Game Of Thrones is about many things: vengeance, combating evil, contrasting the virtues of nobility with the reality of life’s cruelty. It’s about civil war, magic, dragons, and warriors. But part of what makes Game of Thrones so interesting is its focus on fathers and sons. A majority of the characters are defined by their relationships with their fathers.
Sadly, most of the fathers are awful to their sons. Ned Stark is the minority, while Tywin Lannister and Roose Bolton are the majority. With the last episode’s introduction of Sam’s despicable father, Randyll Tarly, let’s rank the absolute worst fathers in the Game of Thrones Universe.
Randyll Tarly is a renowned warrior and general. In fact, he was the only general to defeat Robert Baratheon in battle during Robert’s rebellion against the Mad King. He loves all things warlike and martial, and has little use for books and learning. Unsurprisingly, Randyll hates his son Sam. Sam is everything Randyll didn’t want from a firstborn. Sam’s overweight, a lover of books, and absolutely terrible at horseriding, swordplay, and other martial pursuits.
Part of being a good father is loving your child no matter what he or she is like, and Randyll fails miserably. He despises his son and threatens to kill Sam unless he renounces his claim to lordship and joins the Night’s Watch. He’s unbelievably rude to Gilly and treats Sam like garbage. Yet, he’s the least of all the horrible fathers because he hasn’t physically harmed his son… yet.
Tywin Lannister fundamentally believes in family first. Unfortunately, this often came at the expense of his family members. All his moves to strengthen the family’s power and influence pushed his various family members away from him. Jaime resented Tywin’s push towards being an army general and joined the Kingsguard out of spite. He forced his only daughter into marriages she wanted no part of. Most of all, he hated his youngest son, Tyrion, because his wife died in childbirth and also because Tyrion is deformed.
Tywin ranks higher than Randyll because he actually attempts to kill his own child. Tyrion was wrongly accused of the assassination of Joffrey, and Tywin condemned him to death without blinking. Tywin was also the one who got Shae to spy on him, which emotionally shattered Tyrion. The fact that Tywin is able to both threaten and carry out the death of his own child makes him an absolutely terrible father.
Balon Greyjoy may not have intentionally harmed any of his children, but his idiotic actions doomed them to short and miserable lives. After Robert’s Rebellion against the Mad King, Balon attempted to rebel against Robert. He declared the Greyjoys independent from the Crown. Naturally, Robert’s army came after Balon and he was defeated. His two eldest sons were slain in the battle and his youngest son, Theon, was sent as a hostage to Winterfell.
A defeat like this should be enough to dissuade a normal person from attempting rebellion again. But nope, during the War of the Five Kings, Balon again claimed his independence from the Crown and began raiding the North. When Theon and Balon finally met after nearly twenty years apart, Balon treated his son like dirt. He claimed Theon wasn’t a true Greyjoy and no longer his son. This prompted Theon to betray his childhood friend Robb and attack Winterfell. Ramsay Bolton retook Winterfell and Theon became Reek. While Balon didn’t actively harm his children, his actions led to pain and misery for all of his offspring.
Now we’re entering sadist territory. Roose Bolton is a terrible father, not because he harmed his child, but rather because he encouraged psychopathic behavior. Roose Bolton is a cunning, ambitious man much like Macbeth, but without all the guilt. Roose has no problem backstabbing and scheming his way to top, like a more violent version of Littlefinger. But Roose is a terrible father because he uses his son like a wild dog and encourages his violent behavior.
Ramsay is a psychopath and rather than discouraging him, Roose pushes him towards more. He only mildly chastises Ramsay when he gets too extreme, such as his treatment of Sansa and Theon. Cersei may be many things, but at least she didn’t actively encourage Joffrey’s horrible behavior. Roose is one of the worst fathers in the Game of Thrones universe because he revels and uses his son’s psychosis instead of helping him.
Many of the fathers are on this list because of lifelong actions. They abused and hurt their children since they were born. But sometimes, one single act can forever mark you as a bad father. For over five seasons in Game of Thrones, Stannis had been a good father to his only child, Shireen. Shireen was born disfigured by the greyscale disease, which slowly turns you into stone. Despite this disfiguration, Stannis was a gruff, but loving father.
The scene where he describes his love for Shireen is heartbreaking. Yet, he was willing to throw it all away for a chance at kingship. Convinced it was the only way to ensure victory, Stannis burned his own daughter alive. No reward is worth the death of your child, especially when you’re the one carrying out the deed.
Craster is literally the worst father in any story, book, movie, or television show. Craster is a wildling who lives just north of Castle Black and ranging parties are forced to encamp there to survive the brutal winters. He sleeps with his own daughters and has them in his keep as slaves. When they get pregnant, he keeps the baby if it’s a girl. If it’s not, he sacrifices the baby boy to the White Walkers. Those babies are transformed into White Walkers.
Not only is he an incestuous lecher who keeps his daughters as sex slaves, he’s also bringing on the impending apocalypse by sacrificing his sons to the White Walkers. Only George R R Martin could create a father this despicable in Game of Thrones.
This post was originally written by Patrick Dodd.