The 101: A Song of Ice and Fire


Austin Loukas, Asst. Photo Editor

In 1981, historical fiction writer George R.R. Martin stood on top of the remains of Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England.  Martin imagined all the work that went into such a structure and thought about the men who had stood atop it in the second century, protecting their homeland.  In that moment, what would become the “Game of Thrones” universe was born.

In Martin’s imagination, he constructed a world with 700-foot walls of ice protected by an elite group of misfits. It was wall much larger and mystical than the wall he had stood on in England, and the land in which it stood was equally grandiose, filled with massive castles and even larger conspiracies.  The epic scale of the structures in Martin’s fiction, however, would nevertheless be overshadowed by the even more towering motifs of identity, redemption and power. In chronicling this worlds, its monuments and motifs, Martin began writing a similarly immense fiction series, titled “A Song of Ice and Fire.” The first book in the series was titled “A Game of Thrones.”

When Martin published the first book in the series, “A Game of Thrones,” in 1996, he had no idea that it would end up adapted for television and swiftly become one of HBO’s most popular dramas.  The Emmy-nominated “Game of Thrones” is now the most illegally downloaded TV show on the Internet, according to BitTorrent-tracking firm Big Champagne. Part of the franchise’s appeal is its  widely renowned grounding in realism. On the surface, the series appears a typical fantasy tale. It takes place on the vast continent of Westeros, a society with a feudalistic structureover 8000 years old.  There are jousting and archery tournaments instead of team sports, and the aforementioned wall of ice protects the realm from the mysteries of the northernmost part of the continent.  Technological advancement seems to be non-existent.  However, where most fantasy novels are straightforward about the existence of magic, in Westeros, magic is just rumor.

Unlike its predecessors, the “Game of Thrones” series is not built upon archetypes; the battle between good and evil does not happen between characters, but, rather, within them. Not some of them. All of them. The moralistic characters do not always come out on top. In fact, in “Game of Thrones,” anything goes. All your favorite characters may die at any time.  No one is safe. This, Martin has said, is because he felt many fantasy novels only present the glory and benefits of war and not the negative impacts.  Martin wanted to write a fantasy series that realistically interpreted the consequences of war.  So successful was he in creating these realistic social dynamics that there are times where the “Game of Thrones” universe seems like real history. The wall between north and south Westeros stands strong. The one between reality and fantasy? Less so.

What separates “Game of Thrones” from other dramas on TV is that it is already written. Where some shows’ lack of planning and forethought cause later seasons to venture away from the original idea of the series, the entire plot here has already been put to paper.  This isn’t just true because Martin wrote the novels, but also because many of the later seasons scripts are prewritten.  Kit Harrington, the actor who plays Jon Snow, told viewers that when he first auditioned for the part he read from a scene in Season 3.  The producers have also said that the first scene they filmed for Season 3 was from its finale.  This forethought and preparation lends to complex foreshadowing throughout the series.  After watching Season 3, viewers can go back to Season 1 and notice the foreshadowing for almost every major event to come. It becomes a more fulfilling experience.

The first season shocked viewers with the killing of the main character, Ned Stark, after he made the ethical choice instead of the rational choice to team up with Renly Baratheon.  In Season 2, Renly followed Ned into the grave after making the emotional decision to not combine armies with his brother Stannis.  In the third season, viewers can expect similar mistakes … which may or may not lead to similar deaths for all their favorite characters.


Whether you’ve seen Seasons 1 and 2 or not, the multiple characters, storylines and conspiracy at the dark heart of “Game of Thrones” can be a lot to keep track of. Thus, The Beacon is happy to help you figure out…

“Where Do We Go From Here?”

Tyrion Lannister

After the death of Ned Stark and an Emmy win, Peter Dinklage’s character, Tyrion, is seemingly now the main character of the series.  Tyrion is perhaps the most intelligent character; he uses his intellect to overcome his dwarfism.  The first season, Tyrion traveled Westeros from Wall to Riverlands.  The second season, viewers got to enjoy Tyrion in charge of the royal capital, Kings Landing.  In the third season, viewers can expect Tyrion to butt heads with his father,  Tywin, and sister, Cersei.

Robb Stark

Following in the footsteps of his father, Robb Stark is talented and endearing. His rebellious attitude has brought him to the battlefront.  By the end of the second season, Robb can even boast that he has never lost a battle.  In Season 3, viewers can look forward to the consequences of Robb’s decision to hastily marry Talisa at the end of last season.

Jaime Lannister

George R.R. Martin was a genius to reimagine the stock “white knight” character as an immoral, egocentric and utterly unlikable individual.  Jaime Lannister is the leader of the warriors sworn to protect the king, who in this case happens to be his own illegitimate, incestuous son.  Jaime has not been able to protect his king for some time now, being held captive by the Starks through most of Season 2.  With Jaime now a free man, he will walk, row, and ride his way back to King’s Landing in the third season.  Viewers may expect a few detours though, physically and psychologically.

Arya Stark

An organization called “The Brotherhood” was briefly mentioned at the end of the last season.  Arya, Ned Stark’s tomboy daughter, will experience the full power of The Brotherhood in the next season.  Over the last few seasons, Arya has had to become incredibly independent in order to survive on her own.  Next up, she heads to the Riverlands to try to be reunited with her mother, Catelyn, and brother, Robb.

Daenerys Targaryen

Struggling to complete her mission to take the throne of Westeron, Dany has loved and lost a tribal warlord, discovered her own mystical nature, taken a trio of newborn dragons as pets and butted heads with wealthy merchants and magicians.  Next season, Dany will sail to a new land with new characters, new struggles and new opportunities.  She will of course be accompanied by the overly-attached sellsword, Jorah Mormont, along with some other new characters and old faces.

Jon Snow

While Jon’s former defender-of-the-wall friends face a seemingly impending death to the returning White Walkers, Jon heads safely to a wildling camp.  From early on in the first season viewers have heard about Mance Raydar, the so-called “King Beyond the Wall.”  Season 3 will finally introduce him. Jon has gone from  being the bastard of the Stark family to a steward in the Night’s Watch and now to a spy in the wildling camp.  His relationship with the red-headed tease, Ygritte, is something that will continue to be developed.  The introduction of two more wildlings, Orrell and Tormund, is sure to create interesting character dynamics amongst the objectivistic wildlings as well.