Tag Archives: Targaryen

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
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Winter is Coming

For those of you that didn’t tune into HBO last night or watch it online later, as soon as you get home from work today watch Game of Thrones. Trust me.

Game of Thrones is the first book of an epic fantasy series called The Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, and it’s one of my personal favorites. Now you might be aware of my constant disappointment in adaptations of my favorite books, but I think you’ll be surprised to know that I loved the first episode that aired at 9 PM last night. It covered roughly the first 85 pages of the first novel, and although I was surprised by how far it got, I believe it did a good job of keeping all the crucial introductory material. We were introduced to the Night’s Watch, a band of fierce rangers that guard the Wall and patrol the wild lands on the North; the House of Stark, the main good guys throughout the series; King Robert Baratheon, a drunkard king with a good temper and a slightly sick sense of humor; the Lannisters, Queen Cersei Lannister, her devilishly handsome twin brother Jaime, and their dwarf brother Tyrion who is better known as “The Imp;” and the surviving  Targaryen siblings.  Even though we meet a huge group of people in the first episode, we’re still confined to Winterfell, the castle home of the Starks far to the North where they aid the Night’s Watch in keeping the wilds of the North away from the prosperous South. Once the show moves to the capital at King’s Landing, we’ll get to meet a far more colorful bunch.

The first episode did a fantastic job of setting up the main conflicts, introducing us to the world and the main characters, and setting the gory mood for the rest of the series. Now it’s HBO so one has to expect a certain amount of blood and boobs, and Game of Thrones does not disappoint. There are 3 beheadings, 1 scene of gore, 2 creepy White Walkers with ice cold eyes, at least 8 pairs of bare breasts, a few butts, and 4ish sets of people having sex (if you watch it, you’ll understand the “ish”). You don’t have to guess which characters are the good guys and which will make your skin crawl, although you may be surprised by one man later. (I’m trying so hard not to give spoilers here but still stir up some anticipation, guys. I think my boyfriend hated watching it with me because I kept having long sighs or hiding my face before scenes, giving away spoilers through body language.)

The one part that surprised me was the time allotment between stories. You see, there are two continents, and the Stark/Lannister storyline takes place on one while the Targaryen storyline takes place on the other. When reading the books, the story stays on the main continent the majority of the time, probably since there are more characters involved in that plotline. The story shifts to Daenerys and her vile brother every few chapters for glimpses of their life. From what I remember (it’s been a few years since I’ve read the books), it always annoyed me when we shifted over to Daenerys just because the other plotline is so good and her brother creeps and annoys the crap out of me. I expected maybe one scene with them per episode, but they were given a fair amount of time. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just something that I didn’t expect.

While all the actors did a fantastic job portraying their characters, my favorite part of the adaptation so far might just be the scenery. The characters have already come to life for me through the books, so watching the storyline doesn’t bring that much surprise. But I usually skip details about scenery when reading. I mean yes, they describe the Wall as very large and covered in ice, but it’s hard for me to really imagine and grasp images about settings. I just thought of the Wall as a big, frosty Great Wall of China when reading. But ooooooh, that long shot of the 3 Night’s Watchmen coming out of the Wall and riding into the North was absolutely stunning, breathtaking, and overall epic. All of the scenes were beautifully done, paying attention to the smallest of details. I loved it.

In short, if you can manage it, watch the first episode of Game of Thrones as soon as possible. You’ll be hooked, I promise.