History and Legends of Game of Thrones: The Red God

WARNING: SPOILERS!

It’s Game of Thrones time!

Forgive my excitement but I’m something of a fan.

Last season I kicked off this entire website with a massive blog series on the history behind the show.  It was an in depth look at everything from the dragons to the Free Cities and how many parts of the show and books borrow so much influence from actual history.

For season 6 we’re going to take a more measured approach and release one article a week until the end of the season.  This will be more of a reactionary series talking about the historical parallels between things that show up in each episode.

So, without much ado, let’s talk about the Red God R’hllor.

In the show and books there is a god of fire named R’hllor.  He goes by several names such as “The Lord of Light”, “The Heart of Fire”, and “The God of Flame and Shadow”.

He’s a fairly popular god in the eastern continent of Essos and while he isn’t that popular in Westeros his servants have played a pretty big role in politics in that region.

The faith itself is monotheistic, worshiping only one singular divine being, and has a fascination with fire, which can be a good thing when dealing with something like the extreme cold but over the course of the show it’s been shown that the Red God is somewhat…demanding when it comes to sacrifice.

They also have a dualistic view of the world, believing in a single “good” god being opposed by a singe “evil” god, and believe that the world will be saved when a messianic figure named “Azor Ahai” will return to beat back the darkness and bring light to the world.

As for the servants of the Red God, they are known as Red Priests.  These servants of the Red God are often pledged to his service by They can be male or female and have been seen throughout the show preaching,

fighting,

and attempting to convert kings.

They also appear to wield some pretty potent magic

and are a faith that is slowly spreading its influence across the world.

With the blog last year we talked about the similarities between the religion of Westeros and religious history in early Europe.  The Old Gods of Westeros are similar to old Celtic pagan beliefs while the Faith of the Seven bears a striking resemblance to Christianity.

The religion of the Red God is a bit trickier than the other two.  On one hand their fascination with fire and belief in a single divine being bears a striking resemblance to Zoroastrianism, which is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions.

 

The Zoroastrians believe in the existence of a single god named Ahura Mazda, who is the sole creator of the world and the representation of all that is good.  It’s also worth mentioning that fire plays in important role in worship.

The thing is that while the faith of the Red God in Game of Thrones borrows things like monotheism and the fascination with fire from the Zoroastrians it’s place in the history of Game of Thrones and its rapid spread throughout Essos shares similarities with a more modern religion: Islam.

The first and biggest similarity between the two is doctrinal.  When Islam rose to prominence around 600 A.D it firmly believed that there was one God and one God only.  This was expressed in a Muslim belief known as Tawheed which confirmed that God ruled alone and was absolute.

This put Islam at odds with Christianity’s view of the Trinity, which stipulated that there was “One God in three parts”.  This bears a striking resemblance within the Game of Thrones universe to the Red God’s singular rule vs. the Faith of the Seven “one being divided into seven aspects”.

But doctrine isn’t the only thing that makes the faith of the Red God similar to Islam, it the religion’s place in history as well.

The Red God is something of a late comer to the religious scene and Islam was as well.  By the time the Prophet Mohammad received his visions from God, Christianity had been around in the ancient world for over 600 years.  Just like the Red Priests the prophet Mohammad and his followers spread the word of their visions throughout the Eastern Mediterranean through preaching,

fighting,

and engaging in political intrigue by converting kings and nobles.

Just like the Red Priests Islam followed a similar pattern by becoming very popular in the East, while experiencing resistance and outright hostility in the West.

It should be noted that in the show the Red Priests haven’t reached the point of controlling an empire of believers like the early Muslims did.

But I’m sure that if the faith of R’hllor is given enough time they will eventually reach a point where they become one of the most powerful religions in Westeros.

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