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Social Mobility in Westeros


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#1 mankytoes

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 06:45 PM

Obviously social mobility is very difficult in Westeros, the entire feudal/inheritance system is heavily geared towards preventing it. I'll look at a few cases of people who have upped their position.

 

Petyr Baelish

 

Littlefinger was actually born upper class, as we British would call it, to a Lordly family, albeight one of the most lowly. While much has been made of his talents, possibly the biggest contribution to his success was actually his father befriending Hoster Tully when they fought together. Clearly one of the most important things for any social climber is to befriend a high Lord, and this meant Petyr was fostered with the Tully family. This meant Lysa fell in love with him, which helped him get his break as looking after the finances at Gulltown. He showed great ability there, which got him the Master of Coin job. As the son of a Lord, he still needed a big head start in life through and a great talent to get in that position. From there, he used an amazing ability to manipulate people and events, couple with an apparant complete lack of morality, to take official control of the Riverlands, and real control of the Vale. His "chaos is a ladder" speech was show only, but it shows his success well- even with his lead start, connections and talents, he needed the power vacuums the War created to make the gains he has. I always feel he has a certain vulnerability, in that everyone's loyalty to him is conditional, there would be no great backlash if he was betrayed.

 

Bronn

 

Bronn's rise is another pretty noteable one- he has been pretty consistantly climbing the whole series. He is clearly an opportunist- he initially was hoping for reward from Cat, but when he realised he could get a lot out of Tyrion, he took his chance. He has great ability as a fighter, but has had to consistantly put his life in serious risk to get anywhere, starting with defeating the Eyrie's head of the guards. Again, the War was good for opportunity, earning his knighthood, when in peacetime he would probably find it hard to get respect from many high Lords. Like Littlefinger, his amoral viewpoint, including killing Tanda Stokeworth, has assisted his rise, as has knowing when Tyrion has served his worth. I feel Bronn shows how, despite all the chivalry and traditions and rules, might is right. It's no small task, but with enough might and cunning, a man can start with nothing and take over a Lordship. Still, perhaps the hardest part will be consolidating his rule, when the ancien regime will be so hostile to his lack of class or good breeding. His story has been really interesting so far, and I'm excited to see where else it goes.

 

Davos

 

A bit more of a positive example, and arguably even more a dramatic rise than Bronn's- as a lowborn and a criminal, he was the lowest of the low. His break was far more dramatic, and again it came in wartime. He saw an opportunity and he took it, again at great personal risk. This gives him an in with a great Lord, but what's great about Davos is that, in complete contrast to the other two, he has a great amount of morality and loyalty, and it actually serves him well. He has an interesting thought on social mobility once, when he thinks about how the other Lords shun him, but his sons fit in far better. True progression takes generations. Davos is a great character, one of the few it's very hard not to root for, but it must be noted that he has been so lucky. Not only with his near death experiences, but in finding a Lord/King like Stannis, who has relatively radical meritocratic views. Still, it's nice to see that you don't have to be an evil shit to progress in this world.


Edited by mankytoes, 23 June 2014 - 06:52 PM.


#2 Ser Greg of House House

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 06:58 PM

Petyr doesn't really count, IMO. He's climbed, sure, but he was always a noble. And fostered in Riverrun. His talent was rewarded and that's it.



#3 juanml82

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Posted 23 June 2014 - 07:11 PM

Petyr doesn't really count, IMO. He's climbed, sure, but he was always a noble. And fostered in Riverrun. His talent was rewarded and that's it.

Well, if you want, you can say that Petyr and his father worked to rise House Baelish meteorically. His father, by befriending Hoster Tully and getting the fostering and Littlefinger by squeezing everything out of that situation.

What I mean is, the Freys are looked down because they are "only" several hundred years old, while House Baelish was nothing a mere fifty years before the events of AGOT and look where it reached.



#4 Fire Eater

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Posted 24 June 2014 - 11:06 PM

Social mobility in a medieval society, going from common to noble, usually took more than a single generation for a family. I think marrying heirs and heiresses helps significantly. In Davos's case, both him and his wife are common born, so it might take a few generations for the Seaworths to be accepted by the rest of upper-class society, but they would be nobles in name.


Edited by Fire Eater, 24 June 2014 - 11:06 PM.


#5 Lord of Groans

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Posted 24 June 2014 - 11:16 PM

It probably won't happen, but it would be cool if George was able somehow to write another series in Westeros that took place multiple generations past the events of ASOIAF, where you could maybe see how the descendants of Bronn and Davos Seaworth were faring.



#6 juanml82

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Posted 24 June 2014 - 11:19 PM

It probably won't happen, but it would be cool if George was able somehow to write another series in Westeros that took place multiple generations past the events of ASOIAF, where you could maybe see how the descendants of Bronn and Davos Seaworth were faring.

(Thinks of the Golden Company taking Davos' keep and capturing his wife and younger children) :crying:



#7 KING-OF-WINTERFELL

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 07:25 AM

Social mobility in a medieval society, going from common to noble, usually took more than a single generation for a family. I think marrying heirs and heiresses helps significantly. In Davos's case, both him and his wife are common born, so it might take a few generations for the Seaworths to be accepted by the rest of upper-class society, but they would be nobles in name.

Look up  Dalyngrigge's who built bodiam castle it took three generation to get to that point, to become a higher noble I would imagine it would take at least six to become a mid-level noble.



#8 SeanF

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 07:50 AM

Other examples of upward social mobility include Ser Clayton Suggs (born in Flea Bottom, like Davos),the Cleganes, Ser Duncan the Tall, Janos Slynt, and the various men who were knighted after the Battle of Blackwater, or had their sons taken on as pages and squires.

 

War offers good opportunities for social mobility.  In all likelihood, successful merchants and professionals are able to marry their children to poorer nobility.  Successful farmers might be able to afford a military training for their sons, who then go on to become men-at-arms, and maybe achieve knighthood.  The likelihood is that there is a good deal of social mobility in Westeros.

 

There's downward mobility too.  There are lots of people with the surnames Lannister and Tyrell who don't amount to very much.  Lazy Leo might be Mace Tyrell's first cousin, but he's the younger son of a younger son. and as such, his prospects aren't great.



#9 Jaak

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 03:41 PM

Cleganes are particularly notable. They have been noble for 50 years or so, yet nobody denounces them as upstarts compared to Amory Lorch. By contrast, Freys are still called upstarts 600 years after they built their bridge!



#10 Bryden Tully

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 03:49 PM

Clegane's aren't really noble-they merely a landed knight house which will I assume will probably die out soon. As the poster above says the higher families e.g Stark, Baratheon, hightower, Arynn look down on the other houses even if they've been around for a long while such as with House Frey who are mocked for being 600 years young!



#11 Batbob45

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 03:58 PM

Unlike LF, who did what ever it take for power, Davos work hard to become Lord and hand. Stannis think that if Lords don't accept Davo then he make new ones(unlike Robert, who  hate honesty when he doesn't agree with it, Stannis want honest opinions and don't want suck ups)



#12 Davos's Missing Fingers

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 04:08 PM

There are all sorts of different ways to be upjumped. Look at Ramsay Bolton. He's bastard born and rises to become the current heir to be the Warden of the North due to a legitimization by Tommen and him accidentally learning of his father's true identity.

 

And it's not as if bastards of great lords all have great lives. We've learned of a few of Robert's that didn't exactly rise up the social ladder.


Edited by Davos's Missing Fingers, 27 June 2014 - 04:11 PM.


#13 Batbob45

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 04:09 PM

Gendry seem be be normal


Edited by Batbob45, 27 June 2014 - 04:10 PM.


#14 Lord Reaver

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 06:02 PM

There are only two societies with real, widespread social mobility in Westeros: Wildlings and Ironborn.

 

The wildlings are fairly straight forward meritocratical. Just happen that the traits they value aren't what most people would agree on. The low status of the "Kingsblood" guy and his daughters is case in point.

 

The Ironborn is the only other place where we hear of social mobility as something commonly accepted which can be achieved through one's own merits (as opposed to the benevolence of someone above you, e.g Dunk). any Ironborn can become a captain, thus becoming "king on his ship". Even the sons of thralls can do this, and have, e.g. house Codd.



#15 Lord Thaeglei of Frostpyre

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 01:06 PM

There is both upward and downward social mobility is Westeros faced by commoners and nobles alike..

 

Ancient and and former royal houses such as the Starks, Lannisters, Arryns and Martells as well as old and proud houses like the Velaryons, Hightowers and Royces, even Baratheons tend to consider themselves above the rest as in the blood flows the blood of kings and princes, of the First Men, of the purest and oldest Andal nobility and of ancient Valyria, and thus tends to look down on other "parvenu" families such as the Freys or even the Seaworths (remember how furious Tywin was to his father when he betrothed his sister Genna to a mere Frey and how Davos noted that Lord Monford Velaryon would never confide to someone as lowborn as he..)

 

Other old and well-regarded families such as the Westerlings and Corbrays (both intermarried with ancient and prestigious families such as the Targaryens, Lannisters and Starks) who have faced difficulties and chose to take commoner wives for rich mercantile families also experienced some scorn and distaste from their former peers (such how Lord Kevan Lannister rejected Lady Jeyne Westerling as a match to his son because of the low standing of Jeyne's mother)

 

The Tyrells are the masters of social climbing.. 300 years ago, they are nothing more but mere stewards of Highgarden, and when they surrendered Highgarden to the Targaryens, they were named Lords of Highgarden (much to the Florents frustration).. Now they rule over the Reach, rising in wealth and prestige but they seem to hunger for more.. One interesting thought that hit me, as much as the Tyrells are the rulers of the Reach, it seems that aside from the Hightowers, none of the great families have chosen Tyrell brides for their lords or heirs..

 

The Ironborns seems to be a special case.. They seem to be isolationists and tend to intermarry among themselves (though a certain Lady Piper from the Riverlands married Lord Quellon Greyjoy) and even their nobles tends to be looked down on by the majority of the Westerosi nobility..



#16 LionoftheWest

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 01:54 PM

There is both upward and downward social mobility is Westeros faced by commoners and nobles alike..

 

Ancient and and former royal houses such as the Starks, Lannisters, Arryns and Martells as well as old and proud houses like the Velaryons, Hightowers and Royces, even Baratheons tend to consider themselves above the rest as in the blood flows the blood of kings and princes, of the First Men, of the purest and oldest Andal nobility and of ancient Valyria, and thus tends to look down on other "parvenu" families such as the Freys or even the Seaworths (remember how furious Tywin was to his father when he betrothed his sister Genna to a mere Frey and how Davos noted that Lord Monford Velaryon would never confide to someone as lowborn as he..)

 

Other old and well-regarded families such as the Westerlings and Corbrays (both intermarried with ancient and prestigious families such as the Targaryens, Lannisters and Starks) who have faced difficulties and chose to take commoner wives for rich mercantile families also experienced some scorn and distaste from their former peers (such how Lord Kevan Lannister rejected Lady Jeyne Westerling as a match to his son because of the low standing of Jeyne's mother)

 

The Tyrells are the masters of social climbing.. 300 years ago, they are nothing more but mere stewards of Highgarden, and when they surrendered Highgarden to the Targaryens, they were named Lords of Highgarden (much to the Florents frustration).. Now they rule over the Reach, rising in wealth and prestige but they seem to hunger for more.. One interesting thought that hit me, as much as the Tyrells are the rulers of the Reach, it seems that aside from the Hightowers, none of the great families have chosen Tyrell brides for their lords or heirs..

 

The Ironborns seems to be a special case.. They seem to be isolationists and tend to intermarry among themselves (though a certain Lady Piper from the Riverlands married Lord Quellon Greyjoy) and even their nobles tends to be looked down on by the majority of the Westerosi nobility..

 

Don't forget that some Harlaw married a Serrett.



#17 eyenon15

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 01:58 PM

Id say merchant/businessperson or a knight are the best examples of social climbing. You'll likely never be a noble that way but still you can get kind of far.
Maesters and Joining the church too.

Then there's always immigration to Essos where talent and skill seem to get people farther than in hereditary rule.

Edited by eyenon15, 30 July 2014 - 02:00 PM.


#18 Talleyrand

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 03:11 PM

I'd say Dunk is the best example of social mobility, from a shithead in Flea Bottom to having a seat in the Small Council and having a Crown Prince named after him



#19 Lord Reaver

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 10:00 PM

I'd say Dunk is the best example of social mobility, from a shithead in Flea Bottom to having a seat in the Small Council and having a Crown Prince named after him


Not really. Social mobility in a society isn't measured by the very few who are lucky enough to have some knight pick them out as squire at random.

Dunk had the good fortune to get the benevolence of someone higher up, the vast majority of people from his class never have that chance.

Compare this to the Ironborn society, where a person could be born the son or daughter of a thrall, work their way up in the mines, fishing etc. to where they have enough money to buy a ship, then trade until possibly getting enough money to become nobles e.g house Codd.

#20 Tourney Knight

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 10:12 PM

I think Duncan the Tall is another good example that should be added to the list.  Also, it is not just because he became friends with Prince Aegon, but also for who he squired for.