Let’s have a bit of fun, and assign mottos from George R.R Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire to contemporary countries. I’ll take into account the countries history and present, as well as cultural and economic factors.
Just a heads up: This list does have a European slant, and that’s because of the European inspiration behind George R. R Martin’s series. Countries are not featured on this list to appear more ‘diverse,’ but because I can construct a strong argument for them.
There is also a spoiler for the series finale of Game of Thrones.
Anyway, let’s begin!
Words: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken
A country with a history of people enduring hardships and trying to find strength, India reminds me of House Martell in multiple ways. Of course, Indian-descent actors are in Game Of Thrones and in fancasts, but on a much deeper level- there is something Indian about the Martells. Maybe it’s the way that they resisted British rule, or that India is home to many spices and art.
A darker comparison point is that Westeros treats Dornish people with scorn and stereotypes, however, Indian individuals manage to thrive in many ways. Both Sunspear (the seat of House Martell) and India have stunning architecture. India and Dorne also have vivid exporting profiles: India is known for exporting gems and fabrics. In A Song Of Ice And Fire, Dorne is similar- with its wines being the cause of envy. Just a note: I had cider from India once. It was amazing.
For those wanting a good ASOIAF history moment, Meria Martell, a ruling Princess of Dorne had this epic conversation with Rhaenys Targaryen:
Meria: I will not fight you, nor will I kneel to you. Dorne has no king. Tell your brother that.
Rhaenys: I shall, but we will come again, Princess, and the next time we shall come with fire and blood.
An epic conversation in “The World of Ice & Fire.”
Meria: Your words. Ours are Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken. You may burn us, my lady … but you will not bend us, break us, or make us bow. This is Dorne. You are not wanted here. Return at your peril.
Because of that, I have no problem saying that India’s words are ‘Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.’
Words: We Do Not Sow
Country: The Scandinavian & Nordic Countries
This was hard to pick, because ‘we do not sow’ implies that instead of farming, reaping occurs. Some of the most notorious empires in the world had active farming and agricultural programs.
That being said, it’s important to remember that the Greyjoys aren’t just brutes who burn everything down. Characters like Asha Greyjoy are committed to creating a greater society for her people, as we can see in her Kingsmoot speech:
Peace. Land. Victory. I’ll give you Sea Dragon Point and the Stony Shore, black earth and tall trees and stones enough for every younger son to build a hall. We’ll have the northmen too … as friends, to stand with us against the Iron Throne. Your choice is simple. Crown me, for peace and victory. Or crown my uncle, for more war and more defeat.A Feast For Crows
So instead of picking a single country for “We Do Not Sow,” I decided to pick a group of countries, that is- the Scandinavian countries which are:
Depending on your definition, this could also include Greenland, Svalbard, the Faroe Islands and the Åland Islands. Either way- Scandinavian countries share a strong Viking history and beautiful seas. Really- it’s the Viking history that gives these countries an edge. That, and I can see baby Asha and Theon enjoying Scandinavian fairytales and stories about epic journeys and conquests.
A hard pick, but I’ll stick with it.
Words: Growing Strong
“Highgarden,” replied the Reader. “Soon enough all the power of the Reach will be marshaled against us, Barber, and then you may learn that some roses have steel thorns.”A Song Of Ice And Fire
When people think about the Tyrells, they think about the grand palace of Versailles. As someone who has visited it, it’s very ‘Highgarden’ in many ways. However, I’ll give the edge to Austria- from the music of schoolboys in Vienna, to the Schönbrunn Palace, to the dreamy Christmas markets of Salzburg- characters like Margaery Tyrell would feel right at home.
Having visited Vienna, I was taken aback by how rich and clean it looked. It’s a well preserved, wealthy city with many beautiful features. You can’t convince me Mace Tyrell wouldn’t preserve Highgarden like that. Austria has an interesting imperial city, and has produced historical figures such as Marie Antoinette, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and notoriously, Adolf Hitler. Just as Margaery Tyrell is determined to be ‘the’ Queen, Austria is responsible for producing people who want to write history.
I also thought about Switzerland, but I think Austria has a stronger argument going for it. Both are gorgeous countries, however.
Words: As High As Honour
Japan is a country that takes great pride in their work ethic, how they present themselves to others, their creations and in their people. It’s also a rather isolationist country, with low immigration compared to other countries. I remember researching, one time, about second hand designer purses. Turns out, it’s a booming industry in Japan. Why? Partially because, alot of Japanese people would be horrified at the idea of selling a fake item.
The Arryns take great pride and honour in their work. A very strong argument could be made for Singapore, but what gives Japan the edge to me is the climate and the sky-line beauty of the country.
It stretched before them to the misty east, a tranquil land of rich black soil, wide slow-moving rivers, and hundreds of small lakes that shone like mirrors in the sun, protected on all sides by its sheltering peaks.Catelyn Stark’s thoughts on the Vale
The people of the Vale- such as Yohn Royce, Petyr Baelish, Mya Stone, Robert and Jon Arryn- are all proud people with varying levels of discipline and have different ideas of what a perfect world looks like. The Vale is quite possibly one of the more underrated kingdoms in A Song of Ice And Fire.
Words: Ours Is The Fury
Country: United Kingdom
We are all familiar with Churchill’s strength of iron during The Blitz, and if you’ve ever seen a Liverpool versus Barcelona game, you’d know the determination of a British fan (if they support Liverpool!). Like The Stormlands itself, the United Kingdom can have stubborn people (Charles Darwin as an example) who stick to their guns and beliefs. Whether the UK is producing villains (Oliver Cromwell, not a fan!) or heroes (Shakespeare!), it parallels strongly with the Baratheons- a house full of diverse personalities that will invoke a reaction.
His eyes were sunk in deep pits, his close-cropped beard no more than a shadow across his hollow cheeks and bony jawbone. Yet there was power in his stare, an iron ferocity that told Asha this man would never, ever turn back from his course.Asha Greyjoy describing Stannis Baratheon
Although alot of my focus when discussing House Baratheon is on the three brothers- Robert, Stannis, and Renly (who is like a manipulative Shakespeare character)- I think it’s worth discussing the children of House Baratheon. Gendry has the charm of a strapping gentlemen from a Jane Austen novel, Edric Storm has the intellect of a medieval university professor, and bookworm Shireen reminds me of the literary worlds of London and Edinburgh.
When we think about Britain in Game of Thrones, we think of the Kings and Queens. And that’s alright- but also think about the average citizen as well. Because despite the Baratheons being royal, Robert’s bastards are the ‘common people’ that Britpop band Pulp sang about.
Life’s not a walk in the park, and the British won’t forget that.
Words: Family, Duty, Honour
As this is a blog post, I think it’s alright for me to get a bit personal here. When I went to Ireland in 2015, I was welcomed, met with great hospitality, treated with respect and interest. The people of Ireland are lovely. As are the Tullys: from the gruffy Blackfish, to the kind and compassionate Edmure, to the proudful Catelyn. Whereas other houses use their words as a threat- the Tully’s use them as a point to tell others that they are committed to looking out for each other.
You have courage. Not battle courage perhaps but … I don’t know … a kind of woman’s courage.Brienne of Tarth’s words to Catelyn Stark
On a more serious note, Ireland’s history has conflict in strife. As do nearly all countries, but with Ireland- it reminds me of the Riverlands. From the green landscapes, to the people who are trying their best- Ireland made an impression on me. When I visited Northern Ireland (I guess it’s both Baratheon and Tully here)- I observed a country determined to keep their chin high amongst an unsettling recent history.
The Irish, like the Tullys- live by the principles of family, duty, honour. That’s beautiful.
Words: Hear Me Roar
Quite possibly one of the most majestic countries in human history, maybe the greatest- Italy is majestic. From the fashion houses (Fendi, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana- aka people who’d love to dress Cersei Lannister) to the stunning architecture- Italy screams Lannister based on the aesthetics alone. Italy is linked with dark parts of history: World War II, the mafia and cruel Emperors. Because of that, Italy can be associated with the Tywins, Cerseis and Joffreys of the world.
The Lannisters never declined, graciously or otherwise. The Lannisters took what was offered.Thoughts of Tyrion Lannister
But it’s the country that gave us the Sistine Chapel. It gave us David, by Michelangelo. It gave us Leonardo Da Vinci. I think of all the joy pizza can give to someone, or a game of football. I think of chilled gelato on a warm day. I think the first time I saw the Trevi Foundation was when I realized that humans are capable for greatness. Tyrion Lannister, of course, is the Italian intellectual artist trying to navigate the complex maze known as Italy.
Italy, just like House Lannister, makes us accept the good and the bad, and the reality that an individual could be both.
Words: Fire & Blood
Dragons. A bloody history. Moments of madness and greatness. A strong sense of pride within their countries. Full of some of the most magnifying personalities in human history- China is a country that instantly earns you attention when it pops up in the news. Just like how the Targaryens are viewed as greater than man, it’s hard to not get that impression of the Chinese Emperors.
Let’s look at how a Targaryen is described as:
I know that she spent her childhood in exile, impoverished, living on dreams and schemes, running from one city to the next, always fearful, never safe, friendless but for a brother who was by all accounts half-mad… a brother who sold her maidenhood to the Dothraki for the promise of an army. I know that somewhere upon the grass, her dragons hatched, and so did she. I know she is proud. How not? What else was left her but pride? I know she is strong. How not? The Dothraki despise weakness. If Daenerys had been weak, she would have perished with Viserys. I know she is fierce. Astapor, Yunkai and Meereen are proof enough of that. She has survived assassins and conspiracies and fell sorceries, grieved for a brother and a husband and a son, trod the cities of the slavers to dust beneath her dainty sandaled feet.Tyrion’s comments about Daenerys Targaryen in “A Dance With Dragons.”
The President of China, Xi Jinping, is currently the most powerful person in the entire world. Throughout the ASOIAF history- ranging from Aegon The Conqueror to Daenerys Targaryen, the mother of Dragons- Targaryens have been the most powerful.
China may not have dragons, but they have savvy connections, a strong military power, a thriving intelligence platform and a wealthy economy. There are other ways for them to conquer the world without saying ‘Dracarys.’
Words: Winter Is Coming
Country: Russian Federation
“Tell Lord Tywin winter is coming for him. 20,000 Northerners marching south to find out if he really does shit gold.”Game of Thrones, Season 1
Oh come on. Russia and her notorious winters that scare off tourists and potential invaders every year. Winter is not a matter-of-fact in Russia, it’s a threat. Napoleon learned that the hard way. Russia also reminds me of the old Kings of the North, who’d conquer lands and fight in battles.
I think what sold me on the Russia = House Stark analogy is a crucial comparison. Simply put, Russia is treated by many to be a scary country that is neither European nor Asian. It’s a beast of its own making. The North is also like that: Northerners are often maligined by Southerners, and aren’t accepted by Wildlings beyond the Wall. They are too Northern to be part of Westeros, but are too much like Westeros to be accepted by anyone not in Westeros.
However, this cultural awkwardness is a source of strength for Russia and for House Stark. Russia has strong patriotism and a long-running president. Just as the Northmen shouted “Queen In The North” for Sansa Stark in the latest Game of Thrones episode- the Russians will shout out for each other.
So there we have it- 9 countries and 9 mottos they can use now. What are your thoughts? Comment below!