Game of Thrones just ended its 7th season, leaving fans until 2019 to think long and hard about their favourite characters before the 8th and final season. One character that occupies our thoughts (we promise — no spoilers!) is Hodor, the servant stationed in the stables who only speaks one word — his name — though he can understand everything other people say.
We looked at speech-language therapists weighing in on whether or not Hodor’s communication impairment is aphasia, both before and after his backstory came to light.
Hodor Does Not Have Aphasia
SpeechIRL weighs in strongly on the “no” side at first, and states calling Hodor’s condition aphasia is damaging for people who actually have expressive aphasia.
Unfortunately, Hodor is anything but a “textbook example” of aphasia, and it is incredibly damaging for real people living with aphasia to have this gentle giant become their poster boy.
At the same time, she returns to her post after Hodor’s backstory is revealed to admit that his communication disorder was acquired; meaning, something happened to cause him to only be able to say his name vs. being born without the ability to express himself verbally.
On the whole, Hodor’s story in S06 turns what was an aphasia awareness disaster (“simple-minded” aphasia posterboy) into a huge win. Viewers are painfully aware of just how stereotyped and mistreated Hodor was, due to his communication disability, which is likely not equal to his cognitive ability.
Hodor Has Expressive Aphasia
On the other side is Business Insider, which ran an article two years ago stating that Hodor was experiencing symptoms of Broca’s aphasia.
Whether he intended it or not, Martin created a character who is a textbook example of someone with a neurological condition called expressive aphasia.
The article continues to state that Hodor, like the people that Broca encountered, are all extreme examples of people experiencing expressive aphasia.
Leborgne, Lelong — and even Hodor — are actually more extreme examples of individuals with expressive aphasia. More commonly, a person with the disorder will express themselves in “telegraphic speech”, which usually comprises three or so words, including a noun and a verb. For example, someone may say, “Anne, dog, walk” to mean “I walked the dog with Anne today.”
Hodor, of course, is an extreme example in that he can only say his name, and now that we know his backstory from season 6, we know that his communication issues were not caused by stroke or other forms of brain trauma.
Did you watch Game of Thrones? Do you think Hodor’s story brought aphasia awareness to the general public?
Image: Gabbot via Flickr via Creative Commons license