Monday, 30 November 2015

A Marriage of Ice and Fire: Examining the importance of marriage in A Song of Ice and Fire

Two of my friends from University have recently got engaged, to two pleasant men. I hope that they have long and happy unions. These events have caused my mind to turn toward the matter of marriage, though my long-term plans in that regard are basically those of the Blackfish.
In this post I will be writing about the importance of marriage unions and how it can bring peoples together in the World of Ice and Fire.
Alys Karstark is a minor character I rather like, fleeing from Karhold to the Wall, escaping the plans of her villainous relatives, and marrying Sigorn for assistance claiming her birthright. It is one of the book's many enjoyable plots, the Northern storyline in ADWD was the one I enjoyed most. Yet I feel that this marriage may be a foreshadowing to quite significant events in the books and may even reflect older events.
Dorne was the only one of the Seven Kingdoms not conquered by Aegon the Conqueror. His great (x4) grandson Daeron the Dragon brought Dorne into the realm by Conquest. But ultimately, all that did was leave 50,000 dead including Daeron. Dorne was ultimately brought into the realm through the marriage of Daeron II (though he was Prince at the time) and Mariah Martell, sister of the Prince of Dorne. When Daeron became King her brother married Daeron's sister Daenerys, and shortly after Dorne agreed to peacefully submit to the Iron Throne. Daeron seems to have arranged the marriages of his four sons to help this alliance. His oldest son Baelor married Jena Dondarrion. As a Marcher House, the Dondarrions would probably be among those most opposed to Daeron's Dornish connections. By marrying his heir to them, Daeron could ensure their support. His youngest son Maekar married Dyanna Dayne, bringing Dorne closer. Marriage is the key to stability in this society.
House Martell's power over Dorne came about due to a cultural marriage. Nymeria, the Rhoynar Princess, led her ten thousand ships to Dorne. She married Mors Martell and together they conquered Dorne. Mors died before the Conquest was completed, but Nymeria married Lord Uller, then Davos Dayne, the Sword in the Morning. The four daughters Nymeria had with Mors continued the line of Nymerios Martell, even though Nymeria had a son with Davos he did not inherit due to Rhoynar customs. The Rhoynar lived in Dorne and their culture became part of this Kingdom, such as gender-neutral inheritance and the title of Prince or Princess for the ruler, even toleration of homosexuality, though most of the Rhoynar adopted worship of the Seven with their new home.
Even the Ironborn may have tried this. During the Andal Invasion Ironborn Houses slew Rognar II and ended House Greyiron, the ruling dynasty of the Iron Islands. House Hoare became the next rulers. Though Harras Hoare allegedly won kingship through a finger dance, becoming Harras Stump-Hand, Archmaester Haereg claims it was through Harras marrying into the Andals and gaining their support. This had mixed results, the Hoares were looked upon as having an Andal taint, but it still shows the power of cultural unions. Another example of Andal marriage is the first Andal King of the Rock. Ser Joffrey of House Lydden, an Andal Knight, married the only daughter of Gerold III Lannister, who had First Men descent. As Gerold died without male issue, a council crowned Gerold King, and he took the name Lannister. Thus, the Lannisters are of First Men and Andal descent.
Alys' marriage to Sigorn, Magnar of Thenn can be seen as similar. She is a Northern noblewomen, marrying a leader from Beyond-The-Wall. Such a marriage could prove useful in cultural assimilation. If her brother Harrion dies childless (which may happen, considering Arnolf's plots, even if they have backfired on his branch) the new House Thenn would take control of Karhold. However, this could enable a peaceful assimilation of Wildlings into the North, the Kingdom they are traditional enemies of. The Thenns are the Wildlings who would be able to go with this, as they have a clear hereditary leadership. Even the sigil of House Thenn reflects the cultural assimilation, combining the bronze disk to honor the Thenns with flames to reflect the worship of R'hllor, the combination echoing the sunburst which is the Karstark sigil. Therefore, House Thenn as a whole can symbolize a bringing together of cultures.
We even see the Queen's Men trying something similar with Gerrick "Kingsblood" of, as they put it, House Redbeard. Thinking of Gerrick as King of the Wildlings due to his apparent descent from Raymun Redbeard Queen's Knights arrange to marry his daughters. Stannis even intended for Jon, if he accepted the offer of legitimization, to marry Mance Rayder's sister-in-law, Val "the Wildling Princess", believing this would ensure Wildling loyalty. The Queen's Men have even planned for Val to marry one of their Knights. Though with Val and Redbeard it is hard to see this working, perhaps the Thenn-Karstark union would allow the Thenns to successfully become part of the North. If Harrion survives, they might be given land to settle on. Hopefully House Bolton will go extinct, and Dreadfort lands could be given to the Thenns to settle on. Or perhaps Sigorn or Gerrick will be given part of the Gift for their Wildling settlements. Stannis could arrange this after defeating the Boltons.
However, these marriages may eventually bring to mind the Prince that is Promised, in relation to the Grand Northern Conspiracy, this idea that the Northern Lords are planning to play the Boltons and Stannis against each other, enabling a new King in the North, Jon or Rickon. While it does seem there is a Northern plan to re-install the Starks, especially considering Lord Manderly, will there really be another King in the North? Some people believe the series ending with the Seven Kingdoms splitting up would be a good ending. When thought through, this does not seem to make sense. In the days before the Conquest there was always warfare between the Kingdoms. Even if the present Lords can somehow be persuaded to agree to a split, what will their sons or grandsons think? This just seems like a set-up for more war, for attempts to re-unite the Kingdoms? Even one Kingdom splitting of is problematic. Imagine the Iron Islands splitting off, that would mean a return to raiding. Raiding did happen during the Targaryen's rule, but it was mainly kept out of Westeros, ensuring long periods of stability. Coming back to Dorne, when that was not part of the 7K there were various wars between Dorne and the Iron Throne before Daeron the Good. Dorne joining brought peace between the Kingdoms... even if it did lead to the Blackfyre Rebellion. Many of the Northmen have died in the wars, Winter is Coming, in fact, at the end of ADWD a white crow appears signifying Winter is here. Though I think the other thing Pycelle and Kevan received about then wasn't so good either.
It would be better for the North if they accepted a King on the Iron Throne favourable to the North, who would enable them to get back at the Boltons and Freys, such as Stannis. Not that we'll get that now in Game of Thrones after that frankly ridiculous 20 good men part. Dumb and Dumber have really wrecked the Northern storyline. And as they'll apparently do the Northern Houses fighting the Boltons next season it looks like they twisted the whole storyline round for an excuse to get rid of Stannis, a character they have really messed up, though the casting was great. But as much as I'd like to complain and call the anger of R'hllor on them I shall stick to this essay.
What the North would want is a Stark in Winterfell. He might not be King of the North but he would be Lord Paramount of the North. Rickon might be too young to rule but a regent could be installed as Warden (an Umbar? Lord Manderly?) until he was old enough.
As for Jon Snow becoming ruler of the North... Robb had legitimized him and named him as heir. How legitimization works in regards to trueborn children is unclear. However if he found out Rickon was alive Jon would probably say Rickon's right came before his, even if he found out of Robb's declaration. Jon has become accepting of his bastard status. He might act as a regent for Rickon but I doubt he would claim to rule before them.
But as many believe, Jon is not Ned's son, but a Targaryen, son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell but the Targaryens had practiced polygamy, so Jon could be the legitimate successor to the Iron Throne if Prince Aegon is dead. This ties into the idea of people being brought together through marriage, though differently. The North might have trouble accepting a new King after the King in the North. But what if Jon was revealed as a Targaryen and put forward a claim to the Iron Throne? The North might accept him as King on the Iron Throne as, even though he is a Targaryen by birth, his mother was a Stark and he has been brought up as a Stark. He would be a Northman by mentality, so the North would be willing to become part of the Iron Throne's dominions again, feeling they were being ruled by a Northman. And Jon being declared Robb's heir as well... that could still be significant.
And it's just been confirmed that Jon is coming back in S6, surprising... not me. I'll spend S6 grinding my teeth while imagining the Mannis is still there.
There are cases of these marriages between different peoples failing. Jorah Mormont married Lynesse Hightower, but ultimately this failed, as she was not used to the harsh life of the North, compared to her luxurious life in the Reach. The Lord of Bear Island could not satisfy her needs, he underwent financial difficulties, and they ended up in exile. Jorah is now a sellsword and Lynesse a concubine. A similar thing happens with Jorah and Daenerys. Jorah loves her, but is not a suitable match for her, which is made quite clear. The Bear and the Maiden Fair indeed.
Daenerys even tries to perform this marriage alliance of cultures with her marriage to Hizdahr Zo Loraq, from a Great Ghiscari House of Meereen. That doesn't go well but we can see her effort as she tries to integrate herself into Meereenese Culture, though she knows it will cause more difficulty in trying to gain support in the Seven Kingdoms, turning down Quentyn Martell's offer.
When Aegon conquered he tried to make marriage pacts between the Houses. Torrhen Stark's daughter married Ronnel Arryn. Things didn't work out due to Jonos the Kinslayer throwing his brother through the Moon Door and apparently killing Ronnel's children, but we can see the attempts. Aegon knew that marriages would ensure stability. By contrast when his son Aenys tried to follow Targaryen marriages practises by wanting his children to marry close relatives it proved disastrous. Aenys' son Jaehaerys married his sister and was able to stabilize the Iron Throne's relation with the Faith and since then Targaryens were allowed to engage in their incestuous marriages.
His descendant Aegon V had gained distaste for his House's incestuous practices and seemed to want his House to become fully Westerosi, arranging marriages for four of his children with four powerful Houses, Baratheon, Tully, Tyrell and Redwyne, which would also enable him to push his smallfolk-favoring reforms through. Aegon himself had married Betha Blackwood for love. Unfortunately his children married for love also, oldest son Duncan married the peasant Jenny of Oldstones, his next two children Jaehaerys and Shaera married each other, and Daeron... apparently Olenna Redwyne broke the betrothal, Daeron preferred the company of Ser Jeremy Norridge. Aegon's youngest child Rhaelle married Ormund Baratheon to make peace with Ormund's father Lord Lyonel Baratheon, who rebelled in anger at Duncan breaking the betrothal to his daughter, the only one of Aegon's children to go with Aegon's plans. As Aegon's marriage plans failed he tried to bring back the Dragons, leading to the Tragedy at Summerhall. His reforms did not last, Tywin Lannister revoking them when he became Hand. And from the union of Rhaelle and Ormund came the Baratheons who ended up overthrowing the Targaryens.
Marriage to bring peace between warring Houses seems to have happened after the Dance of the Dragons. The Velaryons and Hightowers had been fighting for the branch of the Targaryens they were related too. Garmund Hightower married Rhaena Targaryen, daughter of Daemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon, and thus half-sister of Aegon III, perhaps to placate the Hightowers, even though the war was over.
Marriages to bring together Houses seemed to be happening with the Southron ambitions of Lord Rickard Stark. The Starks usually married Northern Houses, or First Men Houses, like the Blackwoods and the Royces. Generally ruling Houses marry within their Kingdom to keep stability. However, the Starks were apparently moving towards a merging of cultures with the marriages. We see the Tully marriage has influenced the new generation of Starks, bringing a Sept to Winterfell. The exact nature of the Southron ambitions is still unclear, but it seems to have been planned with marriages, Baratheon to Stark, Stark to Tully, Lannister to Tully, as Jaime mentions that it was intended he wed Lysa Arryn before he joined the Kingsguard. There was also Arryn fostering Baratheon and Stark and eventually Arryn to Tully. But the marriage pacts between great houses shows how important marriages were, these various alliances between Great Houses led to the overthrow of the Targaryens.
There is emphasis on, if not marriage, unions bringing out connections between people. Ygritte tells Jon the tale of Bael the Bard, who allegedly impregnated the daughter of Brandon the Daughterless, Bael's son becoming the next Stark in Winterfell. While this is clearly meant as a folktale, it does have some symbolic meaning. Ygritte tells Jon that means he has Bael's blood in him, same as her. The Northmen and the Wildlings are a common people, both having the blood of the First Men. Yet they are enemies. The idea of cultural union is played with, Jon and Ygritte undergo a relationship which ultimately does not work, Jon goes with his duty rather then join the Wildlings. Yet the effect is still felt, Jon is trying to integrate the Wildlings into the North, which could partially motivate him arranging Alys' marriage to Sigorn, believing the Wildlings should survive because they are people as well. I got these ideas from Steve Attewell, who analyzes the story very well here.
If Jon becomes King his marriage should end up being important in restoring stability to the realm. Will it be Danerys, his aunt? Personally I am not a supporter of Dany so would not like this. And her comments about Ned Stark show how out of touch she is. Perhaps she will offer herself to Jon but he will refuse. Hopefully she will realize she was wrong about Ned and that her father was a monster. Maybe she will realize her true place is in Slaver's Bay, which is basically tearing itself apart due to her attempts to change its structure and will take years to recover. What about Margaery, widow of three Kings, whose maidenhood is still disputed? Personally this Margaery ending up as Queen seems too idealistic and something the showrunners would like. To tell the truth I don't like the Tyrells. From the start that Tudor sigil made me feel dislike. However I find them to be basically the Lannisters with PR, they don't really care about right just so long as Marg is Queen, something the showrunners didn't really get in trying to make them ideal characters to obviously root for. They give out food to the smallfolk of King's Landing in the name of Margaery, but they caused the starvation of King's Landing to help Renly's usurpation, as Tyrion thinks. Also, I think Cersei may ensure the demise of her good-daughter. Maybe Cleganstein will be ordered to kill Marg and kill her husband as well. Enabling Aegon... Blackfyre? Mopatis? Brightwaters? to make his move on King's Landing. For me Arianne Martell seems a good choice to be Jon's Queen, considering her father was planning for her to be Queen. She hasn't been introduced in the show... because apparently the Sand Fakes were more important, so I am feeling more uncertain about that. Other people theorise Sansa as Jon's Queen, as cousin marriages are acceptable in Westeros. Interestingly enough, the Ur-Text has a Love Triangle between Jon, Arya and Tyrion, but I do not think this will occur. Other theories have Sansa as Queen in the North or Lady of the Eyrie, the latter I find more likely.

So, overall marriage seems the way that lasting peace can be formed between peoples in the World of Ice and Fire.

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