I wanted to but I couldn’t: A short rumination about personal failure inspired by another episode of Game of Thrones

My last post was about the love and honour embedded in the willful act of becoming someone’s champion. Today’s post is about wanting to do so and failing because this is precisely what happened to Prince Oberyn in Season 4, Episode 8 when he could have won but instead got his head smashed in by Gregor Clegane. I’ve been told by my GOT fan friends to never grow too attached to a storyline or a character because they will die. To this I chuckled and didn’t think more of it. I’m not one to get so attached to characters like this, I was more perturbed by the larger human truth here: We make things about us even when there is something else, more concrete (such as Tyrion Lannister’s life), hanging by a thread. Eyes glued to the screen I was like NOOOOOOO, WHYYYYYYY. WHYYYYYYY. After that, I reverted to my usual contemplations.


When to be someone’s champion and when to not be someone’s champion seems like something we need to discuss. Being someone’s champion when someone is truly helpless, vulnerable, and facing injustice, is for lack of a better word, divine. To succeed at doing so is perhaps the sweet nectar of life, camaraderie, and gratefulness to your neighbor. If this is the case, if you intend to succeed at being a champion, do it the whole way without complaints, without tears, sticking to your word about what you said you would do without being told. At this juncture, the weaker person would not need to make any demands because they cannot. This is what makes you their champion- you are stronger (mentally, physically, emotionally) and have more resources than they. While their hands are tied. In Tyrion’s case, quite literally.

But how about when you want to be someone’s champion, take care of their ills, when they should really be taking care of it on their own and you should, by all intents and purposes, step aside? Wanting to be a champion without seeing the whole picture then becomes, not counting good intentions, an expression of one’s hidden egotism. “I can fix it for you,” one can say. The weaker party says “Great. Fix this, this and this,” and finally shows a gash, or a series of gashes, the other cannot fix. The difference from the preceding scenario is that, if you look closely, the weaker one is strong enough to make demands. In which case, they can probably pick themselves up too and the stronger party should step aside at seeing this. Otherwise they are enabling each other only to be left disappointed in the end when one’s ego is hurt because they could not fix the gash and the other because they were promised a fix and did not receive it.

The episode of Game of Thrones I think shows what would have been the first scenario, the stronger (Prince Oberyn) helping the weak (Tyrion Lannister) and not at all the second scenario. Tyrion was chained by family, politics, and a false accusation. He needed a champion. Of course we must remember Prince Oberyn had his own agenda: to get revenge and kill the man who raped and murdered his sister and his sister’s children. The way he could do this was by helping Tyrion in what was a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: free Tyrion and kill the man who raped and murder his sister and her children. Would have been perfect— but Prince Oberyn needed to hear the Clegane confess and say the words “I raped and murdered Elia Martell”.  Justifying this need by his anger and pain seems romantic even- he loved his sister. But that’s what got him killed. He asked for too much.


What was this need then? Was it arrogance? Was it ego? Was it selfishness in light of the actual job he promised he would do (free Tyrion) by being his champion? Was it love? If it was love, could it be love, if in the end he neither killed Clegane or freed Tyrion? One thing is clear: he failed. Once this is recognized, the reasons as to why slowly become more and more irrelevant. You failed. You wanted to and you couldn’t and depending on what was at stake you either come out dead or alive. If you come out alive, you have to live with the shame of your failure. So what then? I’ve spent the last few days contemplating how we become better people not just for the rest of the world but for ourselves. We are presumptuous, self-centered, beings. Loving, of course, but it gets muddled up with our negative traits. I guess then… what is true discernment, patience, justice, and love? It’s not something I can or will answer now so I’ll leave this here.


One thought on “I wanted to but I couldn’t: A short rumination about personal failure inspired by another episode of Game of Thrones

  1. Ooh, I love this. First because is there is not much GoT fans among my friends. 2nd because, among the few fan friends of mine, no one talks about Oberyn like he was just another guy who were supposed to die soon. I liked him soo much. His character, the way of speaking, quickness to understand the atmosphere surrounding Tyrion, the way he confronting Cercei and Tywin like it was nothing. I wouldn’t think he was brave because Dorne had Myrcella. It was his inner strength? Could not find the right word. It was Oberyn, all by himself. Anyway. I love this post. Just wanted to say is all.

    Liked by 1 person

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