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Game of Thrones: Oberyn Martell

Updated on June 8, 2014

Warning: Spoilers Lie Ahead

These articles take a look back at characters involved in the massive A Song of Ice and Fire universe. Some may involve characters still present for the sixth installment while others may unfortunately detail the happenings of their lives and deaths. The reader has been warned that spoilers lie ahead.

The Red Viper

"You raped her! You murdered her! You killed her children!" Probably the greatest use of dialogue during a fight scene known to man, screamed by my favorite character in the entire series who we lost well before we should but opened the series up in ways it hadn't been before.

Oberyn Martell, Prince of Dorne, The Red Viper, one of the most complex characters written in the A Song of Ice and Fire series came and went before we knew it but the impact of his time in the book will be felt until the end.

One of the best warriors in the Seven Kingdoms, Oberyn's achievements are widely known. He has a reputation for his fighting abilities as well as his sexual preferences which are basically whatever he wants at the time he will go after.

The Red Viper doesn't enter the story until the third book but his country, Dorne, is referenced throughout. Oberyn's story goes back far beyond the evnts of the series however. The Martells are one of the strongest families in the Kingdoms and can boast that they are the only area that wasn't conquered by the Targaryens and their dragons. Oberyn's sister, Elia, was married to Prince Rhaegar and fathered his children before Robert's Rebellion where she was raped and killed along with her children at the hands of The Mountain at Lord Tywin Lannister's command which are the events that shape Oberyn's life and journey toward revenge.

In his early life, he had fought a duel over a woman where his enemy and himself both escaped with wounds but his enemy ended up dying apparently due to poison on Oberyn's spear which led to him being nicknamed "The Red Viper" due to his use of poisons in fights. After the duel, Oberyn was sent to Oldtown to study as a maester so his family could mend ties with the Lord Oberyn had killed. His brother, Doran Martell, also had to send his son to live with the other family to heal that wound.

Oberyn studied in Oldtown before leaving becoming a maester to travel to Essos and spent time in many of the Free Cities. He also travelled with mercenaries and may have learned dark arts. As he returned to Westeros he has fathered many bastard children, known as the Sand Snakes, all over Dorne and raised them as his legitamate children teaching them to fight. He has even reawakened an old family feud with the Tyrells of Highgraden after wounding Willas Tyrell in a duel.

Besides all of this, Oberyn's life work is to bring down the people responsible for his sister's murder. He blames Robert Baratheon and the Lannisters and vows to defeat them. It is revealed later that he travelled to Braavos before evnts of the books and signed a pact to have his niece Arianne Martell wed to the son of the Mad King, Viserys Targaryen. The Martells mean to aligned themselves with the Targaryens and restore order to the Kingdoms.

He is introduced in the series during the third book as he arrives at the capital, King's Landing, inplace of his brother, Doran, for King Joffrey's wedding. He is not expected and his arrival shakes up the Lannisters as they know he blames them for Elia's murder. He explains that Doran is suffering from gout and thus cannot attend so he is there to fill his brothers spot at both the wedding and on the small council to the King, a position offered by Tywin Lannister to help ease tensions between the Lannisters and Martells.

Tywin does not like the arrangement and plans on offering a different one of his generals instead of the Mountain to Oberyn for his revenge. As events unfold, Joffrey is killed by poison at his own wedding and Tyrion Lannister is thought to be the murderer even with Oberyn's poison background and known plans for revenge. The Red Viper is brought in as a judge at Tyrion's trial along with Tywin Lannister and Mace Tyrell.

Once it is known that Tyrion will be framed and found guilty for Joffrey's murder, Oberyn offers to support Tyrion as his champion in a trial by combat if he tells him who is truly responsible for his sisters murder. Tyrion protects his father, Tywin, although he is the one finding him guilty and tells Oberyn the truth that The Mountain was responsible. Oberyn announces his support in being Tyrion's champion as Queen Cersei names The Mountain as hers. Finally! The fight Oberyn and all of us have wanted, The Mountain versus the Red Viper.

The Mountain is described as being one of the biggest men ever seen and stronger than anyone in the kingdoms while Oberyn is described as a normal sized man who is skilled in fighting. It seems to be an insurmountable feat for the Viper but he goes into it confident he will prevail.

Although the mountain has the physical advantage, it becomes clear quite quickly in the fight that Oberyn possesses the mental advantage. He relies on his speed throughout the fight to stay away from The Mountains greatsword and utilizes a shined shiled to blind The Mountain with sunlight. Throughout the entire fight Oberyn recites the same three lines: "You raped her! You murdered her! You killed her children!". He starts off quietly saying it and as the fight goes on it builds and builds until he is savagely screaming the lines.

By the end, The Mountain is worn down and tired and Oberyn uses his spear, which is lined with some type of poison, to begin trying out certain spots in his armor. He begins to stick him in certain areas unprotected including the armpit and knee. He incapacitates The Mountain and takes him down but before he kills him he wants a confession. The downfall of Oberyn's character is how emotionally invested he is and cannot let go without the confession. He gets too close to The Mountain on the ground as he is dying and is grabbed by the enormous man. The Mountain knocks his teeth and eyes out of his head before crushing his skull with his armored fists. A terrible way to go out for one of the best characters in the series but his death was not without meaning.

A Death for The Entire Series

Alas, Oberyn Martell is killed by The Mountain but his death reaches far into the rest of the world. He does succeed in his mission of a confession as The Mountain tells him right before his death that he did it so Oberyn can rest easy knowing this and also with the fact that The Mountain perishes from the poison inflicted by The Red Viper. His death also serves to open up the rest of the world after in the series. Dorne had only been mentioned previously but as the next book opens Dorne is on full display. The Sand Snakes are ready to revolt on hearing of their father's death and Prince Doran must try to keep the peace within Dorne. This leads to much tension between the Sand Snakes and his daughter Arianne Martell. He later reveals to Arianne that he had worked with Oberyn to marry her off to Viserys Targaryen and he will have revenge against the Lannisters as well. Oberyn's death sets all the wheels in motion for a full out Martell assault on the throne hoping to ally themselves with the surviving Targaryens. It is safe to say that although we only got the Viper for a short time in the third book, his character has had one of the greatest impacts on the story as a whole. Rest in peace, Prince Oberyn, I for one hope you are avenged by the end of the series!


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