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Why Mothers Are The Unsung Heroes Of The Game Of Thrones Universe

Within the universe of "Game of Thrones," there's plenty of heroes to be found — bastard turned secret royal Jon Snow (Kit Harington), righteously vengeful Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), and even the fatally moralistic Ned Stark (Sean Bean). Sure, this franchise has antiheroes, evildoers who embark on series-long redemption arcs, and a handful of straight-up sociopaths, but it's also stocked with traditional good guys. In terms of fighting for those they love, though, and accomplishing quite a lot in the process, there's one category of "Game of Thrones" and "House of the Dragon" characters that looms over the other: moms.

Look at literally any mother in Westeros, and you'll see a character who will stop at absolutely nothing to protect those she loves — specifically, her children. Interpersonal relationships in the Seven Kingdoms don't usually go particularly smoothly, so in this fraught world, it feels okay that, rather than putting the men in their lives above all else, these women prioritize their children. When it comes to the women of Westeros, motherhood clearly instills some serious drive into these ladies — so let's take a deep dive into each of these champion moms and see the lengths they'll go to in order to protect their young.

Catelyn Stark

Ned Stark might be the leader of the wolfpack, but Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) is the one really running the show... especially after Ned loses his head in King's Landing. As the sole remaining parent, Catelyn is indispensable to her eldest son Robb Stark (Richard Madden) as he becomes a major player in the War of the Five Kings, fighting as justice for Ned's head against the powerful Lannisters. More shrewd and experienced than her headstrong warrior of a son, Catelyn works tirelessly to support and counsel him, but even so, she ends up thwarting Robb... for the sake of her daughters. Believing that Arya and Sansa are in Lannister hands — Arya has escaped King's Landing by this point, but Sansa is a captive of the Lannisters — she frees Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) from captivity as a trade for her daughters. (This does not pan out.)

Ultimately, Catelyn can't stop Robb from making the decision that will be his downfall — specifically, to marry Talisa (Oona Chaplin) rather than stick to his promise to wed a daughter of Walder Frey (David Bradley). This leads directly to the Red Wedding, one of the most infamous events in the history of television, and Catelyn is slaughtered alongside her son... though she spends her last minutes begging them to spare Robb, and kills one of Walder Frey's daughters in retribution before her own throat is slit.

Cersei Lannister

Cersei Lannister is, undoubtedly, one of the most finely-tuned villains in all of television, but it's easy to forget that her villainy is usually used to protect her children. After producing three conspicuously blonde children "with" her brunette husband, King Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) — they're actually the product of incest with her twin brother Jaime — Cersei does whatever she needs to not just keep her children safe, but install them in seats of major power. Her horrible eldest son, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), takes the Iron Throne and immediately starts a war by executing Ned, the lone person in King's Landing who's willing to overlook that Joffrey clearly isn't Robert's kid.

Unfortunately for Cersei, she's got a prophecy to contend with: as a child, she's told that all three of her children will die, and she doesn't escape that fate. Joffrey gets murdered at his own wedding, Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) is assassinated by the Sand Snakes, and Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), who takes the throne after Joffrey, nopes on out of a window after Cersei kills his wife Margaery (Natalie Dormer). Cersei's sharp edges don't exactly dull after losing all three of her kids, but it's relatively clear that she has less to fight for without her incest babies in the picture. In the final season of the show, it's heavily implied that Cersei is pregnant, but much like so many other questions introduced in that infamous season, that mystery was never solved.

Daenerys Targaryen

Sometimes, you don't need actual human children to be a mother, and when it comes to Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), all she needs is three fire-breathing dragons. When "Game of Thrones" gets going, Daenerys is married off like chattel to the deeply intimidating Dothraki horse lord Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), and though their marriage is rough at first, they end up forming a real bond. Eventually, Daenerys gets pregnant, and Drogo is delighted, declaring that she carries the "stallion who mounts the world."

When Drogo ends up seriously ill from blood poisoning, however, Daenerys makes a dangerous trade with a dubious healer, exchanging her unborn baby's life for her husband's. It's a pretty raw deal in that Drogo goes fully catatonic and the baby dies anyway, but when she plunges herself into Drogo's funeral pyre, Daenerys gets three baby dragons out of the fire, which, in her own words, become her "children." Despite the fact that a vengeful witch probably doesn't have a great grasp on Daenerys' childbearing potential, she goes through the rest of the series under the assumption that she cannot have biological children, and never does, instead adopting the moniker "Mother of Dragons." Daenerys' dragons are an enormous part of her, and there's no question that she doesn't see them as her kids; when one is taken down by the Night King and another by Lannister-aligned forces, it basically breaks her for good... although the fact that she does a genocide with her remaining dragon is still pretty indefensible.

Alicent Hightower

"Game of Thrones" had plenty of powerful moms, and "House of the Dragon," its spinoff and prequel focused on the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, features two front and center. In one corner, representing the "Green" faction of the aforementioned dance, we have Queen Alicent Hightower (Olivia Cooke), now widowed wife of King Viserys I Targaryen (Paddy Considine) and mother of three young Targaryen royals. Furious with her royal rival Rhaenyra (Emma D'Arcy) — Viserys' daughter and the named heir to the Iron Throne — due to the fact that Alicent (correctly) assumes Rhaenyra's three eldest children are borne out of wedlock, Alicent is also constantly pushed into promoting her oldest son Aegon (Tom Glynn-Carney) as a better option for an heir. Though she's resistant at first, she is still viciously protective of her children, especially when one incident leaves her younger son Aemond (Ewan Mitchell) without one of his eyes.

After a brawl that results in Aemond losing an eye, Alicent steals a knife from the then-alive Viserys and flies at Rhaenyra, ready to attack her after initially demanding that Rhaenyra's own son lose an eye in retribution. Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned, and Alicent is clear in her message: mess with my kids, and I'll come after you without hesitation.

Rhaenyra Targaryen

In the other corner, we've got Rhaenyra, who, despite reservations in her younger years about having children, ends up as a pretty prolific mother; she even opens the sixth episode of the series in the middle of childbirth. That said, Rhaenyra's eldest three children — Jacaerys (Harry Collett), Lucarys (Elliott Grihault), and Joffrey — are controversial throughout court, thanks to the fact that they are very obviously not the children of Rhaenyra's first husband Laenor Velaryon (John Macmillan), and are instead the issue of the now deceased Ser Harwin Strong (Ryan Corr).

Rhaenyra goes on to have three more young children with her second husband who's also her uncle, Daemon Targaryen (Matt Smith), but it's her relationship with Ser Harwin's children that has defined her time on "House of the Dragon." Even though everyone is technically correct that Rhaenyra's children are bastards, she's ready to go to bat for them at a moment's notice, constantly defending their rights to inherit family properties and marrying them to the daughters of the Velaryon clan to strengthen the bond between the two houses. Rhaenyra might not have wanted to be a mother at first, but she's a damn good one when push comes to shove.