Waiting for Winds of Winter to come out sometime before I die of old age, I started craving for more A Song of Ice and Fire material so I finally got around to reading all three Tales of Dunk and Egg novellas. They were amazing. It only took 2 days, the Hedge Knight was the longest at ~90 pages, but that’s nothing considering how much George RR usually writes. I haven’t reread the books in a while, but I’ve read numerous fan theories and as much of the wiki page as I could, it’s not the same!, but reading these novellas felt like a new book coming out early. I didn’t read them until now because…well I didn’t think I’d care about the events that happened in the past considering how I know how every turns out and they’re kind of hard to obtain, but I was wrong on both accounts.
The events in the Tales of Dunk and Egg occur roughly a hundred years before the Mad King and the downfall of the Targaryen dynasty. These two live in an entirely different Westeros than the one we’ve grown accustomed too. Martin released these novellas attached to other short story collection books, but I think it’s possible to purchase them individually on kindle or find PDF versions online. It’s still possible to understand and enjoy these novellas if one hasn’t read the books. Spoiler ahead, but I won’t ruin the plot to any of the novellas.
Dunk is a simple hedge knight that will one day become the future Captain of the Kingsguard and his squire Egg (Aegon) is the bald Targaryen prince who’s so far down the line of succession that he dreams of becoming a knight rather than a king. Both characters so likable, Egg is a smart mouth kid reminiscent of Arya while Dunk is the honorable knight who came from nothing reminiscent of Ned. They’re an odd couple, but the two are cute together. Dunk threatens Egg with, “a good clot in your ear,” but that’s just code for I love you brother.
Every book has an underlining theme of the results of the Blackfyre rebellion and how it divided Westeros and how it’s still recovering. Remember the Golden Company is composed of former houses that supported the “false Targaryens” and the sellsword company is mentioned in the show and appear during A Dance with Dragons. This rebellion may explain some character motivations in the main story, but that’s all speculation at this point. Dunk and Egg have been mentioned in the main story and apparently George RR said there are 4 characters in the main story that are related to Dunk, Brienne and Hodor seem to be popular candidates on the forums. Also Egg is the younger brother of Maester Aemon, the old man up at the wall with Jon Snow.
The stories were all really quite enjoyable and if you enjoyed the books as much as me then I highly recommend reading them. In the books every event seems to take place on such a grand scale, every action has a consequence that could inevitably lead to death or who wins the iron throne, but here everything feels simpler. Because we know the future of the two main characters we can enjoy the ride without the fear of them being killed off. Dunk’s life as a common knight is focused on and we see how a simple knight can make a living in Westeros. A lot of the pictures I found online of Dunk and Egg come from the graphic novels, but I haven’t read those. The Targaryens are cool in this story, we don’t really have too many positive portrayals of them in the main books and the only one we really know about hasn’t set foot in Westeros yet.
The Hedge Knight
Dunk the lunk as thick as a castle wall and probably one of the most likable characters George RR has written. The first story in the collection introduces the two main characters, with Dunk being the POV, and how Egg became the squire of Dunk. They’re surprisingly young in this story, Dunk is 17 and Egg is 8, and for some reason I picture Dunk bald too, but he’s not…he’s actually pretty handsome according to these graphic novel adaptions. The narrative follows the tournament at Ashford and it’s right after Dunk receives his knighthood. The tournament is not only interesting for “hey that name sounds familiar,” but also because we’ve never had an account of a tournament before. The Hand’s tourney felt too short, but this one goes into more detail and we get to see the view from a knight/common folk perspective. All the character names that I recognized were long dead before the events of the main story, but it’s still cool seeing how things were during the Targaryen rule. The Laughing Storm is how I’d picture a young Robert Baratheon at a tournament. Besides the main two characters, we’re blessed with the introduction of the coolest Targaryen Prince ever, Baelor Breakspear. I recognized the name, but had no idea how noble and likable he’d be. It’s weird seeing a competent prince because we’ve only been shown Joffrey and Tommen. The events that occur during this tournament change the course of history and lead up to the fall of the Targaryen Dynasty unfortunately…seriously it’s hard not to be a Targ supporter after reading about Dunk and Egg. They’re called hedge knights because they sleep outside under hedges…I can’t believe I didn’t realize this earlier.
Characters I Enjoyed
The Green Fossoway – “I fear I am still not ripe, but better green than wormy, eh?”
Tansee Too Tall
Daeron the Drunk
Characters I Despised
The Red Fossoway
Manfred Dondarrion, a house I loved in the main story because of how noble Beric turned out to be, but he had no respect for Dunk.
Quote That Put a Big Goofy Smile on My Face
A few steps farther on, a woman called out, “Good fortune to you.” An old man stepped up to take his hand and said, “May the gods give you strength, ser.” Then a begging brother in a tattered brown robe said a blessing on his sword, and a maid kissed his cheek. They are for me. “Why?” he asked Pate. “What am I to them?” “A knight who remembered his vows,” the smith said.
The Sworn Sword
This second story reminded me of Septon Meribald’s broken men speech from Brienne’s POV chapter in A Feast for Crows. I’m not sure why exactly because Ser Osgrey isn’t broken, but it did make me see “traitors” of the Blackfyre rebellion in a more positive light and that speech made me sympathize with rogue knights. Ser Bennis is a jerk in this story, I don’t sympathize with him at all. This story kept Dunk and Egg together for most of the story and showcased their big brother/little brother dynamic. Suspense-wise the story is by far the most boring, it’s the A Feast for Crows of the novellas in terms of suspense, still good, but lacking compared to the other stories. There’s definitely less “I’ve heard that name before” moments in The Sworn Sword, but we get to hear a little more about Bloodraven’s rule as Hand in Westeros. Lord Bloodraven is seen as having more influence over the realm than the king and while he’s respected he isn’t loved. People call him a kinslayer and a sorcerer, leading to the phrase, “How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? A thousand eyes, and one.” Back then he probably played the game of thrones better than Varys and Littlefinger, he’s a pretty smart and cunning character before becoming a tree. While every story touches on the Blackfyre rebellion, this one focuses on how it effected the small folk, a group never really explored in the books. For the most part the small folk are simple and stupid…they can farm and they’re not the best at fightering, but they still have pride in their work. An opportunity to learn about how the small folk feel about the Targaryen rule, specifically Bloodraven and I enjoyed the romance angle this story takes between the sharp tongued Red Widow and the lumbering Dunk.
Quote About Dunk That Made Me Laugh Out Loud
“A modest fellow, this one,” the Septon said to Ser Lucas. “Were I as large as him, I’d call myself Ser Sefton the Immense. Ser Sefton the Tower. Ser Sefton with the Clouds About His Ears.”
The Mystery Knight
I started off with this story despite it being the 3rd in the series and it’s tied with my favorite. It
deals with the tourney at Whitewalls, which acted as a backdrop for a good bit of political mischief during this time and more Blackfyre shenanigans. Two characters from the main story make cameos in this novella and one of them is a young Walder Frey, who is mentioned offhand as a pain in the ass who won’t stop crying. I think this is George RR’s nod to book readers. This story also goes in depth on the workings of tourneys, but this one finishes in full unlike the tourney in The Hedge Knight. I enjoyed how some of the low born hedge knights bond together in the tournament because no one gives them respect and I especially enjoyed Glendon Ball, the poor knight gets no respect from anyone outside of Dunk and Egg and I really sympathized with him because he was honorable and badass despite being made fun of by everyone. There isn’t much about him on the wiki page, but hopefully the Dunk and Ball meet up in future stories. I quite enjoyed the title character the mystery knight as well. Despite him and his cohorts not having the best intentions. The fact that Bloodraven may have been disguised as one of the characters went straight over my head, but reading about it after I’ve finished the story made the novella immensely better. Only read that theory if you’ve read the story already! There just seemed to be so many things occurring at the same time that I had to read it twice to fully appreciate it.
I read the The Mystery Knight at the end of the book Warriors, a collaboration of short stories edited by George RR Martin and Gardner Dozois. I always found it tedious to quickly read through short stories because it’s tough to get attached to new characters and get adjusted to a new universe every time, but most of the stories here I enjoyed. The theme of the book is warriors, but it’s loosely followed. From historic fiction to science fiction fantasy to mystery, these short stories are all pretty unique despite focusing on the one theme “warriors.” A majority of the short stories were good, but my favorite was Soldierin’ because it was hilarious and felt unique compared to the other tones the other stories held, but the styles are all unique and they’re all experienced writers, it felt like I read a dozen books at once.