This post discusses plot points from the first four seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Consider this your spoiler warning.
In a few days, it’ll be Saint Valentine’s Day, a day when romance is celebrated (at least that’s the strong implication from chocolate manufacturers, florists, and greeting card companies) and I think now is an appropriate time to talk about love and romance in Westeros.
At the start of Season Three of Game of Thrones, Jaime “Kingslayer” Lannister is being pushed and prodded towards King’s Landing by the stoic Brienne of Tarth. With very little to do to pass the time (other than stumble along) Jaime takes the opportunity to needle Brienne about many things. Her size, her attitude, and her admiration for Renly Baratheon.
Talking about Renly and his sexual preferences crosses a line with Brienne, but Jaime defuses the situation with this statement:
I don’t blame him and I don’t blame you either. We don’t get to choose who we love.
We don’t get to choose who we love pretty much sums up the state of romance in Westeros.
Choosing and Getting
Jaime’s statement probably means “we don’t get to choose who we fall in love with” or as Selena Gomez might autotune “the heart wants what it wants.”
If I can be afforded your indulgence, I’d like to also interpret it as “we don’t get to end up married to the ones we love.” (As in choosing them for marriage.)
Much of the interpersonal stories in Game of Thrones involve separations from a romantic partner or circumstances calling for an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages are often part of political alliances, to cement stability in the realm, but many diplomatic marriages in the Seven Kingdoms don’t seem to be that beneficial. Let’s face it, it’s hard having a stable relationship in Westeros with all the back-stabbings, double-dealings, threats, revenge, invasions, etc.
Don’t believe me? Lets look at some of the major relationships that happened before the show started…
Ye Olde Dayes of Love
- Catelyn Stark was betrothed to the eldest son of Lord Rickard Stark, the Lord of Winterfell. (Not to Eddard, the second eldest son, but to Brandon Stark.)
- Petyr Baelish wasn’t super happy that his childhood friend was scheduled to marry Brandon, since Baelish had a future planned out that involved Cat. So he challenged Brandon to a duel for Catelyn’s hand. It didn’t work out too well for him.
Baelish: Wow, that’s a lot of blood. Whoa, that’s my blood.
Brandon: Well, better finish the job. Up North, we say “a three legged wolf still has teeth.”
Catelyn: Oh Brandon, I beg of you, spare Petyr. He can’t be held accountable for loving me so much that he’d challenge you to a duel, even though you’re six feet tall and he weighs 80 pounds, soaking wet. (I know, I’ve weighed him at bath time.)
Brandon: I don’t know… this seems like the kind of situation that would prove to be troublesome in the future.
Catelyn: Oh, little Petyr would certainly never mean us any harm. He’ll swear to that.
Baelish: I’m in incredible pain. If you’re not going to kill me immediately, I’d appreciate some milk of the poppy.
Catelyn: See! He’s making a deathbed oath.
Baelish: Technically, I haven’t actually done that.
Catelyn: Oh, you poor romantic fool.
Brandon: Whatever. He can live.
Lysa: Yes! Petyr’s all mine!
- Brandon Stark ended up being executed by the Mad King, foiling those wedding details.
Hoster Tully: It grieves me to tell you, my dearest Cat, that your fiance Brandon Stark is dead.
Catelyn: What? Oh no!
Petyr: What? Oh yes!
Hoster Tully: But we have a backup plan. You can marry little Neddie, his brother. He’s the new Lord of Winterfell!
Ned: Uh, hello. I have to go to war now, so it’s best we get married immediately, and uh, do the newlywed business. Since it’s kind of necessary that there’s an heir on the way if anything happens to me. Up North, we say “don’t go to war if the plantings not done.”
Catelyn: Well, isn’t that … uh, romantic.
Petyr: Wait! Can I challenge him to a duel?
Lysa: Don’t tear your bandages, Pete. And you’re all mine.
Hoster Tully: Oh, Lysa dear, I’ve made arrangements for you to marry my old friend Jon Arryn. He totally owes me a huge favor, and him taking you off my hands squares accounts.
The reason Brandon Stark was executed, throwing his wedding into confusion, was because of his sister Lyanna’s abduction by Rhaegar Targaryen.
Don’t remember the details?
- King Aerys’ son and heir, Rhaegar Targaryen, was married to Elia of Dorne, the sister of Prince Doran and the fiery Prince Oberyn. This was probably a political marriage rather than a romantic one, because that scamp Rhaegar…
- At the Tournament of the False Spring, Rhaegar won the contest of arms (he was awesome like that) and rather than bestowing his wife with the award of Queen of Love and Beauty, delivered that honor to Lyanna Stark. One can only imagine the conversation later that night in the Targaryen pavilion.
Elia: You know I’m your wife, right?
Rhaegar: Oh Elia, I was so exhausted from knocking everyone off their horses, my blood sugar must have been low and I guess I wasn’t seeing straight.
Elia: Are you trying to tell me that you accidentally gave the award to the Stark girl? Well go out there and get me back my crown of blue roses, mister.
Rhaegar: And embarrass that poor girl? No no no! But I’ll make it up to you.
- Rhaegar made it up to Elia by abducting Lyanna Stark. Oops.
- Lyanna was engaged to free-wheeling player Robert Baratheon, Ned’s best friend. With her abduction, Starks and Baratheons got uptight and righteous.
- Brandon Stark and his father ended up part of a regal performance-art execution (involving fire) and Robert’s rebellion began in earnest.
- When the smoke cleared on the rebellion, Rhaegar was dead, Lyanna was dead, King Aerys was dead, Elia and her children were dead.
- Ned survived the war, had a new son waiting for him at home, and showed up with a bonus son, Jon Snow.
Catelyn: A bastard? What the hell? How did that happen?
Ned: Weren’t you paying attention on our wedding night? Look, I don’t want to talk about it.
- Robert, not being able to marry Lyanna now that she was dead, was married off to Cersei Lannister, a move that Jon Arryn felt would smooth everything over and unite two major houses in Westeros. Nice thinking, Jonny A.
Cersei: Oh, Robert!
Robert: Oh, Lyanna!
The string of crazy weddings continued.
- Stannis Baratheon got married, for some goddamned political reason, to dour Selyse Florent. During the wedding ceremony, King Robert snuck upstairs with some random woman and sired a bastard, Edric Storm (not seen on the show.)
Stannis: Oi! Robert! What’s all this then?
King Robert: Relax! I was just blessing the wedding bed, with some sexual magic. Your horse-faced wife will surely produce lots of sons now. So many, you’ll have to stack them in jars!
- Cersei was so irritated, she snuck off with Jaime while Robert was getting busy, and they sired Joffrey. (Robert, really? Did you have to give them the excuse to make Joffrey?)
True Love Marches On
When the show started, marriages were being made and falling apart…
- Viserys Targaryen marries his sister Daenerys to the Dothraki horselord Khal Drogo in exchange for an army. Viserys actually should have read the fine print, and he would have seen that he was really only getting an army should Khal Drogo eventually decide that heading west would be cool, and there was a clause stating “pour molten gold on the beggar king’s head should he get snotty.”
(Viserys couldn’t *not* get snotty.)
- Jon Arryn starts the show dead dead dead. We eventually find out that on Petyr Baelish’s urging, Lysa poisoned her husband and blamed the Lannisters.
Lysa: Oh, Petyr, I know I’m a married woman, but surely we can fool around!
Baelish: What a splendid idea, but you know I have my moral code against adultery. If only someone were to poison your husband… but really, no one has access.
Lysa: I can do that! Then we can be married!
Baelish: Oh, the Lords of the Vale wouldn’t allow you to marry someone like me. I have such poor lands. If only I were the lord of, say, Harrenhal…
Lysa: What would that take?
Baelish: We’ll talk more about that after your lord husband is lying in state. I’ll need you to write a letter.
Lysa: And then we can be married!
Baelish: … maybe …
- Sansa Stark gets matched with Prince Joffrey, who executes Ned for treason. Eventually he pawns her off on Tyrion, even though she was hoping to marry handsome Loras Tyrell.
- Loras was Renly Baratheon’s love, and they weren’t going to be married in Westeros any time soon, but Renly does marry Loras’ sister Margaery to cement a Tyrell/Baby Brother Baratheon alliance against Stannis and Joffrey.
- Catelyn Stark promises Walder Frey that Robb would marry one of Frey’s daughters (and Arya would marry one of his sons or grandsons.)
Catelyn: No need to thank me, but I’m pleased to say that we can cross at the Twins. You just have to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters.
Robb: Oh! Can I marry Roslin? I hear she’s the cute one. The only cute one.
Catelyn: Oh please. Her hips are far too slim for proper childbearing. But his daughter Walda would certainly bear strong sons for you. And that’s what’s important, n’est-ce-pas?
Theon: Dude. She’s talking about Fat Walda.
- Robb opts to marry an attractive Volantene noblewoman who’d joined the Peace Corp. (Now they’re both Resting In Peace.)
- Renly gets killed before any miracle baby can be conceived with Margaery, so she moves over to the Lannister camp to marry Joffrey. Who dies even faster than Renly did. Margaery == The Black Widow.
- Tywin Lannister moves just as fast to arrange a match between his remaining grandson Tommen and Margaery. Have to keep the Tyrells in the family. No need to send back all the wedding gifts.
- Petyr Baelish does eventually fall on the Lysa Tully handgrenade and marries her, getting him in position to control the Vale (and with Sansa Stark secretly as his ward, potential control of the North.)
- Petyr and Lysa have a honeymoon, then he pushes her out the Honey-Moon Door. Oops.
Lysa: Tell me you love me, Petyr!
Baelish: There’s only one woman I’ve ever loved…
Lysa: Oh Petyr!
Baelish: Your sister.
Book Readers: NOOOOO! You’re supposed to say “ONLY CAT!”
Baelish: Look, I got the pushing out the Moon Door part right, okay? Seven Hells!
- Jon Snow, on an outing to the far north, ends up connecting with a wildling, Ygritte. Ygritte knows a good thing when she sees one, and starts planning their life together. She says lots of “you’re mine and I’m yours” type of Wildling common-law marriage vows.
- Jon escapes from her (okay, he wasn’t really escaping *from* her) and is saved by a little kid with a bow.
Is All Romance Dead?
Well, not quite. We still have some lovers alive. Or avoiding marriages more or less without repercussions.
- Sam and Gilly are very cute together. Although they haven’t gotten married yet, which is often the kiss of death.
- Cersei recently decided to use her relationship with Jaime as a weapon against Tywin and call off her planned marriage to Loras Tyrell.
- In the past, Jaime had suggested that they just reveal everything and get married. Cersei seems more agreeable to that at the moment, since she came to Jaime at the end of Season Four to say that she “chooses” him. Maybe one does get to choose who they love!
- Not so fast, Jaime then went and freed Tyrion, who kills Tywin (and Tyrion kills his ex-girlfriend Shae, which I totally will talk about one day, just not today.) This isn’t going to make Cersei all giddy.
- Dany has rejected Ser Jorah, whom she knows loves her, and has hooked up with bad boy Daario. It’s unlikely she’s planning on marrying him, though.
- Grey Worm and Missandei have been getting close, but since he’s a eunuch… well, who am I to judge? If Grey Worm says he just wants to cuddle, I’d believe him in this case.
- Hey, we do have a marriage that might work out: Ser Bronn got to marry Lollys Stokeworth as an incentive not to champion Tyrion.
Bronn: So let me get this straight. If I don’t fight the Mountain, I’ll get a pile of cash and get to marry a lady who might inherit the Stokeworth estate should something unfortunate happen to her relatives?
Cersei: That’s right. You can fight a duel and get nothing, or you can refuse to fight a duel and get a lady love.
Baelish: What the hell? I was doing that all wrong…
(Okay, it’s not like Bronn is actually choosing love…)
Bronn: I don’t know. I do love money.
Hey, what’s the point of this post? Just to list off all the bad times everyone’s having?
Maybe. I mean, it’s fun for me to do so. But because Valentine’s Day was coming up, I was moved to talk about love and relationships on Game of Thrones, and quite honestly, in Westeros it’s a grim situation for romance.
So this February 14th, if there’s someone special in your life, remember to:
- Call them by their actual name and not some old flame’s name (I’m looking at you, King Bob!)
- Thank them for not planning on poisoning you. (If they aren’t planning on that, no harm done, and if they are, maybe it’ll make them drop those plans since you’re totally on to them!)
If there’s not anyone special in your life, romantically, don’t sweat it. It’s just a day. (And a day where no one has a reason to be plotting your demise. Probably. So be happy about that.)
Regardless, if you’ve read this far, thank you very much. Two more months until Season Five starts up, when we’ll resume the destruction of romance in Westeros. (Or will we? Maybe we’ll have some more weddings, and they all can’t be doomed. Right?)
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)
Most Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.) I’m not sure where I found the photo of Nikolai Coster-Waldau and the Funko Pop Cersei and Jaime. (Awwww…)
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there.
If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2015 Some Rights Reserved