Iconology of the Games: Sigils, Banners, and Badges in TGoT

August 17, 2017

Iconology of the Games: Sigils, Banners, and Badges in TGoT

Today we're getting our nerd on. We're going to answer someone's questions about the iconology of Game of Thrones (and hope that steers you to TacticalTyrion.com).

Thanks to George R.R. Martin's writing, the Game of Thrones series was a big deal before it became an HBO television series. Once it went "live action" there was no stopping it. Now it's a cultural phenomenon.

One of the many interesting (and uniquely flavorful elements of both books and shows) are the house sigils and their "words." In Westeros, family is everything, and families identify with sigil and words. Heraldry is nothing new in the real world, but the way it manifests in GRRM's world is not only unique, it is a critical part of the story's flavor.

Every noble house had its words. Family mottoes, touchstones, prayers of sorts, they boasted of honor and glory, promised loyalty and truth, swore faith and courage...

Think of the most die-hard sports franchise fan you know - the person who wears team colors, the team's logo on his hat, on the window of his car. The guy who'll go to fisticuffs in a bar where the games on. Now throw in some elements of post-Westphalian, 19th century Nationalism, but make the focus first on his blood relatives and the larger region of multiple allied families to which he owes allegiance.

The maester had taught him all the banners: the mailed fist of the Glovers, silver on scarlet; Lady Mormont's black bear; the hideous flayed man that went before Roose Bolton of the Dreadfort; a bull moose for the Hornwoods; a battle-axe for the Cerwyns; three sentinel trees for the Tallharts; and the fearsome sigil of House Umber, a roaring giant in shattered chains.

Now make that sports fan perfectly happy to go butcher other people somewhere fighting under a different sigil, with their own historic words. In fact, make that willingness to do battle expected of him.

She knew many of the badges.The mailed fist, the moose, the white sun, the double-bladed axe, all those were northern sigils. Tarly men had perished here as well, though, and many from the stormlands. She saw red and green apples, a shield that bore the three thunderbolts of Leygood, horse trappings patterned with the ants of Ambrose. Lord Tarly's own striding huntsman appeared on many a badge and brooch and doublet. Friend or foe, the crows care not... (Brienne of Tarth)
Of course, not everyone in GRRM's world thinks much of house sigils and the like.
"You Westerosi are all the same. You sew some beast upon a scrap of silk, and suddenly you are all lions or dragonsor eagles." (Ilyrio Mopatis)
We've seen GoT style sigils become increasingly popular as the series slowly reaches its climax. Not too long ago, designer Darrin Crescenzi did his own version of GoT house sigils as though he were reimagining the Nike logo.

Game of Thrones House Sigils

Someone else did a great lineup of all 50 state flags in GoT sigil fashion.

State flags as Game of Thrones house sigils.

There are appendices at the end of each book (such as The Kings And Their Courts and Other Houses Great And Small) detailing various houses, organizations, and characters.

For instance, this is how House Lannister reads (the sigil displayed is actually from HBO, not the novels); note also this description was written before certain events at the end of season 6 and early episodes of season 7.

House Lannister sigil Hear Me Roar

House Lannister

The Lannisters of Casterly Rock remain the principal support of King Tommen's claim to the Iron Throne. They boast of descent from Lann the Clever, the legendary trickster of the Age of Heroes. The gold of Casterly Rock and the Golden Tooth has made them the wealthiest of the Great Houses. The Lannister sigil is a golden lion upon a crimson field. Their words are Hear Me Roar!

There are a few minor disconnects between houses, sigils, house "words", etc. in the series and the novels, but overall most everything resonates correctly.

Note also you'll see individual sigils, as of individual knights, the newly ennobled, etc.

"What's that ugly thing on your chest?" (Tyrion asked.)
Bronn grinned. "My knightly sigil. A flaming chain, green, on a smoke grey field. By your lord father's command, I'm Ser Bronn of the Blackwater now, Imp. See you don't forget it."
So, there you have it. A précis of some of the iconography Game of Thrones. Likely more than you ever wanted to know, but hey...it's our blog, we'll write whatever the fuck we want. If you're the sort of nerd we are, maybe you'd like to take a gander at our Tactical Tyrion line of shirts and patches; it's a more modern, moto (and a little satirical) homage to various Game of Thrones characters. Also available at TacticalTyrion.com.

Grunts and other knuckledraggers: précis.

The Mad Duo Sends

Richard Kilgore and Jake Call

We fight evil so you don't have to.
After that hardly a hundred yards went by without a corpse. They dangled under ash and alder, beech and birch, larch and elm, hoary old willows and stately chestnut trees...Some wore cloaks of grey or blue or crimson, though rain and sun had faded them so badly that it was hard to tell one color from another. Others had badges sewn on their breasts. Brienne spied axes, arrows, several salmon, a pine tree, an oak leaf, beetles, bantams, a boar's head, half a dozen tridents. Broken men, she realized, dregs from a dozen armies, the leavings of the lords.

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