Anonymous asked: Hi! i just read your Ashara twitter thread (great work btw) and was wondering why you think that lady catelyn heart is a “cold, stone-hearted emptiness”. I mean she was terrible and cold to jon snow, but she loved her kids and ned fiercely.
Thanks, anon! What I meant about her having “cold, stone-hearted emptiness” wasn’t necessarily meaning she was a cold-hearted person, or had no love. Catelyn certainly loved her children ferociously, and Ned, too. However, let me unravel for you a bit.
Ned’s acedia in communicating with Catelyn about Jon and Lyanna wasn’t the first breaking point. Catelyn entered the North with a target on her back. A southerner – who aren’t exactly the most welcome sight in the North currently – who’s only claim and insurance is that Ned, the sudden Lord of Winterfell, knocked her up…. and she doesn’t even get the luxury of enjoying that, because he returns home to greet her with a bastard on his hip.
Catelyn sat on her horse, unmoving, with Hal Mollen and her guard around her, and she waited as she had waited before, for Brandon and Ned and her father. She was high on the ridge, and the trees hid most of what was going on beneath her. A heartbeat, two, four, and suddenly it was as if she and her protectors were alone in the wood. The rest were melted away into the green.
Catelyn X, AGOT
Catelyn, who forfeited affording herself emotion in her pairings, was nothing but dutiful for her father, marrying who strengthened his political affiliation as was expected of her (interesting contrast against Lyanna, where Cat had to deal with the emotional brunt of her non-duty).
Imagine: the only problem in your marriage, in 15 years, is that there is one topic that your husband completely refuses to speak of, and regards his ‘cheating’ on you and ‘having a child’ with another woman. That’s a pretty big non-starter when it comes to healthy relationships, no?
That was the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her. “Never ask me about Jon,” he said, cold as ice. “He is my blood, and that is all you need to know. And now I will learn where you heard that name, my lady.” She had pledged to obey; she told him; and from that day on, the whispering had stopped, and Ashara Dayne’s name was never heard in Winterfell again.
Whoever Jon’s mother had been, Ned must have loved her fiercely, for nothing Catelyn said would persuade him to send the boy away. It was the one thing she could never forgive him. She had come to love her husband with all her heart, but she had never found it in her to love Jon. She might have overlooked a dozen bastards for Ned’s sake, so long as they were out of sight. Jon was never out of sight, and as he grew, he looked more like Ned than any of the trueborn sons she bore him. Somehow that made it worse. “Jon must go,” she said now.
Catelyn II, AGOT
Catelyn, incapable of dealing with these emotions, or processing them whatsoever – because Ned won’t allow her, due to his ‘honorable promise’ – lived with the thought in the very back of her head that Ned was unfaithful to her, that it was probably the dead chick, Ashara Dayne, and that Ned harbored some fantastical love in his heart for another woman that she could never compare or beat.
That brought a bitter twist to Ned’s mouth. “Brandon. Yes. Brandon would know what to do. He always did. It was all meant for Brandon. You, Winterfell, everything. He was born to be a King’s Hand and a father to queens. I never asked for this cup to pass to me.”
Catelyn II, AGOT
Even Ned finds himself comparing the present to what could have been had Brandon survived – not just Catelyn.
“For just an instant Robb sounded more like Brandon than his father.”
Catelyn II, ASOS
As we traverse through the first three books, Catelyn, ferocious yet cautious wolf-mother, begins to grow wearier and wearier in front of our very eyes. And bitter. And cold. She’s separated from her family, she experiences almost all of them ‘dying’, and almost grows resentful.
“Our duty.” Catelyn’s face was drawn as she started across the yard. I have always done my duty, she thought. Perhaps that was why her lord father had always cherished her best of all his children. Her two older brothers had both died in infancy, so she had been son as well as daughter to Lord Hoster until Edmure was born. Then her mother had died and her father had told her that she must be the lady of Riverrun now, and she had done that too. And when Lord Hoster promised her to Brandon Stark, she had thanked him for making her such a splendid match.
I gave Brandon my favor to wear, and never comforted Petyr once after he was wounded, nor bid him farewell when Father sent him off. And when Brandon was murdered and Father told me I must wed his brother, I did so gladly, though I never saw Ned’s face until our wedding day. I gave my maidenhood to this solemn stranger and sent him off to his war and his king and the woman who bore him his bastard, because I always did my duty.
Catelyn VI, ACOK
I would even go as far to say that, past AGOT and Ned’s death, she spends a good amount of the books basically assuring herself that her love with Ned was real, that everything was great, and that by fighting this war, she is doing the right thing – Family, duty, honor, right?
She remembered her own childish disappointment, the first time she had laid eyes on Eddard Stark. She had pictured him as a younger version of his brother Brandon, but that was wrong. Ned was shorter and plainer of face, and so somber. He spoke courteously enough, but beneath the words she sensed a coolness that was all at odds with Brandon, whose mirths had been as wild as his rages. Even when he took her maidenhood, their love had more of duty to it than of passion. We made Robb that night, though; we made a king together. And after the war, at Winterfell, I had love enough for any woman, once I found the good sweet heart beneath Ned’s solemn face. There is no reason Edmure should not find the same, with his Roslin.
Catelyn V, ASOS
I had love enough for any woman doesn’t exactly sound like Ned swept me off of my feet, he was my big, beautiful love, the world has stopped spinning. No, it is a woman who has been halted by circumstance, who has made the best of her situation and fiercely loves the family she has been given.
“Joffrey will show you no such devotion, I fear. You could thank your sister for that, if she weren’t dead. He’s never been able to forget that day on the Trident when you saw her shame him, so he shames you in turn. You’re stronger than you seem, though. I expect you’ll survive a bit of humiliation. I did. You may never love the king, but you’ll love his children.”
Sansa IV, ACOK
While obviously a bit of a different situation, Cersei, who was also sold off for swords to a man she didn’t really desire, nails home what a woman’s role in this world was, and what a woman could rise to. Brave Danny Flint, Brienne, all of these female warriors breaking gender roles in Westeros show us what can happen to those that break their ‘mold’, and Catelyn did not have anything to push to change her life and world – all she had was holding on to her husband, her children, her gods, and helping to run the household.
That’s why Catelyn is so intrigued by Brienne – both raised on the same concepts and morals, but Brienne shied away and refused to go along with what her father wanted for her, where Catelyn took the road more often followed.
Catelyn wished they would all go away. They were good men, loyal, yet she was tired of them all. It was her children she yearned after. One day, she promised herself as she lay abed, one day she would allow herself to be less than strong.
But not today. It could not be today.
Catelyn II, ACOK
By the end of Catelyn’s plot, she is exhausted, cold, and empty. What few things she had left, the things she clung to – her Gods, her husband, her children – are ripped away from her, piece by piece.
The societal norms that raised and nourished her for so long slice her neck open, just as Raymund Frey’s blade did.