“Winter Is Coming”: The Stark Family Motto

I’ve been watching Game of Thrones – and not just because of the omnipresent sex and violence. OK, they might have something to do with it. However, people like me really watch because of the gripping interpersonal dynamics. The various lead characters must figure out the right way to live in a world of chaos – this struggle is often informed by the expectations their fathers have of them. Everyone in this series has daddy issues.

Game of Thrones takes place during a war of succession involving a large cast of diverse protagonists. It shows a heartless disregard for its characters, killing them off with relish and regularity. The kings in question are generally deeply flawed and their children are the warped results. These offspring are quickly left to their own devices to sort out how to behave. This is generally a good thing, as their dads are a bunch of murderous conniving psychos. The one exceptional King Dad is Ned Stark and he is killed basically for being honourable.

But Ned Stark is a good dad because he models honour, self-reliance and responsibility. It might stem from his family motto which essentially means – “It’s going to get hard; everything is going to die; so, prepare accordingly”. It doesn’t always protect his children from harm. It does, however, aid the Starks in times of crisis to have a family code of honour guiding them on who they are. Other characters, like the dwarf Tyrion, reject their despicable father’s way of life and must forge a new identity on their own. Some believe fathers are unnecessary, but I’d argue having a good one sure helps, like a hidden dagger in your boot.

I hope to arm my kids with a strong family identity, one that helps them navigate the world when I can’t protect them. That means I must strive to be a better person myself. Sigh. I’m not very successful at that but it gives me something to aim for. Is it too much to ask to be called Sire in return?
Pop Culture is also a regular coluimn in Village Living Magazine. A version of this article appears in the February/March 2013 issue.