How Many Queens are on the Board in the Game of Thrones?

Though there are only two official queens in HBO’s adaptation of Game of Thrones, there are several more who fit the definition according to the Queen’s Path, let’s start with the most critical to the story.

  • Sansa Stark, second child, and eldest daughter of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Catelyn Stark, sister to Arya.

  • Daenerys “Stormborn” Targarian, first of her name, the unburned, mother of dragons, breaker of chains.

  • Arya Stark, youngest child, daughter of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Catelyn Stark, sister to Sansa.

  • Cersei Lannister, widow of King Robert Boratheon, and Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, sister to Tyrion and Jaime Lannister.

What follows is an analysis, but it includes some theories of what may come in the last two episodes of HBO’s series. If you don’t wish to have your opinion tainted, or if you are not caught up to season 8, episode 4, then read no further.

According to the model of the Queen’s Path, every female character is placed on the path of the Queen, and on that path, into a lane. If you need a quick reference, click here to get your download. The lanes are either the lane of Maiden In Search of Relationship (MISOR) or Magical Isolated Powerful & Endangered (MIPE). If you need a reminder of the two lanes, you can get an infographic for the queen characters here. Along the way the two sides are divided against one another. Usually this is demonstrated within a single character trying to make sense of being divided against herself. In many stories, especially stories with multiple characters, as is often the case in television, the divide is demonstrated most aptly in two characters who embody the journey along a single lane. The brilliance of Game of Thrones has the four dominant queens starting off as "sister selves" who throughout the series are pitted against one another in the two halves depending on what season you are in, and what the character arc is for that season.

When the series begins it is Arya versus Sansa. As the series develops it is Sansa versus Cersei, and further still we start to see Daenerys versus Cersei, and Cersei versus Arya. Ultimately there will only be one true queen according to the mythic structure of this particular universe.

The characters traverse several challenges along the way. Every woman on her respective path experiences the “mark” where she learns of the divide by force. She is required to give in to the role, submitting to the divide itself. As she traverses the path that is laid out for her, she believes herself to be acting autonomously, but she is starting down the well-trodden path of all women, leaving the undifferentiated time of childhood behind to be cleaved firmly upon the Divided Path.

For Sansa Stark her cleave began when she tried to make a life for herself in King’s Landing, betrothed to evil King Joffrey, and at the mercy of the Queen Mother, Cersei Lannister. For Arya her cleaved moment began when she saw her father beheaded in the Red Keep, and was spirited away. Arya commits to her path of revenge, doubling down as all women along the divided path do. Arya commits to her path as a MIPE, and Sansa as a MISOR, trying to be a lady in King’s Landing.

The beginning of Daenerys’ journey is similar to Sansa’s. Daenerys begins her route along the Queen’s Path as a young ingénue, following her brother Viserys as he trades her to the Dothraki chief, Khal Drogo in exchange for an army, as Viserys intends to take back the Iron Throne for himself. Things turn for Daenerys as she gives into her role as the Dothraki “Queen” putting her mark on her role, by falling in love with her Dothraki husband. She commits to her divide, eventually walking into her husband’s funeral pyre to join him in death. But death will not claim her and she emerges from the flames with three baby dragons at her command, herself and the dragons, born or reborn in the flames.

Cersei commits to her role as a MIPE early on, though she yearns for the role of the MISOR, staying close to her children and twin brother/lover, Jaime. Cersei, the least likable of these queens, commits early as well to her role as the “cleaved” woman, committing to her role, keeping consort with her brother who fathers her children, ensuring that they are of "pure" Lannister blood, sitting on the Iron Throne, benefiting from Robert Boratheon’s defeat of the Targaryen “Mad King”.

Every single one of these queens has at least one magical teacher, who entices them down their path. Some of them have multiple teachers. Cersei has her brother, Jaime, and her father, Tywin Lannister. She also visits a fortune teller early in her life who gives her frightening prophecies about what will unfold through her journey to the throne. Cersei also has Qyburn, the dark maester as an ally throughout the last several seasons.

Daenerys has an early interlude with a dark witch, Mirri May Durr who curses her and Drogo in retaliation for being taken captive when the Dothraki conquer her village. Daenerys has many other teachers as well, including her husband Khal Drogo, and the dragons themselves. Daenerys also encounters the warlocks of Qarth, and takes on the beautiful counselor and translator, Missandei. Ultimately Daenerys also enlists the counsel of Tyrion Lannister, and makes him her “hand of the queen.”

Sansa probably has the most interesting journey of all the queens. She starts out as a MISOR, longing for connection. She continues to seek relationships with Joffrey, then briefly with Cersei. She is forced to marry Tyrion Lannister. She escapes Kings Landing after learning of the Red Wedding where her brother Robb, and her mother are murdered. Lord Baelish arranges a marriage to the cruel Ramsey Bolton. Sansa’s teachers are almost all cruel, and when she is confronted by The Hound, Sandor Clegane in the last season, reminding her that he tried to protect her, she informs him that had it not been for all of her cruel teachers she would have remained a “little bird” forever. This is a hint that Sansa may be destined to reach the final stage of the Queen's Path and face herself, integrating all the aspects of herself in one transcendent, embodied woman.

Arya fully takes on the role of MIPE from the very beginning, shirking the realm of noble women, and instead choosing fighting, cunning, and revenge. She has several teachers, from her first sword master, Syrio Forel to Jaqen H’ghar and the House of White and Black, where she learns how to preserve and wear the faces of others. She learns how to distance herself from her former identity enough to do what is needed. Arya also has a deep and challenging relationship with The Hound, Sandor Clegane. Though she travels with him, she is committed to killing him one day, in retaliation for his murder of her dire wolf, Nymeria.

Being cleaved and forced to commit to a lane is the beginning of the dark part of the journey for any queen along the mythical journey of “The Queen’s Path” she may circle through like a spiral more than once, as she tries to reach the final leg of the journey, if you're following the diagram, this is happening in the second and third quadrant, the underworld for most queens. From the time of the first cleaving, the individual woman must face herself, recommit to her journey, and ultimately find herself hunted. If she is a MISOR she will be pursued for a wife, like Sansa and Cersei. If she is a MIPE she will be exiled, forced to live by her wits and talents, like Arya and Daenerys.

In the next part of the queen’s path, each queen must face herself. She breaks the version of herself that she hates, usually the opposite side. For Sansa, she tries to be what Lord Baelish wants her to be, though she finds this incredibly difficult. For Arya, she tries to live as one of “The Faceless Men”. Cersei tries to commit to her children, arranging marriages, and elevating her youngest son to the throne. Daenerys tries to rule as an outcast, creating a world without slavery. All of these queens are trying to live the path laid out for them. But if they are to succeed as true Queens the ultimate end is to become integrated and to embody transcendence of the divided path, unifying both sides of themselves.

To do this, each character must sacrifice something to her “sister self”. She must give in and become the other side of herself. She then can emerge as something new, an embodied queen who makes the decision to not be all things, but to be all of herself. Cersei has doubled down on her revenge for the death of her children, and the betrayal and abandonment of her brothers (and her twin Jaime who is also her lover). She has embraced the abjection of the “sister self”. This is the path of the MIPE's exile, where no redemption is possible.

In Season 8, episode 4 which aired for the first time this past Sunday, May 5, 2019, Cersei was faced down by Daenerys, who could have taken the role of her “sister self”. But instead Cersei chose to live in her abjection, and beheaded Daenerys’ friend and confidante, Missandei. Meanwhile, Daenerys was on her own abjection journey, imploring Jon Snow to keep the secret of his true parentage so that she could stay on track to conquer the Iron Throne without any hindrance or complication. We are already getting the hint that Daenerys is headed to her own abjection and exile. The murder of Missandei seals the fate of Daenerys, and she too appears to be dedicated to the path of abjection, with little hope of embodiment or transcendence available to her as a result.

Based on this, it is my prediction, that based on the Path of the Queen, there will be only one Queen remaining at Westeros. Arya has already departed with the Hound, after having declined an opportunity to be the Lady of Storm’s End and marry Gendry, her friend and brief lover. That leaves only Sansa.

Sansa has had the most complete Queen’s Path journey to date. She has faced her sister self in Arya, welcoming her back to Winterfell. She has gotten her revenge on Lord Bailesh for her abuse at the hands of Ramsay Bolton, and also faced abjection in confronting Daenerys Targaryen about Daenerys’ motives and plans. Sansa rejects the opportunity to treat Daenerys badly, reluctantly choosing to trust Jon Snow’s endorsement of the Dragon Queen.

My prediction is that Daenerys and Cersei will destroy each other, the two MIPE’s cancelling one another out. I firmly believe that Arya is not done with her revenge-lust either, her MIPE self needing to give into the abjection. Arya will likely be responsible for Cersei’s death, while Daenerys is likely to be killed by Cersei herself or by some concoction created for Cersei by Qyburn, or she could be killed by the elder Clegane, the zombie of the former fighter known as The Mountain.

This leaves only Sansa to wear the “true” crown of queendom. It does not guarantee that Sansa will sit on the Iron Throne, but she is likely to be made Warden of the North. In the absence of either Cersei or Daenerys, who I predict will destroy one another, Jon Snow will likely ascend the Iron Throne as Aegon Targaryan. It is possible that because he doesn’t want the throne, that he could abdicate in favor of his sister/cousin The Lady of Winterfell, Sansa Stark, giving her the true title of Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

These four characters are great examples of the Queen’s Path. They also demonstrate that the Queen’s Path is somewhat more of a spiral than a circle, with characters potentially getting to a certain point in the path, only to have to return to an earlier point. They also demonstrate the most challenging aspect of the Queen’s Path, as a mythical structure, that all women wind up making a choice after they are hunted, and after their abjection. This choice determines whether or not they will emerge as queens, or if they will be destroyed in the mirror of abjection. By not allowing themselves to embrace the “sister side” the divided queen guarantees her own destruction. To truly be a queen, a woman must make peace with her two halves, and she must heal the divide. When she does this she makes embodied transcendence possible. Only then can she truly rule and claim her crown.


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