Who Are 'Game Of Thrones' Sand Snakes of Dorne? Oberyn's Daughters & Official Badasses, That's Who
Soon enough, Sand will be as infamous a surname to Game of Thrones fans as Snow has been for the last four seasons. Last year, Prince Oberyn Martell became a quick fan favorite when he arrived in King Landing to shake things up, only to meet a pretty gruesome end. Finally, Oberyn's bastard daughters — known as the Sand Snakes because Sand is the bastard surname of the South and their father is "Red Viper" — who book readers know to be just as electric in presence as their father, are entering the series' story in the wake of Oberyn's death. This means a lot of things for Season 5 of Game of Thrones , most notably, the introduction to the southern land of Dorne, oft mentioned, but never visited... until now.
In George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, Oberyn's daughters enter the narrative with sole purpose: to avenge their father's death. Oberyn is known to have eight daughters by multiple women, including the youngest four by his paramour, Ellaria Sand (she of last season's most heart-wrenching scream); but both the novels and the series focus on his three eldest daughters — Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene. In the books, much of the Sand Snakes' story is told through the point of view of Arianne Martell, their cousin, confidant, and heir to Dorne under her father Doran Martell. To the dismay of many who follow Martin's books, Arianne was not included in Season 5 casting and seems to have been replaced by her younger brother from the books, Trystane Martell.
In the absence of Arianne, the Sand Snakes will be especially important in the representation of Dornish culture; Dorne is known for strong women and unlike the rest of the Westeros lands we've been introduced to so far, doesn't abide by a gender-based inheritance system. Alas, we won't have Arianne, but there's plenty to love in the new trio of Sand women. As the actress playing Obara, Keisha Castle-Hughes, told Entertainment Weekly, though Game of Thrones has its fair share of strong female "lone wolves," fans "haven’t seen women who are strong together and who collaborate — which is a dangerous thing. We’re three girls who are violent and manipulative who are thirsty for Lannister blood.”
We should probably get to know these powerhouses, eh?
Obara, the eldest bastard daughter of Oberyn is by far the thirstiest for Lannister blood. Played by New Zealander Castle-Hughes (the second youngest person to be Oscar-nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Whale Rider, mind you), Obara is the daughter of a peasant. In the books, she's not known for her looks, and considers herself a warrior before anything else — sound like any other GoT fan favorites we know? Though she wields many weapons in Martin's telling, the HBO series appears to be giving each Sand daughter a signature weapon; like her father, Obara's will be the spear.
Nymeria is the second oldest Sand Snake, the daughter of a noble woman, and therefore often referred to as Lady Nym. Unlike Obara, she is known for her great beauty, but she is equally set on avenging her father, and just as dangerous as Obara. Her skill with skill with daggers has been shifted down to younger sister Tyene in the series, and British actress Jessica Henwick has taken up the bullwhip as Nym's signature weapon.
That leaves youngest Sand Snake of note, Tyene (played by Italian-American actress, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) wielding the double-daggers. In the novels, she shares her father's skills with poison, but I understand how little bottle of herbs could seem less threatening in TV press shots. Tyene has the sweetest disposition of the Sand Snakes, but with so many different ways to kill a Lannister at her disposal, she shares the family trait for vengeance.
Images: Helen Sloan/HBO (2); Macall B. Polay/HBO