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Will finds the wildling camp, with eight men and women seemingly dead from the cold. Ser Waymar orders an inspection, but when the watchmen arrive at the campsite, the bodies have vanished.
Will climbs a tree, and thus is unseen as Ser Waymar is surrounded by White Walkers ; Gared runs away sometime around when they appear. Ser Waymar duels vainly against one of the White Walkers, but his sword breaks, blinding him, and he is butchered. More focused on horror, suspense, action, and setting and mood than plot or world-building, the Prologue nevertheless gives several clues as to the social and political customs and institutions of Westeros. George R. R Martin sets up a dramatic through-line of class conflict between the grizzled, experienced commoner game of thrones prologue the inexperienced young nobleman that builds and builds before suddenly and terrifyingly being interrupted by a far more explicit form of conflict.
Gared and Wymar clash repeatedly, over whether to press on to fulfill a pointless mission who cares about finding dead wildlings? Ser Wymar is patently unfit to lead this expedition, and yet he is in command because he is a knight and the son of a lord, and Will and likely Gared are criminals and peasants, doubly chained. Throughout the history of war, there have been thousands of Waymars, ignorant young officers who resented and feared the expertise of their subordinates, who acted to preserve their egos and save face rather than from good military sense, and who got their men killed as a result.
Gared by contrast knows the North-beyond-the-Wall, knows the business of ranging better than his better, but he must obey Ser Waymar. Unlike those citizen-soldiers of a democracy in Vietnam, Gared does not and cannot truly think himself the equal of a knight. Every time he clashes with Ser Waymar with those forty years of experience forty years in an age in which a man of twenty one would live on average to only sixty-four behind him, Gared backs down.
He can mock Waymar behind his back, but when the final clash comes over whether they should build a potentially life-saving fire given what we learn later about White Walkers and fireand Will thinks Gared might go for his sword and butcher the green knight, he acquiesces.
A few more points: we learn that the nobility claim exclusive rights to particular woods and punish poaching, and inherit by primogeniture. Likewise, the practice of primogeniture in the nobility caused problems as thousands of heavily armed trained men without regular income took to brigandry and warfare. Europe turned to the Crusades as a solution to too many knights for too little land; Game of thrones prologue seems to have turned to the Wall instead.
For both lords and peasants, then, the Wall is a social safety valve.
Finally, a thought about bravery and cowardice. Something he holds in common with all the other doomed Waymars of history. Will stays silent up in his tree, not even giving Ser Waymar the warning that might have prompted him to flee. Does this make Will a coward? The Roman Emperors encouraged their soldiers, recruited from all over the Empire to discourage separatist rebellionsto marry and have children, and offered them land near their old postings upon their retirement; the idea was to settle the frontier with trained military men who would produce sons to follow them in their profession.
Aside from the weather, it sounds like a fairly decent life. And unlike Scotland, the North-beyond-the-Wall cannot be pacified. If Will had been less paralyzed by the sight of the wight-Royce, and made his way back to Castle Black, what would have happened? For the want of a sword…. By itself, this has the potential to change the plot up at the Wall. For the most part, the opening scene in Episode 1 of Game of Thrones plays out more or less like the book.
The first big difference is in the appearance of the dead, who look to be dismembered and laid out in an occult circle of some kind. This is immediately more shocking than George R. What does change rather dramatically is that Ser Waymar Royce is decapitated without a fight, game of thrones prologue is a dramatic choice that I respect although I feel it wrongs the doomed noble idiot. All the same, something is lost here of the lives of three ordinary men beset by the extraordinary. It might not matter for the show that Waymar goes down without a chance to fight back, that Will runs immediately, or that Gared dies in the forest from a very different icy blade, or that theres a slight plothole as to how Will gets away from the wights maybe the White Walkers are sending a message, but that dramatically changes their nature.
But it matters to the Waymars, Gareds, and Wills of Westeros; the story is all they have, after all. This is a bold choice; on the one hand, it makes the White Walkers definitively intelligent whereas GRRM avoided tying himself down on this question, which might have the effect of anthropomorphizing them and making them less inhuman.
Really looking forward to following this. I think you fall prey to the trap that Martin has set here in your critique of Ser Waymar and the dynamics of this ranging.
Tracking and gaining intelligence on Mance Rayder and his wildling raiders even dead ones is, as we learn, crucial to the Watch. I think that Mormont and Benjen do intend this to be a milk run though.
A song of ice & fire // game of thrones
They pair the inexperienced officer with a grizzled veteran and talented tracker. This is a test and everyone, including Ser Waymar, is aware of it. You seem to think this would have been his correct decision. How do you think Gared and Will in their cups or out would have relayed the story to their brothers? Do you think they would have admitted their own fear and apprehension or do you think mayhaps, they would have blamed the young officer?
How do you think Benjen and Mormont would have judged the Royce and the mission? Ser Waymar does not have forty years experience or even four. Gared and Will are aware that something is different about this ranging but Waymar lacks the context to judge that. Gared and Will fail to communicate this to Waymar, that is their fault not his. All the details. Leave nothing out. He is doing his duty.
A game of thrones
He is correct in pursuing the wildlings and attempting to confirm what happened to them. It is just his bad luck that this turns out not to be a routine mission, this is the first encounter in thousands of years between the Watch and the Others. The advice that Waymar should have followed was to use more appropriate equipment, and critically, to build a fire. White Walkers hate fire, and had they been able to form a circle of burning brands, they might have survived their brush with the White Walkers and been able to report back to their commanders.
Gared repeatedly tries to communicate to Waymar, but Waymar responds mostly with mockery, with the two exceptions you note. Its the wights that are weak against it. Classic example of p. Good analysis. Glad you liked it! Daenerys I and Eddard one are much juicier for my purposes. Great post, although I prefer the book-Others to the show-White Walkers.
I agree about the costume of the White Walkers. I have a sneaking suspicion that the showrunners felt the same, hence them using long shots, quick cuts, etc. Well, commenting here from the future, they made a few changes for season 4, but the Walkers still look like the love child of a zombie and Darth Maul. At what time? Roughly speaking, the ancestors of the tribe later known as the Scots were then living in Ireland. Far too harsh on Royce, He behaved as you would expect a junior officer abet an inexperienced one to None of his decisions were unreasonable or wrong, except in the context that there were white walkers game of thrones prologue around instead of Wildlings, something that nobody could have anticipated.
I thought his decisions about equipment were indicative, and the way in which he keeps goading Gared is really poor leadership. The only thing that makes Royce wrong in this situation is the totally unprecedented appearance of the others. If Will would have made it back to Castle Black, the Night Watch might not have reacted so urgently as you describe. The people in charge might not be so susceptible to the story of one ranger that sounds pretty unbelievable in itself.
Mormont might believe something is going on, but I doubt he would believe the story about the Others right away, and if anything, he is prone to vast underestimation of the opposition.
George r.r. martin
Sceptics and conservatives like Thorne, Marsh and Yarwyck would dismiss this wild rumour right away, I suspect. The two persons who may be able to give any credit to Will would be Benjen Stark and Maesten Aemon, both seeming to be more open-minded than the rest of the Watch. And this is exactly what happened in the end. The only thing that would be somewhat different is the timing, the second mission would have started earlier. At the end of the day, Mormont is the Lord Commander. The biggest issue I think is that the Others are regarded as a myth, because nobody alive or in known history has ever seen one.
Mormont would hear Will, see the sword and know something is going on, definitely. Sending a few more rangers beyond the wall is pretty much the only option he has at this point. And even Benjen though would know his mission is to find the single Other, he has zero information to work with. Extremely well written and I loved it. My first read through I just saw two people bickering and having a pissing contest.