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GAME OF THRONES: 7 Bits of “Womanly Wisdom”

We use the phrase “out of the mouth of babes” (Psalm 8:2) to say that children are often wise beyond their years. Today, in the final post of our #GOTInvasion series, I’d like to discuss what comes from the mouths of a different kind of “babe”: the women of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

From the sage words of these ladies (though, for some, I use that term extraordinarily loosely), here are 7 bits of “womanly wisdom” that are equally applicable to worlds with and without dragons, castles, knights, and servants.

Heed these lessons, modern gals. You never know when one of them might come in handy…

1. “To thine own self be true.” (Hamlet, I.iii.78)

Among the many women in Game of Thrones, there are three who stay true to themselves, even though this means refusing to conform to what’s expected of the female gender. By so doing, each gains something that proves invaluable to them in their future.

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) abandoned the traditional needle of women and devoted herself to the study of dancing with her Needle. Faced with the prospect of a traditional Lady’s fate, Arya can’t imagine why she’d ever return to the needle that goes with thread…

Arya: “Can I be lord of a holdfast?
Eddard: “You will marry a high lord and rule his castle, and your sons shall be knights and princes and lords.
Arya: “No. That’s not me.
[#1.4 – “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”]

…and it’s a good thing too, as her post-Ned survival is frequently due only to these skills.

Likewise, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) prefers accessories that have offensive, as well as defensive, uses. Recognizing her strengths, Brienne chooses to dedicate her life and her sword to the greater good:

I fought for my king. Soon, I’ll fight for him on the battlefield.
Die for him, if I must. And if it please you, Brienne’s enough. I’m no lady.
Brienne [#2.3 – “What Is Dead May Never Die”]

Lest you worry, ladies, that taking this path means necessarily forsaking love, take heart. Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin) traded the ‘Lady’s life’ for one of service, and still manages to catch herself a kind and fine-looking king.
[one_half last =”no”]

© 2011 HBO

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© 2012 HBO


2. Trust can be a shield or a sword—so be careful about how you wield it.

The wiser women of Game of Thrones know that a girl should be cautious about whom she admits to her confidence. Some believe that only blood should be permitted this intimacy…

Everyone who isn’t us is an enemy.
Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) [#1.3 – “Lord Snow”]

…while others would extend the courtesy to a larger network of familial ties…

[Petyr is] like a little brother to me, Ned. He would never betray my trust.
Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) [#1.3 – “Lord Snow”]

…and still others advise even greater caution:

Don’t trust anybody. Life is safer that way.
Shae (Sibel Kekilli) [#2.6 – “The Old Gods and the New”]

Whichever advice you follow, remember this: to ignore the truism that “loose lips sink ships” is to needlessly place oneself at others’ mercy. And, if Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it’s that those most in need of mercy are the least likely to receive it.

3. Family comes first. Betray it at your own risk.

Family is the only thing in Game of Thrones that is worth more than all the Gold Dragons in the Lannister vaults. It determines nearly everything about a person, from their circumstances and status, to their allegiances and future prospects. Absolutely loyalty to it is obligatory, and betrayal is punishable by unimaginable cruelties.

I am a Khaleesi of the Dothraki! I am the wife of the great Khal and I carry his son inside me!
The next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands.

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) [#1.4 – “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”]

Additionally, siding with another family over yours will not guarantee you family-like protection from them. Not only are you are not family to them, but they’ve already seen you betray one family—why should they trust you not to do the same to them? Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) learns this unfortunate lesson when she lies about Arya and Nymeria for Joffrey and Cersei, only to lose Lady to Cersei’s limitless wrath.

4. Do your due diligence before you say “I do.”

Teresa Giudice famously said: “Happy wife, happy life.” And at least two Game of Thrones women prove her right. Unhappy with her husband since their wedding night, Cersei cuckolded and tormented Robert for the seventeen-year duration of their marriage.

Hated him? I worshipped him! Every girl in the Seven Kingdoms dreamed of him,
but he was mine by oath. And when I finally saw him on our wedding day in the
Sept of Baelor, lean and fierce and black-bearded, it was the happiest moment
of my life. And that night, he crawled on top of me, stinking of wine, and did
what he did—what little he could do. And he whispered in my ear, ‘Lyanna.’
Your sister was a corpse and I was a living girl, and he loved her more than me.

Cersei [#1.7 – “You Win or You Die”]

Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), on the other hand, had the 411 on her new hubby (from a very inside source, no doubt), and used the knowledge to prevent disappointment and to do her best to make their time together harmonious.

Do you want my brother to come in and help? He could get you started.
I know he wouldn’t mind. Or I could turn over and pretend to be him. …
There’s no need for us to play games. Save your lies for court. …
You decide how you want to do it. With me. With me and Loras.
However else you like. Whatever you need to do. You are a king.
Margaery [#2.3 – “What Is Dead May Never Die”]

© 2012 HBO

5. Mama bears should fiercely protect their cubs…

Mothering is an art, not a science—each woman has her own unique style. Yet, even the four vastly different Game of Thrones mothers we’ve met so far—Catelyn, Cersei, Lysa, and Daenerys—can be said have two things in common: (1) Their love for their children knows no bounds or exceptions…

Love no one but your children. On that front, a mother has no choice.
Cersei [#2.7 – “A Man Without Honor”]

…(though, frankly, Catelyn could have shown more class where Jon Snow was concerned); and (2) there is little, if anything, they wouldn’t do for their children…

[S]ometimes we go to extremes where our children are concerned.
Cersei [#1.4 – “Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things”]

…but, every umbilical cord must eventually be cut.

All mothers should realize, at some point, that their children must learn to do certain things on their own—for example, feeding themselves. The wise women of Sex and the City shared sage advice about breastfeeding:

Carrie: “There’s a woman in there breast-feeding a child who can chew steak.
Miranda: “You know how I feel about that: if you’re old enough to ask for it, you’re probably too old to have it.
[#1.10 – “The Baby Shower”]

Lady Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie) proves the wisdom of these words, showing us that when you breastfeed your six-year-old in public, people will look at you like you’re freakin’ cray-cray. Put that away, and teach your kid how to eat like a big boy.

© 2011 HBO

6. Use all the weapons in your arsenal.

In Season 2, the Lysene pirate Salladhor Saan brazenly declares: “The one true god is what’s between a woman’s legs….” [#2.2 – “The Night Lands”] Making the entirely reasonable assumption that he speaks for most heterosexual men in this regard, is it wrong for ladies to put this information to good use?

The Game of Thrones gals certainly don’t seem to think so. There are (at least) five women—three whores, one Wildling, and a Queen (who might have more in common with the whores than she’d like to think)—who employ tricks of the trade for personal advantage. Both Shae and Cersei tout the benefits of adhering to this advice:

Tyrion: “You can’t f–k your way out of everything.
Shae: “I have so far.
[#2.9 – “Blackwater”]

Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon. The best one’s between your legs. Learn how to use it.
Cersei [#2.9 – “Blackwater”]

Ros (Esmé Bianco) uses her skills to improve her socioeconomic position, going from Winterfell’s most popular prostitute to madam of Lord Baelish’s King’s Landing brothel. Shae calls upon Tyrion’s firsthand knowledge of her skills to avoid working kitchen patrol: “Every man who has tasted my cooking has told me what a good whore I am.” [#2.3 – “What Is Dead May Never Die”]

As part of her plan to protect Bran and Rickon, Osha (Natalia Tena) seduces Theon with promises of “savage things.” [#2.6 – “The Old Gods and the New”] Similarly, Doreah (Roxanne McKee) teaches Daenerys how to use what the Great Stallion gave her to improve her marriage to Drogo (and in so doing, secure her own place by Daenerys’ side):

You will make him like it, Khaleesi. Men want what they’ve never had.
And the Dothraki take slaves like a hound takes a bitch.
Are you a slave, Khaleesi? … Then don’t make like a slave. …
Out there he is the mighty Khal, but in this tent, he belongs to you.
Doreah [#1.2 – “The Kingsroad”]

© 2011 HBO

And, if all else fails, remember…

7. Stick ‘em with the pointy end.
Arya [#1.3 – “Lord Snow”]

Just kidding.
(Unless legally permitted as self-defense.)


Game of Thrones Season 3 premieres tonight (Sunday, March 31) at 9pm on HBO.

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Featured Image: © 2012 HBO

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Sarah Katz

Sarah Katz

Born-and-bred New Yorker. Lifelong film & TV lover—from chick flicks, rom-coms, rom-droms, rom-drams, and tweentertainment, to Shakespeare, period pieces, James Bond, fairy tales, and mafia movies.