Warning: Spoilers ahead for the current season of Game of Thrones.
As the war for the Iron Throne literally heats up this week, many have started to wonder how Game of Thrones could all end – who will even be left to rule over Westeros?
George R. R. Martin has never backed down from his insistence that the conclusion to this story will be “bittersweet”; as a Tolkien fan, Martin found the “happily ever after” ending to the Lord of the Rings all a bit too cute for his liking.
So where does that leave A Song of Ice and Fire?
The answer to this might lie in another well-known conflict from 15th-century England.
Martin said A Song of Ice and Fire was originally inspired by real world history, and one historical period stands out against the rest. It’s the War of the Roses – the conflict between the House of York and the House of Lancaster for the English throne from 1455 to 1487.
The parallels are obvious – York and Lancaster, Starks and Lannisters – but if you look at the conclusion to the War of the Roses, there might be another hint as to how Martin’s tale could end.
Looking at where the pieces in the puzzle currently stand, Jon and Dany are trying to find common ground on which to unite, and if Jon continues to refuse to bend the knee, the only way to cement the alliance could be marriage.
However – spoiler alert – Jon and Dany are related, and might not be keen on the idea when/if this knowledge comes to light. (Not that being related seems to be a huge problem in Westeros.)
However, there is another marriage that already ties the land together, and it has been referenced twice in the current season: Tyrion and Sansa.
But how are Tyrion, the Queen’s Hand, and Sansa, the Lady of Winterfell, relevant to the end game when they’re not ruling in their own right?
The answer could lie in the outcome of the War of the Roses – where Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, a lower-born Lancaster, rises from the ashes of the war and takes Elizabeth I, of the York royal line, as his bride and queen, thereby uniting the two feuding houses once and for all.
They also united symbolically, taking the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York to form a new house symbol – the red and white Tudor Rose.
So if we apply this to ASOIAF – unfortunately having to assume Dany and Jon are lost to us during the war against the Night King and the Long Night, or in Jon’s case, lives but retires to brood in the North rather than ruling in the South – could we see a bittersweet ending with Tyrion and Sansa ruling over Westeros?
They have certainly both had the training to rule, and enough prominence throughout both the book series and the HBO adaption. Also, Martin sees more of himself in Tyrion, and he’s been ruling over Westeros for more than 20 years now.
Tyrion and Sansa are also the only living characters (that aren’t in some way related) left who could unite the North and the South.
There are obviously quite a few people in line for the Iron Throne that would need to fall before this eventuates – but knowing Martin and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, it’s not an impossible scenario.