What is and isn’t moral has ebbed and flowed throughout history. Things that make us cringe today, or even write laws in an attempt to prohibit, weren’t always seen in such light.
In the Wild West days, it was perfectly acceptable to shoot a man down simply because he lobbed an insult at you. In the 1600s, women who were considered witches were regularly burned at the stake by those who were supposedly the most moral of all.
In the Seven Kingdoms of Game of Thrones, the loser of a sword fight is never a homicide victim. He or she was simply not as good as the opposition or perhaps just had some bad luck and stepped into a fatal thrust. Here’s a look at the main houses in the Seven Kingdoms and their strengths and weaknesses, which sometimes blur the lines between good and bad, moral and immoral, and right and wrong.
House Lannister is arguably the main clan in Westeros. They have their good and bad elements, with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) playing the role of the good guy and the rest of the clan picking the slack on the other side of the coin.
And yet, even Tyrion Lannister has some issues that might call his morals into question. He likes prostitutes, as an example, and is frequently in the company of a few. By today’s standards he’d likely be the focus of a vice squad investigation. In the Seven Kingdoms, however, prostitutes are everywhere, there’s no law against it, and no one really gives the whole subject a second thought.
In the end, Tyrion is a decent enough fellow who really wants nothing more than to be the smartest guy in the room, which he’ll frequently try to establish by out-talking and out-thinking the others who are present. Vanity and price will most certainly be his moral downfall.
House Baratheon is filled with as many good and bad people as any other house in the Westeros universe. In fact, they really do represent the moral ambiguities—moral grey areas if you will—seen throughout the entire series.
The now-dead Robert, became King of the Seven Kingdoms after taking out his anger on Aerys II Targaryen. He was a fierce warrior, got his throne, and turned into a fat, miserable bastard who surrounded himself with ye- men. He pissed away a good thing, and if that doesn’t have some sort of moral underpinnings then I’m not sure what does.
Robert’s older brother, Stannis, and younger brother, Renly, tried to legitimately establish themselves as rightful heirs after Robert’s death. Renly was always seen as the rightful heir and eventually does declare himself King of the Seven Kingdoms, even though at that time Stannis may have had the better claim.
Their connection with, and support of the Lannisters and King Joffrey does knock some of the luster off their overall goodness. Perhaps it’s a bit of Sun Tzu’s art of war, you know, the part about keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer. That’s the sort of mentality that permeates the Houses in the Seven Kingdoms.
In the Westeros universe, nothing is really as it seems; good people do lousy things and bad people routinely succeed through rape, pillage, murder, and mayhem.
One of the smaller families in the Seven Kingdoms, House Tyrell , led by Margaery Tyrell, has shown time and again that they lean toward the kinder, gentler end of the spectrum. Margaery not only believes that charity begins at home, she puts it into practice by genuinely helping—or at least trying to help—the people at King’s Landing.
She also stood firmly behind her Kingly husband, Renly Baratheon, in his bid to overthrow the miserable and nasty King Joffrey. Keenly aware of Renly’s homosexual tendencies and his fancy for her brother, she nonetheless overlooked it because she wanted a kid out of the deal.
Sadly, when Renly was killed she turned to House Lannister as an ally and sought to marry King Joffrey to fulfill her many ambitions. Her allegiance with Lannister is a bit perplexing, but again, in the Seven Kingdoms survival is the real deal, and uneasy alliances and questionable behavior are really nothing more than par for the course.
It’s always a blur of good and bad, right and wrong, moral and immoral in the Westeros universe.
What can we say about the House of Stark that isn’t so true for many goodly families throughout the ages? They don’t like the Lannisters and tend to seek justice in all their affairs. In fact, “fair” is a good way to describe the Stark clan, and in particular the late Eddard “Ned” Stark.
They tell the truth, even if it means they might have to face the music for their actions. They do put their money where their mouth is, and they take responsibilities for their actions. This is essentially what led to Joffery killing Ned, but he died with honor.
All that aside, it’s quite inexplicable they’d start a war—and I mean full-blown engagement—out of spite and revenge, but that’s exactly what they did. Most wars are morally reprehensible in the first place, but to just go out and start one, after hanging your hat on things like honor, family, and justice, is a serious pox on House Stark.
So, there’s at least a little good in everyone, right? Well, that might not be the case with House Greyjoy, led by Lord Balon Greyjoy of the Iron Islands, a truly bleak and Decemberish chain of islands. Living in the Iron Islands would cause even the best of folks to eventually do something they don’t want to do just to survive, but good and moral people would probably pack their bags and move to an easier place to live, right?
The Greyjoy clan has taken to the harshness of their lands and used it to their advantage, which works to the disadvantage of the people they’re about to rape, pillage, and plunder for the things they need to survive.
Theon Greyjoy had the chance to be the lone good guy from the house. As the ward of Ned Stark, Theon was exposed to a lot of good things in Westeros, and it tempered his overall demeanor, disposition, and attitude.
But unfortunately, Theon ends up making some really stupid decisions. When it’s all wrapped up in a pretty bow, there’s little good to say about House Greyjoy. They’re a miserable lot not blessed with the ability to empathize. Mental health professionals call these people sociopaths.
Perhaps we can hold harmless the person who legitimately goes mad, like King Aerys II Targaryen from House Targaryen, but that doesn’t mean we have to like the things they do, right? After all, Aerys wasn’t nicknamed the Mad King for no reason.
Dany Targaryen is one of the really good people of the Seven Kingdoms, and even she has done some questionable things, like punishing Mirri by having her burnt at the stake. She also had to snuff her husband, Khal Drogo, after he went catatonic and pretty much exhibited no brain activity. It was a mercy killing to be sure, but many people would find that morally objectionable.
In the final analysis of House Targaryen, they’re no better or worse than any other House in the Seven Kingdoms, with the exception, of course, of House Greyjoy.
Who’s your favorite Westeros House? Who’s your most hated? Cast your vote and see what other fans of Game of Thrones think about the moral ambiguities so rife and at-the-ready in the Seven Kingdoms.
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