(Index to previous ADwD posts is here.)
Chapter 21: Jon
Jon has sent all his friends away, and he’s feeling it. Or rather: he sent away everyone useful because they were his friends and he either wanted to protect them or worried that he wouldn’t be Lord Commanderish enough if he hung out with people who were his mates. In many ways I like Jon and consider him smart, sensible, and canny, but I think this was a big, big mistake that he’s only going to feel more as time goes on. If we suppose that Sam, Aemon, and Mance Rayder’s child didn’t die on the high seas then it’s probably a good move for them, but not for Jon and the wall. He’s sent away two of the most knowledgeable, trustworthy, wise people in his meagre army. He’s also sent his mates away, and I really don’t understand his reasoning, there. Sure, he can trust them to man other parts of the wall, but he needs trusted lieutenants – it’s OK to have good men you can trust, Jon!
Anyway, he’s not a complete numpty. He makes his move to recruit the wildlings to his cause. He goes to deliver what little they can afford to share (and, really, they can’t afford to share it). He says nothing as one woman pleads for an extra apple for her sick son who cannot make it out to claim his own fruit, and is refused. Cruel and heartless, but necessary. He then makes his call: you can eat as well as any member of the Night’s Watch if you agree to defend the Wall. They don’t have to sign up and speak the vows, they just have to obey orders and fight for him. It’s a good offer. The wildlings have come because they want the protection of the Wall and the Night’s Watch from the white walkers and wights, and who would turn down the extra food and decent lodgings? Sixty-three join, including spearwives and at least one feisty girl. I imagine we’ll be seeing more of that girl, and I don’t imagine she’s going to be having an easy time of it, but I’m pleased to see her.
I liked this chapter. I liked Jon’s deal, I liked that not everything is going cushy with him after sending his mates away, I liked the details of the wildling culture that they have brought with them. They’ve carved faces into the trees on the road to Mole-Town, which they now inhabit. Just like the faces on their god-trees. Which raises an interesting question: are god-trees grown or made? I always assumed they were a specific type of tree that people found and carved faces in, but what if they were once ordinary trees that had faces carved in them and became god-trees? Maybe this is a wild speculation, but then, why are there no god-trees growing wild? Or are there, somewhere? Are there wild gods? I’m probably reading too much into this, but I was surprised that the wildlings would carve faces into ordinary trees, and now I’m curious.
All in all, a good chapter.
Chapter 22: Tyrion
He’s not dead – phew! But he’s not necessarily safe from greyscale, either. They’ve bathed him in vinegar, but he’s now got to prick his extremities every day to check he still has feeling, and cut them off if he does not. Nice. Things never go well for Tyrion, do they? Bet Tysha will be extra glad to see her nose-less, possibly greyscale-infected, rapist and former husband now.
Tyrion and Young Griff have an interesting conversation. Tyrion gives the usual ‘trust no one’ speach, but he also gives some advice. If Young Griff goes to Dany begging she’ll laugh in his face. Young Griff can’t see how that could possibly be, but Tyrion is very insightful in imagining the sort of woman that would be forged out of the life Daenerys has had, and the sort of woman it would take to command Dothraki and march across the land freeing slaves. He suggests that the prince go north to invade Westeros – when Daenerys hears that a lost Targaryen prince is fighting to reclaim his land (but inevitably losing), she’ll rush to his aid and see him as an equal. It’s a good plan, but I don’t know if I want it to succeed or not. I know I said I was Team Young Griff and I wanted to see Tyrion and Dany together, but I’m not a fan of the idea of her being tricked like this, and I like to think that she’d still be arrogant enough to command superiority rather than equality from anyone she weds. I like my image of her as an Elizabeth I, playing men off each other not as a game but to retain her strength in a world that doesn’t like strong women.
Anyway, Tyrion suggests this, and we have no idea yet whether it will be accepted, my guess is: probably not. Or at least, not yet. This is still Griff Senior’s show, and he has other plans. Tyrion and Haldon go into town to get a feel for the mood of the people. It seems… mixed. An awful lot of slaves are hanging around to listen to a Red Priest preach in Daenerys’s favour, but other people seem much against her – that she doesn’t understand how the economy of the whole world rests on slavery, and will soon be crushed. Tyrion plays a game of
Sheldon’s Three Person Chess cyvasse with a man called Qavo for information, and then decides to visit a brothel on the way back.
At the brothel he tries to get a woman who speaks the ‘Common Tongue’ (can’t we just say he speaks Westerosi? There clearly isn’t a common tongue in this world, so calling it this perplexes me) but fails. He gets drunk and talks way too much about who he is. When he emerges, there’s a knight waiting for him, saying he’s going to take Tyrion to the queen… but which one?