Earlier in the quarter, I introduced my students to the anything-that's-longer-than-it-is-wide mode of psychoanalytic criticism. Not very sophisticated, I know, but it helps explain the historical context of certain rhetorical tropes.* Given that this class is based on Game of Thrones, the discussion inevitably landed on the subject of swords as phallic symbols, and I noted that while there's nothing necessary or natural about that connection, it is one of long-standing and therefore might have influenced how George R.R. Martin employed them in his narrative. Which the students took to mean "SWORDS EQUAL PENISES," a not altogether unfortunate development given how the Arya and Needle string undermines conventional gender assumptions. It did, however, make teaching the ninth episode, "Baelor," a little difficult. The episode opens with Lord Commander Mormont gifting a sword, Longclaw, meant for his son, Jorah Mormont, to Jon Snow. Snow proceeds down the stairs and is immediately accosted by his Wall-fellows:
Even skipping over the scene in which Daenerys demands that the previously de-sworded Jorah Mormount draw his sword for her, it's clear that this episode is very much about swords. Remember how it ends?
There you go. The point of all this is that anyone analyzing this episode needs to account for its economy of swords: they're distributed, re-distributed, lost, stolen, and finally wielded by a masked man at a sham of an execution. This execution, by the by, neatly parallels the scene in the first episode in a manner that highlights their differences: in both instances a man is being executed, only in "Baelor" the beheader has become the beheadee, the trial isn't just, and the Stark child witnessing it is commanded not to look.
So, as I was saying, swords! Swords! Swords! Swords!
*As an example of psychoanalytic criticism, I use an explication of The Castle circa 1950, in which the tall lanky K. and his short round assistants, Artur and Jeremias, are reduced to the walking-talking male genitalia Kafka clearly intended them to be.