The Real Star Of Game Of Thrones Is Probably Not Who You Think

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
A couple of very clever mathematicians have used a bunch of calculations to determine who the real main character of Game of Thrones is. While this doesn't exactly tell us who will wind up in that extremely uncomfortable-looking iron throne, it does strangely offer up a new way of looking at the whole Song of Ice and Fire book series and HBO adaptation.

In the April issue of the Mathematical Association of America's journal Math Horizons, Andrew Beveridge and Jie Shan apply something called "network science" to the characters, using book three, A Storm of Swords. First, they laid out a diagram of how all the characters in the book were connected to each other. This being math, if they were mentioned within 15 words of each other, they're connected, regardless of how they feel about each other. Then, they used some really complicated calculations those of us who stopped studying math after high school do not recognize in the least, but check them out in the journal, if you're curious. The "degree centrality" of the characters was measured based on how many connections they had and how many interactions within those connections. They received a "Pagerank," similar to Google's, based on "inherent importance...along with an importance acquired from its neighbors." There was also a measure of "closeness centrality" and "betweeness centrality," which are exactly what they sound like.

What does all that mean? Three characters stand out consistently:

"Tyrion, Jon, and Sansa," Beveridge and Shan write. "Acting as the Hand of the King, Tyrion is thrust into the center of the political machinations of the capitol city. Our analysis suggests that he is the true protagonist of the book. Meanwhile, Jon Snow is uniquely positioned in the network, with connections to highborn lords, the Night’s Watch militia, and the savage wildlings beyond the Wall. The real surprise may be the prominence of Sansa Stark, a de facto captive in King’s Landing. However, other players are aware of her value as a Stark heir and they repeatedly use her as a pawn in their plays for power. If she can develop her cunning, then she can capitalize on her network importance to dramatic effect."

This is awesome news for Peter Dinklage fans, but what about Daenerys and Aria? Their isolation from the rest of the pack has by definition made them less "central."

By the way, this kind of math is not just out there to analyze epics and soap operas. As Quartz points out, network science supposed to be helpful in figuring out things like terrorist networks in the real world, not just heroes in Westeros.

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