Game of Thrones: Historical and Geographical Influences

I can remember having this epiphany whilst reading. This is a common occurrence for me, the so-called light-bulb moment when there is an extra special synapses in my brain and I come up with a thought that I think no other person has thought of before me.

Of course the reality is that I am usually the last person to get the connection, probably because I tend not to read what everyone else is saying about a book, movie or piece of art. I like to broach something in the most tabula rasa way I can and  make my own mind up.

So anyway, the light-bulb moment. It was the moment when Martin introduced the imagery of the North into the book. The high icy walls and the scruffy wee Wildlings that live beyond the border of the Wall. The Wildings are the Scots. The Starks are the Northern English and by heck beyond the Wall is Scotland.

At first I thought, ooh how very English and insulting, you know referring to them as Wildlings and having them dress like Antarctic-cavemen and act like Neanderthals. As a point of interest the Wildling costumes seem to have a strong Inuit and Native American influence rather than a Scottish one.

Then I saw the brilliance in the madness that is the familial, historical and geographical structure of the Game of Thrones.

Yes, I know you probably already knew that.

So with that in mind I started taking a closer look at the way medieval Britain influenced Martin whilst writing his epic tale.

The most obvious are the geographical commonalities between the map of Westeros/GoT and the British Isles. The Wall that divides the country being a reference to Hadrian’s Wall a defensive fortification built during the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. The wall stretched 80 miles and depending on available construction material was often up to 3.5 m high and 2.5 – 3 m wide.

There are some persuasive arguments for the possible real life countries portrayed in GoT or the geographical areas that influenced the description and building of GoT countries/islands/habitats. Some people believe beyond the Wall is a reference to Russia and the Slavic areas, due to the cold weather, the large area and low population.

The Iron Islands, which I personally think refers to Ireland, but some think could be a possible reference to Scandinavia. The boats, the raids and the rather savage nature reminding some of the Vikings. Kings Landing clearly being London and Dorne being reminiscent of Spain

The dispute between the Starks and the Lannisters can be compared to the War of the Roses. The War between the houses of Lancaster and York. The bitter political feud and the civil wars that would determine and steer the future of the British monarchy.

Indeed Cersei’s manipulations behind the throne have been compared to those of Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Edward VI, who suffered from bouts of insanity (lovely way to say someone is completely bonkers) and was unable to fulfill many of his duties, so Margaret started pulling the strings herself.

The subject of incest and arranged marriages serves the purpose of creating drama, feelings of loathing and disgust, but both practices were quite common in many societies.

There are many comparisons made between the propaganda laden Richard III and Tyrion Lannister. Richard is usually described as a hunchback or as an evil man touched by the hand of the devil, hence the deformed body.

On a side-note a lot of descriptions of Richard were influenced and written by men who despised him and scholars actually believe a lot of it to be an attempt to slander his image. An image tarnished ten-fold by the disappearance of the two Princes in the Tower. Their alleged murder was laid firmly at Richard’s feet because he had the most to gain from their disappearance.

Without adding a spoiler let’s just say Tyrion ends up in quite a similar situation in the 4th Season of GoT. I think the parallels between Tyrion and Richard are quite feasible. They both served their countrymen well, without any acknowledgement of their good deeds from their peers.

They are both manipulated in power plays and used as scapegoats by more powerful and ruthless family members. Both men are rejected for their lack of physical appeal and treated with contempt for having the audacity to rise above it.

Still to come is the fate of Queen Margaery, which is mirrored upon events surrounding the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn.

Poor Natalie Dormer, the actress playing Margaery Tyrell became famous playing Anne Boleyn in The Tudors. She does play the vixen rather well though.

The now infamous Red Wedding draws root of inspiration from the Scottish Massacre of Glencoe and the Black Dinner. In 1440 the King of Scotland gave safe passage to William Douglas the 6th Earl of Douglas and his brother, despite being at war with the Black Douglases. The King had the head of a black boar served for dinner before the two men were subjected to a mock trial and subsequent execution.

In 1692, 38 members of the McDonald’s clan of Glencoe were massacred and many more froze to death in the mountains during their attempt to escape, after offering hospitality to their guests. It was called a murder under trust, an act considered more heinous than any other crime in Scotland.

I adore the fact these books and the brilliant TV production of said books make people look beyond the written word. They search for the comparisons, influences and for any possible way into the mind-set of the creator.

Readers and viewers discuss, debate, argue in depth about the characters, plots and scenarios.

It is incredibly hard to reproduce this kind of work on to a screen in a way that satisfies the imagination of the reader. Game of Thrones does that and much more. The most compelling thing about it is the fact that they are ruthless when it comes to abiding by the book. Even though I know someone is going to die, be mangled or suffer a fate worse than death, I still sit there and hope it doesn’t happen.

I still haven’t gotten over the fact they had the audacity to actually kill Sean Bean . . . sorry Eddard Stark.


To read What Makes Game of Thrones so Compelling by Gen click here.
To discover  Here There Be Dragons by Dileas click here.
Or to read why George Martin doesn’t hate the Starks by Gen  click here.
To have a look at why Game of Throne sizzles by Gen click here.
To download desktop wallpaper Stark Edition click here.
Roll on season 4….

Winter is coming….

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