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Neuroscience Explains Why Hodor Can Only Say One Word

Neuroscience Explains Why This Game of Thrones Character Can Only Say One Word Mother Jones


According to George R.R. Martin, who wrote the epic books that inspired the HBO show, the 7-foot-tall Hodor could only say one word—"Hodor"—and everyone therefore tended to assume that was his name.


Hodor's combination of impoverished speech production with relatively normal comprehension is a classic, albeit particularly severe, presentation of expressive aphasia, a neurological condition usually caused by a localized stroke in the front of the brain, on the left side. Some patients, however, have damage to that part of the brain from other causes, such as a tumor, or a blow to the head.

Martin doesn't provide any details regarding whether Hodor suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child. But his symptoms are consistent with this type of disorder, also dubbed Broca's aphasia after a 19th-century French physician named Paul Broca. Broca described a patient who had a lesion in the left frontal part of his brain and who could only say one word: "Tan." And just like Hodor, Broca's patient came to be known as "Tan"—the single word that he could utter voluntarily—even though it wasn't his actual name.

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Wow, fascinating theory that he had a stroke.

Hodor is beloved even though he can only say one word.

A word he has said 57 times in the first four seasons of Game of Thrones:

In season 6 episode 2 we learn that Hodor used to be able to say more words.

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