When I realized Mothering Sunday was approaching, I wondered if I might give the annual mum-themed post a pass this year. I’ve written about TV matriarchs several times now and I figured I’ve covered that ground rather thoroughly.
But recently I watched Game of Thrones with my son and have wanted to write about it in some capacity. Granted it’s not a British series. However, with the number of UK actors in the cast and a substantial amount of it being shot in Northern Ireland, I think it’s fair game for my blog.
One thing I noted about this show from the start was the relatively large number of strong, powerful female characters featured in it so it occurred to me that marrying Mothering Sunday with this epic fantasy might just be the way to go this time around. That being said, strength is a relative term which can bring out the best or the worst in a mother. Let’s take a look at how the following characters chose to utilize their tenacity and internal fortitude, shall we?
In my book, Cersei Lannister one of the most hated characters in all of Westeros and environs. The only thing worse than this heartless, unforgiving woman is her son, King Joffrey, an alarmingly sadistic monarch with an exaggerated sense of self-importance (or as he’s known in my house, that little weasel-faced bastard).
And while the creation of a demon child can not always be attributed exclusively to the parents, I think we know that Joffrey learned much of his narcissistic attitudes and disdain for his subjects from dear old mom. But Cersei’s not blind to her son’s cruelty and I’m sure she’s smart enough to fear the child despite her love for him. To her credit her other children seem to be adequately normal human beings at this time.
I believe Cersei’s problems date back to the loss of her mother (she died giving birth to Cersei’s younger brother Tyrion). Her lack of a maternal figure and the presence of a domineering, power-hungry father molded her into a vindictive, calculating Queen who seeks “solace” with her brother and doesn’t truly know how to use her heart.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) image credit HBO
Catelyn Stark, on the other hand, is an exemplary mother who truly knows what it is to sacrifice for your children. After the execution of her husband Ned for treason, her oldest son Robb resolves to dethrone Joffrey and bring the justice his father sought to the Seven Kingdoms. While Catelyn supports her first born’s intentions, she has five children to protect. Her instinct to save her daughters Sansa and Arya from the Lannisters forces her to go against Robb’s orders and secretly has their prize prisoner, Jaime Lannister, released in hopes his family will free her girls as well.
In the end, Catelyn does what all mothers are certain they would do if in the same situation. When her family and cohorts are ambushed at the infamous Red Wedding she first takes their attacker’s wife hostage and then heartbreaking pleads with him to let her son go and offers to remain a hostage in his place. Her heroics alas are all to no avail, but we all felt a twinge of recognition as she attempted to save her own flesh and blood.
Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley)
image credit HBO
By her own admission, Catelyn could not find it in her heart to love her husband’s bastard son, Jon Snow, thus proving no mother is perfect.
Even the most uneducated and unworldly of women have motherly instincts. Gilly Craster is no exception. Forced to live in an incestuous, wildling cult, Gilly and the other women have learned that male babies are not part of the family, but instead are given up as a sacrifice to the terrifying White Walkers. While her father/husband is providing lodging to the men of the Night’s Watch, Gilly has the sad misfortune of giving birth to a boy.
Luckily for her, she finds a protector in watchman, kind-hearted Samwell Tarly. She risks everything she’s known by first hiding her son from Craster and then escaping with Sam at an opportune moment when a battle has broken out in the compound. When Sam sends her away to Mole’s Town to keep her and the baby safe, Gilly uses her wits to hide from a band of wildlings who attack the village. She then finds her way back all on her own to The Wall and to her trusted friend, Sam.
Gilly (Hannah Murray)
image credit HBO
Olenna Tyrell is the matriarch of an influential family and the grandmother of the future Queen Margaery. Technically that means she is a mother even though she doesn’t speak very well of her son Mace or any other man for that matter. Lady Olenna is the Game of Thrones’ equivalent of Downton Abbey‘s Dowager Countess – both are witty, sarcastic and feel they’ve earned the right to speak their minds. She is an expert on court politics and knows how to manipulate the system. She is also fiercely protective of her granddaughter and has taken some rather extreme measures to see that Margaery is safe and well-placed in the power structure of Westeros.
Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg)
image credit HBO
Lysa Arrryn could not be more different from her sister Catelyn Stark. Both have lost their husbands to the Lannisters’ treachery yet Catelyn soldiers on for her children while her sister has retreated into madness, which is putting it politely. The woman is batshit crazy, if you like. She still breastfeeds her beloved son Robin despite the fact that he looks to be eight or nine years old. The boy’s a bit touched as well to say the least. She caters to his whims and encourages him to delight in their special form of execution, pushing people to their death through the Moon Door. Another entitled sadistic nobleman; that’s just what is needed in the Seven Kingdoms…
Lysa Aaryn (Kate Dickie) image credit HBO
Spoiler: We find out later that Lysa was in cahoots with a lover and killed her own husband so she can’t blame her irrational behavior on the grief after all.
Daenerys Targaryen, while not mother to a human child, is known as The Mother of Dragons. In fact, it is an official part of her extremely long and quite pretentious name. How did she earn this unusual title you might ask? She walked into a fire with three dragons’ eggs and came out the other side unharmed and with a trio of dragon hatchlings. As you can imagine, even in a fantasy world, dragons are the stuff of legend yet this remarkable young wannabe queen had the power to bring mythical creatures into reality.
For a while, the dragons are like her children. She dotes over them and they adore her. But just like a human offspring, the adolescent dragons become more and more uncontrollable as time goes on. The reptiles’ aggression moves from rowdy fire play to stealing livestock. It isn’t until one of the dragons incinerates an innocent child that the sanctimonious Khaleesi realizes how truly difficult it is to be a mother even to children of another species.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)
image credit HBO
In the Game of Thrones world, being a mother isn’t about baking cookies, carpooling, or attending soccer games. It’s a deadly serious business what with rival houses partaking in poisoning , birthing demon assassins, and throwing children out of tower windows. Survival of your family line is of utmost importance and a courageous, smart and selfless mother is key to that goal.
Tell your mums you love them and appreciate their sacrifices today! Even if they didn’t have to kill, lie, scheme or die for you, you can be sure that they would.