Maybe I Don't Want To Be A Princess After All
April 7, 2014 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Game of Thrones: Being A Princess Is A Rough Gig "...The privileges held by princesses came at an enormous price. They were used and valued as diplomatic chess pieces, often sent at a very young age to far away places, often to places where they didn't speak the language to live among people who might not care for them or may even be openly hostile.... Game of Thrones does an extraordinary job of showing what being caught in that particular trap must have looked like and felt like. Some flail, some are lucky, some are doomed, some do their best to turn it to their advantage, some become monsters. In this post, I'm going to take a look at the various Game of Thrones princesses in the context of some possible real life counterparts"
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard (200 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
(Tangentially: Game of Thrones Reenvisioned as Feudal Japan.)
posted by kmz at 8:18 AM on April 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


One of the points that Sex With Kings makes over and over is just how shitty life could be a queen without her own personal source of power or her king's favor. Monarchy's a shit thing for most people, and women bore (and in some places still bear) some of the worst of it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:26 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Interesting read, cheers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:28 AM on April 7, 2014


I thought this was an interesting discussion and brings up some good points about the realities of being a political pawn, but it was a bit hard for me to look past the fact that the author didn't read most of the books but still makes some comments about characterization that aren't entirely accurate. I realize that is a bit nitpicky but it makes me question how accurate their other comments are. I don't have a super strong knowledge of British history, so I can't evaluate their assessment without doing some research of my own.
posted by brilliantine at 8:31 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


The description in the post immediately brought to mind Catherine of Braganza. Didn't speak a word of English but was brought over from Portugal to be the Queen of England as the wife of Charles II to help secure an alliance. She was miserable and at one point was absurdly accused of trying to poison the king.

As an interesting side-note, she is generally credited with introducing the custom of drinking tea to England.
posted by vacapinta at 8:36 AM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Does the article have any Season 4 spoilers? Or any spoilers at all?
posted by spicynuts at 8:39 AM on April 7, 2014


The article doesn't have any spoilers from last night's episode. The author has watched the tv show and read the first book and a half.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:40 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow I have been under a rock.

York/Stark Lancaster/Lannister

Duh.
posted by sio42 at 8:40 AM on April 7, 2014 [20 favorites]


but it was a bit hard for me to look past the fact that the author didn't read most of the books but still makes some comments about characterization that aren't entirely accurate.

Well, she specifically says she is working from the ways that the characters are portrayed in the show, not the books. Having not read more than part of book 1, I am OK with this, although I expect that people invested in both have a bit of disorientation keeping the portrayals of characters in each medium separate.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:40 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


It bothers me more than it possibly should that the author of the piece can't spell Cersei.
posted by Justinian at 8:41 AM on April 7, 2014 [5 favorites]




Well, she specifically says she is working from the ways that the characters are portrayed in the show, not the books.

She says that but she explicitly does comment on how they are portrayed in the books. She says that book Cercei [sic] is "pure evil which is boring". But that's not true. Book Cersei is, I think, significantly less intelligent than Headey's Cersei but no more evil. Book Cersei does what she does out of fear for herself and, particularly, her children.
posted by Justinian at 8:43 AM on April 7, 2014 [16 favorites]


I'd love to see a follow-up detailing the Shitty Princes & Boy Kings of History and How They Died, in honor of a character who will remain nameless.

(Double tangentially: Game of Thrones as a nonsensical teen comedy)
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:44 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Interesting to see the parallels with historical figures - it's not surprising, given how realistic the motivations of the characters seem.

Cersei is probably my favourite character for the reasons described in the article. I agree with the author that the show portrays her more sympathetically, but I disagree that she's "pure evil" in the books (although maybe that doesn't come out until the later books). I kinda prefer the book version, where she seems more complex and therefore interesting - the show almost goes too far in making her likable.
posted by randomnity at 8:44 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Huh. I prefer the TV version by a country mile. Book Cersei is dumb as a box of rocks. I'm surprised she can manage to avoid accidentally choking on her eating utensils she's so stupid.
posted by Justinian at 8:46 AM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


the show almost goes too far in making her likable.

Really? I find her unlikeable in the show, but fairly understandable. Sometimes I feel (midway through Season 3), that pretty much all the trouble everyone has comes from Tywin Lannister being a terrible, terrible father, leaving all his children messed up in different ways...

Of course, the Stark children are also messed up, so maybe there is no winning.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:49 AM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


TV-Cersei also has the advantage of being Lena Headey, who has the best Instagram ever.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:53 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Book Cersei doesn't get stupid until she starts hitting the sauce.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:54 AM on April 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


Really? I find her unlikeable in the show, but fairly understandable

I see these as kind of the same thing. Understandable is probably a better word than likeable, you're right.

I like the book version because she starts out being a one-dimensional villain and then you slowly learn her history, motivations and hidden strategies later on. Show Cersei comes off as much more weak and tragic to start off with, at least to me. I like both, actually. They just feel very different.
posted by randomnity at 8:55 AM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


She says that but she explicitly does comment on how they are portrayed in the books.

Well, she says she read one book and some of the second. Yeah, she does refer to Cersei in the books (as a contrast to the TV character), but, if the character is fleshed out more in later volumes, she's not going to know about it. So, she's pretty much talking about the TV characters.

I wonder if, as the series progress, we are going to see a greater and greater gap between the "book fans" and the "show fans," with communication increasingly difficult because the differences in character and plot become too wide to bridge easily. Old time Star Trek fans seem to be having some of these problems with the new movie series intending for each movie to stand (more or less) on its own, with little to no knowledge of the massive back story necessary.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:55 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eat Like a Lannister: Cersei’s Creamy Chestnut Soup and Apple Salad with Gorgonzola Cream

On the other hand, King Joffrey’s brutality makes you forget about his dignified posture (and the fact that you shouldn’t want to punch a kid in the face). His mother, Cersei, has a soft spot for her children (and for “keeping it in the family”). She’s also an ice-cold bitch who can raise hell, but she does “set a tasty table, that could not be denied. They started with a creamy chestnut soup, crusty hot bread, and greens dressed with apples and pine nuts.” (Clash of Kings, p. 773)

Our version of the chestnut soup is like Jaime Lannister (that’s probably why Cersei likes it so much). It’s thick and rich. The buttery chestnut puree washes over your tongue, with the dried cranberries adding tanginess and texture to the soup’s nutty finish.

posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:02 AM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Book Cersei does what she does out of fear for herself and, particularly, her children.

This is an explanation for behaviour and not an excuse. Which is to say that people can, and quite frequently do, perform great evil out of fear and also for their children.

Just look at any school run.
posted by srboisvert at 9:04 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


The princess thing that I've been watching lately is The Tudors. Watching Henry VIII go through brides and see each one of them doomed in their own way and with their entire lives hinging on whatever "match" someone makes for them. I sort of feel that it's like Downton Abbey where we've developed a scenario where we can actually sympathize with the plight of the extremely wealthy. Relevance to this actual article: Margaery Tyrell and Anne Boleyn are similar characters both played by the enchanting Natalie Dormer.
posted by jessamyn at 9:05 AM on April 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


There's a comment in a recent book which goes something like this: Of Tywin's children, Tyrion got the brains, Jaime got the military skill and Cersei got the ambition.

Cersei's tragedy is that 1) her skills don't quite match her ambition and 2) her environment is stacked against her. Either of these on their own might not have been fatal, but the combination is unfortunate.

Disclaimer: only read the books; not seen the show.
posted by Slothrup at 9:06 AM on April 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


the Stark children are also messed up

Not really, at least at the beginning of the first book. The most "messed-up" one is Jon Snow, because of Catelyn's coldness toward him, and that in turn is because Ned insists on making him a member of his household. (And that, in turn, may be due to a yet-undisclosed secret about Jon's true parentage, about which fan theories abound.) Prior to their being messed with by the Lannisters in various ways, Robb is dutiful and responsible, Sansa a die-hard romantic, Arya fairly tomboyish, Bran also somewhat romantic and an avid climber, and Rickon just a little kid. Then they get their wolves and Bran climbs the wrong tower at the wrong time and Ned gets recruited for a job that he doesn't want and isn't particularly suited to and, well, you know.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:16 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Book Cersei is dumb as a box of rocks. I'm surprised she can manage to avoid accidentally choking on her eating utensils she's so stupid.

I have neither read the books nor watched the show (what am I doing here?) but my wife read the first couple of books, and complained many times about how frustratingly stupid Cersei is. So somebody agrees with you anyway.
posted by Foosnark at 9:20 AM on April 7, 2014


I don't know that I would consider Cersei stupid - I always thought of her more as single-minded to the point where she's blinded to the flaws in her planning. I suppose that could be considered a type of stupidity but I didn't think she was inherently unintelligent.
posted by brilliantine at 9:24 AM on April 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Cersei isn't stupid; in fact, she's quite cunning, however much her circumstances limit her options. Her weakness is being easily frustrated, to the point of making mistakes that others would be able to get away with. Stupidity is a different sin, I think — pride may be her downfall, I suspect, more than anything else.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:25 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Tyrion got the brains, Jaime got the military skill and Cersei got the ambition.

Cersei's tragedy is that 1) her skills don't quite match her ambition and 2) her environment is stacked against her. Either of these on their own might not have been fatal, but the combination is unfortunate.


I think it's interesting to look at all three Lannister children in light of their ambitions (and how they are frustrated over time) - because they all have them, to greater or lesser degrees (Cersei certainly has the most ambition, but is limited by several factors, including her gender - a sad fact of the time and place she lives in).

Tyrion has the brains and also has ambition, but his dwarfism also means the environment is stacked against him. It is his plan and bravery that saves King's Landing, but he is instantly overlooked and ignored, and then outright denigrated by his father. By rights, he should be heir to Casterly Rock, ruling the Lannister holdings in his father's stead - essentially, what Tywin offered to Jaime last night should be Tyrion's. That frustrated ambition...well, say no more.

Jaime has the military skills, but not the overarching ambition - his only ambition ever was to be with Cersei. I leave it there out of respect to the show viewers, as we're just at the start of exploring Jaime's ambitions. And to some extent, exploring Cersei's further.
posted by nubs at 9:25 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cersei isn't stupid; in fact, she's quite cunning, however much her circumstances limit her options. Her weakness is being easily frustrated, to the point of making mistakes that others would be able to get away with.

I see cunning and intelligence as two different things; she's cunning alright, but limited in her ability to take a long view and understand implications of actions and decisions (at least book Cersei) - it's part of her being easily frustrated, but not all of it. She has a tendency to think the quickest solution is the best, and at times seems unable to consider what the other side/another player might want or might benefit from - or that why giving/not giving them what they want might be a bad thing, long term, for your own plans. Not sure what to call that skill - strategic thinking/intelligence, perhaps? Because she is certainly quite perceptive and intelligent in other ways.
posted by nubs at 9:32 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Understandable is probably a better word than likeable, you're right.

This is my problem with Joffrey, actually, he has a sort of motiveless malignancy which makes him less understandable than Caligula. No, really, Caligula at least has the excuse that, if you want a boy to grow up to be a decent human being, you do not send them to Aged Tiberius's Sleepaway Camp!

Cersei shows really clear scars of her experiences as a "princess." I wonder if her ruthlessness toward Sansa isn't part of that -- she despises the poor girl for having been allowed to stay naive for as long as she has (although, to be fair, Sansa's well of naivete seems bottomless).
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:34 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cersei manages to trash the kingdom politically, economically, and socially in the span of like 6 months. That takes either a genius or a complete incompetent. Hell, even GWB took 8 years to do it.
posted by Justinian at 9:35 AM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Cersei despises Sansa because Cersei despises her own womanhood.
posted by Slothrup at 9:36 AM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


At the risk of unleashing a very very mild spoiler, the ending of the most recent book suggests that Cersei has had help in creating the current state of the kingdom.
posted by Slothrup at 9:38 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Cersei manages to trash the kingdom politically, economically, and socially in the span of like 6 months. That takes either a genius or a complete incompetent. Hell, even GWB took 8 years to do it.

That's a little unfair to her. She may have delivered the coup de grace, but the fundamental weaknesses in the Seven Kingdoms' economy and political structure were years in the making, with plenty of them dating back to Robert's Rebellion and the reign of the Mad King.
posted by Copronymus at 9:39 AM on April 7, 2014 [12 favorites]


You Cersei sycophants! The North Remembers.
posted by Justinian at 9:40 AM on April 7, 2014 [12 favorites]


I agree with copronymus. The article said that a weak king (joffrey) allowed his lords to run roughshod over the countries finances. According the last season when Tyrion was made the master of coin, it was littlefinger who ruined the economy, at the behest of King Robert.
posted by rebent at 9:42 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Littlefinger borrowed huge amounts of money; it was Cersei who told the Iron Bank to go fuck itself.
posted by Justinian at 9:46 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cersei's only real problem is lack of foresight. If she had the knack for long-term planning that her father had, she'd be unstoppable.

Problem is, she just reacts to the situation now, while the other players around her--Littlefinger, Varys, etc--are planning a dozen moves ahead.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:48 AM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Monarchy's a shit thing for most people

That's how you can recognize the King, of course, when he wanders onto your autonomous collective.
posted by thelonius at 9:49 AM on April 7, 2014 [13 favorites]


Cersei's only real problem is lack of foresight. If she had the knack for long-term planning that her father had, she'd be unstoppable.

I think she does try and isn't terrible at planning in general (other than the occasional frustrated impulsiveness), but doesn't build in any flexibility for when things don't go according to plan. So her plans would have worked if she'd predicted everything correctly, but because there wasn't any flex in them, they crumbled when unexpected things happened.
posted by randomnity at 9:59 AM on April 7, 2014


so in conclusion and all, westeros is a land of contrasts. I want to say that for every Princess In Distress there's also a Strong Woman and a Prince In Distress to balance the picture. But, I don't think that's entirely the case. While there are a lot of strong women, strong men, weak women, and weak men, in the end I don't think that GRRM has an excel spreadsheet keeping track of it all to ensure equity.

When I write my RPG campaigns, I take great pains to ensure equity. But in the heat of the moment, what do you know, that random NPC is a man, always. The mysterious stranger is a man, the emperor is a man, even the god-damn sexless robot is a man. I try real hard to fight my natural inclination to tell stories about men, but unless I a plan ahead, it doesn't seem to happen.

I'm not saying that the same thing happens to GRRM. But, my favorite thing about ASOIAF is how he seems to be trying to give everyone in the story a fair shake, and I believe the context of the story is that it's a deconstruction (and lately reconstruction) of "classical" fantasy stories.

So the author of this piece seems to be saying at the same time "Oh, GoT is very realistic which is awesome, but this story, like real life, is very sexist, which is not awesome" to which I think GRRM would agree. I know I would.
posted by rebent at 10:01 AM on April 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


justinian, I often wonder about Littlefinger's long-term plans. Pretty interesting that he traded being master of debt for owner of lands right when he did.
posted by rebent at 10:03 AM on April 7, 2014


This is my problem with Joffrey, actually, he has a sort of motiveless malignancy which makes him less understandable than Caligula.

There is a great line in both books and TV show about the Targaryens and their practice of incest - that the gods flipped a coin with each child, and it came up either brilliance or insanity. We don't get to see many Targaryens in the flesh; Joffrey is the living example of incest in the Westeros of books and show. And you can see how the coin flip went in his case; he has no motive, he's just a sociopath in a position of tremendous power.
posted by nubs at 10:04 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


justinian, I often wonder about Littlefinger's long-term plans. Pretty interesting that he traded being master of debt for owner of lands right when he did.

To establish an independent power base, and topple Varys from his position, naturally.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:05 AM on April 7, 2014


There is a great line in both books and TV show about the Targaryens and their practice of incest - that the gods flipped a coin with each child, and it came up either brilliance or insanity

And thus King Tommen will rise to become the most powerful ruler Westeros or Essos has ever known!
posted by Copronymus at 10:06 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was coming in to comment that I thought the author's take on Book Cersei was ungenerous and not supportable, but I see that point of view is well represented. My big problem with the princesses specifically and the GOT books in general is that Martin has written this huge new world with different physics, magic, and dragons, and he still feels compelled to stick women into these traditional European patriarchy models. It's disappointing, really, and I hope he manages to break away from that as he continues to develop the non-Westeros cultures.
posted by norm at 10:06 AM on April 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


I strongly suspect that Tommen is going to die quietly somewhere, and Myrcella is going to love the shit out of Dorne.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:07 AM on April 7, 2014


See norm that's just what I'm talking about: I disagree that "Martin has written this huge new world with different physics, magic, and dragons" because westeros is basically "generic fantasy land" with "generic fantasy physics and mysterious, ancient magic." So of course he has "generic fantasy land gender roles" but in his book, he explores deeper where they come from, what they represent, and what the outcomes are. I admit that where he lands is not where I would land, but I think it's interesting nonetheless.
posted by rebent at 10:09 AM on April 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


Spoilers abound:

Jaime has the military skills, but not the overarching ambition - his only ambition ever was to be with Cersei. I leave it there out of respect to the show viewers, as we're just at the start of exploring Jaime's ambitions. And to some extent, exploring Cersei's further.

Jaime did have an ambition: to be a great and glorious warrior like Barristan Selmy. His environment conspired to frustrate him on this point: the Mad King appointed Jaime to his Kingsguard as a political move to rob Tywin Lannister of his heir. At first Jaime thought this was great, but then found himself bodyguard to a sadistic monster who he ultimately had to kill to prevent a city from being burned alive. For this act Jaime is universally reviled. Jaime then found himself babysitting a fat drunk while he played with whores.

So instead of a glorious warrior's life he's locked into this pointless existence in the Kingsguard despite being the best warrior in Westeros. This causes him to grow into a bitter, twisted young man.

Cersei manages to trash the kingdom politically, economically, and socially in the span of like 6 months. That takes either a genius or a complete incompetent. Hell, even GWB took 8 years to do it.

Cersei certainly didn't cause the troubles in Westeros by herself. The true instigators are Littlefinger and Joffrey's cruelty (sending an assassin after Bran and executing Ned Stark). Varis's scheming didn't help things either.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:10 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


I would have to disagree with you, vehemently, about Varys' scheming.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:13 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


There is a great line in both books and TV show about the Targaryens and their practice of incest - that the gods flipped a coin with each child, and it came up either brilliance or insanity. We don't get to see many Targaryens in the flesh; Joffrey is the living example of incest in the Westeros of books and show.

Danny's brother Viserys. It's strongly implied that his "waking the dragon" rages aren't just fits of anger but some kind of mental issue.

I would have to disagree with you, vehemently, about Varys' scheming

You're free to be wrong, I suppose. Varys is moving towards something, it's not clear what, but it does involve temporarily destabilizing the kingdom. The ending of A Dance with Dragons made it clear that his plans don't involve a stable Lannister-ruled kingdom.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:17 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


The realm is in trouble for multiple reasons - from what I understand of the history:

When the Mad King had Tywin as Hand, the realm was in reasonably good shape;
When the Mad King spurned the idea of marrying Rhaegar to Cersei, and Tywin left as a result, things started to go pear-shaped. Littlefinger beggared the realm by borrowing, the War has made things worse, and Winter is Coming. The lack of a firm hand at the controls is problematic; but that seems to be on the central things in the series - that those in power are often ill-suited, or ill-prepared and the overall impacts of it.
posted by nubs at 10:17 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


You're free to be wrong, I suppose

You're free to be less condescending.

Cersei has buggered the realm through incompetence and lack of foresight. Littlefinger was out for his own percentage. Varys has a much, much larger and more long-term scheme in mind.

One of these things is not like the others.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:22 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cersei certainly didn't cause the troubles in Westeros by herself. The true instigators are Littlefinger and Joffrey's cruelty (sending an assassin after Bran and executing Ned Stark).

I think she realizes she has some culpability for the mess she's in (she doesn't associate that mess with the situation in Westeros, of course) which is perhaps why she hates Margaery so much, who is able to control and direct Joffrey in a way that she, Cersei, was never capable of. If she had Margaery's talents, she might have left herself in a better position to rule.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


For those who haven't read the books, they are generally told as a series of first-person narratives, with each eponymous chapter representing a short walk in that particular character's shoes.

I don't think Cersei even has her own chapter in the first couple books. The reader's opinion of her, up until her first chapter, is formed solely based on the observations and experiences of other characters, most of whom are biased against her. It stands to reason that it would be hard to sympathize with her, particularly early on.
posted by tempestuoso at 10:25 AM on April 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


I would have to disagree with you, vehemently, about Varys' scheming.

Whether Varys's scheming (like almost all scheming, now that I think of it) helps things depends on who you are, I imagine. It's an ill scheme that blows no one good, as I always say.

Full disclosure: I have never said this until just now, and then I only typed it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:27 AM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


OK, spoliers ahoy and boundless speculation ahead:

The ending of A Dance with Dragons made it clear that his plans don't involve a stable Lannister-ruled kingdom.


Varys is all about stability, from what I can tell. Well, he's all about the smallfolk and he knows how much they suffer when the Game of Thrones is played. Robert's Rebellion gave everyone the idea that they could be King or rule their own realm again, which is why Five Kings appear after his death. We don't know exactly what is ultimate goal is, but from my perspective: he wants a stable, peaceful realm - and right now, the only way to get it is to actually worsen the chaos to pave the way for the return of unifying strength (i.e., Dany and her dragons).

Don't forget that in Book 1, he's conspiring with Ilyrio to pave the way for the return of the Targaryens. During that conversation, he's worried that things are coming apart in the 7 Kingdoms faster than they want. And things have happened too fast for their plan...so he figures to keep the realm unstable until the person he things can truly unify it appears. And that's a Targaryen, on dragonback.
posted by nubs at 10:29 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Cersei has buggered the realm through incompetence and lack of foresight. Littlefinger was out for his own percentage. Varys has a much, much larger and more long-term scheme in mind.

One of these things is not like the others.


I'm not talking about who is more noble, only that they're all fucking things up. The original comment was that Cersei alone has destroyed the kingdom, which is just wrong. Littlefinger is causing chaos for his own gain. Varys is causing chaos for his plans to restore the Targaryens or whatever he's doing. But, both are causing chaos, and it's very possible that without either or both of them things wouldn't be quite such a mess under Cersei. Though the Joffrey insanity factor really threw a wrench in things that nobody planned.

I will add that I was very disappointed when I read the first book when it came out because I had been told that it was going to be a breath of fresh air from the good vs. evil "Epic Fantasy" that ruled the 90s, yet it was very clear that the Starks were the Good Guys and the Lannisters were the Bad Guys. I mean, Ned Stark's "flaw" was that he was too good and noble for his ugly world. It was like the Attreides and the Harkonens. I was happy that the show did a better job of making the Lannisters human, though the Starks were still perfect.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:37 AM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I hope he manages to break away from that as he continues to develop the non-Westeros cultures.

The problem here is that Martin knows a hell of a lot more about medieval Western Europe than he does about, say, Transoxiana, or Iron Age Yemen, and you can feel him struggling sometimes as he tries to arrange a particular grab bag of Eastern tropes in an interesting, ethical, and non-stereotypical design.

And that struggle begins on the level of individual Essene cities. It seems to be even harder for him to create Essenes of greater moral complexity than Preening Bastard Up To No Good, or Third Guy With a Z In His Name. That may be one reason that the last book took so long to write.

If I were Martin, I would have farmed out the Essos world-building to Jack Vance so I could concentrate on the human-level drama. Too late for that now, of course.
posted by Iridic at 10:44 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


If you don't think being a princess (and staying alive as a princess) is difficult, you should try it for yourself.
posted by delfin at 10:46 AM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I will add that I was very disappointed when I read the first book when it came out because I had been told that it was going to be a breath of fresh air from the good vs. evil "Epic Fantasy" that ruled the 90s, yet it was very clear that the Starks were the Good Guys and the Lannisters were the Bad Guys.

The first book sets up a series of fantasy tropes and then the series proceeds to yank the rugs out from under them. The Lannisters are set up as the "Bad Guys" (even though we all love Tyrion); by mid book 3 a lot of our perceptions of the Lannisters are different; by the end of Book 5 you may not sympathize with them all, but you understand them and what they are doing. It's hard to see them as the "Bad Guys" once you've seen the world from their eyes. Instead, you start to see that no one is really the hero, and that everyone is equally capable of both heroism and villainy - and which is which depends on what side you are on. I found it fascinating to be cheering for Tyrion to succeed in his defense of King's Landing, even though that also meant Joffrey would survive...were his actions noble and heroic in defending the city to keep a psycho on the throne? But would Stannis make a better King?

The Starks start off as the good and noble family, but there are many things about them not to like - and those also start coming out the deeper into the books you go. Understanding that for all his nobility, Ned is a very capable liar - and what he will lie about and under what circumstances - is a key thing; Robb gets tied up on the thorny questions of honour (book Robb far more so than TV Robb - I understand why Robb's wife was handled differently on the show, but how it is handled in the books is very smart and illustrates the problems of honour in society, and Robb's struggles to be both like and not his father); Bran's arc may take him to places we don't expect; Arya - for all the love she gets - is still a stone cold killer; the actions and motivations of some of the elder Starks who die before the series starts...
posted by nubs at 10:55 AM on April 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


My feelings on Book Cersei did a complete 180 once I became a father. I swear, the first GoT book I read after my 1st kid arrived, I got to a part that featured Cersei, and had you been in the room with me as I was reading, you probably would have seen the light bulb appear over my head as I said, "Ahhhh! I get her now!" Like someone, I think it was Chris Rock, put it, I'm not saying what she does is okay...but I understand.

One of the things I dig most about GoT is the way Martin points out that the head is indeed heavy that wears the crown when it's the head of a good person, but at the same time, the lesser folks are given an opportunity, even if it costs them their lives on occasion, to say, "Yeah, well, if you think you've got it bad, try being down here in the shite, Your Grace."

In any event, I feel like the switch flipping on Cersei for me changed my attitude about a great many of the other noble women. The "I'm not saying it's okay, but I understand" feeling got extended to Sansa, the Queen of Thorns, Yara Greyjoy, etc."

Daenerys is a special case though, because I feel like most of what constrains her nowadays is not the world she lives in and its rules for women but the author trying to keep her from getting to Westeros too soon in the narrative.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:05 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is my problem with Joffrey, actually, he has a sort of motiveless malignancy which makes him less understandable than Caligula.

Show Joffrey is better than Book Joffrey in this respect since Jack Gleeson portrays him in a way that makes it plain that he's a boy who's basically terrified of everything around him trying to live up to the tough, decisive image set by Robert. Along with the doesn't-give-a-shit-about-the-proles that all the nobles/royals do.

though the Starks were still perfect

If Robb (pron. "Rah-buh-buh") were perfect, he'd have kept his damn word and married Whozits McBridgepeople.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:15 AM on April 7, 2014 [17 favorites]


If Robb (pron. "Rah-buh-buh") were perfect, he'd have kept his damn word and married Whozits McBridgepeople.

I kind of like that bit, because he's a male character who thinks nothing of promising (or at least scheming to promise) his sisters in various marriage deals, but, when it gets to be his turn, that's a bridgepeople too far.

To take us back to princesses.

(Much as I like Varys, he's no princess.)
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:24 AM on April 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


it was going to be a breath of fresh air ... yet it was very clear that the Starks were the Good Guys and the Lannisters were the Bad Guys. I mean, Ned Stark's "flaw" was that he was too good and noble for his ugly world.

It is a breath of fresh air to see the Good Guys actually seeing the downsides of their nobility. Throughout the series it is made very clear that naive idealism is a real flaw with major consequences (unlike most fantasy series, where a "good heart" conquers all obstacles).
posted by randomnity at 11:25 AM on April 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


Yeah, by about halfway through Season 1, I kinda hated Ned Stark. "Oh, you're too manly to be good at politics, dude? Well you better fix that right quick or you're gonna get everyone you care about killed. Ooopsie---you didn't bother."

One thing I really enjoy about the story is that between Ned and Sansa, it makes very clear that naiveté can be a deadly sin.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:37 AM on April 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


Yeah Sansa is one of the characters I am curious about (seen the shows, not read the books) because she's such a drip and yet ... she's remained remarkably unscathed as everyone around her gets raped, killed, disfigured, etc.
posted by jessamyn at 11:39 AM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


If Robb (pron. "Rah-buh-buh") were perfect, he'd have kept his damn word and married Whozits McBridgepeople.

Book Robb faces a very different problem than TV Robb, who just gets the hots for random lady in his camp. In the books, Robb goes off warring, and takes a castle of the family that is loyal to the Lannisters. He takes a wound in the siege, and has to spend some time there to convalescence. The family happens to have a daughter that is Robb's age. They not only flirt, they do the nasty. Which for most other lords wouldn't be a big deal.

But this is Robb Stark. He feels honour bound to marry the woman, because a lord shouldn't do this with a lady unless that is his intent. And I'm sure he is also thinking of his father - who married his mother, and then went to war, and returned with a bastard - and knowing what that did to his mother and his family dynamic. So he's trying not to create that same scenario again. At the same time, he has to betray his word to the Freys. This is what the series does at times - points out that there is no way to manage all the vows and obligations that you are held to, no way to honour them all.

And, of course, it comes out a little later that the family in question was in communication with Tywin...and that they went a little out of their way to make sure that Robb and their daughter spent some time together...because Tywin knows how to build a trap.
posted by nubs at 11:41 AM on April 7, 2014 [19 favorites]


Cersei could be a force to be reckoned with if her alliances were actually beneficial to both parties, but instead she seems to think that people should fall in line and support her schemes because the Lannisters have the gold and the power.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:49 AM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


But this is Robb Stark. He feels honour bound to marry the woman, because a lord shouldn't do this with a lady unless that is his intent. And I'm sure he is also thinking of his father - who married his mother, and then went to war, and returned with a bastard - and knowing what that did to his mother and his family dynamic. So he's trying not to create that same scenario again. At the same time, he has to betray his word to the Freys. This is what the series does at times - points out that there is no way to manage all the vows and obligations that you are held to, no way to honour them all.

I still see Rob's decision as basically selfish. Once he took it upon himself to rebel, he had an obligation to his followers to do what he could to carry the thing through successfully. People from throughout the North and the Riverlands were risking their lives, fortunes, and honor, and compared to that his personal scruples shouldn't have counted.
posted by Area Man at 12:02 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I still see Rob's decision as basically selfish.

Absolutely it was; he didn't think through the implications of losing the Frey alliance and what it would mean. I understand where his decision came from; doesn't mean I agree with it.
posted by nubs at 12:06 PM on April 7, 2014


she's remained remarkably unscathed as everyone around her gets raped, killed, disfigured, etc.

Sansa gets assaulted and is almost raped during the peasant revolt, and she is subject to various psychological and physical torments at Joffrey's direct and indirect hands. Without giving too much away for those who haven't read the books, what she is subjected to after her marriage to Tyrion is psychological torture at the hands of an old family "friend". While she might be a bit aloof as to the uses she is put to at the hands of others, she's actually been through quite a lot, and some of it does get through to her — enough so as to make her stronger and more resilient.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:31 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah Sansa is one of the characters I am curious about (seen the shows, not read the books) because she's such a drip and yet ... she's remained remarkably unscathed as everyone around her gets raped, killed, disfigured, etc.

Sansa has a knack for survival. Basically unwittingly (even partly because she projects so much unwitting helplessness), she's cultivated powerful allies even when her prospects were pretty bleak. Some of that is accident and happenstance, but the more often it happens that men like Littlefinger, Tyrion, or The Hound stick their necks out for her, the more it starts to seem like a repeatable skill. Even with alliances changing all around her faster than anyone can really keep up with them, she always knows exactly what's expected of her in various wildly different circumstances and says and does all the right things. It's interesting to watch because she absolutely is a drip, but you also sort of get the feeling that if there was a nuclear war the only things left would be her and the cockroaches somehow.
posted by Copronymus at 12:40 PM on April 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


I always figure Sansa for someone who has social intelligence off the charts; not very street smart, not very book smart, but put her into a social situation and she knows just what do to, what to say, what questions to ask, what topics to avoid, how to put everyone at their ease.

Unfortunately, her political sense is slow to develop, so she isn't able to manipulate those interactions for her own ends - but she charms and beguiles people around her without even really realizing what she's doing. When/if her political savvy gets developed, she could be another Margaery Tyrell.
posted by nubs at 12:59 PM on April 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


Game of Thrones characters in 80s/90s movies: What “Game of Thrones” would have looked like if the action had been set in a contemporary period such as the 80s and 90s What if swords, bows, spears and armors had been replaced with some NES guns, bats and tracksuits?

Jon Snow and Joffrey Baratheon
Daenerys Targaryen and co., Jaime Lannister
Arya Stark, Sansa Stark and Brienne of Tarth
Bronn & Tyrion Lannister
Cersei Lannister & Khal Drogo
Theon Greyjoy & Margaery Tyrell
Tywin Lannister
Sandor Clegane & Ygritte
White Walker and Bran Stark
Robb Stark and Talisa Maegyr
Sir Jorah Mormont
Gendry

From: Moshi-kun/Mike Wrobel.
posted by bonehead at 1:43 PM on April 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


The scene where the dragons flambe the slave-master would be interesting to see with Ferrets.
posted by codacorolla at 2:03 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have to say, Miami Jamie is my favourite. Though Brienne...
posted by bonehead at 2:46 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


I liked them all, except for Cersei.
posted by nubs at 3:00 PM on April 7, 2014


The Danerys reminds me very much of someone I was close to in the 90s. (sigh)
posted by epersonae at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2014


Myrcella is going to love the shit out of Dorne.

As well she might. According to Dornish rules, she inherits ahead of Tommen.
posted by KathrynT at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sangermaine: "though the Starks were still perfect."

Perfect only got the Starks a right early grave. In the Wired recap, a point is made that a good deal of the Stark narrative is to emphasize the horrible consequences that comes with taking the right, fairytale perfect actions.
posted by stratastar at 4:04 PM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I always figure Sansa for someone who has social intelligence off the charts; not very street smart, not very book smart, but put her into a social situation and she knows just what do to, what to say, what questions to ask, what topics to avoid, how to put everyone at their ease.

this, plus she has been educated all her life to be, first and foremost, a Lady, with a capital L. Prior to her encounters with higher nobility, this was presented to her as her entire reason for existence, and sold to her as The Way It Is: Be pretty, be polite, be gracious, be pious, don't make a fuss, show all the nice courtesies, flatter, flirt, hold genteel conversation, and by doing all of this you will be rewarded with a fine house, money, pretty things and a host of handsome suitors. This entire fabulous fiction is the one she has been sold by all of her role models for her entire existence, which was an isolated one to be sure, with vanishingly few social peers to compare herself to. Her mother, by dint of rejecting court life, did her exactly zero favors by filling her head full of romantic tales and neglecting to teach her anything of politics or how the Game is played.

not to mention, TV series Sansa is FOURTEEN for gods' sake. In the book she was TWELVE. For serious, how many of you were interesting and not naive and not a "drip" when you were that age?

Sansa is not my totes favorite character, but I have to say she has grown immensely on me as the reality of her situation has become clearer. She has shown remarkable courage and resilience in the face of some pretty intense psychological and physical abuse and neglect, the destruction of her family, and having been isolated in unfamiliar territory where it is made abundantly clear to her that she is a hostage and pawn of dubious value who knows next to none of the "actual" rules of play in the Game. The only thing that saves her in the end is luck, resilience and yes, a fine sense of social intelligence that is uniquely her own.

Arya is only interesting inasmuch as she's been allowed to run wild and buck gender conventions by virtue of parental indulgence. It does not actually serve her well socially - she has to constantly disguise herself as male to avoid detection, capture, abuse and worse. Truly, her behavior in any less endearing a character could be classified as sociopathic. She is a cold-blooded ruthless killer. The only reason we cheer her on is because she's had so much bandwidth devoted to her first person narrative that we tightly identify with her story. And there's an interesting thing to think on.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:06 PM on April 7, 2014 [14 favorites]


oh and I forgot to add: Margarey Tyrell, by comparison, is nineteen and has been playing the Game from birth. Assuming Sansa survives, it will be interesting to see how well she plays the Game at Margarey's current age.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:09 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cersei annoyed me because she really deferred to fall into the cliche of "evil eoversexed tiger moms" that pops up every so often. Looking at it in those terms Cersei being undone by her own feminine idiocy becomes depressingly unsurprising.

And oh yeah, Martin had to toss in the lesbian seduction scene. Because of stereotypes. Really, I sometimes suspect that Martin's true goal was to write as trashy a fantasy novel as possible: Judith Krantz's "Lord of the Rings".

Then again, it's not as though there's much scope for women in these books: basically it's either queen/princess or prostitute. We've got one each of the female knight and ninja, sorry all you other women.
posted by happyroach at 4:16 PM on April 7, 2014


meh he's writing from within a social construct that has very tight gender constraints. He writes his female characters pretty compassionately, for all that.

He could for sure write a tale that would indulge the sensitivities of the contemporary progressive psyche, and I'm sure he'd do a good job of it, too, but it would bear very little basis in reality / truth to the actual War of the Roses, which is his sociopolitical framework.
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:20 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Then again, it's not as though there's much scope for women in these books: basically it's either queen/princess or prostitute. We've got one each of the female knight and ninja, sorry all you other women.

I could not disagree more strongly. One of the reasons I love ASoIaF is because the female characters are so much more diverse and well written than in almost any other epic fantasy I've ever seen. There are multiple queens and princesses, yes, but they aren't carbon copies of each other; Arya is not Cersei is not Sansa is not Lysa is not Ygritte is not Daenerys is not Melisandre is not Brienne is not Margery. They are all different characters, with different motivations and flaws and desires and strengths. No braid-tugging here.
posted by KathrynT at 4:23 PM on April 7, 2014 [11 favorites]


Truly, her behavior in any less endearing a character could be classified as sociopathic. She is a cold-blooded ruthless killer. The only reason we cheer her on is because she's had so much bandwidth devoted to her first person narrative that we tightly identify with her story. And there's an interesting thing to think on.

One of the things I've been musing on lately is the various character arcs. Jaime Lannister went from being one of the least interesting and most "villainous" characters to one of the most interesting over the course of ASOS; even my wife - who has only watched the show - noted how much more interesting he became after losing his sword hand.

So if we have some arcs going in which characters are redeemed (to us, the readers - not sure Jaime will ever really be "redeemed" morally (I know many people who will never forgive him for throwing Bran from the tower, no matter what he does), but redeemed in the sense of moving from an unsympathetic to a sympathetic character); should we not also expect some character arcs that move in the opposite direction? And who is most likely to fit those arcs, given what we know now? (and I have a few in mind, but will stick with one for here).

I'm starting to view Arya as a bit like Tony Soprano or Walter White...I enjoy the heck out of the characters, but as it goes along, there is increasing discomfort with what they are and seeing them succeed.

But if the Hound can quote Omar, maybe it is ok for Arya to steal a little from Mr. White. Arya is the one who knocks, and everyone in King's Landing should tread lightly...
posted by nubs at 4:31 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Someone can write a book about trophy wives and mafia mistresses with all kinds of diverse realized personalities....but it's still all about trophy wives and mafia mistresses. Best in Mind I am freely letting my annoyance with the Cersei cliche color my view of the series.
posted by happyroach at 4:34 PM on April 7, 2014


Are trophy wives and mafia mistresses inherently unsuitable to be the subject of a book?
posted by KathrynT at 4:36 PM on April 7, 2014


Hmm. Margaery + Jon Snow = Iron Throne?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:36 PM on April 7, 2014


I found the hound to be a really interesting character. He did things I really didn't expect, especially in storm of swords with arya.
posted by sio42 at 4:39 PM on April 7, 2014


IMHO the Hound is the closest thing to a "true knight" in Westeros.
posted by KathrynT at 4:40 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


What makes you say that? Not snarky, I know only very high level of most of the period of history the books are covering, and most of it from art history classes, not plain ol' history.
posted by sio42 at 4:52 PM on April 7, 2014


Well, by Westeros's definition. He's one of the few who seems to realize that honor means nothing if it's in the service of evil. For all that he claims to have no honor, he's about the only person Arya can really trust.
posted by KathrynT at 5:01 PM on April 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Really, I sometimes suspect that Martin's true goal was to write as trashy a fantasy novel as possible

Are you a big reader of fantasy? 'Cause I think you're grossly underestimating the level of trash out there.
posted by Justinian at 5:15 PM on April 7, 2014 [14 favorites]


No braid-tugging here.

I see what you did there.
posted by asperity at 5:18 PM on April 7, 2014 [5 favorites]


hen again, it's not as though there's much scope for women in these books: basically it's either queen/princess or prostitute. We've got one each of the female knight and ninja, sorry all you other women.

I sort of see where you are coming from, though I agree much more with KatherynT above. And at first I was saying: you are making a fantasy world with dragons and zombies, can't women have political power? And yes, that would have been an interesting choice to make. But I think maybe as useful a point is to show how miserably bad things would be, in a special way, for most women in a remotely realistic stuck in feudalism forever society. And maybe it gets some people thinking about what was it really like to be even a noblewoman around 1000.
posted by shothotbot at 6:01 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's not like things are super great for the men, either. In fact, I have an interpretation of the whole ASoIaF series that the main antagonist, more than the Lannisters or the Others or whomever, is the patriarchy. Every single point of view character squirms around under the oppressiveness of that fucked up culture. And given Martin's choices in the book -- which, let's be clear, EVERYTHING in the book is a choice Martin makes, he's not bound by "historical accuracy" in any way whatsoever -- I think that's deliberate. He didn't have to write Robb, Jaime, or Ned chafed by honor and its expectations to the extent that he did. He didn't have to spend quite so much time on the exact nature of how power changes hands, both within the system (male primogeniture) and outside of it (might makes right), if he didn't want to shine a light on those matters. He didn't have to establish the Night's Watch as the only fricking meritocracy on the planet if he didn't want it to stand in contrast to everything else. What's the turning point in Jaime's sympathetic arc? When he realizes that Brienne, who could beat him in a fair fight, is vulnerable to rape by their captors, and when he realizes that the only way to help her escape that fate is by appealing to wealth of her father. Even the deal with the whole Prince that was Promised prophecy -- Maester Aemon alone realizes the gender-ridiculousness in presuming that the Prince is male, since the word in Valyrian is gender-neutral.

I have a lot of feelings about this.
posted by KathrynT at 6:25 PM on April 7, 2014 [23 favorites]


let's not forget that Martin was in his earlier life a screenwriter who did things like the Beauty and the Beast series, and that the entire ASOIAF series was done, at least at the outset, as a sort of mental holiday from the constraints of Hollywood script and screenwriting.

like KathrynT, I have a lot of feelings about this series, and also seeing as the author's niece and personal assistant is a close friend of mine I should probably be parsimonious with my interpretations in these threads as knowing the family likely makes me vulnerable to projecting my own stuff here.
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:32 PM on April 7, 2014


The only reason we cheer her on is because she's had so much bandwidth devoted to her first person narrative that we tightly identify with her story. And there's an interesting thing to think on.

Hm, it's not just that, but that she has an interesting arc. While she's in the loving embrace of her family, Arya doesn't want to be a princess but a fighter. If Cersei wants the political power afforded to male nobles, Arya wants martial power. Martin offers her (limited) martial skills and removes her family support exposing her to poverty, slavery and harassment. The Hound and Jaqen H'ghar help her get by due to their prowess, but Arya must change all together in order to acquire similar skills and the results of that journey are yet to be seen.
posted by ersatz at 6:54 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Danny's brother Viserys. It's strongly implied that his "waking the dragon" rages aren't just fits of anger but some kind of mental issue.

In the Dunk and Egg novellas, we also have Aerion "Brightflame" another Targaryen prince who is handsome, haughty, and prone to fits of psychopathy.
posted by dhens at 7:06 PM on April 7, 2014


Varys is all about stability, from what I can tell. Well, he's all about the smallfolk and he knows how much they suffer when the Game of Thrones is played.

I have to disagree (somewhat). It's Varys says to various characters, and perhaps what he has made himself believe, but I think he is a schemer on a much, much larger scale than anyone else we have seen.

I am partial to a certain theory about Varys:
SPOILER for non-book readers, also for book readers who haven't read the Tales of Dunk and Egg

Varys is the brother of Serra, Illyrio Mopatis's late wife wife. They were both scions of the Blackfyre dynasty, descended from a legitimized bastard of a Targaryen king, who had led several rebellions against the Iron Throne over the last century. "Young Griff" is actually the son of Illyrio and Serra, being raised to think he is Aegon, son of Rhaegar, but actually a plot to restore the Blackfyres to power, with everyone thinking he's a Targaryen.

END POTENTIAL SPOILER
posted by dhens at 7:17 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sansa is amazing. She's not just been protected because she's pretty but because she is herself a valuable player as the presumed last and oldest Stark child, directly tied by intermarriage to a bunch of families (her aunt to the last King, her other aunt in the tower, now the Lannisters) and as the Queen of the North. She is very valuable and any children she has will have the strongest claim to the north and to the Iron Throne indirectly.

She's also not just a foolish girl - she knows how terrible things are. She grew up loved - and GoT is pretty clear about what a difference love makes to people. Jon Snow was loved by his siblings and his father, while Jeoffrey wasn't (isn't there an implication of a child before him who was the King's (brownhaired) but died) and the way Danny's brother raised her horrifically but she had vague memories of kind caretakers and then blossomed when she was married and loved by Drogo. Love doesn't mean you live, but without love you become Reek.

Sansa lives through the horrific loss of everyone she loves, alone in a city where she is aware that her life and physical safety from rape and torture is constantly at risk, and at the end of DWD, she is still able to show genuine kindness and love to someone who desperately needs it, and simply because she has that to offer and not because she will benefit from giving that love. Arya is a wonderful character, but she is utterly destroyed for who she was, and rebuilt in pain. Sansa survives with her heart intact.

The scene in 4x01 where she receives the drunkard's necklace with dignity to him and kindness is so very Sansa. She doesn't want to die, she wants to live and be happy, but not at the cost of those she loves or her own self. So she goes to where no-one will talk to her, withdrawing rather than fighting a power battle she can't play without becoming vicious or dying, a strategic choice that's self aware.

Sansa for the Iron Throne!
posted by viggorlijah at 7:21 PM on April 7, 2014 [10 favorites]


Spoilers for show watchers, I guess...



Sansa under the tutelage of Little Finger makes me worried for her otherwise kind nature.
posted by codacorolla at 7:27 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


codacorolla, I have expressed a similar fear (spoilers)
posted by dhens at 7:31 PM on April 7, 2014


KathrynT - thanks for the reply about knights. I get it now. And that makes him an even more interesting character.
posted by sio42 at 7:32 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Then again, it's not as though there's much scope for women in these books: basically it's either queen/princess or prostitute.

Even if this were the case, it would be understandable, since this is a story about noble families. I mean, many of the main male characters are kings or princes.

But is absolutely not true that the only roles for women in Game of Thrones is princess/queen or prostitute. Just off the top of my head we have:

A knight: Brienne
A tribal warrior: Ygritte
A wizard: Melissandre
A matriarch with an acid tongue: Oleanna Tyrell
A warrior woman (sure, she's a warrior princes): Asha/Yara
A translator: Missandei
posted by lunasol at 7:35 PM on April 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Harma Dogshead is a wildling woman who is known as a fierce warrior.

Can't remember their names but there are two women with surname Mormont who come from a family where women are taught martial skill.
posted by sio42 at 7:44 PM on April 7, 2014


Oh and meera reed is not a queen, princess, or prostitute.
posted by sio42 at 7:45 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Seconding viggorlijah - Sansa FTW! I want to see her on the Iron Throne! She is one of my favorite characters. I think the books show her to more advantage than the show, as she is such a private person, by necessity, and much of her thoughts we only get to glimpse because a chapter is from her POV.

Show!Sansa isn't as interesting, though I think Sophie Turner does a great job. And Show!Tyrion is no where near as horrifying a husband to a sheltered and romantic young girl as his book counterpart. He's not the handsome and charismatic Peter Dinklage, to be sure.

As was pointed out upthread, Sansa was brought up to be a decorative lady who knew how to embroider and play the harp and charm her husband. As the elder and prettier Stark daughter, she would be expected to make a grand marriage. And since her prime example for marriage was Ned and Catelyn, who had a solid and happy arranged marriage, there was nothing that could have told Sansa that she wouldn't marry a decent guy and make her marriage work. Cue Joffrey and disillusionment.

Margaery is the political player that she is in the show (in the books she is younger and more passive) because she wasn't sheltered like Sansa was. She had her savvy grandmother as a role model, while Sansa had dutiful, honorable Ned and Catelyn.

Sansa actually has undergone considerable character development from CoK onwards in the books.

Spoilers for AFFC:


(Sansa undergoes a huge amount of character development in this book, and is tutored/perved on by Littlefinger. And one of LF's reasons for destroying the realm - and possibly the main one - is because he didn't get to marry Catelyn Tully and his feefees were permanently hurt.

End spoilers

Whether the books are written as an indictment of patriarchy, I agree with KathrynM that they do come across as this, whether or not that was GRRM's stated intention. Life sucks for you if you don't fit into your gender role. Just ask Sam Tarly. The people - men OR women - who have more or less complete agency are very few. Tywin Lannister (male, stinkin' rich, powerful family, ruthless personality), Varys (foreigner, eunuch, operates under the radar), Ygritte (from a culture that is much more gender equal and values fighting women) are three I can name off the top of my head. Meera Reed as well, but we aren't shown much about crannogmen culture. I'm guessing it's mostly like the wildlings, and women are more valued and have more leeway with their gender roles.

Poor Sam Tarly, such a disappointment to his dad, didn't really have any more agency than Sansa. His dad threatened him with a "hunting accident" if he didn't take the black.

I read a lot of critique of both gender and social hierarchy stuff in the books. While I'd love to see Sansa wind up on the Throne eventually, I also would love a cracky ending where everyone is so sick of kings that they wind up with a republic and Davos Seaworth as president. That won't happen, but I or someone can dream or fanfic. (And WTF one of book!Davos' better moments, urging Stannis to go to the Wall and defend the realm, given to Melisandre? Phhbtt. Davos is the one who keeps Stannis on an even keel, and Stannis values him because he speaks the truth and doesn't kiss butt.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:49 PM on April 7, 2014 [8 favorites]


IMHO the Hound is the closest thing to a "true knight" in Westeros.

What makes you say that? Not snarky, I know only very high level of most of the period of history the books are covering, and most of it from art history classes, not plain ol' history.


Well, if you consider the general virtues associated with knighthood, he displays bravery in battle (the Blackwater being an exception, but I would argue there is no shame in a man who fears fire running from that battle - and he takes time to break; later, he fights Beric and Beric's burning sword with some hesitation, but he does fight); he protects the weak and the defenseless (Sansa and Arya in particular, but he also steps in to save Loras Tyrell from his beserker brother during a tourney); he is perhaps the most honest man in Westeros; he is a tough man, but not usually unnecessarily cruel (except for with the butcher's boy - and it can be argued that he was keeping faith with those in authority at that time); and unlike many of the men in Westeros, he doesn't seem to do much of anything in the way of whoring or raping.

He's not the ideal, but his behaviour often betrays the coarse, fearsome exterior he portrays to the world. I suspect that as a child he was much entranced at the stories of knights and their heroic deeds; seeing his psychopathic older brother made a knight was disillusioning and he never wanted to follow in those footsteps - seeing it as a hollow distinction, meaningless and lacking in honour when cruel butchers are given the title. And I think we often underestimate the impact someone like Sansa - with her naive views and storybook outlook - can have on the people around her. I think meeting the Stark children, and Sansa in particular, who believe in nobility and duty and honour, re-awoke that part of Sandor that wanted to be a knight and to serve a noble and just lord.
posted by nubs at 7:53 PM on April 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


My question is, does Westeros even deserve a Queen Sansa.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:24 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


And another thing about Sansa is that, in the books at least, she does demonstrate a remarkable level of social intelligence. She knows how to read people around her and react in a way that keeps her alive and mostly intact in the snakepit that is King's Landing. She gets people to help her. And in the books, Tyrion reflects that Sansa is very good at her court duties and making small talk.

I think her brattiness in the early story arc was as much about being over-sheltered as anything. She was never really put on the spot or had her abilities tested. She was sheltered and loved, and don't forget, she absolutely embodied the epitome of what a young noblewoman should be in looks, manners, and accomplishment. Again in the books, Arya reflects on how well-read and musically talented Sansa is, though Arya is better at math and riding horses. Neither Stark girl is unintelligent.

Moving on to Viserys, I wonder how much of the Targaryen madness would have manifested in him if he didn't have a childhood worthy of Dickens? At seven years old, his crazy pyromaniac father is killed by one of his own guards, and then his mother dies in childbirth. He becomes a political refugee, and responsible for an infant sister as her only remaining family. Then he and his sister are thrown out of their home after their protector dies, and spend years wandering around Essos, where he is mocked as "the beggar king" and has to worry about being assassinated AND is still exclusively responsible for the care of his little sister - while still in his mid-teens. I'm not excusing Viserys' abuse of Dany, but I think his life from age seven on would have cracked the mind of even someone without hereditary insanity in their background. Not to mention that his father regularly abused and raped his mother and Viserys must have witnessed that even before the Rebellion. Targaryen madness or my-life-is-an-endless-shitshow madness?
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:31 PM on April 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


Weiss and Benioff have now been quoted as saying they think they're going to go 7 seasons. If accurate I'd say that puts the odds of Martin staying ahead of them at roughly 0%. Maybe 0.0%

He took 11 years to produce the last two books and he's going to knock out the next two books in 3 years? Yeah, no.

It's also interesting in that it means the producers recognize how unnecessarily bloated and tedious the last couple of books have been. They're spending 4 seasons on the first 3 books and then 3 seasons on the next 4 books despite the page count of each book growing longer and longer?

Not a bad call, really. Does anybody think there is enough decent material in Feast and Dance for 4 seasons?
posted by Justinian at 8:33 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I'm also excited because it means we'll see the end of the story in 2017! I didn't expect it until 2024 or so if ever with emphasis on "if ever".
posted by Justinian at 8:33 PM on April 7, 2014


Feast and Dance would make for two seasons, max, I think. (I haven't seen the TV show so I'm judging by the estimation of ~20 hours of TV time.)

Did Benioff and Weiss explain why they think they'll stop at 7 seasons? I think it could be because of the more pragmatic reason that many of the younger characters in the series may have to be re-cast after that time due to the current cast members outgrowing their fictional counterparts.
posted by all the versus at 8:41 PM on April 7, 2014


It was the usual mediaspeak about always having aimed for 7 seasons and 7 seasons being a nice long run for HBO and so on. But, yeah, practical reasons are gonna loom very, very large after 7 seasons. If nothing else I think the major actors are only currently contracted through 7 seasons. Can you imagine how much an 8th season would cost? The salary demands would be outrageous.

But it's definitely convenient that there isn't enough decent material in the last two books for more than two seasons. There is so much blather they can get rid of! Tyrion's boat ride! Tyrion's OTHER boat ride! So much Dany and Jon nothingness!
posted by Justinian at 8:46 PM on April 7, 2014


Obligatory:
http://blackadder.wikia.com/wiki/Infanta_Maria_Escalosa_of_Spain
I searched for the charming film of Blackadder reading the princess a bed-time story.

Some of my ancestresses were princesses married far too young.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:50 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


My question is, does Westeros even deserve a Queen Sansa.

I've only seen the TV show, but my impression is that the vast bulk of Westeros is peasants and farmers just trying to make ends meet, pay their taxes, feed their families, and get through another day. All the assholes fighting each other over lands and titles and power and politics, actively making it harder for everyone (and themselves) to survive another day, they shouldn't be the focus of this sort of question.
posted by anonymisc at 8:59 PM on April 7, 2014 [3 favorites]


lonefrontranger: "meh he's writing from within a social construct that has very tight gender constraints. He writes his female characters pretty compassionately, for all that.

He could for sure write a tale that would indulge the sensitivities of the contemporary progressive psyche, and I'm sure he'd do a good job of it, too, but it would bear very little basis in reality / truth to the actual War of the Roses, which is his sociopolitical framework.
"

Without going into spoilers, I would argue that in the last book Martin specifically targets these "progressive" sensitivities in a way that is effectively Wire-esque. The meta-narrative is about our favorite characters in positions of power fighting (- and failing!) to enact changes against the binding systems in perverse societies, institutions, and cultures. And I *particularly* liked what Martin was trying to do and say about the idea of single actors in institutions.

He is directly talking about the meta-narratives in our fiction that, teleologically, *we take into the real world*, when we say stuff like "enact change" or "bring justice."
posted by stratastar at 9:26 PM on April 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


From the other GOT thread: Between the Lines: Game of Thrones
posted by homunculus at 11:29 PM on April 7, 2014


Reading Martin's first novel "Dying of the Light" put to rest any doubts I had that Martin fully intends ASoIaF to be an indictment of patriarchy. That book is all about gender roles and honor codes, it's something Martin's been thinking about for some time.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 11:35 PM on April 7, 2014


It's also a damn fine work of science fiction. Recommended.
posted by Justinian at 3:18 AM on April 8, 2014


Weiss and Benioff have now been quoted as saying they think they're going to go 7 seasons.

Oh good. I was literally thinking about this when I woke up. Martin will probably publish the next book before/around the final season, we'll get an/the ending by the show and then Martin will have a decade to write the next book and appendices with recipes for every wedding course in the series.

Now I thought the last two books could have done with a 25-33% trimming, so that's more like 50% in show terms and a season for each if the current pacing is kept, which would mean a season for the yet unwritten remaining two books. So they'd probably disregard WoW whether its ready or not and wrap things up faster although I wouldn't be surprised to see certain events take place earlier.

Btw if anyone's read Martin's piece in Dangerous Women, it raises some points about how useful dragons are in armed conflict.
posted by ersatz at 4:27 AM on April 8, 2014


There may be some minor spoilers here, but regarding what Weiss and Benioff said about how 7 seasons "feels right":

1. The 7 Seasons do not necessarily have to be in contiguous years. GRRM has implied that he would support a mid-show hiatus.
2. Ser Duncan the Tall was name-dropped in the first episode of season 4 and Joffrey called attention to the fact that he had "four pages" in the White Book, to which Jaime responds something like, "so they say."
3. It had been rumored (and has since been confirmed by GRRM) that discussions have been had with HBO about making prequels tied to Dunk and Egg, possibly as filler while he completes the novels.
4. There may be a time leap between book 6 and 7 that would render all questions of the age of the actors moot.

Book #1 happens at the end of a long summer, the same summer in which Bran was born. ("Oh, my sweet summer child, what do you know of fear?") Books #4 (in which IIRC the maesters declare the long summer over via white ravens) through at least #5 happen in autumn. Book #6 will be The Winds of Winter. Book #7 will be A Dream of Spring. And a long summer means a long winter, so they say, which means a lot of time needs to pass (and a lot of pages) to get to the end of the story.
posted by tempestuoso at 7:19 AM on April 8, 2014


IMHO the Hound is the closest thing to a "true knight" in Westeros.

Sandor Clegane is half of the Lancelot/Roland analog in Westeros, the other half being Jamie Lannister. Particularly in the first book/series, the contrast between the public and private behaviours is drawn in sharp contrast. Who is the truer knight?

Brienne, of course, is the pure-hearted questing knight, Galahad. That's why she and Jamie (the fallen Lancelot) are important together.
posted by bonehead at 8:10 AM on April 8, 2014


"I also would love a cracky ending where everyone is so sick of kings that they wind up with a republic and Davos Seaworth as president"

Every time I watch any of the show (haven't read the books), I end up being REALLY glad not to be in a feudal society.
posted by epersonae at 10:43 AM on April 8, 2014


yeah, every time the show wrings its hands about who should inherit and who is Lord of what and who needs to marry whom in order to assure what, my husband ends up yelling at the tv "ORRRR you could just institute a representative democracy!!!"
posted by KathrynT at 10:45 AM on April 8, 2014


I sometimes wonder how anyone considers the Targs the rightful royalty when I'm pretty sure that some Aegon way back when deposed a king from a different family. So why wouldn't Baratheons be rightful rulers since Robert defeated Rhaegar?

I don't understand the logic behind it all.
posted by sio42 at 11:17 AM on April 8, 2014


There's a scene in the books where two Westerosi characters are in Volantis, a large slave city in Essos where certain propertied free individuals are allowed to vote for the "triarchs" (the three-man ruling body of the city), during campaign season. I have redaced the names of these individuals, but it shows their meditations on a very rudimentary "democracy."

Character 1: "Is this some holy day?"

Character 2:
"Third day of their elections. They last for ten. Ten days of madness. Torchlight marches, speeches, mummers and minstrels and dancers, bravos fighting death duels for the honor of their candidates, elephants with the names of would-be triarchs painted on their sides. Those jugglers are performing for Methyso."

Character 1: "Remind me to vote for someone else." ... Below, the crowd was flinging coins at the jugglers. "Do all these would-be triarchs provide mummer shows?"

Character 2: "They do whatever they think will win them votes." ... "Food, drink, spectacle … Alios has sent a hundred pretty slave girls out into the streets to lie with voters."

Character 1: "I'm for him... Bring me a slave girl."

Character 2: "They're for freeborn Volantenes with enough property to vote. Precious few voters west of the river."

Character 1:
"And this goes on for ten days? I might enjoy that, though three kings is two too many... [In Westeros, one] would kill the other two inside a year. I am surprised these triarchs don't do the same."

Character 2: "A few have tried. Might be the Volantenes are the clever ones and us Westerosi the fools. Volantis has known her share of follies, but she's never suffered a boy triarch. Whenever a madman's been elected, his colleagues restrain him until his year has run its course. Think of the dead who might still live if Mad Aerys only had two fellow kings to share the rule."
posted by dhens at 11:20 AM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I sometimes wonder how anyone considers the Targs the rightful royalty when I'm pretty sure that some Aegon way back when deposed a king from a different family. So why wouldn't Baratheons be rightful rulers since Robert defeated Rhaegar?

I don't understand the logic behind it all.


Aegon the Conqueror united all of Westeros below the Wall 300 years before the third book. Before then, it had not been one polity. He basically installed himself as an overlord, allowing the previous kings to serve as Lord Paramounts of their former kingdoms if they swore fealty to him.

You are right in that Aegon claimed right of conquest. Robert did the same (with a fig leaf of legitimacy, as his grandmother was a Targaryen). Renly also appealed to might in trying to skip over his elder brother Stannis and niece Shireen.
posted by dhens at 11:23 AM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the logic behind it all.

That's the beauty - logic is revealed as a story created after the events, a fairy-tale that serves whoever managed to come out on top. Who that will be comes down to might and loyalties and realpolitik. There is no legitimacy to any of it. Only power and circumstance.
posted by anonymisc at 11:36 AM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


So I guess the logic is that Aegon the conqueror united them and it made things better for a while because the many smaller lords weren't fighting each other all the time like they are now, destroying the farms and villages and people. And most people were far removed from the Mad King's madness.

Hmm. I guess thinking about it from the uniting of westeros angle it does kinda make more sense.

I had forgotten about that aspect of uniting and was just remembering the most recent fighting over succession to the throne from Robert's Rebellion to now.
posted by sio42 at 12:02 PM on April 8, 2014


I sometimes wonder how anyone considers the Targs the rightful royalty when I'm pretty sure that some Aegon way back when deposed a king from a different family. So why wouldn't Baratheons be rightful rulers since Robert defeated Rhaegar?

Aegon was at Dragonstone - an outpost of Valyria - when the Doom of Valyria happened. Rather than go back east and reconquer the Free Cities - which used to be part of the Valyrian Freehold - he went West. He landed at what is now known as King's Landing with his two sisters (and wives), a small army, and three dragons.

Westeros was not a united Kingdom at that time; it was seven different Kingdoms. Aegon went on to either defeat in the field or accept the surrender of six of them. Those he defeated were pretty much destroyed; those who knelt (which includes the Starks, who came south with their armies, saw how Aegon's army had grown, along with the dragons, and decided to kneel) were allowed to retain their lands.

The seventh kingdom - Dorne - did not fall to conquest, but eventually came into the Seven Kingdoms through marriage and alliance.

So the precedent for there being one King in all of the Seven Kingdoms is based on the right of conquest and the use of force. Robert's Rebellion placed him on the Throne for the same reason - his forces overthrew those of the Mad King and his allies. I do recall a quick conversation in the books in which it is mentioned that Robert was made the leader/head of the Rebellion because his family had the closest blood ties to the Targaryens at that time; but in all honesty, it could have been Ned Stark (who had lost a sister, brother, and father to the King) or Jon Arryn (who was the foster father for both Ned and Robert, and who chose to defy the King's request to hand over both of them and so begin a rebellion).

By law - with Joffrey not being trueborn of Baratheon - Stannis has the best claim after Robert's death. But, just because their father lost the throne, does not mean that the surviving Targaryen children don't have a claim to it as well...and it comes down to the fact that there are competing claims to the throne, so who has the ability to force their way onto it and hold it? And some of the Kings who rise during the War of the Five Kings are not after the Iron Throne, but rather to restore their realm as an independent Kingdom, as it was before Aegon.

tl;dr - Aegon created the precedent for there being one king by conquest; Robert's Rebellion proved that it could all be changed or potentially undone if someone has the strength of arms to enforce their plan.
posted by nubs at 12:25 PM on April 8, 2014


every time the show wrings its hands about who should inherit and who is Lord of what and who needs to marry whom in order to assure what, my husband ends up yelling at the tv "ORRRR you could just institute a representative democracy!!!"

Getting slightly back to the OP... I've been reading Hilary Mantel's Cromwell books, and it has sort of answered some of that. I always used to wonder, when reading about Henry VIII, why the English nobility put up with him; all that trouble, all that instability, all that risk, just so he could get a new wife. But one thing Mantel makes clear through implication is that the memory of the War of the Roses is terribly fresh for everyone in Henry's court, and the civil war was so bad, they will put up with any indignity in order to prevent it from happening again.

Recall too that up until the American Revolution, democracy was known as "that system the Athenians tried that left them too weak to defend themselves." It was pretty widely considered a given that democracy was quick road to internal strife and foreign invasion.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:09 PM on April 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


My suspicion is that through heroic effort and sheer luck Sansa will be able to weld together an alliance that will secure peace and prosperity for Westeros for generations.

And then Sansa does up arty the wedding and starts killing people who need killing. Because I've been in one of those games that crashed and burned because everyone is really into playing politics...except the one guy who wants to play a ninja.
posted by happyroach at 1:29 PM on April 8, 2014


So why wouldn't Baratheons be rightful rulers since Robert defeated Rhaegar?

The Baratheons are a cadet branch of the Targaryens. Thus, Dany (or someone else who may or may not be who he seems), as the (probably) only surviving member of the Targaryen dynasty, has a much stronger claim to the throne than any Baratheon, even a legitimate one (e.g. Stannis).

In modern-day terms, Robert is kind of the Duke of Kent, while Dany is Princess Anne. (Assumeing Charles, William, George, Andrew, and Edward all snuffed it).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:31 PM on April 8, 2014


1. The 7 Seasons do not necessarily have to be in contiguous years. GRRM has implied that he would support a mid-show hiatus.

A mid-show hiatus is a complete non starter for practical reasons. It's impossible.
posted by Justinian at 2:10 PM on April 8, 2014


The competing claims is also why Robert wants to ensure that all the Tarygaryens are dead, because he knows their claims provide fuel for potential uprisings/rebellions of their own.
posted by nubs at 2:11 PM on April 8, 2014


Well (SPOILER WARNING), that and his unthinking blind rage that Lyanna Stark shockingly followed her own heart and fell in love with Rhaegar and not Robert.

Basically the rebellion came down to "The King is mad as a box of frogs, and I didn't get to fuck the woman I wanted."

One wonders about an alternate history of Westeros in which Jaime still killed Aerys, but Rhaegar lived and inherited the throne.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:36 PM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's the beauty - logic is revealed as a story created after the events, a fairy-tale that serves whoever managed to come out on top. Who that will be comes down to might and loyalties and realpolitik. There is no legitimacy to any of it. Only power and circumstance.

I love how the tale of a legitimate claim is spun to prop up a power grab, and it's very important to spin, but at the end of the day the peasants don't care - it's just another king. And the people with real power don't care - they know it's a fairy tale. Largely it's just all those bannermen and lords and knights who are a couple of steps removed from power that buy into it, because honor and all that. The middle management of Westeros props up the system. And sometimes they're rewarded for it and get to advance, so it makes sense for them to buy in. But the people who make really significant leaps in status are the ones who just don't buy it, because they can manipulate those who do - just point them at an affront to honor and let them do their thing. It makes me wonder just how much manipulation played a factor in starting Robert's Rebellion, because of course Robert and the Starks were going to do what they did in those circumstances, just like Stannis is doing, just like Robb did, just like Jon is flirting with doing.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:51 PM on April 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Robert wanted the throne, make no mistake. The "capture" of Lyanna was convenient, but no more than excuse. Others could have been found, with the same result. Worst case, I think Baratheon would have just killed Rhaegar and brazened it out: "Yeah I killed him. You wanna be next?"
posted by bonehead at 2:53 PM on April 8, 2014


Well, that and his unthinking blind rage that Lyanna Stark shockingly followed her own heart and fell in love with Rhaegar and not Robert.

I didn't think Robert knew this, though? In AGOT Eddard II Robert asks Ned "how many times do you think [Rhaegar] raped your sister?". I'd always read the surface text as 'everyone thinks R abducted L', with the subtext, known maybe to Ned but few others, being 'they were together consensually'.

And the rebellion surely started with Brandon Stark threatening Rheagar at the Red Keep, followed by the Mad King's murder of Brandon and Rickard and demand that Jon Arryn give up Robert and Ned, at which point Jon raised his banners....so it was Jon who really initiated the rebellion. (And picking up on points above, it was maybe called Robert's Rebellion to give it some post hoc legitimacy).
posted by Pink Frost at 3:16 PM on April 8, 2014


Oh for sure, Robert wanted his ass on that pile of metal. But given his devotion to Lyanna in both Book one and S1E01, she was more than just an excuse.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:17 PM on April 8, 2014


The Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna story is the party line, of course, but I'm not actually sure whether it is believed by anyone except Robert. It's a patently ridiculous and obvious lie that wouldn't fool anyone who isn't willfully blind like Robert.
posted by Justinian at 3:41 PM on April 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna story is the party line, of course, but I'm not actually sure whether it is believed by anyone except Robert.

Yeah, the Reed children think that Lyanna had been infatuated with Rhaegar since she had met him at the Tourney at Harrenhall.
posted by dhens at 3:46 PM on April 8, 2014


I just ctrl-F'd Gilly and she hasn't been mentioned once in this thread.
posted by Elmore at 4:04 PM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Gilly is pretty much a bog-standard Damsel In Distress (who takes Sam's virginity).

Which means she's either yet afuckingnother named character who'll just disappear shortly, or she's going to upset the DID trope.

The best thing GRRM's editor can do is put a hard rule: NO MORE NEW CHARACTERS.

(Well, the second best. The best thing is chaining him to a desk, provide three hots and a cot, and a chamber pot. The chains get undone when Book 7 is finished.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:11 PM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, that and his unthinking blind rage that Lyanna Stark shockingly followed her own heart and fell in love with Rhaegar and not Robert.

OK, should we be spoiler warning this? Because while the books have given us readers plenty of clues to figure this out, I don't think there's been anything about it on the show yet and I also know plenty of book readers for whom the idea that what happened with Lyanna was not an abduction and rape is still cause for utter disbelief and shock when it comes up in conversation about the books.
posted by nubs at 4:21 PM on April 8, 2014


Er, oops. Mods could you add a spoiler warning to the comment in question? http://www.metafilter.com/138085/Maybe-I-Dont-Want-To-Be-A-Princess-After-All#5497587
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:25 PM on April 8, 2014


[Done, though in general while it's good of folks to try and take care about the book vs. series dichotomy, I think folks need to to some extent make peace with the fact that a discussion of this series on Metafilter is often likely to contain discussion of series themes that don't sync up super well with where the show vs. the books are.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:30 PM on April 8, 2014


Ta, cortex. And noted.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:33 PM on April 8, 2014


Spoilers ahoy!

And the rebellion surely started with Brandon Stark threatening Rheagar at the Red Keep, followed by the Mad King's murder of Brandon and Rickard and demand that Jon Arryn give up Robert and Ned, at which point Jon raised his banners....so it was Jon who really initiated the rebellion. (And picking up on points above, it was maybe called Robert's Rebellion to give it some post hoc legitimacy).

I think the seeds of the Rebellion actually come much earlier. In Dance, we start getting some deep backstory on those times, and the maneuvers of the major Houses (Stark, Baratheon, Tully, Lannister, etc) starts looking...odd. Apparently, it was uncommon for the sons and daughters of the Major Houses to intermarry, and far more likely that they would be married to Houses that were in service to them as a means of keeping the allegiances strong. But we have a generation where Stark and Tully pledged to marry, as do Stark and Baratheon, while the Lannisters are shopping children to Tarygaryen and Martell. Even the fact that Arryn (another major House, often overlooked because the Vale has not stepped forward yet) was fostering both a Baratheon and a Stark - simultaneously - starts to sound odd. Alliances - big alliances, between disparate regions of the realm were being forged. And I can't think that the Targaryens as a whole didn't notice.

I think there was some major planning going on between the major Houses with respect to the future of the realm; the Mad King just hastened everything. It sounds like Rhaegar (who, from every description in the books seems like one of the Targaryens who came out on the "gifted" end rather than the "mad") might even have been willing to bring everyone together and hash out the problems, but a war(hammer) intervened. But I don't think it was solely the actions of the Mad King that prompted this; some pieces had been put in place already.

edit - thanks cortex; noted; I agree but still like to try to avoid spoiling if I can.
posted by nubs at 4:40 PM on April 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Spoilers for show watchers)

The Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna story is the party line, of course, but I'm not actually sure whether it is believed by anyone except Robert.

My read had been that Ned and Howland found out the truth at the Tower of Joy and kept it secret from everyone else, for obvious reasons. But I guess it would make just as much sense for it to be generally accepted, with everyone keeping to the party line because it was what Robert believed, and you don't needlessly antagonise the king.

Yeah, the Reed children think that Lyanna had been infatuated with Rhaegar since she had met him at the Tourney at Harrenhall.

This point made me wonder if Ned knew this at the time of the Tourney - and apparently Benjen did, so probably Ned and Brandon did. So yeah, the true story was probably more widely known than I thought - assuming the Reeds are reliable narrators ;-)
posted by Pink Frost at 4:54 PM on April 8, 2014


So many of Westeros' problems are a direct result of young people being unable to keep it in their pants.
posted by Justinian at 5:45 PM on April 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think the seeds of the Rebellion actually come much earlier. In Dance, we start getting some deep backstory on those times, and the maneuvers of the major Houses (Stark, Baratheon, Tully, Lannister, etc) starts looking...odd. Apparently, it was uncommon for the sons and daughters of the Major Houses to intermarry, and far more likely that they would be married to Houses that were in service to them as a means of keeping the allegiances strong. But we have a generation where Stark and Tully pledged to marry, as do Stark and Baratheon, while the Lannisters are shopping children to Tarygaryen and Martell. Even the fact that Arryn (another major House, often overlooked because the Vale has not stepped forward yet) was fostering both a Baratheon and a Stark - simultaneously - starts to sound odd. Alliances - big alliances, between disparate regions of the realm were being forged. And I can't think that the Targaryens as a whole didn't notice.

I think there was some major planning going on between the major Houses with respect to the future of the realm; the Mad King just hastened everything. It sounds like Rhaegar (who, from every description in the books seems like one of the Targaryens who came out on the "gifted" end rather than the "mad") might even have been willing to bring everyone together and hash out the problems, but a war(hammer) intervened. But I don't think it was solely the actions of the Mad King that prompted this; some pieces had been put in place already.


For anyone interested in a more in depth look at this, the relevant fan theory is Southron Ambitions. One of my favorites.

If you want to really get your theory reading on, The Winterfell Huis Clos is great, and huge. Some tinfoil in there, and more than a few stretches I don't quite buy, but I love it, because just what the hell is going on in and around Winterfell in ADWD is probably the question I want answered most.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:47 PM on April 8, 2014




I would like one exception to the no new characters rule: Howland Reed. He is the guy who knows what happened at the Tower of Joy.
posted by Area Man at 5:58 PM on April 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


The geology of Game of Thrones
posted by homunculus at 6:03 PM on April 8, 2014


For anyone interested in a more in depth look at this, the relevant fan theory is Southron Ambitions. One of my favorites.

I am sometimes comforted to know that I am not the only one to have come up with these ideas; I am further comforted to know that there are others who will do in the depth research and make things sound better connected than I do. Because that means there are people out there much more obsessed than I.


I would like one exception to the no new characters rule: Howland Reed. He is the guy who knows what happened at the Tower of Joy.

I was thinking about old Reed the other day; I always figured that (SPOILERS) Rickon would wind up at Greywater Watch and come out with the story, but that seems less likely given what we hear in ADWD. That being said, I think there is now another way for the story to come out, and that is through Bran.
posted by nubs at 6:04 PM on April 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I keep thinking that we aren't necessarily gonna get new characters, just that we'll hear from pov of.characters we've only heard named previously.

Or varys will start having major flashbacks.

It's kind of hard to think that all of this happened in a relatively short amount of time since people start being in the kingsguard and getting married and fighting in wars in their midteens and early 20s.

Also I like book sansa a lot better I think, esp after finally seeing the s4 premiere.

Hopefully tvsansa has some good character development coming.
posted by sio42 at 6:13 PM on April 8, 2014


Is there a good genealogy anywhere? So many names and intermarriages and acknowledged bastards and such.
posted by sio42 at 6:15 PM on April 8, 2014


sio42, the Wiki of Ice and Fire is excellent for that, but it does contain information from all 5 books, preview chapters of TWOW, the Dunk and Egg tales, and "The Princess and the Queen," so there be spoilers. There will also be a worldbook, The World of Ice and Fire, coming out in October.
posted by dhens at 6:19 PM on April 8, 2014


Howland Reed is supposed to appear "eventually," according to GRRM.
posted by dhens at 6:21 PM on April 8, 2014


I've read all the books.

Just re-reading now with the show.

I'll have to check out that wiki.
posted by sio42 at 6:22 PM on April 8, 2014


sio42, read the Dunk and Egg tales if you can. They provide some background, are relatively short (80-100 pages each), and much "cheerier" than the main ASOIAF series.
posted by dhens at 6:24 PM on April 8, 2014


If you want to really get your theory reading on, The Winterfell Huis Clos is great, and huge.

Just digging into your link, so I don't know if there's much overlap with The Great Northern Conspiracy, which I came across when trying to piece together what the heck is happening in the North during Dance.
posted by nubs at 6:25 PM on April 8, 2014


So many of Westeros' problems are a direct result of young people being unable to keep it in their pants.

So many of the world's problems, really.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:32 PM on April 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


As much as I dearly love the show, the one thing that I feel it hasn't been able to improve on is the tense, ever-present web of secret plans and ambitions around everyone. So much of the enjoyment I get out of the books is thinking about the implications of any move anyone makes. It really feels like any thread anyone pulls in any part of the world can bring the whole thing crashing down, and there are so many people tugging on threads. But crashing down into what, I have no idea, because holy crap we are 5 books into 7 and don't even know what the core conflict really is and who will be on what side of... whatever it is. I mean, for all the attention paid to The Wall and the most uncomfortable chair in Westeros, I'm pretty sure that they're going to be, like, second or third on the list of important things everyone should have been keeping their eyes on. But I don't know that I put much stock in all the prophecy amounting to be the key to whatever the game is either, because it just feels like that big magical prophecy balloon is too ripe for popping in the world GRRM built.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:32 PM on April 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm so ready for Winds of Winter. I should read something else meanwhile.
posted by ersatz at 6:38 PM on April 8, 2014


Sorry, here's a better link to the Grand Northern Conspiracy
posted by nubs at 8:43 AM on April 9, 2014


it hasn't been able to improve on is the tense, ever-present web of secret plans and ambitions around everyone

Not a book reader, but one thing I often notice in the show is that the "previously on Game of Thrones" introductions often very strongly telegraph which particular strands of that web are going to be tugged on during the episode. Oh, it's That Random Guy from two seasons ago? Guess he's going to be A Thing sometime this hour.

I kinda wish they'd be confident enough in the viewers' ability to follow along without having their memory jogged.

Maybe I'll start skipping the "Previously" as well as the often-mildly-spoilery "Next Time On" trailer.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:55 PM on April 9, 2014






It's also interesting in that it means the producers recognize how unnecessarily bloated and tedious the last couple of books have been. They're spending 4 seasons on the first 3 books and then 3 seasons on the next 4 books despite the page count of each book growing longer and longer?

This question gets more interesting when you remember that 4 and 5 take place simultaneously and are, if I recall, both as long as Storm Of Swords. That is, up until the end of this season (roughly), they could do things in a more straight-forward way. One season per book, two for the really fucking huge one.

Now they have to interleave stuff or just leave half the cast out of year and there's no fucking way that's going to happen. I'm curious to see what they do when we get to it.
posted by sparkletone at 3:11 PM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Goddamit, Khaleesi isn't a name it's a title.
posted by Justinian at 4:57 PM on April 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


And Betsy isn't a name, it's a nickname.
posted by asperity at 9:00 PM on April 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


At least name your kid Arya for christ's sake. That's a decent name.
posted by Justinian at 12:31 AM on April 11, 2014


if you rtfa, you will see that almost 800 kids were named Arya, compared to 120 named Khaleesi.

anyway, they really should be looking at the number of kids named Kelly C.
posted by rebent at 7:27 AM on April 11, 2014


If you think in maps, as I do, this is an excellent summary of seasons 1-3 (major spoilers). I had trouble following all the houses and the battles etc, but now I get it.
posted by desjardins at 9:57 AM on April 11, 2014 [4 favorites]


Goddamit, Khaleesi isn't a name it's a title.

I have fought that battle at my office. I have lost it.

"Khaleesi isn't a name, it's a title" are my House Words though.
posted by nubs at 10:08 AM on April 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


desjardins: I can (visualize it all so much better) now, the blur (of keeping straight approximately eleventy-hundred details' worth of battles) is gone!

Totally going to spam my fellow GoT nerds today with that link. :)
posted by cardinality at 10:33 AM on April 11, 2014


And...looks like Peter Dinklage has been doing an AMA...
posted by nubs at 10:33 AM on April 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


That mappy thing was incredibly fucking helpful. I have all the books on kindle so "flipping" to the maps was a pain in the ass.

I'm actually thinking about buying the paperback set on amazon. It's pretty cheap. Then I can force others to read it.
posted by sio42 at 6:59 PM on April 11, 2014


There are people who don't have the geography of Westeros memorized? Weirdos.
posted by Justinian at 11:50 PM on April 11, 2014


There's a new post just for them.
posted by homunculus at 12:50 AM on April 12, 2014




Eh, he tries to address some objections to his points at the end but I don't think he does a very good job. He misses the biggest one, for example, which is that you can't subvert the standard tropes of epic fantasy without using the standard tropes of epic fantasy, and the things he's objecting to are tropes which go all the way back to Tolkien and his Easterlings.
posted by Justinian at 9:30 AM on April 12, 2014


I have fought that battle at my office. I have lost it.

You are approaching this the wrong way. Let them think they have won. At the next morning meeting, you bring the doughnuts. When those who believe you vanquished bite into the doughnuts, the cunning devices hidden inside the pastries will expand, piercing their cheeks and rendering your former "coworkers" incapable of calling for aid. Then your mercenary forces will burst in, killing the guards and seizing your enemies.

You now have two choices -- you can either have the groveling fools killed and their bodies buried in unmarked graves in old invoices storage, or you can sell them to far-away Wal-Marts as night stockers.* In either case, you should say something pithy and cutting as they realize the enormity of their doom.

*If you follow the latter course, don't blame me if the wretches (or possibly their children) return to destroy you at the moment when you feel finally secure. These things happen, and it's best to have a back-up plan.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:32 AM on April 12, 2014 [2 favorites]




At the next morning meeting, you bring the doughnuts. When those who believe you vanquished bite into the doughnuts, the cunning devices hidden inside the pastries will expand, piercing their cheeks and rendering your former "coworkers" incapable of calling for aid. Then your mercenary forces will burst in, killing the guards and seizing your enemies.

I'm not quite prepared to go all Red Staff Meeting on my foes. All they've done is confuse a title for a name; it's not like they've reneged on a promise to partner with me in re-creating the policy manual or anything.
posted by nubs at 3:16 PM on April 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


Gwendoline Christie Talks Brienne of Tarth, Jaime Lannister, And Of Course, Honor

The first time I read that as "And Of Course, Hodor."
posted by homunculus at 4:01 PM on April 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not quite prepared to go all Red Staff Meeting on my foes.

I see who doesn't have quite what it takes to rise through the ranks at WesterosCo....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:55 PM on April 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Kings seem to have a slightly rougher time of it, all told.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:45 PM on April 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


At this point I'm thinking that if I were getting married in Westeros I'd probably just secretly elope.
posted by Justinian at 4:12 AM on April 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


There is a great line in the books - and maybe it's still coming up in the show - by Olenna Tyrell, something to the effect of kings better stop dying at weddings, or men in general will become more reluctant to marry.
posted by nubs at 11:18 AM on April 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


She made that comment to Sansa last night.
posted by homunculus at 11:25 AM on April 14, 2014


Ah, I missed it. To busy trying to keep tabs on the non-book readers around me to see what they were catching.
posted by nubs at 11:31 AM on April 14, 2014


No way justinian. You'd piss off some dude your parents had promised you to (or to one of his kids).

Then you end up with your pet's head on your body and your mom as a sort of zombie.

Your best bet would be to pray you get married off to...um, hmm. Well, Bravvos doesn't seem awful.

Every other family gets killed no matter how honorable or insane. And taking the black or priesthood doesn't help either.

Westeros: where no one is safe and winter is coming right at us.
posted by sio42 at 8:58 PM on April 14, 2014


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