Your sigil

If any of you are bored enough to follow me on Twitter, you'll know I'm a massive fan of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, which is as politically realistic as The West Wing but with swords, armour and castles.

I couldn't get enough of the show, so much so, I have now dipped into the books the television series is based on; five enormous novels (with two to come) written by George R. R. Martin in an epic titled A Song of Fire and Ice.

I'm not really one for fantasy novels, but these books are wonderful - filled with plotting, bloodletting and hints of magic; as Britain's Guardian newspaper described them, they are like "the Twelve Caesars of fantasy fiction with characters so venomous they could eat the Borgias".

The story is staggering in its scope and detail, with so many characters and knights and lords you have trouble keeping up with them all, though the narrative runs through a handful of main players the author is not afraid to kill.

I can't recommend the books highly enough - and for the first time in a long while I've had that feeling of excitement when I think of reading at night: "I get to see what happens to the princess!" Or "When are the dragons gonna start to fly!!"

Yeah, yeah, I'll be growing a ponytail and clipping my mobile on my belt soon enough.

Anyway, one aspect I've particularly enjoyed about the books is the descriptions of the "cigils" aka sigils or coats of arms of the high houses on the fabled continent of Westeros.

There are hundreds of them, ranging from the predictable lions, dragons and hawks to onions, stags, giants in chains, lighthouses, waterspouts, crabs, waves, wheels, olives and krakens.

What's fun is that Martin seems to have put a lot of thought into their backgrounds, so the "cigils" tell a story about the family and house they represent as well as the terrain and country they hale from.


Thus the mighty houses of Lannister and Stark take their symbols from the most powerful animal in their lands, the lion and the wolf, the Targaryens from the three dragons that were once the source of their power.

House Bolton apparently has a habit of peeling the skin off enemies, so their sigil is a flayed man; the cluster of grapes of House Redwyne signifies their most popular product of export - wine.

Trust me, they go on and on and on and it made me wonder why we abandoned such a cool tradition and also what I and various mates would adopt as our sigils or coat or arms.

For my mate Platty, I suggested a white surfboard, crossed with a frothing brown schooner on a field of marine blue, though I'm sure he'd like to make some adjustments.

For my mate Mick Hart, a muso, I'd suggest a guitar on a field of red love hearts, with two fingers held in a "claw" - his method for shooting pool.

Another friend, who shall remain nameless, would be two white lines of powder, topped by a crown of stubbed-out ciggie butts, on a field of bourbon-coloured fabric covered in white NASDAQ symbols.

The thing about sigils is they often represent a key moment in a person's life - usually an event that brought them good fortune - so you'd imagine a Lotto winner would work Lotto balls on to his sigil somewhere, and Julia Gillard might have a dagger dripping with Kevin Rudd's blood.

For myself, I thought about a fountain pen (a keyboard would look lame) held by a mermaid, overshadowed by a cresting wave, not because of my rather average surfing skills, but because the ocean has always played a large part in my life.

Anyways, it's a bit of fun for a Friday - so I thought you might like to tell us what your sigil would be and why. You can also suggest alternate sigils for me if you want to be a smartarse.


Well, you can't throw me off, but I will be abseiling down the AMP Building at Sydney's Circular Quay as part of the 2011 Urban Descent to raise money for the Sir David Martin Foundation to help youth in crisis.

SERIOUSLY - I never ask you people for anything - well, aside from buying my book - and this is a great cause. I would welcome any contribution, great or small, that you could make and it's sooo easy to do. Go here.

Sam de Brito's latest novel Hello Darkness is in bookstores now. You can follow him on Twitter here.