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Friday, 10 July 2015

The Real Life Game of Thrones

If I told you a story of lords clashing swords over who should rule the throne, of regicide, of shifting loyalties of nobles, of horse lords pillaging the land and soldiers battling barbarians along a wall what would you think? If you say Game of Thrones you would be correct. If you said something that happened in our world you would be also correct. The origins of Westeros and Essos and the Lannisters, Starks and Targaryens all lie hundreds of years ago. Although there are no dragons or undead warriors it was still as exciting and full of intrigue as the diverse world that George R.R. Martin created. 
Contains Spoilers!

Our story begins in 1377. The English King Edward III died and his throne was inherited by his grandson Richard II. Richard's father had died before Edward so the throne skipping a generation caused a rift between Edward's other sons; principally Edward's third and fourth son whose children would contest the throne. The third son's descendants would found House Lancaster (our Lannisters) while the fourth son's descendants would found House York (our Starks).
(Notice the similarity between Lannister and Lancaster). With the White Rose of York and Red Rose of Lancaster the ensuing wars would be called the Wars of the Roses. In 1399 the Lancasters took the throne when Richard II's cousin, Henry, overthrew him declaring himself King Henry IV (our Robert's Rebellion). The realm saw peace and overall stability until 1422 when Henry IV's son, Henry V, died of possibly dysentery leaving his infant son to be made Henry VI.
Henry VI serves (partially) as Robert Baratheon. Henry VI was weak willed (as Robert was when he was king but not when he was younger though) and dominated by advisers. Such advisers convinced Henry to marry Margaret of Anjou to gain French support, a beautiful woman from a powerful family who was ruthless, cunning and relentless in stopping those who threatened her power. Margaret serves as Cersei Lannister. Principally she clashed with Richard of York who was one of the king's closest friends and general. Richard of York was a man driven by honor and opposed Margaret wielding control over the king and placing people loyal to her. Richard of York serves as our Ned Stark. When Richard of York started criticizing England's poor performance militarily in France he was sent to Ireland (just how Ned Stark was banished to Winterfell after criticizing Robert for sending an assassin to kill Daenerys Targaryen). As corruption from the Queen's favorites increased amidst defeat after defeat in France Richard of York battled the Lancasters in the First Battle of Saint Albans where Richard of York captured the king and was made Protector of the Realm (an equivalent to the Hand of the King). This was aided as King Henry had a mental breakdown.

During this time Richard ensured that his sons would succeed Henry. When Henry recovered from his breakdown the queen convinced him to strip the title of Protector of the Realm from Richard. Richard fled and raised another army but in 1460 at the Battle of Wakefield Richard was killed by the queen's loyalists. 
Nevertheless Richard's son managed to claim the crown making him King Edward IV. He saw multiple military successes and managed to smash the Lancaster army at the Battle of Towton in 1461; the real life equivalent of the Battle of the Whispering Wood. Margaret and her son Edward of Westminster went into hiding in France after Henry was captured again by the House of York.  This Edward was known for being cruel and serves as our Joffrey Baratheon. Edward managed to put down many Lancaster rebellions and his realm saw largely peace making him our Robb Stark. However like Robb Edward married for love instead of his arraigned marriage. He was to marry a French noblewoman but instead married Elizabeth Woodville in secret. This upset one of Edward's closest allies, the Earl of Warwick who shifted his allegiance to the Lancasters. He is our Walder Frey. There was no Red Wedding but Warwick turned Edward's brother, George, against him and trued to put him on the throne. This failed and Warwick briefly placed Henry back on the throne but this did not last. Edward managed to win where Warwick was killed in 1471 at Barnet and the Lancaster Edward was killed at Tewkesbury. Henry was sent to the Tower of London where he died. The rest of Edward IV's rule was peaceful but bloodshed started again after his death in 1483. His son, Edward, was to succeed him until Edward IV's younger brother Richard declared him and his brother illegitimate.
 Richard III serves as our Stannis Baratheon. After Richard was made king and sent his nephews to the Tower of London where they were never seen again; possibly killed on Richard's orders. Richard's reign would then be challenged two years later from across the Narrow Sea of the English Channel. A decedent of  the founder of the House of Lancaster returned from exile. He was Henry Tudor and serves as our Daenerys Targaryen. At the Battle of Bosworth Field Richard III was killed and Henry was made Henry VII. To end the dynastic wars he married Richard's daughter and their marriage would start the Tudor dynasty with their son becoming Henry VIII.

The Dothraki
 Of course Game of Thrones features the Dothraki; a nomadic people who roam Essos on horses pillaging and plundering. Like the War of the Five Kings Khal Drogo and the Dothraki find their origin in our world. The Mongols.
At the opposite side of the world the Mongols were busy conquering. Like the Dothraki the Mongols were nomads who would wage war against each other and pillage settlements. Even their kings sound the same. Notice how much Kahn and Khal sound similar. Both have one permanent settlement with Vaes Dothrak for the Dothraki and Karakorum for the Mongols. In the first book it is mentioned how villages paid the Dothraki not to attack; something utilized by the Mongols where they used their reputation to commandeer money. Daenerys' son was to be 'The Stallion that Mounts the World', something similar to what Genghis Kahn was called, the King of Kings. However there is a major difference between Dothraki and Mongols. The Dothraki are seen to be very intolerant of other religions whereas the Mongols were very tolerant of other religions holding Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and any other encountered religions with equal esteem. 

Other Cultures and Histories
From both the series and books we can establish that the Free Cities such as Braavos and Myr are dominant city states through trade; very similar to how Naples, Venice and other Italian states managed to become dominant Mediterranean powers through trade. In fact we know that the Iron Bank of Braavos has sway over many kingdoms; just how Venice became a major economic power through trade and how it used this economic power to get crusaders in the Fourth Crusade to attack Venice's rival for them. The Greyjoys often talk about 'the Old Way' for the Iron Islands how they would use longboats to raid towns taking back gold and slaves to farm on the infertile land for them. How women were almost equal to men often taking part in battle. This resembles the Vikings who would pillage towns and villages for treasure. Although one theory why the Vikings began to pillage to start with was them choosing to settle in areas due to infertile land instead of kidnapping people to farm. In Westeros people worshiped the Old Gods in weirwood trees and were closer to nature until the coming of the Andals who introduced septs and the organized religion of the Seven. The Old Gods bear a close resemblance to Druidism and Germanic paganism while the Seven resembles the coming of Christianity to Britain and Germany. Although Andals look similar to Angles; a Germanic group who would form kingdoms in England. Beyond the Wall the Old Gods are still widely worshiped and the Wall stops the Wildlings from crossing into Westeros. This is similar to Hadrian's Wall; a Roman wall which stretched across northern England where the Romans would keep on look out fighting the Celts and Picts who lived north of the wall. Finally we have Valyria. It was said that Valyria had a great empire across Essos and when Valyria fell the empire collapsed in warfare. Somewhat similar to a certain real life empire's fall...
Although real life lacks the dragons, White Walkers and sorcery of Game of Thrones that does not mean that it is not as exciting and full of intrigue. Thanks for reading.

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