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The Maester Learns Dothraki, Week 4: ‘The Rains of Castamere’ and Translating ‘Love Is a Battlefield’

Grantland’s in-house Game of Thrones guru, Maester Jason Concepcion, has decided to learn Dothraki. This is a weekly account of his brave quest to master Khal Drogo’s brutal mother tongue.

With Season 5 of Game of Thrones several months away and the sixth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series roaming in a state of undefined semi-completion locked within George R.R. Martin’s ancient word processing software, I’ve been steadily working through Martin’s (with coauthors Elio García and Linda Antonsson) newly released collection of fake history, The World of Ice & Fire. There’s some really interesting stuff in there!

For instance:

The Fascinating Story of the Worst Wedding Song in the World

We already know that “The Rains of Castamere,” the catchy, unofficial goth-ren-fair theme song of the Lannisters and soundtrack to the Red Wedding, memorializes the Lannisters’ victory over rebellious vassal house the Reynes. The Westerlands chapter from The World of Ice & Fire tells the story in full detail, painting a picture of the rise of a young Tywin Lannister and describing how he rehabilitated the family reputation in the wake of the ineffective leadership of his father, Tytos Lannister.

The Reynes were, in many ways, the mirror image of the Lannisters. They were an enormously wealthy house due to their copious and bountiful gold mines. The castle of Castamere, just like Casterly Rock, evolved out of ancient defensive structures raised to guard their respective mines. The difference between them: While Casterly Rock looks like a towering Rock of Gibraltar (nearly two leagues wide and three times taller than the Wall), Castamere’s size was hidden underground; nine-tenths of the castle was below the surface, and what was visible looked like a very modest castle indeed.

The events that led to the Reynes going from a noble house to a pun occurred roughly 40 years before the events of Season 1 of Game of Thrones. Lord Tytos Lannister was the sitting lord of Casterly Rock and overlord of the Westerlands. He governed the Westerlands for 17 years, and was known as a kind, understanding, ever-patient, good-natured figure, quick to smile and quicker to laugh. Tytos was, in other words, the total fucking opposite of his heir and the future Hand of the Mad King Aerys II, Tywin.

Tytos’s style of rule was to try to engender loyalty in his bannermen through love. He was openhanded in the giving of gifts, extended or forgave the debts of houses who had borrowed gold from the Lannister coffers, and was more than willing to let japes at his expense slide. In Westeros, though, nice guys finish last, if they’re lucky enough to even finish. Once word got out that Tytos was giving out gold and basically not caring if it was paid back, the number of petitioners, both noble and small-folk, wandering the halls of Casterly Rock with their hands out increased exponentially. Tytos’s own bannermen competed to see who among them could mock him to his face more brazenly, a feat they referred to as “twisting the lion’s tail.”

The Reynes took advantage of Tytos’s weakness, borrowing gold from the Lannisters — why not? — and using that coin to, among other things, upgrade the defenses of the ancient Tarbeck Hall, the seat of their primary allies the Tarbecks. Law and order in the Westerlands deteriorated and the king, Aegon V, had to send troops to quell banditry and internecine squabbling from various minor lords on more than one occasion.

After the death of Aegon V, an uprising on the Stepstones Islands — initiated by various interests in the Free Cities and known as “The War of the Ninepenny Kings” — required the attention of Aegon’s successor, Jaehaerys II. Eleven thousand men were sent to the Stepstones, among them Tytos’s three sons, Tywin, Kevan, and Tygett. The Lannister boys acquitted themselves well, especially Tywin, who fought in the entourage of one future insane king, Prince Aerys Targaryen. They formed a relationship that would in time lead to Tywin being named Hand.

When Tywin returned from the war, he found the Westerlands in turmoil, and was disgusted with his house’s standing in the eyes of other noble houses great and small. This could not stand. Overruling his lord father, Tywin sent ravens out to all the families who had borrowed gold from the Lannisters, demanding remuneration, payable in either coin or hostages, and due, like, yesterday. Many houses, understanding that the party was over, acquiesced. The Reynes and the Tarbecks did not.

Lord Tarbeck, in fact, probably thinking, I’ll just speak with this whelp’s lord father and sort this thing out, eschewed the Raven-net and rode to Casterly Rock to do just that. Tywin swiftly clapped Tarbeck and his retinue in chains and hurled them in the dungeons. Upon hearing what his son had done, the conciliatory Tytos released the Tarbecks and the whole thing was smoothed over. The prisoners returned to their lands and a huge feast was held. At said feast, the Reynes and the Tarbecks and the Lannisters swore flowery oaths of friendship to one another, drank deeply, sang songs, and generally acted like everything was now awesome. Tywin Lannister did not attend.

He was biding his time, perhaps waiting for his father to sink back into his regular routine of banging the lowborn help, which took only a few months. Then Tywin sent ravens to Tarbeck Hall and Castamere demanding that they answer for their crimes against the Lannisters. The Tarbecks and the Reynes were basically like, “OK, whatever, kid.”

So Tywin called his banners.

Tywin marched his forces down on the Tarbecks with such speed that the Tarbecks had no time to muster a coherent force to oppose him. Every male Tarbeck was put to the sword, their castles were torn down and burned, and Tarbeck heads were mounted on spears and paraded around. Then Tywin turned to the Reynes. After a perfunctory skirmish en route, Castamere was surrounded. The Reynes, trusting in their walls, retreated deep into the mines under their castle and readied themeslves, as best they could, for a siege. Their hope was that if they could hold out long enough and make the endeavor as expensive in men and material for the Lannisters as possible, perhaps they could sue for terms. They’d lose their lands, maybe even their castle, but perhaps they could get out of this with their skins. Unfortunately for the Reynes, Tywin was not his father.

Tywin called in miners and had them seal all the entrances to Castamere’s underground halls. Then he had his engineers divert a nearby stream over the grounds. It is said that, as the water filled the subterranean vaults, screams could be heard. Of the 300 people sheltering under Castamere, not a single person survived. Their line was finished.

Tywin Lannister was only 20 years old and wouldn’t even be lord of Casterly Rock for another six or seven years. Mazel tov, everybody!

Let’s talk Dothraki.

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Great idea!

Here, to the best of my meager abilities, are the lyrics to “Love Is a Battlefield.” Warning: This is probably super wrong in many places, especially where verb conjugation is concerned. But I figure, how can I ever learn to speak a fake language if I’m not willing to make mistakes?

“Athzhilat Vilajero Gache”

Kisha imesh  (“We are young”)
Zhor athnithar elat zhor athnithar (“Heartache to heartache”; literally “Heart pain to heart pain”)
Kisha akko (“We stand”; literally “We stand up”)
Vos asqoyi, vos ase (“No promises, no demands”; literally “No oaths, no words”)
Athzhilat vilajero gache (“Love is a battlefield”; literally “Love is a battle place”)

Woooooah-oooooooooooh-oooooooooooooooh (“Wooooooooooah-ooooooooooh-oooooooooh”)

Kisha haj (“We are strong”)
Arasek vos astoki kisha ojil (“No one can tell us we’re wrong”; literally “Cowards cannot say we are wrong”)
Fonat mra kishi zhor sekke neak (“Searching our hearts for so long”; literally “Hunting within our hearts so long”)
Yer ma anha tihoki (“Both of us knowing”; literally “You and I understanding”)
Athzhilat vilajero gache (“Love is a battlefield”; literally “Love is a battle place”)

Yer viqaferak anha elat (“You’re begging me to go”)
Kash assolak anha vikovarerak (“Then making me stay”; literally “Then commanding me to stay”)
Yer annithae anha sekke san (“Why do you hurt me so bad”; literally “You hurt me very much”)
Jin rhellayae anha tiholak (“It would help me to know”; literally “This helping me to understand”)
Hash anha jazok yer os? (“Do I stand in your way?”; literally “Am I blocking your path?”)
Che anha hajat yer hilela? (“Or am I the best that you’ve had?”; literally “Or am I the strongest you’ve had sex with?”)

Yer shillolae anha, yer shillolae anha (“Believe me, believe me”)
Anha vos astok yer velzerikh (“I can’t tell you why”; literally “I can’t say to you the reason”)
Vosma yer athzhilar azzafrolae anha (“But I’m trapped by your love”; literally “But your love enslaves me”)
Ma yer fenae anha chetirae yer (“And I’m chained to your side”; literally “And you attach me to canter beside you”)

Kisha imesh  (“We are young”)
Zhor athnithar elat zhor athnithar (“Heart ache to heartache”; literally “Heart pain to heart pain”)
Kisha akko (“We stand”; literally “We stand up”)
Vos asqoyi, vos ase (“No promises, no demands”; literally “No oaths, no words”)
Athzhilat vilajero gache (“Love is a battlefield”; literally “Love is a battle place”)

Kisha haj (“We are strong”)
Arasek vos astoki kisha ojil (“No one can tell us we’re wrong”; literally “Cowards cannot say we are wrong”)
Fonat mra kishi zhor sekke neak (“Searching our hearts for so long”; literally “Hunting within our hearts so long”)
Yer ma anha tihoki (“Both of us knowing”; literally “You and I understanding”)
Athzhilat vilajero gache (“Love is a battlefield”; literally “Love is a battle place”)

Hash anha athassae ha hrazef annhi (“When I’m losing control”; literally “When I am falling from horse of mine”)
Yer idrilae anha ojil (“Will you turn me away”; literally “You guide me incorrectly”)
Che frakhae anha ao mra (“Or touch me deep inside”; literally “Or touch me deep within”)
Ma arrek ei jini ohazholae (“When all this gets old”; literally “When all this ferments”)
Me zin frakholae akkate (“Will it still feel the same”; literally “It still feels the same”)
Jini avvos drivolae (“There’s no way this will die”; literally “This never dies”)
Vosma hash kisha jadilae niyanqoy (“But if we get much closer”; literally “But if we approach together”)
Anha laz athassae ha hrazef annhi (“I could lose control”; literally “I could fall from my horse”)
Majin hash yer zhor athohharar (“And if your heart surrenders”; literally “And if your heart collapses”)
Yer zigerelae anha qoralae (“You’ll need me to hold”)

Kisha imesh  (“We are young”)
Zhor athnithar elat zhor athnithar (“Heartache to heartache”; literally “Heart pain to heart pain”)
Kisha akko (“We stand”; literally “We stand up”)
Vos asqoyi, vos ase (“No promises, no demands”; literally “No oaths, no words”)
Athzhilat vilajero gache (“Love is a battlefield”; literally “Love is a battle place”)

Woooooah-oooooooooooh-oooooooooooooooh (“Wooooooooooah-ooooooooooh-oooooooooh”)

Kisha haj (“We are strong”)
Arasek vos astoki kisha ojil (“No one can tell us we’re wrong”; literally “Cowards cannot say we are wrong”)
Fonat mra kishi zhor sekke neak (“Searching our hearts for so long”; literally “Hunting within our hearts so long”)
Yer ma anha tihoki (“Both of us knowing”; literally “You and I understanding”)
Athzhilat vilajero gache (“Love is a battlefield”; literally “Love is a battle place”)

Until next time: Hajas!1


1.

“Ride well.”