Historical Periods

Is Chivalry Death?

“Explain to me why it is more noble to kill 10,000 men at battle than a dozen at dinner?” Twyin Lannister rhetorically asks Tyrion when Tyrion disparages Tywin’s role in the Red Wedding.1  Tywin’s question embodies one of the central philosophical issues in Game of Thrones: did chivalry cause more harm than good? Tywin and Lord Frey’s actions possibly prevented thousands of deaths. By resolving the conflict with Robb Stark quickly, Tywin may have saved the lives of half his…

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Theon, the Castrated Viking

Please note: This article is sexually explicit in ways some readers may find offensive or distasteful. It presents disturbing mental images, which parallel events in the show, and contains mild sexually graphic artifacts. Balon Greyjoy and his daughter Yara (Asha in the books) receive a parcel, a “special gift,” and a mysterious letter, sealed by what looks like piece of skin and House Bolton’s flayed man sigil.1  The message informs Balon that Ramsay Snow is holding Theon hostage. Ramsay warns Balon to…

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Being the Eldest Mattered

This is a minor detail, but I was kind of delighted when I saw it. The Game of Thrones crew really has amazing attention to detail. (Although I’m sure this was in the books, so George RR Martin does as well.) At the beginning of Game of Thrones, when Robert Baratheon and his entourage arrive at Winterfell, Arya is wearing a helmet, pretending she is a soldier. She scampers off the cart she is perched on and races back to…

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The Chase: Henry VIII and Robert Baratheon

George RR Martin appears to base the deadly King’s Landing politics on the cut-throat world of  Henry VIII’s court. One of the reasons faction arose in Henry VIII’s reign is because he was often away hunting, which required him to delegate power and this, in turn, gave courtiers the idea they could get more power. Like Henry VIII, Robert Baratheon was noted for his love of hunting. Where was Robert when his children were born? Hunting of course. And, how…

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How Much Violence is Too Much on Game of Thrones?

Recently, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss appeared on The Writers’ Room and discussed how tricky it is balance the violence in Game of Thrones with the tone. Too much blood spurting out and it starts looking comical. They discuss Ned Stark’s death, noting they almost showed the sword slicing through his neck and blood gushing out – only to drop these frames from the final cut. Entertainment Weekly’s video has pop-ups on it with fun facts…

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Dark Wings, Dark Words: A Feast for Crows

Samwell Tarly returns to Castle Black now knowing without question that the white walkers are on the move and an impending threat. In a powerful, yet incredibly understated way, Maester Aemon tells Sam tells to make sure the ravens are fed since they fly tonight. Bran is sleeping and in his dream he sees a three-eyed raven. And, Jon Snow, well, in Ygritte’s words, he is a “crow” — just like all the other men who have taken the black,…

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George RR Martin and the Futility of War: Famine, War, and The Little Ice Age

Game of Thrones is essentially the story of rival nobles fighting over the succession – who will be king. But, does it have a deeper meaning? I might argue that perhaps it does. During the fourteenth century, while Europe was embroiled in succession wars and other forms of squabbling for territory, the climate changed and medieval peasants starved. But, the kings were too busy empire building, chasing their legacies, and feeding their own egos to care. Today, in America, people speak…

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Tywin Lannister’s Legacy and the Medieval Obsession with Genealogy

During one of Tywin’s war counsels at Harrenhal, back when Arya was Tywin’s cupbearer1 , Tywin discovers, much to his fury, that Amory Lorch inadvertently sends a letter detailing the Lannister’s infantry movements to Lord Marlin of House Dormund instead of Lord Damon of House Marbrand. The following exchange occurs: “Girl, fetch me the Histories of the Greater and Lesser Houses.” – Tywin When Arya immediately retrieves the correct book, Tywin scoffs, “My cupbearer can read better than you.” Tywin…

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Sparta: The Inspiration Behind the Unsullied?

Recently, in the comments of this post, “K. Wolf” asked if I take requests (I do) and if I could write an article about the Unsullied. He wrote, “I read book 3 <Storm of Swords> and I was wondering about the Unsullied. Their training seemed unbelievably cruel and I was wondering if that was based on real history.” There are many parallels between the Unsullied, the disciplined eunuch-warrior slaves,  and Spartan history. In fact, there are so many similarities it…

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Mikken’s Mark: The Brand of the Middle Ages?

When Ned Stark finds Arya’s sword “Needle,” he quickly realizes the sword wasn’t some castoff from one of his men. Ned knows the sword was superb quality and custom-made for his daughter. Luckily for Arya, Ned accepts her interest in learning to fight. But, how does Ned know the sword was superior? He found “Mikken’s mark” on the blade. That is, a symbol indicating Mikken, the best blacksmith in Winterfell, created the blade. But, what is a blacksmith’s mark? And, what is the significance of…

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