Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 27

SVEUILITE U MOSTARU

FILOZOFSKI FAKULTET

MOSTAR

Damir imi

JUSTICE ACCORDING TO THE COMITATUS IN BEOWULF


AND GAME OF THRONES

ZAVRNI RAD

MOSTAR
SVEUILITE U MOSTARU

FILOZOFSKI FAKULTET

MOSTAR

JUSTICE ACCORDING TO THE COMITATUS IN BEOWULF


AND GAME OF THRONES

ZAVRNI RAD

Mentor: Doc. dr.sc. Boris Beri

Student: Damir imi

Kolegij: Pregled engleske knjievnosti I

Mostar, studeni 2016.


Table of Contents

Introduction2

1. Comitatus code4

2. Beowulf7

2.1.Beowulf as Thane..8

2.2.Beowulf as King...14

3. Game of Thrones...17

3.1. Ned Stark18

3.2 King and Lords relationship..20

Conclusion.22

Saetak...24

Works Cited...25

1
Introduction

Every character, whether they like it or not, lives by a code or moral standard.

It obliges him to do things and behave in the manner his/her society deems acceptable. As it

often happens with fictional personas, and human beings, not all of them follow the set rules;

they sometimes bend them to get what they desire and other times break them in the most

brutal of ways. But still there are those who obediently follow the laws of gods and men, live

their whole life honourably, never bending, never breaking, just following.

The main concern of this paper are those heroes who follow and oblige certain codes,

in this case it is the old Germanic warrior code also known as Comitatus Code. The paper will

analyse first and foremost how the code is manifested in the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf and

furthermore how the code has been adapted by contemporary author, George R.R. Martin in

the first book of his fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. The Comitatus Code is best seen

functioning in the first book of the series Game of Thrones, where Martin has the North of

Westeros adopting the Comitatus Code as its codex. The two heroes who shall be analysed

with respect to the code are Beowulf and Ned Stark.

The society and setting in which the characters from these literary works reside

and live their everyday life is at most times brutal and without any moral standards

whatsoever. Their behaviour and their actions are a prolific example of Comitatus in

literature: reputation and honour are put to the test every once in a while, but the strong moral

compass of both Beowulf and Ned Stark and righteousness guides them through the

Mirkwood of their life.

The main goal of this paper is to analyse the lives of these protagonists, to evaluate

their actions, and to illustrate various aspects of the Comitatus code and how Beowulf and

2
Eddard (Ned) Stark adhere to the moral code. Last, but certainly not least, to decide whether

justice can be achieved in obeying this old Germanic warrior code.

3
1. The Comitatus Code

The Comitatus Code is a Germanic Warrior Code which regulated the behaviour not

only of thanes and retainers, but also that of lords and kings. Beowulf is the only extant text,

besides historical chronicles, which demonstrate the way Germanic society functioned,

making Beowulf not only a significant literary work but also a highly important historical

document. The Comitatus, in general, is a mutually beneficial relationship between lords and

thanes or kings and lords. The cornerstone for the Comitatus Code is mutual respect.

This may sound like any typical relationship between a ruler and his men, but in the

old Germanic warrior code there is a great deal of friendship between lords and thanes. The

relationship between Hrothgar and Beowulf best illustrates the mutual fondness and respect

which is ideal in Germanic society and which is consequently the basic foundation for any

successful collaboration.

One may argue that this particular codex is without the slightest doubt the main

driving force of this Old English epic poem; it is in general what drives the main protagonist

of the story forward. The affairs in Beowulf can be perceived as black and white and the

constant battle between good and evil, and with the right type of hero it serves as a fruitful

ground for the Comitatus to flourish. In the world of Game of Thrones, however, this codex is

not the driving force of the story, but nevertheless, there are important characters who live by

it.

There are certain duties stipulated by the Comitatus Code such as duty to lord,

duty to kin, duty to avenge lord/kin and reliance on wyrd that both lords and thanes should

fulfil in order to gain much needed trust and friendship. The best way for lord to earn

respect is to reward his thanes:

4
And a young prince must be prudent like that
giving freely while his father lives
so that afterward in the age when fighting starts
steadfast companions will stand by him
and hold the line. Beahavior thats admired
is the path to power among people everywhere (Beowulf 20-25)

True king or ruler should always know his men, after all these are the people who keep

his position, protect him and follow him into combat, so the least he can do is get to know

them, a point that Ned Stark clearly makes in Game of Thrones: Know the men who follow

you and let them know you. Dont ask your men to die for a stranger (Martin, 148).

King Hrothgar bestows many earthly riches upon Beowulf when our hero provides

loyalty, respect and defence or to be more specific when he rids Denmark of the threat of

Grendel and his mother. Similarly, King Robert Baratheon appoints Ned Stark the Warden of

the North for his contribution in Robert's Rebellion, and later on even makes him the Hand

of the King, the greatest honour there is in the world of Westeros. Duty to king is highly

important, but also on the top of the list of priorities is ones duty to ones kin and the duty to

avenge your kin It is always better / to avenge dear ones that to indulge in mourning

(Beowulf 1384-1385). The importance of kin and blood ties is stressed many times in Beowulf

with Beowulf introducing himself and his band of retainers through their allegiance to their

king, who is also Beowulfs uncle and therefore kin: we belong by birth to the Geat people /

and owe allegiance to Lord Hygelac (Beowulf 259-260). Blood ties are essential in these

societies.

All of these aspects are essential for the successful functioning of Germanic warrior

society. However, if only one of them fails, the whole system crumbles, which is made

evident in both Beowulf and Game of Thrones. The Comitatus Code is not the perfect warrior

code and there are flaws, which shall be discussed later on.

5
6
2. Beowulf

Beowulf is a long narrative epic poem, written in an elevated style which celebrates

the life of a great hero. Although believed to have been written around 1000 A.D. by an

unknown Anglo-Saxon author, the story of Beowulf itself existed even before in oral form,

and the events take place around 500 A.D.

It was written down in England by a Christian author, but the setting of the poem is

pre-Christian pagan society, and describes the lives of Danish and Swedish royal families. All

of these characters are pagan warriors and behave most of the time in a non Christian way:

sometimes at pagan shrines they vowed / offerings to idols, swore oaths / that the killers of

the soul might come to their aid / and save the people (Beowulf 175-178). Scandinavian

pagan culture and Christian culture intermingle and the result is quite unusual, with the

characters often referring to one almighty God, and there are also clear references to the Old

Testament: Cains clan, whom the creator had outlawed and condemned as outcasts

(Beowulf 106-107).

Furthermore, the tone of the poem is solemn and the world that Beowulf depicts is mostly

dark and brutish. Men rarely seem relaxed; most of the time they are clothed in armour,

awaiting for a new chance to test their bravery against fate. Even in the mead-hall in Heorot

during a feast where the atmosphere is supposed to be cheerful, men think of the struggle of

war. Indeed, the omniscient narrator reminds the readers of a lurking danger, and throughout

the poem there is a feeling of inevitable doom that all people must suffer:

all of us with souls, earth dwellers


and children of men, must make our way
to a destination already ordained
where the body, after the banqueting
sleeps on its death bed. (Beowulf 1004-1008)

7
Nowadays, this Old English epic poem is widely considered to be the cornerstone of

modern English literature, but that was not always the case. For the first few centuries of its

existence, the story of Beowulf was regarded as historical insight into an Anglo-Saxon era,

primarily the source of information for a historic period. Most of the scholars simplified the

storyline as a battle of good versus evil and used the text as an example of the Comitatus

Code. Only after the Oxford scholar, J. R. R. Tolkien, whose later works Hobbit and The Lord

of the Rings were significantly influenced by Beowulf, published a revolutionary paper

entitled Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics people started paying more attention to

Beowulf.

In his paper, Tolkien claimed that story of Beowulf was mainly seen as a historical

document, and that most of the scholars wanted it to be a heathen heroic lay, a history of

Sweden, a manual of Germanic antiquities, or Nordic Summa Theologica (Tolkien 7). In

Tolkien's opinion the poem is mainly about a man at war with a hostile world, and his

inevitable overthrow in Time (Tolkien 19), and the biggest tragedy is man's short lifespan.

Only after Tolkien's paper did the story of Beowulf cement its place as a most important

literary work in the English language, although written in Old English.

2.1. Beowulf as Thane

In his youth, Beowulf is a highly skilled warrior who possesses almost superhuman

strength. He is an example of the perfect hero and embodies the values of the Comitatus

Code. In his youth, the son of Ecgtheow was characterized by his feats of strength and

courage; he invokes respect and admiration wherever he goes, but he also treats others with

respect.

The modern day reader may perceive Beowulf as arrogant when he indulges in his

boasting sequences, but when he boasts he invokes his prior courage, and by reminiscing on

8
his previous quests, he fuels his courage in order to undertake another legendary deed. His

heroic life is a vow, and once you go down that road there is no turning back. In a society

where the afterlife does not exist, the main goal of any hero is to live as legendary a life as

possible so that their name will live on. Often for undaunted courage / fate spares the man it

has not already marked (Beowulf 572-573). Beowulf boldly claims that even fate will spare

the man who shows exceptional courage.

One of the reasons why Beowulf comes to Denmark is the debt he owes to Hrothgar.

Many years before the start of story, Beowulfs father Ecghteow could not pay the wergild

after he killed the Wulfing Heathloaf. Hrothgar welcomed him to Denmark and paid the

wergild, creating an obligation that extended to Beowulf. Even before he arrives in Denmark

Beowulf is known for his superstrength, extraordinary courage and impeccable reputation.

The first challenge that our legendary hero encounters comes in the form of Grendel, a

vile monster that haunts Danish land. King Hrothgar is old and powerless, and his men lack

strength and prowess to rid themselves of this foul creature: they are fatherless creatures /

and their whole ancestry is hidden in a past / of demons and ghosts (Beowulf 1356-1358).

Grendel is an outcast from society, and by lineage a member of Cain's clan, whom the

creator had outlawed / and condemned as outcasts (Beowulf 106-107). He resides in

swamplands outside the borders of society and preys through the night on Hrothgar's men and

reaps havoc in the meadhall, in Heorot. Wergild is a highly important part of Comitatus

because it offers some kind of condolence and also allows tribes and families to avoid going

to war over a mans death. Grendel not only ravaged the country with his atrocities, but also

he refused to pay wergild which is a direct violation of the Code.

Before the fight with Grendel, Geats and Danes gather in the mead-hall in Heorot for

afeast. One of Hrothgar's warriors called Unferth questions Beowulf's bravery and

9
mentions his swimming match against Breca. According to him that match was reckless

and unnecessary. The two of them burst into a much heated debate where Beowulf

questions Unferths martial prowess and reminds him that he is a kinslayer You killed

your own kith and kin (Beowulf 587). In this culture based on fealty between tribes and

families, fratricide is one of the worst possible crimes. Unferth should have been exiled

from society for his crime, but he is clever and lounges at Hrothgars feet and therefore

remains a respected member of society admired by all for his mind and courage /

although under a cloud for killing his brothers (Beowulf 1165-1666).

Unferth is the exact opposite of Beowulf. The two of them reach some kind of

reconciliation when the infamous kinslayer gives our hero his sword Hrunting before the

battle with Grendels mother. Later on we learn that Hrunting fails Beowulf during his

battle. It is believed that this is the very sword with which Unferth slew his own kin,

therefore Beowulf cannot be helped by a sword which committed a cardinal sin according

to the Comitatus.

After the feast only Beowulf and his men stay in Heorot and await Grendel. To the

astonishment of all Danes, the Geat prince renounces the use of weapons and decides to

take on the foul monster with his own two hands:

I have heard moreover that the monster scorns


in his reckless way to use weapons;
therefore to heighten Hygelac's fame
and gladden his heart, I hereby renounce
sword and the shelter of the broad shield (Beowulf 433-441)

With this courageous move, Beowulf earns even more glory for himself and the

Geatish king Hygelac. His extraordinary bravery is his biggest aid in the battle. He puts his

fate in God's hands, seeking just judgment by God(Beowulf 441), showing his reliance on

wyrd, one of the fundamental duties of any thane in the Comitatus.

10
Needless to say, the son of Ecghteow proves his worth in his first challenge. When the

hour of the battle arrives he is ready to take on this bloodthirsty fiend. His martial prowess is

without a doubt his greatest asset and it defines him as a person. In combination with his

almost superhuman strength, it makes him the greatest warrior of his time, and anyone who

crosses paths with him on the battlefield is bound for certain defeat. Although Grendel is

powerful and for a certain amount of time was undefeatable for Hrothgar, he is clearly

shocked and by all means awed by the strength and impeccable martial skills of Beowulf:

The captain of evil discovered himself


in a handgrip harder than anything
he had ever encountered in any man
on the face of the earth, Every bone in his body
quailed and recoiled (Beowulf 749-753)

The relationship between a king and his thanes is crucial for successful Comitatus

Code. In the opening lines of the poem, before we even meet Beowulf, the narrator mentions

legendary Danish kings, therefore putting emphasis on how important it is to be remembered

as a good king. Shield Sheafson, the mythical figure from whom King Hrothgar is descended,

embodies the most important values of heroism and leadership. The poem starts with a brief

story about his rise from orphan to warrior-king, and it concludes with the line, That was one

good king (Beowulf 11). Furthermore, it is extremely important for every king to be generous

even when he is a prince, as those who are willing to share their gifts and wealth are more

likely to have faithful companions around them: And a young prince must be prudent like

that, / giving freely while his father lives (Beowulf 20-23).

Hrothgar, too, is a good king, he takes care of his own thanes, shares treasure and land

with them as the Comitatus prescribes. He enjoys prosperity and military success until

Grendel starts terrorizing his realm. He is considered a wise ruler, but in his old age he is

unable to defend his people from the lurking danger. Luckily for him Beowulf arrives and

11
annihilates all threats. Even from the very beginning their relationship is one filled with

mutual respect, Beowulf is instantly recognized as a great hero not only by Hrothgar but also

by the Danish coast guard who concludes this from just one look at the Geatish Prince: Nor

have I seen / a mightier man-at-arms on this earth / than one standing here (Beowulf 244-

246).

Hrothgar serves as a father figure to young Beowulf, but essentially they are two very

different characters: the Geatish prince is in his prime - courageous and powerful - while the

Danish king is at the twilight of his life and the strength is failing him but he is extremely

wise. Although unable to fight, the King of Danes is a generous ring giver and he showers

both Geats and Danes with various gifts: he literally buys loyalty, and that is his way of

protecting his people. Beowulf looks up to him because when it comes to kingship Hrothgar is

a good and righteous king. As already mentioned before, Hrothgar saves Beowulfs father in

his hour of need and Beowulf repays his debt by annihilating all threats to Denmark. By

the time Beowulf defeats Grendel's mother, he and Hrothgar are already great friends, and

their relationship is one filled with mutual affection and respect. The King of Danes is truly a

father figure to the Geatish Prince by the end of their time together. Hrothgar makes a speech

to the son of Ecgtheow, warning him about the poisonous effect that too much pride can have,

and telling him to orient himself towards eternal rewards because life is short and inevitable

doom always lurks around the corner.

O flower of warriors, beware of that trap.


Choose, dear Beowulf, the better part,
eternal rewards. Do not give way to pride.
For a brief while your strength is in bloom
but it fades quickly; and soon there will follow
illness or the sword to lay you low (Beowulf 1758-1763)

Upon his return to Geatland Beowulf is celebrated as a hero by small folk as well as

by king Hygelac and his young and beautiful queen, Hygd. The son of Ecgtheow tells the

12
story of his battle with Grendel: he emphasizes the monsters viciousness and the gifts he

received form Hrothgar. He then presents Hygelac with a great amount of the treasure given

to him by king of Danes, which includes suits of armour and four great horses. In return

Hygelac gives him a great deal of treasure and land of his own. The ceremonies in Hygelacs

hall seem to reflect growing friendship between Beowulf and his uncle, and growing respect

for a warrior who had previously been undervalued: He had been poorly regarded / for a long

time, was taken by the Geats / for less than he was worth (Beowulf 2183-2185).

This is an important step for Beowulf and an important part in his progression from

thane to king. For many years he serves his king faithfully until his death in combat in

Friesland, which Beowulf manages to survive thanks to his incredible strength and

extraordinary swimming ability, avenging his lords death in the process. The widowed queen

Hygd offers Beowulf the kingship because she knows that her young son is not able to rule.

The Geatish prince, however, politely declines because he does not want to disturb the line of

succession; instead he acts as a mentor to the young king until the latter also meets his doom

in battle against the Swedes. At last the son of Ecgtheow becomes king in his own right and

rules successfully for 50 prosperous years.

2.2 Beowulf as King

For many years, peace reigned in Geatland. Beowulf was a righteous king and because

of his renowned warrior reputation enemy tribes were hesitant to attack. But as already

mentioned, in this society inevitable doom is always around the corner, and Beowulf meets

his end in a battle with a fire-breathing monster. Just as Grendel terrorized the Danes, now the

venomous dragon reaps havoc in Geatland. Unlike Hrothgar, Beowulf takes on the dragon by

himself, although he is at that point older than Hrothgar was and far from his prime.

13
There are a few reasons why the son of Ecghteow reacts to this threat in such a

fashion. 50 years peace reigned throughout Geatland and Beowulf may be the only person

who had ever seen atrocities of warfare. The King of Geats sees this as an opportunity to go

out in the blaze of glory. He is perfectly aware that at one point he has to vanish from the face

of earth, and one last battle with a dragon is a perfect way for such a renowned warrior to go

out.

The battle with the dragon is Beowulf's last great challenge, and even before the fight

starts he knows that this will be his last: After many trials, / he was destined to face the end

of his days / in this mortal world; as was the dragon (Beowulf 2341-2343). Even in his old

age, the Geatish king is still courageous and boastful and boldly claims that he would be glad

to take on the dragon without the use of weapon, but this is a fire-breathing and venomous

monster so the use of shield and weaponry is inevitable: I would rather not use the weapon /

if I knew the other way / to grapple with the dragon and make good my boast / as I did against

against Grendel in days gone by (Beowulf 2518-2521).

Furthermore, the Geatish king assembles a group of eleven soldiers to accompany him

into the battle, instead of gathering a whole army. Although he is now aged and out of his

prime, son of Ecgtheow is still as proud as he ever was, and decides to take on the fire

breathing monster alone and orders his people to step aside. As his foe emerges from the

earth, most of Beowulf's companions run in terror, as these are the people who have never

seen the atrocities of warfare, except for Wiglaf who feels enough loyalty to come to his

king's aid. Wiglaf scorns the other warriors reminding them of their oaths and their duties

according to the Comitatus Code:

As God is my witness,
I would rather my body were robed in the same
burning blaze as my gold giver's body
than go back home bearing arms.

14
That is unthinkable, unless we have first
slain the foe and defended the life
of the prince of the Weather-Geats. I well know
the things he has done for us deserve better.
Should he alone be left exposed (Beowulf 2650-2658)

In a joint effort, Wiglaf and his king slay the foul monster, but Beowulf is fatally

wounded and soon he will perish form the face of earth, so he asks Wiglaf to show him the

treasure that the dragon was hiding. As Beowulf has no heir, this treasure will be his last gift

to his people. This battle was a test for Beowulfs thanes and only Wiglaf proves worthy of

the Geatish throne, so Beowulf names him his successor.

The great king dies in his last glorious battle as many kings had died before him, but

his death leaves a bittersweet taste in the mouth. Was it really necessary for Beowulf to take

on the dragon all by himself? Hrothgar faced the same threat, yet he did not act: he waited for

Beowulf to kill Grendel. Although there is a clear parallel between Beowulf and Hrothgar, as

both of them were great warriors and good kings and both of them faced the same threat to

their society, they have different ways of taking care of that threat. The main reason for this is

the era during which they reigned. In Hrotghars time there were many great warriors who

could get rid of Grendel so why should he get his hands dirty, he was old and no one expected

him to fight a demonic man eating monster. The King of Danes was a generous ring giver and

he showered with gifts those who could protect him. On the other hand, Beowulf had a

different approach and he weaved peace with enemy tribes due to his renowned warrior

reputation. For 50 years enemy tribes were hesitant to attack because of Beowulf and his

martial skills. The King of Geats was the only warrior left in his society and that is why he

had to fight the fire-breathing monster. His companions showed a great amount of disrespect

by fleeing the battleground, and that is not what a great king deserves. Having followed the

Comitatus Code throughout his entire life earns Beowulf everlasting glory, but in the end, by

15
following the same codex, he goes to his inevitable doom and leaves his people without

protection. Without their greatest warrior and king, Geatland is ripe for the taking.

In Beowulf, it is evident that Comitatus, on the one hand, works perfectly for the main

protagonist, but on the other hand, not so perfectly for other members of society. The prime

example of a flaw in the Comitatus comes from Beowulfs reputation. Because of his

renowned warrior reputation enemy tribes do not want to engage him in warfare, and without

wars there is no plundering, there is no gold, which leads to the slave stealing gold from the

dragons liar. By the time Beowulf perishes it is clear that the Comitatus has become archaic

and this Germanic warrior code symbolically dies with its greatest hero.

16
3. Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones is the first novel in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, which

to date consists of five books. Written by the American author, George R.R. Martin, the novel

recounts events from different points of view and from various places in the controversial

world of Westeros. Taking into consideration the nature of this literary work, which is a

fantasy novel, one cannot determine a timeline of events or historic context, but it is safe to

say that Martin's secondary world bears much resemblance to medieval Europe. The War of

the Roses and The Hundred Years' War both serve as source material for the family quarrels in

A Game of Thrones. Conflict is at the heart of the story: family feuds, internal conflict within

characters, the North against the South, the battle for the Iron Throne in which all the great

families in Westeros partake. Everything in A Game of Thrones is one big conflict.

George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones reveals not only a powerful sense of

drama, a rich setting, and complex characters, but an understanding that at the

heart of his story of any great story lies conflict. Martin often cites William

Faulkner's statement that the only story worth telling is that of of the human

heart in conflict with itself and that conflict appears again and again

throughout the Song of Ice and Fire series in a way that seemed unprecedented

in the epic fantasy genre back in 1996. (Garcia and Atonsson 9)

As often happens with modern fantasy, Martin acknowledges a great debt to Tolkien's

Lord of the Rings series, and it is widely considered that Tolkien set certain standards for the

future writers of fantasy. Unlike the clear-cut moral division in the world of Tolkiens Mordor,

the characters from the world of Westeros mostly reside in that moral grey area; many of them

are flawed heroes and there is no clear line between valiant knights and sinister villains.

3.1. Ned Stark


17
Perhaps the closest to being a morally upright character in the novel is Eddard Ned

Stark. He may also be the only major character in Game of Thrones who embodies the values

of the Comitatus Code. He is virtuous and dutiful and in many ways looks and acts like the

traditional hero of a story, which is not typical for George R.R. Martin, as many of his most

notable literary creations are flawed personas ready for any moral compromise every step of

the way, but Ned is certainly different in that perspective.

At the beginning of the story, Eddard is a devoted father of five legitimate children

and one bastard. He is also a loving husband, the Warden of the North and Lord of Winterfell.

The latter title is the one he never wanted, hoped for or expected, but in a series of unexpected

tragic events he becomes the Lord of Winterfell. Although he lost his brother, father and sister

in a short span of time, those utterly heart-crushing situations never made Ned question his

moral code and sense of duty. Moreover, Ned demonstrates his adherence to the code and

ones particularly ones duty to kin when, upon the death of his brother, he marries his

(Brandons) fiance.

Ned spends most of his life in the North among his own people where he is loved and

respected. He stays out of the political intrigues and court games that occur in the South of the

realm. He plays an important role in two wars, Robert's Rebellion and the Greyjoy Rebellion,

where he excels as an excellent war commander. Even at the very beginning of the story,

George R.R. Martin sets a brutal and gruesome tone for the rest of the novel. The first scene

that features Ned Stark has him beheading a deserter from the Nights Watch. Whether or not

he had a good reason to desert, a man who deserts his comrades is punished with execution.

Taking into consideration all that happened, the reader is left to decide if the deserters death

was truly just. Neds strong moral compass and sense of duty and tradition is evident: The

blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the belief that the

18
man who passes the sentence should swing the sword (Martin 13), adding that A ruler who

hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is (Martin 13).

Trouble arrives for the virtuous Stark in the form of the highest honour in Westeros.

He is appointed by his lifelong friend and now king, Robert Baratheon, to serve as the Hand

of the King. He arrives in King's Landing in the time of great trouble and political turmoil,

and as he spends more and more time in the capital, he starts to unfold layer by layer the

sinister plot of treason against the throne. His great sense of honour and duty and his refusal

to make any moral compromises cause his demise: You wear your honour like a suit of

armor, Stark. You think it keeps you safe, but all it does is weigh you down and make it hard

for you to move (Martin 344). All the characteristics that make Ned a true hero of the story

are put to the test during his time in the Westerosi capital.

Although he never became challenger to the Iron Throne, Ned Stark rose to

position of great power. A much different kind of leader than Viserys, Robert,

or Joffrey, Ned always made decisions with justice and fairness in mind. A

great warrior, and one of the story's most honorable characters, Ned was also a

skilled administrator, a good friend, and a virtuous person. Despite all of these

strengths, however, he is a prime example of how disastrous morality can be to

those who are involved in politics. (Schulzke 40)

During his short post as the Hand of the King, lord Eddard discovers that the previous

Hand, Jon Arryn, was murdered because of his inquiries about Robert's bastard children. It

turns out that Robert's legitimate children are the offspring of an incestuous relationship

between Queen Cersei and her brother Jaime Lannister. As honourable as he is, Ned offers

Cersei a way out, but the vicious queen had already plotted to murder Robert and capture

Lord Stark. He spends his last days in the dungeons beneath the Red Keep. While he awaits

19
his trial, he is offered a deal to confess his treason and in return take the black and spend the

rest of his life in the Night's Watch: You are an honest and honourable man, Lord Eddard.

Oftimes I forget that. I have met so few of them in my life When I see what honesty and

honor have won you, I understand why (Martin 433). People like Ned are a real rarity in this

society, and from his example readers can see why there are so few of them.

Although in the end, Eddard confesses to his sins in order to save his daughters who

were in the hands of the Lannisters at the time, it does not help him at all and he loses his

head. By thoroughly following his code of honour his entire life, the Lord of Winterfell rises

high in society. He is truly a successful and respected member of the community, but as soon

as he leaves the comfort zone and goes where the rules of his land do not apply, he finds

himself in trouble. By following the same code of honour, he gets himself killed because

When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground (Martin

334).

3.2. King and Lords relationship

Robert Baratheon is truly a great warrior but a terrible king. The battlefield is where

he excels and where he feels alive, while kingship is a whole different story: I swear to you, I

was never so alive as when I was winning this throne, or so dead now that I've won it

(Martin 211). In his youth he was tall, handsome, brave and fearless in combat. He won the

throne in a rebellion that was later named after him, and therefore dethrones the Targaryens

who ruled over Westeros for three hundred years.

Ned and Robert are great and lifelong friends, both of them being fostered at a young

age to Jon Arryn in the Vale, who later becomes a father figure to them. Lord Baratheon was

even betrothed to Stark's sister, the brave and beautiful Lyanna. It is the kidnapping of

Lyanna by the Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen that sparks the rebellion, and after a series of

20
tragic events and many battles, Robert becomes king. Although their relationship is one filled

with mutual affection and respect, often they do not have the same take on justice and what is

right and wrong. One of these situations comes right after the sacking of King's Landing when

Robert is presented with the mutilated bodies of princess Elia Martell and her children. Ned

immediately bursts into anger and calls it a crime and murder, while Robert responds I see

no babies, only dragon spawn (Martin 79). This particular event causes great strife between

the two of them, but later they are reunited in mutual grief when Lyanna dies.

Ned answers Robert's plea and follows him into battle two times, the first one in order

to take the crown and the second one to establish and prolong his reign. By the time the novel

starts, Robert is a shadow of the man he once was: The king was a great disappointment to

Jon. His father had talked of him often: the peerless Robert Baratheon, demon of the Trident,

the fiercest warrior of the realm, a giant among princes. Jon only saw a fat man, red faced

under his beard, sweating through his silks (Martin 35). Robert turns to Eddard a broken

man, unhealthy and with no one he can rely on. Ned answers his plea one last time and

becomes the Hand of the King showing his loyalty to his king and one could say kin. Later on

we discover that the crown is in great debt due to Robert's lavish and extravagant lifestyle; the

king feasted and drank while the Hand of the King ran the realm. Robert's rule is truly a

disaster and Ned comes too late to save his position. Although both of them are larger-than-

life characters, they meet their end in a game that is even bigger than these two legendary

personas. In this society, no one is safe, and the two most important people in the realm fall

like dominos by the end of the first book.

21
Conclusion

Following the Comitatus Code is a path full of hardship and many trials, but it is also a

way of life that ensures respect and greatness. The characters from these literary works fall

into this category: they are truly honourable and great in every aspect of their life, and their

paths are full of many challenges. For Beowulf those are mostly physical endeavours while

for Ned it is a battle of character and staying true to his codex in a wicked and backstabbing

society.

On many occasions our heroes are offered an easy path to success. For

example, Beowulf is offered kingship after the death of his king, but instead of seizing the

opportunity he serves as a mentor to Hygelac's son and does not disturb the line of succession.

Ned could have also taken the throne for himself after the rebellion, since he was the first one

to arrive after the sacking of King's Landing, but instead he waited for Robert who had a

better claim to the throne.

Certainly this Germanic warrior code can be contradictory and can cause a so-called

Comitatus Paradox. A prime example of that comes from Game of Thrones in the form of

the infamous Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister. He is a member of the Kingsguard and is sworn to

protect his king at all costs, but the king is a mad man who burns people alive and hears

voices in his head. Jaime's father sacks the city while he is with the Mad King, the king orders

him to kill his father, and he also wants to burn the whole city to the ground and kill

thousands of innocent people. The options for Jaime are either to become a kingslayer or a

kinslayer and in the process be responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

From this example we can see the tension that can arise from duty to kin/king, obviously a

major flaw in the Comitatus.

22
All in all, there is a great amount of justice in following the Comitatus Code for our

heroes, and that justice comes in the form of eternal rewards; the respect they earn

throughout their life can only be achieved by obeying this codex. Blindly following Comitatus

earns them everlasting glory but also causes their own demise, which is the greatest irony of

all.

23
Saetak

Comitatus je germanski ratniki kodeks asti a ono to ga razlikuje od nekog drugog

kodeksa je povezanost izmeu vladara i njegovih podanika. Naime veza izmeu njih se bazira

na meusobnom potivanju i prijateljstvu, to nije uobiajeno u odnosu vladara prema svojim

ljudima. Likovi koji su obraeni dolaze iz staroengleskog epa Beowulfa i knjige Game of

Thrones amerikog pisca George R.R. Martina.

Staroengleski ep o mitskom junaku Beowulfu moe posluiti kao ogledni primjerak

Comitatusa u knjievnosti. Naime ovaj kodeks asti je glavni pokreta radnje. Dok u Game of

Thrones ovaj kodeks asti nema moda toliko vanu ulogu, no ipak postoje vani likovi za

tijek radnje koji ga se pridravaju.

Ovaj rad se veinom bazira na ivotu i djelu Beowulfa i Neda Starka. U mnogim

aspektima ova dva lika su slina; obojica ive astan i poten ivot, odgovaraju na zahtjeve

svojih kraljeva, potuju obitelj i ljude oko sebe, i obojici je ivot ispunjen mnogim kunjama i

izazovima. Dok su za Beowulfa ti izazovi veinom fizike naravi, za Neda su oni veinom

psihike prirode. Beowulf je u konstantnoj borbi protiv prirode i za njega opasnost vreba u

obliku zlih demona i zmajeva, dok za Neda borba dolazi iznutra, on je primoran da odbaci

svoj kodeks i sve ono u to vjeruje kako bi spasio svoju obitelj.

Obojica e biti upamena kao istinski heroji. Ono to je ironino je injenica da im je

status heroja omoguio Comitatus, a i isto tako slijedei taj isti kodeks su ili u neizbjenu

smrt.

24
Works Cited

Beowulf. Trans. E. Talbot Donaldson. Ed. Nicholas Howe. Norton. 2001. Irwin, William and

Henry Jacoby, eds. Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic cuts deeper than Swords.

John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

Martin, George R. R. A Game of Thrones. Bantam Books, 2011.

Schulzke, Marcus. Playing the Game of Thrones: Some Lessons from Machiavelli. Irwin

and Jacoby, pp. 33-48.

Tolkien, J. R. R. Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, George Allen & Unwin, 1997.

25

Оценить