And What of Dorne? Musings About House Martell

This post is going to be mostly spoiler free. Any spoilers will simply be character names, personality traits, and things like House motto and sigil. There will be no spoilers in regards to plot elements, character deaths, or marriages. The “show only” crowd should be able to read this article relatively safely.

Art by
Art by

We’ve got a lot of casting news lately indicating that they’re bringing in certain characters earlier than they show in the books. This isn’t exactly a surprise. They’ve already shuffled around quite a bit including delaying the introduction of the Reeds, moving Ser Barristan’s reveal up several books/seasons, and killing off characters that lived in the source material (Irri, darling, I’m so sorry). But what I want to know is how much are we going to see of Dorne and the Martell’s? We’ve had someone cast as Ellaria Sand (Sand is the bastard name of Dorne) which means that we’ll presumably meet Prince Oberyn Martell as well.  This is about on track for their first appearance in the book so that’s a positive note.

Indira Varma cast as Ellaria Sand
Indira Varma cast as Ellaria Sand

So far we’ve only heard them mentioned a couple times, including when Myrcella is shipped off there in season 2, but signs seem to be pointing towards their official introduction this season.  But an introduction of the House doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll do everything that they’ve done in the books nor does it mean we’ll actually get to see Dorne.   How much of House Martell will we see?  Will their plot be truncated this seasons?  Shifted around to make room for other characters?  Pushed back for another season? Pushed forward?  What are we in for exactly?  The anticipation is killing me.

Now they aren’t my favorite house and I don’t necessarily agree with all the choices the characters made at this point in the series, but when I was reading the books I was constantly impressed with how different Dorne is from the rest of Westeros both culturally and geographically. It’s the most southern part of Westeros and historically isn’t too terribly affected by their long winters. It’s hot and mostly desert, separated by the rest of Westeros by a huge mountain range known as the Red Mountains.  It’s dry and rocky and sparsely populated.    Despite it’s hot climate and low population count, it’s not exactly a barren wasteland.  Dorne also has many exotic exports such as wine, olives, citrus fruits, and pomegranates. They also breed a special type of horse that can apparently run for two days without tiring, which is pretty damn impressive. Basically if you’re a wealthy Westerosi, you probably get stuff from Dorne to impress your friends.

The people of Dorne are also very different from the rest of the Westerosi. They were the only Kingdom to resist Aegon’s conquest (the thing that brought the Targaryen’s into power) and pride themselves on their independence (much like the North does). The only reason they eventually joined the rest of the continent to form the Seven Kingdoms was through marriage over a century after the Targaryen’s conquered Westeros. Much of their customs come from the Rhyonish people, who migrated to the region from Essos during the war with Valyria many many centuries ago. They still call themselves “Prince” and “Princess” of Dorne instead of “Lord” and “Lady,” which is a holdover of their Rhoynish heritage. The other Houses defer those titles to royalty in King’s Landing only.

Ellaria Sand as played by Valerie Hampton, of the organizers of Ice and Fire
Ellaria Sand as played by Valerie Hampton, one of the organizers of Ice and Fire Con

The capital of Dorne is Sunspear, which is home to House Martell.  Just like both the land and people of Dorne, House Martell differs quite a bit from the rest of  Westeros as well. They believe that both men and women can inherit can inherit a family estate and titles. The rest of Westeros very much adheres to men being the first in line of succession, even when women are older (Cersei, for example, is technically older than Jaime, but has no rights to her family inheritance). Because of this, House Martell has a lot of confident female characters who don’t really take shit from people (much like the Tyrell’s, though they still honor their male lineage like the rest of Westeros). Ellaria, the only Dornish person cast at this point, is one of the aforementioned confident female characters.  Though she’s a bastard on top of being a woman, she’s very well known, confident, and important to House Martell.  She’s a paramour (or basically an unmarried lover) to Prince Oberyn Martell and, while that sort of thing is typically frowned on or at least not talked about in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, she opening accompanies the Prince on foreign visits.

So basically the Dornish people just have their own ways of doing things and the rest of the kingdom just sort of let’s them have it without much of a fight.

So why do I want to see Dorne depicted so badly?  Well, besides the fact that the intro will have to swing waaaaaaaaay down south to include Sunspear (that’ll be amusing to see, let’s just be honest), I’m just looking forward to a different location being depicted with that spectacular HBO budget of theirs.  This world that George RR Martin has created is so rich and diverse and Dorne is another unique backdrop that I don’t want to see get forgotten.  And, as mentioned earlier, House Martell has a lot of strong characters that I want to see depicted on the show.  There are a lot of fabulous women already, but it couldn’t hurt to have more, you know?  The fact that there is an entire House that is generally on board with giving women an equal footing is fantastic and, without spoiling anything, is also an important plot point that I want to see get played out.

So  please, creators of Game of Thrones, don’t ignore Dorne for too long.  I understand that you have to shuffle things around to make it work, but don’t ignore it completely.  I mean, you can’t.  Myrcella is still there, right?  I hope these characters don’t get pushed back too much like the Reed’s were.  Please, give us Dorne.  Give us the Martell’s.  Unbowed.  Unbent.  Unbroken.  Give us the Sand Snakes and Arianne.  Pleeease.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They identify as queer.

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