“HODOR, HODOR, HODOR, HODOR, HOODOOOOOOOR” ~ said Hodor.
He’s big. He’s strong. He’s quiet and he only knows one word. If you already know who I’m talking about, you are probably one of those millions of fans, readers, and fantasy aficionados who regularly follow the Game of Thrones saga, which has lately taken the world by storm.
Game of Thrones, a series of epic fantasy books written by George R.R Martin (1996 – present), was made into an international T.V success when H.B.O, with help from the writer himself, started to produce the eponymous series a couple of years back. Rich in references to the War of the Roses, as well as to the medieval period, and other historical events in ‘the real world’, what fascinates me most about this show, is the vast cast of characters. Almost all of them are quite deep, complicated and intricate characters – much like the ones you find in real life. However, something which struck me as being different from other T.V series of the same genre (and even similar books), is the way the writer depicts people with special needs.
In most T.V series and novels, people with special needs are rarely mentioned, and almost never focused upon. As if, within fantasy worlds, these people do not exist.
Not so in Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ series.
At the very top of the list of these highly personalised and multi-faceted characters, is the mentally challenged Hodor. Hodor can only say one word – yes you guessed it, ‘Hodor’, yet he is always understood by his very expressive tone of voice, not to mention his actions and body language. Being incredibly large and strong, yet still as gentle and innocent as a kitten, Hodor steals away our hearts with his loyalty to the Stark household, his love for Bran, and his genuine emotions.
Someone else who cannot possibly be left out and who is one of the main characters in the series, is Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion is vertically challenged not a real disability in itself, yet it is obvious that he is constantly being judged by everyone for his small stature. The fact that he is not as tall as ‘normal’ men is cited all the time as a lack, he is continually made fun of and derided, made to feel inferior and different. In spite of this, we realise that he is one of the strongest and most intelligent characters in the story, and yet, no one else seems to realise this, because they only see a ‘little man’.
Apart from those who were born different, there are also those who, throughout the course of various wars and tribulations, are forcefully crippled, hurt, broken or tortured. Among these we find Bran Stark, who was pushed down from a tower and lost the use of his legs. There is also the ‘Onion Knight’ Davos Seaworth – Lord Stannis chopped off a couple of his fingers, as a punishment for having been a smuggler. And what about ‘the Hound’, Sandor Clegane? When he was a child, his twisted older brother pushed him into the fire and his face is permanently disfigured.
There is also the Master of Whisperers, Varys ‘the Spider’, who was castrated as a child, as well as Theon Grayjoy, who was tortured until he was missing a number of bits and pieces himself. Also, our favourite incestuous golden knight, Jaimie Lannister, who was divested of his right hand, as well as Willas Tyrell, who lost the use of his legs in a tourney when he was young.
The list seems to be endless, but the point George R.R Martin makes is clear – being mentally or physically challenged, for any reason, does not mean that you don’t have an important part to play in the history of your country. It does not mean that you are not worthy of respect, not kind, not intelligent, not strong or resourceless, not even if society believes that you are.
There is always room for the Hodors of this world.