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In the ASOIAF wiki, it states that "almost a year into the siege of Storm's End, Davos took it upon himself to run the Redwyne blockade to smuggle onions and other foodstuffs into the castle".

If he took it upon himself to do this, then clearly no one commissioned him to help the besieged castle. Stannis himself states that during the siege he was all but forgotten about by his brother Robert and the other rebels, so this at least seems to be true. If I remember correctly he also never mentions in any of his chapters that anyone had asked him to help Storm's End.

But why would Davos risk death to help Stannis without any prior incentive?

The only thing that I can think of is gold, but Davos doesn't ever appear to be a particularly greedy man. He also seems to be constantly susprised by the fact that he was raised to knighthood, so again I find it hard to believe that he decided to take such a massive risk for that reason specifically. Every other Lord also appears to be surprised that Stannis decided to do this, so obviously it seems like a much greater reward than would have been expected.

In addition, if no one had asked Davos to smuggle food into the castle, how did he know they were in such a bad way as to require the food he brought? It was probably well known across the kingdom that Storm's End was under siege, but it could have been possible that they had food reserves to last longer than the year in which they held the castle. In which case, how would he even have been sure that he was going to get a reward at all for his actions?

Is there any indication on what Davos' motivation for smuggling food into Storm's End was?

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    I think it was basically that he admired Stannis' character (in the sense of 'moral fibre'). – Andrew Thompson Sep 21 '16 at 14:25
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    I could also be more to save innocent people, more than to help Stannis – chewie Sep 21 '16 at 14:33
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    He was a King's Lander, born and raised. He could never have felt any loyalty to an unknown Stormlord. But he is a good person who likes to help people so suppose he just heard that Stormsend was starving during one of his smuggling trips and decided to help the poor bastards. As a resident of Flea Bottom, he must have known the pain of hunger more than most people did – Aegon Sep 21 '16 at 14:36
  • Excellent question! There are so many character flaws in Asoiaf. This is an excellent observation. – C.Koca Sep 21 '16 at 14:52
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"Taking it upon himself" does not rule out money changing hands.

Davos is not interested in personal luxury, but he cares very much about providing for his family. At the time of Robert's Rebellion, Davos was a highly professional and successful smuggler, so he must have been used to making significant amounts of money.

We can assume Davos wanted Stannis to pay him for his help. The garrison was running out of food, but as Storm's End was the home of the Baratheon family, they would have had gold and jewels. It is plausible that Davos planned to enter Storm's End with his cargo of food; leave the way he came in, with a large sum of money; and never see Stannis again.

Davos may also have felt some pity for the garrison, or admiration for their courage. By themselves, these feelings might not have been sufficient for Davos to risk his life and those of his crew; but they might have helped motivate him to undertake such a risky job.

Finally, Stannis was known for his sense of honour. Davos must have hoped for a fair reward; but Stannis' idea of "fair" was almost certainly not what Davos expected. Stannis both rewarded Davos with much more than money (making him a knight, and one of his main advisors) and punished him (cutting off his finger joints).

To answer the second part of the question:

If no one had asked Davos to smuggle food into the castle, how did he know they were in such a bad way as to require the food he brought?

At the time of Davos' voyage, Storm's End had been under siege for almost a year. At the very least, they would have long since run out of fresh food. This would have made them prone to scurvy and similar illnesses, and made Davos' cargo very welcome.

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    When I wrote 'taking it upon himself', I didn't mean to suggest I thought he was not going to be compensated at all, simply that he was essentially going in with no idea of what he would get. I suppose that the Baratheon family was probably quite rich, but at the time they were committing treason, as was he by extension, so it seemed to be a very risky decision with an unknown reward, he could have been executed along with the other defenders had the siege been successful. Your point about fresh food however is a very good one that I had not considered. – Mike.C.Ford Sep 21 '16 at 16:25
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    @Mike.C.Ford Being a smuggler, I don't think he cared very much about going against the government, as in "commiting a crime". And this government could change depending on the results of the war, in which case he would then be innocent of any treason. – João Victor Oliveira Sep 21 '16 at 19:27
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    I'd say that this plan of getting payment in gold has a lot of potential to go awry. If you enter a castle full of hungry soldiers with a boatful of food manned only by yourself, Chances are they would rather take the food from you instead of paying for it in Gold and Gems. Davos could not have known about the deep sense of justice Stannis had so he couldn't rely on Stannis to keep his soldiers in line – Aegon Sep 22 '16 at 7:42
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    it's not unreasonable to think that most commanders would have been happy to trade inedible gold for fresh provisions even at a steep markup over trying to take it without paying. The slightest risk of the smuggler (and more importantly, his food) getting away far outweighs the loss of gold which is relatively useless if you're dying of starvation. So I'd say an intimate knowledge of Stannis' character is not a prerequisite for judging the risk worth it for someone like Davos who has made a career out of taking calculated risks, often with his life on the line. – MPF Sep 22 '16 at 8:37
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    @MPF: Yes, good point. A reputation for honesty is useful the next time a commander has to deal with merchants or smugglers. And it's important that Davos didn't have intimate knowledge of Stannis' personality, and didn't predict his exact reaction. – Royal Canadian Bandit Sep 22 '16 at 8:59
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You are correct that the motivation was gold. GRRM confirmed back in 2012 in an online interview.

During Robert's rebellion, what brought a simple smuggler like Davos to take sides in the war by helping Stannis and the starving garrison at Storm's End?

(George laughs) Because he had onions! And so he thought to himself: "Where can I sell these at the best price? If I take them to King's Landing they'll pay me the price of onions, but if I take them to people dying of hunger they'd certainly pay me better."

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