The guest right is a sacred law of hospitality, especially in the north. When a guest, be he commonborn or noble, eats the food and drinks the drink off a host's table beneath the host's roof, guest right is invoked. Bread and salt are traditional provisions.
When invoked, neither the guest nor the host can harm the other for the length of the guest's stay. For either to do so would be to break a sacred covenant that is believed to invoke the wrath of the gods, both old and new. Even robber lords and wreckers are bound by the ancient laws of hospitality.
A lord with a bared sword across his knees is making a traditional sign that he is denying guest right.
It is sometimes customary for a host to give guest gifts to the departing guests when they leave the host's dwellings; this usually represents the end of the sacred guest right. In addition, visiting guests will sometimes offer their host guest gifts as gratitude for giving them food and shelter.
Maester Egbert wrote about northern violations of guest right in Justice and Injustice in the North: Judgments of Three Stark Lords, with only kinslaying being an equivalent crime.
Lord Lyman Lannister provided guest right to Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaena Targaryen, protecting them from King Maegor I Targaryen. The royal couple had previously been denied guest right by Lord Lucas Harroway who refused them entry to his castle so long as they did not acknowledge his daughter as Maegor's true and lawful wife.
On the Feast Day of Our Father Above in 133 AC, the dungeons of the Red Keep were emptied and all the offenders punished publicly, among them was an innkeeper who had been killing some of his guests for years and had stolen their valuables.
A Game of Thrones
When Tyrion Lannister returns to Winterfell after the injury of Bran Stark, Robb Stark greets Tyrion with an unsheathed sword upon his knees. After Tyrion gives the design for a special saddle for Bran to be able to ride a horse despite his injury, Robb sheathes his sword and offers Tyrion the hospitality of Winterfell. Tyrion rejects it and chooses to stay in the winter town.
A Clash of Kings
Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, gifts Craster with an axe and a crossbow when the great ranging stays at Craster's Keep. The pregnant Gilly wants Jon Snow to take her away. When Jon protests that he is a guest, Gilly argues that Jon did not eat Craster's food or sleep in Craster's hall.
A Storm of Swords
Robb and his mother Catelyn receive bread and salt when they arrive at the Twins for the wedding of Lord Edmure Tully. Walder Frey, the Lord of the Crossing, betrays them in the Red Wedding, however. Despite having orchestrated the massacre and offered protection to Lord Walder, Lord Tywin Lannister places the blame on him. When Davos Seaworth hears of the Red Wedding, he believes that House Frey is cursed for violating guest right.
A Feast for Crows
The massacre ruins the Freys' reputation even among allies. The thousands of sparrows in King's Landing are especially furious about the Red Wedding and violation of guest right. The small council discusses how to blame the Freys, and not the Iron Throne, for the massacre. Trust in guest right has declined in the riverlands in the aftermath of the Red Wedding. The brotherhood without banners hangs some outlaws and soldiers who expect safety at the crossroads inn.
A Dance with Dragons
Lord Wyman Manderly grants palfreys as guest gifts to Jared, Rhaegar Frey, and Symond Frey when they depart White Harbor. Wyman desires vengeance against House Frey for the death of his son, Wendel, who was killed at the Twins as a guest during the Red Wedding. The three Frey envoys disappear while traveling to Barrowton. Wyman serves three large pork pies during the wedding feast of Ramsay Bolton and "Arya Stark" at Winterfell.
Once I had eaten at his board I was protected by guest right. The laws of hospitality are as old as the First Men, and sacred as a heart tree … Here you are the guest, and safe from harm at my hands … this night, at least.
Catelyn: If we are offered refreshment when we arrive, on no account refuse. Take what is offered, and eat and drink where all can see. If nothing is offered, ask for bread and cheese and a cup of wine.
Robb: I'm more wet than hungry …Robb: I have an army to protect me, Mother, I don't need to trust in bread and salt. But if it pleases Lord Walder to serve me stewed crow smothered in maggots, I'll eat it and ask for a second bowl.
Catelyn: Robb, listen to me. Once you have eaten of his bread and salt, you have the guest right, and the laws of hospitality protect you beneath his roof.
Catelyn: My lord! Some food would be most welcome. We have ridden many leagues in the rain.
Walder: Food, heh. A loaf of bread, a bite of cheese, mayhaps a sausage.Robb: We thank you for your hospitality, my lord.
Robb: Some wine to wash it down. And salt.
Walder: Bread and salt. Heh. Of course, of course. My guests. My honored guests. Be welcome beneath my roof, and at my table.
Tyrion: In the Seven Kingdoms it is considered a grave breach of hospitality to poison your guests at supper.
Illyrio: Here as well. Yet when a guest plainly wishes to end his own life, why, his host must oblige him, no?
I will see the dawn, at least … I have eaten of his bread and salt.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 7, Jon I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 1, Tyrion I.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 44, Jon IX.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 49, Catelyn VI.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 9, Davos I.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 24, Bran IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 29, Davos IV.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 23, Jon III.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 33, Samwell II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 56, Bran IV.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The North.
- The World of Ice & Fire, The Westerlands: House Lannister Under the Dragons.
- Fire & Blood, The Sons of the Dragon.
- Fire & Blood, Under the Regents - War and Peace and Cattle Shows.
- The Sworn Sword.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 51, Catelyn VII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 53, Tyrion VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 54, Davos V.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 38, Jaime VI.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 23, Alayne I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 37, Brienne VII.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 42, Brienne VIII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 46, A Ghost in Winterfell.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 32, Reek III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 38, The Watcher.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 49, Jon X.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 37, Jaime V.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 48, Jaime I.