Less the heroes of our stories than the villains of some other bastard’s

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Aylwin
    February 1, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

    The best support for this is simply the way in which one is inclined to refer to him; as Mormont, quite unlike Jorah.

    For the TV-only, isn’t that mostly because we don’t, as far as I can think of, even hear his first name until about a season after his death? We don’t have much choice in the matter.

    As for Jorah, while we do know his surname, to the other characters, apart from occasional uses of his full name, he’s always “Ser Jorah” or “Jorah the Andal”, and as the audience we are naturally inclined to follow.

    Which is normal – given that commoners, maesters and sundry Essosis have only one name each, that with multiple characters from each of the major houses we need first names to distinguish them, that knights are by convention referred to by their first names, and that certain characters are generally called by nicknames, there are only a handful of people, mainly lesser nobility, where the surname alone potentially makes sense as a default identifier. Besides Mormont, I can think of Janos Slynt, Lord Karstark, Roose Bolton (at least to begin with), and then I start to run dry.

    There may be something there though – the nature of the Night’s Watch, exceptionally in this world, as a large impersonal institution, emphatically (if necessarily incompletely in practice) detached from the normal familial structure of society, paradoxically makes it somewhere that using a family name alone would make more sense. The highborn there are much less likely to be surrounded by other people sharing their surname than those elsewhere, while the importance of individuals within the institution is more substantially ex officio, more dependent on their public capacity as against private considerations, framing them in the kind of formality where the use of surnames comes most naturally.

    A vestigial real-world, present-day echo – it’s when they join the armed forces (and perhaps in school?) that members of the royal family have to contrive a surname, something they otherwise don’t really truck with.


  2. Aylwin
    February 1, 2016 @ 1:01 pm

    Yep, she’s doing her blissed-out killing-people face again.


  3. Aylwin
    February 1, 2016 @ 1:24 pm

    And yes, it’s a very conspicuous structural choice to jump, just three episodes in, to this kind of spectacular, course-changing, orgasmic finale stuff (well, episode 9 stuff for GoT, which sticks around for the post-coital cigarette. Oh yeah, and in CGI terms I suppose it’s quite literally the money-shot. Oh deary me, this metaphor has got out of control).

    Maybe something to do with the way that Daenerys is for the first time wresting the direction of events to her will, no longer merely trying to pick her way through the social, political, cosmic and narrative structures surrounding her, but now both smashing the material context and taking a detour away from the path of her allotted destiny. Forcing the pace, and thus doing violence to the traditional season structure of slow build to a climax, expresses that in metatextual terms.


    • Aylwin
      February 1, 2016 @ 1:57 pm

      That’s four episodes, obviously.


  4. Aylwin
    February 1, 2016 @ 2:36 pm

    On Mormont and Craster, it’s significant that Mormont’s position seems to be at least partly determined by the hospitality taboo, which will of course be coming up again this season. That rule is, you might say, a “civilised” standard which Mormont feels obliged to apply on behalf of a man uniquely disentitled to claim such protection, under the roof in all Westeros least qualified to confer it.

    It’s a little more complicated than that, but also more fundamental, given that the hospitality taboo is a potent force specifically in uncivilised societies, those where order and checks on violence are most minimal. It’s when there is nothing else to prevent guests or hosts from being butchered in their sleep by those with whom they are sharing a roof that such a taboo becomes essential, since without it no one could peacefully travel more than a half a day’s journey from home (be that home fixed or mobile) in anything like safety. It’s a minimum requirement of any society aspiring to interaction beyond the scope of the individual nomad camping-group or farming settlement.

    So the rule that Mormont tries to apply, that the mutineers reject and that Craster’s fealty to the Walkers can be said to have negated in his case, is the very lowest common denominator of civility. That’s what makes this event a statement of the totality of the breakdown looming north of the Wall.


    • Aylwin
      February 1, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

      [Addendum to the end of paragraph 2] – beyond, that is, the extended family.


  5. Aylwin
    February 1, 2016 @ 3:18 pm

    Oh, and the Hound may successfully talk his way out of a lynching, but as a bid for rhetorical dominance, “You’re not fighting a war, you’re running from one!” is a fully-automatic burst to his own foot.


  6. Dadalama
    February 1, 2016 @ 10:56 pm

    Seems everyone is Aylwin today.


    • Dadalama
      February 1, 2016 @ 10:58 pm

      hmmm it seems like he actually did comment that many times. I could have sworn I seen other commenters on this article at some point.


      • Aylwin
        February 1, 2016 @ 11:16 pm

        Er, yeah, that was genuinely all me. I, um, get like that sometimes.


        • Dadalama
          February 2, 2016 @ 12:22 am

          I wasn’t complaining. Just seen it and thought the comment section was acting up again.


  7. Daru
    February 9, 2016 @ 3:08 pm

    “an unstable emulsion that will separate into unappealing puddles”

    Favourite quote this week.

    Really loved the dragons scene in this episode two, and like your aligning of them in sense of power with the White Walkers.


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