Two mathematicians have mapped out the relationships of characters in popular book and TV series Game of Thrones, in an attempt to work out who the main character is. The series is renowned for regularly killing off the major players, often with very little warning and to the shock (and horror) of readers and viewers alike.
Andrew J. Beveridge, associate professor of Mathematics at Macalester College, and one of his students used network science, a branch of graph theory that draws on economics, sociology and computer science, to reveal the ‘true hero’ of the story, through the connections they have with other characters. Characters were connected any time they ‘interacted’ the book (defined as appearing within 15 words of each other), and the links were weighted depending on how often the two characters appeared in close proximity. Even though the mathematicians didn’t tell the network what the various communities were, the system produced a very accurate portrayal of the geographical and familial communities and connections.
After the characters had been connected, they ranked the characters by different measures, including by how many others they’re connected with (degree centrality) and another which gives characters higher ranking if they are connected with other ‘important’ people within the network (PageRank).
The result showed Tyrion Lannister as the most highly ranked in most areas, followed by Jon Snow and, somewhat surprisingly for fans of the book, Sansa Stark, who ranks above her popular sister, Arya.
Students applying for Maths, Economics, Computer Science or HSPS should look into the concepts of network science, which has more serious applications such as studying terrorist networks. English Literature applicants should consider the wider implications of this project – can maths really give insight into a writer’s plan for certain characters, and if they can is that significant? How important is the element of surprise and unpredictability as a feature of literature?