Search This Blog

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- Those who didn't make the Top 10 List

I realize that any list put forth is going to be tough and not everyone will agree, but as I stated with my first post in this series about Brynden Tully: that's the fun! There are so many warriors here that I shuffled around my list a number of times before deciding on who I did. So without further delay: warriors #11-20.

#11- Victarion Greyjoy. I actually had him listed in the Top 10, but he didn't survive the final cut-down to 10. He is certainly the most deadly warrior of the Iron Islands. One can easily make the case of Victarion being somewhere between #6 and 10 in the Top Ten. Every time I've read the series I've gotten the feeling that there are not to many people that would want to cross swords with him. He is surprisingly a thinking warrior and not a hulking brute like The Mountain calm off the battlefield and deadly on it.

#12- Ser Garlan Tyrell- Unfortunately I can't place him higher. He is widely acknowledged as one of the finest swordsmen living in the Seven Kingdoms, but we have nothing more to go on. Even his brother, Loras (in talking to Sansa) admits that Garlan is the better swordsman.

#13- Prince Rhaegar Targaryen- Admittedly I had a hard time with him. Prince Rhaegar was apparently a splendid jouster, but when he took the field against Robert on the Trident it was Robert that prevailed; to me looking at this point there is nothing wrong in that combat: Robert in his prime was just that good. Rhaegar represents the unfulfilled promise of many characters in the book (least of all his own) from Cersei, to Lynna Stark to his younger brother Viserys. He is the sum of all of those characters "what might have beens."

#14- The Knight of Flowers-  Probably controversial being placed this low, but here's why: if the list was for best jouster and showman then he vaults to the top of the list bar none. But it's not. Loras plays at war and his Grandmother the Queen of Thorns says as much. Despite his bezerk fury at Renly's death Loras can't really be placed higher in my honest opinion. He has flashes of brilliance, but interestingly enough when it comes time to lead in battle he utterly fails a the Siege at Dragonstone.

#15- Qhorin Halfhand- he leads off the "bottle-neck" of northerns on my list. He is probably the best warrior living north of the Neck. Certainly he is the greatest warrior the Black Watch. GRRM loves to parallel characters and stories in the book so it will be interesting to see if Jaime's switch to his opposite hand parallels Qhorin's.

#16- Greatjon Umber- every time I think of Greatjon Umber I get the impression of bezerk fury! At the Red Wedding it takes 8 men to subdue him!

#17- Eddard Stark- Eddard never engages in combat in the series, but he somehow managed to walk out of the Tower of Joy alive one of only two men to do so out of 10 in that epic battle.  However, until the details of that fateful encounter are fully known then he's in limbo. He also falls further because GRRM has stated that his brother Brandon was the better warrior.

#18- Brienne of Tarth- well, the warrior maiden is massive and bigger then Jaime, but not quite as large as Ser Gregor. At over 6 feet tall she is worthy of a spot on this list as she has taken out a few bad guys in the series. She does fight Jaime, but then again Jaime wasn't really trying to hurt her either. She almost gets killed  by Biter of all characters... that actually hurts her standing in my opinion.

#19- Jon Snow. Like Robb we get the sense that he is good, but we are never sure just how good, at least not yet... Obviously he has outstanding leadership qualities and if this list were for that alone he would be in the top 10. He leads the Black Watch ably, but he is one of those characters that there is more to come namely in A Dance of Dragons.

#20- Robb Stark. We never get a sense of just how good of a warrior he is with a sword, but it's obvious that he is an outstanding leader on the battlefield, too bad his promise is cut short.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- #1 Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning

We've made it from #10 down to #1 on the list of Greatest Warriors of the Westeros countdown and only one warrior remains. And that one warrior is only told as recollections via the main characters and interestingly enough by two of the main antagonists. But, as a movie once said, in the end "there can only be one" and that choice is Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning.

The Sword of the Morning is by consensus the greatest knight that ever lived. Its not just one person saying this, its everyone in the whole damn series. The main problem is that as of now we know precious little about him. So how can he be number one? Easy, read on.

#1- Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning
Ser Arthur was a member of the Kingsguard and is widely considered one of the greatest knights of that order. Now that is saying something when you consider some of the men that have worn the white: Gerold Hightower, Duncan the Tall, (read the Dunk and Egg stories for more info), Ser Ryam Redwyne, Ser Serwyn of the Mirror Shield amongst others. When one can mention the Sword of Morning in the same breath as these legendary fighters... you know you are talking about someone special.

Ser Arthur was instrumental in defeating the Kingswood Brotherhood as well as slaying the Smiling Knight. While fighting the Smiling Knight, the same's sword broke. Ever the chivalrous knight Ser Arthur let him get another before recommencing with combat. Jaime Lannister was made a knight at that point and was impressed by Ser Arthur. So is it simple hero worship on Jaime's part? Doubtful. It was Ser Arthur who brought the grievances of the smallfolk to Aerys II during the time of the Kingswood Brotherhood. Because of this he became beloved by the smallfolk and they turned their support away from the brotherhood. Couple this with his actions against the Smiling Knight. Would anyone let The Mountain that Rides get another sword if he broke it? Again, doubtful. In short Ser Arthur was the real deal when it came to living and breathing what a knight should do and be. Martin loves contrast so he uses Ser Arthur a the epitome of knighthood then casts this against the events of the books. With the Kingswood Brotherhood, Ser Arthur gets bonus points for leading men in combat.

Now from here it takes a bit of reading and then deductive reasoning on the part of, well everyone everywhere. Look at the list so far: Is there anyone on the list that Ser Arthur couldn't beat? Ser Arthur is one of those warriors that comes along once every 1,000 years. He is designed to be legend, the fact that he is one in his own time just makes everything add up. There is no one that he is even breaking a sweat against listed so far. think about those that I haven't listed, is there anyone there beating him? No I say!

If for no other reason Ser Arthur Dayne gets the top spot when you consider the words from from none other then the Kingslayer himself when he says this to Ser Loras Tyrell about Ser Arthur in A Feast for Crows:

"I served with Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, who could have slain the six of you with his left hand while taking a piss with his right".

Now Jaime is no slouch himself when it comes to a blade (He was #3 on this list) and this is pretty high praise from someone who is about as arrogant as they come prior to his sword hand being lopped off. It would be off putting from just Jaime, but once again Eddard Stark saves the day by backing Jaime up when taking about Ser Arthur on a different occasion: "He was the finest knight I've ever seen and he would have killed me if it were not for Howland Reed." Strong stuff and coming from Eddard and it's hardly open to interpretation. Think about who Eddard has seen in his lifetime: Ser Barristan Selmy, Bronze Yohn Royce, Robert Baratheon, Prince Rhegar and many more. Yet Eddard gives him the compliment that he does. A way to honor a foe who is insanely heroic? A trick of sorts? Highly unlikely as it's Eddard saying this, a man famous throughout the kingdom for his honor.

Another unusual thing about Ser Arthur is that he is the only character in the series having a mighty blade, but one that is wholly unique: it's not Valyrian steel. Now, this could just be an odd coincidence, but GRRM rarely does things for happenstance in the series. Ser Arthur's sword, Dawn is actually made from the metal of a fallen meteor and is featured in the house's coat of arms as a result. Again this may mean nothing, but then again it could be an interesting angle considering the whole "Prince who was promised" prophecy (although the leading candidate is Daenerys. More interesting is the fact that after the Tower of Joy (see below) Ned brings his sword to Ser Arthur's heir. This heir is Edric Dayne, who is wet-nursed along with Jon Snow  That's interesting, very interesting....  Why would Eddard bring Jon Snow to a family to be wet-nursed when said family is one that he just killed it's most famous scion? In short you don't, at least not without a reason you don't. Even Eddard is not going to do something like this for no reason. It could be Eddard's famous honor, but I'm doubting that is the reason. In short Ser Arthur's story is not done yet I'm guessing and it is very much tied up in Jon Snow and Eddard.

Another point is that the statement by Ned about Ser Arthur begs the question: What exactly happened in the Tower of Joy in Dorne? We know or are pretty certain that Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar. Why else would three of the Kingsguard (including its Lord Commander Gerold Hightower) be guarding it and Lyanna while a war for the crown of the Seven Kingdoms was being waged? Either way its apparent that you don't send your best warriors and their commander to the end of the kingdom for no reason. So again just what happened there? One gets the feeling that it wasn't your average sword fight. It could turn out that it's nothing like we expected: Howland Reed poisoned Ser Arthur or any other possible explanations. Apparently it was Eddard that killed Ser Arthur Dayne but to me that seems a bit too tidy. We do know that it was seven against 3. Ten men in the fight and only two walked out alive with neither ever talking about what happened. With the only one being now left alive now:  Howland Reed...

So unless some new characters get introduced in the series it's Ser Arthur Dayne that stands as the Greatest Warrior of the Seven Kingdoms. That's right, we know little about him and none of it directly. But from what we do know, we know this: the Sword of the Morning stands head and shoulders above the rest. How is this so? Two of the main characters of the book Jaime and Eddard have the same opinion, that alone is saying something...

Ser Arthur is a mystery with some holes poked through the shroud of his character. He is not a deep, deep history character and his exploits are well known to the Seven Kingdoms, just not to the reader as of yet.

And there it is. I don't expect that people will totally agree with my selections but as I stated, that's the fun. Something like this makes it impossible to ever reach consensus. I wanted to get this done before A Dance of Dragons is out and I made it with 8 days to spare.

My next post will contain my list of warriors #11-20, i.e. those that didn't make the top 10. It was tough to get to 10 so there are some excellent warriors that have nothing to be ashamed about being where they are.