The Men of A Game of Thrones
Following our review of the women in A Game of Thrones here is a follow up review of the men characters in A Game of Thrones, first book in George R.R. Martin´s epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire.
Front and centre in the story are the men who drive the action and more often than not, lead their respective houses. They are men of action whose cunning mind is only equalled by the sharpness of their swords. The times are hard, and the men who rule the day must be equally so. As testament to George R.R. Martin’s literary skill, each character in the story is extremely well developed with all of them possessing a complex personality making it difficult to simply classify them into mere protagonists or antagonists. In the end, the men of the Game of Thrones may vary in character, but they share in the iron will that ultimately epitomizes the idea of the true man.
Let us begin by taking a look at the King himself. Robert Baratheon is described as a large man who was once a fearsome warrior. He overthrew the former royal family, the Targaryens, after the then prince Rhaegar allegedly abducted his paramour Lyana. In what is described as an epic battle, Robert Baratheon wielding his warhammer defeated Prince Rhaegar Targaryen at the battle of the trident and eventually became the ruler of the land. Consistent with his ascent to power, Robert of House Baratheon is a man who enjoys physical combat. Even as he eventually became out of shape from living the sedentary life of the king, he never lost the hunger for physical combat. In the end, this was to become his downfall as he met a hunting accident while trying to square off with a wild boar while being extremely drunk.
Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark
Next we have Lord Eddard of House Stark. He is Robert Baratheon’s brother at arms and the Hand of the King. Ned, as he is often called, is probably the easiest to categorize as a protagonist. He is honourable, strong, and extremely loyal to his friend the King. This however, is not indicative of a shallow characterization. A closer look at Ned Stark reveals he is many ways conflicted about his situation. Throughout the story, there is strong reference to how uneasy he is being Lord of Winterfell and Marshall of the North, an honor that was supposed to belong to his older brother Brandon. In many ways, he deems himself unworthy of the honor and prefers to rule in silence and honor in his own land. He is a true northerner to the bone and despite his many admirable attributes his lack of political foresight is what will eventually lead to his demise.
Ser Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, is a complex character in the guise of a very shallow individual. He is handsome, strong, skillfull, and proud. He earned his monicker by stabbing the former King, Aerys II at the back- an act whose true motivation will only be revealed much later in the saga. He is the younger twin of the Queen, Cersei Lannister and should be the heir to their family’s land and title in Casterly Rock, if not for his entering the elite Kingsguard- a brotherhood sworn to protect the king renouncing land and title along with it.
Tyrion Lannister (The Imp)
Another notable character is Jamie’s younger brother, Tyrion the Imp. He is called as such because he was born a dwarf and with physical deformities. Despite his physical handicap however, he is armed with a sharp wit that allows him to get what he wants most of the time. He is a man that certainly knows how to use that which is given him to great advantage. In a world where muscle is often regarded more important than brains, he stands out high above the crowd.
Rounding up the list of Lannisters, the last and certainly not the least is their patriarch Tywin. Initially, it is easy to judge Tywin simply as the bad guy in the series. A closer look into his character however, as it is injected slowly in the saga, reveals the underlying drive in him. Deep inside, he is a man plagued by the weak character of his father, a situation which has caused their House to be ridiculed by their own bannermen. Also, he saw others take advantage of his father’s weak constitution and slowly sift their wealth away. It is because of instances like these that Tywin, when he rose as the Lord of Casterly Rock, made sure that their house’s wealth and power was not only fully restored, but would reach greater heights. From this perspective, it is hard not to admire the man who knew what he wanted and stopped at nothing to get it. In a sense, he is no different from the considered protagonists in the story who saw what they wanted and took it- some by violence, other by politics, and some through economics.