Wicked Women and the Iron Throne: The Twofold Tragedy of Witches as Advisors in Game of Thrones

  • Sheilagh Ilona O’Brien
Part of the Queenship and Power book series (QAP)


Women who seek or find themselves in positions of influence and power are constructed as problematic and potentially dangerous in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy universe A Song of Ice and Fire and its television adaptation Game of Thrones. The world of A Song of Ice and Fire features Queens like Rhaenyra Targaryen and Cersei Lannister whose sexual impropriety is reflected in their unstable and violent reigns. Some characters, like Mirri Maz Duur, Melisandre, and Maggy the Frog, give advice tainted by their status as witches, while male advisors, like Varys and Qyburn, are presented as dangerously feminised.

This chapter will therefore examine how concerns over female/feminine influence and power as portrayed in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones reflect both historical and contemporary realities. Concerns over women in positions of power and influence also played a role in several court scandals in medieval and early modern Europe. Martin’s universe reflects historical concerns over the nature of queenship and how it occurs, and of ‘female’ or ‘feminised’ advice. Questions of ‘femaleness’ also arise in relation to male advisors. Maesters, or would-be maesters, become equally problematic advisors in an ultra-masculine culture; they neither fight nor rule, but instead learn and serve. By examining how these ideas are discussed in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, this chapter demonstrates how media portray society’s concerns over ‘female’ advice and power: women are unstable, driven by emotion, and ultimately opaque and unknowable to the male gaze. Women with ambition are deviant and devious, driven by unhealthy desires to enter the masculine realm of politics and power. Whether they seek to rule or merely to advise, women become targets of gendered criticism in the ‘game of thrones’.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheilagh Ilona O’Brien
    • 1
  1. 1.Open Access CollegeThe University of Southern QueenslandToowoombaAustralia

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