The Hedge Knight
The Sworn Sword is the second adventure of our patron published by GRRM five years after The Hedge Knight. There’s a sense of continuity of sorts, both stories have a gloomy start, with The Hedge Knight starting out with Dunk digging the grave for Ser Arlan and The Sworn Sword with the two men rotting in the cage; Egg showing that he was both an innocent little boy and a smart and stubborn young man; the memories of Ser Arlan’s lessons; the historical references that build up the Targaryen dynasty; the sense of self-deprecation by Ser Duncan and the permanent spot of shame he carries both over his lie and his truth beautifully highlighted against a properly knighted man with absolutely no valor; the interest on a woman; the introduction of elements that play an essential role in the main series; the same literary devices: Verisimilitude, allegory, allusion, the five states of tragedy, synesthesia, stream of consciousness, plot and bildungsroman being the main ones, but many others are shown; the valor of a knight; the light comedy; the characters tugging at the heart of the reader, building a strong connection that cannot be easily severed, where the characters are so powerfully built the reader continuously forgoes principles that under different circumstances would have received opposite reactions, and as always, the human heart in conflict with itself. Ser Duncan’s first story shows him as a young lad desperate to prove himself and ultimately falling by honour. Would he have fought alongside a hedge knight in the same situation? Probably not. But it is the adversity that makes him so powerful and sympathetic to the reader. His lies don’t matter. The fact that he isn’t really an anointed knight, doesn’t matter, because his valor overtakes the wrongdoings. He finishes that story and goes south in the hopes of finding Tanselle Too-Tall. Tanselle was gentle and lowborn, she evidently has a role to play if his stories continue because George isn’t like the writers the fandom has had to suffer lately but rather a stickler for the rules of storytelling and his story will certainly go full circle. It isn’t accidentaly that Tanselle paints the shield that represents Ser Duncan and that later is used by lady Brienne of Tarth. There are also many details in Brienne’s story that close the circle with Ser Duncan, the name Tarth which is Welsh for “mist” as in The Mists of Avalon, the book that retells the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table but from a woman’s viewpoint, just like Brienne who has her own POVs, her closeness to Ser Jaime whose parallel clearly plays alongside Ser Duncan, and the story closes the comparison between Ser Jaime and the Arthurian legends that George so clearly mentions as his main inspiration for the character. The relationship between Brienne and the Mists of Avalon is such that it is through the Mists of Avalon that we learn about the ultimate importance of Galahad, one of the three chosen knights who would achieve the Holy Grail. Brienne is definitely worthy, and like Ser Duncan, she isn’t a knight per se, but is certainly a knight in valor and honor. Lady Brienne isn’t known as Brienne Tarth like Catelyn Tully or Cersei Lannister, but rather as Brienne OF Tarth. Her father is lord Selwyn Tarth, but she doesn’t use Tarth as her family name, but rather as a characteristic, same as ser Duncan uses “the Tall”. Tarth also plays with the name “Tall”, like Tanselle and Ser Duncan himself. The Sworn Sword has a different feel in regard to its female character. Lady Rohanne is neither gentle nor lowborn. She is strong, spirited, confident, and she is the one who brings that feel of something different from her time. She uses the expression “pissing contest”, which isn’t just out of its time, it’s also an expression that isn’t very becoming for a woman, especially a lady. Throughout the story, he thinks of Tanselle Too-Tall, and then he trades those thoughts for Rohanne, but reprimands himself for them. <<“And she was there as well, the Red Widow, Rohanne of the Coldmoat. He could see her freckled face, her slender arms, her long red braid. It made him feel guilty. I should be dreaming of Tanselle. Tanselle Too-Tall, they called her, but she was not too tall for me. She had painted arms upon his shield and he had saved her from the Bright Prince, but she vanished even before the trial of seven. She could not bear to see me die, Dunk often told himself, but what did he know? He was as thick as a castle wall. Just thinking of the Red Widow was proof enough of that. Tanselle smiled at me, but we never held each other, never kissed, not even lips to cheek. Rohanne at least had touched him; he had the swollen lip to prove it. Don't be daft. She's not for the likes of you. She is too small, too clever, and much too dangerous.”>> and when Rohanne gives him a horse, he first rejects it, saying the horse she offers is “too good a horse for me”. His squire is the royal prince who one day will be king, but Dunk remains humble and his humility makes him relatable, like a secret between him and the readers – one where only we know what was done for his knighthood. At first, when lady Rohanne is introduced, she is said to be barren. but she isn’t. She is the future of house Lannister, which means she was married at least once more, left her land for Casterly Rock, gave continuity to that family, and left again, abandoning them all behind to go back to her true self. Sure, she was a lady, but she wasn’t like Catelyn. The person closest to her style would be lady Olenna Tyrell, and although there’s a whole school of thought that lady Rohanne is Old Nan, there is absolutely no literary argument that can sustain that theory. The story is short and is written with the purpose of showing the readers to think outside the box, to look past their prejudice, to stop assuming someone is good or bad because they have a sympathetic voice or because they are surrounded by the worthy. Friends and foes trade places, just like the characters in the main story, and once the readers see, they understand. Not all Starks are good. Not all Lannisters are bad. Not all Targaryens are crazy. Not all bastards are evil. Not all battles are worth fighting – and sometimes, one must take the shades of grey and mix them up to balance the odds. The kingdom was stronger united and weakest at war, a message that was repeated throughout every book, and the reader better remember it, because that might be the only path to survival. The story also has an ending akin to The Hedge Knight, where in the first story they go south towards Dorne because “they have good puppet shows”, so there’s a pursue of sorts, and the second they go north to the Wall because Egg hears it’s “tall” and they’ll look for Dunk’s missing father, so there’s a pursue of sorts. It’s not the pursue that matters. He never reaches Tanselle in Dorne. He never reaches his father at The Mystery Knight either, but throughout the adventures, the reader is given a gift – the background story that fuels one of the main conflicts faced then and for many decades to come: The game of thrones.