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Literature: Tales of Dunk and Egg
''Dunk the Lunk, Thick as a Castle Wall
Tales of Dunk and Egg
"This man protected the weak, as every true knight must. Let the gods determine if he was right or wrong."
— Baelor Breakspear
is a series of short novellas written by George RR Martin
. It takes place in the same universe and continuity of A Song of Ice and Fire
but is set approximately a century before the events of the main series. Although a Prequel
, the novella does not feature any of the major recurring characters in the main series and features a completely different set of characters and events, some of which were only alluded to as Noodle Incident
or Great Offscreen War
in the main text but which are explored in fuller detail here.
After burying his mentor Ser Arlan of Pennytree on a meadow beneath a tree, Dunk of Flea Bottom decides to take up the calling of knighthood himself and enters as a poor hedge knight, styled Ser Duncan the Tall, in the Tourney at Ashford. On his travels he comes across a small, curious, bald child called Egg (really Aegon Targaryen, 4th son of Prince Maekar)
who volunteers to be his squire. Their random meeting leads to a lifelong friendship and several adventures, great and small as they trudge across Westeros.
The published novellas include:
- The Hedge Knight (1998, published in Legends Anthology, edited by Robert Silverberg)
- The Sworn Sword (2003, published in Legends II, edited by Robert Silverberg)
- The Mystery Knight (2010, published in Warriors, edited by Gardner Dozois)
A fourth novella tentatively titled The She-Wolves of Winterfell
was announced but has since been put on hold in favour of completing The Winds of Winter
. Martin has announced his plans to publish several future tales, with the stated intention to chronicle the complete adventures of Dunk and Egg. The series has led to two well received graphic novel adaptations of The Hedge Knight
(2004) and The Mystery Knight
(2010) written and drawn by Ben Avery and Mike S. Miller and published by Dark Horse Comics and Marvel Comics respectively.Dunk and Egg
differs from the main series
by being significantly different
in tone. The values of knighthood, the codes of chivalry and the honor of service in the same, is played straight for the most part. It's mainly a chronicle of perhaps the most unlikely friendship in the annals of Westeros.
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- Badass and Child Duo: Dunk and Egg, though Egg is Ser Duncan's squire.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: The Targaryens, natch. Thanks to Massively Numbered Siblings. However there are quite a few good Targaryens to go with the crazy and evil ones. But even then, they hardly get along well.
- Call to Adventure: Every tale ends with Dunk and Egg on the open road.
- Catch Phrase:
- Egg cheers on fighters and jousters by screaming, "Get him! Get him! He's right there!"
- Dunk threatening to clout Egg in the ear.
- Dark Secret: Dunk will occasionally feel guilty about something unspecified, particularly in reference to his status as a knight. It's strongly implied that Dunk was never knighted by Arlan and has been lying about it to advance his social station.
- Dumb Muscle: Dunk thinks of himself this way. He's a gigantic man who is constantly accusing himself of being an idiot. In truth, he's smarter than he gives himself credit for.
- Genre Shift: The main books are Epic Fantasy with Loads and Loads of Characters, whereas Dunk and Egg is essentially a medieval romance about a Knight Errant and his boon companion.
- Gentle Giant: Dunk is a towering giant of a man, but he has a mild personality and always tries to do the right thing.
- Great Offscreen War: The First Blackfyre Rebellion, specifically the Battle of Redgrass Field which seriously changed the lives of all the characters.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Dunk is about ten years older than Egg, an adult to a child, but they're good friends. Egg, however, is much better educated than Dunk.
- Knight Errant: In the minds of Ser Arlan and Dunk, "the hedge knight is the truest kind of knight".
"Other knights serve the lords who keep them, or from whom they hold their lands, but we serve where we will, for men whose causes we believe in. Every knight swears to protect the weak and innocent, but we keep the vow best, I think."
- Knight in Shining Armor: Dunk is a straight example.
"A Knight who remembered his vows".
- Legendary in the Sequel: Readers of A Song of Ice and Fire know that Ser Duncan the Tall becomes the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard and that Egg becomes King Aegon V "The Unlikely", one of the last good kings of the Targaryen dynasty. They also know sadly, that they die in an event called "Tragedy at Summerhall".
- Lighter and Softer: To a degree that it's hard to believe that it exists in the same universe. It's much more good humored and less tense and violent.
- Nice Guy: Dunk always remembers Ser Arlan as a very kind and mild-mannered man. However, Arlan's gentle chiding of "Dunk the Lunk" seem to have hit Dunk a lot harder than the man probably intended.
- Odd Friendship: In a time of feudal class divisions, the idea that a poor Knight could become a Big Brother Mentor to the little Prince is a kind of special magic in itself.
- Posthumous Character: Ser Arlan of Pennytree, Dunk's original master, dies just before the beginning of the first story. Dunk reflects on his time with Arlan from time to time.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: It tilts closer to the first scale than A Song of Ice and Fire but other characters lean to the other side, especially in The Mystery Knight.
- Small Steps Hero: Duncan as a knight doesn't seek to involve himself in great conflicts but rather to do his duty and live up to the ideals of knighthood as embodied by his mentor and heroes.
- Unskilled, but Strong: Dunk never received adequate formal training in swordsmanship and jousting. In the first two stories, he's a rather incompetent fighter and jouster. Only when fighting devolves into a grappling match does his superior strength win out. By the third story, however, he's received enough combat experience to hold his own.
1. The Hedge Knight
Dunk of Flea Bottom, the squire of the late hedge knight Ser Arlan of Pennytree, takes up his master's mantle and enters the tourney at Ashford as a newly minted knight. On his journey to Ashford, he meets Egg, a curiously bald-headed boy who volunteers his service as a squire.
- The Alcoholic: Prince Daeron the Drunken
- Appropriated Appellation: Raymun Fossoway is frequently mocked by his cousin, Ser Steffon Fossoway, for being "green". In the Trial by Seven, the newly knight Ser Raymun takes a green apple as his sigil after Steffon turns his cloak and fights for Aerion's side. His belief is that "better green than rotten". Readers of A Song of Ice and Fire also know that Ser Raymund would become the founder of the Fossoways of the Cider Hall, called "the Green Apple Fossoways" for the same reason.
- Arc Villain: Aerion Brightflame essentially functions as the Big Bad for this novella, being a cruel tormentor to his own brother, Egg, and setting off the climax of the story when he attempts to assault Tanselle and is repelled by Dunk; this leads to Aerion accosting Dunk on trumped-up charges and the subsequent Trial by Seven, where Ser Duncan defeats Aerion and clears his named. The aftermath of this leads to Aerion being exiled by his father, who has come to a Heel Realization following his accidentally killing his brother during the Trial and who arranged for Ser Duncan to take Egg as his squire.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Prince Aerion Brightflame obviously, but also Ser Manfred Dondarrion and Ser Steffon Fossoway.
- Big Good: Baelor Breakspear, Prince of Dragonstone, the Hand of the King.
- Bittersweet Ending: Dunk wins his Trial by Seven, but it comes at the price of the death of three good men, including Baelor Breakspear who everyone believes was the great hope of the Seven Kingdoms. Tanselle Too-Tall, the Dornishwoman who Dunk crushes on, also lives but she has to flee without saying goodbye and Dunk fears that he'll never see her again. On the other hand, Prince Maekar accepts Dunk as a suitable Knight and Mentor to his young son, Prince Aegon.
- Broken Pedestal: Dunk idolizes Ser Arlan, but must quickly come to terms with the fact that Arlan oversold his martial accomplishments and neglected his duties in teaching Dunk how to fight.
- Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Dunk has no choice but to do this since Ser Arlan never told him where is Pennytree, his home in the Riverlands, and he had no other family, being a poor hedge knight himself.
- Cain and Abel:
- Egg hates his elder brother Prince Aerion Brightflame, passionately and even cheers other competitors to kill him.
- A more tragic example is that of Prince Maekar and Prince Baelor Breakspear. Maekar resented his brother who was more likable and good looking than him, and hated the fact that his children would inherit before Maekar's. But even then he never wanted to kill him. In the Trial by Seven, Maekar and Baelor tussled and a poorly timed hit from Maekar's mace damages his brother's brains and kills him.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Aerion destroys the puppet stand and breaks one of Tanselle's fingers because they put on a story where a dragon gets slain. Dragons being the sigil of House Targaryen (and believing himself to actually be a dragon), Aerion takes it as a veiled insult to the crown.
- The Good Chancellor: Baelor Breakspear is widely revered for being this, much to the jealousy of his brother Prince Maekar.
- Heel-Face Turn: Prince Daeron "the Drunk" admits to his own failure in doing right by his youngest brother, apologises to Dunk for levelling his own accusations against him (which he withdraws), and quickly yields during the Trial By Seven.
- Humble Hero: Dunk, Egg and Baelor Breakspear.
- King Incognito: Dunk does realise the drunk and the boy he meets in an inn are Prince Daeron Targaryen and a young Aegon Targaryen respectively.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Prince Maekar after killing his brother Baelor. Unlike other examples, he fully accepts his guilt and resolves to make amends as much as he can, first sending his evil son, Prince Aerion Brightflame to Lys and then assigning Dunk as the Hedge Knight and Mentor to his youngest son, and favorite, Aegon in the hopes that he has more humility than his brothers.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Played with. Since he was small, he was always known as Dunk and he's not sure if that was a nickname or his real name. Egg thinks that Dunk's true name is Ser Duncan and he thinks that it sounds nice.
- Origins Episode: A classic example in that we see Dunk becoming Ser Duncan and Egg becoming his squire, their first meeting. We also see the beginning of the formation of the Fossoway Cadet Branch: The Green Apple Fossoways.
- The Squire: Egg was originally supposed to squire for his brother, Prince Daeron the Drunken, but his love for alcohol led him to forgo going to the Tourney at Ashford. Getting restless, he decides to squire for Dunk simply because he's a knight going the same way. In the end, he tells his father that he would not squire for any knight but Dunk.
- Statuesque Stunner: Tanselle Too-Tall, the Dornish Puppeteer who catches Dunk's eye, who as Dunk notes is "not too tall for me."
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Prince Maekar knows that this is how Baelor will be regarded after his death and he will always be hated across Westeros for being the man who took their Prince and potential Great King away from them. He also tells Dunk that he'll be treated the same and tells him to prepare for it.
- The Tourney / Tournament Arc: The entire story takes place entirely at the Tournament at Ashford and goes into details in exploring the rituals of competition and chivalry, as well as the atmosphere around it.
- Working Class Hero: Dunk of Flea Bottom, a squire for a Hedge Knight becomes a Knight in service to the Royal Family. He's loved by the smallfolk for protecting one of them against a deranged Prince.
- You Are Already Dead: Prince Baelor feels strange after helping Dunk win his Trial by Combat, and asks his fellow knights to help remove his helmet. That's when they discover that the back of his skull has been crushed, and the helmet was basically the only thing holding it together.
- You Should Have Died Instead: Prince Valarr in his grief wonders why his father, the Hand of the King and hope of Westeros, should die so that a poor Hedge Knight like Dunk should live. Dunk himself feels guilty about this.
2. The Sworn Sword
Dunk and Egg have entered into service as sworn swords of Ser Eustace Osgrey of Standfast. A grievance over water rights has embroiled Ser Eustace into a feud with his neighbor, the rich and vindictive Lady Webber of Coldmoat. It's up to Dunk and Egg to resolve the dispute.
- Bittersweet Ending: Everything works out perfectly for Eustance and Rohanne, with their grudge put squarely behind them and the drought breaking. Duncan, however, is chafed that his crush jumped into marriage while he was unconscious, and he's out of work again.
- Civil War: The Blackfyre Rebellion in the past, whose aftermath and trauma is explored on a smaller scale in the local conflict between Standfast and Coldmoat.
- Conflicting Loyalty: Much like Ser Jaime Lannister several decades in the future, Ser Duncan experiences this even on the smallest scale. He's sworn his sword to Ser Eustace Osgrey to defend his lands and people from the Webbers, but Eustace is a former Blackfyre loyalist and so a traitor, and Lady Rohanne hates him for foolishly entering a conflict that led to her beloved Ser Addam dying on the opposite side. Moreover, Dunk likes and admires Lady Rohanne. Dunk's real commitment is protecting the common people who Eustace is forcing into preparing for a battle that will get them butchered.
- First Episode Spoiler: Egg's real identity as Prince Aegon Targaryen.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Lady Rohanne Webber is not averse to ordering trespassers being drowned in sacs. The trespassers only cross over because of a drought she enables. However, Dunk and Egg realize that she's got an understandable grudge with Eustace Osgrey and that the latter is a former traitor who has never fully reconstructed. Egg who is a Targaryen is appalled at Osgrey but Dunk reminds him that regardless they have to protect the people loyal to him, who truly suffer because of a petty feud.
- Honor Before Reason: Egg being the grandson of Prince Daeron, Blackfyre's enemy, asks Ser Eustace if he only supported Daemon to get Coldmoat from the Webbers. Eustace doesn't deny that he expected this, but he clarifies that the real reason is because he believed that Daemon Blackfyre was "the better man" and he had the support of every great knight of the age and to him, Daemon seemed more of a heroic figure than Daeron Targaryen.
- Karma Houdini: Ser Bennis the Robber Knight who bleeds Standfast dry while everyone's away. Dunk vows to get him when their paths cross in the future.
- Only in It for the Money: Ser Bennis, a hedge knight who fulfills the "robber knight" stereotype people unjustly hold against Ser Duncan.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Much time is spent by Dunk, Egg and Ser Bennis in training the villagers in use of arms for a proposed battle against the Webbers of Coldmoat despite many of them never holding a sword in their life, quite a few sharing the name of Wat and needing new names to differentiate in battle, and the fact that they don't entirely get along with each other. In a thorough deconstruction of the usual concept, Dunk decides that these villagers will get butchered since the time window is too short to be trained properly and he decides to resolve the conflict himself before it spills into bloodshed.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: The chemistry between Lady Rohanne and Dunk is filled with this.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Egg gets a soft version of this when he puts down two of Aegon the Unworthy's Great Bastards, Bloodraven and Blackfyre, for being like all bastards, untrustworthy and ungrateful. Dunk replies that as a poor child born in a slum who never knew his parents, its more than a little likely that he is a bastard himself and wonders if that means he's untrustworthy. Egg is silent and abashed at this.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Played With. Dunk notes that Egg is so well educated and so observant about political life and his family at the capital that he occasionally says things that should be said by an older man. But at other times he has the emotional maturity and fatigue of the small child that he is.
- Working Class People Are Morons: Egg comes to this conclusion on meeting the villagers of Standfast, most of whom never held a sword, can't fight and many of whom share the names of "Wat" and are happy at recieving names that to them sound royal. Dunk reminds him that they merely lack education and many of them can probably sew, farm and work with wood unlike a certain Prince of Summerhall.
- Written by the Winners: Although the Blackfyre pretenders are remembered as villainous usurpers, Ser Eustace argues that their cause was just and that Daemon would have made a better king. If, by simple twists of fate, they hadn't lost the war, they would be remembered as heroes.
3. The Mystery Knight
Dunk and Egg attend Lord Ambrose Butterwell's Tourney in celebration of Butterwell's wedding to a daughter of Lord Frey. Dunk decides to enter the tourney as a "mystery knight," but Egg realizes that there's more at stake than a simple prize, and they quickly find hints of a conspiracy.
- Ambiguously Gay: John the Fiddler is rather handsy with Dunk, and his tone is exceedingly flirtatious. There's also this exchange:
John: Where are you going, ser?
Dunk: To my bed, to sleep. I'm drunk as a dog.
John: Be my dog, ser. The night's alive with promise. We can howl together, and wake the very gods.
- Ambiguously Evil: Lord Bloodraven has this reputation in Westeros, even the Targaryen dynasty he's supporting is scared and uncertain about him. Him being a bastard, albino with one eye also counts a lot against him. Yet, he seems to like Egg a lot, even if the latter is a little rude to him while being respectful to Dunk.
- Arc Villain: Lord Gormon Peake, a rude, crass, vengeful lord who still holds a bitter grudge over the loss of one of his three castles for his previous revolt against the Crown.
- Arc Words: "How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have?" and "A Thousand Eyes, and One"
- Bratty Half-Pint: Even as a four-year-old Walder Frey is such an annoying little shit that Dunk is tempted to throw him down a well. Indeed Walder Frey triggered his elder sister's marriage by catching her with a lowborn boyfriend and then finking her to his Lord Father who forced her to marry Lord Butterwell.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Dunk says hello to the troupe of performing dwarfs as they leave during the tourney, and notices one of them stinks to high heaven. Turns out he stole the dragon egg by crawling up the privy shaft.
- Darker and Edgier: Not by much, but a good deal so compared to the earlier two stories.
- Deconstruction: The Tourney as a display and exhibition of knightly prowess and chivalry. Turns out, it attracts all kinds of crooks, book-keepers and fixers and is used as a front to stage a conspiracy against the ruling monarch.
- The Dreaded: Lord Bloodraven, the Hand of the King, who has "a thousand eyes, and one", a reputation as an evil sorcerer, and has essentially made Westeros a police state where people are afraid of speaking their minds.
- Due to the Dead: When Dunk passes by the head of Gormon Peake after Bloodraven's reinforcements, he closes his eyelids. His reasons for doing so are personal, it was Gormon Peake who killed Ser Arlan's son Roger at Redgrass Field and as per Dunk, had Roger lived than Ser Arlan would never seek Dunk as a Replacement Goldfish.
- Futureshadowing: Egg mentions that King Aerys I discovered a prophecy in one of his books, possibly related to the return of dragons. This is the very same prophecy concerning "The Prince That Was Promised" that would ultimately doom succeeding generations of Targaryens in A Song of Ice and Fire and become a personal obsession of Prince Rhaegar in particular.
- Heroic Bastard: Ser Glendon Flowers, the bastard son of Quentyn Ball, is a fine knight and decent guy who is unfairly made the Fall Guy for the dragon egg disappearance. He eventually turns against the Blackfyre loyalists for good, though it's slightly subverted when you remember that he won his knighthood by pimping his sister's virginity.
- Jerkass: Ser Uthor Underleaf, Ser Gormon Peake, most of the Blackfyre Rebels save, oddly enough, for John the Fiddler and even Ser Glendon Flowers.
- Kids Are Cruel: It's a bit of a surprise to learn that the Gentle Giant and mild-mannered Dunk was a real creep as a street urchin. He recalls his gang and himself playing cruel tricks with a severed head.
- Not Just a Tournament: Egg calls the Tournament at Whitewalls a "traitor's tourney" noting that most of the families gathered there were former Blackfyre supporters. Dunk realizes, far too late, that he's right.
- Playing Both Sides: Lord Ambrose Butterwell has long been suspected of this, with some stating that he deliberately sent one of his sons to the Blackfyre side in the hopes that his family would profit either way. He was also suspected of being a saboteur in his tenure as Hand of the King to Daeron II. After his supposedly unwitting involvement in the Whitewalls-Second Blackfyre Rebellion fiasco, Lord Bloodraven, the new Hand of the King, deals with him decisively:
"I have heard your bleatings, Lord Ambrose, and I believe one word in ten. On that account I will allow you to retain a tenth part of your fortune."
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Dunk delivers it to Black Tom. "I told you. I'm better with a sword."
- Shout-Out: Lord Gormon Peake of the Castle Starpike, whose sigil is a castle of three towers (two of which were stripped from him after the Blackfyre Rebellion), is obviously a reference to Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, which has a major character named Steerpike.
- Son of a Whore: Ser Glendon Flowers is the bastard child of Blackfyre Rebel, Ser Quentyn Ball and a camp follower. His mother later established a brothel at King's Landing called Pussywillows and so Ser Glendon is known as the "Knight of Pussywillows" by enemies and Ser Glendon Ball by friends and supporters. Like Dunk, he squired for a Hedge Knight before becoming a Knight himself. His method to success, whore his sister to the hedge knight he's squiring with.
- Took a Level in Badass:
- Between this story and the previous, Dunk has become a much better fighter. He recalls fighting off an Ironborn boarding party and considers himself virtually peerless with an axe or mace. In the end, handily defeats the villain in single combat. He's still a lousy jouster, however.
- Also Egg. He improvises a brilliant gambit to sway Lord Ambrose Butterwell back to the Crown. Indeed Lord Bloodraven even notes that John the Fiddler's prophecy about the dragon that would wake refers to the future Aegon V more than anything they hoped to hatch at Whitewalls.
- Tournament Arc: Much like "The Hedge Knight", only with a much more seedier look at the values it supposedly espouses.
- Two Aliases, One Character: It's strongly suggested that Manfred Plumm rather than a spy of Bloodraven's is Bloodraven wearing a glamour. Dunk notes something odd about his appearance, and his descriptions match the use of glamour in A Dance with Dragons.