House Martell: Warriors of Dorne
House Martell represents one of the most interesting cultures in A Song of Ice and Fire series, though they do not take an active role until the fourth book. They are a progressive family that allows their women to rule, takes care of their bastards, and tolerates homosexuality. Most of its family members, whether male or female, have proven to be strong and spirited, though easily provoked. The profile of House Martell as a band of fierce, hot-tempered warriors likely stems from their colorful ancestry, which includes a warrior queen from Rhoynar.
Theirs is also the only House that did not succumb to Aegon Targaryen’s invasion of Westeros. They eventually allied with the Targaryens through marriage and have remained their loyal vassals even during the events of Robert’s Rebellion. House Martell lost much of their influence and power after the defeat of the Targaryen royal family. Since then, they have preferred to keep to themselves in Dorne.
Little is known of the origin of the Martell family, apart from the fact that they have always been an influential family in Dorne, at a time when it was still a group of warring states. When the Rhoynar warrior queen Nymeria landed in Westeros she sought the strongest Dornish lords in order to choose her mate. She eventually married Mors Martell and with their combined strength, united Dorne under their rule.
House Martell did not fall to the Aegon the Conqueror. After nearly two hundred years of failed conquests, the Martell family finally agreed to swear their fealty to the Iron Throne with the marriage of King Daeron II to Princess Myriah Martell. They continued to rule over Dorne under the Iron Throne.
During the reign of King Aerys Targaryen II, Princess Elia Martell married Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and bore him two children, Rhaenys and Aegon. Despite Rhaegar’s abduction of Lyanna Stark, which sparked conflict and rebellion among the great Houses Tully, Stark, Baratheon, and Arryn, House Martell defended the Targaryen reign. Dorne suffered many loses during the war, the greatest of which was the violent massacre of Princess Elia and her two children at the hands of House Lannister. House Martell has since sworn fealty to King Robert Baratheon, though they no longer concern themselves with the rest of the Westeros. It is rumored that they continue to harbor a deep resentment against the Lannister family.
The Martells have remained apathetic throughout the War of the Five Kings. With the profile of House Martell as strong warriors, it is expected that any one of the other warring Houses will soon seek an alliance. For the time being though, House Martell is lying low – or are they?
At the beginning of the series, House Martell is simply mentioned in passing. Given the profile of House Martell as a fierce, independent lot, though, it is not surprising that they were quick to form an impression when they finally made their appearance in A Feast for Crows. The current head of the family, Doran Martell, is portrayed as a weak man who is afflicted with gout and does not seem to share his family’s penchant for war and revenge. Appearances can be deceiving though, and he may yet prove to be the most dangerous of them all. His brother, Oberyn Martell, is a hot-headed man dubbed as the “Red Viper” due to his use of poisoned weapons. He is equally passionate with in his pursuit of women, having born eight bastards from his dalliances. He had a close relationship with his sister, Elia, and is dead set on revenge against her murderers. The third Martell who may soon play a major role in the deadly Game of Thrones is Quentyn, Doran’s eldest son. Believed to be in Westeros, he is actually crossing the Narrow Sea to gain an audience with Daenerys Targaryen.
Not to be outdone in this family are the women, who are proving to be every bit as spirited and resilient as the men. Arianne Martell, Doran’s eldest daughter and the future ruling princess of Dorne, will stop at nothing to ensure that her birthright is secure. No stranger to plots and schemes, she does not hesitate to use her influence in order to manipulate the people around her. Oberyn’s bastard daughters, known collectively as the Sand Snakes, prefer to use their physical strength to achieve their goals, but are no less devious than the rest of their kin.