“He was Jon Snow, bastard and oathbreaker, motherless, friendless, and damned.” –George R.R. Martin

The rest of the paragraph goes like so:

“But it made no matter, so long as he lived long enough to take his place by his brother’s side and help avenge his father.”

This character was the first character I thought of--he's even got the hair.
My thoughts immediately went to this character from The Princess Bride. He’s even got the hair. Got this from here.

I just finished reading A Game of Thrones. Martin’s constant play on the concept of “the other” is brilliant. The bastardization of each of the main characters complicates common concepts like bravery, honor, and family. We see this in how Martin names each chapter by character rather than numbers and how each chapter depicts scenes of otherness. I don’t mean to sound vague–I’m just trying not to spoil the book for you if you haven’t read it already. Here is a list of how a few characters are bastardized to give you a frame so you can think about how the other characters are bastardized:

  • Ned Stark – he doesn’t belong in King’s Landing…he can’t play their games of politics
  • Robert Baratheon – he is surrounded by golden-haired Lannisters. Like Ned, he is a warrior but not really a politician.
  • Catelyn Stark – often contemplates about the differences between Winterfell and Riverrun (the gods, her children’s looks, weather, approaches to dealing with people)
  • Cersei Lannister – a powerful woman in a man’s world

I love how Martin sets up a friendship between Tyrion and Jon, probably the two most constant bastards in the series with Jon as the most literal bastard and Tyrion as a less-than-literal one. Arya’s tomboyishness is an adorable and admirable depiction of self-bastardization.

Yes, I’m using the word bastard as much as possible because it’s fun to use it formally in an analysis.

The Wall is a fantastic symbol for this theme of “other” and “bastardization.” South of the wall are “those who belong” while the wildlings are “the other.”

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