They were seven, facing three. In the dream as it had been in life.
One of the most important and hotly debated central mysteries in A Song of Ice and Fire is “what happened at the Tower of Joy?”. Most of the discussion is on *that* “mystery”, of course. Because *that* dominates so much as a topic, some of the other fun and important details get lost in the shuffle. This post is dedicated to those very details, many of which play major roles in the current storyline.
The Tower of Joy was located in northern part of the Prince’s Pass, which connects Dorne to the Reach through the Red Mountains. We say “was located”, as Ned’s thoughts tell us he pulled it down to make eight cairns, one each for those listed here that fought, save himself and Howland Reed, who survived.
These mini-profiles of the 10 men who fought in the shadow of the Tower of Joy may contain a few things you missed. Enjoy.
The Kingsguard Three
- Lord Commander Gerold Hightower – “The White Bull”
- Prowess: Jaime thinks of him as one of the strongest he’s ever known. At the time of the battle, Ned recalls him as fierce, though old. We guess that he’s likely at least twice the age of anyone else present.
- Family & Connections: Ser Gerold was uncle to Lord Leyton, current head of House Hightower, one of the most ancient and noble houses in Westeros.
- History Note: Became Lord Commander upon the death of Ser Duncan the Tall (259 AC). Commanded the combined Westerosi forces in the War of Ninepenny Kings following the death of Lord Ormund Baratheon (grandfather of Robert, Stannis & Renly). He was Lord Commander for 24 years and was succeeded by Ser Barristan the Bold.
- Quote: Ned recalls him saying: “The Kingsguard does not flee.” just before the battle began.
- Ser Arthur Dayne – “the Sword of the Morning”
- Prowess: Said to be the greatest knight of his generation, famous for his skill at arms, his strength, his discipline, his honor, his chivalry and of course, the ancestral sword Dawn, the most famous sword in the Seven Kingdoms. GRRM said that without Dawn, with both in their prime, Ser Arthur vs. Ser Barristan the Bold would be too close to call. With Dawn, Ser Arthur would win…
- Family & Connections: It’s said that he was Prince Rhaegar Targaryen’s closest and most trusted friend. One might think he was privy to many of Rhaegar’s secrets.
- Brother to Lady Ashara Dayne, who supposedly killed herself shortly after this battle and the apparent stillbirth of her child.
- Uncle to ~13 year old Lord Edric Dayne, former squire to Lord Beric Dondarrion.
- Of the houses present, it is their family’s home castle of Starfall that is nearest to the Tower of Joy. It’s notable that Lord Edric is nicknamed “Ned”, despite Ned Stark’s direct involvement with Ser Arthur’s death. One might think House Dayne would hate that name.
- History Note: Jaime received his knighthood from Ser Arthur. Dawn is so sharp that a light touch on his shoulder during the knighting ceremony was enough to cause bleeding. “All knights must bleed, Jaime,” Ser Arthur Dayne had said, when he saw. “Blood is the seal of our devotion.”
- Quote: “And now it begins” just before unsheathing Dawn at the Tower of Joy, if Ned’s fever dream can be trusted.
- Ser Oswell Whent – Across his white-enameled helm, the black bat of his House spread its wings.
- Prowess: Aerys’ Kingsguard was said to be among the greatest ever, thus it is likely that Oswell was excellent, if not elite. He and his 4 nephews were champions at the Tourney of the False Spring, and was the only one to keep his place, the others were challenged and defeated.
- Family & Connections: Brother to Lord Walter Whent, who hosted this same famous tourney (in 281), where Lyanna was named Queen of Love and Beauty by Rhaegar Targaryen… the event that started it all, you might say. A close friend of Prince Rhaegar, he was said to have a morbid sense of humor.
- History Note: Catelyn Tully’s mother was Minisa Whent, an unknown relation to Ser Oswell and Lord Walter, but blood regardless. Thus, Ned’s wife and all his children have Whent blood. It is unknown who slew Ser Oswell.
- Quote: Regarding the 3’s absence at the crucial Battle of the Trident, Ned recalls Ser Oswell’s confident reply, “Woe to the Usurper if we had been”
Lord Eddard Stark’s Seven
- Lord William Dustin – “…Lord Dustin on his great red stallion.” (a gift from Lady Barbrey)
- Prowess: That Ned chose him as a companion perhaps gives him some credibility. Perhaps he accounted himself well during Robert’s Rebellion.
- Family & Connections: Lord of Barrowton, newly married to Lady Barbrey Ryswell when war broke out.
- History Note: She bears a grudge against Ned and House Stark for his death. She is the ruling Lady of Barrowton, so this grudge is significant:
- She gave minimum support to Robb Stark when he marched south.
- Lord Bolton mentions that her grudge is a large part of why he can count on House Dustin’s support, and her strength is significant in part because she held back. Thus, Lord William’s death at the Tower of Joy has contributed to the downfall of the Starks in multiple ways.
- Quote: “He had kin he might have sent in his stead. An uncle famed for his prowess with an axe, a great-uncle who had fought in the War of the Ninepenny Kings. But he was a man and full of pride, nothing would serve but that he lead the Barrowton levies himself.”
- Ethan Glover – “Ethan Glover, who had been Brandon’s squire”
- Prowess: A squire is unlikely to be an adult, so he was probably too young to be much of a warrior. Many young men gained experience fighting in the rebellion, but he was likely held captive throughout most of the war. His inclusion in the party at all is interesting. Could it be that he had important information, such as knowledge of the Tower of Joy’s location? or that Lyanna was there?
- Family & Connections: A member of House Glover, who are masters of Deepwood Motte. Unknown relation to Galbart and Robett Glover, but he could be their brother. House Glover is known for outstanding loyalty to House Stark. Galbart, Robett and Ethan are outstanding examples.
- History Note: His tale is particularly tragic. Witness to Lord Rickard and Brandon Stark’s deaths, he had accompanied Brandon to King’s Landing from Riverrun upon learning of Lyanna Stark’s abduction by Rhaegar Targaryen. All of Brandon’s other companions & their fathers were executed, and it remains uncertain why Ethan was spared. He survived the Mad King and Robert’s Rebellion only to die at the Tower of Joy.
- Quote: “He was the only one to survive. The others were Jeffory Mallister, Kyle Royce, and Elbert Arryn, Jon Arryn’s nephew and heir…Aerys accused them of treason and summoned their fathers to court to answer the charge, with the sons as hostages. When they came, he had them murdered without trial. Fathers and sons both.”
- Martyn Cassel – “Proud Martyn Cassel, Jory’s father.”
- Prowess: Unknown, but the Cassel family has served House Stark in a variety of roles for many generations, often as fighters. It’s likely he was skilled, but likely less so than any of the Kingsguard.
- Family & Connections: brother to Ser Rodrik, who was Winterfell’s Castellan and father to Jory, who was Winterfell’s Captain of Guards. Beth Cassel, daughter of Ser Rodrik, is the only living Cassel and she is currently a captive at the Dreadfort.
- History Note: Ned’s fever dream, which gives us most of the detail we have on the Tower of Joy, occurs just after his leg injury. He and his men fight Lannister men in the streets of King’s Landing in the pouring rain. Seven of Jaime’s men die, and three men of Winterfell, including Jory. The similarities between the conflict may have triggered Ned’s memories, particularly the death of Jory, whose father Martyn died fighting the three Kingsguard as one of Ned’s seven. This comparison hits hard:
- Littlefinger and the City Watch found him there in the street, cradling Jory Cassel’s body in his arms.
- They had found him still holding her (Lyanna’s) body, silent with grief.
- Quote: Ser Rodrik – “My brother Martyn fathered four strong sons, yet only Jory lived to be a man. When he was slain, Martyn’s line died with him. When we speak of the morrow nothing is ever certain.”
- Theo Wull – “faithful Theo Wull”
- Prowess: The brutal winters in the hills of the North breed hard men. The Wulls descend from stock who have had uncountable conflicts with wildlings and Ironmen, and are known for their prowess. There’s a decent chance this man was the best of Ned’s seven.
- Family & Connections: Given the quote below, we’re guessing Theo Wull may have gotten to know Ned through Howland Reed. The current Wull, perhaps Theo’s son, is among the loudest in calling for the rescue of Arya, and he lusts for the blood of Boltons.
- History Note: The Wulls are historically the most powerful of the northern hill clans.
- Quote: Meera Reed – “Jojen, wasn’t there a Wull who rode with Father during the war?”
“Theo Wull.” Jojen was breathing hard from the climb. “Buckets, they used to call him.”
- Ser Mark Ryswell – “Ser Mark Ryswell, soft of speech and gentle of heart”
- Prowess: Though information is scarce, and this quote points to a non-martial personality, knighthood is rare in the North, and may speak to his ability.
- Family & Connections: House Ryswell is currently divided, and it is not known which branch Ser Mark belonged to. The current state of affairs sees the Ryswells as an ally of House Bolton. We wonder if Ser Mark’s death is a factor here. It’s good to remember that Lady Barbrey Dustin is a Ryswell by birth.
- History Note: Ser Mark could be Lady Barbrey’s uncle, but she never mentions this, so their family connection is unknown. In general we know little of him.
- Quote: Ned had known their faces as well as he knew his own once, but the years leech at a man’s memories, even those he has vowed never to forget. In the dream they were only shadows, grey wraiths on horses made of mist.
- Howland Reed – “My father knew the worth of Howland Reed” – King Robb Stark
- Prowess: Evidence from the Knight of the Laughing tree tale indicates Howland was not a strong fighter, but the Crannogmen are known for fighting with nets, arrows and poison. He might’ve played a critical role in the battle via these skills. Ned claims that Ser Arthur would’ve killed him if not for Howland Reed.
- Family & Connections: Crannogman with dominion over all those of his kind in the Neck. Lord of Greywater Watch. Father to Meera & Jojen, friend to Ned Stark and probably Theo Wull.
- History Note: The debate rages over whether or not there were others at the tower during this fight. Regardless of who has the right of it, Howland Reed is the only named individual certain to be both alive now and holding intimate knowledge of the event. Though he is Lord now, he was likely not yet so at this time.
- Quote: He’s probably the most anticipated character yet to make an appearance. GRRM is aware of this, and has responded in the past: “He will appear eventually.”
- Lord Eddard Stark – You’ve probably heard of him already.
- Prowess: Though he claims that Howland’s help was crucial, Ned did fight Ser Arthur and may not have even suffered a wound. He may have only faced Ser Arthur at the very end, after all others were slain. By this point, Ser Arthur may have himself been wounded. But we must be careful making any assumptions. George himself has pointed out that Ned’s memories of this occurred during a fever dream, and may not be entirely reliable. George has also confirmed that Lord Eddard did not fight with the Valyrian Steel blade Ice, it was too large.
- Family & Connections: Ned’s rumored relationship with Ashara Dayne makes the death of her brother Arthur Dayne very sad. Ashara’s death coming so close after Lyanna’s death piles on even more tragedy. However, Ned’s POV is only revealing in that he never once thinks of Ashara.
- History Note: After the fight, he returned Dawn to the Daynes, and this may have triggered Ashara’s suicide. He returned Lord Dustin’s horse to his widow, and this triggered her grudge against the Starks. Then there’s what he returned to Winterfell with, that child born of… Oh wait, we’re not discussing that here.
- Quote: He dreamt an old dream, of three knights in white cloaks, and a tower long fallen, and Lyanna in her bed of blood.