Study Guide

A Clash of Kings Coming of Age

By George R.R. Martin

Coming of Age

[Sansa] remembered the splendor of it: the field of pavilions along the river with a knight's shield hung before each door, the long rows of silken pennants waving in the wind, the gleam of sunlight on bright steel and gilded spurs. The days had rung to the sounds of trumpets and pounding hooves, and the nights had been full of feasts and song. Those had been the most magical days of her life, but they seemed a memory from another age now. (3.Sansa.11)

When we last saw Sansa, she was a young lady with a love of story and song, and she thought her life would play out like a princess's should. But that life is for the princesses in other castles. While she fondly remembers the days when life looked like a fairy tale, reality has well and truly crept into her life.

They are not strong, [Dany] told herself, so I must be their strength. I must be their strength. I must show no fear, no weakness, no doubt. However frightened my heart, when they look upon my face they must see only Drogo's queen. She felt older than her fourteen years. If ever she had truly been a girl, that time was done. (13.Daenerys.12)

In A Game of Thrones, Dany was a queen, well a khaleesi, but she had her husband Khal Drogo for support. With Khal Drogo dead, she must lead her people by herself, no small task for a fourteen-year-old girl. When we were fourteen, we had to learn geometry and that was enough for us, thank you.

[Sam] managed a wan smile. "I may be craven, but I'm not stupid. I'm sore and my back aches from riding and from sleeping on the ground, but I'm hardly scared at all. Look." He held out a hand for Jon to see how steady it was. (14.Jon.43)

Even characters with little bearing on the story, like Sam, are part of the coming of age trend in Westeros. All he had to do was travel to lands unknown and confront the likelihood of a frozen afterlife as an ice zombie. No bigs.

The longer he lived, the more Tyrion realized that nothing was simple and little was true. (18.Tyrion.116)

A key moment in any coming of age theme is when a character learns some great truth about the world that he or she was previously blind to. Tyrion is twenty-five years old in A Clash of Kings, but he's still figuring out how things work, so we'd say he's coming of age, too.

"Craster is his own man. He has sworn us no vows. Nor is he subject to our laws. Your heart is noble, Jon, but learn a lesson here. We cannot set the world to rights. That is not our purpose. The Night's Watch has other wars to fight." (24.Jon.196)

Jon is being groomed by Lord Commander Mormont to lead the Night's Watch. First lesson: A commander can't fix all the wrongs in the world, even when that wrong is as awful as Craster. We're starting to think this coming of age thing isn't going to be easy.

"A knight is what you want. A warg is what you are. You can't change that, Bran, you can't deny it or push it away." (36.Bran.52)

Another motif that pops up often in coming of age stories is the acceptance of things you can't change. Bran's been coming of age for two novels now, but he still hasn't managed to accept that he has been crippled. To be fair, it's a heck of a thing to accept.

Theon thought of seeking out the bodies of the two men he'd slain himself to see if they had any jewelry worth the taking, but the notion left a bitter taste in his mouth. He could imagine what Eddard Stark would have said. Yet that thought made him angry too. Stark is dead and rotting, and naught to me, he reminded himself. (38.Theon.18)

Theon's coming of age hits a bit of a snag in A Clash of Kings. He has two father figures in his life, Balon Greyjoy and Ned Stark, and both have a different understanding of what it means to grow into a man. Theon's mind is stuck between both, and as such, he can't come of age in a way that would please either father figure or himself.

The longsword was a lot heavier than Needle had been, but Arya liked the feel of it. The weight of steel in her hands made her feel stronger. Maybe I'm not a water dancer yet, but I'm not a mouse either. A mouse couldn't use a sword but I can. (39.Arya.20)

Arya's coming of age features her trying to figure out what kind of person she should be. She keeps comparing herself to various animals and things: a mouse, a wolf, a ghost, and a water dancer. She is basically trying on different roles to see which one fits best.

[Dany] hated it, as her brother must have. All those years of running from city to city one step ahead of the Usurper's knives, pleading for help from archons and princes and magisters, buying our food with flattery. He must have known how they mocked him. Small wonder he turned so angry and bitter. (41.Daenarys.22)

Dany's coming of age allows her to look back on past events and view them in a more mature light. Her brother, Viserys, was a jerk to be sure, but Dany's difficulties in Qarth help her understand why her brother became such a bitter person, showing how she has grown since Viserys's brutal death.

[Dany] had reclined too long on satin cushions, letting oxen bear her hither and yon. At least when she rode she felt as though she was getting somewhere. (64.Daenerys.6)

Dany's coming of age story leads her to the conclusion that she should be true to herself. Yeah, we know that's a bit cliché, especially for a coming of age story, but hey, another way to look at it is as classic. And there's a reason the classics never die.