GRRM’s idea of a good leader

Winter posted this long-ass video interview with GRRM today. I have not watched the video because my attention span isn’t that long, but they also posted some edited highlights, and there are some really interesting answers there. I’m actually nowhere near as interested in what he says about the content of Winds of Waiting (it’s not really giving me any useful information) as much as his answer of who “deserves” to get the Iron Throne.

I don’t know that ‘deserve’ is really an operative word. The Iron Throne doesn’t necessarily go to who deserves it, but to who has the power to take and to hold it. But there are things in the books where I indicate what a king should be, what separates a good king from a bad king…It should be a public service position. The king’s job is the land, the people of the land, to make them prosperous, to protect them, to defend them, to provide them with justice. And that’s what the ideal king should be. There have been previous few of them in human history, sad to say.

Actually, I love this answer, because we can gather something about GRRM’s worldview from how he approaches this question. I think GRRM is an is/does/will sort of thinker, rather than building his narrative around matters of “should” and “deserve” and “right.” He’s thinking in terms of outcomes, rather than moral abstractions. The role of king/queen is a job, not a prize. The leader serves the people, not the other way around. A good leader is one who makes good things happen for the people, regardless of what that leader as an individual “deserves.” Furthermore, part of the king/queen’s job is to hold the throne. It doesn’t matter how morally upright and principled they are, how generous or gentle or clever, how hard they’ve worked to win that position; if they cannot stay on the throne for very long, they cannot look after their people.

What this tells me is that the endgame of ASOIAF will revolve around questions of who makes the metaphorical trains run on time, rather than deciding who deserves what.

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