This article is part of a series on Game of Thrones, be sure to check out part 1 here!
Edited by: Tejaswini Vondivillu
Game of Thrones is well known for the spectacular wars, engrossing fight scenes and gruesome blood baths. In the storyline, the mighty armies of the strong houses clash to gain dominance over each other. The series portrays the art of tactical use of the military to impose the power of the monarch. The use of the military to assert ascendancy is not peculiar to Westeros, it has been used as a method to intimidate and dominate other ruling and leading powers in the real world as well. The strength of the military becomes of utmost importance to the ruler when he or she is bestowed with complete power and is the highest authority on a territory. The constant jostle for power and dominance leaves such rulers vulnerable to ambush and attack. This is reflected when Cersi confronts Eddard Stark and remarks rather direly, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Such threat and danger to the lives of sovereigns translate to the real world too. So the need to maintain a powerful military is imperative for them in order to crush the rebellions from within and outside the states.
Ramsay Bolton was a brutal and ruthless character in the show. Winterfell suffered under his regime. Under his reign his subjects were unhappy, nevertheless, he continued to rule the North with an iron fist. His lust for power drove him blind. To sustain his rule, he would take extreme measures to eliminate any threat. With the support of his vicious deed and his army, he tormented the citizens. Though Ramsay was a loathing and cruel character, he was a remarkable tactician. We get to see the glimpses of his brilliant tactical skills when he rode into battle against Jon Snow. “Battle of the Bastards” may not be as glamorous as many other battles in the show like ‘battle of Gold rode’, yet it is one of the most clever and crude battles. Ramsay entraps Snow and his army rather spectacularly – his troops circle the dead bodies and the remnants of Snow’s army in a circular formation. Then, they use their spears and shields in a protruding manner and continually advance on Snow’s army. However, it is his overconfidence that makes him lose the battle because he failed to account for the allies that the Starks may have acquired. It was Sansa Stark, Jon’s half-sister who had gained the support of ‘Knights of Vale’. This helped Snow win the battle.
The way in which Bolton underestimated his allies, so did Hitler — he underestimated the strength of allied powers. Hitler was a charismatic leader with astute martial skills. The German forces led by Hitler in their initial years of conquest used ‘Blitzkrieg’ tactics, a method of offensive ‘lightning’ warfare. This helped the axis power to win many battles initially, and just like Ramsay had trapped Jon, the Germans managed to surround The Allied forces in Dunkirk, with their forces advancing on one-sided and the sea acting as a barrier on the other end.
The Lanisters of Casterly Rock is one of the strongest houses in Westeros. It was their military strength that helped Robert Baratheon win the Iron Throne. In Game of Thrones, Cersi can be viewed as a strong autocratic leader. It is her thirst for power that makes her coerce people into pledging fealty to and admiration for her. Though Cersi may call herself a monarch, it would be more accurate to call her a dictator. She does not have a direct claim to the throne, yet she occupied it easily with the help of her mighty army. Cersi till the end of the show maintains a stronghold over the Capital and makes constant efforts to strengthen her army. She not only uses her military as a defence force but also to instil fear in the residents of her own kingdom. One of the most dreaded characters of the show is Gregor Clegane – “The Mountain” who is Cersi’s bodyguard. She uses him to set off trepidation amongst her people – both the peasants and the nobles. To maintain her supremacy, she keeps a strong watch on the actions of her citizens. Her “little birds” bring her the whispers and knowledge from across the kingdom.
This is another instance that stresses the importance of military strength, which can be seen to be replicated to some extent in the real world, such as with the methods of the ruling Kim dynasty of North Korea. DPRK is one of the most secretive countries in the world. There is very little that is known outside about the country. Kim Jong-un is the face of North Korea. While he gilded himself in opulence there are many in his country that are in poverty. He uses the force of the military to keep these people subjugated, much as Cersi did with her subjects.
Overall, while there are many forces that assure a stable reign for a ruler, having a strong army and good tactical skills are crucial. Though most of the conflicts between countries are resolved with diplomatic talks today the threat of breaking into a state of war always looms over the world. History is a testimony that the thirst of power never quenches and therefore it is imperative to maintain strong militaries.