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Authority in Game of Thrones

Updated on June 4, 2012

At the beginning of George Martin's book A Game of Thrones and HBO series of the same name, it is strongly emphasized that the authority of the one who sits on the Iron Throne is absolute, as it is affirmed numerous times. But, as the story develops, it can be seen that there is more than one authority in Westeros' lands. With the exception of a few thousand zombies, three dragons, a few warlocks, a boy prophet and a few more things we will be seeing in the next installments of the series, it can be said that the story is pretty realistic and resembles medieval land disputes on a larger scale and in a much, much more interesting way then any historical novel or a history book can.

We are all aware that A Song of Ice and Fire is a series of fantasy novels, but there are many elements that could strongly qualify it as realistic. For example, the question of authority and it's establishing and maintenance. Yes, we might assume that Westeros is a world that has evolved with a flaw, and that flaw consists of blind obedience and loyalty to the Iron Throne. But, for the dialectic to be kept, the force which opposes to blind obedience is the will to power, so a “game of thrones” consists of unscrupulous attempts to seize the throne, and it can be said that “will to power” in Westeros equals “will to absolute power”. But, now we will see that there are more resources of authority in Westeros and examine various ways in which the authority is held and distributed.

Winterfell: Every house is somewhat a coherent unit since members do respect amongst themselves, at least in some basic sense and in a nominal way. But Winterfell residents are all loyal to house Stark and their society is more spontaneous and friendly than any other. Emotional bonds among Ned Stark's offspring are strong and undisputed, and loyalty and faithfulness of all Winterfell townsfolk to house Stark is immense. Because of that, they are seen as naïve by other houses, especially Lanisters. They tend to win in a fair fight, as demonstrated by Robb as the King of The North and his skill on a battlefield. The type of authority that is prescribed to Winterfell is based on spontaniety, trust, loyalness and bonds.

King's Landing: This is the pure opposite of Winterfell, in geographic and any other sense. Full of plots, hypocrisy and sin, this town knows of only one authority – the will of the heir of the Iron Throne. His word is alpha and omega, and nobody in the whole kingdom is allowed to deny him. The “War of Five Kings” is waged because of a dispute whether the heirdom is a birthright or the right of the stronger, and because of misunderstandings who is the true heir. But the citizens of King's Landing do not ask themselves those questions – they just follow the will of the current King, they have no initiative for change. Corruption blossoms there no matter the presence of the supreme ruler, so the authority that is characteristic to King's Landing is blindly obedient.

Dothraki: They do not even care about the Iron Throne, and it is a strange but yet-to-become-interesting concept to them. The only way for them to keep the authority is to be a good hand-to-hand combatant, physically strong, ferocious in battles and uncompromising when it comes to looting.

Khaleesi: Former queen of the Dothraki who was abandoned by majority of her people when her husband, Khal of the Dothraki people, died, can not rely on anyone and seems pretty naïve when it comes to worldly business yet has some fire within, as well as a few dragon by her side. But, until those dragons grow up, the only person she can put her trust in is her personal advisor and a knight Jorah Mormont, who has much more realistic views then she does. So it is not about the authority but more a relationship of her trust and his valor. We can briefly mention here that the city of Quarth, in which they were staying during the second season of the series, knows only the authority of money and trickery.

Iron Islands: Now this is a big question and a great dilemma. How does one achieve authority among the iron islanders? It is not by birthright, since Theon Greyjoy could not make the crew of the Sea Bitch to listen to him, but his sister Asha could do it easily. All theories on authority fail here and it can only be concluded that iron islanders believe only in a leader who is born with a character of a leader, not necessarily as a lord, and the one who has ferocity but experience also. Basically, as it is said - they cannot be commanded. Quite interesting specimen, we can say. Theoretically, this type of authority is hard to figure out, and practically it is easy to achieve but only if you have that “certain something” within.

The Wall: A strong hierarchy is present at the Wall. Those who have more life experience and experience at the Wall are the ones who are honored more, but there are a few basic rules that must be obeyed. Men of the Night's Watch can hardly survive for long if they keep breaking the rules, so lifespan equals experience and is honored. Mance Rayder is one of the servicemen who has escaped from the Wall and is known as the “King Beyond The Wall”, the king of wildlings, and he keeps his authority by distributing knowledge and skills he has learned at the Wall to the wildlings who later use that knowledge against the Night's Watch. Simple as that, you steal a weapon and give it to the ones ready to use it for your cause.

Those are the main pools of authority as they were seen in the first two seasons of Game of Thrones series, although I did put emphasis on the second season. These topics could be brain-stimulating in the same manner as scenes are exalting and attention-keeping, and in the same way as the new season is worth waiting. So we could see how do zombies fit in the world of humane authority, and is there any authority above dragon's fiery breath.


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