Yesterday, I was witness to the downfall of the most hated king in fictional history: Joffrey Baratheon. Yes, the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros and incurable you-know-what was toppled before my very eyes. And in New Zealand, no less.
I was making my way down Auckland’s Queen Street when I noticed a crowd gathered in Aotea Square. At the centre of it all was a magnificent, golden statue of Joffrey. The sight sickened me, but, being a massive fan of Game of Thrones, I approached with interest.
I’d heard about this happening, but forgotten. (It was a happy coincidence that I was wearing my Daenerys top.) It was a publicity stunt promoting the new series. The statue had a rope around it, and the rope was attached to a large, wooden wheel. How fast the wheel turned was dependent on how many ‘tweets’ on Twitter the event got. I haven’t got a Twitter account and have no desire to get one, but I was tempted to create one just to help bring the bitch king down faster.
When I got there, at about two in the afternoon, the statue was tilting slightly. I didn’t have anything to do for the rest of the afternoon, so I settled in for the long haul. It was quite a boring wait, but I had my Robin Hobb with me, so I read while the statue inched imperceptibly to a lean.
The sun was beating down on the square. The golden crown on the boy king’s smug head was gleaming. Still, the crowd waited. And grew.
I was sitting on the ground right next to the safety barrier. All around me, I heard snatches of conversation: people daring each other to grab a chunk of the statue when it finally fell; people asking exactly when it was going to come down; people who didn’t watch the show asking, “So is he, like, the evil one?”
I was just impressed that this was happening in New Zealand, the place where nothing usually happens except the filming of fantasy movies. In fact, I heard someone comment, “Aren’t we supposed to be Lord of the Rings, not Game of Thrones?” I wasn’t complaining. I wished we’d got a ‘washed up’ dragon skull on one of our beaches, like England got, though.
As the sun dropped below the line of buildings that surrounded the square, the swollen crowd was getting a bit restless. Then – who’d have thought? – a seagull landed on Joffrey’s head and stayed there. The crowd went wild. Seriously, we were like peasants starved of entertainment. When the seagull flew off, there was a great “AAAWWWWWW” of disappointment.
At some point, they started giving out posters of different house sigils. Of course, being a Northerner, I wanted a Stark one. Typically, they ran out before I got there. I ended up with a Targaryen one, which, you know, isn’t bad. I also got a Tully one and an Arryn one, but who cares about those, right?
Then, from the loudspeakers set up around the square, came those first ominous notes of The Rains of Castamere. The atmosphere improved instantly. This was what I’d been sitting around the last few hours for. The deeply sung words sent shivers up my spine:
And who are you, the proud lord said,
that I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
that’s all the truth I know.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red
a lion still has claws.
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
as long and sharp as yours.
And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
that lord of Castamere,
but now the rains weep o’er his hall
with no one there to hear.
Yes, now the rains weep o’er his hall
with not a soul to hear.
But the statue didn’t fall. They started playing the titles music, which built to crescendo that had never seemed more dramatic. Everyone stood poised to cheer.
But still the statue didn’t fall.
They played Rains of Castamere again. And the main theme. It got to the point where everyone groaned every time it began again. I mean couldn’t they have played The Bear and the Maiden Fair to pass the time?
Then, finally, Joffrey looked about to fall. They played the main theme AGAIN, hopefully for the last time. It finished. The statue hadn’t fallen. Then, miraculously, it fell.
It was a bit of a letdown, really. It didn’t crash to the ground like in the films, shattering dramatically save for an outstretched hand. It just swung down to land headfirst and stayed there, facing the plinth, upside-down but upright.
The top of the head shattered a bit. The crown broke in two, which was nice.
People started moving away. I was among them, but then I heard a great cheer go up. Some guy had jumped the barrier and nicked the crown, and was now running away as fast as he could, chased by a fat security person. I’m glad to say the guy made it to freedom, darting into the mass of people walking up Queen Street and disappearing from sight. I wonder what he did with the crown.
The spectacle of Joffrey Baratheon being brought down in Aotea Square marked, I think, an important day for New Zealand. Until now, New Zealand has been notorious for being months behind America and Britain as far as TV shows are concerned. (Don’t even get me started on Coronation Street.) But yesterday, we were firmly in sync with the rest of the world, and it felt good.
As a side note, I found it startling how such a large crowd could be united in hatred against a mere statue, even if it was just in fun. I feel like I fully understand now why statues are pulled down. It was satisfying and disturbingly emotive. I felt as though, had we really been starving peasants outside King’s Landing, we’d have taken up our pitchforks and stormed the Red Keep. You’d think you’d be intelligent enough to resist mob mentality, but it was fun just being involved. Exhilarating.
Down with King Joffrey!