Re-affirming and rejecting the rescue narrative as an impetus for war: to war for a woman in a Song of Ice and Fire

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From Paris' capture of Helen in Homer's Iliad, and the resulting 10-year war in retaliation, Western literature has a long tradition of narrativising the turn to war as a dispute in service of a woman. Yet in contemporary Western legal accounts it is assumed that legal arch-positivism now governs the decision to go to war, and so any such action can be considered rational and just. However, contemporary turns to war are increasingly invoking just war theory that is wrapped in a similar patriarchal gender narrative. George RR Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire' evokes the European tradition of war in the middle ages, but also explores modern aspects of liberalism, statehood, and international relations. This paper explores how the turn to war is narrativised and understood by various characters in the novels. It does so in order to demonstrate how calls to war rooted in chivalry and protectionism can gain more currency than those rooted in legalist language, but outlines how this then perpetuates and cements a regressive view of women as passive and helpless. This article ultimately calls for an alternative account of law's understanding of war which does not invoke the rescuer paradigm, and so offers potential reimagining of contemporary justifications for war.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-250
Number of pages22
JournalLaw and Humanities
Issue number2
Early online date4 Sep 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Sep 2018


  • Game of Thrones
  • gender
  • conflict
  • just war
  • narratives
  • rape
  • saving women

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