Freedoms & Capabilities in Game of Thrones

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“I don’t need your permission to defend the North”

Lyanna Mormont, in Game of Thrones, Season 7

In Game of Thrones, the speech of Lyanna Mormont in Season 7 went viral. It was because of her feminist and empowering speech. I find this scene interesting not simply because of a feminist-hero-speech. It is also an interesting example of pursuing freedoms and enhancing the capabilities of individuals, for which the capability approach advocates that it is what public policy ought to aim for as its end goal.

Lyanna Mormont Game of Thrones season seven episode one

In this scene, the lords of all banners in the North are gathered at Winterfell. Jon Snow stands up and asks all to have both men and women train to fight against the Night King and the White Walker army. All men in the room start questioning his plan, and Lady Mormont (Lyanna Mormont) stands up and gives a speech. 

Jon: Everyone aged 10-to-60 will drill daily with spears, pikes, bow and arrow.

Lord Glover:  It’s about time we taught those boys of summer how to fight. 

Jon: Not just the boys. We can’t defend the North if only half the population is fighting

Lord Glover: (shocked) You expect me to put a spear in my granddaughter’s hand?

Lady Mormont: I don’t plan on knitting by the fire while men fight for me. I might be small, Lord Glover, and I might be a girl, but I am every bit as much a Northerner as you. 

(Lord Glover tries to explain but Lady Mormont continues)

Lady Mormont: And I don’t need your permission to defend the North. We will begin training every man, woman, boy and girl on Bear Island. 

Lyanna Mormont expands freedoms of the Bear Island people

In this scene, Lyanna Mormont’s line “I don’t need your permission to defend the North” is an example of pursuing freedom. As I wrote in another post, freedom in the capability approach is positive freedom: you have freedom if you can act in a way to take control of your own life, can realise your fundamental purposes and can play an active role in your community. In this example, the important aspect is whether she has the freedom to choose her action, regardless of whether her final choice is defending the North or not.

Lyanna Mormont’s decision also expands the freedoms of girls and boys on Bear Island. By training them, their capabilities of defending themselves, or friends and families are enhanced. Their choice of fighting or running away does not have to rely on others. In the end, some girls and boys may decide not to fight and run away. But there is a difference between running away because they don’t have the ability to fight, and running away because they actively choose to do so even though they have the ability to fight.

The concepts of freedoms and capabilities are simple

Freedom and capability are core concepts in the capability approach. The words freedom and capability are commonly used in our daily life. Because they are such familiar words, their meaning seems so obvious. However, when people start reading academic papers, they often find it difficult to grasp what freedom and capability really mean. The two terms become very unfamiliar and highly abstract words. “Freedoms to achieve the lives that a person has reason to value”, “capability as a proxy of the freedoms“……

But if we bring these concepts to a more simple daily life situation, then you may find it is actually a simple idea, and perhaps you may even feel, it’s nothing special. There are many examples, and the scene of Lyanna Mormont would be one of them.