Guest right

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Guest right is an ancient and sacred custom in Westeros, going back thousands of years to the First Men.[1] It is also recognized in the Free Cities.[2]

Customs

The guest right is a sacred law of hospitality, especially in the north.[3] When a guest, be he commonborn or noble, eats the food and drinks the drink off a host's table beneath the host's roof, guest right is invoked. Bread and salt are traditional provisions.

When invoked, neither the guest nor the host can harm the other for the length of the guest's stay.[1] For either to do so would be to break a sacred covenant that is believed to invoke the wrath of the gods. both old and new. Even robber lords and wreckers are bound by the ancient laws of hospitality.[4]

A lord with a bared sword across his knees is making a traditional sign that he is denying guest right.[5]

It is sometimes customary for a host to give guest gifts to the departing guests when they leave the host's dwellings; this usually represents the end of the sacred guest right.[4][6] In addition, visiting guests will sometimes offer their host guest gifts as gratitude for giving them food and shelter.[7][8]

History

The legend of the Rat Cook of the Nightfort concerns guest right.[9] Its song is used to represent the repercussions that await those who violate this sacred law of hospitality.[10]

Maester Egbert wrote about northern violations of guest right in Justice and Injustice in the North: Judgments of Three Stark Lords, with only kinslaying being an equivalent crime.[10]

Lord Lyman Lannister provided guest right to Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaena Targaryen, protecting them from King Maegor I Targaryen.[11]

During his dispute with House Webber, Ser Eustace Osgrey refused hospitality to Lady Rohanne Webber when she neared the lands of House Osgrey.[12]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

When Tyrion Lannister returns to Winterfell after the injury of Bran Stark, Robb Stark greets Tyrion with an unsheathed sword upon his knees.[5]

A Clash of Kings

Mance Rayder agrees to protect Jon as a guest when they meet beyond the Wall.[1]

Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, gifts Craster with an axe and a crossbow when the great ranging stays at Craster's Keep. The pregnant Gilly wants Jon Snow to take her away. When Jon protests that he is a guest, Gilly argues that Jon did not eat Craster's food or sleep in Craster's hall.[7]

A Storm of Swords

Craster and Jeor are murdered by members of the Night's Watch during the mutiny at Craster's Keep.[8]

Robb and his mother Catelyn receive bread and salt when they arrive at the Twins for the wedding of Lord Edmure Tully.[13] Walder Frey, the Lord of the Crossing, betrays them in the Red Wedding, however.[14] Despite having supported the massacre, Lord Tywin Lannister places the blame on Walder.[15]

A Feast for Crows

Trust in guest right has declined in the riverlands in the aftermath of the Red Wedding. The brotherhood without banners hangs some outlaws and soldiers who expect safety at the crossroads inn.[16][17]

Wine, cheese, bread, and salt are offered to the Lords Declarant when they come to the Eyrie, since their acceptance of the good is a recognition of guest right.[18]

A Dance with Dragons

Lord Davos Seaworth is grateful to eat bread and sister's stew while at Breakwater, since it is a recognition of guest right by Lord Godric Borrell.[4]

Lord Wyman Manderly grants palfreys as guest gifts to Jared, Rhaegar Frey, and Symond Frey when they depart White Harbor.[6][19] Wyman desires vengeance against House Frey for the death of his son, Wendel, who was killed at the Twins as a guest during the Red Wedding.[6] The three Frey envoys disappear while traveling to Barrowton.[20] Wyman serves three large pork pies during the wedding feast of Ramsay Bolton and "Arya Stark" at Winterfell.[21]

Despite Obara Sand's calls for vengeance, Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne, refuses to harm his guest, Ser Balon Swann.[22]

Jon Snow, now Lord Commander, accepts Alys Karstark as a guest at Castle Black and has Cregan Stark apprehended before he can request guest right.[23]

Quotes

Once I had eaten at his board I was protected by guest right. The laws of hospitality are as old as the First Men, and sacred as a heart tree … Here you are the guest, and safe from harm at my hands … this night, at least.[1]
- Mance Rayder to Jon Snow


Jeor: The gods will curse us. There is no crime so foul as for a guest to bring murder into a man's hall. By all the laws of the hearth, we-

Dirk: There are no laws beyond the Wall, old man.[8]

- Jeor Mormont and Dirk during the mutiny at Craster's Keep


In the north, we hold the laws of hospitality sacred still.[24]
- Roose Bolton to Jaime Lannister


Catelyn: If we are offered refreshment when we arrive, on no account refuse. Take what is offered, and eat and drink where all can see. If nothing is offered, ask for bread and cheese and a cup of wine.

Robb: I'm more wet than hungry …
Catelyn: Robb, listen to me. Once you have eaten of his bread and salt, you have the guest right, and the laws of hospitality protect you beneath his roof.
Robb: I have an army to protect me, Mother, I don't need to trust in bread and salt. But if it pleases Lord Walder to serve me stewed crow smothered in maggots, I'll eat it and ask for a second bowl.[13]

- Catelyn Stark and Robb Stark


Walder: Bread and salt. Heh. Of course, of course. My guests. My honored guests. Be welcome beneath my roof, and at my table.

Robb: We thank you for your hospitality, my lord.[13]

- Walder Frey and Robb Stark


Guest right don’t mean so much as it used to. Not since m’lady come back from the wedding. Some o’ them swinging down by the river figured they was guests too.[17]
- Jeyne Heddle to Brienne of Tarth


Tyrion: In the Seven Kingdoms it is considered a grave breach of hospitality to poison your guests at supper.

Illyrio: Here as well. Yet when a guest plainly wishes to end his own life, why, his host must oblige him, no?[2]

- Tyrion Lannister and Illyrio Mopatis


I will see the dawn, at least … I have eaten of his bread and salt.[4]
- Davos Seaworth’s thoughts after eating sister's stew with Godric Borrell


Ser Balon is a guest beneath my roof. He has eaten of my bread and salt. I will not do him harm.[22]
- Doran Martell to the Sand Snakes


Walder Frey's fourth wife was a Blackwood, but kinship counts for no more than guest right at the Twins.[25]
Tytos Blackwood to Jaime Lannister

References and Notes

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