Saturday, 28 September 2013

Those who favour fire

00:00:00 Posted by Ashley Lister , , , 2 comments

 by Ashley Lister

 The Game of Thrones books and TV series are part of an ongoing story written by George R R Martin and published under the title A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m going to take that title as my starting point here and relate it to Robert Frost’s poem ‘Fire and Ice’.

Fire and Ice 
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,

Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Ice in Martin’s world is represented by the Stark family who fly the banner of the direwolf. Their family words, “Winter is Coming” suggest a readiness for hardship and sufferance in the face of a hostile environment.

Conversely, in Martin’s world, fire is epitomised by the Targaryen house. The Targaryen banner bears a three-headed dragon. Their motto, “Fire and blood” indicates a tendency for hostility and violence. Daenerys Targaryen in these stories is called the mother of dragons, possibly because she has three pet dragons.
Unless I’ve misread the novels so far, The Song of Ice and Fire is cataloguing the inevitable confrontation between these two households. They’re coming together like an irresistible force and an immovable object.
Yes, there are other families in the stores. But those other families are not as big and they’re not as impressive. (That’s not a joke about dwarves – I genuinely believe the other families are tertiary to the central plotlines of the Starks and the Targaryens).

Personally, even though I suspect I’m betting on the losing side, I want the Targaryen family to win. Like Frost: I hold with those who favour fire.

And just as the psychologists say that all emotions reside somewhere on a spectrum between extremes of fear and love, I suppose Frost and Martin are correct to suggest that all passions reside somewhere between the intensity of a subarctic winter and the supernova heat of a dragon’s breath.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into these stories? Or perhaps I’m relying too heavily on the binary oppositions I used to enjoy exploiting when discussing deconstructionist theories in literary criticism? Either way, I’m impressed with the measured levels of conflict that are escalating in the stories and I’m looking forward to the eventual climax – which at Martin’s current rate of producing books is due to be released at some point around my 163rd birthday.

I could use this point to discuss the way the TV series has started to change direction from the books. Most people who read the books and watched the TV show will agree that Season One stuck faithfully to the world dictated by the novels. Season Two varied slightly and Season Three has gone in an unsettlingly new direction. The direction has been so drastically different that one friend of mine has suggested that the next season won’t be filmed at King’s Landing – they’ll move into Sesame Street.

Is this good or bad? I don’t know. I want to believe this is an exciting development but I have a conservative aspect in my approach to fiction that fears change. The stories in the TV show are offering something different from characters and situations with which I’m already familiar. I should be grateful for this new lease of life they’re already being given.

I suppose, as long as nothing untoward happens to my favourite characters, I’ll be OK with their enhanced adventures.

In Martin’s book the other families squabble over petty wars, acrimonious marriages and missing hands but the focus remains on the two polarising forces of ice and fire. Winter is certainly coming and it’s also a given that there will be fire and blood. I believe I’ve already seen every type of atrocity that can occur in the kingdoms that lie between Westeros and Essos but I’m also confident that the stories will continue to grip me as they move toward their resolution.

And if it does occur that the Stark’s eventually win the inevitable conflict, I shall happily concur with Frost’s lines:
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.



Colin Davies said...

I have yet to see or these tales. After this I am looking forward to them even more.

Thank you for the insight.

When it comes to adaptations I'm happy to think of the films (tv) and books to be different things. As long as the essence, the soul is still there. That's more important then the story being 100% accurate.

Ashley R Lister said...

I do think you'd enjoy these stories. The details is incredible and the story truly does deserve the title 'epic'.