9 Harsh Lessons We Have Learned From Game of Thrones
The world is obsessed with “Game of Thrones.” And, rightfully so. Gorgeous scenery, powerful characters (that we actually give a shit about), dragons, Night Walkers, power struggles, war, back-stabbing, love of family, sex (sometimes sex with your family), the bonds of loyalty – “Game of Thrones” gives us all of this, and then a whole lot more crazy shit that we never saw coming.
Like killing off (what we thought were) main characters. Ned Stark, Catelyn Stark, Robb Stark, his wife and unborn child, Khal Drogo – and now, in this most recent season, Queen Margaery Tyrell and her young King Tommen.
Through these unexpected demises along with many other plot twists, “Game of Thrones” has given us are some majorly harsh lessons. Though the show may be set in the fictional world of Westeros, the lessons it has taught us, while dramatic and sometimes severely harsh, ring no less true for us in the present.
Here are the Top 10 Harsh Lessons “Game of Thrones” has taught us (so far):
- Nowhere is safe.
The Hound taught us this harsh, but oh-so-true true lesson. Brienne of Tarth crosses paths with the Hound and Arya Stark outside the entrance to the Vale; Arya has just found out that her Aunt Lysa, who ruled the Vale, has died, and thus, her one remaining “safe” haven is no longer that. Brienne, having sworn to Arya’s mother Catelyn Stark that she would find and return her daughters to safety, is elated at the prospect of being able to fulfill her vow to Catelyn. And though she would probably be a great mentor to Arya, as they share much in common (namely the fact that they are both bad-ass bitches), the Hound reminds Brienne of one area where she is being blindingly naïve; Brienne says that it is her charge to bring Arya back to safety. The Hound’s response: “Safety?! Where the fuck is that?” And he continues. “There’s no safety, you dumb bitch. If you don’t know that by now, you’re the wrong one to watch over her.” We can’t help but agree with him. The lesson: If nowhere is safe, than you need to toughen up and learn how to be a bad-ass.
- Being naïve will get you killed. Probably tortured, then killed.
Arguably one of the most naïve characters to grace the “Game of Thrones” arena is none other than Theon Greyjoy – and it is his overdeveloped ego that blinds him from realizing that even his own men despise him. In this scene, he gives a rousing, pre-battle speech that, while eloquent, does not overcome his own men’s lack of respect for him, which ultimately leads them to turn their backs on him. This leads to Theon eventually being captured by ruthless Ramsey Bolton, wherein Theon loses the things he once so treasured, namely his large cock and his equally large ego; both are cut squarely down to size (pun absolutely intended). No one in the “Game of Thrones” world suffers more, or learns so harsh a lesson, as does Theon. Unless, perhaps, it’s Sansa Stark, who begins her storyline as a starry-eyed teenager, with visions of a fairy-tale life with her prince, soon-to-be-king, Joffrey. We all know how that turned out. The lesson: Don’t be fucking naïve.
- If you are not two steps ahead, then you are behind. And probably about to be killed.
To stay alive in this world, one must look beyond the emotions of the moment, and figure out the end game – be two, three, even ten steps ahead of everybody else. Few people in “Game of Thrones” have done that better than Littlefinger and Lord Varys; they are the master puppeteers behind the curtain, directing and influencing the action of Westeros perhaps more than any other two characters, other than possibly Dany. They are both alive at the end of Season 6 – which is more than we can say for many other characters who were stronger, more powerful, and had a great deal more money than either Littlefinger or Varys: men such as Ned Stark, King Robert Barratheon, Renley and Stannis Barratheon, and most notably, the most powerful man in all of the realm, Tywin Lannister (who was of course killed by his own son, Tyrion Lannister). The lesson: Keep your eye on the big picture – don’t get lost in the petty details of life, otherwise you may miss the whole point. Or be killed.
- The minute you think you know it all – is the moment you’re finished.
The gods like to punish extreme arrogance, reserving particularly cruel fates for those who think they are “above” the rest of men. At the start of the series, Jamie Lannister represents this heightened, cocky arrogance beautifully: he one of the most handsome men in Westeros, one of its best and most skilled swordsmen, and his father is Tywin Lannister – the most feared man in all of the land. No one dares fuck with Jamie Lannister, or any of the Lannisters, for fear of the wrath of Tywin Lannister. And Jamie has always taken perfect advantage of this situation, never really feeling threatened because he knows he can charm, manipulate or fight his way out of any situation. When he finally gets his comeuppance, it occurs at the precise moment when he thinks he has talked his way out of chains – it is at that moment when his captor is pissed off enough that he exacts vengeance upon Jamie, whose hubris blinds him so much that he doesn’t see the axe coming that will chop off his hand. The lesson: Acquire skills – but for god’s sake, keep some semblance of humility!
- Too much honor can get you killed..
This is a particularly disheartening lesson. And who better to give it to us than the Queen of Cuntiness herself, Cersei Lannister? Isn’t being honorable a good thing? Surely, it is. But isn’t also good to keep your family alive? In choosing honor, Ned Stark is unwittingly choosing to expose his family to the worst danger they’ve ever known: when he dies, he leaves his two youngest daughters in the hands of his enemies, the Lannisters – and in a few months, his wife and oldest son will be killed in a particularly gruesome fashion, by the Lannisters and Walder Frey. Though Ned did not want power or the throne – he could have chosen to ally himself with one of the other power players in King’s Landing, people like Littlefinger or Renley Barratheon. But his honor prevents him from doing so; he refuses to compromise his principles in any way. While this is worthy in some ways, it also gets him killed. The lesson: Let your honor and principles guide you – but in a life or death situation, compromise may be a dirty necessity.
- Women can be as ruthless, if not more so, than men.
The list of ruthless women in Westeros: Cersei Lannister (so ruthless, she essentially kills her own son by murdering his wife, Queen Margaery, which then causes him to commit suicide), Daenarys Targaryen (though we deem her cause to be more righteous and just, she is not above killing hundreds of men by the fire of her dragons), Melisandre the Red Woman (who burned alive on the stake an innocent child, the daughter of Stannis Barratheon), Sansa Stark (the biggest surprise of all, and the arguably the biggest transformation of all: when the tortured became the torturer, and Sansa sets Ramsey Bolton’s own dogs on him to eat him alive, starting with his face). And finally, the most ruthless killer of all the women – and perhaps in all of Westeros: Arya Stark. She has transformed from a feisty little girl into a lethal assassin, systematically taking out all of the people who were on her infamous “list.” The lesson: Don’t piss off Arya Stark.
- Beware excessive coddling of your children.
There have been many frightening images in “Game of Thrones,” but none perhaps so frightening as Robin Arryn suckling at his mother’s teet. Lysa Arryn never wants her son to leave the Vale because it is simply too “unsafe;” she would rather have him suckle at her breast perhaps for all eternity. The problem with that is, in reference to point #1: nowhere is safe. Lysa’s home is eventually entered (and she is eventually entered), by the man that she has had a crush on for decades: Peter Bailish, or Littlefinger. She is killed in short order by the man who married her and said he loved her – all of which was merely a lie to get Littlefinger closer to what he really wants: the Iron Throne and Sansa Stark. So Lysa’s excessive coddling of her child, versus giving him the skills necessary to cope in the world, lead him to not only being the biggest pussy in Westeros – but they also leave him in the hands of the man who killed her: Littlefinger. A little bit like Ned Stark leaving his daughters in the hands of the Lannisters, eh? Only their coping skills are much different than Robin’s, as they have been given more freedom to grow and roam. The lesson: Don’t confuse coddling with love; children need to learn skills and be given freedom as much as they need love.
- No matter how much you want to – you cannot protect your children from bad things happening to them.
Though Cersei is a rather universally hated character (though I think many of us secretly love her), there is no doubt that her children are the ones she would protect at all costs, that she would crush her enemies for. (This is why the end of Season 6 is so surprising, because she seems to have overridden this love for the sake of power – but that is another story.) If even Cersei Lannister, one of the most powerful women in all of Westeros, can’t even protect her children – than who can? By the end of Season 6, all three of her children are dead; her most awful prophecy has come true. And we are left with that horrible truth, that does not resonate any less just because Westeros is a fictional place: that we cannot protect our children from all harm, no matter how hard we try; it is simply not possible. The lesson: As Wayne Dyer says, “Let go, and let God.” You do all you can, but at some point, there is a letting go – the realization that you are not in complete control of the universe and the will of God, or the gods, or the Lord of Light, or the Seven, You get the point.
- Never underestimate women.
Enter Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons. Of all the women, she has arguably been underestimated most – and yet, has turned around and either proven them wron or burned them to shreds. First, it was her own brother who sold her to a Dothraki warlord and told her that he didn’t care if the entire Dothraki army raped her; she later watched her husband burn him alive. Then, her own Dothraki people left her after her husband died, believing her too weak to rule. She then walked into a fire, only to emerge hours later naked, with three baby dragons. Those same Dothraki people later came to not only follow, but worship her, after she managed to burn alive all of the misogynistic Dothraki warlords, all by herself. And finally the ruler of Astapor, who sold her his Unsullied Army in exchange for one of her dragons, and who spoke of her as a “whore” and a “bitch” among other choice words. She serves him up one of the worst ass-whoopings in the history of the show: by commanding her dragon to burn him alive, as “dragons are not slaves,” then by proceeding to have her new Unsullied men slay their former masters. The lesson: Winter may be coming, but even more importantly and perhaps more dangerously: the women of Westeros are coming. Underestimate them at your own peril.