Before I get started I just to wish you guys and girls a very Happy New Year. Sorry I’ve haven’t posted in a long time but I hope to start posting a lot more in future. My first post of the new year will be discussing a pattern I have noticed throughout the series, how the second sons of Westeros tend to be overshadowed by their older and younger siblings. With all that said, let’s get cracking.
Perhaps the finest example of middle child syndrome, and a personal favourite character of mine, Stannis Baratheon personifies this pattern of a second son being overshadowed by his older and younger brothers, Robert and Renly respectively. Despite his hard won achievements, the holding of Storm’s End in the face of absolute starvation, the capture of Dragonstone, and the destruction of the Greyjoy Fleet, Stannis continues to be overshadowed, ignored, and often scorned in comparison to his brothers.
Artwork by Amok
In the case of Robert it is entirely understandable why he would cast a shadow over Stannis’ life and achievements. Robert was the glorious rebel king who killed Rhaegar Targaryen in single combat, fought three battles in a single day, and turned foes to friends with a few tankards of ale. Despite his reign being marked by personal ignorance, apathy, and financial incompetence, Robert was still very much loved by many while those same people continued to scorn Stannis despite it being Stannis and Jon Arryn who helped hold the realm together.
“Robert … He is in my dreams as well. Laughing. Drinking. Boasting. Those were the things he was best at. Those, and fighting. I never bested him at anything.” – Stannis Baratheon.
“This Baratheon is fearless. He fights the way a king should fight.” – Godric Borrell.
“We all know what my brother would do. Robert would gallop up to the gates of Winterfell alone, break them with his warhammer, and ride through the rubble to slay Roose Bolton with his left hand and the Bastard with his right. I am not Robert. But we will march, and we will free Winterfell … or die in the attempt.” – Stannis Baratheon.
These quotes capture several reasons for Robert Baratheon’s popular following. He was the picture perfect image of a warrior king and a marked difference from Aerys II Targaryen. He was fighter and down to earth charming rebel in his heyday.
Artwork by Amok
In the case of Renly Baratheon, the story is a very different tale. Renly Baratheon had no military achievements that made him stand out. He was a lord and Small Council member by the grace and generosity of his older brother. With very little in the way of traditional skills, Renly Baratheon overshadowed Stannis by marking himself personable, approachable, and beloved. He chose the path of personal popularity and pursued acceptance by the masses in favour of hard work. Both Stannis and the Queen of Thorns are much in agreement on the sum of Renly Baratheon’s character.
“What has Renly ever done to earn a throne? He sits in council and jests with Littlefinger, and at tourneys he dons his splendid suit of armor and allows himself to be knocked off his horse by a better man. That is the sum of my brother Renly, who thinks he ought to be king.” – Stannis Baratheon.
“He knew how to dress and he knew how to smile and he knew how to bathe, and somehow he got the notion that this made him fit to be king.” – Olenna Redwyne.
However, with that all said, Renly Baratheon was incredibly good at making people like him. He played his role so well that he managed to convince both the Storm Lords and the Lords of the Reach to abandon traditional succession and proclaim him king ahead of both Stannis and Joffrey. He got himself a crown, a bride, a rainbow guard, and an army 100’000 strong on the basis on pure popularity…in addition to a well deserved knife in the back of the head but that’s neither here nor there. Renly nearly destroyed Stannis using pure popularity. He filled the gaps in personality that Stannis lacked. He made himself extremely likeable and it paid off tremendously well for him. I maintain, as do many others, that Stannis Baratheon is the finest of the Baratheon brothers. He was the most competent, the better military strategist and commander, and achieved far more than his brothers ever did. Stannis held Storm’s End. Stannis took Dragonstone. Stannis destroyed the Greyjoy fleet. Whereas Robert was a fine figurehead for a cause who walked the walk and talked the talk of a warrior king. He killed Rhaegar but he would have been nothing without the help of Jon Arryn, Hoster Tully, and Eddard Stark. His reign was marked by a complete lack of personal responsibility and rife corruption. In the case of Renly, the story is even stranger yet completely understandable. With no real achievements of his own, other than being born in the same family as an overly generous brother, Renly made people like him. That was the sum of his existence, he was likeable. Yet, these brothers, for what they had and what they lacked, still overshadowed the better second son, Stannis, largely because of personality and popular following.
Scorned, hated, insulted, abused, and largely treated like a monster, Tyrion Lannister’s life is a shadowed one indeed. His birth was overshadowed by his mother’s death and his intelligence was overshadowed by his appearance. His sister is a beautiful queen and his brother is a renowned warrior despite his own personal infamy.
Artwork by Michael Komarck
Tyrion was overshadowed by Jaime in much the same way that Bran Stark was by Robb. Their older brothers were renowned and handsome warriors where Tyrion and Bran were either malformed dwarfs or outright cripples. Given the Westerosi love for all things beautiful and the scorn of anything misshapen or broken, it makes sense that Tyrion would be overlooked in favour of his brother. Adding to the fact that Tyrion is the son of Tywin Lannister, a man who isn’t well regarded by many, the sins of the father very much land on the son. To many, I wouldn’t be surprised if they regarded Tyrion’s dwarfism and ugliness as a physical manifestation of Lannister corruption. Even when Tyrion commits commendable acts they are either ignored or the credit is given to someone else. This was much the case in Battle of the Blackwater. Tyrion mounted an effective defence of King’s Landing and even risked his life by personally leading attacks outside the city gates. For his trouble he was removed from his position, the credit for protecting the city was given to Tywin and the Tyrells, and he was carted off to a dark room. Even the woes of King’s Landing were laid on Tyrion’s shoulders when the blame should have rested rightfully on the shoulders of Renly Baratheon, Joffrey Baratheon, and Tywin Lannister. The life of Tyrion Lannister is an example of how perception often beats out reality. Throughout his entire life, Tyrion has been overshadowed in one way or another. The circumstances of his birth and his appearance coloured people’s perceptions of him, the Lannister name and reputation overshadowed his good deeds, and his brother’s beauty and martial skill overshadowed Tyrion’s intelligence and accomplishments.
A slightly sad case of overshadowing comes in the form of Bran Stark. Bran Stark is the younger brother to King in the North and tragic folk hero, Robb Stark. Robb was the 15 year old boy king who rallied his people to ride south and free his father, the Young Wolf, the first to ever be proclaimed both King in the North and King of the Trident, the boy who fought alongside a giant direwolf and never lost a battle, and the boy king who was brutally betrayed in the most egregious breaking of Guest Right in Westerosi history. His legend became greater than his life so it is only natural that Bran be overshadowed by his war hero brother.
Artwork by Riotovskaya
Bran, at least in some regards, is also overshadowed by his little brother, Rickon. Rickon being the focal point of a Northern conspiracy to destroy House Bolton and return House Stark to its rightful place in Winterfell. Despite knowledge of his survival in the aftermath of the Sack of Winterfell, acquiring Bran has been ignored in favour of rescuing young Rickon Stark from Skagos despite Bran being the Heir to Winterfell. However, this is more than likely due to the fact that Wyman Manderly knows the actual location of Rickon Stark and only a select few know that Bran is still alive let alone Beyond the Wall.
Artwork by Amok
Another factor that may contribute to his being overlooked is the maiming he suffered at the hands of Jaime Lannister. When Bran was thrown from that tower he was crippled and would never walk again. Due to the nature of Westeros, cripples are looked down upon and often outright ignored by most due to their being seen as useless. Although, despite his maiming, Bran still managed to effectively serve as Lord of Winterfell while Robb was away fighting in the south. He, with the help of Luwin and Rodrik, ran Winterfell and dealt with several issues during A Clash of Kings. However, there are those that do recognise Bran’s potential. The Reeds, the Children of the Forest, and Brynden ‘Bloodraven’ Rivers recognise Bran’s importance within the story despite him being overlooked by most of the characters within Westeros.
Artwork by Anja Dalisa
Sandor Clegane is a picture perfect example of the worst possible way that your older brother can overshadow you. Born the younger brother to Gregor ‘The Mountain that Rides’ Clegane has influenced and affected Sandor’s life in many different ways. Sandor’s childhood appears to have been overshadowed by his older brother Gregor’s brutality and martial prowess and not only that, at age seven, Gregor mutilated Sandor’s face by pressing it into a red hot brazier as punishment for playing with a toy he had discarded. Sandor’s injury almost serves as a physical reminder for everyone about Clegane brutality and violence.
Artwork by Michael Komarck
Gregor’s history of rape and cold blooded murders beyond count have no doubt influenced the public perception of Sandor. His is a dark cloud that overshadows everything that Sandor does. Gregor was one of the first Lannister soldiers to enter King’s Landing during its sack. He and Ser Amory Lorch scaled Maegor’s Holdfast when the Lannister troops reached the Red Keep. Gregor entered the nursery of the infant Prince Aegon, son of Prince Rhaegar, and killed the baby present by dashing the boy’s head against a wall then raped and murdered Princess Elia, supposedly with the boy’s blood and brains still on his hands. Without denying his own savagery, it seems clear that Sandor’s life has been irreversibly damaged by Gregor’s actions and his own perception of knights has been coloured by the fact that Gregor is a knight himself.
“Spare me your empty little compliments, girl . . . and your ser’s. I am no knight. I spit on them and their vows. My brother is a knight.” – Sandor Clegane.
“I like dogs better than knights.” – Sandor Clegane.
“What do you think a knight is for, girl? You think it’s all taking favors from ladies and looking fine in gold plate? Knights are for killing. I killed my first man at twelve. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve killed since then. High lords with old names, fat rich men dressed in velvet, knights puffed up like bladders with their honors, yes, and women and children too- they’re all meat, and I’m the butcher. Let them have their lands and their gods and their gold. Let them have their sers.” – Sandor Clegane.
“There are no true knights, no more than there are gods. If you can’t protect yourself, die and get out of the way of those who can. Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don’t ever believe any different.” – Sandor Clegane.
Even the Brotherhood Without Banners attempted to hold Sandor responsible for the crimes of his brother and other Lannister soldiers within the Riverlands based purely on reputation as no actual crime to be tied to Sandor personally. It wasn’t until Arya Stark testified about the death of Mycah that Sandor could actually be put on trial. Luckily for Sandor, he was able to defeat Beric Dondarrion in his trial by combat and achieve his freedom. Sandor’s life was marked physically and perceptually by his older brother, Gregor. Gregor’s crimes and monstrous acts damned both Sandor and Gregor alike. Sandor’s monstrous appearence no doubt acted as a physical manifestation of Clegane monstrosity and bestiality. Despite his own actions, Sandor is mostly condemned as a monster due the reputation of Gregor and Sandor’s persona of the Hound. This behaviour is especially prominent in the case of Sandor’s encounters with the Brotherhood Without Banners, his interactions with the village people near the Mountains of the Moon, and the blame rested on him from the Sack of the Saltpans.
“I know a little of this man Sandor Clegane. He was prince Joffrey’s sworn shield for many a year, and even here we would hear tell of his deeds, both good and ill.
If even half of what we heard was true, this was a bitter, tormented soul, a sinner who mocked both gods and men. He served, but found no pride in service. He fought, but took no joy in victory. He drank, to drown his pain in a sea of wine. He did not love, nor was he loved himself. It was hate that drove him. Though he committed many sins, he never sought forgiveness.
Where other men dream of love, or wealth, or glory, this man Sandor Clegane dreamed of slaying his own brother, a sin so terrible it makes me shudder just to speak of it. Yet that was the bread that nourished him, the fuel that kept his fires burning. Ignoble as it was the hope of seeing his brother’s blood upon his blade was all this sad and angry creature lived for…and even that was taken away when Prince Oberyn of Dorne stabbed Ser Gregor with a poisoned spear.” – The Elder Brother.
Perhaps a more tragic case of both younger and older siblings overshadowing the second son is the case of Viserys Targaryen. Brother to beloved Rhaegar and deified Daenerys Targaryen, Viserys spent a long time in the shadows of his siblings both in Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. In Westeros, Viserys was the younger brother to the much loved Rhaegar Targaryen. Across the Narrow Sea, he was the Beggar King, a mad exile who sold his sister to a horse lord in exchange for an army that ultimately turned on him. In the case of Rhaegar, it made sense that his older brother would overshadow him. Rhaegar was the Crown Prince, Prince of Dragonstone, heir to the Iron Throne, scholar, musician, and knight. Rhaegar was loved both high and low, and had a huge following. Whereas Viserys was just a second son to Aerys. He would never be king.
Artwork by Fantasy Flight Games/Felicia Cano
However, in the case of Daenerys, Viserys was just as overshadowed. His sister was sold to a horse lord in exchange for an army that Viserys never received. Although, despite her predicament, Daenerys rose above the circumstances of her marriage to Khal Drogo and began earning both the love of her husband and from his khalasar. Her popularity, acceptance, and rising status cast a reminiscent shadow over Viserys and his plans for the Iron Throne. His jealously, ego, and impatient ambition caused him to gather even further scorn.
Artwork by Anja Dalisa
He was regarded as an “utter fool” by Tyrion Lannister and even Illyrio said that “Viserys was Mad Aerys’ son.”
“Even as a child, your brother Viserys oft seemed to be his father’s son, in ways Rhaegar never did.” – Barristan Selmy.
“Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake.” – Jorah Mormont.
“A vain young man and greedy. Viserys lusted after his father’s throne, but he lusted after Daenerys too, and was loath to give her up. The night before the princess wed he tried to steal into her bed, insisting that if he couldn’t have her hand, he would claim her maidenhead. Had I not taken the precaution of posting guards upon her door, Viserys might have undone years of planning…Viserys was Mad Aerys’s son, just so.” – Illyrio Mopatis.
Viserys Targaryen was overshadowed for many reasons. He was not his brother, he would never be what his brother was born to be, he ignored his circumstances, and he was too like his father. He was a jealous, cruel, and greedy boy whose circumstances exacerbated the worst aspects of his personality. He was regarded poorly in comparison to his siblings and overshadowed by them because they were seen as better than him. Although, despite his obvious shortcomings, Viserys did do exceptionally well at ensuring he and his sister’s survival during their childhood exile despite his youth and that shouldn’t be ignored.
Artwork by Amok
An interesting case of a second son being overshadowed an older brother and differentiated from their younger siblings is the case of Kevan Lannister, younger brother to Tywin Lannister. While Kevan never had a thought that Tywin did not have first, that did not mean he was stupid. Kevan Lannister recognised early on that Tywin was the superior and was comfortable doing his duty to realise his brother’s wishes. He did this without resentment or frustration and became a trusted councillor to Tywin unlike his brothers, Tygett and Gerion, who dealt with being in Tywin’s shadow in their own way. Despite only technically being a household knight, Kevan was well rewarded by Tywin for his counsel. This also had the effect of Kevan being well regarded by Cersei (in a way), Tyrion, and Jaime. After Tywin’s death, Cersei offers Kevan the position of Hand of the King because she believes that Kevan will be as obedient to her as he was to Tywin. Kevan openly questioned Cersei’s leadership, and reveals that Tywin planned to send her back to the Westerlands as Lady of Casterly Rock with a new husband before his death. Kevan states that he will only accept the position if Cersei names him Regent as well as Hand and she return to the Rock. After Cersei’s imprisonment, the small council led by Grand Maester Pycelle and Harys Swyft name Kevan Regent of the King and send a raven to Casterly Rock offering him the position, which he later accepts. Kevan sets about trying to fix Cersei’s messes by improving relations with the Tyrells, dealing with Jon Connington, and fixing the crown’s financial problems. Varys later murders Kevan in order to prevent him from undoing Cersei’s mistakes and righting the ship.
“…This pains me, my lord. You do not deserve to die alone on such a cold dark night. There are many like you, good men in service to bad causes…” – Varys.
However, as seen above, Varys did regard Kevan as a good and competent man who did not deserve to die but could not be allowed to correct the mistakes of a Varys’ rivals. Despite Kevan Lannister spending the vast majority of his life in his Tywin’s shadow, Kevan became Tywin’s most trusted captain and confidant.
“…the gods shaped him to be a follower not a leader, well the gods and my lord father.” – Tyrion Lannister.
However, Kevan proved himself an able and competent leader in his own right despite his initial role. He was a man of intelligence, strategic thinking, and competence. His leadership and diplomatic skills were so advanced that he was able to placate House Tyrell despite Cersei’s gross incompetence. Kevan was even attempting to rally the Faith of the Seven behind Tommen. So great were his skills and competence that Varys murdered Kevan in order to prevent Kevan from financially securing the Iron Throne, repairing the Tyrell/Lannister alliance, and rallying the Faith.
It seems apparent that the role of the younger brother in Westeros is to be overshadowed by the lives and achievements of both their older and younger siblings. Whether this overshadowing is good or bad ultimately comes down to circumstance and individual character of these siblings. I find this concept of overlooked second sons to be a very interesting phenomena within the story especially when we see that many of these second sons are coming to prominence in their own right and will become key players in future events in upcoming books. I look forward to seeing the roles they will play within the story. Thanks for reading.