Do you have a favorite character? Do you have a favorite non-pov character?
Thanks for the question!
Favorite POV character: Sansa Stark. No contest. I love her characterization, her genre archetype, her chapters’ themes, her inner monologue and her fascinating journey throughout the books.
I love her characterization and, hell, I even appreciate it in A Game of Thrones. Yes, she was a snob and a brat who wanted things to be nice, the knights to be chivalrous, the queens to be graceful and the princes to be sweet, but she’s eleven at that time and all that idealism and naivety only made Ned’s execution all the more heartbreaking, opening the trapdoor underneath Sansa and causing her to fall into that horrific reality of King’s Landing.
Also, it’s really nice to have a classic princess that still has substance. In fact, I think Sansa was my first of the archetype to be given a rich density of character. I know, by now, Sansa’s genre archetype is old hat and has been done time and time again, given a more deconstruction-conscious fantasy market, but Sansa still calls to an inherent part of me that I’ll get to later on below.
Her chapters’ themes? Internal resistance, idealism, abuse, survival, story-and-song thinking, lies, knighthood, femininity, navigating the rules of high society and patriarchy, empathy, romanticism, the eventual disillusionment from reality and kindness-under-pressure… they’re universal (and even relevant to this day) and I can always return to them whenever I reread a book.
Her internal monologue is super crucial to the heart of Sansa’s characterization because A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords constantly play in her head. Passages and pages can turn as her mind whirls and the gears in her mind start to work. Anyone who tells you that Sansa is just a passive pawn clearly doesn’t read hard enough because she’s making active resistance in her mind against the Lannisters and thinking over the political implications of letters sent to her, trying to figure out if they can be trusted and which one she can take up while being safe.
She has an amazing character arc that takes her from a naive, head-in-the-clouds girl to an abused political prisoner actively resisting her captors in her mind to a woman taking control of a castle’s household under the guise of being bastard-born, all while trying to hold onto her humanity and retain a measure of kindness when she’s exposed to more and more horrors in the upper class of society.
Also, I personally think she has one of the best supporting casts in the story, all of the characters in her story pertaining to and enriching her narrative going from Cersei, Loras, Jeyne, Margaery, Olenna, Tyrion, Dontos, Littlefinger, Lysa, Myranda, Mya and Sandor, all of them challenging, adding, compounding upon her worldview, complicating her ideals and turning into her a fascinating person who’s increasingly seeing the strings of political theater and is going to start utilizing them with purpose.
Lastly, her want for there to be true knights? Breaks my heart because I constantly struggle with my ideals like that too. There are good values worth standing up for, but not everyone’s going to live up to them… but that doesn’t make the effort itself worthless. If the world fails us, then we should endeavor to live up to those ideals ourselves. There are monsters, abusers and indifferent people in the world, but the best we can do is hope to outlive them, hope to do it while being better than them.
In short, I will always be here for “He was no true knight.” and “If I am ever a queen, I’ll make them love me.”
Favorite non-POV character: Stannis Baratheon. Let’s see, grumpy, pragmatic, bitter, deadpan, grim, strict, yet fair, meritocratic-leaning with an inferiority complex towards his older brother who he thinks outdoes him everywhere that matters? GEEZ, STANNIS, I DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE PRETTY MUCH ME IN ASOIAF.
But yeah, I love Stannis’ characterization so much. It’s such a multi-faceted portrait ranging from his strength (meritocratic ideology, drive towards justice, willingness to commit to good kingship) to his weaknesses (pettiness, willingness to commit to past grudges, bitterness and tactless manner of speech) and it’s such a rush to see him when his weaknesses outweigh his strengths in A Clash of Kings to later have the pendulum turned around nearing the end of A Storm of Swords.
And his character archetype is actually what I’d consider some of GRRM’s most subversive genre work. On the surface, he looks the Evil Overlord, complete with living at a grim island full of gargoyles, housing pirates, sellswords and a mysterious sorceress. He looks like the Evil Uncle because he’s rebelling against his “nephew’s rightful crown.” But the truth is far more complex, Stannis himself actually being the Cape, the man who wants to right the wrongs of Westeros, who wants to deal justice against the Lannister’s incestuous reign, who only came upon Dragonstone because he was doing his duty to his older brother.
His chapters’ themes… oh boy, they hit at me. Justice, duty, wounded pride, bitterness, past grudges, mockery from empathy, choosing from lawful or good, meritocracy, good kingship, the choice between valuing the individual or the many and complicated relationships with religion and gods… Stannis just hurts to read.
It is legitimately fist-pumping to read his character arc because it’s a rush. From a bitter, resentful, petty lord sitting at a dreary rock to a man who’s lost one of his central battles as claimant and who is torn between careening further into the abyss or committing to rising above the loss to a savior protecting the realm in truth rather than in title to a truly fascinating and worthy king who’s learning from the past, willing to take advice from all wells of knowledge and take charge to fight against the “only enemy that matters.”
And I tend to love Stannis’ supporting cast. I know we all love Davos, but I even love Melisandre because she brings an interesting facet to the philosophical/theological dialogue between the Dragonstone trio. Davos and Melisandre are constantly in conflict, externalizing the duality raging in Stannis’ heart and how he wants to conduct himself as king. And Stannis’ court also helps, being a bunch of (mostly) unlikeable, fanatic, squabbling lords and knights… who nevertheless help protect the Wall, ordered by their king, from the Free Folk attacking it.
There’s a lot of Stannis I keep coming back to, to be honest. It’s just inspiring that, amid all the destruction, death, rot and chaos of Westeros… there’s one man who’ll stand steadfast and fight for Westeros’ best interests because he’s the man you want against the Others when they come to bring the night that never ends. My One True King.
In short, I’ll always be here for "Stannis! Stannis! STANNIS!“ and "Then we will make new lords.”
Why did Robert dislike Stannis? I can't think of a reason that wouldn't also apply to Ned. The pros would be that they're both obedient and dutiful. The cons would be that Robert would find them too boring/serious. They're not the same character but I can't see what he loves about Ned that he hates about Stannis.
You’ve just put your finger on the main reason why Stannis resents Ned so much. Because yes, Stannis and Ned are not really that different which is exactly why Robert’s close friendship with Ned hurts Stannis tremendously. Ned is the brother Robert chose above Stannis which is something Stannis does not understand, he is just like me Robert, can’t you see? Why did you pick him and not me?
We don’t get an outright explanation to why Robert dislikes Stannis but considering all the talk about Stannis’ grim personality and how Stannis himself ruminates on how different he and Robert are, and how different they are viewed by others, it seems like a classic case of different personalities and temperament that created a rift between the brothers as the reserved and serious Stannis made for a disappointing prospect in companion to the lively and wild Robert. I believe it’s Robert’s fosterage at a young age that played a huge part in the chasm between the two Baratheons though. The two brothers never really built a relationship because while it’s possible for fostered children to still have a good relationship with their siblings (hence Ned’s strong attachment to his own siblings), I don’t see Robert going out of his way to stay in touch and build a relationship with Stannis, and Stannis…. well, Stannis had trouble reaching out and showing vulnerability, and the one time we hear about him doing so as a youth with Proudwing, he abruptly got smacked down by both Robert and their great uncle. So with distance, and no interest in forging a relationship, their disconnection grew.
Comparatively, while Ned shares an introverted and reserved nature with Stannis, he was Robert’s childhood and teenage companion. It was Ned that shared Robert’s new exciting life in the Eyrie, Ned that he trained with in the yard and squired alongside, Ned that he built a brotherly bond with. It’s a given that Jon Arryn took great care in fostering friendship and kinship between his two wards, and Ned’s strong family values and good relationship with his siblings surely also appealed greatly to Robert whose relationship with his own brother was aloof and distant. Ned also had experience with a Robert-like character in his brother Brandon, and so probably was quite used to dealing with (and somewhat indulging) a wild and boisterous character like Robert. And when you take into consideration Robert’s knack for romanticizing things, I’m sure the Vale felt like a grand new adventure that he got to experience, and Ned was the person he got to experience it with which built a brotherly bond between them.
With how fosterage relationships is regarded as being equivalent to blood relationships, and with Robert building relationships there that he did not have back home, Robert all but replaced his blood family with his foster one, something he displayed repeatedly and made no secret of. Once Robert found a new family in Ned and Jon Arryn, and later zeroed in on the Starks as his chosen prospective family, his relationship with Stannis was doomed. He simply couldn’t be bothered. Robert is notoriously lazy, and he had a brother he liked in Ned, one that came with a family that
actually likes each other and that Robert can be a member of, so why should he exert himself to build a relationship with a brother he
did not like, especially since all of Stannis’ good qualities existed in
Love your blog! What made you love Stannis? Was it all S. Dillane's fault?
Thank you so much! It was partly Stephen Dillane’s fault because he’s just so incredibly amazing, but I actually finished reading A Clash of Kings before I knew who was going to play Stannis. I have always been one to root for the underdog and to me, Stannis represents the hard working person who does everything right and truly cares about doing a great job, but since he isn’t flashy or self-promoting, he isn’t appreciated. I have always valued substance over image, so Stannis appealed to me for that reason. Stannis values education and has that wonderful dry, snarky humor. Of course, Cressen’s prologue made me love Stannis right away “Yes, loved you, better than Robert even, or Renly, for you were the one unloved, the one who needed me most.” Stannis has that vulnerable side that he hides from the world and I love him for that. And let us not forget two of the most compelling reasons to love Stannis, Proudwing and Davos! How can anyone read the story of Proudwing and not love Stannis? He’s a champion of wounded animals! Also, even though Stannis isn’t perfect by any means, Davos holds him in the highest regard, so much so that he once argued Stannis was ‘his god’. Stannis is a Lord who thought that a smuggler had as much right as anyone to be a knight, and not only did he think it, he made Davos a knight. For all those reasons when they chanted “Stannis! Stannis! Stannis!” at the end of ASOS, I was shouting it along with them!
I love that quote in Game of Thrones where Salladhor Saan says, “You Westerosi are funny people, A man chops off your fingers and you fall in love with him!” and Davos just laughs and smiles fondly like yeah dude you aren’t being as subtle about it as you think you are, literally everyone know you’re in love with Stannis.
If you heard there was a man who made sure his daughter was educated, despite females not being given an education in his culture, and took advice from a man from an impoverished family and a woman who was once a slave, you’d probably be a fan of this man. Now imagine that man were to be king, and though he comes from a highborn family, promises to give out justice to the powerful and powerless equally. Sound good so far? Now imagine that man was king, and though he has his own battles to fight, he gives up his holdings and marches to a land far colder than he or his men had ever encountered and uses his army to fight for the good of the realm. Good guy so far? Now imagine that four other kings want to take what is his by rite, each of these four men have no just claim and had the choice to fight in a war, while the man was forced to fight, because his claim is just, and if he didn’t fight, he, his family, and his people, would be butchered. The man in question is Stannis Baratheon, and he is the rightful king of the Andals and the First Men.
It could be argued that perhaps the kings involved in the war of the Five Kings weren’t entirely just. Balon sends his fleet to attack the north simply because he can. Renly wishes to usurp power from his brother mostly because he’s an imaginative romantic who would rather play at war than do his duty. Robb s crowned King by Greatjon Umber, and refused to refuse that title. Joffrey believes he’s the son of Robert and fights his “traitorous uncles”, and Stannis fights because his place is on the iron throne. What separates Stannis from the other kings however, is he has the realm in mind. He doesn’t send his soldiers to rape and murder, he doesn’t play favorites, he doesn’t compromise, he adapts. Not only does he prevent Victarion Greyjoy from sacking the north, which is a good thousand miles or so from Dragonstone, the Stormlands, and the Crownlands. He was also the only king to respond to the wildling threat.
Unlike the other kings, Stannis knows about war, and fights his own battles. At the Battle of the Blackwater, Stannis was first in the boat, first to draw a sword, first to storm the beach, first over the walls, last to retreat, and last back in the boat. During Roberts Rebellion, He Held Storms End against siege for months without aide or supplies. He knows his enemies, and knows the best way to deal with them.
This might just be confirmation bias on my part, but have you noticed that in his GRRM posts, GRRM usually refers to Stannis as King Stannis rather than just Stannis? Do you think there's some significance to this?
Stannis Baratheon is “the king who still cared,” the closest ASOIAF comes to a feudal monarch worth following:
“And it is important that the individual books refer to the civil wars, but the series title reminds us constantly that the real issue lies in the North beyond the Wall. Stannis becomes one of the few characters fully to understand that, which is why in spite of everything he is a righteous man, and not just a version of Henry VII, Tiberius or Louis XI.” –GRRM
And so we king’s men cry on into the cold and dark: Stannis! Stannis! STANNIS!
All hail His Grace Stannis of the House Baratheon, first of His name, king of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, the King-Who-Cared, the One-Who-Grins-His-Teeth, the Mannis, the One True King, Stan the Man, the Besteros in Westeros.