The Citadel

The Archive of 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Lore

So Spake Martin

April 1999

Submitted By: Elio M. García, Jr.

Firstly, thanks for that very thorough response on the tournaments and knightood. Fascinating. In particular given the notes about _Ivanhoe_ and its influence -- I've only witnessed the A&E production of it, although maybe about time I read it. Seems it might be ripe for ideas.

IVANHOE is well worth a read, although the style is very old fashioned, of course. Still it has some fabulous characters and scenes, and so far as I know the definitive portrayal of a medieval tournament, both melee and joust.

It has been filmed three times that I know of. The recent A&E production had some good moments, as did the older Sam Neill version... the CLASSIC version, however, is still MGM's 50s version, starring Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, and George Sanders. The jousts are wonderful, Liz is radiant, and George Sanders steals the film as Bois-Gilbert. You should definitely rent that one and have a look.

Tourney Rules
Submitted By: Elio M. García, Jr.

Interesting question about the different tourney rules as seen in "Hedge Knight" and the novels.

It was not so much a question of some king changing the rules, as you venture, as it was of the rules themselves being very variable. Medieval tourneys were never governed by a single set of rules or rulesmakers, like NCAA football or major league baseball or even (shudder) boxing. In essence, every tourney had its own rules. The lord or king who was staging the event would usually choose the format of the tournament in the broadest sense, and then appoint a "master of the games" to run the event and make all the "fine print" decisions.

The earliest tournaments were melees for the most part, fought over miles of woodland by teams of knights. It was a battle, in essence, though with blunted weapons (usually). The lists came much later, and the formalized joust as we know it through IVANHOE and other popular sources. But even then, there was no standardization. Sometimes they still fought as teams; fifty Scots riding across a field at fifty English. Sometimes they had very elaborate pagaents, like one "Tournament of the Golden Tree" in which a team of champions had to defend said tree against all comers, each trying to snatch a leaf (the gold leafs were gold leaf, so to speak).

In the real world, heralds eventually assumed a great deal of responsibility for tournaments as time went on, and by the 15th and 16th century things were getting rather formalized... not just in tourneys, but in regards to all the forms of knighthood and heraldry. Before that, however, you had much more diversity.

In the case of the Seven Kingdoms, basically I am going with the earlier more diverse model. Over the six books (and whatever additional Dunk & Egg stories I write), I mean to show a nice range of tournaments.

Of the ones so far... well, the Hand's tourney at King's Landing was put together hastily, on Robert's whim, and so was relatively small, which allowed the single-elimination tilting format, which your opponents are chosen simply by the luck of the draw, and only one champion remains at the end. I also used the free-for-all last-man-standing style of melee, which did not exist in the real world so far as I know (melees were mock battles fought by teams), but which I thought offered juicy possibilities for a fantasy book.

At Ashford, instead of the single elimination, I went with your basic IVANHOE champions-against-challengers format, which suited the story better (I wanted Dunk to have to risk all he had going up against one of five champions, rather than simply drawing an opponent by lot, and maybe catching a break. If the champions are as formidable as the Fair Maid's were at Ashford, the challengers face a much more difficult task than if they stand to draw any foe in the field). And I confess, I have always loved the scene in IVANHOE where the Disinherited Knight rides down the line and knocks down all five Norman shields, and wanted to do my version thereof.

Renly's little tourney was pure free-for-all melee again, because it was a very impromptu affair. The all-against-all format, with its quick alliances and betrayals, allowed me to show both some of the popular feeling against Brienne and her own quite formidable skills.

Joffrey's little tourney was really more an exhibition of jousting.

. . . the great tournament at Harrenhal during the year of the false spring, the tourney where Rhaegar crowned Lyanna Stark as queen of love and beauty. That was a much bigger tourney than either Ashford or the Hand's tourney. The IVANHOE format again, champions and challengers, but longer, with more challengers... and with a seven-sided team melee in the ancient style. (A lot happened there at Harrenhal. If I ever wrote the prequel book some readers keep asking for, I could probably set the whole thing during those ten days.)

As to your questions regarding the participation or non-participation of sellswords, squires, freeriders and the like, again, I don't see that as the difference as being chronological so much as geographic. The Reach is the heart of the chivalric tradition in the Seven Kingdoms, the place where knighthood is most universally esteemed, and therefore the place where the master of the games is most likely to devise and apply stringent rules. In Dorne and Storm's End and the riverlands and the Vale, things are perhaps a little less strict, and north of the Neck where the old gods still reign and knights are rare, they make up their own rules as they go along.

This has real world parallels as well. In the high middle ages, France was the apex of chivalry. German, English, Italian, and Spanish knights followed the fashions the French chevaliers set, although they did not always get them right. And if you went further afield still, to places like Scotland, Hungary, and Georgia, customs diverged even more.

The personalities of the sponsoring lords and their master-at-arms are another factor. Robert Baratheon was not a great respector of old traditions, and he would hardly have wanted a "knight's only" tournament to honor Ned, who was not a knight. Lord Ashford of Ashford, on the other hand, was trying to curry favor with Baelor Breakspear, the preeminent tourney knight of his time.

As to trial by combat... yes, the Trial by Seven was very much a special case. It was originally an Andal religious ceremony, and even at the time of the "The Hedge Knight" they hadn't fought one for a hundred years (or whatever I said).


The first chapter of A GAME OF THRONES came to me all at once, when I was well into the beginning of a totally unrelated SF novel that I had been planning for a long time. I sat down and wrote it, with no conception of where it would lead.


I hope to deliver A STORM OF SWORDS by the end of the year, for publication in summer 2000.

As for my old books, check out the website at:


Yes, A CLASH OF KINGS sold considerably better than A GAME OF THRONES. These series have a tendency to build.

It was a NY TIMES bestseller, which GAME was not. Also made lots of other lists.

However, in the publishing biz it is considered impolite to ask a writer about his sales figures... like asking someone how much they make when you meet 'em.

Ned and the Night’s Watch

If Ned had taken the black...

... it would have been a different novel

A Dance with Dragons

I've heard a good rumor about A DANCE WITH DRAGONS. I've heard that it will be the fourth book in the series. The third is A STORM OF SWORDS.

Cover Art

Like all but a very few writers, I have absolutely no control over the covers of my books. The art is largely the province of the artist and art director, with some input from the editor.

Six Books

Six. Definitely six. No more than six.

Six will allow me to tell the story I want to tell; three did not.

But I have other stories I want to tell as well, in this lifetime.

Loras’s Shield
Submitted By: Elio M. García, Jr.

That note about Loras and Garlan carrying three and two roses respectively when fighting together is rather interesting. I suppose that means that Garlan took part in the tournament at Bitterbridge? The lack of mention of him at all suggests that he wasn't.

No, Ser Garlan wasn't at Bitterbridge. Loras must just have decided to use the three-rose shield that day. I don't see Garlan as being as much a glory hound as his kid brother, so tourneys are not his thing.

Heraldry in Westeros
Submitted By: Elio M. García, Jr.

I might mention . . . that the rules of heraldry are a good deal more flexible in the Seven Kingdoms than they became by the late Middle Ages in the real world. There are no "laws" of heraldry per se, no college of heralds for enforcement, no formal regulations about cadency and differencing. So individual knights and lords have a certain amount of freedom to bear what shields they prefer and play around with their house sigils... or not, as the case may be. Thus Big and Little Walder, at Winterfell, quarter the arms of their mother's and grandmother's houses on their shields and surcoats, though they could just as lawfully wear the Frey towers unadorned. All three sons of Mace Tyrell are entitled to bear the Highgarden rose, and sometimes do... but when two or more of them are fighting together on the same field, you will often see Ser Garlan (the second son) with two roses on his shield, and Ser Loras (the thirdborn) with three. There is also the case of the harper/knight Pearse Caron in "The Hedge Knight," who chose to ride in the tourney with his personal emblem (a harp) on his shield, and the Caron nightingales on trappings and surcoat, and of course Raymun Fossoway in the same story, who births the green-apple Fossoways when he breaks with his cousin.

Robb Stark did something akin when he rode out of Winterfell in A GAME OF THRONES; you may recall that his shield bore a wolf's head, not the running wolf that appears on the Stark banners. Some of the old Kings in the North also had their own personal variants, undoubtedly, though I haven't yet decided what they were.

This sort of stuff happened all the time in the Dark Ages and early Middle Ages, where heraldry was unregulated and very much a matter of individual choice. It was only later that everything became formalized.

Regarding Sansa
Submitted By: Kay-Arne Hansen

Your question re Sansa...

The way I see it, it is not a case of all or nothing. No single person is to blame for Ned's downfall. Sansa played a role, certainly, but it would be unfair to put all the blame on her. But it would also be unfair to exonerate her. She was not privy to all of Ned's plans regarding Stannis, the gold cloaks, etc... but she knew more than just that her father planned to spirit her and Arya away from King's Landing. She knew when they were to leave, on what ship, how many men would be in their escort, who would have the command, where Arya was that morning, etc... all of which was useful to Cersei in planning and timing her move.

Ned's talk with Littlefinger was certainly a turning point, though I am not sure I would call it =the= turning point. There were other crucial decisions that could easily have changed all had they gone differently. You mention Ned's refusal of Renly, which was equally critical. And there is Varys to consider, as well as the minor but crucial player everyone forgets -- Janos Slynt, who might have chosen just to do his duty instead of selling the gold cloaks to the highest bidder.

So... all in all, I suppose my answer would be that there is no single villain in the piece who caused it all, but rather a good half dozen players whose actions were all in part responsible for what happened.

Hope that helps.

(And let me add that I am always astonished to be reminded how fiercely some of my readers argue these points. It's gratifying to know I have readers who care so much, although if truth be told sometimes I get the scary feeling that you people know these books better than I do... )

Dreams and Writing

My actual dreams are usually too incoherent to be of much use to me in my fiction.

However, quite often I find myself thinking of my stories just before sleep, as I lie in bed, and sometimes ideas, scenes, and plot twists will come to me then in profusion. Sometimes I even remember them the next day...


Dragons would have longer natural lifespans than human beings, certainly -- but given that so many of them are involved in wars, a good many of the Targaryen dragons did not live out anything approaching a natural span, but died "young" by violence. This was especially true during the "Dance of the Dragons," where both sides used dragons in battle against each other.

There will be more information on the Targaryen dragons in future volumes, but I'm not certain I'll go so far as to do a dragon geneology. Thanks for the suggestion, though.