The North Remembers

"These are northmen, Uncle. The north remembers." – Robb Stark

“These are northmen, Uncle. The north remembers.” – Robb Stark,
from A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin (x)

5 June 2013
9:29 AM


SEVEN HELLS! Was that not the greatest episode ever, or what? Hot damn.

It’s the morning after, and I still haven’t recovered. I am shattered and broken beyond repair, I think. All this anguish–I think I’m good for the next few months or so. What masterful acting by Michelle Fairley, who played Catelyn Stark. Although I feel that her character was really short-shrifted in the show, she gave the best last performance that I’ve seen in awhile, and I’m just–I’m blown away.

I later told my friend K. that I thought I was prepared because I have read the book. NOPE. Not even close. Knowing what was about to happen versus seeing it actually play out before me: oh, god, my heart. The moment those doors closed and The Rains of Castamere started playing, I was filled with dread so heavy I just wanted to start weeping. Now, imagine when I read that part in the book: my body suddenly got cold, and I started shivering, and I had to force myself to continue reading. I can’t remember ever having such a physical reaction to a book–at least not in the recent years.

Brrrrrrrrrrr. I need to take a deep breath now.

Okay, some thoughts:

• The episode title was the Lannisters’ song, but to me it will always be the Red Wedding, or RW, as most fans would like to call it. It’s so gruesome and horrific that people only refer to it by two letters. I read a few interviews with the producers, and they said that RW was the reason why they wanted to make the show in the first place. It’s such–I don’t know, I just don’t have the words for it. Unthinkable? Abominable? This–this shameless disrespect for life. I AM VERKLEMPT.

• Ned Stark died twice now. First the father, then the grandson. Can anything be more painful? (It was quite different from the book, but I must say that this detail and its implication made a nice addition. Well–not nice, but you know what I mean.)

• My favourite character has always been Arya Stark (next to her, Tyrion Lannister) and OH MAN SHE WAS SO CLOSE. A few minutes earlier and she’d have been with family. But then she’d also be dead.

• Catelyn’s performance: Howl, howl, howl, howl! They’re gone forever.

• I watched with my family and, apart from my own breakdown, I enjoyed seeing their reactions. I loved their collective intake of breath, the horror, the confusion, THE MENTAL UNRAVELING. Ha!

• We live in the northern part of the city, so I’ve always identified with the North. I guess it’s no surprise which House I would be most drawn to. Heh.

• The scene with Bran and Rickon almost made me cry. I think my sisters felt the same way. That’s how my relationship is with them, most of the time.

The Rains of Castamere

And who are you, the proud Lord said
that I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
that’s all the truth I know.

In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
a lion still has claws.
And, mine are long and sharp, my Lord
as long and sharp as yours.

And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
that Lord of Castamere,
but now the rains weep o’er his hall,
with no one there to hear.

Yes, now the rains weep o’er his hall,
and not a soul to hear.

What’s fantastic to me is that two components of the RW are based on history:

• The first is the concept of guest right, which was not explained thoroughly in the show, at least, not by exposition, the way the significance of the song, “The Rains of Castamere” was explained in the previous episode (Episode 8, Second Sons). But if you were watching since Season 1, you might have seen how treating visitors is a big deal, and how it’s always done with respect, even if your very enemy was at your doorstep. In the books, once you have broken bread and salt with your guests, this signifies that they are under your protection, and will never come to harm (and vice versa). It is a rite more sacred than any other–a sacred law of hospitality–and to break it is even worse than murder. Lord Walder Frey broke this covenant, and to the eyes of many he has condemned himself, his family, and his house for eternity.

I like how GRRM (George R.R. Martin) incorporated this in the Westeros universe. It reminds me so much of xenia, the ancient Greek value of hospitality. In Homer’s The Odyssey, it was a very crucial theme. Great importance is put upon receiving visitors and travelers well into one’s home, because one never knows if these strangers are divinities in disguise. And one never wants to risk angering the gods. Even in The Iliad, the Trojan war started all because of the violation of xenia (with Paris abducting Helen, the wife of Menelaus, his host).

• Then, RW itself was based on The Black Dinner of 1440:

The notorious story of the Black Dinner begins with the 6th Earl of Douglas, his younger brother David, and Sir Malcolm Fleming of Cumbernauld being invited to dine with the boy King in Edinburgh Castle. Earl William was as secure as could be on his own lands, safe from arrest on any trumped up charges of treason or suchlike, which might’ve been used to curb his activities. Maybe he felt too secure, young and headstrong as he reputedly was. In any case, the Douglas seems to have feared nothing in allowing himself to be lured to the Castle, where he appeared on the 24th of November, 1440. As Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland at the time, was also Keeper of the Castle, he is said to have organised the dinner and issued the invites. Also reputedly present were Livingston, who had custody of the King, and the wee Royal himself, down from Stirling for the day.

The legendary banquet was held in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle, with King James and Earl Douglas getting on famously. Then, at the end of the feast, somebody brought in the head of a black bull and thumped it on the table, silencing the hubbub and causing several jaws to drop open. That symbolic act was supposed to be a portent for the death of the principal guest – the Black Douglas. The story concludes with the King’s pleas being ignored and Douglas heads joining that of the bull on the table. A perfidious murder and worthy of its epitaph and, according to the Douglas Archive, Sir Walter Scott’s lines:

“Edinburgh castle, toune, and towre,
God grant thou sink for sin;
And that e’en for the Black Dinner,
Earl Douglas gat therein.”

Last tangents:

You asked me if I saw this coming. No. I should have, but no, I didn’t see it coming. It’s one of those things that hits you so hard the first time, you sit back in disbelief. After that chapter in the book, I had to walk away. I didn’t touch it for a week, I think. I just didn’t have the energy to go on. I couldn’t even move myself to feel rage at the injustice of it all. And then when I went back to it, I started to think about all the signs, how it was there all along.

• This is why I love foreshadowing both as a literary device and as a trope in television or films. When wielded by someone who knows what he or she is doing, it can be a beautiful thing. It’s what’s making my reread of the first and second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series so damn good.

• Maybe as a reader, my bias and/or love for certain characters makes me blind still to some things, the way I am in real life. I think I inhabit fictional worlds so completely that they feel real to me. I want the characters that I’m rooting for to be spared a little more mercy, because to have bad things happen to them would just devastate me.

Now, to add to your prayer, my darling girl: Walder Frey, Roose Bolton, Tywin Lannister. Valar morghulis.

Brutal, cruel, and heartbreaking. Storytelling at its finest. This is why I love writing. This is why I read.

The Starks will rise again,


One thought on “The North Remembers

  1. Pingback: Walt and Walt | Awake & Asleep

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