Ask the Maester: Answers to Your Questions About Tullys, People Beyond the Wall, and Sexual Customs in the Kingdom

The farmer who took in Arya and the Hound mentioned the Hoster Tully. Who is he?

Hoster Tully was the patriarch of House Tully of Riverrun, Lord Paramount of the Riverlands, and the father of Catelyn Stark and the Vale’s Lysa Arryn (whom you might remember presiding over Tyrion’s trial by combat and breastfeeding her too-old-for-the-teat weirdo son). Hoster was mentioned as being unwell in Season 2, but never appeared onscreen. Our first and only glimpse of him was during the third episode of Season 3, during his postmortem ghost-ride in a canoe filled with kindling, as his son (and future Red Wedding groom) Edmure unsuccessfully shot flaming arrows at him, per Tully funeral tradition. Fun fact: Hoster’s corpse was played by Christopher Newman, one of the show’s producers.

Some quick background on the Riverlands: Centrally located and crisscrossed by the three tributaries of the massive Trident River, the Riverlands are essentially the crossroads of the continent; you just can’t get anyplace easily in Westeros without going through them. As such, the Riverlands have often borne the brunt of the continent’s various wars and have been the site of many a fateful event. Stark ancestor Torrhen Stark surrendered the North to Aegon the Conqueror in the Riverlands. A few hundred years and change later, Robert Baratheon caved in crown prince Rhaegar Targaryen’s chest at the Ruby Ford of the Green Fork of the Trident River, ending the Targaryen dynasty. And, of course, the Red Wedding was held at the Frey family seat, the Twins, which spans the Green Fork of the Trident River.

During the scene where Stannis and Ser Davos were arguing about how many houses Davos had managed to recruit to Stannis’s cause, Ser Davos mentions the Golden Company. What is it?

The Golden Company is one of the many sellsword — a.k.a. mercenary — groups based out of the eastern continent of Essos. It has a reputation for being the most dependable of the sellsword outfits of Essos, and thus the most expensive. Because Essos has no centralized authority and exists mainly as a collection of city-states and the wild expanse of the Dothraki Sea, it has served throughout Westerosi history as a place where people can flee, should their fortunes suffer some sudden reversal. (That’s how Ser Jorah and Daenerys found themselves there.) It’s the Wild West — or in this case, East — of the world of Game of Thrones. It’s also an unregulated marketplace. All manner of things a person might want to acquire but that are unavailable in Westeros (like slaves or weirdo penis-slicing blood-magic sorcerers or exotic poisons or enigmatic assassins or whole armies for hire or banks willing to lend enough money to hire said armies), due to the domestic political situation or the illegal nature of the goods, are available in Essos.

What happened to the ravens the Night’s Watch sent to warn the land about the gathering threat of the Wildlings and the Others? Why is it that Stannis and Ser Davos are the only ones who seem concerned?

Since we just heard Tywin mention Wildings massing at the Wall, we can assume the ravens mostly arrived at their destinations. Most likely, the messages they carried are simply being ignored. Westeros is just emerging (is it?) from a fantastically destructive civil war. The War of the Five Kings touched nearly every region of the continent, through either direct fighting or economic disruption due to drainage of manpower and general lawlessness. The new boss up north is Roose Bolton, who delivered the coup de grace to the beloved Robb Stark at the Red Wedding, and whose bastard son is essentially a serial killer with a penchant for mailing dicks. The Freys now hold sway in the Riverlands. King’s Landing is on its third king in as many years. Most of the noble houses of the realm have had other things on their minds because things are a fucking mess. Wildling attacks, and, really, anything Wall-related have historically been the purview of the Starks, and the Starks are currently indisposed. This is all before mentioning that the Night’s Watch are several centuries past being viewed as anything but a repository for Westeros’s thieves, murderers, and rapists (thieves, murderers, and rapists without noble titles, that is). The Long Night, the generations-long winter that gripped the continent, augured the rise of the Others, and spurred the construction of the Wall, happened millennia ago and has, in the minds of most, become nothing more than a fairy tale.

How common is incest in the kingdom?

The Targaryen kings practiced inbreeding to keep their bloodline pure and concentrate state power within their family. It worked on that score, but the drawback was the occasional batshit insane person whom nobody could say no to. Outside of the Targaryens, who had dragons (for the most part) and could therefore do whatever they wanted, the practice is frowned upon. So, Jaime and Cersei are exactly the twisted deviants you think they are.

Sidebar: Let’s get to the obvious — the scene with Jaime and Cersei in the sept is unambiguously a depiction of rape. This is very different from how the scene was handled in the books. In the books, Cersei does protest Jaime’s advances, but Martin uses the adverb “weakly,” and it’s framed as a concern that the septons might return. Soon after that, she has full agency in the act, telling Jaime, “quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now.” The question for me is whether director Alex Graves and the showrunners were trying to depict what they actually depicted: Jaime raping Cersei. This interview with Graves suggests he was going for something much closer to the book version. Which is troubling because: That. Is. Not. What. They. Showed. GRRM was asked about the scene on his blog, and said:

I think the “butterfly effect” that I have spoken of so often was at work here. In the novels, Jaime is not present at Joffrey’s death, and indeed, Cersei has been fearful that he is dead himself, that she has lost both the son and the father/ lover/ brother. And then suddenly Jaime is there before her. Maimed and changed, but Jaime nonetheless. Though the time and place is wildly inappropriate and Cersei is fearful of discovery, she is as hungry for him as he is for her.

The whole dynamic is different in the show, where Jaime has been back for weeks at the least, maybe longer, and he and Cersei have been in each other’s company on numerous occasions, often quarreling. The setting is the same, but neither character is in the same place as in the books, which may be why Dan & David played the sept out differently. But that’s just my surmise; we never discussed this scene, to the best of my recollection.

Also, I was writing the scene from Jaime’s POV, so the reader is inside his head, hearing his thoughts. On the TV show, the camera is necessarily external. You don’t know what anyone is thinking or feeling, just what they are saying and doing.

If the show had retained some of Cersei’s dialogue from the books, it might have left a somewhat different impression — but that dialogue was very much shaped by the circumstances of the books, delivered by a woman who is seeing her lover again for the first time after a long while apart during which she feared he was dead. I am not sure it would have worked with the new timeline.

That’s really all I can say on this issue. The scene was always intended to be disturbing… but I do regret if it has disturbed people for the wrong reasons.

Jason asks, “Can you please explain the different groups/species above the Wall, the potential conflict with Castle Black, and their overall threat to the throne.”

There are Wildling subtribes, but the ones we know about are the human-flesh-barbecue-loving Thenns, who come from the titular Thenn region beyond the Wall. I’m not quite sure if mentioning the other subtribes is either (1) important or (2) spoilery, so it’s best, and easier, to just think of them all as Wildlings, at least for right now. As for species, I guess the notable ones would be the Giants and their woolly mammoth steeds. The books mention Shadowcats — something like a mountain lion or a panther — as well as animals that seem like walruses along the coast. Mance and the Wildling army don’t pose a direct threat to the throne; organized leadership structures are anathema to them. They just want to get south of the Wall before the Others rise again in force. Mance plans to take out Castle Black because it controls one of the only unblocked tunnels through the Wall.

Michael asks, “Is Tommen’s father Robert or Jaime?”

Tommen and all the children birthed by Cersei are genetically Jaime’s. We know this because of the book Ned discovered back in Season 1 that chronicled the lineages of the great houses of Westeros and described every Baratheon child, basically ever, as having dark hair. So, using this Gregor Mendel–esque deductive shorthand, we can safely consider Tommen & Co. incest bastards.

Whitfield asks, “What happened to the Mountain?”

He’s been off-camera, carrying out punitive pillaging raids for Lord Tywin to flush out the Brotherhood Without Banners, who are basically the Game of Thrones version of Robin Hood’s gang. You might remember the Brotherhood for the ability of one of its members, Thoros of Myr, to, basically, raise the fucking dead — in this case, Brotherhood leader Beric Dondarrion — by whispering a prayer to the god R’hllor, the Lord of Light, into the freshly corpse-ified person’s ear. The Brotherhood was operating in Lannister territory with impunity, leading Tywin to believe it must be doing so with the support of the local population. So, Tywin sent his most cruel minion to, basically, murder and rape at will until someone gave up the Brotherhood. The last we heard of the Mountain was when Polliver — before he got stabbed in the throat by Arya — said he had been working with him, though he was vague about when and where.

Prince Oberyn mentioned studying poisons at the Citadel. Where is that?

The easiest way to think of the Citadel is as Maester University. It’s in the Citadel that Maesters forge their chains and train new members. It’s in the Reach, which is the region of Westeros governed by the Tyrells.

Is there anyone Prince Oberyn will not have sex with?

Tywin Lannister entered Prince Oberyn’s room with four guardsmen at his back. The air was thick with the scent of Tyroshi incense, Dornish wine, and flesh. The smell excited him.

“Prince Oberyn.”

“Lord Tywin.”

“May we have the room?”

Oberyn looked up at his paramour Ellaria and tipped his head toward the door. Ellaria, the pimp, and the two whores exited. Oberyn sat up.

“Would you like to sit?”

“No, thank you.”

Oberyn raised his eyebrows, dropping his chin to his chest, and patted the edge of the soiled mattress. Tywin felt his blood go hot and rush to his ears; all he could hear was the pat pat pat of Oberyn’s hand and his own breathing.

“Well, perhaps just for a moment.”

Filed Under: Game of Thrones, TV, ask the maester, Jason Concepcion

Jason Concepcion is a staff writer for Grantland and coauthor of We’ll Always Have Linsanity.

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