Cat not having much time with her kids is an authorial choice though, and one that could’ve been done differently. Right at the end of Arya’s first chapter Catelyn comes to discipline her. GRRM could not have given over a couple pages to the actual encounter between mother and daughter? It’s not important enough? Why, because it isn’t about how precious Jon Snow is and how precious Arya Stark is and how they’re so unique and precious together and how they’re so unique and different from the other Starks and how they’re such better Starks than the rest and how nobody understands their misunderstood souls and blah blah blah? Disney is applauded for making Brave but the dynamics between a mother like Catelyn and a daughter like Arya is … boring? Insignificant? Not germaine??! He really had an obvious chance right there. In Jon’s first chapter he could have included an exchange between Jon and Cat somewhere in that huge feasting hall, even had Jon observe Bran and Cat together so that, again, we could have these interactions in actual print.
The way it turns out, Cat only has Ned and Robb (and she argues with both and disagrees with both throughout the plot that are really big game-changers and make people hate her) and Sansa only has Ned and Arya (and she aruges with both and disagrees with both throughout the plot that are really big game-changers and make people hate her). Meanwhile? Bran so looks up to his big brother Robb and big brother Jon and oh isn’t Jon the best look he gave up his own puppy! Arya so looks up to her big brother Jon and daddy Ned and oh aren’t they the best they really understand how hard she has it being with those *shudder* typical women! Isn’t Ned such a great daddy look how understanding and gentle he is with Bran/Arya/Sansa!! Blah. blah. blah. This is not about how Cat the character should have done more to be with more of her children so that we can get scenes of her with them, she obviously did her best with really difficult circumstances. This is about how the author chooses how to frame and structure his narrative elements to support (or not support) various arcs, thus influencing how well those arcs “pop” for the generalized audience.
Cat did have political elements in her story, but things always went wrong, directly or indirectly. It’s inevitably going to contrast with narratives like Jon’s or Dany’s where narrative “wins” are so much more palpable and easily accessed. When you have things so obviously appealing to modern tastes like “Men of all classes are like chains in the same link! Look how much wiser than his elders Jon is!!!!”, nothing about a lot of that stuff was strictly vital to the plot, but it fleshes it out and makes Jon come off the way GRRM really really obviously wants him to. Personally I don’t like this obvious hero style of Jon’s narrative very much, but the fact that these extremes exist in the same book inevitably does a disservice to some of the characters who are written in a more difficult/sophisticated/what-have-you style.
Maybe Catelyn Stark should’ve been in a different fictional universe from Harry Potter.
I too am annoyed that Stoneheart isn’t in the HBO show. Too bad GRRM hasn’t made any future importance she might have clear, eh?
My short answer is that it’s both, though I don’t think Cat is a categorical failure as a character (far from it) nor do I think that any mistakes on the author’s part excuses misogyny or other stupidity and grossness on the fandom’s part.
Longer answer: There are some things that I have realized upon long ponderings that make me side-eye GRRM a bit.
For example, Catelyn has less scenes with her children as a whole than Ned does, even though Cat is the one who is more defined by her children socially and even narratively than Ned. If GRRM was going to define her by her children so much wouldn’t it make sense to show more of her motherhood, give readers a visceral sense of the touching aspect of it, the way he so obviously does with Ned? Even though Ned’s parenting narrative is far, far simpler than Cat’s because he doesn’t have to try to juggle all of the children impossibly at once like Cat does, a parenting reality that is way less easily sympathetic but far more interesting than Ned’s oh so cuddly wuddly scenes of giving tomboy Arya tomboy toys and telling her she’ll be a beautiful swan like Lyanna one day. The only child Cat has a lot of scenes with is Robb, the one child who is old enough to push parents away (and probably his mother more than his father, if you ask me), so in terms of visceral sympathy it’s quite a stacked deck. And while it’s stupid of fandom to interpret her narrative as her favoring Robb selfishly over all her other children, it is structurally mirrored, and more so than logistically necessary. If we have time for narmy Jon and Arya scenes I should think we’d have time for actual scenes with Cat and Bran, the child for whose welfare she leaves Winterfell in the first place, or her daughter, the children she trades Jaime Lannister for. I think it’s very telling that recently GRRM expressed regret at not having written Cat actual scenes with her daughters. It doesn’t speak of any evil intentions but it sure does show some carelessness. I mean whose narrative was he thinking of when writing the beginning of GoT? Probably not Catelyn’s as much. Wouldn’t have happened if I was writing ASOIAF, I would bet money on it.
Also if GRRM wanted to make it clear that Jon and Cat’s relationship was not typified by the comment at Bran’s bedside, why not show them actually interacting before it happened? I’m not saying I agree with people who conclude that she was always that mean to him, that she totally wanted him to die, etc, but I can’t imagine that GRRM didn’t want it to be at least a bit controversial, so why not set it up properly? BTW I don’t think the show did it right by boiling it down to “You can see in her face that she totally hates his guts” ala Kit Harington’s DVD commentary. But that’s the kind of thing people conclude without better instruction from GRRM.
Then there is that comment in AGOT where the Blackfish says “The right woman can rule, but make no mistake, Lysa is not you.” Implying that Catelyn is probably a good ruler, right? But why not show it? We can see that she thinks like someone who is at ease with a certain amount of authority, but we never see her authority really “go right”, and her failure may be set up with enough details to show that it is a tragedy that could happen to any perfectly competent person, but you compare it to how the entirety of AGOT is basically one big Hogwarts-style set-up for Jon Snow to come off as a competent, just ruler, and it’s like, why the difference? Shit hits the fan for Catelyn’s narrative before almost anyone else’s (save Ned and arguably Sansa and Arya but the girls aren’t really players) so why lavish so much time on people who are going to stick around longer and have the time to wait? (Same question goes to D&D re. HBO and, for example, focusing so heavily on Cersei as the female lead even though she’s going to stick around far longer.) How is that fair?
There are other things like this, but I have to go to work now. I just want to add that having said all this I don’t think it excuses the actual level of hostility with which fandom discusses her. I can understand finding her POV hard to like, or boring, but I don’t think any flaws on GRRM’s part justifies saying she’s evil, that she’s a bad mother, a harpy wife, a shrew, a nag to Robb, she deserves to be murdered or mutilated, etc.
It wasn’t a good marriage. They married because of an attraction to something new and exotic. Sometimes, attraction happens when you least expect it. He was a prince of a distant country, and she was a woman full of life, who was very appealing, who came from a very different culture. When she comes to Dorne, she finds that there are customs that are different from those of Norvos, especially regarding the fostering away of children to others.
This wasn’t a political marriage, nor a magical one, it was simply an example of human nature. Sometimes relationships start on a good foot: you become acquainted, there’s a great sexual attraction, you establish a relationship, you marry… and then in four or five years you realize that you don’t really have anything in common, that at best you’ve made a mistake and are in a situation that doesn’t have any easy solution in a society such as that of the Seven Kingdoms, where divorce simply isn’t common. This is an example that it’s not only marriages of convenience that fail, but even the marriages for love can fail.
Sometimes the marriages of convenience in the Seven Kingdoms come out well and those that are for love don’t. Sometimes a couple loves one another, and then at some point they don’t. There are marriages that also develop out of nothing more than lust (laughs). There’s no guarantee that things will go well and the consequence of this is that disappointments develop and you end up estranged, each person going their own way. There’s some bitterness from Mellario about this, because as Prince of Dorne, Doran has been able to stay with his children and she has had to leave them." -
George R. R. Martin, 2012 July 28 interview in Barcelona with Asshai.com via westeros.org
Nn I don’t have any favorite graphics here is you know drawn fanart
This one mm yes favorite
Mm this one look a kissy
Mmm look another kissy hee so naughty
Always liked this one oldie but goodie
Also check out this one it’s new I don’t really love show-based art but look at it it’s so prettiful and I feel it is true. Also look at this one my friend Juliana made it for me and therefore it’s the best thing that ever happened and I lub it so twinkly! Also look at the bottom three things in this tag are those not the best things of course they are because Soolagna is the best? Also they are not together but it’s a set isn’t it precious just like Poggy is precious!? Also no Ned in this one but who really cares Audrey is amazing isn’t this A M A Z I N G ?
Sorry this took a few days hope you’re still here xoxo
Right on. I mean, I think Cersei is limited as a parent because of her overall limitations as an empathetic human being. I think at the very least Cersei admires Joff’s personality because he is strong-willed, unlike Tommen who’s so nice, it worries/disconcerts her.
W.R.T. Cat, she probably does “get along” better with Bran because, like, he’s an easy kid to get along with. Everyone gets along with Bran. In that sense she may have a special bond with him, but I don’t think it translates to preferential treatment. CERTAINLY I can’t see that anything awful and galling came of any specialness of the bond, which is what cracks me up about people clutching their pearls about her so-called biased parenting.
Can I say that I love your icon?
Yeah, Catelyn hate is ridiculous. She doesn’t have to float everyone’s boat but if the emotion leads people to say things that are patently and demonstrably absurd, it’s not an emotion that I think deserves a lot of attention, rather just a lot of mere noise. What’s even more ridiculous is when people are so proud and defensive of their irrational hate.
Like, yeah, um. You go. With that.
Note: There’s an ETA at the bottom of the post now reflecting something I read after I wrote this.
Somewhere between last night and this morning Entertainment Weekly posted James Hibberd’s blog post/article/whatnot called 'Game of Thrones' finale: No Lady Stoneheart! And why that's a good thing (book spoiler). Now, nobody knows that Lady Stoneheart is for sure out of the TV series completely. She might have been slated to appear, hence the suggestive Instagram post from Lena Headey and the other arguably leading hints that have been dropped. I’m not informed enough to guess either way*. But I’m going to respond to Hibberd’s “case both for tonight’s finale absence and against a future appearance: No Lady Stoneheart is a good thing for Thrones" (bolding mine) anyway since what it boils down to is a case against Lady Stoneheart’s appearance in the novels themselves:
The balance between reality and fantasy is always delicate and tricky in ASOIAF. Lady Stoneheart represented the fantasy element running roughshod over the medieval realism side of the Westeros-set story. First, her rescue seemed too convenient — her body just happens to be found via Arya’s absent direwolf and resurrected by Lord Beric by magic? Second, her return undermined the impact of Martin’s most powerful scene, The Red Wedding, by “taking back” her death to some degree. Third, LS then presides over a “trial” of Brienne and finds her guilty — which seemed horribly unfair, with the final LS chapter condemning Brienne; the wrong person punished because Catelyn is now a murderous zombie who doesn’t much discriminate about who she kills. It’s all kind of a bummer, and then … that’s it! The LS story thread doesn’t continue after that chapter in book 4, though it’s not clear if Martin has discarded it or if there is more to come (presumably the showrunners know more about the future importance of LS in the books than we do). So removing LS from HBO’s version gives the story of Catelyn Stark a stronger — albeit more tragic — ending. I want to remember Catelyn for who she was, not as some twisted Monkey’s Paw version. And the changes have arguably already improved the story of Brienne, who as portrayed wonderfully by Gwendoline Christie, deserves a more interesting and satisfying fate.
Anyone who knows me knows that Lady Stoneheart is not my favorite thing about Catelyn Stark, and that people who think that Stoneheart is the only good thing about Catelyn Stark piss the ever living fuck out of me, so it’s not like Stoneheart is the hill I’m going to die on. But I’m getting a little weary of people just not understanding Catelyn’s arc and the meaning of things within it, and that inevitably extends to Stoneheart.
Less importantly, the idea that Stoneheart of all things is what tips the balance of magic vs realism into the territory of irresponsibly fantastical, in a series with fucking ice zombies and fire-breathing dragons and purple-eyed ethereal beauties and magical ancestral swords that denote the Chosen One is a little difficult to countenance. Come on, Beric Dondarrion already exists (even in the show)? Not even touching how many other plot developments require stretches of believability to exist (well, one: for my money Jon Snow being elected Lord Commander is something that would only ever happen in a fantasy novel, but I would guess that if that was eradicated from the TV show in the name of plausibility people would cry bloody murder on behalf of precious Jon Snow’s storyline, yeah?). And yes, she disappears for the whole fifth book, but the AFFC/ADWD split means that practically everyone disappeared for a whole book at some point.
Much more importantly, Hibberd mischaracterizes Lady Stoneheart’s role when he describes it as “an awesome vengeful twist, some soothing balm for the book’s most heartbreaking chapter”. While it is awesome in the sense of sheer drama and grotesque vibrance, it is not a good thing, and this is made abundantly clear by Thoros’ disillusioned descriptions of what has happened to the Brotherhood Without Banners under Stoneheart’s leadership. Nobody in the books is actually cheering “The north remembers!!!1” behind Lady Stoneheart, the prevalence of that phrase in fandom lately is due only to the show using it (prematurely, relative to the books, but whatever) because they’re afraid of losing viewers if they let them think the northern cause is dead.
Stoneheart, like a number of equally creepy and equally fantastical developments in Bran’s storyline, is a great example of “Be careful what you wish for”. The Red Wedding leaves people despondent and they think all they want is revenge. Martin gives them an element of revenge (Stoneheart) and it goes very wrong. This is exactly why Brienne’s fate is so unjust. Revenge is not about justice! Of course it’s a bummer, it’s supposed to be! It’s easy to cheer indiscriminate revenge when none of the victims are people you care about, but we care ever so much about Brienne, whose goal is so noble, whose character is so pure, whose very arc is tied in so closely to the woman Stoneheart used to be. The bitterly regrettable nature of revenge is exactly what Martin is getting at, and he very intentionally puts it alongside the vivid and extreme horrors that inspire that desire for revenge in the first place, thus creating palpable and truly visceral emotional conflict rather than a detached intellectual exercise. This is all very much by design, you should feel bummed.
What befuddles me most of all is the idea that Catelyn’s arc is more tragic without Stoneheart. Stoneheart is possibly the most tragic thing that could happen to Catelyn. Stoneheart is the denial of closure, it’s the denial of peace, the denial of rest. No human being should have to go through this, no mother should have to lose all her children and then live supernaturally transfixed forever within that moment of grief. That is tragic. Without Stoneheart, Catelyn’s tragedy is more like Ned’s or Robb’s, it’s a martyr’s tragedy, a beautiful, heroic, inspirational tragedy. But with Stoneheart, Catelyn’s arc moves so far above and beyond anything Ned or Robb ever achieved as classically tragic figures. The Catelyn+Stoneheart arc perverts the classical order, for the express purpose of making you uncomfortable, for the express purpose of creating a difference between the Great Men of History like Ned or Robb and a character like Catelyn who is so very much a woman and a mother, for whom the way is harder to know, for whom the classical formula does not include a part. You don’t get to remember Catelyn Stark as an ideal, pure, heroic memory, and that makes her a more revolutionary and truly challenging figure than Ned, Robb, or Lyanna Stark ever were. Stoneheart is not a takeback, Stoneheart is one of the most emotionally complex developments in the entire series.
If the omission (and again, we don’t know if it’s omitted or if it’s just delayed, but Hibberd certainly prefers the former) is an improvement because it removes a major bummer from the story and lets a great performer like Gwen Christie shine, then I wonder why nobody ever argued to let Catelyn Stark, played by a great performer like Michelle Fairley, survive the Red Wedding. I mean, that was a total bummer, right? Or is it just that supposedly “everyone” dislikes Catelyn any way and so when it comes to her arc and hers alone, less is always better? Go read any comments section or any discussion and you will find no shortage of people who crave her to stay dead for real not because it’s kinder or a better tragedy, but because they can’t stand her. HOW SURPRISING.
Whether or not it behooves the HBO show to include all this, and whether or not they even can given how much they fucked up Catelyn’s earlier seasons, is another discussion (one in which I’d happily partake, because though I don’t care about Game of Thrones any more I will always care about Catelyn Stark, if for no other reason than because of all the people who care about everything except Catelyn Stark) but it’s a discussion that should start here, with the analysis of why Stoneheart exists in the source material. Hibberd intends to expound on his position in EW’s Book Club post Monday afternoon; I would hope that his points reflect such an analysis.
* ETA: According to Alex Graves Stoneheart was never intended to be part of the season. I find it ironic that Stoneheart’s violence could be considered extraneous and meaningless given how many scenes of violence HBO decided to add that were not in the books, especially whenever they could combine it with women in sexual situations. I also find it very hard to believe that HBO did not like the Stoneheart speculation and willingly went along with the buzz, much like I find it hard to believe Matt Weiner didn’t intentionally troll Mad Men fans about Megan Calvet/Sharon Tate.
Well, in the beginning of A Game of Thrones Bran remembers how his mother would not allow him to climb trees and how his father caught him one time when he disobeyed and instead of punishing Bran, Ned laughed and told him not to let his mother see. It’s kind of one of those conspiratorial cutesy things like Jon and Arya giggling “Don’t tell Sansa!” that’s supposed to make us coo and squee at the closeness of two Stakrs (at two other Starks’ expenses). Except while it may be cute, it’s also fucking dumb. Like, dude, your kid could fall and hurt himself, and moreover, once your wife sets down a rule, you should NOT undermine her authority if you can help it, and in this case Cat’s rule is not only reasonable, but very much for the best.
It’s not like Ned is repeatedly disrespectful of Cat as a parent, and I do think he is a good parent, but I hate how this sort of incident just makes people endeared to him as the loving Cool Dad who *gets* his kids when, you know, if he had helped Cat enforce the rules maybe Bran would’ve been a lot fucking safer. I hate this position that moms, in popular culture and quite honestly frequently in life too, are put in where they say the incredibly sensible and wise thing and then are dismissed as smothering killjoys because, hey, why can’t you be more like dad? Dad's cool. It's hard for me to articulate but I find it so patronising and condescending and aggravating. “Don't do XYZ because your mother is right, do ZYX because we need to spare her little feelings and not make her cry and not let her know that we know that she's not really that important as an authority figure, just a person whose emotions we need access to even though we don't want to admit that.” That's condescending and patronising and aggravating.
So that’s why I brought it up before. It’s just one incident, I realize, and it’s not like I blame Ned for Bran’s injury (obviously Jaime) and I am pretty sure that most of the time he and Cat were on the same page. But again I hate how the text just makes people go “Awww Ned’s so cute what a great dad how cool I wish he was my dad!” and not even realize that he’s just making a bigger problem for Cat to have to fix. And I hate how the built-in reaction “we” have to this scenario is “Ah the little wife, so domestic, so frustrated, of course she gets in a tizzy from time to time, isn’t it so cute bless.” If moms are supposed to be defined by their children more than dads are then at the very least their expertise should be respected and not in a condescending “Watch it, boys, your mom’s serious!” way.
A few days back someone had reblogged my little post about Ned undermining Cat’s parental authority re. Bran’s climbing and how it sucks even though he gets seen as the Cool Parent. I think the question was asking if I thought that we readers were meant to see Ned as being, and I don’t quite remember here, but a bad parent of any sort?
If that person is still interested, I do think that Cat is supposed to have a Should’ve Listened To Mom thing going on, nobody appreciated it but she was right all along in that regard. Everyone constantly tells her she worries too much and she internalizes it but her bad feeling is right. This happens again re. Stone Mill and the Red Wedding.
But as for Ned, there is really nothing more in the text that forces you to question anything at all about Ned’s parenting. All of the main mothers get tangible textual scrutiny either via the extreme alarmingness of some of their actions or because other characters actually directly question or indirectly call in to question their choices. Some of the dads, like Tywin, are scrutinized too. But Ned, not really. So who knows what’s “intended” because determining that would require reading something in to the absence of information and that’s hard to do. But it’s obvious that Cat’s parenting is much more scrutinized than Ned’s even when both were alive.
I think that the impact that the word “scheming” has is largely due to connotation over denotation. I think the reason it might bother you is that it has connotations of being deceitful and selfish. And I think that some people do use that descriptor that way for Catelyn when they realize that she has some calculating traits in her personality. Problem is, the way they probably mean the word is an exaggeration. Catelyn has some calculating elements, but she finds it necessary to be that way because she is living in a society that denies her power because she’s a woman. She has to calculate ways to get around men who stand in her way, instead of being more direct, because being more direct wouldn’t work because she has to rely on them for their power too. What does she use her calculations for? To try and protect her family. That’s not ignoble. People look at something like her trying to get Ned to go south as something very diabolical. Western story telling tradition conditions us to see the Lady Macbeth type as evil and devoid of noble qualities. But wanting your family to rise is not really evil. If you step on dead bodies to get to the top, sure that’s maybe evil. But Catelyn has a sane, rational, good citizen’s limits. Really, what is wrong with wanting her daughter to be queen? Given that she doesn’t know Joff’s personality, given that advantageous political marriages is what everybody in this stratum of society does?
I kinda lost my train of thought but TL;DR Cat is a little calculating because that’s what you have to do to cut it in this male dominated world. But her objectives are perfectly normal and reasonable and not evil. She’s just stuck because she’s a “good woman”; she’s good so she can’t transgress all sorts of boundaries like murder and blackmail, but she’s a woman so she can’t do directly heroic things like rescue damsels and stage political coups to remove mad kings. It’s hard being a normal person in a story full of epic winners and epic losers, but that’s what she is. If by “scheming” one means she sometimes calculates, sure. But if “scheming” is supposed to mean she’s especially deceitful or recklessly power-hungry or improperly disrespectful to the existing structures of power*, nope.
* Any disrespect she shows to the existing structures of power is out of desperation owing to the core fact that the system protects men’s rights to act in their own “selfish” interests disproportionately more than women, and if that’s the case it doesn’t deserve unlimited respect anyway.
Stephen Youll’s depiction of the Tully funeral from A Storm of Swords.
LOOK HATERS if you hate Catelyn can you please keep it OVER THERE in the Catelyn Stark tag and at least leave the Catelyn Tully tag for us that actually like her?
You can say what you like but some of us are sooooo daaaaaamn sick and tired of the Cat hate so CAN YOU JUST PLEASE LEAVE US ONE PLACE ON THIS EARTH PLEASE KTHX.
Every now and then I come across the idea in fandom that Catelyn Stark is at fault for making the pact between Walder Frey and her son, Robb Stark. Along with this complaint generally come the reasoning that she is a poor negotiator who, had she been better, could have arranged some other deal that would leave Robb in a far superior position, the implication that she is at fault for the Red Wedding, and the context that this is but one example among many showing how she repeatedly undermined her son and relentlessly compromised his efforts.
Let’s look at the Starks’ situation at this juncture. While at Moat Cailin Robb points out to Catelyn that “our food and supplies are running low, and this is not land we can live off easily” and Catelyn realizes why this must be when she recalls that “This host her son had assembled was not a standing army such as the Free Cities were accustomed to maintain, nor a force of guardsmen paid in coin. […] When their lords called, they came … but not forever” (AGOT Cat XIII). Thus we see that the Starks must go forward, and their chosen direction is towards Riverrun to encounter Jaime’s host, avoiding Tywin’s superior host for the time being. This choice is necessary, purposeful, and thoughtfully enacted.
Once this choice is made, they must cross the river to get from where they are to where they have decided to go. “There is no other way across the river. You know that,” says Robb (AGOT Cat IX). “The river’s running high and fast. Ser Brynden says it can’t be forded, not this far north,” adds Theon (AGOT Cat IX). “Oh, our horses might be able to swim the river, I suppose, but not with armored men on their backs. We’d need to build rafts to pole our steel across, helms and mail and lances, and we don’t have the trees for that. Or the time. Lord Tywin is marching north,” comes Robb again (AGOT Cat IX). When Theon suggests that Robb “take the Twins if you need to” Catelyn points out that “While you were mounting your siege, Tywin Lannister would bring up his host and assault you from the rear” (AGOT Cat IX). Upon sighting the twins Roose Bolton ascertains that “That cannot be assaulted, my lords” and Helman Tallhart adds, “Nor can we take it by siege, without an army on the far bank to invest the other castle […] Even if we had the time. Which, to be sure, we do not,” and upon all this the situation grows more dire at Riverrun as Edmure Tully has been “Wounded and taken prisoner” (AGOT Cat IX), thus increasing the need for expediency.
Note the explicit attention repeatedly Martin draws to the fact that the river must be crossed at the Twins specifically, and it must happen right away. Also, all of this is arrived at by a consensus of several characters, not Catelyn alone. Catelyn’s point that there is not enough time to mount a siege is by a northman and a seasoned warrior, Helman Tallhart.
At this point Catelyn enters the Twins to negotiate with Walder Frey. Walder Frey is characterised by “an old man’s caution and a young man’s ambition, and has never lacked for cunning” (AGOT Cat IX). He also nurses grudges: “Your lord father did not come to the wedding. An insult, as I see it. Even if he is dying. He never came to my last wedding either. […] Your family has always pissed on me, don’t deny it, don’t lie, you know it’s true. Years ago, I went to your father and suggested a match between his son and my daughter. […] No, Lord Hoster would not hear of it. Sweet words he gave me, excuses, but what I wanted was to get rid of a daughter” (AGOT Cat IX). Walder Frey is veritably defined by his desire to raise his family up through the social rankings and join those who now look down upon him.
When Catelyn leaves the Twins we learn that she has negotiated a deal where Arya would marry one of Walder’s sons and Robb would marry one of his daughters. This gives Walder just what he wanted: a high lord for a son-in-law and the promise of his future progeny as high lords themselves. It’s the one offer he won’t refuse. As a result the Starks reach Riverrun in time to lift the siege and even capture Jaime Lannister. Robb’s army coelesces ever more around the clear agenda and ensuing victory.
This is where many say Catelyn should have done better. Shackling Robb to Walder Frey is seen as too high a cost.
You might venture that even without hindsight, she can tell that Robb would be marrying downward in promising to marry a Frey, and thus should have found another way to win the crossing since she cedes the opportunity to make a better match for Robb with a greater house that could add more troops and resources to his army. Margaery Tyrell is an oft-floated name in this conversation. The logical conclusion is that this line of argument suggests that either she ought to have made another match or employed a tactic besides marriage alliances.
When actually asked to give a concrete alternative for what Catelyn ought to have done, her critics usually say that she should have offered Edmure Tully instead. This is, however, next to impossible. First of all, Catelyn has no authority over Edmure. The only person who can make a match for Edmure is Hoster Tully or himself. If she is to broker a marriage on his behalf, she would have to get his permission to seal the deal. And guess where Edmure Tully currently is: imprisoned. For him to okay this alliance, Catelyn would have to get a letter or an envoy in to Lannister camp with the intention of making an alliance designed to give the Starks a greater chance of defeating said Lannisters. How likely does anyone suppose this is to happen? Even if she were to find some way to do it deceptively, it would take more time than anyone here has. Second of all, Edmure Tully could die in that war camp. Why on earth would Walder Frey promise his daughter to and put all his eggs in the basket of a man who easily might not even survive?
Who else might do? Nobody within Catelyn’s reach. Walder Frey is already a lord, and only a lord paramount or a king outrank him. Yes there are families with more blue-blooded prestige and/or money, and that’s good to have too, but Walder Frey knows there are bigger fish in the sea. There are two great houses within Catelyn’s orbit: Bran is a second son and disabled, Rickon is a third son, Edmure is imprisoned, Arya and Sansa are daughters who are fourth and fifth in line of the Stark inheritance. None of these people will do; Walder Frey would not even settle for an able-bodied second son, especially when all it would do is remind him that there is an unpromised heir right there. Yes, Robb is the only thing Walder Frey wants.
If there is another incentive besides a marriage alliance that would appeal to Walder Frey’s sense of self-interest, I have yet to see anyone actually name it. Have the Starks the money to buy Frey’s support? Would he respond to the promise of a northern keep? Is he known to crave vengenace against anyone that the Starks can promise to take out as a reward, even if that sort of thing was in their nature? What is Walder Frey’s heart’s desire, if not the one Catelyn has zeroed in on?
Alternatively, people might sugggest that Catelyn could’ve caught some flies with vinegar instead of honey. Potential tools include authority and force. Authority only works if it is respected, and clearly Frey does not respect Tully authority sufficiently. Whyever this is, the fact remains that the Starks have to deal with this reality in short order. Moreover, Walder also is also beholden to the authority of the crown, which the Starks are flagrantly defying. They put him in the position of choosing between king and lord, and if he is honor-bound to one, he is equally honor-bound to the other. What could Catelyn possibly say against the argument that Robb is trying to drag Walder into treason? “But Ned!!!” can hardly be expected to have any sway over him. Is she to promise Hoster’s or Edmure’s future wrath? One a dying man and the other a POW?
The possibility of the Stark army taking the Twins by force is, again, shot down by the likes of Roose Bolton and Helman Tallhart in the text itself.
To get real for a minute, the true reason for Catelyn getting blamed for this contract is that eventually, Robb breaks his oath to Frey which prompts Frey to plot to kill Robb. People don’t like that the Red Wedding happened, and usually they feel bad for Robb, not Catelyn, who people already dislike, or at least don’t relate to or feel attracted to as much as young boy hero Robb. Thus, Catelyn is blamed in retrospect for a consequence that not only was not reasonably forseeable, but was actually instigated by somebody else’s actions. While I would never argue that the Red Wedding was Robb’s fault, the fact remains that Robb’s decision to marry Jeyne Westerling instead of Frey’s daughter was far closer to the inciting of the Red Wedding than Cat’s brokerage of the pact. It was Robb who crossed Frey and dishonored his pact.
I generally think that most accusations of Catelyn supposedly “relentlessly undermining” Robb are bullshit arguments borne out of the resentment of unsexualizable female authority as represented by the mother figure that is often found in the adolescent male psyche. Other than freeing Jaime, Catelyn served Robb’s cause unflinchingly loyally and as well as her limited situation and position allowed her. In this particular case, do no forget that Robb was never forced to agree to marry Walder Frey’s daughter. He was given the choice to agree or disagree. You think Catelyn was ever given the choice to agree to marry or not marry Brandon or Eddard? Hah. Robb chose to go along with the terms Catelyn had arrived at and then he later chose to break them. If Catelyn undermined his cause here, Robb undermined his own cause a hundred times more.
(I like your icon.)
Well first I don’t think anyone has to like anyone. I think it’s kinda silly when people hate characters disproportionately, and I’ll fight anyone who says she above all is at fault for the war and for the downfall of the Starks, but if you simply don’t relate to her or find her interesting or something like that, that’s really okay.
But if you’re curious anyway, I wrote this long post not too long ago about why I like her character. As a character I think she is usually very well written, not everything is always spelled out and I think she has layers and nuances without being an exxxxtreme character type. There is arguably a tendency for her to be a naked plot device but I think there’s a bit more to it than that. And I find her construction and her emotions very honest, more so than a lot of the other characters (not that they’re poorly written, she just feels like a more naturalistic character to me than most, some of the others are more theatrical or poetic or epic or such).
As a person I think she has an every day sort of courage. For the most part I think she lives without the comfort of fantasy and dreams and I just think that that’s very hard. True that she is not the most cynical person and she can come off as naive compared to some, but I think she operates at the limit of her knowledge, so to speak. If she’s ignorant, she’s honestly ignorant, and once she learns something new she incorporates it into her world view, she doesn’t ignore it. Her love for her children can be the one thing that makes it too hard to accept some realities, but even then I personally sensed a lot of struggle to eventually come to grips with reality. That’s maybe the one thing that stands out to me about her character. There are a lot of sarcastic cynics in ASOIAF, but they’re often just covering up their romantic soft underbelly with a protective casing. She’s not like that, she struggles to maintain hope, but she also has to balance that against a dark reality. It’s all in earnest. The thing about Catelyn is she is always trying very hard, she’s trying her best, and I just appreciate that and how it was realized on the page. I find struggle to be very compelling and I think GRRM wrote her internal struggles very deftly. There’s a quote by Robert Heinlein that he quoted in a speech once, “‘Die trying’ is the proudest human thing,” and I felt that the most with Catelyn’s chapters (not least because she literally dies trying, I guess). But there’s just a very human pride that you can take in that state of internal conflict and struggle and that’s a big reason she appealed to me.
There are a number of female-character-specific things too that I wrote in that post. In short she felt like a person to me early on rather than a Female Character Type, but you can read more about it there. Sorry, I’m not very good at being brief. But yeah you can always let me know if anything’s unclear or whatnot, thanks for the question!