Chapters 15 - 17
Chapter 15: Jon
Jon and Tormund watch some giants ride past on mammoths, and it turns out that the giants are actually yetis. Did you know that there is an extinct protohuman genus called Gigantopithecus
which matches the dimensions of the giants described here, and there is a theory among Bigfoot believers that Bigfoot is actually a surviving population of said genus? I wonder if Martin is using that idea here. Hey, they're riding on mammoths, so it does have precedent.
Anyway, Jon is a bit disappointed that the giants aren't anywhere near as big and cool as the ones in Old Nan's stories. Tormund tells a bunch of tall tales about his own awesomeness, making him the sort of person who would probably become Robert's best friend if the two ever met. I like Tormund. He's fun.
Tormund asks Jon if it's true that the Watch cuts off the penes of all their members. When Jon says no, Tormund is flabbergasted that he has ignored the fact that Ygritte wants to shag him very very much. He then described the mating rituals of the Free Men, and is seems that rape is standard practice among them. I guess that's Martin's way of telling us that freedom also has its downsides.
For his part, Jon is a little perturbed that he's starting to find Ygritte attractive and doesn't know what to do about it. Jon tries to claim he's too young to marry, and Tormund in confusion asks if in the south, a man must marry every woman he shags in a parallel to what Robb is at this very moment doing, and what Eddard did not do when he made Jon. You know, that's pretty clever. There's a nice parallel between Robb's current situation and the fact that Ygritte has taken an interest in Jon, and is also rather the opposite of Jon's own parentage. Also, I have a feeling that Robert would very much approve of Tormund's view of relationships.
Jon ponders various things, about how he will kill the Mance if it comes down to it but won't enjoy it, and about how the Free Men are hopelessly undisciplined and will easily fall to the Watchmen. Say, weren't the Watchmen attacked by zombies like 15 chapters ago? What ever happened with that?
Ygritte and Ryk appear, and they all sing a not-that-great song about the death of the last yeti. Jon wonders why Ygritte is so upset, and she just screeches that he knows nothing. Then Rattleshirt attacks Jon with the eagle that has the soul of one of the dudes he killed, and announces that the Mance wants to see him.
They find the Mance at the Fist of the First Men, where he is very angry that Jon lied to him. The Watchmen have all been massacred by zombies. The Mance probes Jon, who reluctantly tells him that they had 300 men, under the command of Jeor Mormont. Rattleshirt wants to kill Jon, but Ygritte pleads for his life on the grounds that they've been having sex every night. Hey, she never said when they started.
Well well well, an eye for an eye. Jon spares Ygritte in book 2; Ygritte saves Jon in book 3a. It seems like Martin is going for a theme of parallels in this book, and I have to say it's working quite well.
There's also an effective switch from happy to grim partway through the chapter, the danger of the Mance's wrath and the cold, stark (no pun intended) disturbing nature of the aftermath of the zombie attack chillingly contrasted with the light-hearted, manly fun of Jon's conversation with Tormund. Good writing that be.
Chapter 16: Sansa
Sansa Stark (age 12) is being fitted for a new dress at the behest of Cersei. This new dress is going to emphasis Sansa's (age 12) bosoms, which she has recently noticed men taking notice of. Sansa (age 12) is described as recently having trouble lacing her existing clothes all the way up.
Anyway, blah blah blah, Margaery and pals have all befriended Sansa and are showing her a good time. Margaery treats Sansa like a sister, and even calls her by that appelation. After several pages of Sansa's life being pretty decent, Dontos urges her not to go to Highgarden; he's got the ship all sorted out, so Sansa can flee at the wedding feast. Sansa (age 12) says she doesn't have to escape, she can marry Willas. Dontos doesn't think this is a good idea; Willas and the Tyrells don't care one way or the other about Sansa, they just love her claim to Winterfell. Sansa thinks that even if that's true, Willas might still come to love her (as indeed did Catelyn and Eddard) and she can have his babies and she can name them Eddard and Bran and Rickon and maybe Arya if there's a girl and they'll all be as brave as Loras and they'll all hate the Lannisters and aren't kittens adorable and and and...
Well, Sansa's doomed. That much is certain. Martin has made the setup too perfect for her not to experience crushing disappointment.
Funny thing about the last three chapters. In each of them, a Stark seems to be in a pretty good position only for everything to go south. Robb wins a bunch of battles and finds love, but he loses the Freys and allows the Lannisters to regroup. Jon makes some friends among the Free Men and sees wonders, but then his old comrades get massacred by zombies and his new ones discover he's a spy. Sansa gets the chance to marry a Tyrell of Highgarden and be the princess she always thought she was, but we all know that isn't going to work out.
Come to think of it, when last we saw Arya, she was also on the verge of success. She had just been found by Robb's men, who are going to take her home. They're about to be massacred by Lannister knights, aren't they?
Chapter 17: Arya
Well speak of the devil. OK Arya, what have you got for us?
They left Hot Pie back at the inn, because the existence of bad bread offends him on a personal level and he must right this wrong. Arya has been paying attention to the side of the trees with the moss on them, of which she tried to persuade the benefits to Gendry and Hot Pie in an earlier chapter. Or was it the previous book? Well, in a chapter in the series that came before this one. Anyway, she realises they're going south, even though Winterfell is in the north.
You know, I actually checked up on the whole moss always growing on the north side of trees when I was Arya's age. It isn't true; moss grows all over trees with no particular preference for direction.
Arya tells Harwin about her recent adventures, but leaves out Jaqen H'gar. Harwin in turn tells of how he and 40 other men were part of a force under Beric Dondarrion that, at Eddard's command, have been making trouble for Gregor Clegane for over a year. After a couple of days of fun stories and good-natured slaggin, Harwin's men reveal that Beric Dondarrion has gone renegade, as have his followers.
Arya tries to escape, but is captured by Harwin after two pages of genuinely exciting horseback chasing. Once again, Arya tries to be badass, but ends up just a scared little girl.
I was right. Arya's last chapter set her up for an easy ride, and this one shoots her down. I wonder who's next.