Deconstructed Trope: A Song of Ice and Fire

A Song of Ice and Fire deconstructs so many tropes it needed its own page. Be warned, for the night is dark and full of SPOILERS.

See also the Deconstructed Character Archetype page

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    0- 9 
  • 0% Approval Rating: Maintaining power when everyone under you hates you isn't easy.
    • Cersei Lannister is very disliked by the "sparrows", religious smallfolk who are dissatisfied with the Lannister regime after the war. The new High Septon, nicknamed the High Sparrow, is able to manipulate Cersei into rearming the Faith in part by claiming it will make her more popular with them. However, once she does so, they gain the power to arrest her for her crimes.
    • Despite her intent to make things better, Daenerys is so despised in Slaver's Bay that chaos reigns more than she does. Innocent people who support her are murdered at night by the Sons of the Harpy and there is an attempt made on her life. She can barely control her own court and is forced to marry a possible enemy to placate her opponents.
    • Tyrion's demonisation by the commons in King's Landing wouldn't have helped his case with his father after Blackwater when Cersei was able to convince Tywin that most of the defensive work was her doing. Had the blame for most of the Lannister mistakes been applied to the correct people in the popular mind instead of reaching for the easy "Demon Monkey" scapegoat role they loaded him with, Tywin might have actually taken note. Well, maybe. At the very least, Cersei would not have come out of it quite so glowingly.
    • Roose Bolton ponders the pitfalls having such a negative public image can plague a whole House with if even only one member pushes the envelope. If Ramsay continues being gratuitously Stupid Evil in front of people's faces, the whole House, not to mention the population of the Dreadfort, could be exterminated by the combined effort of the unhappy Northern Houses in less time than it took them both to work their way into holding Winterfell's lands and titles in the first place. And, that whole speculation was made before the revelations of House Bolton being actively involved in the Red Wedding had even started to leak through various sources. There is a possible plus-side: if that one member of the House is loathed enough, the rest might get off by throwing him to the wolves and blaming most of the collective monstrosities on him, then citing whatever can be proved of as their own doing as, "We were just trying to protect our own blood — even if he was an unpredictable, Axe Crazy idiot. Will his head and reparations do?" Maybe.
    • The Freys were already this before the war, mocked and looked down upon for being opportunistic weasels. But after their betrayal in the Red Wedding they are now loathed by nearly everyone in the Riverlands and the North. Everyone in the Riverlands and the North will take the opportunity to kill every Frey they encounter, and people will not think twice when one of them dies, especially as many Northern and Riverlands Houses lost men and relatives to them. Also, even though the Riverlords have officially submitted to the Iron Throne, Jaime knows he can't rely on the people in reality and has to take hostages.
  • 100% Adoration Rating: Making sure everyone likes you is really hard work.
    • The Tyrells demonstrate that aiming for widespread, positive publicity on this scale is a constant battle of time, energy, resources and some exceedingly calculated and, occasionally, very dirty dealing behind the scenes; from cheating while dressed spectacularly at tourneys, to being able to manipulate food supplies for "fortuitous" timing, to murdering bumps in the road undetected, to calculating when to walk away from people who could be too damaging to associate with. And there's the risk of a misstep the whole time.
    • Baelor the Blessed is fondly remembered by the faithful and has been put on an enormous pedestal for decades. But, it's rather easy for readers (and Tyrion as well as others in-universe) to come to the alternate conclusion that he might just have been taking the Targaryen family nuttiness to new, religious places when reading of his exploits. His uncle, Viserys, may have had a large part to do with the positive spin and damage limitation placed on Baelor's actions at the time, to boot, as one of the more successful Hands before taking the throne himself. And, he's considered pretty much an Evil Chancellor in folklore for his pains.
    • By not working to maintain and consolidate what she had pragmatically and politically, Daenerys lost quite a bit of the adoration she started out with among her freed "children" whose lives have been turned upside down. Having said that, her positive legend is still alive in parts of Essos she hasn't yet been to. For example, in Volantis, a city filled with slaves, she's regarded as The Messiah with even cynics like Vogarro's Whore praying for her arrival. But, little is said about how the nobles there feel, although the next election is likely to be interestingly deadly. There is already factional troop build-up.
    • Aegon V Targaryen has gone down in history as one of the honestly and straightforwardly good kings, particularly among the smallfolk. His reign is seen as the trend-bucking, shining highlight of about 200 years worth of dismal lowlights and strife, which even the nobility admit — despite his attempts to erode "rights" aka "unequal treatment". However, all this packaged goodness wouldn't have happened without Bloodraven cutting down errant family members left and right while gaining a much-deserved reputation as a Kinslayer, Spymaster and a (possibly less-deserved one of) Evil Chancellor. Without him thinning the Blackfyre threat considerably beforehand and setting the stall up for more peaceful times in other ways using some very pragmatic means, Aegon's reign would have been plagued with many more problems than it was. He even shuffled off the scene quite openly by getting banished to the Wall for his supposed wrongdoings by Aegon. Which, could even have been by his own suggestion, in part to make sure that none of the taint of previous issues would bleed into Aegon's Small Council by his remaining an obvious mover and shaker. Not that it's ever exactly stopped him from keeping his eye on the realm via the tree-network and raven-post, of course. Or trying to interact with it in various ways. Yet again, we have the Good Cop/Bad Cop thing going on.
    • Renly cultivates a good image and uses this to justify his attempt to usurp the Iron Throne, however he is in reality a greedy and vain figure who is willing to murder his brother and starve hundreds of thousands of people to seize power.

    A 
  • Abduction Is Love: The Free Folk believe that kidnapping women to be brides is justified because the woman can just stab a man she doesn't like while he sleeps. This justification falls apart because the practice also applied to women from below the Wall, many of whom probably don't have much experience putting knives in people and even if she could she'd be stuck beyond the Wall and surrounded by friends and family of the man she just killed.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: At first, Dany's dragons do behave in a puppylike manner, while they're still small enough to ride on her shoulder and generally do exactly as she asks. As they grow, though, they become far more aggressive and dangerous to be around. As of A Dance With Dragons they have become so out of control that Dany is forced to chain them up (which doesn't help matters) after Drogon eats a human child. Drogon even attacks Dany, and she is forced to use a whip ( "A dragon is no slave!") to make him obey her. Dany is, of course, the "Mother of Dragons" and she must make her child obey or risk more innocent people getting burned, and striking a dragon with your bare hand isn't going to do much good, but it's still a bit ironic.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys/Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Despite signs that Joffrey wasn't the kind of person she should be marrying, Sansa didn't realize how psychotic he was until it was too late.
    • Daenerys falls for Daario but his less than sterling behavior becomes a liability to her regime.
    • Cersei falls for Aurane Waters, despite her terrible experiences being married to Robert, and heaps undeserved praise and favor on him. Once she's out of power, he abandons her by stealing her fleet and sailing away to the Stepstones.
  • The Alliance: Forging one of these is an arduous task due to all the political infighting and divergent agendas. They are also very fragile in times of defeat or betrayal—times when they are needed the most.
    Tyrion: A wrong word, an ill-timed jest, a look, that's all it will take, and our noble allies will be at one another's throats.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Valyrian steel weapons are treasures often handed from generation to generation and it is said the most impoverished family would rather sell their children rather than give up one of theirs.
    • Tywin Lannister's youngest brother Gerion got himself lost in his quest to find his family's precious Brightroar. Tywin later melts down the Stark greatsword Ice and has it reforged into Oathkeeper and Widow's Wail. He did it both to give his family Valyrian steel swords and to spite the Starks.
    • Aegon IV handed his baseborn son Daemon the Targaryen sword Blackfyre, which many interpreted as a sign that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne. This, among other factors, eventually sparked the Blackfyre Rebellion.
  • Angst? What Angst?: If a character doesn't seem to be overtly affected by a traumatic event you know they're in for some serious psychological problems further down the road. Just ask Littlefinger, whose curb-stomping led him to start a civil war, or Arya, who becomes a ruthless killer, or Tyrion, with whom a lifetime of family abuse and neglect caused him to murder his own father.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Stannis Baratheon's blunt manners and tendency to speak nothing but the truth make him seem like a Jerkass but they also make him more relatable to the common folk. His talk about how people owe him their allegiance makes him seem like a glory seeker but his little moments behind closed doors show his empathy for the less fortunate which he can't show openly for fear of being seen as weak.
  • Armies Are Evil: The "good" armies like the Starks and Baratheons aren't immune to doing things like rape and plunder. Daenerys buys the Unsullied especially to prevent this trope but Jorah still points out that they will still kill and ravage, earning the hatred of the Seven Kingdoms people.
  • Armored Villains, Unarmored Heroes: Armor's unwieldiness can be exploited by unarmored opponents (Ser Vardis vs. Bronn, Oberyn vs. The Mountain) but going up against someone in armor with the wrong kind of weapon can get you killed (Syrio Forel vs. Ser Meryn). All in all, what you wear is no guarantee as to your general safety or relative virtue (Petyr Baelish vs Brandon Stark; Ser Hugh "May's Well've Worn Nothing For All The Good The Bling Did Me" of the Vale vs The Mountain).
  • Arranged Marriage: Among the nobility, marriage is an institution meant to facilitate alliances and land exchanges, so personal happiness means almost nothing to the people setting them up. It's also extremely politically charged and could mean the difference between war and peace or life and death. In contrast to the usual "follow your heart" philosophy other more romantic series would preach, love matches like Doran Martell and Mellario can fail while some arranged marriages like Ned and Catelyn Stark can work out.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: As noted by the Night's Watch, the only reason highborn lords and knights tend to be better swordsmen is because they've had formal training in it. Skill and training with a blade is much more important than raw strength.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The Dothraki way. Initially, this is believed to make them an incredibly dangerous threat to Westeros and a highly advantageous ally to Viserys Targaryen. However, the series also demonstrates that this philosophy doesn't make them the threat Robert and Viserys imagine them to be.
    • Firstly, because they only respect strength, their culture makes them largely uninterested in ambitions of pursuing wealth or conquering nations, as none of these things indicate authority to them. This also makes them far more difficult to ally with than Viserys anticipated, given his lack of understanding for their culture.
    • Secondly, even though Khal Drogo was convinced to set his sights towards an invasion of Westeros, that ambition only lasted as long as his life, and the khalasar fragmented and turned away from this goal the moment he was incapacitated.
    • Aegon seems like this, conquering six of the seven Kingdoms with dragons. However, he still needed to set up institutions to rule.
    • Robert claims to have taken power with his warhammer, but when he became king he found ruling more difficult than fighting, and as a result takes little interest in running the realm.

    B 
  • Because Destiny Says So: It's possible that the Targaryens' urgent need to make the prophecy of the Prince that was Promised come true is what doomed their dynasty. Several Targaryens made poor, even insane, decisions believing they were necessary for the prophecy to be fulfilled, but so far all it's done is caused them disaster after disaster.
  • Big Fancy Castle:
    • The construction of Harrenhal Castle almost bankrupted both the Riverlands and the Iron Islands. Unfortunately, it was designed for defense against a ground attack, and Aegon Targaryen had dragons. Even though most of it is a ruin 300 years later, it's still too big to be properly garrisoned and very expensive to uphold. Harrenhal remains Westeros' ultimate symbol of Awesome, but Impractical. Petyr Baelish after being made Lord of Harrenhal, says once he has enough money he intends to tear the place down and built a more practical castle.
    • Theon Greyjoy's occupation of Winterfell turns into a nightmare. He has too few men to properly garrison the place, Winterfell is too far from reinforcements and most of the people around there hate the occupiers, but Theon refuses to abandon it. It demoralizes the enemy, but his refusal to sack it and leave leads him to ruin.
  • Bling of War: Ghiscari masters in general, and Yunkish ones in particular, have gone so overboard with their peacock displays on their slave soldiers that they're barely able to fight. Also, Ser Hugh of the Vale might as well have gone into battle naked against The Mountain for the good the fancy-looking armor did him.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Romances between highborns and those who protect them never seem to work out.
    • Everyone knew Brienne loved Renly, so when he got killed she was blamed for it because it was easy to see her as a Woman Scorned.
    • Jorah Mormont falls for Daenerys Targaryen but he couldn't take back the fact that he had previously betrayed her for a royal pardon. It comes back to bite him and he is exiled.
    • Daenerys and Daario Naharis's relationship is intensely romantic but his reputation as her hatchet man and his low origins is one of the things hated about Dany's regime.
    • Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen and Ser Criston Cole were rumored to have loved each other but their relationship soured along the way. They eventually ended up on opposite sides during the Dance of the Dragons.
    • Then there's Cersei's relationship with a Kingsguard who is her brother and fathers her children. When the truth comes out it leads to a war over succession.
    • Arys Oakheart loved Arianne Martell and she convinced him to help in a coup that resulted in his death and the maiming of his charge, Princess Myrcella.
  • Bread and Circuses:
    • Ned Stark opposes hosting a tourney held in his honor because it is way too expensive and contributes little in way of actual revenue to the people. Littlefinger, Varys and Pycelle argue that the tourney is a useful distraction for the common people and helps subsidiary businesses such as prostitution and bars that are also entertainment businesses. When the tourney takes place, the city faces riots and frenzies that the Gold Cloaks find it hard to contain. Likewise in "The Hedge Knight", a bar hostess tells Duncan vis-a-vis the Tourney of Ashford that she's never known an instance of a tournament actually cutting down the cost of grain.
    • When Tyrion becomes Hand in A Clash of Kings he initiates a period of austerity so as to secure resources for preparing a siege. To this end, he shuts down businesses pertaining to expensive armory and other luxury businesses and then shuts down the fisheries wharf, which was also coupled with a blockade of food sent by the Tyrells to King's Landing. Tyrion's refusal to supply some form of distraction makes the people of King's Landing angry at starvation and war deprivation, triggering a riot and mass anger at the government and especially the Demon Monkey whom they associate with the bad times, whereas the real culprits such as Joffrey and Cersei are associated with a period of peace. This also leads businessmen such as the Antler Men to plot defection to Stannis because they feel Tyrion is bad for business since he brushed away their feelings, citing an imminent siege rather than giving assurances. When the Tyrells arrive alongside his father, they come bringing food and are greeted as heroes despite being responsible for a mini-famine by depriving food to begin with. His father, Tywin, puts a tax on prostitution and other pleasure businesses which gets labelled the "dwarf's penny" because Tyrion was demoted to Master of Coin without his consent. Tyrion's genuine service to the realm and protection of the common people gets brushed aside thanks to empty displays of charity and superficial rhetoric of heroism simply because he never put in token efforts of distraction and indeed scorned displays such as the Royal Wedding with its 77-course meals at a time of widespread starvation in the city.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Robert Baratheon had all the traditionally accepted traits of the perfect king. He was both ruthless to his enemies and had a knack for making allies. But he found that Victory Is Boring and preferred letting others rule in his stead. His inattentiveness ruins the stability of the realm.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Ned Stark brought his sister Lyanna's remains back North as per her last wishes but he did not do so to his companions. Now Lady Dustin vows to destroy his remains when she finds them in revenge for Ned not bringing back her husband's remains.

    C 
  • Childhood Friend Romance: When this trope goes wrong, the emotional fallout of someone losing the person they grew up with and loved haunts them well into their adult years. Their inability to move on leads them down dark paths.
    • Petyr Baelish couldn't marry his childhood crush because he wasn't highborn enough for her. He tried a duel with the man she was engaged to for her hand, and got beaten badly. So, he orchestrated a civil war to get back at the world for Catelyn's Arranged Marriage.
    • Lysa's obsession with Petyr, compounded with a loveless marriage and resentment about his feelings toward her sister, left her vulnerable to his manipulation. Not only does she murder her husband and lay the groundwork for a war, she also tries to murder her niece from fear that she might take Petyr away from her. And ends up getting killed by Petyr who was done using her.
  • Children Are Innocent: Doesn't mean they can't do terrible things, or that even their attempts to do well will go well.
    • Rickon Stark is relatively overlooked by his parents, and has something of a savage streak. He is currently staying with a wildling who has no qualms about killing people on an island full of cannibals.
    • Joffrey is seen as a nuisance and its thought he will be easily manipulated. That changes when he has Eddard Stark executed.
    • Arya is easily trusted or dismissed by the people around her because she's a little girl. They don't realize that she also has a disturbingly high body count. No one looks at her twice while she's being trained as an assassin.
    • Bran Stark openly flirts with Obliviously Evil when he innocently commits Mind Rape on poor Hodor when skinchanging into him, even though he is aware that the guy doesn't like it. And he's broken other skinchanging tenets out of both ignorance and necessity.
    • Robert "Sweetrobin" Arryn really likes to watch people get thrown off a mountain or duel to the death as a form of entertainment, but doesn't seem to really get what death means or how the world doesn't revolve around his needs. As self-centered and bonkers as Joffrey, if just a bit sweeter because he really doesn't know any better and is a lot frailer. There is no actual, overt malice in him, just childish glee, tantrums, and an epic-class My Beloved Smother to pin much of the problem on.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: The general absence of sentimentality towards childhood, combined with children having to grow up faster socially than they can physically or mentally, means that they have to try restraining whatever childish impulses and inevitable youthful, inexperienced mistakes they're still likely to make. Which, given these children's circumstances, will cost them much more because of the power of the positions that are thrust upon them.
    • Robert Arryn is too physically and mentally unwell to rule the Eyrie. His step-father and bannermen are all vying for the title of Lord Protector so they can rule in his name.
    • Joffrey Baratheon is a spoiled sadist who's more interested in indulging his destructive impulses than in any actual ruling. He becomes The Caligula even before he leaves his teens and is regarded as a tyrant in the making in his childhood. His stupid childish whim of ordering Ned Stark's execution plunges the realm into civil war and eventually his allies end up killing him at his own wedding at the age of 13.
    • Robb Stark is forced to become A Father to His Men at an early age and live up to his father's legacy, ably supported by the advice of his mother and experienced commanders like the Blackfish. However, his impulsive decision to chivalrously honor Jeyne Westerling, a girl he had sex with for comfort after learning of Bran and Rickon's death, leads to him breaking an all-important marriage pact. This folly of youth ends up costing him the loss of valuable support, leads to betrayal at the Red Wedding and his death and that of his mother.
    • Jon Snow is made Lord Commander of the Night's Watch at age 17, due to Samwell Tarly's scheming. He has a gift for leadership and strategy as well as his father's sense of honor, but many of his officers don't respect him because of his youth, or mistrust him because of his illegitimate birth and time with the wildlings. He ends up betrayed and stabbed by his own men, and it's left ambiguous whether he survives.
    • Daenerys, married at 13 and already Queen at 16, has severely affected the slave trade and taken over Meereen. She even takes advantage of her age and sex so some of her enemies will underestimate her. But she's still subject to a teenage girl's lusts. The stresses of ruling and having to constantly compromise to the slavers laying siege to her city and holding slave auctions in front of her gates, and marrying a potential enemy to maintain a semblance of peace prove too much and she flees Meereen atop one of her dragons.
    • Tommen signs any decree someone puts in front of him, making him very easy to manipulate.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Walder Frey didn't bring his troops when ordered to by his liege lord, only showing up after the battle had been won, which to many signifies disloyalty. For this he became known as the Late Lord Frey and his family's reputation took at hit. When the Freys betray Robb at the Red Wedding they figured it would be for the best, as they had a bunch of people to stand by them. But because everyone knows they're involved, it taints their reputation basically beyond repair, to the point where even their allies are taking swipes at them. And its not just their reputation at stake — some members of House Frey are in fact being murdered because their betrayal broke one of the most fundamental elements of pre-modern society: guest right. The effect extends far beyond the Twins; now, no one can trust anyone not to murder them at dinner. And their betrayal means the riverlanders and Northerners despise them and won't willingly help them.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Dany could not bear the oppression and suffering of the slaves in Slaver's Bay, so she decided to liberate them, even though it diverted her from her aim of claiming the Iron Throne. The result? Astapor is taken over by a new king and then depopulated by war, famine, and plague; Yunkai reverts to business as usual as soon as she leaves; and Meereen descends into a political and economic quagmire. Even then, she refuses to let go of her need to help her "children," to the point where it starts to look less like idealism and more like a neurotic compulsion. Inevitably, the scheming characters are catching wise; for instance, Tyrion points out (though it's a tad ambiguous as to how serious he was) that the only surefire way to force Dany into conquering Westeros is to create a situation where she'll need to swoop in on her dragons and save the day— in this case, having her young nephew attempt a land invasion in which he cannot possibly be successful without her.
  • Cock Fight: Petyr Baelish challenged Brandon Stark to duel for the hand of Catelyn Tully thinking that Underdogs Never Lose. He only survived because Catelyn begged Brandon to spare him. The duel left Petyr physically and emotionally scarred and he spent the rest of his life screwing everyone else over because he couldn't let go of his bitterness.
  • Cool Chair: The Iron Throne made from the thousand swords of Aegon the Conqueror's enemies is incredibly uncomfortable and is rumored to have killed Aegon's son Maegor. Of course, this is the entire point of the Iron Throne: to constantly remind any king that supreme power is supremely dangerous and not a thing to be trifled with.
  • Cool Sword: Oathkeeper, given to Brienne by Jaime is an expensively jeweled weapon with a uniquely multi-colored Valyrian steel blade. Unfortunately, it has some real downsides. In itself, it is so overtly gaudy that it attracts unwanted attention if you're wearing anything other than Bling of War — heaven help you if you're trying for "undercover" in the bad parts of anywhere. Even worse, the blade was not only reforged from Ned's sword, Ice, but, it's also recognizable as being that and for currently being a Lannister sword. This has the the effect that having the weapon makes Brienne a walking target in the eyes of Stark supporters.
  • Courtly Love: The short and simple lesson? "If it would make a lovely song, don't try it at home: it'll actually suck to live it."
    • According to the Greens, Lord Commander Criston Cole and Princess Rhaenyra were in love but he wouldn't touch her since he upheld his vow of celibacy as a knight of the Kingsguard. She took this as an insult and slept with Ser Harwin Strong. This is one of the reasons Criston turned against Rhaenyra and sparked a civil war between her and her half-brother Aegon II. The idea of pure selfless love without sex is thus seen as absurd.
    • It is possible Aemon the Dragonknight and Queen Naerys' relationship was platonic but this didn't stop wagging tongues from twisting their relationship into something more. It got to the point where Aegon IV himself believed the rumors and came to question the paternity of his son and heir Daeron, with terrible consequences.
    • Queen Cersei Lannister is trapped in a loveless marriage with King Robert. She engages in Twincest with Jaime, leading to a civil war when the truth about her children's parentage is revealed.
    • Whatever the heck it was that went on between Rhaegar and Lyanna. A stirring song of tragedy and winter roses; a bloody disaster in actuality. Pissing off Lords Paramount just doesn't pay off.
  • Culture Clash: The idea of Culture Clash is itself brought into question since many ideas such as slavery are opposed by cultures like Westeros which imposes serfdom and class oppression on the lives of the majority of people living there, where most peasants will lose limb or life for giving lip to their masters or liege lords. Indeed Tyrion Lannister, during his travels across Essos, notes that quite a few slaves live a lifestyle that is actually better than peasants in Westeros, seeing very little difference between both beyond one enjoying a polite euphemism. The Ironborn likewise oppose chattel slavery but see no problem in taking captives as "thralls", indentured labourers whose children would be freemen, and "salt wives". In many cases, people are clinging to the notion of civilization by linguistic gymnastics.

    D 
  • Decadent Court: Those in position of powers may neglect their day-to-day governing duties in favor of engaging in realpolitik, forcing their more responsible peers to pick up the slack. The lack of unity among the kingdom's rulers causes many serious problems to fall by the wayside. Most concerning, nearly everyone capable of protecting the realm is too wrapped up in politics to deal with the wildling invasion or even realize that there is an upcoming Zombie Apocalypse at their door, despite repeated warnings from the Night's Watch. Stannis is the only one who took those warnings seriously.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Viserys tried to invoke this trope for Daenerys throughout her childhood; not just about their parents, but their older brother as well. Unfortunately, his tales involved a lot of whitewashing that crashed horribly against the dark and complex reality Daenerys learns actually exists when Ser Barristan, a firsthand source, alludes as to the very real madness of her father, the very human limitations of her mother, and the failings of the supposedly perfect Rhaegar (who he, nonetheless, still admires). Not to mention the fact that Viserys was a terrible example of a parental-sibling-potential-husband figure, so he was not exactly the best advertisement for the caring side of the Targaryen family dynamic he tried to portray, himself. But Daenerys is so emotionally invested in the idea that her family had always been just, gifted, beloved and wrongfully usurped that she has acute difficulty accepting the nuances of their history, even though she now knows it's not entirely how Viserys painted it as.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: The concept of fealty is questioned time and again since the bannermen of most of the great houses started as their rivals. Not all remain loyal despite centuries of servitude and its possible they might rebel if the conditions are right.
  • Defiled Forever:
    • Hoster Tully was afraid his daughter would not be able to marry well if people knew she was pregnant — and the child's father was from a lower class and Hoster's own ward, no less. So he deceived her into taking abortifacients. The loss of her child left Lysa so bitter and traumatized that she refused to see her father while he was dying.
    • Robb Stark married Jeyne Westerling after having sex with her to keep her honor and to not repeat his father's mistake of having an illegitimate child. By doing this, he broke his marriage pact with the Freys, which lead to his death and ended the Northern uprising at a stroke.
    • According to Ironborn custom, Victarion Greyjoy had to kill his wife after she was raped/seduced by his brother Euron. He still loved her and didn't want to kill her, but he had to and it was the most painful experience of his life. Now he's trying to steal the woman Euron wants to marry as revenge.
    • Cersei, fearing that Margaery Tyrell is becoming more popular and powerful than herself, has her framed for adultery. Because Margaery swore she was a maiden when she married Tommen, a child, when it's discovered that her maidenhead isn't intact, she's arrested. But since highborn ladies often lose their maidenheads by horse riding, her fate hangs on a trial. However, Cersei's accusations infuriated the Tyrells, who refuse to be shamed and deprived of the throne. The most powerful alliance in Westeros is being stretched to its breaking point, threatening to drag the realm into yet more chaos because of the uncertainty over one girl's virginity.
  • Determinator:
    • The Baratheons refuse to compromise, which just makes things needlessly more difficult for themselves and the people around them. Stannis and Renly's inability to reconcile leads to the former killing the latter.
    • Brienne never, ever gives up, not when she's trying to protect Jaime and not when she's sent out to find Sansa; not because they're what she wants to do, but because she promised to do them. She takes any failures very hard, even small or inevitable ones or ones she couldn't prevent (such as Jaime losing his hand), and by the midpoint of AFFC she flat-out admits that what she really wants is to go back to Tarth, and oaths be damned... but she can't, and she won't, because she swore an oath. She's increasingly psychologically drained and traumatized, and as of ADWD her obsession with doing the right thing and damning the costs almost lead to her death, because she couldn't lie to an undead crazy lady. Now she might be leading one of the only people who likes and respects her into a trap because of same.
    • The Martells' single minded pursuit of their goals also cost them dearly: Oberyn's obsession with getting a confession out of his almost beaten opponent get him killed in a fight he otherwise would have won; Quentyn get burned to death by a dragon when he refused to accept that his quest had ended in failure; and the Sand Snakes' refusal to consider anything other than taking brutal vengeance promises to only bring more pain and suffering to themselves and others, as Ellaria points out.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Doran Martell hides a brilliant scheme by pretending to be weak and appeasing. Unfortunately this doesn't just fool his enemies. His own allies believe he's useless and they make plans of their own without telling him. Not only do these plans fail, they interfere with Doran's much better thought out ones.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Daenerys's surprisingly fast military successes in Essos are in large part due to talented and skilled warriors falling in love with her and wanting to help her. As they leave her one by one due to death, exile, or betrayal, her rule begins to falter just as quickly.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: One minor character in A Dance With Dragons suggests that focusing on heroism in death can lead to a lack of respect for life—and the behaviour of many Westerosi knights seems to bear this criticism out. Despite the belief that kings, lords, and warriors should die in a heroic or dignified manner, they are not so great that they can't die pointless, humiliating deaths like the peasants they care so little about.

    E-G 
  • Elective Monarchy: The Ironborn have a practice of electing their monarchy which is brought back by Aeron Damphair to ensure his brother Victarion Greyjoy becomes ruler instead of his monstrous brother Euron. However, Euron is able to use his charming qualities and a rousing speech to get elected in, even though he is, even by the standards of the Iron Islands, an incredibly villainous figure.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The exotic fortress of Dragonstone was deliberately built to look scary to hide the fact that it's not very defensible. Some believe its dragon-shaped towers will supposedly come to life when The Prince Who Was Promised returns.
    Salladhor Saan: If the red woman brings them to life, the castle will come crashing down, I am thinking. What kind of dragons are full of rooms and stairs and furniture?
  • Feuding Families: The Blackwoods and the Brackens tried to make peace several times over the centuries through marriage alliances, to the point that there is Blackwood blood in every Bracken and Bracken blood in every Blackwood. However, the feud has continued for so long because eventually something will happen to start it happen, and it can ultimately never end because the Houses don't forget the wrongs that have been done to them.
  • Fish out of Water: Eddard Stark, Viserys Targaryen and Janos Slynt's inability to adapt to their new environments gets them all killed.
  • Flaming Sword: The Weapon of Choice among R'hllor worshipers is shown many, many times to be Cool, but Inefficient. The fire weakens the steel and makes it brittle. After each of his fights Thoros needed a new sword.
    Davos: The Red Sword of Heroes looks a proper mess.
  • For the Evulz: Doing senselessly cruel things just makes things harder for oneself since every action has consequences, notably earning the hatred of people you need.
    • Joffrey has Ned Stark executed after Ned is forced to confess to treason rather than send him to the Night's Watch. This leads to the North, under the leadership of Ned's son, rebelling against the Iron Throne. Joffrey continuing cruelty leads to the people of King's Landing hating him and eventually leads to Joffrey's murder by his wife's family, partially out of fear he will abuse her.
    • Ser Gregor Clegane "The Mountain that Rides" is a notoriously cruel and brutal man who raped and murdered Elia Martell even though he was only told to murder her son. His brutality ends up making him a liability to the Lannister regime, who end up sending his skull to Dorne to placate Elia's brother.
    • Ramsay Snow delights in indulging his sadistic pleasures, even hunting women, raping and flaying them. His father Roose Bolton considers him a problem, as the Bolton regime is already unstable and Ramsay is not helping them gain support. Meanwhile Ramsay's brutal abuse of his wife a pretender daughter of Ned Stark used to legitimize Bolton rule of Winterfell, further loses support. Someone even says that though Roose is cruel they can deal with him, but Ramsay is a monster.
  • Freudian Excuse: Cersei justifies her mistreatment of others by believing that she has been unfairly treated herself, or that she is merely protecting herself and her family, or that she is taking what she is owed. However, most of her excuses are paranoid delusions or distortions of the truth. When her claims of victimization are legitimate, she continues the cycle by victimizing others for her own gain.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Tyrion, who was already unpopular, was further disdained by the people of King's Landing because he lost part of his nose, a typical "bad" scar, in the Battle of Blackwater, even though he was fighting to save their lives.

    H 
  • Happiness in Slavery: Depending on how kindly your master treats you, and how limited alternate possibilities are and how distant some better world is to where you are from, slavery can become quite convenient.
    • After suffering a long voyage on a ship and suffering the humiliation of a slave auction where several dubious slavers want to capture him, Tyrion, Jorah and Penny end up being bought by Yezzan, a Yunkish slaver who is relatively lenient and treats his captives, in Tyrion's experience, better than most smallfolk in Westeros. During his captivity, Tyrion finds himself becoming adjusted to the conditions to his own distaste, since the alternatives for a dwarf in Slavery's Bay, wanted for murder and deprived of funds, is deadly.
    There was never a slave who did not choose to be a slave. Their choice may be between bondage and death, but the choice is always there.
    • Dany finds that some of the slaves— especially the ones who were quasi-professionals (scribes, healers, teachers)— miss the job security and relative comfort of their earlier lives over her "liberation" and beg to be allowed to sell themselves back into slavery, where they at least had enough to eat and somewhere to sleep. Many former slaves are much worse off and having trouble surviving now they are free. Daenerys finds herself handicapped in her attempts to rebuild Slaver's Bay to a slave-free society, especially since she underestimates the complexity of the situation and society at large.
  • Heel-Faith Turn: Although played straight in a few cases (i.e. The Elder Brother and Septon Meribald), characters "finding religion" generally does not come with an overall improvement in personality and behavior:
    • Following a grievous injury at the Blackwater, Lancel Lannister becomes fervently religious, but no more likable, and his newly found asceticism furthers the damage to his health and looks wrought by his injury.
    • Ser Bonifer Hasty known as "Bonifer the Good" is renowned as a Knight in Shining Armor turned champion of the Faith who embodies the virtues of the Seven. However, at least in Jaime's POV, he largely comes across as a humorless, self-righteous prig.
    • Formerly a lovable Boisterous Bruiser, Aeron Greyjoy's embrace of religion turned him into a stern, humorless fanatic. More importantly, both his earlier recklessness and current fervor are implied to stem from deep-seated emotional issues tied to implied sexual abuse by his brother Euron as a child.
    • Thoros of Myr went from a skirt-chasing Boisterous Bruiser who was nominally a Red Priest into a true believer in R'hllor after his religious observances suddenly came with magical powers. In this new state, Thoros belongs to a band of righteous outlaws, who over time, go from somewhat ruthless defenders of justice to outright knight templars. While Thoros isn't happy about this shift, the effect is that he is involved with much worse behavior following his religious conversion than before it.
    • With the rise of the Faith Militant, many an outlaw, ruffian (male or female), and hedge knight is likely to join up; if only for the promise of regular meals and a stable mode of living that won't get them hanged. They'll still be doing pretty much the same old things only now it's sanctioned by the clergy.
  • Heir Club for Men:
    • Most of Westeros, except the Dornish, practices male-preference cognatic primogeniture, which is responsible for putting many evil, insane, or incompetent men in power instead of more suitable female candidates.
    • The bloody civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons began when Aegon II rose against his older sister Rhaenyra, their father's chosen heir. When Rhaenyra lost the war, the Targaryen line of succession became even more strictly biased against women, wherein a more distant male claim can override a closer female one.
    • Cersei is incredibly bitter about the fact that she is the last choice for Tywin's heir despite being his eldest child and the one most interested in ruling. Even after Jaime gives up his claim to Casterly Rock by joining the Kingsguard, he's still held in higher regard than her.
    • What's more, after Tywin is killed, Tyrion is in exile, and Kevan alienated it does fall on Cersei to rule the Lannister regime in the capital, and thanks to the sexist gender roles of Westeros and the holes in Cersei's education, she has never learned how to rule. She makes multiple foolish mistakes while thinking she's outplaying all sides, empowers a dangerous new rival for power while trying to lessen the influence of an allied faction, and generally makes a hash of things until she's caused a major crisis for the throne. Only teaching the skills of ruling and leadership to men means when you do need a woman to step up, they may be missing the basics that would allow them to do so. Not to mention that the feeling of being cheated out of her inheritance added up to Cersei's paranoia and left her unable to keep any alliances, as she sees everyone as potential threats to her power. Also, Cersei tries imitating her father in acting like how she thinks a man should act, and as a result is internally misogynist.
    • Sansa Stark, Alys Karstark, and Donella Hornwood are considered relatively unimportant while the male heirs of their houses are alive. When their family members die, other men try to marry them to take control of their inheritance without even giving them the chance to grieve.
    • Even though Dorne averts this by not showing preference to either gender, Princess Arianne fears being cast aside in favour of her younger brother Quentyn. She plots a coup to stop her father from denying her birthright, only to have it fail and learn that her father had been planning to make her queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Many characters that place value on honor instead of money, power or the family name often end up betrayed and dead, as people who do value those things see them as obstructive to their ambitions and have them removed. This is even lampshaded by Varys, who notes he's met few men with a sense of honor as strong as Ned's, and understands why when he sees what it gets them.
    • Inversely, characters that are considered dishonorable become pariahs, however well-meaning their actions. People refuse to trust them, ally with them, or utilize their valuable skills. Thus, people like Tyrion and Jaime become bitter and disillusioned.
    • People who are honorable and determined to a fault, such as Stannis Baratheon and Ned Stark, are seen as lacking mercy and will gain a reputation as a Hanging Judge.
    • The notion of honor is, however, also regarded as a sign of civilization and hospitality, the violation of the same at the Red Wedding leads to further chaos in the Riverlands and across Westeros, causing much Poor Communication Kills. Moreover the violation of the same from the wealthy and powerful sets a negative precedent for the poorer sections of society.
  • Hot-Blooded:
    • Ned's older brother, Brandon, unwisely threatened Mad King Aerys and got himself and his father killed. Ned also blames the "wolf blood" for the death of his sister Lyanna but the reason is still unknown.
    • The Sand Snakes' and Arianne Martell's attempts to rush into revenge plots of their own without careful hedging cause merry hell to Doran Martell's carefully constructed (and, perhaps, over-convoluted) attempts of same over decades. Having said that, his brother was no help, either, for all he was supposed to throw up concealing smoke with his actions. His hot-headed insistence on getting a confession out of the Mountain instead of just ending him triggered the mess in the first place.

    I 
  • I Gave My Word:
    • Jaime Lannister points out that the many vows knights are made to take eventually contradict each other, so expecting a knight to keep all his promises is ridiculous. He also notes that many times those vows are swore to terrible people because those are the ones in power, meaning knights are expected to go along with their lieges' atrocities but are also condemned for committing them or letting them happen.
    • Brienne gives her word several times, and does her utmost to keep it for each one. Shame the world around her has absolutely no interest in letting her manage to do so. The more she fights to stay loyal, the harder it gets and the more she faces conflicting loyalties.
    • The Starks try to live by this as a general rule. Then things happen and they can't fulfill their promises, either due to circumstances outside their control or because another set of promises clashed. It rarely goes well. The more adaptable Starks have since quit trying to do this quite so much or started learning Exact Words.
  • I Have Your Wife: Hostage taking is a common practice in Westeros. Both villains and protagonists do it and often for similar reasons, depending on the context.
    • Anyone can be made into a hostage, often in ways so subtle it requires a double-take to notice. Sending your child to be someone's ward or squire involves either coercion or a huge amount of trust. Some people get Kicked Upstairs where they can be watched, such Harys Swyft, whom Cersei named Hand of the King so his son-in-law Kevan wouldn't make a move against her. On the flip side, some people may have to be wary of their in-laws, such as Elia Martell, who was held against her will by her father-in-law, King Aerys, so her family would fight for him.
    • Some people are unable or unwilling to negotiate for their loved ones because the terms of release are too demanding (at least to them) or they don't actually care about that person. In other cases, the party holding the hostage has no intention of letting them go regardless.
    • Robb wanted to trade his sisters for Jaime Lannister, but feared that his bannermen won't respect him if he gave up the Kingslayer, an extremely valuable hostage, for two mere girls. After chastising him for letting sexism stop him from saving his sisters, Catelyn carried out the prisoner exchange behind his back in a desperate bid to be reunited with her daughters. Robb had to arrest his own mother for treason and the exchange didn't go through due to several complications. Not that the Lannisters were going to honor the pact anyway; though Jaime actually would have returned the girls to Catelyn had it been left to him — mostly because nobody would expect it of the man with shit for honour — and later on he goes to considerable lengths to honour his bargain with Catelyn.
    • Theon was taken from his home, Pyke, to be a ward of the Starks to prevent his father from rebelling against the crown again. The Starks grew so used to him that no-one but Catelyn expected him to seize Winterfell in his father's name. Theon's chapters also highlight the psychological consequences of being raised in such circumstances.

    K 
  • Kick the Dog: Tywin Lannister's brutality is calculated to leave a lasting impression. He is killed by his own son for an act of unbelievable cruelty years ago instead of an enemy looking to avenge his more well known atrocities.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch:
    • Oberyn Martell not only wanted to kill Gregor Clegane, he wanted to humiliate and get a confession out of him too. He succeeds but not before getting killed first for excessive showboating.
    • Viserys Targaryen was killed by the Dothraki for being an asshole, but Daenerys does feel sorry for his death, as he did took care of her when she was still a baby.
    • Theon Greyjoy allowed Ramsay to kill two children but was tortured in such excruciating methods by the same Bastard Bastard, who is an even bigger monster than Joffrey, that he becomes utterly pitiful and you feel sorry for him.
  • Kingmaker Scenario: Ned Stark was imprisoned for supporting a rightful heir over a usurper and an illegitimate son. Varys makes him realize his choice has far reaching consequences and he had just invited war to his home and his family is now in danger. Ned has no choice but to recant to save The North. It is too late and he is beheaded, leading to a war.
  • Klingon Promotion: House Bolton and House Frey reached their current positions — the titles of Lord Paramount of the North and Warden of the North for the former; several new castles and marriage alliances for the latter — by betraying their liege lords. Their new bannermen are furious over the regime change because breaking an oath of fealty and violating Sacred Hospitality are both considered crossing the Moral Event Horizon. Because the feudal system rests on a lord being sure that his vassals are loyal and trustworthy and the vassals being sure that their lord is firm but fair, the Boltons and Freys remaining unpunished for their crimes is a huge affront to people's sensibilities; which is why the northerners and riverlanders are secretly plotting to get the Boltons and Freys out of power by any means necessary, and won't do anything to help the Freys when they begin getting murdered by the Brotherhood without Banners. And that's not even mentioning the people's Undying Loyalty to the ousted lords or the fact that in the process the Freys and Boltons murdered the men and relatives of the lords they now presume to rule over.

    L 
  • Ladykiller in Love: Robert Baratheon fathered a lot of illegitimate kids despite professing undying love for Lyanna Stark. She apparently didn't believe he really loved her and had little hope that he would be the kind of husband she wanted. Ned also expresses that Robert didn't know Lyanna as well as he believes he did. Despite how sincere Robert perceives his love to be and how genuinely heartbroken he was by Lyanna's death, it's implied that Robert might have ended up just as unhappy with Lyanna as he was with Cersei if they had gotten married and Lyanna failed to conform to the image he had of her.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Princess Arianne Martell cooks up a failed coup to oust her father Prince Doran because it appears she is to be passed over as his heir. Unnecessary bloodshed could have been avoided had she been clued in that its all a part of his plan to oust the Lannister/Baratheon regime and restore the Targaryens to the throne.
  • Love at First Sight
    • Jorah Mormont and Uptown Girl Lynesse Hightower fall in love and get married right way but their personalities and lifestyles don't mesh. Jorah is exiled for selling slaves to finance his high-maintenance wife's needs, but she abandons him for a richer man.
    • Sansa's instant infatuation with Joffrey blinded her to his cruelty and sadism until he turned on her.

    M 
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: Probably the most discussed and subverted trope in a fantasy series concerned with Realpolitik.
    • Renly and Stannis are useful contrasts. Renly openly cultivates the image of a benevolent prince, a man who loves people through displays of superficial charm and generosity and who wants to rule through love despite the fact that his claim rests on a military alliance and superior numbers and his actions would have set a terrible precedent for the succession system. Stannis is disliked and feared for being a duty bound killjoy obsessed with justice, old grudges and fierce discipline, traits that lead to him to be far more meritocratic than Renly's simplistic "common" touch. In the end, Stannis commands loyalty through his devotion to duty, for being the only king to realize that a king has to protect his people for them to accept him as a king, actions which cause him short term defeats but keeps him alive in the long run and leads him to command genuine loyalty from the likes of Ser Davos and Melisandre and his fellow soldiers; because despite not being loved and feared by some, he is never hated and commands genuine respect from the likes of Jon Snow who does not like him personally but admires him for his Brutal Honesty and reserve.
    • Tywin Lannister commands fear and respect because of his policy of cold, calculated atrocity concentrated for a short period of time, that in his view stops war and prevents violence. This was his justification for the Sack of King's Landing and the Red Wedding and his use of Gregor Clegane and his men as his private goon squad. He tells Joffrey that while he is brutal to his enemies, anyone who actually bends the knee will be helped back on their feet. However the scale of his atrocities is such that people mistrust or disbelieve his overtures of peace and as soon as he dies the Lannisters go from feared to hated under his daughter Cersei, brother Kevan and son Jaime all of whom, despite their different moral leanings find themselves at the receiving end of the consequences of Tywin's actions.
    • The Starks rule through love and friendship among their allies and supporters, and keep the North safe to such an extent that women could walk through the roads in the North without being afraid of rape. Their refusal to submit to callow brutality allows underhanded enemies like the Boltons to endure and plot future betrayal, but it also makes it very hard for them to be replaced since their vassals and the people prefer the lifestyle they enjoyed under the Starks to any future promised by Roose and Ramsay Bolton.
    • Littlefinger being the most beholden to Realpolitik in principle and practice shows that Machiavellian tactics, playing off alliances on necessity and interest rather than bonds of love and common ideals work.
  • The Magic Comes Back: Most fantasy portrays the return of magic as heralding the return of a golden age. Here, its making an already bad situation worse. Because of the loss of knowledge over time, very few people can understand, control, or protect against this powerful, and in many cases dangerous, force. Most people don't even believe that magic still exists, making them terribly unprepared for what's to come. No wonder the Maesters of the Citadel are trying to replace it with science.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Having questionable paternity leads to trouble among highborns because the line of succession may be called in question. Highborns will start devastating wars to protect their own claims and bolster their family name. In such cases, the true heir is whoever wins.
    • Much like in real medieval England, the potential consequences of uncertain paternity in the line of royal succession make it an act akin to treason to lie with the Queen or for the Queen to have extramarital affairs, as this is a direct threat to the royal bloodline and potentially undermines the legitimacy of heirs if there is even a possibility that their father was not the King.
    • This mentality imposes stricter norms of propriety for women over men and is essentially patriarchal. King Robert can father bastards in double digits with women across Westeros and he would face no rebuke, but Cersei, equally guilty of adultery, faces rituals of humiliation and submitted to a Shameful Strip made to walk naked across King's Landing in broad daylight in a ritual meant "to break her pride." Likewise, Aegon the Unworthy apparently invoked this trope to cast doubt on the paternity of Daeron II over that of Bastard Pretender Daemon Blackfyre, because the latter's battle prowess appealed to his vanity far more than the scholarly Daeron ever did. And when Princess Rhaenyra tried to claim the Iron Throne, part of the reason she was opposed is because it was believed her three oldest sons were bastards.
  • Might Makes Right: Several characters gain power by right of conquest, only to find that conquering and ruling are two very different things.
    • Robert was an excellent warrior, but useless in peacetime. He gives up trying to be a good leader because he finds kingship less exciting than battle, meaning injustice and corruption are rampant in his court.
    • Renly emulates Robert in trying to win the crown by force, disregarding his older brother Stannis' claim for no other reason than his army is bigger. His huge army doesn't do him any good when Melisandre uses magic to assassinate him, meaning Renly's attempt at conquest accomplishes nothing besides wasting time and pitting potential allies against each other.
    • Daenerys tries to be a good queen in Meereen, but her conquest left wounds in the city's social, economic, and political infrastructure, many of her new subjects hate her for disrupting their lives, and she has to sacrifice her personal morals and desires to fix the mess she caused.
    • The Lannisters won the Iron Throne in the War of Five Kings, but personal issues brought up by war and politics bring them to the brink of destroying themselves almost immediately afterwards.
    • King Maegor Targaryen lived and breathed this philosophy. This turned into a lust for violence that alienated all of Westeros' institutions and great families including his own. No one came to his support when his last nephew Prince Jaehaerys came gunning for the crown and he died alone.
  • Mighty Whitey:
    • Daenerys becomes something like this after freeing the slaves of Yunkai, but this ends up biting her in the ass later in the series when her insistence on viewing her subjects as her "children" leaves her wide open to manipulation, and eventually the cities she "liberated" rise against her in rebellion. In Yunkai, the slaves she freed are back under the heel of their old masters, and Astapor has collapsed into bloody anarchy after civil wars over rule of the city and an outbreak of the "pale mare" (dysentery) causes the attacking Yunkai'i to quarantine the city; this leaves the slaves of Astapor even worse off than before Daenerys' coup.
    • As Queen of Meereen, Daenerys realizes the hard way that ruling a foreign culture involves absorbing and assimilating into their culture, including their clothes, their customs and tradition and their food, all of which she finds abhorrent but refuses to change by imposing her values on the Ghiscari. So she willingly tries to assimilate for the sake of peace and order in Meereen, however, as noted by the Shavepate, a socially mobile collaborator who is casting off the trappings of Meereenese culture, she would be better off if she went full-on in conqueror mode and actually made changes to the society and made them submit.
  • A Million Is a Statistic:
    • Many lords aren't concerned with the death toll among smallfolk except in how it affects them (e.g. how many are left to give orders to); only the deaths of the famous and powerful inspire strong reactions. As a result, wars are started without a single thought to how it will affect the common people. Even the "good" guys carelessly ruin countless lives with this mentality. Tired of their lords constantly brushing off their suffering, the smallfolk eventually revolt and take over King's Landing in hopes of being able to help themselves, since no one else is going to help them.
    • Jeyne Poole is a completely ordinary young girl who doesn't come from a powerful family. Because she's just one of thousands of common girls, no one bats an eyelash when she's forced to become a prostitute, impersonate Arya Stark, and marry Ramsay Bolton. All the people trying to save her are only doing so because they think she's someone else, someone important; with the exception of Theon, who knows exactly what it is like to be dehumanized. Jeyne's ordeal stands in sharp contrast to Sansa's in that both girls suffer in similar ways, but Sansa doesn't need to pretend to be someone else for people to care what happens to her. In essence, Jeyne's story serves as a microcosm of the reality of being a non-highborn girl in Westeros and how their lives are still worth something even if no one else thinks so.
  • Moses in the Bullrushes: Aegon VI Targaryen, believed to have been killed as a baby, is alive and was raised abroad by allies of his family. In an attempt to invoke how this trope usually plays out, Aegon is given a broad range of education and experiences so that he will be ideally suited for ultimately reclaiming the throne a la The Once And Future King. There are hints that Aegon may not be the perfect hidden prince his protectors hoped for, and he may not even be the real Aegon at all (even if he himself doesn't know that).

    N 
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Lord Walder Frey's sires name their children after him (regardless of gender) to curry favor. This makes for a confusing family tree, and he actually hates this practice as he's all too aware of his (numerous) descendants' desire to get in his good graces.
  • The Needs of the Many: Doran Martell, the Prince of Dorne, cares deeply about his people noting that Dorne has the smallest population of the Seven Kingdoms and cannot afford to antagonize the rest of Westeros nor can they possibly wage a war of revenge or conquest, as such he believes that its important to never tackle any conflict that he cannot be sure of winning because the consequences of defeat are deadly for him. Hence his cautious attempts to broker an alliance with the surviving Targaryen children in secret while pretending to currying favor with the Lannisters by promising neutrality and a marriage alliance. To do this, Doran must, publicly, let the deaths of his sister Elia, his niece and nephew, and brother Oberyn go unpunished despite his own grief and anger. Unfortunately this gives him a reputation as weak-willed in a Hot-Blooded Blood Knight culture that is Dorne, even if all these compromises were made to protect the people and ensures Dorne is spared from wartime deprivations. Doran laments to Areo Hotah about this:
    "Until the Mountain crushed my brother’s skull, no Dornishmen had died in this War of the Five Kings. Tell me, Captain, is that my shame or my glory?"
  • Nice to the Waiter: Eddard always told his kids to see their servants as equals. Arya took this to heart which made her empathetic to everyone, regardless of class. The death of her loved ones hits her hard and fuels her obsession to gain power to protect, no matter the cost.
  • No True Scotsman: The Ironborn have a vaguely undefined set of codes as to what constitutes true ironborn behaviour. In Aeron Greyjoy's views, true ironborn are drowned in saltwater as per the religion of the Drowned God, but many Ironborn, not wanting to risk certain death. take a more user-friendly ritual to Aeron's contempt. All of them look down on maesters and book learning but the richest lord of the Iron Islands is Rodrik "The Reader" Harlaw. Balon Greyjoy looks down on Theon Greyjoy for being a "greenlander" but nominates his daughter Asha Greyjoy as his heir, going completely against the macho viking culture he wants to install. Likewise everyone despises Euron Greyjoy for his blasphemy and relative cosmopolitanism, but he gets voted in as King of the Iron Islands because he has a bigger plunder than any of them have ever seen. Victarion Greyjoy despises chattel slavery but has no problem with taking thralls, salt-wives and executing male prostitutes. The idea of a culture being a Single-Issue Wonk of Rape, Pillage, and Burn is obviously shown as a ridiculous endeavor.

    O 
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Khal Drogo and Vargo Hoat found out the hard way that wounds, no matter how small, have to be dressed so they will heal properly.
  • Order Reborn: Attempted by Jon Snow, who believes the Night's Watch needs to be whipped back into shape in order to face the return of the Others. He pisses too many people off by trying to change things too drastically and too quickly, and eventually gets several knives in the back for his trouble.
  • Out of the Inferno: Daenerys survives walking directly into a roaring blaze unscathed except for losing all her hair (though this detail was changed for the TV series), but this happens under very unusual, supernatural circumstances. Much later, after Drogon returns to Meereen and burns down the fighting pits, she once again loses her hair walking through fire, and this time suffers burns as well.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon and Jon Arryn are always praised for defeating the Mad King but Stannis Baratheon, who weathered the Siege of Storm's End and took Dragonstone, is frequently left out. This makes him bitter and motivates him to get the Iron Throne no matter the cost. By the law of Westeros he is the legitimate heir to the throne, however the fact that after the rebellion he was posted by his brother to a small island with few resources and and less vassals than other regions means that he has trouble getting enough support to enforce his claim, prolonging the war.

    P 
  • Parental Favoritism
    • Tywin Lannister wants Jaime to become Lord of Casterly Rock and Warden of the West despite the fact he is Kingsguard, thus can never inherit, and that Tyrion has a better mind for politics and administration.
    • Randyll Tarly forced his son Samwell to take the black because his brother Dickon fits his ideal of a warrior leader. It's only when Samwell is on The Wall does he show his superior political skills.
    • Viserys I appointed his daughter Rhaenyra as heir over her younger brother Aegon despite the fact that Westerosi custom dictates only males can inherit. The resulting confusion regarding who was truly heir polarized the kingdom and resulted in a bloody Succession Crisis.
    • Aegon IV favored his baseborn son Daemon over his trueborn son Daeron, one of the many factors that would lead to a rebellion; people began to believe that Daemon was the true heir to the Iron Throne. Arys Oakheart for one did not believe the rumors and chalked up the whole mess to Aegon playing favorites just because Daeron didn't meet his father's standards.
    • Aegon I made Aenys (elder son from the younger wife) his heir over Maegor (younger son from the older wife). Maegor would retaliate later by violently usurping the crown from Aenys' sons.
  • Party Scattering: The remaining Starks are dispersed, and while they all want their home back, their methods have diverged and are sure to collide with each other.
    • Littlefinger plans to use Sansa to unite the Vale, The North and the Riverlands.
    • Most Northern lords have cut a deal with Stannis Baratheon. They will accept him as king if he rescues and restores a Stark as their liege. The one whose location they know is Rickon who is on an island of cannibals.
    • Roose Bolton solidifies his rule by having his son marry an imposter Arya Stark.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: It's implied Catelyn Tully's begging Brandon Stark to spare Petyr Baelish's life came off as demeaning to him. Now Petyr is poised to become the most powerful lord in Westeros to prove he is not a "boy" as Cat called him.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Many characters dream of the future but few listen to it or know how to cope. Targaryens who can't deal with their "dragon dreams" either go mad or turn to drink.

    Q 
  • The Quest:
    • Escort Mission: Catelyn's quest to bring Tyrion to the Eyrie does not go well. Most of the men who accompany her get killed in skirmishes with the hill tribes. They aren't welcomed warmly when they arrive and Cat finds out the letter Lysa sent fingering the Lannisters for Jon Arryn's death was a warning, not an invitation to go to the capital. Tyrion wins his freedom in trial by combat by choosing a Combat Pragmatist champion, effectively nullifying everything Catelyn had worked for up to that point. Worse yet, the whole ordeal sparked Tywin's attack on the Riverlands, Catelyn's homeland, and Jaime's attack on Eddard, her husband.
    • The Hero's Journey: Prince Quentyn Martell sets off with his loyal band of friends to find and woo the World's Most Beautiful Woman. Half of them get killed in a minor skirmish before we even get to their story. By the time Quentyn reaches his beautiful princess, Daenerys is already set up for an Arranged Marriage, while sleeping with a lowborn sellsword who's much more handsome and dangerously exciting than Quentyn. Believing that The Hero can't be killed, Quentyn then tries to steal a dragon to prove himself worthy of her, only to be roasted alive for his trouble.
    • The Homeward Journey: Arya Stark spends most of the second and third books trying to get back to Winterfell, a journey through the war-torn Riverlands with the threat of death (or worse) at every turn. Just staying alive from day to day is a challenge and all the trauma she faces damages her psyche. Eventually she's forced to abandon the notion of going back to Winterfell because there's nothing left for her: nearly all her family is presumed dead, Winterfell is a ruin occupied by the Boltons and Freys, and the longer she stays in Lannister-controlled Westeros, the more likely it is she'll be captured.
    • Impossible Task: The Targaryens had dragons and esoteric Valyrian knowledge that gave them a serious edge in a world post-Doom without much of either. They lost both over successive generations and a great deal of family in-fighting. Regaining it all became an obsession to the dragonless descendants. To the point that when a dusty prophecy that kind-of, sort-of gave pointers about what circumstances needed to be met to get everything back was found, succeeding generations tried to force it into being: and, failed utterly. Mainly thanks to no longer having the knowledge or culture they needed to interpret it correctly any more. They damned near exterminated their own lineage multiple times trying, in fact. Yes, they've finally found their "Prince That Was Promised". Through no direct attempt to, this time (although, others might have used them knowing more than those that played parts did). However, there are not that many of them left to celebrate the return of dragons. Worse, there are no Targaryens around who know how to train or control the things now they're back. Also, there are plenty of people willing to take them off the princess. Wonderful.
    • I Will Find You: Brienne of Tarth's search for Sansa Stark is nothing like the amazing, daring exploits that are often sung about. It consists of roaming the Crownlands and Riverlands asking people if they've seen her and looking for signs of her presence or movements. The task is arduous, dangerous, and tedious, especially for a woman with few concrete plans and little help. When she actually finds a lead, it turns out to be a Shaggy Dog Story and she has to fight her way out.
    • Save the Princess: Brandon and Rickard Stark were killed when they go to the Mad King directly, marking the beginning of Robert's Rebellion. Lyanna's captors were smart enough to move her around instead of keeping her in one place. She was already dying by the time Ned got to her.
    • Walk into Mordor: Gerion Lannister's quest to find the Valyrian steel sword Brightroar ended abruptly when most of his crew abandoned him in the Free Cities because he wanted to sail past The Smoking Sea. He forgot that "The Doom still rules in Valyria". The last anyone saw of him was in Volantis where he bought slaves to replace the crew members that left, and it's presumed his quest met with failure and resulted in his death.

    R 
  • Rags to Riches:
    • Lowborns who rise to prominence through their business acumen would be inspiring in a modern setting. But in the deeply class-ridden society of Westeros, Littlefinger and the Frey family are seen as upstarts who made their fortune through "dishonorable" means (prostitution and toll-raising, respectively). Walder Frey is still seen as a Nouveau Riche despite his house being some six hundred years old, and as a result a lot of his actions are driven by his desire to make prestigious marriage matches for his children.
    • Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, Lord Protector of Stokeworth (formerly: Bronn), is also viewed with suspicion, partially justified in that his wife inherited her title when he killed her brother-in-law (in a duel the other man demanded) and expelled her elder sister from the castle.
    • People may be elevated to nobility or rewarded with lands and titles, and all the wealth that comes from that position, for acts in service to their liege lord or to the King, with Davos Seaworth being a straight example. However, much of what we see in the series is cronyism, elevating people who are loyal to your House, or as a reward for committing horrible acts in support of your House. The prospect of this Rags to Riches story can also be used to entice people to do horrible things, be it a bribe to the likes of Janos Slynt, or a reward to anybody who manages to bring Cersei the corpse of her brother Tyrion after he escapes King's Landing. Being elevated to a higher position through these means also often backfires on the people involved, by making them stick out as potential threats, or by granting them far too much attention as people loyal to a particular house. Both Bronn and Janos Slynt are targeted as potential threats not long after they receive their higher position, swiftly nullifying their Rags to Riches story.
  • Rags to Royalty
    • Ramsay Bolton is the son of a noble father and despite being raised by peasants, shares the traits of his father. Through his skills, Ramsay improves upon his situation and is ultimately recognized as the son and heir of his noble father. Ramsay is also one of the most vile and evil characters in the series (which is saying something), and he is like his father in being sadistically evil (although Roose is a lot better at hiding it), and got himself into the position of heir by murdering his trueborn brother. Interesting, Ramsay himself is apparently somewhat Wrong Genre Savvy in that according to Roose, Ramsay thinks Roose and his mother had a great romance that transcended their classes, whereas in actuality, Roose raped her.
    • Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole is told she can never marry a Lord because she is a commoner (actually a very petty noble: she has a last name, but little more than that). Be Careful What You Wish Forshe is sold to Ramsay Bolton and married as Arya Stark as part of his plan to legitimize himself as Lord of Winterfell.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The standard practice of armies on every side. The loot and women taken keeps men loyal. Those who refuse to practice this, like Daenerys and Stannis, are seen as weak even though leniency is a good way to win hearts and minds. During and after the War of Five Kings, the damage to local communities is so horrific, especially in the Riverlands, that it spawns a powerful new religious movement. Lead by the High Sparrow, the common folk of Westeros lash out at the nobles for failing to protect them and keep the peace.
  • Really Gets Around
    • Robert Baratheon sires a lot of illegitimate kids only to abandon them. Most of them are later killed by his widow because of the threat they might pose to her children.
    • Aegon IV's voracious sexual appetite disrupted the already complicated relationships of the noble families by leading him to father kids from rival families.
    • Pia the buttery girl is raped many times during the occupation of Harrenhal. One of her rapists tries to justify his actions by saying that because nearly everyone has already slept with her, her consent shouldn't matter anymore.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: The Night's Watch is both a dumping ground for criminals and a place where some go to serve the realm honorably. Unfortunately, by the time of the series, the former have overtaken the latter to the point where the few good men are unable to restrain the bad and a mass desertion happens.
  • Redemption Quest: The world of Westeros is so harsh and judgmental, places such a high value on honor, that regardless of religious notions of forgiveness, stains are hard to rub away, as noted by Jorah Mormont, Jaime Lannister and others. Even when Jaime Lannister makes a genuine attempt to be true to his vows to "never take arms against a Stark and a Tully", the fact that he fulfills it while serving as a conquering army to enable the hostile takeover of people who betrayed Sacred Hospitality makes it hard for others to see his actions as anything other than self-serving or self-delusional.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated:
    • Great distances and lack of clarity because of the "fog of war" means that false reports are common and can be equally dangerous. When Bran and Rickon flee Winterfell, Theon fails to find them and thanks to Ramsay/Reek, he decides to cover up their disappearance with two corpses of miller's sons as replacements, so as to demoralize the population and prevent further attempts to aid the "runaway princes" who will almost certainly be regarded as impostors. The reports of this greatly upsets Catelyn Stark, who frees Jaime so as to protect Sansa and Arya, and Robb Stark, who seeks Sex for Solace from Jeyne Westerling. Both actions help lead to the Red Wedding.
    • Jon Snow's famous "Pink Letter" is of disputed veracity but is convincing enough for him to make a controversial decision that leads to his fellow black brothers betraying him and stabbing him "For the Watch".
  • Rightful King Returns: Several claimants to kingship see themselves as this, causing a Succession Crisis.
    • Stannis Baratheon is the rightful heir of his late brother, King Robert I, who won his throne by conquest and by being the first in line to throne after all Targaryen options were eliminated, due to his grandmother having been a Targaryen.. Likewise, Viserys and Daenerys Targaryen are the heirs of Aerys II (the king Robert deposed) and the royal line that ruled Westeros for nearly three centuries. Their nephew, Aegon VI, is Aerys' grandson and direct heir, thought to have been killed as a baby. The Targaryens are thoroughly swept up by this trope, believing their return will inevitably unite the people and restore peace to the realm. However, it's frequently shown throughout the series that there's not necessarily any correlation between right to rule, ability to rule, ability to win a civil war, or public reputation.
    • A Dance with Dragons establishes that Varys and Illyrio, the sponsors of Viserys and Daenerys had never intended her and Viserys to be the heir, they wanted their own specially trained claimant, Rhaegar's son who supposedly survived the Sack of King's Landing, Aegon VI, to be the King with Daenerys as his Hot Consort, because a male will always come before a woman in the line of succession.
    • In addition, the Targaryens themselves overthrew the previous rightful kings, including King Torrhen Stark, whose direct descendent Robb Stark is proclaimed King in the North when his bannermen decide to re-establish their independence. After his defeat, their former vassal Wyman Manderly no longer cares who the rightful king is, but agrees to submit to King Stannis so long as a Stark remains his liege lord.
    • In addition it's pointed out that regardless of how rightful a King's claim is, the so-called return will bring with it much war, destruction and political turmoil and tension, rather than the end of warfare and civil order that this trope normally embodies. Ser Davos feels very guilty appealing the Manderlys to fight for Stannis because regardless of his just claim, he's asking them to renew hostilities and risk the lives of their families for an uncertain future. Likewise, Daenerys Targaryen spent all her time trying to convince Khal Drogo to invade Westeros only to come face to face with the Rape, Pillage, and Burn that the Dothraki will unleash on Westeros should she take them across the Narrow Sea. When the dragons start growing and get violent, she realizes that using them in battle will involve the death of innocents because "Dragons plant no trees".
    • Daenerys, in particular, knows very little about the land she plans to rule because she was too busy just trying to survive to brush up on Westeros' history and politics. She even didn't know the sigil of her own sister-in-law's family. She believes the people are eagerly awaiting her arrival when in reality many of them don't know or care that she's still alive. Not to mention that when/if she returns to Westeros, it will be extremely difficult to tell potential allies from enemies.
  • Rousseau Was Right: The Free Folk believe that the free primitive state of life they live in make them superior to the "kneelers" because they lack laws and enforcement of the same and are free of the corruption of a feudal society's obsessions with Kings, Castles and Titles. However the brutality of the landscape beyond the Wall and the presence of strange magic makes several characters such as the Weeper and Varamyr Sixskins become The Unfettered and The Dreaded, alongside the relatively egalitarian male-female equation and quasi-democratic organization, making them less and more than the Noble Savage the romantic likes of Mance Rayder believe in.

    S 
  • Sacred Hospitality: Guest Right is the one tradition everyone in Westeros and beyond values but that doesn't mean some (like Mance Rayder incognito in Winterfell) won't exploit it to their advantage. Others like the Manderlys find loopholes so they can break it without coming off the aggressor. The Red Wedding orchestrated by the Freys, Roose Bolton and approved by the Lannisters is the biggest breach of the right yet it ends the War of the Five Kings in one fell swoop. But it also causes a downward moral spiral for the rest of the realm. Now no one feels safe having strangers in their homes.
  • Screw Destiny: Cersei desperately attempts to avert a prophecy made when she was a child: that she would outlive all her children, who would die as kings and queens, and that after everything she had was taken away by another, younger and more beautiful, the valonqar (High Valyrian for “little brother”) would come to end her life. Her manner of doing so involves murder, torture, and treason. When the prophecy seemed to be coming true anyway, her fear caused her to unravel. Over the course of the A Feast For Crows, she becomes increasingly unstable and irresponsible, her paranoia causes her to alienate her most valuable allies, and she gets herself into huge amount of political and religious trouble.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right:
    • Jaime Lannister, sworn bodyguard to the Mad King, finally realized just how dangerously insane Aerys had become and put him down. Everyone tacitly agrees that he did what needed to be done, but he's still almost universally reviled as an Oathbreaker. It doesn't matter that he did the right thing (or as right a thing as could be done under the circumstances); he broke his sacred vow, so in Westerosi society he's a pariah. Worse still, Jaime had been something of a callous Jerk Jock until that moment, and he regards the Kingslaying as the one good thing he's ever done. But everyone else considers it a Moral Event Horizon and Jaime eventually becomes as amoral as people think he is.
    • Same can be said about Eddard Stark and his doomed mission to put Stannis on the throne even though its a bad idea. Varys points out to Ned that the court is like a stage and they are all actors and they must all play their parts if they are to survive. Ned puts himself and his loved ones in danger for the sake of doing what is right.
    • The right thing also being the pragmatic thing to do doesn't necessarily help, as Jon Snow finds out. The Night's Watch is drastically undermanned, most of the Wall is undefended and the Others are coming, as well as tens of thousands of wildlings who will be slaughtered, reanimated and sent against the Watch. And Ramsay Bolton, a vicious psychopath, has declared open war upon the Watch. Jon ignores the Watch's traditions, laws and centuries-old prejudices to offer sanctuary to the wildlings, make those who are willing part of the Watch- including the women- and makes to fight Ramsay himself, since the Wall cannot be defended from attacks from the south. He gets assassinated by his own men for his efforts.
  • She Is All Grown Up: Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen wanted Criston Cole to see her as a grown woman and not the little girl he protected so she took lessons from her uncle Daemon on how to please men. These "lessons" became infamous and "the realm's delight" became "the whore of Dragonstone".
  • Shoot the Dog: While this series warns how playing too fairly can cause one to be outmaneuvered, playing too dirty can make one look too dishonest. Just ask the Lannisters, Freys and Boltons after the Red Wedding.
  • Sidekick Glass Ceiling:
    • It's common for squires to remain squires well into their 40s because they never had the money and patronage to buy armor and titles and become full knights.
    • Likewise novices in the Citadel such as Pate can spend a longtime serving a useless position with little advancement simply because highborn students get preferential treatment and early education that give them a leg up over poor students like him.
    • In the Night's Watch, stewards and builders are underrated and looked down by rangers and would-be rangers like Jon Snow, creating a lopsided Inter Service Rivalry.
  • Silk Hiding Steel:
    • As Catelyn's internal monologues show, being strong for everyone else while maintaining the image of a Proper Lady is emotionally exhausting. Eventually it starts to take a toll on her mental health and decision-making.
    • Sansa develops this trait as a coping method for all the abuse and manipulation she suffered. She wears her courtesy like armor but secretly engages in small defiances and plots against her captors. Even so, her success is limited because she's still a young, inexperienced girl at the mercy of a volatile royal court.
    • Arya learns to use a distinctly dangerous shade of this. And, it's far from a happy application of the trope. It is also rather sadly ironic, considering her previous loathing of being made to act demure or girly. She deliberately invokes Underestimating Badassery to get close enough to kill Raff the Sweetling using herself as bait. And, in doing so, continues to lose her connection to her previous sense of self.
  • Slave Liberation: Daenerys used force to end the slave trade in Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen, but in doing so, she actually made conditions worse for the people she tried to help. Freedmen become victims of vengeful terrorist attacks, trade has died out and some of the quasi-professional slaves (healers, scribes, teachers) as well as old and newly poor merchants decide to start selling themselves back into slavery. Not to mention, the far-reaching economic consequences of her decision forced various slave-dependent city-states, notably Volantis and Qarth, to plot war against her in order to regain their lost revenue.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: The common belief of Westerosi, including the Ironborn and especially Daenerys Targaryen. However, Galazza Galare points out that slavery was the sole source of income and revenue in Slaver's Bay, a region devastated by dragon attacks from Daenerys' slave-owning Valyrian ancestors destroying much of their forests and farm lands and forcing them to rely on slavery for income and revenue.
    • The narrative also often points out that Westeros is Not So Different as "smallfolk" (peasants) are considered to "belong" to whatever lord claims dominion over the land they call home, and that land can and does change hands due to conquest, marriage, or royal decree. (Westerosi's Ironborn also make thralls — indentured servants — of men and salt wives — concubines — of women they capture in battle, obviously without their consent.) Indeed, Tyrion Lannister, who becomes a slave after his ship to Yunkai is captured, notes that slaves in Essos are to some extent treated better than smallfolk in Westeros and as far as he's concerned being a peasant in Westeros is being a slave in all but name.
  • Standard Hero Reward: Getting rewarded for saving the kingdom ain't its all cracked up to be, especially when politics and personal feelings get involved.
    • Robert Baratheon became king after overthrowing the last Targaryen. He came to hate this new duty as well as his new queen because he still loved his former betrothed.
    • Stannis became Lord of Dragonstone, the most powerful lord in the Crownlands, because it is a hotbed of Targaryen loyalists. He and others believe it was punishment for his failure to kill the Mad King's children since Dragonstone is just a bare rock in the middle of the ocean, whereas the Baratheon ancestral seat, Storm's End, is a much more desirable castle.
    • Prince Maekar Targaryen was made Prince of Summerhall for his role in crushing the Blackfyre Rebellion, bypassing his bookish older brother Aerys. When Aerys became king, he bypassed Maekar in turn as Hand, instead appointing their bastard uncle Bloodraven. Its implied Maekar was given Summerhall to keep his unsavory sons Daeron and Aerion away from court.
    • Orys Baratheon got the last Storm King's castle and daughter after the Targaryen Conquest. Some say it's because his rumored legitimate half-brother Aegon the Conqueror didn't see it fit to legitimize him as a real Targaryen.
    • Davos was knighted for delivering food for the garrison of Storm's End during Robert's Rebellion but Stannis (the leader of that garrison) chopped off the fingers of Davos' right hand as punishment for smuggling.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Because Westeros is a misogynist society, women are forced into a position of passivity, but in a martial society, passivity entails vulnerability. Women are taught that dutifully obeying the men in their lives will bring them protection, but in reality, relying on men condemns them to violence because justice and chivalry don't mean anything unless men chose to enforce them. One hedge knight claims that "a true knight is the only shield a maiden needs", but all evidence suggests that maidens would be much better off with actual shields of their own.
    • Peasant women often don't have men who can really protect them, so less scrupulous men are often free to rape and beat them. Knights are sworn to protect the fairer sex, but this usually only applies to noblewoman. Yet, conversely, being a Proper Lady still isn't a guarantee that a woman is really safe, even from men who are suppose to protect her. During the Battle of Blackwater, Cersei explains to Sansa that when the men protecting a city die in battle, chivalry goes out the window and all the woman inside are fair game, from the lowest whore to the queen herself. And none of them can do anything to protect themselves.
  • Straight for the Commander: The tactic of killing the enemy leader doesn't always work.
    • Stannis favors assassinating enemy leaders using magic but killing Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy and Joffrey doesn't end the war or even weaken his enemies. They just clear the way for someone else more dangerous (Euron Greyjoy, Roose Bolton and The Faith Militant).
    • Aegon II killing Princess Rhaenyra not only didn't end the war, it actually escalated it. He wanted to keep fighting despite his depleted forces so someone poisoned him to end the war.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Heredity and genetics is thought to be straightforward in Westeros but a simple quirk in either could be disastrous especially for the noble families.
    • Arya Stark was insecure because she didn't have the attractive facial features or auburn hair of a Tully when in fact she and Jon Snow have the traditional Stark look.
    • Rhaenyra Targaryen's sons were suspected to be illegitimate because they weren't blond like their Valyrian-descended parents. They probably inherited their look from their maternal grandmother who was an Arryn. This doubt in their legitimacy was one of the reasons for the Dance of the Dragons.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver
    • Arya is forced to pose as a boy when joining Yoren's band of recruits headed for the Night's Watch because being a girl in that situation is just too dangerous. Gendry sees through Arya's disguise when he notices she always goes to the woods to pee. Hot Pie only finds out when she has no choice but to pee in front of him and a dozen other captives.
    • The story of Brave Danny Flint, who joined the Night's Watch in disguise only to be raped and killed when her secret was discovered.

    T 
  • Team Switzerland: The Night's Watch is far more politicized than most people realize, only it is internalized into a destructive force that threatens what little stability the order has. The brothers of the Watch have to stand back as their homelands and families are ravaged because of their vows while the Game goes on in their own halls.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Abundant because girls are encouraged to breed ASAP. Death by Childbirth and miscarriage is common and affects many of the characters.
  • Thinks Like a Romance Novel: Sansa was raised on idealistic songs and stories, all of which she took at face value. But when she entered the real world, many traditional Fairy Tale tropes were thrown back in her face in the worst way. Believing that things would work out like they did in the stories only made things worse and further crushed her spirit when her hopes fell through.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: A common dilemma faced by multiple characters. There's never really a clear answer. The ones who choose Good never make out well in the end, because the ones devoted to being Lawful are ruthless and merciless in their enforcement of it, and will tolerate no dissent. The ones who choose Lawful are seen as cruel even though they are in the moral right.
    • Jaime's choice to be Good over Lawful in the breaking of his oath and killing Aerys made him one of the most despised men in all of Westeros. Even genuinely good men such as Ned Stark and Barristan Selmy treat him as irredeemable for this act. The fact that he became so despised for choosing Good over Lawful made him bitter to the point where he stopped really caring about either.
  • Trial by Combat:
    • Seen as a sure way of deciding who is right and who is wrong because the gods favor the winner. Two of the three we've seen in the main books have given false verdicts. The other one acquitted an innocent man, but the victory was won by using dishonourable tactics (though the result was respected anyway).
    • The Trial of Seven, an old tradition seen in "The Hedge Knight", pits two teams of seven champions against each other in a mini-battle. Dunk is acquitted, but feels incredibly guilty that some of the men who fought for him died — particularly since one of them was The Wise Prince and would in Dunk's opinion have made a great king when his time came.
  • True Neutral: The Night's Watch try so hard to be this despite the realm falling to pieces all around them, men like Yoren getting killed in the crossfire and the abundance of people like Ramsay Bolton who don't respect the Watch's vow of neutrality. When Jon Snow finally decides to mobilize it to save the realm from itself before it can save it from the Others he gets stabbed.
    • Also its shown that neutrality is actually an impossible concept since the Watch find it hard to "take no part" in the politics of Westeros when the only King that actually responded to their cries for aid is the rebel lord Stannis Baratheon who also believes in their struggle against the Others. Some of the Night's Watch, especially Bowen Marsh, regret Stannis' rescue and would prefer a Lannister toady like Janos Slynt, who is completely in league with the Lannisters, be Lord Commander so as to appease the Iron Throne and their Bolton collaborators. Neutrality for them is not be seen as supporting the side most likely to lose.
    • Similarly, Jon Snow gives Stannis a lot of military advice for his campaign to win control of the North, even though he cannot directly help them.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm:
    • Cersei finally takes power after the deaths of her son and father, and her cruelty and arrogance immediately get her dethroned.
    • The Boltons are given control of the North and the Freys gain greater power in the Riverlands as a result of the Red Wedding, where they betrayed the Starks and Tullys and murdered people from many of the Northern and Riverlands Houses. As a result, they are surrounded by people who despise them and are trying to get their old liege lords back, and the Riverlords and smallfolk can't be relied upon to help the Freys who are being killed off by a group of outlaws.

    U-V 
  • Underground City: Castamere is mostly located underground, full of tunnels and mines. It comes back to bite them when Tywin orders Castamere to be sealed and flooded. With all Reynes inside.
  • Undying Loyalty:
    • Say what you will about Pycelle but he is loyal to the Lannisters. He remains so even after losing Cersei's favor. This causes Varys to finally kill him to destabilize the regime even though he's technically no longer a threat.
    • Brienne's loyalty to Catelyn Stark (and her search for the two girls) is without question and she continued to try living up to it even after Catelyn's death. Except... Lady Stoneheart doesn't quite agree with her interpretation or methods. And, is putting her through one of the cruellest tests of loyalty to be found in all the books combined by making her go directly against her loyalty to Jaime.
    • The Kingsguard is composed of morally detached men who do whatever the king tells them to do because they were Just Following Orders. Jaime Lannister is trying to change this mentality.
    • The loyalty of House Stark's bannermen drive them to heroic and terrible acts. Many are plotting against the Boltons and the Iron Throne under the condition that Winterfell be liberated and a Stark, any Stark, be reinstated as the rightful lord.
  • Villain Respect: Gwayne Corbray so impressed Daemon Blackfyre during their duel at the Battle of the Redgrass Field that Daemon had him carried off the field to be tended by his own maesters. This took too long and allowed Bloodraven and his archers to zero in on Daemon's position, killing him and his sons.

     W 
  • We Have Reserves: There are certainly a lot of Freys. So many, that the rapidly accelerating number of character deaths that have occurred to the House have yet to raise alarm bells within it. This is partly thanks to 1) nobody particularly irreplaceable (even in other Freys' eyes) getting offed to draw the attention... yet, 2) the (as it turns out, false) sense of security they have in their safety in numbers and 3) nobody being able to communicate enough to work out that there is more than normal attrition going on, thanks to their wide dispersal to keep their fingers in various important political factions' pies. The latter seems a fairly sound strategy, when you have a lot of bodies to throw at your priority of keeping your influence visible (but, that has its own downsides when most hate your guts and, yet, are being reminded that there are a lot of you that can be used as Cannon Fodder ahead of their own troops). The main problem in all this is... you can count the hard-working, practised and able Freys who are fully willing to and capable of working with each other (and chivvy others into moving their butts) on about one hand — if that. They lose those key players, and it's Game Over for the House as a whole, regardless of the numbers they started with, as they'll either splinter and kill themselves off rather directly. And/or, be even easier to pick off thanks to uncertain chains of command and leadership leading to even stupider strategic decisions than normal.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: The Freys were among the least respected houses in Westeros, and Robb Stark's breaking of a marriage pact was The Last Straw in a long string of humiliations. So they killed him, his mother, and his bannerman during a wedding to show that they meant business. While the Lannisters gave them new honors and good marriages, the Freys are actually worse off than before. Rather than merely being mocked, they're now loathed by everyone, even their allies, for breaking Sacred Hospitality. More Freys were killed in retaliation for this event than died in the war but no one bothers to help them, especially as many of the powerful figures around the Freys lost men and relatives in the Red Wedding.
  • With Catlike Tread: The band of Northern warriors called The Wild Hares would ride out singing. The Ironborn ambush and kill them because they could be heard from miles away
  • The Women Are Safe with Us
    • Stannis castrates rapists, but it's presented as yet another way his principles lose him the good will of his followers, who consider the women of their slain enemies to be spoils of war.
    • Daenerys tries to stop the Dothraki warriors from raping the women of defeated tribes. Since they view those women as spoils of war, she's seen as simply being greedy by claiming them for herself, so she only succeeds in protecting a handful. Later, one of those women rebukes Daenerys for seeing herself as a hero who "saved" her, when she'd already seen her temple burned, her people murdered, and indeed been raped several times already.
  • Working Class People Are Morons: Education and exposure to a wide range of influences are disproportionate advantages in a medieval setting ensuring a ceiling of reinforced steel rather than glass. Most smallfolk lack training in arms and have never been taught to hold a sword. However, the lack of book learning means that smallfolk often have a better grasp of society and the class system's ruthlessness than rebellious highborn like Arya Stark and the young Egg.
  • Would Hurt a Child/Wouldn't Hurt a Child: In a medieval world where children are treated less sentimentally than they are in later centuries, with royal children given access to entitlement and privilege and power at an early age, the idea of Children Are Innocent is less at play. As such several characters have differing views about the morality of killing and/or sparing children.
    • Lord Tywin Lannister believes in Pragmatic Villainy and when fighting his enemies, he makes it a point of conduct to kill the family root and stem, be it the the Reyne-Tarbecks, the children of Prince Rhaegar and Robb Stark. He defends the deaths of Prince Rhaegar's children as necessary for ensuring Robert's ascension to the royal throne. The existence of a single claimant allows for future enemies and supporters to stroke fires of rebellion in the decades to come. The fact that Varys has presumably rescued Aegon VI from the clutches of Ser Gregor, and later the young Daenerys Targaryen becomes a Young Conqueror while still a girl proves that Tywin's fears if not his methods are justified. Later Jaime discovers that Tywin had conspired with Robb Stark's mother-in-law to ensure that Jeyne Westerling never conceives a child, noting grimly that it was a detail that Lord Tywin never missed.
    • Eddard Stark will not kill a child because he was traumatized by the deaths of Prince Rhaegar's children. He discovers that Cersei had cuckolded Robert with her brother Jaime and that all three children, The Bully Joffrey and the nice and gentle Tommen and Myrcella are bastards born of incest. Because he will not kill a child, Eddard, despite his hatred for the Lannisters, forewarns Cersei to leave King's Landing and take the children with her. This decision backfires on him spectacularly and in the end, Ned Stark, is executed on the whims of the very boy-king he had been trying to spare from Robert's wrath.
    • Daenerys Targaryen also will not kill the young hostages she takes from Meereenese nobles in the wake of the terrorist attacks of the Sons of the Harpy. The Shavepate points out, much like Tywin Lannister in Westeros, that her failure to follow up on her threats will make her appear weak and tractable and indeed, Daenerys ends up being forced into a political marriage of convenience and make concession after concession with her opponents making increasing demands in the belief that she won't actually hurt hostages and back up her threats.

     Y-Z 
  • Youngest Child Wins: Renly tries to invoke this, much like stories where the third son ends up being the ruler. However this involves him going against Westerosi law, including his older brother Stannis. Robb Stark points out to his fellow lords that they can't support Renly in good conscience because the line of succession is the rule for their claim for titles as well, so what's to stop their younger brothers from revolting with an army and claiming seats based on Appeal to Force if they support this precedent? When Stannis offers Renly very reasonable terms, such as making him the heir until Stannis has a son and giving him Storm's End, Renly mockingly dismisses him. Though Renly is killed this situation leads to the Tyrells turning against Stannis and prolongs the war when such an alliance would have quickly finished it.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Absolutely no one has any idea how to counter the return of the White Walkers because the kingdoms are fighting for supremacy. Most people in Westeros don't even believe they are still around, if they believe they existed at all outside of myth.