As seen in the final episode of the fourth season of Game of Thrones,

The Mountain is actually alive but dying a slow and painful death due to the poison that was used on the Viper's spear that The Viper used to impale and injure the Mountain, just before dying himself.

This leaves me wondering: Did Oberyn ever expect to win the trial of combat (which would mean the death of the Mountain in the trial), or did he simply want to make sure that if he were to lose, The Mountain would suffer a terrible and painful death?

Answers from the books will also be accepted.

  • 5
    Are you asking if the Viper was on a suicide mission? I'm not sure how that would have been of any tactical advantage. I think the poison was merely insurance, but he wouldn't have fought unless he thought he was going to win... Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 22:13
  • 1
    @JohnSmithOptional - sort of... I'm really trying to understand why he bothered to use poison if he just wanted to kill The Mountain. Was it really insurance? if so that's the answer I'm looking for.
    – Jared
    Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 22:24
  • 3
    What else could it be? He wanted a guaranteed kill; Manticore Venom dragging the death out slowly and painfully. Even if The Mountain crushed him quickly and without significant injury, he'd still be assured of an agonizing death via the venom. He's clearly confident of Victory, but all he wants is a platform where he has public attention to lay claims against both The Mountain and Tywin Lannister. Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 22:34
  • 1
    Please explain the down vote.
    – Jared
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 3:53
  • 2
    @DarrickHerwehe I'm not sure "expect" carries exactly the same meaning as "intend", though. The former implies an accepted death while the latter implies a deliberate one. While I'd also consider the former more likely (if any), the original questions seemed to ask for the latter.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 22:38

5 Answers 5


There is no POV chapter from Oberyn in the book so we do not truly know his chain of thought. However, it is highly likely that he did expect to win the duel.

He is an experienced and accomplished fighter and, although the TV episode has the fight more one sided than in the book, he is correctly confident he can beat the Mountain. He poisoned his blade (hence he tells Tyrion not to touch it) but he is known for doing that.

Most likely (as I said we cannot know for sure) was that he intended beating the Mountain into the ground and forcing him to confess before leaving him too badly injured to continue. Then he would be able to walk away having forced Gregor to publicly implicate Tywin for ordering the rape and murder of his sister whilst Gregor suffered a slow, agonising death.

If Gregor was unable to even sit up I doubt anyone would question that Oberyn had won the fight but if there was an issue then Oberyn would still have had the option of killing him there and then.

On the other hand if Oberyn lost then, providing he wounded Gregor, he would still have his revenge against him even if Tywin had not been implicated.

  • FYI - I'm expecting the big "surprise revelation" this season (#7) to be that Oberyn faked his death. :P Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 16:38
  • That would certainly be a suprise!!!!
    – Stefan
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 10:52
  • True, unless someone already invented duct tape in the GoT universe. Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 21:15

In the books Oberyn Martell was infamous for always poisoning his weapons. It's part of the reason why he got the nickname "The Red Viper". Lacing his blade with poison accomplished two things:

  • A potent enough poison can disable an opponent if the duel lasted long enough.

  • Ensures that the opponent dies even if he survives the duel (wins or surrenders).

  • +1, exactly: insurance. Manticore Poison, being slow acting, in this case guarantees the second of these, he obviously wasn't anticipating a lengthy fight; either way...win win. Commented Jun 17, 2014 at 22:35

Knowing that Oberyn's prime motive was to avenge his sister, he would make sure that The Mountain would suffer even if Oberyn himself lost. Given his strong desire for vengeance, he may not have even volunteered as Tyrion's champion if the Crown's champion were not Gregor Clegane. Sure, he felt a bit sorry for Tyrion when he recounted his experience of meeting an infant Tyrion, but if you weighed Oberyn's empathy for Tyrion against his desire for vengeance, you'd find that revenge greatly outweighs empathy.

Unfortunately, in the end, Oberyn was too wrapped up in trying to exact his revenge that he lowered his guard just long enough for The Mountain to kill him. If Oberyn weren't clouded by his desire for revenge (hence a normal 1v1 combat), Oberyn could have bested The Mountain. Look at his style of fighting: he's light on his feet, agile, and knows The Mountain's weaknesses (Gregor Clegane suffers from bad migraines and is almost always on Milk of the Poppy, and Oberyn's constant shouting and taunting disorient him). If Oberyn were not so emotional during the fight, he would have kept the upper hand easily. For a similar battle, remember Bronn vs. Ser Vardis: Bronn was light while Vardis was heavily armored. Bronn knew he couldn't win head-on, so he tired out Ser Vardis until he had the upper hand. Oberyn was fighting the same sort of battle, except his emotions clouded his better judgment.

Now, whether the poison actually finished off The Mountain or Qyburn's mad science has created a Fraken-Gregor, we'll have to wait and see.

  • While this is a good explanation of the events, it doesn't really address the question of whether Oberyn expected to win. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 20:04

Manticore venom is said in the book to cause instant death once it reaches the heart but can be tampered to be more slow acting and painful. My guess is that he wanted the poison to torture Gregor so he can talk even with the wounds.

In the show the poison seems to be painful, so instead of holding a sword over him he just yells as he probably expects the poison to be so painful that Gregor begs for death and confesses (that also add the bragging of being the guy who made the toughest in the kingdom cry for death).


Oberyn is supposedly considered an impressive warrior and is renowned throughout the Seven Kingdoms for his skill hence his nickname 'The Red Viper.' Oberyn will no doubt be aware of Ser Gregor's own martial skill especially following the reports of the rape and murder of Elia Martell and her two children (Yes I'm aware of the possibility surrounding those events in A Dance with Dragons). The Dornish themselves are especially hateful of the Lannisters who they believe to be behind Elia's death. Also remember Oberyn and Elia are brother and sister hence why Oberyn goes after the Mountain in the first place.

I think there is something in 'A Feast For Crows' in a conversation with Oberyn's paramour Ellaria Sand in which she states that Oberyn knew he did not have to kill Ser Gregor simply cut him for the poison to work its magic so he may have believed there was a chance the Mountain would best him and certainly most of the people watching were shocked to see Oberyn doing as well as he was but I definitely think that Oberyn was aware of his chances of survival. While I can't provide any information to back up my own opinion, have a read through this as it will give you more insight into the character and will go further in depth over some of the things I've mentioned, hope I've helped: http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Oberyn_Martell

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