Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Winter Is Coming" - The Importance of Seasons

In this series, seasons, Summer and Winter, last for years. The amount of time a season stays is constantly changing. When the story opens, it is Summer and has been for nine years.  

While Summer is adored because of the warmth and life it brings, Winter is feared for it brings despair and death. Therefore, it is dreaded by the people of Westeros, who prepare to face the new season. The Stark’s house motto is “Winter is Coming”. This is ironic because out of the many characters in the book, their family is by far faced with the most hardships and devastation.

The seasons are connected to and symbolize ‘coming of age’. The youngest Stark boy, Bran, is deemed “a sweet summer child”, because he was born during the summer season and is still innocent. He has never known hardship. In one point of the novel, Bran’s father, Eddard Stark, states: “Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.” If Summer is childhood, then Winter is adulthood.

The Signficance of the Stark's Dire Wolves

One of the first scenes in the novel as well as the show, Game of Thrones, consists of Eddard (Ned) Stark, warden of the North and patriarch of the Stark family, being called into the forest by his sons. Upon arriving, there is a dead dire wolf. This is an oversize wolf that is  not native to the land. There is much irony in this scene. The dire wolf dead before Ned as well as his other sons has a stag antler through it's throat, clearly the cause of death. The symbolism here is overpowering. The direwolf is the house sigil of the Stark family and the Stag is the sigil of the Baratheon family, which contains the King and monarchy. The stag murdering the direwolf is a foreshadowing of the harm of which the royal monarchy will cause Ned and his family, upon his decision of accepting the position of Hand of the King'.

Beside the dead direwolf in the forest are six pups. Ned Stark has six children. His sons realize this and eventually convince their father to give each Stark child a pup to raise, since the dire wolf is the sigil of the house. As the puppies grow, their fate prophecies that of their owner.

Below is a list of each Stark direwolf and the symbolism it holds to it's owner:

Robb Stark & Grey Wind
The terror the Baratheon house brings onto the Stark family ultimately results in a war. Robb, the heir to the North, is called the 'young wolf' by his enemies. He uses Grey Wind to scout enemy camps upon attacking them, as well as in battle. When they are together, they are a force to be reckoned with. However, upon being parted, they are both killed.

John Snow & Ghost
 John Snow is the bastard of the family, meaning he has a different mother then his brothers and sisters. His wolf pup, Ghost, is also different from his siblings. He was the runt of the litter and also different in appearance, as he was albino. Ghost and John are also similar in the fact that they are quiet and observant in the beginning of the novel and as it progresses, become outspoken and strong.

Sansa Stark & Lady
Upon Ned Stark taking the position of the Hand of The King, Sansa is promised to the prince of Westeros. She becomes obsessed with the idea of being royal and betrays her family. During this process, her wolf Lady is killed by the prince because Arya's wolf, Nymeria, bit the prince's hand but could not be found. The death of Lady represents the death of the 'Stark' inside Sansa. She is no longer a part of her family for the wrong that she did to them.

Arya Stark & Nymeria
Arya Stark named her wolf pup after an ancient warrior queen. This represents Arya's disposition. She is firey, passionate and most of all, very dangerous. Arya accompanies her sister to the capital of Westeros. There, Arya forces her wolf to run away in order to save it from being executed by the prince. During the havoc the Baratheon family causes Stark family, Arya flees the capital. Both wolf and girl are on the run. Nymeria runs to the woods, gathering a pack. Arya runs across Westeros, becoming stronger like the wolf in order to face her enemies.

Bran Stark & Summer
Bran's connection with his wolf contains the most symbolism. Upon recieving his wolf, it is nameless. Bran's attempted murder by a member of the monarchy lands him crippled and in a coma. When the monarchy attempts to kill him again, the direwolf tears the assasin's throat open. Shortly after, Bran wakes up from the coma with the word 'Summer' on his lips, christening his wolf. Later in the novel, it is revealed that Bran is a warg. A warg is a person who can enter the mind of an animal and control it's body. Bran learns to enter the mind of Summer, where he is able to walk again once more. Eventually, Bran and Summer are so connected, they virtually are the other.

Rickon Stark & Shaggy Dog
Rickon is the youngest of the Stark children, which is why he names his wolf so innocently. However, Rickon grows up knowing only the terror and misfortune the Baratheons have brought upon his family. Knowing only death and fear, Shaggy Dog's disposition is almost like an alter ego. The wolf is brutal, constantly fighting with the other wolves and attacking and killing any human that induces him to do so.

Stags & Dragons & Wolves & Lions, Oh My!

Each family in this series has a crest, or symbol for their respective house, called a sigil. Below is a list of sigils and their relation to the characters within them.

The Targaryen sigil is the most literal and rightfully so. The family motto, "Fire and Blood" is extremely fitting, because the Targaryen family are 'dragonlords' rulers of dragons who also possess their nature in their blood. This family were the rulers of Westeros before Robert Baratheon become King by conquering the iron throne. Upon this event, almost all of the family was slaughtered and the dragons died out. The Targaryen name practically diminished. The youngest child, Daenerys escaped and throughout the novels, begins to regain power in an effort to cross the sea and fight for her rightful place on the iron throne. At the same time, she brings the dragons back to life who grow alongside their 'mother.'

The sigil of the Lannister family is a lion. The Queen was by birth a Lannister and only upon marrying the King, Robert, became a Baratheon. The Queen's brother, Jamie, was responsible for killing the last Targaryen king. The Lannisters are powerful because they are the richest family in Westeros. Their house sigil is a lion, the 'king of the jungle'. Lions are not literally the king of the jungle, nor are Lannisters the kings of Westeros. Yet the power at their disposal, money, makes them as feared and respected as a King.

The Baratheon sigil is a stag. This family contains the King of the iron throne, Robert. The stag is by the far the most hunted animal in the forest. Throughout this series, even after Robert's death, the iron throne is hunted by various others. The desire to rule even creates a war.

The Stark sigil is a dire wolf. Wolves are known to be social animals, traveling in packs. The Stark family is like the wolf in this way, constantly putting their family before others first in an effort to survive. Throughout the novel and show, the family becomes separated and when they do, each member can barely survive. It is only in the beginning of the novel, when they are all together, that the Stark family thrives. Another way in which the Stark family is connected to the dire wolf is that the wolf is practically extinct in the land of Westeros. Throughout the series, members of the Stark family get killed, becoming rare around Westeros themselves.

Why Game of Thrones isn't just for fantasy-buffs...

The Home Box Office (HBO) television show, Game of Thrones, premiered in April of 2011. It is based on the fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice And Fire. As much as a following as the show has, there are still a number of people skeptical about either watching or reading the series because of it's 'fantasy' label. However, Game of Thrones has much more in store...

 The Soundtrack
 Almost all of the music in the show is instrumental. Most people upon hearing this will associate the score with classical music, but this is not the case. Even people who do not like the sound of classical music can not deny the power that the show's theme song has.

While there is much despair and hardship throughout the series, is does not mean it is absent of love.  Daenerys Targaryen is sold by her brother to a barbaric King, who she in time turns to love even more then life itself (left). Robb Stark agrees to marry a powerful lord's daughter in turn for aid in the war he is fighting, but because he is in love with one of the nurses that helps wounded soldiers on the battlefield, breaks his agreement and follows his heart.

As much as a soft side Game of Thrones has, what would the show be with out a little bloodshed? Since the war began for the Iron Throne, many scenes of the show have been filled with fighting, swordsmanship and full blown war. This video is from the Battle of Blackwater:

The Fantasy Does Not Overpower The Show
Many people assume that this show is a hundred and one percent based on fantasy. While the land of Westeros and rest of the settings for the show are fictional, the problems and issues the characters face in the show are somewhat realistic. For instance, the war in which several different people and their armies are fighting to rule. Daenerys is deemed the 'mother of dragons' because she brought the extinct dragons back to life. While this is complete fantasy, this part of the story line is not based all around the actions of the dragons. Rather, how Daenerys uses them in order to gain power so that she can have the throne for herself.