The sigil of a bastard born to House Baratheon in Game of Thrones.
DISCLAIMER: THE SYMBOLS IN THIS SET ARE FROM THE HBO TV SERIES, NOT THE ORIGINAL NOVELS.
Based on George R.R. Martin’s famous series of novels (collectively known as “A Song of Ice and Fire”), the television series “Game of Thrones” first premiered in 2011 on the channel HBO. It is set in a fantasy world heavily based on the society and culture of the European Middle Ages. Two primary continents, known as Westeros and Essos, make up the bulk of the visible landmass in this world, with the former being featured in storylines much more frequently. While typical elements from fantasy stories, such as dragons and various forms of magic, are seen throughout the series, in the long run these generally take a backseat to the military conflicts, political machinations and family dynamics that are the principle focus of the story.
The continent of Westeros is made up of many different regions, each of which has its own culture and history. Most of these regions form constituent parts of a single political realm, which is presided over by a ruling monarch. While the monarch holds ultimate power over the realm, local governance of each region is handled by a “Great House”, a noble family whose members answer directly to the sovereign. House Baratheon is one of these Great Houses, and their sigil is a black stag on a field of gold (for full details, see the symbol for ‘House Baratheon’).
One of the most prominent social issues in the series, and one that carries a great deal of weight for many characters, is the concept of children born outside of marriage, i.e. bastards. Throughout Westeros, men fathering children by women other than their wives is by no means uncommon, but the matter becomes highly complicated when the father (and in some cases the mother) is a member of a noble house. By law, a bastard child is not allowed to inherit their noble parent’s titles, lands or privileges, and the socio-religious stigma attached to being a bastard is almost universally negative. The circumstances of individual bastards vary greatly from case to case, but some threads are constant; if the noble parent- who is usually the father- acknowledges their bastard, the child is allowed to take a special surname, based on the region of Westeros where they were born. Since members of the nobility are the only ones who typically use surnames, this awards the child a certain status but by no means removes the stigma attached to their birth. Also, the sigils of bastard children are of the same design as their noble parent’s house, but with the color scheme reversed.
In The Stormlands, the region governed by House Baratheon, noble-born bastards are given the surname “Storm”, in reference to the region’s violent weather patterns. If the bastard happens to be descended from House Baratheon, their sigil would be a golden stag on a black field.
For more information on the complexities of bastardy, see http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Bastardy