Absurdly High-Stakes Game: According to legend, King Rodrik Stark won Bear Island from the King of the Iron Islands in a wrestling match.
Absurdly Sharp Blade: Any blade made from Valyrian steel. Dawn, the Thunderbolt Iron sword of House Dayne, also counts — Jaime recalls it cutting his skin through his tunic when it was merely touched to his shoulder to knight him.
Absurdly Youthful Mother: Jon needs a wet nurse to look after Gilly's baby at the Wall. One of the ones who turns up is fourteen. Of course this is practically the norm for Westerosi society, as highborn girls are usually married off the moment they have their period.
Abusive Parents: Randyll Tarly, and especially Tywin Lannister, whose horrible treatment of his son went far beyond the Moral Event Horizon. Craster is an even worse example, regularly raping his daughters and sacrificing his sons to the Others.
The women of Bear Island and in particular House Mormont learn weapons and war to defend themselves against raiding ironmen while the husbands are away at sea; more recently, since Jeor Mormont took the black and Jorah was attainted, the Mormont women have become the heads of the House. Unlike Brienne, their Island's history makes them far more comfortable in the role.
Asha Greyjoy is an Ironwoman reaver. As the eldest daughter of a ruling family, she would traditionally be married off for political purposes and devote her life to producing children. Instead, she's such a good reaver that her father chose her as his heir, despite their deeply misogynistic culture. She often jokes that her battleaxe is her husband, and her dagger is her suckling babe.
Ygritte is a wildling woman who chased Jon Snow all over the land beyond the Wall, and a fair proportion of wildling women are "spearwives," fierce soldiers.
There is at least one female Meereenese pit fighter.
Queen Visenya Targaryen was said to be more comfortable in chain rather than in sumptuous clothes.
The Sand Snakes, all of whom appear to be proficient in at least one weapon.
In "The Mystery Knight," Danelle Lothston of Harrenhal leads her soldiers wearing black plate armor.
Adipose Rex: King Robert Baratheon, while not morbidly obese, is seen by Eddard as having put on a lot of weight since Eddard had known him prior to his ascension. Also, in the backstory, King Aegon IV Targaryen, called Aegon the Unworthy, became very fat over the course of his reign. Also, Tommen becomes king and is described as chubby, although that may just be baby fat. Wise Master Yezzan zo Qaggaz of Yunkai is morbidly obese apparently due to a disease he caught in the southern continent. And while not a full-blown king, Lord Manderly is described as barely able to walk due to his prodigious girth.
Adult Fear: Families trying to protect their own is a major theme in the series. When they fail, it's this trope.
The death of Joffrey Baratheon as his mother looks helplessly on. Even though both characters are villains, the scene uses the trope to full effect. Cersei is thereafter even more paranoid about her children's safety.
How Catelyn believes that her entire family has been lost. Her husband is executed, one daughter married off to an enemy and the rest of her children gone or dead.
Jaime in A Feast For Crows; he's lost his fighting hand (and thus become devoid of all worth he ever believed he had), been abandoned by his Lord Commander, forced to chose between his siblings (and eventually chooses based on a long standing feeling of guilt over something that happened in his teens), inadvertently helped cause his own father's death and has been shunned and betrayed by the only woman he ever loved.
Brienne watched the first man she loved die in her arms and is forced to betray the second or watch a boy no older than twelve die under her protection. All this after being attacked by the Brave Companions ands spending days in a horrible delirium.
Sansa's fate is an Overprotective Dad's worst nightmare. After her father and protector is executed in front of her, she's virtually helpless to the subsequent and constant abuse perpetrated on her.
There are a wide variety of ethnic groups in the series, causing an interesting mix of names. In fact, the last two kings of Westeros were named Aerys and Robert. There are also some unusual versions of fairly normal names, such as Eddard and Kevan. This applies to family names as well. Those with ancestry in the First Men and the Andals, such as Tyrell, Stark and Bolton, sound European. Those from other cultures, such as Targaryen, Baratheon and Baelish, sound more fantastic.
This also applies to places. The Seven Kingdoms are named after regions (Westerlands, Reach, Vale) with the exception of Dorne, the only one with a proper name.
Affably Evil: Littlefinger and Varys, if you consider them evil. To the extent they can be considered evil, Melisandre and the Faceless Men (specifically Jaqen and the kindly man).
Daario Naharis, a ruthless mercenary who dyes his hair and nails blue and dresses in garb of yellow and gold, which is flamboyant even for a Tyroshi.
One of the Yunkai'i lords' private army is made up of men 7+ feet tall, dressed in pink with plumed helmets, and wearing stilts. The lord himself is five feet tall.
A House Divided: Happens a few times in the series, both in the backstory and the main. The first civil war bred by the division between the Targaryens and Blackfyres is a classic example of the trope. As the main story goes on, however, it becomes plain that many a House has the potential to become this: primarily the Baratheons (three ways), the main branch of the Lannisters (everyone for him-or-herself), and the Karstarks. The Freys look set to fall into this the moment The Patriarch finally dies.
Air Jousting: The "Dance at Harrenal" in The Princess and the Queen features two Dragonriders fighting in Mid-Air, Prince Daemon Targaryen and Aemond One-Eye. Prince Daemon jumps off Caraxes and stabs Aemond in the skull with the Valyrian steel blade Dark Sister. Both of them and their dragons fall out of the sky.
The Alcoholic: Numerous. Cersei, Tyrion, Dontos Hollard and Viserys Targaryen are examples.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Dany desires the sexy bad boy Daario against her better judgment, and has no interest in the steady and devoted, but plain and boring, Jorah or Quentyn Martell. Barristan laments that while Dany is clever and wise beyond her years, she still has a young woman's taste in men.
All Men Are Rapists: Played with. Because Westeros is a patriarchal society, and because the smallfolk (commoners) have little practical recourse to justice, rape is accepted as an inevitable part of life that all women must fear. This goes double in wartimes, where it's practically requisite as a terror tactic, not to mention the breakdown of law and order that allows random brigands to go unpunished. That said, there's a wide range of morality among the POV and non-POV characters, several of whom do not endorse rape and will punish proven rapists among their own ranks. At the other end of the scale, some of the nobility are rumoured (or in Roose Bolton's case, admitted) to indulge in Droit du Seigneur.
Melisandre is able to cast these on people — they're said to be very difficult magic, and harder to keep up depending on how much they challenge people's Weirdness Censors, so wearing the person's Iconic Item or Iconic Outfit helps the disguise.
According to the Kindly Man, The Faceless Men are also able to cast them.
In "The Mystery Knight", it's implied that Maynard Plumm may be Bloodraven casting one of these. Dunk mentions that "the harder he looked at him, the less he saw."
Alternate Company Equivalent: The Dothraki are sometimes compared to the Aiel of Wheel of Time. They are both feared by other countries for being savages and fierce warriors, who are made up of several clans which each have a chief who may feud with other chiefs, who have a holy city filled with artifacts from dead civilizations, which is run by old wise women, in which no blood is to be spilled and the aforementioned feuds must be ignored while they are there, and who have a prophecy concerning a boy, born from a fair-skinned light-haired queen from another society and a chief of the savages, with the boy growing up being the leader of the leaders among the clan and going on to conquer the world. However, there are still a number of differences between the two cultures.
Jon Snow is a virgin when he swears his oath to the Night's Watch, which Ygritte finds completely unbelievable (and sets out to rectify). A lot of men who sign on to the watch before they lose their virginity are in a similar situation, though most don't take the vow of chastity very seriously once they discover there's a brothel in Mole's Town. This seems to have been the case for most of the Watch's history, as Mormont brushes mention of it aside by saying that if they killed every member of the Watch that went to the brothel, they'd quickly have no one left on The Wall.
Invoked when Samwell Tarly suggests claiming that Gilly's child is his bastard, and sending them to his father's castle to be raised there, as Lord Tarly would be secretly pleased that his unmanly son had at least proved able to lie with a woman.
Quentyn Martell's companions try in vain to get him to sleep with a whore or two, pointing out that while men prefer to marry virgins, wives appreciate it when their husband is sexually experienced.
When Jon brings wildlings to the Wall, he has trouble reconciling his need for recruits with the Watch's vows of chastity. He decides to confine all the spearwives to one castle, with the only men present being trusted officers overseeing them.
The four older Sand Snakes, Oberyn Martell's bastard daughters.
Brynden Tully; Catelyn mentions, "He has not wed. You know that, Father. Nor will he ever." It's never made clear whether he's gay, asexual, or opposed to marriage for some other reason.
Xaro Xhoan Daxos; Daenerys notices how he pays no attention to her bare breast when she wears a typical Qartheen dress - unlike Ser Jorah who remains Distracted by the Sexy - and how his servants are pretty boys dressed in silk.
Hother "Whoresbane" Umber earned his nickname by killing a whore. The story is kept rather hush-hush, however, because the whore was a man.
Due to his implied past as a male prostitute, many of the black brothers assume Satin is gay, leading to a lot of speculation on the fact that Jon takes him as his personal steward. However, there's no evidence as to whether the rumours are true or not.
Jon Connington's fierce loyalty to Rhaegar long after his death, coupled with the way he reminisces about him, and his strong reluctance to the idea of marrying all suggest that he may also fall under this trope.
Valyrian weapons are so valuable that they are usually ancestral weapons of a noble house. Examples include Ice, of House Stark; Heartsbane, of House Tarly, and Longclaw, of House Mormont. Sometimes, however, a noble house loses possession of its Valyrian weapon. They are so valued that Tywin Lannister has tried to buy Valyrian steel weapons from impoverished houses—an ancestor lost the family blade Brightroar across the sea—but while the families were willing to marry their daughters to the men of House Lannister, they valued their Valyrian steel weapons more than mere gold. The Lannisters finally got what they sought not by money but by force: they captured the Valyrian greatsword Ice from their executed enemy Eddard Stark.
Dawn, the meteoric iron sword of House Dayne, is particularly linked with the house's reputation. The wielder of Dawn is given a special title: "The Sword of the Morning."
Ancient Conspiracy: The Targaryen family has attempted to resurrect dragons and find the Prince Who Was Promised amongst themselves for at least a hundred years. Another conspiracy, the Maesters of the Citadel, appear to want to destroy magic in favor of science.
And Some Other Stuff: The recipe for the "wine of courage" taken by the Unsullied to make them immune to pain. Not used to prevent readers from making some for themselves, obviously; in this case it's presumably being invoked to protect an In-Universe trade secret.
Westerosi noble houses have heraldic animals as their symbols, much like the real Middle Ages. Stark - wolf, Lannister - lion, Targaryen - dragon, Baratheon - stag. Comparisons are inevitable, and this is taken to the point of becoming an important theme, especially with the direwolves of the Stark children, and is used as symbolism before the first chapter is over: (The Starks find a direwolf that had been killed by a stag, and it is eventually Robert Baratheon's foolishness and his "son" Joffrey Baratheon's sociopathy which tear House Stark apart). Daenerys also finds the three heads of the Targaryen dragon to be very important. Houses deliberately choose animals based on their personal philosophies, and raise their children with the specific intention of moulding them into the correct images. Illyrio, and other foreigners, find this custom bizarre. He offers to take Tyrion to a zoo and throw him in a cage with a real lion, to see if he feels any kinship. Tyrion wisely concedes the point.
Littlefinger's father made the Titan of Braavos his house sigil, but Littlefinger states outright that he swapped it for a more humble mockingbird, which helps maintain his harmless façade.
Some individuals are especially tied to an animal in reference to their job or behavior, including Sandor "the Hound" Clegane and Varys the Spider. Oberyn Martell is known as "The Red Viper of Dorne" while his baseborn daughters are known as the Sand Snakes (Dorne bastards are given the surname Sand).
The Ghiscari call themselves "The Sons of the Harpy," after the heraldic harpy of old Ghis. The villanous La Résistance/The Remnant formed against Daenerys' government in Meereen is known as the Sons of the Harpy and its rumored leader who may or not be Hizdahr zo Loraq is known as The Harpy.
The Lhazarene, a pacifistic herding culture, are known by the Dothraki as the Lamb Men. A Lhazarene former slave who Ser Barristan takes under his wing is known as the Red Lamb for his fury in battle.
The Brazen Beasts of Mereen all wear bronze animal masks. A number of people wonder if they wear the same masks or switch them up. The masks of a group of Brazen Beasts have symbolic significance when Shavepate's men all wear locust masks during their coup to reference the poisoned locusts meant for Dany.
Crows are common references as well. The Wildlings refers to the Night's Watch as "crows", Lord Bloodraven appears in visions as a Three-Eyed Crow. The motif becomes more prominent in later books which deal with post-war devastation:
Euron "Crow's Eye": "After every battle the crows come in their hundreds and thousands to feast upon the fallen. A crow can espy death from afar. And I say that all of Westeros is dying."
Animal Eye Spy: Seems to be the first symptom of being a warg, particularly in dreams. All the Starks (bar Sansa, whose Lady is killed before she gets the chance) experience it with their direwolves, whether they realise that's what's happening or not, and Arya notices it briefly happening with a cat when her human eyes are blinded.
Anti-Climax: The Second Blackfyre Rebellion in "The Mystery Knight" consists of a Hidden Backup Prince, a dragon's egg, and a lot of plotting, but it unravels quickly before any blood is shed, and it's implied that Bloodraven was aware of it the whole time.
One of the major religions features two gods, constantly at war: the fire god R'hllor, Lord of Light and Shadows, who likes having people burned as a sacrifice to him, but is a pretty good god (for a Crapsack World). Then you have the Great Other, his enemy, lord of cold and darkness, who represents all evil in the world. This religion also denounces all other gods as either not existing or being servants of the Great Other.
A more minor ditheistic religion in the same world is the religion of the Ironborn. They worship the aquatic "Drowned God", who they believe first breathed life into humanity and whose constant enemy is the destructive, chaotic Storm God. Again, this being a Crapsack World, one of the ways they worship the Drowned God is by drowning people, although they have the decency to revive most of them afterward. As the Ironborn are descendants of the First Men just like the polytheistic Northmen, they likely believe that the Northmen's Old Gods exist, they just don't particularly care.
Anti-Mutiny: In A Dance With Dragons, The Night's Watch resist Jon's plans for allying with the wildlings against the Others, and for sending a ranging party to rescue the ships originally sent to rescue wildlings at Hardhome. They also don't like involving the Night's Watch with Stannis, thus making it a prime target of retribution at the hands of Lord Bolton. When Jon decides to go south to deal with Ramsay Bolton, which amounts to breaking his vows and getting involved in the wars of the realm, the Watch finally turns on him.
Tyrion Lannister is teased as a villain early on, but quickly becomes a sympathetic main character, although his loyalty to his own ambitious family makes it hard for him to get along with the Lawful Good Starks.
Sandor Clegane becomes more sympathetic after first appearing to be a simple monster. Jaime Lannister goes through this as well. However, as noted just above, any of them could be called an Anti-Hero just as easily.
Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall and a former Night's Watch brother. He wants to conquer the Wall but only so that his people can take shelter from the Others behind it; they rather accurately believe the Watch will never just let them through.
Theon Greyjoy performs a Face-Heel Turn, betraying Robb Stark and taking Winterfell for the Greyjoys, which ends in the death of many Stark retainers. However, when he's betrayed by the Boltons and tortured into insanity, he swings over into The Woobie territory quickly.
Anyone Can Die: A major theme of the books, due to the high mortality rate of major characters, good and bad. However, as the series progresses, the deaths of major characters are more often teased than actually occur, and readers are beginning to realize that if a chapter ends with an important character seeming to die, it's more likely than not that they'll come back in some way later on.
Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Subverted by the Ironborn. To spill the blood of another Ironborn is forbidden by their religion. But drowning another Ironborn is not.
Appropriated Appellation: Tyrion advises Jon Snow to take on the derisive labels people throw at him. "Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you." As it turns out, Jon, derided as 'Lord Snow' for his being brought up in a castle and acting above his fellow recruits starting out, is actually made Lord Commander and gets to be addressed formally as Lord Snow. Other examples include "The Blackfish" Brynden Tully and "The Onion Knight" Davos Seaworth.
Archer Archetype: Anguy "the Archer" of the Brotherhood Without Banners, and Alleras "the Sphinx" at the Citadel are both cool and collected.
"Winter is Coming," the grim and enigmatic words of House Stark. It's noted that the Stark motto is unusual for being a warning rather than a boast.
"The seed is strong." The dying words of Jon Arryn which he repeated after discovering that all Baratheons in recorded history, including those who had children with Lannisters, and all of Robert's children, have black hair...but Robert and Cersei's children are blond.
"Valar Morghulis," a phrase which Arya learns and repeats frequently, though it's a while before she understands its meaning, which is "All men must die". Oddly enough, despite not knowing what it means several of the occasions she uses it are appropriate for the meaning.
The phrase "song of ice and fire" has only received one cryptic appearance in the story so far, but it is the namesake of the series and so has obvious importance. The concepts of ice and fire are themselves a recurring motif in the series, and it forms part of the oath sworn by Jojen and Meera Reed, "We swear by ice and fire".
"Wherever whores go" for Tyrion in A Dance With Dragons. He ponders its meaning and asks just about everyone he knows about it. The phrase "A very small man can cast a very large shadow" is also part of his arc, first mentioned by Varys and then reiterated by Moqorro who predicts that the coming conflict will feature Tyrion, "a small man with a big shadow snarling in the midst of it all."
"The dragon has three heads."
"If I look back, I am lost."
From A Game of Thrones there's "wake the dragon" which is first said as a threat by Viserys but then comes to have a whole new meaning by the end of the book.
Ygritte oft-repeated assertion, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," is relayed to Jon many times as he travels with the wildlings and many of his preconceived notions are shattered. It becomes his mantra of self-doubt for several books to come.
There are also two religious phrases of the followers of the Lord of Light and the Drowned God respectively that are repeated throughout the series. "The night is dark and full of terrors," and "What is dead may never die."
Bran, Daenerys and possibly Euron Greyjoy all are told to "Fly" in their dreams.
"The dragons are dead" both mean House Targaryen has fallen and will never return as well as the disappearance of magic from the world. Both are not completely true.
"Words are wind".
"Dark wings, dark words".
"The Game of Thrones", the endless, dangerous and futile power struggle among the lords of the land and a metaphor for machiavellian power-politics that is at the heart of the facade of chivalry and honor.
Aristocrats Are Evil: Partly used, as most of the point-of-view characters are nobles. However, the cruelties of feudalism are emphasized, especially in warfare. Every major battle is followed by months of marauding bands sacking villages and slaughtering or raping peasants, by both sides.
Armor Is Useless: Generally averted in the series because it is set in a mostly low fantasy setting. Several times the strengths and weaknesses of armour are directly explored;
When Syrio Forel helps Arya escape by holding off Cersei's guards, he manages to kill five lightly armored guards with his wooden training sword, but is unable to get past the full plate armor of a mediocre knight.
When Barristan Selmy fights Khrazz, the pitfighter, Krhazz wears no armor and is unfamiliar with fighting against it. His slashing sword cannot pierce Selmy's armor, so he targets the knight's unarmored head. He spends most of the fight futilely trying to goad Selmy into taking his armor off. He fails, and is unable to even injure Selmy.
In the duel between Bronn and Ser Vardis Egen, the lightly armored Bronn plays hit and run with the more heavily armored Egen until he tires, and then pins him down and stabs him through a shoulder joint. His ploy only works because it's just the two of them fighting, and Bronn has enough room to maneuver. Unlike the pitfighter, he was familiar with fighting armored opponents and knew how to exploit its weaknesses. The Red Viper uses the same tactics against Gregor Clegane. Although initially successful, the Viper gets overconfident once Gregor is down, and gets killed when Gregor jams his fingers into his eyes, which wouldn't have happened if he'd been wearing a visor.
Victarion Greyjoy is able to take on superior numbers and win because he's fully armored, whereas the sailors he's fighting only wear light armor for fear of drowning (which doesn't worry Ironmen, as they see it as a mark of favour from their god). Several knights do drown because they fall into water wearing plate armour; Davos Seaworth avoids this fate by only wearing a pot helm.
Armor-Piercing Slap: A Lannister family specialty. Cersei delivers several, to various characters. Tyrion gives one to Joffrey. Jaime also starts using a more literal interpretation from the third book on, using his solid gold prosthetic hand.
Army of Thieves and Whores: The Night's Watch and the Brotherhood Without Banners, which is in essence an extremely unromantic version of Robin Hood's Merry Men
Arranged Marriage: Par for the course among the nobility of the Seven Kingdoms and used to form political ties. Some are happy, such as Eddard Stark/Catelyn Tully, and others are unhappy, such as Robert Baratheon/Cersei Lannister. Many are against the will of one or both parties, such as Daenerys/Khal Drogo. Breaking a marriage pact is Serious Business.
Artifact Title: In-Universe, "the Seven Kingdoms" is a reference to the political composition of Westeros before Aegon the Conqueror showed up (the Riverlands were ruled by the King of the Iron Islands, the Crownlands didn't exist). Nowadays, there's only one kingdom, which is divided into nine regions.
Martin occasionally mentions that characters have pubic hair in the same shade and color as the hair on their head (silvery-blonde, yellow-blond, bright red, etc). In Real Life, however, most caucasians — excepting redheads and people with truly black hair — have pubic hair in a neutral shade of brown.
Children born of incest seem to have impressingly high survivability and surprisingly few flaws in this world, occasional insanity aside. In real life, a dynasty like the Tagaeryens, which practiced incest for over 300 years (and only occasionally had some fresh blood added to the pool) should have produced a lot more problems than it did, and a lot more genetic quirks than just a tendency to be born albino.
Newly-hatched dragons have a suckling reflex and the ability to digest human milk. In the real world, these traits are unique to mammals, but dragons are strongly tied to magic, and are shown to have more than a few things in common with humans.
The genetics of some houses seems to be a little screwy. Some house traits seem to get passed down for thousands of years, such as Lannisters almost always having blonde hair. Martin has hinted that some magic might be at work.
In A Game of Thrones, a thirteen-year-old Daenerys manages to eat an entire stallion's heart raw despite the fact that an average horse heart weighs somewhere around eight pounds (and a physically fit stallion's would almost certainly be larger).
Averted with giants. They are described as having disproportionately thick legs and hips, which 2 legged creatures of that size would need to follow the Square/Cube Law.
Ascended Extra: Penny, who goes from being unnamed and having a minuscule part in ASOS to playing a significant part in A Dance With Dragons.
Conquest—the most notable example being Aegon's Conquest, which united all of Westeros under the Iron Throne—is considered a completely legitimate method of gaining a throne. After all, if you have the sheer power to make an entire kingdom swear fealty to you, how is your claim any worse than that of a relative of the previous king?
"A Khal who does not ride is no Khal!"
Mance Rayder mentions at one point that he had to defeat several of the other would-be leaders to unite the wildlings under his authority. He later demonstrates his fighting skills against Jon while in the guise of Rattleshirt.
At the Crossroads: Several significant events happen at The Inn at the Crossroads (between the Kingsroad running north-south, the river road west to the Riverlands, and the high road east to the Vale of Arryn). Catelyn Stark encounters Tyrion Lannister there and decides to arrest him, triggering war between House Lannister and Stark/Tully. Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane have a fight with the Mountain's Men, causing them to part ways after Sandor is seriously wounded, each going on a radically different path. And Brienne of Tarth is captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners, leading to a choice between Conflicting Loyalties.
As You Know: When Eddard describes the Sack of King's Landing, Robert complains that that's all common knowledge. Another example is when Oberyn recounts a Dornish tale about the Young Dragon's conquest to Tyrion, who's well-read and knows it all already.
Attack! Attack! Attack!: Several armies are undone because their leaders are honor-bound or crazy enough to attack into dire situations. Jaime Lanninster, Gregor Clegane, and Khal Drogo act like this on a personal level in battle. On the other hand, Robert notes that a Dothraki invasion would be a Morton's Fork, whether he rushes out to attack or holds up in a castle.
Audible Sharpness: In the first book, Ned describes Jory drawing his sword, which comes "singing from his scabbard," clearing implying the standard "shing!" that you hear in movies.
You'd probably already guess that Martin loves food before reading the copious Food Porn.
The narrative tends to direct our sympathy and admiration toward men who are mocked, scorned, or underestimated because of their physical incapacity to live up to cultural standards of "manhood" (Tyrion, Samwell, Bran, Lord Manderly, Doran Martell—even Varys and Littlefinger, though how sympathetic those two are is a big case of YMMV). This makes a lot of sense when you know that Martin himself is an overweight nerd.
House Hightower are the wealthiest and most martially-prepared minor House in the Reach, but have largely kept out of the war beyond offering token support to the Tyrells. However, the Ironborn attacks on Oldtown have set them to shipbuilding and mustering forces like nobody's business.
The Faith of the Seven largely remained neutral in the War of the Five Kings; even after a large grassroots movement emerged to protest against rampant war crimes tearing the countryside apart, they had little power to do anything about it due to laws against their keeping men under arms. When Cersei reinstates the Church Militant in return for shortsighted political gains, and then hypocritically tries to use them as a Kangaroo Court against her rivals, it comes back to bite her extremely quickly. More like Arming The Slightly-Awake-And-Still-Grumpy Giant And Then Poking It With A Stick, perhaps.
Awesome, but Impractical: Harrenhal Castle is so huge it can never be fully repaired or garrisoned, despite the riches it brings.
Ax-Crazy: The Brave Companions/Bloody Mummers, a mercenary band as dangerous to its employers as to its enemies. The insane cannibal Biter and the jester Shagwell seem to delight in pointless violence more than anything else.
Wights are reanimated corpses of the Others' victims.
Beric Dondarrion and Catelyn Stark are both brought back to life through the power of R'hllor.
In A Dance With Dragons, Robert Strong is apparently a reanimated corpse built from Qyburn's victims, most notably Gregor Clegane.
Coldhands is apparently undead, having once been a ranger.
Badass: Several, though that doesn't save them from a painful death.
Jaime Lannister and Barristan Selmy. Each man is a Master Swordsman whose reputation for badassery is straight-up memetic.
Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon, two vastly different childhood best friends who led a rebellion against a powerful three-hundred year old dynasty and won. They each notoriously defeated two of their generation's greatest warriors, with Robert killing Warrior Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned supposedly killing the legendary Kingsguard knight, Ser Arthur Dayne.
The Northerners are descended from the First Men, worship the Old Gods, and are generally Rated M for Manly. The farther up north you go, the more badass the people seem to get.
Badass and Child Duo: Arya and Jaqen H'ghar; Arya and the Hound, briefly; Osha and Rickon; Brienne and Pod.
Badass Army: The Unsullied, The Night's Watch, the Golden Company, and several others.
Badass Bookworm: Prince Rhaegar started as a bookworm, then read a prophecy and became badass. Sam the Slayer might be a gentle poke at the trope, as well.
Badass Boast: Many of the House words, both great and small, can be considered badass boasts. House Baratheon's words are "Ours is the Fury," referring to their rule of the Stormlands. The Targaryens have "Fire and Blood," The Greyjoys have "We Do Not Sow," referring to their reaving ways, and so on. Not all family words are Badass Boasts, however. The famous Stark words are a constant reminder rather than a boast. And then there's House Codd, whose words are "Though All Men Do Despise Us."
"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 fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honour to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."
The Reeds' oath of fealty to the Kings in the North is pretty damn awesome too:
"To Winterfell we pledge the faith of Greywater. Hearth and heart and harvest we yield up to you, my lord. Our swords and spears and arrows are yours to command. Grant Mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you. We swear it by earth and water, we swear it by bronze and iron, we swear it by ice and fire."
The Kingsguard, In-Universe. Its knights were once looked up to as pinnacles of chivalry and fighting skill, and were thought of as the best knights in the kingdom. By the time the series begins, however, many of the current members are mediocre fighters, utterly amoral or both.
Also In-Universe, the Night's Watch. They used to be a massive fighting force capable of garrisoning seventeen castles guarding a 300 mile wall with regular patrols, and it was considered an honorable occupation for second sons and ambitious fighting men. Now they're considered a joke with less than a thousand men left, guarding the world against fairy tales, and almost the only people joining are criminals who took the black in lieu of worse punishment.
Badass Family: Just about every noble house, since the feudal society of Westeros generally requires that male nobles learn to fight, serving as elite cavalry and battle commanders. Many noblewomen are also shown to be quite adept at playing "the game of thrones."
Of note are the Umbers, Mormonts and Cleganes, which don't seem to have ever produced a single non-badass.
By the time of A Dance With Dragons, the Stark family includes or has included at one point:
The Hand of the King and one of the central figures of the last Civil War.
An undead rebel leader on a revenge rampage.
A faction leader, warg, king and genius strategist who leads his army in combat and has never lost a battle.
A young girl learning to stand up for herself and being trained in politics by the best Manipulative Bastard in all Westeros. She's a warg, too, even though she doesn't know it yet.
Another young girl training to become part of the most fearful guild of professional assassins in the setting. Oh and she's a warg, too.
A crippled young kid training to become a greenseer and already a powerful warg.
A lost toddler with a powerful temper and a deep warg connection with his Direwolf, currently wandering somewhere in a country of cannibals.
The bastard son, Lord Commander of the Night Watch. He's a warg, too.
Barristan "the Bold" Selmy is around sixty years of age, which in the medieval setting is fairly ancient considering he is able to singlehandedly take down a few soldiers unarmed. Later he defeats a noted and dangerous sellsword captain with only a wooden staff. In Meereen, several people take potshots at his age, calling him "Ser Grandfather" and "Barristan the Old."
At the age of 60, Brynden Tully serves as commander of scouts in Robb's campaign, then goes on to hold Riverrun against a siege by the Lannisters and the Freys. When he is finally convinced by political pressure to give in to the besieging army, he has his nephew raise a gate leading out into a river and swims away, escaping from his would-be captors.
"Bronze" Yohn Royce is probably one of the best fighters the Vale has to offer despite his old age. He's described as being as tall as the Hound and still looks strong enough to break younger men in two. He's also mentioned to have curb-stomped both Eddard Stark and his master-at-arms Ser Rodrik with a sparring sword during a visit to Winterfell.
Thoros of Myr is presented as a generally good man, but that doesn't change the fact that his primary ability seems to actually be that of a necromancer as opposed to the healer he believes himself to be.
Bait-and-Switch Comment: Wyman Manderly is accused of ordering the murder of a young Frey. He replies, "I confess...that I do not know the boy."
The Dothraki are simplified Expies of the Mongol steppe-horsemen archetype.
Clansmen in Westeros. The wildlings/free folk north of The Wall are the primary example, but smaller barbaric tribes also exist in the western foothills of the Mountains of the Moon and the northern mountain ranges between Winterfell and The Wall.
Bastard Bastard: Bastards are often not trusted due to being born out of lust and deceit. Since they often have a vested interest in the deaths of their sire's trueborn heirs, there are also pretty practical reasons for not wanting your bastards around.
Ramsay Snow certainly lives up to the stereotype, and is hinted to have quietly offed Roose's heir in order to take his place — Roose seems fairly resigned to the idea that he'll do so with any future heirs as well.
Walder Rivers is regarded as one of the most ruthless of the Frey family, and is said to both hate being a bastard and hate anyone who isn't one.
Bastard Understudy: Sansa is a serial case, apprenticed to such expert schemers as Cersei Lannister, Olenna Tyrell and Petyr Baelish.
It is sarcastically noted in The Sworn Sword that the name of this trope could just as well have been the personal motto of the late and infamous womanizer king Aegon the Unworthy.
In A Dance with Dragons, Ramsay Bolton orders his wife bathed daily, as he is... particular about cleanliness. However, it is also strongly implied that she herself takes the baths because the things he has been doing to her make her feel dirty. This wouldn't be surprising, as the mere thought of Ramsay Bolton is enough to give some readers the shudders.
Battle Trophy: The Black Ears tribe. The Ironborn also believe "paying the iron price" is the only proper way to get jewelry.
Batman Gambit: The modus operandi of several of the major power brokers in Westeros. Only a few are actually good at it. Those that ARE, though, make whole continents dance to the tune they pick.
Bawdy Song: "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" is the one most often mentioned, and the only one we get the full lyrics to.
The Beard: Margaery was this to the gay King Renly, in addition to being a strong political match. It may be that the Merryweathers, Taena and Orton, are this for each other.
Beast and Beauty: A general theme, fitting for a former author of the Beauty and the Beast TV show. Examples include Sandor and Sansa, Jaime and Brienne, and Tyrion and Sansa. A tavern song called "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", about a supposed romance between a hairy bear and a beautiful maiden, is mentioned and sung several times.
Beauty Equals Goodness: Averted. Many of the villains, such as Cersei and her son Joffrey, are physically attractive, while some of the most heroic characters, such as Eddard and Brienne, are plain-looking or even downright ugly. However, this belief is widespread in-universe, and people are much more inclined to believe terrible accusations when they're leveled at ugly people like Tyrion rather than at attractive ones like Cersei.
Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted with Myrcella and Pia. Beric Dondarrion is also described as very handsome when he's first introduced, and as "a scarecrow of a man" when Arya meets him after he's been killed and resurrected six times.
Because Destiny Says So: The Prince Who Was Promised. Subverted with the Stallion That Mounts the World prophecy. Those characters who are aware of prophecies made about them often try to prevent them from happening (from the second book alone: Renly smashing Stannis' host at King's Landing; the sea drowning Winterfell's people; Theon displaying Bran and Rickon's heads; those two boys in Winterfell's crypt). They always come true anyway... But rarely the way anyone expects. (Cersei in particular is revealed in Feast to be motivated by Screw Destiny, though frankly she's not doing a great job of it.)
In A Dance With Dragons, Theon is subjected to a rather horrific variation of this, tortured by Ramsay until he is mentally broken down to think of himself as Reek. Oddly, he recovers his identity via this trope after being forced to 'masquerade' as himself on the orders of Roose Bolton.
"You have to remember your name!"
Reference is made to how Robb Stark "put on the face of Robb the Lord" after his father departs for King's Landing. Especially after he becomes King, it becomes increasingly difficult to establish where the ruler ends and Robb begins.
In A Feast for Crows Sansa begins to refer to herself as Alayne, a little 'out of fear that someone can figure out who is she really is, a little' because Sansa was a "frightened girl"
Bed Trick: Lysa did this to Littlefinger when he was very drunk after a feast and had been rebuffed by Cat all evening. He thought she was Cat and still boasts of bedding her.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Jaime and Brienne, to the point that when someone interrupts them while they're fighting, Jaime jokes that they've walked in on him chastising his wife.
Wildling women believe that a man must be able to kidnap her to be worthy of a relationship. However, there's no official "marriage" or any law to stop the woman killing the guy in his sleep (or just leaving him) if she doesn't like how he treats her. "A man can own a woman, or a man can own a knife, but not both."
Brienne of Tarth was set up for an Arranged Marriage with a noble who made it clear he would 'chastise' her if she persisted in wearing chainmail and training in swordplay. Brienne stated that she would only allow herself to be chastised by a man who would defeat her in combat. Deciding to teach his future wife her place, he accepted the challenge and ended up with several broken ribs from a tourney mace. After that, Brienne's father gave up the idea of marrying his daughter off.
Big Bad: The series doesn't actually have a main villain as of now, however the Great Other is implied to be this.
Orell, a Wildling skinchanger, favors the form of an eagle.
Birds of prey are also popular choice of heraldry for noble houses, including Houses Arryn and Mallister.
Big Beautiful Woman: Roose Bolton eventually comes to feel this way about his third wife, "Fat" Walda Frey, and he even admits to Theon that he's become oddly fond of her. Considering who's saying this it's definitely notable. He also specifically chose her because he was given the pick of women from House Frey and offered his prospective bride's weight in silver for her dowry. Being a Magnificent Bastard, he picked the fattest one.
Big Eater: Illyrio, who gorges himself constantly while traveling with Tyrion. Wyman Manderly can't get enough meat pie even when it's Frey Pie.
Big Guy: there are several characters (Ser Gregor, Hodor, the Greatjon, etc.), but the most notable is probably Archibald Yronwood, who is more often called the Big Man than his proper name.
Big Little Brother: While cousins rather than brothers, Big Walder and Little Walder have this dynamic. Big Walder is the older of the two, but Little Walder is physically bigger and much more sadistic.
The Freys, with about a hundred family members by several different mothers, all living under the same roof and all jockeying murderously for favor with the family patriarch. It is said of Lord Walder Frey that he is the only lord who can marshall an army from his breeches
The Lannisters. The main line alone consists of a father who sees every family member as little more than a pawn to be used to further the success of the family as a whole; an incestuous pair of twins including a smug, callous brother and a scheming, manipulative sister; a Black Sheep younger brother whose father and sister both hate him for killing his mother in childbirth; and the twins' three children, falsely claimed to be the children of the king, the eldest of whom is a sadistic psychopath.
The three Baratheon brothers: Robert, Stannis, and Renly. None of them had any great love for each other.
The Starks are the requisite inverted Foil to underscore the point. Their individual situations become all screwed up, but it has little to do with inherent failings and strains with the family bonds and everything to do with outside factors: even Arya and Sansa do love each other under their cat fights. And, for all he may feel somewhat isolated, Jon Snow isn't left out, being more accepted than bastards generally are in Westeros.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Joffrey and Cersei initially seemed like great people to Sansa, and learning their true colors was a source of character development; Littlefinger seems like a mischievous, affable man but is really a ruthless, backstabbing schemer; Lothar Frey could be described similarly to Littlefinger - he just acts on a smaller scale.
Varys is calm, polite, and refreshingly open about the fact that he's plotting something (he knows nobody important would believe him anyway if he claimed he wasn't), though he keeps what that something actually is pretty close to the vest. There have been indications that he truly wants what's best for Westeros; it's just that his vision of "best" may not necessarily align with that of most people, and that it probably does not align with that of most people currently at the top of the power structure.
Bizarre Seasons: One of the few overt signs of the supernatural in the first few books (and yes, according to Word of God, it's definitely magic, not something scientific like variations in the planet's orbit or axial tilt). Westeros's summers and winters both last for years. The length of seasons fluctuate apparently at random, but a long summer generally indicates a long winter to follow. What makes it more bizarre is that there is no indication that this is the case on any of the other continents.
Stannis has a reputation for this, sticking rigidly to his duty no matter the cost, though he's noted to display some occasional pragmatism.
Worshippers of R'hllor follow a Manichaean worldview in which reality is a constant struggle between the good force of Light and the evil force of Darkness. Consequently anything that does not fall in line with R'hllor is evil and must be destroyed.
Black and Gray Morality: There are a great number of quite loathsome characters in the series. Most of the sympathetic characters occasionally take morally questionable actions as well, and are often shown to be in conflict with other sympathetic characters.
Black Comedy: It's a dark series, so it's right to expect the odd dark laugh to go with it. Some of the Irony and Laser-Guided Karma that plays out also has an element of humour involved. Of the sweetest, blackest kind. Many characters also engage in the occasional dark joke or wisecrack as a coping mechanism, as well as a part of their general Snarkery. If Dolorous Edd opens his mouth, for instance, you're on to a sure thing.
Black Magic: Magic is generally presented as this, a mysterious and dangerous force that requires some pretty serious sacrifices to invoke. It's sometimes described as "a sword without a hilt." Mirri Maz Duur knows how to wield it and shows Dany some of the rules. Various red priests of R'hllor display magical abilities, but these usually involve blood sacrifices or burning people alive. Melisandre in particular has performed great magical feats, though she sometimes uses alchemical pyrotechnics due to the limitations, unreliability, and costs involved in the real thing.
It's customary for knights of Westeros to show off their wealth with gaudy armor, which often include lacquer, jewels, gilding, sculpted crests, and exotic materials. Notable examples include Rhaegar's ruby-encrusted breastplate, Loras's cape of woven flowers, and Jaime's gilded armor. Several consciously avoid this trope — the plain but honest Starks, and cold-blooded killers like the Clegane brothers and the King's headsman, Ser Ilyn Payne.
Sellswords tend to wear their wealth in the form of jewelry or elaborate armor or weaponry. This makes sense as they wander from place to place looking for work (or run like hell to avoid getting killed) so have no home to stash their riches.
An ironborn reaver is expected to wear only jewelry paid for with "the iron price," i.e. taken off the bodies of his victims. Wearing jewelry that you actually paid money for is seen as soft and womanly.
Deconstructed with the Ghiscari mercenary companies, who have gone so overboard with their peacock displays that they're barely able to fight. They're almost totally used for shows of force by their clients. (It's noteworthy that when the actual cities of Slaver Bay need to fight, which isn't often, they eschew homegrown mercenary companies entirely because they have Astapor's Unsullied, often described even by people who loathe slavery as the finest soldiers in the world.)
Blondes are Evil and Blond Guys Are Evil: Jaime, Cersei, Joffrey, Tywin, Aerys and Viserys. Jaime plays the role to the hilt in the first two books, being a cocky, vain, and murderous bastard. Interestingly, the start of his trend towards Heel-Face Turn coincides with a head shave, though he grows it back later.
Blood Bath: Apparently this is a standard accusation to lay at the feet of any attractive woman who achieves power of any sort.
Two long-dead noblewomen, Shiera Seastar and Danelle Lothston, supposedly indulged in these.
This is among the Malicious Slander spread by the Ghiscari when trying to muster sellswords against Daenerys.
Downplayed by House Bolton, which goes through wives (and other... sources of entertainment) at a very alarming rate. Ramsay has killed only one and severely domestically abused the other — although it's pretty plain he'd probably increase the number of horribly dead wives, given the chance. He's hardly secretive about it, either. However, his father has gone through two wives under mysterious circumstances, as well. House Bolton has, from time to time, had this reputation for centuries. Increasingly while reading, you suspect it's not been without cause. And, probably, played rather straighter for some than others.
Gregor Clegane doesn't have any known kids. That's because his wives (and other partners) tend to die before they have a chance to either get conceived or born thanks to horrific Domestic Abuse and his general For the Evulz tendencies. It is known that he's been married a few times (certainly more than twice). The problem is, none of his wives ever gets given a name. Nor is anybody, even in-universe, quite sure how many times he has actually been married. Even his brother doesn't know: not that Sandor would have bothered to keep track, anyway. He knows what his brother is like all too well.
Bluff The Imposter: In a preview chapter of Winds of Winter, Mors Umber quizzes "Arya" on the names of the staff at Winterfell. Subverted, as the imposter lived at Winterfell too.
Body Motifs: Hands are a recurring motif, particularly injuries to hands. Examples include: The Hand of the King. Qhorin Halfhand. Greatjon Umber has two fingers bitten off by Grey Wind. Ser Alliser Thorne takes a wight's hand to King's Landing (and Ghost found the hand in the woods). Jaime's hand is cut off, then hung around his neck. Then he gets a golden hand. Ser Davos had his fingers shortened as punishment for smuggling. Ser Jacelyn Bywater has an iron hand. "For hands of gold are always cold, but a woman's hands are warm." Victarion Greyjoy's hand becomes infected and then magically healed. Beric Dondarrion sets his sword on fire by cutting his own hand. Coldhands. Jon Snow's hand becomes burned. He must wear a glove over it and frequently flexes the scar tissue. During his fight with the wight, its hand is cut off but keeps attacking Jon. Lady Donella Manderly chews off her own fingers while in Ramsay Bolton's custody. Theon Greyjoy loses several fingers to Ramsay's torture. Jaime mentions that Aerys Targaryen's hands were always scabbed from cutting himself on the Iron Throne. Jon Connington's hand becomes infected with greyscale. Catelyn's fingers are cut nearly to the bone when she grabs the dagger of the assassin who is trying to kill Bran.
Bodyguard Betrayal: Jaime Lannister, a member of the Kingsguard who slew the King and was thereafter branded the Kingslayer. This is also believed to have happened with Renly when his murder was pinned on Brienne.
Bodyguard Crush: Shows up a number of times where bodyguards crush on their wards: Jorah Mormont is in love with Daenerys Targaryen, who does not return the feeling, much to the angst of them both. Brienne of Tarth and Renly Baratheon is a rare gender inversion. Sandor Clegane has a love-hate infatuation with Sansa, who seems to have mixed feelings for him, due to her false memory of their kiss. The only fully reciprocal example is Loras and Renly, which ends badly.
Because the Dothraki follow the strongest member of the khalasar, the khal is, by definition, more badass than his bloodriders.
Examined by Melisandre. She knows her guards are completely useless when it comes to protecting her, but she keeps them around because having armed men at your beck and call is an important status symbol.
Boisterous Bruiser: King Robert Baratheon, "Greatjon" Umber, and Tormund Giantbane. Thoros of Myr and Aeron Damphair were both examples before their religious awakenings.
Borrowed Catchphrase: Melisandre uses the catchphrase of Jon's deceased girlfriend, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," at the end of his first chapter in A Dance with Dragons. It's implied that she did this intentionally.
Brain Uploading: Revealed to be the true nature of the Old Gods. What are considered by their human worshipers as merely nature spirits are in fact the countless generations of Greenseers. Who, when reaching the end of their lifespan, uploaded themselves into the collective mind of the weirwoods.
Poor, poor little Arya and Sansa. The sensitive and naive Sansa especially goes through a lot of pain, including sexual abuse. Arya copes slightly better and becomes a Little Miss Badass but also joins an assassin's guild and starts losing her sense of identity as well as becoming less hesitant to kill while Sansa, though still at others' mercy, is at least safer than her sister and is learning how to manipulate others.
Sansa's friend Jeyne actually starts more idealistic than Sansa, but becomes a Broken Bird.
Jaime Lannister got a prolonged and nasty breaking over the course of the first three books, culminating in the loss of his sword hand. While nothing else broke his haughtiness, that one did utterly.
A Dance With Dragons: Cersei, after her humiliation before all of King's Landing. She tries bravely to maintain her composure through the whole thing, but in the last leg she breaks down crying and scrambles to safety. Kevan notes with some small regret that her flame had been snuffed out.
A Dance With Dragons: Theon is tortured to near insanity by Ramsay Bolton.
Jon's discovery that the Night's Watch are an Army of Thieves and Whores rather than the ancient and noble order he'd believed them to be.
Jon and his father. Although he loves him, thinks highly of him and defends him when anyone questions his honor, sometimes he can't help but hear a little evil voice that whispers that his father did father a bastard, so maybe he's not such a spotless role model.
House Targaryen wed brother to sister to keep their ancient bloodline "pure"; as a result, the "Blood of the Dragon" tends to degenerate into deformity and insanity. It also helps keep their white haired appearance. They seem to get a pass from Westerosi society despite the taboo, probably because they were the royal family and, for two-thirds of their reign, had dragons; the practice is mentioned once or twice to have been common "in old Valyria."
The incestuous relationship of Jaime and Cersei, which is treated as an abominable secret, in part because it would rightfully call the legitimacy of her sons into question, and probably lead Cersei's actual husband to kill them all in a fit of rage.
Brown Note: Various horns are thought to have a magical effect when blown.
Euron Greyjoy's horn, Dragonbinder, which will kill whoever blows it, but is thought to bind dragons to the will of the horn's owner.
The legendary Horn of Winter supposedly will bring the Wall down when it's blown. Mance Rayder arrives at the Wall with a gigantic horn that he claims is the Horn of Winter and threatens to blow it.
Bucket Helmet: Patchface has one covered in bells and antlers, as a parody of the Baratheon arms.
Bully Hunter: Jon is particularly eager to show up some of the nastier recruits during his training at The Wall.
The Butcher: Cleon, the Butcher King of Astapor, actually got the moniker because that was his trade as a slave... but he goes on to exemplify the trope perfectly well regardless.
But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Roose Bolton mentions that the most memorable thing that happened on the day he raped Ramsay's mother was that he had to put down his favourite horse.
But Not Too Bi: Oberyn Martell has a reputation for having a voracious sexual appetite that extends to both male and female partners. While the female relationships are clearly present, the male relationships are only present as a rumor. Somewhat justified in that the primary evidence for all his female lovers is his large brood of illegitimate children, and that he'd be unlikely to bring male lovers to court.
Tyrion Lannister, born a dwarf into a perfectionist family and blamed for everything. No one is more aware of this trope than him. It gets worse once he leaves Westeros.
Brienne of Tarth, cursed with an ugly appearance and "mannish" body, is not taken seriously either as a lady or a warrior.
Theon Greyjoy spends half his life as a ward of the Stark family, to keep Balon Greyjoy from causing any more trouble. Ned Stark never truly accepts him, knowing he's the son of a rebellious lord. When Theon returns home, his father rejects him as well, believing his time with the Starks has made him too soft. And then things go from bad to much, much worse.
Viserys Targaryen, the Beggar King, was raised to think of himself as a member of a master race and heir to a mighty nation, yet he doesn't even have his own bed. He spends his days wandering from court to court, selling his family heirlooms to survive, trying to convince someone to support his claim. His life is one long string of humiliations ending in being killed by his brother in law when he gets too uppity.
Grand Maester Pycelle. He's imprisoned in the black cells for a time, his beard is cut off to humiliate him, he's frequently called old and senile, and most of his advice is ignored. When he finally starts to get some influence on how things are going in King's Landing, he's murdered for being too effective.
Quentyn Martell, who doesn't know how to talk to girls, is sent across the sea on a mission that could determine the fate of Westeros, to woo "the most beautiful woman in the world". He arrives just in time to watch her marry someone else. Things get worse for him from there. It doesn't help that he is constantly described as being less attractive than his best friend.
Pretty much the entire Stark family suffers one hardship after another, and the universe rarely misses an opportunity to rub salt in their wounds.
Lollys is a mentally challenged Fat Girl who is a universal object of derision and her gang rape is pretty much considered a joke by everyone. It says a lot that probably the best thing that's happened to her so far is her marriage to the amoral sellsword Bronn, who despite marrying her as a Meal Ticket and proceeding to kill off several of her family members, seems to have some fondness for her.
Edmure Tully has a remarkable talent for humiliating himself at every possible opportunity. When he's not ruining Robb's battle plans, he's being too Distracted by the Sexy to notice anything that's happening around him (you know, little things like Jaime Lannister escaping his cell or his family being slaughtered down the hall, spending weeks standing on a gallows with a rope around his neck as the world's most useless hostage, or having minstrels make up funny songs about his erectile problems. The poor guy can't even take a bath without someone threatening to use his unborn children as artillery.
Stannis and Renly Baratheon, who fight over the throne. Stannis is the rightful king, but Renly is far more charismatic. Stannis seems to be the Cain in this equation, although even he may not realize it.
Ramsay Snow and his trueborn half-brother, Domeric Bolton. Ramsay allegedly murdered Domeric several years before the series began to eliminate his father's sole heir and legitimize himself, thereby becoming heir to the Dreadfort.
Gregor and Sandor Clegane, also known as the 'Mountain that Rides' and the 'Hound', respectively. They both want to kill each other, but never went that far, although Gregor left Sandor badly disfigured.
Around half the Targaryens were like this, due to in-breeding.
Robert Arryn, who is very young, infirm, and sheltered by a mad woman.
Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Lizard-lions seem to be crocodiles, and basilisks some species of large tropical lizards. A "zorse" is probably a zebra, though in real life the word is used to describe a horse/zebra hybrid.
Catelyn Stark and Beric Dondarrion, from Thoros' magic. Beric is resurrected shortly after death, but loses more and more of his memories and life force each time. Catelyn is resurrected several days after death, leaving her a partially rotted and vengeance-fueled revenant of her former self.
It is strongly implied that Ser Robert Strong is the reanimated corpse of Gregor Clegane, fueled by Qyburn's twisted experiments. The massive knight seems to never sleep or eat. It is also likely that he has no head under his greathelm, since Clegane's skull was sent to Dorne. Earlier in the series, Bran has a green dream in which a huge knight in stone armor lifts his visor, but there is only blood behind it. The stone armor is likely an allusion to Clegane's nickname, "The Mountain."
Camp Follower: Quite a few are seen due to the number of military engagements throughout the novels. Shae is the most prominent.
Capital Letters Are Magic: Doesn't "protecting the Wall against the Others" sound so much more noble and dramatic than "protecting the wall against the others"?
The Casanova: Robert, several years before the story began anyway. Dareon is on the more despicable side of this trope. Theon seems to have a fair amount of charm and certainly hits on every girl within reach, leading to some awkwardness when he accidentally flirts with his own sister.
Each noble house has its own motto, often describing the hat of the family and serving as its collective catchphrase.
"A Lannister always pays his debts," said by all Lannisters as a threat (or, more rarely, a reassurance). It's even more strongly associated with the family than their official motto, "Hear me roar!"
"I will cut off his manhood and feed it to the goats," is said by Shagga as a Running Gag. Tyrion adopts the phrase himself.
"You know nothing, Jon Snow," is Ygritte's, and it also doubles as Arc Words. It becomes a Catch Phrase for Jon himself that he repeats in his inner monologues whenever dealing with wildlings.
Daenerys' "I am the blood of the dragon," and when she feels a bit sarcastic, "I am only a young girl and know nothing of war, but..." She also has "If I look back, I am lost" in her internal monologues.
"It is known", said as a Running Gag by Dany's Dothraki handmaidens.
"Just so," said by anyone from Braavos, notably Syrio Forel.
Jeor Mormont's pet raven has one, too. "Corn!"
In the Dunk and Egg stories, Egg's is, "Get him! Get him! He's right there!" Said whenever he's watching a fight or joust. Dunk himself has, "Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall."
What the Night's Watch, the Maesters of the Citadel and the Kingsguard are supposed to be. In practice? Not so much.
Cersei is dismayed to find out that Lancel takes this seriously once he joins the Faith Militant - and worse, he's confessed his adultery with her to the High Septon.
Chance Meeting Between Antagonists: Two characters travelling in opposite directions, going on about their own business Catelyn Stark and Tyrion, recognise each other in an inn, causing the intrigues of other characters to spiral out of control into an all-out civil war. It happens again in ADWD when a fugitive Tyrion runs into Jorah Mormont in a brothel they just happened to be visiting at the same time; Jorah seizes him to take to Meereen in the hope of winning back Daenerys' favour.
Ser Barristan Selmy. In the first book, he's forced into retirement, but refuses to give up, saying he'll be in the service of the true king. In the second book, all the candidates for the Iron Throne are making much ado about his comments, wondering why he hasn't shown up anywhere. In the third book, it turns out they had the wrong continent — he went to go serve Daenerys.
Aegon Targaryen, who instead of being dead, was Switched At Birth with some other unfortunate infant and has been groomed by Jon Connington and others for the throne. Or is it?
Nymeria. Every now and then someone will make an offhand reference to an enormous horde of wolves ravaging the riverlands, led by a huge direwolf.
When Drogon goes missing early in book five, astute readers will assume that he'll be back. His return is literally out of the blue, however.
The Chessmaster: Littlefinger, Tywin Lannister, Varys, Illyrio and Roose Bolton are the masters of this. When Tyrion tried it in book two, he did it very well until his father Tywin interfered. Doran Martell moves his pieces with the long game in mind, but this gives a lot of time, and his pieces too much freedom, for randomchance to collapse many of his plans later on. Even Sam Tarly shows remarkable promise when he fixes Jon's election as Lord Commander.
A triangle of these between Petyr Baelish and Catelyn & Lysa Tully has far-reaching and disastrous repercussions.
When Tristifer Botley reunites with Asha Greyjoy he tells her he's saved himself for her all these years. She politely dismisses him, but he remains a loyal follower and close friend.
A Child Shall Lead Them: Daenerys Targaryen, Robb Stark, Bran Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, Jon Snow, Tommen Baratheon, and Aegon Targaryen. There are also a few children who are technically the lords of their house, such as Robert Arryn, though they lead no one in actual practice.
After Robert Baratheon had won his rebellion, he bestowed the title of Lord of Storm's End to his youngest brother Renly, who was only around 5 years old at the time.
Children Are Innocent: The Water Gardens in Dorne are there to remind the ruler of this, and that such childhood innocence is the first victim of war (as has been abundantly displayed elsewhere in the series). This is why Prince Doran kept Dorne out of the War of the Five Kings, until he was confident that they could win.
Child Soldiers: As in real life, squires in Westeros are expected to follow their masters into war, and often must fight by their sides in battle. And even in Westeros, where you're considered a man at fifteen, there are still technically children doing this. Podrick Payne is a notable example.
Margaery Tyrell, twice widowed and still claims to be a virgin. At the age of 16. She has a decent case, actually. Her first husband, Renly Baratheon, was assassinated only a few days after the nuptials (and was gay to boot), while her second husband Joffrey was assassinated during the nuptials. Much of Queen Cersei's time in the fourth book is spent tracking down/manufacturing proof that she is not a virgin as evidence that she has cheated on her third husband: eight-year-old King Tommen.
Also Arianne Martell, who is still unwed at the age of 23 in a world where marriage at 14 isn't considered unusual, although her father has ensured that she remains unmarried so that she can marry a Targaryen.
Lollys Stokeworth is fat and simple-minded, causing her to remain unwed at the age of 33 despite her mother's best efforts to find a match. It doesn't help when she's gangraped by dozens of rioters, leaving her pregnant and emotionally fragile. Finally she settles for Bronn, who quickly works his position into a lordship by making Lollys's elder sister into a widow.
People assume this of Jaime Lannister because he killed the King he swore to defend, calling him "Kingslayer," but it's an undeserved reputation.
Petyr Baelish's case is the worst-kept secret in Westeros. Everyone knows that he's a schemer, but because he's physically not a threat and of a house of no great age or wealth they always underestimate the scope of his plans and think they can use him to their advantage. (The only person who sees what a danger he is is Tyrion, and that probably because, as a dwarf in a medieval society, he's quite used to the idea of someone not fitting into the traditional mold as capable of being a threat.) They are always dead wrong. Sometimes, they're so wrong that when he finally backstabs them, they don't even realize he was behind it.
Cersei becomes this out of paranoia after Joffrey's death, plotting against her most solid allies because she doesn't trust them.
The City Narrows: The Flea Bottom neighborhood of Kings' Landing is this, a crime-ridden slum (in)famous for its signature "bowl o'brown", a stew that you don't know what or who went into it. Both Dunk and Davos grew up in this area, but managed to rise to being the friends and trusted advisers of monarchs.
The Clan: Noble houses in Westeros share physical traits and generally wear similar hats. The free folk have literal clans, most with some distinguishing feature or custom.
Clever Crows: Ravens are more intelligent than crows here, and function as Westeros's primary messaging system (similar to real-life homing pigeons). The fact that they're also birds of ill-omen is frequently remarked upon ("dark wings, dark words"), given that most of the messages people get are bad news. Furthermore, a very rare breed of white raven exists, significantly more intelligent than the black kind. Finally, Bran's dreams are haunted by a Spirit Advisor in the form of a talking three-eyed crow, gradually revealed to be an avatar of an extremely powerful warg and greenseer who lives beyond the Wall and uses crows and ravens as spies.
Les Collaborateurs: The shavepates are citizens of Meereen who side with Daenerys's conquering regime, so called because, in deliberate contrast to the frankly ridiculous and over-the-top hairstyles of Ghiscari culture, they shave their heads. They are considered traitors by the Sons of the Harpy.
Co-Dragons: The Kettleblack brothers to Cersei. Or at least she believes them as that. Turns out, their whole family is serving Littlefinger.
Cold-Blooded Torture: Rampant in the series, as part of its War Is Hell theme. The Bloody Mummers, the Tickler, and Ramsay Bolton are some of the worst offenders.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The great houses all have house colors. Family traits also seem to stay the same in noble houses through dozens of generations, though not always. This plays an important role in the first book.
Color Motif: All the noble houses throw their heraldic colours around every chance they get. The major players at the beginning of the series are the grim, dour, "stark" Starks whose colours are grey and white, and the rich, opulent Lannisters whose colours are red and gold (which contrast plays into the whole "ice and fire" motif as well).
Colonel Badass: Jeor Mormont and Barristan Selmy, who hold the roughly equivalent rank of Lord Commander. Later Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow
Coming and Going: Sansa meets the widowed Lady Myranda Royce, roughly her own age, whose middle-aged husband expired the first time they had sex.
Myranda: He died on top of me. In me, if truth be told. You do know what goes on in a marriage bed, I hope?
Sansa: That must have been dreadful, my lady. Him dying. There, I mean, whilst...whilst he was...
Myranda: Fucking me? It was disconcerting, certainly. Not to mention discourteous.
Companion Cube: The order of guardsmen that Areo Hotah belongs to ceremonially wed their axes upon graduation; he sleeps with his by his side and refers to it as his "ash-and-iron wife".
Jaime provides the page quote. His particular tear is between loyalty to his family and to his vows, but a combination of Brienne's formative example of knightly virtue and the realisation of just what a nest of vipers his family is makes that choice easier for him.
Brienne has a cruel one later on, when her oath to protect Jaime, given to Catelyn Stark, clashes with her oath to obey Catelyn Stark, when Lady Stoneheart orders Jaime brought to her for justice.
Conservation of Competence: This is explained (in-series) as the reason for the murder of Kevan Lannister. His leadership was threatening to restore stability to Westeros a little too quickly for the liking of some.
The Consigliere: Most lords have advisors, though many of these turn out to be Evil Chancellors. Honest examples include Jon Arryn/Ned to Robert, Davos to Stannis, Catelyn to Robb, Kevan to Tywin, and Jorah/Barristan to Daenerys.
While it would make sense to wear gloves often anyway, since he's in the cold North, Jon Snow wears gloves at all times anyway, because in the first novel, he got a burn on one of his hands.
The smuggler-turned-knight Davos also wears gloves at all times, because in the interest of "justice", Stannis rewarded him by knighting him, but also felt it necessary to chop off all of his fingertips on one hand as punishment for his earlier smuggling.
The narrative notes several times that Griff is wearing gloves. It's eventually revealed that he's hiding terminal greyscale in one of his hands.
Littlefinger is a truly amazing liar, who succeeds because everyone takes his mischievous personality as the extent of his subterfuge, and boy are they wrong.
Continuity Nod: There are a number of continuity nods between the main A Song of Ice and Fire series and the "Dunk and Egg" short stories:
In A Feast for Crows,, Brienne has her shield painted to copy the arms of a shield hanging in her father's hall, an oak and falling star. These are the arms of Ser Duncan the Tall.
Jaime passes by the village of Pennytree, where Dunk's late master Arlan of Pennytree presumably came from — sometime in the intervening years, it became a royal fief. The origin of the Pennytree itself is an unreveal, with Jaime even musing to himself that if Tyrion were there, he could probably tell him, but the mystery was more fun.
In "The Mystery Knight," Walder Frey makes an appearance as a precocious and snot-nosed four-year-old. Dunk finds him extremely irritating.
Tyrion Lannister loves his niece and nephew Myrcella and Tommen and they love him too. Tyrion tries his best to be this for Joffrey and does what he can to fix Joffrey's mistakes. Tyrion's own aunt Genna, and his uncles Kevan, Tygett and Gerion were also far kinder to him than his own father was.
Theon remembers his uncle Aeron being this way in his youth, but upon his return home finds that Aeron has discovered religion sometime in the last ten years and become considerably less fun than the rowdy, drunken womanizer he remembers.
There's also Catelyn Stark's uncle Brynden, who is definitely this trope with regards to her and her siblings.
Eddard Stark's younger brother Benjen is this to Ned's bastard son though possibly his nephew Jon Snow, as Jon has wanted to join the Night's Watch his entire life. He is also this to a lesser extent to Arya and Sansa Stark, who end up with a very different image of what the Watch is like based on him than reality.
Corrupt Church: The Faith of the Seven becomes this, as the High Septon is blatantly in the pocket of the Lannisters. He is immensely overweight and goes out bedecked in rich clothing and jewels to ride through a city that is on the verge of starvation. The angry smallfolk riot and rip the man to pieces. The next High Septon is pretty much the same, though Cersei has him killed because she believed he was under Tyrion's thumb. The next man chosen due to public pressure is a lowborn reformer who is quite the ascetic Knight Templar, and proves impossible to control.
Country Matters: Turns up more often than not and rather matter-of-factly. Clayton Suggs calls Asha a cunt in every sentence he speaks to her. A northerner in Stannis's service drops C-bombs while beating Asha unconscious in battle, then seeks her out afterwards to apologize—not for trying to bash her head in, but for swearing at her.
Several men claim to be in love with Daenerys but actually either want her crown, her dragons, and/or something else. However, there may be a genuine example in Ser Barristan.
Brienne is clearly in love with Renly, and pledges her life to serving him despite knowing it could never go anywhere. Even after his death, she continues to display Undying Loyalty and even seems to feel guilty whenever she has romantic feelings for anyone else.
Sansa thinks this is Ser Dontos' relationship with her, believing that as a devoted knight who owes her his life, he's one of the few people she can trust in King's Landing. There's even an exchange of favours, as he gives her a hairnet he claims is a family heirloom. He succeeds in spiriting her out of King's Landing, but it's promptly revealed that he's merely a pawn of Littlefinger's, bribed with promises of gold to deliver her to him, and paid with a crossbow bolt to the chest. Even the favour was a con, the source of the poison that killed Joffrey.
Crapsack World: There doesn't seem to be anywhere in the world that isn't a horrible place to live. Westeros is constantly torn apart by competing factions and threatened by monsters from beyond the Wall. Oh, and every generation there's a winter that can last for years. The Wildlings beyond the Wall live in a world of constant cold and survive by stealing things from each other, even wives. Essos is completely reliant on slaves - save for Braavos, where slavery is illegal - who are treated brutally by an outrageously perverse aristocracy, and the Dothraki willingly massacre or enslave anyone who can't pay them off. The southern continent Sothoryos is plague-ridden and apparently mostly uninhabited, with most of the known cities ruined and only two still known to be inhabited.
Creature Hunter Organization: Played with in the Night's Watch. They were created specifically to defend the realm from magical ice demons called the Others (and their zombie minions, the wights) but lack any specialized weaponry, and, by the time the series begins, the organization has devolved into an Army of Thieves and Whores fighting the altogether human wildlings after The Magic Goes Away. As the series goes on and it becomes clear that the Others are back, it starts being played straight, as the Watch come to understand the nature of the threat and get their act together, and dragonglass is discovered to be very effective in fighting the Others.
Creepy Crows: Ravens serve as messenger birds throughout Westeros, often delivering bad news. This leads to the commonly-repeated expression, "dark wings, dark words." Jeor Mormont's old pet raven can also speak a few words, which often seem ominously prophetic. The Maesters of the Citadel also breed special white ravens who are only released to signify the official changing of seasons; one shows up at the end of A Dance With Dragons to show that winter has, in fact, come.
Creepy Souvenir: The Tattered Prince, who has a colorful cloak stitched from bloodstained rags of cloaks of enemies he's defeated. There's also the mountain clan The Black Ears, who wear necklaces of ears taken from men they defeat in combat— unusually for the trope, they take an ear but spare the men's lives, and welcome them to a rematch to get their ear back (double or nothing...). And the Boltons, of course.
Dragonglass is good only for killing white walkers; it does nothing to their undead footsoldiers. (Presumably, it works perfectly well against human beings, as obsidian, which can make for incredibly sharp if brittle blades, does in real life.)
Stannis: They call it dragonglass. I call it useless.
Critical Staffing Shortage: The Night's Watch was once comprised of thousands of fighters who were able to man all 40 castles holding the Wall against the wildlings and White Walkers from the north. By the time the series takes place, the Watch consists of a few hundred men who can only hold three castles, while the rest have been completely abandoned, which bites them mightily in the ass when the forces in the North mount a massive invasion for the first time in centuries.
Viserys is killed by having molten gold poured over his head.
Quentyn Martell was burned alive by dragon fire and spent days dying.
Vargo Hoat had part of his face bitten off, this wound festered making him delirious, then had his limbs chopped off and fed to him by Gregor Clegane.
Gregor himself also meets a nasty death from being stabbed with a poisoned spear that ensured its victim would die slowly and painfully as the poison ate away at his insides. He lived in agony for days until Maester Qyburn decided to experiment on him to find out the nature of the poison — even this he survived for a while before finally dying.
When the Great Masters of Meereen try to warn Daenerys off from her emancipating crusade by having 163 slave children crucified and disembowelled along the road to the city, she retaliates after taking the city by having the same fate visited on 163 of the nobles.
GRRM rejects the notion of visiting every place shown on the map when the characters have no real reason to be there outside of exploring for the reader's benefit, so many locations will likely remain shrouded in mystery by the end of the series.
The exact circumstances of Lyanna Stark's death. The only man alive after Ned's death in A Game of Thrones who would know the true events of the incident is the highly reclusive Howland Reed, who has yet to make an actual appearance.
The Tragedy of Summerhall, a huge fire that destroyed the eponymous Targaryen-owned castle and killed several key figures, including Dunk and Egg of the prequel novellas. Little is known about the cause of the blaze, but it may have had something to do with an attempt to hatch dragons.
The Doom of Valyria, a combination of seismic and volcanic activity that destroyed the entire Valyrian Freehold in a single night. It is unclear if the disaster was natural or supernatural, but theories abound.
The Faith of the Seven, the predominant religion on Westeros, is similar to Roman Catholicism, centering around an analog of the Trinity, that has seven gods in one rather than three (the Father, Warrior, Smith, Maid, Mother, Crone, and Stranger ), and complete with monastic orders, dormant military orders, and a Pope (the High Septon). It isn't quite as intolerant as medieval Christianity, however, and more-or-less peacefully coexists with the quasi-Druidic worship of the "old gods" in the North as well as the Drowned God of the Iron Islands, at least until the revival of the Swords and Stars.
The Red God R'hllor (aka "The Lord of Light") is similar in many ways to Zoroastrianism, with a strong dualism between the Lord of Light and the nameless Great Other of darkness, apocalyptic theology, and religious practice that is strongly intertwined with the use and symbolism of fire.
Cuckold: With adultery being a heinous insult, there are several characters who do it purely to spite the husband.
Euron Greyjoy had sex with Victarion's wife (most likely he raped her, and only claims she was willing in order to more deeply humiliate his brother). What makes it even more evil is that he did it knowing full well that by Ironborn law Victarion would be forced to kill his "adulterous" wife by his own hand.
Black Walder Frey is very fond of cuckolding his family members (somebody remarks "why buy the cow when there are udders everywhere waiting to be milked?"). Rumoured partners include two of his brothers' wives and one of his great-grandfather's, in addition to at least one of his own female cousins.
Cuckold Horns: No coincidence that Robert Baratheon's house sigil is a stag.
Culture Clash: Part of Jon Snow's frustration with the members of Stannis' court who remain at the Wall is their complete refusal to understand that wildling society does not function like Westerosi society, particularly where it comes to inherited nobility. A wildling chief is a chief because he has proven himself to be mighty, not because his father - or his ancestor - was chief, and being a relative of a great chief means nothing at all.
Cultural Posturing: Usually along the lines of "We ruled an empire while you still fucked sheep".
Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: "I'll chop off your manhood and feed it to the goats!" Subverted in that, in at least once instance, Shagga actually means their beard.
Mance Rayder. Also the Night's Watch deserter who attacks Bran and briefly holds him hostage. In the quote for the trope, Ned explains that deserters are the most dangerous kind of outlaws, because once a man has forfeit his life, he no longer fears any punishment.
The "broken men" — peasants-turned-soldiers — either deserters or the remnants of defeated armies stranded hundreds or thousands of miles from home, who become outlaws to survive—and then keep on being outlaws because the alternative is execution.
The Faceless Men are arguably an example of this (their white-and-black outfits indicate a tendency to think of themselves as both dark and light), as a shadowy group of death-worshipping assassins who provide euthanasia to those who wish for death. They also commit assassinations, but they only kill those who have driven others to pray (or pay) for their deaths, prefer not to kill someone they personally know, and are very strict about avoiding collateral damage.
Coldhands has a scary, dark appearance and openly admits being an undead, but he seems benevolent.
Jaqen/The Alchemist masquerading as Pate in A Feast for Crows, in a Kill and Replace variant.
Ramsay Snow switches clothes with his servant Reek, faking his own death for a time before revealing himself.
Theon is forced to pretend to be Reek on pain of having his fingers flayed off.
Jeyne Poole is similarly forced to pretend to be Arya, on pain of a punishment that even George R.R. Martin won't put down on the page.
Deathbringer the Adorable: Princess Rhaenys Targaryean had a black kitten she named Balerion—after Balerion "The Black Dread", the largest and most terrifying of the three great dragons ridden by Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters Visenya and Rhaenysnote The original Rhaenys did not ride Balerion but instead rode a different dragon, called Meraxes. (As it turns out, the kitten, still alive at the time of the main story, has become a tough, cunning old tom, the hardest cat in the Red Keep to catch, so not entirely named in vain.)
Death by Childbirth: The source of Oedipus Complex for the runt of the Lannister litter, Tyrion. Also Daenerys, whose mother's death by childbirth is the reason for her abuse by her older brother. Any number of other characters in the background as well, such as Minissa Tully, wife of Lord Hoster Tully and mother of Edmure Tully, Lysa Arryn, and Catelyn Stark.
Death by Irony: Viserys gets his crown of gold, technically. Quentyn receives his dragons...business-end first. Kevan Lannister follows his brother loyally—even in the method of his death.
Death by Materialism: Or rather, more general greed. The slavers of Astapor and the other Slavers' Bay cities are the descendants of ancient Ghis, a city-state which was repeatedly stomped on by the Valyrian Dragonlords in a kind of Rome/Carthage relationship before it was finally razed to the ground. They haven't forgotten. When Dany's appearance gives the Astapori the chance to sell their entire lot of slave soldiers for a dragon, they jump at the chance, expecting they can emulate old Valyria and conquer the world. Then they find out that dragons are not willing to be sold. And that girl you've been making insulting and sexist comments about for the last few days? Yeah, she understood every word. And then your head is being melted by an angry dragon, while the city is sacked by the slave soldiers you just sold her.
Death Glare: Tywin Lannister, who has never smiled since his wife died decades ago. Cersei relates a story of how a man at a feast once made an off-hand joke at his expense, causing Tywin to drive him from the room simply by glaring at him across the table, not saying a word.
A Death in the Limelight: Every prologue and epilogue chapter is from the POV of a character who has either never been seen before or appeared as a tertiary character at best, and they all die. A notable exception is Kevan Lannister, who has been around since book one and is Lord Regent when he falls to this trope
Happens with nearly all the prologue and epilogue characters. Willas, the POV character of the A Game Of Thrones prologue, is dead by the end of the chapter.
Eddard Stark doesn't survive the first book. A Game of Thrones even has the trope's inversion, a Decoy Antagonist, in Viserys and Khal Drogo. A Storm of Swords repeats the double with Robb Stark and Joffrey.
Arys Oakheart is set up as one of the new POV characters in A Feast For Crows. After his POV chapter, he dies in his next appearance.
Defensive Feint Trap: Tywin Lannister sets one up in his first battle against the Stark forces. It turns out not to be necessary.
Lollys Stokeworth wasn't much of a catch to begin with, but several characters note that she lost all hope of finding a husband after being raped during a riot in King's Landing. Somewhat subverted in that Cersei marries her off to a newly-knighted Bronn, who isn't interested in anything but her inheritance.
Victarion murders his own wife after she sleeps with his brother; not as a crime of passion, as he entirely blames Euron. Purely because of the Ironborn take on this trope.
When Jaime orders a man executed for raping a serving girl at Harrenhal, the man goes to the block honestly baffled as to why he's being punished when the girl had already suffered the same fate countless times before (at his hands as well as others') before Jaime took command. This is partly "why was it only a crime this time?", but there's an undercurrent of this trope as well.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: All over the place. One of the series' most notable features, as one of Martin's primary goals in writing the series to deconstruct the tropes of heroic fantasy and indicate why a realistic medieval fantasy setting would not actually be a nice place to live.
Jaime Lannister also falls under this when it comes to his nickname; the 'Kingslayer'. The readers, after learning what a complete maniac Aerys the Mad was, can at least justify Jaime killing the man he swore an oath to, but in Westeros where honour and liegedom is everything, Jaime's actions are irredeemable.
Many people can't get over the huge age differences between the girls and the men who are interested in them. Especially noteworthy are Daenerys and Sansa, who are both veritable Middle-Aged-Dude Magnets before their 14th birthdays.
The Ghiscari eat delicacies like unborn puppies on a skewer, and their fighting pits include spectacles in which girls are pitted against bulls or boys covered in various foodstuffs set against bears so viewers may bet which child will the bear eat first.
Played for Black Comedy when a lord comes to King's Landing after Lannister soldiers burn his keep, rape his wife and slaughter his peasants...so he's come to beg Tyrion Lannister for more peasants.
Women's Stay in the Kitchen status. Action Girls like Brienne of Tarth often meet with prejudice and discrimination. Several people comment on how strange it is that the Free Folk allow women a say in clan matters.
In the Seven Kingdoms, Democracy Is Bad. Many nobles can't quite wrap their head around the Free Folk being a democractic meritocracy where people choose their leaders based on their competence rather than bloodline and will judge their performance.
The Nouveau Riche Frey family's rise to prominence through legitimate business might be inspiring to modern readers, but they are seen as upstarts by the snobby Great Houses who got their status usually through violence and conquest.
Trial by combat, where each side is represented by a champion in a fight to the death, with the victor "obviously" right in the eyes of the gods, is quite popular. (This, at least, is more of a Might Makes Right thing, as few people believe that a trial by combat really enforces the will of the gods and most of the time the race is on to name the best knight who likes you as champion before your opponent does.)
Political Arranged Marriages are prevalent, typically as land-grab tactics, and sometimes feature underage participants. In addition to Tyrion's marriage, one of his cousins is wed to a girl less than a year old. (He later vanishes, presumably killed, in a riot, leading to a semi-amusing instance of someone who most likely has been widowed before she was weaned.)
Droit du Seigneur was officially abolished in Westeros over two hundred years prior to the start of the series; however, it's an open secret that several noble houses still practice it and it comes as no surprise that the Obviously Evil Boltons are among these houses. The maester writing/narrating "The Princess and the Queen" (which takes place not long after that law's abolition) snarks at the irrationally-jealous smallfolk who frequently failed to recognize the "great honor" of letting the local noblemen get their wives and daughters with child, as well as pointing out that certain regions resented the practice less than others for a variety of reasons.
Deliberate culture clash is seen in Daenerys's chapters in the first book. She (and by extension, the reader) are completely uninformed about Dothraki culture, and so many of the customs are seen as strange to her. The Dothraki are very horse-oriented and many aspects of their culture reflect that; their word for horse-riding, rakh, is even right there in their name. Some of their customs include no taboo against public nudity or sex, and the consumption of horseflesh. Dany is given a horse at her wedding and is discouraged from naming it; it is only known in the books as "her silver".
The Targaryen family practiced incest. Marriages between siblings or close cousins were arranged to keep purity of the bloodline” (specifically silver-gold hair and purple eyes, trademarks of Old Valyria) and to prove that Targaryens were "above the laws of gods and men." As history proved, they weren't above the laws of genetics.
In another case of Deliberate Values Dissonance, in one of his POV chapters in A Game Of Thrones, Tyrion thinks about how the Mountain Clans don't get anything done because they put issues to popular vote. Tyrion finds it particularly ridiculous that they also allow women a say in these discussions. Later, in Volantis, he takes a much more charitable view of their system of representative democracy (which entails the annual election of three "Triarchs" by a vote of the nobility). Jorah, who's lived under both systems, even explains several of its advantages over an inherited monarchy.
The Lord Commander of the Night's Watch is elected by its members, but this process can take weeks. During a crisis situation, the Night's Watch is put on hold while its members campaign for the position.
Demoted to Dragon: Houses Stark, Lannister and Arryn were kings before they bent the knee to the Targaryens and became wardens.
Demoted to Extra: Arguably, Aggo, Jhogo and Rakharo, Daenerys' bloodriders. Yeah, they were minor characters to begin with, and even though they were the first to swear fealty to her, along with Jorah Mormont, their influence is less and less as Daenerys gains power and her court increases.
Development Gag: Near the end of A Feast for Crows Littlefinger mentions how vexing it is to watch Cersei destroy herself quite so fast, as he had hoped to have four or five quiet years before the next conflict ensues, alluding to the Timeskip that Martin had planned after the third book.
The Determinator: Stannis Baratheon. He has the smallest army and the least popularity at the onset of the War of Five Kings. He doesn't especially want to be become king, but his stubborn tenacity to do his duty prevents him from giving up the struggle even when his cause begins to look increasingly lost. He's the last of the Five Kings standing, though other rivals rise up to continue thwarting him.
Diabolus ex Machina: The books are made of this. No one ever seems to win a complete victory, yet.
Bran quickly learns to use his warg abilities after losing the use of his legs.
Arya is intentionally (and temporarily) blinded during her training in order to teach her to use her other senses. This has the unintended effect of awakening her dormant skinchanger abilities when she learns to see through the eyes of nearby animals.
Disease Bleach: Lancel Lannister. Theon Greyjoy in A Dance with Dragons.
Disney Villain Death: Anyone who annoys Lysa or Robert Arryn goes out the Moon Door. "I want to see the bad man fly, mummy!"
Cersei is quite fond of these as the Queen Regent as her paranoia grows. For example, she has a puppet theatre troupe arrested for a play that features dragons killing vainglorious lions. She has the men executed and the women sent to the Black Cells to Qyburn's gentle care. Of the audience; rich men are fined half of their life savings, while the poor lose an eye.
The Red Wedding. The Freys slaughter Robb Stark, his bannersmen, and his forces all because he violated a marriage contract.
Tywin Lannister does this as deliberate policy to ensure he remains The Dreaded.
The Night's Watch's desperate pleas to the lords of Westeros for help against the Wildlings and the Others are dismissed, as the lords are too busy with the War of Five Kings. This is eventually subverted when Stannis puts his campaign for the Iron Throne on hold to help the Watch defeat Mance Rayder's army.
In the War of Five Kings, Robb, Stannis, and Renly are all enemies of the Lannisters, but Stannis and Renly would rather fight one another than join forces against Joffrey and neither one is willing to accept Robb's offer of alliance in exchange for the North's independence.
Divine Conflict: Followers of R'hllor in the series believe that their god, the Lord of Light, is locked in eternal conflict with the Great Other, the lord of cold darkness, in a battle that determines the fate of the world.
Wildlings are well aware of the flipside to their Asskicking Equals Authority approach to "marriage". Sure, you have to capture a woman to prove you're worthy of her — but if you try to keep her captive or mistreat her after that, she's not expected to put up with it.
During his trial everyone Tyrion has ever pissed off lines up to testify against him, including a singer whose song Tyrion kept interrupting with snarky commentary.
Doorstopper: The books are huge even for epic fantasy, and the latest had to be split in two because it was too big to bind. Even more for the German version, where they split the books in half by default and each of the German half-books are equal in size to a full English one. A Storm of Swords and A Dance with Dragons are split in three parts in the Italian version.
The Kettleblacks are triple agents, at least at first. When Tyrion first comes to court with a pet sellsword and a horde of dubiously loyal wildmen at his back, Cersei decides to hire her own bodyguards. Tyrion finds out through Lancel, and decides to set her up with some Moles... but Littlefinger finds out about that, and places some pawns of his own to spy on both of them. After Tyrion and Petyr have each fled the capital, they serve rather more straightforwardly as spies and lackeys for Cersei.
Taena Merryweather spies on Margaery for Cersei, and admits that she passes information the other way as well. Cersei is confident of her loyalty, but her apparent reasons for this trust are shallow and unconvincing.
He makes a special trip to Barrowton to have a word with Ramsay about all the raping, flaying, torture, and people hunts... because he's doing it all much too publicly. Roose has done many of those things himself, he just keeps quiet about it in order to not anger and alienate his allies and subjects.
Ramsay threatens to flay Barbrey Dustin and make boots out of her skin because she's disrespectful of him. Roose is dismissive, saying that human leather is nowhere near as tough as cowhide and they'd wear out. However, this is presented as an afterthought to more pragmatic objections (she's an indispensable ally, and killing her would cost them the support of Barrowton, House Dustin, and the Ryswells).
The Dragon: Qyburn to Cersei, Gregor Clegane to Tywin.
Dragon Rider: House Targaryen conquered Westeros through this tactic, riding their dragons into war. Dany finally takes up the reins at the end of A Dance With Dragons.
Dramatically Missing the Point: Lots of it. Probably most destructively are the actions of everyone who treats the conflict over Westeros as a "game of thrones" and covets the Iron Throne as the ultimate prize. The entire point of the Iron Throne (an extremely uncomfortable and dangerous chair made of swords) is that ruling a realm is a responsibility and a burden, not a prize in a game. Only two people in the series really seem to have understood this: Eddard Stark, who had the opportunity to seize the Throne but refused it out of a sense of honor and never regretted it, and Robert Baratheon, who never really wanted it in the first place but was forced to claim it.
Jorah's duplicity is revealed to the reader a full two and a half books before it's revealed to Daenerys, although a lot of readers seem to miss it.
After Cersei's ordeal in A Dance With Dragons, Kevan remarks that she's been "declawed", but the reader (who was in her head for the ordeal) knows that she's only been given renewed vigor by the arrival of Ser Robert Strong.
Arya is listening to a song of a princess who threw herself off a tower after her brother was killed and is unimpressed, thinking she should have tried to kill the man responsible. The princess is presumably Ashara Dayne, whose brother was killed by Eddard Stark, Arya's father.
Brienne inadvertently stumbles across the trail of both Stark girls she's seeking — she sees a galley leaving harbour (taking Arya Stark to Braavos) and a hedge knight calling himself the Mad Mouse offers to team up with Brienne and split the reward for Sansa Stark. The Mouse later turns up at the Vale, where he meets Littlefinger's 'baseborn daughter', unaware she's actually the woman he and Brienne were searching for.
Any time a member of the Lannister family thinks it would be a good idea to get Littlefinger back on the Small Council, because he's so harmless in comparison to the scheming Tyrells.
Jon Snow believes Arya Stark is heading for the Wall, and thinks that he'll need to ship her across the Narrow Sea to a rich family who could look after his highborn sister, unaware she's already happily living in Braavos as a Street Urchin.
While posing as a serving girl at Harrenhal, Arya Stark encounters a Frey boy bemoaning that his family has been betrayed and now he'll never marry the princess he was betrothed to. She doesn't give much of a damn. Arya is the princess in question, but the Frey boy is unaware of her true identity and Arya is unaware of the betrothal, so neither one knows it.
Ser Gregor Clegane, Tywin Lannister's Psycho for Hire and the largest man in Westeros.
His younger brother Sandor Clegane.
Tywin Lannister himself, whose past exploits were the inspiration for "The Rains of Castamere". His death causes various factions to rethink the possibility of challenging the Lannisters for the Iron Throne.
Vargo Hoat and the Brave Companions.
Robb Stark, having never lost a battle, is one for the forces of House Lannister.
To the members of House Frey there's the Brotherhood Without Banners, who hunt down and execute every member of the family they can get their hands on, due to their slaying of Robb Stark, his mother Catelyn, and several Stark bannermen and soldiers in the Red Wedding.
The Others are this to all the Free Folk and the Night's Watch.
Daenerys' dragons to the Yunkish army.
Aegon's largest dragon was called Balerion the Black Dread.
The Faceless Men.
Dreaming of Things to Come: Jon, Bran and Rickon Stark, Jojen Reed, Daenerys and possibly Euron Greyjoy. Also Daeron "the Drunkard" Targaryen in The Hedge Knight, whose prophetic dreams were usually unpleasant, which led him to drown them in alcohol. The crannogmen call them "green dreams" and the people who experience them "greenseers".
Droit du Seigneur: While banned by one of the previous monarchs, some lords still practice it.
Roose Bolton acknowledges that he raped a maid who had married without letting him, as her liege lord, invoke his right of "first night." In an attempt to to present his fellow Northern Lords as Not So Different from him, Bolton claims that other northern lords, including the Umbers (staunch allies of the "good guys"), also practice it.
The late Mad King Aerys lusted after Joanna Lannister, wife of his Hand Tywin Lannister. He joked that it was a shame that the practice had been outlawed, antagonizing Tywin. Although he is not known to have raped Joanna, Barristan Selmy does confirm that he took liberties in the bedding ritual, apparently going further than the accepted disrobing of the bride.
The prequel novella "The Princess and the Queen" takes place during a time where this was openly and commonly practiced and introduces the concept of the "Dragonseed", children who resulted from these couplings who were produced and kept around for the purpose of being back-up Dragon Riders.
In A Dance with DragonsBig Guy Archibald Yronwood wields a great warhammer.
Due to the Dead: Loras tells Jaime in A Storm of Swords: "I buried him [Renly] with mine own hands, in a place he showed me once when I was a squire at Storm's End. No one shall ever find him there to disturb his rest."
The Dung Ages: By book 4, nearly all of the struggling smallfolk are living in constant fear of torture and rape. Life isn't pleasant when you're a peasant. Especially now that Winter has come.
Dye or Die: A common issue for incognito Targaryens;
Young Aegon V travelled around as a Prince Incognito under the alias "Egg", and shaved his head.
Rhaegar's son Aegon, raised under the name "Young Griff", keeps his hair blue.
Dying Clue: In Storm of Swords, Hoster Tully's last word is "Tansy", which all of his family is baffled by. They spend a few chapters looking around for someone named "Tansy" before giving up. Then at the end, it's revealed that he forced his daughter Lysa to drink tansy tea (an abortive drug) after he found out that she was pregnant with Littlefinger's child. Lysa and Littlefinger have been lovers since the first book... which is why Lysa was the one who killed Jon Arryn and blamed the Lannisters at Littlefinger's insistance.
Easily Forgiven: Robert's greatest ability as king is to turn his former enemies into allies by forgiving them for past conflicts.
The Eeyore: Dolorous Edd is always making humorously pessimistic comments. It's unclear whether he's a genuine curmudgeon or just a very Deadpan Snarker.
Elaborate Underground Base: The Guildhall of the Alchemists is a labyrinth of underground tunnels and halls in black marble. This is justified as they make wildfire down there; if the blaze goes out of control, the labyrinth is to slow its progress, and the experiment rooms are situated below rooms full of sand that are designed to collapse and smother everything down there.
Eldritch Abomination: Old Nan claims the sky is blue because their world is found in the eye of an impossibly large giant known as Macumber.
Elemental Eye Colors: Downplayed because its more about elemental symbolism than Elemental Powers. The Starks, who are associated with ice, snow, and winter, have grey eyes; at least until Tully genes were added into the mix and everyone but Arya and Jon was born with blue eyes. The Tullys, who are associated with water and rivers, have blue eyes. The Tyrells, who are associated with nature, especially flowers, have golden-green eyes.
Played perfectly straight with Melisandre, a priestess who worships a god of fire and has red eyes.
Endless Winter: Winters can last for decades. There are oral traditions of a winter that lasted for generations, and a myth that, should the Others return and invade Westeros, they will cause a winter that never ends. Word of God is that the unnatural seasons are caused by magic, but it's unclear if it's the Others' magic or something else.
Enemy Mine: Jaime and Brienne's team-up; Arya's brief stint in the company of the Hound could also qualify, since she passed up several chances to run away, and continued to help him until his death seemed imminent. Jon Snow invokes this for cooperation with the Wildlings to fight the Others and their undead army, which is not popular with most of the Night's Watch.
Equivalent Exchange: Only life can pay for life. Jaqen H'ghar, Mirri Maz Duur and Melisandre all assert this, and most magic seems to follow the rule.
Et Tu, Brute?: A few examples here, but one sticks out as the most literal recreation of the original trope. Jon Snow's apparent death at the hands of the Black Brothers at the end of A Dance With Dragons involves a group of them descending on him with daggers. Some of them while crying, since while they don't want to do this, they feel they have no choice.
While slavery is practiced on the eastern continent, it is outlawed in Westeros and punishable by death. Even the Ironborn, who make "thralls" (indentured serfs) and "salt wives" (concubines) of their prisoners, are offended by the concept of chattel slavery. Children of thralls are born free, and some of the Iron Islands houses are descended from thralls.
Sacred Hospitality is taken very seriously, and there have been two severe violations of it in the series: one of these is Shrouded in Myth and still the subject of songs; the second occurs in A Storm of Swords and appals so many people that its short-term gains are soon overwhelmed by the huge loss of public face the perpetrators suffer. It's so important that in A Dance With Dragons,even while dealing out horrific retribution for the latter atrocity, the avenger is careful not to actually violate hospitality laws.
As a Blood Knight with redeeming qualities, Jaime Lannister may commit or attempt murder for reasons of varying morality: however, he would never kill by trickery or use assassins to do his killing for him.
Although there are many people who have no problem with murder, most will balk at killing a family member. Roose Bolton comments on this: "If the kinslayer is accursed, what is a father to do when one son slays another?"
In Westeros, one of the aspects of the Seven, the Stranger, is among other things the god of death. Hardly anybody worships him, loath to draw his attention to him, and the only people to regularly do so are the "silent sisters", the mute nuns who prepare bodies for burial.
In Braavos, by contrast, the House of Black and White considers every culture's death god to be an aspect of the Many-Faced God, who is not considered evil as death is merely an aspect of life.
Every Man Has His Price: A favourite tactic of Tyrion's. If he can't charm you, or outwit you, he'll offer to buy you off. And a Lannister always pays his debts.
Taken to its logical (and literal) extreme when Tyrion is Made a Slave and tries to buy himself while on auction (not that he really expected it to work).
Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: There have been three High Septons so far, and none of them are even given names. It is eventually explained that it's their holy duty to forsake their earthly names upon taking office.
Evil Albino: Peasants believe that Ser Brynden Rivers, an albino bastard, is the Evil Chancellor (Master of Whisperers, then Hand of the King) to King Aerys I. It turns out that he became a greenseer long ago, but the jury's still out on whether he is now, or ever was, genuinely evil or just a Hero with Bad Publicity.
Littlefinger and Varys are always suspected of manipulating events for their own ends. These suspicions are completely correct.
Both of them tell Ned Stark pretty much outright "Don't trust anyone, not even me." It's possibly the most honest either of them has ever been.
Tywin Lannister has a fearsome reputation, and it's justified, but the land prospered during his original service as Hand, and the people loved him for it, at least at the time.
Tyrion is viewed as this by the smallfolk, but in reality he's the only thing standing between the realm and certain destruction. After Tyrion kills his father and goes missing, the situation in King's Landing deteriorates quickly.
King Aerys's final chancellor (after he had killed several others) was Lord Rossart, who was an evil chancellor because of how well he advanced the king's interests, being an insane pyromaniac just like Aerys.
Ramsay Snow and Jon Snow are both bastards. While Jon befriends most of his half-siblings, Ramsay kills his father's only legitimate heir. While Jon joins the Night's Watch in pursuit of honor, Ramsay razes Winterfell, Jon's home.
Catelyn Tully and Cersei Lannister were both married off to cement alliances but the former grew to love her new family while the latter did not.
Maester Luwyn always does his best to instruct the Lord of Winterfell to be good and just, whomever the lord is, while Grand Maester Pycelle is only loyal up to the point where he transfers his loyalty to someone else just because he wants to keep his job and/or his head.
Robb Stark and Joffrey Baratheon. They're both teenage leaders who gain power quickly due to the deaths of their dads. They also both die at weddings.
The Starks and Boltons are probably the two strongest houses in the North, keeping to many of the old ways, but the Boltons believe the Starks are soft because they no longer follow some of the North's less savory practices like the "Right of First night" and flaying.
The direwolves know exactly who the Starks' enemies are, and at one point Catelyn sends someone on a Snipe Hunt because of the way Grey Wind growls at him. Most of the time, however, their objections go unheeded.
Averted by Daenerys' dragons. They're hostile towards a lot of people, both deserving and not, but are said to be particularly fond of Brown Ben Plumm, who ultimately goes over to the Yunkai'i. It's suggested that dragons' affinity for people is tied more to their possessing "dragon blood" (i.e. Valyrian ancestry) than their morality.
Evil Power Vacuum: Most of A Feast For Crows conserns this, as the deaths of Joffrey and especially Tywin, emboldens the surviving villains of Westeros to take advantage of the disorder. Cersei attempts to rule through her son, Euron Grejoy attacks the undefended Reach, the surviving Bloody Mummers rape and burn what's left of the Riverlands and it's hinted that Roose Bolton might crown himself King in the North.
Evil Sorcerer: Melisandre, though she claims to be acting for the good of humanity against an Obviously Evil foe. Her chapter in A Dance With Dragonsarguably makes her quite a bit more sympathetic, as it indicates that there may be some truth to these claims. The sorcerers of Qarth also seem to be pretty self-serving and malicious.
"I stopped believing in gods the day I saw the Windproud break up across the bay. Any gods so monstrous as to drown my mother and father would never have my worship, I vowed. In King’s Landing, the High Septon would prattle at me of how all justice and goodness flowed from the Seven, but all I ever saw of either was made by men."
Evil Uncle: Often deconstructed or played with more complexity.
Stannis and Renly Baratheon are pretenders to their nephew's throne. They're actually unrelated to Joffrey and Tommen by blood. Of course, when your nephew is Joffrey, it takes more than just wanting to depose him and set yourself up in his place to make you "evil."
Euron Greyjoy is the primary political rival of Asha Greyjoy and a pretty mean customer.
Arnolf Karstark joins with Stannis in hopes that the Lannisters will execute his great-nephew, leaving him lordship of Karhold.
Tyrion is regarded as Joffrey's evil uncle (on the Lannister side), but he's not particularly evil. However, unlike Stannis and Renly, he actually is Joffrey's uncle. Twice, as it were..
Evil Versus Evil: The War of the Five Kings is a prolonged conflict with many, many atrocities committed by both sides. Ultimately a case is made that all armies are essentially evil to the poor peasants who get caught in the middle of every conflict.
Evil Will Fail: Many of the worst characters who meet poor ends do so as a direct result of their horrible actions.
Joffrey Baratheon is murdered because his bride's family recognizes him as Obviously Evil and are Genre Savvy enough to pull off an assassination without getting blamed.
Tywin Lannister is murdered because of his continuously callous treatment of his son.
Gregor Clegane is killed horribly out of revenge for an old atrocity.
The Bloody Mummers alienate all possible allies by their constant treacheries. They are also among the most sadistic and violent characters in the whole series. Vargo Hoat deserves special mention. He had Jaime's sword hand chopped off, then tried to rape Brienne. Brienne responded by biting off his ear. Roose Bolton arranged for Vargo's maester to leave with Jaime to tend to his stump, and without proper medical attention, Vargo's bite wound gets infected, leading to fever and delirium, and most of Vargo's men abandon him.
The Freys as a family are dropping like flies due to predatory reprisals by vengeful Northmen and the Brotherhood Without Banners due to their blatant violation of Sacred Hospitality at the Red Wedding. Despite their attempt to lie their way to absolvement, their reputation is badly tarnished by it in the eyes of those who don't prey upon them as well.
It is Ironborn code that "Ironborn shall not spill the blood of Ironborn." So what does Euron do to his enemies? Drowns them in seawater.
Similarly, Khal Drogo deals with a belligerent Viserys while constrained not to spill the blood in his holy city by giving him the golden crown he asks for, in a different state of matter to which he expects it. Merchants visiting said city also bring guardsmen who strangle with silk ropes to punish thieves.
The tradition of giving a "guest gift", signifying the end of a host's obligation of Sacred Hospitality, is exploited to allow the host to have the guest killed immediately afterwards.
In the context of a feudal society with sharp class divisions and a fixed hierarchy of liege lord-vassal-lower vassals-landed knights and small-folk way, way below, is it more effective for a Lord to act like Tywin Lannister and ruthlessly cut down rebellions root and stem or be relatively benign and First Among Equals, like the Starks, and accept submission by the Boltons, leaving them with memories of bitterness and plotting future rebellions?
Tywin Lannister is also shown to deliberately cultivate this image among his supporters such as Kevan Lannister and Grandmaester Pycelle who believe that he's a man who does what needs to be done and so, is above the petty judgment of critics like Tyrion and the small-folk. Later both of them are killed for the same justification by Varys the Spider. He acknowledges that they are relatively benign and are stabilizing a realm but for him, the short term chaos is useful for peace, as he envisions it, in the longer run even mocking them for being good men in service to a poor cause.
The Brotherhood Without Banners is, to some extent, an Expy of Robin Hood's Merry Men. Though they're not an exact match-up, there are a few analogues like an archer (Robin/Anguy), a jolly priest (Friar Tuck/Thoros of Myr), a singer (Alan-a-Dale/Tom Sevenstrings), a feisty noblewoman (Maid Marian/Lady Stoneheart), and a guy named for his colorful cloak (Will Scarlet/Lem Lemoncloak). They are an extremely cynical interpretation, however, as it becomes increasingly evident by A Feast For Crows that they have gone from protectors of the smallfolk to either plain old bandits or Knight Templars out for revenge.
A lot of the characters are drawn from different sources of history, though George R. R. Martin has stated that there isn't always a one-to-one correspondence. Some examples are King Edward IV of the House of York (Robert Baratheon and Robb Stark), Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick (Tywin Lannister and Walder Frey), Richard III (Ned Stark, Stannis Baratheon, Tyrion Lannister and Theon Greyjoy) while the circumstances revolving around Bran and Rickon Stark's disappearance and presumed death mirrors the famous "Princes in the Tower" mystery of the War Of The Roses.
Tyrion with his misshapen head, odd eyes, and after the Battle of Blackwater, next to no nose
Facial Markings: In Essos, it is common to brand or tattoo slaves on their faces as marker identifying their status. In particular, Patchface has a checkered "motley" pattern tattooed on his face and priests of Rh'llor, who are generally temple slaves, have flame tattoos on their faces.
Failure Knight: Brienne, Jorah Mormont, Barristan Selmy, and Jon Connington. Cruelly subverted, however, with Ser Dontos, who is forced to become Joffrey's jester and then killed by his secret employer Littlefinger.
The Others are tall, slender, magical, malevolent creatures who live in the inhospitable north and prey on humans for no comprehensible reason other than the desire to expand. They also apparently take human children offered to them, somewhat reminiscent of changelings.
The children of the forest are a race of small, mysterious, magical, forest-dwelling people who came into conflict with humans many generations ago. They live for hundreds of years and have a great deal of power, but their time is drawing to a close.
When Theon takes over Winterfell, Osha pretends to join him, and then takes the opportunity to kill some of his men and smuggle Bran and Rickon to safety.
Jon Snow fakes a switch over to the wildlings at the insistence of Qhorin Halfhand. He even thinks of becoming a real defector until the wildlings test his loyalty by ordering him to kill a man whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Tattered Prince has some of his Windblown fake defection to Dany's forces, but gets a surprise when some of his men, including Quentyn Martell, defect for real, having only been masquerading as sellswords to gain entrance to Meereen.
Fallen Princess: Sansa Stark and Margaery Tyrell. Daenerys is one since birth.
False Flag Operation: Cersei plans to stage an ambush on a Dornish party by a group claiming to belong to Tyrion.
False Reassurance: "A Lannister always repays his debts" can often be this. When Symon Silver Tongue attempts to blackmail Tyrion by threatening to expose Shae to his father or sister in order to be allowed to sing at Joffrey's wedding, Tyrion tells him he'll send Bronn to tell him when he's managed to find him a place. "You have my word as a Lannister, Bronn will call upon you soon." As soon as Tyrion leaves, he tells Bronn to take Symon somewhere private, kill him and dispose of the body.
Most houses have at least one person of great note to boast about being related to, many of them being legendary kings and warriors from the Age of Heroes. For the Great Houses, it often overlaps with Founder of the Kingdom. See the Character Page for more information.
Some commoners claim to have the blood of kings and lords because they descend from noble bastards. Such claims practically impossible to prove or disprove.
Valyrian names almost always to contain "ae", and end in "-ar", "-on', "-lys", "-rys" or "-nys" (Elaena, Maekar, Aegon, Maelys, Naerys, Aenys). They also have many names starting with "Rhae" (Rhaegar, Rhaenys). The "ae" is also seen occasionally seen in the Free Cities and parts of Westeros.(Taena, Margaery)
Male Dothraki names end in "-o" (Drogo, Haggo, Qotho). Daenerys decides to combine Valyrian and Dothraki naming conventions for her son, naming him Rhaego.
In Slaver's Bay, the letters "q" and "z" is extremely common and there is a "mo" or "zo" between the first and surnames. (Kraznys mo Nakloz, Skahaz mo Kandaq, Yezzan zo Qaggaz).
In Braavos, the suffixes "-o", "-io", and "-is" are common for both first and surnames. Some Valyrian naming conventions are seen as well, since Braavos is the "runaway bastard child" of Valyria (Tycho Nestoris, Noho Dimittis, Syrio Forel).
The prime minister of the Seven Kingdoms is called the Hand of the King. His advisers sit on the Small Council and have official titles like "Master of Laws" (i.e. attorney general or justice minister), "Master of Coins" (i.e. secretary of trade or finance minister), and "Master of Ships" (i.e. secretary of the navy). In A Feast For Crows, Cersei prefers a more grandiose approach, and so changes the titles to be unique (and also so no man on the council may call himself "master" of anything over her); Master of Ships, for example, becomes Grand Admiral.
Dothraki khalasars are led by khals, who have a number of lieutenants calls kos. When a khal dies, each ko will sometimes split off to form a new khalasar with himself as khal.
Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: To the Wars of the Roses in large part, with the Feuding Families Stark and Lannister being less than subtle clues. And, even more directly, brief mentions are made of the "red apple" and "green apple" Fossoways, who appear to have their own squabbles over titles and are two branches of a house. The symbol of House Tyrell, one of the major power players in the series, is a rose, depicted in the TV adaptation Game of Thrones as a dead ringer for the Tudor double rose.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Lots and lots. Much of Westeros and the outlying lands seem to have been inspired by a real-world culture, Expy, or simply a well-worn fantasy trope. The most obvious are:
The Dothraki are a Born in the Saddle culture, based on the Mongols, Alans, Huns, Thracians, and Turkic peoples.
Valyria is a fallen empire modeled on Rome, with some Atlantis/Lemuria thrown in.
The Rhoynar culture, whose history is told in The World of Ice and Fire is somewhat modeled after the Greeks: independent city-states with a common culture, eventually conquered by Rome/Valyri. Though considering that they lost their homeland and eventually found home in Dorne/Moorish Spain, they are also quite similar to the state of Judea after the fall of the Jerusalem which birthed the Jewish diaspora, most of whom settled in the Iberian peninsula for centuries.
The Free Cities are loosely based on the medieval Italian city-states (including Italian-sounding names) and some elements of Ancient Greek culture, with Braavos being a City of Canals like Venice and Volantis having a oligarchical form of democracy like Athens. They even speak a language descended from Old Valyrian.
Old Ghis is a blatant counterpart of Carthage, right down to its rivalry with Valyria, the counterpart of Rome. The Slaver Cities —Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen— are reminiscent of other ancient Phoenician city-states, particularly Tyre and Sidon. Likewise, Qarth seems to share a great deal with ancient Baghdad.
Westeros as a whole has many similarities to Britain, including waves of conquering cultures (e.g. Aegon as William the Conqueror) and a wall up in the cold north to keep out barbarians. Even the colective name of the independent kingdoms (The Seven Kingdoms is a dead ringer for the Heptarchy: the Anglo-saxon kingdoms of late antiquity and early middle ages. Specific regions tend to show their own influences:
the North—Northern England and Southern Scotland
the Iron Islands—Viking Scandinavia, with their independentist streak reminding of Ireland's relationship with the rest of Britain
the Riverlands—Medieval Northern France (Anjou, Blois, Burgundy, Brittany, Champagne, Flanders, Maine, Normandy, and Touraine)
the Vale—The Alps
the Westerlands—Southern England
Dragonstone—Wales, in that the heir apparent to the throne is named Prince of Dragonstone.
the Stormlands—Medieval Germany
the Reach—Medieval Southern France (Aquitaine, Gascony, Limoges, Marches, Perigord, Poitou and Toulouse)
Dorne—Moorish Spain/the Mediterranean, with some Wales as well. Like the rulers of Wales, the rulers of Dorne style themselves as Princes.
Beyond the Wall—Northern Scotland; the Northern mountain clans are reminiscent of Scottish Highland Clans
Yi Ti is most likely inspired by ancient China, although it is only mentioned a few times.
Asshai and its native religion were probably inspired by Persia and its native religion, Zoroastrianism.
The rarely-mentioned southern continent Sothoryos is roughly analogous to Africa during this time period.
From what we know of the port city of Ibben, it sounds like a theoretical Inuit or Siberian native society if they had founded cities.
Fat Best Friend: Samwell Tarly, having terrible self esteem due to being constantly demeaned by his abusive father. Jon and others have tried to make him feel better about himself but it hasn't really taken yet.
Feuding Families: Fantasy version of the War of the Roses with even more factions. The feuding Stark and Lannister families sound noticeably similar to the historical York and Lancaster families, though their closer fictional counterparts would be Baratheon and Targaryen, respectively. Other noble houses have their own grudges, such as the Blackwoods and the Brackens.
Field Promotion: Jon Snow gets a huge one. Davos gets an even bigger one. In "The Hedge Knight," Raymun Fossaway gets knighted in an impromptu ceremony so he can participate in a trial by combat.
Fighting from the Inside: This is the reason it's considered impossible to warg into humans; they realize what's happening and can tear themselves to pieces trying to "fight it off". Varamyr Sixskins tries to warg into a spearwife as a last resort when his own body is dying, but she resists fiercely. Bran successfully wargs into Hodor, with the implication that his simple mind was easier to overcome, although he was still scared and confused at first.
Fire/Water Juxtaposition: Used constantly to contrast various political and supernatural factions in the series' overarching conflict. Not surprising, given the series' title.
There are two conflicting religions based around the ocean-dwelling Drowned God (whose followers show their devotion by anointing their heads with seawater) and the fiery "Lord of Light" R'hllor (whose followers show their devotion with huge bonfires).
A major inciting event in the series involves the simultaneous return of the Others and the Dragons. The Others are undead creatures from the frozen North who carry weapons made of ice and melt like ice when killed, and the Dragons (obviously) breathe fire. Notably, both returns happen on opposite sides of the world, and both happen in the domains of two opposing factions of the war.
Many factions in the War of the Five Kings are visually associated with fire, water, or ice. If two factions are associated with traditionally opposed elements, it's a good sign that they're enemies.
House Targaryen's members are legendary for their dragon-taming skills, they follow the motto "Fire and Blood", they have a dragon as their sigil, and they claim to trace their lineage to Old Valyria (which was supposedly wiped out by a series of volcanic eruptions). King Aerys, one of the most (in)famous members of the family, started a lot of drama by attempting to use alchemical weapons to burn King's Landing to the ground.
Lord Stannis Baratheon is a militant follower of the religion of the aforementioned god R'hllor, he wears a red gold crown with points fashioned to look like flames, and he has a ring of heart-shaped fire worked into his personal sigil.
House Greyjoy is based in and around a series of islands, their members have a kraken as their sigil, they anoint their leaders with crowns made of driftwood, and they follow the religion of the aforementioned Drowned God.
House Stark and their Northern allies are constantly associated with ice and cold, they follow the motto "Winter is Coming", and they're initially led by Eddard Stark, who carries a greatsword called "Ice".
First Name Basis: Jaime and Brienne (once they stop calling each other "wench" and "Kingslayer", that is), Tyrion and Bronn.
Thoros of Myr buys cheap swords and coats them in wildfire (a mysterious alchemical substance akin to napalm or Greek fire) for battles and melees. It's noted by others that this is a showy trick which would quickly wreck the sword itself.
Stannis Baratheon's Lightbringer is a magical sword that appears to be on fire, but the fire sheds no heat and has been suggested to be a glamour of Melisandre's.
Beric Dondarrion makes a real flaming sword with his own blood and the magical power of R'hllor. It seems to weaken the blade, though...
Flanderization: Hallis Mollen doesn't display his Captain Obvious tendencies until quite late in the first book, at which point it's lampshaded. After this, most of his lines involve stating the obvious.
Flower Motifs: The winter rose symbolising doomed and forbidden love for the Starks. Also, the Tyrells have the rose as their heraldic symbol and therefore use flowers to symbolize all kinds of things, much like the Animal Motifs of the other houses.
Food Porn: Martin has been quoted to have never encountered food that he didn't like. This is reflected in how mouth-watering his feast scenes tend to be. On the rare occasions when they aren't mouth-watering, it's usually a sign that something bad is about to happen; see, for instance, the Red Wedding.A Feast For Crows, ironically, is an exception to this. Instead we're treated to Livery Porn.
Foreign Money Is Proof of Guilt: Cersei discovers one of the jailers who was guarding Tyrion had some gold pieces that might have come from House Tyrell, who were trying to marry their daughter to her son. Since Tyrion just murdered their father and escaped after being found guilty for killing Cersei's other son, Joffrey, this makes her suspect the Tyrells of having bribed the jailer to free Tyrion, even though Lord Tyrell wants Tyrion dead since his daughter could have died at his hands.
Fork Fencing: Tyrion annoys a particularly humourless member of the Night's Watch with the trope. When the knight leaves in a huff, Tyrion claims his share of dinner.
Rhaegar's daughter named her cat Balerion, after her ancestor Aegon I's dragon.
For Science!: Qyburn performed medical atrocities at the Citadel to gain more information about life and healing. In Cersei's service, he's able to continue his research with a project to create an undefeatable warrior, while also serving as a Torture Technician on the side.
Mors Martell and Nymeria the Warrior Queen for Dorne.
Garth Greenhand for the Reach.
Aegon the Conquerer and his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya for Westeros as a whole.
Four Lines, All Waiting: The series is filled with a dozen plotlines. The series as a whole is arguable Three Lines All Waiting, with the major plotlines being the Others in the North, politics in the south, and Dany's invasion plans across the narrow sea. By now there are so many that a majority of the draft fourth book ended up being split geographically into A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons (both Doorstoppers in their own right).
Frontline General: Those commanding armies often take to the field with their men, given that Westeros is a medieval fantasy society where individual fighting prowess is equated with generalship. The extent to which this is true varies — Jaime Lannister is Lured Into a Trap because his enemies know he's a Blood Knight who always leads from the front. Bored with the siege of Riverrun, Jaime hears of an attack by raiders on his supply line and leads a small force off to attack them, only to be ambushed by Robb Stark's army. King Robb also leads from the front to inspire his men but is more cautious about it, keeping a strong bodyguard and not taking unnecessary risks. The coldly pragmatic Lord Tywin leads from the rear, commanding the reserve, where he can control events and judge the right moment to throw in his own efforts, as does Stannis Baratheon.
The sigil of the famously robust and strong Crakehall family is a boar.
Robert Baratheon and Barsena Blackhair are both killed by boars, in both cases with people noting what a horrible way it must have been to go.
Full-Circle Revolution: Dany's first attempt at a Slave Liberation in Astapor. Almost as soon as she leaves, a former slave seizes control and names himself king, and all the former slavers are enslaved by the freedmen.
Melisandre is out to spread the good news about R'hllor. The good news is that all your false gods will be thrown in a fire. The bad news is you might just join them if you protest too loudly.
Moqorro, another priest of R'hllor, feels perfectly comfortable telling the Ironborn captain whom he serves that the Drowned God is a demon.
Those of Stannis' men who worship R'hllor are called "the queen's men," due to Stannis' wife Queen Selyse being a fundamentalist supporter of the new religion. Some people suspect that they even favor Melisandre above their own queen due to her power and influence.
Aeron Greyjoy, who found religion after a near-death experience. His insistence on drowning unbelievers extends farther than even murderous raiders care to go.
Also, the current High Septon has ushered in a new era of fundamentalism for worshippers of the Seven, considering R'hllor (and possibly the Old Gods) to be blasphemous, reintroducing the Church Militant, and arresting the Queen Mother for adultery.
Funetik Aksent: Sometimes averted. Many characters are described as having an accent, but this is never conveyed through spelling. Some characters from foreign cultures, such as the Free Cities, will use eccentric or crude syntax instead. However, the trope ith played thtraight with Vargo Hoat, leader of the Bloody Mummerth, who thpeakth with a thignificant lithp.
General Failure: It becomes painfully obvious that the 'Wise Masters' of Yunkai are much better at abusing their slaves than they are at leading armies. Aside from their humiliatingly lopsided defeat to Dany at the gates of their own city, their armies feature such novelties as slaves soldiers on stilts and slave soldiers chained together at the ankles to prevent them running away. Their only success so far, at Astapor, stemmed from the efforts of their sellsword companies, and the incompetence of their employers drives those same sellsword companies to keep a line of communication with Meereen open in case they need to defect to save themselves.
Genius Bruiser: Archmaester Marwyn. He's described as looking more like a dockside thug than one of the leaders of an order dedicated to scholarly knowledge, short and muscular with broad shoulders, an ale belly and a broken nose.
Gentle Giant: Hodor, who has the mental capacity of a child, gets frightened easily and does not defend himself. Small Paul also seems to have limited mental capacity and is mostly interested in getting a pet, though he does warn others that harming his hypothetical pet would make him quite angry. Dunk is almost seven feet tall and called a "giant" by others, but has a gentle and sensitive disposition for a knight. Wun Wun fits this unless threatened, and is large even by the standards of actual giants. Interestingly, giants in in-universe legend are bloodthirsty maneaters, but the actual giants are vegetarians.
Genuine Human Hide: The Boltons have a tradition of doing this. Roose claims, apparently from personal experience, that it isn't tough enough to make decent boots out of.
Get Thee to a Nunnery: Used deliberately, due to the story's medieval setting. A man having "horns" means his wife is cheating on him. And there's the occasional Double Entendre that could have come straight out of a Shakespeare comedy;
Varys: "You can match the queen coin for coin, but she has a second purse that is quite inexhaustible."
Glorified Sperm Donor: Noblemen are not expected to care about their bastard children, though they might provide for them. Bastards are often just left with their mothers or, if acknowledged, fostered with another family. That Ned Stark and Oberyn Martell avert this is considered remarkable.
Robert Baratheon is a particularly bad example. He had at least 8 bastards, 16 if Maggy the Frog's prophecy is accurate, but only acknowledged one, Edric Storm, because the boy's mother was a noblewoman and her family demanded it. Even then Robert just left Edric in Storm's End to be raised by the servants and forgot about him. Robert's eldest child, Mya Stone, remembers that he used to play with her when she was little, but soon lost interest.
Jaime is the father of Cersei's children, but he is distant. In this case, it was invoked by Cersei from fear people might suspect that the children were not Robert's. After Joffrey's death Jaime defies this trope to become move involved in Tommen's life because he's a sweet little boy surrounded by bad influences.
Thoros of Myr is a borderline example. He started out as a Boisterous Bruiserlecherous priest who was a nice guy, but later on has a Heel-Faith Turn, and around this time joined a group of outlaws whose goal was to protect the smallfolk. What makes him borderline is that those outlaws become increasingly knight templarish over time, and while Thoros does not approve of this, he doesn't do anything to stop it (in part because the deity he believes in is not particularly merciful).
Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: GRRM's writing style is heavily iambic, and iambic pentameter occurs frequently enough that it's unlikely to be coincidental. A few of the more quotable examples:
Jaime Lannister: There are no men like me. There's only me. Jon Snow: First lesson: Stick them with the pointy end. Eddard Stark: And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die. Ygritte: All men must die, Jon Snow. But first we'll live. Jon Snow: The more you give a king, the more he wants. Narration: ...and Eddard Stark dreamed of a frozen hell reserved for the Starks of Winterfell. Jeor Mormont: The things we love destroy us every time. Aeron Greyjoy: No godless man may sit the Seastone Chair.
Gray and Grey Morality: Due to the moral ambiguity of many characters, there are often very sympathetic characters on opposite sides of conflicts. For example, the Battle of the Blackwater is shown mostly from Tyrion and Davos's perspectives on opposite sides.
There are a few characters who are more classically "good guys". Most of them wind up dying due to misplaced loyalty. Also, while many of the characters on opposing sides are not necessarily "bad guys", most sides have a few ... Joffrey, for example ... who are hard to see as anything but pure distilled evil. The overall impression is one of gray sides with a few black (and very few lighter gray) spots in them.
Not to mention the countless other wars fought back when the Seven Kingdoms were kingdoms.
The Greatest Story Never Told: The Brotherhood Without Banners come across a senile old knight who keeps repeating how he suffered six wounds while holding the bridge against Ser Maynard. No-one knows what he's talking about, and Tom O'Sevens laments his lack of a singer who could have passed on the knight's heroic deeds. Within the series itself, Tyrion finds that others get most of the credit for defending Kings Landing from Stannis, and he's accused of being selfish when he tries to get some acknowledgement of this from his father (the only person he reallywants credit from).
A Dance With Dragons strongly implies that Theon has been castrated by Ramsay.
Arya comes across some men being held in cages for doing some Rape, Pillage, and Burn, and it's pointed out that the rapist is the one with a bloody wound in his crotch.
The Grotesque: Tyrion Lannister, Sandor Clegane, and undead Catelyn. Possibly Loras Tyrell if he lives. Brienne is noted to look somewhat strange in Jaime's sole chapter in A Dance With Dragons.Theon Greyjoy, after his torture and abuse.
The people of the North are of this opinion about their homeland, with the people getting tougher the further north you go. By the same token, the wildlings see the Northmen as soft, pampered southerners.
The ironmen have a huge cultural superiority complex on this basis. "A hard land breeds hard men."
Several characters, including Dunk, Davos and Bronn, credit their resilience directly to their upbringing in Flea Bottom. It's also the first staging post of Arya's journey to Little Miss Badass.
Half-Human Hybrid: Legend holds that giants from the north can interbreed with humans. Wildlings sometimes suspect particularly large people of having giant blood in their ancestry. Supposedly, only male humans and female giants can interbreed successfully.note This has to do with logistics more than anything. Even assuming that the mating itself worked (not entirely unreasonable considering babies come out of there, though it could well be painful), delivering a half-giant baby would probably rip a human woman in half, where as that isn't really an issue in reverse.
After Dany sacks the cities of the Ghiscari and liberates their slaves, the majority of the people she frees greet her as liberator and are pleased that she shut down their brutal treatment. However, the older slaves, who are qualified and quasi-professionals and comparatively well-treated, prefer the security of being owned over the chaos, starvation and mounting bloodshed in Meereen under Dany's rule. Later, in A Dance with Dragons, a slave is overheard proclaiming that having the right master is preferable to freedom.
Tyrion Lannister while living as a slave to Yezzan zo Qaggaz comes to the conclusion that if you have the right master, slavery is preferable to the life enjoyed by a peasant in Westeros, who while "free" are entirely at the mercy of their Lord's whims and have no real rights to defend their life and property aside from appeals to Kings or other liege lords.
Harmful to Minors: Fifteen year old Robb Stark leads an army against the king. Fifteen year old Jon Snow joins the Night's Watch and becomes Lord Commander at sixteen. Thirteen year old Dany is married to a man probably more twice her age and gets pregnant at fourteen. Twelve year old Sansa is married off to Tyrion.note Though this is politically motivated and seems to be Tywin's attempt to get at least SOME use out of the son he despises. Ten/eleven year old Arya joins a guild of assassins/death-worshipers.
Hate Sink: Though there is no shortage of evildoers, a few stand out as particularly devoid of sympathy.
Joffrey is probably the best example, being a sociopath who hurts people purely for his own amusement. Though not as apparent in the beginning, once he becomes king, Joffrey uses his power primarily to indulge in whatever depraved cruelties his mind happens to come up with.
Viserys as well, though to a lesser degree. Despite being cruel and arbitrary like Joffrey, Viserys has little real power with which to abuse others. Daenerys is the only one who fears him, and that quickly changes once she becomes Khaleesi. It becomes easier to pity him than to hate him over time, as his rage becomes progressively more impotent.
Lord Walder Frey is hardly a likable character, being an opportunistic old curmudgeon, but he becomes a true target of hatred after A Storm of Swords.
Ramsay Snow ( later Ramsay Bolton) seems to be designed to fill the hole left by Joffrey's death, showing such repeated, wanton and extreme cruelty that he is a front runner for the most depraved character in a series which has an awful lot of contenders for the title.
Hates Baths: Arya doesn't see the point; after all, she was bathed twice just a fortnight ago!
Harrenhal has this reputation, partially because the Targaryens used dragons to roast the castle's holders alive centuries ago, and partially because most of the people who hold the castle end up experiencing misfortune (Janos Slynt got sent up to join the Night's Watch, Tywin Lannister is shot and killed by his youngest son, Amory Lorch got thrown in the bear pit when the castle was taken, Vargo Hoat had his limbs chopped off and fed to him by Gregor Clegane, and so on. Littlefinger's currently alright, but he hasn't set foot in the place yet.)
Have a Gay Old Time: The writing style occasionally uses somewhat antiquated expressions, probably in an attempt to sound more historical. The word "queer" is used its original sense of "strange."
Heal It With Booze: There are some instances of rudimentary surgery/medical care performed wherein a wound is sterilized with heated or boiled wine. Justified, since it is a Medieval European Fantasy, so there are no other antiseptics around.
Heal It With Fire: The Dothraki and Ironborn frequently use fire to cauterize serious wounds, and boiling wine is sometimes used to clean out nasty gashes. In a more fantastic case, Victarion's hand develops an infection so bad that a maester insists he must choose between amputation and death. The red priest Moqorro instead uses fire-magic to not only heal the arm, but make it inhumanly strong.
Heel-Faith Turn: Thoros of Myr, Lancel Lannister, and Aeron Greyjoy provide twisted examples of this. All of them experience religious awakenings and put aside things like carousing and womanizing, but there's a good argument that all end up as worse people because of it.
Heir Club for Men: Played straight for the most part, averted with the Martells, who don't privilege either gender in succession. The patriarchal society of Westeros considers the idea of a woman taking power and ruling to be absurd and any lengths will be taken to stack the decks against a woman seizing power. A Civil War, The Dance of the Dragons was fought to deny Rhaenyra, the only woman to sit on the Iron Throne, her just claim and inheritance simply because of her sex. In A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, this becomes a theme for several characters:
Asha Greyjoy was named the rightful heir of the Iron Islands by her father, King Balon Greyjoy, who was otherwise conservative but intended Asha to become his heir over his son Theon. Upon Balon's death, his exiled brother, Euron seizes the throne while Asha and Victarion are in the north. Aeron and others despise Euron, considering him "godless" but are opposed to Asha being heir and in the end, they pass over her and her other uncle, Victarion, and choose Euron.
Even with her dragons, the secret sponsors of Daenerys Targaryen, Varys, Magister Illyrio and The Golden Company actually expect her to marry Rhaegar's son, Aegon, give him one of her dragons and accept him as King despite herself being a Young Conqueror who achieved everything without their help.
Cersei Lannister's POV chapters voices considerable bitterness towards this, noting that when she cross-dressed as Jaime, her twin, when she was younger, her father treated him in a very different way from her. She was always regarded as a card for Tywin to marry into the Crown and never trained to rule. This ends up becoming a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy as she becomes extra paranoid and embittered despite finally given powers to rule as Queen Regent and neglects perfectly good advice that comes her way from several characters.
Hellhole Prison: Pretty much every dungeon is one of these. The Eyrie has cells with a sloping floor and no wall overlooking a massive drop. Sweetsister has cells that are halfway below high tide, so the prisoner has to keep their head above water the whole time. King's Landing has several levels which get worse as you go down, ending in the Black Cells, which Cersei makes even worse by leaving them in the hands of her Playing with SyringesTorture Technician. While not yet shown in-series, Casterly Rock seems to have particularly horrific ones, as on several occasions, a Lannister will note that a (really bad) prison cell is a Luxury Prison Suite compared to the ones at Casterly Rock.
Here There Were Dragons: Aegon the Conquerer and his descendants ruled Westeros from the backs of their dragons, but by the time of the series dragons have been extinct for some time. They leave behind their skeletons (the skulls are kept as heirlooms, and the rest of their bones make for excellent bows and dagger hilts,) and fossilized eggs, which are considered beautiful and beyond price. Daenerys hatches three of the fossilized eggs at the end of the first book.
Hero of Another Story: Due to the series' Loads and Loads of Characters, it's full to the brim with these. Special mention should go to King Stannis (who survived a siege, later described as "They were down to rats and beets, horses and dogs had been eaten long ago), Dolorous Edd (just about anything he says if you believe it, but highlights include finding a dead brother of the Night's Watch floating in the barrel of wine!), Maester Aemon (the man was 102 years old when he died and has lived through most of the history known to the main characters), Aegon the IV (A hero from the "Dunk and Egg" novellas, long dead in the main novels), Barristan The Bold, Tormund Giantsbane, Theon's friend Dagmer Cleftjaw, Mance Rayder and Lord Bloodraven... The list goes on and on.
Tyrion Lannister, at least in his role as Hand of the King to Joffrey.
Jaime killed The Caligula, but the way he did it (he'd sworn an oath to protect the man) is considered dishonorable. Part of the problem is his pigheaded refusal to explain his perfectly good reasons, thinking that asking forgiveness or making excuses would make him look weak. When Jaime killed him, The Mad King was getting ready to burn down the city, killing hundreds of thousands of people. By keeping this secret, Jaime has ensured that everyone sees the assassination as a political move to help his father take King's Landing.
Heroic Albino: Ghost, Jon Snow's albino direwolf companion. Also, arguably, Daenerys Targaryen—though it's never explicitly stated that the Targaryens are albino, their "silver-gold hair" and purple/blueish eyes are characteristic of one type of "incomplete" albinism.
High Turnover Rate: The office of Hand to the King has seen several characters take the office in the course of a few short years. It is officially the Number Two to the King and is essentially the same as Prime Minister, with the expectation they serve as The Good Chancellor to The Good King. Since good kings are in short supply, a lot of different people get the post. Three of them (Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, Tywin Lannister) get killed on the job for political and/or personal reasons. One of them, Tyrion Lannister, proved to be hyper competent but was overwhelmed by bigotry owing to his dwarfism and when Cersei Lannister becomes Regent for Life, it becomes a kind of revolving door until Kevan Lannister settles for Mace Tyrell, which given his dubious competence doesn't seem likely to become a long-runner.
History Repeats: Daenerys Targaryen, on the run from those in power who want her dead, marries Khal Drogo, a mighty warrior who would be considered a savage by the rest of the world. Alys Karstark, on the run from those in power who want her dead, marries The Magnar of Thenn, a mighty warrior who would be considered a savage by the rest of the world.
Tyrion urges the Mountain Clans to do this when sending them out to harass Stannis' approaching army. Shagga points out that such tactics are second nature to them.
Hivemind: What happens when one of the Greenseers becomes an Old God. To explain, the Greenseers are skinchangers who possess a number of extra abilities but the prime ability seems to be an aptitude for possessing plants as well as animals. At the end of their lives they use this ability to join a greenseer collective that has been building inside the 'minds' of the trees for millenia. They qualify as a hive mind because, as far as has been shown, little to no individuality remains after the Greenseer has joined the Old Gods. Granted this may be end up being proved false; as being a God in this series practically demands you be as absent as possible.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Cersei restores the military orders of the Faith in exchange for supporting her rule and cancelling the crown's debt. Instead, the newly armed religious zealots decide to stage a coup, imprisoning Cersei and seizing control of the king.
Most high-born characters even sympathetic characters such as Tyrion Lannister believe that people need strong leadership and guidance otherwise the commonfolk are too argumentative to actually make decisions. Tyrion mocks the hill tribes for being proto-democratic in collecting everyone's opinion, even the women's and then forming a decision by consent, citing it as one of the things he plans to change.
Stannis and Co. and the Night's Watch believe this to be a major failing of the Wildlings. Jon Snow points out that Mance Rayder managed to unite the Wildlings behind him but was either incapable or unwilling to instill them the proper discipline, which involves division of responsibility, command and rankings that would make them a real army. Stannis also dislikes the Night's Watch practice of voting for their Lord Commander which takes way too much time for him, so he has them locked up in a room and forces them to choose.
Hold Your Hippogriffs: Isn't used too often, although in A Dance With Dragons, instead of referring to Hair of the Dog, two characters reference "a scale from the dragon that flamed you".
Stannis Baratheon has the Evil Stole My Faith variety, having turned against the worship of the Seven after seeing his parents killed in a shipwreck. It's compounded by his general nature as a cold, harsh person.
The Hound does not believe in gods for similar reasons, and fits the "belittles religious people" category of Hollywood Atheist.
Towards the end of A Clash of Kings the originally devout Catelyn Stark seems to be heading this way, as her questioning of her beliefs is the result of the various terrible things that have happened to her.
Hollywood Tactics: Averted. Ambushes, judicious use of terrain, discipline, and adequate supply lines are all referenced frequently, and it is mentioned that one occasion when the Dothraki tried to use a straight cavalry charge against a disciplined phalanx with a shield wall they got slaughtered, despite outnumbering the phalanx over ten to one. In fact, there are several times when the conventionally chivalrous tactics of a Knight in Shining Armor, which can seem very close to Hollywood Tactics, have been noted to have failed against a superior (and less honourable) commander.
Homage: The series includes a number of clear and possible homages.
Samwell Tarly is an homage to Samwise Gamgee, the fat best friend of the protagonist.
The phrase "Valar Morghulis", a mantra to Arya and a code for the Faceless Men of Braavos is likely a homage to Tolkien as well. Both the words 'Valar' and 'Morghul/Morgul' are from his works, though their meanings in the series are completely different from those in Tolkien's work. Similarly, the term "warg" is also taken from The Lord of the Rings but has a different meaning (though both meanings are associated with wolves).
In another 'homage' to The Lord of the Rings: wraithlike creatures that can only be harmed by certain blades
Daenerys' marriage to Khal Drogo is a possible homage to the Nibelungenlied legend, where Grimhild marries Attila the Hun in order to avenge her heroic husband Siegfried's death.
House Jordayne of the Tor is an homage to fellow fantasy writer Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time books (published by Tor Books). Their sigil is a golden quill on a field of green checks, and are lead by Lord Trebor (Robert spelled backwards). There's also a brief mention of an Archmaester Rigney who "wrote that time is a wheel". Robert Jordan's real name is James Rigney.
Honor Before Reason: Eddard Stark, to an extreme degree. He only lets go of his precious honor when it's a choice between that and his daughters' lives. Later in the series, it becomes apparent that this is something of a Reconstructed Trope — Ned's assumption of honor in others is his undoing, but his own, and his family's, honorable reputation ensures Undying Loyalty among several of his bannermen even after he and his heir are killed and his family scattered, his castle is burnt and House Bolton apparently have the North stitched up. There must always be a Stark in Winterfell.
Alayaya, Pia and some others play it straight, though.
Hope Spot: Two in the third book. If you already get the series' macabre themes, you can see both of them coming several paragraphs ahead of time. One of them is subverted, however, when the newly dead guy promptly comes back to life.
In Dance with Dragons, Jon Snow rallies a wildling army to take the fight to Ramsay Snow after the latter threatens to march on the Night's Watch if he doesn't get 'Arya' and Reek back. The chapter ends with several members of the Night's Watch stabbing him, apparently to death.
The Winds of Winter example chapters show Stannis Baratheon receiving the support of the Iron Bank of Braavos, who offer him enough gold to hire all the sellswords he needs to press his claim after all hope was seemingly lost. The previous book ended with the implication that Stannis was defeated by the Northern host at Winterfell shortly after, though the truth of this remains open.
The Horde: All wildlings are The Barbarian Horde to the people in the Seven Kingdoms, though it turns out that the Others were the real threat all along.
Horrible Judge of Character: Eddard Stark, Lysa Arryn and Cersei Lannister. Jon Arryn proves to be something of one too, having put Littlefinger and Janos Slynt in their positions of power and never noticed that his wife was insanely obsessed with Littlefinger.
The people of King's Landing hate Tyrion and actually believe Pycelle and Janos Slynt are good folk.
Hostile Weather: The seasons are abnormally out of kilter — years of winter follow long summers. It's also traditionally upheld that it's downright deadly what the Others can do in and with the cold to the point it seems as if they can actually intensify the effects. Worse: Winter Is Coming... a bad one. Too bad most people don't believe the Others will be coming with it.
Tyrion Lannister lives this trope due to being a dwarf. He's imprisoned, openly mocked, forcibly married, enslaved and forced to joust on a pig for others' amusement.
Theon Greyjoy, once he returns to the Iron Islands, and thereafter. Book five takes it Up To Eleven, and turns it into such a Trauma Conga Line that he manages to become The Woobie, which is quite an achievement considering how loathsome he is in book two.
Samwell Tarly whenever he was around his father, and later during his training at the Night's Watch.
Cersei suffers one at the hands of the Faith, being shaved bald and forced to march naked through the city. Kevan notes that the experience seems to have broken her.
Hypercompetent Sidekick: Tywin Lannister was this to the mad King Aerys, to the point that the people cheered twice as loud for him as they did for the actual ruler, and visitors would sometimes mistake him for Aerys. Jealousy over this fact is part of the reason why Aerys allowed Jaime to join the Kingsguard behind his father's back and refused to consider having Rhaegar marry Cersei.
Valyrian swords are usually very rare family heirlooms and all have names, including Ice, Lady Forlorn, Oathkeeper, Red Rain etc. More comically, Joffrey's swords "Lion's Tooth" and "Hearteater", and "Widow's Wail".
In a mundane weapon example, Garth, Manderly's jailer/torturer/executioner likes to introduce prisoners to his "ladies". There's a poker he calls the Whore which he heats up red hot and applies to his victims' private parts. He also has "Lady Lu", a large and sharp ax he uses for executions.
Identity Amnesia: Using torture to invoke this trope seems to be one of Ramsay Bolton's favourite pastimes. He nearly manages it with both Theon and Jeyne, but they seem to have started recovering once out of his hands.
Chapters are named either for the POV character they're being told through, or with a title or nickname that refers (sometimes quite obliquely) to that character.
The titles of the books all take the form of "Article Noun Preposition Noun".
Idiot Ball: Robb, of all people, provides an example when he fails to share his plan to trap Tywin west of the Riverlands with his bannerman responsible for guarding the Riverlands. The plan is ruined when Edmure repels him. Rather than being offered any kind of explanation as to why Robb wouldn't share this information with his own commander, Edmure is simply blamed for being kept out of the loop as though it were his fault. For a character who has repeatedly demonstrated tactical genius, the mistake seems quite foolish.
I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Ygritte is this to Jon Snow. Lyanna is this for both Ned and Robert. It's also suggested Dany inadvertently causes the deaths of Drogo and their unborn child. Also Jaime has a lot of guilt over letting Rhaegar's wife and children die brutally on his father's orders.
Biter eats people with teeth that are filed down to points.
It's strongly implied that a singer who tried to blackmail Tyrion ends up in a pot shop cauldron in Flea Bottom. As Bronn says, 'there's all kinds of meat' in that particular bowl of brown. Tyrion later tells Penny that he had a singer that offended him made into a stew.
The island of Skagos is reputed to be home to rampant cannibalism, although we haven't actually seen it yet.
Ser Wylis Manderly and other prisoners at Harrenhal are fed parts of Vargo Hoat. It's left ambiguous whether they knew what they were eating. Gregor Clegane also made Hoat eat himself.
Four of Stannis's starving soldiers eat one of their dead companions during their march on Winterfell.
In A Dance with Dragons, it is strongly implied that Lord Manderly had the three Freys who came to his court made into pies, which Manderly serves both to himself and the Frey and Bolton bannermen in attendance.
In A Dance with Dragons, it's very likely that the pork Coldhands provided to Bran and co. was actually flesh of Night Watch deserters Coldhands had killed.
Impractically Fancy Outfit: Ghiscari are quite fond of the trope. They wear elaborate hairstyles sculpted into bizarre shapes, requiring their soldiers to wear giant helmets to avoid ruining their hair. Nobles wear toga-like outfits that are designed so that you have to hold it together with one hand to keep it from falling off. In this case, the clothing is impractical by design, as it shows the wearer doesn't have to work or do much of anything for himself. The slave soldier companies of the region have gotten so used to fighting mock-battles against each other that they have their slave soldiers wear utterly ridiculous battlegear even into real fights - one company wears stilts, another is together wrist-to-wrist and ankle-to-ankle...
In It For Life: Service as a maester, in the Night's Watch, Kingsguard, and several religious orders is lifelong. The Night's Watch' traditional funeral rites end, "Now his watch is ended."
"You know nothing, Jon Snow!" becomes this for Ygritte
In the Dunk and Egg books, Dunk frequently recalls his late master Arlan saying, "Dunk the Lunk, thick as a castle wall." Dunk recalls Arlan as a friendly and even-tempered man, so it comes across that his master was using this trope, but the insecure Dunk has taken the words seriously and often uses them to chastise himself.
Ironic Echo: Theon spends most of A Dance with Dragons in a state of Stockholm Syndrome, denying his identity due to the horrific abuse he suffered at the hands of his captor, Ramsay Bolton; in his internal monologue he frequently repeats the line "You have to know your name" in order to remind himself that he's supposed to be "Reek", not Theon. At the end of his last chapter in the book he repeats the line to emphasize that he once again recognises himself as Theon.
Ironic Name: Two of the Freys have names that are ironic in terms of who they are named for. The severely mentally retarded Aegon (generally known as Jinglebell because his jerkass grandfather makes him act as a jester) is named after a great military leader and ruler. Similarly, Rhaegar Frey, a slimy and totally mediocre man, is named after a Pretty BoyKnight in Shining Armor who was both a sensitive intellectual and a military genius; Lord Manderly specifically calls him out as a worm with the name of a dragon.
Jon Snow is mockingly dubbed "Lord Snow" by The NicknamerAlliser Thorne, because he's the son of one of the most powerful men in Westeros, but as both a bastard and a sworn Watchman, he can never inherit any of it. Later, it loses its irony when he becomes Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.
When the cowardly Samwell Tarly starts being called "Sam the Slayer," he thinks it's another example of the trope, but it's mostly meant sincerely to commemorate a heroic action he made.
Brienne is mockingly called "The Beauty" because she's very ugly.
A number of minor characters sport them. In the Night's Watch, Giant is a short man and Small Paul is a large one. The Ironman raider Rolfe the Dwarf is very tall. The sellsword Pretty Meris is horribly scarred and disfigured.
One of the former leaders of the Golden Company, Myles Toyne was jokingly nicknamed Blackheart by his troops, in reference to the image on his coat-of-arms. Toyne liked the nickname because it led people to be wary of him, but he's described by the rather stern Jon Connington as being warm and generous and A Father to His Men, and at the very least seems to have been a Sergeant Rock type.
Shae affectionately calls Tyrion her "giant of Lannister", which he finds quite endearing. Until she tells the whole court about it at the trial, claiming he "made" her call him that. When she tries to use it affectionately again after that, it's become a Berserk Button.
Big Walder is little and Little Walder is big. This one, at least, is justified by something other than irony, as Big Walder is the elder of the two.
It Is Not Your Time: Played with — a guilt-ridden Theon encounters a hooded stranger while wandering the snowbound ruins of Winterfell. The man asks Theon why he's still alive. Theon replies that the gods and Lord Ramsey haven't finished with him yet. The stranger laughs and says he'll leave Theon to them then. The encounter would mean little were it not that the Stranger (whose face is always concealed by a hood) is The Grim Reaper in the Faith of the Seven.
I Was Quite a Looker: Morbidly obese Illyrio reveals that his sculpture of the beautiful young bravo was him at the age of 16.
I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Tommen has a whipping boy, Pate, who Cersei has beaten whenever Tommen steps out of line. On an occasion when he seriously annoys her, she orders him to beat Pate until he bleeds — and if he refuses, the boy will have his tongue cut out instead.