6

Val is the sister of Dalla, Mance Rayder's wife. In A Dance With Dragons Jon Snow repeatedly denies that she is a princess:

"Your men call Val a princess, but to the free folk she is only the sister of their king's dead wife. If you force her to marry a man she does not want, she is like to slit his throat on their wedding night." (Jon II)

Jon sighed. He was weary of explaining that Val was no true princess. No matter how often he told them, they never seemed to hear. (Jon IX)

Despite Jon's insistence that she is not a princess, many other characters (mostly Stannis's men) continue to call her one. Do they know something Jon does not? I have read some theories suggesting that may be the case. What reasons does the text present for why they continue to call her a princess?

I don't think the answer can be simply that those of the Seven Kingdoms don't understand how things work north of the Wall, because if they were simply following their normal ways of referring to the siblings of the queen, then Jaime and Tyrion would be called princes! If you think Stannis's men are mistaken about Val being called a princess then please explain how their thinking is different such that it is wrong to call Jaime and Tyrion princes but it is right to Val a princess.

  • I wasn't sure if these quotes warranted being hidden, but they seem innocent enough to me. If you disagree I will put them in a spoiler tag! – curiousdannii Jun 6 '14 at 8:23
  • Seems fine to me and I haven't read the books yet although some people are more sensitive than others when it comes to spoilers. – CandiedMango Jun 6 '14 at 8:35
  • It's more like Jon knows something the rest do not. The southern lords don't understand that the wildlings don't follow their system. – Will F Jun 6 '14 at 14:09
  • Until the books show otherwise, I am satisfied with the explanation that people just assume Val is a princess because she was named so by the men who captured Mance Rayder. – TLP Jun 6 '14 at 22:29
  • @WillF but she wouldn't even be called a princess according to the southern system - Jaime and Tyrion aren't called princes are they – curiousdannii Jun 6 '14 at 23:14
8

Almost certainly not. The men of the Night's Watch who call Val a "princess" do not have any special knowledge about wildlings in general or Val personally, they are just assuming that their usual ideas about kings apply to Mance and his family.

This is an indication the Night's Watch really do not understand the social order of the wildlings. Mance's title of "King" confuses them -- to the wildlings it just means something like "war leader", but to anyone from south-of-the-Wall it carries a whole lot of cultural baggage, including the idea that his family must have some kind of special status. It's a little like one of them visiting our world and failing to understand that the Queen of Great Britain doesn't really control the British government.

  • 1
    Can you please provide textual evidence for this answer? – curiousdannii Jun 15 '14 at 8:55
  • If their usual ideas about kings applied, then they'd call Tyrion a prince! Can you explain why they understand how it works with their own queen's siblings but not with Dalla's sister? – curiousdannii Sep 23 '16 at 3:04
  • @curiousdannii: Re. textual evidence, I think it's implicit in what we know of the Night's Watch, very few of whom know anything about wildling customs. Fair point about Tyrion, but his place in the social order is well understood by the Night's Watch. Val's is not, but they assume she must have some kind of noble status, so IMO they call her "princess" for the lack of any better title. – Royal Canadian Bandit Sep 23 '16 at 7:26
  • In GoT, the Night's Watch and the other Southerners are imposing their cultural norms on the free folk. Just because Mance Rayder is a "king" doesn't mean the free folk use the term to mean the same as other people do. To draw an analogy from another franchise, Amidala's title while in office was "Queen." However, the Queen of Naboo is an elected official--not an inherited title. Even in our own British system, a queen can be either the reigning monarch or his wife. But the spouse of a reigning queen is just a "consort," not a king. – miltonaut Sep 23 '16 at 8:38
  • @miltonaut But they're not just applying their cultural norms, because the siblings of consorts are never called prince or princess in the seven kingdoms! That's what makes their insistence on calling Val a princess so exceedingly odd. – curiousdannii Sep 24 '16 at 13:41
3

Because Southerners are stupid

Note: To the Free Folk, everyone south of the Wall is a Southerner (even those from The North)

Mance's Wisdom

Mance points out to Jon that "kingship" is not hereditary in the "real" North. From A Storm of Swords:

I am my own champion, my own fool, and my own harpist. You don't become King-beyond-the-Wall because your father was. The free folk won't follow a name, and they don't care which brother was born first. They follow fighters.
-A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Three - A Storm of Swords, Chapter Seventy-Three (Jon X).

Stannis' Men are Southerners and don't get it

We are then told specifically that it was Stannis' men who started calling Val "princess". They've mistakenly assumed that just because she is the sister of the Queen, that she automatically becomes "princess". This is not the case, as pointed out in A Storm of Swords:

"Oh." Val was the sister of the woman the King-beyond-the-Wall had taken for his queen. The wildling princess was what Stannis and his men were calling her.
-A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Three - A Storm of Swords, Chapter Five (Samwell I).

"You know nothing Jon Snow...", but at least you'll learn

Our good little boy Jon Snow started off very ignorant, but has shown that he can learn. He has learned about Free Folks' culture, and realises that Val is not necessarily a "princess", as we see in A Dance With Dragons:

"Just once you might try to give me an answer that would please me, Lord Snow," the king grumbled.
"I would hope the truth would please you, Sire. Your men call Val a princess, but to the free folk she is only the sister of their king's dead wife. If you force her to marry a man she does not want, she is like to slit his throat on their wedding night. Even if she accepts her husband, that does not mean the wildlings will follow him, or you. The only man who can bind them to your cause is Mance Rayder."
-A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five - A Dance With Dragons, Chapter Three (Jon I).

And also:

"Your Grace is mistaken." You know nothing, Jon Snow, Ygritte used to say, but he had learned. "The babe is no more a prince than Val is a princess. You do not become King-Beyond-the-Wall because your father was."
-A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five - A Dance With Dragons, Chapter Three (Jon I).

And again:

"Lord Snow, if I may ask … this wildling princess His Grace King Stannis wrote of … where might she be, my lord?"
Long leagues from here, Jon thought. If the gods are good, by now she has found Tormund Giantsbane. "Val is the younger sister of Dalla, who was Mance Rayder's wife and mother to his son. King Stannis took Val and the child captive after Dalla died in childbed, but she is no princess, not as you mean it."
-A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five - A Dance With Dragons, Chapter Three (Jon IX).

Good boy Jono, you're learning mate.

  • If it's just because the southerners are stupid then they'd call Tyrion a prince! Can you explain why they understand how it works with their own queen's siblings but not with Dalla's sister? – curiousdannii Sep 23 '16 at 3:03
  • @curiousdannii Most likely for the same reason Stannis and Renly never get called "prince". This whole business of styling is quite hap-hazard and not codified in any way. – Möoz Sep 23 '16 at 3:28
  • That's interesting, I hadn't noticed that before. But it just makes it even less feasible to say that when the Southerners calling Val a princess they are following their normal customs when they call neither actual princes nor the queen's brothers 'prince'. – curiousdannii Sep 23 '16 at 3:37
  • @curiousdannii That's correct. And like I said, it all comes down to the individual. Most likely Stannis' men saw Val and thought that she looked pretty like a Princess, and it made sense to them to see her as a "wildling princess". – Möoz Sep 23 '16 at 5:41
1

She is mostly called "princess" by the Southrons (King Stannis' men) who do not understand Wildlings. Even among the Night Watch who have never been on a ranging the Wildlings are not completely understood. Southrons know very little about the people who live north of the Wall, and most of that just old fables and hearsay, and they definitely have no idea about how the Wildlings view hierarchy. What they do see is a people lead by a man who is called (by some) The King Beyond the Wall and they take that literally, and then superimpose their Southron feudal and chivalric code on top of it. So if Mance is a king then to a Southron his kin must be royalty, so Val becomes a princess. The fact that she is treated more as an honored guest than a prisoner of war only reinforces that idea. She is also a very beautiful women and many men naturally desire her, so it's only natural for them to act extra courteous around her and shower her with compliments.

Jon knows better. He's been with the Wildlings and he understands them better than even most of his Night Watch brothers. Which is why he finds the practice of calling Val a princess to be perplexing.

  • 1
    Can you please provide textual evidence for this answer? – curiousdannii Jun 15 '14 at 8:57
  • If they were just applying their normal Southron feudal code then they'd call Tyrion a prince! Can you explain why they understand how it works with their own queen's siblings but not with Dalla's sister? – curiousdannii Sep 23 '16 at 3:05

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