Downfall of a Dynasty = Incest

“All of the characters that I write are specifically written the way that they are so that the events can play out exactly as I need them. Sometimes this means characters do some unsavory things. That doesn’t mean I necessarily condone doing those things,” said Mr. Martin.


There is an all too common idea among readers of the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom who have this idea that an author like George RR Martin is pro-incest and is, perhaps, even promoting it, or that it is a normal detail in ASOIAF. If anything, GRRM writes far more favorably about polygamy, gatherings (orgies), and open relationships, and even genetic splicing/hybrids far more than incest. This includes marriages with a variety of men and women… and who goes with whom; men with men, women with women. George has his own rules for his own story, borrowing from myth and history and rewrites it as his own; scientific reality be damned!

If Jon and Daenerys end up romantically linked, it will end in disaster for everyone. Same if Jon and Arya end up romantically linked. Or Sansa and Jon. Or Sansa and Sweetrobin. Or Daenerys and Aegon. Aegon and Arianne. And so on, and so on, but especially the main characters Jon and Daenerys who have the biggest stakes and impact on the story.

Inbred Targaryen
George uses his own genetic rules, or else Daenerys would look like this instead of being beautiful. Heck, Jon might even have a droopy eye from Rhaegar.

I can firmly say that in all of his writings that include incest, or the idea of interbreeding in any form, it never wins, EVER, and is often related to racist ideals. It is almost always practiced in conjunction with suppressing women, as well. If incest is not outright rejected from the beginning (some societies chose to die off rather than practice incest), then it leads to a genetic depression of sorts and the practice is then rejected.

I have listed his stories out on the subsequent page to this one with details about each.

And the author has gone beyond just relegating the negative impact of incest on the human-folk as well. Just as swords and horns are stand-in’s for the penis, and how ships and animals are both vessels to carry human spirits, Martin has also anthropomorphized elements of the land. Examples such as Missy’s teats, the arm of Dorne, the neck at the junction of the riverlands and the north, and so we have the two fecal facilities that are the most prolific in practicing incest; Craster’s Keep and King’s Landing. No other castles or cities are described as such. And the definition of black water is sewage. And a midden heap is literally a pile of crap.

Just as Craster lies to his daughter-wives to control them, which is to control their bloodline/moon blood, the Targaryens controlled their own women with incest as well. Sexual slavery. If the Qartheen tale of dragons come from the moon is true (in a symbolic story sense), then controlling the blood of the dragon is the equivalent to controlling women’s reproductive rights and to ‘keep the bloodlines pure’. Fire and blood.

Marc_Simonetti_crasters_keep
Craster’s Keep atop it’s midden heap, much as how the Aegonfort began. Artist: Mark Simonetti
  • The World of Ice and Fire – The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest

This he showed for the first time at the Aegonfort, the crude wood-and-earth castle he had raised atop what was henceforth and forever known as Aegon’s High Hill. Having taken a dozen castles and secured the mouth of the Blackwater Rush on both sides of the river, he commanded the lords he had defeated to attend him.

  • A Clash of Kings – Jon III

…”With me, Ghost.” Jon spurred off to Craster’s Keep.

He had never thought to find a stone castle on the far side of the Wall, but he had pictured some sort of motte-and-bailey with a wooden palisade and a timber tower keep. What they found instead was a midden heap, a pigsty, an empty sheepfold, and a windowless daub-and-wattle hall scarce worthy of the name. It was long and low, chinked together from logs and roofed with sod. The compound stood atop a rise too modest to name a hill, surrounded by an earthen dike. Brown rivulets flowed down the slope where the rain had eaten gaping holes in the defenses, to join a rushing brook that curved around to the north, its thick waters turned into a murky torrent by the rains.

  • A Clash of Kings – Jon III

The Lord Commander had entrusted his mount to Dolorous Edd. He was cleaning mud out of the horse’s hooves as Jon dismounted. “Lord Mormont’s in the hall,” he announced. “He said for you to join him. Best leave the wolf outside, he looks hungry enough to eat one of Craster’s children. Well, truth be told, I’m hungry enough to eat one of Craster’s children, so long as he was served hot. Go on, I’ll see to your horse. If it’s warm and dry inside, don’t tell me, I wasn’t asked in.” He flicked a glob of wet mud out from under a horseshoe. “Does this mud look like shit to you? Could it be that this whole hill is made of Craster’s shit?”

Jon smiled. “Well, I hear he’s been here a long time.”

“You cheer me not. Go see the Old Bear.”

  • A Game of Thrones – Arya III

The Red Keep was full of cats: lazy old cats dozing in the sun, cold-eyed mousers twitching their tails, quick little kittens with claws like needles, ladies’ cats all combed and trusting, ragged shadows prowling the midden heaps.

  • A Storm of Swords – Jaime VII

“What’s that awful stink?” the northman complained.

Death, thought Jaime, but he said, “Smoke, sweat, and shit. King’s Landing, in short. If you have a good nose you can smell the treachery too. You’ve never smelled a city before?”

  • A Storm of Swords – Tyrion V

Tyrion could see the sun shining on the Blackwater Rush half a mile ahead, and on the walls and towers and hills of King’s Landing beyond. He glanced over his shoulder, at the glittering column following them up the kingsroad. “You speak like a man with a great host at his back,” he said, “yet all I see are three hundred. Do you spy that city there, north of the river?”

“The midden heap you call King’s Landing?”

That’s the very one.”


Often GRRM has this society attend something he calls “gatherings”, which are basically big orgies where the point is to spread your DNA to non-related people. This theme of rejected incest and incest only practiced by those in Martin’s stories that are either mad, morally dark grey, or just plain villains as it is a form of control- mental and physical slavery.

  • The Skin Trade – incest has caused an inbreeding depression among the “elite” in the werewolf society. Despite the inbreeding, the elite are dying off. The hero of the story is a watered down werewolf, a mutt named Willie Flambeaux- the mutt is the hero, that should tell the reader something about our author. There is even a mention of how practicing incest lead to the mental derangement that caused a brother to kill his sister.
    • Rogoff was watching her from beneath his tangle of black hair. “He still doesn’t get it,” she said. She turned back to Joe. “Steven is sicker than you think. Something is missing. Too inbred, maybe. Think about it. Anders and Rochmonts, Flambeauxes and Harmons, the four great founding families, all werewolves, marrying each other generation after generation to keep the lines pure, for how many centuries? They kept the lines pure all right. They bred themselves Steven. He didn’t kill those children. Roy Helander saw a wolf carry off his sister, and Steven can’t change into a wolf. He got the bloodlust, he got inhuman strength, he burns at the touch of silver, but that’s all. The last of the purebloods can’t work the change!”
  • Despite the four “elite” houses inbreeding, they are declining:
    • “Damned if I know,” Willie said. “What do you think, we get together for a lodge meeting every time the moon is full? The purebloods, hell, not many, the pack’s been getting pretty thin these last few generations. But there’s lots of mongrels like me, half-breeds, quarter-breeds, what have you, the old families had their share of bastards. Some can work the change, some can’t. I’ve heard of a few who change one day and never do manage to change back. And that’s just from the old bloodlines, never mind the ones like Joanie.”
    • And the Skin Trade “elite” think of themselves as the Targaryens do, above gods and men… but in the end they are not because they are dying away just as easily.
    • A Clash of Kings – The dragon kings had wed brother to sister, but they were the blood of old Valyria where such practices had been common, and like their dragons the Targaryens answered to neither gods nor men.
    • And here GRRM confirms this Targaryen idea in an interview https://youtu.be/351pUIf0Fu8?t=1609
    • What GRRM did in ASOIAF was to replace the wolves with dragons. Otherwise, this Skin Trade story is very much a forerunner to the Stark-Bolton historic pattern of struggles, right down to Roose, Ramsay and his “Reek”, and Jon at the wall, and Val, etc.
    • “I’ll kill you,” Randi said. “I think not.” He [Johnathon Harmon] leaned over the bed. “Perhaps I’ll come for you myself some night. You ought to see me, Miss Wade. My fur is white now, pale as snow, but the stature, the majesty, the power, those have not left me. Michael was a half-breed, and your Willie, he was hardly more than a dog. The pureblood is rather more. We are the dire wolves, the nightmares who haunt your racial memories, the dark shapes circling endlessly beyond the light of your fires.” He smiled down at her, then…
      • It should be noted that even though the purebloods are dying away, the villain Johnathon Harmon is still obsessed with power and size, and that size equals power. He is blind to the fact that size does not equal power. This is all a metaphor for a penis and sexual proclivity and a twisted form of “masculinity”.
      • In ASOAIF, we see this happen with the Greyjoys, specifically Victarion and the huge dragon horn he has, and how he talks about like it is his penis, even stroking it with his bloody hand… which brings to mind the “bloody sword” analogy that Barbrey Dustin uses when thinking back to Brandon Stark. Did I mention the dragon horn is huge, probably bigger than Balerion even. Huge. Contrast this with the “small” horn that Jon gave to Samwell, and Sam now has with him at the Citadel. Which do you think will hold the real “power”?
  • Bitterblooms – the story opens much like Dunk & Egg with a young girl, Shawn, having to bury her [possible] father or brother. The story is not quite clear in regards to the relationship. Lane, the [possible] father/brother was the lover of the 16 year old girl, however, no children resulted. So, the story opens with the death of incest, and at the end of the story, the society that had been dying off as a result of incest depression caused by a Craster-like clan patriarch named Creg (his name is discussed below). Shawn soon attends “gatherings” where she has (non-marital) sex resulting children with other, non-related, people in effort to spread the gene pool; she has nine children in total. Shawn is honored for it, offered a high clan position, and the clan starts to rebound. Bastards are a non-issue and fully accepted as there is no talk of monogamy or marriage proper, it seems, as well as this being an open sex culture.
    • It is not clear what relation Lane actually is to Shawn, as the only reference we have to that relationship is this broad statement: “It was not right for her to leave him without burial; he had been father, brother, lover.” However, later when Shawn is with the charlatan witch Morgan “full of magic”, Morgan repeats to Shawn a similar broad statement, and Morgan has zero blood relation to anyone at all. Morgan then uses and illusion to get Shawn to trust her and to have sex with her… just like Melisandre does to Jon using an Ygritte glamour: “You are mine, Shawn Carin, you are my lover and my daughter and my sister. You have to learn to trust. I have much to teach you. Here. She took Shawn by the hand and led her to the window. “Stand here. Wait, Shawn, wait and watch, and I will show you more of Morgan’s magics.” At the far wall, smiling, she did something with her rings to a panel of bright metal and square dim lights.
      Watching, Shawn grew suddenly afraid.”
    • These are the other people of Shawn’s clan that are listed, and only a few are given a familial connection, while others like Devin and Lane are not given a familial connection: “like old mother Tesenya had been, like her sister Leila was sometimes, like Devin. Like Lane, she thought…”
    • “Devin honored her [Shawn] for bringing so much fresh blood into Carinhall, and later another Voice would name her for exceptional prowess as a trader. She traveled widely, met many families, saw waterfalls and volcanoes as well as seas and mountains, sailed halfway around the world on a Crien schooner. She had many lovers and much esteem. Jannis followed Devin as Voice, but she had a bitter unhappy time of it, and when she passed, the mothers and fathers of family Carin offered the position to Shawn. She turned it down. It would not have made her happy. Despite everything she had done, she was not a happy person. She remembered too much, and sometimes she could not sleep very well at night. During the fourth deepwinter of her life, the family numbered two hundred and thirty-seven, fully a hundred of them children.”
    • And we can see in ASOIAF that bastards are not an issue to the northern peoples. The negative stamp of “bastardy” is an Andal taint.
      • A Storm of Swords – Jon II
        [Tormund] “Are bastards weaker than other children? More sickly, more like to fail?”

        No, but—””You’re bastard-born yourself. And if Ygritte does not want a child, she will go to some woods witch and drink a cup o’ moon tea. You do not come into it, once the seed is planted.””I will not father a bastard.”

  • Dying of the Light – Gwen is a historian (to simplify it) and she uncovers the truth that incest played a part in the decline of an extinguished civilization. This is a smaller mention, as no incest happens in the current timeline. Polygamy is a theme here.
  • Dark, Dark Were the Tunnels – The idea of incest is rejected right from the start, is never practiced, and the society chose to die off rather than have relations with related family. In the current timeline the humans who fled and colonized the moon have returned to Earth because fresh genetic stock is running low. They are looking for the other humans that perhaps fled underground.
    • “Luna could be made self-sufficient, but only with a very small population. That’s what happened. The population adjusted itself. But we recycled our air and our water, grew foods in hydroponic tanks. We struggled, but we survived. And began to rebuild.

“But we lost a lot. Too many people died. Our genetic pool was terribly small, and not too diverse. The colony had never had a lot of racial diversity to begin with.

“That hasn’t helped. Population actually declined for a long time after we had the physical resources to support more people. The idea of in-breeding didn’t go over. Now population’s going up again, but slowly. We’re stagnant, Von der Stadt. It’s taken us nearly five centuries to get space travel going again, for example. And we still haven’t duplicated many of the things they had back on Earth before the disaster.”

Von der Stadt frowned. “Stagnant’s a strong word,” he said. “I think we’ve done pretty good.”

Ciffonetto dismissed the comment with a wave of his flashlight. “Pretty good,” he said. “Not good enough. We’re not going anywhere. There’s so damn few changes, so little in the way of new ideas. We need fresh viewpoints, fresh genetic stock. We need the stimulation of contact with a foreign culture.

“Survivors would give us that. After all Earth’s been through, they’d have to have changed in some ways. And they’d be proof that human life can still flourish on Earth. That’s crucial if we’re going to establish a colony here.”

  • Nightflyers – The main protagonist, Royd Eris, is a cross-sex clone of his mother. She has since died and is second-lifing herself within the ruby crystal of the Nightflyer ship (made of three eggs 😉 ) Royd was created by his mother, while she was alive, in a test tube to later have a sexual relationship when he grew older. Royd rejected this idea right from the start, and instead he falls in love with a new woman. The mother gets fiery angry over this relationship and tries to kill the girl (and everyone else). And just to finish this note, Royd’s mother died while he developed from a fetus in a nutrient tank that was programmed to take care of Royd on it’s own. Royd never met his cross-sex clone host in real living life. Read the page 2 here for details and book quotes.
    • This translates into ASOIAF to Jon by him outright rejecting any potential incest in his future storyline, as Royd is a 90% protoype to Jon (and Bran &Bloodraven).
    • This also does double duty to show the Jamie-Cersei relationship. Being a cross-sex clone is more akin to a brother-sister genetic connection. In ASOIAF, Jamie and Cersei are almost clones of each other physically, and even tricked the adults with their appearences as children. As we are in ASOIAF now, the end of A Dance with Dragons, Jaime is beginning his redemption arc and rejecting Cersei.

This rejection of incest, even in close quarters, is the same idea that Martin gave to the free folk in ASOIAF with the idea of “stealing” (truly just a type of courting), and the idea that you do not have sex with anyone from your own clan. And the irony in this is how in-story, the free folk are referred to in the derogatory term as “wildlings”, when in fact, they are the more civilized when it comes to this practice.

What’s in a name? Royd Eris. The name Royd is a Norse baby name. In Norse the meaning of the name Royd is: Dwells in the clearing in the forest. A rather odd name for a SciFi created man who has never set foot nor seen an actual forest. This is an additional connection of Jon to Lyanna. In the story The Skin Trade, Roy Helander was known to go hide out in a secret place in the woods. This is a more sinister version of the name meaning, as Roy was doing nasty, ritualistic deeds in Old House (Nightfort) with Steven Harmon. The name Eris is used as the surname in this story. Another connection of dragon ship being a (Daenerys-Aerys) Targaryen icon. Royd rejects incest just as Jon Snow will reject incest. Again, more GRRM symbolism that fire destroys/consumes trees.

  • A Storm of Swords – Jon III

“It wasn’t Longspear, then?” Jon was relieved. He liked Longspear, with his homely face and friendly ways.

She punched him. “That’s vile. Would you bed your sister?”

“Longspear’s not your brother.”

“He’s of my village. You know nothing, Jon Snow. A true man steals a woman from afar, t’ strengthen the clan. Women who bed brothers or fathers or clan kin offend the gods, and are cursed with weak and sickly children. Even monsters.”

“Craster weds his daughters,” Jon pointed out.

She punched him again. “Craster’s more your kind than ours. His father was a crow who stole a woman out of Whitetree village, but after he had her he flew back t’ his Wall. She went t’ Castle Black once t’ show the crow his son, but the brothers blew their horns and run her off. Craster’s blood is black, and he bears a heavy curse.” She ran her fingers lightly across his stomach. “I feared you’d do the same once. Fly back to the Wall. You never knew what t’ do after you stole me.”

And I have a sneaky feeling that George has mentioned these same orgy gathering in ASOIAF, and the purpose of these gatherings to to spread the skinchanger (old gods) genetic material that is endemic to Westeros… but this skinchanger gene idea is just speculation, whereas the orgies are not

  • A Dance with Dragons – Prologue

Not all skinchangers felt the same, however. Once, when Lump was ten, Haggon had taken him to a gathering of such. The wargs were the most numerous in that company, the wolf-brothers, but the boy had found the others stranger and more fascinating. Borroq looked so much like his boar that all he lacked was tusks, Orell had his eagle, Briar her shadowcat (the moment he saw them, Lump wanted a shadowcat of his own), the goat woman Grisella …


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And then there is the often shouted, “But the Starks practice incest!”, which is not true on its face within the Stark line or any other Northern line (with a “Creg” exception). Actually, not in any other line except for the Targaryens. Not the Dothraki, the Andals, Ibbenese, Yi-Ti, any civilization in the far eastern hemisphere. Not one.

No, Eddard’s parents were not practicing incest. They were second cousins once removed, which is probably enough genetic diversity to remove that incest taint. Again, this goes back to what GRRM said about the Karstarks claiming to be kin, but were not and only said so to save their heads.

  • Rickard is actually= Royce, Blackwood, Locke, Stark
  • Lyarra is = Royce, Flint, Stark. She could actually be more Royce, Karstark, Flint, Stark if you want to put her on the same generational level with Rickard.

Either way, the idea is that they are not first cousins, and they are not brother and sister, or niece-uncle, etc.

Ultimately it comes down to what sounds right. And I struggle with that, finding the right name for a character. If I can’t find the right name I don’t know who the character is and I can’t proceed.” – George R.R. Martin

The Cr/Creg theme. George seems to be following his own pattern as follows:

  1. Creg from Bitterblooms is a controlling person who condones incest, which is never mentioned as “normal” in that society as a whole. Creg is a very controlling old man and belittles his people much like Craster does, and much like Arnolf/Cregan Karstark do, and the reason the Targaryens keep the “bloodlines pure”. Control. It is only after Creg dies that clan Carinhall rebounds.
    • “You’re silly,” Shawn told her once. “You wouldn’t be so silly if you lived in Carinhall. Silly people die, you know, and they hurt their families. Everyone has to be useful, and you’re not useful. Creg would make you be useful. You’re lucky that you aren’t a Carin.”
    • I can fix a broken window, and Creg says I’m hardly good for anything at all.”
    • Lane would have been proud of her; Creg would only have asked what took her so long.
    • She remembered Creg, whose temper was awful if you asked him the wrong question. When Shawn was just a child, Creg had beaten her savagely for asking why old Tesenya had to go outside and die.
    • Compare to Craster in Jon’s POV in A Clash of Kings:
      • Sam looked dubious. “Dolorous Edd says Craster’s a terrible savage. He marries his daughters and obeys no laws but those he makes himself. And Dywen told Grenn he’s got black blood in his veins. His mother was a wildling woman who lay with a ranger, so he’s a bas . . .” Suddenly he realized what he was about to say.

         “These are bad times to dwell alone in the wild. The cold winds are rising.”

      • “My steward and squire, Jon Snow.”

        “A bastard, is it?” Craster looked Jon up and down. “Man wants to bed a woman, seems like he ought to take her to wife. That’s what I do.” He shooed Jon off with a wave.

    • And in these two passages we see Craster has been lying to his daughter-wives as well in order to keep them enslaved and ignorant to the ways of the world: “…
      • Yet when we took them back to Castle Black they rose in the night and killed. One slew Ser Jaremy Rykker and the other came for me, which tells me that they remember some of what they knew when they lived, but there was no human mercy left in them.”

        The woman’s mouth hung open, a wet pink cave, but Craster only gave a snort. “We’ve had no such troubles here . . . and I’ll thank you not to tell such evil tales under my roof. I’m a godly man, and the gods keep me safe. If wights come walking, I’ll know how to send them back to their graves. Though I could use me a sharp new axe.” He sent his wife scurrying with a slap on her leg and a shout of “More beer, and be quick about it.”

[and then]

“What color are their eyes?” he asked her [Gilly].

“Blue. As bright as blue stars, and as cold.”

She has seen them, he thought. Craster lied.

  1. Cregan Stark from history also went against the norm in the north and #1, tried to work in the south and northern men “melt” in the south (not normal). It was Cregan’s two sons that were the only ones in noted history to commit incest when they married their half-nieces in an attempted power grab (that failed with Cregard Stark). Cregan, a ice-man of the north, was trying to appease and emulate a fire “god”, and it failed.
  2. Cregan Karstark is also going against the northern norm and trying to force an incest marriage on his clan kin, Alys, as a means for a power grab. History repeats, people, history repeats. Arnolf is Cregan’s father, and he is the one behind the power grab plan for Alys and the plan to kill the rightful heir, Harrion. Arnolf and Cregan are once again betraying the north. This is how Alys Karstark sees the mariage proposal to her cousin-uncle, and she is verbally and physically upset about it:
    • [Jon] “Your uncle … would that be Lord Arnolf?”

      “He is no lord,” Alys said scornfully. “My brother Harry is the rightful lord, and by law I am his heir. A daughter comes before an uncle. Uncle Arnolf is only castellan. He’s my great-uncle, actually, my father’s uncle. Cregan is his son. I suppose that makes him a cousin, but we always called him uncle. Now they mean to make me call him husband.She made a fist. “Before the war I was betrothed to Daryn Hornwood. We were only waiting till I flowered to be wed, but the Kingslayer killed Daryn in the Whispering Wood. My father wrote that he would find some southron lord to wed me, but he never did. Your brother Robb cut off his head for killing Lannisters.” Her mouth twisted. “I thought the whole reason they marched south was to kill some Lannisters.”

      “It was … not so simple as that. Lord Karstark slew two prisoners, my lady. Unarmed boys, squires in a cell.”

    • And remember what Ygritte explains to the reader via Jon in A Storm of Swords:

      “He’s of my village. You know nothing, Jon Snow. A true man steals a woman from afar, t’ strengthen the clan. Women who bed brothers or fathers or clan kin offend the gods, and are cursed with weak and sickly children. Even monsters.”

      “Craster weds his daughters,” Jon pointed out.

      She punched him again. “Craster’s more your kind than ours. His father was a crow who stole a woman out of Whitetree village, but after he had her he flew back t’ his Wall. She went t’ Castle Black once t’ show the crow his son, but the brothers blew their horns and run her off. Craster’s blood is black, and he bears a heavy curse.” She ran her fingers lightly across his stomach. “I feared you’d do the same once. Fly back to the Wall. You never knew what t’ do after you stole me.”

But the 93′ outline!!!!, some may shout. To that I say, nope. GRRM seems to have traded the possible romance mentioned there (remember, we never saw the conclusion to that idea in the outline itself), and invented Cersei just for this purpose. So very much of that outline has been changed, and GRRM even said that when writing it in order to pitch the book idea, that he was making shit up. The outline is not the refined version of ASOIAF we have now. Thank the old gods and the new!

The better way to investigate this Stark idea is that you should be looking at everything else that is also going on around this same time. Long and short, never do we hear of any Stark practicing incest other than this twisted case/s. We have the Stark lineage in the World book and the wiki online to be able to check.

A few things to keep in mind about the Stark incest issue are…

First, Jonnel and Edric Stark were only half-uncles to Serena and Sansa (Manderly) Stark. I am not sure if or where that counts on the “abomination scale”, but Jonnel and Edrick came from Cregan. If Eddard’s parents being cousins once removed is enough of a genetic spread (two more bloodlines introduced), then maybe this is too, but I dunno for sure. Maybe that extra new blood is enough? But chances are it was as listed in number 2, next…

Second, the two nieces were of a Manderly mother, Jeyne Manderly. So the Manderly’s at the time, who were trying to continue their move into the north, and still followed the seven, continue their campaign into the northern bloodlines. Remember, girls do not get to chose their husbands on the norm. This was a strategic double marriage back into House Stark, with one of the girls already being a widow (so second cattle marriage for her). This could be history repeating as we see current day Wyman Manderly trying to get a hold of Rickon Stark, and there is certainly speculation as to the “real” reasons why.

Third, and maybe most important, none of the half-uncle+niece marriages went back into the main branch of House Stark. It was not prevalent in House Stark at all by the records we have. If it was important, or if it was common, we would have seen it. Instead we are repeatedly told the opposite by more than one source. The Sansa-Jonnel Stark marriage had zero children; so bloodline ended. And the Serena-Edric marriage went on to create/continue House Umber and House Cerwyn. From that point on I cannot find any Umber or Cerwyn being bred back in to the Starks. Beron Stark and Lorra Royce continued House Stark proper.

Fourth, this one fits what George was talking about for why Tywin married his own first cousin- to gain and maintain power. Tywin was a Targophile in more ways than one, especially the start of his time in King’s Landing where he and Aerys became friends. He fully adapted the Targaryen “bow or burn” threat into something that was his own. Tywin has struck fear into the hearts of men because of how he handled the Reynes of Castamere situation. Tywin is no longer questioned.

When Rickon Stark (husband to Jeyne Manderly and heir to Cregan Stark) died in Dorne, that left a power and inheritance gap. Rickon only had two daughters, and we know from George that Winterfell has never had a female in charge for whatever reason. So, it could have been a power grab from the half-uncles, or it could have been an exception to keep a Stark always in Winterfell. Anyway, it gets worse because that plan backfires because the inheritance again gets screwed up because the “right” males die at the wrong time anyway (old gods judgement?). So, the incest lines end completely, either by death in the line, or it never being practiced again. The Stark inheritance went to Jonnel and Edric’s younger brother Brandon.

Fifth, we are told very clearly many times in the entire universe of Ice and Fire literature that incest is a Targaryen privilege. Elio Garcia (Ran) even confirmed this in the Sons of the Dragon thread.

  • No other houses copied Targaryen polygamy in the post-Aegon era for the same reason that no one copied Targaryen incest: it was a unique privilege permitted to them and no one else. Simple as that. Source

Any time we see incest happen, or even suggested in ASOIAF, it is meant as a bad omen. You have to include it to show how “bad” it is. The Targaryens practiced it as a means of control of their woman and their dragons. It is a type of slavery (and this also makes you question whether there really is something to the female Targaryens being the required hatching element to dragons). Controlling the (moon) blood of the dragon = their woman. The Targaryens thought themselves above gods and men, and therefore could do as they pleased (or so they thought).

In ALL of GRRM’s work that do feature an idea or act of incest, it is ALWAYS detrimental. To be clear, not all of his work features incest, but those that do, it is always a negative and is shunned or responsible for downfalls and lust, pride, purity, etc. It literally brings down dynasty’s and entire cultures. In several of his stories, the civilizations out right rejected incest even though it mean their clan will die. The only time some of these clans can have a rebound is when they realize that “new blood” is needed and incest is ended. Every time.

And, an author writes what he knows, and GRRM is in no way shape or form promoting or uplifting incest. As a matter of fact, he speaks against it many times, in many different ways. Just two examples below.

Here at the 47 minute mark where he talks about the idea of purity needs to go away because, as he says, we should all be “mutts” and “mongrels” (just like the hero in The Skin Trade). http://dndjourneyofthefifthedition.podbean.com/e/tuscon-43-an-hour-with-george-r-r-martin/

George does not condone incest, as he says in the 1:45 mark.

And this is how incest is described in the books (below), and we never hear of another culture anywhere practicing it. It repeatedly caused a rift between not just the Faith of the Seven and the Targaryens, but also between the smallfolk and the Targaryens when they arrived, and that rift lasted:

  • The World of Ice and Fire

The tradition amongst the Targaryens had always been to marry kin to kin. Wedding brother to sister was thought to be ideal. Failing that, a girl might wed an uncle, a cousin, or a nephew; a boy, a cousin, aunt, or niece. This practice went back to Old Valyria, where it was common amongst many of the ancient families, particularly those who bred and rode dragons. “The blood of the dragon must remain pure,” the wisdom went. Some of the sorcerer princes also took more than one wife when it pleased them, though this was less common than incestuous marriage. In Valryia before the Doom, wise men wrote, a thousand gods were honored, but none were feared, so few dared to speak against these customs.

This was not true in Westeros, where the power of the Faith went unquestioned. Incest was denounced as vile sin, whether between father and daughter, mother and son, or brother and sister, and the fruits of such unions were considered abominations in the sight of gods and men. With hindsight, it can be seen that conflict between the Faith and House Targaryen was inevitable.


And we even have a “King Abomination” in history, all because he chose to reinstate incest within the line.

AENYS_I
King Aenys I- King Abomination. Artist: Amok
  • The World of Ice and Fire

Queen Visenya proposed that Maegor be wed to Aenys’s first child, Rhaena, but the High Septon mounted a vigorous protest, and Maegor was wed instead to the High Septon’s own niece, Lady Ceryse of House Hightower. But that proved a barren marriage, while Aenys’s bore more fruit, as Rhaena was followed by his son and heir, Aegon, and later Viserys, Jaehaerys, and Alysanne. Perhaps envious, after two years as Hand—and the birth to his brother of yet another daughter, Vaella, who died as an infant—Maegor shocked the realm in 39 AC by announcing that he had taken a second wife—Alys of House Harroway—in secret. He had wed her in a Valyrian ceremony officiated by Queen Visenya for want of a septon willing to wed them. The public outcry was such that Aenys was finally forced to exile his brother.

Aenys seemed content to let the matter lie with Maegor’s exile, but the High Septon was still not satisfied. Not even the appointment of the reputed miracle-worker, Septon Murmison, as Aenys’s new Hand could wholly repair the breach with the Faith. And in 41 AC, Aenys made matters worse when he chose to wed his eldest daughter, Rhaena, to his son and heir, Aegon, whom he named Prince of Dragonstone in Maegor’s place. From the Starry Sept came a denunciation such as no king had ever received before, addressed to “King Abomination“—and suddenly pious lords and even the smallfolk who had once loved Aenys turned against him.

Septon Murmison was expelled from the Faith for performing the ceremony, and zealous Poor Fellows took up arms, hacking Murmison to pieces a fortnight later as he was carried by litter across the city. The Warrior’s Sons began to fortify the Hill of Rhaenys, making the Sept of Remembrance into a citadel that could stand against the king. In addition, some Poor Fellows attempted to murder the king and his family in the castle itself, scaling its walls and slipping into the royal apartments. It was only thanks to a knight of the Kingsguard that the royal family survived.


There are even GRRM notes on how closely the Karstarks are related to the Starks, to which GRRM implies they pretty much aren’t at this point in time:

  • GRRM: The other factor, which you haven’t raised, is degree of kinship. Killing a parent is probably worse than killing a sibling, but either one is a lot worse than killing a distant cousin. Lord Karstark was stretching that aspect of it when he tried to accuse Robb of kinslaying… but of course he was hoping to save his head.
  • Q: There seem to be Lannisters and Freys under every rock, while the Starks are very scarce. Does Ned not have any distant relatives who could reclaim Winterfell? GRRM: The Starks do have distant relations, but the problem is how to define what you mean by “relations”. You have some like the Karstarks, who are their own family and is basically a house founded by a son of House Stark, but this was more than a thousand years ago. And the Starks have certainly married other families. For example, it’s mencioned in the books that when Robb believes Bran and Rickon are dead…

Theon and Asha. Bye, bye fingers. Asha knows who Theon is from the moment she sees him. Theon, however, does not recognize Asha (besides seeming to have classic “Ironborn” features) and he is the one to make advances on her. Theon makes an ass out of himself, as Jon Snow mentions about Theon in the opening of A Game of Thrones:

  • A Game of Thrones – Bran I

The head bounced off a thick root and rolled. It came up near Greyjoy’s feet. Theon was a lean, dark youth of nineteen who found everything amusing. He laughed, put his boot on the head, and kicked it away.

Ass,” Jon muttered, low enough so Greyjoy did not hear. He put a hand on Bran’s shoulder, and Bran looked over at his bastard brother. “You did well,” Jon told him solemnly. Jon was fourteen, an old hand at justice.

  • A Clash of Kings – Theon II

Now there’s a pretty grin,” a woman’s voice said behind him. “The lordling likes the look of her, does he?”

Theon turned to give her an appraising glance. He liked what he saw. Ironborn, he knew at a glance; lean and long-legged, with black hair cut short, wind-chafed skin, strong sure hands, a dirk at her belt. Her nose was too big and too sharp for her thin face, but her smile made up for it. He judged her a few years older than he was, but no more than five-and-twenty. She moved as if she were used to a deck beneath her feet.

“Yes, she’s a sweet sight,” he told her, “though not half so sweet as you.”

Asha, as Esgred, constantly works against Theon’s sexual advances, and as Asha later tells Theon, she was testing the type of man he had become. Of course, the Ironmen do have a history with “finger dancing”, so the foreshadowing was there all along as Theon mocks the god.

  • A Clash of Kings – Theon II

 

“Still? When have I ever loved you?”

“Never,” he admitted, “but I am trying to repair that lack, my sweet Esgred. The wind is cold. Come aboard my ship and let me warm you. On the morrow my uncle Aeron will pour seawater over her prow and mumble a prayer to the Drowned God, but I’d sooner bless her with the milk of my loins, and yours.”

The Drowned God might not take that kindly.”

Bugger the Drowned God. If he troubles us, I’ll drown him again. We’re off to war within a fortnight. Would you send me into battle all sleepless with longing?”

… and then…

“Let him. He’ll never speak of it, I swear.”

Esgred pried his fingers off her breast. This time she kept him firmly prisoned. She had strong hands.

“I like a woman with a good tight grip.”

So with Theon, it seems the old gods are taking his fingers and his funny face as payment for the implied incest in his arc. There is even a little but of Rat Cook innuendo throughout Theon’s story as he is Reekified. Theon though, once he gets his name back, does seem to be on a redemption arc as seen late in A Dance with Dragons and in to The Winds of Winter.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Theon (multiple)
    • I had to. The rats bit him when he slept, gnawing at his fingers and his toes, even at his face, so when he got his hands on one he did not hesitate. Eat or be eaten, those were the only choices. “I did it,” he mumbled, “I did, I did, I ate him, they do the same to me, please …”
    • “Talk to me. Tell me your name.”

      My name. A scream caught in his throat. They had taught him his name, they had, they had, but it had been so long that he’d forgotten. If I say it wrong, he’ll take another finger, or worse, he’ll … he’ll … He would not think about that, he could not think about that. There were needles in his jaw, in his eyes. His head was pounding. “Please,” he squeaked, his voice thin and weak. He sounded a hundred years old. Perhaps he was. How long have I been in here? “Go,” he mumbled, through broken teeth and broken fingers, his eyes closed tight against the terrible bright light. “Please, you can have the rat, don’t hurt me …”

    • “Yes, my lord. I was bad, my lord. Insolent and …” He licked his lip, trying to think of what else he had done. Serve and obey, he told himself, and he’ll let you live, and keep the parts that you still have. Serve and obey and remember your name. Reek, Reek, it rhymes with meek. “… bad and …”

      “There’s blood on your mouth,” Ramsay observed. “Have you been chewing on your fingers again, Reek?

      “No. No, my lord, I swear.” Reek had tried to bite his own ring finger off once, to stop it hurting after they had stripped the skin from it. Lord Ramsay would never simply cut off a man’s finger. He preferred to flay it and let the exposed flesh dry and crack and fester.

    • “Reek,” he said. “Your Reek.”

      “Do this little thing for me, and you can be my dog and eat meat every day,” Lord Ramsay promised. “You will be tempted to betray me. To run or fight or join our foes. No, quiet, I’ll not hear you deny it. Lie to me, and I’ll take your tongue. A man would turn against me in your place, but we know what you are, don’t we? Betray me if you want, it makes no matter … but count your fingers first and know the cost.”

      Reek knew the cost. Seven, he thought, seven fingers. A man can make do with seven fingers. Seven is a sacred number. He remembered how much it had hurt when Lord Ramsay had commanded Skinner to lay his ring finger bare.

    • And his hands … Ramsay had given him gloves, fine gloves of black leather, soft and supple, stuffed with wool to conceal his missing fingers, but if anyone looked closely, he would see that three of his fingers did not bend.

Arianne Martell. Some readers think that this scene where Arianne describes the type of person she fantasizes about means she sexually desires her uncle Oberyn Martell. Chances are it points to the type of man Arianne desires, or at least what man she will have success in conquering while using her feminine sexuality… which is all just foreshadowing for the Arianne and Aegon/Young Griff affair. Well, to be honest, also foreshadowing that Arianne is not long for this world either. Chances are she will meet with Aegon/Young Griff, and the lusty lady and the “horny” boy will have an affair, until Daenerys finds out that Aegon has betrayed her and Dany burns Aegon for the “mummer’s dragon” that she thinks he is.

Arianne is having her own type of dragon dream in this scene:

  • A Feast for Crows – The Queenmaker

“My uncle brought me here, with Tyene and Sarella.” The memory made Arianne smile. “He caught some vipers and showed Tyene the safest way to milk them for their venom. Sarella turned over rocks, brushed sand off the mosaics, and wanted to know everything there was to know about the people who had lived here.”

“And what did you do, princess?” asked Spotted Sylva.

I sat beside the well and pretended that some robber knight had brought me here to have his way with me, she thought, a tall hard man with black eyes and a widow’s peak. The memory made her uneasy. “I dreamed,” she said, “and when the sun went down I sat cross-legged at my uncle’s feet and begged him for a story.”

  • The winds of Winter – Arianne I

“Your men are needed where they are, my lady,” Daemon Sand assured her.  Arianne was quick to nod.  Any other counsel could well lead to Lord Yronwood’s host unravelling like an old tapestry as each man rushed home to defend his own lands against supposed enemies who might or might not ever come.  “Once we know beyond a doubt whether these be friends or foes, my father will know what to do,” the princess said.
It was then that pasty, pudgy Teora raised her eyes from the creamcakes on her plate.  “It is dragons.”
“Dragons?”  said her mother.  “Teora, don’t be mad.”
“I’m not.  They’re coming.”
“How could you possibly know that?” her sister asked, with a note of scorn in her voice.  “One of your little dreams?”
Teora gave a tiny nod, chin trembling.  “They were dancing.  In my dream.  And everywhere the dragons danced the people died.”
“Seven save us.”  Lady Nymella gave an exasperated sigh.
“If you did not eat so many creamcakes you would not have such dreams.  Rich foods are not for girls your age, when your humors are so unbalanced.  Maester Toman says — ”
“I hate Maester Toman,” Teora said.  Then she bolted from the table, leaving her lady mother to make apologies for her.
“Be gentle with her, my lady,” Arianne said.  “I remember when I was her age.  My father despaired of me, I’m sure.

“I can attest to that.” Ser Daemon took a sip of wine and said, “House Toland has a dragon on its banners.”
A dragon eating its own tail, aye,” Valena said. “From the days of Aegon’s Conquest. He did not conquer here. Elsewhere he burned his foes, him and his sisters, but here we melted away before them, leaving only stone and sand for them to burn. And round and round the dragons went, snapping at their tails for want of any other food, till they were tied in knots.”

  • The Winds of Winter – Arianne II

Lysono Maar spoke the Common Tongue very well. “I have the honor to be the eyes and ears of the Golden Company, princess.”

“You look… ” She hesitated.

“…like a woman?” He laughed. “That I am not.”

“ …like a Targaryen,” Arianne insisted. His eyes were a pale lilac, his hair a waterfall of white and gold. All the same, something about him made her skin crawl. Was this what Viserys looked like? she found herself wondering. If so perhaps it is a good thing he is dead.  

“I am flattered. The women of House Targaryen are said to be without peer in all the world.”

“And the men of House Targaryen?”

“Oh, even prettier. Though if truth be told, I have only seen the one.”  Maar took her hand in his own, and kissed her lightly on the wrist.

Compare to the descriptions of Aegon:

  • A Dance with Dragons – Tyrion IV

The bacon turned crisp, the biscuits golden brown. Young Griff stumbled up onto deck yawning. “Good morrow, all.” The lad was shorter than Duck, but his lanky build suggested that he had not yet come into his full growth. This beardless boy could have any maiden in the Seven Kingdoms, blue hair or no. Those eyes of his would melt them. Like his sire, Young Griff had blue eyes, but where the father’s eyes were pale, the son’s were dark. By lamplight they turned black, and in the light of dusk they seemed purple. His eyelashes were as long as any woman’s.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Tyrion VI

    The lad did not seem appeased. The perfect prince but still half a boy for all that, with little and less experience of the world and all its woes. “Prince Aegon,” said Tyrion, “since we’re both stuck aboard this boat, perhaps you will honor me with a game of cyvasse to while away the hours?”

    The prince gave him a wary look. “I am sick of cyvasse.”


Wyman Manderly and Donella Hornwood. It is true that Donella and Wyman are cousins, but the difference here is that what Wyman proposes is a means of protection for Donella, which we later see Ramsay Snow take advantage of as he tortures Lady Donella until she eats her fingers. What we also see is that Wyman has no intent on practicing incest with his cousin, just a form of a paper shield. Likewise, we see how Lady Donella will marry again if her king (Robb Stark) commands it, and her suggestion is a non-relative Rodrik Cassel, as she is very much terrified and alarmed at the suggestion of Ramsay Snow. Additionally, the Hornwood men are currently at Winterfell as of the Theon chapters in ADWD, and they have not forgotten the wrongdoings of Ramsay. Stories of Ramsay Snow are widely known throughout the north. Ramsay is a lone wolf type that basically rabid mad.

Also, note how it is Maester Luwin who seems to make the final decision on the future of Lady Donella Hornwood, as Bran excuses himself from the room. A maester stepping in to make the decisions that the Stark in Winterfell should have made was a set up for failure.

  • A Clash of Kings – Bran II

Ser Rodrik said, “That would please the Glovers, and perhaps Lord Hornwood’s shade as well, but I do not think Lady Hornwood would love us. The boy is not of her blood.”

“Still,” said Maester Luwin, “it must be considered. Lady Donella is past her fertile years, as she said herself. If not the bastard, who?

“May I be excused?” Bran could hear the squires at their swordplay in the yard below, the ring of steel on steel.


Black Walder Frey. He is the main member of the Freys mentioned to practice incest. Some readers in the fandom think this is not a factual statement (below), and that Black Walder never committed incest. Whether it is true or not, the implication is the same = incest is an abomination and is carried out by a black/dark lord character.

However, there are plenty of instances that can be called in to question, to the point that even a few might be truthful, even if not all. Black Walder refuses to marry, according to Merrett Frey. Walder is rumored to instead have maintained numerous affairs with several women, including cousins and the wives of his close relations. There is talk that he bedded the wives of his brothers Edwyn and Petyr, his niece Fair Walda, and his half-cousin Amerei, among others. Black Walder is even rumored to have maintained a relationship with Lord Walder’s seventh wife, Annara Farring. The relations may cast doubt over the paternity of many of the newborn Freys, including the young heiress Walda Frey and her cousin Perra, or Lord Walder’s six children with Annara.

  • A Storm of Swords – Epilogue

His head had begun to pound; soft now, but he knew it would get worse. Merrett rubbed the bridge of his nose. He really had no right to think so ill of Petyr. I did the same myself when I was his age. In his case all it got him was a pox, but still, he shouldn’t condemn. Whores did have charms, especially if you had a face like Petyr’s. The poor lad had a wife, to be sure, but she was half the problem. Not only was she twice his age, but she was bedding his brother Walder too, if the talk was true. There was always lots of talk around the Twins, and only a little was ever true, but in this case Merrett believed it. Black Walder was a man who took what he wanted, even his brother’s wife. He’d had Edwyn’s wife too, that was common knowledge, Fair Walda had been known to slip into his bed from time to time, and some even said he’d known the seventh Lady Frey a deal better than he should have. Small wonder he refused to marry. Why buy a cow when there were udders all around begging to be milked?

  • A Feast for Crows – Jaime V

When Jaime had taken his leave of Lady Amerei, she had been weeping softly at the dissolution of her marriage whilst letting Lyle Crakehall console her. Her tears had not troubled him half so much as the hard looks on the faces of her kin as they stood about the yard. “I hope you do not intend to take vows as well, coz,” he said to Daven. “The Freys are prickly where marriage contracts are concerned. I would hate to disappoint them again.”

Ser Daven snorted. “I’ll wed and bed my stoat, never fear. I know what happened to Robb Stark. From what Edwyn tells me, though, I’d best pick one who hasn’t flowered yet, or I’m like to find that Black Walder has been there first. I’ll wager he’s had Gatehouse Ami, and more than thrice. Maybe that explains Lancel’s godliness, and his father’s mood.”

“You have seen Ser Kevan?”


Aunt Lysa Tully… to come, but basically Lysa is crazy, and may have been made crazier by her makeup usage. Whether from makeup poisoning, or because of her lust for Petyr Baelish, she is mad and not making rational decisions. Catelyn also has a tendancy to be rather harsh and elitist when it comes to birth ranking and, as with those like Mya Stone and Jon Snow, bastardy.

  • Q: There seem to be Lannisters and Freys under every rock, while the Starks are very scarce. Does Ned not have any distant relatives who could reclaim Winterfell?

GRRM: The Starks do have distant relations, but the problem is how to define what you mean by “relations”. You have some like the Karstarks, who are their own family and is basically a house founded by a son of House Stark, but this was more than a thousand years ago. And the Starks have certainly married other families. For example, it’s mencioned in the books that when Robb believes Bran and Rickon are dead, he has a conversation with his mother Catelyn soon after he’s married Jeyne. He needs an heir and it’s too soon for him to have a child yet. And so he tells her he needs an heir, and Catelyn replies that there are near relations. There’s a relation in the Vale, from an aunt (in the sense of a female relation in general, not necessarily of the previous generation) of yours. That’s your closest relative. To that, Robb says that there’s someone much nearer to him in terms of blood, and Catelyn insists these relations in the Vale are the nearest. They’re both discussing a topic without being explicit about it.

So there’s different relations between different characters, and the problem is that the validity of the aspirations of certain characters to rule can lead to war over questions like this. If they say they’re heirs because they’re related two generations back, someone else may argue they have a better connection three generations back but through someone who was nearer to the throne, and so on. Because of problems like this, about who had more right to the throne, there have been wars in the Seven KIngdoms.


Jaime and Cersei Lannister… to come, and maybe their own page because this would be a rather long addition to discuss the two sides of the same coin here. George has said that Cersei and Daenerys are parallels of each other, and we readers can see how this includes the three fire babies from each side as well, and each set of three babies was created by, essentially, self-pollination. Joffrey is a human version of Drogon… which doesn’t bode well for Drogon and his dragon siblings.

Also noted above is how the cross-sex clone idea from Nightflyers is a predecessor plot of the Jaime-Cersei relationship… meaning bad!


***editing in process. More quotes to come 🙂

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