The real hero in Game of Thrones
Warning: Spoilers ahead. Game of Thrones (GOT) has come and gone. With epic battles, political intrigues, and shocking twists, GOT at its heart, is a tale of dysfunctional families whose members scheme against and betray each other as readily as they care for and protect one another.
Based on George R. R. Martin’s still-unfinished novel series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” GOT transformed TV, despite the hasty character development and clunky plot pace of the eighth and final season, which ended last week.
Still, HBO likely won’t redo the final season, so the question is: who is the true hero of GOT?
Is it Jon Snow, the loyal (and often clueless) commander of the Night’s Watch, who is at the forefront of every battle, defending the weak and eschewing personal power? Tyrion Lannister, the intelligent (and often ruthless) Hand (adviser) to a Queen and then a King, killing his father and his best friend, yet constantly putting himself at risk for his family and his people? Or Arya Stark, the ultra-focused (and often headstrong) vanquisher of the Night King, honing her fighting skills with the Faceless Men and one by one, avenging those who betrayed her family?
Now that GOT has ended, we realize that the story has revolved around the second-generation Stark siblings all along.
Jon, raised as the bastard of patriarch Eddard “Ned” Stark, is actually the latter’s nephew. Because of a deathbed promise to his sister Lyanna, Ned concealed Jon’s true identity (as heir to the Iron Throne) from a ruler who would definitely kill him, even if it besmirched his own solid reputation as a morally upright man—and even if it hurt his wife Catelyn (whom he truly loved).
Jon, the protagonist who survived even death, is influenced by Ned, the only father he knew and one he adored. Ned, known for his moral compass, was well-loved in the North; Jon, for his integrity, by the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings. Ned was reluctant to be adviser to his best friend, but did so out of duty; Jon did not want the Iron Throne, but killed his beloved Daenerys out of duty to the people.
In the very first episode of GOT, before Ned executed a deserter of the Night’s Watch, he instructed his sons, “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”
Jon would do the same when executing mutineers in the Night’s Watch who betrayed him.
Both Ned and Jon were honorable to the point of being politically naïve. It cost Ned his head, but thankfully, Jon is now where he wants to be, in the North, not on a throne.
Arya, Ned’s feisty younger daughter, reminded him of his sister Lyanna. The free-spirited Lyanna played with swords, and later eloped with Rhaegar Targaryen and birthed Jon Snow.
Arya hated traditionally feminine tasks such as sewing and dancing. When Ned caught Arya practicing with a Needle (actually a sword given by Jon), instead of punishing her, he asked a swordsmaster to teach her to fight properly—going against culture and tradition.
As a father, Ned helped his children be the best they could be, to be true to themselves. It is not surprising that among the siblings, Arya and Jon, the two outcasts, were the closest. And only their father Ned would really understand them.
In the book “A Feast for Crows,” Ned Stark tells a young Arya who cannot get along with her older sister Sansa: “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.” (Sansa is the one who utters this in the TV series.)
Arya takes her father’s words to heart, and in the last two seasons of GOT, she joins forces with Sansa to avenge their family and defend the North.
(To be continued)
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