Game of Thrones: the Four Feuding Families

Posted: May 30, 2017 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , , ,

As the name of the post implies, I’ll be talking about Game of Thrones. If you’re not up on the show (or the books, the excellent books) then consider this your spoiler warning.

The events that take place in Westeros largely concern themselves with the interaction of four prominent families: the Targaryens, the Baratheons, the Starks, and the Lannisters. I’ll make my apologies to the Greyjoys, Tullys, Arryns, Tyrells, and Martells right up front for implying that they’re not important.

But the show’s opening title card has no krakens, trout, falcons, roses, or suns-with-spears displayed prominently. Just a dragon, lion, direwolf, and stag.

The intertwined relationships between the families can be complicated to track. The start of the series established some straightforward connections.

  • The Baratheons (or rather Robert) hated the Targaryens.
  • Both the Starks and Lannisters were positively connected to the Baratheons, either through friendship or marriage.
  • The remaining Targaryens, of course, had grudges against the other three Houses, since they’d been responsible for overthrowing the Targaryens, defeating their armies, killing the heirs, and driving the remaining children into exile.

(Sorry Tullys and Arryns. You played your part too, but you’re not in the opening credit’s symbolic retelling:

The dragon has three heads: being bitten, mauled, and gored.

This enmity between the Targaryens, Baratheons, Starks, and Lannisters wasn’t always such a constant. When Aegon Targaryen came to conquer Westeros, House Baratheon was their first ally, earning the rule of the Stormlands for their support. The Lannisters originally resisted and fought back, until dragonfire forced their capitulation. But yielding and pledging support to Aegon allowed them to keep control of the West.

Torrhen Stark heard about the effectiveness of those dragons while he was marching south to war. He opted to bend the knee and not have all of his men’s swords melted into furniture. Stark supremacy in the North went uninterrupted. Just as wardens, and not kings.

But things did not go as smoothly centuries later when Aerys Targaryen was in charge. His madness led to rebellion of the Starks and Baratheons, with the Lannisters taking sides against the king in the final hours.

Once Aerys was dead, the patriarchs of the other major households took turns with the famous Targaryen chair, either as king or as Hand of the King.

This is certainly not new information, I’m just trying to get everything up to the present.

Things between these  house stabilized for a bit directly after the rebellion, with the Baratheon’s having ties to the Starks and Lannisters, but only hatred for the Targaryens.

Should I have labeled each House? C’mon, you guys know the sigil colors…

Things can’t be stable forever, and after a few seasons into the television show, the old guard leaders of the four families during Robert’s rebellion were all dead, killed by close associates and family members. (Many of whom were Lannisters, interestingly enough.)

  • King Aerys had been killed years before by kingsguard Jaime, and Aerys’ son Viserys was done in by Viserys’ brother-in-law Drogo
  • Robert was effectively manslaughtered by his squire Lancel Lannister, acting on Queen Cersei’s orders
  • Ned was killed by his (at the time) future son-in-law Joffrey
  • Tywin was killed by his son Tyrion

But grudges held by the previous generation don’t always make it down to the successive one. After all, the War of the Roses (which is often cited as a heavy inspiration for George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire) ended with reconciliation and marriage between the warring families of York and Lancaster.

(History lovers, I’m not making that up, am I? I guess I could look up the details leading up to the Tudors being in control, but I’m too lazy. Feel free to fight me on this.)

So let’s see what’s happening with the four families as we approach the end game, so to speak.

The Next Generation

Daenerys Targaryen is poised to make a strong comeback for her House, after years of exile. Having unparalleled light cavalry, stoic stand-your-ground infantry, and air support in the way of dragons certainly finds her with an advantage.

She’s already made peace of sorts with one of the enemies to her house, by accepting Tyrion Lannister into her service as trusted advisor and Hand of the Queen.

Certainly, Cersei Lannister won’t meekly submit to Queen Dany’s rule, but Tyrion is a start.

If we elevate Jon Snow up as a representative of House Stark, then there’s a currently unexplored connection by virtue of bloodline. Dany is Jon’s aunt.

In some ways, the Targaryens and Baratheons have swapped places. If we can even consider the Baratheons viable players.


The last trueborn Baratheon died near Winterfell, killed by the avenging Brienne of Tarth. Almost all of King Robert’s bastards were killed at King’s Landing but as far as we know, the young blacksmith Gendry is still alive.

A bastard in the wild might not seem like much hope for the restoration of an ancient house, but it’s not unheard of. Stannis Baratheon offered to legitimize Jon, and of course Tommen Baratheon legitimized Ramsay Snow into a Bolton.

But what monarch would bother to legitimize Gendry?

Cersei Lannister would most certainly not, nor would I expect King Euron Greyjoy to bother himself to do so (not that anyone on the mainland would be that interested in what the Captain of the Silence wants until he’s hitting them with an axe.)

I would find it rather satisfying if King in the North Jon Snow was interested in restoring House Baratheon’s fortune by turning bastard Gendry Waters into Gendry Baratheon. As mentioned before, there’s family history of Starks and Baratheons being allies.

But the scope doesn’t seem right. I mentioned before that the mainland would probably be dismissive of any decrees coming from the secessionist Iron Islands, that would equally apply to decrees from the kingdom of the North.

But I don’t want to rule that out. Gendry might have a political ally in Jon Snow’s court in the form of Ser Davos, who knows that Gendry is Robert Baratheon’s son, and Davos has a certain fondness for the boy, thanks to their brief time on Dragonstone. And should Arya ever be reunited with Jon, she had previously considered Gendry family, part of her pack when she was on the run.

In some ways, it depends more on what the Stormlands want to have happen than what the Starks might want to have happen.

The Stormlands is the one kingdom in Westeros that has largely been ignored after the second season. Lots of things are happening in the North and the Riverlands. Euron Greyjoy is mobilizing the people of the Iron Islands. The kingdom of the West is all-in supporting the Lannisters, the Vale of Arryn is distinctly chilly on the Lannisters and is currently extending influence in the North. Dorne is definitely anti-Lannister, and the Reach just lost most of the ruling House members in a deadly Sept explosion.

Renly: Hey, buttface.
Stannis: Must you?

But the Stormlands hasn’t really been in the picture since they briefly supported Renly over Stannis, then acknowledged Stannis and supported his move against King’s Landing. Stannis limped away from the flaming Blackwater Bay to the island Dragonstone, and in relating his assets to the Iron Bank of Braavos while trying to get a loan, he neglected to mention Storm’s End or any other holdings in the region. We can assume that Lannister forces coerced the remaining Storm Lords to bend the knee and keep the peace.

But with Lannister control crumbling, the Storm Lords might be interested in throwing in with a coalition to upset the crown. It wouldn’t be the first time the North, Vale, Riverlands, and Stormlands unified against King’s Landing. Having the son of Robert Baratheon to rally around might be all that’s required. They’d just have to agree that he was a Baratheon.

Although, legitimization might come from an unexpected direction. It might be in Daenerys’ best interest to ennoble Gendry.

Targaryens and Baratheons

Dany has already made peace and common cause with one member of House Lannister. Legitimizing Gendry would bring in House Baratheon and pressure the Storm Lords into joining her cause.

I’ve seen this argued for and against online, with the common refutation being that if Dany legitimized Gendry, then he’d be the true king, because his dad was king. I don’t think it necessarily works that way.

It’s already complicated for a bastard to be acknowledged as having the same rights as a trueborn heir. I’ve suggested that if enough people in power agreed, it would be accepted, although a royal decree seems to smooth that over effectively. For Dany to elevate Gendry into a Baratheon, her royal authority would have to be recognized. So anyone claiming Gendry has a better claim to the throne than Dany is blind to the fact that Gendry’s claim derives entirely from the authority of Dany’s claim.

The more likely power brokering scenario would be Gendry becoming lord of Storm’s End. Unless a political marriage is in the works.

For me, this works on several levels, since it heals this rift between House Targaryen and House Baratheon, and re-establishes a familial tradition that goes back to the days of Aegon the conqueror and his close friendship with Orys Baratheon.

There is a phrase in regards to the Targaryens, that “the dragon has three heads.” It’s not really something from the television version (I don’t think it’s ever been said on the show) but book readers make a great deal about Dany having three dragons. That might be a topic that I’ll contribute to at some point (in regards to the number of dragons) but for purposes of this post, I’ll suggest that should Dany retake control of the Iron Throne, the three important heads will be a lion’s head, a direwolf’s head, and a stag’s head.

Ahah! They’re not attacking the dragon, they’re coming to its aid. Awww, that’s lovely!

(I’m not talking literally. There won’t be a huge reptilian monster with three non-dragon heads.)

Of course, this is all speculation. For all any of us know, Jon and Dany will end up killing each other without ever finding out they’re related, Cersei will legitimize Gendry, marry him to secure her own claim, and lock him in a tower, and Tyrion will take a boat to the Summer Isles and stay drunk while Littlefinger sells Westeros to the Others.

But that would be interesting too. With so many influential families in the story, with various motivations and relationships to work out, it’s hard to predict what might actually happen, but it should all be fascinating, regardless.

We’re just over a month from Season Seven starting up. I know I’m ready for the show to start up, like Right Now.


(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.)

Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (Obviously.) Except for the sigil color diagrams that I made via Powerpoint. (And to think I never pursued a career in graphic design. Because I’d starve…)

I make no claim to the images, 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 2017 Some Rights Reserved

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Comments
  1. writingjems says:

    I’ve heard rumors that Gendry might return, but I haven’t tried to confirm it since I like to go into a season knowing as little as possible. But I did mention a similar thought to a friend that if he did pop back up (as I very much hope he does), it would make sense for Dany to legitimize him to gather support from the Stormlands. Marrying him to Arya (or Sansa, more logical but less appealing) if Jon marries Dany could also bring inter house cooperation and unity as well. Actually, if Arya marries Gendry, Sansa can reinstate her marriage with Tyrion to add the Lannisters into the fold as well. I don’t actually expect it all to go down as such, but it would be a good solution.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your thinking on political marriages saving the day, especially the Sansa/Tyrion one, which could at least be a factor in any Stark – Team Targaryen discourse.

      Like you, I’d like Gendry to return. Part of the reason behind the post was to discuss the logic of Gendry being legitimized.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jon will legitimized Gendry so he can marry Arya and finally unite both houses by blood. But Arya will be kidnaped by the now adopted son of Daenerys “Hot Pie” Targaryen (she just fell in love with is famous Dragon Bread so she had to adopt him to continue the lineage). This will drive Gendry super mad, so he will start a rebellion against Kings Landing making the cicle start again

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joanna says:

    Don’t quote me on this, but why do I have feeling that all the political jostling in the world won’t make an iota of difference when all is said, and the Great War is done. I’m not convinced that there will be time enough to breathe in the upcoming episodes, let alone strategic marriages. It all seems by the bye.

    Dany will conquer or negotiate her way through Westeros. Yes. Definitely. But she’s returning to a land she barely remembers. She’s also woefully uninformed. To be fair, most of Westeros and Westerosi ex-pats are equally oblivious to what’s around the corner.

    Even if Gendry turns up from his row-about, I feel it’s more about the showrunners tying up loose ends. Off he went several seasons back never to be heard from again. A simple lad from Flea Bottom, all round nice guy and Arya’s bestie, not knowing his arse from his elbow – or to be more precise, bow from stern. And now we’re considering [Dany and Jon considering] lordship legitimization whatnots?

    Tyrion: Your Grace, the Baratheon bastard is here
    Dany: Jon, you’re the titular Bastard of All Bastards, should we let him in?
    Jon: To be fair Your Grace, I’m actually your nephew
    Dany: You’re WHAT?? See me later in my chambers *nudge nudge wink wink
    Obara, Nym & Tyene chime in: We’re bastards too
    Dany: What is this, a bastard convention? And who’s this guy with the beard?
    Jon: He’s my Hand of the King.You got one, I got one. He’s Ser Davos of House Seaworth
    Dany: Never heard of him. Which lands does he hold?
    Jon: Well .. he doesn’t actually have any lands. But he’s a pretty good crabber and smuggled goods rower
    Dany: Another rower ..

    Got a whole conversation lined up in my head but I don’t want to bore you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re not boring me! I love that conversation, thank you!

      You are probably right, darn it, that the show won’t invest in some political stuff, but I’ll take a Gendry return, even it is just tying up loose ends.

      Liked by 1 person

      • joanna says:

        They’re a bit like a rag tag motley crew when you stand back and nit pick 🙂 It’s funny

        Dany: What are your credentials Gendry oh Gendry?
        Gendry: I was born in a house where a river of shit meets a bowl of brown. My dad was this fat whoring guy called Bob. When I stand “side-face” I’m sexy. I’m nifty with an oar. And I make a mean arrowhead.
        Dany: Ehem .. ok, leave your application and we’ll get back to you

        Liked by 1 person

        • Gendry: whew, I was worried you were going to find out that my dad killed your brother.
          Dany: Wait. Your dad was Khal Drogo?
          Gendry: He might have been. Big guy? Renowned fighter? Likes sex?
          Dany: Oh my Drogon! What is happening?

          Liked by 1 person

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