Winter is here … Game of Thrones – Museum Edition
With Christmas only a few days away, the roasting chestnuts and the bitter temperatures make ‘A Song of Fire and Ice’ seem somewhat appropriate, and for readers of George R.R. Martin’s series, or those who have been watching HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’, winter has been coming for quite some time …
(Image from: wallpapers-kid.com)
And now winter is finally here, there is no doubt a collective sigh of relief that it hasn’t brought with it an army of the undead that can only be slain with blades of Valyrian steel or obsidian ‘dragonglass’ – although in the unlikely event of an attack by the White Walkers, the museum’s archaeology, and geology collections would certainly provide an adequate supply of the latter.
But this is actually an interesting point, there are certain materials that carry significance and value, regardless of time, space, and the limits of the imagination – from Minecraft to Rapa Nui, from Abu Hureyra to Westeros, obsidian has been valued for magical and mythical qualities, and even today it is still used in microsurgery owing to the fineness and precision of its sharpened blade.
Obsidian flake blades from Yanik Tepe, northern Iran (Manchester Museum)
The living world has likewise been the source for symbolic representations that have been used to transmit ideas and meaning – especially those of power, identity and belonging. Although meanings sometimes differ between cultures, many associations have been fixed by their popular use and reuse through myths and legends.
Just like the ancient poets and playwrights, some whose names we know, and others whose identities have been lost in the mists of time, modern fantasy writers are too mythographers. They are both the receivers and creators of the myths that shape our popular collective imagination. And in the same way as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, is a perfect example.
When George R.R. Martin created his fantasy landscape, from the icy lands north of the wall, through Westeros, and across the narrow sea to Slaver’s Bay and beyond, he populated these lands with distinct social groups, and dynastic family Houses (for which parallels can be found with the political figures and families from English history).
(Image from: blogs.commons.georgetown.edu)
In medievalesque heraldic fashion, each house has its own sigil and words, drawing upon the (super)natural landscape as a definition of their dynastic identity, which, through both word and image, would be understood by the characters, readers and viewers alike.
Game of Thrones at Manchester Museum
“Winter is coming”
“Hear me roar”
“Blood and Fire”
“Ours is the fury”
“We do not sow”
“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”
“Family, duty, honor”
“We stand together”
As yet, we’ve still not found an equivalent for House Bolton …
And this is just as start … when you’re next in the museum, why not see if you can find some more – and remember to share them with us on Twitter and Instagram @McrMuseum
So winter is finally here, and Christmas is coming…
With very best season’s greetings from Michelle, Judith and all of the Visitor Team at Manchester Museum!
Images of sigils from: gameofthrones.wikia.com
Manchester Museum photos: Sarah Scott