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.