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The gift of tongues

When I am reading I have this horrible habit of being caught by incidental detail, and thinking 'hang on, that's wrong, isn't it'? My brain then hares off after that detail and loses the plot.

Last time I read through A Song of Ice and Fire, I was taken by the remarkable fatness of Samwell Tarly, which persists despite military training and rations, forced marches, seasickness, and lack of money.

This time I read it, I noted that Ser Wylis Manderly is apparently stricken by the same remarkable problem: despite the stresses and strains of riding to war, battle, being taken and held prisoner for some considerable while in a situation where the prisoners are driven to cannibalism, he's *still* fat when released. How odd.

I also wondered about Ser Ilyn Payne and Victarion's tongueless bedwench. Neither of them is able to talk at all, because their tongues have been removed. Yet, surely, the ability to speak is not entirely tongue-based? Admittedly it is hard to pretend you don't have a tongue, but I reckon that quite a few consonants are shaped entirely by the lips, and removing the tongue surely would not damage the vocal chords? It would certainly render someone hard to understand, but surely not completely silent...?


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
22nd Oct, 2009 13:53 (UTC)
Maybe the Secret of Enduring Fatness is tied up with the Mystery of the Messed-up Seasons, and will be explained in book 7. And I'd have thought you could make some sounds without a tongue, though perhaps not intelligible speech, unless you want to communicate a message with lots of Ps in. I wonder how much of the characterisatic shape of a word, as seen in lip reading, depends on the movement of the tongue "behind the scenes," altering the appearance of the mouth.

When I read the series, I got totally obsessed with the logistics of ravens, in a way that made it very hard to concentrate on the plot. Somebody (Stannis, perhaps?) sent out a raven to every single family of note in the entire land. How did they find the way? IIRC, when a group of Night's Watch people went north of the Wall, they took two different batches of ravens, one for Castle Black and one for some other tower, which implies that they are homing animals, able to go to only one destination. So did Stannis have a raven belonging to every noble house in the world, kept on the off-chance that he'd need to communicate with them one day?

And what happens after the raven gets home with its message? Is there a huge, invisible industry of people charging up and down the land, returning ravens to their "away" posting, ready for them to be sent out with another message? And what if you don't send a raven to someone for a few years, and their raven decides that your house is now its home base, and refuses to go anywhere?
22nd Oct, 2009 14:12 (UTC)
I explain the issue of the ravens to myself by assuming that ravens have near-human intelligence* and that one of the things you learn when you are doing your maester-level raven training is the system of coordinates for directing them, probably based on some sort of magnetic system so they can go even to places they don't know. So they are less a mechanism, more a sort of slave race.

Then you can explain Sam's two baskets of ravens North of the wall by saying that Sam has not got his raven-lore badge, so he can't give them detailed instructions, the ravens had to be 'pre-set' for him to release.

I would, however, like to know in what sort of system of agriculture a 100 year old hedge counts as 'old' and why they are practicing it in the riverlands. See, my quibbling, it is still there!

*it does seem to be the case in the real world that corvids are very clever, though possibly not temperamentally adapted to being a slave-race.
22nd Oct, 2009 15:09 (UTC)
Hmm... That does make sense. Given that raven-wrangling seems to be an issue of sekrit maester knowledge, there must be more to it than just point and click. (Though I suppose it could all be a fraud, designed to boost the prestige of the maesters and keep communication in their hands. It's possible that when maesters go off on their Advanced Raven-Lore Course, it's a mere five minutes of quick instruction ("freshly killed meat every day, with some Trill on the side") followed by a few months relaxing and partying - or, as they will tell everyone when they get back, "long sessions of challenging studying, learning secrets that you can never be told".)

Though why stop at near-human intelligence? Maybe the ravens are the Others, who have been secretly manipulating the human kingdoms through total control of their communications and the judicious deleting of the word "not" from their messages.

I suspect that a 100 year old hedgerow counts as old in any system of agriculture created by an American. ;-)
22nd Oct, 2009 15:27 (UTC)
The 'really old' 100 year old hedge just seems to jibe oddly with a throne that the ruling family have been sat on for 300 years. But maybe the dragons toasted the hedges of the riverlands in some historical event that we've not yet been told about...

22nd Oct, 2009 16:16 (UTC)
I don't think 300 years old is that old for a throne, these being things that are generally Tradition and Continuity with the Past and such like. What is more amazing, though, is that in all those 300 years, no-one thought to call in the Changing Thrones team to make the whole thing a bit more comfortable.

It's a fair point, though. Everything in Fantasyland is far older than things are here. Civilisations tend to last unchanged for thousands of years, people still use weapons that were made 5000 yeards ago, and you can go back 10,000 years in the prologue, and find that fashions are the same as now.
22nd Oct, 2009 16:19 (UTC)
Goodness, I know! You can tell that they have succession in the male line, I'm sure that a queen would have had the whole thing done out with cushions within a week!

That will be book 8 : "Daenerys Redecorates" :-D
22nd Oct, 2009 19:54 (UTC)
Is this actually a sign of republican authors who know their readership like monarchs and thus inflict piles on them with these uncomfortable old (stone?) thrones?
22nd Oct, 2009 14:36 (UTC)
... as well as p and b, I reckon you could do m,f,h,w, a sort of r and also 'ck' and hard 'g' sound. Admittedly, that still leaves you short of a lot of consonants and probably some vowels, but still better than total wordlessness.
25th Oct, 2009 20:13 (UTC)
In the audiobooks, Roy Dotrice does a really good voice for Rorgh (can't remember how you spell his name - the prisoner in the cage that Yoren takes who has no nose and later joins Vargo Hoat's lot). I imagine when he did him, he spoke while holding his nose.

On the downside, I wish he hadn't decided to do all of the Lannisters except for Cersei with broad Yorkshire accents.
22nd Oct, 2009 15:14 (UTC)
I was bothered by Sam's weight, as well. Though it's perfectly possible to survive descent-to-cannibalism without loosing weight - I understand certain members of the Donner party managed it (possibly not the answer you're looking for).

While we're on the subject, a wall made of ice, far enough south for trees to grow to its north?
22nd Oct, 2009 15:23 (UTC)
If you ate enough human being, I can see that working - but he was sharing cooked bits of Vargo Hoat with all the other prisoners, including Hoat himself (ICK!) so it doesn't seem like there would be *enough*. But OK, I will concede Wylis Manderly may not be a freak of nature.

The Wall I can accept - it's maintained by Ancient Magicks. I can live with the idea of some sort of really old refrigeration spell.
22nd Oct, 2009 19:56 (UTC)
I think it depends on how much tongue is removed too. Too much and the poor sod starves as they can't get food down. So it might just be the front bit which does the palatal sounds (but ask Na'Lon as she knows more then me about sound forming)
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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