Why we love Game of Thrones
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - April 25, 2019 - 12:00am

There is no doubt that fantasy movies based on fantasy novels have become part of pop culture all over the world. This list of franchise movie and television series include blockbusters like Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. I never thought I would write about this phenomenon since my usual topics are from very different fields of interest – geopolitics, economics, technological revolution, income inequality and allied topics. 

I recently came across an article by Runjhun Noopur about the reasons why people love fantasy in fiction. I realize then that science fiction and fantasy literature are as relevant today as Shakespeare and Charles Dickens during their times. They explain and describe a period in human history. 

These are books where the stories are set in an imaginary universe; but the location, events and people sound like they come from the real world. In this kind of world, magic – supernatural and magical – are common. These are stories that children and adults can read. 

There are some fantasy novels that are quite old like Alice Adventures in Wonderland. But most of them were written since only the 1960s. Many of them were also originally written primarily for children like the Harry Potter series, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, and Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

At present, Game of Thrones has overtaken Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series in terms of popularity. No doubt, there will be another fantasy series that will take its place in the future. This television series is based on George R.R. Martin’s series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire. It is set on the fictional continents of Wisteros and Essos. Wisteros is divided into seven kingdoms; and, for most of the series the plots revolve around the struggle among several families to become the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. 

Most fantasy authors like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were British and were influenced by British history and English folk tales. George R.R. Martin is an American; but, his novels were influenced by English history especially the “War of the Roses.” This was a 30-year struggle in the 15th century – 1455AD - 1855AD between two major families for the crown of England. These were the York, with the white rose as symbol, and Lancaster, with the red rose as symbol. In Martin’s novel, the main protagonists were the Stark and Lannister families. 

Other observers have also noted the similarity of the fight for the Seven Kingdoms with the early English history when England was divided into four warring kingdoms – Wessex, Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia until King Alfred the Great finally unified them into a single kingdom – England. It is written that the biggest reason the four warring kingdoms finally united was the need to defend themselves against constant  invasions from the northern land of ice. These invaders were the Vikings. 

For those familiar with early English history will also see a lot of similarities in the Game of Thrones. For example, there was also a wall – Hadrian’s Wall – built across Scotland to keep out the barbaric Scots and Picts who kept raiding English territory. They sounded like the Wildlings and eventually the White Walkers who were the main enemy. The barbaric horsemen – the Dothraki in the novel – are very similar in fighting style and nomadic culture to the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan that conquered a large part of Europe. 

According to Noopur, there are four main reasons why people today love fantasy literature. It seems, at first, unbelievable that reasonable adults can be so fascinated by imaginary lands with imaginary civilizations with their own language populated by wizards, dragons, villains and superheroes trying to save the world. 

Once in a while everyone needs to escape their reality. And good old fantasy is your best and cheapest bet. Unless, of course, you own a time dimension travel portal that can transport you to other worlds. We are living in a world that seems so full of helplessness and impending catastrophes. Our lives seem full of problems without viable solutions; but, in these imaginary worlds we can become superheroes or magicians or own dragons that can conquer the worst enemies. 

MAGIC – is the second reason for the popularity of fantasy literature. Everyone wants a little magic in their lives which is why we wanted Santa Claus when we were young. Adulthood is supposed to be the time we forget Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and fairies and start living in the “real” world. But once in a while, what adult does not want to escape into that magical world even just for an hour or so.

The third reason, according to Noopur, is that “...all good fantasies, at their core, are a good story about our humanity. Beneath all the larger than life incredulity and saving humanity rhetoric that most fantasies bank on, these stories – the enduring ones – at their core are  stories about humans – their emotions, their challenges, their victories, their defeats, their flaws and their courage.

Finally, fantasy stories give us our biggest addiction – hope. Fantasy gives us hope that no matter how mammoth the odds are, how dwarfed you are by the super villainous forces of your life, you can still win. Or at least, survive. All heroes are flawed and make terrible mistakes. But, all heroes eventually overcome the odds and emerge victorious. This is a fantasy ending that everyone looks forward to in their private worlds whether in business, politics or personal lives. 

Fantasy novels are more than fairy tales. They mirror actual life and death struggles; but, they usually have a miraculously or magically happy ending. 

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on April 27 (1:30 pm-3pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC.  For details and registration,  email writethingsph@gmail.com.

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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