June 16, 2013 at 9:56 AM ET
Dragons. Swords. Battles. Adventures. Castles. "Game of Thrones" has plenty of these, but it also has a lot of fathers. And like the other characters that fill out the series, the dads are human -- in other words, they're flawed.
No one's perfect no matter how hard they might try, but in the world of "Thrones," it's obvious that some papas try a heck of a lot harder than others to be as close to being the perfect dad as possible. So as we raise a sword in honor of all dads, we take a look at the fathers of "GoT" to see who deserves an extra hug and kiss on the cheek.
It's a little sad to say, but there are really only two truly good dads on "Game of Thrones": Ned Stark and Davos Seaworth, and papas out there can certainly look to these two as examples of how to parent.
Both men clearly love their children and have their best interests at heart. The illiterate Onion Knight was born incredibly poor, and worked as a smuggler who slowly rose to the ranks of King Stannis' Hand by being loyal and honest -- good virtues, both. Everything he did, he did so that his sons could have a better life than he had, and become the educated lords he hopes for them to be.
As for Ned Stark, in a world where sons are valued over daughters, he loved all of his children equally regardless of their gender, whether they were trueborn or not. He accepted his kids as they were and encouraged them to follow their passions. (How many dads in Westeros would let their little girls learn the art of sword fighting over embroidery and songs?) When unpleasant life lessons came up, he didn't shy away. And perhaps most important, through his actions, he taught them that it is always best to do what is right and honorable -- even if that meant literally losing one's head.
Forgot Stannis Baratheon is a daddy, did you? It's pretty easy to do, seeing as how daughter Shireen is hidden away. (Is it because of her greyscale? Teach her that looks aren't everything!) But it does appear that he loves the little girl, despite rarely seeing her. And don't forget he fathered the shadow assassin -- thanks to Melisandre -- a creature that soon killed his brother Renley.
It almost seems silly to count Robert Baratheon and Jaime Lannister as dads. Yes, they fathered children -- a lot of children, in King Robert's case -- but that was about it. Neither man actually parented much. (Though we suppose Jaime had a good excuse for not stepping up, seeing as how incest and treason are frowned upon.) When the king did do his fatherly duties, it was obvious he'd rather be off drinking and hunting. He didn't bother to teach "his" royal kids right from wrong, and left the realm with Mad King Joffrey upon his death. And "Uncle" Jaime never had much to do with his "niece" and "nephews" at all.
Then there's Randyll Tarly. Sure, viewers haven't met him, but they've heard of him through son Sam, a member of the Night's Watch. And it's Sam's presence on The Wall that makes Lord Tarly such a bad dad. As the well-read crow tells Jon Snow in season one, the mighty lord was disgusted that his firstborn son was more interested in books than manlier pastimes, and gave him a choice between The Wall or a "hunting accident." Way to love your kid unconditionally.
Bad dads can't be discussed without a mention of Tywin Lannister, the biggest lion of Casterly Rock. Some might argue he's beyond bad, that he's the baddest of the bad, but hear us out about why he's merely just plain bad. Yes, he's a power-hungry lord who very obviously plays favorites with his children. (Is your name Jaime? No? Sorry, he doesn't really care about you.) But everything he does, he does to secure power, wealth and glory for Lannisters. ALL Lannisters. That includes Tyrion, whom he very clearly despises. And as much as he might hate his youngest son, he not only let the child live (albeit blaming him for his beloved wife's death as she birthed Tyrion), but let him live as a lord. That's got to count for something.
Yes, there really are worse dads than Tywin on "Game of Thrones," and their names are Balon Greyjoy and Craster. (You nearly forgot about them, didn't you?)
Balon at first didn't seem too terrible. He obviously loves and supports his daughter, Yara, who is anything but a traditional lady. But the same affection was denied son Theon, whom he considers more Stark than Greyjoy despite the young man's sacking of Winterfell to regain his father's love. Even worse, when Ramsay Bolton sent captive Theon's manhood back to his papa, Balon declared that since his son can no longer further the Greyjoy line, he was useless. Harsh.
As bad a dad as the Lord of Pyke is, Craster could beat him for title of the worst. The wildling fathers daughters of his wives, and when the girls are old enough, marries them and sires more daughters to repeat the endless cycle. As for the boys he fathers, they face an even more dire future: Craster leaves them in the snowy woods for the White Walkers to take. It doesn't get much worse than that.