Lord Beric Dondarrion is the Lord of Blackhaven and the head of House Dondarrion. Initially sent out by Eddard Stark to lead a party of men to apprehend Ser Gregor Clegane for atrocities committed against the people of the Riverlands, he and his men then rallied deserters from different armies in the war, as well as commoners trying to defend their homes, to form a guerrilla resistance group known as the Brotherhood Without Banners, with Dondarrion as their leader.
It’s always fun to analyze a character from the game of thrones who achieve epic status due to their virtues. Whats even more fun is to see the character rise to become the legend from a place of common to glorious. None of the exemplary characters from Westeros having a more physically painful road to glory than Lord Beric Dondarrion.
Physical toughness can only be understood by taking into account the amount of punishment the body has survived.
By that qualification, The Mountain, The Hound, even Brienne of Tarth can be understood as the apex tough guys.
Lord Dondarrion stands out though, despite being the Lord’s chosen aided by the supernatural, as he has defied death like The Clegane brothers not once but over and over again.
- Impaled through the chest with a lance, by Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, during the Battle at the Mummer’s Ford.
- Knifed in the belly.
- Shot in the back with an arrow.
- An axe was driven into his side.
- Captured by Lannister soldiers, they executed him for treason – but unable to decide whether to hang him or stick a dagger through his eye, they just did both.
- Cleaved through the torso by a sword-stroke from Sandor ” The Hound” Clegane during a trial by combat.
To Dondarrion being resurrected carries a heavy toll, chipping away at him and losing large pieces of his memory each time he’s brought back. He does not perfectly recover from each of these physical injuries, but instead carries severe scars from each wound, like the remaining mark around his neck from when he was hanged, and his missing right eye which did not grow back. The wounds inflicted on Dondarrion in his many deaths never fully heal, leaving him a scarecrow of a man.
Every time Dondarrion is resurrected large pieces of who he is, large chunks of his memory are lost. In the books, Dondarrion goes on to explain to Arya that after dying and being resurrected six times, he has lost all of his memories from before the point when her father sent him out from King’s Landing on the mission to bring Gregor Clegane to justice. He has no memories of the castle he grew up in or the woman he was betrothed to marry. Even so, Dondarrion is still determined to uphold the mission Ned Stark sent him on; indeed as his other memories fade, he becomes fixated on this one goal he can still remember.
According to Martin in an interview around the Season 7 premiere, Beric isn’t technically “alive” at this point and in some ways is analogous to a Wight:
- “He’s not a living human being anymore. His heart isn’t beating, his blood isn’t flowing in his veins, he’s a wight, but a wight animated by fire instead of by ice, now we’re getting back to the whole fire and ice thing.”
While resurrection is out of reach, Toughness can be cultivated. Lets dive into it.
Toughness is fortitude, It is the strength, pain threshold, and mental focus. The Idea can be as simple as pinching yourself as hard as you can at the back of your arm. it’s a tender spot with high pain receptors. Can you hold on for 30 seconds or more? Even 15 seconds is good enough.
The more you do this experiment, the longer you can hold on the next time. It’s not hard to understand that your body is receiving experiences as life goes on. The more you take in the more you have space to take more. Embrace pain in small doses but make discomfort your new friend, embrace growing older, and your body will grow wiser too.
There are ways to induce healthy discomfort on yourself like regular physical exercise. Struggle and suffer as you build your strength, stamina flexibility, and/or balance. Your diet plays an important part too. For example, you can choose a post workout drink like most athletes to induce muscle fatigue repair faster, their top 3 choices are-
3. Light beer, or ale if you’re a Westerosi. This loses points due to the negative effects of alchohol on your system, but gains points as a good source of carbohydrates
2. Lemonade. A good source of water, sugar and vitamin c that energizes and rejuvenates the system
1. Chocolate milk. A low fat chocolate milkshake is a powerful energiser and a source of protiens and calcium while the chocolate helps as a mood enhancer too.
A good night sleep, listening to music and regular cold showers have been traditional choices of the old tough guys for a long time. Studies have shown a combined effect of about 67% worth of increase in pain threshold due to these minor points. Some how although not proven explicitly, during the sensation of pain people can swear obscenities and scream out cuss words to lessen the sensation of pain. Unrestricted use of expression helps out psychologically to lessen the impact of pain.
Lastly believe in yourself, give yourself some praise, some pep talk, some hero poses in front of the mirror, because confidence coaxes out your inner abilities. You’re tougher than you look after all.