FANDOM


"The Great Tourney at Harrenhal" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature in the Blu-ray of Season 6 of Game of Thrones. It is narrated by Ellie Kendrick as Meera Reed.

Synopsis

Meera Reed recalls her father telling her of the infamous tourney at Harrenhal in the Year of the False Spring, in particular the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree.

Narration

Meera Reed: Years ago, in the height of summer, my father told my brother and me a story. He only told it once, and he refused to speak of it ever again.

When he was a young man in the Year of the False Spring, a great southern lord held the largest tourney Westeros had ever seen in the largest castle Westeros had ever seen. Knights and lords from across the Seven Kingdoms made their way, drawn by spectacle and the size of the champion's purse. Even the king was rumored to be attending, though none had seen him in years.

Ours is a small house and my father had come only to be part of the magnificence, whose like he'd never see again. One afternoon, he was walking across the field enjoying the warm spring day, when he was set upon by three squires. None were older than fifteen, yet all were bigger than him. This was their world, as they saw it, and he had no right to be there. They snatched away his spear and knocked him to the ground, cursing him for a frog-eater. Every time he tried to rise they shoved him down and kicked him when he curled up on the ground. But then they heard a shout; "That's my father's man you're kicking!" howled the she-wolf. Lyanna Stark, the young daughter of Lord Rickard Stark, Warden of the North and my father's liege lord. Lyanna laid into the squires with a tourney sword, scattering them all. My father was bruised and bloodied, so she took him back to her tent to clean his cuts and bind them up with linen. There he met her brothers. Wild Brandon who led them, quiet Eddard and Benjen, who was the youngest of the four. That evening, there was to be a feast in Harrenhal to mark the opening of the tourney and Lyanna insisted that my father attend, as he was of high birth with as much a right to a place on the bench as any other man. She was not easy to refuse, this wolf maid, so my father borrowed suitable clothes from Benjen and went up to the great castle.

Under Harren's great roof, my father ate and drank with his fellow Northmen. A black brother beseached the knights to join the Night's Watch, to snickers and smiles. Prince Rhaegar sang a song so sad that it brought tears to Lyanna's eyes, but when Benjen teased her for it she poured wine over his head. Lord Baratheon drank down a knight of skulls and kisses in a wine cup war. My father remembered a beautiful woman with purple eyes who danced with Ser Barristan Selmy and several others. As the end of the evening approached, Brandon Stark asked her for one more dance on his shy brother's behalf, and so Eddard Stark shared the last dance of the celebration with Lady Ashara Dayne. Abruptly, the hall went quiet. The Mad King had come after all, and was now entering the hall with his Kingsguard. He hadn't left the Red Keep in years, and none could believe the state of him. His long yellow fingernails, tangled beard and ropes of unwashed, matted hair made his madness plain to all. Nor was his behavior that of a sane man; for in the blink of an eye he could go from hysterical laughter to weeping to rage. But when he commanded Ser Jaime Lannister to kneel before him and swear the oath of the Kingsguard before half the lords of the realm, a cheer burst from the crowd, for Ser Jaime was much admired for his courage, gallantry and skill with a sword.

Amidst all this merriment, my father spied the three squires who'd attacked them attending their knights. Lyanna saw them too and pointed them out to their brothers. "I could find you a horse and some armor that might fit," Benjen offered. My father thanked him, but gave no answer. "Our people sit a boat more often than a horse, and our hands are made for oars, not lances." Much as he wished to have his vengeance, he feared he would only make a fool of himself and shame his people. Eddard had offered my father a place in his tent that night, but before my father slept he knelt on a lake shore looking across the water to the Isle of Faces and said a prayer to the Old Gods.

The next day in the tourney, the three knights whose squires had beaten my father unseated their opponents and earned a place among the champions. But late in the afternoon, as the shadows grew long, a mystery knight appeared in the lists. He was short and clad in ill-fitting armor, cobbled together from different suits. On his shield was painted a heart tree of the Old Gods, a white weirwood with a laughing red face. The mystery knight dipped his lance before the king and rode to the end of the lists, where the five champions held their pavilions. You can guess the three he challenged. Whoever the mystery knight was, the Old Gods gave strength to his arm. All three knights fell before him. None were well-loved, so the common folk cheered the Knight of the Laughing Tree, as the new champion was soon called. When the fallen foes sought to ransom their horses and armor, the Knight of the Laughing Tree's voice boomed through his helm and told them: "Teach your squires honor. That shall be ransom enough." Once the defeated knights chastised their squires sharply, their horses and armor were returned, and so my father's prayer was answered.

The king was furious. In his madness, he suspected a traitor in his midst. Perhaps even the newly-made Ser Jaime Lannister, whom he had already sent back to the Red Keep. That night, the king asked Lord Robert Baratheon to take to the lists and unmask the mystery knight, declaring him no friend of his. But the next morning when the heralds blew their trumpets and the king took his seat, the Knight of the Laughing Tree had vanished. All they ever found was his painted shield, hanging abandoned in a tree.

My father's tale ended here. He never spoke more of Harrenhal, though he must have seen Prince Rhaegar's victory. Some whisper that Prince Rhaegar himself had arranged to entire tourney in secret as a way to gather they great lords and address his father's apparent madness, perhaps even remove him from the Iron Throne. But when I asked my father about this, he only shrugged sadly. What Rhaegar intended, none can say. But all know what he did.

Notes

  • It is fitting that Meera Reed is the in-character narrator for this video: in the books, she herself is the one who recounts the story directly to Bran Stark in a lengthy monologue. The story was handed down to her by her father Howland Reed from what he experienced and saw at the tourney.
  • The story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree is given by Meera in the novels exactly as it is given in this video - and though it has never been entirely confirmed who the mystery knight was, the implication of the books and the video does seem to heavily hint it was Lyanna Stark. Lyanna - like her later niece Arya Stark - wanted to learn to use a sword and was a great rider. Lyanna's skill at horse riding is remarked on several times by characters who knew her; in a nod to this, the first time that Lyanna appears on-screen beginning in Season 6, she is shown coming back to Winterfell from a day's riding on her horse.
  • The video doesn't state it in dialogue, but the three squires who attacked Meera's father belonged to knights from House Frey, House Haigh (bannermen of the Freys), and House Blount (known for the dishonorable Kingsguard Boros Blount who later beat Sansa Stark at Joffrey's orders in the books). The video does identify the three squires by showing the heraldry of their knights at the tourney: the twin towers of Frey, the pitchfork of Haigh, and the two porcupines with a red bend sinister used by the Blounts.
  • The "knight of skulls and kisses" who lost a drinking game to Robert Baratheon was actually Richard Lonmouth, one of Rhaegar Targaryen's close companions, who formerly served him as squire and was subsequently knighted by him. The "skulls and kisses" refer to the heraldry of House Lonmouth: six alternating sections, of red lips strewn on a yellow field, and yellow skulls strewn on a black field.
  • Meera describes at some length how King Aerys II Targaryen looked visibly insane from his deranged appearance at the tourney: "his long yellow fingernails, tangled beard and ropes of unwashed, matted hair" - which is how he is described in the books. Other Histories & Lore videos have consistently given this description. When the Mad King briefly appeared in Bran Stark's vision-flashbacks in Season 6, however, showing the moment when Jaime killed him at the foot of the Iron Throne, the TV series inexplicably had the actor cleanshaven, not even bothering with a fake beard. This outright contradicts the Histories & Lore videos in the TV continuity, and the reason why it happened is unknown.
  • Even in the books, no one is entirely sure if Rhaegar secretly arranged for Lord Whent to hold such a massive tournament as an excuse to gather all the great lords of the realm together, to recruit them in a plot to force his father to abdicate so the throne would pass to him, or convince them in person to call a Great Council to have his father declared unfit to rule due to his obvious insanity. It's also possible that Whent was already going to hold the large tournament, without Rhaegar's advice, but that Rhaegar may have wanted to use the opportunity of the tournament to recruit lords to his cause. Whatever the case, Rhaegar never moved against his father in the full year between the tournament and when he allegedly "abducted" Lyanna Stark - why he would organize such a big tournament as a recruiting tool only to then not act on it is unknown. It's still possible that he was biding his time for some reason, given that he later told Jaime as he left for the Battle of the Trident that he had been hoping to call a Great Council before the war broke out (in the Season 5 featurettes he told Barristan as well - though if Rhaegar told Jaime this he probably told his other trusted friends in the Kingsguard).
  • The novels gave several candidates for who Jon Snow's mother is - before Season 6 of the TV series outpaced the books and revealed that it was actually Lyanna Stark, and Ned Stark is actually his uncle. The other possibilities were apparently red herrings - in case readers thought the hints about Lyanna were a little too obvious. The first and most prominent suggested candidate was Ashara Dayne, mentioned in this video, owing to the fact that Ned seemed somewhat attracted to her during the Tourney at Harrenhal, and later returned her brother Arthur's sword to her at their family's castle in Dorne after he killed him in battle. All of this was misdirection.
    • The video also mentions that Ashara danced with Barristan Selmy - in his POV narration chapters from the later novels, it is revealed that she was secretly the love of his life, but he walked away from that and all his father's lands and titles when he chose to join the Kingsguard.
  • Though not mentioned in the video, Oberyn Martell also attended the Tourney at Harrenhal, given that Rhaegar's wife was his own sister, Elia Martell. Mace Tyrell also attended, though Loras wasn't even born until a year or two after the tourney; Renly was only around 5 years old at the time and apparently wasn't present either.
    • Tywin Lannister was explicitly not at the tourney, because after the Mad King announced he was going to name Tywin's eldest son and heir to the Kingsguard (to disinherit him), Tywin was insulted and resigned his office; therefore he didn't attend the tournament. Cersei apparently wasn't present either, because Tywin himself took her back to Casterly Rock when he withdrew his household from King's Landing upon his resignation.
      • A separate video from the Season 6 set, "Robert's Rebellion - Jaime Lannister's perspective", directly explains all of this, and that Tywin and Cersei weren't at the tourney.

Appearances

Characters

Locations

Events

To be added

Noble houses

Races

  • Crannogmen - called "Frog-eaters", which is a slur.

Miscellaneous