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The Master of Bant

Discussion of the real world history behing ASOIAF

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not exactly "real world" history, but seeing as Martin often says he prefers stories to reality when it comes to history, and what better story from medieval history is there than that of King Arthur?

I definitely see Martin drawing a lot on the Arthurian legend in parts of his history of Westeros. "[T]he last hero slaying Others with a blade of dragonsteel" certainly sounds similar King Arthur slaying Saxons with Excalibur. And then there's also the sword in the stone bit, which Dawn kind of connects to. Also, I think that there are some parallels that can be drawn between Tintagel and Oldtown - Uthor of the High Tower always struck me as a name very similar to Uther, Arthur's father - and Oldtown being a trading port that connects Westeros to the civilizations around the Summer Sea and elsewhere much like real-life Tintagel was an important trading port connecting medieval England to the mediterranean and Africa.

And obviously the Andal invasion of Westeros has a lot of parallels to the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. But how all these threads connect, I am not sure there is a particular narrative that can weave them all into an Arthur parallel.

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Posted (edited)

This was just a funny little thing I came across recently. I doubt George has come across it, but then again, who knows? He's read a lot of Wars of the Roses stuff.

Meet Christopher Conyers. He was a supporter of the Nevilles. He had 25 children, 12 of them sons, and was able to provide something for most of them (rather than the eldest), which was rather unusual for its day. A kind of English Walder Frey, one might say.

After Christopher died in 1460, his family came to prominence because of the events of the Wars of the Roses. In 1469, a rebellion against Edward IV broke out in northern England, led by a mysterious figure called Robin of Redesdale, also known as "Robin Mend-all". It seems as if this was actually a pseudonym, and the general evidence seems to be that in fact, Robin of Redesdale was Christopher Conyer's son, Sir John... or, maybe, his other son, Sir William... or maybe both! Both Conyers', like their father, were in the sphere of the Nevilles, and as it happens, this rebellion was actually the work of their patron Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (aka "The Kingmaker", who had seen Edward made king and then soured and turned against him)  

The main complaint of the rebels was that Edward IV was too influenced by the Woodvilles, and they wanted them removed (which is what Neville wanted, after all). In any case, they ended up fighting a battle against Edward IV's forces at Edgecote Wood, and won. But, all accounts say Robin of Redesdale died there, and as it happens, Sir William did die in the battle. Except, not long after, someone calling himself Robin of Redesdale led a second Neville-backed rebellion, and it seems this one was John Conyers, taking up the mantle.

Shades of Gregor Clegane sweeping into the riverlands under false banner (well, no banner, anyways) to stir trouble... and then, I guess, shades of Beric Dondarrion dying then coming back (sort of).

Edited by Ran

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Beringia and the Settlement of the Americas corresponds with the Arm of Dorne and the First Men. 

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The people of Norvos I think are similar to Celtic druids as they perform sacrifices and rituals. Also the Long Night could be a reference to the Dark Ages as both involve attacks from unknown enemies (white walkers and Saxons).  Mussovy is a reference to Muscovy and Sothoryos is meant to be like Africa. The Valyrians are meant to be like the Romans, as both conquered much of the known world but failed to conquer all of Europe/Westeros, and are known for roads.

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Since it got necroed...

If you read "The Accursed Kings" books by french novelist and Academy (francaise) member Maurice Druon, you'll find a lot of not only Westeros, but a variation of the character gallery in there. And Martin has stated flat-out that he loves Druon (he got the final books of the AK translated, so I finally could read the damn things without a thesaurus and my atrocious french).

Even the layout of the Who's Who sections of ASoIaF closely resembles that of the AK series.

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I think King's Landing is based on Washington D.C. 

- Both are named for the nations founding hero (King's Landing doesn't say Aegon but it's implied)

- Both were built specifically to serve as a capitol instead of using an existing city (instead of using Oldtown/New York or Philly)

- Both are situated on a major bay about mid-way down their nation's east coast (Blackwater/Chesapeake)

- Both are dominated by massive, grand buildings, but most of the city is kind of crappy. 

and to top it off - Red Keep = White House. 

The Stark/Lannister war has always vaguely reminded me of the American civil war too if you flipped who the good guys are. The outnumbered and outsupplied Starks win early on because of skilled leadership and a willingness to gamble, until the Lannisters wised up and realized they didn't have to play by the same rules as the Starks. Of course, Grant didn't have Lee stabbed at a wedding, but in the broad stroke I think they're similar in how they were fought.

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On 3/28/2019 at 2:56 PM, Syl of Syl said:

I definitely see Martin drawing a lot on the Arthurian legend in parts of his history of Westeros. "[T]he last hero slaying Others with a blade of dragonsteel" certainly sounds similar King Arthur slaying Saxons with Excalibur. And then there's also the sword in the stone bit, which Dawn kind of connects to. Also, I think that there are some parallels that can be drawn between Tintagel and Oldtown - Uthor of the High Tower always struck me as a name very similar to Uther, Arthur's father - and Oldtown being a trading port that connects Westeros to the civilizations around the Summer Sea and elsewhere much like real-life Tintagel was an important trading port connecting medieval England to the mediterranean and Africa.

I mean, these are pretty tenuous.  The big influence is more the nature of Arthurian legend, rather than any inspiration from the tales themselves.  "King Arthur" is a construct of the English themselves, in order to explain or romanticize pieces of their own history.  The entire concept of knighthood was more or less imported in the Norman Conquest, which postdates when Arthur was supposed to have "lived".  This finds similarity in how the Reach was the center of chivalry in Westeros since time immemorial, despite knighthood only arriving with the Andals, e.g. Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, who both is a knight and is from the Age of Heroes, which predates the Andal invasions.  Or how the singers refer to him as a knight of the Kingsguard, despite that being a creation that is rooted in (relatively) recent history, such that it's a datable event.

The Last Hero slaying the Others is a lot more akin to Saint George, to me, or any number of countless mythical heroes who defeat magic enemies with a magic blade.  I think the real Arthurian influence here is in the creation of narrative mythology, and attempts to tie current conditions back to a grand "historic" past.

As for other references, they're innumerable.  The Arsenal at Braavos is a direct parallel to the Arsenal at Venice; and Braavos itself is a mashup of Venice and Amsterdam in the Early Modern Period.  The Reach is medieval Aquitaine.  The Ghiscari/Valyrian Wars are a mashup of the Punic Wars.  Pretty much everything is flavored by a mix of various historical events.

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35 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

I mean, these are pretty tenuous.  The big influence is more the nature of Arthurian legend, rather than any inspiration from the tales themselves.  "King Arthur" is a construct of the English themselves, in order to explain or romanticize pieces of their own history.  The entire concept of knighthood was more or less imported in the Norman Conquest, which postdates when Arthur was supposed to have "lived".  This finds similarity in how the Reach was the center of chivalry in Westeros since time immemorial, despite knighthood only arriving with the Andals, e.g. Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, who both is a knight and is from the Age of Heroes, which predates the Andal invasions.  Or how the singers refer to him as a knight of the Kingsguard, despite that being a creation that is rooted in (relatively) recent history, such that it's a datable event.

The Last Hero slaying the Others is a lot more akin to Saint George, to me, or any number of countless mythical heroes who defeat magic enemies with a magic blade.  I think the real Arthurian influence here is in the creation of narrative mythology, and attempts to tie current conditions back to a grand "historic" past.

As for other references, they're innumerable.  The Arsenal at Braavos is a direct parallel to the Arsenal at Venice; and Braavos itself is a mashup of Venice and Amsterdam in the Early Modern Period.  The Reach is medieval Aquitaine.  The Ghiscari/Valyrian Wars are a mashup of the Punic Wars.  Pretty much everything is flavored by a mix of various historical events.

The highlighting is done by me and I make no claim to be an expert on this subjects but there are a few things I'd like to comment on.

For the first thing it seems to me that King Arthur is indeed a creation to bring medieval romance and perhaps some grandness to their own pre-literary history. But I would think that from my knowledge that it was also a way for England to intergrate itself with the Continental feudal world and that King Arthur past from only being something for the English to something for the Catholic feudal world in general, just like the Paladins of Charlemagne seems to have done so in that they and their stories seems to have spread beyond England and France respectively. If King Arthur was only for England or of interest to the English, for example, then I would imagine that Chrétin de Troyes, Marie de France and Robert de Boron, all French, would not have bothered to write about the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur.

In regards to Aquitaine I would actually think that GRRM isn't so specific as to make the Reach inspired by a certain region of Europe. He may have taken some inspiration from the literature and popular perception of medieval France. But I doubt that he cared much for the division between France and Occitania, various regions within France or Occitania or such things. In my opinion the Reach has to little direct reference points with Aquitaine to say that its that specific region that's is being the main inspiration.

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On 5/21/2019 at 1:11 PM, Lion of the West said:

In regards to Aquitaine I would actually think that GRRM isn't so specific as to make the Reach inspired by a certain region of Europe. He may have taken some inspiration from the literature and popular perception of medieval France. But I doubt that he cared much for the division between France and Occitania, various regions within France or Occitania or such things. In my opinion the Reach has to little direct reference points with Aquitaine to say that its that specific region that's is being the main inspiration.

Look, nothing is a direct parallel, obviously, which I've stated before.  But the main inspiration for the Reach seems to almost certainly be Aquitaine under Eleanor.  The emphasis on courtly romance, the blossoming of chivalry, the role played by singers and minstrels and troubadours.... all of this (not to mention the climate) is highly suggestive of that time period.

 

On 5/21/2019 at 1:11 PM, Lion of the West said:

But I would think that from my knowledge that it was also a way for England to intergrate itself with the Continental feudal world and that King Arthur past from only being something for the English to something for the Catholic feudal world in general, just like the Paladins of Charlemagne seems to have done so in that they and their stories seems to have spread beyond England and France respectively. If King Arthur was only for England or of interest to the English, for example, then I would imagine that Chrétin de Troyes, Marie de France and Robert de Boron, all French, would not have bothered to write about the Knights of the Round Table and King Arthur.

England was already extremely well connected by the time the Arthur legendarium truly begins with Geoffrey of Monmouth.  And mind you, he's writing in the mid-12th century, so well into the Norman period, when England and Normandy are well and truly intertwined.  Marie de France was the patron of Chretien de Troyes... and guess what?  She's the daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, who goes on to become Queen of England.  So again, the recurrent Aquitainian/English connection s inescapable.

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28 minutes ago, cpg2016 said:

Look, nothing is a direct parallel, obviously, which I've stated before.

Thank you. I think we're on the same page now. :)

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