I guess just like every other person on this planet who hasn’t been living under a rock that’s under a rock, I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan.
The show could quite possibly be the greatest that’s ever graced our screens.
As captivating as the non stop Acton and drama and especially the dragons are I’m not sure I really appreciated how good the series was til I read the A Song of Ice and Fire book series for which the show is based upon.
Some people will scratch the surface and come away thinking Game of Thrones is just a show about dragons, incest and a whole lot of violence and downplay it as just a passing fad of some sort.
It has been my growing contention over the years that there is something quite special about this show and book series that transcends the norm. It probably hasn’t been seen since ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy which is widely considered the greatest novel of all time.
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the true essence of the A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) story for a while to find what it is that makes it so magnetic and irresistible.
What George RR Martin has done here goes further and beyond War and Peace or The Lord of The Rings. It’s a style of writing I’ve only seen with Tolstoy and maybe ‘Gone Girl’ where the story is told from the point of view of the character.
You see what they see and you feel what they feel.
The telling is quite simplistic so to speak yet it does something to you that’s almost magical.
I like what Jay-Z said about great art in his biography ‘Decoded’. ‘It is according to him; “(mostly) confrontational, and more than that, it’s dense with multiple meanings. Great art should have all kinds of unresolved layers that you don’t necessarily figure out the first time you experience it. Instead it plants dissonance in your head. It retains mystery. It leaves shit (sic) rattling around in your head that won’t make sense till the fifth or sixth time through.”
With that Hov has truly captured what it feels like to be a Game of Thrones fan.
The final season which is currently airing has had that sort of effect on the audience. It’s been a complete and utter mind fuck leaving everyone an emotional mess. Social media is a total minefield every Monday morning after the airing of the current Thrones episode with everyone trying to make sense of the previous night’s heartbreak.
There’s been so much death and destruction and loss of lovable characters this season that it’s been so difficult to digest.
This ability to stir raw human emotion is what has catapulted the series to the summit of 21st century entertainment.
George RR Martin in interviews about the show often quotes the statement that The only thing worth writing about is the The human heart in constant conflict with itself.
As human beings we like to scale and put people in categories and deal with absolutes, that someone is either good or bad, that there are good guys and bad guys only and that religion is absolute and that a kind person is not capable of terrible evil, or that there are rainbows and butterflies after war and conflict etcetera etcetera but in this great series we are confronted with what life really is and not what it appears to be.
Truthfully, noone ever thinks that they are the evil one. When you’re at war you do everything that is within your power to protect your side even if what you do seems evil from your enemy’s perspective.
Regular film and literature has conditioned us to look at the world through the wrong goggles. The protagonist in every action movie always saves the day without hurting anyone. We’ve grown to assume the world we live in is a warm and beautiful place that’s meant to be perfect.
Isn’t it just ridiculous that James Bond or Tom Cruise never spray stray shots at civilians or accidentally run over children in pursuit of a terrorist. Blocks of buildings are destroyed and somehow it always ends in celebration.
But real life is sobering, very sobering and in fact the rule not the exception is that innocent people always die when there’s conflict of any kind. When elephants fight its the grass that suffers. The weak get hurt in conflicts between the powerful.
Recently in Zimbabwe the army fired at rioters as they would like to claim they where, yet all the casualties where innocent people just minding their own business. US Air strikes in conflict regions always invariably lead to the death of women and children. For every high value terrorist killed at least five innocents die with them.
Once in a while real life happens to you. A loved one dies at the mercy of what you feel wasn’t fair. The script takes a wild turn for the worst and then you find yourself asking yourself the searching question that has plagued humanity for eternity ‘Why do bad things happen to good people and why do the truly evil 😈 people seem to thrive and live on forever and get everything their hearts desire.?’
Lord Varys once posed this question to Ned Stark following a wave of violence in Kings Landing: “The High Septon once told me that as we sin, so do we suffer. If that’s true, Lord Eddard, tell me … why is it always the innocents who suffer most, when you high lords play your game of thrones? Ponder it, if you would.”
I think that was the premise of the author’s journey into writing the book series. To show the world that nobody is perfect and everyone has the capacity for both good and evil and religion should be taken with a grain of salt.
It’s interesting to note that the source material for this series is human history. When you remove the dragons and other fantasy themes from it you’ll find that he’s stolen or should I say, borrowed themes from contemporary European history. If you study history you’ll find almost everything in the book is rooted to what has happened before to a lesser or greater extent. The Wars of the Roses in England immediately come to mind.
The author writes in A Feast for Crows that “History is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging. What has happened before will perforce happen again.”
What he does best more than any author before him is to look at life through the eyes of every character, great or small.
In the book ‘Fire and Blood’ he concludes that; So much of history tells of the deeds of Kings and Queens , high lords, noble knights, holy septons, and wise maesters that it is easy to forget the common folk who shared these times with the great and the mighty. Yet from time to time some ordinary man or woman, blessed with neither birth nor wealth nor wit nor wisdom nor skill at arms, will somehow rise up and by some simple act or whispered word change the destiny of kingdoms.
That’s essentially what I love about his writing, he doesn’t overlook anyone. Every character has a part to play and is an important part of history. A passer by may make a startling remark that’s so deep and insightful and woven into the hem of the story that you never forget it.
My favourite portion in the whole book series is the conversation between Jaime and his aunt (Tete) about the status quo and a little family gossip. She wears the pants in her marriage and when the subject matter of their discussion gets a little more intense, she motions her husband to take leave from them hilariously telling him ‘My nephew and I have family matters to discuss.’ What ensues is a mix of family history, a little gossip and reflection and great admiration for Jaime’s recently departed Father, Tywin.
The exchange between them is so real and authentic that you almost believe it happened because that’s how you would converse with your own Aunt. It’s a conversation that has nothing to do with the plot yet it feel so authentic you start to really connect with the character.
George RR Martin’s genius is evident in his commitment to getting even the smallest details right. That’s probably true for all stories, whether they’re in books or movies or songs.
You believe the story is real because of the details and the way they are presented. You can’t fake that kind of emotional truth. You might say, “Well, it was a fictional story, and those weren’t real people, they were actors.” But the film was executed in a way that made it real—everybody, the writers, the actors, the set designers, tapped into something true.
And I think that’s what it means to be human. To be real and to be authentic is not to stray away from your own emotional truth. I truly believe people are naturally drawn to that which they can relate to because it isn’t fake.
There are dragons, incest, magic and zombies rife within the show , themes that would not usually entice multitudes. Fantasy is usually just a genre for geeks and teens, the Harry Potter crowd so to speak yet this show has broken new ground and created a frenzy that may never be topped again.
George RR Martin gave us a real gift. I’ve learnt more about human nature from him than anywhere else and I’ve evolved with the characters as well. It’s weird that Jaime Lannister, the most loathed character from the first season who’s infamous for murdering his king (the King Slayer as he’s affectionately known as) and throwing a kid out of a tower window to cover up his incestuous relationship with his sister has somehow grown to become my favourite character. After losing his hand he has completely evolved into a kind and honourable man.
It might be a show but his metamorphosis gives you a little faith in humanity that people can change in spite of their past transgressions. The capacity for good and evil exist in everyone and you have to tap into either one to magnify it. The line that divides the two aspects of our nature balances on a very thin line.
Redemption it seems, is not just a myth. Life is a journey and the path you choose takes you places you could never have imagined.
George also has a thing for broken people. Bastards, orphans, cripples , low borns and the people often frowned upon by society always fare well in his broken world of Westeros. He has actually confessed that Tyrion the dwarf is his favourite character.
We live in a broken world where the regular person is not blessed with wealth, status and great looks yet every living soul desires to make their own life worthwhile and get a fair shot at life. Tyrion, a dwarf wants to be loved and respected by his father more than anything else yet he’s constantly abused and berated by the man he admires. His father only has love and respect for his older son Jaime.
In conversation Jaime is told by their Aunt “Tyrion is Tywin’s son, not you. I said so once to your father’s face, and he would not speak to me for half a year. Men are such thundering great fools. Even the sort who come along once in a thousand years.”
This post is somewhat an ode to what I feel is the best style of writing and story telling I’ve ever come across.
I don’t believe anyone else has quite captured the human condition the way George has and truthfully, the human heart is always in conflict with itself is the only thing worth writing about.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions and no one sets out to be evil. Our motives often come from a good place.
If you’re a Thrones fan, I would recommend that you read all the books or listen to the audios. You will not regret it and you’ll find the books really do justice to a masterpiece.
It is said “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” and “The man who never reads lives only one.” so dig in.
For a quiet, shy and unassuming old man, George RR Martin has truly unlocked the essence of humanity and by that quote, he probably lived a million lives with the characters he’s created.
With Tolstoy you see the world through the aristocracy of his day but never from the peasantry and the down trodden and it is in this respect that I feel George surpasses War and Peace for the title of the greatest novel of all time.
I’ll close with some of my favourite quotes from Game Of Thrones in no particular order.
‘If you thought there was a happy ending then clearly you haven’t been paying attention.’- Ramsey
“If you share your plans with no one, no one can betray you” – Jaime
“When you play the game of thrones, you win or
you die. There is no middle ground.” – Cersei
“Men are beasts, selfish and brutal. However gentle the words, there are always darker motives underneath. I do not trust you, ser.”
“It is not the foes who curse you to your face that you must fear, but those who smile when you are looking and sharpen their knives when you turn your back.”
” Sorcery is a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.”
‘The Game of Thrones takes many a queer turn.’
‘Words are Wind.’
“Words are wind,” “but a strong wind can topple mighty oaks, and the whispering of pretty girls can change the destiny of kingdoms.
“All young men suspect they are immortal, and whenever a young warrior tastes the heady wine of victory, suspicion becomes certainty. Yet the confidence of youth counts for little against the cunning of age. “
‘It is one thing to be clever and another to be wise.’
‘When the cold winds blow the lone wolf dies and the pack survives.’
‘Faithless friends are worse than foes.’