Offer, Acceptance, Bread & Salt: A Legal Analysis of the Guest Right Contract

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more on this later

The Rat Cook had cooked the son of the Andal king in a big pie with onions, carrots, mushrooms, lots of pepper and salt, a rasher of bacon, and a dark red Dornish wine. Then he served him to his father, who praised the taste and had a second slice. Afterward the gods transformed the cook into a monstrous white rat who could only eat his own young. He had roamed the Nightfort ever since, devouring his children, but still his hunger was not sated.

“It was not for murder that the gods cursed him,” Old Nan said, “nor for serving the Andal king his son in a pie. A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a guest beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive.” Bran IV: ASOS

Introduction

Suppose you live in Westeros and you want to visit your neighbors. Great! But your neighbor also lives in Westeros, and Westerosi folks can get a little stabby. Yet, it’s important that you and your neighbor have a peaceful conversation about uhhh crops or the State of the Realm or whatever bullshit WITHOUT losing an appendage. Luckily for you, Westeros has a plan for that. It’s called “Guest Right”. This practice of allowing guests safe conduct while under a host’s roof in exchange for a cessation of hostilities is an entirely contractual relationship. One person gives something to another, and that person gives something right back in exchange. Like other contracts, there are certain formalities that must be observed for the contract to be properly binding. 

In this essay I will do the following things

  1. Explain the legal elements of guest right and how it is similar to a legal contract
  2. Show instances where Guest Right is different and distinct from a contract
  3. Discuss the cultural, religious, and legal implications of the guest right contract, and
  4. Try not to talk too much about, well… you know. THAT.
  • Guest Right is a Contractual Relationship

So! You knock on the door to your neighbor’s holdfast and you ask to come inside. He says “Be my Guest, come Right on in!” Are you protected by Guest Right because he said both words? No, you are not. There’s quite a bit more to it.

Let’s explore!

In one corner of the cell a heap of furs was piled up almost to the height of a man. “Karstark,” said Jon Snow. “Wake up.”

The furs stirred. Some had frozen together, and the frost that covered them glittered when they moved. An arm emerged, then a face—brown hair, tangled and matted and streaked with grey, two fierce eyes, a nose, a mouth, a beard. Ice caked the prisoner’s mustache, clumps of frozen snot. “Snow.” His breath steamed in the air, fogging the ice behind his head. “You have no right to hold me. The laws of hospitality—”

“You are no guest of mine. You came to the Wall without my leave, armed, to carry off your niece against her will. Lady Alys was given bread and salt. She is a guest. You are a prisoner.”- Jon X: ADWD

In this passage, Cregan Karstark attempts to invoke Guest Right by citing the “laws of hospitality” only to be #lawyered by Jon Snow, Esq. Jon says that just showing up and being invited in does not invoke the right. Rather, in order for Guest Right to attach there must be a formalized process. The guest must first be invited. Then bread and salt must be given by the lord with the intention of mutual safe conduct. Absent those to preconditions, Guest Right does not attach. Dickbag uncle Cregan Karstark showed up unannounced and was not given bread and salt, and thus he is out of luck.

There’s good reason to have a formalized process for invoking the right. Without a common understanding about what Guest Right entails, there is no meeting of the minds (or mutual understanding of terms) as to when someone is under protection. But because the question of when the Guest Right attaches is so monumentally important to everyone involved, it’s necessary to look closely at how the contractual relationship is properly formed.

The legal elements of contract formation are the following: offer, acceptance, consideration, and mutuality*. All of these things are present in the Guest Right arrangement.

-OFFER: The offer is that a guest may have safe conduct under the host’s roof during a specified period. That period is signified by the time between the time the guest eats bread and salt offered by the host, and the time the host gives the guest a goodbye gift. 

-ACCEPTANCE: Acceptance of the offer is signified by the guest eating the bread and salt offered by the host.

That’ll do

-CONSIDERATION: the benefit which must be bargained for and the essential reason for a party entering into a contract. Consideration must be of actual value (at least to the parties), and is exchanged for the performance or promise of performance by the other party. In the Guest Right Contract, the primary consideration is mutual safe conduct. While bread and salt have some nutritious value, they are not the essential reason for the contract. Rather, the thing both parties care MOST about is the fact that neither one of them are going to get murderated during the amuse-bouche. That’s consideration. 

-MUTUALITY: both parties must be bound to do something. If a contract only binds one party and not the other, (in most cases) it’s not a contract. In the Guest Right Contact, this is satisfied by the mutual obligation of safe conduct on both sides. No one would enter into a Guest Right Contract if it meant that you couldn’t attack the guest but the guest could attack you. Thus, the obligation must run both ways. The element of mutuality is borne out by the text.

“One notable custom that the Northmen hold dearer than any other is guest right, the tradition of hospitality by which a man may offer no harm to a guest beneath his roof, nor a guest to his host.”- The North: WOIAF

That’s mutuality.

*Note- Some argue that there is an additional element of competency or capacity to form a contract. I am not including this element because I consider it more a defense to enforcement and also because we have no evidence of children attempting to enter into or enforce guest right so it’s not really relevant. YMMV. 

As you can see, all elements are present with the Guest Right Contract. Thus, at the point a Westerosi guest eats the bread and salt offered by the host, there is an obligation which binds both the guest and the host. This obligation lasts until the guest leaves of his own free will and/or the host gives the guest a gift to signify the end of the contract’s term.

The Freys came here by sea. They have no horses with them, so I shall present each of them with a palfrey as a guest gift. Do hosts still give guest gifts in the south?”

The acceptance of the guest gift apparently signifies the end of the Guest Right Contract, and the end of the safe conduct. Presumably the same is true of leaving the host’s protection.

  • Guest Right is Also More Than a Contractual Relationship

We’ve established that Guest Right is a fully legal contract in Westeros. But Guest Right is also an arrangement that is so culturally and religiously important that it transcends normal contractual terms. Indeed, the contract is so sacred and so important to the practical functionality of Westeros, that there are virtually no ways of disputing or canceling the contract once Guest Right is consummated. We can demonstrate this by going through some common defenses to the enforcement of other types of contracts. 

-FRAUDULENT INDUCEMENT: In Westeros, one cannot argue that a Guest Right contract which is entered into under false pretenses is unenforceable. The lack of a defense of fraudulent inducement is vastly different from other contractual arrangements. 

Let’s do a law school hypothetical to illustrate this point: Petyr offers Dontos the following arrangement (OFFER): In exchange for 10,000 gold dragons (CONSIDERATION), Dontos will deliver a hairnet to a third party. Dontos agrees (ACCEPTANCE), and understands that if he performs the aforementioned tasks, he will receive the money (MUTUALITY). All of the elements of a contract are present and it is therefore binding on both parties. This means that if, say, Dontos got too drunk to deliver the hairnet, Petyr could sue Dontos for breach of contract.

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she’s wearing it so CHA CHING my dude.

However, Dontos does not know that Petyr has no intention of paying the 10,000 gold dragons even if Dontos performs the requested tasks. He also does not know that Petyr also intends… other bad things, but for the purposes of this hypothetical let’s focus on Petyr’s unwillingness to pay. 

Petyr’s unwillingness to pay Dontos despite performance is CLASSIC fraudulent inducement. Had Dontos known that Petyr was going to …uhh… stiff him, Dontos never would have agreed to the arrangement. Thus, if Petyr tried to sue Dontos for breach of contract, Dontos would be able to successfully argue that the contract wasn’t binding on him because Petyr was never going to pay him. This makes sense instinctively: if someone lies to you to get you to agree to a contract, the contract shouldn’t have force of law. 

This is NOT true for the Guest Right contract. We know this because of an interaction between Jon and Mance Rayder in A Storm Of Swords. Here, Mance tells Jon that he had come to a feast at Winterfell under the false pretenses of being a traveling singer. In order to gain entry into Winterfell all those years ago, Mance had to fraudulently omit the fact that he was a deserter from the Night’s Watch and the putative King Beyond the Wall. Nevertheless, Mance enjoyed the benefits of Guest Right.

“No,” said Jon. “If you had been discovered . . . taken . . .”

“Your father would have had my head off.” The king gave a shrug. “Though once I had eaten at his board I was protected by guest right. The laws of hospitality are as old as the First Men, and sacred as a heart tree.” He gestured at the board between them, the broken bread and chicken bones. “Here you are the guest, and safe from harm at my hands . . . this night, at least. So tell me truly, Jon Snow. Are you a craven who turned your cloak from fear, or is there another reason that brings you to my tent?”- Jon I, ASOS

This exchange is revealing for several reasons. First, it indicates that the Guest Right originates from the practice of the First Men, well before the Andal invasion, thus explaining why Guest Right is taken much more seriously in the First Men-dominated North (more on this later). Second, it indicates that the laws of hospitality apply even Beyond the Wall among the wildlings, as both Jon and Mance seem to understand that Jon is under Mance’s protection as his guest having eaten of the bread and chicken bones. Third, it describes the outer limit of the protection afforded to the guest extends not just to physically attacking a guest, but also to doing relatively civil things like arresting the guest for alleged crimes.

Fourth, and most interestingly, it indicates that the Guest Right, once conveyed, offers protection even if the guest has broken other laws and might be subject to criminal punishment by the host. Mance acknowledges that had Ned Stark discovered him at Winterfell under any other circumstances his life would be forfeit. But even the crime of desertion, punishable by death, would not authorize Ned Stark to seize or execute Mance Rayder once the Guest Right has been conveyed. Thus, we can conclude that there is no fraudulent inducement enforcement defense in the Guest Right Contract.

-DURESS : Similarly one also cannot argue that a Guest Right Contract which is entered into under duress is not enforceable. This is also different from other contractual arrangements.

Duress is a contractual arrangement made under pressure that one ordinarily wouldn’t enter but for that pressure. Let’s do another hypothetical!

Jaime wants Edmure to do something for him (OFFER) in exchange for granting Edmure (MUTUALITY) additional rights and responsibilities that he did not previously enjoy (CONSIDERATION). The parties understand that Edmure can accept that offer by telling some other people to do some other things. Edmure indicates that he agrees to the contract by telling those people to do those things (ACCEPTANCE). All elements are present for an enforceable contract! We’re all good right? Yep. Case closed. 

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talk about a BINDING contract hey o

There is one teensy aspect of the contract that warrants mentioning relevant to this hypothetical: In order to get Edmure to agree to tell those people those things Jaime told Edmure if he refused Jaime would launch Edmure’s baby at a castle with a fucking trebuchet. 

That’s… not how acceptance works. Edmure had literally no choice and was therefore under classic duress. Thus, this contract, made under EXTREME pressure on Edmure exerted by Jaime, should not be legally enforceable. 

Yet there is no duress defense for the Guest Right contract. We know this because Wyman Manderly observes the terms of the Guest Right contract for the Freys who bring him one live son and the bones of another, was made under duress. Yet, despite how much he yearns for revenge, Wyman does not dare harm the Freys while they enjoy the protection of the Guest Right Contract.

The fat man’s fingers coiled into a fist, and all his chins trembled. “My son Wendel came to the Twins a guest. He ate Lord Walder’s bread and salt, and hung his sword upon the wall to feast with friends. And they murdered him. Murdered, I say, and may the Freys choke upon their fables. I drink with Jared, jape with Symond, promise Rhaegar the hand of my own beloved granddaughter … but never think that means I have forgotten. The north remembers, Lord Davos. The north remembers, and the mummer’s farce is almost done. My son is home.”- Davos IV: ADWD

Manderly has every incentive to kill the Freys under his roof. The Freys have gained the protection of Guest Right in White Harbor solely because they held Wyman’s son’s bones and (implicitly) because they held his other son’s life in their hands. But for those circumstances, Manderly never would have let the Freys into his house and offered them safe conduct. Thus, the Guest Right Contract was clearly entered into under extreme duress. Yet, Wyman – a man who is not above taking advantage of technicalities – does not simply claim duress and attack the Freys under his own roof. Therefore, we can conclude that there is no duress so dire that it would constitute a reason to breach the Guest Right Contract.

  • Guest Right Around Planetos

Now that we have established the elements of Guest Right, we should also establish the scope of its jurisdiction. In other words, where does Guest Right apply?

The short answer is: while the North seems to take it more seriously, Guest Right nevertheless has force pretty much everywhere.

The North

“In the North, they tell the tale of the Rat Cook, who served an Andal king—identified by some as King Tywell II of the Rock, and by others as King Oswell I of the Vale and Mountain—the flesh of the king’s own son, baked into a pie. For this, he was punished by being turned into a monstrous rat that ate its own young. Yet the punishment was incurred not for killing the king’s son, or for feeding him to the king, but for the breaking of guest right.” -The North: WOIAF

At the Wall

“I know what they say.” Jon had heard the whispers, had seen men turn away when he crossed the yard. “What would they have me do, take up swords against Stannis and the wildlings both? His Grace has thrice the fighting men we do, and is our guest besides. The laws of hospitality protect him. And we owe him and his a debt.”- Jon III: ADWD

Beyond the Wall

“Black brothers are sworn never to take wives, don’t you know that? And we’re guests in your father’s hall besides.”

“Not you,” she said. “I watched. You never ate at his board, nor slept by his fire. He never gave you guestright, so you’re not bound to him. It’s for the baby I have to go.”

“I don’t even know your name.”- Jon III: ACOK

There are several notable things about this exchange. It indicates that despite the common stereotype (repeated by Jon himself in ASOS!), the free folk do in fact have laws.  However, the fact that the free folk do not submit to a law enforcement authority suggests that the “laws of hospitality” are for them more of a religious or cultural practice rather than a civil one. More of a “Guest Rite” than a “Guest Right”, if you will.

The Riverlands

“Robb, listen to me. Once you have eaten of his bread and salt, you have the guest right, and the laws of hospitality protect you beneath his roof.”

Robb looked more amused than afraid. “I have an army to protect me, Mother, I don’t need to trust in bread and salt. But if it pleases Lord Walder to serve me stewed crow smothered in maggots, I’ll eat it and ask for a second bowl.” – Catelyn VI: ASOS

UGH UGH UGH let’s move on

The Riverlands (cont’d)

‘Tis scarcely chivalrous to threaten your host over his own cheese and olives,” the Lord of the Dreadfort scolded. “In the north, we hold the laws of hospitality sacred still.”

UGH UGH UGH oh do they, Roose, you fucking dick. LET’S. MOVE. ON.

The Riverlands (still cont’d)

Rhaena Targaryen died in 73 AC, at fifty years of age. After the death of her daughter Aerea, she never again visited King’s Landing or Dragonstone, nor played any part in the ruling of the realm, though she did fly to Oldtown once a year to visit with her remaining daughter, Rhaella, a septa at the Starry Sept. Her hair of gold and silver turned white before the end, and the smallfolk of the riverlands feared her as a witch. Travelers who turned up at the gates of Harrenhal in hope of hospitality were given bread and salt and the privilege of a night’s shelter during those years, but not the honor of the queen’s company. – Jaeherys & Alysanne; their Triumphs and Tragedies: Fire & Blood

There, that’s better. Not great, but better.

The Vale

“In the game of thrones, even the humblest pieces can have wills of their own. Sometimes they refuse to make the moves you’ve planned for them. Mark that well, Alayne. It’s a lesson that Cersei Lannister still has yet to learn. Now, don’t you have some duties to perform?”

She did indeed. She saw to the mulling of the wine first, found a suitable wheel of sharp white cheese, and commanded the cook to bake bread enough for twenty, in case the Lords Declarant brought more men than expected. Once they eat our bread and salt they are our guests and cannot harm us. The Freys had broken all the laws of hospitality when they’d murdered her lady mother and her brother at the Twins, but she could not believe that a lord as noble as Yohn Royce would ever stoop to do the same. – Alayne I: AFFC

King’s Landing

“My lords may not know,” said Qyburn, “but in the winesinks and pot shops of this city, there are those who suggest that the crown might have been somehow complicit in Lord Walder’s crime.”

The other councillors stared at him uncertainly. “Do you refer to the Red Wedding?” asked Aurane Waters. “Crime?” said Ser Harys. Pycelle cleared his throat noisily. Lord Gyles coughed.

“These sparrows are especially outspoken,” warned Qyburn. “The Red Wedding was an affront to all the laws of gods and men, they say, and those who had a hand in it are damned.” – Cersei IV: AFFC

Warrants mentioning that it’s the Sparrows that are especially outspoken about the crime committed at the Red Wedding, indicating that Guest Right is NOT just a religious practice for the Old Gods, but something that the Faith has adopted and/or subsumed. We can conclude from this that Guest Right is a civil, cultural, AND religious practice that spans the entire continent.

Dorne

“Ser Balon is a guest beneath my roof. He has eaten of my bread and salt. I will not do him harm.” The Watcher: ADWD

The Mountain Clans

The clans of the Northern mountains are especially famed for their adherence to the laws of hospitality, and the petty lords who rule these clans often vie with one another to be the most open-handed of hosts. – The North, The Mountain Clans: WOIAF

Guest Right also appears in remote places like Sisterton

It was, though any stale crust would have tasted just as fine to Davos; it meant he was a guest here, for this one night at least. The lords of the Three Sisters had a black repute, and none more so than Godric Borrell, Lord of Sweetsister, Shield of Sisterton, Master of Breakwater Castle, and Keeper of the Night Lamp … but even robber lords and wreckers were bound by the ancient laws of hospitality. I will see the dawn, at least, Davos told himself. I have eaten of his bread and salt.” – Davos I: ADWD

The right is also present in some form in Essos

“You are too suspicious.” Illyrio smiled through his forked yellow beard. Oiled every morning to make it gleam like gold, Tyrion suspected. “Are you craven? I had not heard that of you.”

“In the Seven Kingdoms it is considered a grave breach of hospitality to poison your guest at supper.”

“Here as well.” Illyrio Mopatis reached for his wine cup. “Yet when a guest plainly wishes to end his own life, why, his host must oblige him, no?”- Tyrion I: ADWD

The widespread nature of the practice, including and especially given that it is practiced by the free folk, strongly suggests that Guest Right originated with the First Men. This is also supported by the notion that while Guest Right is recognized in Southern Westeros, it is deemed less important by the primarily Andal populace.

Regardless, we’ve now established the elements and limits of the Guest Right Contract. Given that there’s absolutely nothing left to talk about related to Guest Right we can end this essay and move on to something else.

My deepest gratitude to everyone for taking time to rea…

…wait… you…

..really want to talk about that?!?

are you sure

  • FINE Let’s Talk About The Red Wedding, You Absolute Monsters

The Red Wedding was, in legal terms, extremely fucking bad.

There was no question that the Guest Right had attached by the time Robb, Catelyn, and Edmure settled into the Twins. All of the elements are present. See if you can spot them in the below passage.

“I need to see my men across the river, my lord,” Robb said.

“They shan’t get lost,” Lord Walder complained. “They’re crossed before, haven’t they? When you came down from the north. You wanted crossing and I gave it to you, and you never said mayhaps, heh. But suit yourself. Lead each man across by the hand if you like, it’s naught to me.”

“My lord!” Catelyn had almost forgotten. “Some food would be most welcome. We have ridden many leagues in the rain.”

Walder Frey’s mouth moved in and out. “Food, heh. A loaf of bread, a bite of cheese, mayhaps a sausage.”

“Bread and salt. Heh. Of course, of course.” The old man clapped his hands together, and servants came into the hall, bearing flagons of wine and trays of bread, cheese, and butter. Lord Walder took a cup of red himself, and raised it high with a spotted hand. “My guests,” he said. “My honored guests. Be welcome beneath my roof, and at my table.”

“We thank you for your hospitality, my lord,” Robb replied. Edmure echoed him, along with the Greatjon, Ser Marq Piper, and the others. They drank his wine and ate his bread and butter. Catelyn tasted the wine and nibbled at some bread, and felt much the better for it. Now we should be safe, she thought. – Catelyn VI: ASOS

At the start of the passage, Catelyn and Robb request that Walder make the offer of Guest Right. Walder then explicitly offers bread and salt, then asks that his “honored guests” be welcome beneath his roof and at his table. That’s the offer. The consideration and mutuality are safe conduct on both sides. The Starks demonstrate acceptance by eating the bread and salt. All the elements are there. This is a CONTRACT. It’s binding. It’s legal. Period.

The fact that Walder Frey says “mayhaps” a bunch of times (referencing the Lord of the Crossing game that Big & Little Walder play in Bran I: ACOK) before offering bread and salt is irrelevant. Let me repeat that: THE FACT THAT WALDER SAID MAYHAPS IS IRRELEVANT.

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I R R E L E V A N T

The mayshaps are irrelevant because, as previously discussed above, Walder’s intention to double-cross Robb by inducing the Starks to enter into the Guest Right Contract under false pretenses is not a defense to the enforcement of Guest Right. So even if there was some little-known “mayhaps” exception to Guest Right – and there is not – Walder still broke the law.

Even the Lannisters acknowledge that Walder is a fucking crook.

“Slain as well, I’d say. A pair of wolfskins. Frey had intended to keep her captive, but perhaps something went awry.”

“So much for guest right.”

“The blood is on Walder Frey’s hands, not mine.”- Tyrion VI: ASOS

Thank you Tywin.

“My lords may not know,” said Qyburn, “but in the winesinks and pot shops of this city, there are those who suggest that the crown might have been somehow complicit in Lord Walder’s crime.”

The other councillors stared at him uncertainly. “Do you refer to the Red Wedding?” asked Aurane Waters. “Crime?” said Ser Harys. Pycelle cleared his throat noisily. Lord Gyles coughed.

“These sparrows are especially outspoken,” warned Qyburn. “The Red Wedding was an affront to all the laws of gods and men, they say, and those who had a hand in it are damned.”

Cersei was not slow to take his meaning. “Lord Walder must soon face the Father’s judgment. He is very old. Let the sparrows spit upon his memory. It has nought to do with us.”- Cersei IV: AFFC

Thank you Cersei.

This is not going well. “This defiance serves no purpose, ser. The war is done, and your Young Wolf is dead.”

“Murdered in breach of all the sacred laws of hospitality.”

“Frey’s work, not mine.”- Jaime VI: AFFC

Thank you Jaime. Way to take responsibility Lannisters! Good job, good effort.

ANYWAY the fact that everyone universally acknowledges that Walder Frey broke the law and no one does anything about it has grave consequences to the rule of law in Westeros. If the people of Westeros are to believe in the law, and respect it themselves, they must see it enforced against people great and small. The Lannister regime’s refusal to punish the Freys for their lawlessness has very real effects on their ability to control the smallfolk and those that fight for them.

Hanged. The word sent a jolt of fear through her. She looked at the girl, Jeyne. She is too young to be so hard. “Bread and salt,” Brienne gasped. “The inn . . . Septon Meribald fed the children . . . we broke bread with your sister . . .”

Guest right don’t mean so much as it used to,” said the girl. “Not since m’lady come back from the wedding. Some o’ them swinging down by the river figured they was guests too.”

“We figured different,” said the Hound. “They wanted beds. We gave ’em trees.”…

There was only one woman that the Maid of Tarth had ever sworn to serve. “That cannot be,” she said. “She’s dead.”

“Death and guest right,” muttered Long Jeyne Heddle. “They don’t mean so much as they used to, neither one.”- Brienne VIII: AFFC

Cersei may not realize it, but the fact that people no longer respect this core tenet of Westerosi Law is a huge fucking problem. If Varys’ Riddle is correct (and it is) and power lies where men believe it resides, then the fact that people don’t respect the Iron Throne’s power to enforce the law also indicates that they are losing their belief in the power of the Throne itself.

The loss of faith in rule of law, and by extension in the very power to enforce the law, is literally an existential threat to the notion of a united Westeros. Join me on the NotACast (pooood cast) next week to discuss this more in the context of Tyrion II: A Clash Of Kings.

  • Conclusion

There are still many unanswered questions about Guest Right. For example, we don’t specifically know what happens with the guest gifts or how it ends. We don’t know where Guest Right originated, nor do we know exactly what the typical punishment is for breach of the Guest Right Contract.

However, we know how Guest Right is established and we also know how it is supposed to work. It’s basic contract law. No more and no less.

Until we meet again, I send my regards.

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What you get when the state won’t enforce the law.

6 thoughts on “Offer, Acceptance, Bread & Salt: A Legal Analysis of the Guest Right Contract

  1. It’s about time we heard more voices from the bar in ASOIAF discussions. I really enjoyed this. A contract is a really nice lense to view guest right from, especially while reading in real time because it’s familiar and straightforward. I
    also really liked how you laid out the elements and the inapplicable defenses. That will make it much more easy to recognize when guest right is implicated going forward.

    Additionally, this essay, albeit indirectly, shines light on a major problem in feudalism and other authoritarian regimes: that faith in contracts is vulnerable when the enforcer of those contracts exempts itself.

    When I took 1L Contracts asked us what is the biggest difference between an agreement and a contract? Like rectangles to a square, some agreements are contracts. But, as you alluded to, contracts are agreements that the state will enforce.

    One characteristic of most free(r) countries/states is that the contact enforcer will enforce contracts against itself (albeit with some substantial exceptions). However, in Stark v. Frey et al., the defendants waive off their obligation to enforce with arguments that are, as you point out, widely known to everyone to be erroneous. Worse, to whom is the aggrieved party going to appeal? They are also complicit! It takes the maxim “bad facts make bad law” to a whole new level.

    So where is the recourse? To the people, of course. And that’s because guest right is more than a contract. It’s woven into the social contract of Westeros. Just like many medieval kingdoms and the UK today, Westeros seems to have an unwritten constitution that speaks to guest right, class structures, and the administration of the kingdom among other things. When constitutional structures fail, subjects stop feeling an obligation to the State.

    With the kingdom already in rebellion, violating guest further undermines the legitimacy of the administration in King’s Landing.

    On an entirely different note, I really enjoyed your portrayal of the Frey’s mayhaps defense. I’m a public defender and so many of my clients (who often have real good factual or legal defenses) insist on trying to pursue what they (and the jailhouse lawyer) think are technicalities. There are two reasons for that: 1. They are stupid, which Walder isn’t, or 2. They are trolls, which Walder is (he literally lives on a bridge). Walder would be just such a horrible client throughout litigation.

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    1. Absolutely. And credit for the analogy goes to my otherwise horrible and useless Contracts Prof. I look forward to your next post!

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  2. we have no evidence of children attempting to enter into or enforce guest right

    Does Sansa (Alayne) preparing and serving food to the Lords Declarant not count? She’s no longer a child as such, but she’s not yet a legal adult, in either her real self or her persona. Or since she’s acting as an agent for Petyr, is her age irrelevant? Though technically they’re both acting as agents for Robert Arryn, who is definitely a child…

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    1. It should count. Agents generally can act for their client, even if (and sometimes especially if) that client is a child. And age of majority doesn’t seem to be a defense to enforcement of guest right. Robb, before he reaches majority, offers guest right to members of the night’s watch and eventually Tyrion.

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