I’m a big fan of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (commonly known by the name of its TV adaptation, Game of Thrones). It boasts a cast of richly complex characters, its setting is one of the most fascinating I’ve encountered, and it’s easily one of the most compelling stories I’ve read.
I’m currently on my second read-through of the books, and I thought I’d share some of the many storytelling lessons I’ve learned from the series. Let’s get to it!
George RR Martin has made no secret of how much he’s pulled from history: While the Game of Thrones is being battled by Lannisters and Starks, the War of the Roses was fought by Lancasters and Yorks. Battles from our history and mythology play out in Westoros and Essos—but often with a dash of alchemy, dragons, or dark powers. Even weaponry and technology, like Valyrian steel, is based on mysteries from history, like Damascus steel.
It would be an exhausting process to list all the historical inspirations of the Song of Ice and Fire, but whatever specific instances we make note of, the lesson is clear: History makes for great source material, even in fantasy settings. After all, history was the result of complex conflicts between complex people—and that makes for a pretty compelling narrative.
Since I’ve had trouble finding the full text of Seamus Heaney’s “Punishment” elsewhere on the web, I decided to transcribe it here. I’m pulling this directly from his poetry collection titled North, which you can buy here.
I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.
I remember the curious faux-gold cover of my family’s 50th anniversary edition of The Hobbit, the curious incomprehensibility of the runes across the surface. I was familiar with the story of The Hobbit from before I could read at all (thanks to the animated movie), and reading the book itself was inevitable.
In celebration of the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit‘s release, I’ve re-visited the story. Now as then, it was a pleasant, easygoing read that launched me into a world that mixed equal parts fantasy and danger.
The Hobbit is a highly accessible adventure that mixes a powerfully constructed macro level (the plot is great, the world is enthralling) with a gritty sense of micro level (the everyday struggles faced by the cast). The balance between these two poles makes the book simultaneously relate-able and fantastic.
The narration is charming, the dialogue memorable, and the work itself founded a genre. If you haven’t read The Hobbit, you kind of have to. If you read it when you were young, it’s well worth re-visiting.
Today, we’re going to take a look at slant rhymes in action with the help of our good friends (and my life’s recent Godsend) Mumford and Sons. The resonant opening lines of their song “Blank White Page” calls attention to the potential power of imperfect rhymes. Listen to the lines and skip past the break to delve oceans deep into this topic.