May, 2014

Learn More Than Jon Snow: “It’s Okay To Be Smart” Joe Hanson on the Science of Game of Thrones

Could the Game of Thrones universe ever exist? Is it scientifically possible for Westeros to have two moons? Can winter truly last for years at a time? And how is it possible for dragons to breathe fire? Those are some of the rough questions that biologist Dr. Joe Hanson tackles in “The Science of Game of Thrones” the PBS Digital Studios “It’s Okay to be Smart“. We loved the show and spoke with Joe to learn more. But, first, here’s the video:  …

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Game of Thrones Trial by Combat: An Unlikely Duel

The following is a guest article by Dr. Steven Isaac, professor of medieval history at Longwood University. In one of the newest wrinkles being ironed out on the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, Tyrion Lannister, accused of killing his nephew the king, finds a surprising ally—at least they have one common purpose—in Prince Oberyn Martell. Conclusion of the fight aside, Martell’s motives are personal: he seeks vengeance, not Tyrion’s innocence, as he agrees to champion the Imp in a…

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The Night’s Watch, the Grey Wardens, and Historical Martial Orders

The following article is courtesy of Ross Wittenham. Ross writes about the relationship between the medieval and the modern at HistoryMine (http://histmine.wordpress.com/). (Due to technical issues, please copy the URL into your browser.)  Please welcome Ross and check out his website. The fantasy genre has been heavily influenced by both real-world history and also other works of fantasy. One comparison that I have come across a fair bit in my <ahem> questing is the comparison between A Song of Ice and…

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The 1500 Year Old Murder Mystery: An Interview with Historian Michael Babcock

Recently History Behind Game of Thrones ran a series of articles speculating about the real historical basis behind Game of Thrones‘ Purple Wedding (in which Joffrey dies). Although George RR Martin has stated the wedding is based on the Anarchy-era death of Prince Eustace, thanks to this theory by Emily Yoshida, we suspect there are other historical influences he is not mentioning. There are far too many parallels between Joffrey’s death and Attila the Hun’s murder for it to be a coincidence. Is the…

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Pagan Sacrifice: A Glimpse of an Ancient Religion in Game of Thrones

The beating of drums, gushing blood, and acts of courage – is this another Red Wedding or a pagan ritual buried deep in the pages of Game of Thrones? George RR Martin may have based the Faith of the Seven – the new gods that the southern Westerosi worship – on the pagan religion of Ancient Rome. One clue is a throwaway line about Samwell Tarly in the first A Song of Ice and Fire novel that alludes to an ancient…

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The Betrayal: George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence

Although eventually George Plantagenet (Duke of Clarence) would betray his brother (King Edward IV), originally Edward was George’s maker. Edward rapidly raised George up from irrelevant third brother to his heir. When Edward IV became king, he was single, without any children. As a result, his heir was his closest brother: the twelve-year old George. Edward soon lavished many titles on him, including the dukedom of Clarence. [This article is part of the Theon and Clarence series. See here. ]…

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Michelle Fairley’s Take on the Strong Women of Game of Thrones

One of the most compelling aspects of Game of Thrones is its strong female characters. In far too many medieval shows and films, attempts to create empowered women fall short and come across as cardboard anachronisms. Recently, there has been a tremendous amount of controversy over the series of rape scenes in the Season 4 television show. Some critics applauded Daenerys’ show of sexual assertiveness in the last episode (“Mockingbird”) — no doubt because of the contrast it provided with sexually…

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The Secret Love of Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn: An Interview with Elizabeth Norton

Long before Anne Boleyn was relentlessly pursued by King Henry VIII, long before she could ever have dreamed that she would enter into a marriage that would change the course of English history and put her on the throne, Anne Boleyn had simpler ambitions. Anne hoped to become a countess, albeit by marrying into one of the most powerful families in the realm. Henry Percy is a shadowy figure in Anne Boleyn’s life. After their romance ended, Percy fades into…

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Openings and Closings: Episode 7, Season 4 Game of Thrones Recap

The “Mockingbird” of Game of Thrones focuses on openings and closings: a conflict over a tunnel passage into Castle Black, an opening for vengeance, a new beginning for Daenerys, and an emotional opening up of the Hound. There is a hole in Tyrion’s line-up for a champion. And, once again, we see that Petyr – “Littlefinger” – Baelish is truly the master of the game. There are some obvious historical allusions in this episode, including one to the mythology surrounding Richard…

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Margaery and Isabeau of Bavaria Marry the Younger Man

Despite last week’s olive branch, Cersei does not like Margaery, and the reasons Cersei dislikes her mirror some events in Isabeau of Bavaria’s life. Cersei perceives Margaery as a “doe-eyed whore,” an older “sexually knowing” girl who manipulates her younger husband through her sexuality, which is also how historians have traditionally described Isabeau of Bavaria. This view of Isabeau is now disputed, but historians could just as easily been describing Cersei’s perspective on Margaery Tyrell. George RR Martin appears to…

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