Despite a lot of blood and gore, Game of Thrones never really portrays how fathers raise their children. There are a few, but they are mostly presented as weak and ineffective. If there is a positive father figure in the series, it’s Ned Stark, who is a sweet, loving dad. But that’s not enough to make him a good parent. He strays from his principles and allows his wife to die, and even when he learns about the abuse his sister is subjected to, he’s too weak to do anything about it.
In the Game of Thrones series, there are many fathers who sacrifice their own children to achieve their own goals. Ned Stark, a powerful Lord, sets the bar with his actions to protect his family, sacrificing himself to protect his daughters and his nephew.
As the final season of Game of Thrones approaches, there are a lot of complaints from fans. Mainly, people are upset with how far the show has deviated from the books, which take place many years before the events of the show. However, fans are missing one crucial element that differs from the books, and that’s lots of father-of-the-year moments.When Father’s Day was celebrated in the United States recently, I saw a meme with a chart that ranked fictional parents from movies and TV shows on a scale of good to bad on the x-axis and on a scale of nil to cool on the y-axis. Catelyn and Ned Stark, the main parental characters of the series, are clearly on the side of good, but also clearly on the side of evil.
And I think this meme opens the door to a lot of interesting comparisons between the fathers in Game of Thrones. Fatherhood and family are a particularly hot topic in each season of the series. The theme of fatherhood perhaps came into its own in 2014, when Tyrion killed his father Tywin in the finale of season four, which aired on Father’s Day.
There’s the first category: a lot of Game of Thrones dads who are just undeniably terrible people and terrible dads who have absolutely no redeeming qualities. Not Baelon Greyjoy, nor Randyll Tarly, or perhaps especially Craster. They are all terrible and insensitive to their children, to varying degrees. In that sense, I don’t think there’s anything interesting about it; they just hate their kids. But I think there’s a lot to be said for the other Game of Thrones fathers, good and bad, but mostly bad.
The relationship between Robert Baratheon and Joffrey is an interesting example of fatherhood. While Robert’s character focuses on not wanting to take responsibility, the way he practically neglects Joffrey is not surprising. All King Robert does – and wants to do – is eat, drink and fornicate to an early death. So much time is spent on Robert’s comedy in these first seven episodes that it’s easy to forget that he also has some moments of dramatic depth; one of Mark Addy’s best scenes during his time on the show takes place on Robert’s deathbed, when he apologizes to Joffrey:
I should have spent more time with you, shown you how to be a man. I wasn’t meant to be a father. Go ahead, you don’t want to see this.
Game of Thrones – Season 1 Episode 7 You Win or Die.
Robert’s admission that he’s a bad father puts him in the top 60-70% of Game of Thrones fathers. The bar is set pretty low. (It should also be noted that the books describe him having a positive relationship with his first bastard, Maia Stone, when she was a child. But in the series, Robert has no relationship with his bastards).
Listen to the bad men who could potentially be good fathers: Roose Bolton. Ruse is a terrible person, there’s no denying that, but there are plenty of moments where Ruse genuinely tries to include Ramsay in his grand vision of House Bolton as protector of the North, sending him on missions to reclaim castles and even legitimizing him at the end of the fourth season, which will make Ramsay’s life much better. The scene where Roose tells Ramsay he’s legitimized is actually quite touching and could have been funny if the two characters weren’t the two worst people on the show. And we see different sides to their relationship; Ruse often makes a comment to Ramsay that alludes to a better, more balanced parental relationship than most – but that didn’t stop Ramsay from killing Ruse….. kill Oops!
Perhaps the most interesting case is that of Tywin Lannister. I think the essential key to understanding Tywin as a father is in his dialogue with Arya in season 2; he talks about his father Tytos: He loved us. He was a good man. But a weak man. A weak man who nearly destroyed our home and our name. And Tywin’s relationship with his children ends in the opposite. He does not seem to love his children, he does not seem to be kind, but he is willing to destroy his children for the sake of his home and his name. It’s interesting because Tywin tries to make family an abstract concept, but doesn’t focus on his real family, which is his three children. Tywin is pretty consistently frustrated with Tyrion and Cersei, and for most of season 4 he doesn’t have a high opinion of Jaime. Tywin describes the legacy of the Lannister family and the attempt to establish a dynasty that would last as long as the Targaryen dynasty. Again, he invokes these abstract notions so consistently that it’s hard to tell whether his desire for a family legacy stems from love for his father, his wife, or his children, or whether it stems from a desire to stay in the history books.
The one who was a good father for a short time, but then it all fell apart – Stannis Baratheon. In his relationship with their daughter Shirin, Stannis ends up playing good parent-bad parent with his wife Celisa, who constantly hates Shirin and calls her an abomination. But Stannis certainly won’t be the father of the year, for reasons that are obvious. For the most part, he always treats Shirin well, and there’s even a particularly touching scene where he happily recounts all the efforts he’s made to cure her of Grey Scale disease, but it’s apparently all in vain when he sacrifices her to the Lord of Light. Up until that point, they probably had one of the best father-child relationships in the series. This story with Grayscale is really touching and is indicative of their relationship in the books. Their relationship in the books is so strong that I doubt Stannis’ campaign in the North will end the same way.
Also in the table above is Ser Davos, who like Ned and Catelyn is in the Good/Fault quadrant. I don’t agree that Davos sucks; he’s pretty funny and was a smuggler. What’s so bad about it? ! But he is certainly a good father, often giving advice and comfort to those who need it. He is a father to Shirin, a father to Gendry, and in some ways a father to John – and that is surrogate fatherhood for three children of different ages. His role as Mattos’ father is less memorable – regular viewers might forget Mattos, so for the record, he is the real son of Davos (the only son in the series, but he has other children in the books). His behavior towards Mattos is similar to John, Shirin or Gendry, so he is more paternal, but he does not think about Mattos or mourn him. In his conversation with Tyrion, whom he accuses of killing his son, he is strangely only mentioned in passing. Davos is a great surrogate father, but the fact that he cries for Mattos for a while is a little odd.
This brings us to Ned, who has a good relationship with all his children, including John. And also Theon, who has nothing to do with this! The main thing that makes Ned a good father is that he accepts Jon. Jon was the child of his sister and Rhaegar, but he lied about being a bastard to protect him. He compromised what he was most known for – his honor – to protect John. Very, very good.
In general, we don’t see Ned interacting much with his children, but we do see the lessons he taught many of them that will stay with them in life. But we also see how his death has affected his children: almost all of them mourn Ned in unique ways; Robb fights for justice for Ned, Arya fights to avenge him, Jon seeks honor in service, Sansa does her best to survive – on the other hand, Bran and Rickon mourn Ned in a more traditional way (because they are children). Ned is a great father, and we see that in the influence he has on his children. This can be seen in the way Theon talks to Ramsay about himself, referring to Ned as his real father. Ned’s influence, more than that of any other character, lives on long after his death – a legacy his children carry with them on their journey.
So, to answer the question posed in the title of this post: No, he is not the only good father, because Davos is also a very good father. But it all ends in Davos. And I think it will be interesting to compare the reasons why these characters are bad fathers: not loving their son for the trait he was born with, like Tywin, or creating a bad environment that allows them to behave like Ruse, the lack of support and guidance, like Robert, or….. being burned at the stake like Stannis. While the lessons we learn from Ned and Davos are very simple – support the kids, guide them and be there for them,
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Frequently Asked Questions
Was Ned Stark a good lord?
Game of Thrones kills a lot of heroes. Some of them are brave, and some are cruel, but there is one thing they all have in common: they do what they love. That’s why Ned Stark’s death is so tragic. He’s a good man, a noble man, not the worst of the lot in any way, and yet he literally dies for that. In the end though, he was just a man. One man, with one life. But all the deaths he suffered on the way to becoming the king he was meant he to be a good lord. We’re all familiar with the infamous “Red Wedding” scene and its shocking aftermath that left fans reeling for months. But the story of Ned Stark does much more than set up the Battle of the Bastards: it also shows us how a good family can go wrong. If you’ve ever wondered why Ned was such a great father and why the Starks of Winterfell all turned out so bitterly dysfunctional, this post is for you.
Was Ned Stark a good person?
Remember the scene in Game of Thrones when Ned Stark lies to Catelyn about the body of his fallen brother, Brandon? “The day you start believing in the impossible is the day you start losing before you start.” – Ned Stark (Game of Thrones, Season 1, Episode 1) This text is sensitive. Try generating new copy.
Who deceived Ned Stark?
Ned Stark was the epitome of the honorable and decent hero, who served the king and his family faithfully during the Rebellion that followed King Robert’s Rebellion. He was kind to his own kin, respectful of the past and future, and fiercely loyal to his liege lord. When the man he had sworn his life to betrayed him, Ned lost all faith in his king, his family, and his honor. As he lay dying, he asked that his body be burned beyond recognition, so that no one would know he had ever existed. Some say that Ned was a bad father. Others say he was a great father. The truth is that Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on the air right now, and it doesn’t matter who is trying to tell you how to think.
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