The number of major characters that die in the first season shocks anyone who watches Game of Thrones. To name a few: Viserys Targaryen, Robert Baratheon (the King), Eddard Stark (Lord of the North) and Drogo all die within the first few episodes. This situation leaves the audience wondering: “Who is the real protagonist of this show??”. It seems like some an associate professor of mathematics and an undergraduate student at Macalester College had the same question in mind when they decided to use the network science to identify the most central character.
Network of Thrones study is a truly interesting application of network sciences to fictional interactions that can be quantitatively examined by text analysis. This study takes a look at the complicated character relationships and their impact on the future plot in the series. Generated using the third book A Storm of Swords, the study consists of 107 vertices (representing characters) and 353 integer-weighted edges (representing relationships between characters, where a higher weight signifies a stronger tie). The data for the strength of relationship (a high level of interaction or association) is collected through checking whether the characters’ names appear within 15 words from one another in the book. In these ties, the characters don’t have to be friends, which makes the analysis much easier, given that there are only a few true friendships in the series!
A look at the produced network reveals that there are seven subnetworks (i.e. communities), which are held together by sparser and weaker ties. These communities are clustered around the influential characters in the book and represent geographical, familial and even adversarial ties. These seven communities are identified as: the Lannisters and King’s Landing, Robb’s army, Bran and friends, Arya and companions, Jon Snow and the far North, Stannis’s forces, and Daerenys and the exotic people of Essos.
This study utilizes different centrality measures, such as:
- Degree centrality (ranking a character by how many others he/she is connected with. It is calculated by number of edges incident with the given vertex)
- Weighted degree centrality (calculated by summing the weights of the incident edges)
- Eigenvector centrality (a weighted degree centrality with a feedback loop: essentially, a vertex gets a boost for being connected to important vertices)
- Page rank (fun fact: this is the algorithm that Google uses in its search engine! It puts the characters into a feedback loop, rewarding them based on whether they are associated with important people. The neighbor’s importance is divided equally among its direct connections, therefore, passing only a small fraction of its importance to each neighbor)
- Closeness centrality (calculated by the average distance from the vertex to all other vertices)
Each of these measures produces different information that complements one another. According to the analysis, three characters are observed to be the most prominent ones: Tyrion (the sharp-witted, marginalized member of house of Lannister), Jon Snow (the former head of the Night’s Watch and bastard son of Eddard Stark) and Sansa Stark (One of Eddard Stark’s daughters). Interestingly, in all of these measures, but one of them, Tyrion is ranked first. Above all, the study concludes that Tyrion is the true protagonist of the book, given that he is the Hand of the King, and “the center of the political machinations of the capitol city.”
This analysis holds great accuracy, given that 49 chapters in the book are written from the point of view of Tyrion already. Even though, the final conclusion is a good reflection of the most central character in the book, this study fails to recognize other characters that the author emphasized in the book. For example, Arya Stark (Sansa’s younger sister) has the third most chapters (34); however, she is ranked behind Sansa in terms of importance. Similarly, Daenerys Targaryen (“The Mother of Dragons”) is another character whose value is underappreciated. Her geographical isolation (being in Essos, rather than Westeros) hinders her centrality in this study. Despite this fact, she is still recognized to be an important character.
Beveridge, the author of this study, argued that this technique, which can hint at the future importance of Arya, Tyrion and Daenerys can be used to predict the future events in the book. In fact, two books later, the reader is immersed much more into the story of “The Mother of Dragons”, who becomes an even more prominent protagonist.
Link to the Study Network of Thrones:
Epstein, Adam. “Mathematicians Mapped out Every “Game of Thrones” Relationship to Find the Main Character.” Quartz. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. <http://qz.com/650796/mathematicians-mapped-out-every-game-of-thrones-relationship-to-find-the-main-character/>.