How Medieval History & Dragons Informs 'Game Of Thrones'

Author George R.R. Martin is obsessed with medieval history. Of course, this should be obvious to anyone who has seen even a fleeting glimpse of HBO’s “Game Of Thrones.” To be exact, Martin takes a lot of inspiration from the War of the Roses (no, not the Danny DeVito movie) and establishes their real-life events into his fictionalized narrative. But where the medieval times eventually gave way to the Renaissance and, later, modern civilization, Martin’s extended narrative is noticeably stuck in an eternal medieval society. The reason? Well, it introduces some telling commentary on the nature of humanity, and this is the basis for “Game of Thrones: Why Dragons Halt Progress,” the latest video from Nerdwriter.

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Examining this Sunday’s latest episode, specifically the introduction of Horn Hill, this video essay examines the parallels between medieval Europe and Martin’s universe, where strong, centralized governments had yet to come into existence and one’s army wasn’t formed on more than surrounding volunteers. And, of course, castles were where it was at. For this was a time before the Military Revolution, and before guns and cannons could serve their proud nations, and this really screwed up the castle logic. Shielding behind your walls was no longer an option. You had to fight in the trenches. This led to larger armies, more money, better tax collecting and then a central government and nation-state, like we know today. So why didn’t this happen in the thousand-year span of “Game of Thrones?” Simple: dragons.

In Martin’s creation, dragons have taken away from the central-government revolution. They destroyed castles as well, but they didn’t lead to government power. Rather, they led to the rise of those who could control the fire. And with the government no longer formed, there was no need for taxes or anything of the sort. Economics don’t dictate how society changes and, therefore, the evolution of man isn’t made inevitable. It’s all about human action, and their incentives. To see for yourself, click on the video essay.