August 11, 2011

The Turncloak

Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy in HBOs Game of Thrones
In Winterfell's rebuilt Great Hall, Roose Bolton holds a short speech about how the old gods of the North will destroy Stannis, for he is not of the North, and all northmen in the hall are making great noise about it. The only ones silent are Theon Greyjoy and the Freys, who are not particulary happy with the situation, having lost three members of their family to the winter snows already. Theon is desperate about the situation, but he has nothing to go, even if he could flee the castle. As a result, he gives in the desperation. When Abel the bard starts singing a song, Theon muses about the false Arya, and how she is repeatedly beaten by Ramsay. She wasn't seen since the wedding and sobs most of the time, and wild rumors are rampant about her being tied to the bed post naked.

Theon is pulled out of his thoughts when one of Abel's washerwomen asks him to dance, and when he refuses - fearing to make a fool of himself since he lost toes and isn't able to dance anymore - she instead asks that he tells her of his conquest of Winterfell and how he performed it. Theon isn't in the mood to tell her, however, regretting the deed too much to boast with it. Although he desperately wants to fuck the woman, he holds himself back, knowing that Ramsay might do bad things to him. He leaves the hall, wandering around the castle where snowmen are built everywhere by the squires. He finally comes into the godswood, feeling that it is haunted by ghosts and leaving it again. On his way, he concludes the chances that Stannis has: none. Bolton has the walls of Winterfell, still formidable, ample supplies and firewood for half a year, while Stannis has nothing of the sort.
When he sits back down in the hall, Lady Dustin approaches him, demanding that he leads her to the Stark crypts which she hasn't been able to find in all the rubble. On the way, she tells Theon that Roose disapproves of the treatment that Ramsay gives Arya Stark, since the northmen loved the Starks but only fear the Boltons. If he continues, the shaky support for his cause will dwindle. When they find the crypts and go down the stairs and past the statues, she tells Theon that she knew Rickard and Brandon Stark well. Brandon was a ward at Barrowden back in the days, and she had sex with him and hoped to marry him, but Rickard wanted the marriage with the Tullys. She loathes him for it, since she had to marry young lord Dustin. They were married only half a year when Eddard Stark took him off in Robert's Rebellion, and he never came back. Since then, she hates the Starks. She then asks why Theon loves them so much. Theon first denies it, but then has to confess that he always wanted to be one of them, but never could, and Lady Dustin confirms that she had that feeling too.

On their way back, Lady Dustin tells him that she knows that the Silent Sisters tried to bring Ned's bones back to Winterfell, and that they never reached Moat Cailin before it was captured. She vows that whenever the bones come out of the Neck, they won't pass Barrowden and that she will feed them to her dogs, threatening Theon that if he ever told that tale she will rip his tongue out, and Theon complies.

The chapter isn't called "The Turncloak" for no reason. Theon is constantly reminded that it was him who brought down Winterfell and the whole mess with the Boltons, and he regrets his actions with every step. Even the lowest soldiers of the northmen army despise him for what he did, since it forces them to go along with Bolton, and he is shunned as a consequence. When he has to admit to himself that he is nowhere more at home now than in the ruins of Winterfell, the whole misery of his life becomes plain, and he is forced into self-awareness by Lady Dustin with the confession of always wanting to be a Stark.

Between the lines, we can also see Mance acting. The washerwoman approaching Theon tries to find out how he took Winterfell, and partially, Theon understands it when he subconsciously determines the changes for Stannis to repeat the deed and concludes that they are zero. Mance not only tries to find a way to free the false Arya, but he also wants to help Stannis to get into the castle, a plan that at least from Theon's experience can't work (and given the ending of the book is not very likely to do).

We also get much additional information on northern politics and mentality. The Starks were loved by nearly all their lords (with the obvious exception of the Boltons). This civilized image of the North, however, seems to be a recent development. Under the surface lay thousand years old traditions, dark and bloody, and they are expressed in their most tangible form in the Boltons and their rule through fear. We got some glimpses in the earlier chapters of Davos, but the image is getting clearer in these chapters. The North is a barbaric country, with hard men ruling it, and the comparably kind rule by the Starks is the exception, not the rule, that becomes clear.

As to side notes, there was a major Greyjoy rebellion under the rule of the Targaryens, it seems, back in the days when Bloodraven ruled. Lady Dustin tells Theon about it when they pass the statue of Lord Beron Stark, who struck an alliance with the Lannisters back then to repel the Greyjoys. Interesting tidbit.


  1. I'm pretty sure the Greyjoy rebellion was mentioned in the Dunk and Egg short stories, taking place ten years prior to said prequel. Like how the Blackfyre Rebellion plays off of Robert's later on, so too does Dagon's to Balon's. Later on Victarion recounts that particular instance in his chapters.

  2. First of all, if Lady Dust-Devil gets hold of Ned's bones, I will tie her guts in knots!!

    Ahem! I myself am not surprised that Theon wanted to be a Stark. All through ACOK I could feel it whenever he walked through Winterfell. He loved it, COVETED it! It represented everything important to him; family, security, affection (from Robb, at least), safety. Even though he allowed himself to be snidely resentful, deep down inside he just wanted to be part of it all. Makes me despise Balon even more. In taking Winterfell he probably felt he would be grabbing all the things he'd always secretly desired, and would be thought bold and courageous to boot. Nope. Turncloak, that's what you are, bub!

    This whole chapter just brought home how tragic his life has been, even though I'm still angry about the results of his former arrogance.

  3. I wasn't surprised that he was feeling that way, but that he admitted it.

  4. ...and by the way, this is absolutely amazing! Loving reading it. Thanks for all your hard work!!

  5. Looks like my previous post didn't come through. Anyway, I remember a part in this chapter about swords being missing from some of the statues in the crypts. Has there been any insights into what this is all about? Did Abel's washerwomen steal them, or is something else afoot?

  6. No, these are the swords Bran, Hodor, Jojen and Meera took.