Game of Thrones Bookclub (Week Four)
I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to write about one particular part of this book: the fight between Bronn and Ser Vardis Egen. If you haven’t already noticed, A Song of Ice and Fire doesn’t actually include that many fight scenes, or at least, as many fight scenes as you might expect from a series of fantasy books as thick as this one. Adam Serwer said it well in talking about the Game of Thrones show (don’t worry, this is a short clip. Even so, please excuse the mixing of mediums):
To refine Serwer’s points in terms of the books, I think it’s somewhat similar in print too. True, there are battle scenes and fights where there aren’t as many in the show but like many aspects of this story, they’re not glorified, or, at least, not romanticized. The Bronn-Ser Vardis Egen fight is one such example. It’s an awesome scene to be sure. It’s probably my favorite fight scene of any book I’ve ever read, but it’s definitely not one where the shiny knight wins —hell, it’s exactly the opposite of that. I think the fight scene reminds the reader (if the reader hasn’t gotten it by now), that the really good players in the game of thrones are not the ones who follow the honorable route like in the songs and do the honorable thing. Bronn wins because he fights in, perhaps, not a dishonorable way but not a way that is praised and sung about later. He dodges and craftily uses Vardis’s armor against him. It’s not a way of fighting that’s honored in Westeros. Ser Vardis’s death isn’t exactly noble either (“Catelyn heard the knight groan as the sellsword lifted his blade with both hands and drove it down and in with all his weigh behind it, under the arm and through the ribs. Ser Vardis shuddered and lay still.”) but Bronn fights that way because that’s how he can win. There’s nothing honorable about this in the way people in Westeros understand honor. But truthfully, honor doesn’t get you very far in this world does it?
You know, in a way I can see how Bronn and Tyrion are a perfect match. Both are social outcasts. Both are ostensibly weaker or handicapped compared to the strapping armored knight. But neither are any less powerful. They’re more powerful because they use the skills they have (intelligence, strategy) which exist or are used so rarely by others in Westeros. Bronn and Tyrion get along because they actually share some of the same traits and even though Bronn is baseborn, as long as he doesn’t bow to the obligations involved in being “honorable” he’ll go far. All that honor really does is keep the lowborn low and the highborn at the mercy of the dishonorable.
Which is what makes it clear, given the world that characters like Tyrion and Catelyn live in, that Catelyn and Lysa aren’t going to last long. Throughout the visit to the Eyrie one thing kept nagging at me: are there any mothers in these books that are sane and competent? Seriously now, liking or disliking Catelyn aside, she was pretty quick to assume that because the dagger was Tyrion’s, that he wanted Bran dead, and that the knife wasn’t placed in the hands of the assassin by someone else. As a result, she acted incredibly recklessly while rationalizing her behavior simply as a mother protecting her child. And Lysa, clearly, is even worse. She’s outright crazy. It’s a little early to say exactly how bad Cersei is but it’s clear that she’s either a lunatic, a fool, or some combination of both. I suppose Dany is the exception to this rule but we actually don’t know what kind of mother she is, only that she will be a mother.*
I’m not convinced that this has to be the case though. Surely women in these books are capable of being master players of the game of thrones, so it’s not like the mothers’ sex obligates them to be incompetent or highly immoral in some way. But so far the only mothers we’ve met are so paranoid they’re driven to do horrible things (like drop Bran from a tower and then try and murder him again) or jump to conclusions that have extremely serious political implications.
*I’ve read the books already but I’m reading them like I haven’t so please don’t use any future events in your responses. We’re going to strive for a spoiler free discussion damnit!
P.S. A spoiler thread is here for those of you who might want to spoil something.