Thread: Game of Thrones
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Old 24th Aug 2011, 9:58   #1
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Join Date: 30 Apr 2003
Location: England
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Default Game of Thrones

I am not an expert on Game of Thrones. Whilst three of my children gobbled down the first book on holiday, I have held off reading it and simply enjoyed the high production values, overly British casting and story-telling magic of the HBO series that my younger son acquired for us to watch. All I previously knew of George RR Martin was his characterful vampire novel Fevre Dream, set on the mid-C19th Mississippi. A quick glance at a Guardian article on the series before we set off for France gave a hint at a possible connection between Game of Thrones and the Wars of the Roses but I was unprepared for what came our way.

Set in the continent/country of Westeros, the story follows the fortunes and fates of several houses of nobility who rule or have ruled over the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, south of an immense Wall that barricades the ‘civilised’ Kingdoms from the snow-bound wastes of the true north, inhabited by wildings and more sinister and magical creatures. For a newcomer it is made easier if you think of the North of England and the South, plus Hadrian’s Wall a thousand feet high, and who better to represent the sturdy decency of the north than Sean Bean as Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell, who is locked in loyalty to his king and friend Robert Baratheon but essentially happiest when away up north, away from the corruption and seductions of the capital city, Kings’ Landing. Mark Addy plays Baratheon as a warrior king gone to seed, sated by women and wine, demanding unreasonable loyalty of Stark and putting his family at risk.

It is so easy to fall into the world of Game of Thrones as depicted in this TV series: one wouldn’t want to be a woman of course – there seems an inordinate amount of domineering males thrusting into females in the early episodes and scenes set in brothels – but that aside, there are decent medieval castles without fake mud, there are pet wolves that tear people’s throats out, and the period details are simply there, and not emphasised for their intrinsic worth. The best reason (besides Sean Bean) to get into the high-fantasy back-stabbing and power-games is that it plays as a pretty decent parallel of the Wars of the Roses. Whilst there are other periods of history in which leaders vied for the throne, young claimants were doubted etc, the similarities are so pinpointed as to be dazzling. And so far, the character who most resembles Richard III is Ned Stark (Sean Bean) – hurrah!

Like Richard, Ned Stark is the king’s right hand man and Lord of the North; he won the king’s battles for him in their younger days and helped him to his throne. Recently he has been fighting battles in the north (as Richard did defending the English borders and taking Berwick and Edinburgh). He has a bastard son called John – just like Richard. The southern-living King Robert, once a trim fighting man, is now corpulent and luxuriant from drinking and hunting and mistresses – as with Edward IV. The king’s principal entourage is his gilt-haired queen named Cersei (her name evoking sorcery) - as with Elizabeth Woodville who was (and her mother) accused of witchcraft.Also there are Cersei's two brothers, one of whom is a handsome jouster The other brother is clever and seriously book-learned: some elements of Anthony Woodville in both brothers then. Before the real crisis hits Game of Thrones-world, Stark is invited [compelled] by his king to take an official position in his government and hence leave his precious North.

There is reference to Stark and the King being abroad in exile together when another king was on the throne (as Richard and Edw were in Flanders during the Readeption). The previous king was apparently mad – linking to Henry VI’s supposed mental weakness.

The heir to the throne – Joffrye – in his mid-teens is revealed to be illegitimate, and with this knowledge the dying King Robert makes Ned Stark Regent and Lord Protector. After the king’s death, Stark can’t bring himself to crown the boy and looks for a valid successor. Telling Queen Cersei about this, he is aiming to take the Royal family into guarded custody until he is betrayed by a time-serving courtier with ambitions of his own. As with Richard III, whoever controls the person of the prince, runs the kingdom until he is of age.

We hear of a noble, Lord Bray who controls a vital river crossing in the middle of the country – that he stands aside from battle until he can see which side is going to win. As we heard that, various members of the Col family nodded their heads and said, “Henry Percy [Lord of Northumberland – who failed to join battle at Bosworth, amongst others].

By the end of the series, it is pretty clear from the parallel version that we are given a possible scenario that might have happened with Richard if he had played into the hands of the Woodvilles. I suspect that if George RR Martin had the York family in mind for the Starks/Baratheons and the Wars of the Roses as a possible template, that there will be more parallels to come for a short while. With Joffrye now ruling as King, there are still his uncles: Stannis who like Stark, keeps himself far from court and avoids power battles, having been a battle commander in his younger days; and a charming but unworthy power-hungry younger brother, Renly.

The drawing together of the four houses that will clash over the Iron Throne is compelling – the Lannisters, Starks, Baratheons and Targaryens. Invasion threatens from a distant claimant to the throne, complete with newly-hatched dragons, from across the sea (hmm, just like Henry Tudor, who came bearing the red dragon flag of Cadwalladar). The scenery and atmosphere is striking, the actors virtually all British apart from the brilliant Peter Dinklage who plays the dwarf brother Tyrion Lannister, brother to Queen Cersei. Even the theme music and opening titles are stunning.

A real experience for those who like medieval history and/or high fantasy (or girls with their kit off).
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