I have a simple question for you Game of Thrones fans; who is winning? I don’t mean on the individual level (we all know that’s Arya) but which house is coming out ahead in the overall scheme of things? The Greyjoys? The Starks? The Targaryen? The Brady’s?
“The Lannisters have more gold and they sit the Iron Throne.” You might argue. “Dany has freaking dragons, and armies of battle-hardened Unsullied and Dothraki!” One could equally posit. “But Jon Snow and Sansa finally hold the north, and between them they have the requisite bloodline to rule.” Diehard Stark fans might debate.
How about this one; House Craster has produced an army of immortal, near-unkillable ice princes, who will be practically unbeatable by any one rival house in Westeros.
“They’re undead, so that doesn’t count!” The straw-man I invented for this article would argue. But let’s take a moment to really consider how much agency the sons of Craster do or don’t have. And, more importantly, how we measure success in the Game of Thrones universe. But first…
Part 1: The Measure of Success
I could spend all day arguing that right is better than might, that personal growth takes precedence over financial gain, or that the sheer number of offspring one produces does not strictly denote success. Just ask Walder Frey.
Instead I argue exactly what so many GoT characters have stated already through lengthy monologues; strength of your family, resolve, and legacy are all-important. Everything else fades, but legacy remains. Tywin especially espouses the significance of legacy at every opportunity.
“You know what ‘legacy’ means? It’s what you pass down to your children, and your children’s children. It’s what remains of you when you’re gone.” – Tywin Lannister
“The house that puts family first will always defeat the house that puts the whims and wishes of its sons and daughters first.” – Tywin Lannister
This isn’t just Tywin’s opinion, either. Every house great or small puts the survival of family and legacy above all else. That so many sons and daughters of nobles have met messy deaths during the war doesn’t negate this. Everyone wants the same thing; security for their house and offspring.
Now let’s compare a few of the houses as they currently stand, starting with the Starks;
As of this post Stark and Lannister are about equal, if we consider how many future sons/daughters each house could produce in the coming years. Note: Benjen is undead, which might hinder his libido, and Dorna is unable to pass on the family name, if she’s even young enough to reproduce.
Now let’s consider Craster. Like the late Walder Frey, Craster has chosen what we’ll refer to as the turtle spawning method of evolutionary success– as many children as possible, and hope a handful survive. But we know that between Craster and his 19 daughter-wives and their pact with the White Walkers that his sons don’t have to worry about infant mortality rate. If they survive birth, they become Walkers themselves. As an audience we hate Craster for being a brutal, hateful, disgusting pig-man, but that’s a pretty sweet deal he’s stumbled into.
I would say it’s time for some math but the Wikia has done the work for us already. Over the course of Craster’s reign he spawned, and sacrificed to the White Walkers, 99 sons. Who has the strongest legacy now?
But are they really his children? Doesn’t the transformation from human-larva to ice demon make Craster’s House moot? Well, yes and no. Let’s explore this idea further.
Part 2: Blue Man Group
Throughout both the show and the books we encounter fluke Wights and Walkers who have maintained their identity. Benjen, Ned Stark’s brother, reveals himself in season 6, having been partially turned into a Wight only to be saved by the Children who shoved a piece of dragonglass into his chest. In the books this role of undead wilderness guide is played by Coldhands, a frozen corpse with congealed blood in his limbs who rides an elk and obeys the three-eyed raven. Both creatures display some, if not all, of the knowledge from their prior mortal life.
We must also ask the question; are Craster’s children being turned into Wights or Walkers?
The Walkers are smarter, more powerful, taller, and less decayed than their Wight slaves. They wear armor, ride horses, and use terrifying ice weapons capable of “turning” slain enemies into frozen zombies.
Wights, on the other hand, are returned undead. As we see in Hardhome any corpse is capable of being resurrected, but they maintain their wasted physique and damaged bodies. They are zombies, and display the same level of reasoning as any other zombie movie.
I argue that because the Walkers aren’t killing Craster’s children, but instead converting them on an altar of ice, they’re being directly recruited into the White Walker caste.
I know, I know… Craster’s children will be raised as Walkers. They will hold none of Craster’s values, and will likely never return home to Craster’s Keep. But is this so different from any other character who has strayed from their parent’s teachings and land? Do you think Ned would consider Arya’s killing spree to be upholding their family legacy?
When my friends pick Great Houses to root for I don’t side with Greyjoy, Stark, Lannister or Arryn. Tyrell, Dorne, the Watch, and the Brotherhood hold no interest for me. It’s all about House Craster baby, and their immortal army of 99 frozen sons, ready to unleash their ice powers on the rest of the world.
As for the morality of cheering for the villain, at least they don’t hump each other over the corpses of their kin. Seriously, that shit was messed up.
All images are from the GoT wiki or Youtube.