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Who Are Game of Thrones' Sand Snakes, and What Are They Trying to Achieve?

By Cindy Davis | Game of Thrones | April 2, 2015 |

By Cindy Davis | Game of Thrones | April 2, 2015 |

Heading into the final 10-day wait before the premiere of Game of Thrones’ fifth season, cast members new and old are doing the press rounds to politely skirt around what their characters’ story arcs might be. **Spoiler warning, I’m about to address a certain character’s fourth season fate, so if you’re not caught up, run little birdies, run!

As much as we love our old favorites and look forward to seeing things play out for Daenerys, the Lannisters, Starks, etc., there are some very exciting new guests about to enter the realm, looking to avenge a certain relative’s death. Yes, it’s still hard to say type his name (OBERYYYYYYN) without getting a little teary, but our champion has his own champions, and they’ve got a little bone to pick with the Lannister clan. The actresses playing two of Martell’s three bastard daughters — aka the “Sand Snakes” — who’ll appear on the series (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers [Tyene Sand] and Jessica Henwick [Nymeria Sand]) spoke with The Telegraph about their (and their sister, Obara’s [Keisha Castle-Hughes]) intentions. Like “Snow,” “Sand” is a bastard child moniker (in Dorne); Oberyn’s daughters are the Snakes to his Red Viper. Tyene is — for show purposes — the youngest of Oberyn’s girls, and Ellaria’s daughter, and Nymeria is Oberyn’s second eldest daughter, by a different mother.

The Snakes on Dorne:


“Dorne is very different from Westeros…It’s very laid-back. Last season you saw Oberyn, and his costume and the way he talks and the way he walks were all very representative of how Dorne is. Dorne is not black and white, it’s not uptight, it’s very relaxed, it’s not a patriarchal society.

Gender is a sliding scale. It’s interesting, it’s very different from anything we’ve seen. But of all the places I’ve seen on Game of Thrones, it’s the place that I’d want to live.”


“Women have equal rights and you don’t have to be married to someone to go to bed with them.”

Henwick on Nymeria, and the sisters’ goal:

“I play Nymeria Sand also known as Lady Nym, Oberyn’s second daughter but not by Ellaria. My mother, who died in battle, was an Eastern noblewoman and she is actually the person who taught me my weapon — the bullwhip [Sellers says Henwick “is Indiana Jones”]. I live in Dorne. Nymeria is the most strategic of the three sisters and I think her whip is very representative of her character. It’s not about brute force with a whip… it’s about balance and timing, precision and accuracy — and all those things are very much Nymeria.

We’ve grown up hearing all about how the Lannisters have abused our relatives, we’ve lived and breathed that for I don’t know how many years. So when Oberyn dies we’re just like, ‘Okay, finally this is the time, we can’t let this pass. We let the other things kind of slide but now we have to go to war for this.’ We take up Oberyn’s call for revenge and we’ve grown up with him telling us that the Lannisters are the root of all evil.”

That number one, common goal of vengeance unites the sisters, who each has her own way of approaching things.


“Yeah and we definitely unite for that, as in we put our own personal problems aside to be strong together. Obviously the dynamics are like between any sisters — there’s gonna be some difficulties!

Tyene will just go for it. One of her weapons is double daggers and her other weapon is poison. That’s not always approved of by the other Snakes — poisoning someone is deemed to be a little underhand. But I also have double daggers and I’m pretty good at using them.”

We’ll also be meeting Oberyn’s brother (and ruler or Dorne), Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), who the Snakes don’t necessarily trust to avenge their father.


“We also have very different mindsets to Doran. He didn’t go to war for the last murder when we think he should’ve. We see him as an obstacle, definitely weak…

He is the Prince. We’re still below him.
Are the Sand Snakes out for revenge on one specific person or Lannisters in general? All Lannisters.”


“Annihilate all Lannisters. The kingdoms will be a better place without them. It’s very much like someone close to us has been taken away; how are we going to hurt them in the same way? Let’s take away someone close to them, and that’s the route that we take.”

Sellers on Tyene’s dagger training:

“Daggers are a little bit easier than the whip. I just use one normally and then one upside down. It’s like, stabby, stabby, slice. She’d be great at making sushi. I did a few sessions in Belfast just to get used to the movements. It’s all coming from the hips like in all martial arts. I had never done any martial arts though, so it was all new to me.”

Henwick on her training with The Hobbit’s Paul Shapcott:

“He knew the bullwhip and he taught me how to hit targets. At one point he was throwing toilet rolls into the air and I was having to hit them out of the air…Other times he would put sticks in various positions around our rehearsal room and I’d have to go and wrap my whip around them, and then for the last one I’d have to lock it in place so I could actually pull the stick away.”

On whether she could snatch away Aero Hota’s (Captain of the palace guard [DeObia Oparei]) axe:

“I could take him with a bullwhip. You’d just wrap it around and pull the axe away.”

Don’t you already love these girls? I can’t wait to see them in action.

Read the entire (well worth it) interview here.

***As always, please respect your fellow commenters; no discussing book Spoilers!

Cindy Davis, (Twitter)

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