The weather is getting warmer, and we have even seen the sun on occasions, everything would point to summer being on its way … but as readers of George R.R. Martin’s series, and those who have been watching HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ know all too well, this is not the case – winter has been coming for quite some time, and on Sunday night, with the start of Series 7, winter will be here!
In excited anticipation of this, today’s post is an updated re-blog of our Game of Thrones Christmas Special.
… And we’re not the only ones making Game of Thrones connections with the collections at Manchester Museum, have a look at some of the blog posts by Bryan Sitch, Curator of Archaeology and Numismatics; Ancient Worlds and A Game of Thrones, The Middle Ages and Game of Thrones and Game of Thrones’ Dothraki at Manchester Museum?.
A Song of Fire and Ice
As the sun streams through the window, and the evenings smell like barbecues, winter is a distant memory, as is the end of the last series of Game of Thrones. And although we still feel a pang of sadness when we hear someone shout from half way down the corridor, ‘hold the door!’, we’ve already breathed a collective sigh of relief that winter only lasted its usual British six months, and it didn’t bring with it an army of the undead that can only be slain with blades of Valyrian steel or obsidian ‘dragonglass’.
But all of a sudden, we are battening down the hatches once again, and trying to figure out whether it would be the Living Cultures, Geology or Archaeology gallery that would give us the best supply of dragonglass to defeat the coming army of Others, or White Walkers … (If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the archaeology store!)
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 if anyone needs me, I’ll be in the archaeology store …
Images of sigils from: gameofthrones.wikia.com
Manchester Museum photos: Sarah Scott