by Kelly Atkinson
“Tragic Characters? That would be, um, every human and beast alive and dead in Westeros, Kelly.”
And that’s accurate.
Except for maybe Tommen Baratheon and Moon Boy.
I want to ask you WHICH character(s) stood out the most vibrantly as tragic in your opinion, with the exclusion of one. We all know Tyrion Lannister has had it very badly. I’m going to refrain from including him in my top three because he’s not just a given, he’s The Given of tragic characters, or, as he would say, “Dwarves and bastards and broken things.”
I saw this happen on a Dark Tower fan page when I posed this very question, and every other response wound up being Roland.
Obviously, any response is respected and welcomed. Now, to the task.
In no particular order, Kelly’s Tragic Top Three.
First In Line
Let’s just jump in feet first with the dire wolf in the room, Ned Stark. “Poor old dead Ned.” (Shut it, Jaime. We all know you’re cool now so you’re not fooling anyone). Can I just say it once since we’re all thinking it?
FRACK YOU, LITTLE FINGER!
Anyway, while Ned’s beheading at the end of Book 1/Season 1 was a tragedy, I’m really drawn to and referring more to Ned’s honor as the catalyst of his tragic life. Eddard’s honor started betraying him with his sister Lyanna…and Jon Snow.
My theory is that Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen were secret lovers. Robert Baratheon smashed Rhaegar’s chest in with that war hammer with an awful lot of gusto. Jealous much?
I’m ahead of myself. All right, so say Lyanna gets pregnant by a gasp Targaryen. Maybe the birth of their son was a bloody one. Maybe Tywin Lannister arranged her death (kinda his M.O.).
Anyway, Lyanna hears from her brother Ned that her true love is now a pile of gore and rubies after the scene on the Trident. She is stubborn about the safety of her baby, the last trace of the man she loved.
Hypothetically she begs Ned to take in his nephew as his own son, even if the child can’t have the family name. “Promise me, Ned.” Then she dies and the honorable Lord Stark has to come up with a plan.
Maybe he had help (Varys?) pulling it off. Regardless, in the end Ned Stark returns home from war to his young bride—who has incidentally just given birth to their first son—and he has a newborn bastard in tow.
Even though it means the rumor mill in King’s Landing has already spread word that the Lord of Winterfell got some whore knocked up and she died in childbirth.
Even though it means his wife Cat will have trust issues for years.
AND even though Jon will be ostracized at every turn, Ned does the honorable thing by not only saving Jon’s life, but by ALSO taking the hit for his poor dead sister’s honor.
The now freshly-crowned King Robert proclaims her a victim of rape, probably after finding out from a little bird how Lyanna died giving birth, insinuating that Prince Rhaegar’s advances were unwelcomed.
Now her memory isn’t sullied.
I consider Ned Stark a representation of the tragic Fallen Warrior character because he was born into a world where honor is something rare. The man was simply too…well, kingly.
And when he dies on the steps of the Sept of Baelor, it perhaps occurs to him one more time that remaining honorable is a double-edged sword (no pun about Ice intended).
Fitting because when we first meet Ned, it’s on the morning he’s teaching his son Bran one of the first Stark family lessons in honor: He who sentences the death should be the one to swing the sword.
And of course, it’s Jon Snow who gives Bran encouragement when he can see the kid’s nervous—not about seeing blood and a decapitated head and watching his father swing the sword—but about not shaming the family.
Honor is as much a bastard to the Starks as Lady Stoneheart’s a bitch to the Freys.
I’m going across the Narrow Sea now. You may never agree with me on this, but hear me out: Viserys Targaryen is as tragic as they come.
Consider that the guy’s solely been keeping himself and his little sister alive as fugitives since adolescence, and while on the run, he has been missing out on a proper highborn childhood.
I think of him as a great example of the tragic Doomed Innocence character. I feel it’s obvious that Viserys went a little crazy/the dragon awoke when he was forced to sell their mother’s crown. A crown is Viserys’ Freudian house sigil.
He’s been robbed of it because of ancient house grudges that existed long before him. Paranoia inevitably drives him slowly mad.
At first glance I wrote him off as a sadistic, greedy jerk who sold his sweet younger sister to the leader of a people whose customs are foreign and scary…never mind how weird and incestuous Targaryen marriages sometimes were to keep bloodlines pure.
But the Dothraki are his best possible chance at getting that crown back. Viserys is in a wheel trying to stumble along just a bit longer because that crown that haunts him is just barely out of reach.
And what happens? In his addled mind, he casts Drogo in the role of the one keeping that crown dangling like a carrot. And meanwhile Dany’s happy and in love and knows how to speak Dothraki and has priceless dragon eggs and ALL HE WANTS IS HIS CROWN.
He’s Gollum, the crown is the precious, and Drogo is Frodo, denying him all that he wants. Just a golden crown. Dany sheds no tears when Drogo kills her brother. But later, after she’s grown up a bit more, she pays Viserys homage right along with their legendary older brother by naming the pale dragon of her three after him.
Absolutely and DUH, he would have made a terrible king, but his circumstances weren’t his fault. Dany’s forgiven him. Maybe we should too.
The last character who has made an impression on me is Sandor Clegane—The Hound. We really meet the Hound properly after Ned’s had to put Lady down for Nymeria nipping stupid awful Joffrey and sees the Hound ride up.
The corpse of the butcher’s boy, Arya’s dueling partner Micah, is slung unceremoniously across the back of The Hound’s horse, practically unrecognizable as it appears The Hound ran the kid down and skewered him. Why?
Oh, just because.
And so you hate him.
Time passes. After Ned’s beheading—when Joffrey is showing how big a sadist he truly is by forcing Sansa to look at the tarred head of her father up on the parapet with crows everywhere—The Hound senses her sudden realization that she could simply grab Joffrey and pull him with her over the side of the bridge.
Just kill him and die herself because, frankly, YES it was partially her fault.
He stops her without giving her thoughts away and warns her to try to just make Joffrey happy or, better yet, forget she’s there.
Then the mob scene, The Hound’s there just in time to save her (and Sansa soon learns not to thank him). We learn how he got his burn scars from his psychotic older brother (the Mountain), we are despising Joffrey and Cersei more with each page, and now understand that the Mountain is worse than a monster.
Sandor, I mean the Hound, lets his kryptonite (flames) get the upper hand when he flees what must look like his recurring nightmare…wild fire, men burning.
Before leaving, he tells Sansa it was his intention to rape her, but if you’ve been paying attention you know he’s just talk. He really empathizes with her. Oh sure, he is annoyed by her attention to etiquette (as was I). He is gruff with her because he knows she has bravery but pusses out. He wants her to catch on more quickly that “life is not a song.”
And then eventually he scoops up Arya to try to ransom her. The interaction between these two characters is intense. Their scenes together are at times sad, funny, infuriating, sweet and thought-provoking.
The dialogue is as sharp as that between Jaime and Brienne. On the show, he tried to keep her from seeing what the Freys had done to her older brother and his dire wolf (an indignity so nauseatingly cruel and disturbing—wolf head placed on her brother’s shoulders where his head no longer is).
The Hound, I mean Sandor Clegane, is the epitome of the tragic Hero. I don’t have much hope left for his survival. We know it’s just the Brotherhood Without Banners using the infamous hound’s head helmet to further confuse the Freys. But maybe it’s better if he’s gone. He deserves a rest.
So, there is my tragic three.
Who do you find tragic?
Next week, can we talk about the stuff brewing beyond the Wall? No one in King’s Landing will speak of it.
**Please note: Kelly Atkinson was not available for comment. The following bio was pieced together after speaking with…
…A dude who stamped her hand once at a Cramps concert
…David the Gnome’s friend, the talking fox Swift
…The ghost of Edgar Allan Poe
Kelly Atkinson was raised by a family of sentient black cats after her mortal family was murdered by a rabid gang of unicorns when she was seven-years old. They left only her alive so she could tell the authorities who dunnit.
After calling them out for plagiarizing Oliver Stone character catch phrases, she spat in their faces and then promptly cut out her own tongue with a Bowie knife just to foil their plan.
Luckily, black cats usually own computers.
She resides right behind you.
blog post #84