Heraldry, history and ASOIAF/GoT

As dumb as it sounds, one of the things I love about George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is the heraldry.  Specifically, the house sigils, as they are more commonly known, are some of the most iconic things about the show.  Of course Martin based this on medieval heraldry practices that, at least technically, still exist to this day.  Plenty of families have coats of arms, as do cities, towns, universities and colleges, etc.  And the central part of any coat of arms is usually a shield of some sort.  In the world of ASOIAF these tend to be fairly simple (the direwolf of House Stark, both the HBO version and book-ish version) although a few do get more complex (like House Tarth, HBO version and book-ish version).   And GRRM goes to a lot of trouble to describe the sigils of a great many houses in ASOIAF.  To give you an idea of the sheer amount of creative calories burned, check out the Heraldry page at the Citadel website and this awesome Westeros map some uber-geeks put together.  I totally geeked out about both of those.

Well, Kelly and I decided a while back to make our own sigil (in true geek fashion) and now I will share it with the world via the Intertubes.  A lot of people did something similar with the “Join the Realm” promo web page done by HBO for Game of Thrones.  But I wanted to do our own, with symbols that meant something to both Kelly and me.

Sigil of House Hopkins-MichaelHouse Hopkins-Michael

“Cats and Dogs Living Together”

I think this is how our sigil is properly described: Quarterly, with 1 and 4 Purpure, 2 Argent, a cat courant sinister Sable,  3 Argent, a burrow-hound passant Sable.   Whew! Hope I did that right.

As dumb as it might sound, I put this together based on the heraldry rules as best I understood them.  The only thing I know for sure that I should have done differently is I wanted to make this in a shield shape (in true escutcheon fashion) but got lazy so I did a simple rectangle, like a flag.  The colors (or tinctures) used are: Purpure (purple); Sable (black); and Argent (silver or white).  And for those of you paying attention, yes, those were our wedding colors as well.

Our charges are emblematic of us, I would say: a dog, specifically a dachshund; and a cat, of the domestic house type.  Now, I have no idea if dachshunds or similarly-built breeds (think Corgis or Vallhunds) exist in Westeros (they don’t seem to be mentioned), but they damn well should.  After all, Vallhunds have been around since the 8th or 9th century, and Corgis are suspected to have been around in some version in the Middle Ages.  So some sort of muscular, stocky working dog seems appropriate for Westeros.  Only “dachshund” doesn’t sound right, since it is more of a modern, or at least contemporary, name.  Well, since GRRM calls alligators “lizard-lions”, we decided a proper-sounding name for a dachshund-style dog in Westeros would be “burrow-hound”.   So there.  Nyah.

Quartered arms usually represented the combined arms of two or more houses.  Thus in ours the dog and the cat represent our combined houses, which is sort of emphasized even further by our motto (or “words” in Westeros): Cats and Dogs Living Together.  That is of course both literal and figurative.

Anyway, after I finished the design I was quite pleased with the result, but more importantly so was Kelly.  So now we have our sigil, which is important because when the Starks call their banners and we* have to go to war against the Lannisters, everyone will know who we are and, more importantly in some ways, to whom we are loyal.**

-Geoff

*Yes, we.  If Lady Maege of House Mormont and Brienne of House Tarth can don armor and fight, so can Kelly.   I pity the poor Lannister lackeys who cross her path.

**The King in the North.  Duh.

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