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"The common people pray for rain, health, and a summer that never ends. They don't care what games the high lords play."
―Ser Jorah Mormont[src]
Riverlands refugee
The term smallfolk refers to the peasantry and common folk of Westeros, effectively anyone who is not part of a noble house (though smallfolk make up much of a noble household) or a knight (though hedge knights are generally considered to be only one tiny step above smallfolk).

Cersei Lannister drunkenly explains to Sansa Stark that her conception of ruling is that "the only way to keep the smallfolk loyal is to make certain they fear you more than they do the enemy".[1]

In the books

Smallfolk make up the common working and middle classes of Westeros, serving as farmers, laborers, builders, shopkeepers, servants and soldiers. They are ruled over by their lords, but are not slaves, slavery being abolished in Westeros thousands of years ago at the command of the Faith of the Seven.

Because of their lack of authority and power, smallfolk tend to be neglected by their lords, seen only as a suppliers of food or soldiers. Smallfolk tend to look up to knights and religious folk who stand up for their interests.

A major theme emphasized in the books is that it doesn't really matter to the smallfolk who wins the "game of thrones", the political machinations in Westeros, because either way the outbreak of war is making them suffer. Particularly as seen in "Fire and Blood", once Joffrey comes to power he shows absolutely no concern for his subjects, frequently having smallfolk killed for slight or imagined insults, if not simply killing them on a whim.

References

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