Although his aren’t the most interesting chapters in my opinion -probably due to his close relations to Stannis, who is characterised to be the epitome of dull- I love Davos. I feel like GRRM wrote him almost as compensation for Ned’s death, and a representation of goodness, as I see so many parallels between him and Ned, as with his relationship dynamic to Stannis and Ned’s to Robert. He is incredibly loyal to Stannis and humble in character: ‘If I stayed a smuggler, Allard would have ended on the Wall. Stannis spared him from that end, something else I owe him’. Davos begins with a low sense of self-worth, and so is driven to proving himself to Stannis through loyalty. ‘Everything I am, I owe to him’. He is also motivated by his sons, and to a lesser extent, his wife, although, it has to be said, she is rarely mentioned. Davos will challenge Stannis and stand up for what he feels is right, particularly as the books progress:
‘You have given me an honoured place at your table. And in return I give you truth’.
Stannis has his own similarities to Ned Stark, in terms of his inability to neglect his sense of duty which acts as the basis of his moral codes. There are however, some stark (did not mean the pun) differences in reactions and decisions made in later books as Stannis becomes more desperate, maddened, and arguably indoctrinated by religion (to be fair, the red religion is unquestionably magical and powerful, if a bit grim).
Stannis as a King is an interesting premise, as he is truly indifferent towards the idea, simply acting on his sense of duty. He is, however, also biased by his resentment of Robert and the ways in which he has been overshadowed and underappreciated. ‘When have they ever loved me? How can I lose something I have never owned?’. His personality and character are shown throughout and is well known, so I don’t feel the need to go into it too much, but I do love these quotes as I believe they sum him up well:
‘Make it Ser Jaime the Kingslayer henceforth,” Stannis said, frowning. “Whatever else the man may be, he remains a knight. I don’t know that we ought to call Robert my beloved brother either. He loved me no more than he had to, nor I him.”
On Renly ‘Fools love a fool’ grumbled Stannis, ‘but I grieve for him as well. For the boy he was, not the man he grew to be.’
‘I am King. Wants do not enter into it. I have a duty to my daughter. To the realm. Even to Robert. He loved me but little, I know, yet he was my brother. The Lannister woman gave him horns and made a motley fool of him’.
Davos has more of an influence throughout the series than perhaps even he realises as he routinely acts as a moral compass, and truth teller amongst the council who- like all in game of thrones- pander to Stannis: ‘Davos had come too far with Stannis to play coy now. ‘Last year they were Robert’s men. A moon ago they were Renly’s. This morning they are yours. Whose will they be on the morrow?. ‘And Stannis laughed. A sudden gust, rough and full of scorn. ‘I told you Melisandre’, my Onion Knight tells me the truth’.
Davos’ birth and low status impact his self-image, but he holds a significant influence over Stannis’ actions, and acts as a rebuttal to Melisandre’s council. I will love GRRM forever for being such an incredibly smart writer, and in writing their relationship, I love the instances like the above quote that act to parallel Ned and Robert, and yet clearly highlight their difference. Davos is not as black and white, not as ‘morally good’, not quite as hesitant to murk around in politically position he has been dealt. It is these traits that allow Davos to live where Ned didn’t, and stand him in better stead for the circumstances that led to Ned’s downfall- imprisonment, the risk of his children, protecting Roberts son, becoming hand, attempting to recruit people to Stannis’ cause.
‘I am a man. I am kind to my wife, but I have known other women. I have tried to be a father to my sons, to help make them a place in this world. Aye, I’ve broken laws, but I never felt evil until tonight. I would say my parts are mixed, m’lady. Good and bad.’ ‘ A grey man. Neither white nor black, but partaking of both.’ (Melisandre)
It also serves to show that Stannis is- for now- more just, less clouded, rash and impulsive than Robert. He can listen, and it is when he becomes so entwined in his anger, desperation and fanatical rage that he seems more likely to fail, or head towards the same fate as Robert. It is after the murder of Renly that Stannis reaches a turning point, a point of no return. He has broken his moral code, he has cheated, and he now truly subscribes to Melisandre’s prophecies. He is deeply haunted, and in the extremely unlikable event that he was to become King, he would be a shell of himself and what he stands for.
‘Only Renly could vex me so with a piece of fruit. He brought his doom on with his treason, but I did love him Davos. I know that now, I swear, I will go to my grave thinking of my brother’s peach.’
In following Stannis, Davos is subject to a lot of unpleasant truths that he attempts to avoid, avoiding his guilt by following the mantra that he will do what he can to stop future injustice. His story arc becomes a metaphor for faith and loyalty, and what we become when this is questioned or dark truths begin to unravel. ‘I… I am yours to command. What would you have me do?’ Davos can see the change is Stannis, and it is his will to continue believing in him that carries him forward- and a little bit of denial for the man he thought he knew (strong Ned/Robert vibes). He manages to make use of his influence on Stannis, convincing him not to let Melisandre come to war, for fear of the alienation the red religion will bring in Westeros. This results in a paradox of actions and feelings: Stannis condemns Davos and his later assassination attempt on Melisandre, and yet respects his loyalty, promoting him to hand. I believe that Stannis himself understands that he is wrestling with his actions, morals, and the Kingdom he wants to create; it is this that convinces him to keep Davos close, where he would have condemned others multiple times. He needs duality, he needs to maintain a sense of himself, and Davos is this guide. Even as this is happening, Davos is experiencing his own existential crisis’. He is changed by the death of his children, the stress of his situation, and the knowledge that even he cannot deny the power of the red God.
‘Ours is not a choice between Baratheon and Lannister, between Greyjoy and Stark. It is death we choose, or life. Darkness, or light’. (Melisandre). ‘My heart’, Davos said slowly, ‘is full of doubts’. ‘Ice and fire, he thought. Black and white. Dark and light. Davos could not deny the power of her God’.
I want to mention here, that these chapters are made more interesting than I remembered by the addition of Melisandre and a significant amount of prophecy being told to us through Davos’ lens. I have tabbed prophecy and want to look into it more when I’m further into my reread. Once I’m through my 7000000 Bran and Jon chapters, I’ll bring together all the prophecy and go on a deep internet theory hole of what it all means. Interestingly though, there is another touch of prophecy, told to Davos by Ser Axell:
‘Say what you will. I would never betray Stannis.’ ‘You would. You will. I see it in your face. And I have seen it in the flames as well. R’hallor has blessed me with the gift. Like Lady Melisandre, he shows me the future in the fire. Stannis Baratheon will sit the Iron Throne.’
Quotes like this and references scattered throughout to Davos being a turn cloak are likely less prophecy and more manipulation- people know his influence on Stannis- but I do think they foreshadow a turning point in Davos’ arc, maybe in the form of turning his back on Stannis and towards Jon. This is particularly likely, if and when, Stannis goes full Agamemnon and sacrifices Shireen. I love the Greek myth parallels, even as I loathe what they’ll signify.
Another interesting exchange between the two occurs when Davos’ loyalty is truly questions and he is becoming more reckless:
‘A desperate folly took hold of Davos, a recklessness akin to madness. ‘As you remained loyal to King Aerys when your brother raised his banners?’ he blurted’. ‘I would have it speak the truth. Through the truth is a bitter draught at times. Aerys? If only you knew… that was a hard choosing. My blood or my liege. My brother or my King.’
The decision to free Edric, and Stannis’ concurrent decision to raise him to hand signifies the extent of their relationship and influence. Melisandre understands this and it is dangerous for Davos.
‘What is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom?’ ‘Everything’, said Davos, softly.’ (Some utilitarian/Kantian philosophy and existential crisis creeping up in their chapters).
And yet Davos stays. Despite his desire to leave, to be with his surviving sons and wife, to be away from politics, away from sorcery. Stannis is above all for him, is his God in a way after serving his ‘justice’, and Davos is one of the many characters in ASOIAF for whom duty comes above all. He is also one of many political figures who stay in the hope of making a small difference, making the terrible ‘less bad’ and doing their part to make a slightly more just world. It is Davos who influences Stannis to go to the wall, a well calculated decision that Davos does not give himself credit for. He is trying to distract Stannis from his fury, from his flailing morals, from Melisandre, and is trying to bring Stannis redemption, purpose and resources a clean way. He has an interesting influence on the story and prophecy, being the one to bring Melisandre and Jon together (despite the fact that he is then sent away by Stannis with the influence of Melisandre).
This sets up Davos for the next stage of his arc- he has more independence, more responsibility and more political power as he becomes involved with Manderley’s plot to find Rickon- and I’m assuming, he believes, Bran?- to the throne as King of the North. We end with Davos hesitantly gathering himself to go off to cannibal island, and Stannis stuck outside Winterfell, becoming startlingly close to Agamemnon/Iphigenia sacrifice territory. I think we’re setting up for the books version of the battle of the bastards, and there are so many exceptional plots in this story that I am EXCITED (assuming of course, that we ever get to read them hahaha). Looking forward to seeing Skagos and Davos’ future part to play in the story! I feel like he’s about to have a lot more interactions with major characters. Also, I got chills reading this part:
‘The north remembers, Lord Davos. The North remembers and the mummers’ farce is almost done’.
‘The young wolf is dead’, Manderly allowed, ‘but that brave boy was not Lord Eddard’s only son.’
Thank you for reading and please let me know your thoughts on anything I’ve said or anything game of thrones! I’m completely amateur at this and just doing it for fun, but I’m finding this reread by POV so rewarding and fun! There’s so much I’d forgotten and I love GRRM with all my heart.