An unpredictable figure in Vale politics since we first glimpse him at the Eyrie during Tyrion’s trial, Ser Lyn Corbray is one of Martin’s more interesting minor characters who looks set to play a prominent role in Sansa’s plotline during The Winds of Winter. As the following analysis into the man will bear out, Martin has been quite consistent in his characterisation of Ser Lyn, presenting him to readers as ruthlessly ambitious, audacious to the point of recklessness, and proud. Importantly, we see that Sansa gains insight into Lyn’s increasing frustration with his secret partnership with Petyr Baelish that has not resulted in him gaining a lordship and lands. How she can use this knowledge to her advantage and how Lyn’s volatile nature might throw Littlefinger’s plans into disarray are intriguing points to consider as we look ahead to the next book.
What are your theories on the role Ser Lyn will play in TWOW?
The Ultimate Ser Lyn Corbray collection*
by Lyanna Stark
Ser Lyn is peculiarly placed in the TWOW spoiler chapter, and while there have been some posts on him before, we haven’t spent a lot of the Sansa pages discussing him. However, he seems to have a more and more prominent position in Sansa’s storyline and may be worth an extra look.
Part 1: AGOT-AFFC
Our first introduction to Corbray is from Tyrion, who describes him as early on as before his Trial at the Eyrie. The words he used are “slender as a sword”.
Later, we get some choice words from Corbray, which could be potentially interesting:
The gods favour the man with the just cause,” said Ser Lyn Corbray, “yet often that turns out to be the man with the surest sword. We all know who that is.” He smiled modestly.
Well. Very modest man indeed, Ser Lyn.
The next time we see Ser Lyn, Lysa is eating a blackberry off his dagger. Catelyn comments on his unsuitability as a suitor to Lysa:
Catelyn was hard-pressed to say which man was more unsuitable. Eon Hunter was even older than Jon Arryn had been, half crippled by gout, and cursed by three quarrelsome sons, each more grasping than the last. Ser Lyn was a different sort of folly; lean and handsome, heir to an ancient but impoverished house, but vain, reckless, hot-tempered… and, it was whispered, notoriously uninterested in the charms of women.
So Cat knows which way Lyn swings, but unlike Littlefinger she does not reference “boys”, just that he is uninterested in the charms of women.
Ser Lyn also comments on Tyrion’s trial that first he’ll have a trial, and then an execution, as if it was a done thing. He is also the one who gets to usher Tyrion out the Bloody Gate and is then described as “stone faced”.
In AFFC, we get Nestor Royce and Littlefinger in a conversation where Nestor comments that Lyn Corbray is a dangerous man and Littlefinger says that Ser Lyn has taken a dislike to him, but that he will still be invited to the Eyrie. Initially, Littlefinger even describes Ser Lyn as “some Corbrays” he invited. It’s only when Nestor enquires that he specifies it is Ser Lyn.
Another man who views Ser Lyn as dangerous is Kevan Lannister, who talks about it in a meeting of Lannisters in King’s Landing. If Kevan thinks Ser Lyn is dangerous, it means Tywin thinks he is, too, since as Tyrion says, Kevan hasn’t had a thought that Tywin didn’t think first. Kevan discusses with Tyrion, Cersei and Tywin that Littlefinger has agreed to woo lady Lysa and to become the Protector of the Vale, effectively queue-jumping Ser Lyn Corbray, Horton Redfort and Bronze Yohn Royce, which are all mentioned and labelled “dangerous men, all in their own way, and proud”.
Littlefinger later comments in AFFC specifically on Lyn Corbray:
Ser Lyn is not the sort of man to stay away when blood is in the offing.
This does not soothe Sansa’s fears, and she reflects that Ser Lyn has killed as many men in duels as he has in battle. We also know that Lyn Corbray cut down Prince Lewyn Martell of Dorne, although the prince was said to have been badly wounded already. Littlefinger cautions Sansa against mentioning this though.
“That’s not a point you’ll want to raise with Corbray, though. Those who do are soon given the chance to ask Martell himself the truth of it, down in the halls of hell.”
Littlefinger then goes on to explain that while Lyonel Corbray is swayed to Littlefinger’s side, Ser Lyn goes his own way independent of his older brother. Then we get an interesting commentary on how Lyonel spent his energy on saving his father while Ser Lyn picked up the sword Lady Forlorn and went on killing. Littlefinger continues with some comments on how Ser Lyn feels about his brother Lyonel.
“… whilst Ser Lyn… well, he loves Lyonel as much as he loves me. He wanted Lysa’s hand for himself.”
Sweetrobin then confesses to not liking Ser Lyn and that he does not want to have him in the Eyrie. In AFFC, we get Sansa’s description of Ser Lyn as he comes up to the Eyrie with the Lords Declarant:
The youngest man in the party had three ravens on his chest, each clutching a blood-red heart in its talons. His brown hair was shoulder length; one stray lock curled down across his forehead. Ser Lyn Corbray, Alayne thought, with a wary glance at his hard mouth and restless eyes.
When Bronze Yohn seems to at first recognise Alayne as Sansa, and when she is then explained to be Littlefinger’s bastard daughter, Ser Lyn shows himself as being quite rude and uncouth.
“Littlefinger’s little finger has been busy,” said Lyn Corbray, with a wicked smile.
Lady Waynwood asks how old Alayne is, and gets the reply that she is four-and-ten, and not a child but “a maiden flowered”, at which point Lord Hunter (one of the younger ones now who helped off the father) comments that she’s hopefully not deflowered.
“Yet,” said Lyn Corbray, as if she were not there. “But ripe for the plucking soon, I’d say.”
Lady Waynwood then tells Corbray that he is being rude and to mind his tongue.
“My tongue is my concern,” Corbray replied. “Your ladyship should take care to mind her own. I have never taken kindly to chastisement, as any number of dead men can tell you.”
When the Lords Declarant file into the Eyrie solar, they all sit side by side, apart from Nestor Royce who sits down closer to Littlefinger and Lyn Corbray who goes to stand beside the hearth instead. Sansa observes him.
Alayne saw him smile at Lothor Brune. Ser Lyn is very handsome for an older man, she thought, but I do not like the way he smiles.
When Littlefinger suggests that the Lords Grafton and Lynderly send him their sons as wards to be fostered with Sweetrobin, Ser Lyn seems dismissive.
Lyn Corbray laughed. “Two pups from a pair of lapdogs.”
When Bronze Yohn Royce sets the ultimatum that they will have Lord Sweetrobin or else, it seems they reached an impasse in the negotiations. However, this is when Corbray makes his move.
For a moment it seemed as though they had come to an impasse, until Lyn Corbray turned from the fire.
“All this talk makes me ill. Littlefinger will talk you out of your smallclothes if you let him long enough. The only way to settle his sort is with steel.” He drew his longsword.
Petyr spread his hands. “I wear no sword, ser.”
“Easily remedied.” Candlelight rippled along the smoke-grey blade of Corbray’s blade, so dark it put Sansa in mind of Ice, her father’s greatsword. “Your apple-eater holds a blade. Tell him to give it to you, or draw your dagger.”
She saw Lothor Brune reach for his own sword, but before the blades could meet Bronze Yohn rose in wrath. “Put up your steel ser! Are you a Corbray or are you a Frey? We are guests here.”
Lady Waynwood pursed her lips, and said, “This is unseemly”.
“Sheathe your sword Corbray,” Young Lord Hunter echoed, “you shame us all with this”.
“Come, Lyn,” chided Redfort in a softer tone. “This will serve for naught. Put Lady Forlorn to bed.”
“My lady has a thirst,” Ser Lyn insisted. “Whenever she comes out to dance, she likes a drop of red.”
“Your lady must go thirsty.” Bronze Yohn put himself squarely in Corbray’s path.
“The Lords Declarant.” Lyn Corbray snorted. “You should have named yourself the Six Old Women.
He slid the dark sword back into its scabbard and left them, shouldering Brune aside as if he were not there. Alayne listened to his footsteps recede.
Overall, Cat’s initial assessment of Ser Lyn seems correct. He comes across as vain, reckless and hot-tempered.
Part 2: TWOW Alayne spoiler chapter
Alayne/Sansa spots two men fighting in the yard and when she notices three ravens clutching three red hearts, she knew how the fight would end. When Lyn Corbray beats his opponent we get a brief description of how it happened.
If the swords had not been blunted, there would be brains as well. That last head blow had been so hard Alayne had winced in sympathy when it fell.
Interesting to note perhaps that Ser Lyn beat his opponent by striking at his head. Armoured, to be sure, and with blunted swords or “there would have been brains”, but it’s potentially interesting to compare to how Sandor did not strike at his brother’s head back in AGOT. Not particularly chivalrous, our Ser Lyn.
Myranda then comments:
Do you think if I asked nicely Ser Lyn would kill my suitors for me?
“He might, for a plump bag of gold.” Ser Lyn Corbray was forever desperately short of coin, all the Vale knew that.
What looks humorous at first glance takes on a bit of an ominous tone when looked at further. Myranda doesn’t have any serious suitors at present and she said it flippantly enough, but Alayne might have one that Lyn could potentially kill if he tried to. Harry is described as not particularly skilled. This could mean potentially bad news for Harrold Hardyng.
Myranda goes on to comment on what Cat had heard whispered.
“Alas, all I have is a plump pair of teats. Though with Ser Lyn, a plump sausage under my skirts would serve me better.”
Randa confirms here what we sort of already knew about which way Ser Lyn swings, although again, no mention of “boys” and “plump sausage” seems to indicate it’s men he prefers, not boys, perhaps giving the lie to Littlefinger’s words (and it wouldn’t be the first time either). And you know, Randa’s humour is incorrigible. It is rather nice that Sansa who previously was such a little proper lady finds this amusing, though, and their giggles alert Ser Lyn to their presence.
Alayne’s giggle drew Corbray’s attention. He handed his shield to his loutish squire, removed his helm and quilted coif. “Ladies.” His long brown hair was plastered to his brow by sweat.
“Well struck, Ser Lyn,” Alayne called out. “Though I fear you’ve knocked poor Ser Owen insensible.”
Corbray glanced back to where his foe was being helped from the yard by his squire. “He had no sense to start with, or he should not have tried me.”
Alayne reflects that he speaks the truth, but really he is also very smug here. not unlike his “modest” smile in Tyrion’s AGOT chapter where he likes to tell people about his mad fighting skillz. He also seems to have acquired a loutish squire as a replacement for Mychel Redfort, who was his squire in AGOT (as referenced in Cat’s climb to the Eyrie chapter).
But! Alayne-Sansa shows she is not a meek little lady anymore, but decides to poke and prod Ser Lyn a bit, and we get an interesting tidbit on just how volatile and unstable Ser Lyn’s loyalties to LF may be.
There is truth in that, Alayne thought, but some demon of mischief was in her that morning, so she gave Ser Lyn a thrust of her own. Smiling sweetly, she said, “My lord father tells me your brother’s new wife is with child.”
Corbray gave her a dark look. “Lyonel sends his regrets. He remains at Heart’s Home with his peddler’s daughter, watching her belly swell as if he were the first man who ever got a wench pregnant.”
Oh, that’s an open wound, thought Alayne. Lyonel Corbray’s first wife had given him nothing but a frail, sickly babe who died in infancy, and during all those years Ser Lyn had remained his brother’s heir. When the poor woman finally died, however, Petyr Baelish had stepped in and brokered a new marriage for Lord Corbray. The second Lady Corbray was sixteen, the daughter of a wealthy Gulltown merchant, but she had come with an immense dowry, and men said she was a tall, strapping, healthy girl, with big breasts and good, wide hips. And fertile too, it seems.
Alayne’s barb here is described as a “thrust,” as if she was fencing with Ser Lyn and managed to score a hit. She may also have realised something that LF did not regarding how pissed off this has made Ser Lyn. Clearly, despite him not fancying women and being a younger son, he was used to being heir to his house, does not like his brother and did definitely not like being bumped down the list of heirs.
Alayne could not help herself. She smiled and said, “My father is always pleased to be of service to one of Lord Robert’s leal bannermen. I’m sure he would be most delighted to help broker a marriage for you as well, Ser Lyn.”
How kind of him.” Corbray’s lips drew back in something that might have been meant as a smile, though it gave Alayne a chill. “But what need have I for heirs when I am landless and like to remain so, thanks to our Lord Protector? No. Tell your lord father I need none of his brood mares.
Yes, he is landless and like to remain so thanks to our lovely Lord Petyr. Ser Lyn is not keen on any lowly broodmares, he had his sights set higher. (This makes me wonder a bit if, should Ser Shadrich tell Ser Lyn about who Alayne really is, perhaps he won’t abduct her to “sell” her to Freys or Lannisters or Tyrells, perhaps he would try and hold her as a future bride as Sansa Stark is very high-ranking and comes with a potential Winterfell dowry. Quite a nice prize for Ser Lyn, no? Despite being a sausage fan.) Here he is definitely mostly pissed at Littlefinger, though.
The venom in his voice was so thick that for a moment she almost forgot that Lyn Corbray was actually her father’s catspaw, bought and paid for. Or was he? Perhaps, instead of being Petyr’s man pretending to be Petyr’s foe, he was actually his foe pretending to be his man pretending to be his foe.
Just thinking about it was enough to make her head spin. Alayne turned abruptly from the yard… and bumped into a short, sharp-faced man with a brush of orange hair who had come up behind her.
And here Sansa starts to see that Ser Lyn might be bought and paid for once, but given what has happened with LF brokering the marriage for his brother and bumping him down the line, he is no longer an ally pretending to be a foe, he is actually genuinely not an ally anymore, or at least nobody they can trust.
When she realises Lyn is a loose cannon ready to blow… in steps Ser Shadrich, as on demand. So we have “Ser Lyn’s allegiance is not certain” linked to “… and in steps Ser Shadrich, who just happens to be looking for Sansa”.
I’m thinking whichever way this goes, it doesn’t look like good news. The only really good part is that Sansa has herself figured out that Ser Lyn is no longer in LF’s pocket and cannot be relied on to act as an ally.
Other random strange things: When she first spots Ser Lyn, she describes his shield with hearts and ravens, and the this comes in italics.
Three hearts and three ravens.
Just randomly ominous, or a reference to Bloodraven? I also thought of Maester Aemon’s speech to Jon on Ravens and doves and getting your hands bloody.
Further, we also don’t see Ser Lyn referenced as attending the feast where Sansa/Alayne dances with Harry the Heir. Does she not notice him? (Seem strange) Or is he making himself scarce?
The “do you think he would kill my suitor for me if I asked” comment really stands out as very much potential ouch, especially as Sansa wishes for Harry to fail and fall and be embarrassed. She doesn’t wish him dead, but then as we’ve seen before, Lady Forlorn likes some red once she is drawn, no? “My lady has a thirst”.
Ser Lyn also thinks his opponent is an idiot for fighting him, and we see that LF et al. think Harry the Heir is not a very good fighter and that he is an idiot to try the tourney, but that Bronze Yohn Royce allowed it anyway because he is honourable. Is Harry also going to be an idiot and fight Lyn Corbray? Should Sansa give Corbray her favour, he would feel compelled to do so.
It’s rather interesting to draw parallels to other fighting men Sansa has encountered during her travels and travails in the Seven Kingdoms. I’m thinking Ser Loras and Sandor Clegane primarily, perhaps, as she’s seen them fight in a previous tourney. We know Sandor was dismissive of the Tourney of Gnats, but in general he seems to not really do duels and while he speaks gruffly, he certainly doesn’t as a rule go around threatening old ladies to shut it up or murderdeathkill. Sandor is a younger son who hates his older brother, but we don’t see the vanity and the same ambition in him. While a brutally efficient killer, he doesn’t seem to go out of his way to kill people unless needed. He also lacks Ser Lyn’s pretty looks and “sword thin” physique.
Ser Loras is a hot-headed youth, and like Corbray good-looking (and he happens to swing the same way), but I actually think Loras is less vain and prideful. He is also a younger son, but genuinely likes his older brothers and fights for them. When faced with Brienne in King’s Landing and how he probably killed his Kingsguard brothers for nothing, he is remorseful and not proud, prickly or vain.
*(originally published in Pawn to Player as part of our Male Influences project)