The Tragic Sacrifice of Shireen Baratheon

In 10 years of Game of Thrones, the most violent episodes are hard to digest. The ranking of deaths in the saga in general is remembered first by the bloodiest or most vindictive. But the fact is that per season – there were 8 – the list of victims and perpetrators is frighteningly mixed. Even because, in GOT, there is a lot of complexity when talking about “worthiness” or tragedy.

As a young man, Ned Stark, for example, killed innocents following the revenge of Robert Baratheon (who insisted that Lyanna Stark had been kidnapped and raped by Rhaegar Targaryen), but everyone places his execution at the top of injustices in Westeros. The list is really long.

Among the arguably innocent are Rickon Stark, Hodor, and Shireen Baratheon, whose lives were cut short by circumstances outside of anything they may have done. Rickon was taken from Winterfell at the age of 5, having lost his father, brothers, and mother, fleeing through the woods from enemies and White Walkers, but in theory, assured of protection when he goes to stay with former supporters of his House. How could he know or answer Robb Stark’s decisions? But that’s what happened, being murdered in front of Jon Snow, much to Ramsay Bolton’s pleasure.

Hodor, as we later discover thanks to Bran Stark‘s unplanned travels through time, has been trapped in a loop in which he relives his death – that is, sacrificing himself to save Bran from the Night King – for decades. His “nickname”, is a reflection of the only word he has spoken since he had a seizure – hodor, hold the door – which was the order he received so that Bran could escape. Yes, it’s more of a cruelty from King Bran the Broken, whose accession to the throne allowed Daenerys to kill millions in King’s Landing and Jon Snow, the true heir to the throne, to be exiled and smeared with the name of queen killer.

But I’m sorry for those who cry for Hodor, the most traumatic, violent, and terrifying death for me is that of Princess Shireen Baratheon. The young woman, scarred on her face by Greyscale, a disease that almost took her life as a baby and left her “ugly” and isolated, loved her complicated and ambitious father, Stannis Baratheon, deeply. The cold and distant Stannis and his wife, Selyse Florent, were left vulnerable to Melisandre and their faith in the Fire God, R’hllor after losing all their children but the girl. Selyse fails to connect with her (at least in the series), but Stannis loves his daughter, who studies the history of Westeros and is a fan of strong Targaryen women.

In the brief civil war between Robert’s brothers (Stannis kills his younger brother, Renly Baratheon) Shireen, as the last legitimate Baratheon, would become the heir to the Iron Throne, and she supported her father’s struggle for Power. However, she is chosen as the greatest sacrifice for Stannis to get the Throne: she needs to be burned alive.

Unbelievably he accepts the challenge and the girl agrees without knowing what is about to happen. When you realize it, it’s too late.

The episode for me is to date the most violent of all, which I can’t watch. It aired in the United States on Father’s Day, an unfortunate and almost tasteless coincidence on HBO’s part. Shireen’s death was pointless and absurd. Renly was fighting with Stannis, but not her. Her death provoked the immediate suicide of her repentant mother and then the abandonment of Stannis’s soldiers, shocked by what he agreed to do to gain power. Unsurprisingly, he was defeated in battle and killed by Brienne of Tarth, who avenged Renly.

If she had survived, Shireen could be a threat to Daenerys and Cersei, after all, she was a legitimate princess of House Baratheon. Cersei would have sacrificed her, but given the girl’s admiration for House Targaryen and her knowledge, who knows how she would look with Daenerys? We will never know. Were it not for the existence of Gendry, her bastard cousin legitimized by Daenerys, House Baratheon would have died with her. A purposeless sacrifice, only violence provoked by ambition and hysteria. Shireen deserved better!

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