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Depiction of incest in ASOIAF


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So, we know that in ancient times marriage between relatives was common. However I'm a bit puzzled on how incest is depicted in ASOIAF. Like, we see a lot of people really excited about the idea of banging their own sister/brother. Plus, I can understand relationship between cousins (which was accepted even in relatively recent times, for example Albert Einstein married his own cousin), less between siblings, or even dads/daughters, which is apparently the norm in this world (even tho we see many characters despise it). What do you think?

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2 hours ago, Zzz_243 said:

Like, we see a lot of people really excited about the idea of banging their own sister/brother.

You mean on the forum or in the books? Cause it may seem like posters on the forum are excited about incest, whereas they are not. Of course, ASOIAF has set different boundaries, with Targaryens having the right to bang their siblings and halfsiblings (altough it seems like the Seven doesn't approve of avunculate marriages either), and I think a reader should look at things the way characters would look at it. Now of course I don't talk about Cersei and Jaime, but since cousin marriages between nobility, and sibling marriages among the Targaryens are normal, I think we should just accept that. But of course, in no way we should adjust this view to how we view these things IRL. 

As such, if Targaryens were to suddenly start bangin their parents/children, I would be disgusted, but I don't mind reading about Targs banging their siblings. Of course this doesn't reflect what I think of incest (yes, incest is bad), it's just how you have to consume these books to enjoy them and not cringe over it while reading about it.

2 hours ago, Zzz_243 said:

Plus, I can understand relationship between cousins (which was accepted even in relatively recent times, for example Albert Einstein married his own cousin), less between siblings, or even dads/daughters, which is apparently the norm in this world (even tho we see many characters despise it). What do you think?

Cousin marriages are a very common thing thing in a huge chunk of the world, to this day. In most arab countries, more than 40% of marriages happen between second cousins and closer relations. Of course, it is illegal between first and second degree relatives, so that leaves everything that's between first and second cousins. And that's just up to second cousins and closer.

This Wikipedia page might help you understand how common of a thing consanguinity is in our own, very modern days:

Cousin marriage - Wikipedia

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In Westeros pedigree(blood) matters. So to keep their own bloodlines as pure as possible VIPs kind of had to marry another VIPs. Most of whom very likely are already their own relatives. Sometimes they also have to marry their own relatives to eliminate potentially dangerous branches. Or make sure that number of people of who have strong claim for certain castle/throne stays as low as possible. So there are some very good reasons why VIPs in Westeros marry their relatives.

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17 hours ago, Zzz_243 said:

So, we know that in ancient times marriage between relatives was common. However I'm a bit puzzled on how incest is depicted in ASOIAF. Like, we see a lot of people really excited about the idea of banging their own sister/brother. Plus, I can understand relationship between cousins (which was accepted even in relatively recent times, for example Albert Einstein married his own cousin), less between siblings, or even dads/daughters, which is apparently the norm in this world (even tho we see many characters despise it). What do you think?

Well, in Dunk and Egg it was apparently encouraged amongst the Targaryens around 200 AC, since Rhae attempted to slip Egg a love potion so he'd marry her instead of Daella.

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20 hours ago, Angel Eyes said:

Well, in Dunk and Egg it was apparently encouraged amongst the Targaryens around 200 AC, since Rhae attempted to slip Egg a love potion so he'd marry her instead of Daella.

It was always encouraged, except in Aegon V's time. And maybe before the Dance, when the two factions weren't keen to intermarry at all. 

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On 7/2/2022 at 2:01 PM, Daeron the Daring said:

(altough it seems like the Seven doesn't approve of avunculate marriages either)

And not only the seven, the first men and old god followers in general think the same, that it is an abomination and a sin. The wildlings don't bang people from the same clan either, bc they consider the clan members family. 

Irl royals practices incest and they didn't even had special blood, in this universe that magic is inherited at least I can understand where they are coming from, disgusting yes, but at least they had a reason. Targaryens were the only Valyrians at the time that were dragon riders, Velaryons looks like they took the blood from them when the intermarriage started, but even then they preferred other Targaryens, bc dragons and dragon blood. 

As for the fandom, we just go with it, it's part of the world building and it's not like it's portrayed in a good light, majority of the characters don't agree with it. Cousins as other comments said it's a different story, it's legal irl too. 

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2 minutes ago, Wolfcrow said:

As for the fandom, we just go with it, it's part of the world building and it's not like it's portrayed in a good light, majority of the characters don't agree with it. Cousins as other comments said it's a different story, it's legal irl too. 

Take the Starks for instance; a couple of Cregan Stark's sons married their brother Rickon's daughters. Ned Stark's own parents are cousins (though it does perplex me why Rickard married Lyarra, the younger of the two daughters).

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56 minutes ago, Angel Eyes said:

Take the Starks for instance; a couple of Cregan Stark's sons married their brother Rickon's daughters. Ned Stark's own parents are cousins (though it does perplex me why Rickard married Lyarra, the younger of the two daughters.

Yup, but as others people said in other comments, cousin marriage is not uncommon not even irl, I am not gonna be that shocked over it, not gonna lie. Tywin also was married to his cousin, in general for high born families in a medieval setting, it's not really that shocking imo, it is actually pretty accurate. I would find it more weird if they didn't tbh, yes I know ewwww my guys, don't do that, but I got over it when at 4 years old learned that 2/3 of the Olympians were siblings and don't even let me start on the rest of the mythology and history we learn when we are 8. It is weird nowadays obviously, but the truth is that the whole thing started pretty recently, bc now we know the health problems involved, until this, let's say revelation, people were tapping their cousins pretty often and it wasn't that crazy either. Brothers and sisters were out, bc people had noticed the kids had problems, but they believed it was bc the gods didn't like it and it was a sin, so it stayed more of a moral thing with time, cousins though don't have the same problems, so people didn't ban it. I am guessing something similar is going on in asoiaf. 

Also, I really believe, the fact that most big families, like the Starks, have magical bloodlines plays a huge role. Yes, in the current timeline they don't believe in it etc etc, but tradition remains, Ned was the first person that married outside of the North with another major house. In general Rickard tried to expand relationships with other places, until then with the exception of Royce and Blackwood (both first men houses, with ties to magic), the Starks had marriages with other northern houses. From these only the bigger one were suitable and at this point all of them are related. Top that with the fact that men were dying all the time, so the daughters were sent all over the North, by default, the next suitable bride would be a cousin. So not a big difference which side you're related from (Mather's or father's), same shit. 

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3 hours ago, Wolfcrow said:

And not only the seven, the first men and old god followers in general think the same, that it is an abomination and a sin. The wildlings don't bang people from the same clan either, bc they consider the clan members family. 

Nope. As pointed out before, there are examples of avunculate marriages between two believers of the Old Gods, whereas the times it happened between followers of the Faith, it created a scandal.

 

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It is just one of the many taboos explored in the novel.  Incest is only one.  I think we will learn later on that many of the families actually have a history of incest, not just the Valyrians and the Lannisters.  Brandon and Lyanna were probably doing it and had Jon.  There is also the taboo of cannibalism.  Wayman Manderly and the population of Skagos Island practiced it.  Child murderers like Arya Stark and the Little Birds are very serious taboos.  Slavery is taboo.  Necromancy is another. 

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2 hours ago, Daeron the Daring said:

Nope. As pointed out before, there are examples of avunculate marriages between two believers of the Old Gods, whereas the times it happened between followers of the Faith, it created a scandal.

 

Are you talking about cousins or siblings? Because I don't remember followers of the old gods marrying siblings, cousins yes, but followers of the seven do that too, Tywin had married his cousin. 

At some point, houses south of the wall started doing this, but from the religion itself, is viewed as a sin, Ygritte was very clear about it. And I trust free folk way more as to what was the norm and what not since they have change their custom the least, bc they don't have easy exchange of ideas with other people.

As I said in the rest of the comment, the cousin marriage started bc they had magical blood. They wanted to keep the blood "pure" and I am guessing they wouldn't be fans of the magic going around to everyone. The males were staying in he house, but the females were married to other houses, this is I believe is the reason they started to marry cousins. If you see in the stark family tree, most females were coming back into the main line with marriages. 

But, I don't remember siblings getting married and other first men followers being ok with that, and we don't know how they reacted to the Targaryens getting married, since at this point the main religion was the faith and nobody asked the North and the 1-2 houses outside of it that follow the old religion about it. 

But again, even if they were doing it, I doubt it was the norm and viewed as ok by the rest, the free folk said it clearly, it's  not ok. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Wolfcrow said:

Are you talking about cousins or siblings? Because I don't remember followers of the old gods marrying siblings, cousins yes, but followers of the seven do that too, Tywin had married his cousin. 

Avunculate marriages are the ones that happen between an uncle/aunt and niece/nephew. It is recorded to have happened among the followers of the Old Gods, but was comdemned by the High Septon when it happened between followers of the Faith.

Edited by Daeron the Daring
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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Daeron the Daring said:

Avunculate marriages are the ones that happen between an uncle/aunt and niece/nephew. It is recorded to have happened among the followers of the Old Gods, but was comdemned by the High Septon when it happened between followers of the Faith.

But we have these kind of weddings between believers of the faith, this is what I am saying. Tywin married his cousin and I am pretty sure there are others. Yup, there are many. Paxter Redwyne and Mina Tyrell are first cousins, Rickard and Lyarra Stark were first cousins once removed, meaning not as close as the previous two, that are followers of the seven. And also, Jon and Rowena Arryn, Shella and Walter Whent, Benfrey and Jyanna Frey and Alys and Jared Frey we don't know the exact degree, but they were relatives and they are worshipers of the faith. And they were ok with Sweet Robin and Sansa Stark (first cousins) to get married. Both Andals and first men, ( the ones under the wall at least) don't have a problem with non first degree incest. 

And about uncles/niece it's not allowed, but it is closer kin than cousins, so maybe this is the reason and second it depends a little bit on the Septon. Same about step relation. The Stark members were married to step uncles, not uncles and it's the same as your first cousin. I am guessing the fath is ok with it too. 

The problem is only with first degree relatives, for both old gods followers and of the faith. 

Quote

...whether between father and daughter, mother and son, or brother and sister, and the fruits of such unions were considered abominations in the sight of gods and men.

-Awoiaf

In the 7 kningdoms at least and not beyond the wall, it's only about siblings and parent-kid. 

Edited by Wolfcrow
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5 hours ago, Wolfcrow said:

But we have these kind of weddings between believers of the faith, this is what I am saying. Tywin married his cousin and I am pretty sure there are others. Yup, there are many. Paxter Redwyne and Mina Tyrell are first cousins, Rickard and Lyarra Stark were first cousins once removed, meaning not as close as the previous two, that are followers of the seven. And also, Jon and Rowena Arryn, Shella and Walter Whent, Benfrey and Jyanna Frey and Alys and Jared Frey we don't know the exact degree, but they were relatives and they are worshipers of the faith. And they were ok with Sweet Robin and Sansa Stark (first cousins) to get married. Both Andals and first men, ( the ones under the wall at least) don't have a problem with non first degree incest. 

I think we misunderstand each other. I didn't say followers of the Faith can't Matty their cousins. The ones difference I pointed out is the case of avunculate marriages.

 

5 hours ago, Wolfcrow said:

And about uncles/niece it's not allowed, but it is closer kin than cousins, so maybe this is the reason and second it depends a little bit on the Septon. Same about step relation. The Stark members were married to step uncles, not uncles and it's the same as your first cousin. I am guessing the fath is ok with it too. 

The Stark womem were married to half uncles, and I can't recall anyone ever make a difference between half relations and full ones when it came to marriages. In ASOIAF.

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1 hour ago, Daeron the Daring said:

The Stark womem were married to half uncles, and I can't recall anyone ever make a difference between half relations and full ones when it came to marriages. In ASOIAF.

We don't have imformations, but half uncle/niece relationship has a way smaller possibillity to produce an unhealthy offspring, as cousins don't have big issues either. So, I believe with time and expiriance like irl, they knew which couples gave unhealthy kids and which did not, this is why they consider half uncle ok, but uncle not ok, bc I don't see any uncle/niece pair in first men or Andals. The High Septon had a problem with marrying Prince Maegor Targaryen to his niece Rhaena, but this is kinda stupid at his point since they were marrying Targaryen siblings, but this crossed a line? Idk.

But, yeah I think they have a problem with uncle-niece and nephew-aunt weddings, only when it's your parents full sibling, otherwise it's acceptable, bc half siblings are not 1st degree relatives. 

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Posted (edited)

In most real world cultures cousin marriages are not viewed as incest - that's a limited view most prevalent in the rather prudish US. I mean, it is ridiculous, for instance, that an Italian mobster would forbid his daughter to marry her first cousin - like Michael Corleone does in Godfather III - citing eugenic reasons.

That said - constant cousin marriages certainly do constitute inbreeding and should be avoided, especially if there are known hereditary diseases in the family. But in pretty much no culture outside the US is a first cousin relationship as anathema as sibling incest. Folks rarely encourage love or relationships among close cousins ... but to treat cousins who fall in love as freaks is just sick (at least in my opinion).

And, of course, insofar as biology is concerned ... a couple of first cousin marriages have effectively the same health risks for the offspring than one of two sibling unions - the way we as a species deal with this is very irrational (even more so if you consider that quite a few cultures extend the incest taboo to step and adoptive relations as well as certain types of in-laws).

In context to the nobility of the books we should all view them as monstrously inbred - most Starks, Lannisters, etc. should have married cousins throughout the centuries - both cousins through the male and the female line (the incomplete and sketchy family trees give only away male line cousins - but there are quite a few of them). Basically every Stark or Lannister wife we see in the family tree (aside from freak spouses like Rohanne Webber) should be a Stark or Lannister cousin - some more distantly related, others pretty closely related. And they would all be cousins many times over, sixth cousins through that line, fifth cousins through that line, etc. After all, those are very old families, and they intermarried almost exclusively with their own nobility for millennia. And their daughters would have almost exclusively married into the families from which they get their brides.

I've done geneological studies on my ancestors, and it is very intriguing to figure out in what degree distant great-grandparents are related to each other. Second or third cousin marriages are not rare at all, especially if you family lived in the same area for centuries.

That said - I think George portrays incestuous marriage policies quite well at some points in FaB, but not so well in others. For instance, the number of incestuous romances is far too high. Most siblings do not love each other romantically - but Aegon/Rhaenys, Jaehaerys/Alysanne, Baelon/Alyssa, Aemon/Naerys, Jaehaerys/Saera, Cersei/Jaime etc. do. That is pretty unrealistic in context.

Them expecting to marry each other - like Rhaena and Aegon did - and thus having a working marriage because they also happen to be siblings is a different thing than the romantic love nonsense we get too often.

19 hours ago, Daeron the Daring said:

Nope. As pointed out before, there are examples of avunculate marriages between two believers of the Old Gods, whereas the times it happened between followers of the Faith, it created a scandal.

That is not exactly true. Yes, Maegor-Rhaena was condemned by the Faith, but it seems this was because it was viewed as the Targaryens wanting to continue their incestuous marriage policy (and because the High Septon needed a reason to throw his niece at Maegor). As per FaB incest as defined by the Faith is mother-son, father-daughter, and brother-sister - not uncle-niece or aunt-nephew (although I assume it also includes grandparents-grandchildren - at least I hope it does).

Some wildings don't like to marry inside the own clan/village - others don't stick to those rules (Craster) - but that's not religiously motivated, merely a cultural custom.

Edited by Lord Varys
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In relation to the depiction of the Targaryen incest and its effects I think we have to pretend that all the serious hereditary issues brought out and worsened by continued incest were bred out the suriving dragonlord bloodlines millennia ago.

We have to keep in mind that the Targaryens had thousands of years of sibling incest behind them when Aenar Targaryen and his family move to Dragonstone. That's not a new thing at all.

So within that world the Valyrian dragonlords found a way to deal with the problems of heavy inbreeding and overcome them ... to a point. Not just with whatever magical medicine they may have had ... but also by casting aside any hypothetical more dragon than man hybrids that may have been produced by the earliest generations of incestuous dragonlords.

In the end, they mostly very fine specimen physically, and their weirder issues might be more connected to the dragon blood thing than the incest.

More importantly, you have to keep in mind that, strangely enough, for the Targaryens in Westeros their marriages outside the family are potentially dangerous ones ... if the incest is continued afterwards. If, say, Alicent Hightower or Rodrik Arryn brought a bad trait into the bloodline (say a recessive hereditary disease, a tendency to madness, etc.) then the continued inbreeding of subsequent generations would also preserve and pass on that trait.

It is fun to speculate if the birth defects in Alicent's grandchildren were not something inherited from the Hightower side of the family - not to mention that some of the most extreme Targaryens (Aerion, Aerys II) have Dayne and Martells and Blackwood as their immediate ancestors.

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6 hours ago, Lord Varys said:

In most real world cultures cousin marriages are not viewed as incest - that's a limited view most prevalent in the rather prudish US. I mean, it is ridiculous, for instance, that an Italian mobster would forbid his daughter to marry her first cousin - like Michael Corleone does in Godfather III - citing eugenic reasons.

That said - constant cousin marriages certainly do constitute inbreeding and should be avoided, especially if there are known hereditary diseases in the family. But in pretty much no culture outside the US is a first cousin relationship as anathema as sibling incest. Folks rarely encourage love or relationships among close cousins ... but to treat cousins who fall in love as freaks is just sick (at least in my opinion).

And, of course, insofar as biology is concerned ... a couple of first cousin marriages have effectively the same health risks for the offspring than one of two sibling unions - the way we as a species deal with this is very irrational (even more so if you consider that quite a few cultures extend the incest taboo to step and adoptive relations as well as certain types of in-laws).

In context to the nobility of the books we should all view them as monstrously inbred - most Starks, Lannisters, etc. should have married cousins throughout the centuries - both cousins through the male and the female line (the incomplete and sketchy family trees give only away male line cousins - but there are quite a few of them). Basically every Stark or Lannister wife we see in the family tree (aside from freak spouses like Rohanne Webber) should be a Stark or Lannister cousin - some more distantly related, others pretty closely related. And they would all be cousins many times over, sixth cousins through that line, fifth cousins through that line, etc. After all, those are very old families, and they intermarried almost exclusively with their own nobility for millennia. And their daughters would have almost exclusively married into the families from which they get their brides.

I've done geneological studies on my ancestors, and it is very intriguing to figure out in what degree distant great-grandparents are related to each other. Second or third cousin marriages are not rare at all, especially if you family lived in the same area for centuries.

That said - I think George portrays incestuous marriage policies quite well at some points in FaB, but not so well in others. For instance, the number of incestuous romances is far too high. Most siblings do not love each other romantically - but Aegon/Rhaenys, Jaehaerys/Alysanne, Baelon/Alyssa, Aemon/Naerys, Jaehaerys/Saera, Cersei/Jaime etc. do. That is pretty unrealistic in context.

Them expecting to marry each other - like Rhaena and Aegon did - and thus having a working marriage because they also happen to be siblings is a different thing than the romantic love nonsense we get too often.

That is not exactly true. Yes, Maegor-Rhaena was condemned by the Faith, but it seems this was because it was viewed as the Targaryens wanting to continue their incestuous marriage policy (and because the High Septon needed a reason to throw his niece at Maegor). As per FaB incest as defined by the Faith is mother-son, father-daughter, and brother-sister - not uncle-niece or aunt-nephew (although I assume it also includes grandparents-grandchildren - at least I hope it does).

Some wildings don't like to marry inside the own clan/village - others don't stick to those rules (Craster) - but that's not religiously motivated, merely a cultural custom.

In The Sopranos, pretty much all of them are relatives, by way of second and third cousin marriages, although closer relationships are discouraged.

i don’t think there are any big health risks associated with even repeated marriages between distant cousins.

Dany and Jon (as well as being aunt and niece) would be cousins via a Blackwood.  As you say, pretty much all the nobility are related.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, SeanF said:

In The Sopranos, pretty much all of them are relatives, by way of second and third cousin marriages, although closer relationships are discouraged.

Might also be because it would be hard to sell first cousin marriages as something 'normal' or at least 'not perverse' in the US.

But I didn't want to say Italians all like to marry their first cousins - rather I feel that the eugenic/biological argument against Mary and Vincent's marriage in The Godfather III is ... just weird because it is nonsensical. If they wanted to do this, just go with the religious argument against consanguinity, etc.

12 hours ago, SeanF said:

i don’t think there are any big health risks associated with even repeated marriages between distant cousins.

Well, I guess one has to check the prevalence of certain disorders and genes and do are study throughout dozens of generations, but cultures/regions were cousin marriages are the rule and not an exception can cause problems eventually. I think certain hereditary diseases are more prevalent in certain regions of Pakistan, for instance.

12 hours ago, SeanF said:

Dany and Jon (as well as being aunt and niece) would be cousins via a Blackwood.  As you say, pretty much all the nobility are related.

Yes, on their mother's side they could be pretty close cousins if Betha and Melantha were sisters - more distant cousins if they were only aunt and niece or cousins themselves.

In light of that one can also check the cousins of the various people we have trees of - the current Daynes and Blackwoods must be Targaryen/Stark cousins. The Martells are Targaryen cousins on both sides of the family.

The Marbrands are close Lannister cousins, etc.

I'm sure George went out of his way to make it appear the Starks don't marry very close cousins in the family tree ... but in light of the fact how many Stark women there ... and how little we know about their spouses, it is pretty much impossible that most of the Northern women the Starks marry weren't close cousins.

Edited by Lord Varys
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