Thursday, 31 May 2012

House Symbols in “A Song of Ice and Fire”

In December last year, I wrote an entry about how the House Words used in the George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series were incredibly clever plot devices in terms of the actual plot concerning the members of each house. Having thought more about the role of the houses in the series, I have noticed in more depth that the animals used as heraldry for each of the more important houses are great symbols for the way of life each house adopts as well as the natures of the characters who originate from these houses. Within this entry, I am going to write out my observations concerning each of the houses and possibly explore them in a little more depth.

So here we go!


House Stark

The house from which the majority of the protagonist characters originate, House Stark is the northern most house in the Seven Kingdoms, based in the stronghold of WInterfell and closest to the Wall. The symbol for this house is the direwolf, which for those who do not know is an exceptionally large breed of wolf. Basically, the symmetry between the characters and this animal is that of the pack mentality. Wolves work in packs and, likewise, the Starks are a family oriented house, perhaps more so than the other houses. Characters such as Catelyn Stark, the mother figure of the family, is completely driven out of the desire to protect her children, caring little for justice or honour when compared to the lives of her children. The direwolf is also a wild animal, which reflects the nature of the Starks and the fact that Eddard Stark, husband to Catelyn and the father of the family, keeps to the “Old Gods”, which are nature deities, similar to pagan spirits. The direwolf is a representation of the wild nature of the Starks, yet also their focus on their own family.

House Lannister

The antagonist house of the series, House Lannister are the house of wealth who are represented by a Golden Lion. The very colour of this lion is representative of the wealth of the family, which is a precursor to their lifestyles, which are dominated by excess and gluttony. For example, Tyrion’s sexual excess is given quite a substantial amount of attention within the story. If we also consider the fact that the Lion is considered to be the king of the beasts, and then note the fact that it is the Lannisters who come to dominate the Iron Throne. Just as the lion is considered to be the ruler of the animal kingdom, so do the Lannisters claim a position of power. Cersei Lannister is the mother figure within the family and, like a mother lion, she is fierce when it comes to her children. For example, the dread she feels over having to send away her daughter and the way in which she demands that her son is returned to her rather than fighting the battle of Blackwater. Lions are considered to be proud creatures, and pride can definitely be considered to be the Lannister sin. Cersei has such over confidence in the might of her house that she is unable to comprehend the fact that they might lose King’s Landing, at least in the early stages. Also, if we consider Tywin Lannister, we can see that his character is one of great pride, for example the way in which he shaves her hair rather than allow himself to be seen in a state The Lion is the pride, wealth and status of House Lannister.

House Greyjoy

The Greyjoys are a more simple house than the others. In essence they are an Island people who live in a remote location and gain their riches through killing and plundering of other places. Their animal is a Sea Kraken. This reflects their dependence on the sea for their power, as well as their offensive nature. Likewise, the Kraken is a cold and harsh creature, much like the Iron Islands, where the Greyjoys live. Their culture is as harsh and as unforgiving as the sea and the animal which represents them.

House Arryn

House Arryn feature little in the central plot of the series, at least in the earlier volumes. Their lands are the eastern reaches of the Seven Kingdoms, with their keep being a fortress set atop a mountain. Their animal is a bird, and like the bird, House Arryn spend most of their time situated high above the other characters, remaining relatively quiet and unobtrusive. However, during the earlier portions of the story, House Arryn do act as a catalyst for many of the events of the novel. Without them having played this part, things could have been quite different.

House Tyrell

Ruling a huge portion of the south from their castle at Highgarden, House Tyrell are not represented by an animal, but instead by a rose. The rose is representative of their youth and their beauty, for two of the most prominent Tyrell characters are Margery and Loras, both of which are young, beautiful characters. They are the epitome of summer, which makes them relatively weak characters when you consider the fact that most of the novel is building the tensions between summer and winter, with the latter consistently gaining the upper hand. The rose expresses their beauty and youth, whilst also reflecting their affinity for the south and for summer.


Well, that’s all I have for now!

Thanks for reading!

No comments:

Post a Comment