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A Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin

Chapters 31-34

Chapters 25-30

Chapters 35-39

Summary: Chapter 31: Tyrion (IV)

Tyrion, now Catelyn’s captive, rides with her party on the eastern road to the Eyrie. Tyrion tries to explain his innocence. He tells Catelyn that only a fool would arm an assassin with his own dagger, and that Littlefinger is a habitual liar. A band of mountain clansmen attack the party before he can finish. Catelyn arms Tyrion and his men on the condition that they will put down their swords once the fight is over. Many men die in the battle that follows. At one point, Tyrion manages to save Catelyn’s life with some sloppy fighting. Back on the road, Tyrion catches up with Catelyn and tells her that, regardless of which parts of his story she believes, he couldn't have won the dagger that way because he never bets against his family.

Summary: Chapter 32: Arya (III)

Arya is catching cats as part of Syrio’s training when Pincess Myrcella and Prince Tommen discover her. Before they recognize her, Arya escapes through a nearby window and runs into the maze of corridors underneath the castle. Further down she hears two men talking. One of the men wears armor, and the other has a forked beard. Arya hides and listens. The armored man says that they are running out of time, since the wolf and the lion are at each other’s throats and more players are entering the game. The man with the forked beard says they need more time, and that Drogo will not attack until Daenerys’ son is born. He says a war would not be useful yet, and that the armored man should work his magic to delay the conflict. The man with the forked beard also implies that they should kill Ned if it will buy time. When Arya finds her way out of the castle’s underground maze of tunnels, she tells her father what she overheard, but he doesn't believe her.

Summary: Chapter 33: Eddard (VIII)

Ned has an intense argument with the council in one of the only meetings for which Robert is present. Varys has received news from Jorah that Daenerys is pregnant, and Robert wants her assassinated. With the exception of Barristan and Ned, the other councilors agree. Pycelle argues that, if Daenerys’s baby is born, he will eventually start a war costing countless lives, so killing Daenerys would effectively save lives. Renly suggests they have Jorah kill Daenerys, and Varys suggests poison. Disgusted, Ned resigns as Hand and storms out of the room, saying that Robert should kill Daenerys himself. Later, Littlefinger tells Ned that the council decided they would offer to make a lord of anyone who managed to kill the Targaryens. Littlefinger also says that if Ned stays in King's Landing a little longer, he will show him the brothel that Jon Arryn visited, which Ned and his men have been searching for.

Summary: Chapter 34: Catelyn (VI)

Catelyn arrives at the Bloody Gate of the Eyrie with Tyrion and her few surviving men. She observes that Tyrion and Bronn have become friends. She worries about Bronn, who is strong and courageous but unkind and of dubious loyalty. Brynden, Catelyn’s uncle, tells her that her sister Lysa has become paranoid. Though Catelyn’s party arrives at night, Lysa has given orders that Catelyn immediately make the dangerous ascent to the Eyrie, a series of seven high, thin towers set into a mountain. Catelyn arrives at the castle early in the morning to find her sister is furious that Catelyn has arrived unannounced with a Lannister. Lysa treats her son Robert like an infant though the boy is six years old, and the boy still sucks at her breast. Catelyn is horrified, and she notes that Rickon is only three years old and far more mature than Lysa’s sheltered boy.

Analysis

Catelyn starts to doubt her evidence against Tyrion soon after she captures him, but she feels she cannot alter her course of action. She sees the reason in Tyrion's statement when he says she is stupid to believe he would arm an assassin with his own dagger. She also seems willing to believe Tyrion when he says Littlefinger, who told Catelyn the dagger belonged to Tyrion, is a self-serving liar. If Tyrion’s words were not enough to persuade Catelyn of his innocence, however, his actions during the battle certainly make her question his guilt. He has the opportunity to let her die, but instead he comes to her defense and saves her life. Afterward, Catelyn seems uncertain what to do with Tyrion since Tyrion's reasoning to her and his behavior both suggest he didn't try to assassinate Bran. But Catelyn is reluctant, or perhaps feels unable, to admit her mistake, and so she continues on to the Eyrie with Tyrion as her prisoner.

The reader in this section is introduced to Catelyn's sister Lysa, a manic and paranoid woman who seems mentally ill, and she provides a foil for the calmer, more collected Catelyn. Lysa’s obsession with her son is an exaggerated, crazed version of the protectiveness that Catelyn felt for Bran after his fall. Though Catelyn was ashamed when she came to her senses, she was able to confront her fears and sail to King’s Landing, capture Tyrion, and complete a terrifying nighttime ascent to the highest tower of the Eyrie. By contrast, Lysa has responded to the death of her husband by retreating to her castle with her son. Catelyn is brave, if slightly illogical, when confronted with fear, while Lysa is cowardly, completely illogical, and overcome by her fears. If Catelyn’s lesser fears have resulted in unjust actions like the warrantless arrest of Tyrion, Lysa’s irrational fears seem likely to result in even worse decisions.

Below the Red Keep, Arya witnesses another side of Varys as he speaks to Illyrio, revealing Varys to be duplicitous and conniving. Varys is the armored man, as indicated by his extensive knowledge of the secrets of King’s Landing and his reference to his “birds.” Illyrio’s size, accent, and forked beard reveal his identity. Though Varys has insisted that he serves only the realm, he now seems to insist that he and Illyrio instigate a war, which seems to contradict Varys's stated goal. Varys also admits that Ned is the person who worries him most after having just told Ned that he now feels he can trust him. Again, Varys's private words are at odds with how he behaves publicly. When Illyrio tells Varys to work his magic to keep the situation under control, his words paint Varys as something of a puppetmaster, furtively manipulating the people around him to his own ends. By that point, the evidence suggests that Varys serves himself rather than the realm as he claims.

The debate about Daenerys’ assassination sheds more light on the moral codes, and perhaps the motives, of the royal council. Robert wants Daenerys—and her unborn child—killed by an assassin, and from his way of speaking about Daenerys it is clear that he has lost all sense of morality. He is concerned primarily with maintaining his power whatever the expense, despite the reality that he hates being king. Only Ned seems to be aware that they are talking about murdering a young girl and her baby because the child might pose a threat one day. The rest of the royal council immediately agrees with Robert and obviously has no regard for the seriousness of taking a life. Ned, as a result, becomes a representative of morality and honor, while Robert represents the ability of power to corrupt. The royal council takes on a separate role from either of these. Varys cleverly argues that killing Daenerys and her child now could prevent a war, and would in turn save countless lives. He presents killing Daenerys as an ultimately moral act. This argument, however, seems to be contrived to convince Ned, not because Varys is genuinely concerned with saving lives. With the exception of Ned, the royal council appears to have no real opinion of its own and just tells Robert what they think he wants to hear. Their concern does not seem to be doing what's best for the realm or even for Robert alone, but rather retaining their own power.

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