- Arya Stark: "It wasn't just Aegon riding his dragon, it was Rhaenys and Visenya too...Rhaenys rode Meraxes, Visenya rode Vhagar...Visenya Targaryen was a great warrior. She had a Valyrian steel sword she called 'Dark Sister'."
- Tywin Lannister: "She's a heroine of yours, I take it? Aren't most girls more interested in the maidens from the songs, Jonquil, flowers in their hair?"
- Arya Stark: "Most girls are idiots."
- — Arya Stark on her admiration for warrior women.[src]
Warrior women are women who are skilled in combat and take part in battle and warfare.
In Westeros, martial endeavors are considered "unladylike". Only men can become knights: there is no formal bar against women becoming knights, only that it is simply not done. There is no "official" rule against women becoming knights, because it makes as much sense in their culture as making an official rule forbidding pigs to fly: it is thought absurd and simply impossible for a woman to be a knight. Much like the Dothraki traditions, Westerosi men are a dominant social force in the Seven Kingdoms. The women often became the cook, the maid and the general caregiver within their homes. This often meant that their roles became their sole duties. In some part of the world, female warriors were seen as equals to the men, while at other times they were seen as inferior to the male knights.
That being said, there are still several historical examples of women who did become great warriors. Aegon I Targaryen conquered and unified the Seven Kingdoms in the Targaryen invasion, but his co-commanders were his sisters Rhaenys and Visenya, who also rode dragons into battle.
There are also several subcultures within Westeros who do have a tradition of female fighters. Bear Island in the North, ruled by House Mormont, is one such example: because their economy is based on fishing but there is always the danger of imminent attack by the raiding ships of the ironborn while the men are out at sea, the women of Bear Island are expected to be able to defend their own homes. Thus Maege Mormont serves as a soldier and commander in Robb Stark's Northern army.
A similar example can be found among the crannogmen who live in the Neck, the southernmost region of the North which borders the Riverlands. Because the crannogmen rely on guerilla tactics - retreating into the swamps then counterattacking using surprise ambushes, and using poisoned darts - both male and female crannogmen are expected to take up arms to harass invaders. Women in the hill tribes of the Vale of Arryn can also rise to be warband leaders if they are fierce enough.
Dorne has a longer history of female warriors than the other Seven Kingdoms: it is still relatively uncommon there, but not quite as unusual.
Every now and then a woman from the noble courts of the Seven Kingdoms decides that she wants to pursue "unladylike" interests and tries to become a warrior or engage in tournaments - but this is considered very unusual behavior. Women such as Brienne of Tarth or Arya Stark have faced a considerable amount of discrimination for not fitting into the established gender norms of the Seven Kingdoms. For example; Brienne defies all traditions of the lady’s role. Born to a noble family, she is expected to study the "women’s arts" until her father finds her a suitable husband. Brienne discovers early that her skills lie elsewhere; specifically in the fighting arts.
The Iron Islands are one of the most misogynistic cultures in Westeros, but a few rare examples of warrior women can even be found there. After Balon Greyjoy's two eldest sons died in his failed rebellion , and his youngest son Theon was taken away as a ward to Winterfell, he was left with only his daughter Yara Greyjoy. Balon ultimately raised her as a surrogate son, and as she grew up Yara became a dangerous ironborn raider, actually commanding her own ship. Yara's example is particularly unusual, however, given how rare warrior women are among the ironborn, even compared to the rest of Westeros.
In the forbidding lands Beyond the Wall, many of the female wildlings - known as "spearwives" are expected to take up arms alongside men to fight against the pervasive external threats in the very harsh environment. Such female warriors include Ygritte and Osha.
Warrior women of WesterosEdit
- Visenya Targaryen – Sister-wife of Aegon the Conqueror. Famously wielded Dark Sister, rode the dragon Vhagar.
- Rhaenys Targaryen - Sister-wife of Aegon the Conqueror. Not quite the warrior that Visenya was, but rode the dragon Meraxes into battle.
- Brienne of Tarth - member of King Renly Baratheon's Kingsguard
- Yara Greyjoy - raider and commander among the ironborn
- Maege Mormont and the women of Bear Island
- Meera Reed of the Crannogmen
- Chella of the Hill tribes
Warrior women Beyond the WallEdit
In the booksEdit
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, several of Maege Mormont's daughters are also raised as warriors - as is the custom for women of Bear Island. Her eldest daughter Dacey Mormont becomes one of Robb's personal bodyguards. At the Red Wedding, Dacey was one of the few Northern bannermen in the main hall who managed to fight off the first wave of Frey attackers, and she was the only one who managed to reach the main door in an attempt to go for help. Unfortunately Roose Bolton and his men were waiting immediately behind the door, fully armed, and as soon as Dacey crashed into them she was killed by Ser Ryman Frey, who drove an axe into her belly.
There is a distinction between women who personally engage in combat, and women who lead armies and act as generals but do not personally fight. Such women are still considered "warriors", though not quite to the extreme of women who personally took up weapons in combat. Nor is this entirely unusual, i.e. an older man such as Tywin Lannister no longer personally engages in combat by the time of the War of the Five Kings but directs troop movements from behind.
A thousand years ago the warrior-queen of the Rhoynar, Nymeria, led her surviving people to Dorne as they fled the advance of the Valyrian Freehold. Arya Stark admired Nymeria so much that she named her direwolf after her. George R.R. Martin later explained that while Nymeria was considered a "warrior-queen" she was more of a general, who led armies but did not personally fight.
Just because certain women do not personally engage in combat doesn't mean they don't exert massive influence on politics and warfare, given that warfare is an extension of politics. For example, Olenna Tyrell - the matriarch of House Tyrell - is certainly no "warrior" in the sense that she does not wield physical weapons. Yet "the pen is mightier than the sword", and Lady Olenna's political decisions have sent thousands of men into battle. Similarly, Catelyn Stark is not a "warrior" or particularly a commanding general on the battlefield, but her political decisions still direct the course of entire wars.
As George R.R. Martin has said:
- I wanted to present my female characters in great diversity, even in a society as sexist and patriarchal as the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Women would find different roles and different personalities, so women with different talents would find ways to work with it in a society according to who they are.