The Anatomy of Dolorous Edd

Note regarding *SPOILERS*: If you haven’t read George R.R. Martin’s Epic Fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire and plan to read it in future, please avoid proceeding further as it may contain important plot points. 

Eddison Tollet, better known as Dolorous Edd, is a minor character in a world full of thousands of characters. He still manages to hold his own. ASOIAF fans seem to love him even if his appearances are as sparse as a sign of vegetation in a desert.

He is gloomy. Cynical. He believes he is the most unfortunate man in the world. He always carries a sullen countenance. Yet, he is one of the most interesting and genuinely hilarious characters in the dark and brutal world of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Whenever I read about him or his dialogues, a smile appears on my face and it stays till his part is done. Sometimes, I even, dissolve into a paroxysm of laughter while reading him. He manages to be funny in even the bleakest of situations with his incredible black humor.

He is one of the few Black Brothers who are loved by almost all of the Night’s Watch.

Oh, how I wish he was a real life character! All because of the masterful characterization of the writer. Martin, you ambitious son of a bitch!

A Clash of Kings

He first appeared in the second book of the series- A Clash of Kings. We see him from Jon Snow’s eyes. They are with the Night’s Watch expedition team which is searching for Benjen Stark, Waymar Royce and other missing rangers beyond the Wall. We read the first words from Edd’s mouth as he is with Jon and they are seeking for any human presence or leftovers in what seems to be an abandoned village. He says to no one in particular:

“Bad enough when the dead come walking. Now the Old Bear wants them talking as well? No good will come of that, I’ll warrant. And who’s to say the bones wouldn’t lie? Why should death make a man truthful, or even clever? The dead are likely dull fellows, full of tedious complaints-the ground’s too cold, my gravestone should be larger, why does he get more worms than I do…” 

Now if you’re aware of the context, you will assent to the fact that this quote was probably the most hilarious in the whole book, Tyrion’s ruses in the King’s Landing notwithstanding.

We next meet him when Black Brothers took shelter in Craster’s Keep in the Haunted forest. Jon arrives and dismounts. Edd says:

 “Lord Mormont’s in the hall. He said for you to join him. Best leave the wolf (referring to Ghost, Jon’s albino direwolf) outside, he looks hungry enough to eat one of Craster’s children,. Well, truth be told, I’m hungry enough to eat one of Craster’s children, so long as he was served hot. Go on, I’ll see to your horse. If it’s warm and dry inside, dont tell me, I wasn’t asked in.” He flicked a glob of wet mud out from under a horseshoe. “Does this mud look like shit to you? Could it be that this whole hill is amde of Craster’s shit?”
Jon smiled. “Well, I hear he’s been here a long time.”
“You cheer me not. Go see the Old Bear.”

Later, at the same place, while Jon and Dolorous are discussing about Craster:

Dolorous Edd: “Give the wildling an axe, why not? He’ll give it back, I vow. Buried in the Old Bear’s skull, like as not. Why not give him all our axes, and our swords as well? I mislike the way they clank and rattle as we ride. We’d travel faster without them, straight to hell’s door. Does it rain in hell, I wonder? Perhaps Craster would like a nice hat instead.”

Jon Snow: “He wants an axe. And wine as well.”

Dolorous Edd: “See, the Old Bear’s clever. If we get the wildling well and truly drunk, perhaps he’ll only cut off an ear when he tries to slay us with that axe. I have two ears but only one head.”

A Storm of Swords

Now, let’s come to the third book in the series: A Storm of Swords.

He appears in the prologue. It’s the first time we see his sympathetic side and his fondness for the mistreated and his friends. We see him from Chett’s perspective who has developed intense dislike for Samwell Tarly who replaced him as Maester Aemon’s steward. Chett arrives where Dolorous, Grenn and Sam are practicing archery. Using tree stumps as target. Sam makes his first shot which disappears in the woods without coming anywhere in the vicinity the target:

Dolorous, in his usual morose tone, says:

“We’ll never find that one, and I’ll be blamed. Nothing ever goes missing and they don’t look at me, ever since that time I lost my horse. As if that could be helped. He was white and it was snowing, what did they except?”

After repeated attempts, Sam finally manages to hit the target and says:

“Did I kill him?”

Dolorous replies:

“Might have punctured a lung, if he had a lung. Most tress don’t, as a rule”

Chett, watching all this, comes ahead and begins to frighten Sam:

“You hit a tree. Let’s see how you shoot when it’s Mance Rayder’s lads. They won’t stand there with their arms out and their leaves rustling, oh no. They’ll come right at you, screaming in your face, and I bet you’ll piss those breeches. One o’ them will plant his axe right between those little pig eyes. The last thing you’ll hear will be the thunk it makes when it bites into your skull.”

Dolorous puts a hand on his shoulder and says:

“Brother, just because it happened that way for you doesn’t mean Samwell will suffer the same.”

“What are you talking about, Tollet?

“The axe that split your skull. Is it true that half your wits leaked out on the ground and your dogs ate them?”

Next we meet Edd when White Walkers’ undead, Wights, attack Black Brother’s vantage point, Fist of the First Men:

Amid the chaos, screams and carnage, Sam finds him sitting on his horse. He says:

“Sam, would you wake me, please? I am having this terrible nightmare.”

We later meet him back at the Craster’s Keep. Black Brothers have just burned a dead body of a man of the Night’s Watch. Dolorous in his usual resigned tone says to Sam:

“Never knew Bannen could smell so good. I had half a mind to carve a slice off him. If we had some applesauce, I might have done it. Pork’s always best with applesauce, I find. You best not die, Sam, or I fear I might succumb. There’s bound to be more crackling on you than Bannen ever had, and I never could resist a bit of crackling.”

Sam says:

“We… ride? All of us?”

Dolorous replies:

“Well, no, some will need to walk. Dywen now, he says we need to learn to ride dead horses, like the Others do. He claims it would save on feed. How much could a dead horse eat? Can’t say I fancy the notion. Once they figure a way to work a dead horse, we’ll be next. Likely I’ll be the first too. ‘Edd’ they’ll say, ‘dying’s no excuse for lying down anymore, so get on up and take this spear, you’ve got the watch tonight.’ Well, I shouldn’t be so gloomy. Might be I’ll die before they work it out.”

We encounter Dolorous in the Castle Black next, HQ of the Night’s Watch.

While having supper, he complains:

“I never win anything. The gods smiled on Watt, though. When the wildlings knocked him off the Bridge of Skulls, somehow he landed in a nice deep pool of water. How lucky was that, missing all those rocks?”

“Was it a long fall? Did landing in the pool of water save his life?”

“No. He was dead already, from that axe in his head. Still, it was pretty lucky, missing the rocks.”

Later, in Stannis’ room in the Castle Black:

Cotter Pyke: ” We’ll defend the Wall to the last man”

Dolorous Edd (in a resigned tone): “Probably me.” 

A Feast for Crows

Now, let’s move to the fourth book, A Feast for Crows.

Now Jon Snow is the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and Dolorous, his steward. He comes to take Sam to Jon. Sam says:

“Jon wants to see me?”

Dolorous replies:

“As to that, I could not say. I never wanted to see half the things I’ve seen, and I’ve never seen half the things I wanted to. I don’t think wanting comes into it. You’d best go all the same. Lord Snow wishes to speak with you as soon as he is done with Craster’s wife.”

Gilly.”

“That’s the one. If my wet nurse had looked like her, I’d still be on the teat. Mine had whiskers.”

Next we see Dolorous when he’s bidding adieu to Sam who’s leaving for Citadel in Oldtown via boat.

Dolorous says in a glum tone:

“Farewell, Sam. Your boat’s not like to sink, I don’t think. Boats only sink when I’m aboard.”

This is the end of Dolorous’ part in this book since there is no chapter by Jon’s perspective and Sam leaves for Oldtown.

A Dance with Dragons

This book, as you know, for the most part, runs parallel with the fourth one. Edd appears when Jon asks him about Sam. He replies:

“He’ll be down with the books. My old septon used to say that books are dead men talking. Dead man should keep quiet, is what I say. No one wants to hear a dead man’s yabber”

Next, he comes with Jon in Castle Black’s ‘wormways’ and warns him about the rats:

“Careful of the rats, my lord. They make an awful squeal if you step on them. My mother used to make a similar sound when I was a boy. She must have had some rat in her, now that I think of it. Brown hair, beady little eyes, liked cheese. Might be she had a tail too, I never looked to see.”

A bit later, Bowen Marsh tells Jon about how Night’s Watch’s food stores are emptying rapidly and they’ll end up drinking horse blood when winter comes. Dolorous declares:

“Yum. Nothing beats a hot cup of horse blood on a cold night. I like mine with a pinch of cinnamon sprinkled on top.”

There are many more instances when Dolorous gives you fits of laughter but those won’t tickle you if you don’t know the context.

If you’ve read ASOIAF, I give you a challenge. Try reading Dolorous Edd’s lines without twisting your lips in a smile. Trust me, that’s impossible!

Which one is your favorite Edd quote? Please let me know in comments below.

Thanks for reading the post and visiting my blog. 🙂

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3 thoughts on “The Anatomy of Dolorous Edd

    1. Anyway, I’m guessing you are Indian and it is nice to have an Indian ASoIaF and reading/writing lover as a friend 🙂

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