Marriage-Making in ASOIAF Meta
A while ago, @warsofasoiaf told me I should write a guide on how to think about what I write about often here on the Tumblr: marriage speculation in the world of ASOIAF. So I’m finally sitting down to do that. I’m not pretending this is the only way you can write about this stuff, or everyone does it this way, just how I think about these sorts of questions. Think of it more suggestion than anything else.
The first thing I do when I get this kind of question is think about the particular time and place in question. It’s critical for me that I identify when and where this character is whose marital fate is being discussed. To take one example: Sansa at the beginning of AGOT is a far different marital pawn than Sansa during ACOK, and these two girls are very different indeed from Sansa, say, right now in the story. Likewise, it’s an entirely different ballgame if Sansa is sent back to her mother and brother in ACOK or early ASOS, or if she were kept at court as in OTL, or if she were sent somewhere completely separate. For another example, and something I actually wrote about: a marriage between a Mormont and a Hightower would almost certainly ordinarily be out of the cards, but for Jorah and Lynesse, the circumstances were the perfect storm of acceptability. As much as possible, I try to work within the time and place context of the question - what led up to that point such as would influence a marital decision for any character.
That leads to my second point when making marital arrangements in ASOIAF meta: identifying the parties involved. What sort of status the parties bring to the table - for good or ill - is going to influence what sort of marital alliance can be made. So, for example, if I were talking about Brynden Rivers’ sisters, Mya and Gwenys, I would have to keep in mind that they were the daughters of the king and his most popular mistress (who was herself of noble birth), that they were born bastards, and that they were legitimated: bastard prejudice is strong in Westeros, which might cut them off from marrying lords or heirs, but being noble on both sides of their lineage and legitimated, they might have well been able to marry younger sons of fairy notable lords. Similarly, when one (or both) of the parties is heir to his or her seat, special consideration needs to be taken: the crown is never going to sit for two paramount regions combining into a single unit with the marriage of their heirs (so that mooted marriage between Edmure and Arianne would have involved one of them, probably Arianne, giving up their claims to his or her seat).
Of course, the main parties involved would be the man and woman who will actually be tying the knot, but in very few cases will these two be the only actors to consider. To give an example: in my opinion, there’s no way one can talk about the marriage of Rhaegar - either as it happened IOTL or an alternative to his betrothal to Elia - without discussing King Aerys II. It was Aerys who so despised and feared his son and heir, and the rival court he created; Aerys who sent cousin Steffon to the Free Cities to find Rhaegar a Valyrian-blooded bride; Aerys, ultimately, who had final say over whom the crown prince wed. For another example, any discussion of Robert marrying after the Rebellion has to include the interests of the newly victorious rebel coalition; they had helped bring Robert to power, and would expect the new king to reflect that in his marriage. For another example, when talking about the marriages of Ned and Catelyn’s children, I try to bring up the expectation of Ned’s northern bannermen: they had been denied the hands of lordly Stark maidens for several generations (the last Stark daughters to wed northmen being Arranna and Aregelle, granddaughters of Cregan the One-Day Hand via his son Edric and his half-niece Serena), and might have expected that, with two Stark daughters from Ned and Catelyn, at least one would be given to a prominent bannerman.
That leads to the last, and probably the most important consideration when writing marriage metas: what do the involved parties want out of the marriage. Identifying what drives those arranging the marriage is crucial to making a realistic match for any character. So, for example, when I talked about Jaime’s proposed marriage to Elia, I thought about both the personal and political reasons Tywin would have seen Lysa as a much better match for Jaime than Princess Elia. Similarly, in talking about Daenerys and Drogo, I discussed what might have made Drogo accept a penniless exiled royal like Daenerys for his khaleesi. If I talk about Rhaegar and his search for a bride, I always highlight what I think the king wanted most: a bride of Valyrian blood but uttery without wealth or great allies that could threaten him.
Again, these are just guidelines, but they are what I use to think about AU marriages in ASOIAF or to discuss why certain betrothals or marriages did, in fact, happen.
The Queen Regent (NFriel)