Jon and Daenerys: When Villain Archetypes Become Heroes

jondany

If you’ve read any of the Glass Candle Dialogues, or indeed, have listened to me talk about Game of Thrones for any length of time, then you know that Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are not my favorite characters. However, as I look ahead into the Long Night that stretches forth until season 8, I have to accept that, yes, Jon and Daenerys are now the frontrunners of the show and will feature heavily in its conclusion. In coming to terms with this, I realized that I’d given into some of the small-minded, hyperbolic thinking that’s so common in fandom. I had exaggerated my qualms with Jon and Daenerys until they had become The Dullest Characters Ever Written, which … they aren’t. Not by a long shot.

Examining some Western European legends and hallmarks of the fantasy genre, Jon and Daenerys’ relatively straightforward heroism is remarkably subversive. Though they are protagonists in Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, their superficial traits, tendencies and backstories are typically the trademarks of villains.

(I am not going to address the possibility of Mad Queen Daenerys in this article. If you’re interested to know my thoughts on that issue, you can read the piece I wrote on that very subject, read the Glass Candle Dialogue for “The Spoils of War” or buy me a beer and just … wait a few minutes.)

daenerys

Women in Western European legends and fantasy have a complicated relationship with power. Though it would be untrue to say that these narratives always villainize women in authority – Tolkien clearly thought highly of Haleth the Hunter and Galadriel – I don’t think I’m dropping many jaws by pointing out that queens and sorceresses have a troubled legacy. We’re all familiar with stories that pit male protagonists against evil, magical queens, from The Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute to Jadis in The Chronicles of Narnia. The fact alone that Daenerys’ self-actualization is framed, for the most part, in a positive light sets her in contrast with many female characters of similar description. Yet I don’t want to overstate things. As I said, powerful, magical women aren’t always evil.

Frankly, what’s truly subversive about Daenerys, in this respect, is her sensuality or rather how her sensuality framed. There is a sexual duality to the characterization of women in authority – women in general, but powerful women especially – that borders on a virgin-whore complex in legends and fantasy. Simply put, positively framed queens and sorceresses may be married and beautiful, like Galadriel, but are unlikely to express carnal desire. Going by some artwork, it’s apparently preferable that they stare at their hands during their own wedding.

Guinevere

“The Marriage of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere” by John H. Bacon

Sex drives are for reserved for bad women. Alcina in Orlando Furioso and Alcina entrances the men who land on her island and keeps them as boy toys. Calypso does something similar with Odysseus. One of the changes made to Morgan le Fay as she gradually transitioned from mystical healer of Avalon to the King Arthur’s nemesis around the 13th century (a bit of an oversimplification of her evolution but you get the idea) was a newfound penchant for extra marital affairs and a knack for seduction. So, in this light Daenerys is quite remarkable. She is a rare example of a magical, powerful woman who has both ambition and a sex drive, and the latter is not used to tarnish our perception of the former. After taking control of her own sexuality in book and season 1, she enjoys sex with her husband. In A Storm of Swords, Daenerys masturbates and accepts cunnilingus from her handmaiden, Irri. In season 5, she sleeps with Daario Naharis and, even though it’s abundantly clear that the union is consensual, it’s equally apparent that she is the dominant partner.

DanyDaario

Yet, this isn’t meant to emasculate Daario or vilify Daenerys. The show expects us to accept that a man can feel attracted to a powerful woman for reasons other than bewitchment and that a woman’s enjoyment of sex has nothing to do with her moral character.

There may be no better symbol for Daenerys’ subversion of traditional villainy than Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion and their relationship with their mother. The inverted dynamic between woman and dragon is played with most explicitly in ASOIAF when a self-proclaimed “hero” attempts to slay Drogon.

One man took it on himself to be a hero … The hero leapt onto his back and drove the iron spearpoint down at the base of the dragon’s long scaled neck.Dany and Drogon screamed as one – A Dance With Dragons

In the show, too, it’s worth noting how closely the shot of Jaime galloping towards Drogon in “The Spoils of War” resembles St. George charging his famous dragon but with Daenerys and Princess Sabra on the opposite sides of the conflict.

 

Daenerys isn’t an archetypal subversion because she bears the moniker of queen and sorceress (ok, I’m stretching a bit by calling her a sorceress, but she does have a special relationship with fire) yet exhibits none of the personality traits associated with those archetypes. She is ambitious, she can be brutal and she is sexually assertive, three things that for a very long time were the unambiguous trappings of a villainess. What’s special about Daenerys is simply that she’s written with the humanity and nuance that – surprise, surprise – female characters weren’t generally afforded in the male-dominated literary traditions that created the archetype in the first place. She is neither on a pedestal nor under foot. She’s neither a virgin nor a whore. She’s just … human.

jonsnow

Compared to Daenerys, Jon is, perhaps, a less obvious villain subversion since he so easily fits the hero archetype, what with his special sword and his secret royal lineage. Still, it’s worth remembering that John the Bastard is the name of the baddie in Much Ado About Nothing. The first time I read A Game of Thrones and reached this description of Robb and Jon –

Jon’s eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost black but there was little they did not see. He was of an age with Robb but they did not look alike. Jon was slender where Robb was muscular, dark where we was fair, graceful and quick where his half brother was strong and fast … they galloped off down the trail, Robb laughing and hooting, Jon silent and intent. – A Game of Thrones

– it reminded me so strongly of Marvel’s Thor and Loki that I thought Martin was setting Jon up for a tragic villain arc. Of course, my suspicions dissipated as I read on further but it is remarkable just how much of Jon’s upbringing feels like a villain backstory, being raised on the periphery of a family that wasn’t truly his own, side by side with a favored half-brother. And surely, out of context, the image of a dark-haired, black-clad man with a red-eyed wolf inspires more nefarious assumptions than benign. Then, of course, there’s his supposed illegitimate birth. Bastardy may not mean much anymore in the 21st century but, as with female sexuality, many of our archetypes and storytelling conventions remain steeped in the cultural values of long ago. Jon had every excuse to become the villain of the piece and yet he didn’t. This contrasts most starkly (you’re welcome for the pun), with Theon Greyjoy, who grew up under comparable circumstances yet failed to rise above base and petty impulses as Jon did. In most other respects, Jon admittedly fits the description of a straightforward hero quite cleanly but this only emphasizes the disparity between what we and what his world expected him to become and what he chose to do with himself instead.

While Daenerys’ subversion of her villain archetype serves as a deconstruction of the archetype itself and of the cultural biases that created it, Jon’s is more a lesson in agency. It’s a reminder that the circumstances in which we find ourselves may impact us but they do not define who we are.


All aboard the S.S. Jonaerys, whether you like it or not.

It’s difficult to address archetypal subversion when we, as a culture, are at such an introspective phase in our storytelling, where it’s no longer groundbreaking if the princess takes the romantic initiative with her prince, if the dragon is written with pathos or if the hero has a dark side. “Witches can be right, giants can be good. You decide what’s right. You decide what’s good.” That lyric from Into the Woods is thirty-one years old.

Still, Jon and Daenerys remain impressive figures who embody so much of what we’ve been conditioned to mistrust. The fact that a dragon queen and a black-clad bastard have risen through the ranks of their own world and developed into the frontrunners and fan favorites of one of the great fantasy epics of our time is pretty remarkable.

148 responses

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    1. I love this part so much: “She is neither on a pedestal nor under foot. She’s neither a virgin nor a whore. She’s just … human.” I had clocked Daenerys as a villain archetype subversion (though not as extensively as you did,) but it never occurred to me to see Jon the same way. But you’re right! As the story begins, he fits the the jealous, taciturn, black-haired, evil brother archetype to a tee.

      The medieval painting comparison is quite appropriate; Jaime the would-be dragonslayer. And the Daario ass with leering Dany gif is much appreciated.

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    2. There was an interview with GRRM not too long ago (the article is dated August of this year) where he was asked which character in the story he’d most like to be, and which character he’d most fear becoming. His answer:

      And the character I’d want to be? Well who wouldn’t want to be Jon Snow — the brooding, Byronic, romantic hero whom all the girls love. Theon [Greyjoy] is the one I’d fear becoming. Theon wants to be Jon Snow, but he can’t do it. He keeps making the wrong decisions. He keeps giving into to his own selfish, worst impulses.

      In some senses, Theon is struggling all the way through to be a hero. They both come out of the same situation: they’re both raised in Winterfell by Eddard Stark, but they’re not part of the real, core family. Theon is a ward, and Jon Snow is a bastard son. So they’re both a little outside, but Jon handles this successfully, and Theon fails to handle this. He is poisoned by his own envy and his sense of not belonging.

      While the Jon/Theon scene in 7×07 was focused on Theon’s redemption and struggle to be a hero, the subtext of Jon possibly viewing Theon as a window to who he might have become had he given into his own bitterness and impulses was less obvious. People often forget the ego and entitlement Jon displayed when he first arrived at the Wall or the fact that in the books it took four people to stop him from nearly beating a man to death after he flashed back to Robb reminding him of his status. The potential to flip was always there. Also, many other “Byronic heroes” in literature are often viewed as anti-heroes or even outright villains by various contingents of the readership. I think Jon’s honor has always balanced on a fine edge in this series, particularly in the books where you actually get his inner monologue. He’s in a constant battle with himself, and happens to settle on doing the “right” thing more often than not. ADwD basically ends with him giving into his darker impulses by vocally and explicitly breaking his NW vows and galvanizing an army of wildlings to help him take Winterfell. It doesn’t go much better for him than it did for Theon.

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    3. Always been fascinated with actual women of power, tho I only know something about those in the West.
      A real visual narrative about Elisabeth I would be as dull as dirt! The movies about her even invent melodrama with some of it pressed as Action! There is a total fabrication in the fabulous film Elizabeth with equably fabulous Cate Blanchett. Even though this film does not miss it, Elisabeth Tudor was the most intelligent monarch of that era, she out maneuvered all comers. Especially interesting is her interrogation in the Tower of London when Mary I was queen. Alas audiences don’t care for great arguments and intricate discourse. Great speaking well put, is not exactly riveting drama. Elisabeth was an extraordinary political animal and I love that kind of stuff, it is how things really get done.
      One could mention other extraordinary monarchs, Catherine de’ Medici for instance.
      One that fascinates me is Livia Drusilla(first Empress of Rome), we know her from Robert Graves I, Claudius. Livia was far from the Medusa portrayed by Graves. Graves cherry picked ancient historians to hype the melodrama. Livia was a master power broker moving in subtle but not monstrous ways. An interesting thing about Livia is that she became the wealthiest woman in history , but no one would want to watch a drama about real estate dealings in ancient Rome!

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    4. While Daenerys’ subversion of her villain archetype serves as a deconstruction of the archetype itself and of the cultural biases that created it, Jon’s is more a lesson in agency. It’s a reminder that the circumstances in which we find ourselves may impact us but they do not define who we are.

      Very nice summary of these two characters.

      I wonder if deconstruction of archetypes leads into new archetypes (e.g. the warrior princess archetype so beloved by modern writers) and “subverting the tropes” (a phrase much beloved by some fans) has become the new trope, so in order to subvert that trope… you have to revert to the original trope!

      OK, maybe an exaggeration but part of the fandom seem so intent on “subverting tropes” that they seem loath to allow any tropes/archetypes/traditional storytelling building blocks. There are book fans who still refuse to believe R+L=J because it’s “cliche” or castigate subtly foreshadowed events growing from the story according to storytelling logic as “predictable”. Everything has to be surprises and twists for the sake of surprises and twists. But that dissolves into a amorphous mass, a chaotic non-story.

      Most readers/watchers want some structure and a coherent, logical story because it helps them to get a handle on the story, to understand it – hopefully not immediately obvious but afterwards you see how everything fits together and that gives some intellectual pleasure (and even more if you were able to piece together parts of the puzzle beforehand). The traditional building blocks of storytelling (e.g. tropes, archetypes) give structure but they need not be used in a clicheed or obvious or unsubtle way, they can also be used in novel, creative ways, like GRRM (and D&D) often do.

      Also, I’d say that GRRM’s (and D&D’s) strength is in making even “archetypal” characters human and three-dimensional, wrestling with conflicting emotions and dilemmas in a very human way, not always doing the right thing, making mistakes… (Or in case of “villains”, not always doing “bad” or “evil” things.)

      That said, there are also fans who want their favourites to be traditional archetypal heroes who always do the right thing, who are somehow destinied to rise above everybody else etc. just because they’re the hero, the one and only. This dicothomic, black-and-white thinking leads to silly “fandom wars” and the mindset that if you like e.g. Dany you must be a Jon hater, and vice versa, if you like Sansa, you must be an Arya hater etc. I find it a very unfruitful way of thinking that misses or willfully disregards all the nuances. (FWIW, I don’t think GoT/ASoIaF is going to have just one but multiple “heroes”. Also, I don’t expect GRRM/D&D to spell out who exactly was Azor Ahai Reborn/The Prince that Was Promised/The Last Hero, so parts of the fandom can debate these questions ad infinitum.)

      Sorry for another long post, I really must learn to be more succint! 😀

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    5. Thank you Petra for that article.

      It is interesting how Daenerys has all the trappings of the villain and how certain people in universe see her as such. This quote from the books is interesting as well in that regard (and mirrors cersei’s propaganda this year in 7×02) and it specifically calls her a sorceress so I don’t think you are pushing it with the comparison.

      “Sweet?” Qavo laughed. “If even half the stories coming back from Slaver’s Bay are true, this child is a monster. They say that she is bloodthirsty, that those who speak against her are impaled on spikes to die lingering deaths. They say she is a sorceress who feeds her dragons on the flesh of newborn babes, an oathbreaker who mocks the gods, breaks truces, threatens envoys, and turns on those who have served her loyally. They say her lust cannot be sated, that she mates with men, women, eunuchs, even dogs and children, and woe betide the lover who fails to satisfy her. She gives her body to men to take their souls in thrall.”

      I have always seen Daenerys story as an excercise in agency like Jon’s. But where Jon’s contrast is Theon’s, I saw Dany’s being Cersei’s. Like Cersei, Dany was sold off to a husband for the political advatange of the head of her house. Like Dany the relationship got off to a horrible start and she had to endure marital rape at different points. Like Cersei Dany technically kills her husband. Yet both of them handle it very differently and both of them become very different humans in how they respond to the the injustices done to them after they exit their marriages in season 1.

      Any thoughts on that?

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    6. elybe,

      Very well put. Thank you also for the GRRM quote.

      Though I slightly disagree about book!Jon’s last moments. He was undoubtedly motivated by his love for his sister Arya but he has a slight get-out-clause in that Ramsay also flat out threatened to attack Castle Black unless LC Jon Snow hands over several other people who were not there so he his decision was also to defend CB and the Night’s Watch, to meet the enemy in open field, not at CB (which cannot be defended from the south).

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    7. Luka Nieto:

      The medieval painting comparison is quite appropriate; Jaime the would-be dragonslayer. …

      I love it. I squeeeeeaaallled “Saint George!!!” and immediately thought of these medieval paintings (there a several very similar ones) when watching that scene for the first time, and every time since.

      I don’t know how medieval people saw these paintings at the time. Did they think they were scary? Was their mindset so different from ours that they saw them as heroic? To modern eyes, those medieval paintings look almost comical. The poor dragon is this mishappen little creature, St George is on a rocking horse, the lady looks almost disinterested and the scenery looks like cardboard stage-sets. However, these paintings were the height of art at the time so must’ve had a far more profound effect in the contemporary viewer, and something of that seeps through.

      Of course, St George slays the dragon, Jaime doesn’t. Ha! Another “subversion of the trope”! … Well, Jaime isn’t exactly the purest knight so maybe not. But the point is, the show manages to evoke these long-standing images and stories in our collective consciousness and then do it a bit differently. As a viewer, I’m delighted to see something familiar that then goes differently.

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    8. House Monty,

      “I have always seen Daenerys story as an excercise in agency like Jon’s.”
      ————–

      What do you mean by “agency” and “exercise in agency”? On whose behalf is Dany acting as an agent? On whose behalf is Jon acting as an agent?
      The Lord of Light?

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    9. House Monty,

      “Sweet?” Qavo laughed. “If even half the stories coming back from Slaver’s Bay are true, this child is a monster. They say that she is bloodthirsty, that those who speak against her are impaled on spikes to die lingering deaths. They say she is a sorceress who feeds her dragons on the flesh of newborn babes, an oathbreaker who mocks the gods, breaks truces, threatens envoys, and turns on those who have served her loyally. They say her lust cannot be sated, that she mates with men, women, eunuchs, even dogs and children, and woe betide the lover who fails to satisfy her. She gives her body to men to take their souls in thrall.”

      Well, that’s the old achetype of powerful women comfortable with their own sexuality twisted as evil sorceress with insatiable and unnatural lusts spelled out, lol!

      I like your point that while Dany and Cersei faced somewhat similar circumstances the way they dealt with them is very different, and that differentiates these two characters. In a way, Cersei becomes bitter and turns ever more inwards to the point that the only person who matters is herself, and Dany turns outwards, cares for ever more and more people (even if some of her actions are misguided and downright mistakes).

      This also ties up with Petra’s point about agency, and how Theon and Jon, who started in somewhat similar circumstances, ended up in such different places. See also Elybe’s GRRM quote above, in which GRRM basically confirms this point.

      Very insightful article and very interesting BTL discussion. WotW is such a great site.

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    10. talvikorppi,

      “Also, I don’t expect GRRM/D&D to spell out who exactly was Azor Ahai Reborn/The Prince that Was Promised/The Last Hero.,,”
      ___________________

      Book!AA = Show!Warrior of Light = Sandor
      The Prince(ss)= Jon Snow and/or Dany
      The Last Hero = Their progeny

      (*Removes tinfoil helmet, runs away*)

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    11. Ten Bears,

      By agency I am using this definition “the capacity, condition, or state of acting or of exerting power” not the meaning you are talking about which is “a person or thing through which power is exerted or an end is achieved.” I am taking those definitions from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agency.

      Basically, both Dany and Cersei (like Theon and Jon) are in similar situations but make very different choices i.e. they exercise their power of deciding how to respond to their situations very differently.

      talvikorppi,

      Love how you phrase it. One responds by turning inwards and caring only about themselves and the other by turning outwards and caring about others.

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    12. Ten Bears:
      House Monty,

      “I have always seen Daenerys story as an excercise in agency like Jon’s.”
      ————–

      What do you mean by “agency” and “exercise in agency”? On whose behalf is Dany acting as an agent? On whose behalf is Jon acting as an agent?The Lord of Light?

      On their own behalf.

      At least that’s the way I read it. They’re not pawns or “agents” of anybody else but have their own “agency”. Act for themselves, are their own bosses and agents.

      It’s unfortunate that “agency” has become such a buzzword, applied so liberally and indiscriminately, and become associated with a particular type of narrow gender-political discourse. The word might rise hackles but surely the idea is a good one? (I mean, it’s just a modern fashionable way of expressing the idea of “self-determination”, which is at the heart of the U.S. national mythos.)

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    13. I’ll write more later, but here’s my fresh opinion on this topic.

      Jon is, in fact, still dull. Bastard boy who is actually far nobler and just plain better-er than EEERY1 else including his legit sibs turns out to be Hidden Prince with a Great Destiny (unintentially validating the horseshittery that having the right bloodlines makes people better regardless of their upbringing… ugh). I just don’t see a lot of subversiveness in his plotline.

      Dany is far from dull. I totally get some of why people find her problematic or choose not to think she’s so awesome. Even if I don’t really mind her use of collective punishment as retribution for evil acts or her other ruthless actions, I do understand why that’s a no go for others. Dany has a very strong “Id” so to speak. I think that some of us kind of wish we had the freedom to unleash it like she does… 🙂

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    14. House Monty,

      This quote by Frankl specifically is how I think about agency and the choices the characters make:

      Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom

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    15. Ten Bears,

      When someone says that Jon has “agency,” it means that he is not just following social patterns, but instead making individual choices. He’s not an agent for anyone but himself.
      “Agency” in this argument refers to the fact that the person chooses their own actions, instead of only being shaped by outside circumstances. The term comes from social science debates on structure versus agency:
      “Structure is the recurrent patterned arrangements which influence or limit the choices and opportunities available. Agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices” (Wikipedia)

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    16. talvikorppi,

      It was a complex situation to be sure, but Theon was motivated to prove himself to his family as much as Jon was motivated to save Arya, and Jon himself labeled what he was doing as oath-breaking when he announced his intentions. “I mean to make (Ramsay) answer for those words, but I will not ask my brothers to forswear their vows…I ride for Winterfell alone, unless…” He spends the entire book rationalizing the various loopholes in his vows, and I view this scene largely as him finally dropping the pretenses and calling a spade a spade. He’d been passively screwing with Ramsay long before he received that letter, and most of Ramsay’s accusations were not off base. Everything in that letter, from Stannis marching on Winterfell with forces Jon personally helped him secure to Mance creating the conditions for Reek and “Arya’s” escape due to a mission that Jon secretly approved, were consequences that he directly had a hand in. And while Jon and many readers may believe that the ends justified the means (in many ways they do), Jon was acting in his own self-interest more often than he’d like to admit, and the cracks are there all throughout his chapters. He’s a lot more spiteful than some readers (and even many of his own fans) are able to admit, and that flaw is one of the things I love about the character. As his show counterpart stated about his supposed righteousness, “It may look that way from the outside, but I promise you, that’s not true.” Unfortunately, “from the outside” is all the show-only fans are ever going to get.

      QueenofThrones,

      Jon being “dull” is your opinion. It is in no way a “fact.” You are absolutely entitled to prefer Dany, but that, once again, is subjective. Many people disagree with you, myself included.

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    17. Ten Bears:
      talvikorppi,

      “Also, I don’t expect GRRM/D&D to spell out who exactly was Azor Ahai Reborn/The Prince that Was Promised/The Last Hero.,,”
      ___________________

      Book!AA = Show!Warrior of Light = Sandor
      The Prince(ss)= Jon Snow and/or Dany
      The Last Hero = Their progeny

      (*Removes tinfoil helmet, runs away*)

      Dear Bear, don’t run away. This is exactly what I mean!

      GRRM/D&D will have left it open enough for all us fans to have our own ideas/interpretations about this and the debate will be endless. 😀

      BTW, I think Azor Ahai Reborn/the Prince that Was Promised/Last Hero/Stallion that Mounts the World/etc. are all the same. The classic saviour myth told differently in different cultures. And, here’s the twist: it’s not any one single individual. We’ll have a group of “heroes” working together towards a common goal, and various aspects of various myths and prophecies will fit various characters.

      You make a passionate and compelling case for Sandor to be “Azor Ahai”, you’ve convinced me and I now believe he’s one of the AAR figures. Cases have been made for Dany, Jon, Bran, even Jaime and others. I think the point will be that nobody could’ve done it alone, it will be a team effort. People will be free to ascribe labels to them as they wish.

      Oh, and NO Nissa Nissa! That was Azor Ahai LEGEND, now we’re talking about Azor Ahai Reborn PROPHECY, which only mentions drawing the magical weapon from fire. No Nissa Nissas around, no tempering of blades by plunging through hearts of most beloved ones.

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    18. Great article and great comments. Damn, you folks are smart! You guys are digging in and I’m just sitting here eating paste. Yay! I’ve been entertained, yay!

      Anyway, I’d like to see an article on the legacies of Houses Lannister and Stark. Both patriarchs were quoted heavily and used as examples this season, particularly by their female progeny and I’d love to see a pro’s take on this.

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    19. elybe,

      Daenerys is my favorite character. Been on Team Dany since season 1 and the reason I read the books was because I just had to see what happened to her.

      Having said, I don’t think Jon is dull though. I actually think he is pretty interesting especially this year. He made a very concious choice that he was going to do what he deemed to be the right thing even though he knows that acting honorably is what got Ned killed. Basically, he has decided that how he lives is more important than how long he lives. I think that is interesting and gets at one of the main themes of the series.

      The thing i potentially find dull is the whole “rightful king” trope. I have a lot of concern how that plays out but will reserve judgement until I see where they go with it.

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    20. Erica,

      That was one of the most interesting things this season.

      What I found most interesting was that while Ned got a lot of grief for being dumb, the way he lead his life with honor left a legacy through the lives he touched that is going to end up saving the world in contrast to Tywin who left a legacy of a daughter who is effectively jeopordizing the world.

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    21. QueenofThrones,

      I see it as reverse: I find Jon the more interesting character, maybe because his inner monologue is better written than Dany’s, especially in the last book. Daenerys I find more conventional. She gets magical help from the get go and her struggles later on, which by the way are a result of her own actions, are solved more easily because of the three magic beings she acquires. Let’s just say that Dany to me became less interesting as the story progressed, her staying in Essos did not help.

      I find Jon a more complex character because being good is much more difficult than being bad. Being a conscious being is incredibly hard and exhausting. Giving into your demons is easier than fighting them and George makes sure we are aware of the internal battle that Jon struggles through throughout his entire storyline. He has ambitions, he has selfish wants and yet he is also a character who is allowed to think things through and weigh the consequences. I find him and Theon to be the more interesting of characters. Maybe because neither character was saddled with stupid and repetitive monologues a la Dany, Tyrion (whom I love) and Jamie. And I don’t think that Jon is especial because he’s a Targaryen, he chooses to be who he is, he chooses to honor what he thinks is right. Why he was conceived and the DNA that runs through his veins have not affected who he became. Maybe had he grown up as a prince with full knowledge of his bloodline, he would have become someone else.

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    22. House Monty:
      Erica,

      That was one of the most interesting things this season.

      What I found most interesting was that while Ned got a lot of grief for being dumb, the way he lead his life with honor left a legacy through the lives he touched that is going to end up saving the world in contrast to Tywin who left a legacy of a daughter who is effectively jeopordizing the world.

      Exactly, which is why I’m hoping for a more detailed analysis of it here.

      As to your fear of a “rightful king” trope, are you concerned that Jon would be interested in taking the throne? I think it would be completely out of character for Jon to have that desire and I think that while Dany lives, he’ll be happy to see her there instead.

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    23. elybe,

      Once again, very well put, Elybe.

      In my previous post, I was focussing on the immediate moment after the book!Pink Letter (when Jon was somewhat justified to ride out to defend the Night’s Watch though his motivations were mostly personal) but you are right that Jon’s previous actions lead to that moment.

      He housed and sheltered Stannis and his troops (fair enough, Stannis and his troops helped defeat the massive Wildling invasion) but he also gave Stannis strategic advice on how to perhaps defeat the Boltons (so meddling in politics) and he knowingly approved Mance to undertake his (Jon’s) personal mission of saving “Arya” – though it should be remembered that Jon sent Mance to find escaped “Arya” somewhere near Long Lake in the wilderness, as per Mel’s vision. Jon did not send Mance to Winterfell, that was Mance’s own decision, going a bit rogue on Jon. But yeah, Jon’s own actions led to the book!PinkLetter. I think you put it beautifully: Jon is forever poised on the edge of the sword.

      Show!Jon is fairly different, his story is more straight-forward and he’s portrayed more simplistically “Ned Starkish”, i.e. very honest and honourable. Maybe that will have a payoff when show!Jon finds out his presumed father wasn’t all honest and honourable after all. IDK, interesting ways this “secret prince” story could go, for Jon personally and also in the bigger political picture. One thing I’m sure of is that Jon will not just shrugh “OK, so I’m the rightful king, great!” and go on being, doing what he has previously. (And that’s before we consider reactions of Dany, Sansa, Arya, Tyrion, northern lords, all Westerosi lords…)

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    24. GRRM excels in capturing the essence of the internal turmoil in humans-between heart and mind, between right and wrong, between sense and social obligation. But he’s not very good at writing human relationships.

      D&D are the opposite. Their versions of familial/ friendship/ romantic bonds are very good but individually the characters are too one note and lacking depth.

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    25. Jon is my favourite character and I have never minded Dany apart from her ADWD chapters but that was not because of her personally or her inner conflict but the slog which she found herself in so I have never been in the shoes of the OP.But I get where they come from.I have never minded the tropes though.Everything is a trope in a way or the other even the subversion of tropes is a trope in itself and I don’t judge a story based on that.I just look at the characters and how they move me.I love watching Jon and love reading his thoughts and don’t find him boring or dull at all.That’s enough for me not how conventional his story is or how many tropes it breaks.In other stories my favourite have sometime been the villains,sometimes the anti heroes etc.But this time he clicked with me.What the writer mentioned about agency is so true though.In a world like Westeros it would be so easy to turn into a Theon,a LF,a Cersei or even a Robert but to keep your decency even in the face of injustice is way harder.To do what Jon and Dany were trying to do in ADWD is revolutionary.Not being afraid to break the status quo because you know it’s the right thing to do.That requires so much strength.

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    26. talvikorppi,

      Actually, as I’ve said in the past, I think it’s possible the promised Prince(ss) and AA are two different people; throughout the millenia, the “prophecies”* conflated the two into one mythic figure.
      I’ve likened it to Robert the Bruce and William Wallace from “Braveheart”: Given a fragmented set of historical facts and a few thousand years of errors, exaggeration and extrapolation in retellings, the two characters [a Scottish prince and a Scottish warrior, respectively] could easily be merged into one heroic figure.

      * I qualify “prophecies” because I don’t think they were prophecies as that term is commonly used, i.e., someone in the past predicting the future. But that’s a longer, more convoluted, ultra-thick tinfoil theory premised in part on Hodorian brain-frying science…

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    27. Erica,

      I think that some are starting to realise that this story will end up with someone calling themselves ‘rightful x’ or at least being proclaimed as being so and that this person will play a major part in the final act of them show and books.

      For some people, that was not what they ever thought or hoped would be the end point.

      I, however, accepted from the start that we’d begin with a question over the crown and end on something that, at least for the time being, leaves that question resolved.

      And ‘Planetos’ keeps spinning on.

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    28. QueenofThrones:

      .Bastard boy who is actually far nobler and just plain better-er than EEERY1 else including his legit sibs turns out to be Hidden Prince with a Great Destiny (unintentially validating the horseshittery that having the right bloodlines makes people better regardless of their upbringing…ugh)

      I have absolutely no idea where you are getting this from? How is Jon betterer than everyone else, including his siblings? When the show keeps trying to tell us, not always successfully, that Sansa is better than him (at least in matters of politics)? When Jon himself said that Robb was better than him in every respect?
      It’s not Jon’s bloodline that makes him a better person, it’s the fact that he constantly strove to not give in to his baser temptations that make him a better person. And this struggle, while it may not be compelling to you, it is so for many others, it’s all a matter of opinion, since I find Dany much more duller than Jon.

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    29. Ten Bears,

      I get your point, as in if William Wallace and Robert the Bruce had happened thousands of years ago, their legends might’ve become entwined and confused, become myth and modern people might well confuse the two. However, they both were active about 700 years ago and there are actual historical records on both of them.

      Being a bit of a Scotophile, I wince at a reference to the Hollywood movie Braveheart. Nowadays, it’s being used to ridicule Scottish people who desire self-determination, to beat them about the head, dismissing their honestly held, well-argued political and philosophical opinions as romanticized “braveheartism”. Braveheart is a rousing, entertaining movie but quite historically inaccurate and few modern Scottish people desiring self-determination (independence) are inspired by that bit of tosh.

      What many Scottish self-determination seekers are inspired by is the Declaration of Arbroath (1320, at the time of Robert the Bruce and approved by the Pope) which asserts that the people are sovereign over any king. (The Declaration of Arbroath is said to be one of the inspirations for the U.S. Declaration of Independence.) So you can see why there’s a constitutional problem when Scotland and England were joined, a problem that still exists. In England the monarch is sovereign, or then parliament acting for the monarch. Parliament, not people, is sovereign in England, whereas Scots have always thought people sovereign. It’s been an uneasy alliance of two very different political philosophies for 300+ years.

      Apologies for going so OT and political.

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    30. Loved the post and the discussion it sparked in the comments! I’ll add my voice to the people who want more like this in the future.

      I like drawing comparisons between characters, but only to highlight their differences. This is why I prefer stories with ensemble casts. If all characters were similar, it’d make for a boring tale.

      I don’t like it when people compare characters to argue that one is better than the other. It’s subjective, and it doesn’t make for a good conversation. These characters can become very real in our minds, so any criticism might be taken rather personally by their fans. I suppose we all have our preferences, but perhaps the way we state our preferences is what matters.

      On the Jon and Theon parallel, I always wondered how Jon would’ve acted if he knew about his Targaryen father since the beginning. This is what I feel most comparisons between the two fail to mention. Jon made better choices, but most of his identity was shaped by being Ned Stark’s son. Theon’s identity was more fractured, and when he had to choose in season 2, he went with Greyjoy. What if Jon had decided to find and help his aunt and uncle in Essos? That would make for an interesting alternate story. Or fanfiction.

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    31. talvikorppi,

      I understand. I know “Braveheart” was a Hollywoodized bastardization of history. I was just using the movie version as an illustration, eg, given a few thousand years, how a two-minute trailer for the movie could be misinterpreted and mangled into the story of one hero, rather than an account of a duo consisting of a reluctant prince and a kickass warrior.

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    32. landstander,

      Eh. The Theon “redemption” story has been underwhelming for me. Theon should’ve joined the Night’s Watch, as Sansa suggested. He shouldn’t be running around playing Diver Dan and sister-rescuing hero.

      He should’ve been digging latrine pits at Castle Black. He should be manning the top of the Wall freezing his balls off. Oh wait…

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    33. Ten Bears:
      landstander,

      Eh. The Theon “redemption” story has been underwhelming for me. Theon should’ve joined the Night’s Watch, as Sansa suggested. He shouldn’t be running around playing Diver Dan and sister-rescuing hero.

      He should’ve been digging latrine pits at Castle Black. He should be manning the top of the Wall freezing his balls off. Oh wait…

      Agreed.

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    34. Erica: Exactly, which is why I’m hoping for a more detailed analysis of it here.

      As to your fear of a “rightful king” trope, are you concerned that Jon would be interested in taking the throne? I think it would be completely out of character for Jon to have that desire and I think that while Dany lives, he’ll be happy to see her there instead.

      I am not concerned Jon would be interested in taking the throne. I don’t think that would be in character but I am concerned that Jon will end up King over Daenerys in a way I don’t find particularly satisfying from a thematic perspective. Here are a few potential issues I could see if the story is not done well:

      – One is the whole reluctant King trope. The story started out with a reluctant King on the throne: our good friend Bobbie B. I think what we learned from that is that when people don’t want the job they don’t do a good job at it. Its human nature. One has to have a certain interest and ambition in order to do something well. At no point have they shown us that Jon actually wants to rule or has an interest in it. His goal in life was always to be a hero and ranger. In the two leadership positions he has he has been consumed with one thing only – preparing for the fight against the Night King. After that threat is over, its not clear he would actually want to rule so to end up with another reluctant King feels kind of unsatisfying.
      – We spent two seasons with Daenerys in Meereen learning how to rule, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes etc. What was the point of all that if she doesn’t end up ruling or co-ruling in the end? There is an open question as to how passionate she is about ruling. I personally don’t know if the show really addresses that point, but the one thing the show did show is that she is very dutiful and she learns from her mistakes. That has to have some pay-off.
      – This whole idea of the reluctant leader being better than the ambitious leader I find some what trite and not at all how the real world works. Additionally I find it some what sexist that the reluctant man ends up on top instead of the ambitious woman who has been working towards something and getting better at it for a while.
      – Also, at this point we are 92% of the way through the story. At least in the show, Daenerys has clearly had chosen one future ruler written all over her since the end of season 1 alongside Jon and perhaps even more so than Jon. Not sure how satisfying it would be for that to have been a red herring this entire time. Also, not sure what the point of that having been a red herring would be since we already had a false chosen one trope in the show – Stannis. Do we need two false chosen ones? What purpose does that serve?

      These are just some of the issues I could have with it. Maybe they do it in a way that is thematically satisfying for me. But i can see a lot of ways it could end up not being.

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    35. Ten Bears,

      Agreed. I find it funny how a lot of times, the good characters, the ones who actually struggle to do good, are dismissed as Mary Sue/ Gary Stu/ boring, whereas the grey characters are celebrated as richer or more interesting, as if the struggles of a person trying to do good are somehow less valid than those who make questionable choices. I like the grey characters and their redemption arcs, such as they are, too, but imo it’s much harder to try to do the right thing, inspite of various temptations, than to make the wrong choices and then go on a “redemption” arc.

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    36. House Monty,

      I think Jon and Dany provide examples of the “hidden prince” and “exiled princess” tropes being played fairly straight (and some parts of fandom will never stop resenting them for that), although what GRRM does very well is deconstruct these tropes and dive head first into the harsher realities of being a hero, savior, conqueror, leader, etc. Often times, that does mean being perceived by others in the story (or even the audience) as the villain. Dany and Jon both do a lot of questionable shit in the books, and that’s what leading often entails. Imagine how a character who willfully separates a mother from her baby and takes 100 child hostages to ensure good behavior would be perceived in any other story? I also think they are both the “rightful king/queen” trope at this point, regardless of who has the stronger claim or the fact that Jon’s lineage was kept secret, but ruling is no prize in the story. To quote the eloquent Davos Seaworth, whoever rules at the end of this series, whether it’s one monarch, a co-rule, a new system, etc., will be left to “clean up as much of the shit as (they) can” until they die and their successor keeps cleaning. To me that’s pretty subversive in and of itself.

      Danny,

      This pretty much nails it for me. This is not a world that rewards decency or forward thinking, and as GRRM points out in the interview I linked, being a hero is an exhausting endeavor. As you stated, Jon’s DNA and secret birthright have meant fuck all up until this point, so why people are so quick to use this twist to both define and denigrate him is beyond me.

      Jenny,

      So much this. To be honest, when one or more characters are reduced to a collection of tropes, it seems to just shut down any potential for meaningful discussion about them. It’s more of a means of disengaging with the character and his/her choices. Any dialogue becomes near impossible because one side actively ignores all the nuances and complexities of the character by denying that they exist, which I’m pretty sure is not at all what the author intended.

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    37. House Monty,

      The difference between Robert and Jon is in their nature.He might be a reluctant leader but if he wore the crown he would never do what Robert did.He would do his duty like he has done until now not just give up like Robert did.That’s clear like he said to his own lords in episode 2.And the other thing is Jon and Dany’s arcs are basically the same.Different on the surface because she is a Targ and her claim is known and he is just a bastard but beneath the ruling arc is the same thing.It’s trial by error in learning how to rule.The parallels are such that the characters kept mentioning them in the episode they met.Their story arc in season five/ADWD is a mirror of each other.Ruling in a hostile environment.Doing some things right some things wrong and it ending in a assassination attempt.The only reason Jon’s succeeds and Dany’s doesn’t is because she has a dragon.Also because she doesn’t need to get out of the vows in a narrative loophole lol.In the books it’s even worse she gets saved by pure luck cause the other guy eats the locusts.

      If they both live they would just rule together.Why wouldn’t they?And if she dies in saving the realm then that would make her the chosen one and not a false chosen one trope like you said so that doesn’t stand.

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    38. House Monty,

      All strong points. I agree. Dany should rule even if it’s considered “predictable.” So what if it is? It makes sense for the story for reasons you point out so well. As has already been noted, twists for the sake of twists would be pandering and diminish what’s been a phenomenally adapted series.

      I’d say the only thing that doesn’t concern me that seems to concern quite a few others here, including some of the site’s writers are the charges of sexism. It’s not that it doesn’t exist, it’s just that I don’t like seeing ideology at war with reality. Words like “sadly” and “unfortunately” being used to promote one’s idealogy over reality/nature is just….sadly, unfortunately annoying to me and apologetically male which men have no reason to be. (that was a bit of a digression and not directed at any one person specifically.)

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    39. House Monty:
      Erica,

      That was one of the most interesting things this season.

      What I found most interesting was that while Ned got a lot of grief for being dumb, the way he lead his life with honor left a legacy through the lives he touched that is going to end up saving the world in contrast to Tywin who left a legacy of a daughter who is effectively jeopordizing the world.

      Agreed. I’ll take it a step further and predict that the winner of the game of thrones will be honorable “fool”, Ned Stark. With all of the references to him throughout the season, especially 707, and similarly in the books with the Northern lords conspiring to free the Ned’s little girl from the clutches of Ramsay (and install a Stark or legitimized Jon Snow as Lord), his legacy will live on. Tywin will be remembered mostly as a man people feared, but his “dynasty of 1000 years” is likely to be nearly extinct At the end of the series.

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    40. elybe,

      I know right?I hate many discourses in the fandom but the one about tropes and if a character doesn’t subvert 7.5 of them that means he sucks must be up there at the top.Right there with the ‘oh but is this sexist?’ discourse lol

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    41. AngryRosFan: Agreed.I’ll take it a step further and predict that the winner of the game of thrones will be honorable “fool”, Ned Stark. With all of the references to him throughout the season, especially 707, and similarly in the books with the Northern lords conspiring to free the Ned’s little girl from the clutches of Ramsay (and install a Stark or legitimized Jon Snow as Lord), his legacy will live on.Tywin will be remembered mostly as a man people feared, but his “dynasty of 1000 years” is likely to be nearly extinct At the end of the series.

      I like the idea/irony of it being Tyrion who continues the Lannister legacy.

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    42. ghost of winterfell,

      “it’s much harder to try to do the right thing, inspite of various temptations, than to make the wrong choices and then go on a “redemption” arc.”
      ———–

      Well said!
      It’s swell that Jon can forgive Theon for what Jon is capable of forgiving him for, but dirtbag Theon’s treachery still caused countless Stark army deaths, not to mention his own craven murders of two orphan farm boys, Ser Roderick, and a bunch of other WF loyalists, and the takeover of WF.

      And where’s his “redemption”? Where’s the penance for his unspeakable crimes? He wasn’t de-cocked and tortured by Ramsay as punishment for betraying Robb; that was just Ramsay’s hobby.

      If Theon wanted to make amends to House Stark, he should’ve fought on the front lines for House Stark vs. the Boltons, and then the WWs. As far as I’m concerned, heading “home” and cruising around with Yara was selfish; even his apparent upcoming S8 “For Yara! Yippee!” story line has nothing to do with penance for his transgressions.

      Tossing Myranda off a balcony gets him 0 points in my book. Plus, I really like Charlotte Hope, and did not like to see her character splattered on the pavement just because Theon impulsively decided to launch a 90-lb woman over the railing – after doing nothing to save Sansa from being brutalized for months and months.

      So I’m sorry – I think Euron’s description of Theon is apt: “You cockless coward.” Theon has done nothing to “redeem” himself other than the cheap Myranda-tossing. He can castrate Euron, feed his member to the goats, and save Yara, but that won’t absolve him for any of his crimes.

      (By comparison, look at Azor Ah…. I mean Sandor Clegane — out on the front lines with Jon & the Snow Patrol fighting for the living, and against unproductive whinging.)

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    43. House Monty,

      GRRM gave Jon and Dany parallel ruling arcs in the series and has flat out stated that the “song of ice and fire” thematically refers to their journeys. The show has spelled out for us this season that they are both the “chosen one,” whatever that even means in this story, and they have both inspired loyalty and devotion from the people who society usually shuns or persecutes. They have both made revolutionary decisions, and D&D have explicitly referred to them as “equals.” Dany has been overtly learning to rule because she has been expecting to since Season 1, while Jon has been subtly learning to rule out of necessity because he never expected to amount to anything. They are a package deal at this point. They either both die or they co-rule. Killing one while sparing the other would destroy the Ice/Fire balance that GRRM and the show are so in love with. But in the event of the former, the show has exactly six episodes in which to lay out their unborn child’s tax policy, because GRRM isn’t about to end his series with “this last-minute ass pull eventually grew up to be a good monarch, take my word for it.”

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    44. Ten Bears:
      ghost of winterfell,

      “it’s much harder to try to do the right thing, inspite of various temptations, than to make the wrong choices and then go on a “redemption” arc.”
      ———–

      Well said!
      It’s swell that Jon can forgive Theon for what Jon is capable of forgiving him for, but dirtbag Theon’s treachery still caused countless Stark army deaths, not to mention his own craven murders of two orphan farm boys, Ser Roderick, and a bunch of other WF loyalists, and the takeover of WF.

      And where’s his “redemption”? Where’s the penance for his unspeakable crimes? He wasn’t de-cocked and tortured by Ramsay as punishment for betraying Robb; that was just Ramsay’s hobby.

      If Theon wanted to make amends to House Stark, he should’ve fought on the front lines for House Stark vs. the Boltons, and then the WWs. As far as I’m concerned, heading “home” and cruising around with Yara was selfish; even his apparent upcoming S8 “For Yara! Yippee!” story line has nothing to do with penance for his transgressions.

      Yes! To both of you. You’ve both expressed exactly why I couldn’t get behind this love for Theon or his story/arc. If saving Yara from Euron, thereby overcoming his fears, is his redemption then so be it. I’m still uninterested.

      Ten Bears:
      ghost of winterfell,

      Tossing Myranda off a balcony gets him 0 points in my book. Plus, I really like Charlotte Hope, and did not like to see her character splattered on the pavement just because Theon impulsively decided to launch a 90-lb woman over the railing – after doing nothing to save Sansa from being brutalized for months and months.

      I did, however, like that scene. She had to go.

      Ten Bears:
      ghost of winterfell,

      (By comparison, look at Azor Ah…. I mean Sandor Clegane — out on the front lines with Jon & the Snow Patrol fighting for the living, and against unproductive whinging.)

      Ha…you just couldn’t resist, could you?! 🙂

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    45. elybe,

      I think your right. in order to maintain the parallelism would make sense they either die together or rule/ live together.

      AngryRosFan,

      great point

      Jenny,

      really depends on how she dies. there are a lot of theories out there about her death that are not really heroic/ chosen one deaths.

      elybe,

      great points regarding both being tropes and how both are deconstructed through their stories.

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    46. ghost of winterfell,

      I started the whole thing by outright stating it was my opinion and that others would not agree so yes I know that.

      Jon is absolutely presented as the paragon of virtue, the one guy who always makes the right choice, even when he gets stabbed for it. From the start. He’s even more noble than Ned who did tell two big lies. Jon might think he’s having to live up to Robb but I don’t think the facts bear that out – Jons the better fighter, everyone wants to follow him etc etc.

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    47. landstander,

      That’s a good point. Jon and Theon both grew up as non-Starks in the Stark household but Jon’s identity wasn’t fractured the way Theon’s was. Given Jon’s attempt to leave the Wall & help Robb in AGOT & s1, I’d say there’s a good chance he would have felt compelled or at least tempted to help his family in Essos had he known about them.

      And I’ve tried to be careful in how I talk about characters I don’t like, particularly when they’re fan favorites, because I’d never want someone to feel personally insulted because of how I talked about a character that means a lot to them. I’ve been on the receiving end of those over the shoulder dismissals and it doesn’t feel great

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    48. Another interesting comparison is between Theon and Jaime. I personally don’t care much for either character, but from what I’ve read and seen online, Jaime is much more popular than Theon. So much so that Theon scenes are panned while Jaime scenes are praised.

      It’s interesting because both actors are very talented. They can display a wide range of emotions with a simple look, without having to say anything. I suppose Jaime’s scenes were more interesting, especially in this last season.

      I can’t express exactly why they don’t engage me emotionally. I have nothing against morally grey characters, as Tyrion is one of my favorites (he’s darker in the books). I’ll try to think about it.

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    49. landstander:
      I suppose Jaime’s scenes were more interesting, especially in this last season.

      Not to me. IMO the only really interesting Jaime scene this season was his last scene with Cersei in the finale. But now that he’s basically a free agent it will be very interesting to see what happens to Jaime next season.

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    50. I had exaggerated my qualms with Jon and Daenerys until they had become The Dullest Characters Ever Written, which … they aren’t. Not by a long shot.

      They are, and by a long shot.

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    51. Petra,

      Hey Petra! Sorry for dismissing Theon. 😉 For what it’s worth, I was moved by his scenes in ep7.

      Ten Bears,

      I’ve noticed A Thing.

      There are three primary riders of the redemption train in this series. Theon, Jaime, and Sandor. It seems to me that one of these three is a top 3 character for almost everyone, but almost no one has more than one of them as a favorite. Sure they may like The other guys, but they are not “The One”.

      Anyone an exception to my rule (based entirely on anecdata)? 🙂

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    52. Great article, and great discussion (how lucky are we to have such interesting writers keep us enthralled with the story enough to comment on it endlessly! Makes the long off season almost (nah) worth it.

      If Theon wanted to make amends to House Stark, he should’ve fought on the front lines for House Stark vs. the Boltons, and then the WWs. As far as I’m concerned, heading “home” and cruising around with Yara was selfish; even his apparent upcoming S8 “For Yara! Yippee!” story line has nothing to do with penance for his transgressions.

      Just how was he supposed to do this when he knew nothhing abou t those events and he was spending his time helping sansa, and trying to help his sister- There wasn’t much he could do until he helped Sansa escape, and when he tries to help [e gets beeten up and cursed, and has PTSD attackes that would happen to anyone who went through what he did. That being said I think you ask a good question – what can he do
      to show penance for all that he did. I suppose there really isn’t anything; except give his life for some cuase, in this case help his sister. Perhaps that will give him a bit of redeption in the eyes of those who he hurt.

      I do find the comparision of Jon and Theon – they oth grew up in similar circumstances, but made drastic diffierent choices. Which would surprise no one who had a few kids – sometimes you wonder how it is possible that these two siblings could be so different.

      Ok, the typing on here is freezing again, forgive my typos hopefully it will be better tomorrow so I can join in the conversation!

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    53. QueenofThrones,

      I dunno, I think I care more about the redemption of Theon and Sandor; very little about Jaime, really. And as for the comparison of Jaime and Theon scenes, both committed horrible crimes, but Alfie showed us a reviled character who actually gets some sympathy from some quarters. Jaime just doesn’t seem to do that – He pushed a little boy off a tower. All the scenes with Breinne can’t hide that fact. Maybe if he does go north and die for a cause, redemption is possible. We’ll see.

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    54. Petra,

      Re: 9/15/17, 5:09 pm comment, and your 6:15 pm reply…

      You’ve piqued my curiosity. Can you tell us which “very topic” you are referring to? Cliched “redemption arcs” of characters who’ve done the wrong thing vs. characters who have the fortitude to do the right thing to begin with? Mislabeling Theon’s story as a “redemption arc”? Or something else…

      I love reading your commentaries, so I’m really intrigued if you “may already working on a piece that addresses” one of the topics in the referenced comments.

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    55. QueenofThrones,

      About the “Three Primary Riders of the Redemption Train” (Theon, Sandor, and Jaime) in your 10:28 pm comment:

      I’m not sure what you mean when you say:
      “but almost no one has more than one of them as a favorite. ”

      I’m not being sarcastic. I’d like to reply to what you wrote. 🤔

      Oh, one other thing…If we’re going to compare character evolutions of apparent villains, I’d like to make a reservation on the Train for a Fourth Rider: A character first presented as a vicious bully, but over time became a beloved fan favorite…..👨🏼‍🍳

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    56. ash,

      BTW: I too get keyboard freeze-ups not infrequently. My working theory is that certain local banner ads cause the page to reload, after slowing down and ultimately freezing the keyboard. The problem seems to go away when a new advertiser’s ads replace the offending ads.

      I look forward to continuing the discussion once your cybergremlins retreat.

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    57. I am still working on the reason for the “hidden king” trope for Jon.

      Is it because he must rule at the end? I agree with A number of comments posted here that reflect this is unsatisfying

      Is it because in the show it is implied you must be a targ to ride a dragon? (Assuming Jon’s riding a dragon into battle is a key plot point).

      Is it to father a new targ line on the IT? Again this seems unnecessary if we are moving towards a new governance model in westeros.

      Is it to create dramatic tension among the Champions of Life and to show another kind of obstacle Danerys and Jon must overcome? It would seem there are enough obstacles without this one

      Or a combination? Depending on which of these are in the writers minds will be key to Jon’s fate.

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    58. QueenofThrones:
      ghost of winterfell,

      Jon is absolutely presented as the paragon of virtue, the one guy who always makes the right choice, even when he gets stabbed for it.From the start.

      Did the show try to present his decision to run into to save Rickon, thereby getting his men killed, as the right thing to do? Nope, Sansa was supposed to be the one in the right here. If he is always right, then why is every single decision of his debated and argued upon by others, especially Sansa? He gave away the North without consulting anyone in the North, was that right? What about the time when he was berated by Tyrion and Dany for not lying to Cersei, when even Jaime called him a dot, was that right? I think it’s way too simplistic to classify all his choices as right or wrong. They are all just choices, with their own consequences. If anything, my complaint is that he is always shown to be fucking things up with his “Ned-ness”, at least in the past 2 seasons.

      QueenofThrones:
      ghost of winterfell,

      He’s even more noble than Ned who did tell two big lies.Jon might think he’s having to live up to Robb but I don’t think the facts bear that out – Jons the better fighter, everyone wants to follow him etc etc.

      Is he? When he lied to Ygritte, a woman who loved him, for months together, assuring her that he would be faithful to her, when he had always planned to betray her for the Night’s Watch? Or when he lied to Mance about his loyalties? Of course D&D seem to have retconned this in the last season to say that Jon is too noble to lie, but it doesn’t change what he did.

      Yeah he got better than Robb at sword fighting, because he outlived him and practised – very hard. I don’t see the problem in this, at least he worked towards his achievement, unlike say Dany who got an army of a 100,000 just because she happened to be fireproof.

      With all due respect, I think you are oversimplifying his arc.

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    59. Petra this has been a very interesting piece, thank you. 🙂
      Very true also what you say about the female archetypes and the way the are usually approached.

      ghost of winterfell:

      Yes,I second that. I’ve always found Jon’s internal struggle and hard choices one of the most compelling things in the show. It is within this struggle that Jon’s character grew and became who he is now.

      The parallers between characters and the different choices they make, not only emphasizes that they are human, but also how our choices form the kind people we become. in a sense it’s not a matter of what happens to you, or where you find yourself, but how you deal with it. What makes Jon remarkable or ‘the hero’ for instance is the fact that he repeatedly makes choices above and beyond the dictates of his own ego or even his simple welfare. He chooses every day to do what’s honorable and to do greater good, despite the fact he has to go against the establishment’s ideas, his desires, his temptations.
      And that of course is not the easy or pleasant way to live one’s life.

      The paraller with Theon hits exactly this point. They both grew up in the same environment, with the same restrictions of their place but they chose entirely different roads. And I note that Jon was in a much more challenging position because Cat hated him and that created a very hostile environment for him. He could naturally give into the temptation to hate everyone, to turn against them, to follow the demands of his own ego. As Petra points out, hIs background and even his appearance are so constructed that could naturally result to a villain. But it didn’t. Jon chooses a different path. He is human, he is vulnerable to all the sins that a human is vulnerable to, but he manages to overcome this, and be something else.

      Dany didn’t have to make such choices – her arc at the beginning was more of a matter of survival and then the learning of the use of power. While she has done good in the world, and it was her choice, she didn’t really have to sacrifice something, but only delay her plans to re-conquer westeros – which would have been delayed anyway because she needed to raise an army and ships. So behind her good intentions there was her personal interest and the goal she wanted to achieve. Of course it honours her that she willingly chose to help or free people on her way, learn how to rule and it honours her that she wants to change the world, but again that revolves around her taking the position of power, around what she considers her birthright, around the dictates of her own ego. Which is why I found Dany more ‘shallow’ than Jon. I expected so much more from someone with her abilities.

      That changed in season 7, at the moment she went to rescue Jon and co, putting her own life and her dragons at risk. It was the first time Dany made a choice completely beyond her own interests and welfare and suffered the consequences of that. So we see Dany’s evolving arc as well, doing the heroic thing, not what serves best her initial plans.

      Which is why, this meeting between the two, is also compelling to me. How this relationship changes their views and priorities, forcing them to make different choices and how they grow in that process.

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    60. Interesting read, Petra.
      This would indeed be subversive, if those were real 13th century stories, told to 13th century audiences, naturally (and culturally) inclined to think bad of a sexually active, powerful woman and a bastard man in black.
      Having been written in the late 20th century and shown to an early 21st century audience, what is there to subvert?

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    61. Ten Bears: I’m not sure what you mean when you say:
      “but almost no one has more than one of them as a favorite. ”

      I’m not being sarcastic. I’d like to reply to what you wrote. 🤔

      I mean that people usually tend to really love Jaime OR Sandor OR Theon. But rarely Jaime AND Theon or Theon AND Sandor… Like in your case obviously you love Sandor but dislike Theon and I think you’re relatively ambivalent about Jaime.

      If you’ve read my stuff on this site for any amount of time it should be clear that I love Jaime… but I am lukewarm about the other two. Like, Sandor and Theon are fine… just don’t excite me that much?

      ash:
      QueenofThrones,
      I dunno, I think I care more about the redemption of Theon and Sandor; very little about Jaime, really.And as for the comparison of Jaime and Theon scenes,both committed horrible crimes, but Alfie showed us a reviled character who actually gets some sympathy from some quarters. Jaime just doesn’t seem to do that – He pushed a little boy off a tower.All the scenes with Breinne can’t hide that fact. Maybe if he does go north and die for a cause, redemption is possible.We’ll see.

      I guess this demonstrates what I was trying to get at. One of the three main redemption arcs seems to appeal to each person, but hardly ever ALL of them (or usually even more than 1).

      Totally agree a legitimate reason to dislike Jaime (and never forgive him even ) would be Bran. He 100% has not made amends for that – which is why I’m so excited he’s going to head north and face what he did.

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    62. ghost of winterfell: Yeah he got better than Robb at sword fighting, because he outlived him and practised – very hard. I don’t see the problem in this, at least he worked towards his achievement, unlike say Dany who got an army of a 100,000 just because she happened to be fireproof.

      With all due respect, I think you are oversimplifying his arc.

      I am, though i think two clearly played at that game. Dany knew she was fireproof, and she used that knowledge strategically to get the Dothraki to follow her. It would be like saying “Jon survived stabbing just because of magic, he didn’t do anything to deserve his achievement”. No, he survived stabbing because who he is and what he’s done in the past led to people loyal to him bringing him back from the dead. Same reason he was declared KitN. Some extreme Sansa fans say he didn’t deserve it, but I think that’s wrong – what he did and who he was led to that outcome.

      I suppose what I’m trying to do is to talk about why I, subjectively, find Jon to be dull – I’m not trying to insult anyone, and certainly not to say Jon is a bad person (though believe me I understand the impulse to defend a character against perceived attacks). Kind the whole point of Petra’s post is that she’s writing about 2 characters she personally doesn’t find all that exciting… but is trying to love anyway.

      I’m trying to do that too but it’s just way harder with Jon in a way it is not with Dany (and yes of course others have the opposite opinion, I started off saying that). Honestly, I do not dislike Jon. I just don’t feel particularly strongly about him? I do think I understand him pretty well, I’ve written complementary posts about him with more complexity than what I’ve written in this thread, I just don’t really find him that interesting. Reluctant leaders, sullen, broody characters, people who always do the objectively “right” thing… maybe just not my cup of tea? I also found most of Jon’s arc sort of frustrating because for most of it it seemed as if things just “happened” to him. It’s part of the noble reluctant hero trope that I find a little tired. I do like Petra’s point about him evolving to gain some more agency (and make mistakes) as he takes up his mantle of leadership.

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    63. Hmmm….I don’t see it as Jon fucking everything up with his “Nedness”. and I don’t think he is stupid. Someone has to t be the one whose at least trying to be honest, trying to do the right thing. I mean Cersei threw out Ned name, that she knew he’d honest because he’s Ned’s son. I mean what was he gonna do lie on Ned’s name? Nope. Cersei knew what she was doing.

      The Ygritte situation was more complex then just a matter of being able to betray her. He was trying to uphold his NW vows and promise to the Halfhand. The problem with show!Jon’s season 2/3 was that everything beyond the Wall was internal. To adapt to the screen, you would normally just have the character get the thoughts out by speaking to another character. This was impossible because Jon had no one he could tell these things to. He was in complete despair by the time they had climbed the wall. He wondered if he actually belonged anywhere, at the watch, with his family, with the Wildlings. He was afraid they might kill Ygritte if he ran etc. But once they crossed the Wall he had to make the decision to go because he couldn’t just let the NW be slaughtered and he ended up paying an enormous personal price because she died in the battle.

      Jon’s whole point is like what he said to Theon. He may seem like the good guy and right all the time, but he makes mistakes too.He tries and fails sometimes, like any human.

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    64. Motherofwolves:
      Jenny,

      This! Both bookJon and showJon clicked with me as did Arya because of the way they made me feel. I find that to be very important to me.

      I think you nailed it. It’s so hard to pin down exactly why but ultimately I think that the vivid way these characters are drawn lends itself to real feelings of loyalty towards specific characters… and in contrast not so much towards others.

      I think people sometimes take these positive feelings towards the characters too far and end up HATING other characters that are “in their favorites’ way”. I really strive not to do this. But not hating a character is not the same as liking them. It’s almost the opposite.

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    65. First, I think you’re really stretching it to try and portray Jon and Daeny as villains. Second, why should “archetypes” formed many centuries ago and which have been archaic for a long time govern the direction of George RR’s work? Third, even if they did, George likes to break the “traditional”, cliched plot point. Fourth, I’m regretting having read this.

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    66. QueenofThrones,

      Well, Jaime’s is the Judas dilemma.
      It was an awful thing to throw a ten year old from a tower.
      But this was no ordinary ten year old. Something was needed that would set him on the track to become the three eyed raven and possibly(?) save mankind, or at least be a crucial part of salvation.
      So, was Jaime responsible for his actions? Or did he just serve a superior plan?

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    67. This is a really good article. SoI&F fans often resort to “GRRM wants to subvert tropes!!!!” as a fallback for justifying their views. In particular, “Daenerys is EVIL!” proponents often fall back to this, asserting that making the pretty princess “good” is a trope. Sure, it is: if she is also the damsel in distress. However, and as I think that this article makes clear, those people were falling for the actual trope that GRRM is subverting: competent, self-assertive women are “evil.”

      As for Jon Snow, the bastard villain with whom I immediately associated him was Don John from Much Ado About Nothing. That is a popular trope for bastards, who usually are depicted as resentful, brooding malcontents. GRRM nuked that trope just as thoroughly. Amusingly, however, many fans tied Jon to different “heroic” tropes.

      The lesson, as this article so richly demonstrates, is that before you go to “GRRM wants to subvert tropes!”, ask yourself: is there any other trope that this character or plot element fits? Chances are pretty good that there is: and then ask yourself if it makes more sense if that is the trope that GRRM is subverting.

      Kudos.

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    68. PedanticMaester: When someone says that Jon has “agency,” it means that he is not just following social patterns, but instead making individual choices. He’s not an agent for anyone but himself.

      “Agency” is also a necessary feature for protagonists. Stories are built around how protagonists view the world. They must have some degree of independence to do this. Even if they choose to follow or even just cooperate with someone else, then the important thing is that it is their choice to follow or cooperate. Ultimately, the “why” of those choices creates any themes and the dichotomies of the choices are what (more than anything else) make the story.

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    69. QueenofThrones,

      One could argue that Dany is also your typical beautiful, young, waify, blonde princess who all men are in love with, has magical help, and is going to cast down the older, evil queen who’s beauty is fading. Yeah, we’ve never heard that story before. Now if she was presented as Brienne in looks that’d be interesting and a refreshing change of pace, but a heroine marked by her youth and beauty is dull.

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    70. Tywin’s Ghost: Now if she was presented as Brienne in looks that’d be interesting and a refreshing change of pace, but a heroine marked by her youth and beauty is dull.

      Actually, the few examples of non-villain women who acted on their own in the old stories usually had to do so because they were plain or even ugly. Having good looking women be anything other than trophy pieces is still exception: the default assumption still is that brains & looks are mutually exclusive features for women.

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    71. Thank you for your insight into Danny’s character, I love that you point out how “human” she is. It’s such a simple conclusion that seems to blow so many people’s minds! I have been reading (for years!) people’s passionate like or dislike for her as she is apperantly a dicotomizing character. I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about her and I’ve come to the conclusion that she’s pretty amazing! She may have started by having a sense of entitlement but despite the odds being stacked against her, explicitly in her inexperience, she has tried hard to rule justly. She has been selective about her council members, spefically in there abitity to give wise advise. Her only mistake was not including Lady Ollena sooner!!! Danny completely deserves to rule, more than any other character in the show.

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    72. Tywin’s Ghost,

      You’re allowed to think Dany is dull if you want. I’m not trying to make an objective argument about Jon as I noted in several follow up comments.

      I will point out that a feminine, female conquerer is hardly a common trope. Traditionally if they are leading and conquering, they are masculine, and if they are feminine “princesses”, they are basically following around some hero, or being protected/saved by him.

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    73. QueenofThrones: I will point out that a feminine, female conquerer is hardly a common trope.

      Excepting (of course) the “evil queen” sorceress! Moreover, I would emend this: it’s not that Daenerys is a feminine female conqueror that makes her unique, but that she’s the feminine “Exiled Monarch Seeking Rightful Restoration.” All of the examples of this of which I can think are males. (There are about 20 such men in Tolkien’s works alone!)

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    74. QueenofThrones,

      And I’m making the point that she’s the young, beautiful, blonde princess with magical help here to cast down the aging, evil queen. That is definitely common whether you want to admit it or not. Youth and beauty are key and it’s dull.

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    75. Wimsey,

      I’m having a hard time coming up with plain, unattractive non villain women that you speak of. More often than not the women usually presented as heroines are young and beautiful. Dany and Cersei fit very well with that storytelling.

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    76. Sou,

      I totally get what you mean.

      I still find these characterizations subversive even though the archetypes were developed long ago because they persist in our modern storytelling and, consequently, they continue to reflect aspects of our cultural values.

      For example, Loki may be a beloved MCU baddie but I don’t think many people were surprised by his villain “reveal” in the first Thor film. His dark, slicked back hair, green clothing and status as the jealous younger (and soon to be revealed adopted bastard) brother marked him as evil before the explicit dialogue did.

      Regina on Once Upon A Time may have been one of the more interesting characters on the show imo but as the Evil Queen she still dressed in a far more sensual manner than any of the heroines did and, moreover, kept the Huntsman as her prisoner using magic and sexually abused him. As much as that show deconstructed villainy, it never addressed the fact that sex was used as a shorthand to convey to the audience that Regina was evil most likely because the writers weren’t aware that they were using sex as a shorthand for evil. The concept is that deeply entrenched.

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    77. House Monty,

      Ha! Yes that’s true.

      I think I’ve said it here before but I couldn’t be more satisfied by how the Jon and Dany relationship developed this season. I don’t “ship” them*, I just a felt everything felt very organic and in character, and validated my view that mad queen Dany is nonsense fanwankery.

      * there IS only one ship. only one that matters. ^^

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    78. Queenofthrones,

      I thought they did a great job of it. One of the highlights of the season. I bought it and certainly think a lot more was presented to us about how they could fall in love than any of the other relationships on the show.

      It is also hilarious that the ship was consumated on a ship.

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    79. QueenofThrones,

      Hey, no need to ever apologize for having a different opinion about a character.

      I hadn’t considered your observation about fan reactions to Sandor, Jaime and Theon but you’re absolutely right. I think what it is that their personalities are vastly different even though their arcs share similar milestones. The way they internalize their brokenness and react to the situations they find themselves in are each unique. Redemption aside, their stories thematically share very little in common.

      This is highly subjective but I’d say Jaime’s story is about honor and learning to value sincerity over superficiality, Theon’s is about identity, masculinity and control and Sandor’s is about anger, forgiveness, revenge and compassion. I think it’s these elements that people are drawn to more than the redemptive arcs, so it makes sense that fascination for one character wouldn’t necessarily lead to equal investment in the other two.

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    80. Ten Bears,

      I’ve been brainstorming ideas for a piece about Theon’s redemption arc, analyzing what redemption even means, if it can be achieved at all and how I think the show is taking a very interesting and, for me, satisfying approach with Theon Greyjoy.

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    81. Tywin’s Ghost: I’m having a hard time coming up with plain, unattractive non villain women that you speak of. More often than not the women usually presented as heroines are young and beautiful.

      Most beautiful young women in stories with heroes and villains are not presented as heroines, but instead as trophies for the heroes to win. In traditional stories, there are very few female heroines in the first place: and the few that were there usually were masquerading as men.

      Of course, part of the problem is that we are talking about “heroes” and “villains.” Those belong to a completely different type of story than we have here: this is a story with protagonists and antagonists, which are quite a different kettle of fish. However, most of the “tropes” that we apply to fantasy stories are from the older type of storytelling because most fantasy stories do have heroes & villains and good & evil. And I think that part of what throws people here is that they try to use concepts appropriate for Tolkien when they should use those appropriate for Tolstoy.

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    82. zandru,

      I concur and add five: both a “sexually active” female sorcerer protagonist (or simply a goddess who falls in love with a mortal) and a third brother or a neglected orphan Jon the Fool who leaves the home and ends up as a king or at least as a prince are achetypes as old as time routing back into the sources of he hindoeuropean mythology and Dany and Jon are much closer to them than to some sort of subverted villain achetypes or tropes. And BTW I really hated how Dany treated Daario and found nothing thrilling in such sexual agency or whatever it is called.

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    83. Petra:
      QueenofThrones,
      Hey, no need to ever apologize for having a different opinion about a character.

      I hadn’t considered your observation about fan reactions to Sandor, Jaime and Theon but you’re absolutely right. I think what it is that their personalities are vastly different even though their arcs share similar milestones. The way they internalize their brokenness and react to the situations they find themselves in are each unique. Redemption aside, their stories thematically share very little in common.

      This is true! I do think it’s endlessly fascinating how the personalities of these characters – these people – are almost magnetic… yet only to certain readers/watchers. Particular combinations of affect, actions, flaws, and virtues seem to repel some and attract others equally.

      I’ve been pressed a few times to try to explain why I find Jaime so compelling but dislike The Hound (book version, mostly) and it’s very hard to put into words. It’s like… well I don’t like how angry and hateful the hound is about his past, and lashes out at innocents. Yet Jaime is, at least, deeply resentful and has lashed out as well. So really that’s not it. And Jaime and Theon both have the perennial “family (duty) vs honor” issue to deal with, and each of them are, basically cocky A-holes to start out with and that slowly changes.

      This is highly subjective but I’d say Jaime’s story is about honor and learning to value sincerity over superficiality, Theon’s is about identity, masculinity and control and Sandor’s is about anger, forgiveness, revenge and compassion. I think it’s these elements that people are drawn to more than the redemptive arcs, so it makes sense that fascination for one character wouldn’t necessarily lead to equal investment in the other two.

      All three of these guys have crossed the Ultimate moral event horizon of child murder and all three seem to be at least attempting to make amends, if not for those specific acts, at least to become better men going forward. And I do applaud them all.

      For me Jaime’s arc is, much as the way you’ve characterized Jon’s arc in your article, about realizing that he has agency, ironically only after losing the thing he thought brought him that same agency. He’s been basically sleepwalking through life since he killed the Mad King, believing nothing he does matters anymore. But he gradually begins to see that he can still be Arthur Dayne rather than the Smiling Knight… that this is a more difficult path but also what his heart truly desires.

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    84. Oh, San Giorgio e il drago, by Paolo Uccello. I’ve seen that painting last winter in Ferrara, at Palazzo dei Diamanti (I was working there), exactly during an exhibit for the 500 years of Orlando Furioso… Amazing exhibition! I’ll always remember this great experience. 🙂

      http://www.palazzodiamanti.it/1456

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    85. Inga:
      Wimsey,

      I disagree. I can open any book of fairytales, and it will be 50:50 and charming princes also serve as trophies that heroines win (usually by saving them).

      Wow, we may be reading different fairytales. The ones I grew up with (even with the Disney effect on the Grimm stories) were all ones where the heroines were trophies for the charming princes. Perhaps there are stories in other places that are more 50 50….I do know that we have some wonderful ‘fractured fairytales’ that turn all that on its head. See ‘Paper Bag Princess’ Cinder Edna for examples of kids tales modernizeds

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    86. oh and re the three characters redemptions – I like Theons but also Sandors. Very interesting character to watch. Not sure what that says about me to respond to those two.

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    87. ash,

      OK, tonight or tomorrow morning I’ll take a fiew books from my collection of “The Fairytales of the Nations of the World” and make a proper survey.

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    88. Well that is 5 minutes of my life I will never get back. What rubbish. This blog is usually fun with interesting reads. Talk about a huge miss. I hope this was a blimp and the beginning of a trend with the long off season ahead.

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    89. After thinking about it for a while, I finally understand why I have a problem with Jaime and Theon. It’s the physical mutilation aspect.

      Theon was defined by his manhood, or his toxic masculinity. When Ramsay removed his …sausage, he had to redefine himself. First as Reek, then back to a milder version of Theon.
      Jaime was defined by his sword, as one of the best swordsman in the world. When he lost his swordhand, he was forced to change. He had to use his brain more, becoming a general instead of a soldier.

      On the surface, both arcs are compelling. And I’ve mentioned how talented the actors are, so their scenes are usually very good. However, I have a problem with this message that emotional maturity comes from physical torture. It’s a forced change, and it doesn’t resonate with me in a positive way. I prefer it when characters can overcome their flaws on their own.

      This is what I like about fiction, in any medium. It helps you learn more about yourself, what you like or dislike, love or hate, and why you feel that way. And just to be clear, I don’t hate either character. I’m just not invested in their futures.

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    90. ash,

      Yes, it is far from 50:50. Fairy tales were written to convey moral truths, and the moral truths of most societies included women as breeding units. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote at length on this general topic: this plus ancient languages was why he was a Professor! I can think of no fairy tales of the sort that Inga describes, unless they are modern “fractured fairy tales” written to be ironic.

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    91. landstander,

      This is a fair point. I personally was annoyed and disgusted when I read Theon’s torture scenes w/ Ramsey – I feel like I am being manipulated into liking him just because some madman decided to play games with him. I’ve head from people “why don’t you love him after all he’s been through!” and my thought is that torture (or death for that matter) is not redemptive. If Ramsey himself were tortured (which, he basically was when he was killed) I would not consider him to be more likable after the fact if he were to survive it. I’d feel probably a little sick at myself for enjoying it (see also: Cersei WoS).

      It isn’t the torture itself that matters – but the emotional journey that follows. I do think that some people get “stuck” in a mode of behavior and somehow need to be “shook up” in order to start to change and make different choices… The Hound does this when he’s confronted by fire and basically says “fuck it all”.

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    92. Wimsey,

      I haven’t time to do the research that was promsed yet, but let’s look through the classical fairy tales adapted by Disney (at least as far as I remember). The Snow-white, Cinderella, the Little Meirmaid, the Beauty and the Beast, the Princess and the Frog, Rapunzel (Tangles) evolve around a heroine, not a hero. As for the hero-centered fairy tales we have Alladin and the Puss in Boots (The Sleeping Beauty is sort of neutral: it has the main heroine, but she does nothing). And don’t let me start on Nibelungenlied: like which of the heroines worked as a breeding unit – Kriemhild (Gudrun) or Brynhildr? And what about Isolda? Even Guinevere was anything but a faithful wife… In fact, I can’t think of any figure of a faithhul wife in a classial gothic romance (well, Melusine could be an exeption, but she ends up betrayed by her mortal lover, so it’s a bit different archetype). One way or another, I can agree that we might be reading and remembering different fairy tails or myths (I guess I have never been interested in male-centered fairy tales unless they had some goddess involved), so, please, help me to refresh my memory. Thank you in advance.

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    93. landstander,
      I believe that is an excellent point ! The physical mutilation aspect of Theon’s, Jaime’s and even Sandor’s (not his facial mutilation, but his leg’s at the hands of Brienne) story arcs is central and does tend to blur the line between real and cosmetic redemption for we, very naturally so, tend to immediately empathise with characters who go through some terrible pain, be it moral or physical, and view them more sympathetically than we might have before they suffered.

      As far as I can see, The Hound (funnily enough, the only character of the three without a POV chapter in the novels) has the sole true redemption arc insofar as he goes through all of what I consider to be the necessary steps to qualify : epiphany (realising and accepting he did wrong), sorrow (grieving over the tragic consequences of his crime) and penance (trying to fix things and do better).

      Jaime and Theon, neither in the books nor on the show, go through any genuine redemption, I believe. To a degree, I would argue that it is also what makes the characters compelling. They change for the better without necessarily going through the meaningful soul-searching phases commonly associated with moral progress.
      Their eventual “goodness”, for lack of a better word, is the by-product of a change in their circumstances, not in their nature. In many ways, it is an interesting statement on the situational nature of morality…

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    94. A truly excellent article ! Very well done Petra !

      For all my criticism of them, I do like Jon and Daenerys a lot. Both on the show and in the books, they are compelling and interesting characters. They try their best to live up to their own idealised self-image, their own high standards and, at times, fail miserably when confronted with the less idealistic aspects reality. Their seemingly inextinguishable dedication to square the circle between principle and pragmatism is admirable and justifies the devotion they inspire in many fans.
      I also happen to enjoy the way in which they both believe themselves to be much bigger underdogs than they truly are. I find that trait quite telling, deeply moving and profoundly funny all at once ^^

      Jon, so far, has been much more unquestionably “good” than his aunt, if at times thoroughly misguided or downright wrong. However, I believe his true character-defining moment has not come yet and will arrive in the form of his reaction to the revelation of his true parentage.
      While I doubt he will give much of a toss about being the heir to the throne (he already does not want to be KitN, so being King of Westeros is probably not on his bucket list… Though he will probably be shocked to discover he slept with his aunt), finding out that Ned, the man he idolised and idealised for his entire life, blatantly lied to him will have one hell of an impact on his self-image, given how Ned-like he desperately wishes to be.

      Now, I do not know whether the writers will choose to focus on this but I do hope we see Jon wonder why his “father” deceived him. The Stark patriarch’s decision to lie to everyone else in regards to his nephew’s parentage is easily understandable : he feared someone would blab and endanger Jon’s safety. Conversely, the reasoning behind his choice not to inform Jon himself is less obvious and possibly much less noble…
      During their last conversation, Ned did promise to tell him the truth about his lineage the next time they would see each other. Assuming he was being sincere, and I believe he was, he therefore intended finally to let Jon know of “R+L=J”. Why then ? After twenty-ish years (fifteen in the books) ? Why did Ned suddenly think it was ok to answer the question Jon had asked for years ? The only explanation I can think of is that, by the time they would have met again (had Ned survived), Jon would have already joined the Night’s Watch, with all that it entails. Especially the oath that specifies that a Brother renounces any birthright he might have…
      In fine, Ned was only willing to disclose the truth once Jon would be legally unable to do anything about it. That is unspeakably insulting on a multitude of levels !

      Again, I have no idea whether the writers wish to examine this but I, for one, believe that Jon dealing with this particular nugget would make for a great character development moment.

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    95. ACME,

      “”As far as I can see, The Hound (funnily enough, the only character of the three without a POV chapter in the novels) has the sole true redemption arc insofar as he goes through all of what I consider to be the necessary steps to qualify : epiphany (realising and accepting he did wrong), sorrow (grieving over the tragic consequences of his crime) and penance (trying to fix things and do better).”
      _________________

      Absolutely!
      The other thing about Sandor is that he had admirable qualities all along, but they were obscured by his “f*ck the world, everyone sucks” outlook (e.g., rescuing Sansa from the KL rioters, watching over Arya), his affectation of a gruff demeanor to match his physical appearance, and his not infrequent violent acts.

      When it comes to true “redemption”, the Hound checks all the boxes.

      (Incidentally, I only noticed upon a third rewatch how tenderly he lowers Rabbit Stew Sally’s body into the ground; his guilt and remorse in that scene are heartbreaking. Gotta love Rory McCann…)

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    96. ACME:
      A truly excellent article ! Very well done Petra !

      “…However, I believe his [Jon’s] true character-defining moment has not come yet and will arrive in the form of his reaction to the revelation of his true parentage.
      While I doubt he will give much of a toss about being the heir to the throne (he already does not want to be KitN, so being King of Westeros is probably not on his bucket list… Though he will probably be shocked to discover he slept with his aunt), finding out that Ned, the man he idolised and idealised for his entire life, blatantly lied to him will have one hell of an impact on his self-image, given how Ned-like he desperately wishes to be.

      Now, I do not know whether the writers will choose to focus on this but I do hope we see Jon wonder why his “father” deceived him. The Stark patriarch’s decision to lie to everyone else in regards to his nephew’s parentage is easily understandable : he feared someone would blab and endanger Jon’s safety. Conversely, the reasoning behind his choice not to inform Jon himself is less obvious and possibly much less noble…
      During their last conversation, Ned did promise to tell him the truth about his lineage the next time they would see each other. Assuming he was being sincere, and I believe he was, he therefore intended finally to let Jon know of “R+L=J”. Why then ? After twenty-ish years (fifteen in the books) ? Why did Ned suddenly think it was ok to answer the question Jon had asked for years ? The only explanation I can think of is that, by the time they would have met again (had Ned survived), Jon would have already joined the Night’s Watch, with all that it entails. Especially the oath that specifies that a Brother renounces any birthright he might have…
      In fine, Ned was only willing to disclose the truth once Jon would be legally unable to do anything about it. That is unspeakably insulting on a multitude of levels !

      Again, I have no idea whether the writers wish to examine this but I, for one, believe that Jon dealing with this particular nugget would make for a great character development moment.

      I’m glad you brought this up!
      Ever since the reveal in S7e7 that Jon wasn’t merely a “dragonspawn” who Robert (and probably Cersei and Joffrey) would’ve snuffed out, but a legitimate Targaryan prince and heir to the throne, I’ve been wondering how and why Ned took it upon himself to throw away Jon’s birthright without telling him, by letting him join the “noble” order of the NW without letting him know what he was really going to be renouncing when he took his vows.

      I agree with you that this was “unspeakably insulting” to Jon on “a multitude of levels.”

      But I also felt that what Ned did was an implicit betrayal of his sister. Not only divesting her son of his birthright, but subjecting him to live out his days in the equivalent of a Gulag? At the very least, send him away to be an apprentice lifeguard in the Summer Isles, an entry-level teller at the Iron Bank in Braavos, or a shipbuilder at White Harbor. Even a frog hunter at Greywater Watch. Let him live out his days with a sun tan and a relatively carefree lifestyle. And if the time was ever right, reveal his true identity to him.

      I did not hear any dialogue during the Tower of Joy flashback in which Lyanna begged:

      “His name in Aegon Targaryan. Promise me, Ned! Promise me you’ll make his life miserable and won’t tell him about his birthright until after you’ve duped him into renouncing it! Promise me! Oh, one last thing: promise me your wife will treat him like sh*t and pray that he dies. Promise me!”

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    97. Ten Bears,
      ACME,

      You know, comparing the Wall with the Gulag is a very bad joke – like very very bad. It wasn’t the climate that killed millions of people there: real people with real names and real photos in the family albums. So, please, think next time before making such comparissons, OK?

      However, in general you and ACME made a very good point: Ned robbed Jon-Aegon of his birthright etc. I have been thinking about that too for quite some time. The simpliest the explanations would be that Ned didn’t want to make problems to his best friend King Robert etc. But there might be another: if Lyanna told her brother something about the PTWP prophesy or Ned learned about it in some other way, he could have assumed that sending the PTWP to the Wall would be the best way for him to fulfill his role. We’ll have to wait till S8 to get the answer, I guess.

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    98. QueenofThrones,

      I personally was annoyed and disgusted when I read Theon’s torture scenes w/ Ramsey – I feel like I am being manipulated into liking him just because some madman decided to play games with him. I’ve head from people “why don’t you love him after all he’s been through!” and my thought is that torture (or death for that matter) is not redemptive. If Ramsey himself were tortured (which, he basically was when he was killed) I would not consider him to be more likable after the fact if he were to survive it. I’d feel probably a little sick at myself for enjoying it (see also: Cersei WoS).

      Hated those scenes as well (and wish they had made them happen off screen like they did in the book, but wouldn’t have had the same visceral reaction) I don’t think those scenes or Jaime’s or Cersei was meant for us to like or forgive them. I think they were meant to remember that the are humans, to have some sympathy, and to perhaps hope for redemption, that they can work passed it and become someone else, and hopefully not resort to revenge (which I admit forgive Arya, but not Cersei. Why is that?)

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    99. Inga,

      I haven’t time to do the research that was promsed yet, but let’s look through the classical fairy tales adapted by Disney (at least as far as I remember). The Snow-white, Cinderella, the Little Meirmaid, the Beauty and the Beast, the Princess and the Frog, Rapunzel (Tangles) evolve around a heroine, not a hero.

      Yes they are often the protaganists, who need to be rescued by the hero, which I think it what we are talking about

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    100. ACME,

      They try their best to live up to their own idealised self-image, their own high standards and, at times, fail miserably when confronted with the less idealistic aspects reality. Their seemingly inextinguishable dedication to square the circle between principle and pragmatism is admirable and justifies the devotion they inspire in many fans.

      Speaking as a wide eyed do gooder from a young age who had to learn the hard way, I think many of us are still dedicated to the cause which might explain why the two characthers are so loved, even when they do something cringeworthy. They are us.

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    101. ash,

      1. The Theon torture scenes, as well as the Ramsay sadism scenes, were too frequent and went on far too long (for my tastes). I got the point. It didn’t need to be hammered into my head over and over. [BTW: This is NOT a criticism of the show. It is just an observation about my own sensibilities.]

      2. Arya taking revenge is dispensing justice. She does not indiscrimately murder innocents. Only those who are culpable get stuck with the pointy end of Needle. Or get poisoned. Or get their eyes gouged out with a pocket knife. Or get their throats slit. Or get carved up. Or….

      Cersei sometimes imposes the death penalty disproportionately, but (probably because I love Lena Headey so much), I can find some justification for each act of revenge.

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    102. Ten Bears,

      .

      he Theon torture scenes, as well as the Ramsay sadism scenes, were too frequent and went on far too long (for my tastes). I got the point. It didn’t need to be hammered into my head over and over. [BTW: This is NOT a criticism of the show. It is just an observation about my own sensibilities.]

      Totally agree. Like I said, I wish they had done this behind the scenes somehow, or at the very least cut down the number of times we need to see it.

      I also agree with you about Arya – revenge can be justice when there is no justice in the world. My comment was regarding redemption of certain characters – wondered if those characters redeemed would find ways to go on with their life without revenge. I suspect they would .

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    103. ash,

      Sorry, but your arguement applies only to the Snow-white, Cinderella and Rapunzel and only with a stretch, because in neither of these tales the hero does anything heroic. Meanwhile, in The Little Meirmade or The Princess and The Frog or the Beauty an the Beast the heroine is the sole and only savor and all the plot is all about that (not to mention that the Little Meirmade is a story of unrequitted love and selfless sacrifice).

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    104. Inga:
      Ten Bears,
      ACME,

      You know, comparing the Wall with the Gulag is a very bad joke – like very very bad. It wasn’t the climate that killed millions of people there: real people with real names and real photos in the family albums. So, please, think next time before making such comparissons, OK?

      However, in general you and ACME made a very good point: Ned robbed Jon-Aegon of his birthright etc. I have been thinking about that too for quite some time. The simpliest the explanations would be that Ned didn’t want to make problems to his best friend King Robert etc. But there might be another: if Lyanna told her brother something about the PTWP prophesy or Ned learned about it in some other way, he could have assumed that sending the PTWP to the Wall would be the best way for him to fulfill his role. We’ll have to wait till S8 to get the answer, I guess.

      Interesting theory!

      I think Ned just wanted to protect Jon from being killed. If anybody knew Jon was a Targaryen, he would have been immediately killed by the King’s men or the Lannisters, any time.

      But please notice it was Jon’s decision to join the Night’s Watch, not Ned’s. Jon decides to join the NW because he’s a bastard and sees no future elsewhere. Ned is shocked at first, but he lets Jon go because it’s probably the best solution, in the end…

      And please notice that at the time, King Robert is pretty solid on the throne, the Lannisters are pretty solid too and powerful, the Targaryens are exiled and constantly hunted by the hitmen of the crown… How could Ned want this life (or death) for Jon?? No way…

      On the other hand, if Jon enters the NW he would be safe forever (well, at least until the Long Night…), the King and the Lannisters would have no more reasons to kill him. Ned would finally be able to tell Jon the truth, tell the truth to his wife Catlyn too, finally! And to everyone else. The NW is a honorable order and this is another good point.

      And also, Ned fought against the Targaryens and helped Robert taking the throne. I doubt he wanted to start another war against his friend to put another Targaryen on the throne… Neither he wanted Jon to start such war in the future, I’m sure.

      I think Ned’s original plan was to keep that secret forever. He imagined Jon as a sort of right-hand man for Robb, the future Lord of Winterfell. But then Jon came up with this idea of joining the NW and Ned probably thought it was a good solution for Jon: member of a honorable order and alive… surely better than being a dead Targaryen!

      But life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans… So nothing ended as Ned imagined. 😀

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    105. ash,

      Yea. I am pretty sure that Ariel is actually saved by her dad and her crush in the disney version and the beast saved belle from the wolves… don’t know about the others but don’t think its accurate to say the heroine was the sole savior
      Inga,

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    106. Ten Bears: When it comes to true “redemption”, the Hound checks all the boxes.

      He unquestionably does. And I agree wholeheartedly, Rory McCann’s acting most certainly does help hammer the point of Sandor’s begrudging, almost moodily childlike, humanity home.

      That being said, just to make sure other readers do not misunderstand my point, I do not belittle Jaime’s and Theon’s own arcs. Their storylines are not less valuable or meaningful because they are not, in my view, “true” redemption arcs. Theon is, as far as I’m concerned, much more compelling on the show than in the books due, in no small part, to Alfie Allen’s remarkable acting. Even when he behaves like a prick, there is such emotionality, such vulnerability oozing from those round eyes that I cannot help but be interested in his thoughts and intentions.
      As for Jaime, while I believe many consider his storyline to have been partly butchered on the show, I have to confess I disagree. Both in book and in television form, the younger Lannister twin is one of the most compelling characters the tale has to offer. No matter how, no matter when, he is intelligent, pragmatic and emotionally self-serving. Whatever he chooses and wherever he goes, he always does what his heart tells him to, in that he abides by the moral compass of the woman he loves. When he fancies Cersei, he does her biding; when smitten with Brienne, he joins her quest. That is such an interesting spin (trope subversion, to stay on topic ^^) : he becomes a “good man” by doing exactly the same thing he has always done, just on a different side of the fence. Quite brilliant !

      Oh, one last thing: promise me your wife will treat him like sh*t and pray that he dies. Promise me!”

      Ha ha ! Very true ! Though, since I am quite the Catelyn apologist, I cannot help but modify that statement a touch : “promise me you will do everything in your power to make your wife treat him like sh*t”.

      There are quite a few lies Ned could have told about his nephew’s parentage that would not have humiliated Catelyn and made her resent Jon as a result. For example, he could have pretended Jon was his brother’s son instead of his own. Have Benjen say that he got married to a young woman at the start of the Rebellion, that she sadly died in childbirth, that he is so “heartbroken” he wants to join the Night’s Watch and that Ned is to take care of his “son”… Boom ! Not only would it have explained why the baby looks like a Stark but it also would have allowed Jon to grow up without either the “stain” of illegitimacy or Catelyn’s disgust.

      With just an iota of imagination and a molecule of trust in Benjen, Ned could have increased Jon’s quality of life by a significant percentage.

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    107. ash: and hopefully not resort to revenge (which I admit forgive Arya, but not Cersei. Why is that?)

      If I may offer a possible answer, I would say “Staaaark” 😉

      The Starks were our initial protagonists, the family for whom most of us, readers/viewers, have rooted since the beginning. So we forgive or excuse away their worst behaviours, the very same type of behaviour we would find appalling were a non-Stark to dare engage in it…
      Attempt to turn a man’s head into purée ? Revolting when the Mountain does it, totaly fine when Jon goes for it.
      Feed a human being to the dogs ? Monstrous when Ramsay does it, celebrated when Sansa tries her hand at it.
      Use a person’s mutilated body parts to traumatise said person’s relative ? Unspeakable when Ramsay and Joffrey do it, cheer-worthy when Arya plays cook.
      We all have a Stark-bias ^^

      Inga: The simpliest the explanations would be that Ned didn’t want to make problems to his best friend King Robert etc.

      And sometimes the simplest explanation is the best one ^^

      I believe you hit the nail on the head. Ned could not possibly believe Jon to be brain-dead enough to endanger himself by bragging about his Targaryen heritage so that cannot be the reason why he kept the truth from him for years. That is why he lied to everyone else but not why he lied to Jon.

      The only logical explanation is that Ned feared Jon might try to claim his birthright, possibly want to avenge his biological father and start a conflict with the crown, aka Robert.* And Ned, for a reason I cannot fathom, loved Robert. Even though he chuckled at the sight of the corpses of a raped woman and her two massacred children, even though he was a drunken thug, even though he was an abusive brute, even though he was a terrible king, even though Lyanna ran away from him at the first opportunity, even though Ned was certain King Bobby would murder Jon if the truth of his parentage became public knowledge, even though Ned was convinced Bob would kill Cersei’s innocent children (and Joffrey) for the crime of having the wrong father…

      Ned had great taste in friends ! ^^

      * By the by, the idea that Jon, had he known the truth, would have suddenly decided to take over Westeros is uniquely laughable. One of Jon’s main characteristics, for better and for worse, is that he has little to no ambition. He is driven by many things but certainly not this. I seriously doubt he would have plotted against Robert, or anyone for that matter, putting the Seven Kingdoms and their people at risk, simply to get a throne he never showed any interest in. So Ned’s fear was not only unfounded but also quite insulting.

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    108. Sorry to come back so late but I really want to complement Petra for writing such a great article that sparks such great BTL discussion. This is why I love WotW.

      Queenofthrones first raised the issue of our three “heroes” on “redemptive arcs” and I’ve really enjoyed all the discussion that sparked. Petra, landstander, Ten Bears, ACME, I’m looking at you and thanking you for your ideas and insights.

      I think everybody knows by now that I’m a great Jaime fan. But I love Sandor… and Theon is… after everything he’s gone through it’s nice to see something positive for him, I guess… So the 2 out of 3 Queenofthrones was referring to, lol. But I absolutely love Alfie Allen. His portrayal of Theon/Reek/Theon (/Reek/Theon…) is absolutely brilliant.

      Petra made a great point how Jaime’s, Sandor’s and Theon’s “redemptions” are about different things. They each have to resolve things specific to them personally. And what does “redemption” even mean?

      landstander pointed out that physical mutilation (Jaime, Theon) as redemptive in itself is shallow and false, and the brilliant ACME developed the point further, giving her three points of redemption: epiphany, sorrow and penance. (Dear Ten Bears pointed out Sandor checks every box.)

      As to the three points of redemption, as outlined by ACME, I don’t think it’s simply linear or an either/or switch. I agree with Ten Bears that Sandor – as much as we love him, a side character – checks the boxes, he had some sort of an epiphany off-screen and sorrow and penance are shown (burying the farmer and rabbit-stew Sally.)

      As to Jaime and Theon (who are arguably more “main” characters than Sandor), their redemptions are far knottier. I’d argue that “epiphany”, “sorrow” and “penance” are not strictly sequential but an ongoing process.

      Jaime was clearly flirting with epiphany and sorrow (as defined by ACME) in S2 with his “so many vows” speech to Cat. He began his penance by sending Brienne to look for and protect Sansa and Arya in S4. His leaving Cersei and riding north alone is surely an epiphany moment. But his true redemption will only come when he confronts Bran – the child he tried to kill on Cersei’s prompting – and how he deals with it. This is why Jaime/Bran reunion is one of the things I’m most looking forward to in S8. Oh, and the Jaime/Dany meet-up (he killed her dad and all that… and only Brienne knows why. Or maybe the show made Tyrion also to know..? And tell Dany..? I can’t remember.)

      Anyway, thanks for all the great discussions, y’all!

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    109. ACME:
      There are quite a few lies Ned could have told about his nephew’s parentage that would not have humiliated Catelyn and made her resent Jon as a result. For example, he could have pretended Jon was his brother’s son instead of his own. Have Benjen say that he got married to a young woman at the start of the Rebellion, that she sadly died in childbirth, that he is so “heartbroken” he wants to join the Night’s Watch and that Ned is to take care of his “son”… Boom ! Not only would it have explained why the baby looks like a Stark but it also would have allowed Jon to grow up without either the “stain” of illegitimacy or Catelyn’s disgust.

      With just an iota of imagination and a molecule of trust in Benjen, Ned could have increased Jon’s quality of life by a significant percentage.

      Benjen was in Winterfell during Robert’s Rebellion, so it would have been a lie with very short legs… 😀

      Ned and Lyanna were the only Starks down there. Telling people it was Lyanna’s son would have put Jon in mortal danger, cause everybody would have immediately associated him with Rhaegar… Presenting Jon as his bastard son was the only solution, I think. Also considering Jon has strong Stark traits… Lyanna probably even explicitly asked him to raise Jon as if he was his son, and Ned doesn’t seem the type who ignores his dying sister’s last wish…

      Poor Jon was hated by Catelyn, but he was loved by Ned, Robb, Arya, Sansa, Brandon and Rickon… And being the Lord’s bastard son, his life might have been less happy compared to the above-mentioned characters, but surely better than 99% of the people in the North.

      Ned’s lie saved his life and made him live a decent life (a great life compared to 99% of northmen)… I really find it hard to blame Ned for that. 😀

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    110. ACME,

      The Starks were our initial protagonists, the family for whom most of us, readers/viewers, have rooted since the beginning. So we forgive or excuse away their worst behaviours, the very same type of behaviour we would find appalling were a non-Stark to dare engage in it…
      Attempt to turn a man’s head into purée ? Revolting when the Mountain does it, totaly fine when Jon goes for it.
      Feed a human being to the dogs ? Monstrous when Ramsay does it, celebrated when Sansa tries her hand at it.
      Use a person’s mutilated body parts to traumatise said person’s relative ? Unspeakable when Ramsay and Joffrey do it, cheer-worthy when Arya plays cook.
      We all have a Stark-bias ^

      ^

      I totally agree and explains much; esp since the torture from the starks seemed more justified because they wanted revenge for what happened to their family (and knew there would be no justice otherwise)

      talvikorppi,

      B

      ut his true redemption will only come when he confronts Bran – the child he tried to kill on Cersei’s prompting – and how he deals with it. This is why Jaime/Bran reunion is one of the things I’m most looking forward to in S8.

      This wasn’t a reunion I’d considered but yes that would be very interesting. Will Bran just blow it off as too long ago to matter, or would he actually become angry, which I don’t think we’ve seen him be before.

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    111. talvikorppi,
      I think you are utterly and completely right in regards to the three stages of redemption not necessarily being sequential. They can, as you very accurately point out, happen in any order and there can be a back-and-forth, with series of relapses and recoveries.

      However, I believe it is somewhat impossible for Jaime to go through the full process for I think he cannot access one of the three stages, namely epiphany.
      Jaime is, in my view, one of the most quietly and pragmatically intelligent characters in ASoIaF. While his intellect is not as showy, sharp or politics-oriented as his brother’s or father’s, he has repeatedly demonstrated a degree of logic and reason few characters can rival with.

      Everything Jaime does, he does for an excellent reason (usually involving his own self-preservation, bless him ! ^^). Behind each of his decisions, including the most morally appalling, there always is a strong imperative. So, while he can experience sorrow over the tragic consequences of his deeds and do penance by asking for forgiveness or attempting not to find himself in the same situations, I do not think he can truly regret the deeds themselves…
      He did push a child out of a window. But what else could he do ? Simply letting Bran leave meant taking a chance with his children’s safety, as well as that of the woman he loved and his own ! As Nikolaj Coster Walday stated in an interview he gave a couple of months ago, Jaime’s situation was not dissimilar to that of a man in a life boat who has to choose between saving his kids and a child he does not know…
      The same logic applies to the assassination of the Mad King and even the murder of his cousin.

      The Hound can regret his past crimes because they were partly driven by want, so to speak. Similarly, Theon can reevaluate the reprehensible choices he made and come to the conclusion he could have done things very differently, had he been more sensible. Jaime… Not so much. For all his passion, the younger Lannister is and has always been fiercely reasonable. He does whatever needs to be done, morality be damned !
      Therefore, I think his evolution is dictated by his circumstances more so than by some deep soul-searching exercice.

      That being said, I wholeheartedly share your eagerness to see his reunion with Bran. It is bound to be fascinating, especially considering how utterly unemotional the youngest Stark child has become… It would be darkly hilarious for Computer!Bran to confuse Jaime with his lack of resentment. Jaime’s reaction shots are always glorious ^^

      PS I seem to recall that Tyrion did tell Daenerys of the reason why his brother killed her father but I may be wrong.

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    112. Bhikkhu: Benjen was in Winterfell during Robert’s Rebellion, so it would have been a lie with very short legs…

      That is true but Catelyn was at Riverrun and everyone else was in the south fighting in the Rebellion. So there would have been very few witnesses who could have contradicted Benjen’s assertion.

      So while, as you rightly point out, the lie would have had quite short lower limbs (^^), it would not have been that much less believable than the one Ned came up with, namely the scenario according to which he met some random woman (presumably in the Riverlands) merely a few weeks (days ?) after his wedding, had sex with her, went to fight for months in the Rebellion at the end of which he found the random woman again in Dorne (pregnancy made her eager to travel, it seems) while she was dying in childbirth…
      The fact that no one is Westeros ever questioned this singularly bizarre tale has always been a source of wonder to me 🙂

      On a broader note, I do not believe anyone is doubting the soundness of Ned’s decision to lie to everyone about Jon’s parentage. That is perfectly understandable. However, the reasoning behind his choice to deceive Jon himself (and then decide to put an end to the deception only after Jon renounced all his birthrights) is more questionable, I think.

      ash: I totally agree and explains much; espsince the torture from the starks seemed more justified because they wanted revenge for what happened to their family (and knew there would be no justice otherwise)

      Absolutely. The Starks suffered first so we give them more leeway. Which they may or may not entirely deserve, depending on the circumstances 😉

      Furthermore, their initial suffering makes us want to identify with them and identification tends to lead to forgiveness (as you very rightly pointed out in relation to Jon and Daenerys).

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    113. It’s very hard to tell how Ned felt about Jon joining the NW in the show but still we can assume that he saw the NW as a noble order doing a hard but necessary job and that he sort of encouraged Jon to follow the path of his other uncle Benjen. The major inconsistency is that Ned never thought about installing Jon on the IT right after Robert’s death or even a bit earlier. I mean it was obvious that Joffrey shouldn’t have been let anywhere near to the throne, and that Stannis was hardly better – he had no support even among his own family members, people saw him as a dangerous convert into a foreign religion etc., and the war for the IT was ineitable in any case. So, by pulling out the wild card of Jon-Aegon Ned could have secured the support of Renly and the Tyrells (as far as I remember, initially Renley simply wanted to isolate Joffrey from Cersei and other Lannisters and rule on his behalf, so Jon could have worked as a subsitute for Joffrey, and the only thing the Tyrells ever wanted was to make Margeary a queen). It’s rather strange that he never considered such an option.

      As for Robert, I don’t think that Ned’s best friend was all that bad, especially when he was younger. He loved wine and women, but he also loved Lyanna. He hated kinging but mostly because it involved continuous compromising with all that hateful and spiteful Small Council and the Lannisters: Cersei alone would have driven mad a saint. And I don’t think that Robert (at least show!Robert) would have been able to kill a child: on his deathbed he asked Ned to cancel Dany’s assassination paln etc. So, in general Robert was a pretty fine guy partyally corrupted by power but still good at the core. It’s just that he was very unhappy and lonely, and I can totally see why Ned felt obliged to protect him as much, as he felt obliged to protect Jon-Aegon.

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    114. ash,
      House Monty,

      I see I have been misunderstood: I had in mind the original Little Meirmade by H. Ch. Anderssen, not it’s stupid Disney adaptation butchered with a happy ending. It roots back to an archetypical Hindoeropean myth about a water goddess falling in love with a mortal, but it’s a tragic myth about a unrequitted love and sacrifice of the heroine, in which the hero rarely gets a redemption arch. Same can be said about the Beauty and the Beast in its original form and many earlier variations. I’m not so sure about the Princess and the Frog: basically, it’s an gender-reverse version of the Prince and the (female) Frog which goes back to the initial archetype of the mortal and the water goddess, only in this case the hero usually gets a redemption arch. However, in the classic version of the Princess and the Frog the Prince-Frog is a passive character who needs saving, so one can argue that the Princess an the Frog is just another version of the Beauty and the Beast. One way or another there are plenty of fairy tales (or mytch) which not only have a proactive heroine in the focus but also grant the role of a savior to her and saying something like “heroines are always saved by heroes” demonstrates nothing but a poor knowledge of mythology and folklore. Sorry guys, but in this case I’ll put it straight: “You know nothing”.

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    115. Inga,

      About Robert, you wrote: “He loved wine and women, but he also loved Lyanna.”
      ———–
      I am NOT disputing this; I’m just curious: (in the books), how many times did Robert actually see and talk with Lyanna?
      I’ve read comments asserting that he loved the idea of Lyanna (eg, to cement the Robert Baratheon-Ned Stark bromance) more than Lyanna herself.
      On the show, I found it telling that Robert admitted to Cersei that he didn’t even remember what she looked like. The image of anyone I’ve ever loved is seered into my brain. It was kind of strange that Robert could say Lyanna was all he ever wanted — and not renember what she looked like.

      So, how well did Robert actually get to know the real Lyanna vs. his idealized concept of Lyanna?

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    116. Ten Bears,

      Sure, Robert loved Lyanna as an idea, but nevertheless that tells a lot about him as a person, because Lyanna was an idea of the true and faithful love. In other words, Robert was a hopeless romantique – not stong enough to find a new purpose in life after his initial vision of the future was torn to pieces, but still a pretty likeable man with the right instincts. Had he married some wise and compassionate woman, instead of selling himslelf like a brood stallion to the hateful and selfish Lannisters, he would have been a much better husband and king. And all in all, Ned had reasons to love his poor friend – that was the point I want to make, because ACME tends to see Robert only as a whoring drunker.

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    117. Inga: And all in all, Ned had reasons to love his poor friend – that was the point I want to make, because ACME tends to see Robert only as a whoring drunker.

      Oh no, I also see him as an unforgivable monster who smirked in front of the massacred corpses of a mother and her two children. And an unfeeling cad who treated women as pieces of meat with a hole in it whose consent meant little to him. And a lamentable imbecile who could never be bothered to learn how to govern the millions of people in his care. And a pitiful father who never paid any attention to the three children he believed to be his. And a grotesque brute whose sole real claim to fame was his ability to crush people’s skull with a warhammer.

      I also see him as someone who would have been capable of ordering the murder of Jon, his BFF’s nephew, and Cersei’s three (two?) innocent children, had he known who their real parents were. It may be important to note that Ned himself shared that opinion of his friend, on both counts.
      I also see him as the main cause for Joffrey’s pathology. Had Cersei’s eldest child not grown up to worship from afar a “father’ solely known for his battle-related brutality, he may not have felt so utterly desperate to live up to Daddy Bobby’s ruthless reputation and completely frustrated at his inability to do so (Joff did not have the muscles ever to equal Robert’s “prowess”). And he may not have exerciced his own brand of pathetic machismo, lashing out like a sadistic child whenever he could tell that someone was not taken by the illusion he so frantically tried to project.
      Finally, I also see him as someone who never truly loved Lyanna, given how little time he had to spend with her (admittedly, that is not much less time than Rhaegar and Lyanna had to get to know each other but I also happen not to believe they were truly in love either so… ^^). The sense of mourning he felt in relation to his runaway fiancée was, in my eyes, deeply rooted in a proprietary sense of loss (“It was the girl I prayed them for. Your sister, safe … and mine again, as she was meant to be.”) In Robert’s opinion, Lyanna was meant to be “his” and someone took her. Someone stole his toy and Bobby became obsessed with it because he could not handle frustration, neither as a young man nor as an older one. In many ways, his perception of Lyanna was not dissimilar to Viserys’s view of the crown : they both wanted “it” solely because, in their mind, it was theirs, regardless of how thoroughly ill-suited they both were for “it”.

      I can only assume blaming the Lannisters for Robert’s crimes is a tempting proposition. After all, it is one Ned embraces fully to exonerate his friend. However, there is not much evidence to legitimise this passing of the bucket.
      Tyrion never did anything to or against Robert. Tywin supported his reign and paid his bills, thereby preventing the Seven Kingdoms from descending into brankruptcy and chaos as a result of Bobby’s lamentable rulership. Jaime did not like him at all but served him all the same. And while it is true Cersei did not love him (he did not love her either so I doubt he cared), it still took her fifteen-twenty years of constant degradation and abuse to snap and have him killed.

      I realise that “when in doubt, blame the Lannisters (or Littlefinger)” is a popular adage in Westeros but I doubt it can be reasonably applied to Bob. 🙂

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    118. ACME,

      Either you are joking, or we have been watching a different show.

      Frome what I saw, I wouldn’t say that good old Bob “treated women as pieces of meat with a hole in it” – quite on the contrary: I assume that he was pretty nice with all those whores and wenches, because it was clear that they enjoyed his attention and company. The only women he mistreated was Cersei but she deserved all that and more – we want her to be murdered, right? A slap in the face was definitely not enough.

      As for the children, it was pretty clear that Cersei isolated them from him: they were hers and hers alone. However, Joffrey wept by Robert’s death bed and he went mad after learning that Robert wasn’t his father, so, even that spoiled little shit had respect and even love to the man.

      Regarding kinging, Robert did for the realm the best thing he could: he entrusted the rein to honorable men: Jon Arryn and then Ned Stark.

      And we have no reliable information about Robert’s reaction towards the death of Ellia and her children. However, there is a fact that he called back assassination of Daenerys and that Varys kept his position as a Master of Whispers despite of failing all the previous assassination attempts. So, again there was no evidence that he was very much into killing or that he would have harmed Jon-Aegon – Ned feared the Lannisters (namely, Tywin) and not Robert, as far as I understand.

      To sum up, we can agree to disagree, but I see Robert to be very similar to Dany: he had a good heart and a bit of bad impulses he tried to check as good as he could. His tragedy was that he failed to find the true love and purpose he saught and I can only hope that Jon-Aegon will save Dany from such a curse.

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    119. Inga: Either you are joking, or we have been watching a different show.

      Neither, as far as I can tell. ^^

      I assume that he was pretty nice with all those whores and wenches, because it was clear that they enjoyed his attention and company.

      He was king; they did not have much of a choice other than to “enjoy” his attention.

      As for his treatment of Cersei, I struggle to agree that she “deserved all that and more”. In the books, it is made quite clear that Robert used to force himself upon her; not an illegal practice considering that, as his wife, she was technically his property but still a vile one. I fail to see how anyone can “deserve” to get raped.
      The show makes it even worse for good ol’ Bobby since it indicates that Cersei did, at some point, love him but that his constant abuse, rejection and disdain led her to bitterness, resentment and, ultimately, hatred.

      As for the children, it was pretty clear that Cersei isolated them from him: they were hers and hers alone.

      Cersei was proprietary towards her children, that is true. But Robert was more than capable of asserting himself against her when he truly felt like it. So why didn’t he in relation to “his” children? And who kept him from his illegitimate kids ? Was he there too prevented from being a great dad by some evil women ?

      Robert was an indifferent father to all his children alike, regardless of their mother or the circumstances of their birth. Therefore, I can only conclude that he did not care for them. Joffrey’s “love” for him was akin to a desperate eagerness for attention from the “heroic” man he believed to be his father. As Book!Jaime very accurately put it, Joffrey was “a child hungry for a pat on the head from that sot you (Cersei) let him believe was his father”

      Regarding kinging, Robert did for the realm the best thing he could: he entrusted the rein to honorable men: Jon Arryn and then Ned Stark.

      If the best he could do was to shift his responsibilities onto other people while he kept himself busy spending the crown’s money and not giving a hoot about anything, then he should have abdicated, I believe.

      So, again there was no evidence that he was very much into killing or that he would have harmed Jon-Aegon – Ned feared the Lannisters (namely, Tywin) and not Robert, as far as I understand

      It is strongly implied that Lyanna asked Ned to keep Jon’s identity a secret because she feared Robert’s reaction, not Tywin’s. She barely knew of the Old Lion and, as far as we can tell, had no reason to fret over his behaviour. Conversely, she was somewhat familiar with Robert and his personality…
      Furthermore, Ned himself believed his friend capable of killing children for the crime of being their parents’. He said so in no ambiguous terms to Cersei when he advised her to flee with an army to protect her and her kids from Robert’s wrath.

      As for his eargerness to have Daenerys assassinated, it only abated once he was on his deathbed. Had he had a change of heart sooner, it may have been indicative of something more “charitable” but the fact that he renounced his plan solely once he knew he would no longer be able to see its end result anyway makes me reluctant to view it as anything but a sacrifice that cost him nothing, a meaningless peace offering designed uniquely to get Ned’s forgiveness.

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    120. ACME,

      I am sorry, but I feel like your assessment is based on Cersei’s narration (book and show), and Cersei is the most unreliable source of information one could think of. She wants to victimize herself at any cost, she twists reality as she pleases, she tells herself stories about Tyrion killing her mother and children, etc. Don’t you think all those stories about Robert raping her are the product of her twisted imagination too? I mean how he could possible rape her, if she was so much in love with him (or rather with the idea of marrying the king but anyway)? Cersei just needs to tell hersef stories how everyone around her is bad bad bad, so she could look a little bit better. And she also uses those to manipulate others – Jaime first of all. Don’t you realize that she had to dramatize her marriage to keep her brother-lover in her clutch? However, the reality was such that Robert tried to live with her the best way he could – the very least, he tried to fulfill his duties, which should have been even more disgusting for him, than it was for Cersei.

      As for Lyanna, she was hardly more reliable than Cersei. She barely knew Robert, she happened to fall in love with another, so she had to vilify her fiancé to justify her actions. And then she never got a reliable information about what happened in KL: she could have easily assumed that Ellia and her children were killed under Robert’s command etc.

      So, the only reliable source of information about Robert was Ned and partly Cat and I tend to trust their oppinion much more than Cersei’s whinging.

      As for Robert’s bastards, do you really believe that Jon Arryn was taking care of them under his own initiative? And from what we saw Gendry – his only suriving child – had no bad feelings for his dad. Quite on the contrary: he made himself a war hammer, he showed eargerness to continue his legacy by fighting for a good cause, which also implies that the smallfolk in general saw King Robert as a hero despite of all his adventures in the brothels or maybe even because of that: after all Cersei was hated and everyone was happy to see her humiliated.

      So, once again, we can agree to disagree, but there is no solid evidence that Robert was a bad man, and most of the facts point to the opposite.

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    121. Inga,
      With all the best intentions in the world, it appears that your reliability criterion may be more of a favourability criterion. Ned was no less biased than Cersei or Lyanna in regards to Robert; after all, he and Bobby had grown up together at the Eyrie and were best mates for most of their lives. Ned was not impartial; he was simply biased in his friend’s favour as opposed to the aforementioned women who may have had reasons to be biased against him.

      However, for the sake of the argument, I am willing to assume that Ned is the sole source of reliable Robert-related information. Thus, in Ned’s own words : “When the king returns from his hunt, I will tell him the truth. You must be gone by then, you and your children; I won’t have their blood on my hands. Go as far away as you can with as many men as you can, because wherever you go, Robert’s wrath will follow you.”
      Ned Stark clearly asserted that Robert would relentlessly chase after three innocent children and murder them because of who their parents are. Ned himself firmly believed his friend capable of such a thing. I would count that as solid evidence that Bobby was not merely a tragically disappointed romantic…

      As for Robert’s bastards, do you really believe that Jon Arryn was taking care of them under his own initiative?

      The show gave us no indication that Robert had anything to do with his Hand’s actions so yes, I do. Jon Arryn did rule the entire kingdom pretty much without any input from Robert therefore it is far from inconceivable.
      Even in the books, where Robert is slightly more involved in his bastards’ lives, the extent of his paternal care seems overall restricted to knowing his kids exist.

      the smallfolk in general saw King Robert as a hero

      The smallfolk also believe Euron to be a hero, as per his latest triumphant parade through King’s Landing… Unfortunately, lowborns have limited access to their rulers and, as such, a reduced ability to judge their character.

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    122. Well, ASOIAF is great especially because of its multifaceted, complex characters, imo. Ned, Robert, Catelyn, Jaime, Tyrion, Dany, Jon, The Hound, etc. etc… They’re not one-dimensional, there’s some dirt in the good ones, some good in the bad ones, they have virtues and flaws, they do mistakes… That’s why they seem so real and they generate so many discussions about their behaviour! 😀 We all have different opinions about them… I once even read the comments of a person who was angry with Ned cause he was so against Jaime… It was like Team Jaime vs Team Ned! 😀 😀 😀

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    123. ACME,

      It’s true that Ned was biased but his bias was based on personal experience. Ned was a good man and good men simply can’t maintain a long-term friendship with bad men: the morals interfere. Just look what happened when Ned and Robert disagreed over Daenerys: Ned threw the pin of the Hand on his table right? And what happened afterwards? Robert acknowledged his mistake, although reluctantly. So, I imagine that’s how their relationship went on: Robert had bad impusles, Ned checked them and he should have been successful in most of the cases, otherwise that friendship would have fallen appart before it started.

      As for Cersei’s children, you have to take into account the context. Firstly, the talk with Cersei happened before Robert called back assassination of Daenerys – that was the moment when Ned doubted his friend and his own ablity to check his worst impulses. Secondly, there other people wispering into Robert’s ear and some of those would have done anything to destroy the Lannisters. And last but not the least, Ned wanted Cersei to run and he tried to scare her, so he could have exagerated the threat to her children a bit…

      So, in general I do agree that Robert was far from flawless and he could do bad things, but taking him for a one-dimentional villain it’s just not fair. As Bhikkhu has admitted, ASOIAF is great especially because of its multifaceted, complex characters and Robert was one of those.

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    124. talvikorppi,
      I totally agree with you. I think there will be a group of seven heroes at the final battle, and the Fandom will forever be discussing who is the most heroic of them all 🙂

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