History and Legends of Game of Thrones: The Dragons

WARNING: SPOILERS!

So the season finale just happened and that means this is going to be the last week of Game of Thrones blog posts for the site.  I know there has been a lot of creepy, upsetting, and disturbing stuff on the show lately but there are plenty of people who can talk and discuss that kind of thing better than I can so instead we’re going to start our final week by talking about the dragons.

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In keeping with the traditions of the show and the direction it seems to be heading (I was both impressed and terrified by Arya’s sadistic streak) the dragons are the very personifications of violence and power.  As the ancient weapon of the Targaryens the dragons are the Game of Thrones super weapon, an advantage that allowed Denarys and her ancestors to conquer half the known world with a comparatively smaller army.

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The dragons don’t represent any particular person or place in history.  Instead they represent an idea and theme that rears its head from time to time throughout history.  In my opinion the dragons represent technology and how each technological leap brings about newer and more terrifying methods of destruction and violence.  Now this may sound like a very modern theme and it is, an all powerful beast capable of melting steel and killing thousands of people at a time sounds suspiciously like a modern nuclear weapon but the notion that new inventions can change the face of warfare for the worse goes back hundreds of years.

Many people have a notion that Medieval warfare was a noble endeavor filled with knights in shining armor, noble kings, and honorable combat.  It seems so noble because we the Middle Ages gave us the notion of chivalry: the knights code of conduct while engaging in battle and how to live and act in everyday life.

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Sadly, the idea of chivalry couldn’t be farther from the reality of Medieval warfare.  Actual fighting was brutal, violent, and awful in ways that would make even Ramsey Bolton shutter (although out of all the characters in the show he probably had the right mindset for it) and nowhere was it more apparent with the start and evolution of the Hundred Years War.

The Hundred Years war was a series of long and complicated wars between the kingdoms of England and France over who ruled what and who owed allegiance to whom.  There have been countless books, plays, and movies about the conflict but one of the most interesting things was the role technology played in the war.

The war started out with the traditional concepts of chivalry and honorable combat intact, it was a dynastic dispute and thus would be fought honorably between two noble houses.  However, as the war went on things changed and technology began to play an important role in the fighting.

Much like their Norman ancestors utilizing the mounted knight the English were the first to unveil and utilize their super weapon: the longbow.

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It may not look like much but this six foot piece of yew wood would revolutionize warfare.  Now an army made up of peasants and lowborn could go toe to toe with armored knights and win, and win they did.  Granted, utilizing the longbow took strength and skill which required extensive training from an early age (ever wonder why Robin Hood was so good with a bow and English?) but the English were able to utilize the bow to great extent.

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However, that would pale in comparison to what came next.  With England winning battle after battle and the French nation on the brink of defeat they were saved by a young and possibly schizophrenic prophet girl named Joan of Arc.

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After Joan helped light a fire under their buts the French were able to get their act together and begin to take back what they had lost.  Under the leadership of King Charles VII and Philip Duke of Burgundy the French restructured and remodeled their armies to defeat the English.  This saw the rise of a weapon more terrifying than the longbow and one that would change the face of warfare forever: gunpowder.

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Now while gunpowder had been in use for a long time, the Hundred Years War was the first time gunpowder weapons were used on a European battle field to great effect.  Like Denarys’ dragons they spat fire and death at their enemies and were able to completely destroy them, one of first (and definitely not the last) times a leap forward in technology helped man kill his fellow man more efficiently.

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