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This page covers tropes found in A Song of Ice and Fire. See also A Song of Ice and Fire/Tropes A To I and A Song of Ice and Fire/Tropes J To R. Subjective tropes and audience reactions go to the YMMV page.

S-V

  • Sacred Hospitality: The laws of hospitality are considered very important in Westeros. The legend of the Rat King suggests that the gods will take vengeance on those who break them. Several characters specifically plan their aggressive actions so as not to break the laws of hospitality. Catelyn urges Robb to request bread and salt from a hostile host as soon as possible to ensure that his stay is safe. The fact that guests were slaughtered in the Red Wedding makes the betrayal doubly outrageous in the eyes of Westeros.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Thus far the POV character in the prologue or epilogue will, without exception, die. Though Varamyr's spirit lives on in his wolf One-Eye.
  • Sad Clown: Tyrion Lannister is a deeply unhappy man who copes with sharp humor even when it's unwise. Dolorous Edd embraces the trope literally with morbid, deadpan wisecracks.
  • Sadistic Choice: King Joffrey Baratheon is very fond of these. When he punished a minstrel for mocking his parents, he gave him the choice of keeping his fingers or tongue. Randyll Tarly also uses these when he judges the people of Maidenpool. One victim was a guy who did nothing worse than cheat at dice; Randyll sentenced him to having one hand broken and the other pierced by a nail. He let the guy choose which hand.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Brienne of Tarth wins a tournament before it's revealed that she's a woman (though an interesting case because everyone present other than Catelyn knows who she is and most disapprove of her winning because she's a woman). Also The Archer Alleras is generally assumed to be Sarella Sand, one of Oberyn Martell's bastard daughters. Many fans also suspect that Lyanna Stark was the mystery knight at the Harrenhal tournament.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Littlefinger.
  • Scars Are Forever: All over the place, from facial wounds and pox scars to An Arm and a Leg. See Facial Horror, Fingore and Red Right Hand.
  • Science Destroys Magic: Possibly the goal of some of the Maesters at the Citadel.
  • Screw Politeness I Am a Senior: Walder Frey, to the extreme. Olenna Tyrell has the nickname "The Queen of Thorns" for this very reason as well.
  • Sdrawkcab Name:
    • Alleras, who is most likely Sarella Sand in disguise.
    • In A Dance With Dragons, Mance Rayder goes undercover as "Abel", alluding to a famous undercover wilding named Bael.
  • Second Love: Brienne and Jaime, coming on the heels of Renly's death and Cersei's philandering, respectively. Tyrion starts to feel this way about Shae, until she falsely testifies against him for plotting to murder Joffrey, and then when he finds her in his father's bed, he kills her. Mostly, though, nobody ever moves on.
  • The Secret of Long Pork Pies: Wyman Manderly loves a nice hot Frey Pie.
  • Secret Relationship:
    • Jaime and Cersei, since incestuous adultery doesn't go over well. Tyrion knows from the beginning, the reader finds it out from Bran's POV, and a lot of the book is about Ned gradually uncovering the secret.
    • There's another between Renly and Loras - aside from a few pointed comments by other characters (e.g., Jaime Lannister threatening to stick Loras' sword "somewhere even Renly couldn't find"), the only confirmation has been from Word of God.
    • It's also strongly implied that Rhaegar and Lyanna had one of these, and a common fan theory is that they are Jon Snow's actual parents.
  • Secretly Dying: Jon Connington, of greyscale.
  • Self-Proclaimed Knight: Jaime accuses Ser Osmund Kettleblack of being one after examining the White Book, the registry of Kingsguard knights. He claims to have been knighted by one "Ser Robert Stone" (deceased), but Jaime remarks how conveniently untraceable such a person would be.
  • Sergeant Rock: Jeor Mormont is a quite gruff man who doesn't sugar-coat his words, but is shown to be a good leader who has all the qualities that a member of the Night's Watch is supposed to have.
  • Sex Is Violence: In A Storm of Swords, Jaime and Brienne have a fight that Jaime's POV describes in very sexual terms, particularly afterward where he focuses on her clothing being disarranged and heavy breathing and "looking like they had been fucking, not fighting".
  • Ship Tease: With Sandor/Sansa and Jaime/Brienne shippers being teased the most.
  • Shoo the Dog: Nymeria, early on.
  • Show, Don't Tell: One reason the books tend towards being Doorstoppers. Martin could just tell us that the Drowned Men live (almost) exclusively off stuff from the sea, for example. Instead, he endlessly shows them running around in sealskins and cooking seafood over driftwood fires.
  • Shrug of God: All the damn time.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang:
    • Arya and Sansa - Tomboy and Girly Girl.
    • Cersei and Tyrion
    • Stannis and Renly - Red Oni, Blue Oni.
    • Exploited Trope in the case of Doran and Oberyn Martell. After his brother's death, Doran tells his nieces that he used his pensive, somewhat ineffectual reputation to shield Oberyn "the Red Viper" from the enemies he would make if he were in power, leaving Oberyn free do Doran's dirty work for him. He compares them to long grass that looks harmless but hides a snake.
  • The Siege: The Battle of Blackwater and the Battle of Castle Black are brief sieges. Historically, the Siege of Storm's End was a siege that lasted two years until the besieging army surrendered.
  • Silent Snarker: Sir Ilyn Payne comes across this way to Jaime (and once openly laughs at him). This makes sense since the reason Ilyn got his tongue cut-off was for snarking about King Aerys. Also displayed by Theon's squire Wex, a mute who frequently smirks at Theon's misfortunes.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: Before he actively threatened to kill Sam, Randyll Tarly had this attitude when trying to get Sam to "man up". This extended to a literal case of sink or swim, as Sam almost drowned to death during a disastrous attempt at teaching him to swim, and Randyll has a grudge against Hyle Hunt for saving Sam's life.
  • Sir Swearsalot:
    • One of Gregor's men, known as "Shitmouth", has that nickname because of his constant cursing, though his bark is worse than his bite.
    • Rorge, whose bite is just about as bad as his bark.
  • Six-Student Clique: A clique of this type is introduced in the prologue of A Feast for Crows.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The series is noted for its cynical take on many tropes popular in High Fantasy, such as the Distressed Damsel and the Knight in Shining Armor; Plot Armor is almost entirely absent at the beginning of the series, though once the magic starts coming back there's more and more Back From the Dead. Hope Spots are usually a very bad sign something horrible is about to happen. However, the overall bleakness tends to be a bit overstated on the internet.
  • Smart People Play Chess : No world so overflowing with Chessmasters would be complete without its own Variant Chess, after all. In this case it's Cyvasse, a kind of Tafl game, with opponents setting up their pieces in a custom starting arrangement out of sight of each other. Tyrion is particularly good at it, and is shown mentoring Young Griff. Martin himself played in and directed chess tournaments when he was younger, and while he hasn't played competitively since the 80s, he does have a solid USCF rating of 1905, just short of Expert.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Cersei Lannister is constantly gloating to herself about what a good job she's doing as ruler. Her success does not match her smugness.
    • Theon Greyjoy is a cocky young man whose smugness alienates him from the Stark family beyond simply his status as a ward. Things change for him considerably down the road.
    • Janos Slynt, who seems to feel that his powerful "friends" will see to it that he's never harmed. Even if they were inclined to save him (which they aren't, Lord Tywin dismisses him as "the son of a butcher"), they're leagues away, and the commanding officer who learned how to deal with oathbreakers from the father Janos had a hand in betraying is very close.
  • Snow Means Death: If the Others don't catch you, the cold will do the job nicely.
  • The So-Called Coward: Played ambiguously with Samwell "The Slayer" Tarly, who is a self-confessed "craven" who manages to kill an Other, although mostly by luck. Over the course of the series, he shows more initiative and bravery, but is still far from a badass. Of course, every time he does do something brave, he just beats himself up for being scared in the first place...
  • Sociopathic Soldier: The idea of regular men turning into killers and rapists before returning home and being good husbands and fathers again is openly discussed a few times. The soldiers in Gregor Clegane's war band are a perfect example of this, since at least Raff the Sweetling is a Punch Clock Villain and a likeable guy when Gregor is not around. Of course, Gregor is just like that all the time.
  • The Spartan Way: The Unsullied are trained in this manner, but the methods used are much worse than anything in real life. For instance, the Good Masters give each of the would-be Unsullied a puppy to take care of after they are castrated at the age of five. At the age of six, the would-be Unsullied must strangle their puppy to demonstrate their willingness to follow orders. Any trainee unable to do so is put to death. Before becoming full-fledged Unsullied, each recruit must go to the slave market and murder a slave child in front of its mother.
  • Speech Impediment: Vargo Hoat's slobbery lisp. This is the main reason why he is Laughably Evil.
  • Spy School: The temple of the Many-Faced God.
  • Standard Royal Court: Much of the story revolves around the goings-on at the Red Keep and the royal court comprises some of the most memorable characters in the books.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: According to various fan theories, Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, and Eddard Stark and Ashara Dayne.
  • The Starscream: Every Great House in Westeros has a house sworn to them that tries to undermine them:
    • Houses Reyne and Tarbeck were this to the Lannisters until Tywin wiped them out.
    • House Florent is this to the Tyrells. The Tyrells, in a way, were this to their previous overlords, the Gardeners.
    • House Yronwood was this in the past to the Martells, but Doran Martell was able to resolve the feud between the two houses by fostering Quentyn at their castle. Now the Yronwoods are among Doran's most trusted servants, as evidenced by the fact that two Yronwoods were sent to protect Quentyn on his secret mission to marry Dany, including the Yronwood heir, who was Quentyn's best friend.
    • House Frey is sworn to House Tully, but frequently tries to throw its weight around, and during a past war withheld its support until Tully was sure to win.
    • House Stark has engaged in a thousand-year struggle with House Bolton over control of the North. At the beginning of the series, Bolton is sworn to Stark, but they clearly don't want to stay that way. Ultimately the Freys and Boltons betray their sworn overlords in a single gambit.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The general opinion of people in Westeros outside of Dorne. Most people mock or criticize Brienne for her knightly aspirations. Cersei has a great deal of problems trying to throw her weight around like a male lord. The Night's Watch forbids women from joining, and after a truce was established with the wildlings, the spearwives encountered so many problems that they were all given control of their own castle.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Varys' "little birds" and the unusued phrase "a little bird told me".
    • In addition to being a Meaningful Name, the surname of the Kettleblacks is one, referencing the phrase "the pot calling the kettle black". In one scene, Tyrion sends his squire Podrick Payne (or Pod) calling on the Kettleblacks...
    • One may be suggested with the Freys. Their famous two towers and identification as Lords of the Crossing suggests an unstated (and accurate) pun that they are "double crossing".
    • Stannis using the Fiery Heart as his sigil, considering a Hart is another word for Stag...
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Ramsay Bolton has perfected the art of instilling this in his captives. Theon and Jeyne Poole both have classic cases of it coming into his clutches.
  • Storming the Castle
  • A Storm Is Coming:
    • "Winter is coming" are the Stark house words.
    • The religion of the Ironborn prophesies the coming of a literal storm (the storm god being their God of Evil, rival of the Drowned God they worship). Similarly, the faith of R'hllor prophesies the coming of a "long night".
  • Straight Edge Evil
    • Tywin Lannister is a proud, dignified, and humorless man who is characterized by his aura of cold perfection and total ruthlessness in pursuit of his family's well-being. The in-universe meme that he shits gold relates both to his wealth, as well as the fact that he comes across as too perfect to be capable of normal excretion.
    • Roose Bolton has a similar dignified and deadpan personality as Tywin and is extremely sadistic in a detached way. He frequently has himself leeched, eats prunes to stay regular, and favors the medicinal wine hippocras- basically, he's a medieval health nut.
  • Strange Syntax Speaker
    • Generally used instead of Funetik Aksent, to a more or less subtle degree, to represent people from other cultures such as Sallador Saan and Syrio Forel (and all over the place in Essos).
    • Jaqen H'ghar refers to everyone - first, second or third person - by indefinite descriptive phrases: "a man", "a girl", etc. Nobody else has been seen speaking like this, either in the House of Black and White or "Jaqen" himself in other guises.
  • Stranger in a Strange School: Sam by the end of A Feast for Crows.
  • Straw Misogynist: Randyll Tarly. And the The High Sparrow, in spades.
  • Street Urchin: Arya in both King's Landing and Braavos.
  • Stupid Evil: Joffrey Baratheon and Ramsay Bolton stand out as being incapable of restraining their sadistic impulses no matter how much it hurts their cause. Roose Bolton calls out his son on this.
  • Stuffed in The Fridge: Subverted with Lyanna Stark. Supposedly died a gruesome death-by-rape at the hands of Rhaegar, which incited her fiance Robert to start a war, wreck his later marriage, and generally spend a lifetime pining for his Lost Lenore, who wouldn't have called him fat and would definitely have let him stay up past his bedtime. None of this story rings true once we get a good sense of each of these characters' natures.
  • Succession Crisis: Starts the War of the Five Kings. Joffrey isn't really King Robert's son, Stannis considers himself the rightful heir, Daenerys wants the throne Robert stole when he killed her brother, Robb wants revenge for his father's death and independence for the North, Renly just wants power and glory and thinks he'd make a better ruler than Stannis, and Balon decides this is the perfect time to attempt another rebellion.
  • Surprise Incest: Played with in-universe by Asha Greyjoy when she comes on to Theon, who doesn't recognize her after having not seen her since she was a little girl.
  • Survival Mantra: A running theme for Arya. She frequently remembers the sayings of her old fencing instructor in times of crisis, and makes a habit of listing the people she wants dead before going to sleep each night.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: When the musicians at Edmure Tully's wedding strike up The Rains of Castamere. Justified in that this was preselected as a signal for its appropriateness.
  • Switched At Birth: In A Feast for Crows, Mance Rayder's son is switched with Gilly's son in order to prevent Melisandre from taking advantage of his "royal blood" as a sacrifice to R'hllor. As of A Dance with Dragons, it becomes apparent that the same thing happened in the backstory to save baby Aegon Targaryen.
  • Switching POV: A textbook example of the advantages of this viewpoint. The first seven or eight chapters of A Game of Thrones are particularly instructive, as each chapter frequently introduces one character, only to have the next be narrated from that character's Point of View, thus highlighting the Gray and Grey Morality of the series. There have been 31 narrators so far: Will, Bran, Catelyn, Daenerys, Eddard, Jon, Arya, Tyrion, Sansa, Maester Cressen, Davos Seaworth, Theon Greyjoy, Chett, Samwell Tarly, Jaime, Merrett Frey, Pate, Aeron "Damphair" Greyjoy, Areo Hotah, Cersei, Brienne, Asha, Ser Arys Oakheart, Victarion, Arianne Martell, Varamyr Sixskins, Quentyn Martell, "Griff," Melisandre, Ser Barristan Selmy, Kevan Lannister. Word of God is that no more POV characters will be added in the last two books, not counting prologues and epilogues.
  • Sword Fight: Since this is fantasy after all, it happens in every book.
  • Sympathetic POV:
    • Jaime Lannister becomes a lot more sympathetic after he becomes a POV character. Reactions are mixed whether Cersei receives the same benefit-- you certainly understand her better, even if you don't like her any more. This can also happen in reverse-- such as Jon, who is easy to like in his own chapters, but when we get an outside perspective on him we realize he's seen as cold and guarded.
    • The sympathy one feels for Tyrion during his own chapters is such that we see the people of King's Landing as a bunch of prejudiced, short-sighted ingrates, and it is very easy to forget that he unleashed a load of thieving, raping barbarians and mercenaries loose on the various civilians of the city while securing his position.
    • Subverted and then Double Subverted in the case of Theon Greyjoy. His chapters in A Clash of Kings are so overloaded with arrogance, self-pity and unbelievable selfishness that most readers will hope that something truly horrible will happen to the smug git. However, by the time of A Dance With Dragons, when something truly horrible has happened to him, his chapters come across as so traumatised, scarred and just plain broken that he manages to become a woobie.
  • Tabletop Games: A Game of Thrones d20, which is now discontinued, A Song of Ice and Fire RPG, released in 2009 and a Game of Thrones board game, released in 2003.
  • Tactful Translation: Seen in the hilarious discussion between Dany and the Good Masters of Astapor when she goes to buy an Unsullied army. Subverted because Dany actually understands everything she's been told and is struggling to keep a straight face at times.
  • Tall, Dark and Snarky: Oberyn Martell. Jaime Lannister, in spite of being blonde.
  • Tangled Family Tree: The medievalesque setting means that people often start having children very young and continue to have children very old; add in all the Arranged Marriages between vastly age-differenced people and the general theme of incest and keeping track of relationships becomes... interesting. There are also the Freys, who manage to be this trope all on their own.
  • Tasty Gold: Comes up regularly, including one instance in which Arya murders a man by poisoning a gold coin. It's also Lampshaded in A Feast for Crows by someone who doesn't actually know how to tell whether the gold coin he's handed is real or fake, but bites it anyway so he doesn't seem naive.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Joffrey.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Tyrion, although subverted since he doesn't actually die. Tywin arranged for House Tyrell and House Martell to be his chief allies despite the fact that they'd been at war for centuries. The way Tyrion arranged it, Tyrell and Martell would be at war again regardless, and either Tyrion would live (and piss off House Tyrell) or he would die (and piss off House Martell). Either way, he shoots a hole through Tywin's alliance.
  • That Man Is Dead: Invoked Trope by Aemon (in backstory) towards his younger brother who became the Unexpected Successor; he tells him he must "kill the boy and become the man", and thus stop going by his cutesy childhood nickname "Egg" and become "Aegon".
  • That Old Time Prescription: Maesters (essentially doctors, though they have other scholarly duties) commonly prescribe "milk of the poppy" (that is, opium) to anyone suffering from a particularly painful injury.
  • They Called Me Mad: Although he says it in a more rational-sounding way than usual, Qyburn has a comment like this on the (as he sees it) close-minded Maesters of Oldtown, who didn't appreciate him vivisecting live people and teaching himself necromancy.
  • Third Line, Some Waiting: Daenerys's chapters take place on another continent in the east. Not until the fifth book does she start getting a steady flow of visitors from Westeros.
  • Third Person Person: Strong Belwas and Syrio Forel speak like this. Slaves in Astapor speak in the third person; Unsullied use their names, at least after they're free, while other slaves call themselves "this one." Jaqen, at least as Jaqen, refers to everyone not only in the third person, but with indefinite articles -- he is always "a man," Arya "a girl," et cetera.
  • Thirteen Is Unlucky: The thirteenth commander of the Night's Watch was the "Night King" who married a "pale, unholy woman" (probably an Other) and enslaved his brothers with sorcery, making them commit atrocities for thirteen years before finally being destroyed by one of the Starks.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: Dawn, the ancestral sword of House Dayne, is made from meteoric iron.
  • Thwarted Coup De Grace: Oberyn's apparent victory over Gregor Clegane, and Biter's attack on Brienne.
  • Title Drop:
    • Daenerys has a dream in which she sees her brother Rhaegar say of his son, "He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire." The phrase "ice and fire" is also used in the Reeds' loyalty oath to Bran.
    • The expression "game of thrones" is first dropped by Jorah in A Game of Thrones: "It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are." Cersei also says it later when she warns Eddard Stark from going against her. It's mentioned several times throughout the other books.
    • The title of A Feast for Crows is dropped by Ironborn discussing how the war of the five kings has dramatically weakened every army in the land, and a cunning opportunist could amass immeasurable spoils.
    • The title of A Dance with Dragons is dropped in by Barristan Selmy when referring to Quentyn's failed attempt to capture a dragon, which ended in his excruciating death.

 Barristan Selmy: Not all men are meant to dance with dragons.

  • Took a Level In Badass: A few people over the course of various plotlines.
    • Rhaegar did this according to legend. An artist and scholar as a youth, he one day realized that he had to become a warrior, so he went on to became one of the strongest knights in Westeros.
    • Arya is slowly leveling up throughout the series. She is currently in training to became a magical assassin, and is beginning to realize her skinchanging abilities.
    • Dunk is an extremely mediocre swordsman in the first two short stories, in spite of his size. Before the beginning of "The Mystery Knight," however, he gets into a few battles and fights off an ironman boarding party. By the time he arrives in Whitehall, few men are his equal with an axe or mace. He's still a piss-poor jouster, though.
    • Samwell Tarly after joining the Night's Watch, culminating in him killing an Other with an obsidian blade, then killing a wight by shoving a hot coal in its mouth.
    • Daenerys Targaryen by the end of the first book. And again by the end of the third.
  • Took a Level In Jerkass: Lord Wyman Manderly in A Dance With Dragons, owing to the deaths of his family. His change in personality is actually the first clue for readers that Manderly is just putting on a facade of loyalty in front of the Freys, and has no intention of killing Davos after all.
  • Torture Always Works: Averted. Sometimes, torture does work, but just as often it's used to extract false confessions. Sometimes, torture is even performed to purposefully get a false confession, as when the Blue Bard is tortured into "admitting" he had an extramarital affair with Margaery. Hizdahr zo Loraq points out that torturing him for a confession is pointless, since he'd obviously confess to whatever the torturer asks, no matter how untrue.
  • Torture Technician: Several throughout the series, including:
    • The Tickler is Gregor Clegane's designated torturer. He uses a variety of horrible methods to inflict pain while asking the same litany of questions over and over until the prisoner dies. When he is not torturing, he is a perfectly mundane soldier.
    • Qyburn is a former maester who was thrown out of the organization for conducting experiments on living creatures, including vivisections. Cersei puts his knowledge to use as a torturer, among other things.
    • Ramsay Bolton is well-versed in the cruel old Bolton tradition of flaying prisoners alive. He spends the time between the end of A Storm of Swords and A Dance With Dragons putting his skills to work flaying Theon Greyjoy piece by piece while breaking his sanity.
    • The Shavepate either serves this function for Dany in Meereen or directly oversees those who do.
    • Garth in White Harbor. He tortures by burning his victims with a heated iron rod called "the Whore."
    • Pretty Meris is designated torturer for the Windblown mercenary company; she can make a victim last for a month.
  • The Tower: Harrenhal, a ridiculously Big Fancy Castle so packed to the rafters with Hubris that's it's considered to be cursed and Haunted Castle. It took forty years to build, and the same day it was completed, Aegon the Conqueror landed on Westeros; when Aegon eventually came to demand King Harren's fealty, he tried to hide within the castle and was roasted alive in its tallest tower by dragonfire.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • Strong Belwas- liver and onions
    • Sansa- lemon cakes
    • Roose Bolton- hippocras
    • Wyman Manderly - Lamprey pies He also really enjoyed that pie which contained three Freys, although that was presumably/hopefully because of the revenge aspect rather than the taste.
  • Tragic Dream: Eddard's dreams about his sister Lyanna's death. Much later, Jaime's dreams about his hand could be this. Or, they could be something else entirely...
  • Tragic Hero: Eddard Stark, Robb Stark, Rhaegar Targaryen and many more.
  • Training From Hell: The Unsullied, who are broken into selfless, robotic, and utterly loyal killing machines.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Jon Snow. He's smart enough to know how to deal with it.
  • Trilogy Creep: Originally envisioned as three books, then six, now up to seven, which is somewhat appropriate.
  • Trickster:
    • Littlefinger is a classic Trickster Archetype - he seems to be actively working to destabilise Westeros simply in order to make it easier for him to manipulate people and facilitate his own Rags to Riches progression.
    • Tyrion and Varys are both prime candidates as well, using tricks, manipulation and ambiguous loyalty to, respectively, keep the Lannisters on top and keep the Houses at each others' throats until the Targaryens return.
    • Lann the Clever, the semi-legendary ancestor of the Lannisters was one of these, and is basically a Trickster Archetype Folk Hero.
  • Truce Zone: The Dothraki city of Vaes Dothrak; spilling blood within carries the death penalty (being strangled to death bloodlessly). Khal Drogo invokes Exact Words in order to kill Viserys.
  • Tsundere: What few glimpses we've had of Lyanna Stark's personality seem to lean toward this.
  • Turbulent Priest: The High Sparrow, a new High Septon imposed on King's Landing by the begging brothers in protest at the Corrupt Church. Could have stayed as merely a political thorn in Cersei's side had she not foolishly given him licence to reform the Church Militant, making him a powerful military leader in his own right.
  • Twincest: For a long time in the series, they're the only couple who are honestly in love with each other with no tragic end in sight.
  • Twin Desynch: As long as Jaime and Cersei are together, they seem to form an utterly unflappable scheming machine to rival their father. However they really start to change once they're separated for a considerable time -- both of them suffer horrible traumas to which they respond in entirely different ways, and they each start to loathe the person they see their twin becoming.
  • Two Aliases One Character: Barristan Selmy as Arstan Whitebeard; More than likely Jaqen H'ghar as/The Alchemist/Pate (after killing the real one); Likely Sarella Sand and Alleras.
  • Tyke Bomb: The Unsullied are eunuch slaves trained from birth to be perfect warriors. Their horrific training is meant to strip them of all self-worth and individuality, turning them into soulless weapons. It doesn't quite work.
  • Ugly Cute: An in-universe example, Brienne elicits sympathy from Catelyn (and from many readers) for the combination of her impossibly brutish looks and resolutely romantic outlook.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Robert and Cersei, after he lets himself go fat and bloated. Plain-faced Jorah and Lynesse, which fails because of his money rather than his looks. Plain-faced Ned and Catelyn, who manage to become Happily Married. Deformed Tyrion and Sansa, which is a possible subversion of Give Geeks a Chance. Lysa felt this way about the old and onion-breathed Jon Arryn, though she ultimately lets herself go. Partly a reflection of the woes of women in this society. May explain the popularity of the rare reversal, the Jaime/Brienne pairing.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Of the viewpoint characters who've survived the first four books in spite of constantly being placed in dangerous and potentially fatal situations, one is a bastard, one is a fat black sheep of the family, one is a child cripple, one is the hunted last heir of a toppled dynasty. Tyrion the dwarf, however, never seems to get any credit for his successes, and is constantly pushed back down. Also, a large part of the remainder of this series is spent averting this trope in some of the most horrific ways imaginable.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Several members of The Brotherhood Without Banners.
  • Unfortunate Names:
    • George R.R. Martin had to have been giggling when he named a (very) minor character Dickon Manwoody.
    • There are also two instances of "Ser Aenys." Say it out loud...
    • And Tyrion remarks that although it isn't a double entendre, Podrick Payne has a rather unfortunate name.
  • The Unintelligible: Hodor, a mentally challenged seven-foot-tall guy who only ever says "Hodor."
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Littlefinger. He gets even...
  • Unnecessarily Large Interior: The Alchemists' Guild has a grand hall filled with green wildfire torches. Tyrion notes that the hall is only used to impress visitors and all the torches will be extinguished as soon as he leaves.
  • Unreliable Narrator: A few examples:
    • As confirmed by Word of God, Sansa's first kiss.
    • A questionable example surrounds what happened to Lyanna Stark before her death. Robert repeatedly insists that she was kidnapped and raped, while Eddard is very vague and evasive about what happened. It's generally assumed that there's much more to the story than either of them ever admitted.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Mostly averted, actually--characters from the Seven Kingdoms swear using modern English curses.
    • The Braavosi tend to include odd adjectives for their swearwords, possibly to add to their foreign flavor. "Camel's cunt" is the first that springs to mind, and is even funnier because ten-year old Arya says it.
    • Swearing occurs not only in dialogue, but in the narrative as well. This leads to some strange dissonance if you're used to typical fantasy, on at least one occasion--one moment a character "screamed and soiled himself", and the next someone "wiped the piss off his boot". Many modern swear words, such as piss and shit, were once the proper names for such things.
    • Euphemisms referencing the Big Bad "The Others take you!" and the Fantasy Pantheon "Seven Hells!" are fairly common.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Catelyn has a number of flashbacks/reminiscences which suggest Littlefinger was this, although he was always pretty mischievous. Dany also recalls Viserys being a decent brother when she was very young, before he went insane from the pressure of his birth.
  • Variant Chess: Cyvasse is a chess-variant with pieces like dragon, elephant, crossbow, trebuchet and mountain. The players align their pieces in a custom starting alignment before the beginning of the game, with a Battleships-style screen dividing the board so their opponent doesn't know their deployment until the game begins.
  • Verbal Tic Name: Hodor.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Ghiscari Empire, most of which was destroyed by Valyria 5000 years ago. New Ghis and the city-states of Slaver's Bay consider themselves descended from the old empire.
  • Viking Funeral: A tradition of the Tullys. Also performed by Victarion to sacrifice some captured slaves.
  • Villain Ball:
    • Tywin Lannister. His death was akin to someone walking towards a banana peel, then thinking "other people might slip on it and fall, but never me!". And the he steps on the banana peel. And he falls and breaks his neck.
    • Also, Janos Slynt. He really shouldn't have outright refused an order by his commander, in front of the entire Night's Watch.
    • Viserys is the earliest example of this in the series. He's so deluded by belief in his superiority that he totally underestimates the brutal barbarian horde that he believes should serve him and foolishly thinks that their rules of Sacred Hospitality will save him when he violates their taboos and threatens the lives of their rulers. Instead, they get creative.
  • Villainous Incest
  • Villains Never Lie: The Lannisters... well they lie all the time, but they take their motto seriously, and if they outright promise you something (whether it's gold or revenge) you can count on getting it.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: "The Rains of Castamere." Though Tywin Lannister actually likes the song (insofar as he's capable of liking anything); he considers it good PR, as it details exactly what he'll do to you if you cross him. Whenever it's played, something bad's about to go down.
  • Virginity Makes You Stupid: Sansa, though she grows smarter in A Feast For Crows.
  • Virgin Tension: When Jaime rescues Brienne from the Bloody Mummers, there's some concern that she may have been gang raped, so Jaime checks on the status of her maidenhood by joking about how he only rescues maidens. Possibly subverted, as it had been demonstrated that his concern was less about her virginity and more about her wellbeing.
  • The Virus: People killed by the Others or their wights will become wights in turn. Jon becomes concerned that leaving wildlings to die beyond the wall will only add to the Others' power.
  • Visual Pun: Longclaw, the ancestral blade that Jeor Mormont gives to Jon Snow, is a "bastard sword".
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Faceless Men can change their faces. They apparently do this with skin masks. Although the kindly man claims that it is not a glamour, Arya still feels her real face after he puts one on her, so it's ambiguous as to whether her face actually changes shape. Jaqen H'ghar also changes his facial appearance simply by passing a hand over his face.


W-Z

  • The Wall Around the World: The Wall serves double trope duty, both as the edge of the world to the North for the Westerosi, and the edge of the world to the South for the Wildlings.
  • War Is Hell: Enough to make you root for the return of the dynasty that used to hold the whole continent in thrall, because they at least kept the peace; even Aerys' rule seems preferable to the bloody civil war it was replaced with.

 Theon: The bards will sing of their valor.

Robb: But the dead will not hear them.

    • In A Feast For Crows, Septon Meribald delivers a speech on "broken men", peasants driven to become outlaws by the horrors of war. How he describes the plight of these desperate men really drives home the "War Is Hell" message of the story.

  Meribald: War seems a fine adventure, the greatest most of them [peasants] will ever know. Then they get a taste of battle.

  • Warrior Monk: Thoros of Myr.
  • Warrior Poet: Denzo D’han, Rhaegar Targaryen, Mance Rayder.
  • Warrior Prince: Renly Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, and Robb Stark. Before them, Rhaeger Targaryen. In the future, possibly Jon Snow.
  • Wasteful Wishing: Arya wastes the chance to kill anyone on petty tormentors instead of enemy commanders. Interestingly, she does consider killing Lannister commanders at first, but decides against it when she remembers her father telling Robb and Jon than a man should kill his true enemies face to face, without using deception or intermediaries.
  • We Have Reserves: During the Siege of Riverrun in A Feast for Crows Jaime boasts that his army has no lack of Freys.
    • Especially true when you realize how much he despises the Freys.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy:
    • Tywin Lannister plays this role; the desire to please him pushes Tyrion and Jaime, though neither would admit it. As is typical of the series, Tywin never provides validation, especially for Tyrion. Well, not the typical form of validation. Of course, this leads to him contracting an unfortunate fatal case of crossbow-bolt-through-bowels at the hands of, naturally, his son Tyrion. Even after that, it serves to motivate Jaime, to the point that one aunt has to point out to him that Tyrion is much more Tywin-esque than Jaime. It seems to drive Cersei (to a lesser extent) as well, although she flip flops between wanting to make him proud and wanting to become so much greater than him that he would only be remembered as her father, instead of the other way around.
    • Theon Greyjoy seems to have a case of this towards his father Balon. His feelings toward surrogate father Ned Stark are even more conflicted, which is unsurprising given Theon's dual role of hostage/ward. He at times finds himself wondering what Stark would say to some particular deed and then becomes angry with himself for caring. Thus far, the net result is that he's managed to totally alienate himself from the Greyjoys and the Starks -- his Jerkass tendencies and willingness to cross the Moral Event Horizon haven't helped, either.
    • In a very twisted sense, Joffrey Baratheon is like this towards Robert, irritating Tywin immensely as he had been given to understand Joffrey did not care for Robert and is pissed the little brat shows some pride at being a Baratheon rather than a Lannister.
    • Jon Snow seems to greatly desire Eddard Stark's approval, to the point that he has a few dreams about being accepted as a true Stark and given the rights to Winterfell. He suffers a lot of guilt over that last part though, given his status. While Ned did love and respect him and wanted to tell him so, Joffrey's interference meant he would never get the chance. Made more complex by recent hints that Ned might not actually be Jon's father at all
  • Wham! Episode: Most of the books have at least one toward the end.
    • A Game of Thrones: Ned's execution and the hatching of Dany's dragons.
    • A Clash of Kings: The sacking of Winterfell.
    • A Storm of Swords: The Red Wedding and the death by poison of Joffrey.
    • A Feast For Crows: Doran Martell revealing his plans for vengeance.
    • A Dance With Dragons: Dany mounting Drogon and flying out of Meereen, as well as Jon getting stabbed by his own men.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Several minor characters seem to appear and disappear for long periods of time, even for entire books. Including Jeyne Poole, who is impersonating the Arya Stark that is to wed Ramsay Bolton.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Jon keeps a couple of wights chained up in the ice cells to be studied, as he suspects there might be more to them than shambling corpses. He notes that the one who tried to kill Mormont had obviously retained memories and some level of intention.
  • When It All Began: Robert's Rebellion.
  • White-Haired Pretty Boy and White-Haired Pretty Girl: Targaryens tend to have platinum blonde hair and beautiful features. Daenerys attracts a legion of suitors, who say she is the most beautiful woman in the world to win her favor. Her brother Rhaegar is described as incredibly beautiful by Cersei.
  • Whip It Good: Jhogo, one of Daenerys' bloodriders, wields a whip as his signature weapon.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Randyll Tarly to his son, Sam. And Tywin to Tyrion.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Sandor Clegane and fire.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist:
    • Sansa. Boy, does she pay the price...
    • Eddard Stark is wise to the ways of war, but is totally surprised by the amount of intrigue and corruption infecting capital politics.
    • Quentyn Martell, who belives himself the handsome prince on a quest. He knows people die on quests, but never the hero, right?
    • As a child, Littlefinger was one of these. After all, the small and lowborn yet exceptionally intelligent hero always gets the girl, right?
  • Wife Husbandry:
    • Done in the most direct possible fashion by Craster, who weds his own daughters.
    • Littlefinger seems to be taking this approach to Sansa, who is now a 13-year-old girl. With nowhere else to go and no one else to depend on, Sansa is "adopted" by him and is forced to endure Littlefinger grabbing her into his lap and being trained on how he likes his "fatherly" kisses - long and passionate. It's also worth noting that when she was even younger, he was already creeping Sansa out by looking at her as though she were naked. In A Dance With Dragons, Cersei recalls Littlefinger asking to marry Sansa (who at the time was 11-12 years old), although Cersei determined it impossible, since Littlefinger was of too low a status.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Jojen Reed, the "little grandfather".
  • With My Hands Tied: Brienne is amazed at how well Jaime Lannister fights after a lengthy imprisonment, with his hands still chained together. Also, Strong Belwas intentionally allows his opponents to slash his belly before he kills them, a bit of showmanship he picked up as an arena champion.
  • A Wizard Did It: The author has stated the irregular length of the seasons is a result of as-yet unexplained magic.
  • Wizarding School: The Citadel has elements of this trope. Along with medicine, alchemy and other topics, some Maesters choose to study "magic," though the most they learn is that it doesn't work, effectively making the study of magic a Westerosi equivalent of A Degree in Useless. We later learn that a faction of the Citadel is strongly against magic and is trying to eradicate it. They might have been partially responsible for the extinction of Targaryen dragons, which caused magic to fade from the world for a while.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Daenerys after some development. She is also quite aware of the fact, referring to the necessity of her queenly vestments by tsaying that "The Queen of Rabbits cannot be seen without her floppy ears".
  • The Women Are Safe with Us: Averted by nearly every army, where even the "good" generals grudgingly accept that after a battle their men will want to Rape, Pillage and Burn. However;
    • Averted by Stannis, who castrates rapists. It's presented as yet another way his principles lose him the good will of his followers.
    • Heavily deconstructed with Daenerys. First, she tries to stop the Dothraki raping the women of defeated tribes. Since they view those women as spoils of war, she's seen as simply being greedy by claiming them for herself, so she only succeeds in protecting a handful. Later, one of those women complains that Dany sees herself as a hero for "saving" her, when she'd already seen her temple burned, her friends murdered, and indeed been raped several times already. For her next attempt at fulfilling the trope, she acquires an elite group of eunuch soldiers.
  • Word of Gay: Loras and Renly. Later, Jon Connington.
  • Would Hit a Girl: This being a quasi-realistic medievalish world, we get this and more.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy:
    • Sansa, who is very naive about people. She does get smarter, though.

 Littlefinger: "Life is not a song, sweetling. You'll learn that someday, to your cost."

    • Brienne, at first, very much believes in honor and chivalry, and that the other people believe in it too. She is possibly getting smarter.
    • Melisandre. She considers R'hllor the one true god and the one benevolent supernatural force when it's indicated the Red God is not really any better than the other gods and demons we've seen so far, and other gods have been demonstrating real power recently. She believes the world works by Black and White Morality in a series full of Gray and Grey Morality. She believes Stannis is the Chosen One to lead the fight against the Other, but everything indicates she's misinterpreting her visions, and Dany and possibly Jon Snow are better candidates.
  • The X of Y: The series title and the titles of each book follow the basic format, with minor variations.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess:
    • Part of Littlefinger's strategy is simply fomenting chaos and reacting to opportunities as they present themselves.
    • Ramsay Bolton managed to go from fleeing for his life disguised in his servant's filthy clothes to capturing and sacking Winterfell through what amounted to a series of clever improvisations.
  • Yandere: Lysa Arryn for Littlefinger who is yandere for Catelyn. Heck, Littlefinger just takes Yandere to a whole new level of crazy.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Any time things are looking up for any faction or character the readers sympathize with, catastrophe strikes:
    • Just when it looks like Oberyn Martell is going to kill Gregor Clegane...
    • Eddard Stark's execution.
    • Drogo's death.
    • The Red Wedding.
    • Jon Snow's assassination.
    • Daenerys' first victory in Astapor is undone the second she leaves.
  • You Are in Command Now: Jon, when everyone of rank on the Wall is either dead, absent or incapacitated.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Cersei's prophecy, from the looks of things.
  • You Can't Go Home Again:
    • Jon Snow, specifically, and then all of the Starks. Samwell Tarly and the rest of the Night's Watch count too. Averted brutally by Euron Greyjoy.
    • Theon Greyjoy isn't sure where his home is, but he's not accepted at his birthplace, nor the place he lived more than half his life.
    • Tyrion Lannister is likewise unwelcome most anywhere in Westeros. Jorah Mormont is officially an exile. Ditto for most of the Golden Company, who were on the wrong side of the First Blackfyre Rebellion.
  • You Just Told Me: Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand manage to pull this trope off in an impressive three syllables, regarding Ygritte's fate:

 Jon: You know?

Qhorin: Now.

  • Your Days Are Numbered: While this happens to a handful of characters, it's actually a plot point for Jojen Reed and Jon Connington.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Littlefinger kills Dontos when he has no further use for him and couldn't risk Dontos leaking any information. Overlaps with He Knows Too Much.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me:
    • Tywin doesn't seem particularly worried that Tyrion has him at crossbow-point, and flat-out tells him he doesn't have the courage to do it. He's pretty surprised when he's proved wrong.
    • In A Dance With Dragons, Theon gets the successful variant. A spearwife becomes angry with him and threatens his life. For the first time in about a year, he outright grins and tells her that she needs him to get past the guards. She disgustedly lets him go.
  • Yubitsume: When the smuggler Davos breaks the siege of Storm's End he gets a knighthood, but has the fingertips of one hand cut off. Stannis believes that good deeds don't make up for bad; if you do him a favour he'll reward your for it and punish you for your previous sins.
  • Zero-Percent Approval Rating:
    • House Frey is utterly despised by other noble houses for not only backstabbing the Starks and Tullys, but also violating the cardinal rule of hospitality in Westerosi culture. The only crime higher than kingslaying, the septons say, is kinslaying, but guest right seems to be held by many to be above even that.
    • When Cersei and Joffrey take the Iron Throne, both of them become extremely unpopular. Joffrey is hated due to his petty cruelty and lack of concern for his subjects, and Cersei quickly alienates herself due to her inability to consolidate her power. Nevertheless, Joffrey gets a little sympathy and people believe he has evil counselors: the eunuch Varys and the evil monkey demon Tyrion.
    • The House of Codd embodies this trope so much that they make it their house words: "Though All Men Do Despise Us."
    • Ser Jaime Lannister has one thanks to his murder of King Aerys. He tries very hard not to let it get to him.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The Others and their reanimated wights are trying to bring this south of the Wall.
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