Lollygag

All of the Damned Incest: What's the Point?

313 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Sometimes I stop and check the cover to make sure I didn’t accidently pick up 50 Shades of Incest by mistake. If I had known that there was this much incest, I wouldn’t have picked up the series, and as such I feel tricked as a reader. I’d pass on the series if I had the choice again because I can’t excuse it as “it’s not incest in Westeros” or “it’s not incest if you’re a Targ”. It’s incest to me and I don’t get the point of this much of it. I suspect that this is a big part of the division among the readership on the incest issue: people who’d have never chosen to read a series with this much incest were blind-sided by how much there is, but the extent of the incest in the series wasn’t obvious until after the reader became deeply-invested in the characters and plot. I'll be reading TWoW with plenty of Pepto on hand, because it literally makes me nauseous and it looks like we may get even more incest.

I was ok with Jaime/Cersei. It was written as toxic in every conceivable fashion. It was woven into the plot in a great way. It looked like a cautionary tale and was not romanticized or idealized in the slightest. It was clear very early on that Viserys and Dany weren’t going to happen. In retrospect, I should have guessed, but at the same time, I really couldn’t have conceived at how pervasive incest would become in the series.

Perhaps making my reaction to it worse, I’m not particularly interested in European royal history and only had a vague sense of their marriage habits, so if this is some reference to that part of rl history, it’s lost on me. I’d also question an author relying too much on the general readership’s knowledge of European Royal history given that it’s an American Fantasy novel.

As the plot progressed well-past the point where I was invested, I was slammed with the following:

· All of the Targ backstory, most of which involves incest

· Lysa and Robert, especially when Robert begins nuzzling Sansa’s breasts in a sexual way because he misses his mother.

· Asha lets Theon feel her up. Theon is disgusted. Asha is ok with it, though.

· Arianne thinks Uncle Obie is hot.

· Tyrion talks about raping Cersei.

· Cat makes out with Petyr, but refuses him as a suitor because he’s like a brother. Then why was Cat making out with him if he was like a brother?????

· Loras’ & Marg’s weird three-way marriage arrangement with Renly

· Sansa is being forced to make out with her “father” (Littlefinger)

· Craster’s Wonderful World of Incest

· Strong hints that Euron was sexually abusing his brother Aeron

· Victarion/Asha

· When Jon goes to Craster’s Incestworld, he starts thinking about his sisters. A lot. But not so much the rest of his family. Ygritte is a thorough mash-up of both sisters. When Ygritte asks Jon about sleeping with his sisters, instead of a knee-jerk “Awww hell no!”, we get the thoughtful rationalization that Craster weds his daughters.

The text hints at the possibility of Jonerys through well-established Targ history. That Jon isn’t as put off by the idea of being with his sisters as one would like is not encouraging in the slightest.

 

Basically, I don’t accept that incest is just a fetish or a cheap shock tactic on the part of GRRM. But I don’t get why there’s so much of it everywhere. What is the point? If it’s just an “incest is bad” lesson, it’s one that was not needed as it’s not a big problem given other problems that the real-life industrialized world faces and modern European royalty has already made clear that the lesson has already been learned. Other novels based to some degree on rl royal marriage habits in the medieval era exclude incest, so why couldn’t it be excluded in ASOIAF? The magic blood line thing has been used by other authors without the use of incest.

I’m hanging on faith that there will be a point to incest being peppered all throughout the series, not just with the Targs and Craster. So I’m asking, what might that point be? What role could it serve not just with the Targs, but with non-Targ families which are also touched by it in some way?

 

Please don’t turn this into a character bashing thread or a shipping thread. I just want ideas as to why there’s so much incest in the series as the ones I’m come up with thus far don’t provide good explanations.

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Edit: With the help of some of the posters, this is the idea that I'm currently exploring on the use and purpose of incest in the series.

I haven't fully processed my thoughts here a bit rambly.

I agree that nepotism, power dynamics and the negative aspects of incest are part of the message but incest and other too-close-for comfort situations are presented in situations where nepotism and power dynamics don’t seem to apply. I think there are other factors at play so I was searching for an explanation for when the obvious explanations didn’t apply.

Taking a broader view:

  • Westeros was constantly at war until the Targs came. The Us vs Them mentality was carried to the extreme.
     
  • The long-standing rivalries and power-plays between families was recently escalated in-story and we saw a regression to the Us vs Them state reminiscent of the pre-Targ era. Clannishness has escalated to become extreme and toxic.
     
  • There’s a lot of revenge-obsessed characters and revenge themes in general. Various aspects are examined through various characters and various situations. Another type of Us vs Them, or Me vs Them thinking.
     
  • There’s increasing hostility between the religions of the Old Gods, the Seven, and R’hllor: Us vs Them
     
  • We’ll see a cultural Us vs Them upon the introduction of the Dothraki and Unsullied into Westeros.
     
  • Bastards and Eunuchs are given the Us vs Them treatment
     
  • There are a lot of inter-family succession clusterf***s being set up which will likely result in at least some families experiencing an Us vs Them/Me vs Them conflict at an internal level.
     
  • The Westerosi have been stagnated in the Middle Ages for millennia. They fear change. Effectively another variation of Us vs Them in that the high-class families of Westeros fear potentially having their status challenged by change.
     
  • The practitioners of the Seven fear the Stranger who is unknown and undefinable. The other members of the Seven are well-defined and fit cleanly into familiar social roles.
     
  • Littlefinger and Varys are villains of the series. I don’t think it’s any accident that Littlefinger seems to support bastards and a rising middle/merchant class, while Varys sympathizes with the common folk. A middle/merchant class and the common folk are viewed as “others” to the high-born.
     
  • Families wear colors and family regalia to an extreme extent to make themselves known and defined. The bastard with the unknown name is feared and vilified.
     
  • The Westerosi fear others, and literally fear Others. I think it’s intentional that the Others are simply named “Others” in the series. It indicates a sort of xenophobia and fear of the unknown on the part of the Westerosi. Others are kept behind a Wall, and others are kept outside of the ruling class system, out of the family, etc.

There’s more no doubt, but I think I’ve made my point. I think incest is being used at a character-level to possibly highlight when a character or family has become too internalized, too inward-looking to be healthy.

 

Lysa and Robert have an unhealthy arrangement and Lysa hides in the Eyrie in extreme isolation and paranoia. Cersei like-wise has an intense paranoia of others perhaps indicating that her narcissism springs from fear and excessive internalization. Jaime participates in incest because he really hasn't thought about it. As soon as he begins thinking for himself, he begins to gravitate away from Cersei and incest.  Asha tests Theon with incest. Asha fears the trees are her enemy, fears them like an “other”. Theon rejects the incest, but comes to see the trees as a part of him. Perhaps Asha’s clannishness will be a hindrance, but Theon’s openness will be an asset. Viserys longs for incest and perhaps not coincidently, a return to the status quo, power, isolationism and monopoly. Dany rejects incest: she has no fear of change and doesn’t long for power.

 

I haven’t explored the other manifestations of incest or vaguely incestuous situations, but I suspect that where we find these situations, we can find aspects of Us vs Them/Fear of Change/Isolationism is being explored through several characters, in several different situations and with different aspects. I think there’s a lot more to find and incest is a trigger to look more closely for what is being said in this regard. We’ll have to see, but right now I’m wondering if characters inclined to various forms of incest will be characters who will somehow obstruct the fight against the Others: they exhibit some aspect of a  mentality of isolationism and internalization, or at least an unthinking acceptance of the status quo vs those open to others and willing to work with them. Maybe the point is to work with others/Others, not fight them and view them as enemies.

 

Humanity will have to unite to survive the Others. That Us vs Them is explored on all kinds of levels through religious conflict, clannishness taken to the extreme, culture conflicts, political power plays and incest plays into that and in the end, I think. And I think that these things will always manifest at a character-level rather than a thematic level, and that’s what I’m searching for.

 

Edited by Lollygag

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Dude, when was the last time you looked at PornHub?  90 percent of porn these days is fake incest.  GRRM was ahead of the curve, apparently a lot of people REALLY want to get it on with a relative.

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53 minutes ago, Lollygag said:

· Cat makes out with Petyr, but refuses him as a suitor because he’s like a brother. Then why was Cat making out with him if he was like a brother?????

Cat never had sex with Petyr, it was Lysa, who apparently never thought about him in a sisterly way.

55 minutes ago, Lollygag said:

· Loras’ & Marg’s weird three-way marriage arrangement with Renly

Aren't you confusing this with the show or some fanfic?

56 minutes ago, Lollygag said:

I’m not particularly interested in European royal history and only had a vague sense of their marriage habits, so if this is some reference to that part of rl history, it’s lost on me. I’d also question an author relying too much on the general readership’s knowledge of European Royal history given that it’s an American Fantasy novel.

1) no, incest was never a habit and close-relative marriage had to obtain a dispensation from the Pope

2) is there a list of topics that American authors are allowed to use in their writing ?

3) America is not the whole world. If someone decides to base their writing on the sexual practices of population XY, deal with it

 

On the whole... in a series full of rape, murder, torture and mutilation, it is incest that turns you off most? Really? 

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When I first watched tv series I thought that this aims to show that how brutal this fantasy world is. But then I learned that pharaohs and Goryeo kings of Korea did it. If it is the part of history why not use it?

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I don't really get what issue you have with the incest in the story? Depending on why you are so upset about it I can offer two answers:

A. You don't have a personal problem about finding sex - and particularly incest - in a fantasy novel. It is just that in case of ASOIAF you don't see that it adds anything to the story and is basically purposeless.

- in that case I suppose the author (and I and probably some other readers) disagree with you. For me personally the Targ incest-heavy history gives depth and a quite problematic and somewhat tragic and sometimes uncomfortable background that adds to the story, not distracts from it. It makes the Targs not some sort of superheroes but a quite troubled family that produces awful persons, brilliant persons and anything in between. Also for me personally it makes them more believable and realistic.

That's because these practices were widespread in ruling houses RL throughout history (and not particulary European history, as you seem to believe):

For example in old Persia marriages between brother and sister were religiously seen as the most perfect form of marriage.

Another example are the Ptolemaian (Macedonian) rulers of Egypt after Alexander who always married their siblings. (Cleopatra, last of the Ptolemaian queens in Egypt was the wife of both her brothers). In old Egypt incestous marriages were not limited to the ruling house but quite widespread in the general population.

The Inca in Peru allowed the ruler to ONLY have children with his sister.

In the Bible Abraham married his half-sister Sarah.

B. You have a personal problem

In that case best take your problem elsewhere since in that case a fantasy literature forum is not really a good place to work it out. (I don't know if that's the case. If not then see my answer A. above).

 

 

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GRRM was just acknowledging the world and how it operates. 

Humans and incest have an exceptionally long history. So long in fact it goes back before our last evolutionary leap. Animals don't know the word incest and will happily commit to it given the conditions are right for it. It takes many generations of incest to produce abnormalities you'd notice right away. 

That's what the story indicates to me. Targaryen children don't socialize and keep to the family much. So they choose family (but not always obviously Rhaegar didn't). Viscerys and Joff have much in common I think for this reason. There is a higher chance for a mental disability than a physical one. It's also possible this was the problem with Aerys II. 

 

Then you get into the other incest players and it begins to make a lot of sense. Jamie and Cersei were royal children also unsocialized. Cersei was infatuated with the Targaryen stories and followed suit. Craster was removed from all of society, etc, etc. 

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1 minute ago, Ygrain said:

Cat never had sex with Petyr, it was Lysa, who apparently never thought about him in a sisterly way.

Yeah, I know. I don't get why Cat would even make out with someone who she thought of as a brother.

2 minutes ago, Ygrain said:

Aren't you confusing this with the show or some fanfic?

Cersei speculates openly about their arrangement in the books. I'd overlook that, but there's text that the Tyrells are more open-minded than some other families. My point is - why is this even necessary to include in the text.

5 minutes ago, Ygrain said:

2) is there a list of topics that American authors are allowed to use in their writing ?

3) America is not the whole world. If someone decides to base their writing on the sexual practices of population XY, deal with it

 

On the whole... in a series full of rape, murder, torture and mutilation, it is incest that turns you off most? Really? 

GRRM can write about whatever he wants to write. I just don't accept that his choice is based on fetish kicks or shock tactics. I want something more interesting than that, and I do think that there is something more than that based on the thought put into the rest of the text. I just don't see what it is, and that's what I'm asking.

And yes, the incest turns me off a lot more largely for the reasons we see explored through Jaime/Cersei. Rape, murder, torture, and mutilation are unfortunately unavoidable in an unidealized Medieval-based world. Incest however, is not. So why even include it?

If you're ok with the prolific incest, then great. You can enjoy the story without as many mixed feelings as myself and I envy that.

But I was asking for ideas as to what it's really adding to the story, substance-wise.

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8 minutes ago, Lollygag said:

I just don't accept that his choice is based on fetish kicks or shock tactics.

Uncalled for and wholly ignorant of the way GRRM tells stories.He tells stories in the most believable way they can be told. If he didn't the characters would feel plastic, contrived and unreal. 

GRRM is an amazing asset to the high fantasy genre for this reason. He has laid some rather impressive groundwork for future authors to recognize how important true human character is to a story. If it weren't for this human character development GoT would be boring. It sure as hell isn't white walkers or dragons making the story what it is. 

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Posted (edited)

4 minutes ago, Helikzhan said:

Uncalled for and wholly ignorant of the way GRRM tells stories.He tells stories in the most believable way they can be told. If he didn't the characters would feel plastic, contrived and unreal. 

GRRM is an amazing asset to the high fantasy genre for this reason. He has laid some rather impressive groundwork for future authors to recognize how important true human character is to a story. If it weren't for this human character development GoT would be boring. It sure as hell isn't white walkers or dragons making the story what it is. 

I said I DON'T accept that it's fetish or shock value.

Incest is not what makes the characters realistic.The characters and story would be just fine without it, unless GRRM is trying to make some other point.

Edited by Lollygag

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1 minute ago, Lollygag said:

I said I DON'T accept that it's fetish or shock value.

Incest is not what makes the characters realistic.The characters and story would be just fine without it.

You could say the same about history :P

"The Macedonian rule over Egypt and the Middle East after Alexander the Great would have been fine without incest."

However history does not listen. The Macedonian dynasty in Egypt always married their siblings (up to and including Cleopatra).

And neither does GRRM listen. This is your own personal bias and issue, not a problem of the story. Get over it.

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Just now, Lollygag said:

I said I DON'T accept that it's fetish or shock value.

Incest is not what makes the characters realistic.The characters and story would be just fine without it.

You clearly have a problem it with because you don't understand it. He didn't do it for shock value or a personal fetish. He did it because he's painting a picture he wants to convince us is real. That means giving us believable humans.  

 

 Look. The Red Wedding was one of those moments reading the books where I put them down for weeks after. It seriously pissed me off. But there was a vital reason why this stuff happens in GRRMs books. All the rape, incest, backstabbing and murders matter. He is adding character both good and bad to shape them for something we care about. 

 

And yes, the characters would loose a little shine if they were just bad in some abstract way. Some contrived fashion surely makes for a worse story.

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16 minutes ago, Lollygag said:

GRRM can write about whatever he wants to write. I just don't accept that his choice is based on fetish kicks or shock tactics. I want something more interesting than that, and I do think that there is something more than that based on the thought put into the rest of the text. I just don't see what it is, and that's what I'm asking.

I agree with all given explanations. As GRRM said in interviews he writes a fantasy story which plot is not driven by magic abilities, but by conflicts of the human heart confronted with various historical settings. But as this doesn't balance out the offense you feel by reading of incest, I briefly share my thought:

Craster incest = accumulation of resources in a life threatening environment

Targaryen incest = preservation of power in a latently hostile environment

Lannister incest = narcissistic love in an exclusive environment

Incest shines up as a fear to share, to really open up, as dead end longterm. The varieties refer to each other, too.

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Rape, murder, torture, etc are all part of the grittiness of the story. They aren’t gratuitous. Revenge and what it does to a person is explored in detail through several characters. There must be a reason for the revenge, hence the violence.

We’ll also have to see all of these people who’ve done awful things to each other get over it to defeat the Others, and if they don’t get over it, they’ll probably die. How various characters deal with this (or not) will be explored personally character-by-character.

There’s a literary purpose, several actually, for the rape, violence, etc., and also for its being taken to such an extreme extent. I see why Jaime/Cersei incest is included and have no problem with its inclusion. The negative impact to the characters, to the family, to the kingdom is very layered and explored in a lot of detail and it evolves dynamically.

I’m looking for a similar and equally meaningful literary explanation for the inclusion of all of the other incest in the story which is as substantive as the reasons for including the various acts of violence, and I’m not finding it. Dismissing it as “historical accuracy” is a sufficient explanation for a documentary or a work of historical non-fiction, but not a fantasy novel. Especially when the other elements of “historical accuracy” serve a literary purpose.

14 minutes ago, foxberlin said:

Craster incest = accumulation of resources in a life threatening environment

Targaryen incest = preservation of power in a latently hostile environment

Lannister incest = narcissistic love in an exclusive environment

Incest shines up as a fear to share, to really open up, as dead end longterm. The varieties refer to each other, too.

Thank you very much for offering this! These are the sorts of ideas that I was asking for. Very thought provoking.

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Lollygag said:

Yeah, I know. I don't get why Cat would even make out with someone who she thought of as a brother.

Catelyn never "made out" with Petyr in any sort of romantic way. She describes it as a childish game of kissing that meant nothing to her. They were very young, and her and Lysa would practice kissing on Petyr in a harmless way (at least harmless in her perception). 

This is a medieval setting, and surprise surprise, there was a lot of incest in the medieval world. They had a very different mentality when it came to sex with family members. The Targaryens are based on a number of dynasties that really did think and act that way. Look up the Habsburgs while you're at it. 

If you're personally not into it or have some sort of phobia against it then that's your thing, but GRRM isn't going out of his way to include incest because it's his kink or whatever; it's in there because it's realistic to the setting. 

Edited by Renly's Banana

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Posted (edited)

I think some of your examples are a bit of a stretch. I no particular order:

  • Though I hate to fuel the fire, you forgot Black Walder Frey, who is said to have slept with some of his sisters (though some could easily be half-sisters in all fairness) and implied to have cuckolded some brothers as well.
Quote
From what Edwyn tells me, though, I'd best pick one who hasn't flowered yet, or I'm like to find that Black Walder has been there first.[12]

Daven Lannister, on choosing his Frey bride

  • Renly/Loras/Margaery never came across as a three-way situation to me. Lady Taena mentions to Cersei that Renly looked aroused at his bedding ceremony and so she doubts Marg was really a maid after her marriage to him. Cersei conjures up a metaphor saying men may prefer wine but they'll drink ale if it's put in front of them just the same as it was wine (not directly quoted; going from memory), basically implying men would have sex with anything in front of them. Her implication is that Renly was sleeping with both siblings, but we have no reason to suggest the siblings would agree to a threesome of any sort.
    As I side note, I thought the show had an interesting interpretation of the nature of the marriage, as they did have to try and figure out a way to get his Queen with his child. Her suggestion in the show was to let Loras come in and they could, for lack of better phrasing, have at it and when the moment is close he could try and give her his seed. I'm sure it would have been awkward for everyone, but a king needs an heir ASAP.
  • Theon and Asha was an interesting situation. No, I don't think she would actually sleep with Theon, or that she even wanted to. Let's face it, she found out a lot of things about him (beyond sexuality) because he was running his mouth trying to be a badass. If anything, the situation shared your views about incest because he was revolted when he found out who she was. She essentially used his weakness to her advantage to gain information about his character, which she reveals as her intention. What I took away from the whole chapter was that she is a sexually liberated woman in the sense that her sexuality belongs to her. She may be the only female character in the series who can claim that her sexuality is truly her own.
  • I don't buy that foster children are incestuous if they become involved with the fostering houses' children. They'll never be blood, and the intention of fostering was to build friendships between houses and maybe even a marriage pact. Catelyn kissing Petyr was innocent child curiosity, and she knew he wasn't really her brother. People usually described someone as "like a brother" or "sister" to emphasize that even though they are close they are not romantically involved so that no one gets the wrong idea. People always have a hard time believing people of the opposite sex can be friends and friends only, even in today's society.
  • Sansa and Petyr incest? I don't see it. Maybe if someone overlooked they'd obviously come to that conclusion as she is posing as his daughter. He also has her kiss him as a daughter would a father in other scenes taking place in public (including the TWoW Sansa sample chapter) and I find it creepy, but not because of any incestuous undertone. More like he's forcing himself on her in subtle ways and taking advantage of her current role as Alayne.
  • I don't see how Sweetrobin and Lysa was incest at all, or how him nuzzling up against Sansa's breasts suddenly becomes sexual. Boobs can be sexualized (just like mans pecs, etc.), but their primary function is to serve as a source of nourishment for young children. He's a little boy who doesn't have those kind of boundaries because no one had the nerve to try and tell Lysa Arryn how to raise her child. Her shortcoming in child rearing or more of what's being explored there, not some kind of mother/son incest. Babies are orally fixated in general (always wanting to chew or stick things in their mouth) as it serves to comfort them. He was never properly weaned and when he's sad or trying to get comfortable he still wants to, for lack of better phrasing, be on the teet. It's not unlike children who are way too old to suck on their thumb but no one made them stop.
  • I don't recall the point where Tyrion mentions anything about raping Cersei? But regardless, it is likely more out of a sense of wanting to overpower/humiliate her than any sexual desire. In fact, while he admits her beauty, she absolutely revolts him as much as he does her.
  • Craster, in general was to further explore how wildlings are not bound by the cultural norms of Westerosi society. Though, just because wildlings don't try and stop him doesn't mean they approve. However, in his eyes he's a "free man," so he does as he likes. I think  Craster's sons serve a higher purpose in the story in regards to the "Cold Gods" they are sacrificed to, and the fact he's willing to commit generations of inbreeding and incest with his own children is part of his twisted characterization. It alludes to the Greek Titans and the prophecy that Zeus would be born and overthrow his father, so his father responded by eating all of his children to prevent that from happening.
  • Euron and incest is definitely there, no doubt. For him it's more of way to satisfy his sadism than anything sexual, in my opinion. The only mention of him ever being sexually involved with men is with his brothers, otherwise it's women. It reminds me of how creepy Ramsay can be with Theon. Ramsay's whispers to Theon are described as being like from a lover, and then the disgusting bedding scene with Jeyne/Arya.
  • I just read the first Craster chapter yesterday. I did a kindle search on the chapter (23) and Arya is mentioned once and Sansa twice. Jon wakes up in the morning and finds the world around covered in a lacquer of ice. He notes how Sansa and Arya would respond.
Quote

So there is magic beyond the Wall after all. He found himself thinking of his sisters, perhaps because he’d dreamed of them last night. Sansa would call this an enchantment, and tears would fill her eyes at the wonder of it, but Arya would run out laughing and shouting, wanting to touch it all.

Martin, George R.R.. A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Two (pp. 277-278). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Perhaps being around all the women made him think about the women that he knew before he took the black, since he hasn't seen a woman in months. Just because he's a man and thinks about them doesn't mean it's sexual.

He also remembers how Sansa told him you should always tell a girl her name is pretty, which he does when Gilly tells him her name.

Quote

“That’s pretty.” He remembered Sansa telling him once that he should say that whenever a lady told him her name.

Martin, George R.R.. A Clash of Kings: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Two (p. 278). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

  • Asha and Victarion... I recall him making a sexual comment about her, but Victarion really doesn't think much of women. He thinks she's serving outside the boundaries of her gender and sexualizes her as a way to demean her and fit her into the little box he's comfortable fitting women in.

 

Edited by Traverys

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I have to admit I too have always found incest extreemly gross. I mean we're conditioned socially to know it is a tabboo. But unlike you I can totally just accept it in the books. It's just fiction. 

As has been pointed out, the Targaryen Incest mirrors several real life dynasties who practiced brother sister incest in order to retain power within the family. GRRM has gone out of his way and above and beyond many fantasy authors to reflect real world histories within his universe. That is part of what sets this series of books apart from others. And gives it it's richness. 

Aside from him using real world historical influence to layer up the world building there is the added ellement of magical abillity within the story with the strong suggestion ( which I buy into) that the Targaryen blood carries some kind of Dragon Bonding Gene. With the incest being about keeping this gene strongly present within the family inorder to preserve the abillity to control Dragons. Alongside the added bonus of prophetic dragon dreaming. 

Jaime & Cersei again as has been said is about Narcisism, it reveals the truly fucked upness of Cersei's personality. It provides a great platform for Jaime's redemption arc and sets up the crux of the initial political side of the story with the children being Jaime's and not the Kings.

If you think breastfeeding is incest, I just don't know what to say to you. I can absolutley recognise that Lysa breastfeeding her 6 year old was included to convey her as being an unballanced weirdo. But I can also accept that in the mid 90's this would absolutely have been something which conveyed weirdo status. But speaking as someone who has breastfed her kids till 3 years old and known lots of people who've fed as long and longer including 6. There is catagorically nothing weird or incestious about breastfeeding and if you take a look outside of our myopic western (and in your case uber myopic American) world view you can see that arround the world in other cultures breastfeeding a 6 year old would be considered normal.  I'd ask you to consider how offensive that implication which you made might be on a global forum.

Craster is practicing incest for specific reasons. It is made very clear by Ygritte that what he is doing is seen as abhorrant. In fact in Wildling culture incest is so frowned upon that you are encouraged to chose a mate from outside your village altogether.  Craster is practicing large scale abuse upon his daughters. Which seems to have some sort of initial reason; in that his specific bloodline is tied into some sort of pact with the Others.   Now ask yourself if your sons must all, always be handed over to the Others for they alone know what purpose do you think you'd find it easy to find a willing wife to sign up for that? Do you think perhaps that Craster felt he was left no option but to massivly abuse rape and impregnate his daughters in order to continue to keep up his side of this mysterious bargain? What if the realms of men depend unknowingly upon Craster sacrificing his sons? Or what if he just believes that?  Does that justify what he has done to his children? Both the girls and the boys. Of course that may not be the case at all, he may have entirely selfish reasons for what he has done, but even then there is a reason for his abuse, and his character reflects the gross lengths to which some men will go to satisfy their desires. Which again is a realistic reflection of the human psyche.  You only have to look at the news to see that there aresome sick bastards out there. 

What are your ideas that the Tyrells are incestious? I know cersei suggests it, but frankly Cersei is not a person sound of mind, and she is inclined to see her own depravity in others. 

As to Cat and Peytr. When I was about 10 me and my best mate who i lived over the rd from and used to snog all the time and as adults we are both straight married mothers and I absolutely see her as a sister, we grew up together and she knows me like no one else in this world except for my actual blood sister. Cat was only playing a childish game with a boy who was not her actual brother. you'll note edmure was not included in their kissing game. Cos that would be incest. But Cat never saw him as a potential sexual partner. unlike Lysa who is the one who did have sex with him.  Saying you see a person as a sibling doesn't mean they are your sibling and even children know the difference between being blood related and just being extreemly close. 

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With Victarion, he misinterprets what Asha is suggesting, and thinks she is proposing a political marriage to which he thinks that he never saw his niece as someone to potentially have sex with, but what the hell. ( I parraphrase) It is important though to remember that in world uncle Niece marriage, cousin marriage etc is not seen in the main of Westeros as incest at least within Lordly circles. As again this reflects real world history where the powerful and teh royals would indeed wed cousins etc to cement political alliances and retain power and wealth within the family. Provide better legitimacy to claims etc. This may see gross to us but it is nothing which didn't really go on throughout history. 

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Posted (edited)

How is this even a topic? Incest happens a lot in the world, and it happened A LOT in the middle ages and before that. Since these books are loosely based on that time period, how are some of you surprised by it?

GRRM didn't invent rape, incest and all the horrible things that happen in Westeros and certainly he is not encouraging people to do them. He is simply portraying the story in a realistic matter, and not in  a Disney put your hand in the sand and pretend it didn't happen/ couldn't happen view.

Edited by Nocturne

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I think the OP is using a very broad definition of incest. Over here is only considered as abomination when happens within the nuclear family.  More distant  relatives are considered weird, but not abnormal. For example

- a cousin had an affair with his younger aunt.

- a second degree cousin married a cousin (from a different line)

- I met a couple who grew together. Their respective parents married when they were children, but they have no blood connections.

Situations like that were more common in days of yore, particularly in smaller towns where everybody has some blood relation.

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