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Annalee

The Myth of the Self-made Person

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The idea of successful people in the story being self-made is a myth.  Rulers, lords, and leaders pretty much arrived at their lofty stations by virtue of birth.  Kings and lords are obvious but even seemingly elected people are greatly helped by the privileges of noble birth or the the patronage of a noble person.  Gendry would have rotted in Flea Bottom if not for the timely aid of a nobleman.  Luck and birth gave him the step towards his apprenticeship.  The Beggar King would have starved long ago if it were not for the respect carried by his storied family name.  Jon Snow would not have gotten the preferential treatment at the wall if he had not been the bastard son of a lord.  Are there people who have truly risen due to their own hard work and skills?  Some of you might list Mance Rayder.  I would argue because he had the fortune to have been raised at the wall around people who gave him training.  This knowledge gave him an advantage with the unsophisticated simpletons that are the wildlings.  Dunk got lucky because Ser Arlen needed a squire at the right time.  Dunk was in the right place at the right time.  Littlefinger comes from an impoverished noble family but that still puts him above most commoners.  It may be more important to look at what the success stories did with the opportunities that came their way.  That little bit of daylight was enough to give them the break they needed to rise.  To me, the people who made the best of their opportunities are:

  1. Dunk
  2. Daenerys
  3. Missandei
  4. Jon
  5. Bron

Dunk was rescued from the streets by the hedge knight and he saw an opening and took it.  I do not necessarily approve of what he did but that is another matter for discussion at another time.  Being tall helped. Daenerys found a way out of an awful marriage and deserves her dragons.  She was blessed with the useful qualities of keen intelligence and courage.  Missandei, the passive little girl taken by slavers, learns languages and increased her marketability.  She became valuable to Kraznys.  Jon won the friendships of the other boys at the wall.  Bron is the opportunists who attached himself to the rich.

There are others who have squandered away opportunities.  Here they are:

  1. Tyrion
  2. Theon
  3. Robert
  4. Renly
  5. Jorah

Tyrion is the classic underachiever.  

The only self-made success story is Varys.  But maybe we did not get the real story.  Who knows with him.  

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I think you leave out one important person and to me the ONLY truly self made person of quality other than Jon or possibly Varys. 
 

 

DAVOS SEAWORTH. 
 

I think what many people turn a blind eye to, especially on these forums unfortunately, is that they think a certain character is righteous or correct when in reality many many are coming from a huge sense of privilege. That’s why in the Jon chapters it’s nice that you get to see how absurd some of the nobles seem, 

but really Davos is where you get the closest inkling as to what a commoner feels like when they are around noble blood.  The idea of their words carrying more weight or truth simply because of their noble birth. It’s something that all other characters from Catelyn to Tyrion, to yes even Ned has perpetuated and unfortunately something that many fans ignore. 

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How is Jon self made? He was fast tracked to leadership in the Watch down to being the bastard son of the Lord of the North(not even the youngest bastard son of a Stark to be made Lord Commander) and later on his friend 'fixed' the election so he would win. Stannis supports him due Stannis needing someone with Stark blood to rule Winterfell. Jon, with his superior noble training and his pet Direwolf, was able to threaten other boys into doing what he wanted in regards to Sam.

Seems odd that Jon, the son of a great Lord, is above Bronn on your list.

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Varys, Dunk, Bron, Davos. In no particular order, I’d say these guys are the best examples. 
 

Id add Littlefinger but he was born noble (even if he is the “smallest of the small lords” it is still a huge advantage).

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Social movement towards equal opportunity only came along in recent history.  Where one came from and who one came from determined the course of their lives.  Opportunities are not handed out equally.  Quite reasonable as to why George R R Martin would choose to people his story with those in power.  It would be a boring story reading about a shepherd wondering what's for lunch.  It is better to look at where someone came from and where they are now.  I would agree with the first group choices and add the Magister.  The mercenary who came from nothing to become rich and fat.  Davos also make this cut.  The finest example and should be at the top are the Khals of the Dothraki.  Remember, they only follow the strong. 

On 1/25/2020 at 1:25 AM, Annalee said:
  • Khals
  • Dunk
  • Daenerys
  • Missandei
  • Jon
  • Bron
  • Magister Ilyrio
  • Davos

 

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10 hours ago, OberynBlackfyre said:

I think you leave out one important person and to me the ONLY truly self made person of quality other than Jon or possibly Varys. 
 

 

DAVOS SEAWORTH. 
 

I think what many people turn a blind eye to, especially on these forums unfortunately, is that they think a certain character is righteous or correct when in reality many many are coming from a huge sense of privilege. That’s why in the Jon chapters it’s nice that you get to see how absurd some of the nobles seem, 

but really Davos is where you get the closest inkling as to what a commoner feels like when they are around noble blood.  The idea of their words carrying more weight or truth simply because of their noble birth. It’s something that all other characters from Catelyn to Tyrion, to yes even Ned has perpetuated and unfortunately something that many fans ignore. 

I would also add Arya to this, but for a different reason. From the get go, she is one of the few if not sole POVs of privilege who wants to know what smallfolk care about, who empathizes with them. And yes, she starts out privileged, but once on the KR after Joren's dead, she becomes smallfolk. Being of privilege then is dangerous, and she adopts the identity of a smallfolk girl, experiencing what it's like, until she feels like a scared mouse. Later with the BwB, she becomes a hostage because of her privilege, but she's one of the few POVs who faces the truth about war - to the smallfolk there is no righteous army versus an evil army. They all commit injustice; they all rape; they all sack and burn villages.  At some point she feels ashamed that she's noble born. Next, she learns that she shouldn't romanticise smallfolk either. Even amongst the smallfolk you have those who'd cheat another smallfolk girl from her coin, just because they can. She refuses any opportunity to get a comfortable life in Braavos.

What about Brienne? She manages to earn herself a position with a KG in an environment that is hostile towards women wearing arms and swords. Yes, her father allowed it, but she made the most of it. She became so good that she even impresses a two-handed Jaime.

Self-made just does not mean "climbing the status ladder" to me, but being able to become what you want for yourself, when your roots or birth status expect you to be something else. Arya and Brienne are such people.

To, the OP, I think you dismiss Gendry too easily. Sure, he got to be a smith's apprentice because of the benevolence of a rich guy, but Gendry doesn't dream of being an armorer or blacksmith. We get several hints that he dreams of becoming a guy like Dunk. He turns down the idea of becoming Robb's armorer and chooses to become one of the BwB's knights. And he uses his craft as an argument for it. And his benefactor did not cause him to be talented. That is his own merit. Tobho Mott didn't think of Gendry as his most promising apprentice because of a benefactor or his parentage. Gendry makes the most of his talents mixed with his ambition to get into a position he sets out for himself.

And while you disqualify someone for having had someone who paid an armorer for the apprenticeship, you argue "Well, Dany jusst deserves her dragons", which are an unprecedented boon. She sacrificed a husband, child and a sorceress who did what she asked of her for those dragons. On the one hand she does experience hardhsips relatively in comparison to her status if she had been born and raised a princess at KL. But much of her hardships is still a priviledged life to her slaves with the Dothraki, even when she had to wander from host to host as impoverished exiled princess in the Free Cities. I'm not negating that Dany has come far with the opportunities that came her way, or that she didn't suffer at the hands of her brother, and being wed to a khal at the age she was. But I'm more inclined to compare her suffering to that of Sansa's since the end of aGoT. The slow eroding of priviledges, the abuse, the threats to her lives, while everyone around her wants to use her as a prop for status. Would you say that Sansa at some point deserves three dragons for what she lived through? I doubt it. Sansa suffers and Dany suffered compared to daughters of nobility whose life was not threatened and who didn't end up "homeless". But they have been surrounded by nameless people who suffered worse and at times as a consequence of their actions and choices, and always had their birth status to lean on to prevent the worst happening to them.

That said, I still regard Dany a self-made woman, as much as I do Brienne for example, and I expect Sansa to end up a self-made woman too, but I'd never say that their hardships earned them the possession of three dragons.

Edited by sweetsunray

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Also OP has missed out one of the most obvious examples; Janos Slynt. An actual self-made man executed by the son of a Great Lord who feared he might have influence with the men of the Nights Watch and turn them against him.

 

Awful person, but certainly a self made man.

Edited by Bernie Mac

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7 minutes ago, Bernie Mac said:

Also OP has missed out one of the most obvious examples; Janos Slynt. An actual self-made man executed by the son of a Great Lord who feared he might have influence with the men of the Nights Watch and turn them against him.

 

Awful person, but certainly a self made man.

Self-made via corruption... Taking bribes and rackateering hardly counts as "self-made". It just means made-on-the-coerced- dime-of-other-people

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1 hour ago, sweetsunray said:

Self-made via corruption...

That does not make sense at all. He was certainly corrupt, but he had to get there first. A butcher's son not really in a position to abuse his status in a feudal world.

1 hour ago, sweetsunray said:

 

Taking bribes and rackateering hardly counts as "self-made". It just means made-on-the-coerced- dime-of-other-people

It actually does. Bad people can be self-made as well.  Janos got to his position thanks mostly to himself. Not by blood, but his own cunning and ability.

Too often in this fandom people want to strip characters they don't like of any positive aspects. Janos is a self-made man, he's not relied on his birth or the nepotism of a personal friend in power to get to the position he held. 

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Just now, Bernie Mac said:

That does not make sense at all. He was certainly corrupt, but he had to get there first. A butcher's son not really in a position to abuse his status in a feudal world.

It actually does. Bad people can be self-made as well.  Janos got to his position thanks mostly to himself. Not by blood, but his own cunning and ability.

Too often in this fandom people want to strip characters they don't like of any positive aspects. Janos is a self-made man, he's not relied on his birth or the nepotism of a personal friend in power to get to the position he held. 

He was in LF's pocket, so he relied on the nepotism of a personal friend. Well, and I do think it was his corruption that got him to his position of being the commander of the Gold Cloak's.

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Just now, sweetsunray said:

He was in LF's pocket,

Debatable. Janos seems to have risen to his position before Littlefinger was Master of Coin (he'd been that for about three years).

He was a captain before Lord Commander and it was actually Jon Arryn who recommended him to be LC.

Just now, sweetsunray said:

 

so he relied on the nepotism of a personal friend.

How so? What is your evidence for this?

I'm not even sure they were 'personal friends' by the time of the series, but there is nothing to suggest that is how Janos became LC.

Just now, sweetsunray said:

 

Well, and I do think it was his corruption that got him to his position of being the commander of the Gold Cloak's.

He clearly would have had to rise to be in a position to be able to corrupt. He was self made.

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1 minute ago, Bernie Mac said:

Debatable. Janos seems to have risen to his position before Littlefinger was Master of Coin (he'd been that for about three years).

He was a captain before Lord Commander and it was actually Jon Arryn who recommended him to be LC. 

But who recommended Janos to Arryn? Arryn also raised LF upon the suggestion of his wife Lysa. So, yeah, I'd call that nepotism, even if LF wasn't actually Master of Coin yet. LF always kept in contact with Lysa, and Arryn gave him a high position in Gulltown before his appointment to the Small Council.

There is no confirmation that Slynt was a captain of the Iron Gate, let alone LC before LF's appointment to the small council. Slynt may have been a kid even at the time of RR. He could have been born between 260-279 AC, and the prior Commander of the GC Stokeworth could have died anywhere between 283 and 298.

But given the precedent set of Lysa being LF's messenger, how Arryn wanted to have Slynt sacked, and Stannis suspects LF whispered into Robert's ear to prevent Slynt from losing his job, I'd say we have enough suggestive pointers that Slynt was raised as commander because LF wanted it to happen. One of the reasons why LF would have wanted it to happen, was because Slynt as captain of the gate had proven amenable to being bribed and/or sent business to LF's way. If so, then Slynt has been corrupt since the moment he was a captain at a gate.

Furthermore, this man had no qualms in murdering witnesses found by Jon Arryn, the man he supposedly proved his worth to and thanks his promotion (in the eyes of the world). Slynt had to be sure he had some "powerful friends" to do so against his benefactor (and hell even Stannis, the brother of the king). The man was a fool, sure, but he also felt he could get away with anything because of his "powerful friends". This could only be so, because he did have a friend in the small council he knew to have a lot of influence, and it wasn't Jon Arryn or Stannis. That leaves Pycelle, Selmy, Renly and LF. LF is the sole one who is regularly mentioned in connection with Slynt or mentions himself to be bribable.

All you've got is that Slyn managed to become captain of a city gate.

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23 minutes ago, sweetsunray said:

 Arryn also raised LF upon the suggestion of his wife Lysa.

Slightly. Petyr raised himself though good work

Quote

My father said he was too lowborn, but I knew how high he'd rise. Jon gave him the customs for Gulltown to please me, but when he increased the incomes tenfold my lord husband saw how clever he was and gave him other appointments, even brought him to King's Landing to be master of coin.

 

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13 minutes ago, Hugorfonics said:

Slightly. Petyr raised himself though good work

 

Good work or bribes and embezzlement?

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50 minutes ago, sweetsunray said:

But who recommended Janos to Arryn?

Why does someone have to have done that?

And why would it be Littlefinger? He has only been Master of Coin for three years.

Quote

 

Arryn also raised LF upon the suggestion of his wife Lysa. So, yeah, I'd call that nepotism, even if LF wasn't actually Master of Coin yet. LF always kept in contact with Lysa, and Arryn gave him a high position in Gulltown before his appointment to the Small Council.

Not just the suggestion of his wife, but the work Littlfinger had done in the Vale and later his work in Kings Landing before he became Master of Coin. It was not just on Lysa's recommendation he grew so large, but his own competence.

 

Quote

There is no confirmation that Slynt was a captain of the Iron Gate, let alone LC before LF's appointment to the small council.

Come on!

There is also no evidence that Janos was made Lord Commander or Captain of the Iron Gate in the last three years either.

Your idea that Slynt's position is all down to Littlefinger until someone can prove you wrong is a flawed position.

Quote

 

Slynt may have been a kid even at the time of RR.

No, seems unlikely given the ages of his sons. Janos, is at least, around the age of Ned and Robert.

Quote

 

He could have been born between 260-279 AC, and the prior Commander of the GC Stokeworth could have died anywhere between 283 and 298.

Sure. These could have happened. A lot of things could have happened for you to be right on this one.

Is it that hard to accept that a character you don't like may have risen due to his own ability?

Quote

 

All you've got is that Slyn managed to become captain of a city gate.

That is more than you have. You realize that, right?

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11 minutes ago, Bernie Mac said:

And why would it be Littlefinger? He has only been Master of Coin for three years.

Do you know anything that nobody else does? We don't have any date or year when Slynt got promoted. So, how do you know LF has only been MoC for 3 years. Petur was made master of customs in Gulltown in 289. At some point he was brought to KL to be part of courtlife. Then when LF was at KL within 3 years there, he was made Master of Coin. That's vague information.

For Slynt the information is even more vague. He was a butcher's boy, made it to captain of a KL gate with the Gold Cloaks. His commander Manly Stokewordt dies. He's made Commander instead by Jon Arryn. We don't know when Stokewordt died. We don't know when Slynt was born. At the latest 279 based on the age of the son at the gnat's tourney.

BTW those dates aren't my guesswork. They'te the wikis.

Edited by sweetsunray

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10 minutes ago, Bernie Mac said:

That is more than you have. You realize that, right?

I have LF's bragging about Slynt being in his pocket on my side.

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2 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

I have LF's bragging about Slynt being in his pocket on my side.

That seems an exaggeration of what Littlefinger did.

It also does not prove or even suggest that Janos Slynt was only made Captain of the Guard due to Littlefinger's influence. Or that Janos was not worthy of the position on his own merit.

It also suggests that Jon Arryn was an idiot who appointed a man with no ability to lead the Gold Cloaks based on what Littlefinger said.

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2 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

Do you know anything that nobody else does?

No. We don't know when Janos was made Captain of the Guard or Lord Commander. We are both in the dark on that one, right?

 

2 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

 

We don't have any date or year when Slynt got promoted.

No. I have never claimed to know the date.

2 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

 

So, how do you know LF has only been MoC for 3 years.

Misremembery on my part. It took Littlefinger three years from his arrival in Kings Landing to become Master of Coin.

Within three years of his coming to court, he was master of coin and a member of the small council

So it possible that it was only three years, but not fact.

2 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

 

Petur was made master of customs in Gulltown in 289. At some point he was brought to KL to be part of courtlife. Then when LF was at KL within 3 years there, he was made Master of Coin. That's vague information.

True.

2 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

For Slynt the information is even more vague.

True.

2 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

 

He was a butcher's boy, made it to captain of a KL gate with the Gold Cloaks. His commander Manly Stokewordt dies. He's made Commander instead by Jon Arryn. We don't know when Stokewordt died. We don't know when Slynt was born.

All true.

 

2 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

BTW those dates aren't my guesswork. They'te the wikis.

This is what the wiki says

No further specifications can be given. Janos Slynt was thus born in or between 260 AC and 278 AC, though, since Janos's age is judged to be forty or younger, it seems to be suggested that Janos's birth took place closer to 260 AC than to 278 AC.

Which is pretty much what I said.

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