We all have seen Game of Thrones, or if we haven't, we know somebody who is an avid fan of the show, the books, or both. For those not familiar with Game of Thrones, it is a popular TV show produced and broadcasted by HBO.
The show is based on the best-selling book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" written by George R.R. Martin. The main protagonists of this story are the houses of Targaryen, Stark, Lannister and Baratheon and the central plot revolves around the houses fighting for the Iron Throne after the ruling king dies.
One of the most interesting characteristics of the show is that it is full of symbolism, partly represented by the intricate Heraldry developed for each noble house.
Every member of the noble houses —over a hundred in this mythical world— has a sigil and a motto. A sigil is a symbol that represents them and by which they can be recognized wherever they go. They are portrayed in war banners, bird-mouth flags, gonfalons, shields, and other paraphernalia such as tunics, cloaks, belt buckles, armors, and more.
Sigils are the way Bran (one of the main characters who has visions of the future and the past) knows which house is coming to Winterfell (one of the cities) depending on the banner they wave.
War banners and flags are displayed in the battle field, when armies are marching or in combat and we can see them in different scenes throughout the show.
We can also see gonfalons hanging at the entrance of each castle and how it is changed as one house takes over a territory.
So, who do you think is going to win the war? Which gonfalon would be hanging at the entrance of every castle at the end of the war? Perhaps the following insights from each of the candidates will help you take sides with one of the main noble houses:
House Targaryen of Westeros
The sigil of House Targaryen is the image of a red, three-headed dragon spitting fire on a black field. The three heads of the dragon represent Aegon the Conqueror and his two sisters, Rhaenys and Visenya.
This house's motto is "Fire and Blood." The Targaryen's are one of the oldest houses of the Freehold of Valyria and ruled Westeros for around 300 years before King Aerys II was dethroned and he and most of his family were killed in a rebellion that he brought upon himself.
The rulers of dragons have the creatures' nature in their blood, this makes their motto an excellent representation of this noble house.
Now Daenerys, the youngest daughter and only known survivor of the direct descendants of King Aerys II, is on a mission to get the Iron Throne back. She is helped by her dragons, which were thought extinct but were brought back to life, granting her the name of "Mother of Dragons."
House Stark of Winterfell
The sigil of House Stark is a dire wolf set on a white and green background. Wolves are social animals; they live and travel in packs and are loyal to the pack's members. This highly resembles the Stark family, who constantly protects and helps each other to try to survive.
The Stark's motto is "Winter is Coming." This house's motto is a warning, instead of the usual threat or bragging. The Starks are one of the most ancient lines in the area, they are thought to have descended from the First Men.
Before the Targaryen ruled the Seven Kingdoms, the Starks were Kings of the North.
House Lannister of Casterly Rock
The sigil for House Lannister is a golden lion rampant on a crimson field. Lions are a powerful animal known for their ferocity. They have an official and an unofficial motto. Their official motto is "Hear me roar!" while their unofficial motto is "A Lannister always pays his debts."
The Lannisters are the richest house in the Seven Kingdoms so they are an influential and powerful house. They are descendants from the Andal adventurers.
It was Jamie Lannister, the Queen Regent's brother, who was responsible for killing King Aerys II, the Mad King. He's been known as the King Slayer since the rebellion against the Targaryen reign took place.
House Baratheon of Storm's End
The sigil of House Baratheon is a black stag on a golden field. When Robert Baratheon became King of the Seven Kingdoms, a crown was added to the stag to indicate that they were the royal house. Their motto is "Ours is the Fury."
House Baratheon is a young house when compared to other houses such as Lannister, Targaryen, and Stark. Their sigil existed even before the house was founded, as it was claimed by Orys Baratheon when Aegon the Conqueror took over the Seven Kingdoms. Orys, one of Aegon's commander and suspected half-brother, overpowered House Durrendon, who were the original rulers of the Stormlands and overtook everything that belonged to that house, from the sigil to the castle, claiming it as its own.
Sigils, guidons, banners, and gonfalons throughout the series
Guidons or Calvary flags are medium size battles flags with a triangular shape and can be forked. The Lannister's Cavalry flag, for instance, depicts a lion on a crimson field.
The battle banners of three of the houses were featured in the 6th season teasers:
Different flags are used for different purposes: Guidons and battle banners are displayed in the battlefields, carried by flag bearers announcing the arrival of a house's army and its allies.
Gonfalons are used as ornaments in great halls, during weddings and other special celebrations, while flags with the houses' sigils are raised at the entrance and towers of each castle.
During war times, when a house takes over another houses land and seat, the flags are all replaced by ones bearing the conqueror's sigil, to let everyone know who is in control of the castle.
These are just a few examples of the different types of guidons, banners, gonfalons, and other types of flags that are part of the show's mise-en-scène.
Game of Thrones has become a cultural phenomenon, both on and offline. During its seasons, and in the interim, we can always find posts, videos, and memes that reference the show in one way or another.
The show recently concluded its 7th season and its popularity continues to soar as the war to become the ruler of the 7 Kingdoms has taken a turn, becoming a war between the living and the "undead."
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