Brienne of Tarth, in Game of Thrones, is noble in her cause, and intends to uphold an oath she swore to Lady Stark to keep her children safe. But she is also a bit naive about the nature of the world in which she lives.
Brienne thinks she can bring Arya to a safe place, wherever that is. But as The Hound so eloquently reminds her:
“There is no safety you dumb bitch. And if you don’t know that by now, you’re the wrong one to watch over her.”
If Brienne thinks she can ever let her guard down, or relax, she will never be safe. There is no destination at which point she and Arya will be ultimately secure. It just does not exist.
And Sandor Clegane–The Hound–is right; if Brienne of Tarth cannot understand this basic fact about the world, she is not capable of keeping Arya safe.
The Hound’s negative view on the danger of the world actually leaves him less vulnerable, and therefore safer.
As rough and tumble as the Hound is, Arya was in fact safe the entire time she was with him. This was no guarantee, its just how it happened, mostly due to the fact that The Hound knows there is no safety to be had, except by vigilance in every moment.
There is no safe place, there is no safe time, and there are no safe people to be with. This keeps him alert and in a secure position to deal with threats.
And although Brienne’s goal is to make Arya even safer, she instead severely wounds the person keeping Arya safest. Brienne incorrectly judges The Hound to be a danger to Arya, and then fails to secure Arya, leaving her more defenseless than she had been previously.
And through this interaction, Brienne actually proves The Hound’s point. Brienne’s desire to bring Arya to safety created a dangerous situation that could have been avoided if she only realized that safety is a constant effort, and not a destination.
Should We Apply a Lesson From a Fake Story in a Mythical Setting?
In the modern world we are much safer than humans were in the middle ages. And in the real world there are certain things we don’t have to worry about, like white-walkers and dragons.
But unfortunately we do still have to contend with the likes of Cersi and the Lannisters, the Ramsy Boltons, and the treacherous Freys all playing their part in our own “Game of Thrones”.
In our lives, they are usually less murdery and slightly more taciturn in their elitist desire for domination.
The lesson however remains: there is no guarantee of safety (you dumb bitch).
But before you think I am being gloomy and pessimistic, consider the gift of understanding this realization.
In the pursuit of the ultimate goal of “safety” we expose ourselves and society to all sorts of dangers.
It is important to understand that in this world, and in this life, there is no destination. Everything is fluid, and constantly changing. We like to imagine a time in the future when we are secure, safe, comfortable, happy and just generally all set.
But the desire for a finish line is elusive; instead we must constantly extract all these things from our daily lives. Safety is no different. Happiness is a lifestyle, as if comfort, security, and yes, safety.
Safety is all relative. We can certainly do things that make us safer, and we can put ourselves at undue risk.
But at the end of the day, safety comes down to vigilance. Unless you are constantly on alert to those things which threaten your safety, you will be taken by surprise.
How Safety Relates to Liberty
It doesn’t really matter if the person making you less safe is Brienne of Tarth or Cersi Lannister. Cersi, in a sense, is safer to be around, because you understand that she is dangerous, and can protect yourself.
But how can you protect yourself from someone who thinks they have your best interests at heart, whether you like it or not?
Some people will have noble goals and try to force you into their “safe” world that they have flawlessly designed for security. Their ignorance makes you just as vulnerable as Cersi’s malevolence.
We must each be at liberty to look after our own safety. Others will offer us ultimate safety, utopia, and uninterrupted security that we can just accept and then forget about. This will lead us down a path of naivety, ignorance, and vulnerability.
Whether those who lure you into the false sense of security are doing so because their goals are noble, or because their motives are nefarious hardly matters.
To riff off Benjamin Franklin, if you give up liberty in the pursuit of safety, you will get neither.