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A Song Of Ice And Fire / Tropes A to D

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This page covers tropes found in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Tropes A To D | Tropes E to I | Tropes J to R | Tropes S to Z | YMMV


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     A 
  • Aborted Arc:
  • Abduction Is Love:
    • Many cultures in this series practice this, including the wildlings, the Ironborn, and probably the Dothraki as well. Bride capture is ingrained in wildling society; a wildling woman won't even respect a potential mate unless he kidnaps her. Jon Snow finds this out by accident.
    • It is disputed by characters and fans alike what exactly the relationship was between Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen before they both died. It is unclear whether they were in love and eloped, whether he kidnapped her and then they fell in love, or whether he kidnapped and raped her. Robert Baratheon firmly believes the latter (which is unsurprising since Lyanna is his lost love), but virtually everyone else, including Lyanna's brother, think this is very unlikely, given Rhaegar's reputation for being The Good Prince.
  • Abhorrent Admirer: Lysa Tully is this to Littlefinger. He plays along as long as she can aid him in his plot to build his own power, but drops her (literally.) as soon as it's convenient to do so (after letting her know that she's been playing this role to him all along).
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game:
    • According to legend, King Rodrik Stark won Bear Island from the King of the Iron Islands in a wrestling match.
    • King Maegor Targaryen declared a battle royal to decide who will be the next Lord of Harrenhal after he exterminated its previous owners.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Any blade made of Valyrian steel. Dawn, the Thunderbolt Iron sword of House Dayne, also counts — Jaime recalls it cutting his skin through his tunic when it was merely touched to his shoulder to knight him.
  • Abusive Parents: Randyll Tarly, Tywin Lannister, Balon Greyjoy and Craster. Tywin's horrible treatment of his son Tyrion went far beyond the Moral Event Horizon. Craster is an even worse example, regularly raping his daughters and sacrificing his sons to the Others. Balon Greyjoy humiliates his son Theon when he first sees him, even slapping him across the face.
  • Academy of Adventure: The Citadel of seems to be shaping up this way. Either that, or "misadventure". Despite what its own propaganda would have it believe, however, it's really not that good at teaching anything that is all that unusual for Westeros. "Try to endure the experience; death possible, misery likely" is a common curriculum feature everywhere.
  • Accidental Marriage: Well, what passes for marriage for the wildlings anyways. Female wildlings will only stay with a man if he's able to capture her (although that doesn't mean she'll put up with him if he mistreats her afterwards). Jon Snow captured Ygritte and was unable to kill her when commanded to. She took that to mean that he wanted her and therefore chased after him until he was finally forced to give in.
  • Acrofatic: The Tyrells' fool, Butterbumps.
  • Action Girl:
    • Arya Stark, a little waifish Tomboy who enjoys sword fighting and collecting nemeses. She also encounters at least one female Faceless Man.
    • Brienne of Tarth is a female Knight in Shining Armor, which leads to her being mocked by most men.
    • The women of Bear Island and in particular, House Mormont, learn weapons and war to defend themselves against raiding ironmen while the husbands are away at sea. More recently, since Jeor Mormont took the black and his son Jorah fled Westeros, the Mormont women have become the heads of the House. Unlike Brienne, their island's history makes them far more comfortable in the role.
    • Asha Greyjoy is an Ironwoman reaver. As the eldest daughter of a ruling family, she would traditionally be married off for political purposes and devote her life to having children. Instead, she's such a good reaver that her father chose her as his heir, despite their deeply misogynistic culture. She often jokes that her battle axe is her husband, and her dagger is her suckling babe.
    • Ygritte is a wildling woman who chased Jon Snow all over the land beyond the Wall, and a fair proportion of wildling women are "spearwives," fierce soldiers.
    • There is at least one female Meereenese pit fighter.
    • Queen Visenya Targaryen was said to be more comfortable in chain rather than in sumptuous clothes.
    • The Sand Snakes, all of whom appear to be proficient in at least one weapon.
    • In "The Mystery Knight," Danelle Lothston of Harrenhal leads her soldiers wearing black plate armor.
    • The Knight of the Laughing Tree, a mystery knight that fights in the Tourney at Harrenhall before Robert's Rebellion, is heavily implied to be Lyanna Stark, sister of Eddard Stark. Lyanna is also said to have loved to spar against her brothers in the practice field, and ride horses better than any man in the North.
  • Actually a Doombot: In Dance, Melisandre didn't burn Mance. In Mance's place, she burned Rattleshirt disguised as Mance with a glamour on him.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: For whatever reason, it's very common for characters to refer to the Freys as "our friends of Frey".
  • Adipose Rex:
    • King Robert Baratheon, while not morbidly obese, is seen by Eddard as having put on a lot of weight since Eddard had known him prior to his ascension.
    • King Aegon IV Targaryen, called Aegon the Unworthy, became very fat over the course of his reign.
    • Tommen is chubby, but that may be baby fat.
    • Wise Master Yezzan zo Qaggaz of Yunkai is morbidly obese due to a disease he caught in the southern continent.
    • He is only a (rich and powerful) lord, but Wyman Manderly is barely able to walk because of his prodigious girth.
  • Adult Fear: Families trying to protect their own is a major theme in the series. When they fail, it's this trope.
    • The death of Joffrey Baratheon as his mother looks helplessly on. Even though both characters are villains, the scene uses the trope to full effect. Cersei is thereafter even more paranoid about her children's safety.
    • How Catelyn believes that her husband and children have all been lost. Her husband is executed, one daughter is married off to an enemy family, her oldest son is murdered in front of her, while her youngest children are missing and/or believed to be dead.
    • Jaime in A Feast For Crows. He's lost his fighting hand and believes he has lost the worth he was valued for; he is abandoned by his Lord Commander; he is forced to chose between his siblings and eventually chooses based on a long-standing feeling of guilt over something that happened in his teens; he inadvertently helps cause his own father's death, and has been shunned and betrayed by the only woman he ever loved.
    • Brienne watches the first man she loved die in her arms and is forced to betray the second, or watch a boy no older than twelve die under her protection. All this after being attacked by the Brave Companions and spending days in a horrible delirium.
    • Sansa's fate is an Overprotective Dad's worst nightmare. After her father and protector is executed in front of her, she's virtually helpless to the subsequent and constant abuse perpetrated on her.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • There are a wide variety of ethnic groups in the series, resulting in an interesting mix of names. For example, the last two kings of Westeros were named Aerys and Robert. There are also some unusual versions of fairly normal names, such as Eddard and Kevan. This applies to family names as well. Those with ancestry in the First Men and the Andals, such as Tyrell, Stark and Bolton, sound European. Those from other cultures, such as Targaryen, Baratheon and Baelish, sound more fantastic.
    • This also applies to places. The Seven Kingdoms all have names that are simple descriptions of the region, such as the westerlands on the western coast and the hurricane-pounded stormlands. Except for the Reach and the Vale, they're not even capitalized in the actual text. Dorne is the one kingdom with a proper name.
  • Affably Evil: Littlefinger and Varys, if you consider them evil. To the extent they can be considered evil, Melisandre and the Faceless Men (specifically Jaqen and the kindly man).
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head:
    • Jon shows his affection to Arya by mussing up her hair.
    • In Essos, it's thought to be good luck to rub a dwarf's head and people aren't shy about doing it without permission. This doesn't amuse Tyrion.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • In the first novel in the series, thirteen year old Daenerys Targaryen is married off to Khal Drogo, who's said to be around thirty, giving them an age gap of around seventeen years. Despite this, it ends up being a Perfectly Arranged Marriage (until he died). (In the television adaptation, Daenerys is aged up to sixteen, though there's still a gap of nearly fifteen years between them.)
    • Ser Jorah Mormont, who is said to be middle-aged and in his forties at the least, is in love with Daenerys, though she only sees him as a friend and advisor.
  • Agent Peacock:
    • Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers.
    • Daario Naharis, a ruthless mercenary who dyes his hair and nails blue and dresses in garb of yellow and gold — this is flamboyant, even for a Tyroshi.
    • One of the Yunkai'i lords' private army is made up of men 7+ feet tall, dressed in pink with plumed helmets, and wearing stilts. The lord, himself, is five feet tall.
  • Air Jousting: The "Dance at Harrenal" in The Princess and the Queen features two Dragonriders fighting in Mid-Air, Prince Daemon Targaryen and Aemond One-Eye. Prince Daemon jumps off Caraxes and stabs Aemond in the skull with the Valyrian steel blade Dark Sister. Both of them and their dragons fall out of the sky.
  • The Alcoholic: Numerous. Cersei, Tyrion, Dontos Hollard and Viserys Targaryen are examples.
  • All Beer Is Ale: Westeros, being based on Europe, does this quite a bit.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Dany desires the sexy bad boy Daario against her better judgment, and has no interest in the steady and devoted, but plain and boring, Jorah or Quentyn Martell. Barristan laments that while Dany is clever and wise beyond her years, she still has a young woman's taste in men.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: All over the place, including asymmetry in nonromantic relationships (lots of children feeling unloved); Courtly Love both played straight and deconstructed; and plenty of Arranged Marriage of varying degrees of happiness.
  • All Men Are Rapists: Played with. Because Westeros is a patriarchal society, and because the smallfolk (commoners) have little practical recourse to justice, rape is accepted as an inevitable part of life that all women must fear. This goes double in wartimes, where it's used as a terror tactic, not to mention the breakdown of law and order that allows random brigands to go unpunished. That said, there's a wide range of morality among the POV and non-POV characters, several of whom do not endorse rape and will punish proven rapists among their own ranks. At the other end of the scale, some of the nobility are rumoured (or in Roose Bolton's case, admitted) to indulge in Droit du Seigneur.
  • All Myths Are True: With the possible exception of snarks and grumkins — even the characters familiar with giants, greenseers, wargs, wights, Blood Magic, dragons and ice demons dismiss grumkins and snarks as silly children's stories. Oddly, aside from the fact that they don't exist, we've heard very little about what they're supposed to be. Grumkins seem to be something akin to Norse dwarfs, sentient beings who can forge magical artefacts, but snarks are still a mystery.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • The maps at the front and family trees at the back of the books come in handy very often.
    • The various prequels give detail to events that are often obliquely mentioned in the series proper.
    • A World of Ice and Fire (the smartphone app) offers an expanded look at many events, characters, and locations, giving details that don't appear in the books or confirming information the books only implied.
    • Several locations have only been mentioned in Lands of Ice and Fire, a supplementary atlas.
    • The World of Ice and Fire (the coffee table book) expounds on several aspects of Westerosi culture and historical events that don't appear in the main series, such as how Tywin annihilated the Reynes: when the Reynes retreated underground to a narrow and thus easily defensible tunnel, Tywin simply redirected a nearby lake and flooded the entire subterranean complex.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Political marriage is the default expectation for marriages among the nobility and very few marriages are love matches. And when people do marry for love, it has a habit of turning out really bad. Just look at the children of Aegon V. One abdicated his position of Crown Prince to marry a commoner, another was forced to make up for the one that abdicated by marrying into the same family, the younger two siblings married each other, breaking two betrothals in the process, and the last remained unmarried because he preferred the company of men, breaking another betrothal. The Lords of Westeros hated Aegon V because of all the broken betrothals.
  • Alternative Calendar: The official year begins from Aegon I's conquest.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: The Dothraki are sometimes compared to the Aiel of The Wheel of Time. They are both feared by other countries for being savages and fierce warriors, who are made up of several clans which each have a chief who may feud with other chiefs, who have a holy city filled with artifacts from dead civilizations, which is run by old wise women, in which no blood is to be spilled and the aforementioned feuds must be ignored while they are there, and who have a prophecy concerning a boy, born from a fair-skinned light-haired queen from another society and a chief of the savages, with the boy growing up being the leader of the leaders among the clan and going on to conquer the world. However, there are still a number of differences between the two cultures.
  • Always Chaotic Evil:
    • By all appearances, the Others and wights.
    • In-Universe, Westerosi has this belief about people living North of the Wall, such as wildlings.
  • Always Someone Better: There are several instances of this occurring between siblings.
    • Arya has low self-esteem because her older sister Sansa is praised for being prettier and more ladylike.
    • Ned feels inadequate compared to his late older brother Brandon.
    • Lysa's resentment of her older sister Catelyn is part this and part envy because Petyr loved Catelyn more.
    • Stannis is more than a little bitter about living his entire life in the shadow of his older brother Robert.
  • Amazon Brigade:
    • When Jon brings wildlings south of the Wall, he offers willing warriors the opportunity to garrison the Watch's towers, including female warriors known as spearwives. However, Jon is concerned some of the brothers will harass or harm the wildling women who are now being sheltered at the Wall. To help keep the women and girls safe at the Wall, Jon gives the women, girls, and spearwives their own castle (Long Barrow). As a result, the spearwives are able protect themselves and non-warrior females from the unwanted attentions of those men who may harm them. The only men around are two trusted Night's Watch members to oversee the castle's Night's Watch operations.
      Jon: "Did Mance ever sing of Brave Danny Flint?"
      Tormund: "Not as I recall. Who was he?"
      Jon: "A girl who dressed up like a boy to take the black. Her song is sad and pretty. What happened to her wasn’t." In some versions of the song, her ghost still walked the Nightfort. "I'll send the girls to Long Barrow." The only men there were Iron Emmett and Dolorous Edd, both of whom he trusted. That was not something he could say of all his brothers.
    • The four older Sand Snakes, Oberyn Martell's bastard daughters.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Brynden Tully. Catelyn says of Brynden, "He has not wed. You know that, Father. Nor will he ever." It's never made clear whether he's gay, asexual, or opposed to marriage for some other reason.
    • Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Daenerys notices how he pays no attention to her bare breast when she wears a typical Qartheen dress (unlike Ser Jorah who remains Distracted by the Sexy) and how his servants are pretty boys dressed in silk.
    • Hother "Whoresbane" Umber earned his nickname by killing a whore who tried to rob him. The story is kept rather hush-hush, however, because the whore was a man.
    • Nymeria "Nym" Sand, the second daughter of Oberyn Martell, says she was "abed with the Fowler twins". Later in the same chapter we find out that both the twins are women.
    • Due to his implied past as a male prostitute, many of the black brothers assume Satin is gay, leading to a lot of speculation on the fact that Jon takes him as his personal steward. However, there's no evidence as to whether the rumours are true or not.
    • Jon Connington's fierce loyalty to Rhaegar long after his death, coupled with the way he reminisces about him, and his strong reluctance to the idea of marrying all suggest that he may also fall under this trope.
  • Analogy Backfire: When Tyrion is captured by Jorah Mormont, he promises to drown Jorah in gold if he changes sides. Having seen Prince Viserys killed by having molten gold poured over him, Jorah is not impressed.
    "I saw a man drowned in gold once. It was not a pretty sight."
    • Nimble Dick assures Brienne that's he's honest as the day is long. Brienne points out that as winter is coming, the days are getting shorter.
  • Ancestral Weapon:
    • Valyrian weapons are so valuable that they are usually ancestral weapons of a noble house. Examples include Ice, of House Stark; Heartsbane, of House Tarly, and Longclaw, of House Mormont. Sometimes, however, a noble house loses possession of its Valyrian weapon. They are so valued that Tywin Lannister has tried to buy Valyrian steel weapons from impoverished houses—an ancestor lost the family blade Brightroar across the sea—but while the families were willing to marry their daughters to the men of House Lannister, they valued their Valyrian steel weapons more than mere gold. The Lannisters finally got what they sought not by money but by force: they captured the Valyrian greatsword Ice from their executed enemy Eddard Stark.
    • Dawn, the meteoric iron sword of House Dayne, is particularly linked with the house's reputation. The wielder of Dawn is given a special title: "The Sword of the Morning." Uniquely among ancestral swords, Dawn does not pass from heir to heir but only a knight of House Dayne who is worthy can wield it.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Targaryen family has attempted to resurrect dragons and find the Prince Who Was Promised amongst themselves for at least a hundred years. Another conspiracy, the Maesters of the Citadel, appear to want to destroy magic in favor of science.
  • And Some Other Stuff: The recipe for the "wine of courage" taken by the Unsullied to make them immune to pain. Not used to prevent readers from making some for themselves, obviously; in this case it's presumably being invoked to protect an In-Universe trade secret.
  • Animal Espionage: Ravens are the typical way to send letters. More extreme examples are wargs, who are basically people that can fall asleep at will and look out the eyes of an animal, which makes them ideal scouts. It's usually a pet or animal they're very close to, but very talented wargs can become any animal they'd like.
  • Animal Motifs:
    • Westerosi noble houses have heraldic animals as their symbols, much like the real Middle Ages. Stark — direwolf, Lannister — lion, Targaryen — dragon, Baratheon — stag. Comparisons are inevitable, and this is taken to the point of becoming an important theme, especially with the direwolves of the six Stark children, and is used as symbolism before the first chapter is over: (The Starks find a direwolf that had been killed by a stag, and it is eventually Robert Baratheon's foolishness and his "son" Joffrey Baratheon's sociopathy which tear House Stark apart). Daenerys also finds the three heads of the Targaryen dragon to be very important. Houses deliberately choose animals based on their personal philosophies, and raise their children with the specific intention of moulding them into the correct images. Illyrio, and other foreigners, find this custom bizarre. He offers to take Tyrion to a zoo and throw him in a cage with a real lion, to see if he feels any kinship. Tyrion wisely concedes the point.
    • Littlefinger's father made the Titan of Braavos his house sigil, but Littlefinger states outright that he swapped it for a more humble mockingbird, which helps maintain his harmless façade.
    • Some individuals are especially tied to an animal in reference to their job or behavior, including Sandor "the Hound" Clegane and Varys the Spider. Oberyn Martell is known as "The Red Viper of Dorne" while his baseborn daughters are known as the Sand Snakes (Bastard children in Dorne are given the surname 'Sand').
    • The Ghiscari call themselves "The Sons of the Harpy," after the heraldic harpy of old Ghis. The villainous La Résistance/The Remnant formed against Daenerys' government in Meereen is known as the Sons of the Harpy and its rumored leader who may or not be Hizdahr zo Loraq is known as The Harpy.
    • The Lhazarene, a pacifistic herding culture, are known by the Dothraki as the Lamb Men. A Lhazarene former slave who Ser Barristan takes under his wing is known as the Red Lamb for his fury in battle.
    • The Brazen Beasts of Meereen all wear bronze animal masks. A number of people wonder if they wear the same masks or switch them up. The masks of a group of Brazen Beasts have symbolic significance when Shavepate's men all wear locust masks during their coup to reference the poisoned locusts meant for Dany.
    • Crows are common references as well. The Wildlings refers to the Night's Watch as "crows", Lord Bloodraven appears in visions as a Three-Eyed Crow. The motif becomes more prominent in later books which deal with post-war devastation:
    Euron "Crow's Eye": After every battle the crows come in their hundreds and thousands to feast upon the fallen. A crow can espy death from afar. And I say that all of Westeros is dying.
  • Animal Eye Spy: Seems to be the first symptom of being a warg, particularly in dreams. All the Starks (bar Sansa, whose Lady is killed before she gets the chance) experience it with their direwolves, whether they realise that's what's happening or not, and Arya notices it briefly happening with a cat when her human eyes are blinded.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: Mance Rayder, briefly, for his erstwhile friend and 'brother' Qhorin Halfhand.
  • Anti-Climax: The Second Blackfyre Rebellion in "The Mystery Knight" consists of a Hidden Backup Prince, a dragon's egg, and a lot of plotting, but it unravels quickly before any blood is shed, and it's implied that Bloodraven was aware of it the whole time.
  • The Anti-God:
    • One of the major religions features two gods, constantly at war: the fire god R'hllor, Lord of Light and Shadows, who likes having people burned as a sacrifice to him, but is a pretty good god (for a Crapsack World). Then you have the Great Other, his enemy, lord of cold and darkness, who represents all evil in the world. This religion also denounces all other gods as either not existing or being servants of the Great Other.
    • A more minor ditheistic religion in the same world is the religion of the Ironborn. They worship the aquatic "Drowned God", who they believe first breathed life into humanity and whose constant enemy is the destructive, chaotic Storm God. Again, this being a Crapsack World, one of the ways they worship the Drowned God is by drowning people, although they have the decency to revive most of them afterward. As the Ironborn are descendants of the First Men just like the polytheistic Northmen, they likely believe that the Northmen's Old Gods exist, they just don't particularly care.
  • Anti-Hero: Depending on which characters are your favorite, it's hard to say who you'll consider the main Anti-Hero or Anti-Villain.
  • Antimagical Faction: Maester Marwyn reveals that there is a secret anti-magic faction within the Citadel. We don't know much about them, or how influential they are over the wider community of maesters, but it seems to be based on a concept of "magic cannot be rationally comprehended, so must be dispensed with".
  • Anti-Mutiny: In A Dance With Dragons, the Night's Watch resist Jon's efforts to save the wildlings — whom Jon sees as men, women and children in contrast to views of many in the Night's Watch; the alliance with the wildlings to defend against oncoming threat of the Others; and later, his sending ships to rescue the wildlings at Hardhome and then sending a ranging party to rescue those ships. They also don't like involving the Night's Watch with Stannis, thus making it a prime target of retribution at the hands of Lord Bolton. When Jon decides to go south to deal with Ramsay Bolton, compromising the Watch's neutrality and getting involved in the wars of the realm, a group of Watch members turn on him.
  • Anti-Villain:
    • Tyrion Lannister is an interesting case. He is teased as a villain early on, but quickly becomes a sympathetic main character. Yet, as the series progresses he becomes a dark character, leaning more towards this character type.
    • Sandor Clegane becomes more sympathetic after first appearing to be a simple monster. Jaime Lannister goes through this as well. However, as noted just above, any of them could be called an Anti-Hero just as easily.
    • Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall and a former Night's Watch brother. He wants to conquer the Wall but only so that his people can take shelter from the Others behind it; they rather accurately believe the Watch will never just let them through.
    • Theon Greyjoy performs a Face–Heel Turn, betraying Robb Stark and taking Winterfell for the Greyjoys, which ends in the death of many Stark retainers. However, when he's betrayed by the Boltons and tortured into insanity, he swings over into The Woobie territory quickly.
  • Anyone Can Die: A major theme of the books, due to the high mortality rate of major characters, good and bad.
    • It should be noted however, that of the major POV characters across the first five books (not counting prologue and epilogue chapters), there have only been two confirmed deaths, Ned and Catelyn Stark, and Catelyn has since Come Back Wrong as Lady Stoneheart so Ned is still the only pure example. In Books 4 and 5, we have Arys Oakheart and Quentyn Martell as POV characters who die, but they are both minor characters. There's also Jon Snow, but nobody expects that to last very long. So while the books are fairly shocking and sudden in terms of deaths, the effect is often greater in imagination than a cold reading will tell you.
    • It should also be pointed out that POV characters introduced into the prologue and epilogue are usually dead by the end of their chapter.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Subverted by the Ironborn. To spill the blood of another Ironborn is forbidden by their religion. But drowning another Ironborn is not.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Sam's messages to Castle Black after the wight attack.
  • Apologetic Attacker: The Sorrowful Men, a guild of assassins known for saying "I'm so sorry" to their targets before killing them.
  • Apologizes a Lot: Podrick Payne, the meek squire.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Tyrion advises Jon Snow to take on the derisive labels people throw at him: "Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you." As it turns out, Jon, nicknamed 'Lord Snow' for his being brought up in a castle with a young lord's education and initially acting above his fellow recruits starting out, is later made Lord Commander and as such, is actually Lord Snow. Other examples include "The Blackfish" Brynden Tully and "The Onion Knight" Davos Seaworth.
  • Archer Archetype: Anguy "the Archer" of the Brotherhood Without Banners, and Alleras "the Sphinx" at the Citadel are both cool and collected.
  • Arc Number: Seven. Seven books, the Seven Kingdoms, the Faith of the Seven, the members of the Kingsguard and Rainbow Guard, the seven rebuildings of Storm's End, and many others. Contrast with the Rule of Three motif running through Daenerys' story.
  • Arc Words: Several:
    • "Winter is Coming," the grim and enigmatic words of House Stark. It's noted that the Stark motto is unusual for being a warning rather than a boast.
    • "The seed is strong." The dying words of Jon Arryn which he repeated after discovering that all Baratheons in recorded history, including those who had children with Lannisters, and all of Robert's children, have black hair... but Robert and Cersei's children are all blonds.
    • "Valar Morghulis," a phrase which Arya learns and repeats frequently, though it's a while before she understands its meaning, which is "All men must die". Oddly enough, despite not knowing what it means several of the occasions she uses it are appropriate for the meaning.
    • The phrase "song of ice and fire" has only received one cryptic appearance in the story so far, but it is the namesake of the series and so has obvious importance. The concepts of ice and fire are themselves a recurring motif in the series, and it forms part of the oath sworn by Jojen and Meera Reed, "We swear by ice and fire".
    • "Wherever whores go" for Tyrion in A Dance With Dragons. He ponders its meaning and asks just about everyone he knows about it. The phrase "A very small man can cast a very large shadow" is also part of his arc, first mentioned by Varys and then reiterated by Moqorro who predicts that the coming conflict will feature Tyrion, "a small man with a big shadow snarling in the midst of it all."
    • "The dragon has three heads."
    • "If I look back, I am lost."
    • From A Game of Thrones there's "wake the dragon" which is first said as a threat by Viserys but then comes to have a whole new meaning by the end of the book.
    • Ygritte's oft-repeated assertion, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," is relayed to Jon many times as he travels with the wildlings and many of his preconceived notions are shattered. It becomes his mantra of self-doubt for several books to come.
    • There are also two religious phrases of the followers of the Lord of Light and the Drowned God respectively that are repeated throughout the series. "The night is dark and full of terrors," and "What is dead may never die."
    • Bran, Daenerys and possibly Euron Greyjoy all are told to "Fly" in their dreams.
    • "The dragons are dead" both mean House Targaryen's fall as well as the disappearance of magic from the world. Both are not completely true.
    • "Words are wind".
    • "Dark wings, dark words".
    • "The Game of Thrones", the endless, dangerous and futile power struggle among the lords of the land and a metaphor for machiavellian power-politics that is at the heart of the facade of chivalry and honor.
    • "Song" is an Unusual Euphemism for the power of words. Varys' spy network he calls "little birds" sing him different songs. Petyr Baelish uses the mockingbird as his symbol because of the different songs he sings. Sansa learns to sing the songs she is taught, lest she die. Rhaegar's Song of Ice and Fire and the Children of the Forest's Song of Earth are still mysteries.
    • Davos' pronouncement in A Storm of Swords, "A king protects his people, or he is no true king at all" is repeated in A Feast for Crows many of the smallfolk march to King's Landing "to seek succor and protection from the king" while one of the Faith Militant repeats Davos' statement to Cersei when she meets them. It's essentially the Aesop about what ultimately determines if someone is a rightful ruler or not.
    • More amusingly, a great number of things seem to be "more useless than nipples on a breastplate."
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Partly used, as most of the point-of-view characters are nobles. However, the cruelties of feudalism are emphasized, especially in warfare. Every major battle is followed by months of marauding bands sacking villages and slaughtering or raping peasants, by both sides.
  • Armor Is Useless: Generally averted in the series because it is set in a mostly low fantasy setting. Several times the strengths and weaknesses of armour are directly explored;
    • When Syrio Forel helps Arya escape by holding off Cersei's guards, he manages to kill five lightly armored guards with his wooden training sword, but is unable to get past the full plate armor of a mediocre knight.
    • When Barristan Selmy fights Khrazz, the pit fighter, Krhazz wears no armor and is unfamiliar with fighting against it. His slashing sword cannot pierce Selmy's armor, so he targets the knight's unarmored head. He spends most of the fight futilely trying to goad Selmy into taking his armor off. He fails, and is unable to even injure Selmy.
    • In the duel between Bronn and Ser Vardis Egen, the lightly armored Bronn plays hit and run with the more heavily armored Egen until he tires, and then pins him down and stabs him through a shoulder joint. His ploy only works because it's just the two of them fighting, and Bronn has enough room to maneuver. Unlike the pit fighter, he was familiar with fighting armored opponents and knew how to exploit its weaknesses. The Red Viper uses the same tactics against Gregor Clegane. Although initially successful, the Viper gets overconfident once Gregor is down, and gets killed when Gregor jams his fingers into his eyes, which wouldn't have happened if he'd been wearing a visor.
    • Victarion Greyjoy is able to take on superior numbers and win because he's fully armored, whereas the sailors he's fighting only wear light armor for fear of drowning (which doesn't worry Ironmen, as they see it as a mark of favor from their god). Several knights do drown because they fall into water wearing plate armour; Davos Seaworth avoids this fate by only wearing a pot helm.
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: A Lannister family specialty. Cersei delivers several, to various characters. Tyrion gives one to Joffrey. Jaime also starts using a more literal interpretation from the third book on, using his solid gold prosthetic hand.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: While once considered a noble calling by all and still seen as this by some in the North, The Night's Watch has fallen into disrepair nowadays. Also, the Brotherhood Without Banners which is, in essence, an extremely unromantic version of Robin Hood's Merry Men
  • Arranged Marriage: Par for the course among the nobility of the Seven Kingdoms and used to form political ties. Some are happy, such as Eddard Stark/Catelyn Tully, and others are unhappy, such as Robert Baratheon/Cersei Lannister. Many are against the will of one or both parties, such as Daenerys/Khal Drogo. Breaking a marriage pact is Serious Business.
  • Artifact Alias: The Unsullied, elite slave soldiers, are randomly assigned a new, generally degrading name every day, to remind them that they are nothing individually. After being freed, they are allowed to revert to their birth names or choose new names if they no longer remember them, but not all do so. Their leader, Grey Worm, says that his birth name is unlucky because it is the one he had on the day he was enslaved, whereas "Grey Worm" is a lucky name because it is the one he had on the day he was freed.
  • Artifact Title: In-Universe, "the Seven Kingdoms" is a reference to the political composition of Westeros before Aegon the Conqueror showed up. At that time Westeros was divided into Kingdoms of the North, the West, the Reach, Dorne, the Stormlands, the Vale, and the united Kingdom of the Iron Islands and the Riverlands. But even then, Aegon I only conquered six of the kingdoms with Dorne resisting the Targaryens for more than a hundred and fifty years. They never actually united all Seven Kingdoms, but claimed to do so, and by the time of the present there is a Westeros divided into nine separate regions.
    • The Lannisters' castle, Casterly Rock, takes its name from the family that built it.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Some.
    • Children born of incest seem to have an impressively high survivability and surprisingly few flaws in this world, occasional insanity aside. In real life, a dynasty like the Targaryens, which practiced incest for over 300 years (and only occasionally had some fresh blood added to the pool) should have produced a lot more problems than it did, and a lot more genetic quirks than just a tendency to be born albino.
      • Unless you recall the frequent miscarriages, stillbirths, and severe abnormalities. And the Targaryens seemed to have had an unusual connection to the dragons that improved their health, and incest only brings out characteristics that were already there.
    • One ethnic group in Essos is said to have a strange blend of red and black hair. This is more similar to tortoiseshell cat fur than any real human hair coloration.
    • The Unsullied drink "wine of courage" to make them permanently immune to pain. Unlike "mild of the poppy," this isn't based on any real drug. Also, while the books acknowledge that the Unsullied sacrifice raw strength by being castrated at a young age, the effect would be more pronounced in real life than it seems to be in the story. Adult Unsullied would have a significant disadvantage in strength, bone density and endurance.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: Unlike J. R. R. Tolkien, Martin, self-admittedly, is no linguist and scholar of languages, and as he makes it clear, he "fakes" it. As such, Westeros has an unlikely unlikely amount of linguistic unity for such a vast landmass in an era before mass education, mass literacy, radio or television. Almost everyone in the Seven Kingdoms speaks the Common Tongue, which never seems to have branched into different dialects, something that happens in the same language (i.e. English, French, Italian), even in regions separated by mountains (the Vale) or sea (the Iron Islands). This makes sense for most of the main characters, who are aristocrats and would have been educated in a standard version of the language by their maesters, but even the commonfolk's speech never seems to vary by region. Where this really strains credibility though is with the Wildlings, most of whom also speak the Common Tongue (although some only speak the Old Tongue, which appears to be an unrelated language) with few major differences from the Seven Kingdoms, despite having been isolated from them by a Wall that was apparently built eight thousand years ago. Eight thousand years ago in Real Life, proto-Indo-European was still a thing, and the chances of the Kingdoms' and Wildlings' language having remained identical through all that time is highly unlikely.note . Things are played much more realistically in Essos, which has a wide variety of languages, which form language families such as the different daughter languages of High Valyrian.
  • Art Major Biology:
    • Newly-hatched dragons have a suckling reflex and the ability to digest human milk. In the real world, these traits are unique to mammals, but dragons are strongly tied to magic, and are shown to have more than a few things in common with humans.
    • The genetics of some houses seems to be a little screwy. Some house traits seem to get passed down for thousands of years, such as Lannisters almost always having blonde hair. Martin has hinted that some magic might be at work.
    • In A Game of Thrones, a thirteen-year-old Daenerys manages to eat an entire stallion's heart raw despite the fact that an average horse heart weighs somewhere around eight pounds (and a physically fit stallion's would almost certainly be larger).
    • Averted with giants. They are described as having disproportionately thick legs and hips, which 2 legged creatures of that size would need to follow the Square-Cube Law.
  • Ascended Extra: Penny, who goes from being unnamed and having a minuscule part in A Storm of Swords to playing a significant part in A Dance With Dragons.
  • Asshole Victim: Has its own page.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority:
    • Conquest—the most notable example being Aegon's Conquest, which united all of Westeros under the Iron Throne—is considered a completely legitimate method of gaining a throne. After all, if you have the sheer power to make an entire kingdom swear fealty to you, how is your claim any worse than that of a relative of the previous king?
    • "A Khal who does not ride is no Khal!"
    • Mance Rayder mentions at one point that he had to defeat several of the other would-be leaders to unite the wildlings under his authority. He later demonstrates his fighting skills against Jon while in the guise of Rattleshirt.
    • One of the causes of the Blackfyre Succession Crisis is the dying king passed on his Cool Sword to his warrior bastard, as opposed to his bookish legitimate son.
  • A Storm Is Coming: "Winter is coming," and, "The cold winds are rising."
  • As You Know: When Eddard describes the Sack of King's Landing, Robert complains that that's all common knowledge. Another example is when Oberyn recounts a Dornish tale about the Young Dragon's conquest to Tyrion, who's well-read and knows it all already.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Several armies are undone because their leaders are honor-bound or crazy enough to attack into dire situations. Jaime Lanninster, Gregor Clegane, and Khal Drogo act like this on a personal level in battle. On the other hand, Robert notes that a Dothraki invasion would be a Morton's Fork, whether he rushes out to attack or holds up in a castle.
  • At the Crossroads: Several significant events happen at The Inn at the Crossroads (between the Kingsroad running north-south, the river road west to the Riverlands, and the high road east to the Vale of Arryn). Catelyn Stark encounters Tyrion Lannister there and decides to arrest him, triggering war between House Lannister and Stark/Tully. Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane have a fight with the Mountain's Men, causing them to part ways after Sandor is seriously wounded, each going on a radically different path. And Brienne of Tarth is captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners, leading to a choice between Conflicting Loyalties.
  • Audible Sharpness: In the first book, Ned describes Jory drawing his sword, which comes "singing from his scabbard," clearing implying the standard "shing!" that you hear in movies.
  • Author Appeal:
    • You've probably already guessed that Martin loves food from reading the copious Food Porn described in this series.
    • The narrative tends to direct our sympathy and admiration toward men who are mocked, scorned, or underestimated because of their physical incapacity to live up to cultural standards of "manhood" (Tyrion, Samwell, Bran, Lord Manderly, Doran Martell — even Varys and Littlefinger, though how sympathetic those two are is a big case of YMMV). This makes a lot of sense when you know that Martin himself is an overweight nerd.
    • Several characters talk quite lovingly about books, finding them useful and enjoyable.
  • Autocannibalism:
    • Donella Manderly/Hornwood, Ramsay Bolton's first wife, chewed her own fingers while imprisoned in the Dreadfort, either having gone mad from hunger or as a way to stop the pain of a flayed finger.
    • Gregor Clegane has fed Vargo Hoat his own cut off limbs.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant:
    • House Hightower are the wealthiest and most martially-prepared minor House in the Reach, but have largely kept out of the war beyond offering token support to the Tyrells. However, the Ironborn attacks on Oldtown have set them to shipbuilding and mustering forces like nobody's business.
    • The Faith of the Seven largely remained neutral in the War of the Five Kings; even after a large grassroots movement emerged to protest against rampant war crimes tearing the countryside apart, they had little power to do anything about it due to laws against their keeping men under arms. When Cersei reinstates the Church Militant in return for shortsighted political gains, and then hypocritically tries to use them as a Kangaroo Court against her rivals, it comes back to bite her extremely quickly. More like Arming The Slightly-Awake-And-Still-Grumpy Giant And Then Poking It With A Stick, perhaps.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Harrenhal Castle is so huge it can never be fully repaired or garrisoned, despite the riches it brings.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Brave Companions/Bloody Mummers, a mercenary band as dangerous to its employers as to its enemies. The insane cannibal Biter and the jester Shagwell seem to delight in pointless violence more than anything else.
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     B 
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Wights are reanimated corpses of the Others' victims.
    • Beric Dondarrion and Catelyn Stark are both brought back to life through the power of R'hllor.
    • In A Dance With Dragons, Robert Strong is apparently a reanimated corpse built from Qyburn's victims, most notably Gregor Clegane.
    • Coldhands is apparently undead, having once been a ranger.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Arya and Jaqen H'ghar; Arya and the Hound, briefly; Osha and Rickon; Brienne and Pod.
  • Badass Army: The Unsullied, The Night's Watch, the Golden Company, and several others.
  • Badass Bookworm: Prince Rhaegar started as a bookworm, then read a prophecy and became badass. Sam the Slayer might be a gentle poke at the trope, as well.
  • Badass Boast: Many of the House words, both great and small, can be considered badass boasts. House Baratheon's words are, "Ours is the Fury," referring to their rule of the Stormlands. The Targaryens have "Fire and Blood," and the Greyjoys have "We Do Not Sow," referring to their reaving ways, and so on. Not all family words are Badass Boasts, however. The famous Stark words, "Winter is Coming," are a constant reminder rather than a boast (although, Robb does turn these words into one when war begins). Then there's House Codd, whose words are, "Though All Men Do Despise Us."
  • Badass Creed:
    • The Oath of the Night's Watch.
    "Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honour to the Night's Watch, for this night and all the nights to come."
    • The Reeds' oath of fealty to the Kings in the North is pretty damn awesome too:
    "To Winterfell we pledge the faith of Greywater. Hearth and heart and harvest we yield up to you, my lord. Our swords and spears and arrows are yours to command. Grant Mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you. We swear it by earth and water, we swear it by bronze and iron, we swear it by ice and fire."
  • Badass Decay:
    • The Kingsguard, In-Universe. Its knights were once looked up to as pinnacles of chivalry and fighting skill, and were thought of as the best knights in the kingdom. By the time the series begins, however, many of the current members are mediocre fighters, utterly amoral or both.
    • Also In-Universe, the Night's Watch. They used to be a massive fighting force capable of guarding the realms of men against the Others. They were well-manned, garrisoning seventeen castles guarding a 300-mile wall with regular patrols. It was considered an honorable occupation for second sons and ambitious fighting men by all in Westeros. Now, they're only considered an honorable calling in the North, in which second sons and illegitimate sons from noble houses still voluntarily join, but they are seen as a joke everywhere else. Most believe the Watch is seen as guarding the world against a long-defeated Sealed Evil in a Can. As a result, support for the Watch is greatly diminished and now stands with less than a thousand men left, becoming an Army of Thieves and Whores in which criminals would rather take the black in lieu of worse punishment.
      Lord Commander Jeor Mormont (to Tyrion Lannister): In two years I will be seventy. Too old and too weary for the burden I bear, yet if I set it down, who will pick it up? Alliser Thorne? Bowen Marsh? I would have to be as blind as Maester Aemon not to see what they are. The Night’s Watch has become an army of sullen boys and tired old men. Apart from the men at my table tonight, I have perhaps twenty who can read, and even fewer who can think, or plan, or lead. Once the Watch spent its summers building, and each Lord Commander raised the Wall higher than he found it. Now it is all we can do to stay alive.
    • Before the events of the story, Robert Baratheon was a tall, fit handsome man who was renowned as a great fierce warrior. By the time the first book takes place, Robert has become a fat bloated slob who is a shadow of the man he used to be.
  • Badass Family: Just about every noble house, since the feudal society of Westeros generally requires that male nobles learn to fight, serving as elite cavalry and battle commanders. Many noblewomen are also shown to be quite adept at playing "the game of thrones."
    • Of note are the Umbers, Mormonts and Cleganes, which don't seem to have ever produced a single non-badass.
    • By the time of A Dance With Dragons, the Stark family includes or has included at one point:
      • The Hand of the King and one of the central figures of the last Civil War.
      • An undead rebel leader on a revenge rampage.
      • A faction leader, warg, king and genius strategist who leads his army in combat and has never lost a battle.
      • A young girl learning to stand up for herself and being trained in politics by the best Manipulative Bastard in all Westeros. She's a warg, too, even though she doesn't know it yet.
      • Another young girl training to become part of the most fearful guild of professional assassins in the setting. Oh and she's a warg, too.
      • A crippled young kid training to become a greenseer and already a powerful warg.
      • A lost toddler with a powerful temper and a deep warg connection with his Direwolf, currently wandering somewhere in a country of cannibals.
      • The bastard son, Lord Commander of the Night Watch. He's a warg, too.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Character motivations are usually too complex in this series to be straightforwardly divided into "Good Guys" and "Bad Guys". Nevertheless, there are a number of times that this trope crops up or is deliberately exploited, albeit with some variations.
    • In the backstory, Jaime Lannister murdered Mad King Aerys when he was sworn to protect him. He did it to save the city, as Aerys had just given an order to burn King's Landing to the ground with all its citizens, but Jaime is still reviled as a kingslayer and oathbreaker even by the incoming regime, who would have needed to kill Aerys anyway to secure the throne. It should be noted, however, that Jaime is the "Bad Guy" largely because he did the dirty work, and because it was seen as a betrayal rather than a "legitimate" wartime kill.
    • During the Sack of King's Landing, Gregor Clegane murdered Princess Elia and all of her children, including one newborn infant. Again, this needed to happen for Robert to secure the throne and succession, but because the atrocity was committed by Tywin's Mad Dog, Robert's hands remained clean. As with Jaime, Gregor is seen as the "Bad Guy" in this case because he went further than was necessary.
    • Tywin Lannister orchestrates the Red Wedding, which he sees as necessary to end the war quickly. But it is actually carried out by the Boltons and Freys. The Freys were already known as opportunistic weasels and the Boltons as ruthless and unscrupulous, so they were able to divert most of the blame from Tywin.
  • Bad Powers, Good People:
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Wyman Manderly is accused of ordering the murder of a young Frey. He replies, "I confess...that I do not know the boy."
  • Balance of Power: The whole of the series could be summed up with this question: "What if the precarious balance of power in a large region got upset... by magic or internal upheaval — or both?" Realpolitik and high-jinks, is what.
    • The Targaryens hit Westeros like three locomotives without brakes. Because the Doom of Valyria changed the balance of political and magical power on Essos quite permanently. It also changed the geography; but, that's almost an afterthought as far as the Seven Kingdoms being forced into One is concerned. Their later loss of dragons shifted things a bit in the Kingdom, but some form of equilibrium was sort of found even during the years of the Blackfyre Rebellion — usually by playing various shifting factions off against each other...
    • ...Until Robert's Rebellion undermined what remained of the balance of power within the Seven Kingdoms quite effectively by removing the Targaryens from the equation. The whole series is, in effect, the attempt at dealing with the aftermath of years of trying to pretend this wasn't really the case, so as not to kick the political powder keg most power-players were aware was there too hard. For all there were some frantic manoeuvres being done behind the scenes to try keeping things sort-of afloat. Except for those who wanted to set the keg off, of course. With the War of the Five Kings, the inherent issues within and between the Seven Kingdoms (let alone between the individual Houses) become... rather apparent.
    • The whole of Essos is just waking up to the fact that dragons are back to tip the world scales, again. As is the magic. Westeros is a bit late to this realisation, but the Others are quite patiently willing to show them.
  • Bandit Clan: The mountain clans are a loosely-affiliated group of clans who live in the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon, and appear to make a living at least partially through banditry, preying on travelers to and from the Vale of Arryn.
  • Barbarian Longhair: The Dothraki never cut their hair unless they're defeated in battle.
  • Barbarian Tribe:
    • The Dothraki are simplified version of the Mongol steppe-horsemen archetype.
    • Clansmen in Westeros. The wildlings/free folk north of The Wall are the primary example, but smaller barbaric tribes also exist in the western foothills of the Mountains of the Moon and the northern mountain ranges between Winterfell and The Wall.
      • Calling the Northern Mountain Clansmen barbarian is rather a stretch. Unlike the Vale clansmen, or the wildlings, they are integrated into the feudal hierarchy, and do not commit any barbaric activities like raiding or banditry. They are however poor compared to other folk of the Seven Kingdoms thanks to their harsh and geographically isolated homeland, and they are hardy and rustic for the same reasons.
  • Bastard Angst: There are several bastard children in Westeros, but the ones who exhibit this trope the most are:
    • Jon Snow. While he loves and is loved by his father and half-siblings, was raised alongside them with a highborn education, he still felt like somewhat of an outsider in his own family, especially by sort-of step-mom Catelyn. Partly because of his bitterness about this, for lack of better career options, and to follow his dream of becoming a ranger in the Night's Watch, Jon joins the Night's Watch for the sake of honor and duty. Notably, when offered legitimization and the chance to inherit Winterfell, he declines, claiming it belongs to his sister, Sansa.
    • Ramsay Snow goes to great lengths to prove to his father that he's just as sick a bastard as the rest of his family and deserving of the family name, including torturing, mutilating and brainwashing a family rival. It's implied that he murdered his legitimate brother to be the only heir.
    • Downplayed with Mya Stone, who is aware of being King Robert's bastard daughter. While she angsts about her baseborn birth making her unable to marry the minor lord she fell in love with, Mya is otherwise pretty happy about where she is.
  • Bastard Bastard: Bastards are often not trusted due to being born out of lust and deceit. Since they often have a vested interest in the deaths of their sire's trueborn heirs, there are also pretty practical reasons for not wanting your bastards around.
    • Ramsay Snow certainly lives up to the stereotype, and is hinted to have quietly offed Roose's heir in order to take his place — Roose seems fairly resigned to the idea that he'll do so with any future heirs as well.
    • Walder Rivers is regarded as one of the most ruthless of the Frey family, and is said to both hate being a bastard and hate anyone who isn't one.
  • Bastard Understudy: Sansa is a serial case, apprenticed to such expert schemers as Cersei Lannister, Olenna Tyrell and Petyr Baelish.
  • Bat Out of Hell: The sigil of House Lothston (former Lords of Harrenhal) was a bat. According to legend, the Lothstons also sent giant bats out on moonless nights to kidnap bad children.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me:
    • It is sarcastically noted in The Sworn Sword that the name of this trope could just as well have been the personal motto of the late and infamous womanizer king Aegon the Unworthy.
    • In A Dance with Dragons, Ramsay Bolton orders his wife bathed daily, as he is... particular about cleanliness. However, it is also strongly implied that she herself takes the baths because the things he has been doing to her make her feel dirty. This wouldn't be surprising, as the mere thought of Ramsay Bolton is enough to give some readers the shudders.
  • Battle Trophy: The Black Ears tribe. The Ironborn also believe "paying the iron price" is the only proper way to get jewelry.
  • Batman Gambit: The modus operandi of several of the major power brokers in Westeros. Only a few are actually good at it. Those that ARE, though, make whole continents dance to the tune they pick.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: the standard method of becoming King Beyond the Wall. Normally, the Wildlings do fine without kings. But if they are restless, frightened and don't know what to do, the chief who acts the most confident and loud becomes king. Of course, maintaining the title requires somewhat more actual political skill.
  • Bawdy Song: "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" is the one most often mentioned, and the only one we get the full lyrics to.
    A Bear, A Bear, all black and brown and covered in hair!
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Daenerys encounters this in Qarth.
  • The Beard: Margaery was this to the gay King Renly, in addition to being a strong political match. It may be that the Merryweathers, Taena and Orton, are this for each other.
  • Beast and Beauty: A general theme, fitting for a former author of the Beauty and the Beast TV show. Examples include Sandor and Sansa, Jaime and Brienne, and Tyrion and Sansa. A tavern song called "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", about a supposed romance between a hairy bear and a beautiful maiden, is mentioned and sung several times.
  • Beastly Bloodsports: The people of Slavers' Bay really like these kind of sports. When Dany goes there to buy slave soldiers, their owner invites her to go see a game that night where three children are slathered in different condiments and thrown into a bear pit, with wagers placed on which one lasts longest.
  • Beat Still, My Heart
  • Beauty, Brains and Brawn: Broadly, the Lannister brood; Tyrion prides himself on his wits, and Jaime on his fighting skill. Cersei is more complicated — she's nearly as cunning as Tyrion, and being Jaime's Half Identical Twin they're described as looking very alike, but much to her annoyance her beauty is seen as her defining attribute, while her brothers are judged by their actions.
    • Though it should be pointed out that Cersei is nowhere near as cunning as she thinks she is. Tyrion notes that she does have some animal cunningness, and an instinctive ability to sense weakness; but her trump card is her ability to play really dirty without any moral compunctions whatsoever, which put her at an advantage against honourable men like Ned and Jon Arryn. Pitted against other cunning people who are also willing to play dirty (like Tyrion himself, or Littlefinger) she is an amateur.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Averted. Many of the villains, such as Cersei and her son Joffrey, are physically attractive, while some of the most heroic characters, such as Eddard and Brienne, are plain-looking or even downright ugly. However, this belief is widespread in-universe, and people are much more inclined to believe terrible accusations when they're leveled at ugly people like Tyrion rather than at attractive ones like Cersei.
  • Beauty Is Best: Sansa starts as this. She adores Joffrey, simply because he is very handsome (and a prince) and ignores him being very cruel, have her pet wolf killed and even tried to kill her sister. She also likes queen Cersei because of her beauty. She changes, however, throughout the series when she notices how beautiful people like Joffrey and Cersei keep hurting her, while ugly and disfigured people like Tyrion and Sandor Clegane try to protect her.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted with Myrcella and Pia. Beric Dondarrion is also described as very handsome when he's first introduced, and as "a scarecrow of a man" when Arya meets him after he's been killed and resurrected six times.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The Prince Who Was Promised. Subverted with the Stallion That Mounts the World prophecy. Those characters who are aware of prophecies made about them often try to prevent them from happening (from the second book alone: Renly smashing Stannis' host at King's Landing; the sea drowning Winterfell's people; Theon displaying Bran and Rickon's heads; those two boys in Winterfell's crypt). They always come true anyway... But rarely the way anyone expects. (Cersei in particular is revealed in Feast to be motivated by Screw Destiny, though frankly she's not doing a great job of it.)
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • Arya's apprenticeship at the House of Many-Faced God (that is, death) requires that she cast off her identity. She can't complete the process, as a part of her is still running around Westeros.
    • In A Dance With Dragons, Theon is subjected to a rather horrific variation of this, tortured by Ramsay until he is mentally broken down to think of himself as Reek. Oddly, he recovers his identity via this trope after being forced to 'masquerade' as himself on the orders of Roose Bolton.
    "You have to remember your name!"
    • Reference is made to how Robb Stark "put on the face of Robb the Lord" after his father departs for King's Landing. Especially after he becomes King, it becomes increasingly difficult to establish where the ruler ends and Robb begins.
    • In A Feast for Crows Sansa begins to refer to herself as Alayne, a little 'out of fear that someone can figure out who is she really is, a little' because Sansa was a "frightened girl"
  • Bed Trick: Lysa did this to Littlefinger when he was very drunk after a feast and had been rebuffed by Cat all evening. He thought she was Cat and still boasts of bedding her.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Jaime and Brienne, to the point that when someone interrupts them while they're fighting, Jaime jokes that they've walked in on him chastising his wife.
  • Berserker Tears: Bowen Marsh is crying when he and the other members of the Watch stab Jon Snow to death.
  • Best Her to Bed Her:
    • Wildling women believe that a man must be able to kidnap her to be worthy of a relationship. However, there's no official "marriage" or any law to stop the woman killing the guy in his sleep (or just leaving him) if she doesn't like how he treats her. "A man can own a woman, or a man can own a knife, but not both."
    • Brienne of Tarth was set up for an Arranged Marriage with a noble who made it clear he would 'chastise' her if she persisted in wearing chainmail and training in swordplay. Brienne stated that she would only allow herself to be chastised by a man who would defeat her in combat. Deciding to teach his future wife her place, he accepted the challenge and ended up with several broken ribs from a tourney mace. After that, Brienne's father gave up the idea of marrying his daughter off.
  • Beware the Living: when you are beyond the Wall, wights aren't the only things you should fear. And we do not mean grumpkins and snarks. Many Wildlings can be outright nasty, and don't feel safe around the some members of the Night's Watch either (especially if they are deserters, mutineers or something like that).
  • Big Bad: The series doesn't actually have a main villain as of now, the closest the series has to one is Littlefinger.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: Most of the characters in the series are shades of grey, however there are plenty of clearly villainous characters as well, many of which drive much of the complex plot.
    • In A Game of Thrones, it appears at first that Viserys Targaryen, Khal Drogo and his Dothraki army are going to be the main threats to our heroes in Westeros. Viserys and Drogo each turn out to be Disc-One Final Boss, and the Dothraki scatter upon the loss of their leader. Then Queen Cersei and King Joffrey propel the Lannisters into the role of main antagonists to the noble Starks near the end.
    • In A Clash of Kings, each of the five contenders for the throne could count as Big Bads, since their war accounts for the bulk of the novel's length. Most notable are King Joffrey and King Stannis, both very different but equally fearsome figures who plan to destroy anyone who opposes their rule. Of course considering Stannis is up against the much worse Lannisters and his other main foe Renly comes across as unpleasant and power-hungry it's debatable whether he can be called the villain.
    • In ''A Storm of Swords" there are Big Bads everywhere. Mance Rayder against Jon Snow and the Night's Watch up north. Tywin Lannister and Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish are this for the majority of Westeros. Daenerys gets an entire Big Big Ensemble all to herself with the various masters of Slaver's Bay.
    • In ''A Feast for Crows," Littlefinger is still the reigning Big Bad, but he's joined by Cersei, Euron Greyjoy, and The High Sparrow. Walder Frey may as well be the Big Bad of the Riverlands, even though its really his many descendants who making things happen.
    • In A Dance with Dragons, we've got a similar situation as in A Storm of Swords, Big Bads everywhere. Roose and Ramsay Bolton are certainly the main antagonists in the North, though it is clear Ramsay is too Ax-Crazy to really be a Big Bad and his father is really pulling the strings. We have the newly discovered Aegon Targaryen VI as a potential antagonist to several different factions. The Harpy of Meereen is one to Daenerys. Littlefinger, Cersei, Euron, Walder Frey, the High Sparrow, and even Victarion Greyjoy are all still in the running.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: There are a few. The second book has the Battle of the Blackwater, A Storm of Swords has the Battle of Castle Black, and as of now there seem to be at least two more being set up at Winterfell between the armies of Roose Bolton and Stannis Baratheon and at Meereen as Victarion's forces sail in to break the Yunkish siege of the city.
  • Big Beautiful Woman:
    • Roose Bolton eventually comes to feel this way about his third wife, "Fat" Walda Frey, and he even admits to Theon that he's become oddly fond of her. Considering who's saying this it's definitely notable. He also specifically chose her because he was given the pick of women from House Frey and offered his prospective bride's weight in silver for her dowry. Being a Magnificent Bastard, he picked the fattest one.
    • Myranda Royce is described as "buxom, fleshy and thick-waisted" and seems rather proud of it.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Jon, toward his beloved half-siblings and his best friend, Sam.
  • Big Eater: Illyrio, who gorges himself constantly while traveling with Tyrion. Wyman Manderly can't get enough meat pie even when it's Frey Pie. Strong Belwas is this to such an extent that it actually saves Dany's life from an assassination attempt, eating all the poisoned locusts that were intended for her.
  • Big Guy: There are several characters (Ser Gregor, Hodor, the Greatjon, etc.), but the most notable is probably Archibald Yronwood, who is more often called the Big Man than his proper name.
  • Big Little Brother: While cousins rather than brothers, Big Walder and Little Walder have this dynamic. Big Walder is the older of the two, but Little Walder is physically bigger and much more sadistic.
  • Big Man on Campus: Alleras, one of the more popular students at the Citadel. Ironically, not a large man. And likely not a man at all.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: This is a hallmark of the series. Many noble families fall under the trope;
    • The Freys, with about a hundred family members by several different mothers, all living under the same roof and all jockeying murderously for favor with the family patriarch. It is said of Lord Walder Frey that he is the only lord who can marshall an army from his breeches.
    • The Lannisters. The main line alone consists of a father who sees every family member as little more than a pawn to be used to further the success of the family as a whole; an incestuous pair of twins including a smug, callous brother and a scheming, manipulative sister; a Black Sheep younger brother whose father and sister both hate him for killing his mother in childbirth; and the twins' three children, falsely claimed to be the children of the king, the eldest of whom is a sadistic psychopath.
    • The three Baratheon brothers: Robert, Stannis, and Renly. None of them had any great love for each other.
    • The Starks are the requisite inverted Foil to underscore the point. Their individual situations become all screwed up, but it has little to do with inherent failings and strains with the family bonds and everything to do with outside factors: even Arya and Sansa do love each other under their cat fights. And, for all he may feel somewhat isolated, Jon Snow isn't left out as he is raised as part of the family, mutually loves and is loved by his father and siblings, and is more accepted than most bastard children are in Westeros.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: In the background, Prince Rhaegar was born on the same day that his great-grandfather, King Aegon V, died in the Tragedy at Summerhall.
  • Bit Character: With the huge expanse of characters found in the series, there are a number of people that show up for bit parts. Some entire Houses might even be called Bit Characters, usually with a defining characteristic that makes them at least slightly memorable.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Joffrey and Cersei initially seemed like great people to Sansa, and learning their true colors was a source of character development; Littlefinger seems like a mischievous, affable man but is really a ruthless, backstabbing schemer; Lothar Frey could be described similarly to Littlefinger — he just acts on a smaller scale.
    • Varys is calm, polite, and refreshingly open about the fact that he's plotting something (he knows nobody important would believe him anyway if he claimed he wasn't), though he keeps what that something actually is pretty close to the vest. There have been indications that he truly wants what's best for Westeros; it's just that his vision of "best" may not necessarily align with that of most people, and that it probably does not align with that of most people currently at the top of the power structure.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The House of the Undying.
  • Bizarre Seasons: One of the few overt signs of the supernatural in the first few books (and yes, according to Word of God, it's definitely magic, not something scientific like variations in the planet's orbit or axial tilt). Westeros's summers and winters both last for years. The length of seasons fluctuate apparently at random, but a long summer generally indicates a long winter to follow. What makes it more bizarre is that there is no indication that this is the case on any of the other continents.
  • Black and White Insanity:
    • Stannis has a reputation for this, sticking rigidly to his duty no matter the cost, though he's noted to display some occasional pragmatism.
    • Worshippers of R'hllor follow a Manichaean worldview in which reality is a constant struggle between the good force of Light and the evil force of Darkness. Consequently anything that does not fall in line with R'hllor is evil and must be destroyed.
      Melisandre: Are you a good man, Davos Seaworth?
      Davos: I am kind to my wife, but I have known other women. I have tried to be a father to my sons, to help make them a place in this world. Aye, I've broken laws, but I've never felt evil until tonight. I would say my parts are mixed, m'lady. Good and bad.
      Melisandre: If half of an onion is black with rot, it is a rotten onion. A man is good, or he is evil.
  • Black and Gray Morality: There are a great number of quite loathsome characters in the series. Most of the sympathetic characters occasionally take morally questionable actions as well, and are often shown to be in conflict with other sympathetic characters. One main difference between the heroes and villains is that, despite their failings, the heroes actually care about trying to do the right thing, whereas the villains find such a notion bizarre.
  • Black Comedy: It's a dark series, so it's right to expect the odd dark laugh to go with it. Some of the Irony and Laser-Guided Karma that plays out also has an element of humour involved. Of the sweetest, blackest kind. Many characters also engage in the occasional dark joke or wisecrack as a coping mechanism, as well as a part of their general Snarkery. If Dolorous Edd opens his mouth, for instance, you're on to a sure thing.
  • Black Magic: Magic is generally presented as this, a mysterious and dangerous force that requires some pretty serious sacrifices to invoke. It's sometimes described as "a sword without a hilt." Mirri Maz Duur knows how to wield it and shows Dany some of the rules. Various red priests of R'hllor display magical abilities, but these usually involve blood sacrifices or burning people alive. Melisandre in particular has performed great magical feats, though she sometimes uses alchemical pyrotechnics due to the limitations, unreliability, and costs involved in the real thing.
  • The Blacksmith: Gendry, Donal Noye.
  • Black Sheep:
    • Tyrion, for being a dwarf whose birth killed his mother.
    • Jon, to a lesser degree, for being a (albeit highborn) bastard child raised alongside his trueborn siblings.
    • Sam Tarly is the Black Sheep to his warrior father for being fat, timid and bookish.
    • Theon Greyjoy isn't entirely accepted among the Starks for having been born into a rebellious house, nor among the Greyjoys for having being raised among a Northern family instead of an Iron Islander family.
    • The Blackfish's nickname is a reference to this trope, after he defied his liege lord/elder brother by refusing an Arranged Marriage.
  • Bling of War:
    • It's customary for knights of Westeros to show off their wealth with gaudy armor, which often include lacquer, jewels, gilding, sculpted crests, and exotic materials. Notable examples include Rhaegar's ruby-encrusted breastplate, Loras's cape of woven flowers, and Jaime's gilded armor. Several consciously avoid this trope — the plain but honest Starks, and cold-blooded killers like the Clegane brothers and the King's headsman, Ser Ilyn Payne.
    • Sellswords tend to wear their wealth in the form of jewelry or elaborate armor or weaponry. This makes sense as they wander from place to place looking for work (or run like hell to avoid getting killed) so have no home to stash their riches.
    • An ironborn reaver is expected to wear only jewelry paid for with "the iron price," i.e. taken off the bodies of his victims. Wearing jewelry that you actually paid money for is seen as soft and womanly.
    • Deconstructed with the Ghiscari mercenary companies, who have gone so overboard with their peacock displays that they're barely able to fight. They're almost totally used for shows of force by their clients. (It's noteworthy that when the actual cities of Slaver Bay need to fight, which isn't often, they eschew homegrown mercenary companies entirely because they have Astapor's Unsullied, often described even by people who loathe slavery as the finest soldiers in the world.)
  • Blood Bath: Apparently this is a standard accusation to lay at the feet of any attractive woman who achieves power of any sort.
    • Two long-dead noblewomen, Shiera Seastar and Danelle Lothston, supposedly indulged in these.
    • This is among the Malicious Slander spread by the Ghiscari when trying to muster sellswords against Daenerys.
  • Blood Knight:
    • Jaime Lannister says he doesn't feel alive unless he's fighting or having sex.
    • Former pit-fighter Strong Belwas delights in showing off his prowess so much that he allows his opponents to slash him once before he kills them, even after he's freed from the pits.
    • Sandor Clegane deliberately seeks out violence to vent his rage, but he does not seem to enjoy it (even if he blusters to the contrary in order to scare people).
    • Victarion takes a palpable joy in a good fight that he doesn't express towards anything else, and similarly to Jaime thinks to himself that it's the only time he feels alive.
  • Blood Magic: Blood and life powers some forms of magic, because "only death can pay for life." Notable uses of blood itself include Beric Dondarrion lighting his sword aflame with blood from his palm.
  • Blow That H Orn: The Horn of Winter is said to have the power to bring down the Wall. Mance and his men searched for it, but never found it.
  • The Bluebeard:
    • Downplayed by House Bolton, which goes through wives (and other... sources of entertainment) at a very alarming rate. Ramsay has killed only one and severely domestically abused the other — although it's pretty plain he'd probably increase the number of horribly dead wives, given the chance. He's hardly secretive about it, either. However, his father has gone through two wives under mysterious circumstances, as well. House Bolton has, from time to time, had this reputation for centuries. Increasingly while reading, you suspect it's not been without cause. And, probably, played rather straighter for some than others.
    • Gregor Clegane doesn't have any known kids. That's because his wives (and other partners) tend to die before they have a chance to either get conceived or born thanks to horrific Domestic Abuse and his general For the Evulz tendencies. It is known that he's been married a few times (certainly more than twice). The problem is, none of his wives ever gets given a name. Nor is anybody, even in-universe, quite sure how many times he has actually been married. Even his brother doesn't know: not that Sandor would have bothered to keep track, anyway. He knows what his brother is like all too well.
  • Blue Blood: Almost all the noble families of Westeros ruled as kings before the Targaryen conquest.
  • Bluff the Imposter: In a preview chapter of Winds of Winter, Mors Umber quizzes "Arya" on the names of the staff at Winterfell. Subverted, as the imposter lived at Winterfell too.
  • Body Motifs: Hands are a recurring motif, particularly injuries to hands. Examples include:
    • The Hand of the King. Orys Baratheon (the Hand to Aegon I) was denied the hand of Princess Argella in marriage and was sent the literal hands of his messenger instead. Then his sword hand was cut off while being held prisoner in Dorne, and for this resigned as Hand of the King. Eventually Orys got revenge by chopping off the hands of his former captor's son.
    • Qhorin Halfhand.
    • Greatjon Umber has two fingers bitten off by Grey Wind.
    • Ser Alliser Thorne takes a wight's hand to King's Landing (and Ghost found the hand in the woods).
    • Jaime's hand is cut off, then hung around his neck. Then he gets a golden hand.
    • Ser Davos had his fingers shortened as punishment for smuggling.
    • Ser Jacelyn Bywater has an iron hand.
    • "For hands of gold are always cold, but a woman's hands are warm."
    • Victarion Greyjoy's hand becomes infected and then magically healed.
    • Beric Dondarrion sets his sword on fire by cutting his own hand.
    • Coldhands.
    • Jon Snow's hand becomes burned. He must wear a glove over it and frequently flexes the scar tissue. During his fight with the wight, its hand is cut off but keeps attacking Jon.
    • Lady Donella Manderly chews off her own fingers while in Ramsay Bolton's custody.
    • Theon Greyjoy loses several fingers to Ramsay's torture.
    • Jaime mentions that Aerys Targaryen's hands were always scabbed from cutting himself on the Iron Throne. King Viserys I lost two infected fingers after cutting himself on the Throne
    • Jon Connington's hand becomes infected with greyscale.
    • Catelyn's fingers are cut nearly to the bone when she grabs the dagger of the assassin who is trying to kill Bran.
    • A hand was the sigil of House Gardener.
    • The sigil of House Glover is, rather fittingly, a clenched fist in a mail glove.
    • The Finger Dance game of the Ironborn.
    • Westeros natural landmarks include the Broken Arm of Dorne, the Fist of the First Men and the strip of land called the Fingers.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Jaime Lannister, a member of the Kingsguard who slew the King and was thereafter branded the Kingslayer. This is also believed to have happened with Renly when his murder was pinned on Brienne.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Shows up a number of times where bodyguards crush on their wards: Jorah Mormont is in love with Daenerys Targaryen, who does not return the feeling, much to the angst of them both. Brienne of Tarth and Renly Baratheon is a rare gender inversion. Sandor Clegane has a love-hate infatuation with Sansa, who seems to have mixed feelings for him, due to her false memory of their kiss. The only fully reciprocal example is Loras and Renly, which ends badly.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass:
    • Because the Dothraki follow the strongest member of the khalasar, the khal is, by definition, more badass than his bloodriders.
    • Examined by Melisandre. She knows her guards are completely useless when it comes to protecting her, but she keeps them around because having armed men at your beck and call is an important status symbol.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: King Robert Baratheon, "Greatjon" Umber, and Tormund Giantbane. Thoros of Myr and Aeron Damphair were both examples before their religious awakenings.
  • Born in the Saddle: Exaggerated with the Dothraki, who essentially wear their horses as a hat. They worship horse-gods, describe everything in horse-metaphors, and are said to waddle bow-legged if they're ever forced to walk on their own two feet.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Melisandre uses the catchphrase of Jon's deceased girlfriend, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," at the end of his first chapter in A Dance with Dragons. It's implied that she did this intentionally.
  • Braids of Barbarism: Worn by Dothraki warriors, who give themselves an Important Haircut if they're ever defeated in battle.
  • Brain Uploading: Revealed to be the true nature of the Old Gods. What human worshipers believe are nature spirits are revealed to be countless generations of greenseers. When reaching the end of their lifespan, these greenseers uploaded themselves into the collective mind of the weirwoods.
  • Brawn Hilda: Brienne of Tarth and Pretty Meris.
  • Breaching the Wall: The Wildlings constantly attack the eponymous Wall to travel south. Much to their grief, the Night's Watch makes their efforts a living hell. A few of them (including Osha) were clever enough to bypass it and reach Winterfell, though. It is implied in the books the White Walkers have the power to destroy it and march on Westeros.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Poor, poor little Arya and Sansa. The sensitive and naive Sansa especially goes through a lot of pain, including sexual abuse. Arya copes slightly better and becomes a Little Miss Badass but also joins an assassin's guild and starts losing her sense of identity as well as becoming less hesitant to kill while Sansa, though still at others' mercy, is at least safer than her sister and is learning how to manipulate others.
    • Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole actually starts more idealistic than Sansa, but becomes a Broken Bird.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Sansa and Arya, at the same time as their Break the Cutie.
    • Jaime Lannister gets a prolonged and nasty breaking over the course of the first three books, culminating in the loss of his sword hand. While nothing else breaks his haughtiness, that one certainly did.
    • A Dance With Dragons: Cersei, after her humiliation before all of King's Landing. She tries bravely to maintain her composure through the whole thing, but in the last leg she breaks down crying and scrambles to safety. Kevan notes with some small regret that her flame had been snuffed out.
    • A Dance With Dragons: Theon is tortured to near insanity by Ramsay Bolton.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Set up from a character's first appearance and takes almost the entirety of three books to land: Lord Tywin Lannister did not, in the end, shit gold.
    • "As useless as nipples on a breastplate" is a common saying. When Jorah joins the Second Sons, he dons a breastplate with pierced nipples.
    • In A Storm of Swords, the minstrel Tom Sevenstreams mentions having annoyed a certain lord with a song, mocking his inability to get an erection. In A Feast for Crows, Lord Edmure sees Tom about to sing and says, "No, not him!"
  • Bring My Brown Pants: There are a lot of references to characters soiling themselves when faced with terrifying circumstances and/or death.
  • Broken Bird: Poor, poor Jeyne Poole. First, her father is killed by the City Watch when they betray Ned, and it's implied she saw it happen. Then she is separated from Sansa (her only remaining friend) and disappears. When she finally shows up again, she's passed off as Arya so she can be married to Ramsay Bolton, she's been whipped enough to have a scarred back, and has been..."trained" to service him by Littlefinger. Her screams can be heard throughout Winterfell, and when Mance and his spearwife strike team enlist Theon's help to rescue her, she has multiple bite marks covering her breasts, and her comments reveal that not only has Ramsay been quite ruthless in using her, he's also had her do...other things.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Jon's discovery that much of Night's Watch is now composed of an Army of Thieves and Whores rather than the ancient and noble order he'd believed it to be and what it once actually was.
    • Jon and his father. Although he loves him, thinks highly of him and defends him when anyone questions his honor, sometimes he can't help but hear a small voice that Jon tries to quell, whispering that his father did father an illegitimate son — him — while he was married.
    • Daenerys' reaction to Arstan's Brutal Honesty about her father, after being brought up hearing only her brother's version of events.
    • Jaime's ideals of knighthood were shattered when the same king who made him Kingsguard turned out to be insane, and even more so, when he found out he was only given the position to rob his father of the only child he saw as a suitable heir.
    • Sandor idolized Rhaegar until he knighted Sandor's psychotic brother Gregor. It's the reason he reacts so violently to being called "ser," and also part of why he empathises with Sansa.
    • Cersei Lannister's view of her father Tywin was broken when she found a dead prostitute in his bed.
    • Sansa idolized Cersei until her father was executed and she was held captive at King's Landing.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Dealt with often enough to be a running theme in the series.
    • House Targaryen wed brother to sister to keep their ancient bloodline "pure"; as a result, the "Blood of the Dragon" tends to degenerate into deformity and insanity. It also helps keep their white haired appearance. They seem to get a pass from Westerosi society despite the taboo, probably because they were the royal family and, for two-thirds of their reign, had dragons; the practice is mentioned once or twice to have been common "in old Valyria."
    • The incestuous relationship of Jaime and Cersei, which is treated as an abominable secret, in part because it would rightfully call the legitimacy of her sons into question, and probably lead Cersei's actual husband to kill them all in a fit of rage.
  • Brown Note: Various horns are thought to have a magical effect when blown.
    • Euron Greyjoy's horn, Dragonbinder, which will kill whoever blows it, but is thought to bind dragons to the will of the horn's owner.
    • The legendary Horn of Winter supposedly will bring the Wall down when it's blown. Mance Rayder arrives at the Wall with a gigantic horn that he claims is the Horn of Winter and threatens to blow it. It's a bluff. Mance never did find the Horn of Winter.
  • Bucket Helmet: Patchface has one covered in bells and antlers, as a parody of the Baratheon arms.
  • Bully Hunter: It seems to run in the Stark family.
    • Jon is particularly eager to show up some of the nastier recruits during his training at The Wall;
    • Arya instantly jumps to help the stable boy, her friend Mycah, when Joffrey is bullying him. Also, she takes no shit from any boy who picks on her;
    • Lyanna Stark seems to have been one, since she once singlehandedly beat the living shit out of three squires who were picking on young Howland Reed.
  • Bury Your Gays: The relationship between Renly and Loras, made canonical thanks to Word of God, is buried mostly in hints, justified as society at large in Westeros would likely not react well to such things, and that neither is a point-of-view character. That said, the hints are sometimes pretty obvious, such as calling Loras "Renly's little rose", Jaime threatening to shove a sword into Loras "somewhere that even Renly never found", Loras's reaction to Renly's death and later telling Sansa that he has loved, but never will again, etc.
  • The Butcher: Cleon, the Butcher King of Astapor, actually got the moniker because that was his trade as a slave... but he goes on to exemplify the trope perfectly well regardless.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Roose Bolton mentions that the most memorable thing that happened on the day he raped Ramsay's mother was that he had to put down his favourite horse.
  • But Not Too Bi: Oberyn Martell has a reputation for having a voracious sexual appetite that extends to both male and female partners. While the female relationships are clearly present, the male relationships are only present as a rumor.
  • Butt-Monkey: Several characters suffer this fate:
    • Tyrion Lannister, born a dwarf into a perfectionist family and blamed for everything. No one is more aware of this trope than him. It gets worse once he leaves Westeros.
    • Brienne of Tarth, cursed with an ugly appearance and "mannish" body, is not taken seriously either as a lady or a warrior.
    • Theon Greyjoy spends half his life as a ward of the Stark family, to keep Balon Greyjoy from causing any more trouble. Ned Stark never truly accepts him, as he is the son of a rebellious lord he may have to execute one day if Theon's father rebels again. When Theon returns home, his father rejects him, believing his time with the Starks has made him too soft. From there, things go from bad to much, much worse.
    • Viserys Targaryen, the Beggar King, was raised to think of himself as a member of a master race and heir to a mighty nation, yet he doesn't even have his own bed. He spends his days wandering from court to court, selling his family heirlooms to survive, trying to convince someone to support his claim. His life is one long string of humiliations ending in being killed by his brother in law when he gets too uppity.
    • Grand Maester Pycelle. He's imprisoned in the black cells for a time, his beard is cut off to humiliate him, he's frequently called old and senile, and most of his advice is ignored. When he finally starts to get some influence on how things are going in King's Landing, he's murdered for being too effective.
    • Quentyn Martell, who doesn't know how to talk to girls, is sent across the sea on a mission that could determine the fate of Westeros, to woo "the most beautiful woman in the world". He arrives just in time to watch her marry someone else. Things get worse for him from there. It doesn't help that he is constantly described as being less attractive than his best friend.
    • Pretty much the entire Stark family suffers one hardship after another, and the universe rarely misses an opportunity to rub salt in their wounds.
    • Lollys is a mentally challenged Fat Girl who is a universal object of derision and her gang rape is pretty much considered a joke by everyone. It says a lot that probably the best thing that's happened to her so far is her marriage to the amoral sellsword Bronn, who despite marrying her as a Meal Ticket and proceeding to kill off several of her family members, seems to have some fondness for her.
    • Edmure Tully has a remarkable talent for humiliating himself at every possible opportunity. When he's not ruining Robb's battle plans, he's being too Distracted by the Sexy to notice anything that's happening around him (you know, little things like Jaime Lannister escaping his cell or his family being slaughtered down the hall, spending weeks standing on a gallows with a rope around his neck as the world's most useless hostage, or having minstrels make up funny songs about his erectile problems. The poor guy can't even take a bath without someone threatening to use his unborn children as artillery.
  • Byronic Hero: For being a franchise who counts Loads and Loads of Characters, A Song of Ice and Fire collects a large amount:
    • Tyrion Lannister seems to be almost exactly this, sans the good looks. He is an extremely cunning, intelligent guy who will made a supreme politician, if only someone gives him the credit he deserves. The tragedy of his life is that in a world of Beauty Equals Goodness, it's very difficult for him to achieve the power or the he longs for, and his cast aside but his own father and the woman he loved was horribly taken away from him because she was a commoner. Since he sides with his family, the supposed bad guys, he's an Anti-Villain whose actions throughout the first part of the series help further the cause of House Lannister and when he acts ruthless is merely out of pragmatism. He's eventually getting darker and more cynic after discovering his commoner wife was not a prostitute hired for him and murdered his father for that. Since then, he has defected his family and he's siding with the Targaryen, following his path of revenge.
    • His older brother Jaime is one as well. He's by reputation the most handsome man in Westeros and one of the most dangerous as well. He starts off presented as rather villainous, brash, rather cynical and prone to reckless behavior such as slaughtering some of Ned's guard in response of his brother Tyrion's kidnapping by Ned's wife, not to mention his Bodyguard Betrayal of King Aerys, which is still frowned upon years after and his incestuous passion for his twin sister Queen Cersei. Then the third book reveals he has his share of emotional baggage which mostly consist of guilt for the death of Rhaegar's children and having lied about Tyrion's wife being a prostitute. After having lost his sword hand and having met warrior girl Brienne, he's actively moving to a more honorable behavior, though at his own interpretation of the rules.
    • The Targaryens by themselves have produced a great deal of them:
      • Rhaegar Targaryen seems to have been one. Rhaegar repeatedly stated to have had "melancholy eyes", that matched his brooding nature and was a charismatic wise prince who played the harp and liked spending time alone. It also seems that his path was generally driven by a prophecy he read as a boy, and to keep faith to it, he became one of Westeros' finest swords. People expected him to became a great king, but he lost his life in a war for the woman he loved, whom he couldn't have since he was already married and she was about to marry his cousin. He was also born under inauspicious circumstances (the Tragedy at Summerhall) and often mused about it. And most of all the true meaning of his actions are still shrouded in mystery and fount of speculations in-universe and out.
      • Prince Daemon Targaryen was a prince, a pirate and a rogue and lived and loved dangerously. His enemies at court were terrified of him for his mercurial and ruthless nature, and tried to keep him away from the throne when his brother King Viserys lacked of male heirs. After being passed over for the Iron Throne once, he flew off to conquer the Stepstones with his dragon and made himself a petty pirate king until he got bored of fighting. In the years he leaded the City Guard he was fond of visiting brothels, gambling pits, consorting with lowlifes and generally hanging out with all sort of scums. He was also capable of great bravery and strength and died fighting the greatest dragon alive planting a Taking You with Me gambit.
      • Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers, bastard son of King Aegon IV, was the most important political figure during his time at King's Landing and most certainly the greatest Master of Spies to have ever served the Iron Throne. But he was a very controversial guy: rumored to be a sorcerer (and indeed he was, since he could skinchange in his crows) who controlled the kingdom with his crows, and suppressed the Blackfyre Rebellion in blood. His ruthless actions to keep the Targaryens on the throne eventually earned him a one-way ticket to The Wall. But even there he managed to become Lord Commander until he disappeared Beyond the Wall. It's revealed he didn't disappeared — he instead became a powerful half-weirwood figure in a cave with the Children of the Forest and he's still watching Westeros and his descendants.

     C 
  • Cain and Abel:
    • Stannis and Renly Baratheon, who fight over the throne. Stannis is the rightful king, but Renly is far more charismatic, though in private Renly comes across as very unpleasant, with his supposed effectiveness really being Informed Ability. Stannis seems to be the Cain in this equation, although even he may not realize it. Complicated further as Renly fully intended to be the Cain himself, but died before anything came of it, showing no remorse at the idea of killing Stannis, while Stannis is clearly upset at Renly dying despite knowing they intended to kill him.
    • Ramsay Snow and his trueborn half-brother, Domeric Bolton. Ramsay allegedly murdered Domeric several years before the series began to eliminate his father's sole heir and legitimize himself, thereby becoming heir to the Dreadfort.
    • Gregor and Sandor Clegane, also known as the 'Mountain that Rides' and the 'Hound', respectively. They both want to kill each other, but never went that far, although Gregor left Sandor badly disfigured.
    • House Targaryen and House Blackfyre are these in a way since they are descended from the same man, King Aegon the Unworthy. The current line of Targaryens descend from Daeron the Good, his son with his wife Queen Naerys (though some say Naerys actually had an affair with their brother Aemon the Dragonknight although it looks quite likely Aegon started the rumors due to his spiteful hate at his family), and House Blackfyre descends from Daemon Blackfyre, his bastard son with his first cousin Daena the Defiant.
    • The story of the Cargyll twins, Kingsguard on opposite sides of the Dance of the Dragons, is remembered as a romantic tragedy. Other sources claim they hated each other. Which is the Cain and which is the Abel is still up to debate.
  • The Caligula:
    • Several Targaryens kings have been appalling rulers, but Aerys the Mad King is most infamous. He was paranoid of almost everyone around him and had men burned alive in his throne room on a regular basis. Eventually, he took this too far and many in the kingdom rose up in rebellion.
    • King Joffrey Baratheon is a pre-teen brat who loves tormenting his subjects for little to no reason. Since his mother, uncle, and grandfather do all the actual work running the kingdom, he's free to do whatever he damn well pleases.
    • Robert Arryn, who is very young, infirm, and sheltered by a mad woman.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Lizard-lions seem to be crocodiles, and basilisks some species of large tropical lizards. A "zorse" is probably a zebra, though in real life the word is used to describe a horse/zebra hybrid.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Tyrion, with a crossbow, in the privy.
  • Came Back Wrong:
    • Catelyn Stark and Beric Dondarrion, from Thoros' magic. Beric is resurrected shortly after death, but loses more and more of his memories and life force each time. Catelyn is resurrected several days after death, leaving her a partially rotted and vengeance-fueled revenant of her former self.
    • It is strongly implied that Ser Robert Strong is the reanimated corpse of Gregor Clegane, fueled by Qyburn's twisted experiments. The massive knight seems to never sleep or eat. It is also likely that he has no head under his greathelm, since Clegane's skull was sent to Dorne. Earlier in the series, Bran has a green dream in which a huge knight in stone armor lifts his visor, but there is only blood behind it. The stone armor is likely an allusion to Clegane's nickname, "The Mountain."
  • Camp Follower: Quite a few are seen due to the number of military engagements throughout the novels. Shae is the most prominent.
  • Candlelit Ritual: Alluded to with the Glass Candles, obsidian artifacts that can only be lit by magic. Every prospective Maester holds a nighttime vigil with three glass candles in complete darkness, symbolizing the limits of their knowledge — and their tacit disbelief in magic, which causes some consternation when an Archmaester manages to light one and use it as a Crystal Ball.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: Doesn't "protecting the Wall against the Others" sound so much more noble and dramatic than "protecting the wall against the others"?
  • The Captain: Euron, Victarion, and Asha Greyjoy
  • Captain Obvious: Hallis Mollen is prone to this, much to Cat's annoyance.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Jeor Mormont and Alliser Thorne, although there's a bit of a Subversion in play. Commander Mormont can be quite gruff, and Thorne's roughness is more sadism and resentfullness rather than serving a beneficial purpose. Thorne is described as being terrible at his job of training recruits, because he provides no training, only punishment.
  • The Casanova: Robert, several years before the story began anyway. Dareon is on the more despicable side of this trope. Theon seems to have a fair amount of charm and certainly hits on every girl within reach, leading to some awkwardness when he accidentally flirts with his own sister.
  • Cassandra Truth: Cersei of all people warns Tyrion against trusting Varys, who eventually sells him out by giving Half Truth evidence at Cersei's Kangaroo Court.
  • Catch-Phrase: A number of characters have them.
    • Each noble house has its own motto, often describing the hat of the family and serving as its collective catchphrase.
    • "A Lannister always pays his debts," said by all Lannisters as a threat (or, more rarely, a reassurance). It's even more strongly associated with the family than their official motto, "Hear me roar!"
    • "I will cut off his manhood and feed it to the goats," is said by Shagga as a Running Gag. Tyrion adopts the phrase himself.
    • "You know nothing, Jon Snow," is Ygritte's, and it also doubles as Arc Words. It becomes a Catch-Phrase for Jon himself that he repeats in his inner monologues whenever dealing with wildlings.
    • Daenerys' "I am the blood of the dragon," and when she feels a bit sarcastic, "I am only a young girl and know nothing of war, but..." She also has "If I look back, I am lost" in her internal monologues.
    • "It is known", said as a Running Gag by Dany's Dothraki handmaidens.
    • "Just so," said by anyone from Braavos, notably Syrio Forel.
    • Jeor Mormont's pet raven has one, too. "Corn!"
    • In the Dunk and Egg stories, Egg's is, "Get him! Get him! He's right there!" Said whenever he's watching a fight or joust. Dunk himself has, "Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall."
  • Celibate Hero:
    • What the Night's Watch, the Maesters of the Citadel and the Kingsguard are supposed to be. In practice? Not so much.
    • Cersei is dismayed to find out that Lancel takes this seriously once he joins the Faith Militant — and worse, he's confessed his adultery with her to the High Septon.
  • Central Theme: It's hard to boil it down to one key theme
    • Extremism is dangerous — fire may be deadly, but ice will kill you just as dead. It isn't enough to be a good man to be The Good King and The Good Chancellor while pure ruthlessness and unchallenged evil will enjoy, at best, short-term victories but produce nothing long-lasting.
    • A political system based on inheriting the state is inherently unstable, the legacy of The Good King can be undone by one Ax-Crazy Black Sheep or any Unfit for Greatness heir. While royalty has the support of feudal and religious classes, the only opinion that really matters is that of the common folk who don't care for titles at all. For them, a king who doesn't protect his people is no true king at all.
    • Nobody is what they seem, everyone has Hidden Depths and even your close family members will have secrets that you probably won't find out. Most of the really heroic actions are The Greatest Story Never Told and history is Written by the Winners.
  • Chance Meeting Between Antagonists: Two characters travelling in opposite directions, going on about their own business Catelyn Stark and Tyrion, recognise each other in an inn, causing the intrigues of other characters to spiral out of control into an all-out civil war. It happens again in A Dance with Dragons when a fugitive Tyrion runs into Jorah Mormont in a brothel they just happened to be visiting at the same time; Jorah seizes him to take to Meereen in the hope of winning back Daenerys' favour.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: Named characters die all the time, mostly because there is such a ridiculous number of them. Some of them can't even make it to becoming One-Scene Wonders, but are left to be only names in the appendices before they pass away.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Some of the guns have been fired, many and more are primed to go off at any moment, and there's at least one cannon that everyone's been waiting on for a while now.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • The Hand's Tourney's introduces a number of characters who become more important later in, including Gregor Clegane, Loras Tyrell and Beric Dondarrion.
    • The Greyjoys, Tyrells and Martells are essentially Chekhov's Houses, mentioned long before they gain plot importance.
  • Chekhov M.I.A.:
    • Ser Barristan Selmy. In the first book, he's forced into retirement, but refuses to give up, saying he'll be in the service of the true king. In the second book, all the candidates for the Iron Throne are making much ado about his comments, wondering why he hasn't shown up anywhere. In the third book, it turns out they had the wrong continent — he went to go serve Daenerys.
    • Aegon Targaryen, who instead of being dead, was Switched At Birth with some other unfortunate infant and has been groomed by Jon Connington and others for the throne. Or is it?
    • Nymeria. Every now and then someone will make an offhand reference to an enormous horde of wolves ravaging the riverlands, led by a huge direwolf.
    • When Drogon goes missing early in book five, astute readers will assume that he'll be back. His return is literally out of the blue, however.
  • The Chessmaster: Littlefinger, Tywin Lannister, Varys, Illyrio and Roose Bolton are the masters of this. When Tyrion tried it in book two, he did it very well until his father Tywin interfered. Doran Martell moves his pieces with the long game in mind, but this gives a lot of time, and his pieces too much freedom, for random chance to collapse many of his plans later on. Even Sam Tarly shows remarkable promise when he fixes Jon's election as Lord Commander.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: An occasional result of the practice of fosterage between noble houses, and indeed is often an expected outcome of doing it — if you're going to marry your children off when they're older, it can only help if they're at least somewhat affectionate towards each other.
    • A triangle of these between Petyr Baelish and Catelyn and Lysa Tully has far-reaching and disastrous repercussions.
    • When Tristifer Botley reunites with Asha Greyjoy he tells her he's saved himself for her all these years. She politely dismisses him, but he remains a loyal follower and close friend.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Daenerys Targaryen, Robb Stark, Bran Stark, Joffrey Baratheon, Jon Snow, Tommen Baratheon, and Aegon Targaryen. Children also occasionally become lords, including Robert Arryn and Renly Baratheon in his youth.
  • Children Are Innocent: The Water Gardens in Dorne are there to remind the ruler of this, and that such childhood innocence is the first victim of war (as has been abundantly displayed elsewhere in the series). This is why Prince Doran kept Dorne out of the War of the Five Kings, until he was confident that they could win.
  • Child Soldiers: As in real life, squires in Westeros are expected to follow their masters into war, and often must fight by their sides in battle. And even in Westeros, where you're considered a man at fifteen, there are still technically children doing this. Podrick Payne is a notable example.
  • The Chooser of The One: Melisandre comes to Westeros to find Azor Azai, who she identifies as Stannis.
  • The Chosen One: There's a few prophecies of this kind. Not that there's any reason they couldn't all be the same person...
    • The Prince Who Was Promised, a Targaryen prophesy of the one who will bring back the dragons.
    • Azor Ahai, a champion prophesied by the R'hllor faith to defeat the darkness.
    • The Stallion That Mounts the World, a prophesied great Dothraki leader.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: It's rather endemic throughout Westeros.
    • People assume this of Jaime Lannister because he killed the King he swore to defend, calling him "Kingslayer," but it's an undeserved reputation.
    • Petyr Baelish's case is the worst-kept secret in Westeros. Everyone knows that he's a schemer, but because he's physically not a threat and of a house of no great age or wealth they always underestimate the scope of his plans and think they can use him to their advantage. They are always dead wrong. Sometimes, they're so wrong that when he finally backstabs them, they don't even realize he was behind it. The only person who recognizes what a danger Petyr is is Tyrion. Perhaps because as a dwarf in a medieval society, Tyrion is quite used to the idea of that someone who doesn't physically seem like a threat, can still be a threat.
    • Cersei becomes this out of paranoia after Joffrey's death, plotting against her most solid allies because she doesn't trust them.
    • Everybody knows the Freys cannot be trusted: sharp practice and backstabby, dirty dealing is what they are well-known for among the best treaty-twisters in the business. Then... they kick it into the higher gears — and become truly despised for their pains.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: To the frustration of her advisors, many of the locals, Dany cannot be persuaded to leave Essos to its own problems and move on to her goals in Westeros. Tyrion uses this trope in regard to Dany, recommending that Aegon, instead of showing up on her doorstep asking her to marry him, invade Westeros. He can't win, so she'll have to go to rescue him. This would not only put her own indefinitely delayed invasion plans back on track, but is also more likely to make a good first impression.
    • Jon Snow definitely has a case of this as well, especially after he is elected Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. He repeatedly goes out of his way trying to save everyone, no matter how unlikely the chances of it working are. In addition to his humanitarian reasons for trying to save everyone, he justifies it as also being sensible: the more who die beyond the Wall, the more undead join the approaching Other army — but he only uses this argument once. Still and quite frustratingly, none of his fellow leaders see this side of it.
  • Church Militant: Cersei frees herself of a debt to the Church by resurrecting The Swords and Stars, thereby ushering in a new era of religious zealotry. This is widely considered a terrible idea, and comes back to personally bite her in the ass.
  • The City Narrows: The Flea Bottom neighborhood of Kings' Landing is this, a crime-ridden slum (in)famous for its signature "bowl o'brown", a stew that you don't know what or who went into it. Both Dunk and Davos grew up in this area, but managed to rise to being the friends and trusted advisers of monarchs.
  • City of Adventure: Braavos
  • City of Canals: The Free City of Braavos is loosely based on Venice.
  • The Clan: Noble houses in Westeros share physical traits and generally wear similar hats. The free folk have literal clans, most with some distinguishing feature or custom.
  • Clever Crows: Ravens are more intelligent than crows here, and function as Westeros's primary messaging system (similar to real-life homing pigeons). The fact that they're also birds of ill-omen is frequently remarked upon ("dark wings, dark words"), given that most of the messages people get are bad news. Furthermore, a very rare breed of white raven exists, significantly more intelligent than the black kind. Finally, Bran's dreams are haunted by a Spirit Advisor in the form of a talking three-eyed crow, gradually revealed to be an avatar of an extremely powerful warg and greenseer who lives beyond the Wall and uses crows and ravens as spies.
  • Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb: This happens to Jon in A Clash of Kings.
  • Cliffhanger: Most chapters end with a cliffhanger, and all the storylines of each book generally end on the biggest one.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Lysa Tully, to the point that she tries to murder her teenage niece because Littlefinger hit on her.
  • Cock Fight:
    • There was a non-heroic example of this long before the events of the book. Though she eventually married Eddard Stark, as a child Catelyn was betrothed to his older brother Brandon (who died in an unrelated incident) but was loved by a young Petyr Baelish (who would grow up to become the series premiere Magnificent Bastard Littlefinger). This rivalry over Catelyn eventually led Petyr to challenge Brandon to a duel for Catelyn, where he got utterly curb stomped. The resulting effect on his character causes no end of problems for the whole of Westeros.
    • Also in the backstory is the cockfight to end all cockfights. Robert was rather understandably furious when Rhaegar kidnapped/eloped with Lyanna, his betrothed, which then sparked a war. When Rhaegar and Robert finally met at the end of the war, they had an epic battle that Rhaegar fatally lost. Unfortunately for pretty much everyone, Lyanna died anyway.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The shavepates are citizens of Meereen who side with Daenerys's conquering regime, so called because, in deliberate contrast to the frankly ridiculous and over-the-top hairstyles of Ghiscari culture, they shave their heads. They are considered traitors by the Sons of the Harpy.
  • Co-Dragons: The Kettleblack brothers to Cersei. Or at least she believes them as that. Turns out, their whole family is serving Littlefinger.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Rampant in the series, as part of its War Is Hell theme. The Bloody Mummers, the Tickler, and Ramsay Bolton are some of the worst offenders.
  • Collectible Card Game
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • The great houses all have house colors. Family traits also seem to stay the same in noble houses through dozens of generations, though not always. This plays an important role in the first book.
    • The two great politically neutral institutions, the Night's Watch and the Kingsguard, wear black and white, respectively. The city watch of King's Landing wear gold. Played with for the maesters — there is no official rule that they must all wear grey, but it is a common color for them to choose and they're often referred to as wearing grey.
    • The Graces (priestesses) of Slaver's Bay have different ranks and occupations, signified by the color of their robes: Red Graces are temple prostitutes, Blue Graces are healers, White Graces are highborn little girls, and Pink Graces are attendants of the Green Grace, the High Priestess.
  • Color Motif: All the noble houses throw their heraldic colours around every chance they get. The major players at the beginning of the series are the grim, dour, "stark" Starks whose colours are grey and white, and the rich, opulent Lannisters whose colours are red and gold (which contrast plays into the whole "ice and fire" motif as well).
  • Colonel Badass: Jeor Mormont and Barristan Selmy, who hold the roughly equivalent rank of Lord Commander. Later Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow
  • Coming and Going: Sansa meets the widowed Lady Myranda Royce, roughly her own age, whose middle-aged husband expired the first time they had sex.
    Myranda: He died on top of me. In me, if truth be told. You do know what goes on in a marriage bed, I hope?
    Sansa: That must have been dreadful, my lady. Him dying. There, I mean, whilst... whilst he was...
    Myranda: Fucking me? It was disconcerting, certainly. Not to mention discourteous.
    • Edmure Tully has such a great time with his new wife that he fails to notice all his friends and allies dying at the Red Wedding just down the hall at the same time.
  • Companion Cube: The order of guardsmen that Areo Hotah belongs to ceremonially wed their axes upon graduation; he sleeps with his by his side and refers to it as his "ash-and-iron wife".
  • Conflicting Loyalties:
    • Jaime provides the page quote. His particular tear is between loyalty to his family and to his vows, but a combination of Brienne's formative example of knightly virtue and the realisation of just what a nest of vipers his family is makes that choice easier for him.
    • Brienne has a cruel one later on, when her oath to protect Jaime, given to Catelyn Stark, clashes with her oath to obey Catelyn Stark, when Lady Stoneheart orders Jaime brought to her for justice.
    • This becomes a major issue for all of the lesser lords in the rebelling lands, as Lord Walder points out in his first appearance; they've given oaths of loyalty to both their liege lord and to the crown, so no matter what they do after the call to arms is sounded they're traitors to someone.
  • Conservation of Competence: This is explained In-Universe as the reason for the murder of Kevan Lannister. His leadership was threatening to restore stability to Westeros a little too quickly for the liking of some.
  • The Consigliere: Most lords have advisors, though many of these turn out to be Evil Chancellors. Honest examples include Jon Arryn/Ned to Robert, Davos to Stannis, Catelyn to Robb, Kevan to Tywin, and Jorah/Barristan to Daenerys.
  • Conspicuous Gloves:
    • While it would make sense to wear gloves often anyway, since he's in the cold North, Jon Snow wears gloves at all times anyway, because in the first novel, he got a burn on one of his hands.
    • The smuggler-turned-knight Davos also wears gloves at all times, because in the interest of "justice", Stannis rewarded him by knighting him, but also felt it necessary to chop off all of his fingertips on one hand as punishment for his earlier smuggling.
    • The narrative notes several times that Griff is wearing gloves. It's eventually revealed that he's hiding terminal greyscale in one of his hands.
  • Consummate Liar:
    • Part of Faceless Men training involves becoming one and having total control of any physical manifestation of emotion.
    • Littlefinger is a truly amazing liar, who succeeds because everyone takes his mischievous personality as the extent of his subterfuge, and boy are they wrong.
  • Continuity Nod: There are a number of continuity nods between the main A Song of Ice and Fire series and the "Dunk and Egg" short stories:
    • In A Feast for Crows,, Brienne has her shield painted to copy the arms of a shield hanging in her father's hall, an oak and falling star. These are the arms of Ser Duncan the Tall.
    • Jaime passes by the village of Pennytree, where Dunk's late master Arlan of Pennytree presumably came from — sometime in the intervening years, it became a royal fief. The origin of the Pennytree itself is an unreveal, with Jaime even musing to himself that if Tyrion were there, he could probably tell him, but the mystery was more fun.
    • In "The Mystery Knight," Walder Frey makes an appearance as a precocious and snot-nosed four-year-old. Dunk finds him extremely irritating.
  • Compensating for Something: Cersei makes a remark to this effect when she hears that Mace Tyrell is planning to rebuild the Tower of the Hand twice as high as before she burnt it. Kevan finds this Actually Pretty Funny.
  • Cool Sword: Many houses have one. Ice for the Starks and Heartsbane for the Tarlys are some examples.
  • Cool Uncle:
    • Tyrion Lannister loves his niece and nephew Myrcella and Tommen and they love him too. Tyrion tries his best to be this for Joffrey and does what he can to fix Joffrey's mistakes. Tyrion's own aunt Genna, and his uncles Kevan, Tygett and Gerion were also far kinder to him than his own father was.
    • Theon remembers his uncle Aeron being this way in his youth, but upon his return home finds that Aeron has discovered religion sometime in the last ten years and become considerably less fun than the rowdy, drunken womanizer he remembers.
    • There's also Catelyn Stark's uncle Brynden, who is definitely this trope with regards to her and her siblings.
    • Eddard Stark's younger brother Benjen is this to Ned's bastard son Jon Snow, as Jon has wanted to join the Night's Watch his entire life. He is also this to a lesser extent to Arya and Sansa Stark, who end up with a very different image of what the Watch is like based on him than reality.
  • Corrupt Church: The Faith of the Seven becomes this, as the High Septon is blatantly in the pocket of the Lannisters. He is immensely overweight and goes out bedecked in rich clothing and jewels to ride through a city that is on the verge of starvation. The angry smallfolk riot and rip the man to pieces. The next High Septon is pretty much the same, though Cersei has him killed because she believed he was under Tyrion's thumb. The next man chosen due to public pressure is a lowborn reformer who is quite the ascetic Knight Templar, and proves impossible to control.
  • Costume Porn
  • Country Matters: Turns up more often than not and rather matter-of-factly. Clayton Suggs calls Asha a cunt in every sentence he speaks to her. A northerner in Stannis's service drops C-bombs while beating Asha unconscious in battle, then seeks her out afterwards to apologize—not for trying to bash her head in, but for swearing at her.
  • Courtly Love: Unsurprisingly, mostly deconstructed.
    • Several men claim to be in love with Daenerys but actually either want her crown, her dragons, and/or something else. However, there may be a genuine example in Ser Barristan.
    • Brienne is clearly in love with Renly, and pledges her life to serving him despite knowing it could never go anywhere. Even after his death, she continues to display Undying Loyalty and even seems to feel guilty whenever she has romantic feelings for anyone else.
    • Sansa thinks this is Ser Dontos' relationship with her, believing that as a devoted knight who owes her his life, he's one of the few people she can trust in King's Landing. There's even an exchange of favours, as he gives her a hairnet he claims is a family heirloom. He succeeds in spiriting her out of King's Landing, but it's promptly revealed that he's merely a pawn of Littlefinger's, bribed with promises of gold to deliver her to him, and paid with a crossbow bolt to the chest. Even the favour was a con, the source of the poison that killed Joffrey.
  • Cowardly Lion: Sam Tarly, as well as being The So-Called Coward.
  • Crapsack World: Very few locations in the world aren't horrible places to live:
    • Westeros is constantly torn apart by competing factions, psychotic monarchs and threatened by monsters from beyond the Wall. 90% of the population is dirt poor and live at the mercy of the noble families, most of whom constantly scheme to overturn any rights for the peasants that a benevolent ruler might try to put in place. And in every generation, there's a winter that typically lasts for years.
    • The Wildlings beyond the Wall live in a world of perpetual cold, and survive by stealing things from each other, even wives. And they're prime fodder for those aforementioned monsters threatening Westeros.
    • Essos is completely reliant on slaves — save for Braavos, where slavery is illegal — who are treated brutally by an outrageously perverse aristocracy, and the Dothraki regularly massacre or enslave anyone who can't pay them off.
    • The southern continent Sothoryos is plague-ridden and apparently mostly uninhabited, with most of the known cities ruined and only two still known to be inhabited.
  • Creature-Hunter Organization: Played with in the Night's Watch. They were created specifically to defend the realm from magical ice demons called the Others (and their zombie minions, the wights) but lack any specialized weaponry, and, by the time the series begins, the organization has devolved into an Army of Thieves and Whores fighting the altogether human wildlings after The Magic Goes Away. As the series goes on and it becomes clear that the Others are back, it starts being played straight, as the Watch come to understand the nature of the threat and get their act together, and dragonglass is discovered to be very effective in fighting the Others.
  • Creepy Crows: Crows are literally omnipresent. They most of all serve as messenger birds throughout Westeros, often delivering bad news. This leads to the commonly-repeated expression, "dark wings, dark words".
    • The character most associated (his names, his birthmark, the Blackwood sigil and his rumored and revealed to be true skinchanging ability) with crows is Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers, who is a controversial character at his best, and (ambiguously) evil at his worst. Then, he's revealed to be a powerful sorcerer who has always skinchanged in crows to fulfill his own mysterious agenda.
    • Jeor Mormont's old pet raven can also speak a few words, which often seem ominously prophetic. It may have something to do with the above mentioned ability of Bloodraven in skinchanging.
    • The Maesters of the Citadel also breed special white ravens who are only released to signify the official changing of seasons; one shows up at the end of A Dance With Dragons to show that winter has come.
    • It's heavily implied that the unusual cleverness of the ravens may have something to do with centuries of skinchanging by the greenseers, who used to speak through the birds.
  • Creepy Souvenir: The Tattered Prince, who has a colorful cloak stitched from bloodstained rags of cloaks of enemies he's defeated. There's also the mountain clan The Black Ears, who wear necklaces of ears taken from men they defeat in combat— unusually for the trope, they take an ear but spare the men's lives, and welcome them to a rematch to get their ear back (double or nothing...). And the Boltons, of course.
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • Why pit fighters make lousy bodyguards. Barristan notes that they are accustomed to fighting a specific enemy at an appointed time and retiring immediately after the fight. Bodyguards must be ready to fight anyone at any moment under any circumstance.
    • Dragonglass is good only for killing white walkers; it does nothing to their undead foot soldiers. (Presumably, it works perfectly well against human beings, as obsidian, which can make for incredibly sharp if brittle blades, does in real life.)
      Stannis: They call it dragonglass. I call it useless.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: The Night's Watch was once composed of thousands of experienced and disciplined fighters who were able to man all 19 castles holding the Wall against the wildlings and White Walkers from the north. By the time the series takes place, the Watch consists of a few hundred men, mostly untrained criminals, who can only hold three castles while the rest have been completely abandoned, which bites them mightily in the ass when the forces in the North mount a massive invasion for the first time in centuries.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Common in the series.
    • Viserys is killed by having molten gold poured over his head.
    • Quentyn Martell was burned alive by dragon fire and spent days dying.
    • Vargo Hoat had part of his face bitten off, this wound festered making him delirious, then had his limbs chopped off and fed to him by Gregor Clegane.
    • Gregor himself also meets a nasty death from being stabbed with a poisoned spear that ensured its victim would die slowly and painfully as the poison ate away at his insides. He lived in agony for days until Maester Qyburn decided to experiment on him to find out the nature of the poison — even this he survived for a while before finally dying.
    • When the Great Masters of Meereen try to warn Daenerys off from her emancipating crusade by having 163 slave children crucified and disembowelled along the road to the city, she retaliates after taking the city by having the same fate visited on 163 of the nobles.
    • The Boltons flay their prisoners.
  • Cruella to Animals: The Ghiscari, from their favourite foods to their fondness for Beastly Bloodsports (although they like the human kind just as much).
  • Cryptic Background Reference:
    • George R. R. Martin rejects the notion of visiting every place shown on the map when the characters have no real reason to be there outside of exploring for the reader's benefit, so many locations will likely remain shrouded in mystery by the end of the series. According to Word of God, one of the most enigmatic locations, Asshai by the Shadow, which is rumored in-series to be the origin of dragons and a den of openly practicing magicians, will likely only be seen in flashbacks, if at all.
    • The exact circumstances of Lyanna Stark's death. The only man alive after Ned's death in A Game of Thrones who would know the true events of the incident is the highly reclusive Howland Reed, who has yet to make an actual appearance.
    • The Tragedy of Summerhall, a huge fire that destroyed the eponymous Targaryen-owned castle and killed several key figures, including Dunk and Egg of the prequel novellas. Little is known about the cause of the blaze, but it may have had something to do with an attempt to hatch dragons.
    • The Doom of Valyria, a combination of seismic and volcanic activity that destroyed the entire Valyrian Freehold in a single night. It is unclear if the disaster was natural or supernatural, but theories abound.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus:
    • The Faith of the Seven, the predominant religion on Westeros, is similar to Roman Catholicism, centering around an analog of the Trinity, that has seven gods in one rather than three (the Father, Warrior, Smith, Maid, Mother, Crone, and Stranger ), and complete with monastic orders, dormant military orders, and a Pope (the High Septon). It isn't quite as intolerant as medieval Christianity, however, and more-or-less peacefully coexists with the quasi-Druidic worship of the "old gods" in the North as well as the Drowned God of the Iron Islands, at least until the revival of the Swords and Stars.
    • The Red God R'hllor (aka "The Lord of Light") is similar in many ways to Zoroastrianism, with a strong dualism between the Lord of Light and the nameless Great Other of darkness, apocalyptic theology, and religious practice that is strongly intertwined with the use and symbolism of fire.
  • Crystal Weapon: The Others wield Absurdly Sharp crystalline blades that hold a faint blue glow and can shatter steel with their chill. Word of God is that they're made of transmuted ice.
  • Cuckold: With adultery being a heinous insult, there are several characters who do it purely to spite the husband.
    • Euron Greyjoy had sex with Victarion's wife (most likely he raped her, and only claims she was willing in order to more deeply humiliate his brother). What makes it even more evil is that he did it knowing full well that by Ironborn law Victarion would be forced to kill his "adulterous" wife by his own hand.
    • Black Walder Frey is very fond of cuckolding his family members (somebody remarks "why buy the cow when there are udders everywhere waiting to be milked?"). Rumoured partners include two of his brothers' wives and one of his great-grandfather's, in addition to at least one of his own female cousins.
  • Cuckold Horns: No coincidence that Robert Baratheon's house sigil is a stag.
  • Cult of Personality:
    • The heraldry of the various houses, the colours and flags are not only medieval pageantry but an example of image politics by which both aristocrats and their subjects establish their authority and majesty. The consciously chosen Animal Motifs, the carefully selected images and logo are given as much attention to branding and message as modern political parties, dictators, and advertising and PR firms do.
    • Most of Tywin Lannister's power comes from his reputation and aura of invincibility and his ability to embody it. He is in actual fact a Jack-of-All-Stats, a middling military commander and general who never wins a battle that requires greater skill than using superior numbers and is defeated in the field by the likes of Ser Edmure Tully. His true skills are diplomacy, opportunism and ruthlessness and his ability to leverage his reputation for giving no quarter to his enemies, his use of a Murder Ballad to weaponize is reputation, and likewise his cultivation of Grand Maester Pycelle as a client to propagandize on his behalf, allowing him access to subvert the chief educational institute in his favour.
    • Stannis Baratheon belatedly gets into this act. He spent most of his life overshadowed by Robert Baratheon as the charismatic heroic archetype. As King, he decided to patronize the foreign religion of Rhllorism which anointed him as the messiah even if he's personally an atheist who doesn't religious significance to magic and merely sees it as a force to appeal to and consult. Among his supporters he is known as "the one true King" and later the Night's Watch call him "The King Who Cared". Indeed, those who support Stannis have a fanatic cult-like loyalty and are fearless in the face of death, such as his supporters who refused to accept surrender after defeat at Blackwater.
    • Melisandre, Stannis' chief backer and priestess reflects on how Jon Snow refuses the trappings of power that come with his new position as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch — such as opting to make the late Donal Noye's modest quarters his rooms, rather than the late Lord Commander Mormont's restored chambers — in the Humble Hero vein of his father, even if people see him as "the last Stark in the North" and Melisandre feels this isn't the best course of action for Jon to take:
      Melisandre: That was his mistake, the false humility of youth that is is itself a sort of pride. It was never wise for a ruler to eschew the trappings of power, for power itself flows in no small measure from such trappings.
    • Euron Greyjoy on his return to the Iron Islands has built a considerable cult as noted by Asha Greyjoy, who notes that he and his supporters have managed to get everyone talking about him, his voyages, his raids, and his riches. Euron also extends it by building his own symbol of heraldry, a Red-Eyed banner, rather than his family banner and likewise sees himself as some kind of Dark Messiah.
  • Culture Clash: Part of Jon Snow's frustration with the members of Stannis' court who remain at the Wall is their complete refusal to understand that wildling society does not function like Westerosi society, particularly where it comes to inherited nobility. A wildling chief is a chief because he has proven himself to be mighty, not because his father — or his ancestor — was chief, and being a relative of a great chief means nothing at all.
  • Cultural Posturing: Usually along the lines of, "We ruled an empire while you still fucked sheep".
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Given the prevalence of Animal Motifs, it's Zig-Zagged:
    • House Florent, whose sigil is a fox, are populated with unlikable dicks and idiots, the sole exception being Melessa Florent- and nothing said about her implies any particular cunning. While Lord Alester is given a few redeeming traits, he's certainly not the brightest chap around-in the metaphorical sense, anyway.
    • Brandon Norrey — who is said to resemble a fox in armour — is, at best, a Noble Bigot who is a Fantastic Racist against the Wildings. Unlike his companion Torghen Flint, he doesn't have any pragmatic concerns and comes off as just being a racist, while Torghen only cares that the wildings stay out of his way. Certainly not very cunning.
    • Big Walder is compared to a fox by Theon, but unlike the previous examples, he's both somewhat cunning and actually seems to have an actual sense of morality about him, drawing the line at Ramsay's cruelty.
    • Finally, the only actual fox in the series to have any impact on the plot manages to evade capture from Roose Bolton himself, which is more than can be said of most of the humans.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: "I'll chop off your manhood and feed it to the goats!" Subverted in that, in at least one instance, Shagga actually means their beard.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Often quite complicated and intertwining cycles, at that, as people tend to hold whole families responsible for the crimes of individual members.

    D 
  • Damned by Faint Praise:
    • Jon Connington has faint praise for Rolly Duckfield and fears that Young Griff will soon have six such men as his kingsguard, "each more blindingly adequate than the last."
    • The most Tywin will concede regarding his dwarf son is that he has a certain "low cunning".
    • The best thing that Ned can say about Robert's record as a king was that he was better than his predecessor.
    • The nicest thing Jaime can think of the men who served with Gregor Clegane at Harrenhal is that they're not nearly as violent a bunch of people as the Brave Companions.
    • The best thing that Arys Oakheart, one of the Kingsguard, has to say about Joffrey after he dies is that he was tall and strong for his age.
    • When told that his former fellow squire Merett Frey died (by the man's wife and daughter), Jaime eventually manages to tell them Merett's strength was extraordinary, and then proceeds to lament on how much easier it is to drink to Merett's memory than speak about him.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Jaime, after losing his sword hand.
  • Dangerous Deserter:
    • Mance Rayder, who the wildlings choose and their King-Beyond-the-Wall.
    • The Night's Watch deserter who attacks Bran and briefly holds him hostage. In the quote for the trope, Ned explains that deserters are the most dangerous kind of outlaws, because once a man has forfeited his life, he no longer fears any punishment.
    • The "broken men" — peasants-turned-soldiers — either deserters or the remnants of defeated armies stranded hundreds or thousands of miles from home, who become outlaws to survive — and then keep on being outlaws because the alternative is execution.
  • Dare to Be Badass: While Jon chiefly gave command of Greyguard to Janos Slynt to keep him out of his hair and away from Alliser Thorne, he also hopes Slynt might find some honor in it as men accused of treason had been allowed to redeem themselves on the Wall in days past.
    Jon: You’ll sleep on stone, too exhausted to complain or plot, and soon you’ll forget what it was like to be warm, but you might remember what it was to be a man.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • The Night's Watch.
    • The Faceless Men are an example of this. Their white-and-black outfits indicate a tendency to think of themselves as both dark and light. They operate as a shadowy group of death-worshipping assassins who provide euthanasia to those who wish for death. They also commit assassinations, but they only kill those who have driven others to pray (or pay) for their deaths, prefer not to kill someone they know personally, and are very strict about avoiding collateral damage.
    • Coldhands has a scary, dark appearance and openly admits being an undead, but he seems benevolent.
  • Dark Messiah:
    • Azor Azai may be one of these. He apparently killed (and will kill) his true love (though in the story, with her consent) for power, and the R'hllor religion already has a lot of moral ambiguity.
    • The Dothraki's Stallion Who Mounts The World will, as the name clearly states, figuratively fuck the world.
  • Dark-Skinned Blond: Daenerys's visions of Rhaego, her unborn son by Drogo, give him the copper skin of the Dothraki and the white hair of Valyria.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: King's Landing. Daenerys' court in Meereen is significantly more decadent, though she's constantly struggling to make it less so.
  • Deadly Deferred Conversation: Basically if you've got something to say in Westeros spit it out now because the odds of a long if not permanent separation from your intended confidant are very, very high.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tyrion Lannister, Jaime Lannister, and Dolorous Edd are the most obvious examples.
    • Jorah Mormont deserves special mention, as he actually provides the page quote for the Literature section.
  • Dead Person Impersonation:
    • Jaqen/The Alchemist masquerading as Pate in A Feast for Crows, in a Kill and Replace variant.
    • Ramsay Snow switches clothes with his servant Reek, faking his own death for a time before revealing himself.
    • Theon is forced to pretend to be Reek for fear of having his fingers flayed.
    • Jeyne Poole is similarly forced to pretend to be Arya, on pain of a punishment that even George R.R. Martin won't put down on the page.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: Princess Rhaenys Targaryean had a black kitten she named Balerion—after Balerion "The Black Dread", the largest and most terrifying of the three great dragons ridden by Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters Visenya and Rhaenysnote  (As it turns out, the kitten, still alive at the time of the main story, has become a tough, cunning old tom, the hardest cat in the Red Keep to catch, so not entirely named in vain.)
  • Death by Childbirth: The source of Oedipus Complex for the runt of the Lannister litter, Tyrion. Also Daenerys, whose mother's death by childbirth is the reason for her abuse by her older brother. Any number of other characters in the background as well, such as Minisa Tully, wife of Hoster Tully and mother of Edmure Tully, Lysa Arryn, and Catelyn Stark.
  • Death by Irony: Viserys gets his crown of gold, technically. Quentyn receives his dragons...business-end first. Kevan Lannister follows his brother loyally—even in the method of his death.
  • Death by Materialism: Or rather, more general greed. The slavers of Astapor and the other Slavers' Bay cities are the descendants of ancient Ghis, a city-state which was repeatedly stomped on by the Valyrian Dragonlords in a kind of Rome/Carthage relationship before it was finally razed to the ground. note  They haven't forgotten. When Dany's appearance gives the Astapori the chance to sell their entire lot of slave soldiers for a dragon, they jump at the chance, expecting they can emulate old Valyria and conquer the world. Then they find out that dragons are not willing to be sold. And that girl you've been making insulting and sexist comments about for the last few days? Yeah, she understood every word. And then your head is being melted by an angry dragon, while the city is sacked by the slave soldiers you just sold her.
  • Death Glare: Tywin Lannister, who has never smiled since his wife died decades ago. Cersei relates a story of how a man at a feast once made an off-hand joke at his expense, causing Tywin to drive him from the room simply by glaring at him across the table, not saying a word.
  • A Death in the Limelight: Every prologue and epilogue chapter is from the POV of a character who has either never been seen before or appeared as a tertiary character at best, and they all die. A notable exception is Kevan Lannister, who has been around since book one and is Lord Regent when he falls to this trope
  • Death of the Old Gods: The Faith of the Seven replacing the Old Gods for most of Westeros; most of the remaining worshippers are up north.
  • Debt Detester: The Lannisters.
  • Decapitation Strike: The Freys killed the vast majority of the northern lords during lord Edmure Tully's wedding, thus ending the War of the Five Kings in a single night.
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: Tywin Lannister tries to put the blame of Elia Martell's murder on the recently deceased Amory Lorch. Oberyn Martell does not believe it.
  • Decomposite Character: An approach taken by George R. R. Martin in creating Fantasy versions of Medieval England is take certain traits, events, characters from history and divide and multiply it several times:
    • The most interesting case is that of Richard III. At least four characters — Ned Stark, Stannis Baratheon, Tyrion Lannister and Theon Greyjoy — have aspects dealing with his life and legend. Ned Stark shares Gloucester's popularity in Northern England, his reputation for justice and loyal service to the King. He's also named Regent by the King of his nephews, who Ned tries to declare as bastards but fails(though the real Richard really did manage to prove that Edward IV's sons were illegitimate by means of a document that annulled his wedding to Elizabeth Woodville).
    • Stannis Baratheon is the Brother to the King, he's also firm and rigid, with a reputation for being The Stoic. He has No Social Skills among the Westerosi nobility whose crucial support he alienates. He's also a superb military commander, and much like the historical Richard, he distributed information concerning the dubious issue of the supposed heirs, though unlike Richard, he ended up failing too. His rivalry with Renly, echoes the conflict between Edward IV and George, Duke of Clarence. In history, Edward IV ordered his brother's death, in Shakespeare, Richard III has him drowned in a barrel of wine. Since this is fantasy, Stannis kills him with a Shadow Baby.
    • Tyrion Lannister is essentially a tribute to the rhetorical splendor of Shakespeare's Richard III, complete with disability and Deadpan Snarker Angst, he's eventually framed for the death of his nephew (like some historians believe of Richard himself) and becomes so notorious that a play is made of his life in Braavos which does for him what Shakespeare did for his counterpart. Theon Greyjoy's reputation as the killer of the young Stark Princes directly echoes the "Princes of the Tower" legend, with Theon subsequently tortured into becoming a disabled freak with a limp called, "Reek"note 
    • Likewise, King Edward IV of the House of York is bifurcated into King Robert Baratheon (a former womanizing warrior grown fat and lazy in age) and King Robb Stark (for his unpopular marriage that alienates a key supporter). Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick is converted into Tywin Lannister (who also has bits of King Edward Longshanks and King Philip le Bel) and Walder Frey. While Henry Tudor (who landed in England under the Red Welsh Dragon) could be Aegon VI or Daenerys Targaryen (who also has aspects of Tudor's granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth).
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Has its own page.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: See the page.
  • Decoy Protagonist:
    • Happens with nearly all the prologue and epilogue characters. Will, the POV character of the prologue from A Game Of Thrones, is dead by the end of the chapter.
    • Eddard Stark doesn't survive the first book. A Game of Thrones even has the trope's inversion, a Decoy Antagonist, in Viserys and Khal Drogo. A Storm of Swords repeats the double with Robb Stark and Joffrey.
    • Arys Oakheart is set up as one of the new POV characters in A Feast For Crows. After his POV chapter, he dies in his next appearance.
    • Mance Rayder is a purely in-universe Decoy Antagonist. The very first thing we readers see is proof that he is not the enemy beyond the Wall that Westeros should really fear. The Night's Watch takes three books to figure this out, and as of the end of Dance With Dragons most of the universe still doesn't have a clue.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Between the Children of the Forest and the First Men. After the First Men arrived in Westeros, they fought each other over a period of two thousand years to a standstill. They finally were able to end hostilities and forged an alliance called the Pact: the Children would keep the forests, the men would settle only in the open places and put no more weirwood trees to the axe, and the two groups would be at peace with each other. This arrangement turned out to be most fortuitous when the Others descended from the Lands of Always Winter and the Long Night began.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: Tywin Lannister sets one up in his first battle against the Stark forces. It turns out not to be necessary.
  • Defiled Forever:
    • Lollys Stokeworth wasn't much of a catch to begin with, but several characters note that she lost all hope of finding a husband after being raped during a riot in King's Landing. Somewhat subverted in that Cersei marries her off to a newly-knighted Bronn, who isn't interested in anything but her inheritance.
    • Victarion murders his own wife after she sleeps with his brother; not as a crime of passion, as he entirely blames Euron. Purely because of the Ironborn take on this trope.
    • When Jaime orders a man executed for raping a serving girl at Harrenhal, the man goes to the block honestly baffled as to why he's being punished when the girl had already suffered the same fate countless times before (at his hands as well as others') before Jaime took command. This is partly "why was it only a crime this time?", but there's an undercurrent of this trope as well.
  • Deliberately Painful Clothing: The Warrior's Sons and the Poor Fellows, the militant wings of the Faith of the Seven, wear hair shirts.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: All over the place. One of the series' most notable features, as one of Martin's primary goals in writing the series to deconstruct the tropes of heroic fantasy and indicate why a realistic medieval fantasy setting would not actually be a nice place to live.
    • Victarion murdered his wife with his bare hands, causing some readers to see it as a Moral Event Horizon. The culture of the ironborn is Rated M for Manly; Asskicking Equals Authority all the way. Victarion considers his actions perfectly moral, and places the blame totally on Euron for defiling his wife.
    • Jaime Lannister also falls under this when it comes to his nickname; the 'Kingslayer'. The readers, after learning what a complete maniac Aerys the Mad was, can at least justify Jaime killing the man he swore an oath to, but in Westeros where honour and liegedom is everything, Jaime's actions are irredeemable.
    • Many people can't get over the huge age differences between the girls and the men who are interested in them. Especially noteworthy are Daenerys and Sansa, who are both veritable Middle-Aged-Dude Magnets before their 14th birthdays.
    • The Ghiscari eat delicacies like unborn puppies on a skewer, and their fighting pits include spectacles in which girls are pitted against bulls or boys covered in various foodstuffs set against bears so viewers may bet which child will the bear eat first.
    • Played for Black Comedy when a lord comes to King's Landing after Lannister soldiers burn his keep, rape his wife and slaughter his peasants...so he's come to beg Tyrion Lannister for more peasants.
    • Women's Stay in the Kitchen status. Action Girls like Brienne of Tarth often meet with prejudice and discrimination. Several people comment on how strange it is that the Free Folk allow women a say in clan matters.
    • In the Seven Kingdoms, Democracy Is Bad. Many nobles can't quite wrap their head around the Free Folk being a democratic meritocracy where people choose their leaders based on their competence rather than bloodline and will judge their performance.
    • The Nouveau Riche Frey family's rise to prominence through legitimate business might be inspiring to modern readers, but they are seen as upstarts by the snobby Great Houses who got their status usually through violence and conquest.
    • Trial by combat, where each side is represented by a champion in a fight to the death, with the victor "obviously" right in the eyes of the gods, is quite popular. (This, at least, is more of a Might Makes Right thing, as few people believe that a trial by combat really enforces the will of the gods and most of the time the race is on to name the best knight who likes you as champion before your opponent does.)
    • Political Arranged Marriages are prevalent, typically as land-grab tactics, and sometimes feature underage participants. In addition to Tyrion's marriage, one of his cousins is wed to a girl less than a year old. (He later vanishes, presumably killed, in a riot, leading to a semi-amusing instance of someone who most likely has been widowed before she was weaned.)
    • Droit du Seigneur was officially abolished in Westeros over two hundred years prior to the start of the series; however, it's an open secret that several noble houses still practice it and it comes as no surprise that the Obviously Evil Boltons are among these houses. The maester writing/narrating "The Princess and the Queen" (which takes place not long after that law's abolition) snarks at the irrationally-jealous smallfolk who frequently failed to recognize the "great honor" of letting the local noblemen get their wives and daughters with child, as well as pointing out that certain regions resented the practice less than others for a variety of reasons.
    • Deliberate culture clash is seen in Daenerys's chapters in the first book. She (and by extension, the reader) are completely uninformed about Dothraki culture, and so many of the customs are seen as strange to her. The Dothraki are very horse-oriented and many aspects of their culture reflect that; their word for horse-riding, rakh, is even right there in their name. Some of their customs include no taboo against public nudity or sex, and the consumption of horseflesh. Dany is given a horse at her wedding and is discouraged from naming it; it is only known in the books as "her silver".
    • The Targaryen family practiced incest. Marriages between siblings or close cousins were arranged to keep “purity of the bloodline” (specifically silver-gold hair and purple eyes, trademarks of Old Valyria) and to prove that Targaryens were "above the laws of gods and men." As history proved, they weren't above the laws of genetics.
    • Testosterone Poisoning rules. Entertainers are tolerated but aren't liked. Music and poetry are seen as feminine. Education is also frowned upon and men who become maesters are seen as less than men. People still make use of them.
    • Its considered cowardly to live with a physical disability. Bran gets sympathy from his family, but several other characters think he ought to kill himself.
    • Kinslaying, kingslaying, and killing a guest is considered abominable, unlike, you know, killing in general.
    • Although not exclusive to a medieval setting, there's also Cersei's possible homophobia when she refuses to let Ser Loras spend time with her son, apparently afraid he'll turn Tommen gay (though another possibility is that she just hates him for being a Tyrell and doesn't want Tommen to be more influenced by them than he would already be by having a Tyrell wife). Jaime is slightly more enlightened, with the focus of his dislike of Loras being projected hatred towards himself, which he admits. Still does not put him above jibes at Loras' relationship with Renly nor protesting a proposal to marry Cersei off to Oberyn Martell by bringing up his bisexuality.
  • Democracy Is Bad:
    • In another case of Deliberate Values Dissonance, in one of his POV chapters in A Game Of Thrones, Tyrion thinks about how the Mountain Clans don't get anything done because they put issues to popular vote. Tyrion finds it particularly ridiculous that they also allow women a say in these discussions. Later, in Volantis, he takes a much more charitable view of their system of representative democracy (which entails the annual election of three "Triarchs" by a vote of the nobility). Jorah, who's lived under both systems, even explains several of its advantages over an inherited monarchy.
    • The Lord Commander of the Night's Watch is elected by its members, but this process can take weeks. During a crisis situation, the Night's Watch is put on hold while its members campaign for the position.
  • Demoted to Dragon: Houses Stark, Lannister and Arryn were kings before they bent the knee to the Targaryens and became wardens.
  • Demoted to Extra: Aggo, Jhogo and Rakharo, Daenerys' bloodriders. Yeah, they were minor characters to begin with, and even though they were the first to swear fealty to her, along with Jorah Mormont, their influence is less and less as Daenerys gains power and her court increases.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Many Great Houses named themselves after their places of birth. The Cerwyns of Cerwyn, the Harlaws of Harlaw, the Redforts of the Redfort, the Hightowers of the Hightower, the Yronwoods of Yronwood are examples.
  • Deus Sex Machina: Melisandre's ability to birth Living Shadow assassins is implied to require this as part of the ritual.
  • The Determinator: Stannis Baratheon. He has the smallest army and the least popularity at the onset of the War of Five Kings. He doesn't especially want to be become king, but his stubborn tenacity to do his duty prevents him from giving up the struggle even when his cause begins to look increasingly lost. He's the last of the Five Kings standing, though other rivals rise up to continue thwarting him.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The books are made of this. No one ever seems to win a complete victory, yet.
  • Disability Superpower:
    • Bran quickly learns to use his warg abilities after losing the use of his legs.
    • Arya is intentionally (and temporarily) blinded during her training in order to teach her to use her other senses. This has the unintended effect of awakening her dormant skinchanger abilities when she learns to see through the eyes of nearby animals.
  • Disease Bleach: Lancel Lannister. Theon Greyjoy in A Dance with Dragons.
  • Disease By Any Other Name: Lots of examples.
    • Robert Arryn is described as having "the shaking sickness", episodes of which are clearly described as epileptic seizures.
    • Yezzan zo Qaggaz's condition greatly resembles viral hepatitis.
    • Heke (the first Reek) had something that has to be trimethylaminuria.
    • The bloody flux is obviously a dysentery analogue.
    • The disease from which Lord Hoster Tully is dying is heavily hinted to be cancer.
    • Tyrion Lannister has dwarfism caused by achondroplasia.
    • The Crapsack World of the books is filled with psychopaths, the most notable being Cersei, Joffrey and Ramsay.
    • Stannis Baratheon's obsession with rules and general ineptitude in social bonding (especially in contrast to his two charismatic brothers) has fueled Epileptic Trees that he is somewhere in the Autistic spectrum.
  • Disk One Final Boss: Tywin Lannister is built up as the closest thing the series has to a Big Bad, towering over any other contenders in terms of villainy and power. He's the head of House Lannister - the Arch-Enemy of House Stark, which is comprised of the series' protagonists - and acts as the true power behind King Joffrey and Queen Cersei's tyrannical rule. The harmful effects of his machinations are felt by other, none-Stark characters and even by members of his own family. He is active for the first three books before being killed off by his vengeful son Tyrion. His death marks a turning point in the game of thrones as new, potentially more dangerous players take it as their cue to make their move.
    • Mance Rayder could also qualify, as far as the Night's Watch story line is concerned. Much like Tywin, he is built up as the Big Bad, leading The Horde against the Night's Watch. Also like Tywin, he is defeated after three books of being the most active threat against the main characters. Unlike Tywin, it turns out Mance is an Anti-Villain who just wanted to save his people from the story's true Big Bad, the malevolent beings known as the Others.
  • Disney Villain Death: Anyone who annoys Lysa or Robert Arryn goes out the Moon Door. "I want to see the bad man fly, mummy!"
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Sandor Clegane's facial burns. His brother Gregor punished him for playing with a discarded toy, pressing him face-down on burning coals.
    • The Faith of R'hllor punishes all crimes with burning alive on a pyre. Over the course of the series, this runs the gamut through treason, rape, eating a dead man when snowbound and starving, to refusing to renounce the Faith of the Seven.
    • Cersei is quite fond of these as the Queen Regent as her paranoia grows. For example, she has a puppet theatre troupe arrested for a play that features dragons killing vainglorious lions. She has the men executed and the women sent to the Black Cells to Qyburn's gentle care. Of the audience; rich men are fined half of their life savings, while the poor lose an eye.
    • The Red Wedding. The Freys slaughter Robb Stark, his bannermen, and his forces all because he violated a marriage contract.
    • Tywin Lannister does this as deliberate policy to ensure he remains The Dreaded.
  • Divided We Fall:
    • The Night's Watch's desperate pleas to the lords of Westeros for help against the Wildlings and the Others are dismissed, as the lords are too busy with the War of Five Kings. This is eventually subverted when Stannis puts his campaign for the Iron Throne on hold to help the Watch defeat Mance Rayder's army.
    • In the War of Five Kings, Robb, Stannis, and Renly are all enemies of the Lannisters, but Stannis and Renly would rather fight one another than join forces against Joffrey and neither one is willing to accept Robb's offer of alliance in exchange for the North's independence.
  • Divine Conflict: Followers of R'hllor in the series believe that their god, the Lord of Light, is locked in eternal conflict with the Great Other, the lord of cold darkness, in a battle that determines the fate of the world.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • Wildlings are well aware of the flipside to their Asskicking Equals Authority approach to "marriage". Sure, you have to capture a woman to prove you're worthy of her — but if you try to keep her captive or mistreat her after that, she's not expected to put up with it.
    • During his trial everyone Tyrion has ever pissed off lines up to testify against him, including a singer whose song Tyrion kept interrupting with snarky commentary.
  • Doorstopper: The books are huge even for epic fantasy, and A Storm of Swords and A Dance with Dragons are often subject to being split into multiple volumes in international editions. The latter is especially notorious; Martin's editor actually had to put her foot down because letting the book actually resolve most of its arcs would have put the page count beyond the abilities of economical book-binding methods.
  • Double Agent:
    • The Kettleblacks are triple agents, at least at first. When Tyrion first comes to court with a pet sellsword and a horde of dubiously loyal wildmen at his back, Cersei decides to hire her own bodyguards. Tyrion finds out through Lancel, and decides to set her up with some Moles... but Littlefinger finds out about that, and places some pawns of his own to spy on both of them. After Tyrion and Petyr have each fled the capital, they serve rather more straightforwardly as spies and lackeys for Cersei.
    • Taena Merryweather spies on Margaery for Cersei, and admits that she passes information the other way as well. Cersei is confident of her loyalty, but her apparent reasons for this trust are shallow and unconvincing.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Pragmatic Villain Roose Bolton has a couple of moments like this towards his psychotic son Ramsay:
    • He makes a special trip to Barrowton to have a word with Ramsay about all the raping, flaying, torture, and people hunts... because he's doing it all much too publicly. Roose has done many of those things himself, he just keeps quiet about it in order to not anger and alienate his allies and subjects.
    • Ramsay threatens to flay Barbrey Dustin and make boots out of her skin because she's disrespectful of him. Roose is dismissive, saying that human leather is nowhere near as tough as cowhide and they'd wear out. However, this is presented as an afterthought to more pragmatic objections (she's an indispensable ally, and killing her would cost them the support of Barrowton, House Dustin, and the Ryswells).
  • The Dragon: Qyburn to Cersei, Gregor Clegane to Tywin.
  • Dragon Rider: House Targaryen conquered Westeros through this tactic, riding their dragons into war. Dany finally takes up the reins at the end of A Dance With Dragons.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Lots of it. Probably most destructively are the actions of everyone who treats the conflict over Westeros as a "game of thrones", coveting the Iron Throne as the ultimate prize. The entire point of the Iron Throne (an extremely uncomfortable and dangerous chair made of swords) is that ruling a realm is a responsibility and a burden, not a prize in a game. Only two people in the series really seem to have understood this: Eddard Stark, who had the opportunity to seize the Throne but refused it out of a sense of honor and never regretted it, and Robert Baratheon, who never really wanted it in the first place but was forced to claim it.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Jorah's duplicity is revealed to the reader a full two and a half books before it's revealed to Daenerys, although a lot of readers seem to miss it.
    • After Cersei's ordeal in A Dance With Dragons, Kevan remarks that she's been "declawed", but the reader (who was in her head for the ordeal) knows that she's only been given renewed vigor by the arrival of Ser Robert Strong.
    • Arya is listening to a song of a princess who threw herself off a tower after her brother was killed and is unimpressed, thinking she should have tried to kill the man responsible. The princess is presumably Ashara Dayne, whose brother was killed by Eddard Stark, Arya's father.
    • Brienne inadvertently stumbles across the trail of both Stark girls she's seeking — she sees a galley leaving harbour (taking Arya Stark to Braavos) and a hedge knight calling himself the Mad Mouse offers to team up with Brienne and split the reward for Sansa Stark. The Mouse later turns up at the Vale, where he meets Littlefinger's 'baseborn daughter', unaware she's actually the woman he and Brienne were searching for.
    • Any time a member of the Lannister family thinks it would be a good idea to get Littlefinger back on the Small Council, because he's so harmless in comparison to the scheming Tyrells.
    • Jon Snow believes his sister Arya Stark is heading for the Wall and, to keep her safe, considers that he'll need to find a rich family across the Narrow Sea who could look after Arya for him, foster her and protect her, unaware Arya is already happily living in Braavos as a Street Urchin.
    • While posing as a serving girl at Harrenhal, Arya Stark encounters a Frey boy bemoaning that his family has been betrayed and now he'll never marry the princess he was betrothed to. She doesn't give much of a damn. Arya is the princess in question, but the Frey boy is unaware of her true identity and Arya is unaware of the betrothal, so neither one knows it.
  • The Dreaded: Several:
    • Ser Gregor Clegane, Tywin Lannister's Psycho for Hire and the largest man in Westeros.
    • His younger brother Sandor Clegane.
    • Tywin Lannister himself, whose past exploits were the inspiration for "The Rains of Castamere". His death causes various factions to rethink the possibility of challenging the Lannisters for the Iron Throne.
    • Vargo Hoat and the Brave Companions.
    • Robb Stark, having never lost a battle, is one for the forces of House Lannister.
    • To the members of House Frey there's the Brotherhood Without Banners, who hunt down and execute every member of the family they can get their hands on, due to their slaying of Robb Stark, his mother Catelyn, and several Stark bannermen and soldiers in the Red Wedding.
    • The Others are this to all the Free Folk and the Night's Watch.
    • Daenerys' dragons to the Yunkish army.
    • Aegon's largest dragon was called Balerion the Black Dread.
    • The Faceless Men.
    • The Crannogmen.
    • The island of Skagos, inhabited by cannibals.
    • Asshai, the creepiest place in the known world where magic is still practiced.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Jon Snow, Bran Stark, Rickon Stark, Jojen Reed, Daenerys Targaryen and possibly Euron Greyjoy. Also Daeron "the Drunkard" Targaryen in "The Hedge Knight," whose prophetic dreams were usually unpleasant, which led him to drown them in alcohol. The crannogmen call them "green dreams" and the people who experience them "greenseers".
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Alliser Thorne.
  • Droit du Seigneur: While banned by one of the previous monarchs, some lords still practice it.
    • Roose Bolton acknowledges that he raped a maid who had married without letting him, as her liege lord, invoke his right of "first night." In an attempt to to present his fellow Northern Lords as Not So Different from him, Bolton claims that other northern lords, including the Umbers (staunch allies of the "good guys"), also practice it.
    • The late Mad King Aerys lusted after Joanna Lannister, wife of his Number Two Tywin Lannister. He joked that it was a shame that the practice had been outlawed, antagonizing Tywin. Although he is not known to have raped Joanna, Barristan Selmy does confirm that he took liberties in the bedding ritual, apparently going further than the accepted disrobing of the bride.
    • The prequel novella "The Princess and the Queen" takes place during a time where this was openly and commonly practiced and introduces the concept of the "Dragonseed", children who resulted from these couplings who were produced and kept around for the purpose of being back-up Dragon Riders.
  • Drop the Hammer:
  • Due to the Dead: Loras tells Jaime in A Storm of Swords: "I buried him [Renly] with mine own hands, in a place he showed me once when I was a squire at Storm's End. No one shall ever find him there to disturb his rest."
  • Dumb Muscle: Particularly large and strong characters are often quite noticeably dumber than the others.
    • Hodor is a giant of a man with the mind of a child and the inability to say anything except "Hodor."
    • Small Paul is a large, simple-minded member of the Night's Watch.
    • Gregor Clegane is freakishly large and little more than an attack dog for Tywin. Tyrion notes that he's a terrible battle commander who leads by simple fear.
    • Grenn is a large, big-shouldered man who constantly falls for Pyp's jokes and tricks.
    • As a race, giants are twice as large as humans and by all accounts less intelligent. They have barely any technology at all.
  • The Dung Ages: By book 4, nearly all of the struggling smallfolk are living in constant fear of torture and rape. Life isn't pleasant when you're a peasant. Especially now that Winter has come.
  • Dye or Die: A common issue for incognito Targaryens;
    • Young Aegon V travelled around as a Prince Incognito under the alias "Egg", and shaved his head.
    • Rhaegar's son Aegon, raised under the name "Young Griff", keeps his hair blue.
    • Since A Storm of Swords Sansa Stark has her hair dyed brown for hiding her identity.
  • Dying Clue: In Storm of Swords, Hoster Tully's last word is "Tansy", which all of his family is baffled by. They spend a few chapters looking around for someone named "Tansy" before giving up. Then at the end, it's revealed that he forced his daughter Lysa to drink tansy tea (an abortive drug) after he found out that she was pregnant with Littlefinger's child. Lysa and Littlefinger have been lovers since the first book... which is why Lysa was the one who killed Jon Arryn and blamed the Lannisters at Littlefinger's insistence.
  • The Dying Walk: In the Rogues prequel story, the second wife of Daemon Targaryen is deathly ill after a difficult childbirth, but after days of being unable to rise from her bed she suddenly gets up and attempts to reach her dragon in order to fly for one last time. She doesn't make it. Provides the page quote.

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