On the Legitimacy of Kings
Robb Stark continues to prove his mettle by defeating the Lannisters (again) in battle. His sister Sansa Stark, engaged to be married to King Joffrey, but as much or more of a hostage in his court, is whipped on account of her brother’s success. She is rescued from further harm, however, by Tyrion, a man who claims to have no honor but is proving to be the most honorable of all, perhaps in spite of himself. He asks her quietly is she wishes to put an end to the engagement. When she demures, and says with consummate tact, that Joffrey is her lord, Tyrion recognizes a kindred diplomat in Sansa.
Littlefinger’s visit to Renly Baratheon’s court is filled with ambivalence. He offers to open the gates of King’s Landing to Renly. He also returns Ned Stark’s remains to Catelyn Stark, and says that they – Littlefinger and Catelyn – can at last be together. But this is an unrequited love. Catelyn does not want Littlefinger, and he has allowed himself to fall in love with a woman far above his station. I am not certain if I can feel any sympathy for Littlefinger. He betrayed Ned, which was a terrible thing, and he was perhaps motivated to do so by his desire for Catelyn, whom he has loved for so long, without hope.
Catelyn tries to make peace between Stannis Baratheon and Renly, without success. Stannis by all rights – for what those are worth in Westeros – is the legitimate king, and one would expect that the eldest brother of the prior king would simply accede to the throne without much fuss. However, at least some do still believe that Joffrey is Robert’s own son, and thus the true king of the realm. Also, this raises the question of why so many follow Renly instead of Stannis. Renly is more outgoing, and Stannis is humorless and dour. Perhaps though it is also a question of legitimacy. It should be borne in mind that the Baratheon “dynasty” is less than a generation old at the time of the death of Robert Baratheon. Robert himself deposed the old Targaryen king, and you can make your own decision as to whether he is thereby legitimate.
I admire Martin for creating a political situation in which there are plausible reasons for men to support any one of the contenders vying for the throne, or at least a throne, since Robb Stark at this juncture simply wishes to be King in the North,
Speaking of Targaryens, Dany finally gets to be in a scene with some real dialogue, and not simply be thirsty. Her Dothraki have arrived at the gates of Qarth, at the edge of the Red Waste, and her entrance is denied by the city’s rulers, the Thirteen. Their spokesman wishes to see her dragons, but Dany is reluctant to allow them a view. I am not sure why she would not show them. Could it be that they are so small that they would not impress? Or does she hear that the Qartheen would try and steal them?
She is at last granted entry when Xaro speaks on her behalf. The gates open to reveal a vista of a wondrous city within, akin to Babylon in its days of greatness. But what are Xaro’s motives?
Arya and Gendry are in deep trouble. The prisoners of the almost comically cruel Lannister soldiers are being tortured by the application of a rat, shoved in a bucket applied to the prisoners chest, which is then heated by fire. Gendry is saved from this horrible death by the arrival of Lord Tywin Lannister, who puts a stop to this sordid affair. Lord Tywin, he is the real deal. One wonders whether the situation in Westeros would be different if he could be everywhere. He is by no means a good guy. He is simply a more effective man than the brutes he has working for him. There was no real point to the torture and murder of the prisoners before Gendry. The Lannister men were just bored.