In House of the Dragon, Ser Criston Cole goes from being a man from humble origins to being one of Queen Alicent’s foremost advisers. Of course, this ability to climb up the ranks of power is hardly unique to this series. In fact, it was something that frequently happened in its predecessor, Game of Thrones.
Given that that series was very much about power and what those who desire it will do to attain it, this makes sense. More than almost any other show on television, Game of Thrones demonstrated that even those born outside of royalty can still attain tremendous influence over the course of events.
Varys is, it must be said, one of the most skilled manipulators in the universe of Game of Thrones. Though a eunuch and, at one point, a slave, he has still managed to leverage his knowledge of politics and human nature into substantial influence by the time the series begins. In particular, his network of little birds makes him a valuable asset to whoever happens to be seated on the Iron Throne.
What’s more, he also becomes one of Daenerys’ most notable advisers, at least until he betrays her and earns his death. His is both an inspiration and a cautionary tale, as it shows not only how high a commoner can rise, but also how far they can fall.
For much of Game of Thrones, Littlefinger was one of its best characters. This is because he managed to rise above his limitations of birth to become one of the key players in the game of thrones.
What made his power all the more remarkable was that it was so often wielded in the shadows and behind closed doors (most notably in brothels). In fact, it was his ability to cater to the darkest of people’s desires which so often gave him the kind of knowledge he needed to rise up through the ranks of influence. And, while he ultimately met his fate at Arya’s hands, it still must be said that he was one of this series’ most influential people, able to bring an entire kingdom tumbling down into chaos.
Though she was born with royal blood in her veins, in many ways Daenerys’ origins were humble. After all, she spent most of her life running from one place to another, always depending on the kindness of others.
Slowly but surely, however, she managed to claw her way out of her circumstances, ultimately becoming one of the most powerful characters in the series. In large part, this stems from her indomitable will. Once she was gifted with dragons, she would let nothing stand in the way of what she regarded as her destiny. While some might regard her as one of the most evil rulers of Westeros, the truth is that she deserves at least some credit for being able to overcome her humble youth to become a true titan.
Though he didn’t come from one of the powerful houses of Westeros, Davos Seaworth still managed to rise to the pinnacle of power. This was particularly true when it came to his relationship with Stannis Baratheon, who even went so far as to raise him to the position of Hand.
There are a number of reasons for Davos’ rise. Among other things, he was a stalwart and loyal servant to Stannis. Just as importantly, he was also scrupulously honest, and he was one of the few who could often get Stannis (one of the most stubborn characters in Game of Thrones) to at least listen somewhat to reason. After Stannis’ death, Jon Snow sees those same qualities within him, which is how he ends up seated on the council by the end of the show.
From the moment he appeared, it became clear that Samwell Tarly was something special as a character. He proved to not only be very smart; he was also surprisingly powerful. After all, he was the one who managed to get Jon elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and he became his most valued counselor and adviser. Because so many people underestimated him, he was able to use this to his advantage when it came to wielding influence over others and their actions.
All of this, despite having been born his father’s least favorite son and despite his lack of martial inclination. In Westeros, there can be fewer humble beginnings than that. Small wonder he ultimately became a fan favorite on the show.
Part of what makes Game of Thrones one of the best shows on HBO is its ability to craft compelling side characters. Few of these are more terrifying than Melisandre, the red woman who became a power player in her own right.
What makes her eventual influence all the more striking is the fact that she was born a slave. However, because of her religious devotion and her ruthlessness, she was able to overcome the limitations this imposed. This was particularly true once she came into contact with Stannis, and she knew how to use him to further her own zelaous aims. Without her influence, Jon Snow would never have been brought back from the dead, and who knows what the consequences might have been in such an event.
Bronn is one of the series’ most beloved side characters. Sarcastic and utterly mercenary, he is the type of person who would quite literally sell his mother if he thought it would get him ahead.
As a sellsword, he is the very definition of humble beginnings, but he still manages to accrue quite a lot of power and influence in the Seven Kingdoms, precisely because he knows who to ally with in order to get ahead. He is one of those people who knows just which way the winds are blowing at a given moment, and he is more than willing to sell his loyalty to the highest bidder. Though he’s one of this series’ most deeply unethical characters, it’s impossible not to admire him.
There were many evil villains in Game of Thrones, but Ramsay Bolton has to be one of the most reprehensible. Utterly without conscience or remorse, he was the type of person who would torture simply because they could.
As a bastard, he came from very humble origins, indeed, but he knew how to get ahead, largely by cozying up to his father, Roose. At the saeme time, he had no loyalty to anyone other than himself, which allowed him to triumph when others would have perished. Though he ultimately perished (his death being one of the most satisfying on the series), he managed to accrue quite a lot of power before he did so.
The High Sparrow
The High Sparrow is a fascinating and enigmatic character. The series is deliberately circumspect about his exact origins, which is precisely what makes him such a great character to have emerged after the first season.
However, it seems clear that, at the very least, his origins are somewhat humble, but this doesn’t keep him from building up power and influence. He had a keen eye for what the people of Westeros and King’s Landing needed, and he seemed to offer them the chance of salvation, which is always a good way to buy loyalty. By the time that he is destroyed in the Great Sept of Baelor, he has become so mighty that he has even the most powerful magnates in the kingdom at his mercy.
Gendry is arguably one of the most likable characters in the entire series. There is an earnestness to him that is often lacking in some of the other people who populate the drama. And, while he begins life as one of Robert Baratheon’s bastards, he manages to make a life for himself that is on his own terms.
Even more importantly, he actually ends up being declared the head of House Baratheon. This is quite a meteoric rise for someone who was very nearly sacrificed by Melisandre in one of her many arcane rituals. Ultimately, his ability to rise from humble origins relied largely on his ability to simply stay alive when so many others perished.
NEXT: 10 Facts About The Bonds Between Dragons & Riders That House Of The Dragon Leaves Out