Saturday, January 12, 2019

Book Reviews: Gods of Thrones--A Pilgrim's Guide To The Religions Of Ice And Fire

Gods of Thrones
by A. Ron Hubbard and Anthony LeDonne
This is a short (under 200 pages) fascinating book that examines the religions of the world created by George R.R. Martin in his series A Song of Ice and Fire and adapted for HBO television by Benioff and Weiss as Game of Thrones. The authors do a deep dive into Westerosi cultures to look at the mores and morals that animate them and how they relate or do not to our own. 

This book is emphatically not just about religion. The authors devote text to comparative philosophy, and psychology, time travel, the Hero's Journey, Jung, Freud, Nietzsche, and all of the other things that make human cultures tick and continue to reproduce themselves. 

The authors explore or debunk fan theories and make a few snarky pleas to GRRM to finish the series. This book assumes that you are caught up with either the televised adaptations or the books. The first of two planned volumes, this book starts with the religion/worldview of everyone's favorite morose Northerners, the Starks. It talks about how animism and pantheism work in their world and ours, Greek tree spirits, and Tolkien's Ents. Next up is the Religion of R'hllor and its links to real world religions such as Zoroastrianism. The authors use Greek and Roman myths to examine Tywin Lannister's parental morality, wonder if Roose Bolton is really a vampire, and critique Robb Stark's leadership style. 

The book examines the faith of the Seven and how Catelyn Stark keeps that faith in the North. Skeptics such as Jaime Lannister and The Hound get character studies. The War of The Roses is discussed. The authors debate why there are such radically  different portrayals of Tyrion on screen and in print. The authors meander into Norse mythology to discuss the Gods beyond the Wall. Are the White Walkers those gods? 

Lastly the authors circle back around to Biblical messiahs and discuss how two of the most important Martin characters left standing for the final season/books meet some prophecies in his fictional world and compare to Moses/Jesus in ours. One theory which I think is worth mentioning here as Martin has seemed to avoid such tropes as pure good and pure evil, is that what if the Others (White Walkers) are from their point of view merely responding to human invasions. We're told that a Stark ancestor, Brandon the Builder, created the Wall to keep out the White Walkers. 

Because the White Walkers, not humans, are the species who use ice weapons, ice zombies, ice magic, and make it cold whenever they show up, doesn't it seem more likely that the White Walkers were the ones who created the Wall to keep humans on the southern side? And maybe the Starks were the humans tasked with making other humans respect that boundary? Perhaps the growing number of Free Folk (wildlings) beyond the Wall, Night Watch's rangers scouting beyond the Wall, and the lack of a Stark in Winterfell are all seen by the White Walkers as unacceptable provocations? Maybe that is why they headed south?

Anyway this was a fun read.  It's stuffed with footnotes. It will appeal to people versed in high and low culture. I received it as a gift but you should run out and buy it if you are into this sort of thing.
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