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Understanding Cersei

As we enter the final season of Game of Thrones, we have two “villains” left: The Night King and Cersei Lannister. It’s easy to hate Cersei. She’s lied, cheated, and even killed in the process of remaining powerful. But was she always this way? There are some who say she was a liar from the start and nothing she did or said was ever the truth. But I don’t think that’s the case.

I think a long series of events has brought Cersei to where she is today, each one making her more bitter and vengeful.

The Loss of Her Mother

The loss of a mother can be traumatic for anyone, let alone a little girl. The fact that her mother died suddenly increased that blow. Cersei shares some of her experience after her mother died. In the first episode of season 6, right after learning of Myrcella’s death, she says,

“All I could think about when she died was what would happen to her now. Every day, every night, ‘what does Mama look like now? Has she started to bloat? Has her skin turned black? Have her lips peeled back from her teeth?'”

Thinking about someone’s death in such a morbid way illustrates how much effect that death had on her. The fact that her mother died while giving birth to Tyrion sows the first seeds of something very cruel inside her that has grown and grown as she’s gotten older.

The Prophecy

In the first episode of season 5, we see a flashback of Cersei as a girl. She and a friend enter the hut of Maggy the Frog, a witch who can supposedly see the future. After asking about her marriage prospects, Cersei asks about having children, to which Maggy tells her she will have three, but all of them will die.

“Gold will be their crowns. Gold… their shrouds.”

Even though Cersei is portrayed as an arrogant little brat in that scene, it’s hard to believe hearing something like that wouldn’t have an effect on her. And the look on her face seems to reflect that. Later on in season 6, in that same scene where she’s mourning Myrcella’s death, she tells Jaime about the prophecy and how she believes it.

“I knew this would happen. The witch told me years ago… Everything she said came true.”

It’s worth noting that a couple of events would negate this prophecy if Cersei is to be believed. In the second episode of season 1, Cersei visits Catelyn Stark as she sits by Bran’s bedside. During that conversation, Cersei talks about losing her first child. From that conversation, we can gather that the child died very young, but it would change the terms of that prophecy. That is, if Cersei was telling the truth. The next event is the question of Cersei’s pregnancy in season 7. Again, if she’s telling the truth, that would also mean the prophecy wasn’t quite right.

The Marriage

Marriage for political reasons is a common occurrence in Game of Thrones. Cersei’s marriage to Robert Baratheon is one of those marriages. It’s made very clear throughout the show, until his death, that Robert had no interest in marrying Cersei. He was betrothed to and loved Lyanna Stark, and he says that nothing could have replaced her. But how did Cersei feel about Robert? Again, we have another case of whether Cersei was lying or not. When Ned Stark confronts her about her children’s true father, he asks her if she hated Robert the entire time. She answers,

“Hated him? I worshipped him. Every girl in the seven kingdoms dreamed of him, but he was mine by oath. And when I finally saw him on our wedding day in the Sept of Baelor, lean and fierce and black-bearded, it was the happiest moment of my life. And that night he crawled on top of me, stinking of wine and did what little he could do and whispered in my ear, ‘Lyanna.’ Your sister was a corpse and I was a living girl and he loved her more than me.”

The Loss of Her Children

It’s said many times throughout the show, that no matter her many faults, Cersei loves her children. Losing Joffrey was traumatic, but if I had to point to one moment that really turned Cersei into the monster she is now, it would be the death of Myrcella. It’s the only time we see Cersei admit that she’s a terrible person.

“[Myrcella] was good… She was nothing like me. No meanness, no jealousy, just good. I thought if I could make something so good… maybe I’m not a monster.”

After that, everything about Cersei turns to evil. Even her reaction to Tommen’s death isn’t anywhere near what you would expect. And with him gone now too, there’s nothing left in the world for her to love.

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