I discussed the Hallmark version of the ending of GoT, but I don’t think that that version is how martin wants it to go down. I wonder if he’s concerned over reaction from teevee fans, but even so, finishing this thing in a way that he wants to might well feel impossible.
I’ve blogged about it before, but Martin seems most interested in balance as the series has progressed. He’s not spent much time worrying about fantasy generic conventions (except, perhaps, to destroy them) – he seems to taking a look at looking for the source of some our current ills and seems to have located them in the move from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance in Europe, with perhaps the Industrial Revolution a logical consequence rather than dramatic breakthrough. In my reading he’s looking for some kind of balanced approach to how humans affect the web of life on this planet, and he doesn’t see us achieving that now. He’s gone back, then, in an attempt to look at ideas like magic, and politics, and our relationship to the natural world are all connected.
In this reading (and I’ll try to finish the series with it in a second), the planet uses White Walkers and dragons as the means of getting rid of us, essentially killing off the planet’s fleas. There is no dramatic John Snow and Daenerys Targaryen reunion, no Bran emerging from the cave with fireballs to defeat WW, no Tyrion Lannister putting his knowledge of dragons to work to help Dany train them and melt the ice dudes (and burn up all the wights). Instead, I’m not sure that humans even survive at the end of this series, and if we do it will be because of our warging and magical abilities somehow…
So, here are some of my initial thoughts:
- The Maesters are actually unable to help us advance. Martin puts so much emphasis on religion in this series that I think that he’s showing a time when the primacy of logic and rationality wasn’t taken for granted.
- What did you say? That’s now? Sorry..
- And maybe what’s happened is that the Maesters are simply complicated, like all humans, and have lost their way among all the various factions. I certainly don’t think that the renegade Maesters we see are going to magically save the day.
- While the song of ice and fire seems inhuman (to other fantasy fans as well as me, I’m guessing, and thus my resistance to any sort of victory by non-human forces), I think that in one possible ending dragons and white walkers simply ignore each other (although fire has always been the tool used more effectively – and far longer – than ice.
- One of Martin’s narrative strategies is to let the complications and consequences that his characters find themselves in (and often create) play out, and that approach might well mean that humans end up extinct.
- Tyrion might be the best example of this, with his supposed path to becoming a consultant and adviser. He is on a path to end up in conflict with Jaime (and his niece and nephews). And there won’t be a deus ex machina to save him.
- The big question I keep assuming that Martin will ask is something about the Earth’s defense mechanisms. Cameron does this clumsily in Avatar, but I think that Martin is way smarter than him (and more subtle and more human and developed). He’s looking for the origin of the trouble…
- He’s also fascinated by the social codes we use to help regulate anti-social behavior, and that arise because there is a need. Why the codes of chivalry, for instance? Because these savage, violent men in steel can just show up and start raping and pillaging, and we need some sort of code to check them. Who will watch the Watchmen, after all?
- The other anxiety I see is the ‘good king’ – the good kings we see are killed, and the good queen who tries to free the slaves ends up an exile. And even the Starks are odd – they haven’t always been good, and they are bound up in notions of duty to such an extent that they are ineffective).
- There is also clearly some sort of look at the idea that kings and the nobility are bound to the land. It’s nearly Arthurian, but I think that the Arthur that Martin uses here is one seen through a very specific, War of the Rosesish lens. And Martin has read Bernard Cornwell, after all.
- Another binding force are the laws of heredity and racial identity. Martin seems to delight in the polyglot that is Mereen and the other cities in Slaver’s Bay, but I’m not sure that he sees these concerns as anxieties. They might be features as much as bugs, although his turning of the Targaryens into a clan of incestuous misfits makes me think that he’s playing with something here. And he makes sure to tell us of all the problems that this sort of procreation strategy inflicts.
- Tyrion might be the example here. He is incredibly bright, sensitive, articulate, and is also not seen as his father’s success except by one very wise aunt. He is too counter to the ways that the Lannisters see themselves. The eugenics implications are frightening, and Martin knows this.
As this is getting too long, I’m going to continue it in another post.