The Ten Best Song of Ice and Fire Characters
A caution on this list. It will be including spoilers for both the TV and book series from books 1-5. So if you have yet to read the books or see the show, read at your own risk.
There will be nothing beyond Dance, since, well, I don’t know anything. Anything I mention from beyond this is pure speculation only.
10. Barristan Selmy
Barristan the Bold
Ser Barristan is perhaps the biggest “celebrity” in the world of Westeros. He’s a living legend among the people and known across the seven kingdoms. And as a character in the series, he is also quite fascinating. He is a man to whom honour, chivalry and duty are more than just words, they are his way of living. Now this sounds boring, but trying to live this way in Martin’s world proves to be very difficult and create a lot of inner conflict for Barristan.
Barristan Selmy starts out as just a minor character in the books, and we don’t really see what he’s made of until Joffrey dismisses him. After that, people in the books wonder where he ends up, and when we the reader find out where he ends up, its easy to get excited. But its in Dance with Dragons where we really see Barristan the Bold as a truly great character as he must hold the city of Meereen together with Daenerys missing. We learn about his past and about the pains he has had to live with, and it is in these moments that he becomes a truly great character.
Theon Greyjoy started of the series as the cocky, arrogant ward of Eddard Stark and loyal friend of Robb Stark. Expect not so loyal it turns out. In Clash of Kings we witness his betrayal through his own eyes, and how he struggles with taking captive people he had known his whole life in order to gain the favour of his father, a man he hasn’t seen in 9 years.
However, as fascinating an insight as that is, it alone wouldn’t be enough to get Theon on this list. The rest he makes the top ten is his story in Dance with Dragons. In that story we see Theon reach the lowest he could possibly get at the hands of Ramsay Bolton, the most despicable character in the whole series. It is in this fifth book where Theon is given a truly great character arc, making his way from a mutilated, begging slave to regaining his self worth by the end when he finally, once again, “knows his name”.
I have a confession to make: I’m usually not overly thrilled when I read the Arya chapters. However, I do think she herself is a great character. Arya’s journey is defined by her trying to figure out exactly who she is. George Martin shows this through symbolism in her many nicknames (Arya Underfoot, Arry, Squib, Cat, etc.) and through her vast wandering across Westeros and all of the many situations she finds herself in.
The Hound is probably the most conflicted character in the series. He really wants to be a good guy, but he doesn’t know how. He is full of anger which stems from his brother burning half of his face off, but also from the fact that everyone is frightened of him and no one will trust him.
He’s gruff and dangerous, but also highly protective. We see this trait most with Sansa in King’s Landing. He really just wants to be accepted but can’t face the derisions of others.
Tywin; ultimate bad ass. Lets face it, he’s the real ruler of Westeros. Hes the one man who could be considered the villain of the story, if the title of villain could be dealt out so easily. He is certainly an imposing figure, and he holds a lot of weight in any chapter he shows up. He seems to intimidate everyone. He’s cunning, powerful, and is fully aware that he is the strongest leader in the seven kingdoms. He is certainly one of the series’s best characters, even if he does not, in the end, **** gold.
Ned Stark is the central character of Game of Thrones and was very important in bringing the readers into Martin’s world. We were able to cheer for him, to sympathize with him, and to follow him. And his surprising death near the end of the book showed us that anything goes in this world and never to take any of the characters for granted.
Ned’s life was led by the concept of honour. He did what he needed to do, not what he wanted to do. He taught his children how to lead well and led by example. Even though he’s gone, his name still holds a lot of weight and whenever his name is mentioned again, we the readers feel taht connection return.
Dany is certainly one of the most important characters in the entire series. I think its safe to say that the entire story is going to end up revolving around her actions in some way, shape or form. I mean, come on, she has dragons!
Seriously though, Dany has become many readers’ favourite character for a number of reasons. She has grown from a naive innocent into a powerful monarch, a growth which we were able to witness through her forced marriage to Khal Drogo and time with the Dothraki, to being a beggar in Qarth, to her events in Slaver’s Bay.
Dany has a good heart and wishes to be a good queen. But at the same time she can be downright ruthless, verging on crazy. Whether its eating a horse’s heart to nailing the bodies of slavers to signposts, she’s not afraid to get her hands bloody, even if she doesn’t like it. And now that she has an army, a fleet, and full-grown dragons, it will be interesting to see what she’s made of.
Jon’s not one of the most charismatic characters, but he is one of the most heroic. He has lived under the title of bastard his whole live and has striven to rise above that standing. He has joined the night’s watch and has since done whatever is necessary for the greater good, even if that means seemingly betraying those he cares about most. The idea of honour is a constant struggle for him.
Jon is another character who seems destined for greatness in some way. Since the series began there has be mystery surrounding him with this true parentage. There is also a strong argument to be made that he is Azor Ahai reborn. And I don’t think anyone who has read Dance With Dragons actually believes that he is dead for good. But however he comes back is sure to be important in and of itself. John is one of the central characters in the story, and in many ways one of the most relatable in his struggle to do the right thing even though it can often be the hardest thing.
Jaime has gone through the most change of any other character in the books. In Game of Thrones, he is merely a secondary character we don’t know much about. In Clash of Kings he is in only one chapter, but in Storm of Swords he really comes into his own as a major presence in the series. Jaime starts off as an arrogant, heartless killer known for his skills as a knight and of course for killing the mad king.
But as we learn more about Jaime we realize that he’s not the villain he seems. His reputation as Kingslayer really bothers him, and he has a lot of regret for the deeds he has done in the past, including pushing Bran out of the window. Through his travels with Brienne, Jaime begins to realize that perhaps its not too late to live with honour and rise above what everyone believes him to be.
Not only that, but he’s also wickedly funny and is a joy to read. Martin managed to turn Jaime from a villain to a beloved character; no small feat.
And so the Lannister brothers take the top two spots. Sorry Cersei. Tyrion has the honour of being the favourite character of the majority of ASOIAF readers (and viewers of the TV series, for that matter). And for good reason. First, he is incredibly witty, which makes his chapters a joy to read. But secondly, he is also just a fascinating character.
He is probably the most misunderstood layer in Westeros. He genuinely tries to do good, but never gets the credit for it. He can never seem to get out of the shadow of his appearance, even though he is highly intelligent and for the most part well-natured. He wants to be loved even though he knows that it will probably never happen.
His relationship with his family members is fascinating as well. He can never seem to gain the approval of his father, even though the two of them are very similar in their cunning. He has a good relationship with Jaime, but a horrible one with Cersei and an admirable one with his uncle Kevan. But whoever he’s interacting with, its usually a good read.
A Song of Ice and Fire has many, many fascinating characters, but George Martin himself holds Tyrion as his favourite. Maybe that’s why he’s so well written.