All of George R. R. Martin’s child characters are off by about three years

hklgI am still making my slow, but steady, way through Ulysses. But a splitting headache impelled me to take the afternoon off and read The Hedge Knight, which is the first of the prequel novellas George R. R. Martin wrote for the world that inspired the Game of Thrones TV show. This is probably one of my favorite-ever short novels. It doesn’t really have the punch that one associates with a short story, but it does tell a perfectly contained little adventure story: basically, it has all the virtues that Martin’s high fantasy novels have and many virtues (compression, precision) that they do not. However, the kid in it is 8 years old. And, well, I don’t have extensive experience with children, but he just does not seem like a second or third grader. He’s way too witty and worldy-wise. I mean, some kids are precocious, but it just doesn’t read right. He ought to be at least 11 or so.

And this holds true for all of the kids. Does Joffrey really seem like a 12 year old? Does Robb really seem like a 15 year old? Is Arya really 9? Is Daenerys really 14? What’s weird is that all of the kids definitely seem like kids–they just feel like kids who are about three years older than their characters’ stated age. This is yet another way in which the TV series is better than the books, since–even if they kept the stated age in the same place–the actors tend to be a few years older than the characters they play. Thus, on a visual level, the actors seem to match up with our mental conception of where the characters should be.

However, the weird ages of the characters in Martin’s novels turn out not to matter very much, since almost every reader just tends to imagine them as being older than they really are. This is yet another example of the effect I noted with regards to black characters: you can say whatever you want about the characters, but you’re going to need to say it again and again and again if it’s going to override the reader’s biases (in this case, the reader’s conception of what characters of various ages sound like).

So yeah.

In other me-related news, I did only very light writing for a few days because I was worn out from finishing the novel, but then I realized that I have only eight days left before Sewanee! EEEP, I still need to do another round of edits for This Beautiful Fever. Luckily, I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do, and I feel like I should be able to get it done in under 15 hours of work. But still, I gotta get cracking!

Comments (



  1. Becca

    Ha! This is so true. Right now I am writing a child character, and it’s really tempting to just hold off on specifically stating ANY age until I can sneakily hand it to people who work a lot with kids and go “so . . . how old does this character read to you? Out of curiosity.” WHICH IS CHEATING, but nonetheless . . . really tempting . . .

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      I’ve found it’s pretty easy to revise the age to whatever people think is natural for the character, since usually if they _sound_ older, then they’re also doing older things and their friends also sound older, etc. I guess it’s mainly a problem if they sound young but the plot hinges around them doing older-person things (graduating from high school, getting married, dying of old age, etc)

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