The history and myths behind Game of Thrones: Introduction

Before we begin it should be noted that this article, and every article concerning Game of Thrones that runs on this website, is intended to fulfill a non profit educational purpose and therefore claims protection under the Copyright Act of 1976.  All images are not owned by Cambrian Comics and belong to their respective owners.  Should anyone viewing these articles see something they view as incorrect (and if you should be reading this George Martin, hello, huge fan of your work) please direct you complaints to corrections@cambriancomics.com.  Thank you

So this little show is starting its fifth season today.

  GOT

As you might imagine we here at Cambrian Comics are huge fans and are very excited for the show to start again.  It’s pretty obvious that Game of Thrones is kind of a big deal and that it has created a legacy that will change the landscape of television and the fantasy genre for a long time.  But what exactly makes this show so popular?  What makes it so appealing that millions of people tune in every week to watch this epic tale of kings and dragons?  Well, over the next couple of weeks we are going to attempt to answer this questions and look at the legends and stories behind the show and who knows, maybe at the very end we’ll all have learned something.

In order to try to figure out what makes Game of Thrones so great we have to go back to its source material and in order to do that we have to go back to the beginning of the modern fantasy genre, which starts with this man.

JRRTolkien-Writing

This is J.R.R Tolkien, a professor of languages at Merton College and a titan of the fantasy genre.  It’s fair to say that his contributions to fantasy have had some of the most substantial and longest lasting effects on the genre and it wouldn’t be where it is today without him.  Seriously, when was the last time you read a fantasy book from 1954 to 2000 that DIDN’T include elves, dwarfs, orcs, the rise of man, and some great implacable evil that had to be stopped for some vague yet definitive reason or at the very least paid homage to it?  What Tolkien did was special, creating an entire set story tropes that influenced a generation and Game of Thrones took all that and threw it out the window.  George R.R Martin is the anti-Tolkien and we are going to find out why.

In order to figure out what makes George R.R Martin’s work so different form Tolkien’s we have to go back to the source material for each of these epics.  Tolkien was a professor of Anglo Saxon and English literature and spent a lot of time studying and translating the epic Old English poem Beowulf which meant he was surrounded by images like this.

beowolf

 You can see all of these influences in Tolkien’s work.  and there are other similarities as well: Norse and Anglo Saxon mythology also feature such fantasy stalwarts as elves and dwarfs quite heavily and the final climactic battle of the Lord of Rings can draw several parallels to Ragnarok, the world changing confrontation between good and evil in Norse mythology.

If The Lord of the Rings is special because it created the standard from which most fantasy is based off of then Game of Thrones is special because it destroys most of these conventions and helps create a new standard.  What George R.R Martin did was nothing short of revolutionary.  Instead of basing his epic around mythology Martin bases his work around history.

Again you can see the influences throughout the books and television show.  Take one look at a map of Westeros and tell me it doesn’t look a bit familiar.  Here, I’ll help.map-of-westeros-1351122403britain

If you compare a map of Westeros to a map of modern day Britain you have to admit they look a bit similar, and that is what makes Game of Thrones so great.  So much of what George Martin puts in the history and lore of Westeros is taken from Early and Medieval British history and we are going to break it down bit by bit.

Starting tomorrow we will take one aspect from the extensive pre-history of the books and compare it to its real world historical equivalent. It will be a long, bloody, and enlightening journey filled with legend, invasion, blood, warfare, politics, and excitement because sometimes actual history can be just as exciting as the stories it inspires.  We hope you enjoy this series and that it is as exciting and interesting to you as it is to us.

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The Primordial Soup: What makes comics special

Welcome to the first Friday post of The Primordial Soup.  This is going to be the website’s weekly blog where we talk about things that make comic books interesting and help foster creative and personal interest in the medium as a whole.  Enjoy!

Let’s say you have an amazing idea for a story.  You’ve got a killer setting, amazing characters, and a plot that will leave the reader breathless in awe.  But do you know how you will make this story come to life?  Are you going to write a novel?  Make a movie?  A comic book?  Well believe it or not, each one of those mediums has a specific set of strengths and weaknesses that change the way people see and think about your story and we are going to talk about it now.

Let’s start with writing a novel or even just putting words down on a page.  This one of the oldest forms of story telling and thanks to the internet and low cost printing, one of the cheapest and most accessible.  When you are writing something down you are requiring the audience to use their imagination.  You provide the basic framework in the story while the reader takes it the rest of the way.  Let’s use the passage below as an example:

“John stumbled out of the bar piss drunk and angry.  His wife had left him, his kids wouldn’t talk to him, and the bill collectors had been hounding him for weeks.  He wanted to get in his car and drive somewhere far away, somewhere where all those problems didn’t matter but it was no use, he had forgotten his keys”.

What can we tell about John?  We know he’s drunk, we know his life has been a mess for a while now, and we know he is very upset.  One of the greatest strengths of the written word is that it makes a lot of subtext and back story very accessible very quickly.  We know where John is, we know about his past, and we know what John is thinking about.  What we don’t know are the physical details of this scene.  Where does John live?  What kind of car does he drive?  What does John look like?  While one reader may see John as a formerly successful business man stumbling towards his soon to be repossessed Mercedes in the middle of the day another may see John as a redneck attempting to drive his beat up pickup truck at midnight.   Writing something like a novel or a short story is very good if you want to make your story personal and internalize someone’s innermost thoughts but it leaves a lot to the imagination when describing the environment and story setting.

Now let’s look at the opposite end of the story telling spectrum: film.  In keeping with the passage above here’s a video of a very drunk man walking down the street.

If you watch the video a couple of things become immediately apparent.  We know exactly what the man looks like, we know exactly what he is doing, and if we apply some thought to it we can make some very well educated guesses about the man’s age, where he is, and when the video is taking place.  But here’s the question: why is this man stumbling around in the middle of the day stone drunk?  Was he thrown out of a bar?  Is he upset over his life like John is?  What is he thinking about right now?  Granted, if you write a script that includes a man wandering around town drunk you can insert clues and pieces of story that give the audience a clue but that requires something like a voice over or subtle clues placed in the film that some audience members might not pick up on.

So now we have these two options: the written word which allows you to easily describe a character’s internal thoughts and worries but makes exposition and story setting a bit difficult or you have visual media which allows you to easily describe the setting but makes internal struggle and personal thoughts difficult.  Which brings us to comics.  Take a good look at the image below.drunk

Here we have a drunk man stumbling home.  We know he is drunk because of the bottle he’s holding, his nose, and the beads of sweat floating around his head.  We also know what’s going on in his head thanks to the text inside the thought bubble.  We know he’s married, that he is not happy with said marriage, and we know his wife is lying in wait for him and she is not happy.   The medium of comics can help an author provide the best of both the written word and film: a clearly defined setting and access to personal feelings and thoughts.

We hope you enjoyed the inaugural post of The Primordial Soup.  If you have any thoughts or comments please feel free to leave them either on our website, Facebook page, or Twitter (@Cabriancomics).  If you didn’t like the post then we hope it made you think at the very least.