“The Things I Do for Love”: George R.R. Martin’s Inspiration for Game of Thrones

Episodes of the insanely popular television series Game of Thrones would have never reached the limelight if it weren’t for the book that inspired them: A Song of Ice and Fire. George R.R. Martin published the first book in the series back in 1996 but actually started writing it five years prior in 1991 (of course, he is now known for his incredibly slow pace in releasing his novels). Martin had only fairly recently become famous for the series when the television adaption had premiered in 2011, when it received praise from nearly everyone who watched it. Now in its fifth season, now is as good a time as any to look back at Martin’s original novels and what inspired them.

A Song of Ice and Fire is action-packed, political, and most of all, fantasy-driven. With dragons, magic, and sorcery, it is not at all a surprise that Martin was inspired by a handful of other fantasy authors. Perhaps one of the most obvious among them is J. R.R. Tolkien, the father of all things fantasy. His work is still as relevant and popular today as ever, with the latest Hobbit having just premiered last December. Martin draws from Tolkien’s use of magical and fantasy elements, as well as his focus on strong characters and storyline.In addition to this, Martin splits up his characters as Tolkien did in The Lord of the Rings. We see family and friends start off on adventures together, but they soon separate to have journeys all their own.

Perhaps less-known is the inspiration Martin draws from other fantasy authors such as T. H. White and Robert E. Howard who were famous for the King Arthur and Conan the Barbarian stories, respectively. From Howard, sorcery and swordsmanship is brought to life just as it is in A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. Martin also borrows from Howard’s work the idea of a hero along with the same elements he grabs from Tolkien and White.

In addition to these fantasy writers, Martin was inspired by real historical events in his writing as well. GoT’s Red Wedding was a retelling of both the Black Dinner and the Glencoe Massacre, which happened in the 1400’s and 1600’s in Scotland. The Black Dinner revolved around the murder of the 6th Earl of Douglas, who was only 16 at the time, and his younger brother David. They were invited to dinner with the King of Scotland but were dragged outside and given a trial in the middle of their meal. When they were found guilty of high treason, they were both beheaded.

In the Glencoe Massacre, 38 people from the Clan Macdonald were murdered by the Campbells in their sleep, a separate clan who sought shelter from the Macdonalds. This event was deemed a “Slaughter Under Trust,” much like The Red Wedding.

Other aspects of history also inspired Martin’s fantasy writing, such as Hadrian’s Wall or Roman Wall in Scotland, which inspired the Wall in A Song of Ice and Fire, and the War of Roses in which houses fought for the throne of England. Sound familiar?

Despite what has inspired one of the most famous novels and show to date, Martin created a world in which we are able to escape to and have adventures in. His inspirations, the writers that came before him, and the history that predates us all have all made for an incredible and thought-provoking series. With the fifth season only just beginning (look at this resource for listings), we are sure to be in for a fantasy-filled journey.

~ guest blog written by Emma! (connect to her via @emma_bailey90)

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