The queer stories of Fire and Blood

“Dear companion”, “friend”, “favourite”, “her true love”, “lover”… There are many terms used to describe queer relationships in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, some of them more explicit than others. In honour of Pride Month, I decided to take a deep-dive into the queer characters of Fire and Blood, to see how queerness is presented in this in-world history book. Since this book is written from a maester’s perspective, it provides an interesting opportunity to examine what might be considered the sort of general views on sexuality and queerness in Westeros. Therefore, I will here analyse how queer sexualities are portrayed in Fire and Blood and compare that to how sexuality was understood and described historically in our world.

But first of all, what examples of queer sexuality are there in Fire and Blood? Well, there are quite a few, but for the purposes of this essay I will focus on Rhaena Targaryen and Laenor Velaryon (and their respective lovers), while also briefly touching on Jeyne Arryn, Sabitha Frey, and Alysanne “Black Aly” Blackwood. I will begin by describing their stories before shifting over to discussing the history of sexuality in our world, and then finally asking myself what this all says about how queer sexualities are perceived in ASOIAF and how it compares to our world.

The queer canon

Rhaena Targaryen, daughter to king Aenys I, was described as a quiet child. She preferred spending time with her dragon to for instance coming to court. Fire and Blood also describe how she found her “favourites” at an early age, and that at age twelve:

(…) Rhaena made her first true friend in the person of her cousin Larissa Velaryon. For a time the two girls were inseparable… Until Larissa was suddenly recalled to Driftmark to be wed to the second son of the Evenstar of Tarth. The young are nothing if not resilient, however, and the princess soon found a new companion in the Hand’s daughter, Samantha Stokeworth.

(“Three Heads Had the Dragon: Governance under King Aegon I”, page 57 of Fire and Blood)

From this quote we can infer that Rhaena and Larissa had some sort of close relationship, perhaps a teen romance of sorts, which was ended when Larissa was married off suddenly. It also seems possible that Larissa was married off so suddenly because of Rhaena and Larissa’s relationship. However, Rhaena did find a new partner in Samantha Stokeworth, and this relationship would continue for many years to come. Something else worth noting about this time is that further on in Fire and Blood, it is remarked upon that Rhaena’s mother, Alyssa, was aware that there were rumours about Rhaena’s close relationship to her companion. Alyssa was therefore keen to prevent the same to happen to Rhaena’s sister Alysanne:

Her sister Rhaena’s penchant for showering an unseemly amount of affection and attention on a succession of favourites, some of whom were considered less than suitable, had been the source of much whispering at court, and the queen did not want Alysanne to be the subject of similar rumors.

(“A Surfeit of Rulers”, page 154 of Fire and Blood)

It is not entirely clear exactly what rumours surrounded Rhaena, but it seems as if her closeness to her female “companions” was seen as unseemly generally speaking. Rhaena did have many so-called “favourites” through both her youth and later life. These included the previously mentioned Larissa Velaryon and Samantha Stokeworth, but some other ones mentioned are Alayne Royce, Melony Piper, Lianna Velaryon, Cassella Staunton, and of course Elissa Farman. But even while Rhaena had all these “favourites”, she still married a man, her brother Aegon, aka Aegon the uncrowned. With him she had two children, the twins Rhaella and Aerea. However, Aegon was killed by his uncle Maegor the Cruel, and Rhaena had to flee. For a while she hid on Fair Isle, where she had some allies, but eventually Rhaena was forced to marry Maegor (partly due to threat to her daughters). After some time of further warring, Maegor was finally ousted as a king and Rhaena’s younger brother Jaehaerys claimed the throne. Rhaena then returned to Fair Isle, and married the second son of house Farman, Androw. However, it is said that while Rhaena found her “true love” on Fair Isle, that love was not Androw but his sister Elissa Farman. It is noted that Elissa’s father had wanted Elissa to marry, but that she had “scared off” any suitors. She was quite obviously more content to spend her time with women.

For a time, Rhaena resided on Fair Isle with her husband and a number of her so-called “favourites”. In fact, Rhaena and her companions (Samantha Stokeworth, Alayne Royce, and Elissa Farman) was sometimes called “the Four-Headed Beast” because of their closeness. Eventually, however, they had overstayed their welcome, and were forced to move. Through negotiations with her brother, the king, Rhaena got possession of Dragonstone and moved there with her ladies. After a while on Dragonstone, Elissa Farman got restless, however, and after arguing with Rhaena she ended up sailing off (stealing some dragon eggs in the process). Not long after, tragedy struck Rhaena and her partners again, when Androw Farman in an incel-like move decided to poison all Rhaena’s ladies out of anger and jealousy. After Rhaena finally found out what he had did, he decided to kill himself. After his death, Rhaena fed his body to her dragon. However, Rhaena’s life didn’t exactly improve after that, in fact it continued being quite tragic. Her daughter, Aerea, wasn’t content staying on Dragonstone, and argued fiercely with her mother about this. Eventually she decided to fly off on Balerion. This ended in tragedy, with her eventually returning gravely wounded and dying. After all this tragedy, losing her partners and child, Rhaena’s sister Alysanne had this advice to give:

‘You are still a young woman. If you like, we could find some kind and gentle lord who would cherish you as we do. You could have other children.’ This only served to bring a snarl to Rhaena’s lips. She snatched her hand away from the queen’s and said: ‘I fed my last husband to my dragon. If you make me take another, I may eat him myself.’

(“Jaehaerys and Alysanne: Their Triumphs and Tragedies”, page 253 of Fire and Blood)

And so, it happened that Rhaena instead retired to Harrenhal, where she lived out her life in solitude.

Moving forward into the future, I would next like to turn to Rhaena’s great-great-great-nephew, Laenor Velaryon. Laenor was the son of Rhaenys the Queen Who Never Was (but should’ve been!) and Corlys Velaryon and was betrothed and later married to Rhaenyra Targaryen. When the match was proposed some objections were raised, as Fire and Blood tells us:

Laenor Velaryon was now nineteen years of age, yet had never shown any interest in women. Instead he surrounded himself with handsome squires of his own age, and was said to prefer their company. But Grand Maester Mellos dismissed this concern out of hand. ‘What of it?’ he said. ‘I do not like the taste of fish, but when fish is served, I eat it.’

(“Heirs of the Dragon: A Question of Succession”, page 372 of Fire and Blood)

It seems as if Rhaenyra had heard the same tales of Laenor, because she was against the match as well:

The princess knew much and more about Laenor Velaryon, and had no wish to be his bride. ‘My half-brothers would be more to his taste,’ she told the king.

(“Heirs of the Dragon: A Question of Succession”, page 372 of Fire and Blood)

What Laenor’s views on the subject was is not mentioned, but nonetheless, the two were married after pressure from the king. During the tournament to celebrate their wedding, Ser Criston Cole (rumoured former lover of Rhaenyra) decided to target both Ser Harwin Strong (rumoured to be Rhaenyra’s new lover) and Ser Joffrey Lonmouth (Laenor’s “favourite”). This resulted in the death of Ser Joffrey, albeit not until after he had lingered for several days in unconsciousness. Fire and Blood notes how Laenor spent every hour of those days beside him and wept bitterly when he finally passed.

Ser Joffrey was, however, not Laenor’s last partner that is recorded in Fire and Blood. It is mentioned that he eventually found a “new favourite” in a household knight called Ser Qarl Correy. Furthermore, it’s noted that Laenor apparently seldom shared the bed of his wife:

Septon Eustace says they shared a bed no more than a dozen times. Mushroom concurs, but adds that Qarl Correy oft shared that bed as well; it aroused the princess to watch the men disporting with one another, he tells us and from time to time they would include her in their pleasures. Yet Mushroom contradicts himself, for elsewhere in Testimony he claims that the princess would leave her husband with his lover on such nights and seek her own solace in the arms of Harwin Strong.

(“Heirs of the Dragon: A Question of Succession”, page 373 of Fire and Blood)

While the account given here is contradictory, this is by far the most explicit reference to queer sexuality in Fire and Blood, with words such as “disporting”, “pleasure”, and “lover” being used. As hinted at in this quote, Laenor and his wife Rhaenyra were never very physically intimate, yet they seem to have had some sort of mutual understanding regarding this. They did have three children during their marriage, Jacaerys, Lucearys, and Joffrey (many suspected these children were actually the children of Harwin Strong). According to Fire and Blood, the youngest child was named Joffrey as tribute of Laenor’s former “favourite”. Unfortunately, even if this seemed to be a happy-ish arrangement, Laenor did not get a happy ending. He was killed by “his friend and companion” Ser Qarl Correy after the two had been “quarrelling loudly” according to Fire and Blood. The motive for the killing remains unclear, with sources differing. Mushroom suggests that Ser Qarl was payed to kill Laenor, perhaps by Daemon Targaryen. Septon Eustace suggests that jealousy Ser Qarl’s motive and that: “Laenor Velaryon had grown weary of Ser Qarl’s companionship and grown enamoured by a new favourite, a handsome squire of six-and-ten.” (“The Heirs of the Dragon: A Question of Succession”, page 379 of Fire and Blood)

Even after his death, the rumours surrounding Laenor’s sexuality would play a role in the politics of Westeros, however. Part of this was of course the fact that most people doubted that Rhaenyra’s children were by Laenor. This was used as an argument against Rhaenyra claiming the throne. Fire and Blood also describes another way that Laenor’s sexuality was used as propaganda against his side of the family, when describing how Ser Criston Cole argued against Rhaenyra claiming the throne after king Viserys’ death. Cole mainly focused on the unfitness of Rhaenyra and her second husband, Daemon Targaryen, but he also hints at his views on Laenor:

Ser Criston Cole spoke up. Should the princess reign, he reminded them, Jacaerys Velaryon would rule after her. ‘Seven save this realm if we seat a bastard on the Iron Throne.’ He spoke of Rhaenyra’s wanton ways, and the infamy of her husband. ‘They will turn the Red Keep into a brothel. No man’s daughter will be safe, nor any man’s wife. Even the boys… we know what Laenor was.’

(“The Dying of the Dragons: The Blacks and the Greens”, page 396 of Fire and Blood)

It’s interesting to note here that Cole suggests that Laenor was interested in “boys”. I’ll get back to this later when I do further analysing, but it is worth noting that the rest of Fire and Blood doesn’t really provide much evidence of him being interested in “boys.” Before his marriage to Rhaenyra, when he was 19, it is said he enjoyed the company of squires of his own age. Both of his named lovers, Ser Joffrey Lonmouth and Ser Qarl Correy seems to be of his own age. The only instance that would suggest an interest in “boys” is if we believe Septon Eustace theory about Ser Qarl’s reason for killing Laenor, that he had found a new favourite in a sixteen old squire. Laenor would have been 26 himself at this time, so as modern readers we might very well think this age gap is inappropriate. However, it seems unlikely that the characters of ASOIAF would think such a difference was problematic if it was a heterosexual relationship. So, it seems more likely that Cole is just accusing Laenor of being predatory because Cole is bigoted.

Before wrapping up this description of queer sexualities in Fire and Blood, I want to discuss some of the queer women that we meet during The Dance of the Dragons. One of these is Lady Jeyne Arryn, who was also referred to as The Maiden of the Vale. When the Dance begins, she was thirty-five, unwed, and the ruler of the Vale. Early during the conflict, Prince Jacaerys went to treat with her, and the sources differ in their description of this:

Mushroom tells us that this famous maiden was in fact a highborn harlot with a voracious appetite for men, and gives us a salacious tale of how she offered Prince Jacaerys the allegiance of the Vale only if he could bring her to climax with his tongue. Septon Eustace repeats the widespread rumour that Jeyne Arryn preferred the intimate companionship of other women, then goes on to say it is not true.

(“The Dying of the Dragons: A Song for a Son”, page 415 of Fire and Blood)

It seems more likely that Jeyne and Jacaerys came to a diplomatic agreement, as is suggested by Grand Maester Munkun, but it is interesting to note these two differing accounts of Lady Jeyne’s sexuality. We are not told much more about Jeyne Arryn’s sexuality through the book, besides the fact that she never married, and this telling passage about her death:

Forty years of age, she perished in the Motherhouse of Meris on its stony island in the harbour of Gulltown, wrapped in the arms of Jessamyn Redfort, her ‘dear companion.’

(“The Lysene Spring and the End of the Regency”, page 669 of Fire and Blood)

Here we again see that she had a female “companion”, familiar language at this point. Lady Jeyne Arryn was not the only queer woman on that side of The Dance, however:

Amongst their supporters were two extraordinary women. Alysanne Blackwood, called Black Aly, a sister to the late Lord Samwell Blackwell, and thus aunt to Bloody Ben, and Sabitha Frey, the Lady of the Twins, the widow of Lord Forrest Frey and mother to his heir, a ‘sharp-featured sharp-tongued harridan of House Vypern, who would sooner ride than dance, wore mail instead of silk, and was fond of killing men and kissing women’, according to Mushroom.

(“Aftermath: The Hour of the Wolf”, page 572 of Fire and Blood)

In this passage we learn a few interesting things about Sabitha Frey in particular, for instance that she had been married to a man, had a child, yet liked to kiss women (and enjoyed more masculine coded pursuits in general). Later, we find out a bit more about Black Aly and her connection to Sabitha:

Huntress, horse-breaker, and archer without peer, Black Aly had little of a woman’s softness about her. Many thought her to be of that same ilk as Sabitha Frey, for they were oft in one another’s company, and had been known to share a tent whilst on the march. Yet in King’s Landing, whilst accompanying her young nephew Benjicot at court and council, she had met Cregan Stark and conceived a liking for the stern northman.

(“Aftermath: The Hour of the Wolf”, page 586 of Fire and Blood)

This suggests that Black Aly had a relationship with Sabitha Frey, and that people thought they were both gay (being of the same “ilk”), but that this was considered disproven when she eventually started her relationship with Cregan Stark. Black Aly did eventually marry Cregan and had several children with him.

The queer history of our world

So, now that we have discussed some of the queer people in Fire and Blood, how does that compare to (depictions of) queer sexuality during the Middle Ages in our world? Well, what we must first realise is that people have conceptualised both sex/gender, sexuality, and sexual acts differently through the world and its history. For the purposes of this essay, I will mainly focus on Europe since that’s the main inspiration for ASOIAF, but even in Europe, the understanding of sexuality has varied widely historically. During Ancient Greece, for instance, it was considered perfectly acceptable for an adult free Athenian-born man to have sex with anyone from a lower social status than him as long as he was the active (penetrative) party (Mottier 2008, 9). So, he could sleep with women, but also slaves and immigrants of any gender, and younger men. A man who broke this norm in some way, however, was seen as abdicating his position as a man, and actually risked losing his citizen status. Interestingly enough, the Ancient Greeks didn’t have as many opinions about female queer sexuality (it’s not recorded as much at least). The notable exception is of course the descriptions that can be found in the poet Sappho’s work, which often describes love between women (Mottier 2008, 12). To the extent male writers of this time discussed women having sex with women, it was mostly in disapproving or contemptuous ways.

With the further influence of Christianity on Europe came new sexuality norms, however. Generally speaking, sex was seen as sinful, especially because its connection to “original sin” and humanity’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Mottier 2008, 18). However, the Church would accept sexual intercourse within the space of the marriage, but only for reproductive purposes. This generally led to same-sex relationships being condemned, but through the Middle Ages it varied widely how much people engaging in such relationships were actually punished (Mottier 2008, 22). In fact, one could argue that the Middle Ages were a better place to live as a queer person compared to later historical periods. As researcher William E. Burgwinkle puts it:

Though it might surprise many, the Middle Ages are emerging as a kind of queer utopia, a historical period in which institutional state regulation as we know it hardly existed, in which marriage practices were not yet controlled entirely either by state or church and varied widely by class and region, in which same-sex segregation was a norm, particularly in intellectual communities, and in which love stories between men were common, if covert. Texts, both literary and historical, actually spoke of same-sex eroticism, albeit it in a derogatory way, referring to such relations as sodomy, bougrerie, or heresy. Over the course of 1000 years, (c. 500–1500), when almost any sexual act or impulse which did not focus on sex exclusively in terms of procreative potential was branded as sodomitical, all readers conveniently find themselves in the same crowded boat, cast out one and all as sodomites. When that sodomite’s every thought is ripe for interrogation, as we see in many of the major penitentials and theological works, we arrive, however proleptically, at that magic moment when the inviolable modern status of hetero and homo as polar opposites simply dissolves. (2006, 79)

What is interesting to note here is that while same-sex relationships would be seen as sodomitical, so would a variety of sexual acts between men and women. Furthermore, as mentioned previously, it varied quite a lot how harshly these norms would be enforced by either the state or the church. Something else worth noting that Burgwinkle mentions is that based on a lot of historical records, it seems as if people engaging in same-sex relationships were mostly described as committing a sinful act, similar to other acts one could commit. As famous French philosopher Michel Foucault put it when discussing the history of sexuality; before the 18th century, the sodomite was seen as someone who committed a specific sinful or criminal act, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the homosexual started to be conceptualised as a specific type of person (Foucault 2002 [1976], 64). This modern view of homosexuality saw the homosexual person as someone with stable identifiable characteristics, someone who could be classified (or diagnosed) by psychologists or sexologists. The sodomite of medieval times was just someone suspected of a forbidden act, possibly a repeat offender, but that was it. But the homosexual of modern times was a type of person, a part of a different species, as Foucault puts it. However, just because we in contemporary times tend to see sexuality more as a stable identity, and conceptualise it in terms of psychology, biology, etc, doesn’t mean the older ways have been completely rejected (Mottier 2008, 48). People still discuss sex/sexuality through moral and religious lenses and see same-sex desires as something you can, and should, just chose to not act on, to avoid doing a morally wrong act. These different conceptualisations of sexuality exist parallel to each other.

Similarly, some researchers have questioned if we can be sure that all people during the Middle Ages understood sexuality in the same way, as act, not identity (eg. Goldberg & Menon 2005; Roelens 2017). It’s important to remember that what can be gleaned from official sources such as court documents or other written historical accounts might be very different from what everyday peasants thought, for instance. One fascinating example of this is described in an article by Jonas Roelens, which examines the sodomy trial in the town of Bruges (in what is now Belgium) in 1618 during which two women were accused of several sexual and moral transgressions. Roelens argues that, based on the court transcripts, it seems as these women saw their sexuality as a more stable form of identity than one might expect. As he says:

While I do not want to portray Mayken and Magdaleene as “premodern lesbians,” I do want to highlight that there have always been individuals who preferred same-sex relations over “heterosexual” ones and were very much aware of this long before the “homosexual as a species,” to use the theorist Michel Foucault’s resonant phrase, came into existence. (ibid, 12)

So, while society at large might not have understood queer sexualities as some sort of fixed identity, individual people might have understood themselves like that. Roelens also points out that this trial is interesting because it concerns two women, which gives some insight into contemporary understanding of female sodomites, or rather how difficult it was for society to understand such people. Many people had a hard time imagining how two women could have sex with each other, and to wrap their heads around it some even imagined that one of the women had to be a “hermaphrodite” or possibly possessed by the devil. As Roelens notes, this difficulty of understanding sex between women also led to Medieval societies generally focusing less on female sodomites than male sodomites, since it was assumed that sex must involve penetration, so sex between women wasn’t fully recognised. Therefore, sodomy trials involving women were generally less common, even if they did exist. Furthermore, as discussed above, male sodomy wasn’t prosecuted at all times either (Mottier 2008, 22). How problematic male sodomy was perceived to be depended in large part on the circumstances; for instance, sexual relations between a king and his lover was seen as problematic, but a similar relationship between men of other social classes might not condemned in the same way (Burgwinkle 2006). In the case that Roelens describes, it seems as if the trial occurred partly because the situation became a very public affair (one of the women’s husband told the court about it after he was accused of horse stealing, and rumours were spreading through the area). The accused sodomy had also interfered in married life, with one of the women leaving her husband for her lover. This is in line with how Medieval courts often focused on crimes that somehow disrupted the norms of marriage (Foucault 2002 [1976], 60).

The queer analysis

So, how does the queerness in Fire and Blood compare to our world? I think the first thing worth pointing out is that Fire and Blood seems to be using a modern conceptualisation of sexuality, rather than a medieval one. I say this because it seems as if queer sexuality is seen more as something that is indicative of someone’s identity than just as an immoral/illegal act. To paraphrase Foucault; in Fire and Blood queer people are seen as part of a species, not just repeat offenders. This can be seen in several instances, for instance in how people viewed Laenor’s sexuality. It seems quite clear that most people were convinced he was only interested in men, as Rhaenyra said for instance:

The princess knew much and more about Laenor Velaryon, and had no wish to be his bride. ‘My half-brothers would be more to his taste,’ she told the king.

(“Heirs of the Dragon: A Question of Succession”, page 372 of Fire and Blood)

Most people seemed to view his sexuality as a sort of stable characteristic of him as a person, not just seeing his sexual behaviour as wrongful acts. The notable exception is Grand Maester Mellos, who argued that even if someone doesn’t like fish, they can eat it when served. But that more seems to be a result of him being ignorant and homophobic than it being indicative of how sexuality is generally perceived. As mentioned previously, it is also possible that several different conceptualisations exist parallel in a society, and even in our world we see people making similar arguments as Grand Maester Mellos, that someone should just choose not to be queer. Another instance that indicates that sexuality is conceptualised similarly to our modern view is when Ser Criston Cole argues that Laenor was a danger to boys, saying that “we know what Laenor was.” (“The Dying of the Dragons: The Blacks and the Greens”, page 396 of Fire and Blood) This quite obviously casts Laenor as a specific type of person with specific identifiable characteristics. What Cole says here also clearly plays into the stereotype of seeing gay men as predators, and a danger to children (eg. Mottier 2008, 107). This idea is quite new historically speaking and is in large part of conservative anti-gay propaganda from the 1980s. That is to say, while both the paedophile and the homosexual person were seen as problematic before then, they were not connected to each other in the minds of the public until quite recently. This very idea relies on seeing queer people as a specific type of person with specific traits, which then these bigots argue include being a predator.

When it comes to the queer women, I would argue that they too are seen as part of a specific type of people. The clearest example of this is how Sabitha Frey is described, with it being said that she preferred kissing women, and people speculating that Black Aly was of “the same ilk” as Sabitha. Sabitha being of a specific ilk indicates that people see her sexuality as a stable characteristic. Black Aly is clearly suspected of the same, but this is seemingly dismissed after she gets into a relationship with Cregan Stark. I would argue that this is an example of how bisexual people are often seen as stopping being queer if they get into a heterosexual relationship, which is of course untrue. But that the people of Fire and Blood assumes this does once again indicates that queer people are seen as a specific type of people, if Black Aly can be seen as not being part of that type of people. When it comes to Jeyne Arryn, it is interesting to note how she’s accused of two different types of sexual “misconduct” by Fire and Blood; Mushroom says she was a highborn “harlot” who slept with men, while Septon Eustace notes the rumour that she preferred the intimate companionship women. Both of these behaviours would be seen as sinful in the eyes of the medieval church of our world, and most likely the Faith in Westeros too. But regardless, the description of Jeyne preferring the intimate companionship of women once again points to sexuality as a stable preference and characteristic. It is interesting to compare this to Rhaena; Rhaena is consistently described as being closer to her “favourites” than her male partners, and Fire and Blood clearly outlines how she had female partners since she was a teenager. This indicates that her sexuality is seen as consistent, a part of her identity, that she’s not just seen as a repeat sodomite. However, we do not find not the same descriptions of her sexual behaviour as with the other characters I’ve mentioned, nothing about kissing women, having intimate companionship with them, or having same-sex lovers (as with Laenor). One possible explanation for Rhaena’s sexuality being less explicitly described than for instance Laenor’s could be that queer women’s sexuality have generally been less understood than queer men’s sexuality (Roelens 2017). Sex between women were simply not recognised as sex, as people assumed that sex must include penetration. As a contrast, Laenor is described as having a lover and it is quite clear that he slept with men. Sabitha Frey is described as kissing women, but I would still argue that this is less explicit than Laenor being described as “disporting” with his lover. It does seem as if description of queer women’s relationships focuses more on their companionships than their sexual acts, which is described more explicitly with queer men.

Another interesting aspect to note is the degree same-sex relationships are prosecuted legally in Fire and Blood. In my reading, I could find no instances of someone being prosecuted or convicted of anything relating to having a same-sex relationship, and this would be a contrast to medieval times in our world. The podcast Learned Hands came to the same conclusion in one of their episodes, noting that it doesn’t seem as if same-sex relationships are illegal in Westeros (2020). However, as they point out, this doesn’t mean they aren’t stigmatized, and it does not mean that they are protected by the law. It does seem like the Faith of the Seven would disapprove of same-sex relationships since they think sex should happen between one man and one woman in order to produce children, as Learned Hands point out in that same episode. But as we learn in Fire and Blood, the Faith loose the right to put people on trial quite early in the Targaryen regime. So, it would seem as if even if they wanted to, they couldn’t legally prosecute people for same-sex relationships. They might preach that it’s sinful, but they can’t put someone on trial (at least during most of the time I’m covering here, and they honestly seemed too busy before to bother with same-sex relationships when there was Targaryen incest and Maegor being Maegor to consider). Still, the crown might have chosen to enact laws prohibiting same-sex relationships, but if those exist it doesn’t seem as if they are enforced. This can be seen as being consistent with how medieval courts didn’t always chose to prosecute sodomy, as I’ve mentioned before. When they do prosecute, as in the case Roelens analyses (2017), it might be because the sodomy clearly interfered with the marriage. I would argue that this in line with another point that Learned Hands make, that the point of sexuality during the medieval times was producing legitimate heirs. As long as someone’s queerness isn’t interfering with that, the crown won’t care. And for the most part, the queerness didn’t interfere in the instances I have looked at. Rhaena, Laenor, Sabitha, and Black Aly still married. Jeyne didn’t, which is described as causing some issues with inheritance, but she didn’t stray too far from the accepted path in other regards, so this seems to have been mostly accepted.

The queer conclusions

So, what we can see here is that there are loads of queer characters in Fire and Blood, and generally speaking their sexualities are described more similarly to how modern society view sexuality than medieval society would. That would indicate that that’s how the character in ASOIAF generally see it as well. But what does that mean? Is that bad? I wouldn’t necessarily say so. As I’ve argued elsewhere, ASOIAF is George RR Martin’s world, he can do as he pleases. It also makes more sense for him as a modern writer, writing for a modern audience. For instance, if we all have a common understanding of queer sexuality as being a part of someone’s identity, we can be sad and angry on behalf of the characters forced into heterosexual relationships. If we all assume that Laenor, for instance, is gay we all get frustrated when Grand Maester Mellor says that he should chose to ignore that and sleep with women. In this way, GRRM can implicitly criticise the bigotry and ignorance of the characters in world, and the same type of bigotry that exists in our world. Which he often seems to want to do, as Shiloh Carroll has pointed out: “(…) A Song of Ice and Fire examines contemporary concerns or anxieties while placing them in a far-distant past, allowing the reader to consider them at a distance.” (Carroll 2018, 7) In that context it makes absolute sense to use a more contemporary understanding of sexuality.

It is also interesting to note that, similarly to a lot of medieval contexts in our world, the crown and the Faith of Westeros doesn’t always seem that interested in prosecuting same-sex relationships. They might not approve, but as long as it’s not too obvious or provides too big of an obstacle, they seem to chose to ignore it. That’s obviously a long way from acceptance and equality, but as some researchers have pointed out about the Middle Ages, it’s also much better than other historical periods. It’s suboptimal, but not as terrible as it could be.


Burgwinkle, William E. 2006. “Queer Theory and the Middle Ages.” French Studies: A Quarterly Review 60(1): 79-88.

Carroll, Shiloh. 2018. Medievalism in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer.

Foucault, Michel. (2002/1976). Sexualitetens historia 1: Viljan att veta. Translated by Birgitta Gröndahl. Göteborg: Bokförlaget Daidalos AB [This is the Swedish translation of L’Histoire de la sexualité I :La volonté de savoir/The History of Sexuality I: The Will to Knowledge]

Goldberg, Jonathan & Madhavi Menon. 2005. “Queering History.” PMLA, 120(5): 1608-1617. 

Learned Hands. 2020. ” Episode 6: ”Let’s Talk About Sex, Pt. I”, feat. Kristine Kippins.” Published June 15, 2020.

Martin, George RR. 2018. Fire and Blood. London: Harper Voyager.

Mottier, Véronique. 2008. Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Roelens, Jonas. 2017. “A Woman Like Any Other: Female Sodomy, Hermaphroditism, and Witchcraft in Seventeenth-Century Bruges.” Journal of Women’s History 29(4): 11–34.


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