Law & justice appeared questionable in the North: As speeches, useless; as deeds, corrupt. Necessity, the inflexible way of the wilderness, is not a false teacher, though hostile, or at best indifferent. But it teaches merely how men are moved to survive. This makes the city appear wonderful. Everything is other than it seems here; Stark would be wise to pay attention to how things seem, but urgency is ruthless.
The king’s power exceeds his substance. The kingdom is dying of debt. Property & prosperity cannot long defend him from necessity, because property is mostly a general agreement about what belongs to whom: Real estate is merely apparent. In the coming war, would the land really support the king?
Advisors & king, forgetting the business of state, trade tales of warlike feats, their first kills & their education. The merciless king is a tyrant born on the battlefield; the unlikeliest ruler, for the least wily.
The Stark prophecy – winter is coming – requires such soldiers, unflinchingly courageous, in love with death. These harsh speeches nevertheless seem out of place in lavish palaces, among degenerates, while the armies are dying of peace. The prophecy & the truth it speaks are very different things: The old men who once guarded the wall, becoming like gargoyles, speak the prophecy, but no army comes into being. The truth of the prophecy seems to be the ugly neediness of man in the wilderness. The harsh northerners fear the coming winter. The soft southerners contentedly enjoy the summer. Northerners know there is only one cause for both winter & summer, the sun. They know the cause of the good & its precariousness.
The learned dwarf tells Stark’s brother, the ranger of the wilderness, that there is no difference between the men who run with beasts & the men who defend the city’s walls, but on what side of the walls they were born. But if the laws make the people, who made the laws? Who built the wall in the beginning? Perhaps freedom from necessity weakens men until they are again slaves; or they die. The rangers & the wall are meant to defend the peace from the enemies without. Who will defend her from the enemies within?
Let’s look again at the barbarians. They humiliate the haughty Targaryen prince. They are free, but beastly. They kill each other at weddings: They take their pleasures with horrible pain. They seem unconquerable, having no cities to defend. They are as fast as their horses. They also eat horseflesh. But they ignore the arts & sciences & so cannot distinguish objects from images. They must all be slaves to their ruler; & the women are slaves to the men.