27 February 2018

Tuesday Talk with Helen Hollick: #(Hashtag)GoT

I am guessing that you either know what the above means – or you do not?

Hashtag (or more usually this symbol #) is a sort of alert sign, indicating ‘hey look at this specific topic’. Commonly it is used on Twitter (so I would put #BlogArticle followed by
www.ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.com to draw attention to this (or any article that I decide to post here on this blog.) When something is 'trending', it means lots of people have noticed the # and are following that topic – sort of a Twitter bestseller if you like.

Now what about the GoT bit? Aw c’mon, where’ve you been these last few years? *laugh*.

I’m talking Game of Thrones.


Game of Thrones is a US fantasy TV drama series created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Adapted from A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's series of novels set on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, and has an enormous cast of characters. Most of whom, at one time or another, are hoping to kill at least one of the other characters in one gruesome way or another.

If you’ve never watched the show, can’t stand it, can’t make head nor tail of it, abandon this article now, it’ll not hold much interest for you.

But #Love #GoT?... #Read on…


I had not read the books and came to the TV series rather late (series four!) not having Sky TV I  hired series one on Amazon’s Lovefilm (now, alas, discontinued:  what is it with Amazon? But that’s another discussion for a #FutureArticle). I watched the first few episodes with interest, but puzzlement. What on earth was going on, who were all these different characters with odd-sounding names – and I thought the series was fantasy? Apart from It being set somewhere that was obviously not Britain, America, Canada, Russia, New Zealand or wherever on this Earth, so obviously a make-believe country/land I couldn’t figure where the fantasy came in.


So there was a great Ice Wall? OK. Got that.
Winter was coming - obviously a harsh time that lasted years. Fine, we were in the realm of fiction, but not exactly fantasy.


Wolves – big wolves. Direwolves. Not quite ‘normal’ wolves. Acceptable. Still not fantasy?
Various things happened – mainly Ned Stark, the Lord of the North and his daughters go south with the King and his family, for Ned to be the King’s head adviser – 'the King's Hand'  That I found to be an interesting term. Darn – wish I’d thought of it!
One bastard-born son, Jon Snow went northward to serve in the Nights Watch. I guessed that meant to guard the Wall. Against who/what? Still not the fantasy I had expected. What was I missing here?

I was thinking Hadrian’s Wall, of course, and apart from the sheer size and the fact that the GoT Wall is made of solid ice, you can see the connection. Built across a narrow neck of land to keep the North out from the South (or vice versa if you happen to be from the North.) The Emperor Hadrian started to build his wall in AD 122. It (or its remains) is 73 miles long and varies between 10 – 20 feet in height. It stretches from the east coast of England in Northumbria to the west at Carlisle, with larger forts interspersed with smaller milecastles. Similar to our GoT Wall setup. Although that wall is much bigger!


As the episodes went on through series one, I worked out that the various ‘Houses’ were all at each other’s throats because of various past feuds, betrayals, jealousies and greed. I gave up trying to remember who was who for most of the secondary and minor characters though.
Head House was the King of the Seven Kingdoms, the House of Baratheon. Next, the Lannisters – the Queen’s family (and what a rum lot they turn out to be!) Then there’s the Greyjoys, the Tyrells, the Targaryens the… etc. The list is enormous. All of them to be frank, even more of a rum lot!

Then you’ve got the spies and those out for their own gain – remind you of anything else in history? The Wars of the Roses perhaps, with one House (York) against the other (Lancaster)? Add in the Tudors as well.  All wanting the Crown (or in the Game of Thrones, the #IronThrone – a throne made of swords) and willing to do anything – including torture, rape and murder – to sit on it. Or maybe compare to the upheaval of Rome after Caesar had been murdered. The goings-on between Augustus and wife Livia, then Caligula, Claudius, Nero…  (another very rum lot!) 

But #GoT? Still no fantasy. Had I got the wrong end of the stick somehow?

Enter the Dothraki and Daenerys Targaryen. Now this lot, the Dothraki, were very clearly the equivalent of Attila and his Huns, or the Vandals and Goths, or the modern-day Cossacks of the Russian Steppes. Their’s is the life of the nomad, the horse their most precious commodity and nothing, nothing, would stop the vast hoard once on the move. The only difference to Attila, we were in the hot grasslands (the African Savannah?) not the cold of Russia or Mongolia.

Daenerys. The Mother of Dragons, 
the Breaker of Chains the...
well, she has quite a long title to her name!
Ah! Some hint of fantasy at last! Daenerys (Dani) Targaryen,  the last daughter of the Targaryen House (everyone else except her whining, insipid fob of a brother, having been murdered by others mentioned above) is married off to Attila… well, in this story, Khal Drogo. There’s been a good bit of explicit and often violent sex up to now, by the way. Lots of bums and boobs, naked girls (and boys) in brothels and a fair bit of incest. So if you’re not keen on ‘explicit’, GoT is not for you.

As a wedding gift, Dani is given three stone dragon’s eggs. But are they stone…?

Ah, the fantasy is at last beckoning! Magic, supernatural, witchcraft, fantasy, it all starts creeping in,  but still I wasn’t sure. Was what was happening just superstition? Con tricks by those trying to gain positions of power? Then a zombie-like creature was brought to life... and THEN... (not giving away spoilers)… The zombie is killed and cremated and...   Oh WOW!

A lot goes on in between all the above, and following on (I bought the DVDs, couldn't wait to watch via hiring them). We are  (2017) up to series seven, with the last, the eighth, due to broadcast in 2018 or 2019, and I am not giving away spoilers, but I must share some of the lines that Tyrion Lannister – the Imp (the dwarf) comes out with. They are priceless. Actually, so is he.

“... a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”

"The powerful have always preyed on the powerless. That's how they became powerful in the first place."

"That's what I do. I drink and I know things."


Tyrion - the 'Imp'
Suffice to say, by the second series I was in love with Jon Snow, adored Tyrion, admired Daenerys  and was rooting  for Arya Stark… yes! Get in there girl!

Arya Stark
I also wonder how much is similar to the legends of King Arthur? A magic sword (well the swords in GoT are made of a special metal, so not exactly magic but...) The betrayals, the incest between brother and sister, the dragons... just a thought...

If you like intrigue, super character development, a nod to the past and history, and not  knowing what is going to happen next until it happens (no second guessing in GoT, apart from expect the unexpected) watch GoT. Add to all that, who survives not only to the end of each series but to the next episode without being murdered (one way or another) is, in my opinion one of the most engrossing aspects. And unlike many TV series, no it isn’t just the ‘bit-part’ guest characters who get bumped off. We’re talking main characters here!

Can you imagine? The lead character was dead in the previous episode …. So you sit there biting your nails hoping your favourite survives until next week…

Jon Snow
some more memorable quotes:

“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword."

“Death is so terribly final, while life is full of possibilities.” 

"Why is it that when one man builds a wall, the next man immediately needs to know what's on the other side?” 

“Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” 

“Laughter is poison to fear.”

“Different roads sometimes lead to the same castle.”


 "Power resides where men believe it resides. It's a trick. A shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow."

#GoT #LoveIt


Love it? Hate it? Do share your comments below, I'd love to hear your views! 

10 comments:

  1. Welcome to the obsession! LOL!

    You know your history quite well; I'm impressed! https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/29/game-of-thrones-war-of-roses-hbo

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    1. Thank you - I love he series anyway but the connection with history is fascinating. My only grumble... I wish I'd had the idea first *laugh*

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  2. Of course you wrote a spot on overview of the show. Well done! And I was so excited when you told me that you'd began watching this show, as it has been an obsession of mine since I read the books years ago. I have heard that GRRM was heavily influenced by history - as Meredith pointed out, the wars of the roses in particular. The dragons really did it for me - and I love the direwolves too. And of course the magic surrounding what happens to Jon Snow.

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  3. Spot on Helen!! I read the books before it was announced that they would be filming them. They are heavy and difficult to get into art first, largely because of the amount of characters and the way he has to cover so many different story lines at the same time. Of course I'm in love with Dani - what man wouldn't be! the promise of 'a golden crown' is brilliant (Canute to Erik - give Earl Eadric what he deserves???) and Tyrion is a triumph! (Did you know he made a video of a song about how he has survived each series, listing those who didn't!!). But my favouite is Littlefinger - so delightfully evil, yet smooth and charming with it. What is amazing about #GoT is the level of intensity throughout, the entire concept, the characterisation and the high standard of writing. i love Gemmil and Joe Abercrombie for fantasy, but #GoT is a whole new ballgame! As an aside, did you know that Martin once said 'If anyone asks me when the next book will be out, I kill off a stark ....'

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    1. One of the intrigues about the characters is that I do/did find myself sometimes liking sometimes disliking them - not one of them is plain black and white, they are all realistic people, doing what they do for various reasons - ok so for some the reason is pure greed - but that is as much a part of human nature as is kindness and compassion etc. Tyrion - you think he is out for himself, then you find he does care about others, Jon Snow starts off as a bit of moaner, but then 'grows up' Arya... oh I love her, she starts as a tomboy girl and becomes... well, no spoilers. Littlefinger - it took a while to decide what side he was really on. His own of course... again no spoilers, but I cheered and clapped in series 7 when Sansa and Arya took their revenge at Winterfell!

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    2. Oh, so did I! I actually whooped! Great, isn't it, (or is it terrifying) that so many different periods of history are identifiable here? When I first watched, I didn't so much think of the Wars of the Roses as the wars for the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.

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    3. I guess any power-play struggle would fit equally as well... and we're only talking British history! (Wasn't that scene with the girls and Littlefinger utterly brilliant!)

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  4. I'm sitting here just a couple of miles away from the part of Newcastle called Wallsend, because you know, it's the end of the wall. I actually live north of the wall - or at least of the known location of it. I must be a wilding then.
    I read that GRRM visited Hadrian's Wall many years ago, and imagined being a Roman soldier, stationed there far from home, looking north and imagining what horrors might lurk up there.

    Of course when he came to write his books he dialled things up to 11 and made the wall huge and magical and write in something even scarier than Scots living up there.

    It is interesting how little the fantasy element comes into season 1. I expect they wanted to get all the viewers who would have balked at dragons and suchlike hooked on it before bringing that in when they were too invested to stop watching. :-D

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    1. OOH! A REAL Wildling! How exciting *laugh*. I think Hadrian's Wall is a magical place anyway - although it was pretty scary when I was up at Housesteads many years ago. No, a dragon didn't fly over, but the VERY low flying RAF Tornado 'plane wasn't far off the same effect!

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