A Medieval Literature Prof’s Take on Game of Thrones

Brantley Bryant, an associate professor of medieval literature at Sonoma State University, recently went on PBS Newshour and discussed the parallels he sees between Game of Thrones and The Canterbury Tales, Morte d’Arthur, and Beowulf. A few highlights: Ned Stark is the quintessential medieval literary character, the “truth teller,” and things don’t usually go well for the truth teller in medieval tales. Jaime Lannister seems like a Lancelot figure. Daenerys is an adaptation of a “peace weaver.” Stannis and Melisandre is…

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George RR Martin Reveals History Behind Purple Wedding!

Yesterday was what could only be described as a day of national rejoicing. Jubilant people tweeted about the #PurpleWedding over 23,000 times. One of my favorites was Stephen King’s tweet: Around the same time, George RR Martin revealed that the Purple Wedding is partially based on the death of King Stephen’s heir, who was one of the principal combatants in the Anarchy. (Think: the Pillars of the Earth war that began with the sinking of the White Ship.) Martin’s exact words…

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Episode Recap: The Purple Wedding (S4, Ep.2) – Spoilers

Last tonight was the highly anticipated Purple Wedding, and George RR Martin does not disappoint. A wedding in Westeros should carry a safety warning on its invitations. The episode opens with a horrific scene of right out of Greek mythology. Theon’s back – now as Reek – and as the ultimate symbol of his powerlessness, Ramsay forces Reek to participate in a nightmarish hunt right out of a Greek mythology. Ramsay and his bedwarmer Myranda are hunting a terrified blonde…

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The Time Traveller’s Manual to a Medieval Wedding

The government has issued a safety advisory against attending weddings in Westeros. However, you are cordially invited to travel back in time to attend the greatest wedding of the fifteenth century. This event that will blow your mind with its conspicuous consumption the likes of which you will probably never hear tell of in the modern world. Do you accept? Great. Make sure you rest up! This medieval wedding has ten days of partying and festivities – not to mention…

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Anne Boleyn and Margaery Tyrell Take Aim at Love and a Throne

  Natalie Dormer is no stranger to playing the Queen. Having played the enigmatic Anne Boleyn in Showtime’s The Tudors, there were going to be some inevitable comparisons between Margaery Tyrell and Anne Boleyn. One is a fictional queen and one is amongst the most controversial queens in English history. Natalie is resolved to separate the two: “You’ll appreciate that I’m trying very, very hard as an actor to separate my characterizations,” Natalie said in an interview last year. “It…

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Introducing the Anne Boleyn Series: Margaery, Cersei, and Melisandre

Over the next few weeks, in honor of Anne Boleyn and some of the Game of Thrones characters she may have inspired –we will be running a series of articles and interviews with historians about her. George RR Martin appears to have taken threads of factual — and counterfactual  (the opposite of historical events) — aspects of Anne’s story and woven them into various Game of Thrones characters like Cersei, Margaery, and Melisandre. Each character represents a different facet of…

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Flaying Update, House Bolton, & Other Types of Skinners (Second Sons)

Flaying update? Just what you wanted, right? (I was relieved not to see Theon in “Two Swords” (last Sunday night) because, frankly, I find the Theon scenes a little hard to watch. With that said, sometimes the gory can be a little fascinating.) A while back, I wrote an article about House Bolton and flaying in the Middle Ages. Here are a few tidbits I’ve learned since then that I thought I’d share with you – these ones are a…

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Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 1: “Two Swords” Historic Episode Recap

This episode was all about the lead-up to the Purple Wedding (next week) – and wow, what a marvelous visually rich episode. Recap [Jump to Historic Details] Jaime is back in King’s Landing, clean, recovered, and wants to resume his post in the Kingsguard as the king’s personal protector. But nobody wants a one-handed knight in that role. Tywin wants him to go back to Kingslanding. (Ironically, Tywin, the man obsessed with legacy, can’t get his eldest son to take…

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History Behind Game of Thrones is One Year Old

As we approach the premiere of Season 4 tonight, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has been reading over the past year. History Behind Game of Thrones had its first nameday on March 23rd. When I started this website, it was a bit of an experiment. I wasn’t sure how many similarities I would be able to find between history and George RR Martin’s work. I figured I’d end up killing the blog after 2-3 weeks. In…

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Jaime, Ned, and the Assassination of Louis of Orleans

  Jaime’s men ambush Ned and his party © HBO The ambush and assassination of Louis of Orleans. In the Season 1 episode, “The Wolf and the Lion,” Arya chases a cat into the dungeon. Hearing voices, she hides behind a dragon skull where she overhears Varys telling his spy, “The Wolf and Lion will be at each other’s throats. We will be at war soon, my friend.” Later in that episode, a decisive ambush occurs that starts a chain…

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