Sunday, 24 March 2013

Top 5 Female Role Models in A Song of Ice and Fire

(Beware of any possible book related spoilers guys.)

My life if pretty full of the people of Westeros right now. I've just rewatched season 2 of the hit HBO show, I'm once again making my way through George RR Martin's Feast of Crows and, as we should all be aware, the new series of Game of Thrones starts in a matter of days. As usual in these situations I have become so deeply immersed in this fake word that it's the only thing on my mind and I felt I had to address it here. One of the things I enjoy most about Martin's series is the great selection of strong female characters. Yes, Martin may not be the writer that Tolkien was but he's much more aware of the general awesomeness of women. The women in LOTR are generally pretty overlooked. I mean there's Galadriel the powerful elf but she has that whole temptation thing to contend with. Then we have Eowyn, who is an undeniable badass warrior but, I for one, can't forget the flirting with another woman's man situation. Yes Arwen had a bigger part in the film but in the books her main task it to sit in the corner looking pretty and elfy. It's all a big yawn in terms of 'girl power'. This is where Martin takes a step ahead of the granddaddy of fantasy.

The series is littered with women who don't allow themselves to get swept along in a male dominated world. They throw themselves into the heart of the action and fight for what they want. Gone are the helpless maidens in pretty dresses who swoon at the sight of men in armour. (Although with a cast of such ridiculously attractive men there is still a fair amount of swooning but, as I'm guilty of that myself, I can forgive them.) So I felt it was time to get my thoughts in order and present the best examples in the order in which they sit within my heart.

Number 1: Brienne of Tarth
This was the easiest of all. Brienne quickly became one of my all time favourite characters in the books and, thanks to a wonderful portrayal by Gwendoline Christie, the TV show has only increased my girl crush on the great warrior. Brienne of Tarth is a fucking legend. Undeniably strong, powerful and determined, she can stand up for herself in a fight and easily vanquishes the foes that set out to harm her. She follows her instincts and works hard to become the person she wants to be. Continually mocked throughout her life, Brienne doesn't give up hope and never succumbs to the scorn of others. There is nobody more honest, upfront and loyal. Whilst she initially finds it hard to trust people, once she has been shown courtesy or friendship it is impossible to lose her support. Brienne is one of the few figures within Westeros who still strives to live up to the true guidelines for a knight and is one of the only characters within the series that it would be possible to trust implicitly. On top of that, her relationship with Jamie Lannister has totally changed my opinion on the guy... as well as leading to one of my all time favourite moments in the series. I'm of course talking of the magical moment when he exacts revenge on Ser Ronnington for speaking ill of his friend by whacking him with his gold hand. One must cheer.

Number 2: Arya Stark
Arya is one of those characters who you are immediately drawn to. She doesn't just sit down and accept her lot in life. She hates the idea of the future that has been mapped out before her and actively seeks to change it. Arya was blessed with a great deal of her father's spirit and isn't afraid to throw herself in at the deep end. She shows great cunning, resourcefulness and courage. Never one to ignore the harsh realities of life, our young Stark faces difficulties head on. Finding herself alone in King's Landing, she acts better than most could hope to. She doesn't give up after her father's death but continues to fight for survival. In order to help those around her, she uses an incredible amount of cunning to force Jaqen H'ghar to facilitate the escape of the Northmen held at Harrenhal. She later helps her friends escape and leads them safely through the lands of Westeros. Arya is often hot-headed and quick to act but she has great spirit and courage. She is brave and, despite her lack of years and world experience, is able to get through many dangers and difficult situations. She has one of the most exciting stories in the books and I'm looking forward to seeing her become an even stronger young woman.

Number 3: Daenerys Targaryen
Some may be shocked to see that the Mother of Dragons isn't higher on the list but I can't help it. Dany is great but I've never felt the love with her too much (plus her storyline isn't keeping me as gripped as it was in the first book). Although there is no denying that Daenerys goes on one of the greatest journeys within the series; she begins as a timid, shy young girl who has known nothing but exile and fear before she grows into a much feared Khaleesi. Through her strong and loving marriage to Khal Drogo (after it's questionable and rapey beginning) she flourishes into something great. She became a strong, independent, confident woman and a real leader of her husband's people. Always remaining compassionate and kind, Dany is determined to help those who cannot help themselves. She ruthlessly deals with her enemies and gives freedom to those locked in slavery. However, we cannot forget that the Mother of Dragons is still young and naïve. There is something childish about her attitude towards the Iron Throne and the idea that she deserves to rule despite having not set foot on Westeros in her entire life feels ridiculous. She was clearly warped by her brother Viserys' obsession with the Crown and it causes her to make some strange choices and have quite a few hissy fits. There are still some negative Targaryen qualities within Dany and her love of dragons is proving to be dangerous for the innocent people she comes across. A strong woman, yes, but her conflicting desires make it hard to want to follow her. Plus I found it difficult to accept her treatment of dear old Jorah.

Number 4: Sansa Stark
It's very easy to criticise Sansa Stark as she is a horrible child for nearly all of the first book and she seemingly does very little after. However, Sansa is still a Stark child and has inherited much of her father's determination and strength. From the second book onwards we really start to see the Starkian qualities within Sansa and she handles her situation amazingly well. We must not forget that the girl is still very young and has little real knowledge of the world. She left Winterfell for the first time to live with her father in King's Landing and had no experience of city life. Quickly finding herself alone would have broken a weaker girl but Sansa steps up. She stands up for her father and begs for his life to be spared. It's something not all young girls would have been brave enough to do. Sansa is pretty amazing. Unlike Arya she has no real physical presence but she is shrewd. She knows how to play the game; she says the right thing, does the right things and acts like the good lady everyone expects her to. She constantly uses her intelligence and cunning to get Joffrey to do things without him realising she's in control. Sansa does the impossible task of surviving in a world full of dangerous people, liars and cheats. Something her own father couldn't manage. To quote my good friend Tyrion Lannister,“Lady Stark, you may yet outlive us all.”

Number 5: The Sand Snakes and Arianne Martell
Perhaps it is a bit of a cheat to lump these in together but they're all pretty similar and have the same motives. The sand snakes are the bastard daughters of Prince Oberyn Martell and Princess Arianne is their cousin, daughter of Prince Doran of Dorne. These women are legendary and have great combined skills and knowledge. The fact that it is necessary to lock the four eldest Snakes away after the death of their father tells you enough about them. They have skills in martial arts, knowledge of poison and must be locked away to prevent them causing chaos. Their father dies and their first instinct is to beg the Prince to act in response. They are powerful, strong and are unquestioning in their desire for justice. I'm looking forward to finding out more about them.

Arianne is much the same but also much cooler. She is next in line to the throne and is shown to be well suited to lead. She is clever, calculating and fierce-tempered. Definitely someone you wouldn't want to cross. She is also well aware of how to use the gifts she was given and succeeds in making a Knight of the Kingsguard forget his vows and do her bidding. With the added awareness of when to hide these gifts and present a more professional front. Who doesn't want to be a bit more like Princess Arianne?

Honourable mention: Osha
Not for the book so much but for the TV show. The writers, along with Natalia Tena, have done a brilliant job of creating this character and Osha has become an important player in the series. So much so that Martin himself is ready to write more about the character in his future books. Osha is a savage wildling but takes to her captive life at Winterfell without much trouble. She knows what she needs to do to survive. It is thanks to Osha that Bran learns more about the mystical forces that are overlooked by many. She is knowledgeable about the old gods, the north and those that inhabit it. Without Osha Bran and Rickon would not have survived Theon's attempt to take Winterfell and it is thanks to her cunning that they escape towards the Wall. Also, her scene with a dying Maester Luwin is one of her finest moments. I'm glad Osha was such an important part of the Winterfell plot and I hope the inclusion of the Reed siblings in the next series doesn't push her into the background.

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