Game of Thrones Survivor's Guide: Winter is here. Who has what it takes to survive?
The seven kingdoms are at war, and the characters from far and wide seem to be heading towards Westeros for the Iron Throne. Ravaged by war and winter, Westeros is in poor condition to play host to those descending upon it. With the increasing proximity of the impending war, let's see how people survive on the lands of Westeros.
In a land where deaths are more frequent than Donald Trump’s tweets on fake news, learning how to defend yourself from physical harm is on top of the list. One's age, birth or station doesn't count when in a fight. Am I right Arya?
1. Arya Stark
A classic tomboy, this firebrand wanted precisely what she was denied, and went after it. Her persistence in her 'dance lessons' gave her the required skills to escape the Red Keep after her father Ned and the entire Stark clan was butchered by the Lannisters. After meeting Jaqen and travelling to Braavos to hone her skills from the Faceless Men. Now, she is back to exact her revenge and cross people off her list.
2. Jon Snow
Trained by a proper master-at-arms, Jon was equipped to fight even when he joined the Night's Watch. From fighting wights and wildlings, Lord Commander Snow evolved through the course of the series. His military acumen came to the fore when he defended the enormous wildling army long enough for Stannis Baratheon and his army to come to the Watch’s aid. Jon also is the only person alive in Westeros to fight and kill a White Walker, albeit with the help of his Valerian steel sword Longclaw.
Our favourite sellsword, just like any other, has one primary skill - killing. He is not a tourney champion, but has beheaded many of those. Rather than performing for applause, he is paid to kill, and is ruthless in his way.
Being a Turncoat
Loyalty may be a virtue, but has very little value in Westeros. Indeed, only sellswords and whores seem to keep adrift with the tide, due to having no attachments.
1. House Tyrell
The Tyrells started the war by supporting Renly Baratheon, and got Margaery married to him. Upon his untimely demise, they immediately switched camps and allied themselves with the Lannisters. Margaery married Joffrey, and was widowed yet again during her wedding. Finally, she was married to Tommen. After all, the face doesn't matter, only the title of King does. After the death of her heirs, Lady Olenna joined forces with the Martells and pledges allegiance to Dannerys against Cersie and the Lannisters.
2. House Bolton
The Boltons began as bannermen to the Starks, but joined forces with the Lannisters to orchestrate the Red Wedding. Roose Bolton personally kills Robb Stark in a public display of his betrayal. Fans of the Stark family would have particularly enjoyed when Roose himself was killed by his bastard Ramsay. Talk about what goes around comes back around.
3. Theon Greyjoy
Brought up by the Starks, Theon did not remember much about the Iron Islands. After returning to his birthplace as a messenger for Robb, Theon is ridiculed as being a lapdog of the Starks which infuriates him. He tries to prove to his clan that he is Iron-born by betraying the Starks and capturing Winterfell for House Greyjoy with disastorous consequences. He fails to defend Winterfell when attacked by Ramsay and his army and is then imprisoned and tortured by the sadistic Ramsay. And he loses his penis. Talk about paying for your sins.
Although, Theon kinda redeemed himself when he helped Sansa get away from Ramsay in the finale of season 5. In season 6, we saw him reuniting with his sister Yara as they pledged their allegiance to Daenerys and sails towards Westeros for the war.
Willingness to do what it takes
When things become dire, the ruthless ones do what needs to be done - be it for their own sake, or for the greater good. As this is Westeros, there are rarely any selfless acts, and most of these involve killing.
1. Catelyn Stark
Catelyn Stark, or the person with the maximum right to say 'I-told-you-so' to her family, did what was in her capacity and freed the Kingslayer in exchange for her girls from King's Landing. In spite of knowing well that the rest of the Stark bannermen would not see this exchange as fair, she resorted to the only means available to her. Unfortunately, the Red Wedding shattered the possibility of a family reunion.
2. Snow and Qhorin Halfhand
In season Two, the Nights Watch led by Lord Commander Mormont set out beyond the wall to hunt for wildlings. During a scouting mission, Jon and the legendary Qhorin Halfhand are overcome by wildlings. Knowing that Jon could spy on the wildlings for the Watch, Qhorin tells Jon to fight and kill Qhorin to show the wildling party that Jon has truly relinquished the ways of the Watch. Against his will, Jon kills Qhorin Halfhand and joins the wildlings while pretending to have deserted the Night's Watch.
3. Ramsay Bolton
Ramsay Bolton has proven to be ruthless and sadistic in various ways. After his father marries Walda Frey, Ramsay realises that a true-born heir would scupper his chances of succeeding Roose as the head of the Bolton House. Knowing that he wouldn't be able to do as he pleased with his father alive, he stabs Roose lets his bloodthirsty hounds loose on his stepmother Lady Walda and her newborn son thus becoming the ruler of the North.
4. Daenerys Targaryen
Daenerys’ success is largely built on two things. The fact that she has three deadly dragons and the love and adulation of her subjects. She is a beloved leader because she is unafraid to do what is best for her people even if it requires her to topple practices that have been going on for generations, such as slavery. However, after the Sons of Harpy kill Ser Barristan, Dany decides to reopen the fighting pits and marry a Meereenese noble to bring peace to her city. Yet, her saviour complex might get in the way of doing what is truly needed, particularly in Westeros.
5. Cersei Lannister
In the promo for Season 7, we hear Cersei say, “Whatever stands in our way, we will defeat it. We are the last Lannisters. The last ones who count.” At the end of the Season 6, we saw Cersei blow up the Tyrells and the High Sparrow in the Red Keep effectively erasing all obstacles that stood in her way. This line echoes what she had once told Joffrey in Season 1: 'Everyone who isn't us is an enemy'.
Evidently, she became tired of letting the small council rule over her and plans a purge which hands her total control over the kingdom. Tragically, poor little Tommen commits suicide on witnessing his mother’s horrific actions which leads to Cersei proclaiming herself as the Queen of Westeros.
The chief ability that a person needs to possess in order to survive in Westeros is to be able to manipulate people or situations. Possession of other skills is not as important if you can get someone else to do the work for you.
1. Cersei Lannister
All Hail the Queen of manipulation, Cersei of house Lannister!
She gets people to do what she wants using any means possible including sleeping with people to get things done her way notably when she uses Lancel Lannister to kill Robert Baratheon. She bribes witnesses including Shea at Tyrion's trial in order to get him sentenced. Always thinking a step further, she named Ser Gregor Clegane as the champion for trial by combat against Tyrion which lead to the brutal death of Oberyn Martell, who had sworn to take revenge for his sister’s death at the hands of the Lannisters. She tries to manipulate the High Sparrow (which backfires on her) and gets the Crown's debt pardoned by restoring the Faith Militant. She also makes her dislike of Margaery evident to her, and they engaged in a tussle over Tommen. Finally, during the final few episodes, she walked around unassumingly without interacting much, and lulled everyone into a false sense of security before her final stroke. For her to do all she has done and survive it, she sure deserves recognition for being a badass bitch.
2. Sansa Stark
The older Stark girl remains a novice at manipulation but learns a lot by observing Littlefinger, Olenna Tyrell and Cersei, who are people she had once trusted to deliver her from her perceived miserable state. Now back at Winterfell, perhaps a bit older and wiser it remains to be seen as to who is truly managing the other - Littlefinger or Sansa.
3. Petyr Baelish
Who truly knows his game? His only weaknesses are Tully women, his exaggerated sense of self and the possibly unfounded belief that he is the one controlling the game. We never really know what’s going on in his mind and apparently, neither does anyone in Westeros. He betrays Ned, plots the murder of Joffrey which sets off a chain reaction that ultimately leads to the death of Tywin Lannister, Oberyn Martell and leads to Tyrion escaping from Westeros with the help of Jaimie and Varys.
He also forges the marriage alliance between Sansa Stark and Ramsay Bolton, and wants to take the Iron Throne with Sansa. If anyone is capable of ruining the Stark family reunion, chances are it would be Lord Petyr Baelish from the Fingers.
4. Lord Varys
The stone in the shoe for Littlefinger, Varys has been playing the game much longer than Petyr has. They find themselves supporting very different houses (Baelish is for the Starks and Varys is for the Targaryens). They are both adept at knowing the other's game and countering it, and are possibly the true power players - the ones without visible power. Varys helps Tyrion escape and in season 6, it is revealed that he serves Dany as he brokers a pact between the Tyrells and the Martells. If Westeros was to turn into a democracy, these guys will be the ones who will control the will of the people.
5. Tywin Lannister
A master manipulator, Tywin manages to get Walder Frey & Roose Bolton to betray their own liege lord. He was calculating and ruthless in his decisions and could control his children against their will and used them as pawns by getting Tyrion married to Sansa, and trying to get Cersei to remarry in order to get allies. He even managed to get House Martell to King's Landing with the promise of Ser Gregor's head.
6. Tyrion Lannister
Forever having a way with words, Tyrion manages to get out of sticky situations by gambling with high stakes on calculated odds. He convinces Bronn to fight as his champion at the Eyrie, uproots Cersei's supporters in favour of his own without her realising it, and devises the city's defenses using wildfire against Stannis' forces. He is the only one who understands that compromise is needed in trying to stop slavery and violence, and contracts with the slavers of Yunkai, Astapor and Volantis to abolish it in 7 years. Now in the service of Daenerys as her Hand, Tyrion sails to Westeros to fight against his brother and sister for the Iron throne.
Ned Stark was the paragon of virtue and moral goodness - and see where that got him (and gave us our first taste of the nature of the show). Catelyn was more skeptical than he was, but was never heeded, and ended up dead as well. Bran may have psychic abilities, but remains at the mercy of his loyal, yet dwindling friends. Like his father (or is it uncle?) Ned Stark, Jon prizes loyalty and morality as the highest virtues. Even though he has fought off White Walkers and wights, as the King of the North, Jon will need to be vary of manipulation and backstabbing, particularly with Littlefinger around, if he dreams of restoring House Stark to its former glory.
7. Tommen Baratheon
Tommen was the poor Lannister boy who believed in good and right. He was controlled by his mother for too long, and began to try to express himself and shake off her yoke. All he did was get tangled in the games played between his wife Margaery and his mother, as a result of which both Margaery and Tommen live no more.
With Season 7 coming out, it will be interesting to see who emerges as the victor and who is vanquished in the Game of Thrones.
Author's note: Cersei has a quality, and not a gender-specific term, the bitch-trait, that everyone must aspire to possess, even if not to get the Iron Throne.