May 19th, 2019, saw the end of Game of Thrones, after eight tumultuous years. Through this final season, one refrain in particular has resurfaced time and again: well, it won’t be like that in the books. Right? Arya won’t kill the Night King, Daenerys won’t burn innocent people after the Others are defeated, Jon won’t retire beyond the Wall in true superhero fashion. Right?
Before I get into why I think this is the same ending we’ll get in the books, I do want to lay out one important caveat:
I understand I might be wrong. I do! I am going to argue my opinion and my case as persuasively as I can. But I understand that the only one who really knows is George R. R. Martin, and he ain’t talkin’.
Okay. With that said. I think this is the ending we’re getting in the books, almost 1:1. I wasn’t convinced at first. But I’ve had time to sit with this for a while, to mull it over, and to read up on other critics who saw the art in the story. And I do truly believe that:
Game of Thrones is, overall, a good story
This is the same story we’ll see in the books
I won’t try to convince you of #1 here. But #2? Hell yes. I’m tackling that bad boy from three different angles. In the first section, I will look at what GRRM himself (more…)
In Arya’s The Blind Girl chapter in A Dance with Dragons, we hear tell of two boats in particular: the Elephant and the Goodheart. These two ships – a pair of Lyseni galleys, crewed by pirates and rascals – dropped anchor at Hardhome after having been driven north by a storm. Ever the enterprising (and amoral) businessmen, the Lyseni pirates offered to take all the women and children from Hardhome to safety. As soon as the women and children were loaded on the galleys, however, they were clapped in chains and hauled off to be sold as slaves at the markets in Lys.
Fate intervened, though. The gales of autumn still blew in the Narrow Sea. Another storm separated the Goodheart and the Elephant. The Goodheart was blown to Braavos, where the Sealord immediately seized her and her cargo. Slaving, after all, is illegal in Braavos. Arya (as Blind Beth) overhears sullen sailors from the Goodheart discussing their plight. She relays their conversation to the Kindly Man:
That was in the dawn of days, when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling (Dance, Bran III)
A specter is haunting ASOIAF – the specter of the past. Our characters are haunted by the great things that came before them, from myth and song to parents and grandparents. In this essay, I’m going to talk about some of the toxic nostalgia our characters participate in…and then talk about how some in-real-life toxic nostalgia may be informing some of the storytelling choices GRRM makes.
Whew! What a weekend! I’m still catching up on feeling like a human being, and I didn’t even party as hard as most of the people there. Does this make me an old grandfather? Possibly. Did I have fun anyway? Yu betcha.
Do you live in the DC/Maryland/VA area? Come find me (Michael) at Balticon this weekend! I’ll be following George R R Martin everywhere he goes, so just join on that epic baggage train and you’ll probably run into me.