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Kinslaying, a basis for moral judgement?


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12 replies to this topic

#1 BastardlyRock

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Posted 01 August 2014 - 12:02 PM

Is it fair for the reader to arbitrarily lay judgement at the doorstep of characters who have killed family members versus characters who have killed in general? (Meaning that murderers who have killed family members are somehow even more villainous than the books' "regular" murderers.) Case in point: Tyrion's murder of Tywin was one of his finest moments to my mind, yet it frequently shows up as a talking point for Tyrion's detractors. Tywin was far and above one of the great antagonists of the first three books, and there were plenty of people hoping for his death. To boot, the amount of emotional trauma he caused Tyrion was incredibly significant. We have several real world examples of children who have killed their parent(s) due to some abuse the parent was putting the child through (mental, physical, etc.) and while the act of killing is rarely condoned, I can't say I've heard people throw in "what's worse, he killed his own parent!" as a cause to further villainize the act, especially when the parent was a perpetrator of their own child's abuse.

 

Given that the moral code of Westeros is different from our own, I understand Westerosi group think lending way to the view  that the kinslayer is beneath contempt. What I'm curious about is whether or not it's fair for the reader to adopt that same thought process when standing in judgement of characters and their actions.

 

Because it's inevitable, I also thought about this in terms of Stannis/Renly and Robb/Karstark as well. Is it somehow more deplorable that Stannis had Renly shadow-baby-assassinated given that Renly is his brother? Regardless of whether he was his brother or not, Renly was in open defiance with a (rather large) host at his back. While Robb's execution of Karstark was arguably one of his "less than wise" decisions, is it fair to bring into the argument that it was foolish because Karstark was distantly related to him and so Robb is somehow more villainous?

 

Just because the "gods" despise the kinslayer, does that mean we should too?



#2 Game Of Thrones

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Posted 01 August 2014 - 12:07 PM

Yes. It's considered extremely immoral in Westeros, and if someone kinslays, it means they have no real morals now, since they broke the greatest taboo of their society.

 

And Stannis probably didn't know how Renly died, btw.


Edited by Game Of Thrones, 01 August 2014 - 12:07 PM.


#3 BastardlyRock

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Posted 01 August 2014 - 12:10 PM

And Stannis probably didn't know how Renly died, btw.

I (may) agree with you on that part, but the important bit is that he knew somehow what the Red Woman was up to would lead to Renly's death...

 

My question stands: is it a moral you hold the characters to?


Edited by theBastardofCasterlyRock, 01 August 2014 - 12:12 PM.


#4 The Sullen Sellsword

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Posted 01 August 2014 - 12:11 PM

And Stannis probably didn't know how Renly died, btw.

 

Probably?

 

It's highly implied he saw it all happen through the eyes of the shadow, hence why he was having extreme nightmares while it was happening and why people were unable to wake him.



#5 BastardlyRock

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Posted 01 August 2014 - 12:14 PM

 

Probably?

 

It's highly implied he saw it all happen through the eyes of the shadow, hence why he was having extreme nightmares while it was happening and why people were unable to wake him.

That's right, can't believe I forgot that bit.



#6 LadyoftheNorth72

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Posted 01 August 2014 - 12:16 PM

I guess it's up to each reader to decide whether kinslaying really makes them see a character differently or not. For me, it is one of those customs / beliefs held by the characters that I completely understand *their* reasoning for, but don't necessarily share across the board myself; sort of like guest right.

It's simple to grasp why their society has developed these taboos. Otherwise you'd have nonstop murder as sons hastened their inheritance, brothers made themselves heir, husbands and wives got informal divorces, pesky political opponents conveniently shut up, and on and on.

Not, of course, that these things aren't happening anyway by those with no real fear of gods and when they believe they can get away with it (or are powerful / insane enough to not care, temporarily or otherwise). But if they did not have these beliefs and customs in place, it would be amazing if there were enough humans left alive to form a society.

I haven't found myself judging any character's actions based on my own belief in these rules, but by all the circumstances surrounding how and why THEY decided to break them. That's why I hope there's a special hell filling up with Freys who participated in the RW, but could care less that their world is short a Tywin Lannister.

#7 Illuminated by Fire

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Posted 01 August 2014 - 12:17 PM

Depends. Family bonds often imply certain feelings between characters like trust and love, but that certainly is not always the case. Tyrion and Tywin are a very good counter example to that. If there are these feelings then there is the additional dimension of betrayal in the act of kinslaying that goes beyond murder, but there is no reason to think that just because people have a blood relationship that the act of murder because somehow more immoral. Blood relationship per se means nothing. It is the experiences you go through together as a family that build the relationship in the first place and being related is not even a requirement for this, but in many familiy in Westeros we get to know these experiences are more likely to get them to hate each other than anything else. And in that case, it is not somehow more despicable to murder a family member than to murder any other person.

 

That being said: It is still murder, and I think many people value blood relations to much and despise murder too little.



#8 Baela of Pentos

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 12:20 AM

kinslaying has been a big deal throughout history, think Cain and Abel.

 

But if we look at history, so many (nearly all) wars of claiments resulted in some form of kinslaying. But it doesn't stop people from finding it repugnant. The reason why the princes in the tower were never confirmed had to do with Richard's fear of being accused of kinslaying.

 

We read about tyrion and think he was somewhat justified to kill his father after all the abuse he suffered but from the POV of a character in the book whose knowledge is limited, it would seem horrid.



#9 JonCon's Red Beard

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:10 AM

I think the main issue with kinslaying comes at assuming that there is a special bond between people who are family, which isn't always true. Around four years ago there was a local case of a young woman killing her mother. Obviously, the shocking part wasn't the murder itself, but the victim being the mother. Putting aside the fact that killing a person is wrong, the girl's mother wasn't a nice woman: she bullied the daughter and she was constantly nagging about her life, and trying to alienate the relationship between the daughter and her father. One day, the girl couldn't take it anymore and stabbed her. A friend made a comment that I think it was very accurate: "everybody assumes one's mother is good and full of love,  but the true is that not everybody gets good parents". That's pretty much the same case of Tyrion's. In Tyrion's case, we understand because we know what kind of an asshole Tywin was towards him. Is the case of this girl the same?

 

The same could apply to brothers, sisters, cousins or anyone related. If someone related to me declares war against me and my family, I have the right to defend myself and those I care about.



#10 The Kinkslayer

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 01:15 AM

Essoians don't seem to consider kinslaying such a big taboo, maybe because out of the 2 POVs from Essos, one is continously urging an usurper to burn members of his extended family. Mormont is the only character that Tyrion finds in Essos that cares about him killing Tywin.

It is said that the kinslayer is accursed on the eyes of gods and men, so [crackpot alert] maybe Tyrion's birth is what awoke the gods, aka the Others, and his killing of Tywin is what killed autumn.

#11 UtherSnow

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 02:39 AM

The trap most fall into is to apply non-dragon rules in a dragon world. You need to be apart from what you know as black or white, up or down, good or bad. Go to the time of what you're reading.

 

Kinslaying is as bad as it gets.

Kingslaying comes pretty close.

 

If you've not caught the series yet, I'd suggest finding 'Vikings'. While it's not Westeros, it can give you an idea. There's even a good version of something like Kingslaying, if you can premeditated ritualistic execution.....It's a scene you'll not forget. (Series 2) - It matches historical records and recent archaeological finds.

 

Depending on which side of the line you choose to sit, incest is a despicable act to some, and completely fine to others.

 

It's a complete new set of moral standards you'd be facing.

 

Looking back in History can tell you that it's nothing new. If this fantasy world has an equal, you're looking at a period following the Fall of Rome, and through to Anglo-Saxons (pre-Norman Invasion of England). Somewhere between 300 AD and 900 AD, hedging towards the latter end. Across Europe you had many feudal disputes, which resemble events in Westeros.

Exchange the Northern accents for Scots, you've got a comparison to Braveheart Robert Bruce. Look how he was dealt with. Ned got off light with a swift swish of Ice, wielded by a superb guitarist as well.


Edited by UtherSnow, 02 August 2014 - 02:47 AM.


#12 Crowford

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 03:09 AM

Nah, I don't.

 

But really, this crops up a lot. Kinslaying is actually one of the less controversial cases - sure, some people try to use in-universe moral logic to argue why they don't like Tyrion, but I think it's safe to say this has more to do with the other actions he took since his escape from jail. Stannis for example gets much less scorn for Renly's death, even people who don't like him generally focus on his other flaws.

 

I think a much better example is the idea of birthrights. I can only assume, of course, but I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of users here wouldn't actually hold it as an universal moral value that you should be allowed total authority over other people just because of who your parents were. Yet people use it to justify rooting for a character all the time. Among fans of Dany, Jon or Stannis, it's nigh-universal.

 

And then of course, there are the things that people would disagree on even out-of-universe. I, for example, don't consider incest wrong, don't think it's wrong to kill your employer if he is an insane, omnicidal pyromaniac, and don't think killing children is worse than killing adults. Which is the reason I always got along with Jaime a lot better than most people.

 

Really, the only thing I DO hold to be important is guest right. Not for it's religious implications, but because it's basically an agreement to guarantee the safety of someone you are treating with, and thus Walder Frey breaking it greatly devalues it as a diplomatic custom, and that's bad for everyone in the long term. It's like attacking during a ceasefire (*couch* what a strangely appropriate political analogy) 



#13 FreeParking

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Posted 02 August 2014 - 03:25 AM

The problem with kinslaying is that many of these are old noble houses that have been intermarrying for generations. How far back do you check do you see if you are distantly related? Jon says to Stannis once that most of the houses in the North probably have some Stark blood.