Watch it or not, there is no doubt you are very aware of Game of Thrones. But did you know that before there was the acclaimed (and widely popular) T.V. show, the story already had a massive cult following? I can almost hear the book snobs going duh!. But what exactly makes this story so captivating? Here are a few reasons to help you understand why you are so helplessly hooked (or if not watching yet, why you should)
The group of works collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) by George R.R. Martin stepped into the spotlight with its first installment, A Game of Thrones in 1996. The book was met with critical acclaim and by the fourth installment of the series, A Feast for Crows, it caught the attention of future showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. They pitched the concept of a series to HBO and won over Martin in the most epic manner:
The series premiered in 2011, and surprising absolutely no one, completely nailed it in the ratings (and pirating). Millions finally got a taste of what book readers had known for years
Yes, the nudity is plentiful, but there’s so much more to the story
It may be fantasy, but it’s still believable
Martin took real historical events and geography as inspiration for the tale. There are plenty of parallels between the conflict for the Iron Throne in ASOIAF and The War of the Roses in Medieval England (even the names of the real players, York / Lancaster, sound a bit like Stark / Lannister). Geographically speaking, this fictional world takes a lot of the real one: The North takes a lot from Northern England (even the actors in the series playing Nothmen have the accent) and the Wall seems to share a similar objective as Hadrian’s Wall (no, as far as history tells us, there were no creepy ice people north of that wall). King’s Landing is London and Braavos is very similar to Amsterdam or the old kingdom of Venice. The storyline is just familiar enough to make you want to learn more, even though once in a while it hits you with a few fantasy elements. And speaking of these…
The fictional parts are pretty epic, too
A perfectly normal individual from a really cold place (source)
You’ve no doubt heard the saying “Winter is Coming”. Not only is that the sigil from House Stak, one of the protagonist families in the story, it also serves as a reminder that this is a fictional land. And why does that remind us of the fictional nature of the world? You see in the ASOIAF world, seasons last years, sometimes even decades. When somber characters make a mention of “winter is coming”, it’s an ominous a warning as can be. Just imagine living a decade of winter, mind you! With winter also comes another fantasy element of the story, the White Walkers. There is not much we know about them, except they are creepy and we should all be very afraid. The humans in the story experience plenty of magic to go around. Greenseers, maegi, wargs, Faceless men are all part of the plot. Did I mention there are dragons, too?
The line between right and wrong is thin and barely visible
The most awesome morally bankrupt guy, ever! (source)
We have some clear examples of high moral standards and clear-cut “good guys” in the Stark family, for example, but in general the characters tend to be “morally ambiguous”. In some cases we have characters with great current intentions, but not so great and dignified beginnings. Take for example the case of Davos Seaworth who is one of the good ones in the story, but did start as a not-too-good smuggler. Or his “boss” Stannis Baratheon who was always fighting for a just caused, but lately has been trying to achieve it by dubious methods. You can easily pigeonwhole characters as good or evil, but it is more complex than that. Even an incredibly “evil” character like Tywin Lannister has a moral code that puts his family and their legacy first, however horrible the means are. On the other end of the spectrum, everyone’s favorite Lannister, Tyrion, as an alcoholic who enjoys the company of prostitutes a little bit too much (which by someone else’s moral code is a terrible offense!). The world of ASOIF is an amped example of our own world were black and white are less common and many shades of grey are the norm.
There’s plenty of story to go through and speculate about
One of the main characteristics of Martin’s series is how rich it is with with characters, history, and mythology. The world of ASOIAF is complex and stories are intertwined so much it can be overwhelming for the viewer to follow the relationship between one character and the other (this is especially the case with secondary characters). Book readers have had a better chance to better understand this universe because they’ve had already 5 books of material in easily “digestable” chapters, while series viewers may get 10 chapters crammed into a single episode. For some storylines those relationships are not entirely clear just yet, so fan theories are a-plenty all over Internet (the more popular theory being the famous R+L=J). And since the story is not yet finished, that brings up to…
And we still don’t know how it all ends
Lady, you’ve got some work to do (source)
There are still 2 books to the ASOIAF series in the pipeline. Martin is currently finishing The Winds of Winter and the final installment, A Dream of Spring is nowhere near the horizon. To make matters more complicated, the series has already cought up with the storylines in the books, therefore the producers have started trim some of the non-essentials from the characters’ plotlines. No more do the book nerds have an advantage over the rest… We are flying blind here, people! Being the responsible and committed author, Martin has communicated the ending of all the major plotlines to the show producers. How very thoughtful of him! In the meantime here we are wondering some many more things about the plot: what’s the deal with the White Walkers? Where do they come from and what do they want? Who are the three heads of the dragon? What’s the deal with Bran Stark? Is R+L=J true or a giant ruse to throw us off from a different plotline? Is Azor Ahai the same a “The Prince that was Promised” and will we get to meet him/her anytime soon? I’m personally hopeful that The Winds of Winter will be published before the season 6 premieres and for that story to include flashbacks!
There could be a million other reasons to be hooked to this story… Or the people who love it really, really, really like boobs!