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The Culture of the Ironborn – Appearances and Realities

From racefortheironthrone's Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis, ACOK Theon I:

Speaking of Urron Redhand…the other reason why Theon I is so interesting is that it’s our first real introduction into the culture of the Ironborn, one that’s just as distinctive and distinguished from mainland Westerosi culture as the Dothraki of AGOT or the Dornish of AFFC. The Ironborn are a rather divisive subject within the fandom, with some clearly reacting positively to the bloodthirsty pirate-by-way-of-Vikings vibe and others more negatively to the rape-slavery-and-casual-murder aspects of same (especially in a text which isn’t exactly shy about those kinds of things). And yet, when I went back to this chapter, I found something rather interesting under the surface of Ironborn culture that throws much of it into question.

Let’s start at the beginning: the Old Way is portrayed as an entirely militaristic one, in which the true Ironmen take rather than make, and in which any other way of life is somehow less than fully human:

“When we still kept the Old Way, lived by the axe instead of the pick, taking what we would, be it wealth, women, or glory. In those days, the ironborn did not work mines; that was labor for the captives brought back from the hostings, and so too the sorry business of farming and tending goats and sheep. War was an ironman’s proper trade. The Drowned God had made them to reave and rape, to carve out kingdoms and write their name in fire and blood and song.”

To consider a life of arms to be more noble than a life of labor is hardly unusual within Westeros; after all, the lords of the green lands train their sons primarily in the arts of a heavy cavalryman, with a light smattering of political and diplomatic and administrative skills, and the very terms “highborn” and “smallfolk” indicate there’s no equality of status there. What is different is that the Ironborn live in a slave society and the mainlanders don’t – a commoner and a lord living in Lannisport are both considered Westerlanders and legal persons, even if one has privileges the other doesn’t. But a thrall is property, taken at sword-point no different from cattle or gold or a ship. And this difference is important, because in a slave society, to work is to act like a slave. Whereas in Westeros a landed knight can till his own fields and a peasant is expected to grab a spear and shield and fight for his lord, in the Iron Islands, to exchange coins for goods and services is to admit that you too are a slave.

We can see the influence of a slave society when it comes to matters of gender. I’ll get into the question of how much freedom there is for Ironborn women later (once we get into Asha’s material a bit more), but one thing that’s clear is that one’s status as a woman takes a backseat to one’s category as Ironborn or thrall: “The ironmen of old did such things. A man had his rock wife, his true bride, ironborn like himself, but he had his salt wives too, women captured on raids.”

This martial and slave-taking culture also creates a different attitude to status and hierarchy. As Theon states, “Ironborn captains were proud and wilful, and did not go in awe of a man’s blood. The islands were too small for awe, and a longship smaller still. If every captain was a king aboard his own ship, as it was often said, it was small wonder they named the islands the land of ten thousand kings.” The nature of the longship (and its centrality in Ironborn life) explains part of this equality; on a longship, every hand is required to pull the oar, the deck is all of one level, and there’s no private cabin. And as Theon puts it, “when you have seen your kings shit over the rail and turn green in a storm, it was hard to…pretend they were gods.” However, part of this also comes from the slave aspect – historically (and I’ll get into this in more detail below), slave societies require a certain solidarity among the non-slave population that requires a certain equal treatment – no free person can be treated as less than a slave, lest slaves start to get ideas – and slave-masters, having experienced the heady rush of absolute ownership over other people, tend to be extremely touchy about being treated as equals (lest they be treated as slaves).

Here’s the problem, though. In this chapter, Ironborn culture is presented as eternal and unchanging, bringing with it all the complicated issues of “authenticity.” As Aeron Damphair sees it, “Men fish the sea, dig in the earth, and die. Women birth children in blood and pain, and die. Night follows day. The winds and tides remain. The islands are as our god made them.” Ironborn culture is unchanging because it is ordained by the Drowned God, who brought forth fire from the sea to lead the iron born to “go forth into the world with fire and sword,” who teaches his people unyielding defiance (“what is dead may never die…but rises again, harder and stronger”) and who blesses them with “salt…stone…[and] steel.”

And yet throughout this chapter, we are bombarded with evidence that Ironborn culture is unstable and constantly in the process of changing, and that the “Old Way” is far removed from the actual lived experience of actual Ironborn people. As Theon points out:

“those days are gone. No longer may we ride the wind with fire and sword, taking what we want. Now we scratch in the ground and toss lines in the sea like other men, and count ourselves lucky if we have salt cod and porridge enough to get us through a winter.”

Aegon the Dragon had destroyed the Old Way when he burned Black Harren, gave Harren’s kingdom back to the weakling rivermen, and reduced the Iron Islands to an insignificant backwater of a much greater realm. Yet the old red tales were still told…all across the islands.”

The Ironborn do not practice the Old Way; as the Mallisters note, “the bell” meant to warn Seagard of Ironborn raiders “has been rung just once in three hundred years.” Three hundred years is a long time, approximately twelve generations in length, long enough to obliterate the distinction between master and slave (especially when slavery is not practiced across the generations). While House Codd is despised by the nobility of the Iron Islands, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of Ironborn probably have thrall blood in them. More importantly, the Ironborn themselves have had to turn to peaceful occupations to eat and survive, no matter what the Iron Price and the Gold Price might say. Balon Greyjoy, separated by his feudal taxes from the need to feed himself from his own labor, might turn up his nose at goods bought with gold, but the Tyroshi trading galley and the Ibbenese Cog in the harbor are trading with someone and they’re not going to come if iron is the only thing on offer.

In other words, what we’re dealing with here is not a living culture but a revanchist one. Just as the people of Astapor and Yunkai and Meereen call themselves the sons of Ghis even though they are actually the descendants of a dozen peoples and mostly Valyrian, even though they’ve forgotten the Ghiscari language and now speak a mere dialect of Low Valyrian, even though their religion is essentially reverse-engineered from the archaeological remnants of a culture that no longer exist, so too do the Ironborn invent what the Old Way is and was, ignoring the signs of change along the way in favor of an imagined continuity. For example, Urron Redhand is held up by both Theon and his father as a paragon of the Old Way, a man who teaches the Ironborn that “the Drowned God makes men…but it’s men who make crowns” – and yet, it’s Urron Redhand who ended the original, authentic tradition of electing the King of the Iron Island at a kingsmoot and made the crown an inherited position, and whose line was then violently interrupted by the Andal invasion (for all that the Ironborn seem to pretend that never happened). Likewise, for all that the Ironborn are represented as having always followed the Drowned God, there was a sept in Lordsport before it was burned, which means there was a large enough population of followers of the Seven to support a church.

None of this is to say that the Ironborn’s self-conception isn’t powerful; as we’ll see, it’s powerful enough to inspire war, again and again. But it is important that we recognize that when Balon or Aeron or Victarion or Euron or Theon use their supposed heritage to justify their actions, what we’re seeing there is a political choice, to use history as the blunt force trauma of justification and legitimation.

Historical Analysis:

On the face of it, Ironborn culture is a pretty straightforward expy for Viking culture, at least as it was understood by 19th century historians, who tended to rely a bit heavily on church chroniclers who propagandized rather heavily against anyone who touched church property and on Scandinavian sagas that were long on embellishment, in other words by the same sorts of folks who gave us the image of the violent, unkempt barbarian in the horned helmet that’s almost entirely invented.

The more revisionist history that came around starting in the mid-20th century paints a more sober picture:

  • First, the “Viking era” was a relatively brief part of Scandinavian history (and indeed, many today label it an era in pre-history, given the paucity of written records from the Scandinavians themselves), lasting only from the late 8th through the 11th centuries C.E – afterwards, you’re dealing with more centralized monarchies.
  • Second, going “viking” was not the center of Scandinavian culture and society – rather, it was seasonal work undertaken by fishermen, sailors, farmers, etc. to supplement their incomes, given the limitations of Scandinavian climates. In this light, it’s not that different from the piracy practiced by many other coastal people in this, earlier, and later periods.
  • Third, “viking” existed as one part of a spectrum of economic and military activities. On the one hand, the same longships that were used to rob abbeys were also used for trading and exploration; the same axes and swords for a bit of robbery and plunder were often turned to more civilized uses, like mercenary work. And critically, scholars have often conflated actual “vikings” with more straightforward conquest – raiding for spending money was all well and good, but what Scandinavians wanted was better farmland. Hence the conquest of Normandy, the eastern half of Ireland, the Danelaw in England, the two Sicilies, Kievan Rus, and so on and so forth. And when we look at these conquests, we don’t see the barbarians of the chronicles – “Northmen” founded cities and towns, encouraged commerce, conducted adminstration and taxation and legal systems, and tended to assimilate into the local culture (albeit at the top). Granted, they were still conquering other people’s lands, but that hardly makes them that different from say, the Anglo-Saxons who had taken Britain from the Romanized Britons, or the Franks who had subjugated the Romanized Gauls, a few hundred years earlier.
  • Fourth, “viking” raids existed in a context of push and pull factors. Overpopulation and limited arability in Scandinavia was a factor in getting young men to bring in ready money from overseas; it’s also been suggested that anti-pagan discrimination by Christian traders was a motivating factor in acquiring foreign exchange by force. Others have noted that the crusades of Charlesmagne against the pagan Saxons of continental Europe pushed the Saxons up into Scandinavia, again creating overpopulation, a need for more land, and a dislike of Christians, and thus pushing the “vikings” into England, Ireland, Northern France, etc. Still others have noted that the increase in Viking activity also coincided with the collapse of the Carolingian Empire, and can thus be seen as a sort of testing of the political and military vaccum that proceeded more serious efforts to deal with internal problems by grabbing for a cut of Europe along with everyone else.

Now, Martin is clearly a romantic who likes the older history of the Vikings, but as we’ll see, he also understands the more practical side of history. However, there are clearly elements of Ironborn culture that don’t have any correspondence with Viking society – the extreme emphasis on caste and slavery, the resentment complex towards the mainland, the revanchist attitude and born-again religion.

I would argue instead that the Ironborn resembles the Civil-War era (white) South, which George R.R Martin researched in preparation for his novel Fevre Dream, which posited vampires as part of the parasitic plantation elite. Consider the similarities: just as the Ironborn strongly emphasize the differences between ironman and thrall, the South laid down sharp divisions between white and black, free and slave; just as the Ironborn treat one another with a rough equality, historians have pointed out how the necessities of white unity against the threat of slave rebellions required the creation of a cultural attitude in which all whites were equal, and had to be treated better than black slaves. Within the reigning ideology of slavery, the idea was that slavery created a mud-sill effectthat lifted up even poor whites by freeing them from the need to perform the worst kinds of labor, and thus creating in the South a kind of herrenvolk democracy. (If you’re interested in this, I highly recommend David Blight’s lecture series on the Civil War and Reconstruction which are available for free on iTunes)

Most importantly, like the Ironborn in the wake of Aegon’s Conquest and the failure of the Greyjoy Rebellion, the white South had engaged in a failed rebellion in the hopes of maintaining a society and culture based on human exploitation, bitterly resented their defeat and the end of their “peculiar system,” and through the use of violent terrorism believed that their true, original culture would “rise again.” Likewise, in the face of their defeat, the white South turned to the revision of history to posit a South that was the victim rather than the initiatior of a civil war, that had fought for the purest constitutional motives rather than in defense of a social system now universally regarded as evil, and that had previously enjoyed a harmonious and virtuous social order more in line with the martial virtues of the past than the tawdry commercialism of the victorious Yankees.

So, next time you think about how “badass” Victarion or Euron might be, imagine them in a pointy white hood.


People tend to dismiss the Lannisters (they are the ‘villains’ of the story, after all) as being less duty-bound than the other houses but part of me feels that the Lannisters hold just as firm to the ideals of duty and even honour, as the Starks and Tullys do, but duty and honour mean entirely different things to them. Duty for the Lannisters isn’t for the already living, it’s for the lions to come, to ensure that they keep their name, their pride, their glory. I think Tywin’s three children are constantly chafing at the constraints of their duty to their House and father because their personal wants and needs clash so entirely with what Tywin requires of them. It’s that duality that, I think, makes them so compelling.

For example though I enjoy Cersei/Sansa parallels - Cersei isn’t Sansa. Sansa is allowed to hate the Lannisters, hate the idea of becoming Joffrey’s queen wholeheartedly, Cersei might hate Robert on the one hand but on the other she must love the power she derives from being his queen. Sansa is confused by her slowly blossoming female body but she doesn’t face the same dilemma as Cersei does - Cersei who can enjoy her body for the pleasures it brings and the power it holds over others and at the same time resent it mightily, resent the mantle of being female, for being synonymous with ‘weak’, leaving her feeling just as caged by the male gaze as she does empowered. And most of all, Cersei knows from childhood that her role in life is effectively that of a broodmare - that in order to ensure the Lannisters become a dynasty to live on forever - she must bear Robert legitimate children. But there’s a part of her that’s always screaming that she, as a woman in a fucked-up world with no agency over anything, should at the very least have a say over what happens within her own body and the last thing she wants to happen is to bear her aggressive, philandering husband a child. And for her worst nightmare to become a reality, to have a son made in the very image of Robert Barathreon? Cersei must have felt it as a complete and utter betrayal of her own body and will. So I think when push came to shove, when she was faced with the choice between her duty as a Lannister and her desires for herself, Cersei does choose the latter, aborted her pregnancy with Robert, and I think this is partly her own sense of failure, that she’s willing to do anything for her house, her family, to lie, cheat, scheme, steal and kill, but this one thing she cannot bring herself to do. 

And I think that’s the inherent tragedy of the Lannisters - that they are so self-destructive because they truly want to live up to their father’s ideal of them but for all of them, there comes a breaking point where the sacrifice being asked of them is suddenly too much. 

Playful Answers For People Who Think Sansa Has to Stay Married


Playful, polite answers you can use for people who think Sansa has to stay married to Tyrion:

“She said the vows. They’re legally binding and the northmen won’t just ignore the law.

Playful Answer: “Yeah, laws do matter. Like the ones against treason, and rebellion.”

“Only the High Septon can give her an annulment, if she has her maidenhead.”

Playful Answer: “Yeah, I suppose she could just wait for the north lords or the Royces to make the trip down to Kings Landing and meet with the guy who thinks they’re demon worshippers and hates them.

Playful answer 2: “Too bad royal decrees can’t overturn vows, or else Robb could have just picked Jon to—”

“But Robb picked Jon over Sansa.”

Playful Answer: “Yes, I suppose Sansa being a far-away hostage probably wasn’t the problem for a man who needed an heir.”

“Littlefinger said Sansa had to be ‘safely widowed.’”

Playful Answer: “Yeah, even if he wanted to get an annulment from either the Lords Declarant or the High Septon he might have to lie or bribe someone or something underhanded like that. That’s not Littlefinger’s style.”

BTW, I’m a believer that Bran is coming back at the very end of the story to be the next Bran the Builder, but the idea that Sansa has no way out of her marriage is absolutely bizarre. King Bran would have every reason to overturn it by royal decree in any case, and let his sister live in peace, or let her choose a groom from an allied House, like the Royces, Glovers, Umbers etc… if she isn’t widowed which she probably will be. Why force her to stay married and make children for a cursed, nearly extinct House Lannister?

TL;DR The Starks are comin’ out on top, and Sansa won’t have to be married to anyone she doesn’t want to.

Permalink   •   Tags: #submission #sansa stark

The Bloody Cloak


This was co-written with Westeros.org contributor Milady of York.

 As has often been discussed in the Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa threads, the cloak is highly significant as a symbol of protection and comfort in Sansa Stark’s arc. In particular: the white Kingsguard cloak belonging to Sandor Clegane, which is missing and unaccounted for after that brief line in ASoS (chapter 6) in which she reveals she “had his stained white cloak hidden in a cedar chest beneath her summer silks.”

Or is it? We now present our favorite theory about what happened to Sandor’s discarded and bloodied Kingsguard cloak, as inspired by earlier work for PtP.

Let’s start by enumerating Sandor Clegane’s cloaks: apart from the Kingsguard one, only two other cloaks belonging to him are noted in the books. In AGoT, we find him associated with a bloody cloak for the first time:

There was something slung over the back of his destrier, a heavy shape wrapped in a bloody cloak. ”No sign of your daughter, Hand,” the Hound rasped down, “but the day was not wholly wasted. We got her little pet.”

AGOT, Ch.16

It’s to be noted that the colour of this cloak isn’t mentioned at all, though we can speculate that it could’ve been crimson, for two reasons: Sandor is a Lannister man whose liege lady is Cersei, and the Lannister guards and men-at-arms wear crimson cloaks as a sort of uniform, and also because his presenting the cut down body of Mycah to Lord Eddard is reminiscent of Tywin presenting the bodies of the Targaryen babies murdered by Gregor to Robert in a bloodied crimson cloak.

Then, at the Hand’s Tourney, Sandor wears an olive-green cloak when he saves Ser Loras from his monstrous brother:

Sandor Clegane was the first rider to appear. He wore an olive- green cloak over his soot-grey armor. That, and his hound’s-head helm, were his only concession to ornament

AGOT, Ch. 30

This is the only time the colour of Sandor’s cloak is noted, other than the Kingsguard white, and in contrast to the white and the red which are like uniforms, this appears to be his own personal garment.

When he joined Joffrey’s garde de corps, he would give Sansa his white cloak when she was beaten and stripped in public, which is the first demonstration on Sansa’s part that she finds his cloak comforting. The scene in ACoK where Sandor visits Sansa’s chambers after he breaks during the fiery Battle of Blackwater, should be familiar to most readers. When he has taken his song he departs, leaving his discarded cloak behind for Sansa to pick up:

She found his cloak on the floor, twisted up tight, the white wool stained by blood and fire […] She shook out the torn cloak and huddled beneath it on the floor, shivering.

ACOK, Ch. 62

In ASoS, as Sansa flees King’s Landing, she dons a deep green cloak with a large hood in the castle godswood to cover the brightness of the pearls on the bodice of her brown dress.

Dress warmly, Ser Dontos had told her, and dress dark. She had no blacks, so she chose a dress of thick brown wool. The bodice was decorated with freshwater pearls, though. The cloak will cover them. The cloak was deep green, with a large hood.

ASOS, Ch.61


Interestingly, Sansa has another dark cloak, a grey cloak, which may have served quite well to cover her in this occasion:

Sansa threw a plain grey cloak over her shoulders and picked up the knife she used to cut her meat. If it is some trap, better that I die than let them hurt me more, she told herself. She hid the blade under her cloak

ACOK, Ch.18

But instead of donning that one, she chose a green cloak. We propose the reason behind this is that it’s the Kingsguard cloak. Sansa has dyed Sandor’s white cloak green to cover the blood stains. We know she has used this tactic to cover “blood” stains in the past; in AGOT we read that Arya hurled a blood orange at her sister in a fit of anger and ruined her lovely new ivory silk gown:

… Arya flung the orange across the table. It caught her in the middle of the forehead with a wet squish and plopped down into her lap […] The blood orange had left a blotchy red stain on the silk.

AGOT, Ch. 44

And when next we see that gown, Sansa has come up with the solution to dye it black; ostensibly as a symbol of royal mourning, but in reality to cover the stains left by the blood orange, and she wears it when she goes before the court to plead for her father:

Her gown was the ivory silk that the queen had given her, the one Arya had ruined, but she’d had them dye it black and you couldn’t see the stain at all.

AGOT, Ch.57

The answer to the question “why green?” is twofold. First, and on a practical level, bloodstains that have failed to wash out of white fabric can often have a greenish cast, especially with wool or silk, in which case the removal of bloodstains is even harder than for other fabrics, and both Sansa’s dress and Sandor’s cloak are tailored precisely from these materials. Second, Sandor wearing the green cloak at the Tourney occurred the morning after their first significant interaction, so Sansa would have reason to remember his attire that day. Green and brown, with soot-grey are Sandor’s usual attire when he wasn’t armoured. At Joffrey’s nameday tournament he wore brown under his Kingsguard cloak, which wouldn’t be lost on Sansa either:

The white cloak of the Kingsguard was draped over his broad shoulders and fastened with a jeweled brooch, the snowy cloth looking somehow unnatural against his brown rough-spun tunic and studded leather jerkin. “Lady Sansa,” the Hound announced curtly when he saw her. 

ACok, ch.2

So the brown dress under the remade Kingsguard cloak is a perfect mirror of Sandor’s garb. The fact that she uses the green cloak to shield herself is so symbolically perfect that the conclusion almost writes itself.

Regarding the parallel of the brown and green color scheme, it’s been noted that following Eddard’s execution, Sandor entered Sansa’s chamber in similar attire:

"See that you bathe and dress as befits my betrothed." Sandor Clegane stood at his shoulder in a plain brown doublet and green mantle, his burned face hideous in the morning light. Behind them were two knights of the Kingsguard in long white satin cloaks.

Sansa drew her blanket up to her chin to cover herself. “No,” she whimpered, “please… leave me be.”

"If you won’t rise and dress yourself, my Hound will do it for you," Joffrey said.

"I beg of you, my prince."

"I’m king now. Dog, get her out of bed."

Sandor Clegane scooped her up around the waist and lifted her off the featherbed as she struggled feebly. Her blanket fell to the floor. Underneath she had only a thin bedgown to cover her nakedness. “Do as you’re bid, child,” Clegane said. “Dress.” He pushed her toward her wardrobe, almost gently.

AGoT, ch. 67

Finally, following his flight from King’s Landing and seizure of Arya and reminiscent of the soot-grey armor from the Hand’s Tourney, a similar color scheme:

The big bad-tempered courser wore neither armor, barding, nor harness, and the Hound himself was garbed in splotchy green roughspun and a soot-grey mantle with a hood that swallowed his head. ASoS, ch. 50

We don’t think it’s an accident that these colours are repeatedly associated with Sandor Clegane. Sansa mirroring Sandor’s colours in her choice of attire during her flight from King’s Landing is, for us, a sign of great significance rather than random chance.

On the matter of the hood, we don’t know for certain that Sandor’s white cloak had a hood or not, but it’s likely that it didn’t since ceremonial cloaks were of the “cape” type and generally didn’t have hoods. We would suggest that if it did not, although Sandor most likely ripped a strip from the bottom of it to use as a bandage (“Sansa heard cloth ripping…”), we should remember that he stands well over a foot taller than Sansa, so it was a large piece of cloth and it’d be easy for a young lady known to be clever with her needle to cut a cloak down and fashion a hood from the pieces.

During the period between the Blackwater and her marriage to Tyrion, Sansa spends quite a bit of time with the Tyrells. Even as Cersei orders a new wardrobe to be made for her (a gown, smallclothes and hose, kirtles, mantles and cloaks…) Sansa and the Tyrell girls:

…spent long afternoons doing needlework and talking over lemon cakes and honeyed wine […] Sansa wondered what Megga would think about kissing the Hound, as she had. 

ASoS, ch.16

With the confusion of a team of eighteen seamstresses working in her chambers and the Tyrell girls to provide camouflage, surely at some time during this interval Sansa could have found the means to remake the cloak. One poster even noted that the Tyrell color is green, so how easy to use flattery to obtain the necessary dye to disguise her keepsake!

There is an inverse parallel between Sansa using her needle to create a shield and Arya’s use of Needle as a weapon. Sansa uses her shield to protect or hide her Stark identity, while for Arya her Needle represents her Stark identity. This inverse parallel is typical of the complementary arcs of the two girls throughout the story. 

As a closing thought, it’s noteworthy that after Sansa reveals that the cloak has been hidden away under her summer silks, she doesn’t think of it again until this passage:

As the boy’s lips touched her own she found herself thinking of another kiss. She could still remember how it felt, when his cruel mouth pressed down on her own. He had come to Sansa in the darkness as green fire filled the sky. He took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak

AFFC, Ch.41

This indicates to us that she has the cloak still, since she doesn’t mention what became of it nor give any indication that it is lost to her. Since we know that she only took one cloak with her as she fled King’s Landing, we shall now say with confidence, quod erat demonstrandum.

As discussed in Radio Westeros Episode 02 — Sansa: A Song of Innocence featuring special guest Brashcandy from the Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa project.


Essos and Westeros in my head


This is a post where I explain why Westeros makes me think of the American Continent, and Essos in Eurasia. First of all, I want to make it very clear that I don’t intend to claim that this is how GRRM saw it or drew his inspiration from. I am aware that several features of the books are based on European history. Still, some of the characteristics of Westeros remind me of characteristics of the American Continent. I am open to receiving [respectful] comments and criticism by all those wonderful people who know the sources more than I do.

My goal is not to state that Essos is Eurasia and Westeros is the American Continent, not at all. I only wanted to share some associations that happened in my head when I read the books.

NOTE: From now on, when I write “America” I mean the whole American Continent, not the United States of America. On one side, because it is more correct and on the other side, because I am too lazy to keep writing “the American Continent”.


It is said that the First Men arrived to (invaded) Westeros from Essos, crossing said land bridge. Even though the details of who, how and when are still under constant study in our world, it is an accepted hypothesis that the first early American civilizations arrived from Eurasia. Unlike the Westerosi story, this seems to have taken place thousands of years before our bronze ages. The First Men end up making a civilization and become the true “locals” of Westeros with time, just like the early men who arrived to America derived, in time, in the various “Amerindian” groups.

The depictions of the Andals always made me think of the Vandals and the Vikings. They come from North/Northwest of Essos, which, in my head, could be Northwest of Eurasia. Some studies suggest that the ancestry of indigenous Americans can be traced to both East Asian and western Eurasians who migrated to North America. Much has been written and discussed about the so called “Norse colonization of the Americas”. True or not, the Andals arriving to Westeros remind me of this.

On the other hand, the half-successful colonization by the Andals has three components of the arrival of the Europeans to America in the XVth century: the successful introduction of the religion of the Seven (prior “destruction” of the Old Gods), the introduction of cultural factors, such as knighthood and their language becoming “the common tongue”.

On the other side of the ASOIAF pond, we have the rise, era and doom of Valyria, which makes me think of the most famous Eurasian empire: the Roman Empire. Mostly, because their descendants, the Targaryens, ended up invading and conquering Westeros, much like the Spaniards (descendants of the Roman Empire, in a way) did with America. Valyria was the center of civilization (before the doom, of course) and, looking at the map of Essos, I cannot help noticing its similar shape to our own “cradle of western civilization”, the Greek peninsula.

As I mentioned, it was centuries after the doom of Valyria that the Targaryens invaded and conquered Westeros. We have a couple of centuries of Targaryen rule in Westeros, with a civil war here and there, ending in the Mad King’s ruthless period. In America, after a few centuries of European domination, movements and rebellions started to happen until most countries declared their independence, just as in Westeros they had Robert’s rebellion.


Not too much of an expert in this area, I simply observe two land masses divided by a large sea and I automatically think America and Eurasia. Also, the same way as our Continents changed shapes and separated with time, legends say that there was a land bridge between Westeros and Essos, which doesn’t exist anymore.

Both Westeros and America have an utterly cold North, a warmer central area and a hot South. Of course, South America becomes cold again (though never as cold as the North) if you go further South below the Tropic of Capricorn. However, the hot areas between the Tropics are mostly located on the South of America.

In my head, when I read about the land beyond the Wall, I think of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and not so much in, for example, Siberia. In fact, when I think of Siberia it is in relation to The Footprint, in Northeast Essos. This side of the wall, the North of Westeros doesn’t seem too different from the North of North America, although I will avoid specifics because I haven’t actually lived there, just visited once, and briefly. Just like America, the climate becomes less harsh as you go south. I can’t help associating the Riverlands with pre-Amazonian areas, not extremely hot, but fertile and green.

And then, there’s Dorne, the very hot South of Westeros. Unlike South America, Dorne doesn’t have wild rainforests, but mountains, river valleys, deserts and a sea. For me to try to find it similar to South America, I would have to ignore the Amazonian basin entirely, because otherwise, the Andean portions of South America really sound like Dorne (with the Pacific Ocean and all) with the Andes, the plateau deserts, the river valleys and the beaches by the sea.


As initial disclaimer, I am trying very hard to be as fair to the text (that I haven’t read in quite a while) as I possibly can and I don’t want to offend any ethnicity or culture whatsoever. I am aware that different people read the same description and end up with different images in their heads. The description “dark skin” may mean African, Indian, Amerindian (indigenous from America) or any other, depending whose head is doing the association. I am going to present mine.

In short, I see the variety of races described in Essos could apply to the diversity found in Eurasia, from the extremely pale Valyrians to the very dark Summer Islanders, with everything else in the middle. I don’t mean to enter a discussion whether GRRM does a fair treatment of different races in the text, because that is not the subject of this post.

Westeros again reminds me of America in this matter, with their descriptions of the dwellers of the different regions. Particularly in Dorne. I will detail Dorne because of something that I read on a post a few days ago. I wish I had kept the link, but I lost it (new to Tumblr, sorry).

There are three kinds of Dornish and they could easily parallel the different South American ethnic groups which resulted from the Conquest. Even though we are nowadays way more “mixed” to one another, in those times around the independence wars and declarations, there was already a strong racial diversity in South America:

  • Criollos: they were direct descendants of the Europeans, with little or no mixture. They were usually very light skinned, blue or green eyes, etc. I can compare them to the Stony Dornish. They are brown-haired or blond with faces that are freckled or burned by the sun instead of browned. These include the Yronwoods with their blond hair and blue eyes, the yellow-haired Fowlers, and the violet-eyed Daynes.
  • Mestizos (mix of European or criollo and Amerindian or indigenous) and Mulatos (mix of European or criollo and African). Their skin could be not as dark as Amerindians, but rather darker than the Europeans, with dark eyes and hair. I can compare them to the Salty Dornish. They are lithe and dark, with smooth olive skin and long black hair. *Note on the side: this is one of the reasons why I loved Pedro Pascal as the Red Viper.
  • Zambos (mix of Amerindian and African) and African (imported as slaves). The darkest skin of them all and probably comparable to the Sandy Dornish.

Unlike what happens in Dorne, the racial differences in South America back then (we are talking XVIII-XIXth century, around the independence rebellions) also meant differential social status, in the same way that it happened in North America and other parts of the world.

I don’t remember reading about frictions between the different areas/ethnic groups of Dornish, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some rivalries, as it is usual in some countries until present days. Sadly, this thing about the stronger role of women in the Dornish society is so NOT South American, that it makes me sad. But discussing the role of women in ASOIAF is also not the subject of this post.

With their lose clothing and their paramours, the Dornish are described in a way that flows sensuality, in most cases. Oberyn, for example, sounds like a Latin Lover to me, although I am aware that a Latin Lover can also be European (Italian, Spanish or so), but also that is where Latin America as a people comes from. The way that the Sand Snakes or Arianne Martell are described in the books makes me think of a sensual Caribbean beauty with a Latin temper.

So, yes, I am probably biased… Sorry about that.

As I say again, all these ramblings are nothing but the associations that my head was doing as I read the books, and no doubt they come from my personal background. It is perfectly possible that my memory has some “holes” with some descriptions, because I haven’t read the books in a long time. Also, I am well aware that not everything fits perfectly in the comparison and it is not meant to. As I stated at the beginning, I don’t want to try to say that Westeros is America; only that a lot of Westeros makes me think of America.

Thank you very much for reading this long, long post. I hope I didn’t make too much of a fool of myself with it and if I did… Oh well… I’ll try to use more brains for the next time. And quotes… I am too lazy to go for quotes!

robert slapping cersei is not your moment of good triumphing evil


Because at that point in ‘Game of Thrones’, when it’s still possible to believe that Ned can turn the story around somehow, that Khal Drogo is going to storm into Westeros to win the iron seat for his future heir, we’re still dealing to some extent with a conventional fantasy story. The Starks and Lannisters look as though they’ve been set up at diametrically opposite sides of the moral spectrum. And because traditional narratives operate on certain, well-worn rhythms, they come with certain expectations: we expect to see our villains punished, chastised, torn down. Cersei is the primary antagonist in ‘Game of Thrones’ because Ned is for, all purposes, cast in the “leading good guy” niche and she’s the unstoppable force he comes up against. So I think when people are pleased or vindicated or exulting that Cersei gets hit, they just feel as though justice has been served within the story’s moral framework, that the main villain has been gotten what she deserves. 

Except no. We’re not dealing with a traditional fantasy narrative here. Robert slapping Cersei isn’t a moment of moral triumph: it’s symbolic. Firstly, it’s entrenching what we already know about women in Westeros - that they’re vulnerable, because Cersei, Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, daughter to Tywin Lannister and HBIC supreme, is still powerless and has to back down in the face of her husband’s fists. It’s demonstrative of the dangers of autocratic government - of taking one person, especially someone as unfit for it as Robert, and putting them on a throne and hailing them as a Chosen One - because it enables their most dangerous behaviour. But most importantly, it’s a moment of humanity for Cersei and for Ned, who is in a lot of ways an audience cipher in that chapter, to see that humanity, lying on his bed, watching and reacting to events.

People are capable of heroic and villainous things simultaneously and their circumstances shape that potential. Cersei Lannister is a terrible person, no questions asked, but that scene isn’t meant to illustrate some kind of cosmic retribution for her horribleness - do awful shit, get hit. It’s meant to show us, through Ned’s eyes, that there’s a reason for Cersei’s terrible-ness, she doesn’t become who she is in a vacuum. 



“How could you have thought me credulous enough to imagine that I was in the world only in order to worship your caprices? that while you allowed yourself everything, you had the right to thwart all my desires? No: I may have lived in servitude, but I have always been free. I have amended your laws according to the laws of nature, and my mind has always remained independent.”

from Roxanne’s letter (‘Persian letters’, Charles-Louis de Secondat)

Cersei Lannister exists in a society where she has no agency and no power to call her own. I mean, fuck, Lacan says that the most fundamental form of self-identification is being able to recognize one’s own reflection, right? It’s about being able to look into the mirror, see one’s own body and recognize it as one’s own yet even this, this ridiculously basic form of power, is denied to women in Westeros. Their bodies, which should be their own, are in fact projected upon, dismembered, consumed and possessed by the men around them and this happens time and time again from the rape of women like Cersei, Lollys and Elia to the moon tea that Lysa and Jeyne unwillingly (and unknowningly) consume. Their bodies are not theirs to call their own. Which is why I actually think that Cersei deciding that Jaime should be the father of her children is actually an incredibly romantic, beautiful thing to do. Not romantic because I ship them like it’s on fire (I do but that’s another post for another day) but romantic and beautiful because it’s Cersei deciding that she matters enough to get to decide what happens within her own body. It’s Cersei valuing herself enough to rebel against the system and even her family because only she should get to decree what happens within her own body. It’s Cersei reclaiming her own physical agency from the patriarchy that denies it to her, just like Roxanne, and I don’t care if you legitimately think that this is the main cause behind the War of the Five Kings. Because I really do believe that Cersei’s form of incredibly basic, female rebellion is more important than having a legitimate heir to inherit the Iron Throne. She’s not overthrowing the patriarchy, she’s not ripping it up at the roots, because within the limits of her upbringing and as only one woman in society, no matter how much power she has (or rather no matter how much power she appears to have), Cersei doesn’t have the capacity to tear down the patriarchal system of Westeros. But what she can do and what I think she does and what her choice of her children’s father represents, is that just because the patriarchy exists outside her, it doesn’t necessarily have to exist within her as well. She can live in it and still find a way to be free. Okay, fine, it does mean her days are extremely numbered because the individual is never going to be allowed to do this and still survive but oh my goodness, I actually think that at its purest level it’s really stunning in all its tragedy?

(Of course, it’s not true that the patriarchy never gets into Cersei’s head and that she never internalizes her own oppression because she does but I don’t think she does in this specific case.)

Reminder to submit a link to a post if you want it reblogged.

There’s only so many times we can say this. 

If you want your meta post on the blog, submit the post

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128 notes   •   VIA: ellenfanshaw   •   SOURCE: ellenfanshaw

IT’S ALL JUST A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY REPEATING -> an asoiaf elder/younger gen comparison series.
elia martell and jeyne westerling.
(Okay, hear me out in this one. In some ways Elia and Jeyne are opposites because Elia is defined as a woman who is left behind in the pull of political events, a woman who is not wanted, while Jeyne is defined as a woman who is wanted or at the least taken and therefore has political events spread out around her.
They’re both seen as minor political impediments in the chain of events that is war. They’re both stated by several characters as unworthy of their husbands or in Jeyne’s case unworthy of the trouble the marriage caused. They both for whatever reason have trouble giving their husbands heirs, which is seen as the primary purpose of a woman in Westeros. They’re deprived of their agency and swatted away as inconveniences in the more important game of men. If Jeyne had in fact become pregnant by Robb, she would have undoubtedly suffered a fate similar to Elia’s at the hands of the same family. We know little about either of them but from what we’ve heard, they were both kind people who weren’t, as far as we know, invested in the game of thrones. They were pulled in against their own will and suffered for it.)

“Princess Elia was a good woman, Your Grace. She was kind and clever, with a gentle heart and a sweet wit.”

"Jeyne is bright as well as beautiful. And kind as well. She has a gentle heart.”

“Elia need not have been harmed at all, that was sheer folly. By herself she was nothing.”
“Then why did the Mountain kill her?”
“Because I did not tell him to spare her. I doubt I mentioned her at all. I had more pressing concerns.”

Jeyne Westerling had been Robb Stark’s queen, the girl who cost him everything. With a wolf in her belly, she could have proved more dangerous than the Blackfish.
She did not look dangerous.


IT’S ALL JUST A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY REPEATING -> an asoiaf elder/younger gen comparison series.

elia martell and jeyne westerling.

(Okay, hear me out in this one. In some ways Elia and Jeyne are opposites because Elia is defined as a woman who is left behind in the pull of political events, a woman who is not wanted, while Jeyne is defined as a woman who is wanted or at the least taken and therefore has political events spread out around her.


They’re both seen as minor political impediments in the chain of events that is war. They’re both stated by several characters as unworthy of their husbands or in Jeyne’s case unworthy of the trouble the marriage caused. They both for whatever reason have trouble giving their husbands heirs, which is seen as the primary purpose of a woman in Westeros. They’re deprived of their agency and swatted away as inconveniences in the more important game of men. If Jeyne had in fact become pregnant by Robb, she would have undoubtedly suffered a fate similar to Elia’s at the hands of the same family. We know little about either of them but from what we’ve heard, they were both kind people who weren’t, as far as we know, invested in the game of thrones. They were pulled in against their own will and suffered for it.)

“Princess Elia was a good woman, Your Grace. She was kind and clever, with a gentle heart and a sweet wit.”

"Jeyne is bright as well as beautiful. And kind as well. She has a gentle heart.”

“Elia need not have been harmed at all, that was sheer folly. By herself she was nothing.”

“Then why did the Mountain kill her?”

“Because I did not tell him to spare her. I doubt I mentioned her at all. I had more pressing concerns.”

Jeyne Westerling had been Robb Stark’s queen, the girl who cost him everything. With a wolf in her belly, she could have proved more dangerous than the Blackfish.

She did not look dangerous.

128 notes   •   VIA: waverlyrowan   •   SOURCE: watcherswall

The Arianne Question - Watchers on the Wall 



Axechucker shares his take on whether or not Arianne Martell, a POV character from the books, has been cut from the show for good, and what will happen on the show.

The show has done it before; Creating Moments is kind of a television staple. They take something that in the source material is mentioned as rote, or even casually, and they gloss it up in some way.

Should Jon Snow merely find the dying body of Ygritte? NO! It’s better to see her take the arrow with his own big brown eyes!  Show us his pain!

Does it make a lot of sense to have Sansa change her hair color after she’s arrived at the Eyrie? NO! But she needs her staircase moment! Make sure the dress is awesome!

While the writer of this article presents this “Creating Moments” phenomenon as a neutral (or even positive) issue, it’s ultimately why I think shows like Game of Thrones suffer in the long run, and in the conversation about what shows succeed as art. Because what is sacrificed in the pursuit of the Great Moment is the good story, the character-based story, and all the reactions Game of Thrones inspires from book readers—rage, apathy, contempt—ultimately seem to stem from a reaction to taking a character-based story and making it a series of water-cooler Moments. It’s the pursuit of the “awesome!” vs the pursuit of the true. And it’s especially glaring as an adaptation of a series that, at its heart, realized the power of those glorious moments is a dangerous force in and of itself.