Why The Bastards Are So Important To ‘Game Of Thrones’


(Spoilers ahead)

Bastards are kind of a big deal in Game Of Thrones, some more than others. Obviously, the most recent possibly-best-episode-ever “The Battle Of The Bastards” featured two that we’ve all come to be familiar with, but there are plenty more out there playing a role in the series.

Before we get to them, though, let’s run through the history of the title, sticking strictly to the show and not the books. The term “bastard” in GoT means a child born to unmarried parents, with one of them being of a noble house. The child cannot fly the house banners, inherit the house’s lands or titles, or hold the house name as their own. That’s why each bastard has a common surname depending on where they’re from: Snow for the North; Sand for Dorne; Pyke for the Iron Islands; Flowers for The Reach; Stone for the Vale Of Arryn; Storm for the Stormlands; Waters for the Crownlands; and Hill for the Westerlands. This only applies to acknowledged descendants, though, as there are many out there either in the dark of their parentage or completely shunned.

Because when it comes down to it, even if a bastard is welcomed into their parent’s prestigious house, they still carry the mark of being a bastard, which can mean different things to different people. But despite being seen as “lesser,” bastards have been at the forefront of GoT events, so let’s revisit the important ones.

Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton are the most well-known bastards to come from the North. Although Jon’s parentage is still dark and open to speculation, both men were openly acknowledged children by their highborn fathers, but they were still ostracized from their family name. Jon and Ramsay worked hard to overcome that “Snow” — it’s a driving force that took one of them to the wall and helped make the other a brutal monster. The term is hurled at both as an insult. Neither of them saw themselves as being a whole person because of that title, with Ramsay even killing his father when a true-born brother threatened to take away his seat. (Thankfully, the better bastard won the bowl.)

Beyond the North, three more B-words come from Cersei and Jaime but hold the Baratheon name. Despite Robert Baratheon being the widely accepted father to Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen, their blood actually runs 100 percent Lannister. This makes them all bastards, and even worse in the GoT universe, bastards born from incest. But despite this, they’ve all held considerable sway in the Seven Kingdoms, with their lives (and deaths) triggering many major plot points in the series.

The biggest batch of bastards actually comes from Dorne. Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes all share the same last name, but in Dorne, they don’t hold the same stigma for it. The Sand Snakes, acknowledged children of Oberon Martel, wear their last names as a source of pride. It’s because of Dorne’s unique history that the shame doesn’t exist as bastards are seen as being born from love and passion. Because of Ellaria’s power play at the beginning of season six, the Sands have the potential to play even bigger parts in the final two seasons.

There’s one more important bastard out there, presumably still rowing in his little rowboat. Gendry is one of the many unacknowledged bastards of Robert Baratheon, so while he can’t go as Gendry Waters (being from the Crownlands), he still has king’s blood in him, which made him crucial to the Red Woman and dangerous to Cersei and Joffrey. While he could potentially take the throne, he’d have to be legitimized first, most likely by Tommen. Which would stand to be an awkward meeting.