Game of Thrones · NIU · Scholars of the Throne

Bears, Weddings, and Literacy

This week’s blog covers:

S3 Ep 7: “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”

S3 Ep 8: “Second Sons”

S3 Ep 9: “The Rains of Castamere”

S3 Ep 10: “Mhysa”

This Week’s Highlight(s):

Once again this weeks highlight goes to the production team of HBO and the series Game of Thrones. “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” featured an epic fight sequence between Jaime, Brienne, and Bart the Bear. reveals that the actual bear, pit, and subsequent battle for survival was mostly filmed in Castaic, CA due to issues with flying a live bear internationally. The other option was to use an animatronic bear or man in bear suit. Episode director Michelle MacLaren, ultimately decided that these options would not be realistic enough. This scene would not have been as effective with the alternatives, so I give my props to the showrunners for doing whatever it took to create a realistic bear fight. Although this scene, along with the scenes with Ramsay and Theon were not written by Martin, the rest of the episode was. This marks the third episode that Martin has written for the series.

This Week’s Lowlife(s):

The Freys and the Bolton’s obviously deserve to win the Lowlifes of the week. The Red Wedding happened this week in “The Rains of Castamere.” George R.R. Martin disclosed to that this scene was the hardest one he has ever had to write. Martin explains that he finished the entire third installment of the series, A Storm of Swords, before finding himself capable of writing the Red Wedding scene, stating

“It was like murdering two of your children. I try to make the readers feel they’ve lived the events of the book. Just as you grieve if a friend is killed, you should grieve if a fictional character is killed. You should care. If somebody dies and you just go get more popcorn, it’s a superficial experience isn’t it?”

Martin later admits that this scene had many inspirations, including real events in Scottish history. In a 2013 article, The Real-life Events that Inspired Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding, Stacy Conradt breaks down how The Black Dinner and the Glencoe Massacre inspired the Red Wedding.

Each of these scenarios broke guest right, which has been a part of social and moral laws throughout all of recorded history and every civilization. In The Moral Basis of Hospitium Privatum, the ancient Greek and Roman concept of hospitality, is explained as the sacred duty of the host to protect their guest while under the host’s roof. According to Nybakken, this concept has been utilized as a formal agreement between families, eventually increasing its scope to agreements made between an individual, other members of the community, and even between states and nations.

This guest right is very important tradition in Westeros. Once a guest has been served bread and salt, the guest right is invoked. The breaking of this sacred virtue has been seen in the Mutiny at Craster’s Keep and even with Jaime’s pushing of Bran from the tower, in which Jaime was the Stark’s formal guest. Breaking this sacred oath means certain damnation, which is all I really want for Walder Frey.

Thought Provoking Theme(s):

The Literacy Divide

Although the series has hinted to Jaime’s dyslexia and the lack of literacy throughout the commonfolk of Westeros, this series of episodes really show the divide between those that are literate and those who are not. Ser Davos is illiterate and Shereen hopes to teach him how to read using old tales. Learning to read proves to be very important, because Davos is able to read the scroll from Aemon Targaryen warning of the White Walkers, which ultimately saves Davos’ life.

North of the wall, Gilly has many difficulties understanding Samwell as they seek safety after the Mutiny at Craster’s Keep. When Samwell explains that he has so much knowledge from reading old books, Gilly responds with, “You know all that from staring at marks on paper? You’re like a wizard.” It is very interesting to see these divides and how it affects relationships and the narrative.

This divide is apparent with Jon Snow and Ygritte, as well. As the Wildlings move forward with their attack plan, Ygritte pokes fun at the way the that those below the wall fight. Jon Snow warns Ygritte that the Wildlings will not win against the Night’s Watch. He tells her how the Wildlings have attacked six times, and lost each time. Jon knows this due to all of his teachings and readings in Winterfell. The lack of literacy and preserving history ultimately weakens the Wildlings. They can only focus on survival north of the Wall, so it is understandable that they have not found time nor energy to record their history.


Nybakken, Oscar E.. “The Moral Basis of Hospitium Privatum”. The Classical Journal 41.6 (1946): 248–253.

6 thoughts on “Bears, Weddings, and Literacy

  1. I enjoy that you looked into the scene where Brienne was against the bear. It was an interesting scene that I was wondering how they did it. I also appreciate that you look for when George R.R. Martin creates. I would not have thought that it was the one that he would have done. One thing that I am curious is how Martin felt about the added scenes that were not in his original works. I also admire that you talk about the literacy gap between Gilly and Samwell. This reminds me of the digital divide that is occurring in our age.


  2. Great observation on how literacy shows up as an element. Tywin Lannister was suspicious of Arya because she could read, or that she had been taught to read by her “stonemason” father.

    Tywin: I’ve never known a stonemason who could read.
    Arya: Have you known many stonemasons, my lord?
    Tywin: Careful girl.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know, I thought the bear rig they had in “The Revenant” was pretty damn good and ultimately scarier than what they came up with on GOT. The scariest bears, however, are in Herzog’s “Grizzly Man.”
    About Martin’s comments on RW scene. I want to make something out of the fact that he never wrote a perspective chapter for Robb in the book. It was like if he did, he wouldn’t be able to murder him off in such a shocking way. Weird relationship with his characters.
    About the hospitality rules, the interesting thing about the Glencoe massacre was that it wasn’t the hosts killing the guests, it was the guests killing the host. I guess I like Martin’s version better.
    Spoiler alert: my favorite moment in the series concerning books and literacy comes when Tyrion presents his nephew a special book.


  4. I appreciate your touching on the literacy as well. It’s an interesting theme to pull in considering it would be very simple to gloss over something so “educational” in this very brutal and physical show that relies so heavily on action. It’s interesting that several of the small and weak characters have the ability to read – thus a strength other “stronger” characters don’t possess..


  5. Bears, weddings and literacy oh my! The scene where Gilly is surprised by the intelligence and sort of put off by it makes me wonder if this is an actual thing GRRm ran into in his younger years when talking to women. If Samwell is loosely based on him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was seen as the precocious geek who didn’t get much attention from the opposite sex and when he did I bet it went down exactly like that.


  6. Very interesting to think about the literacy of the characters, something I have never really thought of. Additionally, it was interesting to read the production note about the bear, and the option of using someone in a costume. I think having a real bear helps, but I wonder if PETA reached out at all. An enjoyable read of your perspective, and things I did not notice.


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