In the category of “I couldn’t have said it better myself,” I found this delightful article about Game of Thrones and history from Cinemania in Madrid, “6 lecciones de Historia que has visto en ‘Juego de tronos’ by Yago Garcia. My Spanish is terrible and Google Translate chokes on this article, so here is my very crude translation…
The article begins with the most common excuses we hear for not watching GoT or reading ASOIAF – and, boy, do I get sick of hearing these.
(How is it that so many women I know (offline) don’t watch Game of Thrones and look at me like I’m a freak for having this blog? It’s the biggest show in the world right now. It’s like we are all back in high school, and my friends are afraid they will get cooties from the D&D crowd. Grow up. Plus fantasy is cool — at the very least, get with the new millennium.) But, I digress.
Back to the Cinemania article… Garcia opens the article with a great retort to those excuses:
“Oh no, it’s much too violent… it has dragons and dragons are for kids… you have to keep closing your eyes because of all the nudity… These are the numerous reasons your family and friends keep giving for not watching Game of Thrones.
But, we have an ideal comeback for you: HBO’s series is not only one of the best shows made today (if not ever) but it also helps you to learn history.” [How can you not love this article???]
It gets better.
“George RR Martin, author of the meganovelon – and isn’t that a great word? – A Song of Ice and Fire, is a great admirer of Bernard Cornwell, Maurice Druon, and other novelists who delve into the bloodiest parts of the Middle Ages. And (as the incorrigible reader that he is) he likes to delve into crazy kings, battlefields, and dynastic intrigue.
To explore all the history on which Martin has based his work on would practically require an encyclopedia (or such a great blog as History Behind Game of Thrones) – really, I’m not making it up, Cinemania did print that — , but we can offer this handy guide that will inform you on the basis of it.”
I loved this article because I so strongly agree that Martin’s work really does help you learn history if you choose to engage with it that way. I feel like the history in ASOIAF is one of its most important and under recognized aspects.
His work helps you imagine how the classes and competing interests engaged with each other. Even tiny details like people sizing others up by the sigils woven into their clothing brings to life what in all likelihood did happen. His work shows history in action instead of lying flat on the page of a dusty text book.
Plus, by including strong female characters, Martin makes ASOIAF much more accessible than some of the more masculine-driven fantasy and historical novels. He also creates a symphonic-type of integration between the layers of medieval society that is typically lacking when you read historical non-fiction.
It’s great to see Martin’s work getting the recognition for its historical contribution that it deserves. @Yago Garcia: thanks!