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 a remix of the Arthur story.

I strongly recommend watching the video – especially if you have any interest in medieval literature. Bryant makes quite a few really interesting observations in a fun, accessible way. Also, a shout out to Medieval News, who originally found this story.

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

1 Comment

  • Reply August 3, 2015

    Watcher on the Couch

    I can’t believe that since I have been visiting this website I had not noticed this article. Though I sort of know the story of Beowulf vaguely I’ve never read it so I’ll have to find a decent modern English translation of it to look at. I’d never thought of Jaime (as in GoT Jaime – not the lady who maintains this blog) as being like Lancelot so I’ll have to have a think about that one. “The Canterbury Tales” – that’s an interesting one. I know Chaucer made the tales fit the teller and I tend to agree with the critic (can’t remember his name) who said of the Tales “Here is God’s plenty”. Chaucer never wrote as many tales as he originally stated he was going to in “The Canterbury Tales”, finishing with “Here endeth the tales of Canterbury”. Did he just get fed up of writing them? I do hope another writer one could name who currently has an unfinished magnum opus has not grown weary. I can’t definitively say whether I agree with the professor who speaks on the video or not – I will have to look at or revisit the works he cites before making any judgement, but the video does provide food for thought.

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