“Those who don’t know history, are destined to repeat it“.
I love reading history, it fascinates me. It’s like one can see reflection of an entire period of time, through it’s societal and cultural approach. You dig more into it and find stories, which can horrify, fascinate and sometimes teach you important lessons about life. I am not very good at remembering the dates and exact months and chronological orders of incidents, but believe these stories of triumph and tragedies, achievements and downfalls, power struggles, plans, experiments, are the seeds of present and shapes the future.
“ It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense” – Mark Twain.
I have been an avid reader of British monarchy and dynasty history. The royal hunger for power, shift of friendship, loyalty, betrayal… seduction and scandals, love, greed, envy, summing all the choices that people made and actions they took continued to series of events and creates a domino effect, creating the modern world. There is no one who is completely good or evil , instead grey characters mirroring the real world.
While writing the fantasy historical novel series ” A song of Ice and fire”, nearly 20 years ago, author George .R.R Martin, was critically acclaimed, but never thought it could turn into an epic. Once the TV series “Game of Thrones” is adapted by HBO in 2009, it received a worldwide fan base , more than 8 million people viewed the series. Keeping the medieval European history in the background , the gripping story of power battle for the throne, ignites suspense and empathy to the readers, to cheer for their favorite character.
There are many incidents, which can be found running parallel from actual medieval and Tudor history while reading the novel “Game of Thrones” . Martin has admitted that he drew inspiration from history and influenced by historical events and characters of English, French and Scottish history, while writing the book, having several bookcases filled for background research. He also visited historical European landmarks. He described his writing came from a subconscious level, in almost a process of daydreaming and build characters with an emotional and humanitarian characters rather than making them rational. Thus we got this epic historical fiction with the magical appeal of both fantasy and real earthy battles to explore variety of characters. It is like taking few raw incidents from past and mix them together in a random order, add some extra sprinkle of drama, bling, sexuality, fantasy, imagination and stirred it to create a new dish , served fresh to our senses.
While reading the novel, I felt like parallel events are running in my mind more of a historical fiction and it reached to a kind of medieval times and contemporary politics . It represented the magic realism other than the fantasy genre to me. British monarchy, royal history of the ? crown have seen all these elements. It passed through many such incidents ( just like the iron throne). There were sides taken, betrayals. Rebellions, brave men taking terrible decision, allies broken, misjudgment, exploitation of position, mad kings and tyranny, favor of luck, execution of nobles, loosing and winning the battle for ultimate power.
History have seen massacres , shaming people publicly, lords getting beheaded for treason, girls used as mere pawns for making political allies, charge of incest. The famous “war of roses” between two royal families for the British throne had hugely influenced Martin to write about the fight between fictional continents ‘Westeros’ and ‘Essos’. Being an American, the history of England proved the easiest source of medieval history to him. To add more examples, Ned Stark resembles Richard 3rd, Duke of York, Robb Stark with his son, Edward 4th. Queen Cersi have similarities with Margaret of Anjou and Jofferey with her son Edward of Westminster, Prince of wales . I also find Dany (Daenerys) had a bit of Mary Queen of Scots’. Both were arranged marriage with powerful men, but both husbands died shortly after. They both tried to reclaim the throne, since by inheritance it belonged to them.
The beauty is that characters aren’t completely picked up directly from history, but what you can find is having 2/3rd of similar characteristics and putting them in different situations. The success or survival of point of the characters are never assured. Since they are not actual historical adaptation, reader can not predict the outcome of the events and the suspense and excitement stays intact. Martin was also inspired by French historical novels and French monarchy of 13/14th century. The contemporary social and cultural background was also adapted in the book, such as clothing, feasts, tournaments, foods, patriarchal societal norms, prostitutes, human trade and slaves, Knights, violent wars, illegitimate children etc.
So before the most awaited last season premiere is knocking on the door, let’s have a feast of history and compare some of the real incidents and characters with the fictional characters from the novel. I intend to write more about this topic in continuation.
Let me know by commenting, if you are interested in this topic and if you are also intrigued by any historical character or time? You can also share it with your near and dear ones.