmountable odds without a scratch.

There's some great work being done in fantasy by writers like Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Guy Gavriel Kay, and others, but I fear that sometimes it gets lost amongst all the yardgoods and hackwork. I am glad I was able to revive your interest in the genre.

A Game of Thrones came as a breath of fresh air, while reading it I knew it was good but when I came to Ned's death I saw the series was going to be unlike any other I have read and may I say it's only getting better.

I hope it will continue to get better. Some days I have my doubts...

Anyway to business I was wondering if you could settle something for me while re-reading "The Hedge Knight" I got the impression (due to his blushes when questioned) that Dunk may never have been knighted by the old man. Can you shed any light on this for me please.

No, I can't. Sorry.

If I could ask you another question I had assumed that Theon Greyjon was killed by a fire maddened horse towards the end of A Clash of Kings and that the Boltons were lying when they claimed to have him but I have found from discussions on the messageboard A Song of Ice and Fire that many people hold a contrary view. Could you please clear this up either way (of course feel free to tell me to mind my own business without fear of causing offence).

Sorry, can't help you on this one either. Keep reading the books.

By the way I am rapidly heading for the privilege of a custom title on the aforementioned board you wouldn't have any ASOIAF related suggestions for a good title would you. I know I'm been cheeky but I had to ask since when am I going to get a chance to pick your brains.

I am not sure what you mean by a "custom title." A title from the books? There are a few in the volume I'm presently working on that readers haven't seen yet... a guy who calls himself King of the Mummers, frinstance... another one who is called Harry the Heir... these are informal titles, though, on a par with the Knight of Flowers or the Kingslayer, and so on...

Dornish women

Do the women of Dorne fight?

Some do. The Sand Snakes, for instance. But it's not the rule.

Nymeria was a war leader but not a warrior -- that is, a commander rather than a combatent.

Or does their "equality" to men only refer to the eldest child being heir instead of the eldest son?

That's the big one, but their customs differ gives women more rights in other ways as well. Not to say that Dorne is an egalitarian society. Far from it.

About the Westerlings

I have been wandering about the Westerlings and their involvement in the plot against Robb. It seems pretty obvious from the fact that they were not only pardoned by Tywin Lannister but that Jeyne's uncle was given Castamere, that they were hand-in-glove with the Lannisters/ Boltons and Freys in the plot against Robb also the fact that Jeyne's mother was giving her a contraceptive or tansy every morning that they meant to make sure that there was no chance that Jeyne would ever get pregnant.

Well, we shall see.

But I think it is a mistake to generalize about "the Westerlings," just as it would be to generalize about "the Lannisters." Members of the same family have very different characters, desires, and ways of looking at the world... and there are secrets within families as well.

Wildlings in the North

I was wondering if you would clarify something for me. At the time A Storm of Swords ends, The Nightswatch, Stannis and his followers, and Mance and the Wildlings are all at the Wall. Mance is a captive of Stannis and so cannot be executed by the Watch. The wildlings have very strong feelings about "kneeling" and being "kneelers." If Stannis were to allow the wildlings to settle in the Gift, would it be in their nature to attack northern villages and towns for plunder? Or is their sense of property stronger than their desire to take by force what can be taken?

Raiding is definitely a part of wildling culture, as it was for many in the real world -- the Norse who went a-viking every summer, the ancient Celtic cattle raiders, the Scots border reivers, etc. Can they refrain once settled in the Gift? Well, that's the question, isn't it?

Would striking a deal with Stannis be considered "kneeling"?

Yes.

Would the wildlings agree to leave the northern villages in peace if asked or would that also be considered "kneeling"?

They would see this as a question of choosing between their freedoms and their lives. Raiding is part of their culture... on the other hand, they also value a man keeping to his sworn word.

Would participating in joint attacks on Bolton lands and holdings be considered "kneeling"?

They will fight easily enough... although military discipline is not part of their martial tradition.

Do the wildlings hate northerners like they hate the Nightswatch?

No.

Producing Valyrian Steel

Let me begin by saying how much I've enjoyed reading your "Song of Ice and Fire" series. I was first drawn to them by a comparison to the Wars of the Roses, having always been a Yorkist (even having a fondness for Hunchback Richard!).

Me too. Shakespeare's Richard is a great character, even if he doesn't have much to do with the real historical Richard.

A brief question about Valyrian steel - is it the metal that makes the sword so special (provenance, age, etc), or is it the forging (spells, techniques)

Forging techniques and spells, actually. There is magic involved in the making of Valyrian steel.

In other words, if a smith knew how, could he take some fresh, high-quality steel and produce an equally fine sword?

Not unless he could work the magic.

Or is it something like Aragorn's Anduril in the Lord of the Rings, which could be re-forged but not made from scratch, or so it seemed to me.

That's pretty much been the situation since the Doom of Valyria.

Having suffered through one of the coldest Decembers - and I live in Winnipeg - in well over a hundred years, I have a great deal of sympathy for any person, fictional or not, who faces several *years* of winter. Am I right in thinking that by the beginning of your next book, Westeros will be buried in snow? Brrr...

The really bad weather won't be along until THE WINDS OF WINTERS, but yes, there will definitely be a chill in the air come next book.

Keep reading.

Concerning Shaggydog

I know you are busy, so you can give me a one word answer to my question, which is: when you were writing about the direwolves, did you intend for them to be like our grey wolves (but larger)? I ask because Shaggydog has a black coat, which would mean he is an alpha male if he were a grey wolf in North America.

Direwolves were an actual species of prehistoric wolf. They have long been extinct, of course, so there is much we can't know about them... but I have used much of what we =do= know for my own direwolves. Of course, I have also claimed a fantasist's prerogative to make everything bigger and more spectacular. Direwolves were larger than modern wolves, but not as large as my versions.

Some Continuity Oddities

[Note: The first part of this entry is an excerpt from a mail in response to a note that there seems to be a continuity error in SoS, concerning the date of the death of the outlaw Simon Toyne and Rhaegar's defeat of him at the tourney at Storm's End, as reported by Ser Barristan early in the book and as recorded in The White Book.]

Ooops. Good catch...

As to this glitch... I think my defense in that the account in The White Book is correct. Ser Barristan is an old man, after all, recounting things that happened in his youth. You ought to see me and my friends sitting around at a con:

ME: Hey, remember Torcon 2, when Joe Haldeman found two naked girls in a bathtub of grape jello. Alice and Angela, wasn't it?

SOMEONE ELSE: It was lime jello, you idiot, and it was Big Mac, not Torcon. Three were three girls -- Betty, Veronica, and Lee.

JOE: Lime jello, two girls, it was Applesusan and Avedon, and it was Discon.

In other words, Ser Barristan is undoubtingly conflating events that happened at two or three different tourneys. Any way, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

[On a more humorous note, the analogy GRRM uses refers to an actual event. After I suggested I should really get to a con if naked girls in bathtubs of jello was a common feature, he replied: "You're twenty years too late. It happened in 1974. Fandom was livelier then... well, it was still the 60s..."]

On another minor inconsistency, someone on the message boards (Moreta) noted that Tyrion describes Dancy as being a honey blonde to Oberyn (p.437-438). She's a redhead in CoK, though. Maybe the honey blonde is the girl named Jayde, in the appendix of SoS? She was only mentioned once, by Anguy the Archer in one of Arya's chapters.

Urk.

Maybe Dancy dyed her hair? If Daario can have a blue beard and Greenbeard a green one, going from redhead to blonde shouldn't be too hard.