The season finale of Game of Thrones shocked a lot of people, myself included. As the credits were rolling, I proceeded to wipe my tears away and pick my jaw up off the floor.
While trying to process what I had just experienced, I remembered a quote that I had stumbled across by the author of the book series, George RR Martin. He said, “I try to make the readers feel they’ve lived the events of the book. Just as you grieve if a friend is killed, you should grieve if a fictional character is killed. You should care. If somebody dies and you just go get more popcorn, it’s a superficial experience isn’t it?”
I couldn’t agree more. Whether you watched the show or read the books, investing time into and caring about the characters is part of being a Game of Thrones fan.
There is a running joke between fans of the book and show that says you should never get too attached to a character, because it most likely means that George RR Martin will kill him or her off. Although this appears to be true more times than not, it is not just senseless killing — there is a method behind the madness.
Martin doesn’t kill off characters just for the sake of it; there is always a reason, even if the readers and viewers don’t see it yet. I like to think their deaths affect him just as they do for us. So why is it that we are devastated when a fictional character dies?
It’s because George RR Martin has created such vivid characters with such depth that their flaws and strengths are traits that we can relate to. Despite the fantasy backdrop of dragons and magic within his fictional world, there are some very real life lessons that can be learned from many of his characters.
1. Cersei Lannister
Cersei is a complex character; she can be cold, conniving and smug. At times she may even make you feel sorry for her. But more often than not, she makes you mad beyond belief. She terrorized Sansa; destroyed King Robert’s will that made Ned Regent and Protector of the Realm, and accused Ned of trying to usurp the throne from Joffrey; she attempted to sentence Tyrion to death and was looking to get rid of Margaery, just to name a few. However, you cannot deny the unwavering love she has for her children. Even though Joffrey displayed atrocious behavior while he was the King, she still continued to love and fight for him no matter what. When Tyrion had Myrcella shipped off to Dorne, she was absolutely devastated. When she was imprisoned during this season, she was desperate to see Tommen. She was always trying to secure the throne for her children to show her love. At one point, she even told Tyrion that if it were not for her children, she would have thrown herself off of the highest tower in the Red Keep. That her children were the sole reason she was alive. She would do anything for them and do anything to protect them. Her loyalty and the love she feels for her family is something that can be admired.
2. Jon Snow
Jon is inherently good. He is honorable to a fault, always looking to do what is best, which like Ned, is the very thing that led to his demise. He is a man of his word who always keeps his promises. When he took his oath to be a part of the Night’s Watch, he meant every word of it. This season, Stannis Baratheon offered him something he always wanted: to finally become a Stark. He also could help reclaim his home and become Lord of Winterfell, but he refused the offer, because he made a promise to serve the Night’s Watch until the end of his days. His loyalty and integrity are traits that we should all strive to possess. When we say we are going to do something we should follow through with it. We are nothing if we cannot keep our word.
3. Samwell Tarly
Sam is an outsider, unwanted by his father, and abused by his brothers in the Night’s Watch. He isn’t the fastest or the strongest, and he’s certainly not the best fighter, but he’s smart and spends a lot of his time buried in books, trying to absorb as much information as he can. Over time, he has proved his value, learning about the White Walkers and how they can revive the dead into wights. He’s also the one that knew about the Sally Port, which he and Gilly used to return from beyond the wall because he had read about it in an old book. Throughout the series he has shown that knowledge is power. We don’t need to be the prettiest or most athletic, if you have the power of knowledge, then you have everything.
4. Jamie Lannister
Jamie’s character has completely changed since the beginning of the series. He started out as being the one who killed the Mad King, receiving the nickname “King Slayer.” He was also the one who pushed Bran from the tower nearly killing him, and attacking Ned outside of Petyr Baelish’s brothel. However, as his character has grown and developed, he is all about redemption. He proves that even if you make mistakes, you don’t have to let them define you. Through Jamie’s interactions with Brienne of Tarth and Tyrion, he has demonstrated that he is capable of being compassionate and loyal. His character teaches such an important lesson, you are not your mistakes; they are all building blocks to help you become the best version of yourself.
5. Brienne of Tarth
Brienne is not your typical Westerosi woman. She is not feminine, petite or attractive. After her father’s failed attempts at marrying her off, she ended up becoming a member of the King’s Guard to Renly Baratheon. Her character is all about breaking pre-conceived notions. Despite frequently getting ridiculed for being a female, she has shown that she is a better fighter than most. She believes in always honoring the vows that she makes and remaining loyal to those she chooses to serve. She also has a softer side to her, giving her character even more depth. Brienne does not let society force her into being the kind of woman that they find acceptable. People should not be shoved and molded into categories just because it’s what everyone else expects.
6. Bran Stark
Bran was known for being the curious son of Ned Stark, who was often found climbing around on the castle walls of Winterfell. After being spotted by Jamie and Cersei Lannister, he was thrown from the tower causing him to become paralyzed. His disability doesn’t stop him from trying to achieve greatness. In fact, in the absence of the use of his legs, he has discovered other gifts and the power of warging (the ability to enter the minds of animals and control their actions). No matter the issues we might have, we can’t always let it be a hindrance in our lives. Instead, we should find ways to overcome it and work with it.
7. Arya Stark
Arya is an absolute fire-cracker, and she values the importance of friendship. Along her journey she has found and formed bonds with certain people who she has called her friends. From the butcher’s boy, to Syrio Forel to Jaqen H’ghar, regardless of their fates, she fiercely tries to protect her friends. Friendship is something that we all need in life. The number of friends you have in life is not important, but rather the authenticity of those relationships is what matters. Friendship is a gift that should be cherished and not taken for granted.
8. Daenerys Targaryen
Daenerys has come a long way: from a timid, naïve girl controlled by her brother, to becoming the mother of dragons and breaker of chains. She is strong and knows how to make the tough decisions, and isn’t afraid to ask those around her for help. She is constantly seeking the opinions of those on her council, weighing their opinions on varying matters. In life, we don’t have to do everything alone. It’s okay to ask for help or guidance. It doesn’t make you weak or incapable of making a decision on your own. Instead, asking for help makes you a stronger person and will make life easier to navigate.
9. Sansa Stark
Sansa is a character that has learned strength and bravery through constantly being the pawn in other people’s games. She has suffered through being shipped away from her family, betrayal, the murder of her family members and the senseless abuse from Ramsay Snow. Through her suffering she has proved that you need to remain brave and strong, no matter what the cost is. Life can be very difficult because we are constantly being challenged, but it’s the strength that shines through that defines our character.
10. Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion has been persecuted for the way he looks since his birth. Being a little person, he is constantly being mocked by those around him. People feel that because of his size, he is incompetent and of little use. But Tyrion never lets it get him down, despite constantly being ridiculed he preservers and proves his usefulness time and time again.
In the first book when Tyrion and Jon Snow met, Jon is sensitive to being called a bastard. Tyrion replies to him by saying, “Would you rather be called the Imp? Let them see that their words can cut you and you’ll never be free of the mockery. If they want to give you a name, take it, make your own. Then they can’t hurt you with it anymore.”
Tyrion lives in a world where people have such little faith in him. But he is always proving people wrong and challenging their misconceptions about him. He has shown that he can excel in diplomatic jobs like being the hand of the king or an advisor to Daenerys. When the world is working against you and people are rooting for you to fail, keep going, don’t give up. Prove them wrong.