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Mythological Elements in Modern Literature’s Best Seller Novel ” A Song of Ice and Fire”

  Throughout history, so many Mythical figures appear in the books. People convert those figures or stories to their own culture and with the development of the literature these figures stand out much more. Rather than creating new stories, so many famous writers build their Lore with historical or mythical events such as George R.R. Martin*1 who is a writer of one of the bestseller novels of Modern Literature, “A Song of Ice and Fire” So, in this paper, I analyzed mythological inspirations in the novel.

  In my opinion, writers use mythical elements on purpose because all humans grow with their own mythical stories and these stories catch people’s interest that’s why writers build their fictional lore with mythical elements. So I want to write about Martin’s bestseller novel series A Song of Ice and Fire*2 that include so many fantasy elements.

When George Martin wrote his first book of A Song of Ice and Fire, he inspired not only Greek gods but only old pagan gods and Ancient Persian religion Zoroastrianism.

  In Westeros which is the fictional continent in ASOIAF*3. There is three religion. In the North, People believe in the Old Gods of the forest. George Martin mentions this religion in one interview.

  He says “The old gods are “based on animism and traditional Pagan beliefs of Wicca and various other Celtic systems and Norse systems”, melted into one construct.”*4 Also the culture of Northman is similar to the northern people. They are strong people, always wear fur cloaks and they are strongly connected to their religion on the contrary to the southern. They worship a tree named Weirwood. This wood sees everything and knows everything this is a kind of a tree of wisdom. These woods exist in the ancient human race, the Children of Forest’s time period. Therefore Northmen believe this tree is holy. When they married, do swear or make an agreement they go to under the Weirwood and they want tree make witness to their proposal. In current Westeros, there is not much Weirwood contrary to the past and this situation makes trees much more sacred.

 When Brandon Stark went to the Wall and met Jojen Reed they had a conversation about Weirwood;

  The singers of the forest had no books. No ink, no parchment, no written language. Instead, they had the trees and the Weirwoods above all. When they died, they went into the wood, into leaf and limb and root, and the trees remembered. All their songs and spells, their histories and prayers, everything they knew about this world. Maesters will tell you that the Weirwoods are sacred to the old gods. The singers believe they are the old gods. When singers die they become part of that godhood.

Jojen Reed to Bran Stark*5

  I think this wood is a different version of the famous tree of Norse mythology, Yggdrasil. Yggdrasill is a tree that includes the secret of life and wisdom. The tree has three root one is placed in Asgard, a city which Aesirs who are the community of gods, one is placed in Jotunheim which its source is the fount of Mirmir, the source of knowledge and the last one is Nifelheim and the last roots source is a little lake named Hvergelmir the source of coldness.*6 This tree is the prominent proof of Norse Mythology and the Old gods of the forest’s similarity.

  Now we look at the other side of Westeros, in the west King Stannis come up with a new priestess named Melisandre and Stannis bring a new religion to Westeros its god name is R’hllor also named Lord of Light. Melisandre convinced Stannis and changed his religion. Westeros people not familiar with this new religion also prejudiced because Stannis sacrificed alive people to R’hllor with fire.

  So who is R’hllor

  “R’hllor is the source of all good.”

Melisandre to Davos Seaworth*7

  This god is the god of fire which the source of life. Different from other religions R’hllor directly interacts with priest or priestess. Priests are trained Volantis and they interact with their god with the help of fire. So these priests are sort of a prophet. They see the fate of humans as looking fire, they make shadow ghosts which is used for assassinate someone, and they wake dead peoples up. Lady Melisandre guided Stannis as using fire to Stannis’s Fate also make shadow in order to kill Stannis’s brother King Renly. In the TV series of Books, Melisandre waked up someone dead. These practices similarly did in Ancient Persia religion Zoroastrianism*8. This religion’s first philosophy is fire is the base form of life. Zoroastrian priests claim they see symbols from the fire just as Melisandre did.

  Melisandre: When I gaze into the flames, I can see through stone and earth, and find the truth within men’s souls. I can speak to kings long dead and children not yet born, and watch the years and seasons flicker past, until the end of days.

Jon: Are your fires never wrong?

Melisandre: Never … though we priests are mortal and sometimes err, mistaking this must come for this may come.

Melisandre and Jon Snow*9

  As we see George R.R Martin once again use Ancient Mythological elements to strength his fictional world’s history. There are two gods remaining in Westeros Faith the Seven which the most famous one and The Drowned God which is the least famous.

  “Catelyn had been anointed with the seven oils and named in the rainbow of light that filled the sept of Riverrun. She was of the Faith, like her father and grandfather and his father before him. Her gods had names, and their faces were as familiar as the faces of her parents. Worship was a septon with a censer, the smell of incense, a seven-sided crystal alive with light, voices raised in song. The Tullys kept a godswood, as all the great houses did, but it was only a place to walk or read or lie in the sun. Worship was for the sept.”

—thoughts of Catelyn Stark*10

  The Seven is actually a pantheon rather than a single god. Its main location is Great Sept of Baelor. Seven gods represent the seven-armed star. All gods represent something. The Father represents divine justice, The Mother represents peace, birth, and fertility, The Smith represents craftsmanship, The Maiden represents Purity, The Warrior represents strength, The Crone represents Wisdom and The Stranger represents Death. This Pantheon can be likened to Greek Gods the Father like Zeus is the Almighty of All. They have a holy sept which reminds Mount Olympus. Each God symbolized humanistic elements such as strength, justice, mercy. All of them have been sculptured just as Greek gods. In my opinion, this is also a similarity.

  When Aegon the Conqueror invade primitive Westeros he embraces the Faith of Seven and improved Westeros civilization.

  “Even Aegon tread lightly where the Faith was concerned … it was his son Maegor who broke their power, but even then the Faith came back under kings like Baelor the Blessed.”

George R. R. Martin*11

  Faith is so powerful in the court and they staged so many coups throughout the Westeros history which began at Aegon I’s first day of Invasion. All Westeros except Northern and Islanders Believe Faith of The Seven and little minorities believe in R’hllor.

  According to the Theory and my personal claim, Westeros is a parody of Britannia, It includes Northern which is a mix of Celt and Highlander Culture also includes Islanders, the Ironborns*12   represent Vikings and Their Drowned god is a mix of Poseidon and Thor, The Southern believe much modern faith than the others, which is the Faith of Seven, it represents the Greek/Roman Gods also Westeros includes unfamiliar belief The Lord of Light which based on eastern belief Zoroastrianism in our world. That belief is come into Westeros in Essos, the east of Westeros.   In conclusion, in today’s world, George R.R. Martin and many writers have inspired by Myths. In my general opinion these famous writers raised with those stories so instinctively they are affected and reflect that in their works. In this paper, I mention, Similarities between Westeros Beliefs and Mythological Beliefs but there is much more such as Dragons, Charming Swords, Creatures, etc. In our contemporary world myths are still integral parts of our daily life. To sum up, Myths not only show themselves in books but also in every area of arts. Maybe 1000 years later people do not live as they today but someone still writes about these legends or myths. Because of every child curious about the Gods’ fight against each other, dragons, magic, utopias. Myths are changed throughout the years even the stories are adapted to new cultures and they will be but they are never extinct.

Citations and Postscripts;

  1. George R.R Martin English writer of A Song of Ice and Fire and Wild Cards
  3. ASOIAF, an abbreviation of A Song of Ice and Fire
  4., George Martin speaks about the old gods in Westeros
  5. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III
  6. For further information about Ygdrassil:

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