Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cersei - Prophecy

Cersei Lannister is one of the most disturbing, heartless, cruel characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. Her character deteriorates and slips into insanity just as Aerys Targaryan did. She is filled with nothing but contempt for the world, and desires only her own power and control. She repeatedly justifies herself by saying a mother will do anything for her children but she often appears to be a self interested mother as opposed to someone like Catelyn Stark who is a self sacrificing one. Cersei goes against the fundamental definition of motherhood, which is self-denial for the sake of your children. This can be seen when Cersei slaps Tommen, and often threatens to have a boy beaten while Tommen must watch. It can also be seen by the fact that she had her first child killed, since the child's father was Robert Baratheon and not Jamie, her twin and lover. She shows disinterest in everyone, including her own children. She is manipulative and uncaring.

A huge factor in the decline of Cersei Lannister is the prophecy she receives from Maggy the Frog. She calls it a curse: "Maggy's curse bloomed like some poisonous flower." (A Feast for Crows, 515). This prophecy eats away at her as she slips into paranoia in the knowledge that her future will never be secure: "'Queen you shall be...until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear...Gold shall be [your children's] crowns and gold their shroads...And when your tears have drowned you, the Valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.'" (A Feast for Crows, 771). She knows she is going to lose her position of power so she becomes paranoid to keep it at any costs. Yet she is often filled with self pride to the point where she is blinded to the possibility that her plans could fail. Her downfall comes through arrogance and conceit, but it also comes from the prophecy she received when she was young.

Cersei's decisions are often made as this prophecy echos in her head. She loathes Margaery Tyrell since she believes that she is the younger, fairer queen that will take her place. This loathing leads her to create her downfall by any means necessary, and her hastiness traps her. Cersei created the very monster that will consume her. She allowed the High Septon to create an army separate from the crown: "'The Faith Militant reborn...The Warrior would lift his shining sword again adn cleanse this sinful realm of all its evil.'" (A Feast for Crows, 602). and with this army the High Septon imprisoned both Cersei and Margaery for infidelity. Cersei was eager to accuse Margaery of being wanton, but failed to realize that she herself was guilty of the same crime. To Cersei it is everyone's fault but her own.

The last piece of the prophecy describes the Valonqar. This is the part that Cersei most readily misunderstood. Valonqar means little brother. When Cersei received this  prophecy her little brother Tyrion was alive and easy to hate. He was hideous in her eyes and she loathed him for it. She put up walls between them and never trusted him but always loathed him. She was sure he would be her undoing. But she failed to realize that she has two younger brothers, since Jamie was born after her: "'We are one person in two bodies. We shared a womb together. He came into this world holding my foot." (A Game of Thrones, 485). She trusted Jamie because he was beautiful, because he was like her. As she becomes more and more self interested she failed to realize that she hurt Jamie with her unfaithfulness, and Jamie in response grows to loath and mistrust her. She is undone by a little brother, but with prophecies it is never the one you expect.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


The Game of Thrones universe is filled with prophecies. From the house of the Undying Ones to Maggy the Frog. It fills the world they live in as well as shapes it. The role of prophecies are very often viewed the way prophecies are seen in Shakespeare's MacBeth. MacBeth begins with three witches who give MacBeth a prophecy that he will be King. MacBeth is impatient for the prophecy to come true so he plots to murder King Duncan in order to ascend the throne. Once he is King, he is then filled with paranoia that someone will discover his crime and he goes mad. He then seeks out the witches again for a new prophecy in hopes they will show him how to keep the crown he has won. In the end MacBeth is killed and his tyranny put to an end.

This portrayal of prophecies ring true in most literature, but especially in Game of Thrones.  It is dangerous to assume that the one being prophesied about is able to understand the prophecy fully. It is filled with traps for the person's undoing that they often do not see. Prophecies should not be read as only one path to meet this end, but instead should be reflected upon with council. There are many characters who have received prophecies, but they often do not respond the same way.  A prophecy is not always a good thing, for in many cases it can lead to paranoia and self-destruction.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Who is Jon Snow's Mother?

Jon Snow's mother is mentioned rarely by Eddard Stark. She is a subject of mystery to everyone except for Eddard Stark himself. It is in my personal belief that Jon Snow's mother is in fact Lyanna Stark, and that his father is Rhaegar Targaryan.

The evidence of this is in the story of the war that took the Targaryans from power and Robert claimed the throne. Robert was in love with Lyanna Stark. The war started because Rhaegar came upon Lyanna and stole her away. "...Rhaegar fell upon Lyanna Stark of Winterfell, and carried her off..." (World of Ice & Fire, 127). He held her captive for almost a year, until Eddard finally came to High Garden where he fought Rahegar while Lyanna could be heard screaming in the distance.

The second bit of evidence is while Danaerys is in the house of the Undying Ones in Quarth. She see's a series of visions of her family long dead. She see's Rahegar in a room with his Dornish wife and their two children saying: "'There must be one more...The dragon has three heads." (Clash of Kings, 701). Much later she see's a blue rose blooming on a wall of ice, providing a sweet scent to the area.

Rhaegar desired to have three children, and his wife was incapable of having any more after their second child. Rhaegar, like most Targaryans, was obsessed with the glorified stories of his ancestors and their dragons. He wanted to relive those days, including the old tradition of threes that runs in his family. There are three heads on the dragon on the Targaryan banner. Rhaegar no doubt also observed that his ancestors could have multiple wives, and so he desired to marry Lyanna Stark, but custom would not permit it. Rhaegar formed designs around Lyanna since at least the great Tournament at Harrenhall: "And when the triumphant Prince of Dragonstone named Lyanna Stark..the queen of love and beauty...thus given insult to his own wife, the Princess Elia Martell of Dorne..." (World of Ice & Fire, 126).  So he swept her off, married her, and they conceived Jon.  A year after her abduction Lyanna was giving birth when Eddard Stark was coming to her rescue. When she see's her brother, she knows Robert's forces have won. She knows that Robert means to kill all Targaryans. She may have been raped but she still loved her baby, so she asked Eddard to claim him as a bastard. "Promise me Ed." No Targaryan must survive this rebellion and no Targaryan did, only a Stark left that tower. And given the fact that Robert's blood lust for Targaryans never departs him while he lives, Jon, Catelyn, nor anyone could be told of Jon's true identity. Eddard may have lied about who Jon is, but when has Eddard ever put honor before his family.

The blue flower in the wall of ice that Dany saw in the house of the Undying Ones was a symbol of Jon, who at the time was sworn to the Night's Watch. "A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness." (Clash of Kings, 706). It is difficult to tell whether this moment in the house of the Undying was a vision of the present or a vision of the future. This may give the reader hope that Jon will survive and thrive at the wall. The blue flower was meant to reference Lyanna Stark, who is known to have loved winter roses.

Jon's parentage may never be concretely spoken, but there are these hints laid throughout the story to hopeful direct the reader towards the truth. It lends power to the mystery of Jon Snow, and if this is true it adds to his regality of character. As well as some unease, for when a Targaryan is born a coin is flipped: on one side is greatness and the other side insanity. It appears from Jon's success at maintaining the wall and becoming Lord Commander he his coin landed on the side of greatness.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Character Summary - Jon Snow

Jon Snow, Jon Stark, Jon Targaryan...Jon is faced with one of the most complex character dilemmas the series explores: the role of the bastard. He is given a home in Winterfell but as much as he strives to love and support Eddard Stark's children he is never accepted by Catelyn. The wound Jon bears throughout his life is the wound of being without a mother. He never even has a chance at an adopted mother, as Catelyn hates him and the dishonest act he represents.

Jon has claimed the name of bastard and made it his own, and made it so he can still claim honor. In Winterfell he received  a direwolf pup, but unlike the children of Eddard and Catelyn he was bound to the albino wolf. A white wolf with red eyes that never barks or yaps but only fights and serves. This wolf is not only the runt of the litter but also an outcast of society in that he is an albino. Runts and albinos are often left to die and ignored by the mother wolf in her desire to focus on her cubs that are more likely to survive. Ghost and Jon belong to each other in this way.

Jon finds no comfort in Winterfell, so he feels the call to leave. He travels to the Wall to become one of the Night's Watch with this Uncle Benjen Stark. The Wall tempers Jon Snow as Valyrian steel is tempered. He discovers his own character and it's downfalls, not sins assigned to him by society simply because he is a bastard, but he truly see's himself at the Wall. In Game of Thrones he is shown that he can be arrogant and unsympathetic: "'They're not my brothers,' Jon snapped. 'They hate me because I'm better than they are.' 'No. They hate you because you act like you're better than they are. They look at you and see a castle-bred bastard who thinks he's a lordling.'" (182). This criticism Jon received from Donal Noye could have been ignored, but instead Jon began to change the way he thought and saw his new brothers of the wall. He no longer saw them as baseborn criminals, but instead saw them as his equals. He began to teach them how to properly fight and began to encourage them. This is what makes Jon different from Janos Slynt. Slynt was baseborn elevated to Lord then sent to wall. At the wall he never saw his brothers as equal, but only saw Lord Slynt the master of Harrenhal.

The fact that Jon is able to receive counsel and correction makes him more worthy of the title Lord Commander of the Wall after Lord Jeor Mormont's death. It is fitting that he was chosen, and even fate. Lord Mormont had given Jon a bastard blade. It was tempered Valyrian steel from his house that he meant to give to his son, but he had it reforge so the hilt of the blade bore the image of a white wolf. The blade belonged to a noble house, and Lord's are very protective of their Valyrian steel, so for Lord Mormont to give Jon this blade is a way of indicating that he is no longer a bastard, but a brother of Night's Watch. This blade makes Jon more legitimate and shows that Mormont looks at him as a person who has accomplished great deeds instead of just a bastard.

Jon has not only learned how to love and accept his brothers, but also how to treat the Wildlings the Night's Watch continually fights against. While ranging with Qhorin Halfhand he was ordered to infiltrate the Wildlings to discover what they were after and what they were planning. Jon Snow did this and as a result he lived among the Wildlings for weeks. Learning how their society works, how they think, what they value. He learns to respect them, and he learns primarily through loving a Wildling woman named Ygritte. Jon broke his vows with her, but he still gained in character. He learned to love and respect people outside of his typical social sphere. He learned to respect them for who they are. This information becomes crucial when Jon becomes Lord Commander and suddenly must decide how to integrate hundreds of Wildlings into the Westerosi society.

Jon becoming legitimate through the Night's Watch is shown by the fact that he is elected Lord Commander. The Night's Watch does not partake in any battle amongst King's, and so no King decides who will rule over them. They decide for themselves. They were in debate on who should be chosen when suddenly the doors of the hall and a raven flew in: "'Samwell Tarly shout, 'I know that bird! That's Lord Mormont's raven!' The raven landed on the table nearest Jon. 'Snow,' it cawed. It was an old bird, dirt and bedraggled. 'Snow,' it said again, 'Snow, snow, snow'" (A Storm of Swords, 1095).  This was interpreted as a sign to the rest of the Night's Watch to elect Jon Snow as the next Lord Commander. Jon Snow became a legitimate brother and found his place and his calling at the Night's Watch, and he understands the value of each person he leads. His character has grown in honor, deeds, and kindness through his experiences as a brother.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Men in Black - Priesthood parallel

Game of Thrones has been called anything but Christian, let alone Catholic. Many people have stood against it as a blatantly moral wrong to read or even discuss the books or the tv show. As a Catholic I find this very distressing, and although I can see the reason behind it, as an English major I can also see the value of the literature as well as very strong parallels to Christianity and Catholicism. Yes, people do bad things, but that is what we as humans do, and Game of Thrones more than any other series shows the result of humanity's sins which is beheading, unfaithfulness, and war. Game of Thrones does not confirm that moral ignorance is right, but rather presents a thesis, a situation, and shows where character's choices lead. It is difficult for me to hate Game of Thrones just because of the incredible detail and genius that is needed to undergo the task of creating this world. We should not discredit someone's genius simply because they, like us, are sinners.

That being said, I find that the Night's Watch remind me very much of the priesthood. Both contain the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. It is found in the oath all men of the wall swear to:
 "Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."(Game of Thrones, 522).
Reading these words, I cannot help but think of our priests. They too have no lands, they too live in humility and do not strive for personal glory, they too serve the people of the church until their final breath. They are the swords in the darkness; They fight against the darkness of sin daily and without pause. 

It can also been seen in the duties of the men in black, they fight a supernatural threat of the wights, the giants, the mammoths, all the things of mythology that everyone in King's Landing believes are dead. It is interesting that all the nightly terrors occur in the cold. In Dante's Inferno, the lowest level of hell where Satan dwells is ice cold. Satan is continually flapping his wings, trying to fly farther away from God, but the wind freezes the lake and traps him. People think the devil comes with fire, but no he comes in the cold of night, just like the wights, quietly waiting out the day to finally infiltrate the night and destroy all things living and good. The Night's Watch knows that the threats of cold and darkness are real, but what happened to Ser Alliser Thorne when he brought the wights frozen arm back to King's Landing, and it had melted: the whole court mocked him and claimed he made up tales. It is just as true today with our priests, who give proof that God is real, and that the devil we must daily fight is real. People mock them and claim that the devil is long dead, and that he is no serious threat. Their hearts have melted the wight's arm, and shut out the warning, for they live in warmth and pleasure what do they know of cold? 

The words of the Starks are the words of the North. Winter is Coming.  "'Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.'" (Matthew 25:13).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Character Summary - Catelyn Stark

Catelyn Stark was born a Tulley of Riverrun, the daughter of Lord Hoster. She was pledged to marry Brandon Stark, but he died and Eddard took her as wife instead. She was married to Eddard on the same day her sister Lysa married Lord Aryn. Catelyn Stark is a noble woman who was lucky to have found love in her marriage. Marriages are set up by fathers and guardians and it is a rare thing to have a happy marriage and a loving family. Catelyn found this in Ned Stark and in Winterfell. Catelyn Stark's whole existence has been dedicated to her family.

Catelyn was raised in the religion of the seven. The seven gods that have seven faces, and that within each you can see the others. These gods are: the mother, the father, the warrior, the smith, the crone, the maid and the stranger.  

Catelyn Stark was born a patient woman. Ever since she was a child her father would tell her to watch for him when he went away. Catelyn would stand on the walls of Riverrun and watch patiently. She is also a wonderful mother. She watches over them, but she does not hold onto them too long. She understands that even though Rickon is four it is time he learn how to be a man, because Winter is Coming. This is in contrast to Lysa Aryn who lets her son be a little boy forever. She and Ned raised their children so well that Robb became of wise King at the age of 15.

Her only failing as a mother is her attitude toward Jon Snow, Eddard's bastard son. She looks at him and see's only that Eddard broke his oath to her years ago. Jon is of the same age as Robb, and was born while Eddard was warring with Robert. He was born before Catelyn and Eddard fell in love, and she tries to forgive Eddard, but she never loves Jon Snow. She is the reminder to Jon that he is not hers, he is not a Stark, and he will never have a place in her family. She is the main reason Jon Snow always remembered he was a bastard, and he did not have a proper place in this world.

Catelyn Stark is strong, brave, and patient. Her only life is her family, and she often makes mistakes out of love for her family. She is the mother of the seven incarnate.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Kingship - King Robert Baratheon

A Song of Ice and Fire begins with the reign of King Robert Baratheon. The Baratheon sigil is a black crowned stag on a golden field and their words are "Ours is the Fury." King Robert raised a rebellion against the mad King Aerys and took the Iron Throne from the Targaryans. His rebellion was spurted by his anger at Prince Rhaegar Targaryan raping the Lady Lyanna Stark. Robert slaughter Prince Rhaegar and his family, swearing to end the Targaryan line. Only Viserys and Daenarys made it out of Westeros alive.

This begins King Robert's rule.  He started as a young man, fond of war and a brute on the battle field with his mighty war hammer. Over the summer years he becomes fat and altogether bored with ruling. He ignores his wife Cersei Lannister and sleeps with anyone he chooses. He has many, many bastard children. He does not like to do his duties as a King and so he passes them onto his council members. He left the crown thousands in debt.

Now the main question: was he a good King? He may have lead the kingdom in a peace for years, but his death brought about a war that ripped the land apart. That cannot be completely his own fault, but he did start the idea that someone other than a Targaryan could be a king. During his rule Robert proved a drunk paranoid fool. He often ignored his state, and so he effectively handed it to people like Petyr Baelish and Varys. He also was very strong willed and would not listen to council if it contrasted his own thoughts. The best example of this is when he heard that Daenarys was pregnant, and he was in a fury. He wanted her and all Targaryans dead. He sent assassins after her but Eddard Stark protested. So Robert relieved him of his duties as Hand of the King and told him to go back to Winterfell.

Robert treated the crown as a child would, he wore it when he felt like playing the King, but quickly turned to other toys. He was a great warrior, but he is no ruler. He chooses to listen to whoever agrees with him. He ignored his children so that Joffrey turned into a spoiled king after him. He left the kingdom with a deep infection in its heart so that it split to a million pieces. Robert Baratheon is a man of strength, but the strength of leadership was not in him.