After binge-watching Game Of Thrones for Sunday’s Season 5 premiere, Alex Yarde shares his favorite “Throneisms”.
“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.” – Nights Watch Vow
“Throneism” definition: A self-evident truth taken from HBO’s Game Of Thrones.
My “Throneisms” happened early on in the series. Lord Commander Mormont was addressing recruits into the Nights Watch, the military order which holds and guards The Wall, an immense ice structure which separates the northern boarder of The Seven Kingdoms from the lands beyond. When recruits are considered ready to take the black, they say their vows either in a sept or before a heart tree. John Snow, bastard son of Eddard Stark, ill-fated northern Lord of Winterfell, stands and declares his worship of the Old Gods of Northern Westeros:
“You would want to take your vow in front of a heart tree as your uncle did.” The Lord Commander replies.
Samwell Tarley his craven, loyal and intelligent highborn friend asks to come along. When questioned about his worship of The Old Gods, Sam replies,
“No My Lord…I was named in the Light of The Seven. As my Father was and his Father before.”
“Why would you forsake the Gods of your father and your House?” asks Master-At-Arms Thorne,
Sam replies, “The Nights Watch is my House now. The Seven have never answered my prayers. Perhaps the Old Gods will?”
It occurred to me the brotherly love between John and Sam is a perfect starting off point for an admittedly geeky discussion between fans of George R.R. Martin’s books and HBO series to mine words of wisdom that that echo or challenge our beliefs.
Kindred spirits, John and Sam are at first glance polar opposites. John, though illegitimate, was raised within a high lord’s martial household; he’s handsome and a fierce warrior. Sam is a Lording of a minor house. He’s bookish and admittedly craven but has an even temper and a quick mind. Both are outcasts sent to The Wall and through the series they forge a lasting friendship. Within the books, John goes to Maseter Amon to request Sam bypass combat training at which he’s hopelessly inept and take his vows. His reasoning summed up within an analogy of a Maesters chain and different roles needed for the Nights Watch to function:
“Iron is stronger than tin but tin is not worthless. Different Maesters links represent mastery of different disciplines as do the Stewarts, Rangers & Builders of The Watch, all have different roles and all are vital.”
John and Sam are very different, strongest where the other is weak and the support goes both ways. When word reaches Castle Black that Winterfell is threatened and John’s family is in peril, Sam talks hotheaded John out of desertion. When John is crestfallen not to follow in the footsteps of his legendary uncle Benjin Stark as a Ranger, Sam talks brash John down by pointing out what he failed to consider. “Lord Commander Mormont asked for YOU as his personal Stewart!” Sam chides, “You’ll serve him his meals, write his letters, squire for him in battle and sit with him in council. They’re grooming you for command!” Their camaraderie is an example of male friendship that arguably isn’t as prevalent today. I’ve found being vulnerable is sometimes the greatest challenge for men. I believe we must support each other and be willing to accept support when needed with gratitude and grace though we often don’t want to be seen as anything less than “The Alpha”.
Another example is when Ned Stark councils his youngest daughter Arya, at odds with her sister,:
“The long summer has ended child. Winter is coming. These are our words. The Dire Wolf is our Sigil. In winter, the lone wolf is dead. Our strength lies within the pack. We are in a dangerous place, we can’t afford to fight amongst ourselves.”
Unfortunately, in my experience the false belief that interdependence, vulnerably or tenderness between men is “unmanly” is still the dominant societal conception. It’s one I believe must be reevaluated for personal growth.
Sam’s “Throneism” resonates for me by not only exploring an enduring theological question and the sore need for male fellowship, but as a reminder that any honest work reassessing ones long standing beliefs requires an honest exchange of ideas, the willingness to reassess, let go of old ideas and embrace new ones when necessary. This is The Good Men Project mission. A conversation about what manhood looks like in the 21st Century can’t happen in a vacuum. Our exchanges are grist for the mill.
Don’t miss Game Of Thrones Season 5 on HBO catch up on the entire series anywhere on HBO GO.
all art ~ HBO