Food for Thought: Words from George RR Martin


One thing that you may be noticing about me as you follow this blog, is that I am nerdy to the core.   Some of my earliest memories are of Batman movies and cartoons.   I grew up playing with Fisher Price knights, and swinging sticks around with (and sometimes at) my friends.    On the surface, super-heroes and fantasy and sci-fi are just pulp.   Fun, gimmicky stories to distract us from the real world, right?

Wrong!   For me, at least, these kinds of stories are very significant representations of the human psyche.   There is always good and evil (and they are often, though not always, clearly defined.)   The grandiose stories of fantasy and super-heroes help us to hone in on some truly important questions about morality, justice, and what it means to be human.    Only in these genres (and perhaps murder mysteries) are the characters really forced to deal with the most fundamental and important issues of life and death, good and evil, and what it means to be human.   It is no coincidence, for example, that a devout Roman Catholic, JRR Tolkien, revolutionized and some would say even created the fantasy genre.

George RR Martin has often been called “the American Tolkien.”   There might be some truth to that, but I doubt it.   Perhaps in terms of critical acclaim, but not much else.   While Tolkien’s world had clearly defined good and evil, George RR Martin’s fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire” (also a critically acclaimed television show on HBO entitled “Game of Thrones” after the first novel in the series) resembles much more closely our own.     There are no hobbits or orcs in Martin’s world.   At least not explicitly; some men and women in Martin’s world behave much like hobbits and some are worse even than orcs, and the vast majority spend much effort trying to figure out which of the two they are.    Like we all are.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings.   Here are some few choice quotes from the mind of George RR Martin.   Keep in mind, though, that these quotes come from different characters; not everything (and perhaps not anything) reflects GRRM’s views on life, justice, power, morality, and so forth.   But they are fine quotations from a fine piece of literature, and I implore anyone lurking to read them.   So without further ado, here’s some Food For Thought.   All credit goes to George RR Martin and his publishers.


American author George RR Martin


“What do you think a knight is for, girl? You think it’s all taking favors from ladies and looking fine in gold plate? Knights are for killing.”

“Mercy, there’s a bloody trap. Too much and they call you weak, too little and you’re monstrous.”

“Never forget who you are, for surely the world won’t. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armor yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”

“That’s no law, just a sword. Happens I got one too.”

“There is no creature on earth half so terrifying as a truly just man.”

“Rhaegar fought valiantly. Rhaegar fought nobly. Rhaegar fought honourably. And Rhaegar died.”

“Fear cuts deeper than swords.”

“If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look him into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”

“A harp is as dangerous as a sword, in the right hands.”

“All these kings would do a deal better if they would put down their swords and listen to their mothers.”

“A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is.”

“The dead are likely dull fellows, full of tedious complaints – ‘the ground’s too cold, my gravestone should be larger, why does HE get more worms than I do…'”

“Do you have any notion what happens when a city is sacked, Sansa? No, you wouldn’t, would you? All you know of life you learned from singers, and there is such a dearth of good sacking songs.”

“All men are fools, if truth be told, but the ones in motley are more amusing than the ones with crowns.”

“True knights protect the weak.”
He snorted. “There are no true knights, no more than there are gods. If you can’t protect yourself, die and get out of the way of those who can. Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don’t ever believe any different.”
Sansa backed away from him. “You’re awful.”
“I’m honest. It’s the world that’s awful…”

“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”
“That is the only time a man can be brave.”

“He was always clever, even as a boy, but it is one thing to be clever and another to be wise.”

“You are an honest and honorable man, Lord Eddard. Ofttimes I forget that. I have met so few of them in my life.” He glanced around the cell. “When I see what honesty and honor have won you, I understand why.”

“Broken men are more deserving of our pity, though they may be just as dangerous. Almost all are common-born, simple folk who had never been more than a mile from the house where they were born until the day some lord came round to take them off to war. Poorly shod and poorly clad, they march away beneath his banners, ofttimes with no better arms than a sickle or a sharpened hoe, or a maul they made themselves by lashing a stone to a stick with strips of hide. Brothers march with brothers, sons with fathers, friends with friends. They’ve heard the songs and stories, so they go off with eager hearts, dreaming of the wonders they will see, of the wealth and glory they will win. War seems a fine adventure, the greatest most of them will ever know.
“Then the get a taste of battle.
“For some, that one taste is enough to break them. Others go on for years, until they lose count of all the battles they have fought in, but even a man who has survived a hundred fights can break in his hundred-and-first. Brothers watch their brothers die, fathers lose their sons, friends see their friends trying to hold their entrails in after they’ve been gutted by an axe.
“They see the lord who led them there cut down, and some other lord shouts that they are his now. They take a wound, and when that’s still half-healed they take another. There is never enough to eat, their shoes fall to pieces from the marching, their clothes are torn and rotting, and half of them are shitting in their breeches from drinking bad water.
“If they want new boots or a warmer cloak or maybe a rusted iron halfhelm, they need to take them from a corpse, and before long they are stealing from the living too, from the smallfolk whose lands they’re fighting in, men very like the men they used to be. They slaughter their sheep and steal their chickens, and from there it’s just a short step to carrying off their daughters too. And one day they look around and realize all their friends and kin are gone, that they are fighting beside strangers beneath a banner thatt they hardly recognize. They don’t know where they are or how to get back home and the lord they’re fighting for does not know their names, yet here he comes, shouting for them to form up, to make a line with their spears and scythes and sharpened hoes, to stand their ground. And the knights come down on them, faceless men clad all in steel, and the iron thunder of their charge seems to fill the world…
“And the man breaks.
“He turns and runs, or crawls off afterward over the corpses of the slain or steals away in the black of night, and he finds someplace to hide. All thought of home is gone by then, and kings and lords and gods mean less to him than a haunch of spoiled meat that will let him live another day, or a skin of bad wine that might drown his fear for a few hours. The broken man lives from day to day, from meal to meal, more beast than man. Lady Brienne is not wrong. In times like these, the traveler must beware of broken men, and fear them…but he should pity them as well.”

“A knight’s a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oild and the ladys favors, they’re silk ribbons tied round the sword. Maybe the sword’s prettier with the ribbons hanging off it, but it will kill you just as dead. Well, bugger your ribbons, and shove your swords up your arses. I’m the same as you . The only difference is, I don’t lie about what I am. So kill me, but don’t call me a murderer while you stand there telling each other that your shit don’t stink. You hear me!”

“A craven can be as brave as any man, when there is nothing to fear. And we all do our duty, when there is no cost to it. How easy it seems then, to walk the path of honor. Yet soon or late in every man’s life comes a day when it is not easy, a day when he must choose.”

“Death is so terribly final, while life is full of possibilities.”

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