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The Game of Thrones

According to Wikipedia, "Game of Thrones" is part of the genre "medieval fantasy". I agree with this classification.

The Game of Thrones is a complex story, recounted in several novels, and portrayed in the H.B.O. series which is now in its second season. The first season consisted of ten 1-hour-long episodes, which can now be seen on five dvd's which are available for rental at Blockbuster. It is set in a fantasy world much like medieval England. The technology and social organization is medieval: on the political level, there is feudalism, with local lords living in castles and commanding armies, and a king who rules over them and thus unites the realm into one nation, but who derives his power from the support of the lords and is thus vulnerable to them. Economically, there is little technology, therefore the majority of the population must work in agriculture to produce enough food to survive. There is, however, just enough technology and organization to produce a small food surplus which makes it possible for some thousands of individuals to live in cities and spend their lives doing something other than producing food. The knights wear plate-male armor, which was not perfected until the late Middle Ages, so I would say that "The Game of Thrones" is set in the 14th century. The show begins with a map showing an island; there is a large wall across an isthmus protecting the civilized south from the barbarous north. This is obviously like Hadrian's wall which to Romans built to protect the civilized south from the uncivilized Picts who lived in what is now Scotland. There is also a barbarian tribe on the continent at the other side of a small sea. These two geographical facts would make one think that the story is set near the end of the Roman Empire, in the 5th century, at the very beginning of the Middle Ages. There is no single century in English history which corresponds exactly with "The Game of Thrones". This is intentional, for the setting is fictional; it is not meant to perfectly represent any land at any time. The story is medieval, but it is not history. There are several elements of fantasy, such as the zombies north of the wall, and the three dragons who hatch amongst the barbarian tribe across the sea. People during the Middle Ages believed in the existence of such beasts, but we have no evidence that they actually existed.

The amount of sex in "The Game of Thrones" television show is shocking. Some of its is gratuitous, added for the pleasure of adolescent boys, but most of it forms an integral part of the plot, and therefore it is necessary and purposeful. Within the Roman Catholic Church, during the Middle Ages and continuing to this day, there are two different attitudes towards sex. The first is simple, therefore believed by most simple Catholics, but difficult, therefore practiced by very few Catholics. This attitude condemns sex as evil. Almost all of the people who believe this have sex anyway, but they feel guilty about it. The other attitude towards sex is complex, therefore understood by few, but well-practiced by those few. This attitude accepts sex as natural and therefore good, but recognizes that there are higher goods, and tries to control sexual activity so as to make it serve a higher purpose. There are two higher purposes which sexual activity can serve. The first and most obvious is procreation. The second is the love between spouses which makes both of them better persons. Pope John-Paul II taught much of this, but the doctrine existed over fifteen hundred years before him. Augustine of Hippo wrote in one of this personal letters, which was found in a library in France about ten years ago, that sex has two purposes, namely the conception of children and the expression and development of love between a man and a woman. Those who believe that sex is evil should not watch "Game of Thrones". Those who believe that sex is good, but should always be used for a higher purpose, might enjoy watching "Game of Thrones", because most of the sex scenes are purposeful, but even those who believe that sex is good when it is purposeful might be offended by some of the scenes which are gratuitous.

Religion is almost absent from "Game of Thrones," which is its greatest non-medieval element. Roman Catholic Christianity was the guiding principle of medieval society in Western Europe. In ever country, the Church and the State were the two powers in society. Depending upon who ruled at any given time, one might be more powerful than the other, but even when the Church was poorly led, religion was always important. In "Game of Thrones" all are Pagan, that-is-to-say the Christian religion (and Judaism and Islam) does not exist. There is some religious diversity; some follow the old gods, and they have sacred trees. Others follow other gods. The Lannisters seem to be Atheists. The paganism of "Game of Thrones" hearkens back to the Dark Ages, which was the first part of the Middle Ages. This, perhaps more than anything else, shows that "Game of Thrones" is fantasy, not history. I cannot imagine medieval England without so much as a trace of the Christian religion.

Though religion is almost completely absent, there is something very similar to the military religious orders, of which I know of four that existed during the Middle Ages: the Templars, who fought to defend the Holy Land against the Muslims; the Hospitlars, also known as the Knights of St. John, who began by operating hospitals in the Holy Land, but then began fighting to defend the Holy Land, and then withdrew from the Holy Land to Malta, where they still exist today as the Knights of Malta; the Teutonic Knights, who were founded by German Emperor Frederick II to defend the Holy Land, then withdrew and fought in eastern Europe against pagan Prussians and Orthodox Russians; and the Knights of St. James, who fought to reconquer Spain from the Muslims. These military orders were armed monks. The men took vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience, but instead of devoting their lives to prayer, or to preaching the Gospel, they devoted their lives to fighting for Christendom. John Snow, the illegitimate son of Eddard, volunteers for the Nights' Watch, which is a small army of men dedicated to live in and defend the great wall separating the civilized southern part of the island from the barbarous northern part of the island. The men of the Night's Watch take vows like the men who entered the military orders of the Middle Ages, but their purpose is not to serve God, rather it is to defend civilization. They use medieval means to achieve the ancient purpose, which the Romans tried, i.e. keeping the barbarians out.

Spoiler Alert - If you have not yet seen the H.B.O. series "Game of Thrones", nor read the novels, then you might prefer to not read any more of this review, because I will reveal plot twists which might be more enjoyed if discovered while watching the show or reading the novels.

The last two episodes of the first season (hours nine and ten) surprised me. Eddard Stark, played by Sean Bean, was the heroic star of "Game of Thrones". He was betrayed and imprisoned, threatened with death and harm to his daughters unless he lied and proclaimed the bastard Lannister boy to be the rightful King. I thought that Ned would hold strong, but then he gave in, lied publicly to support the false king, and then was betrayed by the false king and executed. Thus, the hero died a disgraceful death, which I had not expected.

In the tenth hour, the last episode of the first season, I was again surprised when Daenerys Targaryen's husband Khal Drogo was betrayed by a witch and died, after which Daenerys had the witch burned alive. At the very end, Daenerys is shown emerging naked but unscathed from the flames that had consumed both her husband's corps and the witch. She has three baby dragons. Thus, the very human, almost historical plot ends with an unmistakably, undeniably fantasy element: a woman whom fire does not burn who has baby dragons as pets.