Game of Thrones: What is Dorne and Who are the Sand Snakes?

Each season of Game of Thrones has taken us to new locations, widening the scope of the story and adding new and interesting characters. This season, we’re getting Dorne.

Where and What is Dorne?

Dorne Map

Famous for red wine, scorching deserts, and passionate people, Dorne is the southernmost region of Westeros. It is also the most distinct and least understood.

The ruling family of Dorne is the Martells, whose words are “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken“, a motto which they seem to live by. The Martells have a bloody history with the Iron Throne. It is not a coincidence that the Dornish are known for stubborn rebelliousness and that Dorne also happened to be the last of the Seven Kingdoms to be brought into the Targaryen’s domain.

They alone can claim to have slain one of the great dragons of Aegon’s conquest (Meraxes) and its rider, Queen Rhaenys. Their resilience eventually paid off, Dorne enjoys privileges that the other Seven Kingdoms do not; outside of the royal family, only the members of the ruling house of Dorne may claim the title of Prince or Princess. One of which made an appearance last season.

Prince Oberyn Martell embodied the Dornish ideal; he was fiery, ambitious, and hedonistic. And he did not miss an opportunity for revenge.

Oberyn Martell

Prince Oberyn, or the Red Viper as he was also known, never forgot his sister Princess Elia, and her death at the hands of Ser Gregor Clegane. Last season, Tyrion’s trial for regicide granted the Prince a chance to both thwart Lord Tywin’s plans and bring his sister’s murderer to justice. Although Prince Oberyn did not survive the season, his children have, and they are no less bent on revenge than he was.

The Sand Snakes

Dorne Sand Snakes

During a conversation with Queen Cersei, Prince Oberyn mentioned he had a total of eight children, all daughters. The four oldest were born by various women, while the four youngest were born by his lover Elaria Sand. It seems that only three of these daughters will be relevant to the show however.

The Red Viper’s children were born out of wedlock, and are all technically bastards because of that. Like Jon Snow, these women do not inherit their noble father’s surname. Instead, they take the name for bastard children of the region, which in this case is Sand. It is not hard to imagine how the bastard children of the Red Viper might earn the nickname “Sand Snakes”.

Obara Sand: The oldest Sand Snake, Obara fights in a manner similar to her father; choosing the spear over the sword. She is known for her hotheadedness.

Nymeria Sand: With her father a Dornish Prince, and her Mother a Noblewoman from the East, this bastard daughter is often referred to as Lady Nym. If her story is to follow the course set for her in the books, she will be taking Oberyn’s seat on the small council.

Tyene Sand: Though she is born from a Septa in the books, it seems that the show will have Elaria as Tyene’s mother. She shares the Red Viper’s knowledge of poisons, and is more than willing to use them.

How exactly they will fit into the scheme of things to come is yet to be seen, but we’ll a get a taste of what they’re plotting in tonight’s episode.

Fun Fact!

Nymeria (Nym) Sand and Arya’s Direwolf are named after the famous Queen Nymeria, who married into House Martell and toppled six Dornish kings in her conquest of the region.

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