Episode 15 – The Ghost of Harrenhal – Essay
By Winter Is Coming on in Editorial.

Pearson Moore digs into some of the themes and parallels that can be drawn from this week’s episode of Game of Thrones, in his essay on “The Ghost of Harrenhal”.

Only Death Pays For Life: Supernatural Symmetries in GoT 2.05

by Pearson Moore

“Only death may pay for life.”

The saying is not new. We heard these words from the lips of Mirri Maz Duur in Episode 1.09 last year. Tonight this rule of life was given verbal form by Jaqen H’ghar, formerly a despised criminal, now a Lannister man-at-arms. Arya recoiled from the man clothed in the garb of her enemy. But he posed a question germane not only to Arya, but to all of us: “You fetch water for one of them now. Why is this right for you and wrong for me?” Why do we account him an enemy when he merely conforms to behaviour we would expect of anyone—even ourselves—in such a difficult circumstance? Arya Stark fetches water for Tywin Lannister, Jaqen H’ghar fetches laws of nature for Arya Stark. The question we really ought to be asking ourselves, I believe, goes back to Season One: If one such as Jaqen H’ghar is privy to the intimate structure of the universe and its immutable ways and precepts, why was he ever locked in an iron cage?

Tonight was a study in symmetries ignored—harmonies unobserved, rhythms unappreciated, equalities unexpressed. The night is dark and full of terrors most of all because of our ignorance of the ways of woman and nature and man. Many of the characters tonight stumbled about in the darkness of unknowing, a few struggled to observe, appreciate, express. This essay is my attempt to make sense of wildfire, restrained love, shadowy daggers, and sparkling gems. Look closely enough and you can see the harmonies and rhythms for yourself.


The One True God 3.0

Arya’s life lessons have revolved around the nature of death. “There is only one god, and his name is Death,” Arya’s first tutor, Syrio Forel, told her in Episode 1.06. Arya’s second tutor, Yoren, taught her the value of keeping a list of people deserving of intimate contact with the One True God. Tonight, Arya’s third tutor, Jaqen H’ghar lectured her on the expectations of that fiery and unforgiving deity.

“The Red God takes what is his,” Jaqen said. Arya had liberated Jaqen, Biter, and Rorge from certain death; she had essentially cheated Death of his due, and Jaqen knew Death could not be deceived or short-changed in this manner. Restitution would have to be made. Since Arya had been responsible for taking that which belonged to Death, she would have to give something in return.

There were limitations on the types of payment-in-kind acceptable to the Red God. We have heard these limitations before. When Daenerys wished to deny Death its claim on Khal Drogo’s life, she had to give up the life of her infant son. “Only death pays for life,” the Lhazareen witch told her last season. Mirri Maz Duur knew the ways of the world, and by remaining faithful to the laws of the universe, she pulled Khal Drogo out of Death’s grasp. In the same way, since Arya had pulled the three dangerous criminals out of Death’s reach, she would have to present Death with three human lives in exchange.

We need to pay heed to several important qualities of this immutable decree.

First, the law is real. Jaqen is not making light of his survival. He is not imagining the law, or making it up as he goes along. He is not taking matters into his own hands for sport or retribution or personal or communal justice. In fact, since the Law of the Red God is real, and transcends ordinary reality, we cannot be entirely sure that Jaqen is employing ordinary means to satisfy the requirements of the law.

Second, note well that the law applies equally throughout the GRRM universe. The rule is not in effect only on the Dothraki Sea, where Khal Drogo met his fate, nor is it isolated in application to the Free Cities where Jaqen took his apprenticeship. The law carries full effect in both Westeros and Essos, on dry land and on high sea, in sun-drenched desert and snow-covered forest.

Third, this is a “higher law”. The sorceress from Lhazar had to invoke blood magic in order to manipulate the law of life and death to the end she desired. Blood magic, recall, is an art that rose above the limitations of physical reality and also above the constraints of normal magic. Since blood magic was able to alter or reverse the most primal aspects of nature, it was to be considered an illegal art, forbidden even to the most seasoned practitioners of what Maester Luwin called “the higher mysteries”.

Finally, because the Law of the Red God is a higher law, it has been relegated to the peripheries of society and forgotten by even the most learned representatives of that society. Maester Luwin is an unusually well-informed member of the most elite stratum of Westerosi society. “Only one maester in a hundred wears a link of Valyrian steel”, and Bran’s erudite tutor was one of those rare geniuses who wore the metallic symbol of mastery of the highest of maester arts. His conclusion? “Maybe magic once was a mighty force in the world, but not anymore. The dragons are gone. The giants are dead, and the Children of the Forest forgotten.” As another fantasy character said—in a different universe and galaxy—“Ain’t no mystical energy field controls my destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.”

For Maester Luwin, and therefore for every other person on the continent, there was no magic, the higher laws were myth and fable, and blood magic and even the knowledge of life and death were things far removed from even an expert’s awareness.

Arya’s exposure to the truth of this Law of Nature, then, has to be understood as something extraordinary. She has knowledge of mysteries no one else in Westeros has even heard or dreamed of.

We should take care, though, not to attribute this rare bit of knowledge strictly to Arya and to believe that the significance ends there. While she is unique in having been given access to the knowledge, the mystery is given weight and bearing not by the personality to which it attaches, but rather by the place it inhabits.

As I’ve said in previous essays, the Game of Thrones is a song for two voices. One voice flits about the Iron Throne, following a melody that dances about here and there, but focusses on the Iron Throne, with a good amount of melody permeating the Red Keep, minimal vocal attention given to the remainder of King’s Landing, and little voice at all devoted to the outer kingdoms and greater Westeros. The second voice, on the other hand, intones the rich cadences and harmonies of A Song of Ice and Fire. This second voice is strongest at the periphery: Beyond the Wall, and in fact, beyond Westeros in general, the voice is strong, to the point of shaking the ground and piercing the skies. The lesser mysteries of ASoIaF are sung within Westeros, but again near the periphery. Witness, for example, the Citadel of Oldtown. Oldtown is on the extreme southwestern coast of Westeros, far from any of the seats of power in the Seven Kingdoms. On the map below, Oldtown is to the west of Highgarden, on the far southwestern coast.

The significance of the Citadel is that it is the place of education for the most learned men of Westeros, the Maesters. It is no accident at all that Oldtown, housing the Citadel, is at the geographic outskirts of Westeros, because it is at the edge of the continent that the knowledge and practice of “higher” laws and mysteries most consistently occurs.

If we attribute no other significance to Arya’s dutiful placement of three names on Death’s list, we should see this acknowledgement of the Law of the Red God as the development of a strange kind of counterpoint in this Song of Ice and Fire, in which voices normally heard only at the geographical periphery of the story are now making themselves heard at the centre. This is an important development in the Game of Thrones, and one we should carefully note as a touchstone for future events.

Shadow Assassins

Those carefully following the story could legitimately argue with the contention of Arya’s uniqueness. Doesn’t the fact of Melisandre’s mastery of the “higher mysteries” indicate the crossover between periphery and centre of the story is already occurring, and in storylines more important than Arya’s? In fact, couldn’t one take the position that there is no distinction at all between “higher” and ordinary knowledge and arts? Some people like Maester Luwin, one might argue, are simply ignorant, while others, such as Lady Melisandre, are well studied. The fact that preternatural events seem to have greater expression far from the centre of power is merely an accident of the story so far. Magic and supernatural powers, and knowledge of those powers, are uniformly distributed. It is merely a matter of individual predisposition that has made most people unaware of the deeper realities of nature.

I have to disagree with any such assessment, for reasons I hope to make clear in this section. The most telling support for the parallel paths argument (the notion that events concentrating on the Iron Throne are distinct in character from those congregating at the geographical and artistic periphery of the story) is the violation of symmetry in Melisandre’s action. The Law of the Red God states that “Only death pays for life.” We might argue that Renly was not really a king (as Margaery plainly stated the morning after Renly’s death) and therefore he could suffer a symmetrical death by means of an assassin that did not really take on human form.

However, if we grant that Renly was a “shadow king”, his death could not be symmetrical, even if killed by a shadow assassin. Renly was truly alive. His life was not a shadow of anything. He was truly killed, and not by any entity born in the light. Melisandre’s evil Shadow Baby was a creation of pure darkness. She did not consult with or adhere to any of the higher laws in her unilateral action to end Renly’s life. The Law of the Red God is as firm as Newton’s Law of Motion (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”). The symmetry of the universe demands retribution—realignment, the reestablishment of balance—for a unilateral, asymmetric death such as Renly’s. That a powerful man was killed, in fact, may require that the “equal and opposite reaction” take the form of more than one life. In fact, possibly dozens or hundreds of lives may be required.

We have not yet seen evidence that Melisandre’s dabbling in magic constitutes a legitimate, well-informed application of higher powers. As Marcus Brody would have told her, “You’re meddling with powers you cannot possibly comprehend.” We should expect, then that some “equal and opposite reaction” will occur at a place and time that no one, least of all Melisandre, will be able to predict.

I believe the real issue revolves around legitimate understanding. Knowledge is acquired not only as a matter of passionate self-interest, but as a consequence of identity. Thus, Bran sees with the three eyes of a raven and runs with the four legs of a direwolf because he in some sense is a raven and is a direwolf. His interest in direwolves is not an expression of desire but is informed almost entirely by the fact that he is and needs be a direwolf. Identity is two or three orders of magnitude (a hundred or a thousand times) more important than Bran’s comparatively feeble desire to see and run. As I made clear in my essay on Bran (Game of Thrones Season One Essays), he desires to see and run and fly more than perhaps anyone in history has ever desired these things. Also as I argued, Bran doesn’t see or run in the same way that you and I do; seeing and running, for Bran, are the same activity.

Bran has the same kind of sight and animal-connected existence celebrated in the stories of the Children of the Forest. His identity as a Child of the Forest is much stronger than his ordinary human desire to run and fly. As extraordinary as that desire must be, especially in his current state of physical disability, his identity remains so much more powerful to the determination of final ability that even his strong desires can be accounted as nothing.

If this is true of Bran, we should expect the same comparative strengths within others. Even if I have great desire, if I lack true identity, I will never achieve the knowledge of someone like Bran. Even if Melisandre prays all day to her God of Light, she will not achieve the level of enlightenment of Bran, Arya, or Daenerys without first seeking the true expression of her identity.

In the end, the people of Westeros surrender to identity only when their usually-competing and sensory-dulling desires are thwarted. If identity is to achieve preeminence of action it is only because the desires are not put down once or twice, but continually, every day, and in the most humiliating and horrendous ways imaginable. The people who have most fully surrendered to the truth of their identity are the ones who have been slapped down, insulted, held in contempt, despised, hated, enslaved, disrespected, forced to the back of the bus. These are the people I refer to as constituting the Sisterhood of the Damned—Tyrion’s “cripples, bastards, and broken things”.

Because her desire far outweighs the manifestation of her identity, Melisandre could never gain admittance to the Sisterhood. She enjoys some of the powers of the Sisterhood, but this does not suffice to her rampant desire. She seeks ordinary, conventional, physical and political power. These don’t seem to be antithetical to the powers cultivated in the Sisterhood (Tyrion is a member and seems to be thriving in the halls of political power), but they do seem to exist at the edge of what is most useful and meaningful to those whose identities are determined by the higher mysteries.

Wildfire and The Sea Bitch

I question Melisandre’s ability to maintain a balanced position in the story. I believe she is a destabilising force. Her actions have already had profound impact, but as I argued above, they are almost certainly the result of an unstudied, disconnected dabbling in forces she cannot truly control or understand. Her impact may be deep, but it should be temporary and unpredictable.

Just as I believe Melisandre should be seen as an unguided missile, with high potential to wreak havoc, I think we have to consider Cersei’s wildfire and Dagmer Cleftjaw’s raid on Torrhen’s Square as destabilising actions carrying unpredictable and potentially enormous consequences.

As Tyrion noted, 7811 pots of wildfire could consume all of King’s Landing. Think of Dresden in February, 1945. The RAF dropped so many incendiary bombs on the city that every molecule of oxygen in a 40-square-mile area was consumed. There was literally no air to breathe. Even those who were not “burned to atoms” in the maelstrom were suffocated to death as the firestorm consumed every bit of oxygen in the air. The accidental ignition of so much wildfire would bring a quick and disastrous end to the Lannister hold on power.

Even if the wildfire does not accidentally turn King’s Landing into cinders and ash, I have to believe there will be enduring and unforeseeable consequences to this extreme action.

The raid on Torrhen’s Square, to which Theon Greyjoy seems to have whole-heartedly subscribed, does not seem to have any greater prospect for creating stability than those thousands of pots of wildfire. The plan is to initiate a surprise attack on Torrhen’s Square, stay just long enough to ensure Winterfell’s response, and then march on Winterfell proper, taking the castle. And all of that with just one shipload of passionate but poorly disciplined, independent thinkers from the Iron Islands. Theon is not coordinating with his sister, Yara, but even a carefully planned and coordinated attack of this kind, going up against potentially tens of thousands of seasoned soldiers, would seem foolhardy to most observers.

How long could Theon reasonably hope to hold Winterfell? This is no symbolic Doolittle Raid; Theon actually believes he will be able to hold Winterfell long enough to make a name for himself among the tough men pledging allegiance to Pyke. It seems to me a desperate, reckless move, very much akin to Melisandre’s assassination of Renly.

Identity

Identity is a central concept in Game of Thrones, and not only for the members of the Sisterhood of the Damned. Brienne and Loras both drew their identity from their close association with Renly, but in very different ways. Curiously, even though their needs were different, the advice they received from friends was nearly word-for-word identical.

Margaery told her brother, Loras, “You can’t avenge him [Renly] from the grave.” Several minutes later, Catelyn told her protector, Brienne, “You serve nothing and no one by following him [Renly] into the earth.” The difference in Brienne’s reaction and Loras’ was striking, and indicative of the expression of their identities.

Brienne found her identity in giving of herself. When she lost one master, she was obliged to commit herself immediately to another. She did not fear physical death; indeed, in her capacity as the primary guard for highly-visible targets, she put herself in harm’s way. When Catelyn warned her she would serve no one by “following [Renly] into the earth”, her immediate response was not fear of death, but fear loss of service to another. Her response did not address death, it addressed service: “I could serve you, if you would have me.” Seeking retribution for Renly’s murder was a low second on her list of priorities.

Loras, on the other hand, did not serve Renly. He could not be motivated by service, and Margaery did not bring up this idea in her advice to him. Loras supported Renly because Renly supported Loras’ image of himself. I discussed this in my essay on Episode 3.03 a couple of weeks ago. Loras’ motivation in fleeing the Baratheon camp was not any inability to serve, but rather the preservation of his own skin and his desire to extract vengeance. Margaery’s words of advice perfectly reflected Loras’ emotional state at Renly’s wake.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the continuation of the theme of nonspecificity first engaged in Episode 3.03 in the scene between Renly and Margaery. The scene was framed by Margaery’s introductory remark that Renly could do as he wished “because you are a king” and her concluding statement that “you are a king.” Not once did she say “You are the king.” The qualification of the noun ‘king’ with the indefinite article—twice—was striking. I remarked then that the fact that the scene was framed in this manner was significant, and we saw that significance become very apparent in tonight’s episode.

Margaery told Littlefinger, “If Renly wasn’t a king, I wasn’t a queen.”
Littlefinger asked, “Do you want to be a queen?”
“No. I want to be the queen.”

That Margaery did not mourn Renly was more than obvious. That she again relegated Renly to the status of nonspecificity (as I said two weeks ago, she didn’t care about Renly per se—any king would suit her fancy) was almost beyond belief. But then she went a step further, and revealed to Littlefinger her true intention: She wished to assume all power to herself.

Here, then, is the leader of the fifth khalasar of whom I spoke several weeks ago. For the moment, she may be in a khalasar of one (herself!), but her intention is nothing less than the de facto control of all of Westeros. The fact that she is married to a king (I place the indefinite article here with prejudiced intention) is subordinate to the final objective of becoming the queen. A king that marries her and sits the Iron Throne is projecting the appearance of power, but it is in the person of Margaery Tyrell that the true sovereignty—the true power—will reside. For Margaery, identity is not something she owns, but something she seeks. Power and identity, in her mind, are one and the same. So it is that when Renly dies, she shrugs her shoulders. Her identity is not affected, because she has no identity, only desire. “Oh well,” she says, seeing the dead body of a king, “there are other kings, after all.”

Look Closely Enough

“He [the dragon] loves you,” Daenerys told her handmaid, Doreah.

Irri, who was never invited to teach Daenerys the ways of love, who never straddled the Khaleesi’s waist and brought her lips to within millimetres of her master’s own lips, was jealous of the Khaleesi’s favourite handmaid. It showed in every contorted muscle of her face.

“He [Ser Jorah] loves you,” Xaro told his companion, Daenerys.

Xaro, who was never invited to share in the intimacies of Daenerys’ life, who never bowed down in worship before Daenerys’ naked body, was jealous of the knight’s affections for her. It showed in every contorted muscle of Xaro’s face.

Had Daenerys been oblivious to Jorah Mormont all this time? Had she failed to see his love for her?

“I only want—”
“What do you want?” Daenerys asked Ser Jorah.
“To see you on the Iron Throne.”
“Why?”
“You have a good claim, a title, a birthright. But you have something more than that. You may cover it up and deny it but you have a gentle heart. You would not only be feared and respected, you would be loved.”

Reading between the lines is not difficult. Ser Jorah could state she would be loved because he had to believe that others would be stirred to the same feelings he himself carried. He loved her, and he always had. The feelings were profound. “Centuries come and go without a person like that coming into the world. There are times when I look at you and still can’t believe you’re real.”

So she knows now. But how will she respond? Is that fact that her primary confidant and protector is in love with her something she will sense as an obstacle to her work? An enhancement to be exploited?

We have as yet no indication the Mother of Dragons has any affection for Jorah. But romance is not a central theme in Game of Thrones. We are not going to—or at least, I very much hope we are not going to see the kinds of childish love triangles that have taken centre stage in some otherwise fine pieces of television drama (yes, I am talking about Lost!). But the two loves interests do have great relevance to the story. The question is not, “Which man will Dany choose?” Rather, the question is, when she brings Pyat Pree’s green gem close to her eyes, what does she see?

“Look closely enough and you can see yourself.”

Will she look closely enough? Will she make sense of what she sees?

Ser Jorah’s interest in Daenerys is intimately tied to his image of her as Queen, and therefore to her role as future ruler of Westeros. This is the real significance of Jorah’s profession of amorous intent. His opinion of her is well informed and therefore something she ought to engage and interrogate. He said “You have a gentle heart.” If she rebuffs him, she may end up behaving as he feared, she may “cover it up and deny it.” Denying it might even seem a natural consequence of her true intentions. How could sentimentality and being “gentle” help her in forcefully taking the throne?

The problem in denying Ser Jorah’s statement is that she would be denying the truth of her own identity. Early at Xaro’s party, Ser Jorah noted that the Dothraki were “good at killing.” Daenerys’ response was immediate: “That’s not the kind of queen I’m going to be.”

The fact is that her intention to act with gentle heart has always been connected to her ascension to power, even as she spoke with bravado and aggressive force. She deeply empathised with slaves, and her first act upon assuming power was to take off the collars and free those who had given up their freedom in order to live as unpaid servants. She vowed to take care of her people, including those without power or ability to contribute productively. Women under her authority would no longer be raped and treated as cattle, they would be shown the same respect accorded men. While her words have been uncompromising and fierce, her actions have been gentle and kind.

The importance of Ser Jorah’s love to the story is that of spiritual touchstone, compass, and guide. In heeding the counsel of people like Ser Jorah—those with deep and authentic connection to her truest self—Daenerys has the ability to remain faithful to her true identity throughout the travails to come. Will she avail herself of this freely-given guide?

A Man Has a Thirst

Many questions were answered tonight. Many questions remain.

A question has been on a man’s mind for many months, and has resisted every attempt at response: If one such as Jaqen H’ghar is privy to the intimate structure of the universe and its immutable ways and precepts, why was he ever locked in an iron cage?

I am going to attempt an answer to this riddle, but not tonight. Tonight it is enough, I believe, to think on the Law of the Red God, the desperation of shadow assassins and sea bitches, the Westerosi rules of identity, the awesome force of powers we cannot possibly comprehend.

We have before us a shiny green gem. We stare—bewitched, entranced, immersed—delighted in its brilliant symmetries. Will we look closely enough? Will we make sense of what we see? We will take a look again next week, to find whether we can see the harmonies and rhythms for ourselves.


65 Comments

  1. Rukie44
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I look forward to reading these every week. There is some great insight in these.

  2. Jean-Baptiste Raucy
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    A very good essay, as usual. I continue to be fascinated with this idea of parallel paths, probably because I’m a big fan of the original way Martin used magic in his universe.

    I just disagree with you on Melisandre. If I understand your opinion of her correctly, you believe she is a player in the Game of Thrones toying with forces she can’t control. That she knows some magic, but is using it recklessly and thus might upset the natural balance.

    I personnally think that Melisandre does not care at all about control or understanding. I believe that she is, at heart, a true believer and that she relinquishes all control over her life or actions, to follow only the will of her god. She might be wrong about what she sees in the flames or about the savior she has chosen in Stannis, but in her own eyes, she is, I think, merely an instrument, a conduit for a higher power.

    Her claim that the Lord of Light (the red god, the god of fire Jaqen speaks of) is the one true god is supported by the powers she manifests ; he is the true god because he’s the only one who actually does something, instead of staying silent like the Seven or the Old Gods, who did nothing to save Ned or Renly.

    And what she is trying to do, I think, is forcing a reunion between the two parallel paths, bringing the higher powers to the ordinary world of Westeros, because she knows the confrontation will happen soon. According to her prophecies, the end times are here, the dead rise, and the world of life, light and humanity needs a hero. In her mind, the sooner the world of the Game of Thrones accepts the existence of the Song of Ice and Fire, the sooner it can defend itself against the White Walkers. All that she is doing, however evil or reckless it might seem, is justified by this end and by the will of her god.

  3. Andy Gavin
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Interesting insights, although a good amount of the mystical side of the books is mutated and adjusted in the shows. GRRM has a funny take on magic anyway, if you consider in the spectrum of fantasy magic (as expounded by Brandon Sanderson in this essay) he goes for a soft style that emphasizes broader rules (like life for life/death) and mystical feel rather than a more concrete magical system like Wheel of Time, Mist Born, or Runelords. As Sanderson says, key here is that the POV characters rarely use the magic as a problem solving tool. Instead it causes problems. My own episode review here.

  4. Nagga's Kin
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Melisandre did not deploy her shadow baby unilaterally: we learnt in ep 14 that Stannis knew full well that Melisandre would resort to unorthodox means to overcome Renly’s numerical superiority (“cleaner ways don’t win wars”). In ep 15, he stuck to his refusal to discuss the gory details with Davos even after the event, presumably because he had already discussed them with Melisandre off-screen beforehand. Davos had simply been kept out of the loop.

    Ironically, Stannis claim to the throne is actually legitimate because all of Cersei’s children are the products of incest. No, the real problem here is that Stannis is resorting to illegal means to pursue his lawful claim and losing his legalistic identity in the process. Now, he’s just another murderer among many pretending to the throne. The hypocrisy of embracing the Red God in rituals and magic while dismissing him in his heart will be Stannis’ undoing, not some supposed “higher law”.

    Regarding Winterfell, Sir Rodrik Cassel ask Bran for leave to take 200 rear guard troops to deal with the siege on Torrhen’s Square. Maester Luwin cautions against this precisely because it would leave Winterfell’s own defenses seriously weakened.

    While even 200 riders will outnumber Theon’s band of brigands by 10:1 or so, he does have the element of surprise. After all, Robb didn’t even send a raven to Bran to let him know he had let Theon return to the Iron Islands, hoping to forge an alliance. That’s why Bran assumed the siege was a Lannister commando raid of some sort.

    There is no basis at all for claiming there are “potentially tens of thousands of seasoned soldiers” still available in Winterfell. They’re all at the front in the Riverlands!

  5. fuelpagan
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Great essay. Love the theme of identity that runs through the piece.

    But I really disagree with your view of Melisandra.

    [Melisandra] seeks ordinary, conventional, physical and political power.

    I’m sorry, but she does not seeks this at all. Her whole being is to be a servant to the Lord of Light. There is a big difference between praying to the Lord of Light and asking, “Lord what must I do next so I may become powerful” and asking “Lord what must I do next to serve you.” The first example is the one those who don’t have faith believe is going on, but if you listen to the words she speaks, it is really the second example that she is following.

    In order to understand her motivation, you must separate the act from her interpretation for its reasons. The Lord of Light lead her to Stannis, her interpretation is that Stannis is the one true king. The Lord of Light told her how to remove Renly from the game, Melisandra thinks it is because Stannis is the Lord of Light’s champion. She serves Stannis because she believes Stannis is her Gods chosen king. If the fires told her to abandon Stannis, she would. For Melisandra knows that as long as she does what the fires tell her too, the Lord of Light will continue to utilize her. If she went against what the fires said for her to do next, R’hllor would find another servent to do his work.

    I compare it to sufism, she has abandoned her identity for the sake of her God. Her motivation is to serve and stay close to her God, and nothing to do with seeking power for her own gains. Renly died because R’hllor wanted it to happen, not because Melisadra asked R’hllor for help. A shadow does not exist in the dark, a shadow is a child of the light. For without the light, there can be no shadow.

  6. Randy Cotter
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Just as I believe Melisandre should be seen as an unguided missile, with high potential to wreak havoc

    The Horned Lord once said that sorcery is a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it (III: 836) (Storm of Swords, page 836?) – Westeros.org

  7. fuelpagan
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Jean-Baptiste Raucy: I personnally think that Melisandre does not care at all about control or understanding. I believe that she is, at heart, a true believer and that she relinquishes all control over her life or actions, to follow only the will of her god. She might be wrong about what she sees in the flames or about the savior she has chosen in Stannis, but in her own eyes, she is, I think, merely an instrument, a conduit for a higher power.

    YES, YES, YES. Like, +1…

    Except for the “she chose Stannis” part. She believes R’hllor has chosen Stannis, therefore she will serve Stannis thinking it is what R’hllor desires from her.

  8. dmf
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    I would just say that I think the section on Brienne v. Loras kind of ignores the fact that she was madly in love with Renly. Not sure if thats really a spoiler. Its not simply that Brienne needs to serve, its that she loves him as well. Although, she is a very dutiful person, so in that sense it is accurate

  9. Randy Cotter
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Ser Jorah noted that the Dothraki were “good at killing.” Daenerys’ response was immediate: “That’s not the kind of queen I’m going to be.”

    Lol, for those who have read book 3. The slaughter of the Astapor slave-masters, she wastes no time.

  10. sunspear
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Nagga’s Kin: Ironically, Stannis claim to the throne is actually legitimate because all of Cersei’s children are the products of incest. No, the real problem here is that Stannis is resorting to illegal means to pursue his lawful claim and losing his legalistic identity in the process. Now, he’s just another murderer among many pretending to the throne. The hypocrisy of embracing the Red God in rituals and magic while dismissing him in his heart will be Stannis’ undoing, not some supposed “higher law”.>

    I don’t believe that Stannis truly broke the law to kill Renly, and I doubt he considers it that way either. To him, Renly was a traitor, and whether you like him or not, he was. He sought to take the crown despite three people with better claims than himself, made especially true by the fact they didn’t know about the incest. We all know that the price for treason is death, so in Stannis’s view, he didn’t so much assassinate Renly as execute him.

    Tell me, when guilt is assured, does it make a difference who (or what) carries out the sentence?

  11. borki4
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
  12. james yar
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Ugh, the weak/forced verbosity of these essays is painful. I’m fine with disagreeing with some of what you say (the Margaery love-fest, for example), but your essays have become a soapbox for oral masturbation. A decent writer you might be, but a man does not win a Pulitzer on WiC.net

  13. Nick Larter
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    A nice little elephant in the room. How in a million years DID they (one assumes they = Gold Cloaks since he was in the cells at Kings Landing) capture Jaqen H’ghar? Has anyone ever asked GRRM this? Did he answer? was there ever a thread on it at Westeros.org?

  14. Doughnut Hole
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    “Arya’s second tutor, Yoren, taught her the value of keeping a list of people deserving of intimate contact with the One True God.”

    Really? I got from Yoren’s story that the desire for revenge can turn into an obsession, and that obsession can become so powerful that you eventually forget the original act that “required” the revenge in the first place.

    In other words, Arya has two ways to go – she can forget what she’s seen and try to get back to Winterfell (which Yoren basically tells her to do), or she can obsess about death and revenge. She chooses to ignore Yoren’s command to run as well as his point about revenge, which is fine because she’s 10 (or 12, or whatever), and extra fine because revenge/obsession is thematic in Ice and Fire.

    It’s hard for me to read 50000 words when there’s such a baldly missed point so soon in the piece.

  15. sunspear
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Nick Larter:
    A nice little elephant in the room.How in a million years DID they (one assumes they = Gold Cloaks since he was in the cells at Kings Landing) capture Jaqen H’ghar?Has anyone ever asked GRRM this?Did he answer?was there ever a thread on it at Westeros.org?

    There are a couple of forums on the subject. Most of them are about the Syrio = Jaqen theory, which states Ser Meryn imprisoned him as Syrio, then he changed his face in the cells. I’ve always thought that the person Jaqen took his face from was a known criminal and the gold cloaks arrested him for whatever he was guilty of.

  16. Brian
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    james yar,

    So glad somebody else pointed this out. This guy is obviously smart, has good insights and a solid understanding of the story, and is a talented writer, but it did begin to feel like oral masturbation after awhile.

  17. PerfumeDiveTeam
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    sunspear,

    Use common sense here, he was there on purpose by his own accord for whatever reason. GRRM has decided to leave it open till later. Now I do not think he anticipated the wagon fire, which required 3rd party intervention.

    On a side note D&D know more about the storyline that we do, and (crackpot show/book combination theory) the way Jaqen called Arya ‘Boy’ the ‘first’ time he met her sounded very similar to the way Syrio called her ‘Boy’ in their first encounter. Before I noticed that I thought the Syrio/Jaqen was all crackpot theory, but this adds so the claim.

  18. Silverdragon
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    I truly have found these essays to be fascinating. The insight, for me, makes watching/re-watching episodes very enjoyable. Thank you and keep up the good work!

  19. Darwin
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Guys who are complaining about the verbosity of this piece, relax! He’s writing it in the style of an academic essay. Even then I don’t think his choice of words feels forced at all. It’s amazing to see how much can be drawn from George’s epic fantasy series and I find these essays go really deep into them. Keep in mind he also writes these up a couple of days after the episode airs.

  20. Watcher
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    borki4:
    Interesting review from the New Yorker I found today:

    http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/television/2012/05/07/120507crte_television_nussbaum?currentPage=all

    This is an example of good writing.

  21. No Raven For You!
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Pearson Moore: Thank you again for another fascinating essay. Like Silverdragon above, I esp enjoy reading them before a re-watch. I try to watch the show as it happens the first time, letting it all flow over me. After a few days of thinking about it I have the opportunity to read your essay, then re-watch while trying to keep some of the themes / parallels / correspondences you propose in mind.

    I am fascinated by Melissandre and the relationship btw her and Stannis — who is using who? And regarding Mel: Is a supernatural power trying to cross over into this world and Mel is a conduit for her Lord of Light? Or is magic much more diffuse (and on the rise for whatever reason) and is being given form and shape by Mel’s beliefs? They (with Davos) are three of my favorite new characters this season.

    Regarding the assassination of Renly, I have a question: Wouldn’t the conversion of the heir promised to Stannis into an “air” Shadow Baby satisfy the Law of Symmetry?

  22. Nick Larter
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    PerfumeDiveTeam,

    Initially I felt that Jaqen had to be in the cells and that cage because he wanted to be there, as you say – no prison could hold a faceless man for long who didn’t want to be held -but subsequent events don’t really bear that out (unless we want to believe that he went back to K-L after leaving Harrenhal and finished his mission there, whatever it was, before going on to the Citadel to steal the book). I like the S=J notion, but I don’t really buy it as we’ve no evidence that Faceless Men can hugely change their build as well as their faces and S and J (on the TV show at least) are hugely physically dissimilar. We could posit a Braavosi underground in K-L whereat Syrio had arranged for someone to look out for Arya if anything bad happened, but then we start to get into the realm of Arya being singled out for future service at the house of black and white very early on and her trip to Braavos on the coin was a spur of the moment thing, not planned at all.

  23. thatruth
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    PerfumeChainGang: I completely agree with james yar. Then deleting the posts with opinions that don’t blow smoke up your arse, only goes to attach more distaste to your name.Your essays are a bane to my eyesight and this website. I like everything about this site, except your writings.

    I agree. These essays, and there isn’t really a nicer way to put this, are terrible. They’re verbose while simaltaneously being devoid of any substance, and the only conclusions reached about “themes” and “parallels” are made up in your head. Have you even read the books? The only thing worse than the ideas in the essay are the way it’s presented. We get it. You think you’re some kind of intellectual and have to turn each simple sentence into a garden bursting at the seams with words you found in a dictionary. The only thing the flowery prose does is draw attention to just how little substance this essay actually contains.

  24. No Raven For You!
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Watcher,

    I like chocolate ice cream; you like strawberry. Stop eating chocolate and bitching about how awful it is, or how some boring (to me) flavor that the New Yorker has is better.

    These essays make you “cringe” every week?

    Just. Stop. Reading.

    and thatruth? How about making the criticism a little less personal? “You think you’re…” is just unnecessary.

  25. WinterComing
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Darwin:
    Guys who are complaining about the verbosity of this piece, relax! He’s writing it in the style of an academic essay. Even then I don’t think his choice of words feels forced at all. It’s amazing to see how much can be drawn from George’s epic fantasy series and I find these essays go really deep into them. Keep in mind he also writes these up a couple of days after the episode airs.

    I don’t know. I’ve read a ton of academic essays when I was putting off writing my thesis in college and none of them read like this. Academic and technical writing is usually chock full of jargon not unnecessary adverbs.

  26. James
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    My greatest hope is that the gang from A Podcast of Ice and Fire do a review of these essays. I would very much enjoy hearing Mimi describe how many table she tips over whilst reading one of these train-wrecks.

  27. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Rukie44,

    Thank you!

    PM

  28. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Jean-Baptiste Raucy,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful response, and for your detailed analysis of the motivations behind Melisandre’s actions. I know my conclusions regarding Melisandre are going to ruffle some feathers, but she is a character who seems to invite a wide variety of responses. It seems to me your take on Melisandre is well supported among the fan population, especially among those familiar with the novels. Thank you so much for contributing to the discussion!

    PM

  29. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Andy Gavin:
    Interesting insights, although a good amount of the mystical side of the books is mutated and adjusted in the shows. GRRM has a funny take on magic anyway, if you consider in the spectrum of fantasy magic (as expounded by Brandon Sanderson in this essay) he goes for a soft style that emphasizes broader rules (like life for life/death) and mystical feel rather than a more concrete magical system like Wheel of Time, Mist Born, or Runelords. As Sanderson says, key here is that the POV characters rarely use the magic as a problem solving tool. Instead it causes problems. My own episode review here.

    Indeed. GRRM provides an atypical depiction of magic, and one I find refreshing, especially when compared to the use/abuse of magic in other fantasy works. Too often, it seems to me, fantasy authors use magic as a crutch, as a way of avoiding the development of conflict they incapable of developing in their stories. As a result, these stories lose their appeal. Stories that cannot maintain a high level of conflict must rely on other aspects of the story to keep readers’ interest. It all becomes a bit shallow after a while. ASoIaF is never shallow, always engaging, and I think part of this may be the fact that GRRM has never used magic as a crutch. It’s just plain some of the best fantasy writing ever published.

    PM

  30. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Nagga’s Kin: While even 200 riders will outnumber Theon’s band of brigands by 10:1 or so, he does have the element of surprise. After all, Robb didn’t even send a raven to Bran to let him know he had let Theon return to the Iron Islands, hoping to forge an alliance. That’s why Bran assumed the siege was a Lannister commando raid of some sort.

    There is no basis at all for claiming there are “potentially tens of thousands of seasoned soldiers” still available in Winterfell. They’re all at the front in the Riverlands!

    I agree. Note in my essay I referred to Robb’s forces as being “potentially” available to respond to an attack on Winterfell. We all know he is engaged south of the Neck; his forces are several weeks away from Winterfell. The question is, how will he respond to an attack on his homeland?

  31. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    fuelpagan,

    Yes, perhaps. I like your argument, but I do disagree. I don’t believe she is a dyed-in-the-wool true believer. I think this is an excellent cover story for her, a protection for her real ambitions. I suspect I am very much in the minority here, especially among those of us who are familiar with the novels. And that’s okay! Thank you for contributing to the discussion.

    PM

  32. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Randy Cotter: The Horned Lord once said that sorcery is a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it (III: 836) (Storm of Swords, page 836?)– Westeros.org

    Yes! You used one of my favourite quotes from SoS. Dalla’s words to Jon Snow mean a lot. We know this is not a personal interpretation, but something GRRM intended as bearing enormous significance, since Melisandre mentions the same saying to Jon in DwD. This is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind when I summed up what I feel the HBO series so far is saying about Melisandre. Thanks for invoking this very pertinent quote!

    PM

  33. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    fuelpagan,

    Your point of view is well supported. Thank you for contributing your ideas to our discussion!

    PM

  34. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    dmf,

    Thank you for your comments! There is no question in my mind that Brienne loved Renly, and with a very pure kind of love. The question is, what is the origin of that love? I think without her drive to serve, Brienne does not, cannot love.

    PM

  35. McKee
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, PM, for helping to inspire me to write in this forum.

    I was instantly struck by “No Raven For You”‘s suggestion. In my own words, I would say that evidence suggests that the stronger, or you might say even the more regal the blood, the more powerful magic does she wield. It’s clear that the shadow baby could only be done with Stannis. What I mean is, Davos, for example, could not have sired one. Stannis must give all of himself, and in this case, he gives his seed. He gives up the ghost of a son that could have been, and this is the life that is sacrificed in the pit of Melisandre’s womb. The shade of Stannis’s son, an anti-crown prince, if you will, was fit to cancel out so high a personage as Renly Baratheon. Make no mistake, life was paid for this death. Stannis will never be the same, and his heir will never be.

    This supports the idea that Melisandre is a conduit for power, and does not tend to add or subtract to that calculus at her own device. Yet, I remain unconvinced.

    One thing that any student of the series knows, is that GRRM delights in painting in shades of gray. Gone are the armies of good vs. the orcs of evil. Instead, we see each character as a battlefield unto him or herself. Each character is capable of good as well as evil. People, in general, are complex creatures, and the more you know them, the more they resist easy characterizations. Examples of this abound in the text.

    If we take this message of GRRM’s as canon: Human beings, as Davos simply states, are of mixed parts, some good, some bad.

    Melisandre’s stated philosophy flies in the face of the author’s clarion subtext. She tells Davos, “if half an onion is black with rot, it is a rotten onion.” Sounds convincing when she says it, but on reflection she’s clearly wrong. If I had an onion, and half was black with rot, could I not pare away the turned portions, and manage to get a few slivers of decent produce out of it? Enough to garnish a neep, perhaps? How many of us have cut out a bit of rotten banana, to find the rest perfectly palatable? Is an onion really so different?

    That all may seem ridiculous, I know, but it is an important point. GRRM tells us, through the song that HE is singing, that Melisandre promulgates a false dichotomy. People are emphatically NOT either evil or good. Whether or not Melisandre is aware of her own falsehood is a matter of debate, I suppose. One thing I think is certain, however, at this point: there is something, as yet unrevealed, lurking behind the veil of her false dogma.

    In closing, I’d like to just say that it is unfortunate that many your detractors are not inspired to compose pithy remarks of their own. Notice, I do not say the blame for this rests on you, or they, or anyone. Blame is often irrelevant. It is only a shame, as I say, that some who criticize feel no impetus to demonstrate (or attempt) excellence on their own terms.

    Some are helpful enough to provide a link. “Here’s what a decent essay is”, they say with crooked finger. As if there is no substance at all in what you say, and another argument about another thing altogether, if taken as a model, would somehow shed light on your own hypotheses. And maybe they have a point. If only they would take the time to fully make it.

    -ps, I refresh this site, like, hundreds of times a day. WiC4Life!

  36. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Randy Cotter,

    Indeed. She did indeed do this. But the question we have to ask: Did she do this as the natural progression of who she really is, or did she yield to a kind of developmental convenience? Did the act express her true self, or her false, unexamined self? I think it’s an open question.

    PM

  37. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 2, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Doughnut Hole:
    “Arya’s second tutor, Yoren, taught her the value of keeping a list of people deserving of intimate contact with the One True God.”

    Really?I got from Yoren’s story that the desire for revenge can turn into an obsession, and that obsession can become so powerful that you eventually forget the original act that “required” the revenge in the first place.

    In other words, Arya has two ways to go – she can forget what she’s seen and try to get back to Winterfell (which Yoren basically tells her to do), or she can obsess about death and revenge.She chooses to ignore Yoren’s command to run as well as his point about revenge, which is fine because she’s 10 (or 12, or whatever), and extra fine because revenge/obsession is thematic in Ice and Fire.

    It’s hard for me to read 50000 words when there’s such a baldly missed point so soon in the piece.

    Thank you for adding your thoughts to the discussion. As I noted last week, in my essay on Episode 2.04, Yoren’s intention was precisely as you mention in your comments: Don’t do as I do, because it’s gonna mess with your head. Don’t recite your enemies’ names as if a prayer, because it’s going to cause you to concentrate so much on retribution that you will lose sight of who you really are. It’s all there in last week’s essay. Take a look. If you still have questions, send me a comment, message, or email.

    The problem is that Yoren didn’t get to complete his teaching before the Lannisters came. Arya is left with an incomplete, and very incorrect, interpretation of his words.

    PM

  38. Mrs. H'ghar
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    Pearson Moore:
    Randy Cotter,

    Indeed.She did indeed do this.But the question we have to ask:Did she do this as the natural progression of who she really is, or did she yield to a kind of developmental convenience?Did the act express her true self, or her false, unexamined self?I think it’s an open question.

    PM

    This one agrees that Melisadre’s motivations are complex and not totally clear. Does she want to replace the Queen or be a Svengali to Stannis (indispensable to him so she carves out her own niche in the realm without the restrictions of a true royal)? Or is she a true believer indeed, only serving the Red god? This will take time to be revealed.

  39. Dennai
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    Randy Cotter,

    If you take the full quote. then it is easier to see that she’s still sticking to her beliefs.

    Jorak: “The Dorakthi are good at killing better men”
    Dany: “That’s not the kind of queen I want to be”

    I think it’s clear Dany don’t think the slaves masters of Altapor to be “better men”.

  40. DeBo
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    McKee is PM samefagging

  41. Galway Gooner
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I read these posts each week as I’m a big fan of the books and also love the TV show.

    But, without intending to cause offence here, isnt there an awful lot of waffle in these posts? Taking 20 lines to make a point that can be made in 1 is fine every so often but not week after week.

    I dont disagree with anything in your posts PM but can you not just get to the point a bit quicker?
    Like maybe, just maybe could Ser Jorah not fancy Dany because she’s a fine looking woman?? All that “gentle heart” crap is simply window dressing.

    I know I am in the minority on this one and please people dont bombard me with “if you dont like it dont read it” type responses, just as it’s cool for people to say something positive it should also apply to negative comments also.

    j

  42. Doughnut Hole
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Pearson MooreAs I noted last week, in my essay on Episode 2.04, Yoren’s intention was precisely as you mention in your comments: Don’t do as I do, because it’s gonna mess with your head. Don’t recite your enemies’ names as if a prayer, because it’s going to cause you to concentrate so much on retribution that you will lose sight of who you really are.

    That’s cool. I’m not entirely convinced that “he doesn’t finish the lesson” but that’s irrelevant to my point, which (as you say) you address in your 2.04 essay. Unfortunately in the 2.05 essay you say, “Arya’s second tutor, Yoren, taught her the value of keeping a list of people deserving of intimate contact with the One True God” which certainly implies the opposite of the quote above. Perhaps you should strive for more consistency between and among your essays.

    I’m picky about this particular point because I feel like many people are misreading the series, with a lot of help from the producers. In the novels, nobody is supposed to be a hero; however, most of the characters continually mis-recognize themselves as such. We might be encouraged to read some individuals or groups as better or “more moral” than others, but good-evil lie on much more of a continuum. Morality is gray for everyone (it’s war, after all) and everyone views him/herself as the good guy. Even novel Joffrey thinks he’s the good guy in his own warped way; he rises to the throne only to have – for the first time in his life – his character, his claim, and his very parentage questioned. Even a non-sociopath might lash out…

    In the HBO series, however, we have far less gray, far more clearly defined moral positions. And viewers are used to this, to the extent that when the novel’s grayness appears in the series it’s almost weird. For example, there was a lot of surprise that in 2.05, Tyrion ignored Joffrey’s 2.04 torture of the prostitutes. The problem is that Tyrion isn’t supposed to be a good guy and he isn’t supposed to be (and doesn’t view himself as) the saviour of “damsels in distress”. He’s the Hand of the King – why would he care about two prostitutes? He has far bigger fish to fry. We might like him because he’s funny, or because he’s a complex character tormented by his past, or whatever, but he’s neither Aragorn nor Frodo; he’s not out to right every wrong. But I can see where new viewers can make this mistake – after all, in the HBO series The Tickler gets killed almost immediately after we meet him. The good is upheld and the evil torturer killed, and we get our moral indignation assuaged by this in a way we never do in the novels.

    There’s a lot made in the novels about Sansa behaving like she’s living in a romantic fantasy of good and evil, true heroic knights and blackguards. To some extent, all of the characters are living in this fantasy – everyone misreads him/herself as taking on this heroic role. Jaime is the most obvious case of this, as he finds his self-image as “best fighter in the land” increasingly battered as the novels continue. Brienne as well.

    Arya’s misreading of Yoren’s parable fits so well into this theme. Whether you argue that Yoren “didn’t finish his lesson”, or argue as I would that Arya is young and purposefully misreads his point is irrelevant. Yoren tells her: run, go back to Winterfell, and lead your life. Arya interprets as: you are a hero and you will (eventually) avenge your family just like I did. This (mis)interpretation is a part of the novel’s larger through line of gray morality and characters who misread themselves as being the hero.

    So your comment “Arya’s second tutor, Yoren, taught her the value of keeping a list of people deserving of intimate contact with the One True God” really rankles, even if it’s not entirely what you meant. He didn’t teach her that, that’s what she (mis) interpreted him as saying. It’s a very important distinction.

  43. Winter Is Coming
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    DeBo:
    McKee is PM samefagging

    Uh, no. McKee has been posting on this site for awhile.

    Also, can we lay off with the writing style critiques each time one of Pearson’s essays are posted? Pearson clearly has a particular style that some people enjoy and some people don’t. If you are one of the latter, then just move on to the next thread.

    I don’t think there is any reason for people to continually criticize Pearson’s writing each week. I didn’t mind it at first, as people were just becoming introduced to the essays and deciding if they liked them or not. But we are halfway through the season now, and I think everyone already knows where they stand on the essays and Pearson isn’t going to change his approach, so posting criticisms or critiques of his style is pointless. You can debate or critique the points that Pearson makes, but let’s stop with the criticizing of his writing style. Thanks.

  44. Buddy
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming: Also, can we lay off with the writing style critiques each time one of Pearson’s essays are posted? Pearson clearly has a particular style that some people enjoy and some people don’t. If you are one of the latter, then just move on to the next thread.

    THANK YOU. Good grief. It’s not like someone’s holding a gun to your head to read something. Go read something else on the internet.

  45. McKee
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    samefagging?

    O, what troubled times are these, when a man can say “samefagging” to another man in full view of the interwebs!

    I am commenter. My name is Roger the Commenter. I arrange, design, and submit commentary.

    By my truth, I don’t even know which part of samefagging I should object to first.

    No, not same, different. No, not fagging, um, hetero-ing. Wait, that’s not a word, and I’m not even doing that. The more I think about it, the less I understand. Hell, for all I know, what I really need is an extended session of epic fantasy television samefagging.

    And yes, I clearly haven’t bothered to look up samefagging, even though I have an internet connection. Wouldn’t want to pick up a virus. Or something worse. And I’m at work.

    I… better go.

  46. Jen@House Stark
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Moore – I enjoy the heck out of your work. I do not pretend or propose to be a writer of any sort, it’s purely entertainment for me. If that is enough for you, it’s enough for me! See ya next week.

  47. fuelpagan
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Pearson Moore: fuelpagan, Yes, perhaps. I like your argument, but I do disagree. I don’t believe she is a dyed-in-the-wool true believer. I think this is an excellent cover story for her, a protection for her real ambitions. I suspect I am very much in the minority here, especially among those of us who are familiar with the novels. And that’s okay! Thank you for contributing to the discussion.PM

    I guess it comes down to how you view the Game of Thrones being played. I view it as being played on many levels. Most of the players are on the first level. Like Cersei, Ned, Renly, Robb and Tywin. They all play the game using those beneath them as leverage against the other.

    Then there are the players like Littlefinger and Varys who use knowledge to maneuver those who think they are playing the game. With a word they can move Cersei or Renly to act in a way that favors their goals.

    At the top you have the battle between the Gods. The Old Gods, the Seven, the Lord of Light, The Drowned god, all fighting for power over the other Gods. So I see Melisandra as an agent of R’hllor. The Gods are offscreen characters that are very much a part of the story. An agent who serves their own ambitions isn’t a very good agent.

    I just see it as R’hllor manipulating Melisandra and you see it as Melisandra manipulating R’hllor. Which I’m sure R’hllor would find insulting. LOL.

    Anyway. I look forward to next weeks essay.

  48. Juanra Castiñeiras de Saa
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Something is troubling me: In last chapter, Jaqen speaks as if the god he servers (or his order serves) is the Lord of Light. So what about Him of Many Faces? Is it not going to be featured in the series, or it’s just another “license” they have taken?

  49. Lex
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Juanra Castiñeiras de Saa,

    Nope, it was the same in the books.

  50. Lex
    Posted May 3, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    Thanks, WiC, for being a voice of reason (as always). Rude comments are just rude (and not really constructive in any way).

  51. DeBo
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming,

    Winter Is Coming: Uh, no. McKee has been posting on this site for awhile.

    I don’t think there is any reason for people to continually criticize Pearson’s writing each week.

    I stand by my claim;
    McKee and PM, are one in the same.

    Well those of us that do not like the content or style were hoping the essays would stop. The ego inflation of only positive feedback only pours tainted salt in the wound.

  52. james yar
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Winter Is Coming:

    Also, can we lay off with the writing style critiques each time one of Pearson’s essays are posted? Pearson clearly has a particular style that some people enjoy and some people don’t. If you are one of the latter, then just move on to the next thread.

    Well, when someone posts something to a popular public forum, I’d say their opening themselves up to a bit of criticism. It wasn’t my intention to start a bunch of hating (and I’m guessing that perfumechain guy is reposting under different names). PM seems to be taking it well, though. Kudos to him. I haven’t really been following the comments to his essays, so I was unaware I was recycling old criticisms. I could just not read these, but I guess I have too much time on my hands.

  53. Winter Is Coming
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    DeBo:
    Winter Is Coming,

    I stand by my claim;
    McKee and PM, are one in the same.

    Well those of us that do not like the content or style were hoping the essays would stop. The ego inflation of only positive feedback only pours tainted salt in the wound.

    Kinda funny that you are accusing McKee and PM of samefagging when you have used two usernames in this very thread (DeBo and PerfumeChainGang). That, plus your trollish spoiler comment on another thread under yet another name, is enough to get you banned from here. Sayonara!

    james yar: Well, when someone posts something to a popular public forum, I’d say their opening themselves up to a bit of criticism. It wasn’t my intention to start a bunch of hating (and I’m guessing that perfumechain guy is reposting under different names). PM seems to be taking it well, though. Kudos to him. I haven’t really been following the comments to his essays, so I was unaware I was recycling old criticisms. I could just not read these, but I guess I have too much time on my hands.

    I agree with your first point, and like I said, I don’t normally have a problem with criticism. It’s just, at this point, it’s not all that constructive because Pearson’s style isn’t going to change and we’re not going to just stop publishing his essays simply because some people don’t find them very interesting. So it just becomes a nuisance to read for those who do enjoy the essays and wish to discuss the contents.

  54. fuelpagan
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    DeBo: Winter Is Coming, I stand by my claim;McKee and PM, are one in the same.Well those of us that do not like the content or style were hoping the essays would stop. The ego inflation of only positive feedback only pours tainted salt in the wound.

    Wow. To stand by a bucket of shit and call it honey based on the number of flies that it attracts….just wow.

    Winter is not saying only positive feedback is allowed. If you have a problem with the content, by all means post it. Add to the discussion. That is what these essays are for, to promote discussion on the topics the essay covers.

    By now everyone has had a chance to comment on PM’s style of writing and whether it is for them or not. PM is not going to change how he writes. So negative comments based on the content of the essay are good for the discussion. Negative comments based on the style of writing have already been covered and are now pointless.

  55. McKee
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I sure didn’t mean to ruin anybody’s day by posting what I did, but I guess I’m not sad to see that guy go. It’s a little disappointing that the only response I got from my post was an accusation that I was impersonating someone else.

    I suppose it could easily be my fault, if I failed to make myself understood.

    PM said that Melisandre was meddling in forces she did not understand, that she was not paying “death for life” in the case of Renly’s assassination.

    In contrast, I think she understands the forces at work very well, and that it was Stannis’s unborn son, the prince that could-have-been, that balances the transaction.

    Also, Melisandre’s philosophy of good and evil seems to be in direct opposition to the author’s. GRRM sings a song of good and evil, so does Melisandre. Since GRRM>Mel, she must be either lying or gravely mistaken in her ethics.

    I try only to post when I have something to say that has not already been said.

    Still, if I want to use a phrase like, “clarion subtext”, I don’t really see how that’s inflated language. I was actually kinda proud of that.

    “Of study he took most care, and most heed,
    Not one word spoke he, more than was need,
    And that was said with form and reverence,
    And short, and quick, and full of high sentence.
    Sounding of moral virtue was his speech,
    And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.”

  56. fuelpagan
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    McKee,

    I see your point. I just don’t think there is any “Death for Life” connection to killing Renly. The phrase is “Only death can pay for life”, to kill Renly requiring some sacrifice would be “death paying for death” and that just isn’t part of the canon. Only in creating the shadow creature must some life power be borrowed and for that she was stealing it from Stannis. The books describe his shadow being lighter than those around him after these events. And Melisandra won’t make another shadow monster with Stannis for fear of killing him. That points to the fact Melisandra does know the danger of the power she is using.

    Melisandra’s ambition is raw power. The kind she can only get from R’hllor. It may appear as though she is playing the game for the iron throne, but she really isn’t. She is playing the game of the Gods. Who sits on the Iron Throne means nothing to her as long as R’hllor wins his war.

    I’m not sure what evidence PM is using to support his idea that Melisandra is really just using her devotion to R’hllor as a cover, because the books just don’t support it. To make that claim after not following Stannis in ADwD when Stannis left the wall, shows PM just doesn’t understand this character. He is projecting his own thoughts onto what he thinks the character is and dismissing any evidence that contradicts his opinion. There comes a point where you must let go your opinion in order to be objective. It looks like he is firmly holding to his belief.

  57. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Silverdragon,

    Thank you! I plan to keep writing as long as HBO keeps putting out interesting interpretations of GRRM’s novels.

    PM

  58. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Darwin,

    Thank you for your kind words. Although I would like to believe my thoughts and words would stand up to the rigours of academic inquiry, the fact is these essays are just the thoughts of a fan of Game of Thrones. Other than a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and Russian and a four-year certificate in Biblical studies, I have no academic experience, and I spend most of my days in the laboratory, working out purification processes. So, these essays are the musings of a chemist, or linguist, or bicyclist, but definitely not those of a scholar. That I am giving readers some new interpretations to play with, agree with, disagree with, build upon, is enough for me.

    PM

  59. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    No Raven For You!:
    Pearson Moore: Thank you again for another fascinating essay. Like Silverdragon above, I esp enjoy reading them before a re-watch. I try to watch the show as it happens the first time, letting it all flow over me. After a few days of thinking about it I have the opportunity to read your essay, then re-watch while trying to keep some of the themes / parallels / correspondences you propose in mind.

    I am fascinated byMelissandre and the relationship btw her and Stannis — who is using who? And regarding Mel: Is a supernatural power trying to cross over into this world and Mel is a conduit for her Lord of Light? Or is magic much more diffuse (and on the rise for whatever reason) and is being given form and shape by Mel’s beliefs? They (with Davos) are three of my favorite new characters this season.

    Regarding the assassination of Renly, I have a question: Wouldn’t the conversion of the heir promised to Stannis into an “air” Shadow Baby satisfy the Law of Symmetry?

    You raise excellent questions. I can reply only with speculation. I think magic permeates the GRRM world of ASoIaF, but that its enduring practitioners have a respect for its power which transcends any potentials for personal gain. I don’t believe these enduring, true practitioners necessarily feel any desires to make things right in the world, correct old wrongs, or become messiahs, but they share a sense of having access to rare powers that requires some kind of evaluation of their potential effect before implementing their use. We have seen already, in the case of Arya, that practitioners can be led astray. Yoren provided the advice of a lifetime but Arya’s state of mind, or the inexperience of her intellect, or some other dysfunction has prevented her from rendering proper interpretation. As for Melisandre, I continue to believe she seeks power, not enlightenment for the sake of enlightenment. And now I will tell you something that will *definitely* ruffle some feathers. I feel it is entirely possible that GRRM may have intended that Shadow Baby was indeed payment in kind for Renly’s death. However, as this is not absolutely clear, I did, as some have suggested, use an alternative explanation as a way of supporting my position regarding Melisandre’s position in the story. Some readers are even now fuming about this. But I am not the producers’ representative, and I am definitely not here to provide truth or a balanced view. My only intention is to provide entertaining interpretation and to throw out ideas for your amusement or consideration. I feel my position on Melisandre is well supported in the text of ASoIaF and in GoT to date. I am not above hyperbole, though, or stretching the meaning of an event to make a greater point I feel is otherwise supported. In the end, I don’t feel we are ever going to “know” conclusively who Melisandre is, especially with regard to the greater powers of the GRRM world. I think, as with all great literature, the interpretation will be left to us. We shall know eventually, but I hope it will not be another 18 years before we do!

    PM

  60. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    … the only conclusions reached about “themes” and “parallels” are made up in your head. … little substance this essay actually contains.

    I found a couple of items in your comments that might add to our conversation. Would you be willing to expand on your idea that the themes and parallels I discuss are “made up in [my] head”? If you could cite an example, and then support that example with citations from GoT, ASoIaF, or refereed scholarly discussion of GRRM, we would have a firm basis for further discussion. If you are merely expressing your personal opinion, that’s fine, too. However, you did use some rather pointed language, and your response did seem to indicate that you are privy to information about GoT, or have expertise in the subject, that you find lacking in my essays. If you do have such information or expertise, I know many of us would like to have it too so that we might be able to discuss it. Thank you for considering this request for an expansion of your ideas.

    PM

  61. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    WinterComing,

    Thanks. I try to keep the essays jargon-free. And I do fill the essays with unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, quite intentionally. The intention is to fill the readers’ minds with images and ideas, to paint a picture. These essays are not intended for academics (thus the lack of jargon) and I use a style of writing that receive a failing grade in any school of story writing I’m familiar with. In my novels I emulate Elmore Leonard as much as possible: No adverbs, no adjectives, all show, no tell (for you lit profs out there, I’m talking about the tech terms Diegesis and Mimesis–my novels are mimetic, not diegetic). But everything I do in these essays is geared toward the painting of a picture, the relaying of ideas, not at all about the telling of a story. GRRM and D&D tell the story, all I’m doing is discussing the story. Thanks for setting the record straight!

    PM

  62. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    McKee:
    Thank you, PM, for helping to inspire me to write in this forum.

    I was instantly struck by “No Raven For You”‘s suggestion.In my own words, I would say that evidence suggests that the stronger, or you might say even the more regal the blood, the more powerful magic does she wield.It’s clear that the shadow baby could only be done with Stannis.What I mean is, Davos, for example, could not have sired one.Stannis must give all of himself, and in this case, he gives his seed.He gives up the ghost of a son that could have been, and this is the life that is sacrificed in the pit of Melisandre’s womb.The shade of Stannis’s son, an anti-crown prince, if you will, was fit to cancel out so high a personage as Renly Baratheon.Make no mistake, life was paid for this death.Stannis will never be the same, and his heir will never be.

    This supports the idea that Melisandre is a conduit for power, and does not tend to add or subtract to that calculus at her own device.Yet, I remain unconvinced.

    One thing that any student of the series knows, is that GRRM delights in painting in shades of gray.Gone are the armies of good vs. the orcs of evil.Instead, we see each character as a battlefield unto him or herself.Each character is capable of good as well as evil.People, in general, are complex creatures, and the more you know them, the more they resist easy characterizations. Examples of this abound in the text.

    If we take this message of GRRM’s as canon: Human beings, as Davos simply states, are of mixed parts, some good, some bad.

    Melisandre’s stated philosophy flies in the face of the author’s clarion subtext.She tells Davos, “if half an onion is black with rot, it is a rotten onion.”Sounds convincing when she says it, but on reflection she’s clearly wrong.If I had an onion, and half was black with rot, could I not pare away the turned portions, and manage to get a few slivers of decent produce out of it?Enough to garnish a neep, perhaps?How many of us have cut out a bit of rotten banana, to find the rest perfectly palatable?Is an onion really so different?

    That all may seem ridiculous, I know, but it is an important point.GRRM tells us, through the song that HE is singing, that Melisandre promulgates a false dichotomy.People are emphatically NOT either evil or good.Whether or not Melisandre is aware of her own falsehood is a matter of debate, I suppose.One thing I think is certain, however, at this point: there is something, as yet unrevealed, lurking behind the veil of her false dogma.

    In closing, I’d like to just say that it is unfortunate that many your detractors are not inspired to compose pithy remarks of their own.Notice, I do not say the blame for this rests on you, or they, or anyone.Blame is often irrelevant.It is only a shame, as I say, that some who criticize feel no impetus to demonstrate (or attempt) excellence on their own terms.

    Some are helpful enough to provide a link.“Here’s what a decent essay is”, they say with crooked finger.As if there is no substance at all in what you say, and another argument about another thing altogether, if taken as a model, would somehow shed light on your own hypotheses.And maybe they have a point.If only they would take the time to fully make it.

    -ps, I refresh this site, like, hundreds of times a day.WiC4Life!

    Thank you for your kind words, but thank you most of all for your stunning interpretation of Melisandre. I think your analysis is spot on, but beyond the strong evidence you cite, the best evidence is from later books, and I am a bit squeamish about presenting such an argument here. It would all get blacked out the the censors anyway! In the end, though, even accepting your argument (as I do), we don’t know *why* Melisandre represents a false god. I think it comes down to the thesis, which we cannot be sure of yet, either. I feel it will come down to some combination of elements presented in the first direwolf scene (AGoT, Ch. 1, Bran), and it is from that scene that I derive my “Sisterhood of the Damned” idea, which informs the thesis I have tentatively claimed (I present the thesis in Game of Thrones Season One Essays, available in ebook and paperback at Amazon and Barnes & Noble). But the Sisterhood of the Damned is only part of the story, and the thesis I have posited is likely to be partial or a bit off the mark, too. We can only know upon completion of ASoIaF, and that is many, many years in the future. But your musings, I think, bring us much closer to a strong, well-informed position on Melisandre. Thanks so much for adding this brilliant analysis!

  63. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Mrs. H’ghar,

    Absolutely. Read McGee’s stunning analysis for an excellent discussion of why this is likely to be so.

    PM

  64. Pearson Moore
    Posted May 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    DeBo,

    I had to look up “samefagging”. It struck me as a rude comment, but the meaning I found does not appear to be pejorative, only accusatory, and I will accept the comment on that basis. I don’t know McGee, don’t know what his real name is, but I have to assume he feels somewhat disappointed. Who besides Pearson Moore would *want* to be called Pearson Moore? Who would ever wish to walk even a mile in the worn, damaged, mismatched shoes I put on every day? I find no substantiation for your comment. I can assure you I am not McGee, I have never posted under the name McGee. I post only as Pearson Moore, or some clear variant of that name, mostly to uphold the “brand” as reputation or reliability is sometimes called. If you read McGee’s later comments, you will see that he does not agree with me in all particulars. You will also see that McGee is known by the administrators to have a different identity (different URL and ISP and all that) than me. Of course, the admins also know me well since we work with each other behind the scenes to post these essays every week. I’m afraid you might be left with a bit of egg on your face.

    Now, since this is a comments section, do you have comments on the substance of my essay? If you believe you understand the origin or comments here, I have to believe you also have ideas about GoT, and I would love to hear them. That’s why we’re here, after all, because we love discussing the series. Share your thoughts with us! You will enjoy doing it, and we will enjoy discussing them with you. Everybody will forget about the messy, slimy egg if you enter into the discussion of the episode or the series. And it’s a whole lot more fun–for everybody–to debate an idea than to point fingers. So why not enjoy yourself?

    Peace,

    Pearson

  1. [...] ep8. Na žalost eseji Pearson Moore-a su stali na 6 epizodi, stoga zobajte što je ponuđeno: ep4, ep5, [...]


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