(Image credit to bethanxXx of deviantart.com)
After thinking about this story way, way too much, I’ve begun to see the members of the Stark family as allegories for different aspects of genre fiction. It began with the most obvious–Sansa as Romance and Bran as Horror–and then I sat down to think about what, if anything, the other family members might represent. Here is what my fevered brain has conjured:
Ned, Rob, and Jon all represent traditional high fantasy in some respect, as it tries to find its way forward.
1) Ned is the most traditional. He dies due to being too rigid in his conventions.
- He values honor over common sense and thus misses critical developments.
- He also fails to properly respect other people’s feelings, intelligence, and power.
- He underestimates Littlefinger the commoner, Arya’s ability to see what’s in front of her, Sansa’s powerful desire to stay in King’s Landing, and Cercei’s political clout. He also dismisses Renly as being underhanded and overly dramatic (those gays!) (I know Ned didn’t realize Renly was gay, but I’m speaking meta-textually in this analogy).
- If Ned had really listened to and fully considered the perspective of ANY of those people he’d probably still be alive and likely Lord of Winterfell. Instead he persists in only seeing things from his own point of view, as he thinks they ought to be.
2) Rob is younger and propelled to power by the will of his people. He is more inclusive and populist—and he listens to his mother at first—but he ultimately fails due to his inability to properly respect women or people who aren’t like him.
- Specifically, he respects and dismisses the wrong things about women. He respects the bond of affection with Cat and he puts a lot of value on Jeyne’s purity/virginity. If he’d seen both of them more as people rather than archetypal Mother and Maid he would have made better decisions.
- He would have respected Cat’s wisdom and continued taking her advice.
- He would have realized that a one-night stand does not trump a critical political bond with the Freys, his sworn allies. Jeyne is not a fragile flower and would be fine without him. If he won his war he could surely arrange a good marriage for her, “ruined” or not.
- But the Freys are entitled to more respect and dignity than he shows them. (Well, they were. After the RW, Frey Pie all around!)
3) Now Jon is the standard bearer of traditional high fantasy, and he’s doing…ok. Ish. Better, anyway.
- He learns a hard early lesson in populist inclusivity. Both Tyrion and Donal Noye teach him to see others as they are, from their own point of view, and not just from his highborn self-pitying perspective. Disabilities and lack of education do not make others less worthy of consideration than Jon himself.
- He learns important lessons about women with Ygritte. “A man can own a woman or a man can own a knife, but no man can own both.”
- He learns about respecting other cultures with Mance, Tormund, and the Wildlings—both that it’s a good strategy, and that it makes him a fuller person.
- But ultimately he falls due to his insistence that everyone do things his way because he’s right—and due to his blindness to the reactionary elements in his ranks.
- BUT due to his deep empathy with a being other than himself (“Ghost..”), and the intervention of a powerful woman, he will get another chance.
- When he bends the knee to Dany, becomes Sword of the Morning to her Amethyst Empress, and becomes a vital part of her story instead of insisting that it’s all about him, his education in Properly Respecting Others Including Women will be complete. (A girl can dream, anyway.)
Now for the others…
Sansa, clearly, is Romance. She gets little serious consideration at first, but as time goes on we realize that she understands others much better than they understand her. She speaks to something in all of us—really we all love a little Romance, in some form or other—and thus she’ll be able to bring very different people together.
Arya is YA adventure stories. She’s every story you read growing up about the girl who didn’t want to be a princess so she stole a sword and ran away on a horse to fight dragons. But swords aren’t children’s toys, horses can die under you, and the dragons on Planetos aren’t going to teach you their language or be your friend. Running away is hard. Freedom is scary, and dangerous. And it takes a toll.
Bran is Horror. From the first time we see him staring at freshly-spilled blood to his transformation into a grotesque to his craving for scary stories to his vision of his future self as half a tree, Bran is our guide into the heart of horror. What is there beyond the blood, the gore, the disfigurements, the dark? What is the true motivation of the Thing That Came in the Night? Why do people get so angry and desperate that they do terrible things to each other? Surely we will find out through Bran.
Rickon, I suspect, represents pure Myth, which is wild and unpredictable and never fits into a convenient structure or even necessarily makes any logical sense, but in many ways is the most powerful of all. (But it’s hard to say, really, we know so little about Rickon.)
Finally, Cat represents the long-ignored female voice in fantasy fiction.
- Everything would have worked out better if you’d included her views more.
- Try as hard as you want, you can never really get rid of her; she will always be pulled from the river by her daughter and revived by loyal followers.
- And she is no longer interested in your excuses.