Hundred Years’ War

A Valentine for Tywin: That Bastard (Feudalism) Poster Boy

Call this a late Valentine, but I love Game of Thrones‘ villain Tywin Lannister – even when he is at his most heinous. As the Machiavellian mastermind behind the Red Wedding, Tywin dwells down there with villains like Cersei, Joffrey, and the Boltons. Still, from a literary and historical perspective, Tywin gives us a lot to love. Tywin exemplifies the old guard in early phases of the Wars of the Roses: the brutal veterans of the Hundred Years’ War. You can’t…

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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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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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Winter is Coming: The Long Winter in Westeros

The dog days are over and before winter arrives here in the northern hemisphere, in one of the last summer weekends—when we might still be hot enough to appreciate stories of cold weather—I thought it might be fun to look at the origins of the legends of the long winter in Westeros and the threat “winter is coming.” (My apologies to everyone in the southern hemisphere who is currently in winter!) This is the first of a two-part post. As…

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Historical Basis of Lord Frey

In yesterday’s season finale of Game of Thrones, we found Lord Walder Frey sitting in his great hall matter-of-factly eating and talking to Lord Bolton while old women scrubbed the Stark’s blood off the wood floors. Lord Frey is beginning to rival Joffrey as the most reviled character in the show. He’s abrasive, hostile, lecherous, egotistical, and completely indifferent to anyone’s needs but his own. During the Red Wedding, Lord Frey coolly tells Catelyn Stark to go ahead and kill his wife….

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