King Joffrey – Visionary? Prophet?

Posted: July 19, 2016 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, TV
Tags: , ,

This post will be talking about HBO’s Game of Thrones, and will be discussing plot details in regards to the most recent season with some comparisons to events in A Storm of Swords, the third book in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

I … I might get a little crazy.

JoffreyIronThrone

Go on then. “Crazy” might be diverting. If it’s the right form of crazy.

When the fourth season of Game of Thrones started up, things weren’t looking too bad for the young king, Joffrey Lannister Baratheon.

To be fair, his approval rating in the Seven Kingdoms was pretty low, but he was about to marry into money, most of his enemies were dead, and he was free to torment whomever he liked. (I assume he was planning on tormenting those he didn’t like first. Joffrey probably knew how to prioritize.)

Joffrey had a flair for mixing torment, celebrating dead enemies, and getting married together in an efficient package. A dramatic flair, it seems.

At his wedding reception, after making lucky and lovely Margaery Tyrell a second-time queen, his Grace presented a jovial retelling of the War of the Five Kings, with dwarves playing the parts of various monarchs as they strutted and postured for supremacy.

Dwarves

Three (or at least two) Baratheon Kings, riding a Lion, a Witch, and a Wardrobe.

Before introducing the act, Joffrey called upon the crowd to recognize that the wedding of a king was a momentous occasion. It was history. And he was going to remind everyone of recent history.

Should anyone need a fresher on the re-enactment, you can read my recap below or watch the theatrical history lesson from the show:

The Play’s the Thing

  • Dwarves represented the kings who (mostly in season two) had carved up the realm: Joffrey, Stannis Baratheon, Renly Baratheon, and the two secessionists Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy.
  • They capered about with some establishing character beats, like the small actor playing Robb Stark loudly yelling “I’m the King in the North” and Balon Greyjoy calling Renly a degenerate.
  • Stannis clobbered Renly a bit, ending the younger brother’s brief reign.
  • Robb responded to the challenge of the Greyjoys and Balon fell over, shouting “I’m drowning!” The Ironborn king was out.
  • Stannis was figuratively set aflame with fake wildfire. He too was considered out.
  • Joffrey and Robb Stark squared off with jousting lances. They took a few passes at each other until Joffrey knocked the wolf helmet off of Robb, figuratively decapitating the Young Wolf.
  • Joffrey presented the symbolic head of Robb for the crowd. (You can substitute some ruder words for “presented” if you wish.

And that was the play. A historical account of the War of the Five Kings, according to Joffrey.

The Alternate History

Although Sansa Stark might not have enjoyed the play (especially the rudeness with which the memory Robb Stark was treated) it was interesting seeing how the sweeping political events of Westeros were reduced to broad satire. This was something that was revisited this season in Braavos, with the wonderful play that centered on the actions of the evil demon-monkey Tyrion Lannister as he schemed and plotted and murdered. (If one is to believe the playwright for this tragic-comedy.)

But the play in Braavos got *most* of the details right, if we don’t sweat those details too much (like Tyrion not actually poisoning Joffrey.) But Joffrey’s play is wrong on several counts.

Stannis of course, was still a threat to King Joffrey’s reign. After all, he went on to secure funding from the Iron Bank and was a serious threat to Bolton control of the North. (Sort of. Until that all went to pieces.) But Joffrey’s dismissal of Stannis might be forgiven since his uncle (yes yes, he’s not really his uncle) had been delivered such a decisive defeat at Blackwater Bay. The oddsmakers in King’s Landing would have labeled the chances of a Stannis comeback quite low. (And they’d be right, as it turns out.)

But Balon Greyjoy was alive and well, and ruling the Ironborn from the rebellious Iron Islands during the period that the play was being performed. While the fake Robb was assailing the kraken-riding dwarf, the real Balon’s Ironmen held strategic assets in the North, including the formidable Moat Cailin that restricted the southerners from being able to send troops into the North.

There were no reports of the northerners getting an advantage on the Greyjoys, so Robb “I’m the King in the North” Stark toppling Balon “I’m Drowning” Greyjoy in the play is wildly off-mark with reality.

balon_down

Sure, it makes for a better play to get rid of Balon so the dramatic finale would be Joffrey defeating Robb, but this wasn’t the only time in the fourth season where Joffrey seemed to truly believe that Balon Greyjoy was no more.

In the premiere of the fourth season, Joffrey announced to his uncle (and secret-dad) Jaime Lannister that the War of the Five Kings was over. Jaime seems a bit confused by this, since the war couldn’t be over.

Certainly not until the Iron Islands were brought to heel. And until the Riverlands were no longer on the ragged edge of rebellion. Elsewhere, the Vale of Arryn had almost defenestrated Tyrion Lannister and were openly anti-Lannister, the North’s king was dead, but the Boltons still needed to establish control. And Stannis was still about.

It seemed a bit early for Joffrey to hang up a Mission Accomplished banner.

But let’s just focus on Balon Greyjoy, who had not been dealt with in any way by either Stark or Lannister forces.

Why was Joffrey ignoring Balon? Was Joffrey simply not aware that Balon still held the Iron Islands (and parts of the North) in defiance of the wishes of King’s Landing? Or was there something else going on?

Joffrey the Alternate Historian

A case could be made that Joffrey was not getting properly briefed from his small council, since Tywin was holding the meetings in the Tower of the Hand and Joffrey was too stubborn to leave the center of royal power to attend. (Or the young king was often sent to bed by Tywin when he did attend.)

Maybe Joffrey, in his uninformed state, got some notion that Balon was dead and no one corrected him.

King Joffrey: Hey, isn’t it great that Balon’s dead?
Osric Kettleblack: Er… uh…
Meryn Trant: It’s great news, your Grace. So should end all the usurpers and enemies of your reign.
King Joffrey: I like the cut of your jib, Ser Meryn. Kettleblack, you could learn a thing or two from this man.
Osric Kettleblack: *muttering* … in ass-kissing…

But the events of the play are not wildly off-mark, they’re just not happening yet. In the show’s future timeline, the Ironborn are cast out of the North by Northmen. Not northerners led by Robb Stark, but by the Boltons who are coordinating the counterattack against the Ironmen’s invasion. Was Joffrey seeing the future, including the eventual death of Balon Greyjoy?

balon and euron greyjoy on bridge game of thrones

Balon: Ugh, it’s you, Euron. You’re back are you?
Euron: I saw this awesome play in King’s Landing. It gave me some ideas…

But Joffrey’s play makes more sense if it is considered to be a representation of the events in A Storm of Swords, the third book in the source series A Song of Ice and Fire, rather than the show’s future timeline.

(Skip ahead if you don’t want any book-spoilers, skip to the next section, but really, this is pretty weaksauce spoilers if you’ve seen the show.)

In A Storm of Swords, while Robb Stark is preparing to travel to the Twins for his uncle Edmure’s ill-fated wedding, the young king gets word that Balon Greyjoy is dead. He’d fallen from one of the rope bridges in Pyke during a storm, and drowned.

Balon: I’m drowning!

This is great news for Robb, since he knows that all of the Ironborn captains will return to Pyke to make sure that they are represented in the new regime.

Balon’s death is Robb’s opportunity to retake Moat Cailin, giving him access to the North again, and removing his nickname “the king who lost the North.”

Robb: I’m King in the North!

Robb works out a battle plan, to have Roose Boltons men feint from the south, while bringing in a larger force from the north of Moat Cailin that would be transported over water from Seagard. Because of the Ironmen convening at Pyke, the seaways would be clear and the troops guarding Moat Cailin would be a vulnerable weakened-in-force garrison.

Had that been realized, Joffrey’s play would have been scarily prophetic. As it was, it still predicted the northern overthrow of the Ironmen.

So, there is some kind of consistency in Joffrey’s errors. They’re just not reflective of the reality at that moment in the show.

Could Joffrey have read the first half of A Storm of Swords?

Weirder things have happened. I’d suggest that Joffrey might have gotten his hands on the European version of the book, which split A Storm of Swords into two parts, Part 1: Steel and Snow, and Part 2: Blood and Gold. Steel and Snow would have done the trick to fill him in on Balon’s death. It’s pretty clear he didn’t read Blood and Gold or he’d have known to skip the wine.

That would be pretty deep into Man in the High Castle territory of the show for that to happen. (Go look up details on Philip K. Dick’s alternate history science fiction novel that’s been adapted for Amazon’s streaming service.)

I mean, the Red Keep is a high castle.

But Joffrey doesn’t seem like the most avid of book readers.

JoffreyBook

So many words! No pictures?

We know what happened right before his wedding when Tyrion gave him a rare book as a wedding gift.

So if Joffrey had not gotten a very rare copy of Maester George’s prophetic works, how could Joffrey have seen Balon’s death and the northern pushback against the Ironborn?

How indeed?

King Joffrey, the Prophet

Maybe Joffrey was having visions. Fine, fine. Get all that laughing out of your system now.

In the first episode of the show, if I had said that Bran Stark would be looking back into the past with pupil-less eyeballs, and frying the brains of stableboys, I’m sure there’d have been laughter too.

We have to admit that occasionally, people on the show have visions.

Bran fields the visions (mostly) for the Starks, hooked into the weirwood wi-fi network set up by the Children of the Forest. Daenerys has been shown (rather opaque and possibly meaningless) visions on the show when in the House of the Undying. But Dany’s story in the books is pretty heavy with prophecy and visions in places. If the Starks and the Targaryens can have visions under certain conditions, why not the Lannisters?

Could Joffrey have seen Balon’s death, either in the show’s future, or the concurrent timeline from the books (which would make the books a legitimate timeline, alongside the show. Just a different reality, as it were. MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE!)

Assuming that it’s the case that Joffrey is handling the shaman-responsibilities for the Lannister faction, just what is it that’s enabling these visions? The answer seems pretty obvious to me.

SuperJoff

I contain multitudes! So many Joffreys! So many puppies to be killed!

There is power in king’s blood, and despite what people might think, Joffrey is descended from the ancient Kings of the Rock, going back to Lann the Clever who swindled the Casterlys out of their keep during the Age of Heroes. (Unless a different theory is true, and Joffrey is descended from a different set of kings. But let’s skip that for now.)

The Iron Throne is definitely an object of symbolic power and was forged via supernatural means, if dragons and their dragonfire can be considered magical. (The Warlocks of Qarth would back me up on this.)

Sitting on the Iron Throne is in some ways an ordeal, with the points and barbs of the chair seeking to shed blood. It’s highly likely that Joffrey has bled into that chair, as many of the Targaryen kings did before him.

Magic in the blood + magic chair + shamanistic ordeal + long history of Targaryen magic blood on the chair. That seems like a reasonable framework for some kind of revelatory event being possible, in a world of magic and prophetic visions.

So, why just Joffrey? What haven’t all the previous kings been psychic? Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. I’m looking forward to reading the history of the kings of Westeros when George RR Martin publishes that as a means to avoid finishing  A Dream of Spring.

But not every Stark that touches a weirwood tree gets to be the Three Eyed Raven. Maybe not every bastard blond non-Baratheon gets to have crazy notions while sitting on the Throne.

JUSTL_42_16_56d79f394a1ed0.98102190

New Gods Represent! Metron is here to kick R’hllor’s ass. With Knowledge!

I also like the idea that the Iron Throne might actually be something more than just a chair of kings. That it has more meaning in the story. When the show started, people who weren’t paying attention to the White Walker menace thought the show was all about the dynastic melee to control the sword-themed chair. Then the Night’s King raised the stakes and people felt that all of the squabbling over King’s Landing was a waste of time. But what if the Iron Throne is crucial to stopping the Night’s King?

We know that Bran and weirwoods might play a role. Maybe the Throne could be a complementary part in that.

Seriously?

Okay, Maybe I’m being a bit too crazy. Obviously, the show writers are not implying that Joffrey had mystical powers, and I am pretty sure that the Iron Throne is just a chunk of metal that might be representative of secular power, and probably not an object with supernatural power.

The War of the Five Kings that Joffrey presented was just a farcical satire, and it isn’t supposed to mean anything that Balon was killed in the play but was still alive on the show.

But, lets admit that it’s crazy fun to build up these kind of whacky scenarios. Just like my friends who run the Joffrey of Podcasts podcast, who insist that Joffrey faked his death to root out the evil usurpers and will emerge as the ultimate hero near the end of the saga.

If Joffrey does re-emerge with amazing supernatural powers, that would be very interesting. More interesting than just the show runners not obsessively thinking out all the weird permutations like people like me do. People who have little else to do than construct wild theories.

More interesting, but wildly unlikely.

Joffrey-house-baratheon-30574390-1273-613

I knew about Balon’s death because I read an online wiki about it. But I didn’t get to the part about my death. WHAT?

Okay, it has only been a month since the season finale. Not having any Game of Thrones to watch is almost as bad an ordeal as sitting on the Iron Throne. Anyone having any visions of the future of Westeros? You know I want to hear about it.


(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)

Most images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.) The image of Metron (of DC’s New Gods) chilling out on his Mobius Chair is from DC Comics.

I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text.

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2016 Some Rights Reserved

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Comments
  1. forthejokes says:

    Maybe all that needs to happen is for the Night’s King to sit on the Iron Throne and poof! He dies. One of the other things the show did was that scene between Joffrey and Tywin (I think it’s in S3), when Joffrey asks his grandfather why the small council isn’t more worried about the Targaryen girl with the dragons across the Narrow Sea. He was petulant, but he was also right, even if he died before Dany sailed for Westeros.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah! Joffrey was indeed correct about Daenerys. And Tywin wanted to know how he knew anything about this.

      Tywin: How do you know all this?
      Joffrey: I HAVE VISIONS YOU OLD FOOL!

      (Maybe I’m misremembering that last part.)

      🙂 Thank you for commenting, and for giving some good-hype for the post on Twitter!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. writingjems says:

    I’m pretty sure Joffrey’s concern about Daenerys was his sole moment of clarity in a haze of arrogance-induced stupidity. I could be wrong though. Joffrey returning from death with clairvoyant powers to save the world certainly would be a twist. Personally, though, I’d rather perish in eternal winter under the malevolent hand of the Night’s King.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jennnanigans says:

    “who insist that Joffrey faked his death to root out the evil usurpers and will emerge as the ultimate hero near the end of the saga.”

    Well I don’t know what I expected, you said this would be a crazy entry right there in the intro. 😀

    Fun read! I have nothing to add, other than Fake-Balon’s squid-pants are delightful and I kind of want some of my own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 🙂 I’m glad you found it entertaining. (The Joffrey of Podcasts, which you referenced, is a really great Game of Thrones recap podcast during the season. In the off-season, they occasionally read Joffrey Point of View chapters that somehow were cut from the original novels, where we find out how Joffrey was a saint the entire time.)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Game of Thrones theories are like catnip for me these days although I still had to put on my foil hat for this one. Although ya got me hooked!

    I’d really like to chat with you about developing your writing on another platform called Creators.co. If you’re keen then drop me a line!

    Cheers,
    Bridget – bridget.case@creators.co

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Haylee says:

    If old Joffers could read the tea leaves or whatever, someone should have thought to ask him where Gendry was…
    Still, selective prophetic skills couldn’t have happened to a nicer chap! Fun read, as always 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • But, if they asked him, Joffrey would have sent hit-men to kill Gendry! We don’t want that!

      🤔

      Glad it was a fun read. Hopefully Twitter and Facebook people will like it on Westeros Wednesday

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haylee says:

        I’m sure it will and I’ll be sure to share it!

        Maybe they asked him… And immediately poisoned him! Gendry is now in a safe house, accessed by tunnels known only to Varys (okay – and Littlefinger) and shall pop up in the final season to marry Arya and take a throne. Not THE throne, maybe a smaller replica he made himself. (Silly theories are great because I don’t feel like I have to justify any of my notions!)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. chattykerry says:

    Gosh, you have really put so much thought into this. It is all so complicated anyway with tales within tales without having plays too! I am even more fascinated that the young man who played Joffrey is going to study Theology – that will make a nice change! 😇

    Liked by 1 person

  7. He’s also the sort to be able to afford buying some Spice… plenty of ways to see the future!

    I guess the other question is: was Joffrey the one who penned the play? If not, there are plenty of people who could be having prophecies out in the world, as the Red Priests/esses in the show and books have shown us. Like Thoros of Myr says, there’s powers there they don’t even know about. Any number of folks could have been tapping into the mystical…

    I now also accept the idea of the book and the TV show as parallel universes as canon. They are likely connected through the Dark Tower.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m always in favor of Dune/Game of Thrones comparisons.

      Good call that Joffrey might not have penned the play, and he was just not informed of the real facts (and the play could have led to his assertion that the war of the 5 kings was done.)

      But a part of me will just believe that the Iron Throne is magical. (When we were podcasting about Game of Thrones, and Holly was talking about how the Throne didn’t matter, I had to bite my tongue. Mostly because I’d sound crazy.)

      Thumbs up on buying in that the two properties are parallel universes.

      Littlefinger is Randall Flagg.

      Like

      • Yes, yes he is.

        And the scary thought about the Throne being important is actually the thought that the White Walkers make it far enough South that the Iron Throne and King’s Landing are relevant. While that’s likely to happen… it’s going to be pretty epic in the getting-to-that-point!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hey, did you see that Robert Kirkman is pitching Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles as a TV series. I never thought that could happen. (I should really tweet you or something, instead of using WordPress. But I’m so excited about the idea of Corwin of Amber and stuff!)

          Liked by 1 person

          • I saw it but have not read Zelazny yet. He’s one of my next goals for reading a bit from the Sci Fi masters. My last couple (which took about a year to read… /sigh) were Le Guin and Clarke. I picked up Stephenson to read next… but maybe Zelazny needs a go. Or Scalzi, I really should read some Scalzi.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yeah, Old Man’s War is great, as is Redshirts. But I am a House Zelazny bannerman.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Holly got me Redshirts so I would start there, but I know Old Man’s War would be the other to read. Where should I start with Zelazny? And if I keep writing comments longer than 140 characters then it’s valid for this to not be on Twitter…

                Liked by 1 person

                • Nine Princes in Amber is one of the first things I read. It’s 169 pages. The first of 5 books. (There is a lesser sequels series of 5 books.)

                  The first Amber chronicles is smaller than one GRRM tome.

                  If you’ve read the first Wild Cards anthology by George RR Martin, you’ve read some Zelazny, he contributed.

                  Lord of Light is also GREAT. And a good subject for Comparative Geeks examination, since it’s heavily Hindu-based. Or is it?

                  Liked by 1 person

  8. bagga2007 says:

    I like how you make the Joffrey of Podcasts claim that Joffrey will come back is somehow just a joke. We all really know the claim is true as we will find out in the final series. You are just denying this fact so you have something to make up theories about, isn’t that the truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. joanna says:

    Great read as always Patrick. It is a theory – albeit a totally wacky one 🙂

    As Joffrey inherited his mother’s penchant for twisting facts, and making honest emotions do dishonest deeds, the Purple Wedding play was probably just a case of “do what you like, just make me look good” – kinda like the ridiculous statue of Joffrey the Conqueror and the Felled Direwolf.

    The idea of the Iron Throne having magical powers is interesting. I like it.

    I still can’t decide when I was happiest; Joffrey gulping down the Strangler or when Ramsey knew it was all over. And we knew it too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Seeing Ramsay die was so satisfying – I was worried he’d never die.

      I’m glad you liked the wackiness of the article, and your thought that Joffrey’s motivation with the play was to merely look triumphant is an excellent point.

      Liked by 1 person

      • joanna says:

        Ramsay had to die – it was time – the Starks had to go home So good to see the Stark sigil hanging from the ramparts of Winterfell once more. Ramsey and his games, always the coward’s way, Joffrey’s way as well. Using props and people to shield them from real danger.

        It was so satisfying to watch Jon beat the crap out of him.

        Roose Bolton: If you act like a mad dog people will treat you like a mad dog and feed to you to the pigs

        .. or dogs

        Now that was truly prophetic, don’t you think?

        Liked by 1 person

  10. erinb9 says:

    I have finally gotten caught up with GoT and can read your posts without fearing spoilers! Great series, as you know.

    Very interesting Joffrey theory. I held him in extreme contempt, so am inclined to think any wisdom he showed was purely coincidental, but interesting, nonetheless…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so happy that you’re caught up! Yay! Welcome to the team! We just need to make it thru the Long Summer. And the Long Fall. And the Long Winter. And the Long Spring. Until Season Seven.

      🙂 Thank you for humoring my theory. I’m not serious at all. (But if Bran sits on the Throne and has some kind of Mega Vision – I am going to be SO INSUFFERABLY SMUG)

      Best regards, I hope you and yours are having a nice summer. (It’s so hot and humid here in Maryland. Bring on the White Walkers.)

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dennis says:

    The Iron Throne giving people prophetic visions does sound pretty cool and certainly gives it a much bigger role in the story than simply being where whichever Baratheon, Lannister, or Targaryen running things at the moment parks their royal keister. As for Joffrey’s play, I’m picturing when Cersei told him “”Someday you’ll sit on the throne, and the truth will be what you make it.” That’s the great thing about being King. Something is so simply because you say it is so. Plus do you really wanna argue with a guy who redecorated his bedroom by firing crossbow bolts into pretty much everything in it?

    Liked by 1 person

      • ghostof82 says:

        No, I mean Joffrey was just plain crazy. I just figured he was a spoilt brat like how so many Kings in history turned out to be. You live your life learning you can have whatever/whoever you want, do whatever you want, without question. Of course you go off the rails. At least real kings usually had a powerful Church to keep them in line, something Joffrey didn’t but his succeeding brother did.

        Your post was a fun read though. I like the idea of Joffrey faking his death and playing everyone out of sight- or maybe he went north and made a pact with the Witch King and he’ll reveal himself at the end (prior to be being toasted by a dragon). I enjoyed his death so much I’d love to see him die another one.

        Liked by 1 person

        • 🙂

          People have such crazy theories… that Mance Rayder was really Rhaegar Targaryen, that Arthur Dayne was Qhorin Halfhand, lots of deaths being faked in theories…

          I totally agree that Joffrey was just a super-entitled creep like you say, and doubly sure that Lady Olenna got the job done with the poison.

          But it would be so great to see Joffrey die again…

          Like

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