Tag Archives: A Song of Ice and Fire

Game of Thrones: Ten Predictions for Season Seven

Tomorrow, the first episode of Game of Thrones season seven airs, and I’m displaying the amount of enthusiasm that is appropriate to a respectable adult.

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YES BRUV (image: giphy.com)

I’ve been watching the show for a few years now and one of the things I like most about it is the way it can keep me guessing. I never know what’s going to happen, especially since the show started veering away from the books. I’ve always had a bit of a knack for guessing where plots end up going, so the element of surprise is a huge draw for me.

I’ve got no clue what’s going to happen in season seven but here are my ten best guesses, plus a wild card thrown in. Spoilers are coming.

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Seriously, EVERYTHING. (image: imgur.com)

 

  1. Stark family reunion

Ever since Jon and Sansa were reunited in season six, there’s been talk of a full Stark reunion. Now, it looks like the surviving Starks are at least heading to the same place. Arya is heading north and Bran is turning back towards the Wall. It looks like both of them are heading to Winterfell, and shots from the trailers appear to support this.

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She looks really chilly, she must be heading north. (image: HBO/showsnob.com)

I think this is probably one of the most likely things to happen in season seven, and not just because I want an excuse to cry big ugly tears and eat my feelings. The Stark family split up right at the beginning of the series: Jon headed for the Wall; Ned, Sansa and Arya went to King’s Landing; Bran and Rickon stayed in the north; Robb and Catelyn went off to war (which really didn’t end well). As the series went on they were split up even further: Ned was executed, Robb and Catelyn were murdered, Sansa was held hostage in King’s Landing, Arya ran off to Braavos via the Riverlands, Bran went beyond the Wall and Rickon wandered into a trap with Osha. With the series as a whole coming to an end, I think it’s likely their storyline will come full circle and we’ll see them reunite.

The showrunners have used this particular quote from Ned in this season’s promo material: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.” Ned originally says this to Arya when he’s trying to explain the importance of family – it’s essentially a wolfier version of ‘untied we stand, divided we fall’. I think that’s a pretty strong hint that the Starks will get back together and be a much more serious threat. How long that reunion lasts is another matter.

 

  1. Daenerys will lose a dragon

There hasn’t been much hinting for this one in the season seven promo material, so this is mostly speculation. Hear me out. Remember Euron Greyjoy?

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You know, the damp one with the sideburns. (image: gameofthrones.wikia.com)

He became king of the Iron Islands last season when he won that special clifftop election. In the books this is pretty significant, as Euron has a magical horn called Dragonbinder that he claims can control dragons. This hasn’t been tested yet, as the horn hasn’t got close enough to any dragons to have an effect. We know it has some magical properties (it kills the man who sounds it from the inside out) but the dragon thing hasn’t been confirmed. This is what wins him the election, and Euron and his Ironborn start making plans to reach Daenerys and take the Iron Throne. Euron’s storyline in the show is obviously different to the books, but his end goals are still the same: he wants to marry Daenerys and conquer the Seven Kingdoms.

I’m pretty sure that Daenerys won’t marry him. She’s already allied with Yara and Theon and promised to overthrow Euron in their favour. I also don’t think she’d respond well to Euron’s particular brand of charm, mainly because he has none. So Euron’s only option would be to take a dragon by force using magic. This probably wouldn’t be all that difficult, as Daenerys’s control over her dragons is shaky at best. She can command them to burn things, but she can’t always get them to stop – just look at season four.

Zalla
Pretty sure that this incident isn’t going to be a one-off. (image: gameofthrones.wikia.com)

The show hasn’t actually confirmed that Euron has Dragonbinder, so this may not happen exactly as I laid out. Regardless, I think it’s still a likely twist. At the moment Daenerys has an army of Unsullied, an army of Dothraki, Varys, the Sand Snakes, Tyrion Lannister, and three fully-grown fire-breathing dragons. None of the other Westerosi lords can compete with the kind of firepower she has (heh heh literally). It’d be far too easy for her to sweep in and take the entire continent, and there’s still two more series to go. Something’s got to level the playing field. If it’s not Euron, it could be Bran warging into a dragon, or even just a dragon being killed by normal people – this has happened before in Westerosi history, when dragons were trapped in confined spaces. But my money’s on the Euron storyline, mainly because it would make things so much more interesting if someone else had a dragon on their side.

 

  1. Jaime will break with Cersei

A rift has grown between Jaime and Cersei over the past few seasons. Since Jaime lost his hand (and met our precious warrior angel, Brienne) he’s redefined his notions of honour and bravery. He helped Tyrion escape when he knew Cersei wanted him dead. He obeys her orders, but it’s become increasingly clear that he’s not happy about it.

Cersei has changed too. She’s become more paranoid and scheming than ever, but she’s also not very good at it. She blamed Jaime for being taken prisoner and has repeatedly mocked him for things that are beyond his control. She’s become incredibly twisted since her humiliation at the hands of the Faith of the Seven. What’s more, all three of her and Jaime’s children are dead, so aside from their secret relationship (which has been floundering, given the time they’ve spent apart) the bonds between Jaime and Cersei are starting to crack.

I think that in the next season this will only get worse. It’s pretty clear that Jaime wasn’t happy with Cersei’s decision to declare herself queen – just look at his face:

It’s not hard to see why. Aside from the fact that Cersei’s terrible decisions have actively made everything worse (i.e. arming a group of religious fanatics), Cersei is responsible for the death of their uncle, Kevan Lannister, and indirectly responsible for the death of their son, Tommen. I’m not sure that Jaime will be able to forget that.

There are a few shots of Jaime and Cersei together in the trailer, so I don’t think this will happen right away. But in the second trailer there’s more shots of Jaime on his own, which could be a nice little bit of foreshadowing from the showrunners. Let’s not forget that Tyrion is also heading back to Westeros this season, and fans have speculated that there’s some shots of Casterly Rock. I wonder if this means we’re in for a Lannister reunion as well as a Stark one. Given that Jaime loves Tyrion enough to set him free against Cersei’s orders, I’m really excited to see if Jaime will have to choose between his two siblings. There is also the little matter of the valonquar prophecy mentioned in the books – but personally, I think that’s one for season eight.

 

  1. Jorah will die of greyscale

Yeah, he’s a goner. It’s an incurable disease and he knows it’s spreading. He’s a dead man walking.

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Jebediah and I would be best mates. (image: reviewtoakill.wordpress.com)

 

  1. The Wall will be compromised

In the previous season Bran’s time-bending vision quests were all fine and dandy until the Night’s King showed up and ruined everything. In a vision where he sees an army of White Walkers and their ice zombies, the wights, this incredibly creepy thing happens:

The mark the Night’s King leaves on Bran’s arm lets him get past Bloodraven’s magic. The one safe place north of the Wall that was supposed to be safe from the Night’s King was blown wide open, and of course our favourite ice zombie came storming in and tried to kill everybody. The show makes it explicitly clear that it’s the mark that has made this possible. Who’s to say that this magic won’t work on the Wall itself? We know that Bran is heading south, and there’s no reason to suggest that the mark would only work once. The Wall isn’t made of just ice; there’s magic holding it together too. If it’s the same kind of magic that protected Bloodraven’s hideout, Westeros could be in trouble.

This is all but confirmed in the books through the character of Coldhands (which the show morphed into Benjen Stark). Coldhands is essentially a good wight: he’s a member of the undead that has somehow been enchanted to regain his sense of self. The books make it explicitly clear that Coldhands cannot enter Bloodraven’s cave or cross the Wall due to the magic imbued in both. If Bran’s mark was enough to break the wards on Bloodraven’s cave and let the undead through, why wouldn’t it do the same to the Wall?

 

  1. Sam will find an important secret about the White Walkers in the Great Library, but die before he can deliver the information to Jon

This is exactly the kind of thing that Game of Thrones would do. In fact, they’ve done it before, in pretty much every series. But I won’t just leave it at that.

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OR WILL I (image: tumblr.com)

Sam was sent to Oldtown to become a Maester for the Night’s Watch after Maester Aemon’s death. He goes to the library at the Maester’s Citadel, and it’s been made very clear that Sam will read anything that stays still long enough. In previous seasons he read about the White Walkers before the rest of the cast encountered them, and has also read about the history of the Night’s Watch. I think it’s extremely likely that in his time in Oldtown, he will go to the library and look up those subjects again, if only to see how he can help Jon.

However, that’s not all Sam has been up to. He stopped to visit his family on the way, and while he was there he got into a fight with his awful father. He stole the family sword, a Valyrian steel greatsword called Heartsbane. This was a terrible decision all round, because not only is Sam not very good at using a sword, Heartsbane is a highly recognisable and valuable heirloom which his father, Randall Tarly, is deeply proud of. Randall has been adamant that Sam will never inherit Heartsbane, and he hates the idea of him having the sword.

So here’s what I think will happen. Sam will use his time in the library to look up White Walkers, the Wall, wights, and the Night’s Watch – anything that could be useful in the fight against terrifying ice zombies. I think it’s likely he’ll discover something important: the Citadel’s library is the largest in Westeros and is rumoured to have all sorts of secret knowledge. But just as he’s found his secret, Randall Tarly will pop up and kill him, take back Heartsbane, and prevent Sam from ever delivering his very important message. Because that’s just the kind of show this is.

 

  1. Littlefinger will die

I’m not entirely sure if Littlefinger is going to pop his clogs in season seven or season eight, but regardless of which I think his days are numbered.

Despite the fact that he’s only second to Varys in terms of craftiness, when you actually look at Littlefinger’s assets he doesn’t have as much as you might think. He was in a very different position at the beginning of the series: Master of Coin, Lord of Harrenhal, and the owner of at least a third of Westeros’s most thriving industry – brothels. When he married Lysa Arryn he also became Lord of the Vale. For a while it looked as though he might have control over three of the Seven Kingdoms: the Vale, the Riverlands and the North (mainly because he kept on trying to marry Sansa).

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Would you, Sir Ian? (image: giphy.com)

But things have changed. Littlefinger isn’t Master of Coin or Lord of Harrenhal any more; he lost both of those titles when he defected from the Lannisters. He doesn’t have anywhere near as much money to play with, either, as his wealthiest brothels (ie. the ones in King’s Landing) were destroyed by the Faith Militant. He’s now Lord Protector of the Vale, but that isn’t a position that can really last. He’s acting as Protector for Robin Arryn, who is Lord of the Vale in name only, but Robin is fifteen and won’t need a Protector for that much longer. Littlefinger doesn’t have much loyalty from the other lords of the Vale either; the interactions we’ve seen have been marked with tension and hostility on both sides. House Tyrell has also been destroyed – and this is significant, because in a scene at the end of season five, Olenna Tyrell tells Littlefinger that if her grandchildren are harmed, she will reveal his involvement in Joffrey’s murder.

What’s more, Sansa has shown absolutely no interest in marrying Littlefinger, which scuppers his future plans. This is understandable considering he betrayed her father, murdered her aunt and arranged Sansa’s marriage to a rapist and psychopath – oh, who was also the son of the man who murdered and betrayed her mother and oldest brother. It’s going to take a lot of roses and chocolates to make her forget that.

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Dogs really are a woman’s best friend. (image: gurl.com)

Littlefinger is now in Winterfell. He has the Knights of the Vale with him, but they aren’t loyal to him personally. Olenna Tyrell may be about to make his involvement in Joffrey’s murder public knowledge, which would turn the Lannisters against him for good (along with a few other families besides). He’s cut off from what resources he has and winter is fast approaching; when the snows get deep he might not be able to leave the castle at all. Littlefinger is a southerner with a reputation for deviousness and trickery, which wouldn’t exactly sit well with some of the more straight-talking northerners. He’s surrounded on all sides by people who neither like nor trust him. I’d be surprised if he left Winterfell alive.

The trailers have dropped a few hints about this. There’s a couple of brief shots of Littlefinger being attacked which have got people talking, and as I mentioned earlier there’s been a lot of focus on Stark family values. Littlefinger is trying to sow discord between Sansa and Jon, but given the strong hints we’ve been getting about Starks banding together I don’t think this’ll work. Besides, with the show eventually gearing up for the inevitable dragons vs ice zombies battle, sooner or later the political stuff is going to have to be set aside – and that’ll probably mean the end of Littlefinger’s story arc.

 

  1. Bran will possess a wight

Bran is becoming an incredibly powerful character. His weird mind-hopping powers (aka. warging and greenseeing) give him the ability to access knowledge no-one could have dreamt of and to jump in and out of other beings’ minds. Since last season it’s not limited to animals any more; he can now possess human beings. Why not a wight?

Of course, there are a few flaws in this theory. We don’t actually know how Bran’s powers work but so far, all that’s been confirmed is that they can work on living things. As the wights are reanimated ice zombies this presents a problem: we don’t know if it’ll work on the dead. There’s a good chance that they wouldn’t. Wights are reanimated corpses, but whatever magic holds them together doesn’t seem to stop them from decaying at the normal rate. I don’t know much about mind control, but I’m willing to bet that it’s much more difficult to pick someone’s brain when it’s literally rotting out of their skull.

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It is. (image: giphy.com)

But Game of Thrones is fantasy, and as such Bran’s powers are more likely to be limited by magical restrictions than biological ones. With that in mind I think this theory stands a better chance. If you look at the way the wights and White Walkers interact, it’s pretty clear that the White Walkers are the ones calling the shots. Wights seem to be creatures ruled by their killing instinct; left to their own devices they attack on sight. It’s only when a White Walker is around that they move like a more intelligent being, whether that’s by waiting for their prey or trying to herd it. Instructions are clearly being given. Odds are they aren’t verbal, as we never see a White Walker speak, and we rarely see them communicate with gestures. The White Walkers’ interactions (in general, not just with the wights) are marked by an unnatural kind of stillness, with very few visible signs of communication. As they clearly are communicating in some way, this leads me to assume it’s telepathic.

So if the White Walkers can control wights with some kind of telepathic connection, why can’t Bran? He clearly has very powerful abilities; we’ve seen him possess a fully-grown man in the present while his own consciousness was trapped in the past. The Night’s King has also left a brand on his arm. So far this has only been negative, as it allowed the Night’s King to break Bloodraven’s magic seals and track Bran down. But what if there are benefits to this that Bran hasn’t yet discovered? What if, in marking Bran, the Night’s King left a little piece of himself behind – and perhaps, some of his powers?

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…who left that there? (image: quirkybyte.com)

 

  1. Daenerys will begin exhibiting signs of her father’s madness

Quick recap for those of you that don’t have time for a binge watch. Daenerys’s father, Aerys II, was the king before Robert Baratheon took the throne. He started off all right but then went mad, which is mainly due to the fact that the Targaryen kings were really into the concept of sister-wives.

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Shut up, Cersei. (image: memegenerator.com)

Madness has been a pretty consistent feature of the Targaryen dynasty, and after centuries of incest it’s not hard to see why. If you look through Game of Thrones lore there’s a few other Targaryen kings who went mad too, and they were often pretty cruel along with it. So there’s a reasonable chance that Daenerys could’ve inherited this from her father. Much like Daenerys, Aerys started out as a promising ruler; it was only later that these tendencies began to surface. Daenerys’s parents were siblings, so her chances of inheriting some of this behaviour will be much more likely than if they weren’t already related.

What’s more, the show has set another precedent: we’ve actually seen Aerys. Before season six we never actually saw his character in action, he was only ever talked about. But thanks to Bran’s crazy mind powers, we got a brief glimpse of Aerys in the full grip of his madness. Now that an actor has actually been cast, I can’t help but wonder if we’re in for more flashbacks, which could serve as a parallel to Daenerys’s own storyline.

Daenerys has changed a lot over the course of the show. She’s gone from a sweet, naïve girl to a competent and determined ruler, but she’s had to be brutal to get there. She’s crucified people, fed people to her dragons, and burned people alive – which was something that her father was famous for doing. She’s slowly become a much more violent person. It’s a necessary part of her journey to becoming a ruler – she has to prove that she’s just as brutal as the rest of the Westerosi knights and lords, or they won’t accept her claim – but it’s not clear if she’ll know when to stop.

I think this is exactly the sort of thing that Game of Thrones would do to mess with the viewers. So far Daenerys’s storyline has been pretty standard: the exiled ruler returns to take their rightful place on the throne. Dany’s journey hasn’t really been thrown off course. A few people have died along the way, but ultimately she’s still doing exactly what she set out to do – unlike any other character on the show. That sweet and simple storyline is far from the kind of nasty surprise that Game of Thrones likes to spring on us.

 

  1. Cleganebowl

IN THE RED CORNER: The Mountain. Ser Gregor Clegane, over eight feet tall and strong enough to rip a man’s jaw off (no, really). He’s back from the dead, he’s got new Darth Vader armour and he’s out for blood.

IN THE BLUE CORNER: The Hound. Sandor Clegane, back in the game after he was left for dead. His wounds are healed, he’s got a sweet new Brotherhood to hang out with, and he’s all out of chickens. You know what that means.

Get hype.

 

And now, just to make things interesting…

WILD CARD: Jorah’s greyscale has already been passed to Daenerys. She and her court get infected by the disease

Do you remember this shot from season five? Daenerys has just been attacked in the fighting pits of Meereen, and in swoops Jorah the Explorer, ready to save her:

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Side note: this is just a really lovely shot. (image: cinematiccorner.blogspot.com)

That moment was very sweet, but it might have a nasty sting in the tail. In season four Jorah is banished from Daenerys’s service. He wonders around being miserable for a bit until he kidnaps Tyrion and decides to bring him to Daenerys as a gift. Most men go for flowers, but whatever. On their way back to Meereen, Jorah and Tyrion fight some men infected with greyscale (aka. the Stone Men) and Jorah contracts the disease.

No-one really knows how greyscale is spread. Most people in Westeros think it could be through touch, but this hasn’t actually been proved. It could be spread by anything – rats, water, air, contaminated food, you name it. But it’s infectious and incurable, and Jorah’s got it.

And right after he was infected, he touches Dany’s hand.

Jorah didn’t touch Dany with his greyscale hand, so there’s a chance that she might not have been infected. But we can’t actually rule that out. Jorah appears to have caught the disease after one of the Stone Men touched him in the fight, so it’s likely that skin-to-skin contact will spread the disease. It’s also not clear how long the disease will take to manifest itself: Jorah has seen his symptoms appear pretty quickly, but that might well be for dramatic effect. Game of Thrones likes to keep its timeline a bit fuzzy, so the incubation period hasn’t really been confirmed.

So there is a chance that Daenerys could have been infected with the disease and it hasn’t manifested itself yet. At the moment, Daenerys and her massive army are on their way to Westeros – in a fleet of ships, where they will be stuck together for weeks at a time in very close quarters. That is exactly the kind of conditions that infectious diseases thrive in. If anyone’s got greyscale it’ll spread through the lot of them like wildfire.

This would be a pretty unsatisfying end to Dany’s story, but in some ways I can see it working. It mirrors how Khal Drogo died – a great warrior brought down by an infection that’s impossible to cure. On the show, Daenerys is often hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world, so for her to catch a disfiguring disease would be quite symbolic, in a nasty kind of way. And it’s exactly the kind of curveball that the show likes to throw at its viewers. It might be a little bit ‘rocks fall and everyone dies’, but I wouldn’t put that past the showrunners.

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I still haven’t forgiven them for the Dorne storyline. (image: giphy.com)

 

And there you have it! That’s my ten best guesses for what will happen on the next season of Game of Thrones, plus one mediocre guess just for the hell of it. Let’s see how this turns out.

Strong Female Characters: Daenerys Targaryen

For those of you that don’t know, Daenerys is one of the main characters in George RR Martin’s phenomenally successful series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Set (mostly) in the fictional kingdom of Westeros, the plot of the series revolves around various unscrupulous noble families betraying each other and chopping each other’s heads off to see who gets to sit the Iron Throne and rule the kingdom. Daenerys is one of these nobles, and her arc of the story revolves around trying to get back to Westeros, punish the people who exiled and killed her and her family, and become Queen. The books are extremely popular – spawning endless fan theories, Halloween costumes and a sexed-up HBO adaptation – and Daenerys herself has been widely hailed as one of the most interesting characters in modern fiction.

But does she measure up to the hype? Let’s find out – but watch out for spoilers!

NOTE: This recap will only cover Daenerys’s character up to the end of A Dance with Dragons and Game of Thrones season 5.

 

  1. Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?

The question of whether Daenerys is truly in control of her own life is a very interesting one, mainly due to her family position. Daenerys is one of the last living descendants of the Mad King, Aerys Targaryen, who was deposed before the series begins. She had her brother fled into exile, spent several years running from the various bounty hunters looking to sell them to the new king, and trying to raise money to mount an invasion of Westeros. As such, Daenerys was brought up to believe that the Targaryen claim to the throne was the rightful one, and she was raised with the expectation that she would do everything in her power to make sure that a Targaryen bum would be sitting on the Iron Throne.

Much like this. (image: tumblr.com)
Much like this. (image: tumblr.com)

At the beginning of the series she has very little power, and this is mainly because she’s under the thumb of her bullying older brother. Once he’s killed, she becomes the last living Targaryen, and starts taking steps to raise an army and head back to conquer Westeros. You might think that this would mean she’d breeze through this question with no problems, but that’s not the case. Daenerys is very aware that she has other goals that she will never be able to pursue, thanks to her Targaryen heritage. She frequently expresses a wish to go back to the house with the red door, where she grew up, or to live as a normal woman with the men she loves.

Daenerys does want to be queen, but her desire to do so is tangled up with her status as the last living Targaryen. Given her upbringing, she feels as if pursuing the Iron Throne is the only option open to her – she owes it to her murdered family to take back what was theirs. She’s fully aware that because of this status, she’s constantly going to be the target of various assassins, and even if she tried to live a normal life it’s unlikely she would be allowed to live. She’s a very active character who does her best to shape her own destiny, but more often than not she’s stymied by forces much larger than she is – including her own heritage. I’ll give her half a point.

SCORE SO FAR: 0.5

 

  1. Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?

We don’t see much of Dany’s hobbies – we hear a lot more about the pastimes she doesn’t enjoy, such as watching the gladiator contests in the fighting pits of Meereen. Her goals and beliefs are much more clearly defined. What drives Dany through the story is her conviction that she deserves to sit on the Iron Throne; as I’ve already discussed, this is a result of her upbringing and family position, although she does have quite a knack for leadership. She also believes in being a firm and just ruler, trying her best to govern her people in a morally sound way. However, her definition of being a morally sound ruler is very different to that of the people she conquers. This influences her goals again in the last book, where she attempts to rule the city of Meereen and must negotiate her way through the ensuing culture clash. Her overarching goal remains consistent, but her beliefs and smaller goals are often influenced by her circumstances.

SCORE SO FAR: 1.5

 

  1. Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?

For the most part, Dany is largely consistent. She’s confident, driven, compassionate, can be arrogant, has the capacity to be ruthless to her enemies, and often finds herself torn between doing her duty and following her heart. She almost always ends up choosing her duty, despite the personal losses this can bring her, but tries not to dwell on this.

Daenerys also has a natural knack for leadership and command. She takes to conquering very easily and soon establishes herself as a force to be reckoned with. She’s also the only person in Westeros who can hatch dragons – and the only person who can ride them. As she knows absolutely nothing about dragons when they first hatch, she has to learn very quickly and make things up on the fly – but she manages very well, despite a few bumpy patches along the way.

LOOK AT THEM (image: giphy.com)
Wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of their teething problems… (image: giphy.com)

SCORE SO FAR: 2.5

 

  1. Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?

A strong, driven young queen with a strong sense of justice trying to take her rightful place on the throne.

SCORE SO FAR: 3.5

 

  1. Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?

Daenerys’s love life is a bit of a tricky question, so bear with me here.

Daenerys was raised in a very patriarchal society. Growing up with her bullying older brother, the expectation was that she would not be the one to sit the Iron Throne – he would. Daenerys’s role in securing the Targaryen dynasty was initially seen as someone who could be used to make an advantageous marriage – and this is precisely what happens in the first book, when at the age of thirteen, she is married to the thirty-year-old Khal Drogo in exchange for the support of his massive army.

And Jason Momoa's massive guns. (image: pinterest.com)
And Jason Momoa’s massive guns. (image: pinterest.com)

Even though Daenerys tries to cast off these expectations, earning the respect of many who want to see her on the throne, they never truly leave her. Most people expect her to make a good political marriage in order to secure support for her claim to the throne – and Daenerys knows that this is something she will have to do in order to continue the Targaryen dynasty. Who Daenerys is going to end up with forms a substantial part of the conflict in her storyline, as she’s constantly bombarded with proposals from dudes who only want her for her dragons.

That said, Dany spends most of the books trying to avoid getting married. She knows she’ll eventually have to, and she does, but most of the decisions she makes are not focused around this. She’s much more motivated by her desire to govern her city well, to abolish slavery, to lead her people to safety, to raise her dragons well and of course, to take back the Iron Throne. I’ll give her half a point.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. Does she develop over the course of the story?

Dany goes through all kinds of development over the course of the series. In the first book, she goes from being a victimised child to a strong, confident young woman. In the second and third books, she builds up her army, leading them across Essos and cutting her teeth on her first taste of power. In the latest book, she learns about the difficulties of balancing expectations as a ruler, and comes to understand that governing a city well is much more complicated than conquering it and moving on. She gets impatient, gets arrogant, and even starts becoming a bit more bloodthirsty as she starts losing control of the city. That’s some strong development in all the books, so I’ll give her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

Dany has a few weaknesses that hold her back over the course of the series. One of her main problems as a ruler is her youth and inexperience – but this is a fairly normal weakness for a teenage girl to have, so I’m not counting that. A much more serious weakness is her insistence that she knows best. She can be very stubborn, and has a tendency to impose her moral code on other people. When she tries to rule Meereen this causes serious problems for her, as her moral code clashes with the local culture and she doesn’t always listen to the people who are trying to ease this tension.

This is what it's like trying to get her attention. (image: giphy.com)
This is what it’s like trying to get her attention. (image: giphy.com)

She also struggles with the traditional ‘Targaryen madness’. While she is sane through most of the story, she has a tendency to get quite bloodthirsty (especially when things aren’t progressing in the way she would like) and struggles with the temptation to just get on her dragon and unleash hell. This is something that runs in the family – and that she has trouble accepting was true of her own father – and may be the start of more serious mental instability in Dany. The temptation to give in and kill everyone isn’t something that we usually see in female characters, so I’ll give her the full point in case she sets her dragons on me.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?

Much like Sansa Stark, Dany is one of those characters who can influence the plot simply by being in it – as the last living Targaryen, people are always going to be seeking her out for their own devices. However, this isn’t the case with Dany. She makes the decision to lead her people across the Red Waste, to sack Astapor and conquer Meereen, and to pursue her ultimate goal of becoming queen rather than selling all her stuff and setting up in a nice house somewhere.

SCORE SO FAR: 7

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

When you look at her character in total isolation, it’s very easy to see Dany as quite a progressive character. She grows from being a meek, obedient child to a strong, confident ruler. She makes difficult decisions, negotiates political settlements, and plans battle strategies – and she’s very good at all these things. She’s also sterile, but doesn’t dwell on this – she quietly gets on with her life despite what this will eventually mean for her plans to re-start the Targaryen dynasty. This is hardly something that you would normally associate with a teenage girl – and in fact, something that’s rarely depicted in fiction at all.

You tell 'em, Dany! (image: giphy.com)
You tell ’em, Dany! (image: giphy.com)

However, where things get tricky is when you start to look at her relationships. In A Song of Ice and Fire, Dany is constantly described as the most beautiful woman in the world (despite how unlikely it is that she skipped the spotty teenage phase the rest of us had to go through). She’s placed on a pedestal by many of the other characters, and certainly for some of them, her beauty is far more important than any of her other good points. As such, she’s inundated with offers of marriage on all sides – but she herself tends to prefer the bad boy types, even when she knows (and admits) that they’re no good for her.

But by far her most problematic relationship is with her first husband, Khal Drogo. First off: when they marry, she is thirteen and he is thirty, which is gross. It’s common knowledge that A Song of Ice and Fire is loosely based on Medieval Europe, which most people tend to use as an explanation for just how young all its characters are – and, in Dany’s case, her young age when she’s first married. However, this actually isn’t true: it was pretty rare for people to marry that young (most marriages took place roundabout the late teens for the aristocracy, and in the twenties for everyone else) and such an age gap wasn’t exactly common. Dany’s marriage is a political one – she’s essentially sold off to a man over twice her age.

It gets worse. In the books, Dany’s wedding night is pretty dodgy. Daenerys and Drogo do not speak the same language, and she fully expects that he will violently rape her. He doesn’t – establishing that she consents and trying to be gentle with her – but there’s no getting away from the fact that here is a grown man seducing a child. Because of their age difference, this is statutory rape. In the show, it’s even worse – even though Dany is a little older, she’s still established to be a teenage girl, and Drogo violently rapes her and she cries through the whole experience. After the wedding night he continues to rape her, and she has to essentially persuade him not to do so by seducing him, which is a frankly squicky kind of logic that I could do without.

Would you, Sir Ian? (image: giphy.com)
Would you, Ian? (image: giphy.com)

In both the show and the books, Daenerys’s marriage to Drogo is presented as a sweeping, epic romance cut short before its time. Her marriage allows her to break free of her brother’s hold over her and grow into a more confident person, and Dany outright says in the books that Drogo made a queen of her. However, this all ignores the fact that in both the books and the show, the relationship is abusive. She is a child and he is an adult – she cannot consent to anything he does, so in both versions of the story their relationship is effectly statutory rape. She starts out being afraid of him, and this gradually turns to love. In the show he repeatedly rapes her, even while she cries – when she decides to seduce him (only so he’ll stop hurting her, I might add) they fall in love, despite everything that he has done to her.

The upshot of all this is that a problematic and, at times, abusive relationship is romanticised for both the viewers and the readers. It must be said that the HBO adaptation is by far the more guilty party here – the book version of Khal Drogo never rapes his wife – but nevertheless it carries all sorts of unfortunate implications about age, abuse and love. Essentially, what their marriage really says is that the love of a good woman can ‘civilise’ even the most brutal and barbaric man – which has all sorts of unfortunate racial implications as well as gendered. Dany’s personality redeems her from completely failing this part of my test, as her marriage isn’t the defining aspect of her character, but she can’t completely pass it, either.

SCORE SO FAR: 7.5

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

Dany doesn’t have that many relationships with other female characters – and those she does relate to are often all in the same mould. She spends a lot of time with her handmaidens – Irri, Jhiqui and Doreah – but doesn’t really relate to them in any meaningful way. They don’t really become anything more than her servants – apart from on one occasion when she takes one of them to bed with her. I will admit, I don’t really know what to make of this, as while it would add a whole other layer to her character if Daenerys was bisexual, both before and after she sleeps with her servant girl she expresses no interest in women. This isn’t limited to her character, either – Cersei Lannister also takes another woman to bed despite not having expressed much interest in doing so before or after she does so. In both characters’ cases, the description seems to imply that taking female lovers is all tied up with their expressions of power – which is a really interesting way of looking at it – but a much more cynical part of me can’t help but wonder if George RR Martin didn’t include those scenes because he thought it’d be sexy.

She also becomes friends with the freedwoman, Missandei. In the books, Missandei is a young girl, who serves as Daenerys’s translator and cultural attaché. In the show, Missandei is a young woman, and the two have a much more friendly relationship, discussing things outside of their political roles and on a more equal footing. However, Missandei is still Dany’s servant – in both the books and the show – and that undercurrent of deference is never really lost. Most of her relationships with other women take this tone, so I’ll give her half a point for quantity, if not quality.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

 

Daenerys is a determined, driven young woman who’s secure in her own beliefs, has a range of strengths and weaknesses, develops over the course of the story and is consistent in both her personality and skills. She may struggle with total control over her own destiny, as well as her problematic love life, but she’s still a real influence on the plot. She may be a controversial character for some, but she’s certainly a very well-written one – she’s passed my test!

Next week, I’ll be looking at one of my favourite characters – but perhaps someone who might have been better suited to last month. Morticia Addams, I’m coming for you.

 

 

And if you’re looking for all my posts on Strong Female Characters, you can find them here.

Strong Female Characters: Sansa Stark

Happy 2015, blog-followers! Now that I’m finished with the business of Christmas, New Year and slowly but surely getting older, let’s get back to business.

For those of you that don’t know, Sansa Stark is one of many principal female characters in George R. R. Martin’s phenomenally successful series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Set in the fictional kingdom of Westeros, the series chronicles several warring noble families as they fight to seize the crown (or just not get beheaded). Think of it as a fictional parallel to the Wars of the Roses – except with considerably more dragons, ice zombies and (in the case of the HBO adaptation) gratuitous nudity. Sansa Stark – a young noblewoman – is in the centre of all this, and is frequently the topic of much debate among fans of the series, some of whom do not consider her to be a strong female character.

But is this a fair criticism? Let’s find out! Watch out for spoilers of all four series of HBO’s adaptation of the series – but I’ll do my best to keep any potential season 5 spoilers under wraps!

 

  1. Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?

For the majority of A Song of Ice and Fire – and HBO’s Game of Thrones – Sansa does very little to actively shape her own destiny. Most of the big decisions in her life are made for her, whether by her father, the monarch, or other important noblemen. They are the ones who decide where she lives, who she sees, who she will marry, and how she must act.

However, there are some mitigating points to consider. First and foremost is that Sansa is a very young girl – in the first book, she is eleven years old; in the first series, she is about thirteen. It’s not unusual for girls her age to have little control over their destinies, and in the world of Westeros – where even grown women can be married off as their relatives see fit – this is perfectly normal. Secondly, for the majority of the series Sansa is little more than a hostage in the royal court at King’s Landing. Guarded and watched throughout most of her time in King’s Landing, if she didn’t behave herself her head would quite literally end up on a pike.

Case in point. (image: freerepublic.com)
Case in point. (image: freerepublic.com)

But this does not last for the whole of the series. As both the books and the TV series progress, Sansa learns to manipulate the people around her into behaving the way she wants them to. At first, she mainly does this to Joffrey, using flattery and carefully-times lies in an effort to stave off some of his cruelty. Later, when she has been smuggled out of King’s Landing by Littlefinger under a false name, she reveals her true identity in an effort to get them on her side. As she grows older, Sansa does her best to retain control of her own destiny, but is often forced to rely on manipulating others in order to do so (mainly because she hasn’t got a dragon). With that in mind, I’m giving her half the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 0.5

 

  1. Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?

Sansa’s beliefs and goals are the results of the people around her. Her desire to be a perfect lady is a product of her upbringing in Westerosi society, where this is the only acceptable lifestyle for many noblewomen. She wants to escape King’s Landing and be reunited with her family; this is the result of the cruel behaviour she experiences at court (as when the royal family were kind to her, she begged them to stop her father from sending her back home).

However, as the series goes on her own interests start to develop. Westeros has two main religions (her father Ned believes in the Old Gods, her mother Catelyn believes in the Faith of the Seven) and unlike any other character in the books, Sansa believes in both. She has a very strong interest in stories and songs, particularly those about chivalry and love, and a special fondness for lemon cakes. Crucially, in the season four finale, she demonstrates that she has her own goals (not simply an extension of Littlefinger’s master scheme) and has her own plan for achieving them – although the details of this are yet to be seen. Because it occurs so late in the series, I’m giving this development another half-point.

SCORE SO FAR: 1

 

  1. Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?

Sansa’s skills remain constant: she is always shown to be good at singing, good at embroidery, and good at remembering her courtesies. Her personality is not quite so static. Over the course of the series, she loses her naivety, stops believing in songs and stories and learns to be a more guarded person. However, she still remains a kind, ladylike girl with a strong attachment to her family all throughout the series.

SCORE SO FAR: 2

 

  1. Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?

A naïve young noblewoman learning to survive in both the vicious royal court and the dangerous political climate.

SCORE SO FAR: 3

 

  1. Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?

Most of Sansa’s decisions in the first book/series are influenced by her desire to impress the young prince Joffrey. This is a terrible idea.

What a catch. (image: winteriscoming.net)
What a catch. (image: winteriscoming.net)

Once she realises this, most of her decisions are influenced by the need to GET AWAY FROM THAT MONSTER. I suppose at a stretch you could say that wanting to run away from that little hellspawn is simply another way in which her love life influenced her decisions, but given Joffrey’s predilection for abuse, torture and murder, I’d say that survival plays a much bigger part in her motivations. Sansa doesn’t always get to make many decisions for herself – particularly when she is under guard in King’s Landing – but those she does make are primarily influenced by the need to survive. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the scenes where Sansa believes she will be married off to one of the Tyrells. While in the show, it is established that she already fancies her prospective groom, in the books she has not even met him, and only agrees to the match because it would take her out of Joffrey’s reach. With that in mind, I’m giving her the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 4

 

  1. Does she develop over the course of the story?

I touched on this earlier, so apologies if I repeat myself.

Over the course of the series/books, Sansa grows up – we quite literally witness her going through puberty. Aside from the physical changes this entails, this also involves Sansa losing her naivety, learning to keep her true emotions and thoughts hidden from those around her and beginning to take control of her own destiny – all while maintaining the appearance of being a perfect noble lady (which is incredibly difficult when you are a teenager, and all you want to do is yell at your parents and eat more pizza).

SCORE SO FAR: 5

 

  1. Does she have a weakness?

Sansa’s main weakness is her naivety, which leads her to make many poor decisions over the course of the series, but she begins to grow out of it as the series goes on. However, she has also been shown to be impatient, petty, and judgemental – and above all, easily manipulated by others. These are very realistic weaknesses which she constantly has to struggle against, so she passes this round with flying colours.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?

Due to Sansa’s status as an attractive young noblewoman who’s also the heir to a bunch of really important land and titles, she can influence the plot simply by being in the story and doing nothing. Her high status means that other characters will always try and get her on their side by one way or another, and the plot will generate itself. But I’m not going to count that, as it’s not an active influence in the slightest.

Once you put Sansa’s status aside, she doesn’t actually have that much direct influence on the plot. Most of the decisions she makes are reacting to the circumstances she’s in, which are usually created by other characters. She doesn’t get captured or killed, but for most of the series she’s moved around like a chess piece by other, cannier characters. While in the series four finale she shows that she’s not willing to be manipulated, as of yet this hasn’t really translated into a tangible impact on the plot, so I’m withholding the point.

SCORE SO FAR: 6

 

  1. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?

One of the key criticisms levelled at Sansa’s character is that she is a ‘typical teenage girl’. In some ways, Sansa does conform to a lot of stereotypes about teenage girls: she can be very superficial and petty, she places a lot of emphasis on being traditionally feminine, and she develops ridiculous crushes on some frankly awful boys.

I could watch this forever. (image: giphy.com)
I could watch this forever. (image: giphy.com)

However, this is not the only aspect to her character; she is also adaptable, kind, and a quick learner. Furthermore, as the series develops, we see Sansa using people’s perception of her as a stereotypical teenage girl as a kind of shield. In constantly professing her love for Joffrey, she is able to convince people that she is loyal to the crown. While she is still engaged to him, she uses this influence as a means of moderating some of his cruelty, most notably stopping him from having Ser Dontos Hollard killed while maintaining an outward aspect of innocence and naivety. This is a very subversive treatment of traditionally feminine stereotypes, so she passes this round.

SCORE SO FAR: 7

 

  1. How does she relate to other female characters?

Sansa has a wide range of relationships with a wide range of female characters. She looks up to her mother, Catelyn. At first, she also looks up to Queen Cersei, but when her true nature is revealed Sansa’s opinion of her changes dramatically. She has a brief friendship with Margaery Tyrell – although Sansa is too naïve to see that this is motivated by the Tyrells’ openly political ambitions – and she looks on Septa Mordane with the strange mix of admiration and frustration that teachers often inspire. Most interesting of all is her relationship with her sister, Arya. The two are polar opposites and frequently argue, but despite their fighting Sansa still loves her sister and wants to be reunited with her.

This range of relationships are all realistic, complex and well thought out, and so Sansa passes this round spectacularly.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

 

Sansa is a naïve young noblewoman who spends the series learning to keep her true plans a secret, and is beginning to take hold of her own destiny through whatever means are available to her. She has well-developed weaknesses, grows up over the course of the series, and realistic relationships with a wide range of other female characters. She is not always in control of her own destiny, but due to her circumstances, this is actually a very realistic plot choice. While she’s often described as one of the weakest characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, she’s certainly passed my test!

Next week, I’ll be looking at The Fault in Our Stars. Hazel Lancaster, I’m coming for you.