So after watching the season six premier of Game of Thrones I started working on this theory about the women that were featured and relating them to the gods in the Faith of the Seven. It felt very useful and I was pretty proud of myself when I did this mapping.
Daenerys = The Mother
Cersei = The Father
Melisandre = The Crone
Sansa = The Maiden
Arya = The Stranger
Brienne = The Warrior
This seemed so good that I spent some time trying to shoehorn another woman in The Smith role, but was unable to do it. To be honest, I know that not all these matches are perfect. Then I watched the second episode of the season and now I think I know who The Smith is.
First things first; how do I explain the choices. Well, Dany is the Mother of Dragons. Also, she is called “mhysa”, which means mother in Ghiscari, so she is sort of the mother to her people. Dany’s goal is to sit on the Iron Throne, and thereby be the “mother” of Westeros. I feel pretty good about this.
Cersei is now the de facto leader of Westeros. Sure, her son Tommen is the king but he is young and needs guidance. With his grandfather and uncle no longer available, Tommen can only rely on his mother. In the Faith of the Seven, the Father represents justice. Cersei is focused on securing justice, although her justice tends towards vengeance.
At the end of the season premier, Melisandre removes her jeweled choker and shows what we assume is her true form, that of a very old woman, a crone. The Crone symbolizes wisdom and, at least as far as magic is concerned, Melisandre has the most wisdom.
Sansa is no longer a maiden, although I would submit that as she has never had sexual intercourse by choice then this distinction is technical. Sansa is still relatively innocent, although she should be about to get over that. Mostly though Sansa is the Maiden because she still carries the idea of a time in which decency means something.
Arya is training to be an assassin. The Stranger represents death. I’m not sure more needs to be said.
I also don’t think there is more to be said about Brine as The Warrior. This is the best fit of all.
Anyway, I came up with this mapping and felt pretty good about it. I also thought about the logical next steps for each of these women and realized that those steps would involve transcending these designations. To be sure, none of these women is only the designation, and indeed these woman are more than are contemplated in the Seven. That being said, the way forward for each of them is to be more than what they have been, or more than what they have wanted to be.
So I did all this and I watched the second episode and read about the episode and there was a lot written about the limits of subverting fantasy tropes, how those tropes exist because they help impose order on a story and that a story that relies on reversing those tropes tends towards chaos. That is the danger now for Game of Thrones (and A Song of Ice and Fire). The TV series is past the point at which the story can continue to expand. There has to be an ending and to get to that ending the stories have to start coming together. Order has to be imposed.
Signs of that coming order are clear in the first two episodes of the current season. The Dorne storyline has either been closed or pared down to a manageable level. Melisandre has brought Jon Snow back from the dead. Ramsey Bolton has murdered his father, which I assume is the first step in his ultimately losing control of the North. (I don’t for a second believe the Manderlys really support the Boltons.) The only plot line that seems to go against this is Theon going back to the Iron Islands for what I assume will be a king’s moot. Even Dany going back to Vaes Dothrak makes me think that she will end up commanding a khalassar made up of all the khalassars.
The first two episodes also have me thinking about prophecy. We are conditioned in stories to expect that prophecies will be fulfilled, often in clever, unexpected ways. (You will sleep with you mother and kill your father. Seek for the sword that was broken.) A Song of Ice and Fire (and the message boards) are filled with discussions of Azor Ahai and The Prince That Was Promised, of Dany’s visions in the Houses of Undying, the riddles of Quite, and the words of the dosh khaleen, and of what Maggie the Frog predicted for Cersei. Readers and viewers both expect that these prophecies will come true and have tried to figure out ways that they can make everything fit. (Tyron a secret Targaryen?) But these episodes have made me wonder if the ultimate twist is that the prophecies are meaningless. In episode one, Jamie says “fuck prophecy.” In episode two, Davos says “fuck magic.” Is this foreshadowing that we can’t expect the inevitable satisfaction of prophecy to save Westeros from the Night’s King?
This all brings me to The Smith who represents crafts and labor, who does the work. And it is clear that there is no one character in Game of Thrones who will do the work to bring the story together, will unite Westeros against the real threat, will bring all the random storylines together. No, The Smith is not a character in the series but is instead the author, George RR Martin, and his proxies DB Weiss and David Benioff. These three writers have to undertake the difficult work to create an ending that makes sense, that satisfies the requirements of storytelling. The first two episodes of the season convey nothing more powerfully than the idea that order is going to be imposed on Westeros from without. While I don’t expect a deus ex machina, I do expect the outcome to be the work of a god, or one of seven gods. I expect that the people of Westeros and those of us watching at home are subject to the whims and wisdom of the Smith.