The Citadel

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

So Spake Martin

July 1999

Some Info About Knighthood
Submitted By: Maia B.

Yet if every knight can create a knight as we have seen in "The Hedge Knight", what prevents a widespread misuse by unscrupulous hedge knights such as Ser Osmynd Kettleblack or the cynical Great Houses?

Social pressure. A knight's peers would look with a certain amount of disfavor on anyone who did this. They might gain money, but they would lose honor. And honor is still very important in this culture.

I.e. why didn't Ser Osmynd knight people for money, or at least why didn't he knight his brothers? And why are there members of lordly Houses, who aren't knights, i.e. (late) Gerion Lannister, Willas Tyrell, Alekyne Florent, numerous Freys, if they could be easily knighted by their relatives?

In a medieval culture, knighthood is not simply an honor, like when Queen Elizabeth knights Elton John in our world. It's a job, a profession of arms. You need to have a certain amount of wealth, enough for armor and a warhorse at the minimum, and there are obligations as well. You're expected to fight, to respond to the summons of your lord, to train and lead a group of men-at-arms. Certain people simply aren't capable of all that (Willas Tyrell, Samwell Tarly), and are better fitted to be septons, maesters, or simply lords on their estates. Others don't have the interest. Knighthood was also in part religious, and for that reason followers of the old gods don't tend to be knighted, thought they otherwise fit the bill.

And why did Lord Frey ask _Robb_ to see about Olyvar's knighting, when he had more than enough anointed knights at his disposal to attend to the matter?

Why should someone go to Harvard when they can get a degree from their local community college? There is great prestige in receiving your knighthood from a king, a prince, one of the Kingsguard or other celebrated, legendary knights. Getting knighted by a brother is like kissing your sister (we'll leave Jaime Lannister and the Targaryens out of that comparison) and getting dubbed by the local hedge knight is like graduating from barber college. You get a sheepskin, maybe, but don't try applying to law school.

Also, can noble bastards be knighted?

Any man can be knighted.

And how comes that the Manderlys have squires which are forty years old?

We tend to think of squires as teenaged boys, knights in training, but that is only part of the truth. Historically, there were many men who spent their entire lives as squires, and never became knights.It was quite common to have thirty- and forty-year-old squires, even some in their fifties. Such men perhaps did not have the wealth to become knights (knights had to pay for their own equipment), or perhaps did not have the inclination. They were the medieval counterparts of the career army sergeant who has no desire to be promoted to lieutenant. let alone general.


There will be new maps in every volume, but I don't know when (or if) a map of the "entire world" will be made available. So far we have no plans for a poster map.

Tyrion and Tywin
Submitted By: Markus Rasch

Tyrion reflected that his father should have been able to defeat Robb in the west before Stannis could have taken Storm's End. Wasn't this move a great risk though, since Stannis could have abandoned Storm's End at any time, in order to strike against King's Landing and the Lannister claimants to the throne while Tywin was occupied in the west?

Storm's End is a hugely formidable castle, and should have been able to hold out much longer, as it did during Robert's Rebellion when Stannis was inside rather than outside. And both Tyrion and Tywin knew that Stannis was a methodical commander rather than a daring one, and therefore would be unlikely to leave an enemy stronghold untaken in his rear. There was also the psychological aspect, as Stannis himself explains to Davos; he could not risk being seen as having suffered a "defeat," however minor.

Was Lord Tywin marching west a huge risk? Of course it was. That was why he sat at Harrenhal for so long, hoping to lure Robb into attacking him... or Stannis into committing against King's Landing. Neither of his foes would play into his hands, however. At which point he made a calculated gamble.

In a three-sided struggle (four sided when Renly was still in the game), any decisive move is a risk... as I learned in high school playing... yes... RISK! But the only way to win is to take some of this risks.

The Siege of Storm’s End
Submitted By: Kay-Arne Hansen

I was wondering about the siege of Storm's End during the War against the Mad King (as an aside; did that war ever get an official name?).

Wars don't get "official" names... at least they didn't until very recently in real life. World War I was called "the Great War" until we had World War II. And when I was in college, French history featured something called "the War of the Three Henrys," but the "great man" historians lost out out to the "socio-economic trends" historians, so now it's "the Wars of Religion."

Which is a long winded way of saying, some call it Robert's Rebellion, and some call it the War of the Usurper, and some call it other things.

Why did mighty lords of Mace Tyrell and Paxter Redwyne's calibre waste their time and efforts in besieging an untested young lord with (apparently) only a few thousand men (and those weakened more and more of hunger to boot)? Meanwhile their overlord were losing the war?

The Targaryens had lost a number of battles (and had also won some), but they weren't really losing the war until the Trident and the Sack of King's Landing. And then it was lost. And sieges were a crucial part of medieval warfare. Storm's End was not geographically strategic, but it was the base of Robert's power, as important to House Baratheon as Winterfell was to the Starks. If it had fallen, Robert would have lost his home and his lands... and two of his brothers would have been hostages in enemy hands. All important chips. Also the fall of Storm's End might have convinced many of the storm lords supporting him that the time had come to bend the knee. So the castle was hardly unimportant.

Tyrell had a sizeable host, but some of his strength was with Rhaegar, certainly. Rhaegar actually outnumbered Robert on the Trident, although Robert's troops were more battle-tested. I haven't gone into the whole history of the fighting, but there was a good deal more to it than just two armies meeting on the Trident. There were a number of earlier battles, sieges, escapes, ambushes, duels, and forays, and fighting in places as farflung as the Vale and the Dornish Marches.

The other possibility is that Mace Tyrell thought it a good idea if Mad King Aerys died, but would not take the chance of actively moving against him. Instead, he stayed put at Storm's End, still appearing for the world to be on Aerys' side, while silently hoping for his death. When Ned appeared, he dipped his banners quickly enough.

When Ned appeared, Aerys, Rhaegar, and Aegon were dead, and Viserys fled. There was no one left to fight for, and the war was clearly lost anyway.

The modern concept of "total war" really didn't exist in the medieval period. Armies were personal, as were loyalties. The leader who wanted to fight on till the last drop of blood might well have found himself fighting on alone, since his vassals were likely to have better sense, and their levies were more likely to follow their own lord than the "general." Tyrell's surrender was pretty much warfare as usual. If he had =tried= to give battle to Ned in a lost cause, he might well have found his more opportunistic bannermen deserting to the other side.

Chronology, Timeline, and Catelyn
Submitted By: Markus Rasch

Thus, the question I have is if Catelyn went out of her way to mistreat Jon in the past -- and which form this might have taken -- or if she rather tried to avoid and ignore him?

"Mistreatment" is a loaded word. Did Catelyn beat Jon bloody? No. Did she distance herself from him? Yes. Did she verbally abuse and attack him? No. (The instance in Bran's bedroom was obviously a very special case). But I am sure she was very protective of the rights of her own children, and in that sense always drew the line sharply between bastard and trueborn where issues like seating on the high table for the king's visit were at issue.

And Jon surely knew that she would have preferred to have him elsewhere.

The Drowned God and More
Submitted By: Elio M. García, Jr.

[This is an extract from a longer mail. The first question involved noting the possibility that the Drowned God was simply an echo of the original gods of the First Men.]

The other one is about the Drowned God. Clearly enough, the ironborn didn't take up the gods of the children because there were neither children nor (apparently) carved weirwoods there. Is the Drowned God a unique invention of the Iron Islands?

Yes, it's an ironborn thing.

Are the Bloody Mummers an old mercenary company? Or did Vargo Hoat create it within his life time?

No, I think the Brave Companions go back further than the goat, although they are not as old as some of the other sellsword companies. Nor as young as others. It is not especially a Qohorik company either. The Mummers are basically scum from all over the west, and a few from the east and south. A Qohorik leads them now, but their last leader was likely from somewhere else, and their next might be a Lyseni or a Dornishman or even an Ibbenese.

That's it of those I came up with, although the web page has spurred one more question from others. You didn't block the Houses Ryswell and Dustin in the North as dead, and I said as much, but given that Lord Dustin and Ser Mark Ryswell fought and died at the Tower of Joy ... Were they the last of their houses? I don't think so, but I suppose one can't be certain, especially as no Dustins and Ryswells appear in the novels (both in the text and the appendicies.) Then again, neither are the Burleys or Liddles (I think), and certainly not the Flints of Flints Finger or any of the lords of Skagos.

Well, Robin Flint is one of Catelyn's companions when she rides to Bitterbridge, though I never say which branch he's from, I don't think. No, there are still Dustins and Ryswells in the north, and maybe even in Robb's army. I mean, he had twenty thousand guys or near about when he marched south, I couldn't characterize them all. I have always figured that there are =dozens= of minor lords and =hundreds= of knights and such in all these armies. Simply because someone isn't mentioned doesn't mean they are not there.

The lords of Skagos, though... they are a special case. Skagos is a =real= backwater, with very little contact with the mainland. In theory, the island is part of the north and subject to Winterfell. In practice, they pretty much go their own way.

Also, was Mark Ryswell the lord of the house before his death?


It's interesting that some knighted lords (Ser Helman Tallhart, for example) in the North seem to go by 'ser' rather than 'lord,' although this is probably just personal preference (Lord Locke has a knighted son, so might well have been a knight himself, and the same for Lord Manderly.)

Yes, there are more knights in the south North (so to speak) than in the north north, and the Manderlys in particular have bought into the Seven, chivalry, etc. White Harbor is the major port of the north, so they have been most exposed to southron influences, and have more of a mixed population.

Just out of being curious how a writer goes about his work -- do you generally write a certain POVs chapters in batches? Or are Dany's chapters, given how generally unconnected they are to the rest of the books as she goes along her own plot thread, easier to do that way? I suppose the momentum can help with a tough character.

Yes, I generally get in a groove on a particular character and write several chapters or chunks of chapters at once, before hitting a wall. When I do hit a wall, I switch to another character. Some characters are easier to write and some harder, however. Dany and Bran have always been toughest, maybe because they are heaviest on the magical elements... also, Bran is the youngest of POV kids, and very restricted as well because of his legs. At the other end of the spectrum, the Tyrion chapters often seem to write themselves. The same was true for Ned.

Submitted By: Markus Rasch

I'm trying to figure out how Jon's day of birth fits in the timeline of the war, and assumed you wouldn't just tell me when he was exactly born.:-)

In his first chapter at the Wall, Jon reflects that his name day passed a fortnight before. I assume this was his 15th one. Dany's 14th name day was at the end of her chapter, on the far side of the Dothraki sea.

Now, if this was after Jon's chapter -- and (apparent) name day, it could be concluded, that Jon was born more than 1 year before Dany, and at least 3 months before Queen Rhaella left King's Landing.

I will spare you the rest of my speculations about the date of Jon's birth, since their only real conclusion is that Catelyn seems a little thick when she thinks that Ned fathered Jon as he returned 'Dawn' to Ashara Dayne.

Ah... I see what you're driving at here, I guess...

I will confess, the chronology of these books sometimes gives me fits. You would not believe how often I reshuffle the chapters, trying to find the one true perfect sequence. And then just when I have it exactly right, my editors weigh in from both sides of the Atlantic, each suggesting a slightly different chapter order.

It is always a balancing act, since I want the chapters to have a certain dramatic flow, I worry about certain storylines being forgotten if they are "off stage" too long, and there is a constant tug of war between character time and reader time (a character may have two chapters, taking place one day apart, but if two hundred pages of stuff about other characters separate those two chapters, the reader is going to perceive a long time as having passed, even if I begin the second chapter with, "When he woke up the very next morning..."

All of which is a long winded way of saying, no, Jon was not born "more than 1 year" before Dany... probably closer to eight or nine months or thereabouts.

I do intend to publish a timeline as an appendix in one or other of the later volumes, but even when I do, I am not certain I'm going to start detailing things down to months and days. With such a huge cast of characters, just keeping track of the =years= drives me half mad sometimes. Not to mention the colors of everybody's eyes.

As to your speculations about Catelyn and Ashara Dayne... sigh... needless to say, All Will Be Revealed in Good Time. I will give you this much, however; Ashara Dayne was not nailed to the floor in Starfall, as some of the fans who write me seem to assume. They have horses in Dorne too, you know. And boats (though not many of their own). As a matter of fact (a tiny tidbit from SOS), she was one of Princess Elia's lady companions in King's Landing, in the first few years after Elia married Rhaegar.

The rest I will save for the books.

Series Length

All that information was accurate at the time. Stories grow, and sometimes more quickly than dragons.

The series will be six books. A STORM OF SWORDS will be next, then A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, then THE WINDS OF WINTER. I am not completely decided on the title of the last volume yet. My contract says A TIME FOR WOLVES, but I am not completely happy with that and will probably change it if I come up with something I like better.