So you’ve decided to visit Game of Thrones, the land of knights, castles, and dragons… You’re in the right place. But who will win the Game of Thrones, you wonder.
The answer might be surprising. Though the series is filled with bloodshed and tragedy, the tide seems to be turning in favor of the women.
The Women Are Winning
There’s no question that Game of Thrones is a man’s world. The show is filled with action, adventure, and drama – values usually found in texts written by men. But in the real world, things are changing. And not just in terms of women supporting women. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 47% of the American public views women as more influential than men in world affairs. Moreover, 82% of the respondents believed that women will play a greater role in politics in the future.
These numbers are great news for the women of Game of Thrones. As of Season 6, only one of the show’s main characters is a woman – Ygritte, the fierce leader of the wildlings. (Her counterpart, Jon Snow, is played by actress Maisie Williams.) Though she only appears in a few episodes, Ygritte is instrumental in the Game of Thrones’ transition from a heist movie to a social drama. And what exactly does she teach us about leading through strength and confidence?
Lessons From Ygritte
If you’re unfamiliar, Ygritte is one of the Wildlings, a race of humanoid creatures often associated with the barbaric north of Westeros. She’s also one of the most powerful women in the Seven Kingdoms. She’s intelligent, resourceful, and beautiful – traits that serve her well in her line of work. When we first meet Ygritte, she’s being held captive by the Night’s Watch. (The Night’s Watch is a paramilitary organization charged with protecting the kingdom from the wildings and the undead – mostly other humans.) But just as Game of Thrones is about to begin, the men of the Night’s Watch decide to make a small fortune in the process.
They offer to trade Ygritte’s freedom for the gold that she had collected from the Lannisters. Ygritte sees the opportunity to turn the tables on her captors and make a play for power. And what better way to achieve this than through a daring escape plan?
She hatches a plan with the help of some of her followers. But first, she needs to secure the allegiance and trust of her men. To do this, Ygritte takes the time to teach them about women’s rights, using her experience as a guide. (In one scene, she physically grabs a hold of a man who objects to her claims that women are not inferior to men. Ygritte’s response? “You should never doubt a woman’s ability to fight,” she says. And just like that, the man submits and the Wildling camp stays peaceful.)
Now that she’s taught her men about women’s equality, Ygritte can use her position of power to lead them to safety and freedom. Using her experience as a former captive, Ygritte explains that though they will face danger, they must remain confident. This will help them to overcome their fears and allow them to rely on each other as they fight for a better future.
Why does Ygritte’s example matter? Mainly because of what it represents: an empowering moment for women in an epic fantasy series. Ygritte is one of the few main characters who isn’t defined by her relationship with a man. She is a fully fledged superhero, who uses her wits and physical strength to protect the people she cares about – and those are mostly women. (One of the series’ executive producers has said that Ygritte’s character was intentionally designed to shake off the “damsel in distress” label. It’s a bold statement, but one that makes complete sense.)
You might be wondering whether or not Ygritte will achieve her noble goals. And you’d be right to wonder. Though she’s had a pretty positive impact on the other characters, her story is largely tragic. When she makes her getaway, it’s clear that the Night’s Watchmen are still after her. One of her men, Hot Pie, betrays her to their detected and infuriated counterparts. Even worse, it appears that she was being controlled by the White Walkers, another race of creatures mentioned but not depicted in the show. (It’s generally accepted that the White Walkers are the polar opposite of the Night’s Watchmen. They’re associated with coldness, death, and slavery. Their role is to spread panic and fear – and they do this through the use of wights, zombie-like creatures that they control. Most recently, they appeared to have been responsible for the Night’s Watchmen’s aggressive behavior towards humans in the North. Though they haven’t been directly linked to the attack on Bran Stark’s castle, it’s not hard to see how they got there.)
The takeaway from Ygritte’s story is simple. Just as she said it would, her experience as a former captive taught her men about women’s rights. Once she had their support, she was able to lead them to safety. However, her struggle is far from over. Though her journey was triumphant, it was also filled with danger and heartache. (In the show’s most recent season, she lost many of her men to the White Walkers’ influence. And it’s fair to say that she’s been emotionally wracked by these events. In several scenes, she breaks down in tears.)
Ultimately, Ygritte’s story isn’t just about an empowering moment for women in Game of Thrones. It’s about the acceptance of difference and the triumph of the human spirit. Though she didn’t get everything right – and it would be wonderful if it were possible for any character in any story to get everything right – Ygritte’s journey is a testament to the fact that with enough determination and a little bit of luck, anyone can make their dreams come true.
But who will win Game of Thrones? That, my friend, is anyone’s question.