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Monday, July 4, 2011

The Greatest Warriors of the Westeros- #1 Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning

We've made it from #10 down to #1 on the list of Greatest Warriors of the Westeros countdown and only one warrior remains. And that one warrior is only told as recollections via the main characters and interestingly enough by two of the main antagonists. But, as a movie once said, in the end "there can only be one" and that choice is Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning.

The Sword of the Morning is by consensus the greatest knight that ever lived. Its not just one person saying this, its everyone in the whole damn series. The main problem is that as of now we know precious little about him. So how can he be number one? Easy, read on.

#1- Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning
Ser Arthur was a member of the Kingsguard and is widely considered one of the greatest knights of that order. Now that is saying something when you consider some of the men that have worn the white: Gerold Hightower, Duncan the Tall, (read the Dunk and Egg stories for more info), Ser Ryam Redwyne, Ser Serwyn of the Mirror Shield amongst others. When one can mention the Sword of Morning in the same breath as these legendary fighters... you know you are talking about someone special.

Ser Arthur was instrumental in defeating the Kingswood Brotherhood as well as slaying the Smiling Knight. While fighting the Smiling Knight, the same's sword broke. Ever the chivalrous knight Ser Arthur let him get another before recommencing with combat. Jaime Lannister was made a knight at that point and was impressed by Ser Arthur. So is it simple hero worship on Jaime's part? Doubtful. It was Ser Arthur who brought the grievances of the smallfolk to Aerys II during the time of the Kingswood Brotherhood. Because of this he became beloved by the smallfolk and they turned their support away from the brotherhood. Couple this with his actions against the Smiling Knight. Would anyone let The Mountain that Rides get another sword if he broke it? Again, doubtful. In short Ser Arthur was the real deal when it came to living and breathing what a knight should do and be. Martin loves contrast so he uses Ser Arthur a the epitome of knighthood then casts this against the events of the books. With the Kingswood Brotherhood, Ser Arthur gets bonus points for leading men in combat.

Now from here it takes a bit of reading and then deductive reasoning on the part of, well everyone everywhere. Look at the list so far: Is there anyone on the list that Ser Arthur couldn't beat? Ser Arthur is one of those warriors that comes along once every 1,000 years. He is designed to be legend, the fact that he is one in his own time just makes everything add up. There is no one that he is even breaking a sweat against listed so far. think about those that I haven't listed, is there anyone there beating him? No I say!

If for no other reason Ser Arthur Dayne gets the top spot when you consider the words from from none other then the Kingslayer himself when he says this to Ser Loras Tyrell about Ser Arthur in A Feast for Crows:

"I served with Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, who could have slain the six of you with his left hand while taking a piss with his right".

Now Jaime is no slouch himself when it comes to a blade (He was #3 on this list) and this is pretty high praise from someone who is about as arrogant as they come prior to his sword hand being lopped off. It would be off putting from just Jaime, but once again Eddard Stark saves the day by backing Jaime up when taking about Ser Arthur on a different occasion: "He was the finest knight I've ever seen and he would have killed me if it were not for Howland Reed." Strong stuff and coming from Eddard and it's hardly open to interpretation. Think about who Eddard has seen in his lifetime: Ser Barristan Selmy, Bronze Yohn Royce, Robert Baratheon, Prince Rhegar and many more. Yet Eddard gives him the compliment that he does. A way to honor a foe who is insanely heroic? A trick of sorts? Highly unlikely as it's Eddard saying this, a man famous throughout the kingdom for his honor.

Another unusual thing about Ser Arthur is that he is the only character in the series having a mighty blade, but one that is wholly unique: it's not Valyrian steel. Now, this could just be an odd coincidence, but GRRM rarely does things for happenstance in the series. Ser Arthur's sword, Dawn is actually made from the metal of a fallen meteor and is featured in the house's coat of arms as a result. Again this may mean nothing, but then again it could be an interesting angle considering the whole "Prince who was promised" prophecy (although the leading candidate is Daenerys. More interesting is the fact that after the Tower of Joy (see below) Ned brings his sword to Ser Arthur's heir. This heir is Edric Dayne, who is wet-nursed along with Jon Snow  That's interesting, very interesting....  Why would Eddard bring Jon Snow to a family to be wet-nursed when said family is one that he just killed it's most famous scion? In short you don't, at least not without a reason you don't. Even Eddard is not going to do something like this for no reason. It could be Eddard's famous honor, but I'm doubting that is the reason. In short Ser Arthur's story is not done yet I'm guessing and it is very much tied up in Jon Snow and Eddard.

Another point is that the statement by Ned about Ser Arthur begs the question: What exactly happened in the Tower of Joy in Dorne? We know or are pretty certain that Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar. Why else would three of the Kingsguard (including its Lord Commander Gerold Hightower) be guarding it and Lyanna while a war for the crown of the Seven Kingdoms was being waged? Either way its apparent that you don't send your best warriors and their commander to the end of the kingdom for no reason. So again just what happened there? One gets the feeling that it wasn't your average sword fight. It could turn out that it's nothing like we expected: Howland Reed poisoned Ser Arthur or any other possible explanations. Apparently it was Eddard that killed Ser Arthur Dayne but to me that seems a bit too tidy. We do know that it was seven against 3. Ten men in the fight and only two walked out alive with neither ever talking about what happened. With the only one being now left alive now:  Howland Reed...

So unless some new characters get introduced in the series it's Ser Arthur Dayne that stands as the Greatest Warrior of the Seven Kingdoms. That's right, we know little about him and none of it directly. But from what we do know, we know this: the Sword of the Morning stands head and shoulders above the rest. How is this so? Two of the main characters of the book Jaime and Eddard have the same opinion, that alone is saying something...

Ser Arthur is a mystery with some holes poked through the shroud of his character. He is not a deep, deep history character and his exploits are well known to the Seven Kingdoms, just not to the reader as of yet.

And there it is. I don't expect that people will totally agree with my selections but as I stated, that's the fun. Something like this makes it impossible to ever reach consensus. I wanted to get this done before A Dance of Dragons is out and I made it with 8 days to spare.

My next post will contain my list of warriors #11-20, i.e. those that didn't make the top 10. It was tough to get to 10 so there are some excellent warriors that have nothing to be ashamed about being where they are.


  1. I'm glad to see you got the top spot right. However Blackfish, Bron, Syrio, and Oberyn, all didn't deserve to be on this list.

    But your list is very confusing, since i can't distinguish whether "warrior" defines duellist, leader, swordsman, or whatnot. I mean why the fuck would you include Blackfish lol? And if we're on about leaders then Robb Stark and Rhaegar aught to be the top two; (I'd include Robert, however I believe it was his armies thirst for vengeance and justice that won him the Rebellion rather than his leadership).

    In all honesty i was surprised to see Rhaegar not on here, since he was a great leader. And whilst he was only a good swordsman on foot rather than being the legendary (although he did manage to fight off Robert for hours, lol :S), on horse/jousting his status was unparalleled - the best.

    Because of that I would advise not to overrate Robert as a duelist, i would say there's not much in it between him and Rhaegar/Ned.
    Also, Jaime Lannister whilst being a good swordsman is way overrated. You must look at the warriors for their merits. What/who has Jaime beaten? The answer is no-one, (he couldn't even beat Ned).

    Anyway, when talking about swordsmen/duelists i would say it goes like this:

    Arthur Dayne,

    Ser Barrastion ranks in at no.2 imo as a duelist. By merit he has beaten virtually everyone other than Arthur Dayne in tournies.

    Whilst the Mountain doesn't have much by merit, his shear size makes him a contender for no.3.

    But anyway, after that it gets blurry with - not 2nd rate fighters, but fighters who lack merit. Fighters like Bronn, Ned, Jamie, Qhorin, Brandon Stark, Mance, the Hound, Rhaegar.. I dunno really :(
    But realistically it's too hard to compare. I mean there's not enough to go on, since there's never any tournies now because of the wars lol.

    There's also those who we don't see much of, like: Benjen Stark, Mance Ryder, and Areo Hotah who are meant to be decent also. But it's all in comparison, and so you can't figure it out. Mance for example is meant to be awesome, but by whos standards?

    It is only because it was Ned that says "He was the finest knight I've ever seen", that makes it acceptable to put Athur at the top. Not because Ned was a good swordsman, but because he had been to the tournies and seen the likes of Rhaegar, Athur Dayne and Ser Barrastion.

    Anyway wall of text over.

    TL;DR - It's really hard to do this list since you don't define what is the most important quality of a warrior. Swordsmanship, Duelling, or Leadership? Good attempt though, enjoyed reading it :P

    Oh, and finally.. It will be interesting to see Jon Snow once he becomes TPTWP. Who gon' fuck with him after that? Also would like to hear your thoughts through a post, on the three heads of the dragon. Like that possibility of Bloodraven (the emblem of the white dragon) teaching Bran to warg into Daenery's white dragon. Really would like Martin to just hurry up and finish the books already lol!

  2. Wow that was quite a wall of text, just lighten up on the swearing next time ;)

    Ultimately who one thinks is the best is going to be subjective. we have nothing to go on other then text, there is no stats like in sports per say.

    As far as Jon Snow, I'm not so sure he is the Prince who was Promised, it could be a few other people like Edric Dayne (Why did need stop to drop off Dawn?), perhaps its Dany?

    I do agree that Martin needs to finish this damn thing up. I started reading the series right around the time of Storm of Swords coming out.

    1. I have to go back to check this,but Ithink its said that Dawn is not inherited,but given to the most worthy swordsman of House Dayne. Ned Dayne is too young for that now,which leaves Dawn going to...Darkstar!?!?

    2. I believe Frank was finding a little vague your choice of criteria and individual prowess for each, when judging best warrior.
      He mentions that you seem to have 3 categories: duelist, leader, swordsman.

      From the following block of text I get a sense of this as well:
      "I should add that I'm also taking into account tactics on the battlefield as consideration. It's one thing to be great with a weapon individually or even with a unit. It's entirely another thing to be able to lead in tactics and strategies. Some few possess all of them. It's not the sole, overriding factor, but it does matter."
      Correct me if I'm wrong, but under each warrior's description, I only see a stream of thoughts instead of clearly delineated categorical reasoning.
      If it was your intention to show a clear standardized system of evaluation, then it wouldn't be amiss to have distinct categories backed up with qualitative (or even simple quantitative scoring of 1 to 5) evaluation for each warrior.

      Let's say there are 3 categories for evaluation when judging great warrior-hood in Westeros and they are: Leadership, Tactician, and Swordsmanship. Under the above mentioned categories, Ned Stark could be qualitatively described as Average or Above Average for Leadership, Above Average for Tactician, and Average for Swordsmanship. Or one could assign a simple 1 to 3 number system under each category.

      Even though you cannot avoid a huge amount of subjectivism when making this sort of evaluation with limited info, your readers will appreciate an effort for standardized evaluation as it reinforces a sense of verisimilitude. There is always a crowd that wonders who is stronger: Superman or Batman (coming in 2015!). Everything is subjective when comparing character "strength", but they don't make guessing any less long as there is rhythm and rhyme (i.e. a standardized system of evaluation).

      Anyways, like mentioned above, it was definitely an interesting read!
      As this wall of text was simply a suggestion for "improving" (or at least making easier to navigate) any such similar future lists, I hope I didn't come off as too patronizing. :D

    3. Nope its fine. As I've stated previously, ultimately the list and who is the best is subjective. And I'm throwing out opinions from just text, its not like we have them in a rule set where we can actually play it out, of course we could, but that is another matter entirely. :)

  3. I'm not sure exactly what you are trying to imply? That I'm implying its inherited?

    I pointed out that it was odd that Eddard (one of only two warriors to walk out of the Tower of Joy alive) and having a good possibility of having killed Ser Arthur Dayne dropped the weapon of the same House of Dayne by sheer coincidence.

    GRRM usually doesn't write something for no reason.

  4. Eddard defeated Dayne in single combat so I don't know where people get the idea that he wasn't a great fighter, this is also why Jaime didn't find it so easy to defeat him. By far the most underrated swordsman in Westeros.

    1. And it's pretty clear after last nights episode that Ned did not defeat him in single combat. In fact AFAICR Ned never said anything to that effect. In light of just how lucky he is to be alive..

  5. While its possible all Eddard says is: "The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who would have killed me but for Howland Reed."

    At this stage of the series, we just don't know who killed Ser Arthur.

  6. GRRM is pretty clear as to why Ned takes Dawn back to Starfall (Castle of House Dayne). It's because Ned is so honor bound and unlike Tywin (Who kept Ice and melted it down), Ned wasn't going to steal the ancestral sword of House Dayne and keep it or let it be lost. He felt it was his duty to return the sword back to its rightful owners, the Daynes. Plus he had a tremendous amount of respect for Dayne and it was rumored that he had been lovers with Ashara Dayne before the war broke out, so even though he killed her brother (out of duty to his sister and not for malice) he still needed to do this and needed help with the baby he had in tow.

    Yes, GRRM doesn't just throw info in just for info's sake. He has introduced the sword Dawn because, as you can deduce from one of Sam's chapters where Maester Aemon asks Sam to describe Stannis' sword to him, the sword Dawn is most likely the legendary Lightbringer. Dawn, like Lightbringer of legend, is described as being white and it emits light and warmth, whereas Stannis' sword only emits light, no warmth, and is somewhat rainbow colored.

    In house Dayne, Sword of the Morning is a title given only to those deemed worthy of having that title, and with that title comes the privilege of wielding Dawn. But, if no one is found worthy of the title then no one gets the title, so they could go a generation or two without having a Sword of the Morning.

    The prevailing theory is that Jon Snow is the bastard of Lyanna Stark and Rheagar Targaryen, but there is also a theory that he could be Ned's and Ashara Dayne's bastard, which would give him some Dayne lineage. If Jon Snow is "the prince that was promised" (Azor Ahai) then he, by some loophole could become Sword of the Morning and wield Dawn (Lightbringer).

  7. No one ever mentions Randyll Tarly, he is mentioned as being the best soldier in westeros. No one mentions Drogo either...

  8. Jaime is exactly where he should be, hes not overrated in the slightest and I personally believe he's a better swordsman than selmy. He was a prodigy from a young age, just because he has less feats he shouldn't be considered a poor warrior he is basically the deadliest swordsman alive at the start of the series

  9. Finally, we get to see why Ser Arthur is unversally respected (because of the TV series).

    And also Ned's statement of (paraphrasing as I don't have my book) "Ser Arthur Dayne was the perfect knight". Also why Howland Reed is so important.

    Either way, great stuff.