A Game of Thrones: Heroes Wanted

By Friederike Fischer

GOTWe all know him—the tall, strong, brave man. The hero. The prince. The knight in shin­ing armor whose deci­sions are infal­li­ble, his visions wide-rang­ing, and his char­ac­ter traits impec­ca­ble. He is the good guy who faces the vil­lain. George R. R. Mar­tin intro­duces his read­ers to a new kind of hero: none of the above—at least not in the tra­di­tion­al sense.

A Game of Thrones (the first book of the series A Song of Ice and Fire) is about love and hate, loy­al­ty and trea­son as well as high-born lords and ser­vants. It is about a deeply trou­bled medieval king­dom on the edge of win­ter. It is also about good and evil, but the line between those two fades with every word that enters the reader’s mind and gets lost some­where on the 807 pages. There are more names appear­ing in the book than any­one could pos­si­bly remem­ber; yet none of the char­ac­ters can be clas­si­fied as entire­ly good or evil. No one is infal­li­ble. Not even—or espe­cial­ly not—the char­ac­ters that we would most like­ly call heroes.

For a start, there is Tyri­on Lan­nis­ter. He is the son of a high-born lord: wealthy, arro­gant, and maybe smarter than any­one else. But he is a short man. A dwarf. And thus, he is often humil­i­at­ed. Jon Snow has a high-born father as well but was born a bas­tard. He is an out­sider who does not know where he belongs, yet he has a good heart and is very loy­al to his fam­i­ly. Daen­erys Tar­garyen is the daugh­ter of the last king, but she and her broth­er had to go into exile when the game of thrones began and their fam­i­ly was slaugh­tered. Since she is a four­teen-year-old girl, no one expects her to play an impor­tant role in everyone’s strug­gle to be the next on the Iron Throne. But young and ambi­tious women should nev­er be underestimated.

The only char­ac­ter that can be called a ‘pro­tag­o­nist’ or even a ‘hero’ in the tra­di­tion­al sense is Lord Eddard Stark. He is the head of one of the great hous­es and an hon­or­able man: strong, brave, and loy­al to fam­i­ly and king. But when the king dies, and the game of thrones begins once more, his hon­or seals his fate. For he decides to sup­port the true heir to the throne—who is not the king’s son. And the plot thickens…

George R. R. Mar­tin takes his read­ers on a jour­ney to reality—to the past, present and future of humans. In essence, it is not nec­es­sar­i­ly the strongest, bravest, or wealth­i­est per­son who is most influential.

Lis­ten in on the fol­low­ing inter­view where the author talks about some his­tor­i­cal facts that influ­enced his writ­ing and the devel­op­ment of some of his characters.

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