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Animal Motifs / Game of Thrones

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These are used both for noble Houses and individual nicknames. The sigils next to the actors' names also correspond to their characters' Houses:


House sigils

  • Many Houses have animal sigils that say something metaphorical about them. It is implied that some Houses have a paranormal affinity for their sigil animal as well, such as the Targaryens, who once rode dragons, and the Starks, who seem to have a mystical bond with their direwolves.
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  • The Targaryen sigil is a dragon. Unlike the other Westerosi houses, this is seems to be partially literal: Daenerys was immune to the flames of Drogo's pyre due to Mirri's spell, which she interpreted as true Targaryens being fireproof (Hint: All the past Targaryens were cremated...). When shown in full, the sigil itself is three-headed; while there are no multi-headed dragons in the Verse, it symbolizes a Rule of Three motif that pops up quite a bit in Daenerys' story, and she even owns three (separate) dragons. In addition, notice Daenerys' season 7 outfits in particular, with patterns resembling scales, a two-piece cape symbolizing wings, hair styled back to look like a head crest, and her eyes even appear like slit pupils. One of her dresses, in particular, gives her an Uncatty Resemblance to Drogon.
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  • The Stark sigil is a grey direwolf, a fitting match for a noble dynasty from the Grim Up North.
  • The Mormont sigil is a black bear in a green wood. They are known for being some of the best warriors in the kingdom, it is said that one Bear Islander is worth ten mainland Northerners.
  • The Lannister sigil is a lion, which they are often called, and they frequently use King of Beasts as dynastic propaganda, such as when Tywin declares that "A lion does not concern himself with the opinions of the sheep." Jaime asks, "By what right does the wolf judge the lion?!" and Cersei uses a parable about lions to comfort Tommen during the Battle of Blackwater. More subtly, the family's blond hair also gives them a vaguely leonine appearance e.g. Jaime starts to physically resemble a shaggy old lion when he gains a full Beard of Sorrow. Later Daenarys tells Cersei that dragons eat both wolves and lions. Interestingly the Westerlands actually do have lions.
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  • The traditional Baratheon sigil, a black stag on a gold field, is associated with King Robert in the series. His successors each have their own version: Joffrey gives his mother's Lannister lion equal place with the stag, after Stannis is coverted to the faith of the Lord of Light he encases the black stag within the fiery red heart of the Lord of Light, and when Renly allies himself with the powerful House Tyrell he incorporates his wife's (and lover's) colours to create a gold stag on a green field.
  • The Greyjoy sigil is a kraken and their strength is tied to the sea. The Greyjoys think its intimidating and even Olenna thinks it's an impressive sigil. Ramsay Snow, however, notes that it's a bit less impressive than they would wish to believe:
    Ramsay: Kraken. Mmm. Strong as long as they're in the sea. When you take them out of the water, no bones. They collapse under their proud weight and slump into a heap of nothing. You'd think they'd know that. Unfortunately, they're not very bright.
  • The Arryn sigil is a moon and a falcon and their main fortress is called "The Eyrie" (lit. The Raptor's Nest), their high seat is made from a tree, and they and their people tend to consider themselves above others and keep aloof from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms.
  • The Tully sigil is the trout, a fitting sigil for a family that draws their strength from their rivers but is vulnerable to stronger factions. Their dead are given Viking Funerals, their Black Sheep calls himself the Blackfish, and they wear scale armour.
  • House Martell is a strange case, since their sigil is actually a sun transfixed by a spear, as featured prominently in the set design of the Water Gardens, yet the opening credits give much more prominence to a viper to highlight their connection to Oberyn and his branch of the family, who use a snake motif well-matched to their personalities and fighting styles: quick, unpredictable, and venomous.
  • House Reed's sigil is that of a lizard-lion (huge crocodiles) native to their swamps.
  • This trope is averted in the case of the Tyrells, in contrast to every other great house except for the Martells. The Tyrell sigil is a golden rose. House matriarch Olenna says it's the dullest sigil of any house and is a major reason why people don't take them seriously, and says the direwolf and kraken are "strong sigils for strong houses." However, there is a double-meaning behind the rose sigil; roses look beautiful and delicate, but they often hide sharp thorns.
  • The gyroscopic sun in the opening tells of the fall of the Targaryens in sigil metaphors: the stag (Baratheon), direwolf (Stark), dragon (Targaryen), and lion (Lannister). The dragon rules Westeros but proceeds to go nuts, so the stag, lion, and wolf slay it, then the stag assumes the crown and the wolf, lion, and other animals bow to it.
  • The Clegane sigil is three black dogs and the brothers are often compared to them. Sandor "the Hound" is a gruff but loyal guard who eventually tires of being kicked by his masters and becomes a loyal (if reluctant) guardian to Sansa and Arya, with sigil of their house being a direwolf, and his older brother Ser Gregor is called "Tywin Lannister's mad dog" because he is ferocious but obedient.
  • This trope is discussed when Oberyn mocks a pair of Lannister soldiers by pointing out that despite them wearing golden lion livery, they're still just pink little men who are too slow on the draw.
  • Littlefinger chose his own sigil: a humble mockingbird to maintain his harmless façade. Mockingbirds are known to mimic the sounds of other birds, reflecting Littlefinger's talent for making himself best buds with everyone around him to manipulate them.
  • The Season 7 teaser promo shows the statue sigils of the main Houses (Targaryen dragon, Baratheon stag, Lannister lion, Stark wolf, Greyjoy kraken and the Tyrell rose) duking each other out which symbolizes the never-ending civil war until they all began to crumble and its remains formed the spiral White Walker symbol before it zooms out showing the blue eye of a White Walker which symbolizes that the civil war left the Houses unprepared for the upcoming arrival of the Long Night.

Other examples

  • The harpy for Slaver's Bay.
  • Varys is frequently referred to as the Spider for his unsavoury reputation and his web of spies.
  • The Sparrows use a sparrow motif, as they are common folk, there are many of them, and they enforce their will in groups, much like real sparrows do.
  • It's less obvious than with the Cleganes, but Ramsay's associated with hounds, specifically the "mad dog" variety:
    • Ramsay is wild, impulsive, and rarely thinks things through.
    • Not only does Roose refer to him as a "mad dog" for his consistent Stupid Evil, but Ramsay frequently feeds living people to his pack of dogs for fun, displaying that he's just as much a savage beast as they are.
    • It also plays into him being Jon's Evil Counterpart, as Jon has an undyingly loyal, tame direwolf.
    • Fittingly, Ramsay's own dogs eat him alive after he's starved them for a week, showing him the same kind of loyalty that he's shown to everyone else.
  • Ravens and crows are a running motif and are common in promotional artwork:
    • Ravens are used to carry urgent messages, and Brannote  frequently sees a three-eyed raven in his dreams.
    • The wildlings refer to men of the Night's Watch as crows because of their black uniforms, perching on the Wall, and the birds tend to swarm when White Walkers are on the prowl.
  • Orson Lannister's name means "Bear Cub", which clashes with the Lion theme of the family but also supports his blind, animal-like nature.
  • The Dothraki are associated with horses. The animals are an integral part of their culture. Khals are also known as horselords, they are renowned for their skill at mounted combat, they worship a deity known as the Great Stallion and there is a prophecy of a great "khal of khals" known as the 'Stallion who Mounts the World', who will unite all the people into one khalasar.
  • The Lhazareen are associated with sheep; they are usually a peaceful people of farmers and shepherds, their deity is called the Great Shepherd and the Dothraki derisively call them the Lamb Men. Their villages tend to be targeted by Dothraki raiders, getting robbed and enslaved though some of them (namely Mirri Maz Duur) are not so harmless as they appear.

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