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"War of the Ninepenny Kings" is part of the Histories & Lore, a special feature from Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season. It is narrated by Ian McShane as Brother Ray.

Synopsis

Brother Ray reflects on the War of the Ninepenny Kings and the impact his experiences in the conflict had on him.

Narration

Ray: "The War of the Ninepenny Kings", they called it. But I never saw a king or earned a penny. After the war ended I heard it all started when an exiled royal bastard raised an army of sellswords and the rightful king sent his own army to stop an invasion.

Sounds simple, the way the Maesters tell it. But an army isn't like a dog that comes when you whistle. The king calls on great lords, who call on lesser lords, who send down their captains to round up all the peasant men on the land the lord claims to own. If the lord is wise and generous, his new soldiers are given steel swords and wooden shields to fight his battles. Most of our army fought with sharp sticks.

Singers still sing of the valiant heroes made in the war. Ser Brynden Tully, the "Blackfish". Ser Tywin Lannister and Prince Aerys Targaryen. Ser Barristan Selmy, the "Bold", who slew the bastard pretender and ended the war at a stroke. But the king whose crown we were defending never came. He mattered too much, I suppose. His Hand commanded the crown's armies and died valiantly in his son's arms. Or so the singers say. I never saw that, either.

I did see the soldiers when they came to our village. They declared I was too young to fight but my brothers and friends were all going and I wouldn't be left behind. My oldest brother said I could be his squire, though he wasn't a knight, just a pot boy armed with a stolen kitchen knife. He'd never need. I saw him collapse on our march from fever, along with many from our village. I saw our shoes fall apart on the road, our clothes rot off our bodies and half of us shitting our beds from the sickness and fear. And then we got to the war. In the Stepstones, I saw a mace cave in my last brother's head, I saw the lord who led us there cut down and some other lord shout that we were his now. One day I looked around and realised all my friends and kin were gone. I was fighting beside strangers under a banner I'd never seen. Didn't know where I was or how to get home. When a lord ran up shouting at us to form ranks with our scythes and hoes, I couldn't remember which side I was on. Then the knights came down on us, faceless men all in steel. The thunder of their charge filled the world. I closed my eyes.

Years later, after the war had faded into songs, I opened them again and saw what I had done and what I had become in the war and since. I went looking for a way back home. I know I'll never reach it, but that doesn't mean I don't need a guide.

Notes

  • "Brother Ray" is the condensed TV version of a character named Septon Meribald in the novels. Meribald gives a length speech in the fourth novel about how the bandits ("broken men") now raiding around the Riverlands are mostly conscripts who started at as just villagers with sharpened farm tools; most were slaughtered by well-equipped knights or disease, until finally they just broke and ran, now living day to day like animals by stealing to survive. It then becomes apparent that Meribald himself became a broken man/bandit after fighting in the War of the Ninepenny Kings, and became a septon to atone for his past sins.
    • George R.R. Martin has directly pointed out the importance of Meribald's broken men speech to the main thematic points of his entire novel series. He actually said two speeches were at the heart of the story: Varys's riddle asking who really holds "power" (if a sellsword is set between a king, rich man, and a priest, each telling him to kill the others - who does he obey?), and Meribald's speech. Martin was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and felt that High Fantasy literature was glorifying warfare: there was always a clear "good guy" fighting clearly "bad guys" like orcs and monsters, when in real life wars are usually fought for greedy reasons and are morally ambiguous. The beginning of the series deconstructs this trope, making it seem like Robb Stark is going to be the valiant warrior boy-king who defeats the Lannisters...only to then brutally kill him off at the Red Wedding, his enemies triumphant. By the fourth novel, even with the war nominally "won", most of the Riverlands have descended into starvation and anarchy, with roving bands raiding and stealing just to survive. Meribald's glorified ideas about war when he set out and then the dark, filthy, horrible reality when he was actually in it sum up Martin's attitudes about the glorification of warfare.
  • The TV series was criticized by multiple major professional reviewers when it didn't actually give "Brother Ray" any direct quotes from Meribald's speech when he appeared in Season 6 - despite the fact that years in advance Martin himself had pointed out how important it was, and also feels that the exact prose and wording of the speech are some of his best writing in the entire series. Ray's speech in episode 6.7 "The Broken Man" is thematically similar to Meribald's, but doesn't use direct quotes. When pressed, the TV writers only said that this was their version of the speech, inspired by the books - but didn't explain why they chose not to quote it directly. One of the primary reasons of course is that the context of the speech was different in the novels: he says it to Brienne of Tarth when she meets him on the road in the Riverlands, not to Sandor Clegane who also encounters him and hears him giving a sermon to a crowd.
    • In contrast, this Histories & Lore video is directly based on Meribald's "broken men" speech from the novels, using mostly line for line quotes (excepting a change here or there for context, as he's not talking to Brienne but just "the viewer" in general). Apparently this is the TV producers attempting to respond to the criticism that they didn't adapt the specific speech into the actual live-action episodes.
  • Season 1 of the TV series consciously established that King Jaehaerys II has been cut from the TV continuity, as confirmed by the writers in interviews. Apparently this was to simplify the relationship between Maester Aemon and Daenerys. In the books, Maester Aemon's younger brother Aegon V Targaryen was the grandfather, not the father, of Aerys II Targaryen, the Mad King, Daenerys's father. Aegon V's son was Jaehaerys II, and Jaehaerys II's son was Aerys II. Jaehaerys II only ruled for three years but he ruled well during them, though he had frail health and died young. It was during his short reign, however, that the War of the Ninepenny Kings broke out - indeed one of the reasons the Blackfyres launched the war when they did was because they were emboldened by the death of old king Aegon V. Then-Prince Aerys fought well in the war, serving as a squire, and he was knighted by his good friend Ser Tywin Lannister during the campaign.
    • Removing Jaehaerys II raised the question of whose reign the War of the Ninepenny Kings occurred in for the TV continuity: at the end of Aegon V's or at the beginning of Aerys II's. The question was answered by the Season 5 Histories & Lore, which established that it took place during the last years of Aegon V's reign - though it didn't mention him by name. This video removes any shadow of a doubt, by on-screen, in print, stating that "Prince Aerys" fought in the war, he wasn't king yet.
  • In the novels, Tywin Lannister and his younger brothers such as Kevan were emboldened and invigorated by their blooding in real combat during the War of the Ninepenny Kings - so that when Tywin returned home, he quickly set about trying to restore Lannister dominance over the Westerlands, which had atrophied under his weak-willed father, directly leading to the Reyne Rebellion.
  • The video states by name that Ormund Baratheon died in the war and shows him in the arms of his unnamed son. Assuming no change from the novels, Ormund's son seen in this video is Steffon Baratheon - father of Robert, Stannis, and Renly.
    • Ormund Baratheon was himself the heir of Lyonel Baratheon, the Laughing Storm, a major character in the Tales of Dunk and Egg prequels, who has also appeared in prior Histories & Lore videos.

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