Tag Archives: Maekar

The Social Commentary in “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”

The Bear and the Maiden Fair by Skribbles

Check out more art by Skribbles at http://skribbles.deviantart.com/

The alternate title of this post would be: The Smallfolk don’t give a fuck.

Anyone who has read A Song of Ice and Fire knows that the characters mention singers and songs quite frequently. Especially Sansa–I’m actually beginning to not hate her. Now most songs/stories that Sansa mentions are from times long ago, the Age of Heroes. We get a lot of the more modern songs from Tom Sevenstrings and Marillion. And most of the modern songs don’t seem to name specific people; the two living characters that have songs about them are Tywin Lannister with “The Rains of Castamere” and Robb Stark with “Wolf in the Night.”

It’s funny then to hear all of the knights or lords talk about doing deeds worthy of songs, when there aren’t that many songs about current events that get popular. In fact, the most popular song in the world seems to be “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.” The only songs that mention specific people are all about kings or great battles of historic significance. “The Dance of Dragons” is about the Targaryen civil war; “The Night that Ended” tells the tale of the last great battle with the Others; “The Hammer and Anvil” describes Prince Baelor Breakspear and Prince Maekar’s battle tactics; and Renly gets his own song with “Lord Renly’s Ride.” None of these songs are about little lordlings that hold fords or battlements in small skirmishes, but the knights still think that somehow they’ll be immortal in song. Catelyn Stark even says: “We’re all just songs in the end. If we are lucky” (Storm of Swords, page 627).

Viserys lies to Dany when he tells her that the Smallfolk stitch dragon banners and await their return. The Smallfolk don’t care about the game of thrones; Jorah and Varys both say as much. And they really don’t. They care about songs like “Seasons of my Love” and “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.” The most popular songs are about things that the Smallfolk can relate to like outlaw gangs, barmaids and bawdy stories, love and bedding, ale and drinking chants, reaving (for the Ironborn), and religion. But Martin chooses “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” to make one of his points about society. It is one of the only songs that we get full lyrics to, and we hear several characters either sing it, mention it, or notice that it’s being sung at a feast. “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” is a silly tale of a bear that goes to a fair, licks the honey out of a maiden’s hair, and then carries her away. Now some people think that this song is really foreshadowing (and a lot of people seem to think that it points to a Sansa/Hound pairing… yuck), but I think it’s social commentary. The use of this tale cements the view that the Smallfolk really don’t care about the game of thrones as long as their own lives aren’t affected, and the actions of the high lords really aren’t that important in the grand scheme of life in this world. Otherwise, they’d be singing about their liege lords all the time, which they don’t–they just gossip. But when it’s time to sing, they sing of bears and girls with honey in their hair.

It could also just be a song about oral sex. *grins*

A full list of the songs can be found here: http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Category:Songs

edit: 8/30 Added in Catelyn Stark quote