Death in Westeros

Death is as common in the A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) as they were in the medieval times, which makes it a kind of fantasy that most people are not familiar to, the ones where the good fights against the evil and the good always win. When George R.R. Martin published the first book of the series, A Game of Thrones (1996), he had bigger goals in his mind than simply creating a superficial world where the good guys fight the evil ones, his books are dense and make the reader think about morals and how we perceive someone, always looking to define this person as good or evil. In his book series, there are no truly evil or truly good characters, every person has good and evil characteristics just like it is in real life.

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Credits to Jemimus via Flickr

George R.R. Martin first shocked his readers by killing off the main character of the series- or who the readers thought would be it- by the end of the first book, bringing the idea that no one is safe, and there will be no such things as a hero. The author, who is many times regarded as a bloodthirsty one, keeps the tradition in the next books by killing many of the main characters, showing once again that no one is ever safe. By the end of the fifth book, 293 named characters die in the series.

Death is a very recurring topic in ASOIAF, and it generally addresses death the same way we do, however there are a few differences. In Westeros (where the novels take place) there are many different religions and they view death different from one another. All the religions believe in some sort of afterlife, it just differs on how it is. Religion in ASOIAF is such a complex topic that I would have to do a post talking only about it, but what is important now is that the majority of people in Westeros believe in afterlife of some sort. The main religions and their rituals are:

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Faith of the Seven: The body of the deceased is laid down in state for visitors and prayers, in formal clothes, and two stones with eyes painted on it are placed over the deceased’s eyes. The symbolic meaning of this is to remind the faithful that they should not fear death, because it is not truly the end: we close our eyes in this world, but our eyes open again in the afterlife.

 

 

Old Gods: The tradition says that the dead must be buried, the members of the wealthy noble families must be buried in extensive tombs. It is believed by the followers of this religion that the spirits of the ones who have passed away continue helping his relatives.

 

 

 

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R’hllor (Lord of Light): Little is known about how the followers of the Red God think of the afterlife, but there are hints in the books that they believe in it. They burn the bodies of the dead to honor their god, as he is often associated with flames, and they believe that the world they currently live in is already hell.

 

 

Those are the religious views, but in the third book (A Storm of Swords) a character is actually brought back to life after being dead. He is brought back by a Red Priest, what means that this is technically a proof that R’hllor is real. However, when questioned about what he saw while he was dead, his answer was a simply: “nothing”.

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