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Deconstructed Character Archetype / A Song of Ice and Fire

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One of A Song of Ice and Fire selling points is that its characters are a more complex take on the standard archetypes than those you find in other fantasy books. Be warned, for the night is dark and full of SPOILERS.

See also the Deconstructed Trope page

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  • Abusive Parents: Tywin's treatment of Tyrion bites him the in the ass hard when his son kills him with a crossbow. Had Tywin been a better parent, he'd still be alive in Feast.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Children put in charge of whole kingdoms isn't always a good thing.
    • Robert Arryn is too physically and developmentally challenged to effectively rule the Eyrie, though he's bright enough to work most of the shenanigans going on in front of him out. His stepfather and bannermen are all vying for the title of Lord Protector so they can rule in his name (until he dies), with little regard to how he feels or what he thinks about all this. Figurehead? He wishes: they barely notice he's in the room while they plan his life for him! Try "pawn".
    • Joffrey Baratheon is a spoiled sadist who becomes The Caligula even before he leaves his teens. His stupid childish whim of ordering Ned Stark's execution plunges the realm into civil war. And that's only one of his pointlessly stupid moves if the most spectacular one. Eventually, Joffrey's allies end up killing him at his own wedding at the age of thirteen because Joffrey is both too vicious and random to remain on the throne when his brother is a much better alternative.
    • Robb Stark is forced to take command of the North and launch a war at age fourteen. He quickly proves to be skilled leader and an excellent military commander. But he doesn't really understand the complexities of politics and is too quick to trust people who sworn loyalty. Then he succumbs to temptation, has sex with girl who'd been sent to nurse him, and marries her, abandoning an agreement to marry someone from a more important family. This folly of youth ends up costing him valuable support and leads to betrayal at the Red Wedding, in which he and his mother are killed.
    • Daenerys Targaryen, married at thirteen and already queen at sixteen, has severely affected the slave trade and taken over Meereen. She even takes advantage of her age and sex so some of her enemies will underestimate her, but she's still subject to a teenage girl's lusts. The stresses of ruling and having to constantly compromise to the slavers laying siege to her city and holding slave auctions in front of her gates, and marrying a potential enemy to maintain a semblance of peace prove too much and she flees Meereen atop one of her dragons.
    • Tommen Baratheon signs any decree someone puts in front of him, making him very easy to manipulate.
    • Aegon III only became king because war claimed most of his family. A council of regents was appointed to run the kingdom in his stead, but the rival court factions fought to control him, so he grew up to be a sad man who trusts no one but Viserys II, his younger brother and only surviving sibling.
    • Aegon's son Daeron I was crowned at fourteen and is remembered as a wannabe Young Conqueror who treated war as a game and got himself and 50,000 men killed in a foolhardy conquest.
  • Action Girl:
    • Arya's water dancing sword style suits her since she is small and acrobatic. However, it's useless in an open fight so she decides to become a Faceless Man.
    • Brienne can fight in the open because of her masculine physique. Years of battle have damaged her face.
    • Pretty Meris is like a combination of Arya (horrible experiences leaving her emotionally scared and downright vengeful) and Brienne (big, blonde, good with a sword and a spitefully applied Ironic Nickname, along with a habit of collecting physical scars and rape attempts). Except Meris is rather more scathed from her twenty years in war than those two put together — for now. If either Arya or Brienne keep at it for as long, they may wind up in a similar state.
    • The spearwives of the Wildlings and the warrior women of Bear Island are probably the most straightforward examples in the series. They both live harsh environments where the constant threat of being kidnapped, raped and/or killed resulted in there being no taboo about women being trained to fight and defend themselves. This likely allowed them to develop and refine fighting styles suited for women that allow them to fight just as good as men.
  • Action Survivor
    • Tyrion Lannister uses a combination of mid-level fighting skills and his pure cunning to keep himself alive. His defense of the capital results in him losing his nose. What's worse is that at large no one believes his heroics because no one thinks someone with his handicaps can put up a fight.
    • Arya Stark trains as a Faceless Man because, as a young girl with a small frame, she's not as physically strong in frontline combat. This leads her to learn new unsavory skills like assassinations and seduction.
  • Adipose Rex: The Formerly Fit kings Robert and Aegon IV turns into this because of years of indolence. Aegon ends up dying in a state where he cannot even lift himself up from his couch. Robert has a more benign case, but Eddard notes that he cannot walk up the stairs without heavy sweating when this same man used to be the textbook example of a fit warrior.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: In a modern-day story, a child who displays adult-like skill and responsibility is cute and endearing. In a Crapsack World like Westeros, where most skills are survival skills, it's less adorable and more disturbing.
    • Arya Stark is tough, brave, resourceful, and great at connecting with people ... which serves her well as she begins training to become an assassin before she even hits puberty.
    • Bran Stark is an enormously powerful warg and greenseer, but his powers combined with his immaturity and lack of formal training mean that he does things like warg into Hodor without comprehending how wrong that is.
  • The Alcoholic: Nothing introduces an otherwise intelligent enough ruler (would-be or actual) to the Idiot Ball quite as efficiently as being regularly as drunk as a skunk. Not the best coping strategy, all told.
    • Viserys Targaryen, Robert Baratheon, and Aerion Brightflame die because their penchant for the bottle leads them to commit life-threateningly stupid acts. In Viserys' case it was threatening the life of a Warlord's wife and unborn child right in front of the guy. For Robert it was hunting whilst drunk, which lead to him being gored by the boar he was trying to kill (and also drunkenly mistreating his wife which led to said wife giving him extra potent wine for the hunting trip). And in Aerion's case it was drinking a cup of wildfire, thinking it would turn him into a dragon.
    • Cersei spends most of Feast drinking or drunk to deal with the stress of ruling, the loss of her firstborn and father, and her severe paranoia. Not only does her drunkenness affect her ability to function, it drives away people that could help her, most notably Jaime and Kevan. Not to mention that disordered alcoholism isn't the best trait for a monarch who actually tries to rule in preference to delegating everything to the councilors... like Old Bob Baratheon did.
    • Daeron the Drunken drank to drown his "dragon dreams" right out — with spotty success, as he still gets a few that have filtered through. Not only does his obvious dereliction of duty while outrageously sodden make him unfit for the throne in many eyes (not something he much minded), but it might have contributed to his only known child, a daughter Vaella, being born rather simple. As a result, Vaella is passed over for the throne when it came time to choose during a complicated succession crisis.
    • Tyrion is a high-functioning case. He does drink way too much when given the opportunity to, and quite openly admits this, but the drink itself rarely seems to affect him much. However, his detractors are easily able to use it to smear his reputation. When he sinks into depression in A Dance With Dragons, he shows his potential to be a wretched and vicious drunk.
  • Archnemesis Dad
    • Tywin Lannister does all he can to deprive his son Tyrion his rights, to humiliate him or even get him killed because he blames him for the death of his beloved wife and also for his own embarrassing behavior. Tyrion just bears it because he is in the moral low. Tyrion snaps after finding out his own wife Tysha, whom Tywin had gang-raped, was not a whore and confronts him only to find a whore in his room. He finally kills him after finding out that he is no better than him.
    • Aegon IV resents his son Daeron II for not taking after him so much that he tried to destroy his reputation by questioning his paternity. Some believed him and this would lead to the Blackfyre Rebellion.

  • Barbarian Hero:
    • Khal Drogo's people only obey him because of his strength, and they abandon him when he falls ill.
    • Victarion Greyjoy is an honorable and straightforward man, but he has done some terrible things (an example: after his brother Euron rapes his wife, Victarion was bound by Ironborn custom to kill her), and some of his men abandon him when Euron grants them lands, titles, and power. In A Dance With Dragons, he accepts some sorcerous help from a priest of R'hllor, Moqorro, in contrast to the typical Barbarian Hero who usually has little use or respect for magic users.
  • Bastard Bastard: Westerosi society is very strongly biased against illegitimate children, as many believe that such children are "born of lust and lies" and it is thought they are almost always lawless, both morally and sexually loose... and very untrustworthy because of all this — so, they are openly discriminated against, thus making it harder for many illegitimate children to get by without resorting to shady practices. It is also feared that they might specifically try to usurp their half-siblings' inheritance as a matter of course (never mind that constantly accusing them of this and mistreating them for such prejudice — before they've even done anything wrong — may possibly lead to a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy care of Then Let Me Be Evil). The result is that all bastard-born children get grief for the circumstances of their birth, whether they're good-hearted and loyal, or bad/careless people or just a mix of both. With the exception of Dorne: bastards aren't viewed negatively there, since mistresses aka paramours and their children actually have protections and rights. They may even legitimately inherit in their own right unhindered, given the correct circumstances (such as the children of official marriages not making it to adult).
    • Genuinely loyal bastards such as Lord Bloodraven, who loyally stood by the Targaryen family and zealously prosecuted a war against the traitorous Blackfyres, are hardly ever commended for their fidelity or remembered when speaking about bastard-born individuals. For instance, Catelyn Stark invokes Daemon Blackfyre as a "Just So" Story to Robb Stark about why he shouldn't make his half-brother Jon Snow his heir, who is moral and loves his siblings, rather than the fiercely loyal Brynden Rivers — which proves that stereotypes are only true so long as people want them to be true.
    • Likewise, the only bastard we see in the entire series who ends up being legitimized is Ramsay Snow (by the hands of Tommen Baratheon, who is unknowingly a bastard himself) rather than Heroic Bastard characters like Mya Stone, Gendry, and Jon Snow who are good-hearted, moral, and prove their mettle, skill, and merit by their deeds and services.
    • Falia Flowers manages to cement her bitch chops quite handily. Although, the Hewetts didn't exactly help themselves with how they treated her for years. Turns out that, unlike in fairy tales, neglectfully abusive puppy kicking means you are most likely going to get a face full of The Dog Bites Back in a very horrific way when a more attractive, but far more dangerous abuser shows up to both encourage and take advantage of it.
  • The Berserker: Ramsay Snow's fighting style is described as more like a hacking with a butcher's cleaver than a sword, as a result of his lack of formal training. Several characters note that this leaves him ill-equipped to fighting anyone who has formal training.
  • Big Bad: The series is notable for lacking a single real Big Bad or main villain, rather a series of villains who act like main villains in fantasy stories only to be subverted or Played With in the story:
    • Usually the heroes, as in Robert's Rebellion, must form an alliance to defeat the Big Bad. However, the Mad King, the Predecessor Villain who behaves and acts like an Evil Overlord, isn't defeated by the heroes, but rather betrayed by his former henchmen and associates, who parlay their treachery into prime positions in the succeeding government.
    • Tywin Lannister serves as a Big Bad for the War of the Five Kings and looms large as a figure of hate for the Starks, the Martells and his own son Tyrion. Where other stories would promise an Evil Genius who offers no margin for error, and yet somehow loses because of grabbing a late-game Villain Ball, this story doesn't. As such, Tywin wins the War of the Five Kings, eliminates the Stark faction in a cruel massacre that he orchestrated, and is so dangerous that even Doran Martell was wary of going in open opposition with him. Whereas most villains would end up being punished for a great act of evil, Tywin ends up getting murdered by his son Tyrion for one specific act of cruelty that most of Westeros would perhaps rate as one of his normal Kick the Dog moments rather than his more vicious atrocities like the Sack of King's Landing or the Red Wedding.
    • A Big Bad who serves as The Man Behind the Man doesn't have to live in a secret base and be shrouded in shadows. He can operate in plain sight and occupy a minor position as a bureaucrat like Petyr Baelish, who sets off the War of the Five Kings with a single assassination and by exploiting the suspicious, prickly nature of diplomacy in the Seven Kingdoms, and uses the chaos to propel himself to positions of power removed from the conflict he created.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Excessive, short-sighted villainy can lead to your downfall if you're too foolish or weak and can't find a way out if your immediate benefactor is removed from the picture:
    • Joffrey starts a reign of terror since it's within his power as King. The Tyrells get him killed once they learn that marrying Margaery to him would put her in danger.
    • Walder Frey orchestrates the massacre of the Starks and Tullys because he's backed by Tywin Lannister. Once Tywin dies, the Freys are left alone in a war-torn land which they don't have the competence to rule, everyone hates them and there's a renegade group picking them off one by one.
    • Ramsay Bolton's rampant cruelty is frowned upon by his father Roose, as it might work in the short term for cowing the North in fear, but leaves the lords ready to turn on House Bolton at first opportunity. Indeed, without the backing of the Lannisters, who are far away and facing a crisis themselves, and with new enemies in the face of Stannis Baratheon and Jon Snow, it seems the Boltons are heading the way of the Freys.
  • Big Fun: Being fat is a sign of weakness in the martial society of Westeros.
    • Being fat is one of the reasons Samwell Tarly is exiled to the Wall by his warrior of a father.
    • Wyman Manderly exploits the prejudice against fat people to hide his involvement in a possible coup to reinstall the Starks as the North's liege lords.
    • This even gets used against Daeron II who had a bit of a belly, contrasted with the Heroic Build of his half-brother, Daemon Blackfyre. This was one of several factors leading to the Blackfyre Rebellion. He eventually turned out to be The Good King, arguably only behind Jahaerys the Conciliator in the Best Of lists. Turns out you need a level head on your shoulders rather more than you do a washer-board of a torso to rule well with.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family:
    • The Lannisters are beaten not on the battlefield, but by their own messed up relations. Cersei and Jaime's twincest causes a war and awareness of her infidelity (to Jaime) makes him refuse to help when she is dethroned. Jaime rescues Tyrion but reveals a dark secret which causes Tyrion to kill their father Tywin, further destabilizing the realm.
    • The Freys are so big and so used to splitting into competing internal factions and rivalries with each doing their own things, most haven't had the chance to stand back and cotton on to just how much trouble they're in as a whole group.
    • House Botley of the Iron Isles have somebody competent, loyal, genuine or all three on each of the sides that could directly impact their holdings and overall status simply because they are a large family with internal tensions. It's a perilously difficult situation to juggle, especially as it's not pre-planned (that we can see). And, they've already had land taken from them thanks to one horrible, misjudged step. Without a member on Euron's side as a hedge, the bloodline could have lost everything instead of only the half they did (while retaining the hope of regaining it, or something to replace it, down the line). They are unlikely to win big, true, but are also unlikely to lose big either, in return.
  • Blood Knight
    • Robert Baratheon only excelled in battle and he went into decline when he became king. He eventually dies killing a boar for being too out of shape and drunk to fight.
    • Sandor Clegane professes to love killing, but it is really just his way of lashing out at the world for rewarding his actual sociopathic Blood Knight brother (who as a teenager burnt half of his little brother's face off for playing with his old toys).
    • By that same token, Gregor Clegane, the "actual sociopathic Blood Knight brother," doesn't particularly care about the quality of battle. He just likes hurting, killing, and raping people. However, he overdoes it when he professes his crimes while killing Oberyn Martell, which sours the already poor relations of the Martells with the Lannisters, and the Lannisters need to kill him to get them back on their side. Also, his Blood Knight tendencies may be the result of him lashing out due to the pain resulting from having an oversized body, in addition to his abuse of milk of the poppy (which barely affects him anymore).
    • Cersei used Loras Tyrell's love of battle and glory to get rid of him by sending him on a suicidal mission to retake Dragonstone.
  • Boisterous Bruiser
    • Robert Baratheon's drinking, eating and whoring is symptomatic of depression caused by the loss of the woman he loved.
    • Aeron Greyjoy's former bruiser qualities are just a cover for how miserable he feels because of a number of childhood traumas (molested by one brother and partly responsible for the death of another).
  • Book Worm: Anti-Intellectualism runs rampant in Westeros and people who can read are looked down upon because warrior culture dominates.
    • Samwell Tarly preferred reading over fighting, and this did not sit well with his father. Lord Tarly then forced Sam to take the Black or be killed. However Sam's knowledge then becomes useful in the Night's Watch, and although he remains a coward, he is an invaluable if unappreciated asset to the Watch. He happens to be the first person in a thousand years to kill an Other, but few people believed that he really did it.
    • Daeron II and his son Aerys I's love of knowledge and learning made them hated by their more martial rivals. Daeron's militant lords rebelled under Daemon Blackfyre while Aerys ignored his royal responsibilities like fathering an heir or providing relief for the poor during a drought.
  • Brawn Hilda: Brienne's physique is noted to be unnatural, the text more-or-less saying that, whether she's in a dress, a tunic and breeches, or completely naked, she looks like a huge, muscular, clean-shaven man with wide hips, mild gynecomastia, and female genitalia. Years of bullying and ridicule for her appearance have made her chronically shy and socially awkward. As an adult, her attempts to put her mannish body to good use are met with scorn and both verbal and physical violence from prideful, sexist men who try to put her in her place.
  • The Brute: The Mountain, Amory Lorch, and Ramsay Bolton are all useful in putting fear in the hearts of their liege lord's enemies but their violence borders on Stupid Evil and they soon become liabilities better to be gotten rid off.
  • Butt-Monkey: Treating a person, family or nation like the butt of all jokes can make them turn resentful and bide their time to stab you in the back:
    • The Ironborn are treated like the punchline to everyone's joke after Balon Greyjoy's failed rebellion. However, the Ironborn themselves have a hand in cementing their butt monkey status after the fact. When the Starks are busy fighting south, the Ironborn deal them a crippling blow, which will likely be a disaster in the long term as the Iron Islands lack the power to stand against a unified Westeros. Since the Starks were the only force fighting for independence, and were willing to ally with the Iron Islands; the Ironborn ended up backstabbing their only potential ally, ensuring that once the civil war ends on the mainland, the victor would contemptuously crush the Ironborn yet again.
    • The Freys are ridiculed all across the Riverlands, despite being the most powerful house in the region after the Tullys, who are Lords Paramount. One insult too many and they turn on the Starks and Tullys: slaughtering them due to their superior numbers and the element of surprise. However, like with the Ironborn, this act did not work out in the long term, as all they managed to do was change a mixture of snobbery and mockery into deadly hatred. Surely, nothing can go wrong from there...

  • The Cape:
    • Stannis Baratheon adheres to a strict code of honor and sense of authority, but is notoriously inflexible while perceiving things in black and white as well as being painfully straightforward to the point where he alienates many of those whose support he relies on. Breaking the rules hurts him emotionally, yet to gain the throne, he is forced to compromise in ways both morally repugnant to him and dangerous to his otherwise robust constitution. He even has the square jaw of a classic Cape: much good that does him, as it makes him look both sterner and more ruthless than he actually is beneath the façade. The irony is, his very Capeness feeds into the wider perception (particularly amongst those who benefit from the existing corrupt political systems) of him being a potentially grim Dark Lord should he get the throne.
    • Gendry is not that far behind his uncle, being more a Cape-in-training. He hasn't completely solidified his code of honour or sense of justice, yet, but has distinct ideas and lines he won't cross — both traits that lean Cape-wards (while also having that Baratheon chiseled physique). This clashes badly with the moral kitchen sink the series shoves him into the minute he must flee King's Landing to unknowingly save his and Mott's lives. This makes it very hard for Gendry to make positive strides forward with his atypical moral compass, however much thought he tries to put in. He is also prone to selecting Chronic Hero Syndrome as a default response to what he decides is unjust treatment of somebody who didn't deserve it — which gets him in no end of trouble. The problem is he is just as likely to fall into Knight Templar-dom as grow fully into The Cape: the people he's surrounded himself with are all too likely to push him in that direction. And, if it happens, he will go into it with the best of intentions.
  • Celibate Hero: Egg wants to be a knight and shuns marriage and romance. This is commendable but its also motivated by bad experiences with women in his family. His sister tried to slip him a love potion. His brother Aerion might have been in love with that sister and threatened him in his sleep. Egg also believes the rumors that Bloodraven's half-sister and lover Shiera Seastar is a Wicked Witch. He does grow out of this eventually.
  • The Charmer: Renly Baratheon convinces many people that he would make a better king than his older brother Stannis because of his more pleasant personality and he gathers the largest army of the opposing kings. In reality, Renly is a vain and greedy schemer who is willing to kill his brother and it is unclear if he actually knew anything about ruling.
  • The Chessmaster: In a story with Loads and Loads of Characters (as is Real Life, mind you) you can't always predict what others are up to and move accordingly. Also, sometimes their plans fall apart because they take too long to make a decisive action, or are blinded by their personal flaws or bias. That's why most of them has failed or will eventually fail. The only character in-series that has managed to do his bidding till the very end was Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers...who could because he has supernatural powers who allow him to spy everyone everywhere and manipulate events.
    • Prince Doran is unable to control his hot-headed relatives, who throw caution to the wind when it comes to getting what they want. His daughter also plots a coup against him because he tells no one of his plan to restore the Targaryens to power and get revenge for his sister and her children.
    • Illyrio's plan kept getting delayed because Viserys dies and Dany is bogged down in Meereen. Aegon VI convinces the Golden Company to invade Westeros without Dany's support as they are sick of waiting and continually having their plans change.
    • Despite having the greatest spy network in the world, Varys is driven from his seat of power and forced into hiding by a one-handed man with a knife who was only interested in some secret passageways. Varys' over-reliance on his scheming left him vulnerable to even the bare minimum of physical force.
    • Littlefinger's plans look likely to get complicated in the near future as he's taken into his service a hedge knight who was looking for Sansa Stark, and may very well know 'Alayne' is her in disguise. This shows another Chessmaster weakness, the inability to truly know everything. Also, he has to bring his plans forward as Cersei is proving more incompetent at ruling than he anticipated and his plan relies on Sansa being the heir to Winterfell when two of her trueborn brothers are unknowingly still alive and in hiding.
    • Tywin is a humorless control freak who sees EVERYONE as a pawn on his personal chessboard, including his own children. He masterminds some of the most cunning schemes in the series and is an all-around Magnificent Bastard. However, his treatment of his children causes all of them to resent him, and this proves his undoing. When Tyrion fell in love and got married to a lowborn girl, Tywin had her gang raped in front of him and forced him to participate, then paid her to convince Tyrion she was a whore and teach him a lesson. He forced Jaime to go along with it and pretend he had hired the girl to get Tyrion laid. When Tyrion finds out the truth years later that she really was just a peasant girl who married him because she loved him, he murders Tywin for it. Right up to the moment he takes a crossbow bolt in the belly, Tywin thinks he's still in control of the situation.
    • Roose Bolton can play cyvasse with the best of them. Unfortunately, Ramsay Bolton doesn't really care for plans. Or pragmatism. Or Public Relations. Or... well, anything that's not satisfying his impulses, really. Given that Ramsay is The Dragon to Roose's Big Bad, this presents something of a problem for House Bolton's long-term survival. Roose has had to use all his considerable Chessmaster skills to make sure Ramsay (or the rest of House Bolton) doesn't end up on the wrong end of a noose, and it might not be enough.
  • Child Mage: Given how dangerous magic is in this setting, children having magical abilities rarely has positive outcomes.
    • Varamyr is an example of an early-blooming, and very powerful, terror who just got worse as he grew older, since nobody around him could impose limits on him without resorting to physical beatings. As he could simply counter the physical punishment by simply skinchanging away from the pain, it was a pointless exercise that only taught how to stew in resentment — until he could reach out to a beast strong enough to commit murder with. He uses his powers to take food, beasts, learning and women from other Wildlings, while abusing and killing whomsoever tries to oppose or reason with him.
    • Bran doesn't understand that warging into humans is Mind Rape. Melisandre is worried his curiosity about his powers will turn him into The Great Other's champion.
    • Let's face it, four is just too bloody young to completely bond with a direwolf. After only a few months, Shaggydog not only outweighs Rickon, but can be argued to be more mature, mentally. By eighteen months, there will be distinct problems. The various power imbalances and difference in growth rate don't bode at all well for either. Let alone any outsiders confronted with a huge-ass wolf failing to cope with a human child's raging emotions. Forget said wolf adding puberty into the mix.
  • Childhood Friends/Old Friend: Sometimes nostalgia blinds people to the true and often unsavory characters of those they knew long ago. What happens in the years between is just as important, if not more so, than the reunions.
    Catelyn: You knew the man. The king is a stranger to you.
    • Robert chose Ned as his new Hand of the King because Ned was the person he trusted most with the position. Ned does Robert a favor by breaking up his family to go to King's Landing. Unfortunately, they've grown so different over the years and ended up in such different circumstances that Ned can't integrate into Robert's new life and pays for it with both their lives.
    • While investigating the attempted assassination of her young son, Catelyn was found by Petyr. She trusted him with sensitive information and took his every word to heart because she thought he had no reason to lie to her. What she didn't know was that in the years since they last saw each other, Petyr had grown to be a ruthless manipulator and self-serving chessmaster — precisely because they had been separated.
  • The Chosen Many: The Night's Watch has gone from a hallowed institution to a joke because the ancient evil it was supposed to fight has not been seen in thousands of years. They've become an army of crooks and exiles because no highborn wants to throw away their lifestyle for a miserable existence in the icy north with nothing but duty to live for. It's gotten to the point that Ramsay Bolton has taken up arms against the Watch, violating its vow of neutrality.
  • Cincinnatus: Ned Stark is a simple, straightforward, honorable man who does not really want power, so objectively he's the best choice to be the Hand of the King: he can be trusted not to abuse the huge amount of power and responsibility that theoretically comes with the position. Unfortunately, as a simple, straightforward, honorable man who has avoided the political game all his life, he's not very good at playing it. He has no idea how to navigate a Deadly Decadent Court - a court that is so corrupt and full of intrigues, by the way, that he effectively has no actual power to abuse even if he wanted to. When the time comes that he has no choice but to play the Game of Thrones, he loses big time.
  • The Conqueror: Conquering something is one thing. Holding it is another, and ruling it is entirely different.
    • Theon Greyjoy takes Winterfell with twenty men, since all able-bodied men from the castle are away fighting. He soon finds out that he's not able to defend the castle when the defenders return.
    • Daenerys conquers the cities in Slaver's Bay, only to be overthrown in Astapor shortly after she left it, and to be caught in the chaos of Meereen, not knowing whether she should establish a new order by force or adapt to the old one.
    • Robert Baratheon usurped the Targaryens and won the Iron Throne. He was an utter disaster as a king, not taking the time to rule at all, and plunged the kingdom into debt while allowing schemes to brew right under his nose.
    • The Boltons and Freys usurp the Starks and Tullys, respectively, only to have trouble establishing themselves as lords over the loyal bannermen of the families they betrayed.


  • Damsel in Distress: Abducted women are subjected to all sorts of physical, emotional and psychological torture, and even death.
    • Lyanna Stark dies before she is saved. Her failed rescue also kicks off a bunch of seemingly unimportant events that eventually leads to the Red Wedding.
    • Sansa Stark is held hostage and abused by the Lannisters, but doesn't get rescued by her family. Instead Petyr Baelish kidnaps her so he can use her in his own schemes. The whole experience has left her cynical, disillusioned, and psychologically traumatized. There's also a strong undercurrent of dehumanization: apart from her immediate family and Brienne of Tarth, all the factions that want Sansa only see her as a means of getting what they want, not as a person in desperate need of help.
    • Both Jeyne Poole and Cassella Vaith develop a major case of Stockholm Syndrome as a consequence of being held captive and abused by their captors Ramsay Snow and Aegon IV, respectively.
    • Lady Hornwood died from starvation, but not before eating four of her own fingers. Everyone was too busy with a war to notice a widow in distress.
    • Rhaenyra Targaryen was captured by Aegon II but she wasn't as valuable a hostage to him as her son was, so Aegon II had her fed to his dragon before she could be rescued.
  • Dangerous Deserter: Septon Meribald explains to Brienne and her companions that most "broken men" are peasants who were dragged far away from home, watched their friends and family be killed in battle for some lord they've never met, and now are lost hundreds of miles from home with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their weapons and are suffering from some serious PTSD. It's not really surprising many turn to banditry.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Characters like Tyrion, Jaime, Littlefinger, and Theon get in trouble when they get snarky in the wrong situation. Words hold power which must be used wisely. This includes knowing when to be quiet.
  • Defector from Decadence: No, you can't just oppose your leader's will or society's expectations for moral reasons then expect to walk away relatively unscathed: leaders generally have power, friends and/or powerful friends they can dick you over with.
    • Barristan Selmy vowed to find a ruler who would appreciate his service rather than accept a backhanded retirement "covering" a naked Lannister grab at his position, so Joffrey tries to have him killed on his way out of the capital. If he hadn't have had Daenerys to go to, his known options at that point basically boiled down to Stannis (very harsh and unpalatable, but fair — illegitimate if you publicly believe Joffrey and his siblings to be trueborn), Renly (no way — youngest son), or hitting the life of a hedge knight in the longer term while waiting for unknowable surprises (like Aegon) to pop up. In his 60s. That's another way of saying "death by principle".
    • The Sand Snakes question Prince Doran Martell's inaction at Oberyn's death so he locks them up to prevent their rabble-rousing. And, then uses their failed insurrection to get them working for him to, if not atone, then actually do more hard work than they'd ever planned to do, which could actually hurt the Lannisters. In short: royally mess up when handing in your notice, and you can find yourself loaded with more work, while ultimately still under the same boss, divided from each other (and him) by layers of management for his peace of mind.
    • Aeron Greyjoy condemns his brother Euron as a heathen and vows to find a more suitable king. He then goes missing and his fellow priests are hunted down. The Winds of Winter sample chapter shows Euron has captured him and he faces certain death.
  • Depraved Dwarf: Tyrion is, if anything, the White Sheep of the Lannister clan, but that doesn't stop everyone from his father downwards seeing him as this. It creates aspects of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy — his inability to trust women leads him to visit prostitutes all the time, which gives him a reputation as a lech; his Black Sheep treatment forces him to struggle with his own family for the power any other man would be afforded by birthright, which gives him a reputation as disloyal; his having to fall back on Every Man Has His Price gives him a reputation as profligate. When he serves as Hand of the King to Cersei and Joffrey, he single-handedly keeps the city from collapsing into chaos, but the populace targets him as a Scapegoat for all the regime's injustices because they believe Beauty = Goodness. He's also the number one suspect in the attacks on both Bran and Joffrey, despite having nothing to do with either, and his reaction to the latter is to further ruin his reputation by killing his father.
  • Doomed Moral Victor
    • Ned Stark is set up as a martyr ready to die doing the right thing, but Varys makes him realize that he invited war and threatens Ned's daughters, showing that their lives are in danger from his allies as well as his enemies thanks to his actions. Ned falsely confesses his guilt to save the realm but is executed anyway and dies senselessly as a villain and traitor.
    • Rhaenyra Targaryen is her father's rightful heir but she is usurped and killed. Her claim is eventually vindicated when her son becomes King Aegon III after Aegon II's whole family died in their war. Yet she is seen as the usurper because by tradition a younger male claimant has more rights than an older female and not even her father had right to change it since that law is the reason he became king.
  • The Dreaded: People like Ramsay Snow/Bolton. He is feared throughout the North for his brutality, such as flaying people alive. However, his father Lord Roose Bolton knows that it means the North despises the Boltons and would love to see them overthrown. It's getting to the point that he's starting to see him more as an outright hindrance than a help, especially as Ramsay doesn't have any real ruling skills outside of spreading terror.


  • The Everyman: Ned Stark and his illegitimate son Jon Snow use their simple values and common sense to rise above the petty political games and corruption surrounding them to save the realm. It doesn't go well.
  • Evil Chancellor:
    • Tywin Lannister is brutal and ruthless, but he's also a genuinely talented politician and administrator. The years under his rule were some of the most peaceful in Westerosi history, at least in the eyes of the aristocracy who admired him for removing King Aegon V's pro-smallfolk reforms. In war, he would cross any line to achieve his goals, but in peacetime he's mainly interested in providing stability, building alliances and improving the economy, as well as putting a lid on Cersei and Joffrey's actions, much as he did with Aerys the Mad King.
    • Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers used the Hand of the King office to build a Police State comprised of informants and spies (with some skinchanging magic for good measure) and ruthlessly kept the Blackfyre threat from fomenting. He was feared and hated for being a bastard, a sorcerer, and an albino but he was too effective for the Targaryens to get rid off until King Aegon V finally made him An Offer You Can't Refuse when he went a little further than usual with his Kick the Dog actions. By that time, the Blackfyres were pretty much The Remnant and a non-entity in Westeros, largely thanks to Bloodraven's ruthless efficiency.
    • Viserys II; all his life walked the fine line between what a Hand should do and what a Hand must do. He's remembered as a sinister figure skulking behind his nephews Daeron the Young Dragon and Baelor the Blessed. Others see him as an unsung hero who kept the realm intact and prevented his nephews from wrecking it.
  • Evil Overlord: People who project this image don't get too far in Westeros.
    • Stannis Baratheon lives in an Evil Tower of Ominousness; his army is composed of pirates, sellswords and bannermen of questionable loyalty; his zealous pursuit of law and justice makes him come off as dour, ruthless and grimly dark to many (mostly those with a certain degree of corruption and spin going on), rather than as simply The Cape, and his consorting with an Evil Sorceress gives him a truly sinister reputation. Yet his Hidden Depths make him seem like the exact kind of king Westeros needs, even though few want him.
    • Aerys II Targaryen is a good example of someone trying to be an Evil Overlord without any of the magic or Evil Genius. He makes all the mistakes that should be avoided and he pays for those mistakes when his former allies, tired of his constant slights, turn on him en mass and parlay their treachery for good positions in the new government.
    • Harren the Black pretty much ticked all the relevant boxes for a few decades, but a combination of factors brought him down. He both neglected his base in the Iron Isles and overtaxed the whole Riverlands region by focusing on building his glorious dream of Harrenhal with its many towers of ominousness, and thereby earned himself a dismal reputation at the time in both. To maintain his rule, he became utterly brutal. But, this didn't actually sink him, as he somehow kept a firm grip on things (although, like with Tywin Lannister, the next generation of Hoares would have been in for disaster, regardless); dragons most definitely did him in. Even the most brutally effective of overlords needs to keep accurate tabs on the rising competition and make correct decisions about what to do about outlandish surprises... Or, they will hand a region begging for less horrific rule to their successor practically gift-wrapped and with the equivalent of an inbuilt, very excusable, sociopolitical hard-reset option on top.
    • Roose Bolton is pretty damn close to the archetype despite lacking any magic. He lives in a castle called The Dreadfort, his sigil is a flayed man on a field of pink, and his men often have rather sinister nicknames. However, this image of being an Evil Overlord is bad for his PR, and Roose is trying his damnedest to keep his reputation as squeaky clean as possible. But because of Ramsay's various atrocities and his betrayal of the Starks, everyone hates his House's guts, and Stannis is bearing down on his ass with an army of sellswords and pissed-off Northmen. Roose knows he's backed himself into a corner through his actions as well as his House's reputation.

  • Family Values Villain: All Tywin Lannister cares about is that his family forever reigns supreme but he cares nothing about his children's opinions. After he dies, his son Jaime dreams desperately that his father must have had sympathetic reasons as to why he was what he was but comes up inconclusive.
  • The Federation: The Northmen's diversity shows that they need firm but reasonable leadership lest they turn against their liege lords. This is shown when a minor land dispute snowballs into a coup against the Starks spearheaded by House Bolton. This is in contrast to the tight-laced Westerlands.
  • The Fettered: Many try with very little success, as reality often tests people by pulling them between two or more oaths and responsibilities, like say loyalty vs morality, honour vs family, human decency vs survival, or just all and more at once. Ned ends up having to stop doing the right thing in order to keep his head and his family safe only to die anyway, as a consequence of saving The Caligula. Brienne ends up having to make the impossible choice between her life, the life of her squire, her loyalty to Jaime Lannister, and her prior loyalty to Catelyn Tully, who's become obsessed with hurting anyone remotely involved in the Red Wedding. Jaime himself gave up being The Fettered, after seeing his initial loyalty to King Aerys rewarded with front row views of his atrocities, and his eventual decision to put him down in the name of decency rewarded with being termed the Kingslayer.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • Jaime and Cersei Lannister. Cersei actually resents being the responsible one, neglecting her needs for the good of the family. As she gets closer to the Iron Throne, she loses people who can counsel and guide her (Jaime, Tyrion, Tywin, Kevan and even Pycelle) and her disregard for the needs of others eventually gets her dethroned. Jaime on the other hand, sticking too much to his family's credo of not caring what the "sheep" might say gets him in trouble.
    • Catelyn is always responsible, but she gets tired of obeying other people's orders and being strong all the time for her family in light of all the bad stuff that's happened. Her sister Lysa seems to be the prodigal child gone straight, married Jon Arryn and had his child, as is her duty. But it turned out she never stopped loving Littlefinger and even had her husband killed at his behest. Then Littlefinger killed her when she served her purpose.
    • Catelyn and Edmure are each suffocated by their mantle of "responsible" and "foolish" respectively. Catelyn's various responsibilities end up in conflict with one another, and force her to be separated from her family, and lead her to make some highly questionable decisions, effectively showing how the mantle of "the responsible one" is nearly impossible to live up to in practice. Edmure, meanwhile, highly resents his designation as the foolish sibling (having a reputation for being 'hot-headed but good-hearted') and he does everything in his power to try and disprove his status by taking on actions that seem to be what the "responsible sibling" would do, and always trying to do what he thinks is right for the family or what he thinks Robb needs him to do, but his actions actually make him something of a liability. There is reason to think that they would each be happier in the other role. But, ultimately, Responsible and Foolish are each taken Up to Eleven with Lady Stoneheart becoming the leader of the Brotherhood and ruthlessly eliminating anyone associated with the enemies of her family, while Edmure is repeatedly humiliated and embarrassed as a hostage to the Freys and Lannisters.
    • Robert and Renly Baratheon dislike Stannis for being a Principles Zealot while he hates them for wasting their time in useless luxury. This makes it easy for Stannis to have Renly killed only later regret it.
  • Free-Range Children:
    • Arya, Bran and Rickon Stark are only able to go on an adventure of their own because their home is destroyed, they are separated from their family, and all three of them are presumed dead. Arya's chapters are full of graphic depictions of being homeless in a medieval world.
    • Viserys and Daenerys lost their home, their parents, and any access to the benefits of their titles, meaning Viserys had to turn into a Parental Substitute for his baby sister in exile at a young age while selling everything they had that connected them to the past in a bid to make do as well as steadily losing support by attrition. When they ran out of both, they were stuck having to allow themselves to be used by others for their own ends while moving between pillar and post hoping to get lucky. It heaped strain on both and the result hasn't been that pleasant for either. On the plus side, they did get a premier opportunity to see many sights and learn a few languages. The price, however...
  • Freudian Trio: The Baratheon brothers. Rather than balancing out each others' weaknesses and maximizing their strengths, this is why they can't get along with each other. Robert (ego) is too lazy to enforce his will, Stannis (superego) has his standards set unrealistically high, and Renly (id) chooses to advance himself.
  • Frontline General: A leader who fights at the head of his army is admirable but sometimes impractical.
    • Jon Connington wanted to face Robert Baratheon personally when he found out he was at Stoney Sept. With him personally leading the search, he was left vulnerable by a sneak attack by the Northmen.
    • Men like Mern Gardener IX, Lord Mooton and the Bastard of Blackhaven were all killed leading their men to battle against dragons. Mind you, if your idea of a great tactical manoeuvre is "charge forward and fight the angry, scaled, fire-breathing hugeness", perhaps you fully deserve the posthumous General Failure points and the Darwin Award pinned to your suicidal ashes.

  • Gate Guardian
    • The Night's Watch defends the realms of humanity from threats beyond the Wall but Jeor Mormont and Jon Snow believe something else is out there so the latter allows the wildlings through. Most of Westeros believes this threat is a Sealed Evil in a Can — but a short list including Jeor Mormont, Jon Snow, Samwell Tarly, Stannis Baratheon, Melisandre, a number of rangers, and all of the wildlings know better.
    • House Frey made a fortune charging tolls (either in cash or marriage alliances) to an important river crossing. This has given them a reputation as extortionists. A strange accusation considering the Lannisters stole the fortune of another house, the Baratheons took the Durrandons lands through conquest, and other such barbaric tales exist about the so-called noble houses.
  • General Failure: Members of the noble class often have overconfidence in their skills and authority, so when conflict breaks outs they insist on taking military command from more experienced officers, often leading to them ruining everything. The only reason they allowed to stay in command is because they are either the highest ranking person around or are supported by powerful people.
    • Daeron Targaryen ignored the advice of his advisers and waged war on Dorne by throwing every soldier and resource he had at them, resulting in the death of 50,000 of his own men. Daeron quickly lost control over Dorne due to rebellions, as he didn't have the men needed to hold the country, and he died trying to retake the country. In the current age, young men idolize Daeron as a charismatic conqueror while experienced soldiers and commanders dismiss him a fool who wasted countless lives by treating war as a game.
    • Stafford Lannister, nicknamed "Uncle Dolt" by his family, was put in charge of guarding the main entrance of the Westerlands during the War of the Five Kings. He was likely given this position simply because he was a Lannister, despite that he and his army was inexperienced with warfare. He failed to properly post sentries around the area, allowing Stark forces to sneak in and attack them in the night, giving the Lannister army one of its worst defeats.
    • The Siege of Riverrun was a complete disaster before Jaime arrived. Emmon Frey, the new lord of Riverrun, was more concerned with the castle staying undamaged than he was with the siege ending and he and the other members of House Frey present made the operation a nightmare for the Lannister troops in charge of the assault. When the siege finally ended, Emmon found out that while he may have been given Riverrun, he essentially had no real authority as Littlefinger had already been made Lord Paramount of the Trident.
  • Giant Mook: Ser Gregor Clegane's size makes him an awesome sight but it also made it hard to hide Tywin Lannister's involvement in things like having Prince Rhaegar's family murdered. Plus he suffers from endless headaches that are implied to be the result of his unusual size giving him an abnormal physiology, and it's further implied that his violent personality stems from these headaches keeping him in a constant state of pain.
  • Girl in the Tower
    • Sometimes a girl gets herself locked in the tower, wishing for a rescue she doesn't really need, for a very good set of reasons. Arianne Martell found that out the hard way when she decided to try a little plotting of her own and truly messed with her father's long-term strategy. House arrest wasn't so much a punishment as it was an attempt at kick-starting the learning curve with a bucket of cold water over hot-headed impatience.
    • King Baelor the Blessed imprisoned his three sisters to prevent them from tempting him into cardinal sin. They were even known as "The Three Maids in the Tower". His sister-wife Daena was rescued by their cousin the future Aegon IV with whom she had an affair and produced Daemon Blackfyre.
    • Ned thinks he's rescuing Lyanna from her kidnapper Prince Rhaegar who's locked her in a remote tower, but when he gets to her, she's already dying from bearing her child with Rhaegar, and there are ambiguous implications that her disappearance may have been voluntary.
    • Val, the so-called "wildling princess", is held captive by Stannis Baratheon in one of the towers of Castle Black — and she is even protected by a (sentient and friendly) giant. When a knight vying for her hand is told that a wildling woman will only respect a man who can "steal" her, Ser Patrek attacks the giant unprovoked, gets promptly ripped to pieces, and causes a hugely consequential increase in tensions between the wildlings, the queen's men, and the Watch.
  • The Good Chancellor: The series challenges the idea that a good person would automatically be good at ruling and handling power:
    • Ned Stark looks out for his king, worries about the Crown's finances and tries and dispenses justice against war criminals like Ser Gregor Clegane. However, his inflexible code of honor and refusal to compromise means that he does not really attract reliable allies. His tragic adherence to Wouldn't Hurt a Child leads to his death at the hands of the boy-king he had tried to spare.
    • Tyrion Lannister who takes power on behalf of his father is genuinely and unselfishly interested in protecting the city as well as curtailing the corruption of the Queen and the Small Council. But to do that, he uses Hill Tribes as his own goon squad. Likewise, he does none of the Bread and Circuses routines to counter the negative propaganda people have towards him, this leads to him getting marginalized and getting no credit for his actions.
  • The Good King: History looks back fondly on the achievements of "good" kings as if these men succeeded all by themselves when really it was usually the work of the people who worked behind the scenes.
    • Baelor the Blessed is thought of as one for his piety and kindness to the smallfolk, but was quite likely mentally unstable and his uncle and Hand Viserys was more responsible for his stable reign. On the one hand his religious conviction led him to care about the poor and minister to them personally, on the other hand he also indulged in Bookburning and despite his pacifist nature was at one point considering holy war with the North (who worshiped the Old Gods).
    • Aegon V tried to be a genuinely good King. He was an Internal Reformist who provided several new rights and privileges to the smallfolk. Doing so however, alienated him from the aristocracy and the High Lords. His indulgence towards his children led them to rebel against his dynastic marriages and triggered a rebellion and much resentment. In the end, he became a Well-Intentioned Extremist who turned to magic to bring back the dragons so that he could impose his reforms by force. This led to a fire where he died with his son and best friend, leaving a weak-willed conservative son in power and in less than a generation, Tywin Lannister removed all his reforms with his reign leaving no lasting legacy by the present day.
    • One minor character from A Clash of Kings actually reminisced about how things were better during Aerys II's reign. This demonstrates an unfortunately timeless human foible: for the sake of peace and security, people are willing to overlook their leader's dark sides.
    • Jaehaerys I is the straightest example of this trope in the series; he is wise beyond his years, he goes out of his way to reconcile his enemies to his cause, he is skilled in combat, diplomacy and governing, he surrounds himself with wise advisors, his policies help to consolidate the realm of Westeros into one, the few wars that break out in his reign are dealt with swiftly and with minimal casualties, he is happily married and has loads of children, he is beloved by the smallfolk, admired by the lords and he reigns over Westeros for over fifty years of peace and prosperity. But even so, his reign and his personal life were not perfect. He would not have gone through with some of his policies (most notably the ending of the "Lord's First Night") had his wife Alysanne not persuaded him to do so. His attempt at warding off a Succession Crisis works out well, but only for a generation. His decision to donate the New Gift to the Night's Watch is received well in the short term, but in the long term the land goes wasted over time due to low resources. The way he dealt with three of his daughters indirectly resulted in two of their deaths (one by childbirth due to marrying at too young an age, the other in a drunken accident after disagreeing with an Arranged Marriage) and the exile of the third (thanks to not recognising her for the Enfant Terrible she was until it was too late) led to he and his wife separating for a time. Jaehaerys would also suffer the Adult Fear of outliving nearly all of his many children and his wife and due to ruling for so long he ended his days bedridden with dementia. Being The Good King does not come without great personal cost.


  • Half-Identical Twins: As children, Cersei and Jaime were so alike that not even their father could tell them apart. They would dress up each other's clothes and pretend to be each other without anyone noticing the difference. But because they lived in a sexist society, Jaime was raised to be a leader and warrior while Cersei was raised to be a wife and mother. Cersei, having tasted the kind of freedom boys are allowed by posing as her brother, grows up to be resentful of her expected role and desperate for the power that she is denied on account of her gender.
  • Handicapped Badass: Often played straight, due to the series' fondness for "cripples and bastards and broken things". However, it's not portrayed as easy;
    • Being dead is considered preferable to being handicapped in Westeros; Bran overhears people muttering that if he had any courage, he'd kill himself. He's also forced, despite Tyrion designing him a special saddle, to give up his dreams of knighthood and focus on developing other strengths.
    • Jaime Lannister finds out that there's no easy way to becoming this after losing his hand, and swordsmanship is not easily transferable to your off-hand.
    • Although dwarfism isn't exactly a handicap in quite the same way losing a hand or lower leg is, in battle, it's certainly not much help. Yet, Tyrion shows that, given the right armour, equipment (not always easy to come by) and calibre of enemy, he can hold his own at a pinch — much like any newbie Child Soldier with gait issues would. But, surprise, being a smaller target with an unexpected angle of attack can only get you so far: after a while, the differences in reach, weight, equipment, stamina and training become a distinct problem. He loses much of his nose and any remote hope of his father's esteem as a result.
  • Heartbroken Badass
    • King Robert being enslaved by Lyanna's memory doesn't stop him from fathering illegitimate kids everywhere in the realm.
    • It's often noted how different Tywin Lannister would have been had his wife never died but it doesn't stop him from sleeping with prostitutes. The discovery of his hypocrisy finally causes his son to kill him.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity:
    • Jaime and Tyrion's terrible reputations are due in part to their own attitudes and way of dealing with people, and in part due to playing up to people's expectations out of pride and/or spite.
    • Stannis Baratheon refuses to clean up his image and expects the small folk to just believe his true accusations that Joffrey and his siblings are incest-born. The regime's slick PR machine, in turn, claim Stannis' daughter Shireen is the child of his fool Patchface. It's easy to believe because to even acknowledge the issue is beneath his dignity.
    • Brienne of Tarth's angry reaction to the accusations of her killing Renly and her constantly sticking to the "living shadow" story does not surprisingly improve her reputation.
  • Hidden Back Up Prince/Lost Orphaned Royalty: It's very common for commoners to claim to be secret royalty or related to royalty, especially during a Succession Crisis. Some other commoners take them seriously, but they're usually ignored, arrested, or killed by people with established political power.
  • The High Queen: This is the image Cersei and Daenerys project, but it takes more than the force of will to rule. By the end of Dance both are ousted from power, the former for empowering religious fanatics, and the latter for implementing too many pro-smallfolk reforms too quickly.
    • Cersei sees herself as a strong leader with a firm grip on the realm. Yet she continues to abuse her powers for petty reasons, creating rifts with the allies she needs, recruits yes men as her cronies, and brings nothing but ruin to the kingdom. She is later arrested by the High Sparrow, who charges her of adultery, thus removing her from her position, and her supposed loyalists quickly abandon her.
  • The Horde: Wildlings are seen as inhuman barbarians but they are just tribes who were on the opposite side of the Wall when it was built. Some, like the Thenns, have some degree of law and structure similar to that of the Seven Kingdoms. Their most recent invasion is motivated by self-preservation.
  • Hot Consort: Sometimes being the beautiful wife of a king isn't all it's cracked up to be due to societal expectations and Domestic Abuse
    • Rhaella was of the Targaryen line, a family of near Fae-like beauty. She was married to Aerys Targaryen, her brother, who, in the latter days of their marriage, invoked a brutal form of Marital Rape License. Jaime remarked that she looked like an animal savaged her due to all the scars.
    • Cersei was a Model Couple with Robert, but he was busy mourning and she tried to make the marriage work until he uttered Lyanna's name in bed. He also, like his second cousin Aerys, invoked Marital Rape License (though not to the extent of the Mad King) and often abused and humiliated her in front of his court.
    • Margaery was this for Renly, but his orientation meant no heir was sired, and at his death she remained a virgin. She was also arranged to be this for Joffrey but after seeing his true colors, Olenna plotted with Littlefinger to assassinate him when it became clear that Joffrey was an unhinged sadist that would kill Margaery without a second thought. She then marries kinder Tommen after.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick
    • Tywin Lannister did such a good job of being Hand that King Aerys grew jealous of him, which drove a wedge into an otherwise effective regime.
    • Kevan Lannister did such a good job of being Hand that Varys kills specifically because he might have actually succeeded in keeping the peace.
    • Ser Addam Marbrand is one of the most capable men in the Westerlands which means his liege lord would shift him from one problem area to the next. Addam hates this but is too loyal to complain.

  • Ideal Hero:
    • House Stark is basically a family of traditional fantasy heroes dropped into a Medieval Crapsack World. They're known for their integrity, honor, and sense of duty. They hold themselves to a relatively high moral standard and refuse to compromise their virtues or play politics. And they genuinely love each other rather than see family members as pawns or bargaining chips. In any other fantasy setting, these would be good qualities to have. Here, they're the very things that get half of them killed and the rest scattered to the winds.
    • Robert Baratheon, in his youth, was the archetypal Fairy Tale hero: strong, handsome, charismatic, determined to save the Damsel in Distress and overthrow a mad tyrant. He got the Standard Hero Reward: he became king, married the World's Most Beautiful Woman, and enjoyed 100% Adoration Rating. Then he grew up and found out that Victory Is Boring and his marriage was a failure. Over a decade later, he cannot come to terms with the events of his rebellion because he was entirely unsuited to be king. He has degenerated physically and morally like the king he overthrew by the time the story begins.
    • Stannis Baratheon, with his unflinching sense of justice and duty, willingness to work with people other nobles would consider inferior and knowledge of the truth that there is a far greater evil threatening not just the Seven Kingdoms but the whole world, seems the perfect choice to be king by readers yet he comes off as an unsavory tyrannical madman to the rest of Westeros.
    • Renly Baratheon and Daemon Blackfyre are still remembered as two great might-have-beens because they and their followers played up the hero image, regardless of how they acted in real life.
  • Idiot Hero: Prince Quentyn Martell isn't particularly handsome, strong or smart but he makes up for it with a "can do!" attitude and sheer moxy. He gets burned alive for trying to steal a dragon. Seems that for the Hero to counterbalance the Idiot, you need either luck, Plot Armor or a much fluffier world with fewer carnivores acting like defensive carnivores stuck in spaces too small for them.
  • The Igor: A Dance With Dragons gives a pretty horrific description of what it means to be one, or to be brainwashed into becoming one, from the Igor's (Reek II aka Theon) point of view.
  • Implacable Man: Gregor Clegane's incredible strength and physical resilience makes him a terror and nearly unbeatable opponent on the battlefield. Unfortunately, when he's fatally poisoned by Oberyn, that same resilience only makes the already slow-acting poison last longer and prolong his agony.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Rank and title mean squat to nobles without riches to back it up.
    • Jorah Mormont sold poachers to slavery for money to lavish on his wife. Because of this, he lost her, his lordship and his freedom.
    • House Westerling went against their own motto "Honor, not Honors" participating in the Red Wedding.
  • The Ingenue: Sansa is a high lord's daughter, feminine, good at ladylike activities, painfully naive, and a tad haughty. Her innocence only seems to make her life hell, as her father is killed, she's betrothed to a Bastard Bastard, is taken advantage of and treated like a pawn by people she trusts throughout the story.
  • Iron Lady: Women in charge in Westeros are stuck in a never-ending struggle of proving themselves as authoritative figures yet being remembered as tyrants for making decisions otherwise applauded in male rulers.
    • Cersei thinks herself a just ruler and all who oppose her as misogynists yet her one against all attitude blinds her to her own faults. She is simply not as smart as she thinks she is.
    • Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen isn't fondly remembered for her brief reign due to the successive executions she ordered and her high taxation. The realm was at war, however, and her measures might have been justified.
    • Lady Rohanne Webber is a just ruler yet unfairly accused of tyranny. She is also accused of killing her husbands and children. It didn't help that she still looked young so she really tries to show everyone she's not to be trifled with just because she's cute.

  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Sandor Clegane's mean streak to Sansa and Arya overshadows his humanity. That is why Sansa refused to leave with him during the Battle of the Blackwater and why Arya refused to Mercy Kill him despite keeping her safe (for his own selfish reasons).
    • Once other characters (and the readers) see Stannis Baratheon's Hidden Depths, we find that he's not really that bad a person, if a bit of a Jerkass. Unfortunately, Stannis's introverted nature means that not that many people get to see those Hidden Depths, so people's general impression of him is solely as a stuck-up, unpleasant Principles Zealot. This doesn't exactly help his quest to claim the Iron Throne.
  • Just Like Robin Hood:
    • The Brotherhood Without Banners started out as a peacekeeping force driven primarily to aid and protect the smallfolk during the War of Five Kings. When their leader, Beric Dondarrion, gives up his life force to resurrect Catelyn Tully Stark, now known as Lady Stoneheart, they make a change for the worse. Lady Stoneheart takes the reins of the band and uses them to carry out vengeance against the people that killed her and her son (who stayed dead). Over time, the Brotherhood become a bunch of Knight Templars, no better that the people they fight against while still claiming moral superiority. A few characters, including one of their own, call them out on their hypocrisy.
    • Outlaws, in general, exist because of the breakdown of the King's Justice. Jaime Lannister, who in his youth combated the Kingswood Brotherhood, noted that Ser Arthur Dayne successfully shut down their rebellion because he embodied the Knight in Shining Armor trope to the hilt, won the hearts and minds of villages in the kingswood and was able to do more through his appeals with the King than the well-meaning brotherhood ever could. As soon as their support dwindled, the brotherhood were cornered and cut down. However, as an adult, Jaime Lannister finds it hard to combat the Brotherhood Without Banners because of the resulting Succession Crisis, the lack of popular support for the Lannisters and the Freys, and despite his new-found convictions and kindness to commoners, he is still the hated Kingslayer because of his Hero with Bad Publicity status.

  • Karma Houdini: Both Tywin Lannister and the Wyl of Wyl got away with so many atrocities that long after their deaths there are still those who want revenge and it's usually their innocent kin and bannermen who pay with their lives.
  • Kid Hero
    • Arya and Bran Stark are now without guidance and resort to things they never thought they'd do to survive. The powers they gain along the way are actually harmful to others. And Gods know what Rickon is up to, but it can't be good.
    • Jace, Luke and Joff Velaryon show what happens to kid heroes who willingly fight in the frontline. The first two are killed without mercy and the last died because he hadn't mastered his dragon riding.
  • Kid with the Leash: Giving kids dangerous animals as pets isn't a good idea.
    • Little Rickon Stark is given Shaggydog who is the meanest and wildest of the direwolves. His assurances that Shaggy isn't to be feared isn't assuring since it attacks everyone except him.
    • Daenerys is the first Dragon Rider in centuries but she only knows the most rudimentary commands like attack. Soon her dragons become a menace.
  • King Incognito
    • Arya Stark is subjected to the servitude, verbal and physical abuse, and deprivation that all peasants have to live with while disguised as one.
    • Aegon V's travels squiring for Ser Dunk also opens his eyes to the plight of the commons but his efforts to help them later on as king earns the ire of his lords who see him as a tyrant who's trying to take away their rights.
    • Daemon Blackfyre II doesn't even bother hiding who he is. "Ser John the Fiddler" is so casual with people who are supposed to be his social betters that anyone could see through his disguise.
  • King on His Deathbed: King Aegon the Unworthy's Last Request was to place his illegitimate sons on the line of succession. Everyone knew this was a bad idea but they had to obey it because by law a king's final decree can never be revoked. On the flipside, Viserys I's repeated insistence in naming Rhaenyra heir was ignored by a large portion of his vassals, starting the Dance of Dragons. All in all, whether one plays this trope straight or defies it depends on whether one would benefit from following the King's final decree.
  • Knight Errant: The honourable, romantic, wandering warrior and do-gooder stereotype is shown to be rather rare, as the knights who take the choice to hit the roads do so usually for selfish or antisocial reasons (doing a runner to, e.g. avoid a hanging will do that). And, those who do not take it up for purely selfish reasons have had to for social, economic or political ones. Either they and/or their liege lord messed up or they didn't have sufficient social standing anymore and no alternative was forthcoming when they lost their backing. With the rise of the Faith Militant, more of them will come out of the woodwork to join it as a means of getting by.
    • Jorah Mormont, before meeting Daenerys, was wandering in the lands across the Narrow Sea because he fled Westeros and is a fugitive. In Westeros, he sold some poachers into slavery and fled to escape his liege lord's justice.
    • The Hound goes AWOL during a battle and becomes a fugitive hunted by his former employers.
    • Brienne of Tarth's reputation as Renly's apparent killer and her offering her sword from one noble to another marks her as a glorified mercenary.
    • Since its formation roughly 80 years ago, the Golden Company has acted like a sponge absorbing several flavours of deposed or discredited lords and lordlings, deserters and errant knights, many of whom started out without active Blackfyre connections. What they usually all share is a desire to pick warm Essos with its various risks over freezing at the Wall without the slim hope of getting their former station and holdings back someday, emphasizing that the lines between landed knight, landless knight, sellsword and PMC are rather fuzzy.
    • Ser Duncan the Tall was probably not actually officially knighted, but was very errant at the start of his career for social and economic reasons: his mentor (and adopted father in all but name) had been a hedge knight himself without the funds or standing to see right by his common-born squire before he died. He got a rather important sponsor and dropped the "errant" bit as soon as was practical to eventually become Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Although a lot of what he gets up to in his own adventures with Egg during his wandering phase can meet the trope, the "righting of wrongs" and "fighting monsters" bits are usually all part and parcel of just trying to get by day to day, rather than aiming to actually do any of that at all. Worse, the "monsters" are rarely straightforwardly bad or the "wrongs" all that easy to work out as being significantly worse than the "rights".
  • Knight in Shining Armor:
    • Jaime had to break his oath to protect the king to honor his oath to protect the innocent and was reviled for it. His childhood heroes, the Kingsguard of Aerys II, were immortalized despite going along with their liege's atrocities. The knights he currently works with are almost all glorified thugs who ascended to their current positions because of politics.
    • Ser Arthur Dayne, regarded as the greatest swordsman in Westeros and the epitome of chivalry, finally dies holding Lyanna Stark hostage, intending to kill her brother who came to rescue her, long after the war was over. In short, Arthur had become the very villain that Knights of his character and quality are supposed to defeat in battle, and this came out of his own Undying Loyalty to Prince Rhaeghar. But who knows, maybe he had good reasons to do so. Still, this is not what KISA are supposed to do.
  • Knight Templar Parent: To the extent that many parents will resort to murder (or worse) to protect their families.


  • Lady and Knight:
    • Sandor Clegane is charged with protecting Sansa and immediately it goes wrong. She sees him as a violent drunk and he sees her as another spoiled highborn. Sansa later gets another "champion" in the disgraced knight turned jester Ser Dontos Hollard. He is actually in Littlefinger's employ.
    • Brienne becomes Catelyn's knight but the latter turns against her when she refuses to join her and the Brotherhood Without Banners in trying to kill the reformed Jaime Lannister.
  • Lady Macbeth:
    • Stannis' court is divided into two parties, one trying to shake off the influence of Melisandre and the other trying to keep her in court. As a result, Davos is forced to go behind his king's back to save the life of Edric Storm, who Melisandre planned to sacrifice.
    • Cersei's plotting lead to Jaime losing his inheritance to Casterly Rock so she could have him to herself when she married Rhaegar. As the marriage plans fell through and the Targaryens were slaughtered, Jaime is stuck in his post and it is only until after losing his hand and reuniting with Cersei did he realize she didn't see him as he saw her.
  • The Lost Lenore:
    • Robert professed his love of Lyanna Stark to his dying day, but he didn't really know her well as a person. He was in love with an idealized version of Lyanna, one that represented the joy, freedom, and vigor of his youth. His marriage to Cersei failed miserably in part because she couldn't live up to his fantasy.
    • Tywin's beloved wife Joanna died giving birth to their youngest child, Tyrion. He never forgave Tyrion for it, even though the poor boy could hardly help being born. As a result, Tywin was extremely abusive, to the point that Tyrion couldn't stand it anymore and murdered him.
    • Rhaegar Targaryen is this both to Cersei and Jon Connington. Cersei appoints the untrustworthy Aurane Waters as Admiral of the fleet because he looks like Rhaegar. Aurane later abandons her when she loses her authority. Jon Connington is obsessed with helping who he wholeheartedly believes to be Rhaegar's son, Aegon, become king, even if it kills him thanks to being an uphill fight. Sad enough if Aegon is the son of the man he loved. But, so much worse if he was specifically picked to be the foster-father of a (possible-maybe) Blackfyre cuckoo because he was a decent man who would desperately want to believe part of Rhaegar lived on, so would squelch any doubts he might get.
  • Lovable Rogue:

  • The Man Behind the Man: Cersei tries to be this when Joffrey is on the throne, but she has very little control over Joffrey's cruelty, which sparks the War of Five Kings. As much as she tries to do this, she falls flat to people like Tywin, who has experience with these matters, and Margaery Tyrell, who knows how to please people and win their trust.
  • Master Swordsman: Swordsmanship is absolutely essential if a man wants to survive in Westeros, but it only goes so far.
    • Syrio Forel bests a bunch of Lannister soldiers to protect Arya but he isn't armed with a real sword and is soon overrun. Although he is the only downplayed example, as he did buy enough time for Arya to escape.
    • Brandon Stark was a great swordsman and while the circumstances of his arrest aren't elaborated, it's assumed even he couldn't overcome the Mad King's Kingsguard and loyal retainers. He was strapped to a garrote with a sword just out of reach and he strangled himself trying to reach it to save his father.
    • Jaime Lannister gets his right hand chopped off and trains his left to no avail. He often has to bluff opponents with his reputation but he wonders how long it will last.
  • The Mentor: Petyr Baelish deconstructs the "mysterious benefactor" archetype. He's not just an "old friend" of Sansa's mother Catelyn, he was obsessed with her and he's transferred his affections to Sansa now that her mother is dead.
  • Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: Tyrion's storyline shows how emotionally and morally crushing it would actually be for someone to try to maintain a Hidden Heart of Gold when practically everyone assumes the worst of him. He keeps it up for awhile, but he grows increasingly miserable and cynical starting at the end of the second book, before finally snapping entirely.
  • Momma's Boy:
    • Cersei can find no wrong in many of Joffrey's excesses, backs him to the hilt and will cover whatever he does as best she can, for all she also finds it annoying that she can't actually control him in return. She also actively prevents others trying to correct his egocentric and sadistic behaviour as a child as part and parcel of trying to make him a proper ruler as she sees them. With nobody being able to rein in Cersei's toxic influence, Joffrey became an uncontrollable boy-king willing to destabilize entire countries because he never learned any impulse control, social skills beyond parroting courtly behaviour or respect for other people.
    • Robb's mother Catelyn is one of his best advisors, but he doesn't always listen to her because his men would think he's childish. Women's opinions are not held in high regard, so a man who follows the word of a woman is considered weak-willed and easily manipulated, regardless of how useful her advice really is.

  • Nice Guy: Tytos Lannister, father of Tywin, was a very kind and accommodating lord. Contrary to the Lannister creed of dominating their vassals and debtors, Tytos would often completely annul the debts others had to him, while also being incapable of saying no. This led to his strongest bannermen, the Reynes and the Tarbecks, to treat him as little more than a source of gold and a target for jokes. This loss of respect went so far that the Reynes soon claimed to be the true rulers of the Westerlands. Tytos' firstborn son Tywin came to despise his father's weakness, striving all his life to defy his father's embarrassing legacy. He eventually succeeded in restoring the Lannisters' reputation as awe-inspiring rulers of the Westerlands, but became an increasingly bitter and ambitious man in the process.
  • Noble Fugitive
    • Viserys and Daenerys are both on the run from Robert Baratheon. Viserys dreams of reclaiming the throne, but the constant running and living in fear and poverty turn him bitter and hateful. The life of a fugitive destroys whatever kindness he had to start with and leaves him less than noble. Daenerys, on the other hand, cares nothing for the throne (until her fortunes change later) and only wants to go "home" to Braavos, to the house where they stayed with Ser Willem Darry until he succumbed to illness.
    • Arya Stark soon doesn't even have the relative Targaryen advantage of having even uncertain allies to fall back on, so she resorts to having to lie, steal and kill just to survive.
    • Tyrion tries to pull this to reach Daenerys. Instead, he ends up a maltreated slave and has to put up with (and commit) a lot of bullshit before even getting a small amount of leverage with which to start changing things.
  • Non-Action Guy: Men with no fighting prowess are disdained in this world that values strength over intelligence. Vocations that don't involve fighting like maesters, septons or mummery are seen as less than manly. It is considered shameful for a firstborn son of a lord (like Samwell Tarly) to choose a life dedicated to education and learning. Non-action guys who become lords are seen as weaklings (like Daeron II, brother of Daemon Blackfyre, which was the reason why many people supported his half-brother in a rebellion).
  • Nouveau Riche:
    • Westeros is run on a monarchist and elitist system of government, so it's not surprising that Westerosi culture looks down on those who increase their social status through skill and hard work, considering them up-jumped peasants. House Frey is mocked and ignored by many because they gained their wealth and power through running a bridge. Davos Seaworth, a war hero and Stannis's right-hand man, is ignored by his high born associates because of his humble origins as a crabber's son. This disregard for the younger nobility has also allowed Littlefinger to pull off his various schemes unhindered, since no one cares enough about him to consider him a threat.
    • Conversely, the Free Cities has a large number of rich merchants and self-made men who consider the ruling families of Westeros to be arrogant and haughty.

  • The Oathbreaker: Westerosi morals are kind of funny when dealing with betrayers.
    • Ser Jaime Lannister is reviled for killing the insane king he swore to defend so for a long time he cared little for his knightly vows because only an idiot would stick to them no matter what. Meanwhile, the "ideal" knights who stuck to their vows were fighting on the side of a monster because he was their King.
    • Ser Criston Cole betrayed his king, Viserys I, by not crowning his heir, Rhaenyra, and instead attempting to put her younger brother, Aegon II, on the throne. History went on to see Aegon II as the rightful king and Rhaenyra as a usurper despite Criston the Kingmaker being a traitor.
  • Old Master: Even the most capable have to contend with the ravage of age, no matter their skill (old master), loyalty (Old Retainer) or experience (Old Soldier).
    • Cressen is House Baratheon's most capable Maester but he knows his time is running out as his lord Stannis has already brought in a replacement. For Stannis' part, he didn't have the heart to replace him and Pylos was supposed to be just his helper until he died.
    • The Kingsguard serve until they are old and feeble. Harlan Grandison ended up dying in his sleep. Boros Blount was demoted to food taster but Kevan Lannister notes this might be the only job suited for him owing to his age. Even the greatest living knight Barristan Selmy is doubting his skill.
    • Ser Barristan the Bold secretly doubts his fighting ability due to his old age. He is haunted by the Protectorates he outlived, deeply ashamed of his past failures, and worried about ruining his last chance to serve a ruler he truly admires.
    • Hedge knights, if they even get to be old, must continue fighting for a living until they die because they're often too poor to retire and lacking in other skills. Their age does catch up with them eventually, putting them at a disadvantage against younger opponents.
  • Only Sane Man: In a world where short-tempered and heavily-armed sociopaths hold all the political power, the few who are reasonable and competent do not do well. In fact, they're often the primary targets for their families' enemies, since they're the ones holding things together. Such was the case of Kevan Lannister, assassinated specifically because he's a stabilizing influence on the shaky Lannister regime. It's generally implied that such men do well in peacetime, but their skills don't transfer to times of war, upheaval and betrayal — and peacetime is rare in Westeros.
    • In addition to the Only Sane Man being perceived as a threat to enemies, they may also be suspected by the rest of their own faction. The attempts of an Only Sane Man to restore reason and order often put him at odds with the short-sighted goals of others on their side, and they may have to spend so much time controlling others within their own faction that it actually makes them ineffectual or results in them being seen as a threat or a saboteur among their own people. Both Tyrion and Davos experience this to different degrees. And, in both their cases, it's also not clear if they really are the Only Sane Man as they each believe themselves to be.
  • Our Elves Are Better:
    • The Targaryens, The Remnant of the Valyria Freehold, have qualities not unlike that of typical epic fantasy High Elves. Their incredible beauty was preserved by generations of incest, which resulted in mental instability, messed up family relationships, the disapproval of other Westerosi. Wars and disasters have destroyed knowledge like Valyrian architecture, metalwork and dragon taming. The scorn on education means many of these will stay forever lost.
    • Likewise the Children of the Forest show ancient knowledge, particularly concerning magic and are a remnant as well. Their relative secrecy means that their knowledge is limited to whoever appears to be a greenseer and unlike humans they aren't doing much to actually prevent their coming extinction.


  • The Patriarch: Men such as Ned Stark and Tywin Lannister are strong and effective rulers in their own right. However, the prestige and power they secure for their houses hinges on their personal authority and reputation, and after their respective deaths their children, unprepared for dealing with these responsibilities, fail to maintain it, leading to the house's downfall.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Naathi and Lhazarene abhor violence, but since they never fight back when attacked they're considered excellent targets by slavers, raiders, and pirates. The Naathi have been forced to retreat from the coasts of their island, Lhazarene settlements are routinely turned into ruins by the Dothraki, and millions of people from both races have been captured and sold into slavery.
    The Red Lamb: Should I die, I will go before the Great Shepherd of Lhazar, break his crook across my knee, and say to him, "Why did you make your people lambs, when the world is full of wolves?"
  • Posthumous Character: The heroism or villainy of historic characters in Westeros are often exaggerated. Thanks to their stories being Written by the Winners, and all the Second-Hand Storytelling, it's hard to make an objective opinion about these characters. For instance, Renly is remembered as a kind and heroic lord who came back from the dead to save the Seven Kingdoms from his brother even though he was really just a vain and scheming figure who was impersonated after his death.
    • Rhaegar is remembered either as a kidnapper and rapist, or as the greatest, most beautiful and most chivalrous man in the realm, depends on who you ask. The truth it probably somewhere in between.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Kingsguard's duty is to their king, and they often take that to mean the king can do whatever he pleases, even at the expense of others, and the Kingsguard have to obey. Jaime Lannister hopes to reform it as a force that will protect a ruler worth serving.
  • Prince Charming and Princess Classic: Often just carefully cultivated images to curry favor with the commons. They are married as often as possible to secure alliances.
  • Professional Killer: So, you think you're a Knight In Shining Armour, the Warrior Prince or the Frontline General if you're swanky? Perhaps you're something more humble: one of the Soldiers at the Rear or City Guards? Or maybe you're a Knight in Sour Armour who just happens to be a Knight Errant (of whatever description), as well? Perhaps you're The Squire, rather? Or, maybe something a little more sinister: The executioner or the less-trusted, but still required mercenary. Maybe you're part of the Faith Militant or the Faceless Men or the Sorrowful Men or you think yourself Just Like Robin Hood. You could be a simple ruffian or street tough or maybe something more dangerous? You could be in the Night's Watch, or are a Proud Warrior Race Guy, a Child Soldier, a conscript (slave or not) in whichever army or band you belong to, drawing what passes for pay or meals for however long you're fighting for? Perhaps you fight in the Gladiator Games somewhere in Essos? Whoever you are, if you have been one of these, you have, at root, made your living trying to kill people. Whatever your preferred method, no matter how you care to look at it, this series makes it very clear that the differences between these jobs are not as great as people make them out to be. Each and every one of them racks up a body count if you're doing them right, no matter how much you might disguise it.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy:
    • Much of Westerosi society is this at its core, and much of its Deliberate Values Dissonance is connected to their pride in being warriors above all else. Women, scholars, artists, and merchants are generally disdained because they aren't expected to be warlike, or their trades aren't directly connected to warcraft, despite the invaluable service they can and do provide to others and society as a whole. Being a Proud Warrior Race also entails a very flippant attitude to war itself, as wars are started over land, wounded pride, and broken marriage contracts, with few of the instigators ever pondering on the human costs involved.
    • The Dothraki are probably the purest example of this idea in practice, but they can only get away with being such because their common prey are too weak and divided to ever successfully oppose them. By contrast, their cousins of spirit, the Ironborn, are nowhere near effective because Westeros is far too united to ever take them seriously as a threat: only during a civil war are the Ironborn ably to claim in any way being proud warriors. In short, a Proud Warrior Race can only exist when they have a recurrent enemy they can consistently win against and plunder from: even then, their societies are incredibly fraught with instability because the Asskicking Equals Authority way of leadership means that leaders can be questioned or challenged if believed to be weak.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Jaime Lannister, Barristan Selmy and The Hound are caught between their duty to their lords and common human decency. They all have different ways of coping.
    • Jaime was moved to kill his king after watching over the man's abuses for years.
    • Barristan stuck to his duty but often wonders if he should have done something to prevent the upheaval he knew was coming thanks to the Mad King's antics.
    • The Hound is jaded by committing atrocities for his lord and king but felt helpless because he didn't know anything else. He quits but he is still hunted by his former comrades and victims.
  • Puppet King:
    • Joffrey is one of these at the beginning of his reign. Unfortunately, he is still officially the king, and soon comes to realise that whatever his advisors tell him to do, they have to obey any public proclamations he makes or the illusion will be broken — his first demonstration of this screws up all his family's schemes. By ordering Ned Stark's execution on a whim instead of sending him to the Night's Watch as planned, he destroys any chance of peace with the North, inspires them to secede from the Seven Kingdoms, prolongs a bloody civil war, and ensures that many powerful people will be gunning for his family.
    • Robert never wanted to be king, so he abnegates most of his power to his Small Council and spends money until the realm is deeply in debt. When he dies, the treasonous schemes and secrets that occurred under his nose boil over into a civil war.


  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Night's Watch is an ancient order of warriors charged with guarding the Wall and protecting the realm from the threats to the North; especially the Others. It's open to any man willing to take the oath, but said oath includes renouncing any titles, lands or claims they once held and devoting their life to service. The Watch is commonly offered as an option to criminals otherwise facing execution or a lifetime in a dungeon, and because most of Westeros doesn't believe the threat of the Others is real, they get almost no funding or support. The Watch, more than any other organization in Westeros, operates on a meritocracy, with each member being evaluated and assigned duties suited to their aptitudes, regardless of birth or past history, and the Lord Commander is democratically elected.

    The end result is that you get a colorful mix of uninheritable nobles (bastards and sons far down the line of succession), violent criminals, poor smallfolk who take the black for the promise of a guaranteed meal, and a few who genuinely want to serve the Realm. Unfortunately, this means the officers aren't always able to keep the less savory elements under control, and Lord Commander Mormont is murdered by his own men when a ranging goes bad. Later, his successor Jon Snow is backstabbed when he tries to implement reforms, and as of A Dance With Dragons, it's unknown if he survives.
  • Rebel Prince: Prince Daemon Targaryen was disliked for his lack of manners and consorting with unsavory persons so much that he sparked a civil war because his influence on Queen Rhaenyra was undesirable.
  • Rebellious Princess: Arya Stark gets her wish to be normal but only because she becomes a fugitive forced to live in the street and consort with the wrong people.
  • Redshirt Army: Most of the Stark household guard who joined the Brotherhood without Banners refuse to help Arya because they'd rather die for themselves instead of in the name of some lord they used to serve. She grew up with some of these men and only now noticed how her family should have cared about their welfare.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: As Robert's Rebellion showed, the Blue Oni can only tolerate the antics of the Red Oni for so long. Tywin served as a hardworking and serious Hand for the manic and irresponsible Mad King, but when the latter inflicted too many slights on the former (taking liberties with Johanna Lannister at the bedding ceremony, using Jaime Lannister as a Kingsguard and thus preventing Tywin from having a suitable heir), Tywin betrayed his King when the time was right.
  • Reluctant Ruler: In normal stories, those who least want power are seen as most deserving of it. Unfortunately, the Crapsack World of Westeros shows the consequences of what happens when seven kingdoms are run by someone who hates being the king. Instead of being good rulers, Robert Baratheon, Tytos Lannister, Viserys the First, and other rulers — while good men on a personal level — ran from their responsibilities to pursue other activities, resulting in the realm falling into ruin, and causing no small amount of trouble for their successors. Whatever his faults, Tywin Lannister was actually interested in ruling, or at least being The Man Behind the Man, and so, actually developed the political skills needed to keep the realm stable. All in all, it makes sense: the sort of person you'd expect to do a job well is someone who actually enjoys doing the job, and ruling is no different a task.
  • Replacement Goldfish:
    • Cersei sexually exploited her teenage cousin Lancel while Jaime was away, causing the kid a world of guilt after his religious conversion. Jaime is furious when he learns this, and its part of the reason why he didn't come to help her when she was arrested.
    • Littlefinger sees the underaged Sansa as another chance to be with his lost love Catelyn, or something close to that, but given that he framed Sansa for murder so she'd be completely dependant on him and molests her while making her call him "Father", the relationship is plainly unhealthy and inappropriate.
    • Tyrion's relationship with Shae is heavily influenced by his tragic marriage to Tysha that was cruelly ended by his father. He repeatedly berates himself for falling in love with a whore again, but fall he does, and she eventually betrays him by testifying against him in the trial for Joffrey's murder and sleeping with Tywin. With people like Tywin and Cersei pulling the strings she probably had very little choice in the matter, but it's still a situation that wouldn't have happened had the Tysha affair not given Tyrion deep-seated self-loathing and trust issues.
  • Royal Brat: Joffrey's reign as king turns out very badly for everyone. Being used to getting everything he wants when he wants it, Joffrey has no impulse control at all, leading to a long series of cruel, vicious actions that throw wrenches into the Gambit Pileup around him. Not to mention, the peasants openly hate his guts, and throwing tantrums at other political higher-ups gets him nowhere, leading to him making enemies of both the rich and the poor. It's also why the identity of his killer ends up such a big mystery; there are so many people who would benefit from having Joffrey dead that it's hard to pin down who killed him.


  • Secret Keeper: Sometimes withholding important information in dangerous to you and your loved ones, because misunderstandings can be avoided. Doran Martell could have avoided the plot in AFFC had he trusted his daughter with more information.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man/Sibling Yin-Yang:
    • Daeron II vs. Daemon Blackfyre: Many lords and knights rebelled against Daeron on Daemon's behalf because they'd rather have a warrior on the throne. Daeron and the loyalists won, but they had to deal with the Blackfyres staking claims to the throne for five generations.
    • Edwyn Frey vs. Black Walder Frey: They are on the brink of fighting over who will be the heir of the Twins because their father is dead and The Patriarch of House Frey is incredibly old.
    • Samwell Tarly vs. Dickon Tarly: Their father told Sam, a cowardly bookworm, that he will either take the black or have an "accident", because he wanted his second son to be his heir.
    • Tommen Baratheon vs. Joffrey Baratheon: The Tyrells assassinate the cruel and idiotic Joffrey so that Margaery can marry his kind, gentle younger brother Tommen and still be queen.
    • Renly Baratheon vs. Stannis Baratheon: Renly's charisma and Stannis' analytic and meritocratic approach to warfare and ruling would have made them an unstoppable duo. Unfortunately, these different strengths resulted in divergent personalities and world-views, which prevented them from uniting against the Lannisters. Stannis believed himself to be king by right, while Renly believed he should be king by popularity.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat:
    • Sansa wanted to leave Winterfell and go to the royal court. She finds it both dazzling and dangerous. Unfortunately, she starts off hopelessly over her head regarding the politics of royal court because she's never had to worry about anyone trying to harm or use her. She's easily manipulated into undermining her father's plans and unintentionally plays a role in his death.
    • Arya Stark realizes that being a rebellious princess is also a kind of privilege resulting from her father's benevolence when she sees first hand how the smallfolk she travels along have never had any of the advantages she has taken for granted, which reinforces her humility and commitment to justice.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Viserys Targaryen is agonisingly murdered for being demanding and superior.
    • Janos Slynt is sent to the Wall for pissing off one superior, and beheaded for being insubordinate to another.
    • Ryman Frey is dismissed for his incompetence and he ends up murdered by outlaws. No one really cares, even his own sons.
    • What Theon Greyjoy goes through on account of being a Smug Smiler of a Smug Snake as the "guest" of a family that doesn't like the Smiling? You wouldn't even wish this ironic Fate Worse than Death on Jack the Ripper. Deep down he is just a man trying to find acceptance of who he is, he has tried changing his cloaks twice, and it screws him over. Now no one wants him around.
    • When Cersei Lannister becomes queen regent, she starts alienating her allies (the Tyrells, her uncle Kevan, and even Jaime), and continues to piss off powerful people she needs (the Iron Bank, and the Faith of the Seven). Her actions continue to bring ruin to the kingdom, causing everyone around her to turn against her. She is later imprisoned with most of her authority stripped from her (along with her clothes).
  • Social Climber:
    • Petyr Baelish is one of the poorest and least powerful Lords in Westeros, but gains power with his financial skills and ambition. He can be seen as one of the main villains of the series, back-stabbing and murdering to increase his power.
    • Ser Davos Seaworth is a lowborn smuggler who was knighted by Stannis Baratheon for smuggling them food during a siege. However, he is looked down on by most of the nobility for being lowborn, despite being a loyal and honest subject to Stannis.
    • Janos Slynt is a butcher's son who became Commander of the City Watch and is named Lord of Harrenhal. However, he earned his power by being incredibly corrupt, acts really arrogant towards everybody for being a Lord, and is disliked by the Lords for his sudden raising. He isn't able to get any help when he is sent to the Night's Watch by Tyrion.
    • The unnamed former Clegane patriarch knows his son Gregor is psychotic after he burns his brother Sandor's face and probably killed his own sister but he also knew he would make a powerful knight so he covers up his atrocities. Gregor eventually gets knighted and elevates the family to new status. Gregor then kills his father and takes the family fortune.
  • The Squire: It's not glamorous or even remarkable in the least for Westeros and is examined in all shades.
    • Boys can squire from a very young age to a lord or landed knight who basically uses them as a messenger boy, a dollied-up chambermaid, or whatever else they might be good for — or, actually get actively taught both knighting and statecraft, rather than expected to passively pick it up by osmosis. The squire might be assigned to a certain man as a political appointment; the appointment itself might serve as a gesture of friendship or as a thinly veiled hostage situation.
    • They can wind up as a squire to a Knight Errant and not know where their next meal is coming from and fight for every crumb. If he's lowborn, the squire might latch onto a hedge knight because he is an orphan and needs a Parental Substitute.
    • The Pint-Sized Powerhouse can grow up to become violent and distinctly unpleasant partly thanks to being hurled into horror before he can shave. Or he might die in battle despite (or because of) he's too young to be in combat, regardless of his baseline strength.
    • Older men can remain squires because they don't have the funds, prowess, renown or luck to be made knights.
  • The Starscream:
    • Janos Slynt's effort to take power on the Wall and open defiance of Lord Commander Jon Snow gets him executed.
    • The Boltons. While they are successful in becoming the new Wardens of the North for their betrayal in the Red Wedding and most of the North bow before them once they are in power, some of the Northern houses are planning to revolt against them. Their only allies are their co-conspirators the Freys, a few weakened factions that won't lift a finger to aid them, and people who plan to dispose of them, such as House Manderly.
    • Ser Eustace Osgrey's dream of winning back his ancestral home from his liege Lady Webber makes him undermine her reputation and attempt rebellion with meager resources. Sadder still is that she was betrothed to his son who died on the losing side of the Blackfyre Rebellion.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Theon's fellow Ironborn reject him for living on the mainland the past ten years. The Ironborn, being extremely contemptuous of different lifestyles and ethnic groups, say he's gone soft and forgotten the Old Way. He goes to great lengths to prove he's one of them but it only eats away at his sanity and ruins his life.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver
    • Arya Stark dressed as a boy to flee King's Landing. While others were convinced of her disguise, Gendry long had his suspicions because she always urinated where no one could see her.
    • "Brave Danny Flint" is the story of a girl who pretended to be male so she can join the Night's Watch. After her brothers-in-arms learned the truth, they raped and killed her.

  • Token Evil Teammate: Oh, the many ways this can go badly:
    • The Lannisters, Boltons and the Freys are tolerated by the Baratheons, the Starks, and the Tullys during the wars in spite of their moral indignation in working with them because they are just too powerful and useful to ignore. Unfortunately, when placed in positions of power and strength, each of these factions proceed to undermine the houses they're ostensibly working for to fulfill their own agenda: The Lannisters through Cersei usurp the throne into the hands of her bastards from incest, and proceed to undermine their rival Baratheon claimants; The Boltons take advantage of Robb Stark's failed rebellion to take over as Lord Paramount of the North; while the Freys betray the Tullys to the Lannisters for control of the Riverlands.
      • It must also be noted that Roose Bolton was already backstabbing Robb's forces from the very beginning even when Robb was actually winning. Amazing how so many of Robb's forces became arrow fodder while Bolton forces were left unscathed while off guarding other positions. This culminates with him sending a false order for 1/3 of Robb's army to march on Duskendale, a worthless target that just happened to have a Lannister army there waiting for them.....
    • The Clegane brothers: custom-raising and training your own extra-feared, loyal, brutish attack dogs you can threaten to let loose sounds good on paper, but both wind up being psychologically unstable enough to undermine a number of Lannister plots in their own ways.
  • Token Good Teammate: Being one of the few decent people in indecent company never ends well.
    • Being surrounded by amoral people slowly corrupts Tyrion, a process that's sped up by how badly his father and sister treat him. Eventually, his resentment and bitterness toward them grow to the point that after killing his father, he turns his back on his family completely.
    • After some soul searching and time in the company of the Maid of Tarth, Jaime makes a sincere effort to clean his act and become the Knight In Shining Armour he always wanted to be. Unfortunately, he still serves the Lannister regime and their allies, and his change in character is unappreciated by his family or his enemies. The fact that his actions, however well-intentioned, ultimately serve the ends of dishonourable usurpers who openly broke Sacred Hospitality causes many, the Tullys especially, to see him as little more than a delusional Punch-Clock Villain at best, and that's without Jaime's kingslaying baggage.
  • The Trickster: Tyrion Lannister, Varys and Petyr Baelish rely on wits because they aren't physically strong. They are hated for being dishonorable cowards, though it is reminded that virtues of honor and courage is easier to exalt when one actually has the strength to defend oneself.
  • Turbulent Priest: Charismatic religious figures preaching against the corruption of the ones in power, whether the High Sparrow of the Faith in the Seven or Benerro of the Lord of Light in Volantis, have noble goals. The former wants to end the Lannister-era corruption while the latter wants to foment slave liberation, but religious frenzy and the control it has over its population carries with it the threats of riots, chaos and mob violence. As noted by Tyrion:
    "Give me priests who are fat and corrupt and cynical, the sort who like to sit on soft satin cushions, nibble sweetmeats, and diddle little boys. It's the ones who believe in gods who make the trouble."
    • The religious figures who actually help people such as Thoros of Myr, the Elder Brother and Septon Meribald who help war veterans and the smallfolk do so without inflaming passion and causing unrest, a sharp contrast from the politically savvy High Sparrow who regardless of his intentions is carving power by raising an army and humiliating the queen in a manner that is horribly misogynistic, regardless of how much of an Asshole Victim Cersei is.


  • The Unfavorite:
    • Tyrion Lannister is blamed for the death of his mother, something he has no control over. His father and sister do all they can to alienate him without any thought that he is the best they have. Eventually, he is accused of a murder he did not commit, and they stage a show trial just to get rid of him, then he escapes, kills his father, and runs for it. With those two out of the picture, the Lannister regime slowly collapses.
    • Lysa Tully lived her whole life with a bad case of Middle Child Syndrome. Her younger brother received more attention as heir to Riverrun, while her older sister was more admired by everyone, including Lysa's crush, Petyr. Even though her siblings did love her very much, this poisoned Lysa's relationship with them — especially Catelyn — well into adulthood, as shown by her cold treatment of Catelyn in the first book. Catelyn and Edmure never even knew she felt that way and couldn't understand why she abandoned their family during the War of Five Kings.
    • Apparently, Sandor Clegane was this to his unnamed father, as he covered up Gregor's burning of Sandor because he didn't want to lose his chance at having a knight in the family. This backfired greatly, as Sandor ended up really messed up, and Gregor ended up killing their father anyway.
    • Given the rigidly patriarchal nature of Westeros, Catelyn had only the best of intentions in trying to break Arya of her wild ways and constantly comparing her to the near-perfect Sansa. Unfortunately, it failed to correct Arya's behaviour and fostered a culture of bullying against her that Septa Mordane, Sansa, and Sansa's friends all participated in. This has ravaged Arya's self-esteem, to the point that she has (incorrect) doubts that Catelyn and Robb would even bother paying a ransom to get her back.
  • The Unfettered:
    • Nothing prevents Tywin Lannister from pursuing his goals, and he believes that having this image and attitude is his strength. However, his willingness to do absolutely anything to pursue his ambition of controlling the Seven Kingdoms and founding a family dynasty irrespective of morality and without concern for the emotions of others ultimately results in a multitude of factions viewing him and his House as enemies who must be destroyed rather than cowing to him out of fear. It has also resulted in all of his children being deeply screwed up and resentful towards him because he insists on controlling them and using them as pieces in his game, with no regard to their emotional needs or desires, and this ultimately leads Tyrion to kill him for what Tywin did to Tysha.
    • Ramsay Snow/Bolton doesn't care if anyone finds out about his eccentric habits. On the contrary, he believes that, like Tywin, this image gives him strength. Unfortunately, his lack of secrecy means everyone knows he's a mad dog, and Roose Bolton points out this makes Ramsay a liability. Should Roose die, Ramsay won't be too far behind.
      Roose:No tales were ever told of me. Do you think I would be sitting here if it were otherwise? Your amusements are your own, I will not chide you on that count, but you must be more discreet.
  • Unknown Rival: Not knowing who your enemy is, or rather, who considers you an enemy is extremely dangerous, especially when you find yourself courting them for help. Ned finds this out the hard way when Petyr stabs him in the back at a critical moment because he's always resented the Starks for the Curb-Stomp Battle Brandon gave him, and Ned Stark marrying the love of his life. The Starks and Tullys also end up losing the War of the Five Kings because they completely underestimated the ambitions of the Boltons and the Freys, who lure them into a trap to usurp their positions as Lord Paramount.
  • Uptown Girl
    • Jorah Mormont resorted to selling criminals to slavery to keep his ex-wife in the lifestyle she was originally accustomed to but she eventually tired of him and ran away to the Free Cities where she became the mistress of some merchant prince.
    • According to the Blacks, Rhaenyra Targaryen refused to marry Criston Cole because life as a mercenary's wife wouldn't suit a crown princess. In turn, he would make sure she never gets to sit the Iron Throne.
  • The Usurper: The whole concept of "rightful rule" is explored from all angles.
    • Robert usurped the throne from an utter maniac, but there are signs that Rhaegar had been planning to quietly remove his father from power if he hadn't been killed in the Rebellion, which would have prevented a terrible war.
    • Stannis attempts to usurp the throne from Joffrey because he's not truly Robert's son, but there is a healthy dose of personal ambition spurring him on as well. Renly attempts to usurp Stannis, but raises the question of why bloodline should be more important than popularity or fitness to rule. However, his claim was based on Popularity Power and Appeal to Force and it is not really known how good a King he would have been. It is also pointed out that usurpations make kingship less stable, Renly claims he is emulating Robert in taking the throne, and Robb points out he can't support Renly as that may lead to other younger brothers usurping rule.
    • Daenerys thinks of all the post-Targaryen claimants as "usurpers", despite that she herself is planning to invade Westeros with dragons and sellswords to seize the throne by force and is basing her plans on an assumption of local support, of which there is little to no evidence. Ser Jorah Mormont notes that most of the smallfolk don't really care about the claims of a ruler. Likewise, Ser Davos Seaworth, a Working-Class Hero, voices the opinion of the majority of the people when he states that a king who doesn't protect his people, who allows the land to become a Crapsack World and does nothing to solve its problems is no true king at all.
    • The Targaryen civil war known as the 'Dance of Dragons' was started when the second child of King Viserys I, Aegon II, challenged the claim of his older sister Rhaenyra for the Iron Throne, despite their father wanting Rhaenyra to succeed him and grooming her to rule. As Westeros is deeply patriarchal, Rhaenyra came to be viewed as the usurper, and Aegon as the rightful King.


  • The Vamp:
    • Cersei uses sex as a way of getting men to do her bidding. However, she places far too much faith in the loyalty this inspires in them, and fails to consider how tenuous a position she's putting herself in: all her power being derived from her marriage, any public revelation of her infidelity risks it all. It really comes back to bite her when the High Septon finds out and forces her to walk through the city naked and shaved. This destroys all the power she has gained; no one will respect her now that everyone has seen her in such a vulnerable state. Even Jaime is unsympathetic and abandons her in her time of need. He thought she was cheating on her husband with him because he was her true love, and the discovery that she's sleeping with other people to win their allegiance- and also purely out of lust- makes him question their entire relationship.
    • Arianne Martell uses her feminine wiles to seduce Arys Oakheart into taking part in her coup but she has little else in her arsenal — few allies, few resources, and a poor strategy. After the coup fails miserably, Arianne is stricken with guilt over her manipulation of Arys and how it lead to his death. Now she's trying to be more politically savvy so she won't have to rely on just her good looks.


  • Warrior Prince: While there is a large number of straightforward examples in the series, such as Jaime Lannister or Robb Stark, heirs of the noble houses are often considered to be too valuable to be sent to the battlefield for the most part. And when they do enter conflicts, their actions are often exaggerated and romanticized to the point where they seem critical to the events even if they didn't really do anything.
  • Wandering Minstrel: Since most people in Westeros don't have access to maesters, they have to get their news from singers who travel all around singing about both historical and current events. Few of these songs are ever accurate, so misinformation spreads rapidly. This is shown whenever an important figure dies: a variety of stories spring up, so even a spymaster like Varys can be unsure what actually happened. Worse, because of their feckless reputations, minstrels tend to be used as socially acceptable fall-guys in powerful people's plots. Repeatedly.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Several characters are really just troubled young men or women trying to win the approval of their fathers, and they lose themselves in the process.
    • Cersei Lannister tears herself up trying to be what her father (and the rest of Westeros) respects and wanting to outright upstage him without having the required ability to.
    • Both Jaime and Tyrion wind up trying to move away from Tywin Lannister's shadow, to outright defying him on many points and, yet, to please him in some way at the same time, too. The inherent contradictions prove both difficult and messy for everybody.
    • Nice Guy Book Worm Samwell Tarly might hate his father's guts (with good cause), but he still wants to impress him, regardless that he'll probably never be able to impress the grown-up Jerk Jock that Randyll is in a month of Sundays.
    • Quentyn Martell goes on his doomed journey spurred on by his belief that he must not fail his father Prince Doran.
    • Theon makes an ill-fated assault on an undefended Winterfell and winds up taking it, but he has too few men to garrison it properly and winds up betrayed, captured and horrifically tortured and mutilated by Ramsay Bolton to impress his father.
  • Wicked Stepmother: In a feudal society where your status and well-being can be very directly tied to that of your parents, partner and the placement, survival and achievements of your children, you might have several justifiable reasons to actively undermine or kill any step-children or bastards that crop up. A feudal Mama Bear may choose to kill the competition to save her babies, not just herself — and, may even be seen as doing her Necessary Evil duty for her kids over her husband's wishes, in many cases.
    • Cersei is certainly wicked, however you wish to define it, and she puts every bastard child of Robert's she could find to death — which is atrocious. The thing is, some Westerosi nobles wouldn't find what she attempted to do all that surprising. Defending your "trueborn" children's rights against any possible support or claims their unrecognised bastard siblings may or may not get in the extreme way Cersei did makes sense to some of the nobility in Westerosi society, and isn't considered as deplorable as other actions, such as defying Sacred Hospitality, oathbreaking or killing blood relatives. Cersei also isn't a standard "stepmother" to any of these kids: she didn't bring any of them up and Robert didn't marry their mothers to give them official rights.
    • Catelyn Stark isn't the stereotypical kind of wicked. She's sincere, she's sympathetic and, by the Westerosi standards, she went well beyond the call of duty by letting her husband raise his bastard son (Jon Snow) under the same roof as her trueborn children, stood by as Ned gave him the same education and upbringing, and did not interfere with Jon having close relationships with his father and half-siblings. She also didn't outright abuse Jon either, even though she certainly froze him out enough times in many little ways and made it known she didn't want him around. From his point of view, it's not too hard to paint her as a mild version of the trope, but as far as the rest of Westeros goes, she was an absolute saint to him.
    • Humfrey Hewett's wife very likely came to regret mistreating Falia Flowers in the drudge-like, Cinderella way she did. Because the "Prince Charming" who came along to "save" this particularly vengeful Cinders from her Wicked Stepmother and "Ugly" Half-Sisters was King Euron Greyjoy, not some honourable dreamboat, lover-boy, fairytale Prince. It would always have gone badly for the entire Hewett family, regardless, but Euron might have just killed them all (or sold them) relatively quickly, rather than deciding to slowly toy with the amusing pantomime plot of a family dynamic this stepmother helped offer him on a platter. Lesson of the episode, kids: "somebody you raise to be broken via neglect or abuse will quite likely attract the attention of a Much Bigger Monster who will mess them up more (with their deluded consent, in this case). One who can bite you, and not just the messed-up, ticking bomb you created".
    • Alicent Hightower's antagonism toward her stepdaughter Rhaenyra Targaryen was largely due to a Succession Crisis. Rhaenyra had been formally named her father's heir before Alicent married him, mostly to prevent her widely unpopular uncle Daemon from potentially staking a claim. Alicent and Rhaenyra actually got along quite well at first, until Alicent's sons were born. Because sons usually came before daughters in the line of succession, Alicent assumed her eldest son Aegon would replace Rhaenyra as the heir, but her husband Viserys insisted on keeping Rhaenyra as his heir. Feeling snubbed, Alicent became hostile toward Rhaenyra, who returned the animosity. Alicent attempted to betroth Rhaenyra and Aegon, thus combining their claims, but Viserys refused. Eventually the conflict between Alicent and Rhaenyra erupted in a massive civil war that killed most of their family and almost all of their dragons. The war ended in a Pyrrhic Victory for Alicent: though her son Aegon the Elder won after killing Rhaenyra, he was soon murdered by his own men and succeeded by Rhaenyra's son Aegon the Younger. Alicent outlived her rival by only a short time, spending her final few years in bitter regret and misery after losing all of her children and grandchildren as well as the throne.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist:
    • Varys believes Westeros needs a king who will put the needs of its people first but he seems more enamored by the idea of this perfect king instead of knowing the person face to face. He kills the very capable Kevan Lannister because he doesn't fit the image and to pave the way for Prince Aegon Targaryen. However, Aegon is untested and whether or not he's an improvement remains to be seen..
    • Sansa Stark and Brienne of Tarth were both blinded by the glamorous image of their medieval fantasy world and of the roles they would play in it, namely that of lady and knight. Experience has not been kind.
    • Eustace Osgrey is extremely romantic which is why he sided with Daemon Blackfyre and regards his fellow rebels as heroes. Dunk and Egg later meet these guys but they are not as heroic as described.
  • Working-Class Hero: Davos Seaworth is a knighted smuggler who is named by Stannis as his Hand because he is honest and gives good advice, even if Stannis doesn't always agree with Davos. However, Davos is still looked-down-on by the nobility for his low birth.

  • Young and in Charge: Children and teenagers usually don't make the best leaders.
    • Jon Snow is made Lord Commander of the Night's Watch at age sixteen, as a result of Samwell's scheming, political division in the Watch, and a general lack of better options. While Jon is a skilled leader, he pushes too hard in making unpopular decisions, because he believes that they're morally right. His decisions so enrage and frighten people that he ends up betrayed and stabbed by a group of his own men. It's left ambiguous whether or not he survives.
      George R. R. Martin: Were they mistakes [by Jon]? I guess they were mistakes in some ways since they led to him losing control of part of his group. But it might have been wise and necessary decisions in terms of protecting the realm and dealing with the threat of the White Walkers. I’m a huge student of history, and all through history there’s always this question of what’s the right decision. You look back with benefit of hindsight at a battle that was lost and say, ‘The losing general was such an idiot.’ Was Napoleon a genius for all the battles he won? Or an idiot for losing at Waterloo? Partly I’m reacting to a lot of the fantasy that has come before this. Ruling is difficult whether you’re a Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch or the King of England. These are hard decisions and each have consequences. We’re looking at Jon trying to take control of Night’s Watch and deal with the wildlings and the threat beyond The Wall.
    • Robb Stark is made King in the North at age fourteen after Lord Eddard's execution. While he proves himself an excellent tactician and good strategist, he ignores the sound political advice of many of his more seasoned companions, such as Catelyn or Roose. He makes the kind of poor, inexperienced decisions one would expect a boy at the tail end of puberty to make, such as sleeping with Jeyne Westerling when he thinks Bran and Rickon were murdered, and then marrying her to preserve her dignity, despite his pledge to marry one of the Frey girls as part of the alliance agreement with the Freys. The Freys desert him for this, and the Freys and Boltons kill Robb later in an event known as 'the Red Wedding'.
    • Tommen succeeds his older brother Joffrey after Joffrey's death during the Purple Wedding. While Tommen is a genuinely nice kid, he's not even old enough to have sex yet, which means that he still needs regents to make decisions for him. His youth, naivety, and complete lack of experience make him very susceptible to manipulation from the likes of Margaery Tyrell and his mother Cersei Lannister. His problem is basically the polar opposite of Robb's. Robb is headstrong and sometimes doesn't take advice when he needs to, ends up breaking a pact when he has Sex for Solace, and marries this girl to preserve her honor — resulting in the Frey's participation in the Red Wedding. Tommen can't produce an heir with his betrothed at a moment when his dynasty hangs on by the skin of its teeth, and listens to people he really shouldn't trust.

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