Ned and Catelyn were married at Riverrun, it was there he left her when he rode off to war, and there that she gave birth to Robb. Now, Riverrun is indisputably Robb’s birthplace, and it is Catelyn’s home, but I wonder at her considering Robb’s return to it as a homecoming. There’s something really wrong about calling Riverrun his home, and I don’t think it’s just my prejudice against Catelyn talking. Robb may have the Tully looks, but as Ned’s heir and Lord of Winterfell, I think his ties to the North are of paramount importance to him, and I don’t know that Catelyn is doing him any favours if she influences him any way towards divided loyalties.
That said, this homecoming is not happy for Catelyn, she thinks nothing ever truly will be now that she’s lost Ned. Now, I’ll never really like Catelyn, but I’m giving her her due here. Catelyn is not very nice, or kind, or even warm, but she exemplifies strength.
The ferry that takes them to Riverrun proper is met by Edmure, who immediately hugs Catelyn and calls her “sweet sister.” Oh, he doesn’t just call her that, he “murmurs” it “hoarsely.” I think GRRM is trolling me. She wants to see her father, Lord Hoster Tully, right away, and as Edmure leads her to him, he tells her that their father is pretty close to death. She’s angry at not being told right away, but it was apparently Hoster’s own doing, he didn’t want his frailty to be public knowledge in troubled times. Catelyn immediately feels guilty, because “troubled times” means “since you started it all by grabbing Tyrion.”
Catelyn finds her father much aged, shrunken, white-haired. It’s a scary thing when you parents or grandparents suddenly start showing signs of being old like that. Hoster calls her “little cat” and it’s pretty obvious that she has a much more loving family relationship with Hoster and Edmure than she does with her sister Lysa. I’m telling you, there’s just something off about the way GRRM writes sisters. Either he’s doing it consciously as a choice for the specific female characters in this book, or he doesn’t have a very good opinion of sisterly relationships.
Hoster Tully is clear-headed enough at first, fully aware of the siege and of it being lifted, happy to see Cat and happy at the thought of seeing his grandson again. He was hoping Lysa would come, too. He seems like a very family-minded man. When Cat tells him that his brother Brynden is here, he launches into the history of their disagreement, that’s when he shows signs of mental waning as well as physical, before finally drifting off to sleep.
Catelyn looks for Robb and when she’s told that he went straight to the godswood to pray, she thinks, and I quote, “He is his father’s son as much as mine, I must remember.” Is it just me, or is that a really strange thing to have to remind yourself of? I’m not a parent, but I think if I were, I’d remember that I didn’t produce my kid by single cell division. Being a child of both your mother and your father is how sexual reproduction works, Catelyn.
On a more serious note, this hearkens directly back to the “homecoming” bit in the chapter’s opening and even bits in Catelyn’s earlier chapters. She really doesn’t feel like part of the North, but the real problem is that she subconsciously forgets to consider her children as part of the North also.
I think I’m starting to see why the Targaryens opted for incest. That’s disturbing. I blame Catelyn.
Robb’s not alone in his prayers, many of the Northern lords are followers of the old faith. Catelyn doesn’t interrupt the prayer and instead gives herself over to memories of childhood, including Petyr Baelish’s earliest attempts to seduce the Tully sisters. From there, she wonders if her son, practically a seasoned warrior now and Lord of Winterfell, has ever kissed a girl. Let us back away from thoughts of your children and their romantic lives, alright, Catelyn? This is not territory into which I trust these books to go.
The moment Robb sees Catelyn, he’s all business. She tells him that Hoster wants to see him, but he has matters to discuss that can’t wait, namely, he’s just learned about Renly’s decision to crown himself. A council is convened, with the lords from the North and the Riverlands. There’s a lot of talking, all of it pretty much a rehash of what was said in Tyrion’s last chapter but from the other side.
Robb finally speaks up only when someone suggests throwing in their lot with Renly. He points out that Joffrey might be evil, but that doesn’t make Renly king. Joffrey has a younger brother, and Renly has an older one, so there’s plenty of people with more direct claims to the throne than Renly. The argument for Renly is that he’s basically declared himself king already and has the support of Highgarden with high probability of being able to secure Dorne, too. Well, if all it takes to become a king is to call yourself one…
It’s not that Robb is for Stannis, but he’s hesitant to go into outright rebellion, to do the wrong thing, but which he means a dishonourable one. Yet his father went to rebellion for pretty much all the same reasons: the death of his own father and the abduction of his sister. Robb is almost in an identical situation.
It’s Catelyn who speaks up for peace, stirring the great gathering into a flutter of masculine pearl-clutching and misogyny: “a man has a need for vengeance,” a woman can’t understand these things, etc. She reminds them that this was not a war of conquest, they had specific reasons to go to war, that have now either been largely achieved (repelling Lannister forces) or become entirely beyond their grasp (Ned’s freedom). Pretty much no one agrees with her for various reasons, but it’s Lord Blackwood’s reason that makes the most sense to me. He says that making peace with Joffrey means being a “traitor” to Renly, what would happen to them if Renly were to win the struggle to the throne? This, I think, is the most important thing: it’s not just about their fight with the Lannisters anymore. Regardless of what Robb & Co are doing, the land is in civil war, and they are going to have to take sides one way or another. Better to do it when they themselves are a force to be reckoned with and able to tip the balance of power.
In whose favour to tip it, then? The meeting dissolves into chaotic arguing once again, and then it’s Greatjon to the rescue, the man whose undying loyalty Robb earned when Grey Wind chewed off two of his fingers. Greatjon points out that Renly and Joffrey are both equally meaningless to this gathering of Northern lords. And now that they are a power unto themselves, why not keep it that way? In other words, it’s time to cede themselves from the Seven Kingdoms and become their own one kingdom under the rule of one king, namely, Robb Stark.
And, would you look at that, turns out being called a king really is all you need to become one. One by one they pledge their loyalty, proclaiming Robb the King in the North. It’s almost like being voted into royalty by a quasi-democratic process. Hey, what does that make Catelyn, the Dowager Queen? I think the word “dowager” fits Catelyn well, there’s something about it that conveys matriarchic power and dedication to family even through Machiavellian methods. Let us hope that Catelyn manages to keep her “Riverrun is my and Robb’s home” thoughts to herself, I don’t think it’s good PR for the Winterfell king’s mother to be so not-Winterfell oriented. Time to start thinking of Winterfell as home, Catelyn, because once this is all over, Riverrun is going to end up on the other side of the border and take my word for it, going through customs is a bitch.